Designer's Notes: Orbital Decay (for Transhuman Space)
by Patrick Sweeney
<Biomonitor Alert: Motor control degraded by 12%. Exceeding normal variation>
<Memory Check: No record of ingestion of alcohol or drugs in relevant time period>
<Initial Approximation: Biological or nanoviral agent introduced. Probability: 54.8%. Activate Medical Alert icon in virtual interface>
<Biomonitor Alert: Motor control degraded by 23%. Palsy in limbs detected>
<Virtual Interface: No response to Medical Alert icon>
<Query:> Bryant, are you ill?
<Reply:> Can't . . . I . . . shaking . . .
<Approximation: Neurological attack by nanoviral agent. Probability: 97.9%>
<Open Link:> M.Sgt. Howard, this is Daisy, Pvt. Bryant Noguchi's low-sapient artificial intelligence infomorph. I believe Pvt. Noguchi has been attacked by a biowarfare agent affecting the motor-control centers of his brain. I am transmitting his vital signs to fire team medic Cpl. Kritov.
<Biomonitor Alarm: Motor control degraded by 46%. Host unconscious>
<Open Link:> Pvt. Noguchi has lost consciousness. I will continue to transmit. Please advise as to desired course of action.
Orbital Decay melds science fiction and horror to explore the dark side of the biotechnological revolution envisioned in the Transhuman Space setting.
Most of the action in Orbital Decay takes place aboard Vandegrift Station, a space habitat home to a surreptitious biotechnology research program. A trio of gengineered pathogens key to the plot are described in the adventure, but numerous others might await discovery in the illicit labs aboard the station.
Here are some new contagions -- from the lethal to the merely irritating -- to throw into the mix as operatives explore the mysteries of Vandegrift Station.
While these plagues are designed with Transhuman Space in mind, GMs can put them to use in just about any game. They could be biological warfare stockpiles, alien viruses or mutant strains of natural diseases.
A GURPS Special Ops raid could turn some up in a biowarfare lab run by terrorists or a rogue nation. In GURPS Ogre, a clandestine research program might accidentally unleash one or more nanoviruses on a war-torn future Earth. Explorers on a newly discovered world in GURPS Traveller could find a dead civilization, learning only too late that the plague responsible for its destruction has survived amid the ruins. A wicked deity in a GURPS Fantasy game might visit pestilence upon the land as a curse. There are countless other possibilities for working these contagions into adventures in a variety of genres and worlds.
This batch of biowarfare agents has been given code names drawn from famous mountain peaks.
This lethal nanovirus, code-named Everest, targets the motor-control centers of the brain, sending victims into uncontrollable seizures. In time, it can cause death as the autonomic functions controlling breathing shut down.
A strain of proteus nanovirus, the neurovirus is a bio nanomachine that reproduces rapidly through the brain to alter the connections between neurons and adjust the neurochemical balance -- in this case, to a destructive end.
Everest could also be gengineered into assassin viruses coded to a specific DNA or DNA fragment. These nanoviruses would spread harmlessly among the general population, activating only when they infect the targeted individual.
Infection: The Everest nanovirus spreads normally through sneezing and coughing during the first 3 hours of infection. The nanovirus survives in air for an extended period of time and can infect anyone entering a contaminated area up to 12 hours later. There is a chance the person's immune system will fight off the nanovirus on a HT-4 roll. Bonuses for Panimmunity and Disease Resistant apply. However, Immunity to Disease gives only +10 to HT to resist.
Symptoms: Within 2 hours of infection, the patient begins to experience periodic hand tremors. In the course of the next hour, these develop into continuous palsy building to body-wracking spasms. On a roll of HT-4, the patient lapses into a coma.
Progress and Recovery: The neurovirus, which has been accelerated, runs its course in 18 hours. A HT-2 roll is required each hour. A critical failure results in a loss of 1d-1 DX. A failed roll means a loss of 1 DX. A success results in no loss, while three consecutive successes or a critical success means the patient recovers. When DX reaches 0, the patient loses HT instead.
Treatment: Once the person has been infected, the nanovirus cannot be stopped short of introduction of a counter-nanovirus or a medical microbot nanowash. Those who survive recover lost DEX as per HT under the natural recovery or medical care rules.
Code-named Kilamanjaro by its designers, this fungal agent spreads via airborne spores that lodge in the lungs. Breathing becomes labored as the fungus grows in the alveoli and bronchi, incapacitating or killing foes.
Infection: Kilamanjaro spreads by exceptionally hardy airborne spores. Anyone breathing the air in an infected region has a chance to contract the infection. The spores can also survive in a dormant state for long periods of time to infect new patients when they are disturbed and once more become airborne. There is a chance the person's immune system will fight off the fungal infection on a HT-3 roll. Bonuses for Panimmunity and Disease Resistant apply. However, Immunity to Disease gives only +10 to HT to resist.
Symptoms: Within 24 hours of infection, the patient begins wheezing and non-productive coughing. Breathing becomes increasingly labored in the ensuing days as the spreading fungus clogs the lungs, potentially resulting in pulmonary collapse or heart failure.
Progress and Recovery: A HT-3 roll is required each day. A critical failure means a loss of 1d HT. A failed roll means a loss of 1 HT. A success regains 1 HT, while three consecutive successes or a critical success means the person recovers.
Treatment: Designers of Kilamanjaro also created an inhalant spray fatal to the fungus as a means of protecting friendly forces. Additionally, medical microbots can be programmed to seek out and destroy the fungal infections. Lost HT is recovered normally.
A proteus nanovirus, the bioweapon code-named Fuji rewrites the genetic coding in blood cells to inhibit clotting, resembling the genetic defect of hemophilia. Intended to weaken enemy soldiers rather than kill them, the Fuji virus forces the enemy to spend time and research countering its effect before embarking on any aggressive military action. The Fuji virus can also be used to soften enemy defenses prior to an attack.
Statistics: Hemophilia (-30)
Infection: The Fuji nanovirus spreads via direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids. Gengineered to be spread in the close quarters of troop barracks, the virus dies quickly in air. This feature is intended to help check its spread outside targeted military bases. There is a chance the person's immune system will fight off the nanovirus on a HT-2 roll. Bonuses for Panimmunity and Disease Resistant apply. However, Immunity to Disease gives only +10 to HT to resist.
Symptoms: Nosebleeds are often the first symptom of infection. Patients also tend to bruise easily, and small lacerations may bleed uncontrollably.
Progress and Recovery: The nanovirus takes approximately 48 hours to complete its work. The first symptoms appear in 24 to 36 hours, but may be dismissed as minor inconveniences. Once established in the body, the nanovirus performs its work unhindered by the body's natural defenses.
Treatment: Since the nanovirus rewrites the genetic code regulating production of blood cells, as well as that of existing blood cells, the condition is permanent unless reversed by a counter-nanovirus. Medication designed for hemophiliacs may reduce, but not eliminate, its harmful effects.
Gengineers coded a bomb into the Fuji nanovirus designed to thwart quick efforts to counteract it. Any counter-virus must be specifically coded for the Fuji nanovirus -- a very time-consuming process. Introduction of any generic anti-hemophilia proteus virus activates a dormant part of the Fuji nanovirus causing blood to break down and spurring massive internal bleeding. The patient rolls HT-5 each hour. A critical failure results in a loss of 2d HT. A failure means a loss of 2 HT. A success regains 1 HT, while three consecutive successes or a critical success means the person recovers. Prompt medical care, such as a medical microbot nanowash, may also save the patient. Lost HT is recovered normally.
Article publication date: March 15, 2002
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