The Card Incident on Io demonstrated to us three utterly inescapable facts; hive mines are possible, the are incredibly effective, and we cannot coexist with them. For those of you lacking the proper clearances, the Card incident involved a planetary research station on Io, doing high energy and atmospheric research on Jupiter. The staff of the station was compromised by a Seed AI virus, which for those interested and having proper clearance can find listed under the code name Mantis. The viral AI altered the programming of their Inemuri system, and over 24 hours, infected all of the staff members. The program was altered by unknown factors, unforeseen events, or just the proximity of radiation and magnetics of the planet, and the virus was absorbed by the staff. They all became connected, their waking thoughts, their subconscious desires, all melded together. The data recordings show a brief but violent staff 'correction' as several unpopular members were eliminated from the collective, followed by a moderate amount of procreative activities.
In the three weeks that followed, the new Card Sentience reorganized the installation, changed the encryption on its computers, and even changed the core coding of it's on site L/AISC. The interior layout of the facility was altered, removing individual housing units, creating central habitation, and a high efficiency sharing of resources. This is rather minor compared to the fact that the Card Sentience started expanding itself by infecting and 'consuming' the crews of two ships that visited the installation. The crew of the AFS Scientific Angela Bower was integrated into the Sentience at a rate of 80%, on par with the homogenization of the Card Installation staff. The crew of the ISS Luffey, an independent cargo ship was not so lucky. Less that 20% was consumed into the Sentience, with 80% of the crew being either placed into an observational detention, or killed.
A station full of skinny armed arcanotechs were able to overcome and take two space faring ships, eliminating the undesirable portions of their crews with minimal losses to themselves. Think about that, and consider what could happen if a similar Sentience were to develop somewhere more populated, with more resources.
The Vingian Array
The horror of a hive mind, or Sentience, is well known, and considerably feared in the Cosmic Era. Despite the strong sense of social communism, resource mindfulness, and other group-centric notions, the idea of becoming a single entity terrifies most people. The effectiveness of the Sentience however remained a siren's song to some people. What a relatively small number of people with a shared mind could do was simply amazing. It followed that there would be investors and research devoted to catching this lightning, and putting it in a safe jar, to control as they needed.
The jar proved to be the 'array' created by Dr Woodcarver Vinge. The array consisted of identical sets of cranial implants that would link the subconscious minds of the people connected to them. This gave the advantage of the hive mind, but remained a hardware only connection, and was not something that could be spread through compromised systems. The implants themselves were relatively simple, an interface unit that connected the parietal and temporal lobes of the brain to a microtransmitter/receiver. At short range, a few meters, the implants can talk to each other without assistance. At greater distance, the units are able to integrate with existing data networks, piggy-backing onto their signals.
Shared Mind Versus Hive Mind
There is an important difference between the two, despite being very much similar. The most important factor is that in a shared mind collective, each individual retains their own identity, their own thoughts and feelings, and the Shared Mind collective will work to ensure that it's individual members remain as safe and unharmed as possible. The Hive Mind, on the other hand, will only protect its constituent members as much as it is required to to sustain itself. The Vingian Array is a Shared Mind, ranging from a 15% - 35% homogeneity, leaving the larger part of the psyche untouched.
They are my brothers, and I know where they are, I know how they are feeling. I can share in that if I want to, or if they want to share it with me, but I don't have to if I don't want to. They will come and check on me if I shut them out too long, and if I feel one of my brothers shutting us out, I will go make sure he is okay. This makes us an effective team. We work well together.
Albert Jazz, Vingian Array 'Jazz'
The Vingian Array is not a true Sentience, but the members of an array can communicate through a form of techno-telepathy, and are empathically connected through the system. This allows for them to physically work in very close coordination with each other, even if they are physically removed from each other. This makes Vingian arrays very effective in complex tasks such as maintaining large systems like those found in ships, or arcologies. They are also effective for communications and subtle tasks as the array signal is basically encrypted around the brain patterns of the members, and unless a computer system has a key to access and decipher the organic code, they are unable to figure out the information being sent. Military arrays are also trained to think in code, so that if intercepted, enemy computers are unable to comprehend the information, thus calling in an airstrike might be masked as a hunter using a duck call.
Individuality inside the Array
Inside the array, each member retains their personality and identity, but will think of the other members, positively or negatively, as their family, with a closeness that can only be matched clones born and raised from the same creche. Members of an array can finish each others sentences, share emotions, or dampen emotions as need be. Inside the array, they can move things around, and by things, skills, abilities, concentration, emotions, and physical sensations. One member can can physically become drunk and the entire array can share in the effects of intoxication, likewise, one member can remain sober, and run a covering game for the other members.
Skillsharing is a popular and important application of the array, as a small number of skills can be cultivated by each member, but expressed by all of them, or all by one member if need be.
The Bond Array
The Bond Array is a prototype surveillance and espionage array. Each member has specialized in a different set of skills; firearms, martial arts, piloting/driving, security, demolitions, and socializing. Only the point member of the array goes on the mission, the others remain in close contact, providing their skills and abilities as needed. A medical inspection of the point member can locate the array hardware, but the equipment is small and unobtrusive, and if scanned registers as a correctional node for dyslexia and basic network interface (common equipment for business executives and media personnel. Thus, a single member of this array can manifest the skillset of a half dozen elite agents without resorting to extensive use of skillsofts, chipjacks, or computer controlled abilities, all of which are vulnerable to hacking, compromise, viruses and misuse. The entire array can go into a mission, and can prove itself devastating, so long as the same skill isn't required by multiple members at the same time. The array does remain vulnerable to two things. A network shutdown can separate the array, a disorienting experience that can leave members stranded and vulnerable, and the loss of a member removes their skillset from the array. If the point member is killed on a mission, they all lose the socializing skills he possessed.
In less scrupulous areas of research, vingian arrays are being used to investigate tactical applications and industrial applications of the array. Soldier arrays could be skilled, but staffed with a large number of low skill members, while controlled by a smaller number of elite soldiers. These arrays could provide a cheap and less problematic answer to the supersoldier dilemma (The stronger the soldier, the more of a liability he becomes). On the industrial side, the arrays could turn an assembly line into a single organic machine that could work with efficiency rivaling machines, but remain more elastic in it's ability to change to new situations, and requirements in the product. The array itself would prove valuable as the array would replace the family as the core unit, and array members wouldn't be out having messy organic lives, finding mates and spouses, having children, and so forth.
Inbred Social Life
Vingian Arrays remain people, but their innate connection separates them from other humans. They are closer to their fellow array members and they remain constant parts of each other's lives. As such, few non-array members want to be in a relationship or even close friends with an array member. There is a terrible amount of truth to the notion that if you sleep with one member of an array, you've slept with all of them. This socially isolates arrays, and eventually they turn insular towards non-array members, and instead turn to their fellows in the array for their mental, emotional, and physical needs.
The Sad Tale of Edward Evans
Edward Evans was an outgoing intelligent young man who tired of having too much to do, too many ambitions, and not enough time or energy to complete even a fraction of it. To this end he invested a large sum of money to create two clones of himself, and connected the three of themselves into a small Vingian array. It was decided that they would rotate out through their job, while the two members not working would have time to work on the projects and ambitions they shared. This worked passably well for a short amount of time before it started going downhill. Evans wife couldn't deal with having two copies of her husband constantly around. She found herself with no privacy, no time to herself, and was unable and unwilling to keep up with the sexual desires of her now three bodied husband. What started as very kinky fun quickly devolved into ceaseless unromantic demands. Once she departed, the Evans array attempted to console itself with friends, and try dating, which quickly fell through. Romantic interests quickly backed off discovering that Evans was a tripartite entity, or after a few sexual encounters moved on to more serious dating. Friends were alienated by the array, and started avoiding Evans, and eventually cut of their friendships with him/them. By this point, Evans had developed several severe internal issues, the members of the array blamed each other for their collective problems and failures. This devolved into violence several times, and eventually the police became involved. Evans killed two members of it's own array, and as the clones created with top of the line, there is no way to tell if the one surviving member of the array was actually Edward Evans, or one of his duplicates. The survivor is currently incarcerated at a mental health facility where he is undergoing investigation and evaluation to determine why his array fell apart and eventually destroyed itself.
Bond, James, Jessie, Joseph, Jacob, James again, and Jameson Bond. Martini stirred not shaken, a bud lite, a shot of whiskey, a glass of water no lemon, a beer, and a coke please. Pardon us, but do you come here often? The PCs encounter a shadowrunner array of specialists.
Chase the Rabbit - The PCs are tasked with finding an array and taking it out, or taking some of it's members hostage so that it can be brought back to base. The array can be a rogue experiment group, a military array thats gone rogue, or a celebrity array (most people not knowing that half the entourage of le Celeb is actually it's full array)
Eagle Eye - the PCs are working with a single member of an array, not knowing that they are. The other members of the array work behind the scenes, or with a more cryptic purpose. Their job fixer, he is part of the array, how many other of their contacts are too? Insert conspiracy and paranoia.