What is a 3rdNet Horror?

A 3rdNet Horror is a metaphasic lifeform that has self-awareness and intelligence, though most could not be comprehended as a human pattern or human-level intelligence. These entities exist within the metaphase shadow of Earth that the 3rdNet links to and uses as a transmission medium, and as the domain that houses its floating point/trinary calculations. It is the mythical 'cloud storage'.

A horror differs from the other inhabitants of metaphasic space in that they are hostile to humans, and are both willing and able to take aggressive actions towards 3rdNet cybernauts, infest unwilling victims, and manifest their malign will in interphasic space through a human host.

Basic Abilities

Almost all known 3rdNet Horrors have the following abilities or a variation on them.

A horror can afflict itself on a victim, and then use them as a host. As a host, the person can be used to carry the horror out of the 3rdNet into analog space, where it can use the host as a tool for its designs, a vector for a hostile action, or a medium to cultivate whatever thing it desires to cultivate. Some hosts have gone on to run highly destructive cults, some have become very short-lived terrorists, and some wander away from where they can be easily found and erupt into a pile of fungal spores.

3rdNet Horrors are aware of the parapsychic potential and are drawn to latent parapsychics to pick as hosts. A parapsychic who ends up with a horror rider can find their powers increased, negative impacts even worse, and a rapid loss of self-will, sanity, or simply go up in a parapsychic bonfire. Non-parapsychics might start developing talents as the horror itself becomes the conduit for accessing metaphasic power sources.

Mutation of the host into a monstrous youma.

3rdNet Horrors can drain the life essence from interphasic lifeforms, often mimicking the forms of ghosts, vampires, and other mythological monsters. The victim is not bodily consumed, and in the case of blood, the corpse is not exsanguinated so much as it is symbolically vampirized. Living things slain by this ability do not rise as undead or ghosts.

Inspire fear as a supernatural/parapsychic ability. Confronting a 3rdNet horror is highly difficult as this ability causes most to engage in fight or flight behavior, rather than rational or planned behavior.

Manipulate the thoughts, emotions, and dreams of a host.

Manifestation:

The Most common form of manifestation resembles a mental disorder or illness. This is the horror using its ability to manipulate the host's thoughts and emotions and then feed on the negative energy generated. In previous iterations of the internet, there were waves of mass hysteria/mass formation psychosis, trends where certain 'afflictions' were passed through social media. Most of these were related to the social expectations of billions of people funneled into a light beam focused on the pituitary and hypothalamus glands of the brain. Body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, eating disorders, self-diagnosed mental disorders, Generalized Anxiety, and so forth.

The victims of a Horror face different challenges. They don't become aware of being too fat, or not pretty enough, or having similar superficial issues. Their parasite feeds them a string of nightmares, dreams, intrusive thoughts, and emotional triggers that push them towards extreme self-mutilation, sexual sadism and perversion, cannibalism, ritualistic torture, and other things that are shocking and horrific. For the most part, these were considered acceptable. The number of people affected was relatively small, and while shocking and vile, the stories generated a lot of attention and media buzz and justified a large and robust law-keeping force.

This level of manifestation is more common in personal horror and personal survival stories. The host is going insane, sometimes knowing that what they are doing is wrong and being unable to stop themselves. Some manage by turning their violent urges outward, deliberately working to get themselves noticed, and either be apprehended by law enforcement or killed by them. Either way, the suffering ends.

It's Not Cancer, You're a Mutant Horror

Physical Mutation is the second most common manifestation of a 3rdNet horror. The host undergoes a rapid and typically painful transformation. This appears as swelling early on, progresses through a cancer-like state, and then the host's skin splits, blood sprays, and they rise from the mess as a youma, or mutated monster.

While common, this is often the easier state to maintain. Living in close confines, with regular surveillance and medical technology, a metamorphic transformation can typically be diagnosed before the eruption of the youma form. While there is no treatment to reverse this process, one of two things generally happens. The most common course of action is for the infested host to be terminated. A cover story is written, and the body is toted down to the fusion incinerator. Less commonly, the host is detained, sedated, and transferred to a holding facility where they are allowed to undergo their final mutation and the emergent monster is kept as a lab rat for scientists to poke, stab, draw fluids, and be used for various other tests.

A common use for the lab youma is as training for artificial parapsychics. Given the chance to stand face to face with a controlled youma, the Parasite soldiers gain valuable experience. They are able to confront something alien and feel its ability to cause fear and panic. With some, they can actually train against them, with melee weapons or hand-to-hand fighting.

Unspeakable Cults or Guy Montag Did Nothing Wrong

One of the more dangerous manifestations of a Horror is when an intelligent horror infests a charismatic, intelligent host. Less intelligent Horrors tend to go the WAAARG claws and fangs route, and uncharismatic hosts remain that way. A Horror can grant physical boons, strength, and sexual prowess, but it can't make a person more likable or better spoken. What it can do is give the host the ability innate to all Horrors, the ability to influence the thoughts, dreams, and emotions of those around them. The Horror can turn a charming person into a cult leader.

Horror Cults start as a variety of things, PTAs, neighborhood organizations, game groups, whatever. The cult leader spreads their influence, with charm and persuasion. They entice others to join their group, follow their ideals, do the things that feel good, and make them feel good. As the cult grows, the leader and their Horror parasite will have been growing in power and influence and eventually will start doing literal magic rituals to draw new Horrors through the veil to infest new willing hosts. The cult grows, its power increases, and then the degeneracy starts to show. Regardless of what the cult started as, they all invariably turn to the same vices: sadism and sexual perversion, cannibalism, black magic, child molestation, torture, and self-mutilation. In a worst case scenario, the cult leader transcends into a Desolate One (in the next entry), and the cult turns into a social movement embracing the malignancy and terror of the metaphasic Horrors. At this point, the answer is generally carpet bombing, biological weapons, orbital bombardment, nuclear weapons, or anything else that can be thrown at the target. More commonly, the cult is exposed in the middle stages, and there is a public outcry, cult literature is burned. People are given a Cosmic Era level witch hunt, and one by one the cult members are hunted down. Some are deprogrammed, some are incarcerated, and some are incinerated. If a cult knows it has been outed, mass suicide, or a highly visible, violent action followed by mass death is the general response.

This should feel a little familiar. Chaos and mythos cults, worshiping Great Old Ones, praising the gods of chaos, degeneracy as an offering to those blasphemous powers. In Fahrenheit 451 we see the mass burning of literature for the greater good. In the Cosmic Era, there is some truth to that. The books that are burned aren't Bibles or Harry Potter, the books burned are cult-created works like the Necronomicon, the Black Book of Ebon, or the Austere Verses. Clever hosts can plant traps in their works so that the unwary or the damaged can actually be led to allow themselves to become infested and start the cult anew. This is a common trick that banished Desolate Ones can work out, always seeking for someone to gain enough power, but be dumb enough to open a door and let them back in.

Desolate Ones

Parapsychic Enhancement and/or manifestation is a less common tool of horrors. This is more common among more cohesive, more intelligent, and more dangerous horrors. At this level, the horror acts as a conduit or a turbocharger on an existing conduit in the case of active parapsychics. The horror in this case is playing a longer game, and the goal isn't to destroy the host, but rather, to merge with it. The fusion of human and horror results in an entity known as a Desolate One. These individuals are enormously dangerous as they combine human and alien intelligence and exceptional parapsychic power. As a slow burner, the Desolate One wants space and time so they can develop their parapsychic potential and gain power. A young Desolate One passes for human with a strong parapsychic ability but often erratic behavior and odd power manifestations. If left alone, or isolated for a few decades, such a creature can access higher orders of parapsychic abilities, including teleportation, manipulating the weather, altering probability, and interfering with arcanotech devices.

The goal of the Desolate One is to reach arhat status, where they have the power to manipulate and exploit gateways. Once this power level is reached, the Desolate One would open gates back to metaphasic space and allow a dimensional incursion. This way metaphasic entities would be able to directly enter interphasic space. Usually by this point, the Desolate One has been noticed and some government, corporate, or cultural agency has responded with devastating force. The saving grace is that if sufficiently threatened or wounded, a Desolate One will retreat back to Metaphasic space. This is a saving grace because Desolate Ones cannot travel from metaphase to interphase. They can gate, but they can only gate to metaphase. A Desolate One kicked back into the Dreamlands cannot leave again, unless something opens a gate from the other side for them.

The best example of a metaphasic incursion is Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within. The Phantoms are metaphasic nightmares that have breached interspace. They are almost instantly fatal, invulnerable to ballistic and low-energy weapons, and invisible most of the time. If illuminated with energy at specific frequencies they can be seen, and high energy or specially tuned non-laser weaponry can disrupt or destroy them.

Author's Note:

The Horrors of the 3rdNet draws on the mythology of FASA's Earthdawn, where creatures from another realm (Horrors) are drawn to the material plane when the power of magic increases, and then do horrible things, from killing people to wiping out entire nations. Other imagery includes influences from the Lovecraft Mythos and the Dreamlands, Stephen King's The Lawnmower Man, and the overall cheese factor of 80s sci-fantasy where people could be sucked into computer programs, or computer programs can escape the machine and enter the meat. Finger guns at Agent Smith in the Matix sequels. In short, the 3rdNet, in its unrefined, uncontrolled form, made people into literal monsters, or corpses, or walking corpses.

Enjoy.

The CogNet is perfectly safe.

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