Identity Theft in the Cosmic Era
In the Petrol Era, identity theft was simply the stealing of personal information and financial fraud. In the Cosmic Era, it is something entirely different.
Identity and Ego Theft
In the Cosmic Era, it is a routine matter to create digital copies of a person. These digital copies can be used for personal applications such as the personality program for a handheld MUSE smart device, the source code for an avatar in the CogNet, and so forth. A less common use for the egomorph is to create an engram for imprinting on a clone or a cybernetic cortex.
The failure of digital immortality: It was discovered through a fair degree of trail and error that arcanotech, even in it's advanced state, is not capable of creating immortality. While the human mind and body can be repaired, replaced, their lifespans prolonged, they will eventually fail, either to time, ennui, or calamity. It was thought that keeping a digital copy of a mind, regularly refreshed, would allow for quick resurrection in a clone or even temporary cybernetic shell. While there was a small level of success, true immortality was simply not possible. The resultant clone would best be described as an 'Inspired By' copy of the person, and not a true reproduction. Likewise, a cybernetic cortex implanted with the egomorph of a person doesn't become that person, but rather an artificial facsimile.
There is something of a human being that cannot be contained in a data file, cannot be stored and downloaded into a new body. There is scientific evidence that there is such a thing as a spirit, or soul, and upon death, this essence is lost. This same essence cannot at the current time be saved, stored, or replaced by arcanotechnology.
The egomorph remains valuable, for many of the above mentioned reasons. There is also an entire criminal industry based around stealing egomorph data and using it to illegal purposes. An egomorph contains most of the memories, skills, and aptitudes of the person it is a copy of, and these things are valuable.
Slavery in the Cosmic Era
One of the more nefarious uses of the stolen egomorph is as slave labor. A skilled or educated egomorph can easily be downloaded into a clone or robotic shell and put to work in a factory, where such things still exist, or into hazardous labor, or into the realm of human exploitation. Nothing commands a higher price on the black market than the egomorphs and genetic code from celebrities. In the dens of inequity and the hidden flesh markets, almost perfect simulacra of celebrities can be found, languishing in cages and pressed into horrific abuse, confused and wondering what happened to their old lives, sometimes believing their old entertainment roles as their old lives, and otherwise slowly slipping into madness.
Body Doubles and Dopplegangers
A less common application for ego theft is the creation of parapsychically conditioned duplicates of certain people. These dopplegangers are conditioned and trained, emotionally and psychically manipulated until they are sleepers, waiting to be activated and unleashed on certain nefarious purposes. While such trickery generally fails against high level technology societies with bioscanning technology, against less equipped peoples, such trickery can be effective. The body doubles can be used to protect VIPs, offering targets for high profile appearances such as those favored by dictators and snipers. They can also be used as implants, to replace common enough people, to act as moles and saboteurs, never even knowing that their entire identity is stolen, modified, and molded into what they are.
It isn't unheard of for small teams of special ops soldiers to be have replicas made of them, sometimes without their knowledge, that are trained for specific suicide missions. A variation on this is taking competent and skilled egomorphs and forcing them into being soldiers, the sort that are thrown away. This is separate from Body Doubles, since the suicide clone is not expected to last very long. This short lifespan limits the amount of effort that is put into the psyche manipulation. The conditioning and such will unravel over time, so the missions are be intent suicidal, to prevent the clones from coming undone.
The Soul Trade
Currency is a different sort of creature in the Cosmic Era, and those wishing to operate outside of conventional and highly trackable financial circles have found that egomorps are a fully useful and functional form of currency. The practitioners of this trade have found that creating new egomorphs, cultured ones, is a highly profitable venture. Thus, they will steal existing egomorphs, create new one from torture victims, or those people of curious disposition, or upbringing. Most such soul traders often don demonic and infernal avatars and virtual appearances.
Working in a Slave Mine - the PCs all awaken in a slave detention center, where they discover to their horror that their old lives are gone and instead of running mundane chores and going to work, they are now slaves in a third world hellhole or even off-world hazardous job such as ice mining or asteroid mining. They are not the people they thought they were, and then the slavers make copies of the useful egomorphs, stocking the mines with various versions of the PCs, with fresh hatches to replace those who died or were terminated.
Staying Alive - The PCs were killed, all of them, and were resurrected from egomorphs and genetic data. They have the skills and memories of the old characters, but they are new and different people. A variation is that just one PC is resurrected thusly, but their attitude towards the rest of the team dramatically changes.
Dealing with the Devil - the PCs are looking for a specific egomorph, one belonging to a deceased person of interest. This is the only way the PCs can get certain information, a clue, a rare skill, whatever. To do so, they must find the pseudo-Satanic neo-voodoo soul trader who has possibly the only copy of said egomorph, then they have to make a deal to get the one they want.
If the PCs trade egomorph copies of themselves to the devil, it shouldn't be too long before their duplicates appear, either directly in opposition to the PCs, or causing problems that fall on the PCs shoulders. What do you do when a stolen copy of yourself goes on a public shooting spree?
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? Responses (4)-4
The plot hooks are perfect, and I really have to find a group to run this for. Could see temporary egomorphs being created to serve as last wills and testaments, woken up when the original dies, and then 'deactivated' once the job is done.
What was the movie where the old guy was murdered, and the only thing they could talk to was a hologram of him, and if they asked the wrong question, it could only say 'my responses are limited'? Same basic concept, and totally.
That was 'I, Robot' starring Will Smith and Bridget Moynahan.
Another great (and scary) CE read. A simple but fun plot hook for Body Doubles and Doppelgängers could involve a PC escaping (whichever hell he/she was stuck in) and having to (desperately wanting to?) hunt down and kill off all duplicates.