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Fluff / Cyberpsycho

Remember That You're (Meta)Human

It’s been quite some time since I’ve worked these shadows, and I expect that most of you here never knew me. Guess that’s just how it goes. Well, a quick introduction: I go by the handle Crimson, and I’ve got more chrome in me than most. We’ve benchmarked it, and I’m quite a bit faster than a human should ever be able to get. It’s so easy these days, isn’t it? To trade nuyen for power, replace your body one piece at a time, spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours on the table. So many of us do. I did. And, no, I’m not here to condemn augmentation or try and push a transhumanist agenda. I’m just here to talk about the realities of living as someone barely alive, and maybe give enough personal advice to save some of you from careening off into cyberpsychosis.

Metahuman augmentation. It’s been around for decades, always advancing, always breaking through to a new bleeding edge. In the beginning, it was medical. Responsive. Augmentation began as prosthetics, a way for what was then just plain old humanity to correct injuries and disabilities. False teeth, peg legs, hooked hands, glasses, all some of the earliest forms of corrective tech. As technology advanced, so did these devices. Peg legs and hook hands became articulated limbs and then nerve-controlled cybernetics, glasses transitioned to newer lenses and then corrective surgery and cybereyes wired straight to the brain. When the purpose of artificial body parts was to ‘correct’ a flaw, no one batted an eye. In the perception of the masses, we were simply bringing people back up to the level they ‘should’ be at.

Then things began to change. Augmentation began to be used not only to fix, but to advance. Like so many things high-tech and deadly, it began in military research and development, with direct neural interfaces being designed for easy and fast brain-computer interface. Following that, a flood of muscle augmentation, neural rewiring and replacement, the first true bodyware. This provoked massive public outcry, with people accusing corporations and governments of playing god. And to some extent they were: altering the human body in never-before possible ways, making people ‘better’. The clichéd push back against change and the unknown that we have seen time and time again, this time against the changing definition of what it meant to be metahuman. As the decades went on, outcry died down, quelled by common acceptance and copious corporate propaganda, and augmentation became the norm. These days, it’s difficult to find someone who isn’t awakened or emerged and lacks a datajack.

But you knew all of that. Hell, some of you probably lived it. It’s the past, it’s gone, and we have a new problem now. After you, like me, stick yourself so full of chrome and bio that everything below the skin isn’t yours, who are you? What are you?

The first thing we’re going to address is probably the hardest one to grasp. It has numerous names: essence, soul, spirit, humanity. Everyone has it, and awakened who assense us can ‘see’ it. Certain infected and dangerous spirits even feed on it. Whatever this phenomenon is, it is clearly integral to a person remaining themselves, and we lose it when we augment our bodies with technology. Sure, the bleeding-edge superconductors lacing my nerves have much less of an effect on it than your buddy’s rusted cyberarm, but it still takes a toll on this invisible essence. However good your ware is, even if it is custom-made for you and you alone, you lose some of this when you augment. And the only way we’ve found to get it back is...prohibitively expensive, to say the least.

But what does losing this essence actually do? Well, it’s not just a numerical limit of how much chrome you can stick in yourself. Although you do die if you run out.* After you take a few augmentations, you might start to feel a bit different. Social things just seem a bit off, other people not as easy to grasp as they once were. It starts slight, but it grows the more and more of yourself you replace, the more and more essence you sacrifice. By the time you dip below half, talking to people is harder than it once was. Therapy and practice helps, but you cannot deny the feeling of something being off that is almost always in the very back of your mind. As you go even lower, it’s not just you that notices. You begin to enter the uncanny valley, as other people can instinctively tell that something about you is just not natural. You move too quickly, too sharply, your muscles are too toned and bulky, or your limbs appear robotic on closer inspection. And, of course, your awareness of other people keeps fading. At the bottom, your own emotions are hard to grasp, empathy takes effort, and it is almost impossible to hide how little of you is left.

with some exceptions; look up ‘cyberzombies’ on the darknet
- Spook
Looked up 'cyberzombies.' I guess I didn't need to sleep tonight.
- The Queen
This is particularly scary for me as a face, who has been considering getting some cyberware to augment my combat abilities and survivability in combat situations, but I don't think the risk to my skill set and abilities are worth the damage.
I guess trading large chunks of your soul aren't on the cards for everyone.
- Royal Flush

Losing your soul isn’t the only danger of heavy augmentation. Sure, ‘ware is widespread enough that the world has adapted, but it still doesn’t expect people who can punch through walls, dodge hails of gunfire, or stay standing up after taking an assault cannon round to the chest. As we move further and further away from the baseline, hurting becomes easier than not hurting. My own augmentations have pushed me to be fast, faster than any human should ever be able to go. It takes me conscious effort to not react and kill at the first sign of danger or to let my teammates keep up with my pace. For others, it be difficult to even touch the world around them, as their superhuman strength simply crumples both things and people like paper. We become physically more than metahuman, to the point where the world is cardboard, easily broken and folded even on accident. Learning to be measured in your actions, considering possibilities and outcomes, and just being mindful all go a long way to staying functional and sane. If we don’t make ourselves remember this, constantly, ending up standing in the middle of a pool of blood and bodies isn’t too uncommon.

Quite right. The same augmentations that make you deadlier on the job also make you deadlier when you're trying to do normal, everyday wageslave things. Those chopsticks you use to reach across the table for a piece of fish might easily puncture someone's arm, should you fail to exert proper control. Knowing when to walk on eggshells comes part and parcel with this life.
Fung Zhao
LOL, I know Fung Zhao! The gym I work at had to remove me from teaching classes to the regular wageslaves. Turns out a middle-age overweight desk-jockey can't walk across a room doing deep knee bends with 30 kilos in each hand.
It's amazing what a knee looks like when it literally "blows out". Good thing he had Doc Wagon, they had him fixed up, and he was back in class the next week good-as-new, better-than-new in fact, since he had a story.
Of course, I now only teach classes to those who can handle my workout routines. I didn't like working with those norms anyway, it was depressing.
- Arielle

Cyberpsychosis is a phenomenon experienced by people who are near the bottom, and their mind can’t handle it. Empathy practically disappears alongside general social awareness. Disguising the uncanny valley effect is nearly impossible. Psychotic breaks are common, as the mind struggles to maintain control over a body it barely recognizes as its own. There are numerous theories regarding the disorder, but I can only speak from my own experience. When you go as low as I have, replace so much, it is almost impossible to avoid cyberpsychotic breaks. I’ve had a few. I’ve killed people, brutally. And I can remember doing it, but I cannot remember why. Your mind is overridden, your body rebelling against itself and the world. It takes a rather incredible feat of willpower, or a considerable outside influence, to come out of cyberpsychosis and fight it off. But it is possible.

Sometimes, the threat of psychosis is frightening enough: just lurking at the edge of your consciousness, waiting for an inopportune moment to devour more pieces of your mind.
- Fung Zhao
It may be for some. But for many, thet keep going deeper and deeper down until it fully claims them.
- Crimson

Cyberpsychosis can be fought. I would know, I’ve done it and do it every day. The key, at least what I’ve found, is to anchor yourself. I can’t think of a better word to describe it. Basically, there is a reason your stereotypical street samurai follows a code of honor. Because it works. A code is a set of strict guidelines to follow. A structure to live by. An anchor for your mind. Codes keep you in line by having their rigid structures, their black-and-white ‘do’ and ‘do nots’, overriding the psychotic urges and lapses of (meta)humanity. I follow a code, one adopted from my soldiering days. I do not torture. I do not use lethal chemical weapons. I do not inflict unnecessary pain. I do not desecrate the dead. These guidelines, these ‘do nots’, can be strong enough to stop my hand and mind from drifting into psychosis, even during situations of incredibly high stress.

Another anchor, a more temporary one, is a mission. Just like a code, a mission or goal is something that you can focus and ingrain in your mind, overwriting the psychotic breaks. I’m not quite sure what constitutes a mission that can focus your mind like this, but I’d guess it needs to be personal. For me, my retirement goals and my other work has been my mission. I don’t know what it could be for you, but having a goal to work towards does quite a lot for staying sane. You could also fit hobbies and passions in here, things that keep you occupied and distracted. I’ve known more than one street samurai who has taken up some kind of art or craft to keep their hands and mind busy when they are not in the fight. The key to any of these strategies is to have the mission or work matter to you. Forcing yourself to try and care rarely works, especially when caring is already becoming alien to the augmented mind.

The last anchor, one that I have found equally if not more effective than the others, is a relationship. Other people can hold you stable in a way that nothing else can. You can talk, and they can understand and offer support. It seems trivial, but it’s life-saving. A partner can snap you back when you start to go bleary-eyed and distant, can remind you of social cues, and can be much closer and more personal than a therapist or cyber-technician or whoever else claims to help you can ever be. They can be someone to really talk to, a rarity in the shadows. And, hell, the ability to actually feel something for another person is pretty damn therapeutic. In my own relationship, one I still maintain and do not plan on ever stopping, I have regained quite a bit of stability. I’ve been more aware of other people, and generally, I think I am better off when I am around my partner. I can’t guarantee the same for you, and I know this whole thing is cliché as frag, but it is worth a shot even if some call it a ‘weakness’ in our line of work.

Ehehe also helps when that "partner" can whoop your hoop seven days to Sunday.
- Gungrrl
Yes, it does.
- Crimson

To summarize, we lose some kind of invisible essence as we augment ourselves with technology. As you lose more and more, empathy and identity begin to slip away. Going too low can lead to cyberpsychotic breaks and depression, and losing it all means death. There are a few things I’ve found, a few anchors, that can help hold your mind in check even as you sink down into cold lack of metahumanity:

  • Following a code of honor. Morals can override the psychotic urges, having a stronger hold over your mind.
  • Having a personal mission and goal. Similar to a code, a mission can hold your focus.
  • Try finding a hobby or craft that isn’t killing. Having something to occupy the mind and hands never hurts.
  • A relationship with another person. The value of having someone else there, who you can live and actually feel with, cannot be understated.

I hope my ramblings can help some of you. I may be beyond help myself. I’ve been told that my aura is deathly red, grey infringing on the edges. I’ve been told that I’m at the absolute limit for the amount of ‘ware that can be put in a metahuman. I’ve been told that the only way to go deeper is...unpleasant, to say the least. Only a few strings hold me in check, and I am quite aware of how fragile my mind and identity are. Help yourself and don’t go all the way down the rabbit hole. You may not like what you find.

- Crimson


Page last modified on December 26, 2018, at 09:30 AM