Among the various mutations of the exsurgent virus is a nanobot strain that would almost seem quaint in contrast with its more aggressive cousins; the Phantasm strain is a slow-acting and subtle version of the virus that infects people and slowly modifies their sensory input to make them jumpy, paranoid, and isolated. The resulting breakdown in social order when this strain has infected a habitat can leave it vulnerable to other strains, outright exsurgents, TITAN war machines, or attacks by those outsiders who know of it.
The virus initially has no effect other than turning the host into a highly contagious vector for itself; for organic hosts, each week after the initial infection the host must make a SOM x 2 check. If they fail, they express signs of a mild cold, with sniffling, sneezing, and coughing that spreads the virus to anyone near them. Synths during the same period must make a SOM x 2 check or suffer a -5 penalty on all checks involving physical movement as the virus converts miniscule portions of their body into more of the virus.
After the first month, the virus has wired itself into the victim’s nervous system, and for the next month it actually increases their impulse toward being social; victims gain a Modified Behavior trait that encourages them toward social activities while ramping up how infectious they are; anyone in their vicinity gets a SOM x2 check to avoid infection.
Every month after the second requires a WILL x 3 check, with a progressive -10% penalty for each month after the third. Failure at this check indicates that the virus has entered the terminal phase, adjusting the victim’s sensory inputs to cause them to begin hallucinating snippets of sound – often resulting in them hearing voices from their past calling their name – as well as movement at the edges of their vision. It also begins to tap the user’s mesh inserts at this point, searching for broadcasts from post-terminal instances of the virus, which it incorporates into the hallucinations.
The terminal phase inflicts 1d10 Stress per week, with the resulting insanity being inclined toward paranoia and isolationism. An infected character should have the sense of being under siege by ghosts and nightmares; this effect should only amplify as post-terminal cases begin to occur
Should a victim die while in the terminal stage, they move to the post-terminal phase; the virus will build an interface with their cortical stack and begin burst-transmitting snippets of their stored memories onto the local mesh. This has the effect of infesting the local mesh with extremely detailed hallucinations and phantasms, compounding the other terminal cases in the area.
The only reliable cure for the Phantasm strain is a thorough purge, preferably by reducing everything involved to plasma.