Common Horrors of the Cosmic Era
There are many things disturbing and sinister that occur in the Cosmic Era. Many of these things happen behind closed doors or grew in so gradually that no one noticed to object.
The Luxury and Horror of Meat
Protein is a necessity, and there are a variety of means of getting protein in a diet. The most common and cheapest way is vegetable protein, the sort found in legumes. But eating bean paste isn't haute cotoure. Peasants and the poverty stricken subsist on beans and rice, rice and beans. These things are cheap and easily grown. The middle class is not going to happily subsist on a vegetarian diet, they want meat. Eating meat has always been a sign of wealth and success. Good hunters were praised, good farmers were simply doing what was expected of them, and 12,000 years later little has changed.
Mycoprotein: Synthetic Meat
With enough sugar water, darkness and warmth, fungal spores can turn vast amounts of blank material into fungal masses. These masses can have a fibrous texture, and can pass as processed chicken or pork products. The fungus has to be heat treated, otherwise the high RNA present in it will very quickly cause gout. This fake meat already exists in the modern petroleum age and is a popular vegetarian replacement for chicken. Once breaded and fried, it can be seasoned and otherwise treated like chicken. In the cosmic era, the mycoproteins can be cultured and raised to represent the major meat groups: chicken, pork, lamb, beef, and fish. Flavorings and colorings complete the faux meat. As can be expected, this fake meat is on the bland side, fat free, and an excess intake can still lead to gout and other excess RNA diseases. That being said, mycomeats are the most common form of protein consumed.
Seacology Farming: Minced Fish
Making faux fish is generally only done in inland arco food production centers. Real fish can be grown in seacology fisheries, especially small bodies fast growing fish like smelt, herring, and anchovies. These fish are then minced and either reconstituted to make minced fish patties, high protein, and fatty acid fish pastes, or are dried as genuine meat snacks. Most seacologies are heavy fish consumers, as are coastal regions.
Meat in the Slums: Running Chicken, Long Pork
Meat is hard to come by in the slums, the borderline ruins that surround the outer fringes of the great arcoplexes. Meat and protein are gained in a more opportunistic fashion. Running chicken is a common name for rats. A dirty secret in some of the worse arcoplex slums involve cannibalism. This isn't Soylent Green, though the idea has been floated and then rejected. There was simply no cost effective way to ensure that the protein supply wasn't tainted by drugs, and other hazardous substances. The most well known examples of this pragmatic cannibalism come from hellholes like Dhaka, Bangladesh or the Broken ground of Singapore. In these cases, some families will 'sell' the bodies of deceased family members in exchange for money. The unscrupulous meat packers then dress and clean the carcass and sell the meat elsewhere. Many a market with fresh meat, especially those in poor areas run the risk of selling human flesh. The thought of eating human meat has the same amount of stigma attached to it as eating at questionable asian restaurants does now, but replace missing cats and dogs with missing people and the unburied poor.
HoloVids Rot Your Brain
The most common form of entertainment in the Cosmic Era is the ubiquitous HoloVid. Much like 3D televisions, each viewer has a pair of 'glasses' that allow them to see the programming. The HoloBand, relative of the SQUIDband accesses the visual cortex and aural cortex to stream immersive content into the brain of the viewer. It is some pretty impressive stuff, read 3D visuals, the ability to move around a scene as it plays out, plus all the variety inherent in customizable avatar games.
There are several downsides to the HoloBand. The most distressing is the way the HoloBand teases the reward centers of the brain. This sort of access can allow for serious personality and behavioral problems, especially in the context of instant gratification, ADD, and other attention disrupting conditions. HoloBand users are antsy and become bored and irritable very quickly as real life simply cannot match the speed and stimulation of the HoloVids. Most compulsive HoloVid users are on regular attention controlling medications, and have been since they were children.
Other less diagnosable conditions have also sprung from HoloBand and HoloVid usage. Literacy has begun to slide, and much to the chagrin of the world powers, the height of the Petroleum Age was also the height of world literacy. Most first world nation citizens can only read on a elementary level, and have little interest or desire in reading. The HoloVids are so much better.
BlackBands and BlackVids
HoloBands and HoloVids are regulated as to the level and intensity of the data they can stream into a viewer's head. Black market bands can pump illegal amounts of data, causing euphoria and other drug like reactions from the viewer. This can very quickly erode the chemical production ability of the brain, much like heroin abuse. The wearers are quickly reduced to feeling like machines outside of the bands, and only alive when the band is pumping them with near catatonia inducing levels of signal. Tailored BlackVids can literally be nothing more than programmed emotions, like joy, orgasming, elation, or other emotional highs. On a darker side, as mentioned in the SQUIDband entry, there are black market vids that are recordings of violent or illegal actions, such as rape, assault, or murder with the feedback pumped to methamphetamine levels. HoloJunkies often have bloodshot eyes, gaunt appearances, and a variety of physical tics from band abuse.
Department of Public Information
Also commonly known as the Ministry of Censorship, the DPI and it's related branches in other governments around the world are heavily involved with scanning, censoring, and sanitizing any and all data streams and sources they can find. The DPI is best known for it's Safe CogNet campaigns, advising citizens to avoid unsanitized or unsanctioned data servers and streams. You never know what filth you could expose yourself to, what Malware could infect your systems and corrupt your data and steal your money and identity, or even possibly cyberjack your own augmentations if you have any.
The DPI is often the primary target of cyber warfare, as viewers who only rely on local datafeeds, and sanctioned and santized feeds can expect to be spoon fed nothing more than propaganda, political spin, pablum, and the old bread and circuses routine. Dissenting opinions are presented with obvious flaws, and their are associated 'underground channels' that stream hardcore pornography or criminal based feeds. These are generally staged by the DPI as a way to track would be deviants and wanna be hackers (minimal difficulty to 'hack' these 'dirty feeds'. The porn is staged, and the crimes are also choreographed and 'caught on camera' in such a manner as to dissuade would be criminals. Who wants to be a criminal when every feed they hack ends in the crims getting caught, or beaten, or shot by one of the own in a gang feud. It is all agit-prop and controlled counter-propaganda.
Hyperdimensional Mathematics Destroy Brain Cells and Sanity
Arcanotech is one of the foundations of the Cosmic Era. From it sprouts the free and clean energy of the Dimensional Engine, the Dimensional Battery, Pan-Dimensional Spectography, Dimensional Heat Sinks, Coalescent Plasma Cannons, and things like Seibertronian brains. Hyperdimension mathematics are to non-euclidian geometry, as NEG is to basic geometry. The stuff is seriously hard.
One of the problems that arised from arcanotech is that a sufficiently sane person cannot physically understand it. The average sane person is too grounded in mundane facts and lacking a fundamental understanding of said theories. Once an engineer or theorist reaches a point of actually and really understanding this esoteric and chaotic form of mathematics their grip on sanity is gone. They are much like Alice in Wonderland, as in their book 1+1 no longer equals 2, but is rather a massive sliding parabolic curve of possible answers.
Sometimes these individuals do strange things, enlightened or deranged by alien thoughts or indescribably inspirations. Sometimes these things are bad. Like mad scientist bad.
That being said, the innate source of arcanotechnology is tainted. Nothing grows from poisoned ground but poisoned crops.
Selective and Designer Eugenics
Designer babies and gene screening are not new technologies. Parents can have their child's physical characteristics planned ahead of time, hair and eye color, general ideas of where their pre planned son or daughter will develop physically. It is a wonderful Gattaca world, with no diabetes, no cancer, and no uglies or fatties.
That the parents aren't the only group that has a say so in the selective genetics game. There are many other traits that can be drilled in at the cellular level, such as docility, accepting leadership and authority, limiting creativity, or creating chemical dependencies in utero. There are laws against creating sub-races or supermen. Both of these aspects are ignored in varying degrees. Clones and many many middle income children are prescreened to be good and obedient followers. This isn't foolproof or 100% certain to work, but it vastly decreases the levels of rebellious and deviant behavior inherent in children and teens, as well as in young adults. While this makes for terrible leaders and nigh useless soldiers, there are freeborn poor, cyborgs, war clones, and androids to deal with the real fighting and killing. Obey, consume, procreate.
There are certainly examples of Human Minus to be found around the world. This never comes close to the Epsilons and epsilon semi-morons of Brave New World, but there are certainly Deltas. Born to low means, predetermined to enjoy repetitive and low rewarding jobs, lacking ambition or creativity. Human minus is much more likely to be found in places that lack strong robotics and android production ability. Because no genius, or supermodel is going to take out the trash, drive a dump truck or do other menial labor.
Just because there is an interplanetary treaty banning creating artificial supermen doesn't mean that every major power on the planet isn't doing it. They all signed the treaty, smiled, and went back to creating superior humans, the illegal Human Plus. The first Human Pluses created were superior soldiers. Physically more robust, more pack like in mentality, and more aggressive, the clone soldiers were born and bred to kill and die. Beyond that it was to create the new level of humanity, better, stronger, and most importantly, more intelligent. The Federation has the Coordinator Program operating in secret in one of the space habitats. The Coordinators are superior intelligence and agility, better pilots and computer operators than regular humans. Likewise the PRC has it's Instrumentality Project that is creating genetically augmented humans who are able to parapsychically link with computers and machine systems. The most impressive outcome of this project are the mecha pilots who literally become the machine they enter and move it with nothing more than the force of their will and the mech brain. The Fimbulvinter project is creating parapsychic super commandos, while the ACPS Saiko Kurrasha program is likewise creating parapsychic martial artists and warriors.
Plain old human, how can he stand up to this?
Corporate Comic Superheroes
The comics aren't gone, and they aren't made for kids like they used to be. Almost every major superbrand and Megacorp has a mascot/superhero to market their goods in good faith in whatever nation they are being advertized in. Some superheroes are new renditions of classic characters, such as OCP of the Great Lakes Republic rebooting Superman and OmniMan, defender of Truth, Property, and the Federation Way! Another example is Union Aerospace and it's rebadging and rebranding of Batman as Jet-Man, the stealthy protector of MegaCity New York, armed with his collection of (UAC) hardware, gadgets, and pro-military idealism.
Other corporations just create their own mascots and comic lines from the ground up. They range from the inane to the over the top, and can reach out to any demographic from children, to teens, to adults. The writing and conceptual teams behind these characters likewise run the gamut from hacks to world class writers, creating from some trivial characters award winning stories, and in other cases absolute piles of radioactive filth.
Villains are likewise sourced, either requested by government powers to represent uncool ideas or subversive agendas, or as metaphors for actual rivals of the corporation in question. This can range from the absurd: such as Grand Dragon, the flying cyborg commando rapist racist (If you imagined a KKK klansman wearing jet boots you are a winner) to the surprisingly introspective: Comrade Che, an Apple advert quality hipster clone of Che Geuvara spreads dissent, neon-hepatitus, and promotes unsafe date servers and streams.
We aren't even going to get into the horror and fetish filled realm of the adult comics, I can't go there, I'm emotionally and spiritually not strong enough for that.
Biogenic Armor Suits
The Chinese have a knack for thinking of some seriously messed up stuff, and with enough disgruntled Nipponese and Korean technochops behind it, they have a messed record of making it happen. The problem with most armor and mecha suits is that they are machines and require lots of repair, rearming and maintenance. This is a total pain in the rear when operating in humid jungles and other not so machine friendly locals. So, the idea was grow biological monsters instead. Replace chitin and bone with ferroceramics and carbon fiber, and grow the meat around,under and through it.
The end result is a spider the size of an SUV. Armed with claws, fangs, and a few other bio-organic goodies. Extra points for anyone who thought of the Zerg or the Tyrannids, because yeah, that's where this is going. But these aren't alive, per se. Life doesn't start until the intensively trained and sedated operator is placed inside of the bio-organic machine. Then, the three ton robo-meat spider comes to life. The resultant creature looks like an animal to machine sensors, and instead of using batteries or reactors, it eats things to keep going. Things like livestock, enemy soldiers, wild animals, and civilians.
Yes, to the very last they all go mad.
The Great Contraction
Officially the greatest shift in human population, the Great Contraction was greater than the effect of the Black Death. The Great Contraction occurred over a span of approximately 45-90 years and was predominantly attributed to a combination of increased infant mortality, decrease in rate of childbirth, and heightened population attrition.
The first two factors contributed the most to the staggering decrease in population. Over several generations a large number of adults decided to simply not have kids. There was a huge feeling of weakness and vulnerability following the end of the Petroleum Age, and the collapse of almost all governments beyond city and limited regionals. They simply just didn't reproduce. Adding to this many who did were brought back to the horrors of limited medicine, midwifery and dramatically increased mortality both on the part of the mother and the child.
Heightened Population Attrition is a very neat and clinical way to describe death. Large portions of the world were hit by pandemics, many brought on by the end of foreign aid and life saving drugs. Sub-Saharan Africa seemed more like a zombie movie, torn between tribal and warlord disputes and the remnants of factions who had supported one side or the other in the Resource Wars. In some areas, centuries of hatred and hostility were left unchecked by the oversight of organizations like the UN or NATO. The number of people killed in genocides, ethnic cleansing, and the like cannot be calculated. As local supplies and resources started to be severely strained in an area, any sort of division in the populace quickly exploded. This was not limited to places like Africa. Some of the worst ethnic violence was on the American east coast and across large sections of Europe. Several smaller nations also ended generational conflicts with previously undeclared weapons of mass destruction.
In the current year of the modern era, the global population is approximately 3 billion, and has a very small rate of growth. This is comparable to the world population in 1960, but retains the end Petroleum Era population densities in most arcological cities.
Scattered across the continents there are a large number of marginally occupied and abandoned cities. Places like the American southwest, which required extensive water supply from distant sources were all but emptied of population centers. Some of these areas are 'hot' or hazardous. The end of the Resource Wars saw biological and chemical weapons used, and in some areas, nuclear weapons were detonated.
This is a quiet horror. Despite all the advances of hyper and arcanotechnology, androids and human cloning, the Cosmic Era is a shadow of the height of the Petroleum Era.
The Cosmic Era has an undetermined number of clones living in most countries, and there is an entire segment of the media and entertainment that either caters to, or is based on the existence of clones and cloning technology.
Self Help takes on an entirely new dimension when you know who created you (CloneCorp) and why you are here (General services and labor).
* A Clone's Search for Meaning
* The Seven Habits of Artificial People
* Awaken the Human Soul, How to Stop Being a Clone
* How to Win Freeborn Friends
Generally geared more towards freeborn (uncommon term for non-cloned humans) users, specifically in the context of multiple sex partners who happen to be the same clone series. Why have sex with Jessica Alba when you can have sex with six Jessica Albas?
Situation Comedy programs based around clone characters, or multiple clone characters. Also a term for any show that depicts clones and cloning.
The Acceptance of Cloning in most of the world would be best paralleled by the acceptance of desegregation and civil rights in America. For the most part people are alright with Clones have equal rights and equal pay and all of that, but they still are not really excited to hear about their sons or daughters dating a clone.
In some areas, clones are seen as disposable, sub human. If it wasn't brought into this world from a woman's womb and a man's seed it isn't human. There are arenas and media outlets that exploit this perspective on clones. Clone based porn can be some of the most depraved and vile filth, filled with violence and inhuman treatment of the clones. In more mainstream media, clones are often given the same treatment as homosexuals in modern media, they are all quirky fun loving copies of one another, and generally promoting clone stereo-types. (they start and finished sentences for each other, if you have a conversation with one, all the others can pick it up later, they are all happy well adjusted smiling heads, etc).
Cultural Decay Versus Social Paradigm Shift
I wanna Be Batman when I Grow Up!
The interest in being a superhero in childhood is common, but generally abates as the reader/viewer gets older because the cool aspects of being batman, the gadgets and the Batmobile and beating up baddies and saving the chick begin to fade. To become Batman, the reader realizes that they have to go through about two decades of sustained emotional torment and dedication to learning and applying themselves to martial arts and then exposing themselves to constant danger and bodily harm. Being Batman loses it's appeal when you have a bad knee or have thrown out your back. But in the immersive CogNet technology of the Cosmic Era, this fanboydom explodes. It only takes a credit card and $19/month to be Batman, plus however much time the now player wants to put into it. The juvenile fantasy is no longer supplanted by maturity, and fantasy grows disproportionate to reality. Rather than being mocked and ostracized, the 40 year old poorly groomed overweight comic book guy who pretends to be the Flash, is fairly close to the norm now.
This isn't tied just to geeks and comic books, but immersive programming aimed at almost any interest or venue: sports jocks are immersed in sports sims, girls are immersed in Princess sims, and every hobby or interest has it's outlet in the Immersion Market. You don't have to grow up, you don't have to accept responsibility, you can kick back, plug into the CogNet and jack out of reality.
The Library Franchise
Paper Books are relics, anything read is downloaded to readers or data slates. There are still books, but they are a nostalgia market, and real paper is commanding top price with most books being made of polycellulose plastics. That being said, the Library no longer has a function. But the coffee shop in the bookstore continued to grow as the book side started to shrink. As the demand for physical books diminished, the need for data stream access increased. The Coffee Shop started doubling as a hotspot for datastreaming, expanding and growing as a social spot, dispensary for caffeine, and bookstores grew into a new social venue. Like the Internet Cafe, the Library became a place for people to use the CogNet. Library nodes are considered very safe, and sanitized and can only access recognized safe datastreams and domains.
The Library is recognized as a hipster/clean net use center, and things like alcohol and other drugs are not welcome, and the datastreams that are being used are patrolled to ensure that no one is streaming pornography or biofeedback abuse programs.
The largest operators of Libraries are Apple, Starbucks, and Maxwell Folgers.
The CogNet and Biofeedback systems have invented a new form of self pleasure: mirrorotica. The system is simple: the subject has a mirror image of themselves the CogNet reflects back at them, generally in a sensory deprivation zone, loading room, other otherwise ultra-spartan location. The reflection will do whatever the user does, but it isn't actually a physical glass mirror. If the user touches the reflection of themselves, they will feel another person, but the mirror image will do the same, and touch them back in the same place. It took approximately 8.5 seconds of use before a male user decided to grab his mirror image penis. The rest is history.
MirrorPorn exists as a small genre of porn,and is recognized as technically masturbation, as both participants are the same person, one just a computer reflection of the other.
One of the first non-sexual applications of unsanitized illicit CogNet programming was the Murder Parlour. The concept was simple, simulated murder. The original Murder Parlours were seedy dangerous places where the user was just as likely to be robbed or murdered as run a kill sim. But technology increased, and the profits of running a safe Murder Parlour (ironic) outgrew the dirty origins of mugging. The Parlours vary in quality, ranging from standard Sandbox Kill'a'thons to more extensive and invasive murder fantasies. The top end Murder Parlours double as Private Investigators who will create a detailed dossier on the person that is to be fantasy murdered, and then use that to create a virtual avatar of the victim in the system, and then the user is able to come in, make their final payment, and them indulge in their murdering.
Celebrity Murder Parlours are popular investments, as certain celebs, icons, or other public figures can be sold to more than one fantasy killing.
Red Parlours go the extra step and have the systems set up for rape and torture of the virtual victim. Red Parlours operate very much underground as even most jaded criminals and business people recognize the difference between indulging a dirty evil fantasy and encouraging and facilitating batshit crazy psychoses.
Parlour operators are news savvy and they don't want their operations associated with killers doing practice runs or having PIs do the hard work of casing a person and their habits. Most take extensive precautions to prevent this sort of thing from happening. While the physical simulation is spot on, any habitual or schedule habits are purposefully changed and the location of the final killing is always designed to be a place that the real person would never go. And in rare instances where a real person is murdered, and a parlour operator has that person on sim file, they will generally notify the police and anonymously turn over the murder sim files.
Textured Teratomatous Mass Approved for Human Consumption
The Beef Growers Consortium scored a major win today as their neo-teratoma grown Beef has been approved for human consumption. Unlike mycoprotein, textured teratomatous biomass is by every measure actual meat and protein and not a simulated substitute. The grade E product is expected to make major inroads in the fast food and vending sectors, where it will be used as a flagship product run against mycoproteins and extruded vegetable mass.
Textured Teratomatous protein is grown in a similar fashion to mycoprotein, but rather than a fungal culture introduced into a growth medium, the textured protein is grown from cellular seeds injected into sterile culture. The cells replicate, creating large pieces of animal flesh without the difficulty of maintaining and processing live animals. The process is expected to reduce the cost of genuine animal products down by a tantalizing 45%. While it would not appear in the poorest of households, most middle income families could reasonably expect genuine steak and steak products on a monthly basis.
Production of textured teratomatous biomass has not been approved yet for the production of pork or seafood options. These products are still in development.
Hackers are counterflooding the Beef Growers Consortium with outrageous claims that textured teratomatous beef is unsafe for human consumption. Claims that the beef will continue to grow inside the digestive tract, turning the consumer into a bovine is ridiculous and such claims should be ignored.
Internal Memo 345634-34
Destroy after reading
Revamp TT sterilization process. Several dozen members of the last test group developed bovine tumors. We want them to buy Beef'ems, not be eaten from the inside out by one.
Cosmetic enhancement can be done in the Cosmic Era through injections and genetic therapy, rather than coarse hacking and suturing. When cosmetic self alteration becomes so simple, and eventually cost available it's prevalence grows exponentially. The initial forays into cosmetic genetic injections was in the realm of skin rejuvenation followed by breast augmentation. Men were not far behind to enhance their own Endowments for Entertainment. Penile and testicular augmentation became uncommon, but quite mainstream. This is a far cry from the medical horror stories of centuries and even decades earlier.
Linghams, a reference to the Hindu term for the penis, evolved from traditional style denim pants. Linghams are dual role garments. The main role of a good pair of Linghams (the term is now synonymous with the type of pants, rather than being a specific brand, which it is) is to provide comfort and support to moderate to extensive penile and scrotal augmentations. Once a certain size and mass was reached in said augmentation, many men discovered something that all well endowed women already know, free swinging junk can be a pain if you have to do anything more than a casual walk. Support is important!
The Second and more visible role of Linghams is a signalling behavior indicating that the fellow wearing the specially fitted trousers has an exceptionally large penis. The most common version is the rebirth of 'Codpiece' styling, where the penile pouch is made with a different color or type of material. This draws attention to the penis area. Other common features include pouch bedazzling, color change or fiber-optic materials, or polarized fabric that is clear from one perspective, but opaque from another. What is the point of having something large and expensive if the neighbors don't get to see it?
I apologize, but the guidos in the cosmic era wear penis pants
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? Responses (4)
Well, that was dark. But it certainly illustrates the setting well. The real horrors are in the reality of the details, which are so well-fleshed. My favorite: the vaguely-Lovecraftian madness of arcanotech.
I'm going to echo Dozus here. I like the detail you've gone into about all of them, but I most especially like the arcanotech:
'They are much like Alice in Wonderland, as in their book 1+1 no longer equals 2, but is rather a massive sliding parabolic curve of possible answers.'
That line right there sold it to me.
Neurons rule there way better than tyranids because we have gauss flayers