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Animals of the Technocratic Union [Oct. 19th, 2012|05:41 pm]
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[music |Cat Video, by Blue Man Group]

Although the stomping Terminator-esque Hit Marks or the fast, cunning and dangerously unstable Victors can present a lasting image to your players, I have some problems with them in the style of games I like to run. I say this having tried them in the as-presented manner. With that experience I discovered I have a couple of problems with the concept:
  • It takes real effort to keep Hit Marks from turning into clichés.
  • People are very sensitive to minor "errors" in human appearance and interaction. That's why animating them realistically is so difficult. If your Technocracy is trying to stay hidden, it doesn't make as much sense to use fake or partially fake humans to carry out public jobs. This becomes ridiculously true with the whole "chain gun from the shoulder" nonsense.
Hit Marks could be a popular solution to off-world security issues, where sprouting projectile weapons presents fewer problems (as for Victors, why would they use them at all if they are so prone to instability?). But on good old Earth with good old Paradox, the Union would look to other methods of active infiltration. The most popular solutions would be micro cameras and/or human agents. For those missions that require both mobility and observation, however, few things would work better than engineered animals.


One word: flies. Their only disadvantage is their unfortunate tendency to get actively crushed by completely unsuspecting citizens. This occurs less often then some might think, however. If all you have installed are a micro camera and microphone, Paradox nearly always leaves these alone. Even when it does take exception, what typically happens is the malfunction of a $15,000 surveillance system. These things work so well for the NWO that a surprising percentage of their infiltration budget is on flies (and their data handlers) alone.

Artificial mosquitoes are a problematic, but sometimes marvelous way to collect a tough-to-acquire DNA sample. Being wholly biological (thanks to the Progenitors) there is extremely little risk of discovery or even Paradox. They are expensive as hell, however, particularly considering their 30% success rate.


Until the flies were perfected, this was the favorite way to spy on any outdoor situation. Contrary to popular Tradition legend, the Union never made a crow or raven model, feeling this would invite scrutiny from those superstitious throwbacks they were spying on. By far, the Sparrow model proved the most efficacious. A distant yet respected second place was the Robin version. Others included the Vulture high-altitude observation model and the Starling semi-biological unit (all of the other models were completely electromechanical). The Starling was developed to counter the uncanny ability of some Verbena to quickly spot the other models. It didn't work as well as the Union had hoped, though it was otherwise a viable surveillance system. A Pigeon model was drafted but never fully tested by the time the insect models became popular. For some reason, the prototype was completely (and conspicuously) rejected by real pigeons in field tests.


Some Technocratic products gain a reputation, either in-house or from Reality Deviants, that outstrips their actual functionality. The Wolf Mark was just such a device. Early models ran into pernicious flaws, calling the whole project into doubt. The Wolf Mark III was the first successful field tested model -- a sophisticated and frightening combat machine, it was responsible for a strong reaction from the Traditions that carried over through the next, often subtler models. Later Wolf Marks de-emphasized the raw combat toughness for superior wilderness tracking ability. All models, controversially, were equipped with twin 2 watt lasers, ostensibly for emergency use. These were Paradox magnets in most cases, of course, malfunctioning usually after one use (sometimes causing the unit's head to combust). Combat, when necessary, was accomplished well enough with tooth and jaw alone.

The Union's domestic dog surveillance systems were often quite effective. Iteration X could never produce a model cheaply enough to make mass production worthwhile, however. Also, the dog models were prone to the "pigeon problem" of appearing alien to other dogs.


The Technocratic Union initially developed the ARISS (Active Rodent Infiltration & Surveillance System) for populations used to the presence of the actual animal, particularly India. To their delight, it experienced a couple of almost unhoped for benefits: every version tested was accepted by the natural animal social system, i.e. by real rats. This was largely the work of Shashi Divakaruni, wunderkind programmer for Iteration X. The second surprise was that individual units inexplicably possessed an appeal by the humans that encountered it. People already inclined towards rodents in general tended to actively adopt or assist the ARISS units if said device made an unanticipated contact. While this sometimes resulted in awkward mission situations, more often than not it was a boon, eventually anticipated in infiltration scenarios from the outset.


The Cabal of Pure Thought authorized some bizarre alchemical experiments with animate feline forms in the 17th Century. These were chiefly created to discredit the Verbenae and other such mystickal groups. Although this met with some success, a strange kind of internal superstition prevented the Order of Reason as a whole from pursuing the project further. This bias lasted well into the 19th Century, although the occasional half-hearted attempt was still made. The modern Technocracy revived the concept in the 1950's and took a predictably more mechanistic approach. It wasn't until the 1970's, however, when the Progenitors took the matter into their own hands that the first so-called Sparks (housecat cyborgs created for surveillance) entered production. The units had the benefit of being relatively inexpensive and modestly effective in urban or suburban environments. However, even the most advanced Sparks run into troublesome malfunctions at unpredictable times, frustrating the NWO in particular. These flaws are particularly irksome as they rarely result in a complete (and innocuous) shutdown, but much more often create weird and attention-getting behaviors, such as abrupt, rapid running, tail-chasing, and staring in inappropriate directions.