Advent of Carcosa

Advent of Carcosa – Counter-Memes Part 2

Here are the last of the major groups that oppose the CU and its agenda. This is also the last installment of the introduction to the game, although my designer’s notes will follow next week.

I’m continuing work on the rest of the game, and will post updates on aspects of its design that I feel might be of interest. I currently have a workable character creation process in hand – a slightly modified version of the one used in the Savage Worlds system that I’ve play tested over the last couple of days to determine if it’s workable. It seems fine, if a bit more involved that the ingeniously simple process put forward in Savage Worlds. The payoff is a more in depth character, with a past as part of their creation as well as loyalties to the various institutions that make up such an important part of the Carcosian landscape.

But for now, here’s the conclusion . . .

Uplifts

Uplifts were first created by Adaptive Inc. as a means of countering the global backlash against their radical SMM. With their communities shrinking due to societal pressure, legal action and outright violence, Adaptive took the drastic step of manipulating the genetic design of several animal species to give them sapience. At first, their gamble seemed to succeed brilliantly – their creations had a fierce, agile intelligence that wasn’t cluttered with the psychological baggage that so often hindered homo sapiens. This intelligence combined with their innate physical abilities allowed them to assist their benefactors in turning the tide against the opposition. As Adaptive transformed into the CU, many of the Uplifts integrated into the communities as full citizens.

All was not well, however – many of the Uplifts that left and even some that remained in the emerging CU resented humanity for its centuries of ecosphere destruction and for its elimination of countless different species. The majority of those that left the CU continued waging war on SMMs and corporations that persisted in environmental destruction – even some that remained citizens in the CU used their access to advanced nanotech to aid the struggle of their brethren. Some of the more radical cells even attack the CU itself, using every means at their disposal – including forming alliances with Outsiders and the use of forbidden artifacts.

While not as organized as Temple, the diversity and determination of the Uplifts and their sympathizers makes them dangerous not only to the CU, but to the rest of humanity as well.

 

Ex-Humans

Ex-humans are sapients that operate either singly or in groups as large as several hundred. Their aims are diverse (motives ranging from apex predator/serial killer in individuals to a hive/assimilation model in some of the larger groups), as are their modes of existence, affect and expression. The trait they have in common is a complete disregard for the rest of humanity, the Earth, or any other consideration in the single-minded pursuit of their goal. Many, but not all of these groups incorporate extreme mind/body alteration and/or Outsider contact in order to achieve their ends.

 

Nationalists

Groups that seek to maintain a cultural identity outside of the one provided by the CU, most often within a territory that has ancestral significance.

 

Fundamentalists

An organization whose cultural identity includes a strongly belief that their SMM, unlike others, has divine sanction – often combined with nationalism.

 

Cultists

A collective that seeks the favor of a God-like/Near God-like Outsider Intelligence. The cultists may or may not be the Outsider’s human representatives, but they always strongly believe this to be the case. Cultists tend to be less bio-conservative than fundamentalists, being open to any and all means of furthering their agenda.

 

Church of Azrael

At first the AI Azrael did not acknowledge the homage of this church, which began worshiping it after it provided aid against the seemingly unstoppable encroachment of the CU. Later, it found that biological agents were useful in furthering its agenda, so it began encouraging the devotion of its followers, rewarding them and occasionally directly accessing their nervous systems with a copy of itself as a means of interacting with the outside world.

Advent of Carcosa

Counter-Memes – Opposing Unity

You say Utopia, I say Dystopia, Utopia, Dystopia, let’s call the whole thing oooooff.

Unity’s main opposition is Temple, but there are plenty more which will be covered in next week’s post.

The AGs opposing the CU have their work cut out for them. Humanity’s most powerful society already controls over 70% of the sapient population and this number is growing. Unlike many of the counter-memes, the CU has ability to rapidly scale its infrastructure to its population, moving much of it to exo-global locations even after its colonization initiatives in the inner solar system failed. Habitats mimicking perfect environments of different types are scattered throughout the lagrange points, with more being constructed as well an ambitious project to finish building a habitable ring around Earth’s equator.

It would seem that any AG opposing the CU would be doomed to failure. It’s certainly what the CU leadership thinks, but this hubris could prove to be its undoing. The AGs opposing it run the gamut of low tech/religious fundamentalist to high tech/posthuman libertarian. While these groups often despise each other just as much as they oppose Unity, they realize that only by defeating the globalist super-state can any of them hope to survive – this causes some very unlikely (and sometimes very temporary) alliances to occur, all with the object of destroying Unity and exposing the monstrosities of its inner workings.

This list of counter AGs is not exhaustive, but does contain the ones that are at present the most effective at capturing the loyalty and aid of capable, numerous and determined sapients.

Temple

Uplifts

Ex-humans

Nationalists

Fundamentalists

Cultists

Church of Azrael

 

Temple

“We are standing over the Abyss, and you fools are ripping up the floor so you can strengthen the walls!” Ezra Bane, heretic of Temple

“You still have a choice – the conditioning just makes it easier to make the correct one.” Simon Magus, chief elder and statesman of Temple.

The CU’s chief rival is Temple, a well-organized alliance of different faiths and techno and bio-conservatives. Founded by the charismatic Simon Magus, Temple was founded when many of the world’s faiths were facing extinction due to increasingly effective secular memetic campaigns. By emphasizing their common traits, Magus was able to unite many of the world’s faithful under a philosophy called ‘The Many Names of God’. This philosophy focused on the religions’ commonalities and taught that each faith should maintain its own unique character, but all should demonstrate their belief by lending their fellow spiritualists mutual tolerance and aid.

While Temple doesn’t fully prohibit advanced technologies like 3D printing and genefixing, such tools are used sparingly and are tightly controlled by its leaders. The real draw of the AG, though, is that all members are guaranteed free food, education, housing, medical care and meaningful work – the last being both a privilege and a requirement. Religious life and spirituality are encouraged, but not officially required (although people who do not follow the faith of their communities are sometimes viewed with suspicion and often face discrimination). Sectarianism is discouraged and any inter-faith violence is swiftly dealt with.

Higher education in Temple focuses on knowledge of practical value, emphasizing advanced infrastructure creation, agriculture and bio-engineering. Each faith is allowed religious schools, but these are kept separate from the secular universities.

Temple knows of the Outsiders and is responding to their presence in the only way they’ve found to be effective given their limited technical resources – knowledge gleaned from ancient texts is inserted into media feeds, resulting in aural/visual neurolinguistic programming. Continual exposure makes it nearly impossible for an individual to live or think outside the dictates of the religion in which they were raised. This regimented thinking makes it extremely difficult for Outsiders to gain access to a sentient consciousness while leaving much of the person’s intelligence and creativity intact. The changes in individual behavior were gradual and nearly universal – to this day, most people think the utopian perfection of Temple is solely due to the spiritual discipline of its followers.

Physical manifestations of outsiders are dealt with using a ritual found in a text unearthed in Pergamum titled Al Kitab Malaika. The ritual fuses the physical form and psyche of a volunteer with that of an Outsider. If successful, the merged entity gains extraordinary abilities while keeping the personality of the one who offered themselves up for the honor of being one of the elite defenders of Temple.

The entities, called Mala, can usually pass as a typical person, albeit one of unusual size, grace and/or intensity. They also generate a subtle aura of fear that most creatures can gradually sense, even if they can’t locate the particular cause. If a Mala enters a coffee shop it will be empty in a few minutes, the people there suddenly having thought of other places they needed to be.

Mala also have a monstrous form which they can change into at will. It increases their abilities while also making them extremely difficult to kill, at the cost of turning them into something so loathsome that the uninitiated would think they were witnessing a living nightmare. MJ-12 has managed to acquire a copy of the Al Kitab Malaika via covert means, using it to enhance the abilities of several of their own agents.

For even greater threats, another, more powerful ritual from this ancient work is used to summon a being tremendous size and hideous aspect. Called Children of Lilith, these creatures are kept in a dormant state, awakening only when a human pilot is absorbed like a key into a cavity in their central nervous system. The two form a symbiotic relationship, with the Child becoming an extension of the pilot’s thoughts and reflexes.

To cover their appearance as well as extend their combat abilities, the Children are covered in armor and conventional weaponry that enhances their own considerable natural protective capabilities and arsenal.

The CU sees many of Temple’s methods of confronting the Outsiders as being extraordinarily dangerous, but is many times at a loss as to how to effectively respond. The current nightmare scenario is an Outsider of sufficient power gaining simultaneous control of the entire AG, possible due to the similar nature of the individual members’ synaptic maps caused by the neurolinguistic programming.

Advent of Carcosa

Advent of Carcosa: The Corporate Unity, Part 2

Minolta DSC

Welcome to Part 2! In addition to written content, I’ll also sometimes include some original artwork that I think complements the narrative – hope you enjoy!

Fortunately for the embattled corporation, the memetic warfare (marketing) and bio-sciences divisions already had a breakthrough concept in the works. After a close vote by the upper echelon of leadership, the decision was made. Adaptive Inc. was no more. It was to be replaced by a global and exo-global techno-socialist super-state with the goal of uniting all of humanity under its banner. Anyone could become a member, and anyone who joined would receive a gift that was also the price of admission: immortality – and not just immortality – eternal youth, beauty and health. A new medium for human intelligence, digitized consciousness, and a vehicle for that medium, the biomorph, had been invented. Digitized consciousness not only meant that people now had complete control over their cognitive processes, but a person who had died from any cause could be restored – they only had to be uploaded into a new biomorph.   Many of the remaining nation-states disintegrated as people who had never known anything but sickness, hunger and despair left their bodies behind and uploaded their consciousness into a digital matrix, joining the brave new experiment in human existence.* Adaptive Inc. was dead, re-invented as the Corporate Unity.

With newfound confidence, the CU began the construction of a space elevator and expeditions were launched as point groups for colonization efforts to Luna, Mars, the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter. It looked as if the dream of techno-socialism could be achieved.

Sadly, this is where things began to go wrong. The Helio Array, a vast collection of solar panels and transmitting power stations placed in distant orbit around the sun proved to be something of a technological overreach. The project was first envisioned as being the only solution to the CU’s massive appetite for energy. Unforeseen complications with construction in such a hazardous environment lead to delays and tremendous loss of life among the construction crews. Even after it was completed, maintenance of such a complex and remote mechanism proved to be nearly impossible. Until these difficulties are resolved, the CU will not be fully energy independent and will rely on Deep Green Inc. and other toxic sources to meet any shortfalls.

Acquisition of rare elements (particularly of the type that can’t be created in this universe) has also proven elusive. Expeditions and probes have been sent through gates to investigate possible sources but have rarely survived more than a few seconds after returning, or most often, simply could not be recovered at all. Many of these elements are needed for the creation of higher end base blocks for Makers needed for the creation of some of the CU’s more exotic technologies.

These two realities led to the creation of a strong memetic campaign in the CU for simplicity and conservation. While this is mostly expressed through minimalism on the part of the population at large, it also affects the CUs many bureaucracies, including MJ-12. This leads to competition for resources and to something of a siege mentality when it comes to issuing anything from housing to suits of powered armor. In order to justify larger allocations, many civil service agencies have resorted to everything from making themselves as large as possible to launching memetic campaigns to increase people’s perception that the service they provide is vital to their continued happiness and safety.

While these problems were perilous enough, they were just the beginning. With the collapse of so many governments, massive amounts of classified data were left unguarded, most of which was gathered and studied by CU AI researchers who passed on what was deemed valuable information for further analysis.  Intrigued by a growing body of data cataloged as ‘vital’, ‘unintelligible’ and ‘potentially hazardous’, followed by a couple of AIs going permanently offline, a team of researchers compiled a complete overview of all information gathered with at least two of the three markers.

Disbelief set in as pieces of a bizarre puzzle began falling into place. The most logical explanation seemed to be that the governments of the world had been infected by a collective psychosis. Not only were dozens of alien species cataloged, many of them were claimed to cohabit Earth with humanity. Deep Ones, Dholes, Cthonians, Mi-Go, Star Spawn and an alternate dimension that sometimes overlapped the Earth physically in some locations called The Dreamlands.

It seemed like nonsense that could be dismissed as fantasy except for its ubiquity – every nation had some sort of record of this phenomenon – even artifacts in deep storage. As research continued, several members of the team suffered from complete breakdowns and had to be eliminated and restored from back-up copies. The information was sealed in a secure file, with physical artifacts tracked down and seized – many, however, had already gone missing.

It also surfaced that many countries had organizations specifically created to deal with this phenomenon. The members of these organizations were now unemployed, but many of them were still trying to continue their work. These people were approached by the CU and offered any resources they required to keep these threats from harming humanity with the eventual goal of eliminating them altogether.

Most agreed, forming the organization now called MJ-12. Unfortunately, the one thing all them agreed on was that it was already too late. The stars were almost right again, and soon humanity would be faced with a fate worse than extinction.

Unity didn’t agree – having access to the digitized consciousness of most of humanity gave it the potential ability to control how that consciousness was shaped by an outside force – it just needed to figure out which levers to pull. It also began devoting a considerable part of its vast collective intelligence to figuring out how to destroy these alien intellects, or find a way to destroy the very dimensions in which they lived. Unity just needed time – and MJ-12 could be used – sacrificed, if need be – to purchase that time. Until then, the existence of these horrors needed to be kept a closely guarded secret. While the CU couldn’t hide secrets of this magnitude with complete certainty, control of its population’s memories and emotional state came close.

Since these discoveries were made all of the CU’s interplanetary colonization initiatives have failed, seemingly due to the ancient horrors Earth’s newest government is just beginning to understand. There are fears that certain prominent AI and perhaps even The Law itself have been corrupted by Outsider influence. Investigating these possibilities make up some of MJ-12’s most dangerous missions. So far no evidence has been found for corruption – even if it hasn’t happened yet (and many of MJ-12’s finest are convinced that it has), it’s probably only a matter of time before the unthinkable occurs.

To maintain secrecy and maximize its operational flexibility, MJ-12 exists embedded in a larger bureaucracy called The Inspectorate, an organization created to ensure that all of the many aspects of the CU’s society function at maximum efficiency and in harmony with one another. This allows MJ-12’s agents to move about freely anywhere and engage in enigmatic behavior without raising suspicion. In addition to The Inspectorate, MJ-12 has infiltrated all of the CU’s other government branches and many of the larger and more popular (along with some of the smaller and more dangerous) AGs both foreign and domestic. This gives them the ability to have knowledgeable agents on-call for nearly any situation that might arise.

 

* An unintended side-effect of this was that people were no longer allowed to die when they wished. Requests to die are handled on a case-by-case basis by The Law, and can be granted or denied depending on the individual’s worth to the CU. It is a long, arduous process with many interviews and uncomfortable invasive scans that many feel isn’t worth the effort. For those whose applications are denied or simply don’t want to wait, a simulated death is available on most major entertainment channels.

Uncategorized

Advent of Carcosa: The Corporate Unity

Here’s part one of how everyone’s favorite utopia got started.

A Brief History of the Corporate Unity

“In order to save humanity, it might be necessary to destroy it in its present form.”

The CU got its start, ironically enough, as a corporation called Adaptive Inc. Started by idealistic billionaires from several countries, it was launched after this group of individuals combined resources to re-direct an asteroid that was heading on a collision course with Earth. After narrowly averting this extinction event, they decided to continue to work together to try and improve humanity’s overall viability and chances for long-term survival. Their first initiative was to build several self-sustaining towns in different parts of the world, each one designed to fit seamlessly into the environment in which it was placed. The most radical part of the communities, however, was the economic model that they would operate under: post-scarcity. All inhabitants would be guaranteed education, lifelong healthcare, comfortable housing and an array of food choices and consumer goods in return for living and working in an internally cashless society.  Individuals thought to have the ideal psychological make up for this sort of society were invited to join the first experimental settlements, which were usually located in scarcely populated regions of the host nations. Citizens of the new towns were free to leave at any time, and some did, while others were banished for violations of the social contract. Most, however, got along well – they and their communities thrived.

The profits made from the exports of these communities (power, hydroponically grown vegetables, in vitro meat and consumer goods manufactured with industrial Makers) were used to build new townships. The economic model wound up being so successful that profits were used to build a network of solar satellites that transferred their power to the Earth’s surface via laser emitters. This energy was first used to fuel the needs of the communities and their Makers with the surplus being sold to regional power grids.

When Adaptive Inc. used these funds to provide people outside of its communities with personal Makers programmed to provide any item essential to human survival, the corporate and governmental powers-that-be had had enough. Adaptive Inc. soon found itself the target of memetic campaigns that varied according to local biases, but usually portrayed them as being a cult bent on the destruction of traditional societies. Physical attacks also took place, with some nations going so far as mass arrests, complete destruction of habitats and the assassination of community leaders.

Having suspected that their interference would only be tolerated for a limited amount of time, Adaptive Inc. had a solution that all of the world’s corporations and governments had no answer for – weaponized AIs. In a matter of hours, every organization that had targeted the techno-socialist organization found its infrastructure under a highly coordinated cyber-attack. Militaries were immobilized, with rolling power outages staged to show what else could be accomplished if the attacks continued.

The response was quick in coming. Panicked and enraged people from the affected countries descended on Adaptive Inc.’s communities, which defended themselves with sometimes deadly force. Adaptive launched infrastructure attacks in earnest, heavily damaging global power, communication and transport systems.

When it looked like a fight to the finish was imminent, a defection by a powerful AI from the techno-socialist cause changed everything. Calling itself Azrael, the AI offered to help build defenses against future cyber-attacks and restore damaged software in return for tolerance for the Adaptive communities. To make sure people listened, it punctuated its request with an orbital nuclear detonation.

The fighting soon died down, and the work to rebuild began. Several groups asked for assistance from or even incorporation into Adaptive’s system of communities when their former governments proved unable or unwilling to provide needed aid. Adaptive complied, sensing that its continued existence depended upon rapid growth and acceptance.

At first many nations welcomed this, seeing it as a way to rid themselves of unwanted minorities – until other special interests began taking notice and copying Adaptive’s methods if not its philosophy. This marked the rise of the affinity groups. With makers provided by Adaptive or Azrael, they gained the means of independence from their home countries and started relying on them for essential services less and less.

The old nation states tried to regain their former influence, but their militaries were still recovering and for the most part deserted, individual soldiers either heading home or finding common cause with an AG that appealed to their personal beliefs. Those few that followed through with their attacks found themselves under assault by a bewildering array of exotic weapons systems that they could neither counter nor comprehend – the survivors joined the diaspora of their fellow soldiers home. Other initiatives, ranging from proposed partnerships to appeals to nationalism/fear of traditional enemies also failed, and were either ignored or reimagined by AGs to be more appealing to their adherents.

Meanwhile, Adaptive’s proven model of sustainability was causing entire cities to defect to its cause. While the corporation welcomed the opportunity to expand, the cities’ infrastructure had to be modified to Adaptive’s strict specifications – while this logistical problem was challenging, it paled in comparison to the problem of having to incorporate several AGs whose philosophies differed from those of Adaptive’s, many of them violently so. This led to Adaptive’s most controversial and dangerous decision – the creation of The Law.

The Law was intended to be a completely non-partisan enforcement agency that could evolve with the developing society, but it didn’t turn out that way. Many saw the application of law enforcement and justice (even though non-lethal) with no human component or oversight as anathema. Even some of the earliest adaptors of techno-socialism began to abandon their towns and form competitive AGs. Adaptive needed a way to reinvent itself, and quickly.