Today I’m going to describe a strain of the exsurgent virus that’s a little on the slow and insidious side; there are infections that have been brewing since the days of the Fall, slowly adapting and working on their hosts for years. It spreads slowly, but remains so hard to detect that it may well be the slow-brewing epidemic that dooms transhumanity.
Viral Strain: Zombie Process
Vector: Digital, Basilisk
Spread Rate: Low
The strain of the exsurgent virus known as Zombie Process seems to have been designed as a long-term time bomb in transhumanity itself. Seeded originally as digital infections hidden among otherwise valuable data, it adapted early to have both aural and visual basilisk hack variants. It incubates slowly, with the victim often totally unaware that they’ve been compromised and showing up on even full ego evaluations as completely clean.
It takes roughly two years for the infection to fully incubate, by which time even the most paranoid are likely to have all their backups infected. At this point, the virus switches to an active state, although it doesn’t seem to do much at first; it siphons off some of the process time used by the ego and copies stray thoughts to run as infrequent loops, essentially injecting random mental noise into the victim. Thoughts from hours or days previous will begin to crop up as if suddenly new, causing the victim to briefly space out as their mind tries to sort the increasing noise out of the way. This phase is even slower than the initial incubation, often running for years before it progresses to the second phase.
Phase two of the active infection begins to inject modified and wholly fictional thoughts as if they belonged to the subject; already distracted by the irregular repetition of old thoughts, the victim often absorbs these as their own new and unique thoughts and acts on them accordingly. During this time, the virus ramps up activity, leaving the victim feeling perpetually short on mental energy and ability to focus. Their tastes will tend to change, with a growing preference for undercooked meat and pork-flavored foods.
Phase three is the final phase, which is only happened in a few cases so far; at this point the virus occupies enough mental space to have effectively subsumed the original ego, replacing it with a zombie replica that has a taste for transhuman flesh, incredible resistance to pain, and a groaning voice that serves to spread the aural version of the strain’s basilisk hack. For all intents and purposes, the victim is long gone and only a zombie that needs put down remains. In the aftermath, anyone who heard the groaning is likely to have been infected.
Phase Zero: Incubation takes approximately two years after the initial infection. Someone familiar with the strain – maybe half a dozen people spread across the various x-risk conspiracies – can identify the tiny glitches it produces in the infected ego during this stage. No effects per game mechanics.
Phase One: At this point, the virus becomes active; the victim needs to make a monthly Willpower x2 check or take 1d2 Stress as a little more of their mental space is eaten away. Track the total lost, even if it gets recovered later; when this value matches the character’s Willpower score, the virus advances to Phase Two.
Phase Two: The victim acquires Modified Behavior (Dietary Behavior) when this phase begins, as they begin to crave food that tastes like transhuman flesh; this manifests as a fondness for pork-flavored foods at this stage. They continue to need to make monthly Willpower x2 checks, taking 1d2 stress and a cumulative -1 penalty to their Cognition, Intuition, and Willpower checks for each failure. This phase lasts until their cumulative penalty matches their Willpower score, at which point the virus advances to Phase Three.
Phase Three: The victim can no longer contain their hunger for transhuman flesh and will begin to attack any biomorphs they see, emitting a moan as they advance. Anyone failing a Cognition+Intuition+Willpower check will become infected with the virus themselves, beginning the cycle anew. Additionally, the initial victim ignores the penalties for the first two Wounds they take, as the virus soaks up the mental processing needed to recognize pain and injury.
Due to the scarcity of fully active victims, who are often restored from months-to-years-old backups, this strain is considered something of an urban legend at best.