Project Ushus

   Project Ushus was the basis for a high-powered Shadowrun game from back when Shadowrun was only a couple of years old. Back then I was asked to run a game for a group of youngsters who’d been rotating the game master slot for their game on a weekly basis – and who wanted to keep the same characters.  Those characters were pretty horrendous, although – in a tougher world – most of them self-destructed in short order. Still, it was a lot of fun – and produced some of the funniest and most memorable sessions I’ve seen in twenty years. So here is Project Ushus, risen – appropriately enough – from files long dead.

   Subject Files, Project Ushus, Genintech biotics research division, 6/25/2051, Reference quasiviral biorestimulation project, strain 22C (extended viability modification). Initial study group 12 subjects, 10 successes in revival. All initially accepted explanation of their presence at the center as being for experimental treatment of accidental neurological damage but apparently discovered or deduced the truth later on, leading to their mass escape and vengeance threat against Genintech. (Summary and recent update, less information lost to damage from the escape and subsequent fire.)

Quasivirus Takis-22c, Extended Viability Modification :

   The theory underlying the development of nanotech agent QV-Takis was a supposition on the possibility of restarting neurological and biochemical processes in a recently deceased organism by use of a quasibacterial agent which would infiltrate the corpses cellular structure, absorb and supplement its DNA pattern, and restart cellular metabolism. The initial results were somewhat disappointing, after the enormous expense of bioengineering the agent and successful animal tests, trials on human corpses produced nothing but living zombies. No scientific justification could be discovered for this, magical investigation revealed that the agent could not supply enough life energy to support sentience. Re-engineering it to draw energy from astral space revealed another difficulty, the energy surge needed to regenerate intelligence was too great for the body to endure. Each corpse had to be implanted with a biocontrol chip before revival to control the physical effects of the surge, even so the energy would still burn out the body in about an hour. Extending this time required re-engineering the agent to decrease its activity to tolerable levels after the initial revival, but the initial overcharge is still fatal within 8 to 16 months. There is no apparent method of evading this limit, this aspect of the research has reached a dead end. The psychological effects are fascinating, the process does not recover the original persona. The restructured brain seems to fabricate a history, personality, and a set of skills to match. While analysis suggests that the new personalities are to some extent wish fulfillment’s the source of the skills they display is still a mystery. Speculation among the magicians on the research team centers on astral links of various kinds, but no theory presented as yet is entirely satisfactory. None so far seem to recognize or recall their deaths, but they are willing to seize on almost any explanation for their presence at Genintech, usually that of some experimental treatment for neural injuries. All subjects display amazing brilliance, energy, and force of personality, possibly due to their excess of life energy. The occasional breakthrough advances they provide is, in itself, well worth the cost of the entire program.

Physical Traits Of Revived Subjects :

   All subjects revived to date using any version of Quasivirus Takis share several common traits beyond the brilliance and force of personality mentioned earlier. Such traits include heightened vitality and attributes as well as consistent generation of electrical fields ranging from 10 to more then 100 times normal. There is evidence that some individuals can use biofeedback techniques to manipulate their own fields and, through them, those in the immediate area. A consequence of the increased neural activity is a faint blue-green bio-luminescence detectable throughout their nervous system. It can become quite noticeable near high concentrations of nerves. All mages consulted agree that these conditions are natural consequences of the excess life energy which charges the subjects. This overcharge inevitably kills them within 8 to 16 months through multiple cancers, adrenal exhaustion, collapse of the central nervous system, and general stress.

The Escape :

   This study was the third using the extended viability strain 22c and had the largest proportion of successes of any group to date. While two subjects died soon afterwards of complications, the eight successes ware twice the size of any previous group. Regrettably, the combination was beyond control although this was not recognized at first. The group apparently “compared notes” and deduced something of their true nature and eventual fate. They organized and carried out an almost perfect escape, successfully scrambling electronic, computer, physical, and human security systems, somehow obtaining enough explosives to utterly demolish the laboratory building, and killing most of the personnel involved. With this impressive proof of their skill and sincerity, it seems only prudent to take their parting message “We know who we are and what you have done to us. We shall be avenged, Genintech and all who stand with them shall be utterly destroyed within a year.” very seriously indeed. <Dr Samuel Carados, Genintech laboratory chief>

   Unfortunately management policy restricts the available options, at best we can hire some runners to deal with this. <Genintech management>

   I think we’re up a creek here chummers, if some runners are all management will allow get some wiz runners if you’ve gotta break the division budget for a year. <CEO Genintech seattle research labs>

Subject Files:

Subject History: Joseph Hardin, age 26, height 5’11, green eyes, ethnic background : India, Sikkim. Data processing technician for Genintech marketing division, killed by neural surge from computer system, cause unknown. Viral injection given less then two hours after death, at 1400 hours 5/14. Hobbies included situation skiing, antique weapons, and historical wargames. Highly athletic, equipped with Wired Reflexes II, Datajack, and Subdermal Insulation.

Manifested Personality: Erasmus Khan age 43, mercenary general, strategist, and weaponsmaster. “History” of having worked his way up through the ranks in mercenary service, eventually coming to command an elite mercenary company, the “sunhawk brigade”, in a highly successful series of campaigns. “retired” at age 41 to write a series of volumes on tactics. Exceedingly brilliant, rapidly exercised himself into what he referred to as “decent condition”, evaluated medically as nearly superhuman physical development. Showed exceptionally rapid recovery and development of personal abilities, great force of personality, and natural leadership qualities. Suspected of having organized and led the escape on 6/29.

Subject History: Prostitute, real name (Information Lost), street name “Dawn Joys”, age 37, height 5’2, blue eyes, ethnic origin seemingly oriental (possible cosmetic surgery), killed by complications of pneumonia and exposure in emergency room of Seattle general hospital 5/3, body turned over to genintech by standard procedures, viral injection at 0400, some five hours after death. Possibly due to the long interval before injection subject developed slowly. Equipped with Finger Hypodermics (3).

Manifested Personality: Iron Melody, age unknown, martial artist, author and zen practitioner, easily capable of defeating all available trainers. “History” of studying zen classics as a youth, later wrote modern interpretations. Studied the martial arts as a path to inner harmony, travelling to the Seattle area as part of a lecture tour on her works. Slow, but steady, initial development of physical abilities to current remarkable reflexes and excellent overall physique.

Subject History: Harold Miller, age 38, brown eyes, ethnic origin white American/Germanic, dockworker, member of longshoremens union, killed by severe spinal and neurological trauma from two story fall, leading to brain death. DOA at harborview hospital, body acquired by standard method, viral injection administered at 20:00 4/26, some three hours after death. Initially had no cyberware, demanded and received “replacement” Datajack, 50 MP’s Headware Memory, and Display Link during recovery. “Regained” mental abilities far in advance of physical abilities, possibly due to spinal trauma. Subject required wheelchair until 6/4.

Manifested Personality: Joseph Zahnmark, age 43, nucleonics engineer and physicist, demonstrated qualifications by redesigning standard microfusion pack to less then 1% of its previous size during recovery period – as a mental exercise. Unfortunately the modified design is unfeasibly expensive to produce. Reluctant to discuss prior history, apparently due to “past difficulties with co-workers” but has mentioned a number of inventions he has made. Spent most of his time experimenting, seems to have developed the minor electromagnetic manipulation abilities common to the subjects to a greater then usual degree, suspected of having used it to disrupt electronic surveillance and locks to facilitate the escape. Still had difficulty walking as of 6/29, but was considering building a powered exoskeleton to circumvent this difficulty.

Subject History: Data Lost, description from surviving researchers follows : age 40-50, black eyes, ethnic origin white caucasian. Any cyberware not physically obvious.

Manifested Personality: Karl Wulfgar, age 87, Mafioso “master sorcerer” and crimelord. Age 57 but physical aging retarded, “History” of magically assisted rise to prominence in the Seattle underworld and use of “vampyric binding” to absorb the magical energies of defeated opponents. Ascribes current position to a “hit” by opposing crimelord while his powers were overextended. Actual magical talents apparently minimal. Slow physical recovery but rapid mental one, apparently psychosomatic due to delusion over actual age.

Subject History: Name unknown, exact age unknown but estimated as early 50’s, height 5’4, eyes brown, ethnic background afro-american or cosmetic approximation, suffered from arthritis and probable mental disorder. Itinerant street person without traceable background, killed by multiple gunshot injuries during gang battle. Damage surgically corrected under low temperature regime to slow deterioration, virus injected at 05:00 5/14, 11 hours after death. Equipped with Datajack, Display Link, 25 MP’s Headware Memory, and Cosmetic Covers. Mental recovery rapid, physical recovery apparently hindered by damage to neuromuscular system, impeding coordination and fine muscular control.

Manifested Personality: Caroline Tingar, age 26, financier and decker, “History” of life as a computer prodigy, followed by rapid multiplication of program royalties into a vast personal fortune. Suffered massive neural damage when her computer system was sabotaged, allowing the saboteurs to seize control of her assets. Believes some unknown friend or potential ally placed her in experimental treatment program in hopes of her recovery. When experimentally given control of 10,000NY account on 5/20 increased its value to 300,000NY by 6/26, successfully transferring some 180,000NY of this amount to unknown accounts before the escape on 6/29. Ascribes poor physical condition and neural damage to the aftereffects of the neural damage and a period of poor treatment before her transfer to Genintech care.

Subject History: Arthur Halfing, age 38, height 5’11, eyes cybernetic, ethnic background : Japanese, dilettante, critic, patron of the arts, independently wealthy. Killed in automobile accident 5/9, received viral injection at 0400, some three hours later. Hobbies included old movies, getting cyberware, martial arts, and many others. Heavily cybered with various weapons systems and reflex enhancement.

Manifested Personality: Panthor, apparently ninjitsu adept and assassin, will not reveal additional information under drugs or hypnosis, seems to have considerable skill with classical weaponry and some technical knowledge.

Subject History: Jane Harcourt, age 25, height 5’9, eyes cybernetic, ethnic background celtic, ultra-precision machinist, killed 5/3 by blood loss from artery severed in motor- cycle accident, viral injection administered 15:00, 34 minutes after death. Hobbies include hoverboarding, remote oceanography, and amateur theater. Equipped with ultra-precision Waldo Control Rig III, Datajack, Display Link, and Cybereyes with microstructure Scanners.

Manifested Personality: Alice Teller / Mardhaline, age 20 / 5000+, author and suboceanic archaeologist / reincarnation of ancient atlantean high priestess, of a religion somewhat similar to classical druidism. “Has been reborn to bring the true enlightenment and atlantean way of life to the degenerate modern world.” Insists that Genintech treatment was unnecessary, as her “temporary coma” was nothing but the shock of her true memories reawakening on her 21’st birthday. Reluctantly consented to being “temporarily held for observation”, demonstrating the “truth” of her “reawakening” with a fairly impressive display of shamanic magic. Note that Jane Harcourt showed no signs of significant magical potential, much less active abilities.

Subject History: Johannus Black. age 32, height 5’5, eyes grey, ethnic background : american caucasian, technical repairman of computer and electronic systems. Choked to death 5/11, received viral injection at 22:00, approximately two hours later. Hobbies included old novels, making handmade jewelry, and holosculpture. Has Cyberhand with Microtool system and Heightened Precision, Electrotouch, Program Carrier, Electromagnetic and Microstructure Scanners, Datajack, Display Link, and 60 MP’s Headware Memory.

Manifested Personality: Sir Barrington Alstice III, age 28, smuggler, jewel thief, and “second story” expert. Secretive about recent history but freely admitted, or boasted of, a long series of exotic and unlikely thefts, mostly of jewels and rare paintings. Recovered more rapidly physically then mentally, becoming more reticent over time until he eventually would admit to very little except that he was a minor member of the english nobility and entitled to a seat in parliament. Attributed his presence in the treatment program to the injuries suffered in a yachting accident.

In Game Terms:

   As far as game statistics went, all successful subjects had their Essence “reset” to 6 regardless of any cyberware already installed when they were revived, gained enhanced base attributes, had both at least limited magical potential and drain resistance-3, and a variety of neurological enhancements – including the equivalent of wired reflexes, pain resistance, and limited bio-electrical capabilities. Individual members of the group possessed impressive magical skills, hyper-inventiveness, astounding martial arts or tactical skills, and various other abilities – effectively making most of them a cabal of supervillains or cult leaders. Of course, considering the setting, was that necessarily a bad thing?

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2 Responses

  1. This whole project gives me a morbid fascination similar to the nazi medical experiments committed in the concentration camps. There is something deeply wrong about them, but I feel compelled to learn more about these experiments.

    It’s like looking through a dark mirror, you tell yourself you don’t want to know, but you feel compelled to glimpse at what others have seen.

    Interesting thing though, a way to create disposable adventurers on demand.

  2. Now if only there was some way to control what you got and how they felt about it…

    Still, there is at least one improvement over the camps: Project: Ushus works with people who are already dead and was intended to bring life, not death.

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