Authors Note: I have written this idea up three ways in an attempt to appeal to the different reading tastes on the Citadel. Each write up is about 1,000 words and each covers roughly the same information.
A dark skinned dreadlocked mercenary stepped away from the feeding frenzy of hired guns that had bowed over and around the conference table in order to get their thumbprints on to the lucrative contract. This particular hired gun shouted in his thick accent, “Oy, ‘unley yous gonna tell us ‘uts eee blastin or ‘ut?”
Lawerence Hunley smiled with a ravenous joy. He loved mercenaries. They were the purist form of capitalist. This grab bag of mech pilots, parapyschic warriors, rouge seibertronians and old fashion Boom Hawkers had negotiated their contracts for twelve hours in mass. They spent that half day screaming over each other, threatening, posturing and calling in scores of CogNet legal consultations. But this young mercs question was the first time anybody asked what the job entailed. Hunley loved them for it. Hunley scrolled through the heads-up display that was always in the top left corner of his field of vision. He found the dreadlocked youth’s name.
“Mr. Crushzilla, does it really matter what you are fighting or where you are fighting. Your payment is assured brother.”
“Hey, Hunley,” a petite ethnically nondiscript woman with the left half of her head shaved to reveal cybernetic uplink ports and several infected hair follicles shouted her way out of the huddle. “Hunley, Our contract says you must reveal the nature of our task within 24 hours of signing the contract or we are not obligated to honor it.” Her accent was subtle, but the slightly longer pauses on her vowels gave it away: Hawaiian. According to Hunley’s files her name was Sannuno.
“Well if any of you are still alive in 24 hours, I will be glad to answer your questions.” That got their attention: suggesting that they had just been caught in some legal death trap. Hunley had found that nothing pissed off warriors more.
The entire two score of paid killers fanned out away from the table and stared down at Hunley who was still sitting comfortably in the semi-intelligent padding of his armchair.
“You best be joking software.” A large robin’s egg blue seibertroinian spat out in a masculine voice. The machine-man’s eyes glowed brighter telling Hunley he was spooling up his micro reactor for an attack. The mechanized warrior was not alone; the rest of the pack looked all flavors of deadly as well.
“Yes, I am joking. Now if you would please sit back down, so that I can finish my part of this contract.”
“Not funny” the siebetronian said.
“Yea! Oww ew ‘ill on da air ‘unly?” Crushzilla added before flopping into a chair and throwing his steel booted feet on to the table.
Hunley stood up, flicking a piece of black lint off his smooth white suit sleeve. “I am still on the air,” Hunley enjoyed the use of such an archaic phrase, “Because I explain things. You give me any product, no matter how complicated and I can break it down for the customer. I can’t say I will sell it, if it is slag than it is bloody slag, but I can explain it to the customer. The customers trust me, not to be nice, or funny… ” Hunley looked at the light blue Siebetronian and added “though must softwares think I am very funny. But they trust me to give them the straight deal on whatever product I am assessing. That is why our mutual employers brought me in to tell you, tell you straight, what you are up against.”
Hunley paused. It was affectation of conversation he alone appreciated, “You are going up against a middle-aged male dancer with brain damage."
His audience gave him nothing, and Hunley was growing disappointed at the gang's lack of susceptibility to antagonism. He continued, "The ballet dancer Zongxing Martell suffered a catastrophic brain injury, I won’t get into the details, but many of his higher functions were intact, including all his spatial perceptions and reasoning vision.” Hunley smiled at the blank looks the phrase ‘Ballet dancer’ produced. “Yet Martell’s personality and much of what our scientist or such call higher reasoning and speech were destroyed. In short he could still dance, still respond to music and still interpret the physical world. He lost the abstract stuff: thoughts, language, and complex decision making.” Hunley looked at Crushzilla. “Can you imagine living like that?
Crushzilla didn’t appear to register the insult, and Hunley continued. “As far you guys are concerned he was a frog that could dance beautifully.”
Hunley saw that this metaphor confused his audience. “After the accident Martell had the brain functions of a level one A.I.” He saw recognition cross his audience like a spanking crossing a waterbed. “Still even with this level one intellect, Martell’s brain possessed an incredible pallet of programing for interpreting and responding to the spatial world, he had like a level 31 navigation and estimation program.”
“The scale only goes to 30,” corrected the powder blue man-robot.
“Yes, and Martell rewrote that scale, so somebody, some scientist, thought it would be smart to wire what was left of Martell’s brain into a BattleDroid”
“Battlemech” corrected the Hawaiian cyborg.
“Whatever,” Hunley continued. “They used some experimental tech to link Martell’s tissue directly into the machinery of a Griffin class Battledro-.”
“Oy, Aye ‘aw dat on da Zines. T’wus da poppin Mak-ah.” Crushzilla stood up and did a few tightly controlled and vaguely rhythmic arm movements.
“Yes the dancing Mech. The Martell-Griffin hybrid was popping or doing the Robot at events all over the world: big PR success.” Hunly watched the azure seibertronian eyes flash angrily at the mention of the old and offensive forms of machine mimicking dance. “The technology they used to link Martell to the Griffin was adaptive and regenerating, that means Martell was growing into the Griffin, his nerves were enervating the metal muscles of the beast, and his brain began to adapt as well. In short his brain was getting bigger and more complicated and the Griffin was becoming some sort of man machine hybrid. This new hybrid was able to pull in extra-dimensional energy and restructure the mech at a molecular level. The Martell Griffin could spontaneously recover from damage and began to exceed its design specifications in both speed and strength.” Hunley sensed he was losing his audience. “So at this point in the story we got a half a human mech, that is getting smarter, is a fantastic dancer, can repair itself and has magic powers similar to a Parapsychic adapt. At some point, the Martell Griffin went rogue, his handlers lost control of him.”
“Griffin only 55 tons, fire support mech no?” a mohawked bearded massively muscled European man in red coveralls looked up from a hand held media device off which he was obviously cribbing this information. “It can not fire on target at less than 30 meters. This not major problem, even if mech know Kung Fu. What is real threat?”
Hunley scrolled to the man’s name, “Sangief you are very observant, but Martell is much more than a fire support mech now. Have you all heard about the P8 event that started along the northern shore of Lake Superior.”
“Yes, it’s a swarm locusts that destroyed the Thuderbay acroplex and force that evacuation of Duluth, ” stated Sannuno.
“Kind of true Ms. Sannuno. The P8 event is Martell. The same team that put him together tried to recover him after he went rogue. They did so without altering the higher ups. They attempted to use a trans-dimensional nano-robotic system to try and stop him from using his para-psychic abilities. See the Martell brain was pulling energy in from another dimension: like siphoning electricity off a grid, and using that energy to modify and repair his mech. The guys that outfitted him thought that if they could plug up that dimensional door with little tiny robots, little robots that could enter his cells and prevent that energy transfer, than they could beat the mech like any other 55 ton fire support mech. Well the nanonites worked... sort of…to put it simply they plugged up the hole but they didn’t redirect the energy, so that energy kept trying to get through the hole, until bang it ended up ripping an even bigger hole. Mind you all this is happening in a hybrid-wheat field north of Lake Superior in August. Well that big energy flow, that big dimensional fatigue event, some how fuses a locust, the nanotech and part of Martell’s consciousness.”
Hunley walked around the edge of the table and prepared for his big pitch. “Now we have a swarm of super locusts that are fueled by the extra-dimensional energy. These super locusts are linked to Martell’s brain and employing the nano-tech’s bio-aggressive qualities. The locusts start multiplying, but they way they do it is horrible." Hunley paused and beamed an expensive smile at the small crowd, "The locusts infect humans with a disease that causes new locusts to grow in the infected human’s body. The things look like giant vascularized tumors of the skin: until they burst open and new a locust flies out. These newborn super locusts are about a half kilo. Depending on how many new locusts are growing in one’s skin the birth process can be lethal. The whole process only takes three days.”
What is worse about these locusts is that they don’t have their own DNA. They take human DNA and use that to build new locusts. The biology of it is really irrelevant, except that instead of insect eyes these locusts, which can weigh up nine kilos, have a pair of forward facing human eyes. The humans eye look just like the eyes of their former hosts, so if the locusts planted a bunch of their weird eggs in your grandmama than the newborns locusts will have your grandmother’s eyes. At last estimate Martell’s swarm of locusts had grown to over a million bugs. The bugs are more dangerous than Martell’s mech, they have unusual taste in food. They can eat anything with a carbon backbone, that includes ferro-fibrous plating and the engineered monocarbon materials used in body armor or weapons.”
Crushzilla unsheathed and examined his ceramic bowie knife with a loving and wistful look in his eyes.
Hunley continued, “This swarm is eating everything in its path sparing only the injured or incapacitated human beings. Those it’s using to make more locusts. The swarm is centered on the Martell Griffin, and as far was we can tell the Martell brain is coordinating the swarm’s activity. Like the Griffin, the swarm has become an extension of Martell’s consciousness. What you are being paid to do is contain the swarm and kill Martell. The guys on the other side of the balance transfers think that once Martell is dead-dead the flow of extra-dimensional energy will stop and the swarm will cease to exist or at least be greatly attenuated. As powerful as Martell may seem he is still just a human brain in that mech. All you need to stop a brain is a bullet. There is a 40% bonus for whomever gets the death strike. The swarm is currently at 40.1 degree North and 85.5 degrees West and heading due south.”
The Cosmic Era Over View
Subject: The P8 brain
Zongxing Martell was born in Jarkarta to a Chinese/Malay mother and a French father. Leon Martell, Zongxing’s father, was French aristocrat, and a successful Netrunner. Leon Martell had the inborn ability to intuitively handle massive amounts of data and see in the data patterns and trends that would often go missed by even the most advanced computer. He used this ability to revive his family fortunes by taking advantage the rapidly evolving money markets of south Asia.
Yun Han Lee, his mother, had been Leon’s bodyguard and cultural interpreter during Leon’s early business ventures on and around the Malay Archipelago. Yun was an expert in martial arts and a talented para-psychic, but also a cultured individual. She holds a degree in Music Theory from the Seng Chiu International University.
Yun and Leon’s marriage was by all accounts a happy one; lasting nearly 14 years. Zongxing Martell was the youngest of the couple’s three children being born during the 7 th year of their marriage. After the divorce his father returned to France and his mother moved to Seng Chiu. Zongxing was raised by a competent staff, both human and seibertronian, and based on his genetic profile he was instructed in both the arts of data management and music performance. At a young age he showed a proclivity for dance and with his father’s and mother’s support he was sent to Moscow for formal dance training at the age of 11.
For nearly twenty years Zongxing Martell was one of the foremost male ballet dancers in Europe and Asia. Sometimes performing for of scores of people at live events. At the age of 47, Martell retired from live dance and began working entirely in cyberspace. Two things happened during this period of cyberspace work, and the chronology of the events is not clear. One Martell fell into a deep depression that included multiple suicide attempts and several poor investments that greatly depleted his personal future. Second, Graig Dingler, a military scientist with Union Aerospace Corporation, approached Martell. Dingler was developing new forms of human-mech interfaces, and was recruiting dancers and other experts of the physical forms to be test pilots for these new systems.
Martell agreed to begin working with Dingler. According to internal assessments Martell was a natural pilot. We were encouraged by the results regarding Martell's use of Dingler's interface. When Martell’s skills were combined with Dingler’s interface, Martell was adapting his mechs movements milliseconds faster than even the most sophisticated computer programs. Dingler also arranged for Martell to undergo cognitive restructuring. This popular but expensive procedure prevents the brain from experiencing any more negative emotions. This treatment effectively cured Martell’s depression by removing fear, guilt, shame or sadness from his emotional pallet.
It was shortly after this treatment that Martell underwent some type of stroke while operating a mech. The exact cause of or nature of the stroke is unclear to us. But the event did massive damage to the left side of Martell’s brain. Martell lost his short-term memory, language skills, abstract sense of time and logic. Martell did however retain all his motor skills, spatial sense of time, and visual geography.
Without our consent or input Dingler decided to use this as an opportunity. Expanding on his nascent interface technology, he installed Martell’s brain into a Griffin class mech as a slave brain to a traditional programmable learning computer. The computer could receive and respond to instruction and then use the tools of the Martell brain to carry out those instructions. Thus you could tell the Griffin to dance and the Griffin would dance as well and with as much intuition and musicality as Martell. What Dingler did not expect is that the arcanotech that he used to install Martell into the mech would continue to integrate with the Martell brain. Eventually the Martell brain took control of the Griffin mech and escaped the UAC facility where he was being stored.
Thunderbay and the P8 Incident:
UAC Executive Briefing Regarding the P8 Incident
Thunderbay had been a small city, by Canadian standards, prior to the Resource Wars and the population contraction. It had been ground zero for a metaphysical flu virus that decimated the population of North Central North America. This tran dimensional virus that fed suffering directly to the River of Souls, also called Superior Fever because of it association with communities around lake Superior, had weakened the dimensional fabric in areas where it had been most virulent. This dimensional fatigue had been most pronounced at Thunderbay.
Decades after the plague and depopulation of the area, Algonquin Cereal Products (a wholly owned subsidiary of UAC) had repurposed the land around Thunderbay for the growing a hybrid cold weather grain products. This Agro-plex included millions and millions of acres of wheat fields tended by Algonquin Cereal Products agro-mechs. The Thunderbay Agro-plex was also the site of UAC mech testing facility run by Dr. Graig Dingler.
The P8 incident occurred when one of Dingler’s prototype mechs, an autonomous Griffin mech wired with a semi-organic brain, broke protocol and began ignoring commands. Dingler attempted to the arrest the situation by using yet another untested technology: dimensional sink nanonites (DSNs). The DSNs were designed invade the cells of Para psychic individuals and prevent them from challenging Para-psychic energy. Dingler’s Griffin prototype was using an Arcanotech life support system for the organic brain, and it is believed he though the DSNs would cripple that life support system.
The implementation of the nanonites had the unexpected effect of causing a dimensional rift at the Thunderbay sight. This rift altered the character of the endogenous Melanoplus genera creating a new form fauna. This new fauna resembles the endemic grasshoppers in most respects, although it has large mammalian eyes with weights between 4 and 9 kilos. The locusts also appear to have much wider diet, eating both plant and animal matter.
The resulting swarm of locusts is not centered on the rift and appears to be traveling with the rogue Griffin mech. The combination of the mech and the swarm completely destroyed the Thunderbay Agroplex as well as Dingler’s facility and team. We have titled the event the P8 in reference to the 8 th plague Moses inflicted upon the Egyptians.
The economic and political benefits of containing the P8 event are calculated in the trillions of dollars. We already taken steps to distance the UAC’s interests from the event, but Algonquin’s stock value has already reached a functional zero. The economic opportunities that could arise from harnessing and exploiting the P8 technology can also not be ignored. Independent contractors are being hired through an intermediary to eliminate the P8 event, while in-house resources are being dispatched to secure any valuable technology.
The idea for this monster-of-the-week regards a human brain that has been transplanted into a battlemech. This human brain has bestowed upon the battlemech parapsychic powers that allow the battlemech to exceed it’s design specifications. This means that the mech can run faster, jump higher, hit harder and take more damage than it was designed to do. Essentially this means the mech has super-human/super-mech Kung Fu powers exemplified in the Kung Fu pulp novels, video games such as Street Fighter, movies such as Twin Dragons or Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon and in a lot of Magma series. The mech can also heal and regenerate. The meta-physical conceit that describes this monster is that the human brain in the mech is able to draw in extra-dimensional energy: arcanotechnology.
In addition to being a shoryuken throwing, bullet catching Kung Fu master of a mech, this monster is also associated with a giant swarm of super natural locusts. These grasshoppers weight between 5 and 20 pounds, have human eyes instead of insect eyes, have a human genome, lay their “eggs” in human flesh and can consume any carbon-based material. The locusts are also tied to the brain’s channeling of extra-dimensional energy, and our controlled by the brain in the mech. I imagine the mech being at the center of this swarm and the swarm and the mech fighting in concert.
The biology of the locusts is irrelevant to the monster’s abilities, but I thought this might provide some interesting role-playing opportunities. Plus, the biology of the locusts tosses in some hard sci-fi to an otherwise fantasy driven premise in a Sci-fi setting. The idea is that Locust egg is enucleated cell (it has no nucleus). This egg then consumes another cell, and begins to use its genetic material to produce the proteins necessary to sustain life and grow a supernatural Locust. If you find this idea incredulous consider every tissue type in your body has the exact same genetic material (RAG generated receptors aside), but the cells are extremely different in form and function. They differ because of epigenetic changes to genome and because of differences in cytoplasmic and nuclear machinery that translate the DNA.
In terms of role-playing I had three specific uses for this genetic packaging in mind. 1) I thought it might give the PCs pause if they encounter an evil 20 lb grasshopper that is genetically identical to their son, mother or lover. This could be particularly so because the grasshoppers will have the same eyes as the person whose genetic code they stole. 2) Furthermore, the locust’s genetic identity could be a suggestion that a character has died without actual proof that the character has died. I am imagining that the eggs grow in the skin, and over three days the sight of infection develops a five-pound mass. At the end of three days the mass ruptures and the grasshopper flies out to join the swarm. If there are lots of these sorts of cysts than the person will likely die when they all rupture, but depending on its location, a person may survive the cyst. So finding a grasshopper with your daughter’s genetic code is suggestion, but not proof that she died (Melodrama!). 3) Finally, these things could confuse a lot of genome reading technology. This could be true during forensic investigation or using smart weapons that ignore certain desirable genomes.
Plot Idea 1
A Fantastic Voyage The Johnsons have a plan to use remotely controlled micro drones to enter to the super structure of the mech and make their way to the Martell Brain. The PCs will have to fight there way close enough to the mech to get their micro payload into the beast. Then they have to upload into the micro machines matrix style and pilot the things through the mech to its brain. All the while fighting super immune cells and buffed up nanonites.
Plot Idea 2
Reaching out to Martell This assumes that there is still some personality left in Martell. But the personality cannot feel guilt, shame or fear. Thus the PCs will have to try and reach Martell using carrots and not sticks. Martell may still want to dance. He may just want freedom. The PCs could give him pause by playing music, that reminds him of his original artistic purposes. This could get into the philosophical nature of depression and motivation. Martell was depressed because he could no longer dance. He underwent a procedure to remove all negative emotions and thus was no longer sad because he couldn't dance. The open question is whether or not Martell would still be motivated to dance if Dancing was only associated with positive motivations.
Plot Idea 3
Assemble Voltron: I am loathe to suggest this, but perhaps a fun way to resolve this is to give the PCs a couple of Para-psychic mechs and let them punch it out with the Griffin. The only way to defeat a mech is with a better mech.