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The Centurions

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Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
The Centurions
[b]Why be good at something when you can be the best?[/b] In the years leading up to the Fall, transhuman capability expanded, seemingly without limit. Scientists broke impossible barriers, engineers built marvels out of dreams and fairy tales, and athletes did what was once only thought possible of mythic heroes with startling regularity. Disease, poverty, death, all seemed like foes that could be defeated, and the horizons stretched on without limit. Who knows where it might have led, if not for an... Unfortunate setback? Out of the ashes of the Fall, there were a great many people who believed that transhumanity was intensely short on time, and that the only future left was a simulated one. Afanasiy Rogozin was one such person; a former AI researcher, Rogozin had been on Luna during the Fall and, while wealthy enough to be reinstantiated without having to sign into an indenture contract, yet never bothered to retake fleshy form out of belief that the end was inevitable. Instead, he turned his attentions to virtual worlds and VR acceleration, in the hopes of spending as much of whatever limited time he might have left in blissful ignorance of his impending doom, or, at the very least, provide such an opiate to his fellow transhumans. The end never came. Instead, Rogozin became a pioneer and, by mid-AF 2, was one of the team that helped break the x15 speed barrier on VR time acceleration (a feat long since exceeded by others, but one that remains notable; Rogozin, prior to his Centurion days, was rather unhappily dubbed the father of the "Condensed Indenture Contract"). He then spent the next two years working on further refinements to his technologies and started to move into the field of psychosurgery. By the time Rogozin had already aided in the breaking of the x15 speed barrier, most of the solar system were already starting to consider that the TITANs might not be returning and were set on finishing reconstruction, but the Russian never lost his paranoia and began to grow more and more distant from society. With his plans for a massive sim-accelerated paradise becoming seen as less of a useful idea for a mind like his, his employers tried to quietly move him on to other projects and, when he resisted, he found himself increasingly distanced from the best and brightest he once worked with. Rather than invest the time and effort trying to find like-minded individuals, Rogozin decided the only person he could trust was himself. Dedicating himself to the task of learning more of neuroscience, psychosurgery, and other developing cognomic projects, Rogozin used his savings to move to a small infomorph community in the main belt, where he would be undisturbed in his intellectual pursuits. There, he immersed himself in a time-accelerated simspace and dedicated himself to learning new knowledge. In what was weeks to the outside world, he became a qualified psychosurgeon. Inside of a year, he was one of the foremost experts. Rather than expand outwards, he turned the new knowledge on himself, suppressing or excising what he viewed as "extraneous" features of his psyche, such as a need for social contact or the hunger for novelty (colloquially known as boredom), and developed a limited form of semi-controlled myopia that allowed him to focus on his eagerness to learn and to avoid everything else. His fellow infomorphs were already used to Rogozin's introverted nature, so none really noticed much of a change. As time-acceleration improved, the amount of real time that Rogozin spent in accelerated simspace grew. In AF 5, he transmitted himself further out, to seek refuge with the Ultimates. By AF 7, he had spent the equivalent of almost two centuries studying, practicing, and developing a broad array of skills, as well as attracted a fair number of followers. Most transhumans became aware of the Centurions in AF 8, when one of Rogozin's followers, who was known simply as Grozny, was violently perma-killed in a conflict with Olympian security forces. Dubbed the Butcher of Olympus, Grozny's original identity was unknown. Whomever he was, he had become one of the most skilled combatants in transhuman space and, at the time of his death, was responsible for close to a thousand murders and stack thefts, though his purpose for taking them was unknown. Test targets/subjects for further study was the reason given by an Ultimate delegate interviewed by Experia during the media furor. It was a rather haunting introduction to the clade for mainstream transhumanity. Since then, there have been no known major incidents involving Centurions that have met the public eye, but many conspiracy message boards abound with suggestions that Grozny, or others like him, are working in some hypercorp biolab somewhere. [b]Who are they?[/b] To be a Centurion is to be the best. So they say, anyway. The clade has come a long way since Ragozin's initial attempts to create simple VR training simspaces. To become a Centurion, one must accomplish a simple task: Prove mastery of a skill by studying it for one-hundred years. Easier said than done, really. This is why being a Centurion tends to carry another, usually rather more unspoken requirement: Undergoing extensive psychosurgery. Each Centurion has endured a rigorous mental reworking, pioneered by Ragozin and seen not so much as an improvement but as an opening of potential. This change has very much noticeable effects; those who undergo the Rite of Induction, as it is known amongst the more ritually-minded of the Centurions, usually produces an ego that is described by the unmodified as having their head in the clouds. They become distant, always thinking about a topic that interests them, and become increasingly withdrawn from the world around them. In many ways, this can be seen as a form of autistic savantism, and, in many ways, is quite similar, especially when it is blended with memory enhancements and other cognitive boosts. As a side-effect of this upgrade, Centurions cannot sleeve into biomorphs any longer; their expanded memory capacity is too large and too alien a storage system to be compatible. Most cannot use standard synthmorphs, either, and tend to exist as infomorphs. Due to the sheer difficulty of maintaining focus for a century without much outside contact, none have ever managed to join the ranks of the Centurions without undergoing the Rite. In addition, there are, throughout the solar system, probably less than a thousand members of the clade, mostly due to the simple time required for it. AF 8 was the latest one could have joined the clade and still be considered a full Centurion at this point and, in truth, most are too impatient to dedicate themselves to a skill for a century and declare themselves "done" after a few simulated years, which many Centurions see as undesirable weakness. Centurions rank themselves according to time spent mastering a particular skill, with formal titles of degrees of mastery given as a sign of respect. A Centurion who has spent a century mastering two separate skills is known as a "2nd Degree Master", for example. Rogozin, the order's founder, by simple dint of being oldest of his kind is the only Centurion to hold the title "3rd Degree Master". [b]What are they?[/b] All Centurions are someone who has undergone the Rite of Induction and spent a century of subjective time practicing a skill. What skill this is does not matter, and there are Centurions who are master artists and artisans in equal number to those who are superlative snipers and swordsmen. In game terms, each Centurion wields a level of unparalleled skill in one particular field of endeavour. How a GM decides to deal with a person who has spent a century mastering every single possible aspect of a given skill is up to them, but it is recommended to be sufficiently impressive. The Rite of Induction bestows the Eidetic Memory trait, Mental Disorder (Myopia), and an inability to sleeve into biomorphs. It also improves two aptitudes by 5 and renders the character immune to Immortality Blues. This treatment is not recommended to be available to PCs. [b]Story Hooks[/b] -As it turns out, the conspiracy theorists are right; Grozny lives. The Butcher of Olympus has been given an unlimited budget by Project Ozma to become one of their wizards of psychosurgery, and is well on the path to developing a treatment that may allow the development of a seed AI from a transhuman ego... -Afanasiy Rogozin has not been seen since the incident on Olympus. Perhaps he has simply ceased to bother with the public, not exactly having been personable to begin with. Still, there are people who want to talk to him, and they are paying handsomely. Rogozin is, after all, quite possibly one of the smartest transhumans to ever live. Some people would pay a king's ransom for a copy of his ego. -An outbreak of the E-Virus has infected an Ultimate habitat, one, as it turns out, that was host to a Centurion recruitment camp and training server. Now, recruits with decades of VR sim training and at least one fully-fledged Centurion are under the thrall and directive of the Exsurgent Virus. Firewall has been calling every agent they have in on this one, and may even call for a team-up with Project Ozma.
Aurell1an Aurell1an's picture
Klaatu barada nikto!
I raise this thread from the grave! I really like this as an idea; it makes sense than it a world where you can study for any length of time without having to worry about the persistent threat of death there would be lunatics who would commit themselves completely to a discipline, and to Hell with everything else. This makes them insanely dangerous adversaries, obviously, however a smart party would try to force any individual Centurion they encounter into a situation outside their area of expertise for a relatively easy kill. You could build an entire campaign around accumulating information on a Centurion (or small party thereof) to find where the chinks in their armour are. On the other hand, the penalties for taking the Rite seem to be pretty mild. It requires dedication/ autism to a crippling level to do something like this. As a (more or less) neurotypical, I hesitate to suggest how best to model such a mindset, but I would think -60 on all Social skill tests (with exceptions at GM's discretion for associates who know them well enough to read between the lines) forced Frail Sanity (to reflect the severity of the changes inflicted), and at least 2 full-blown and untreatable Disorders (for balance though I'd suggest that medication would be a possibility). Since becoming a Centurion also requires dedication to the point of neglecting all other aspects of a person's life, I would also suggest: 1. -10 (-20?) to all other skills, with optional reduced penalties for related skills (so a master railgun sniper would only be at -10 for Beam weapons). 2. -5 to 3 aptitudes.
Discontinuity is a lifestyle choice