Construct Tau

The Progenitors are quite known in the technocracy for their extremely neat and orderly constructs, far from the loud factories of Iteration X or the sometimes academically messy Ivory Tower institutions. Tau is one of the neatest constructs within the convention, dominated by its unstoppable Research Director. Tau lies far from the front lines of the Pogrom. Instead it is directed towards unlocking and once and for all solving the mysteries of the human nervous system, which in the long run may prove more important to win the Ascension War than any number of HIT Marks or destroyed tradition chantries. Under the leadership of Research Director Wolfgang S. Sparrel Tau has grown and flourished, from a mediocre academic construct to a leading force within neuroscience, well renowned for its important research. It moved to its current location in the middle 80's from Stanford, a move that turned out to be fruitful in many ways. The new buildings still feel fresh, and the location has made it popular for visiting researchers. At the same time there has been a subtle change of mood, infusing the construct will new energy. Sparrel has some definite views on how to run the construct. The most important principle is that as much work as possible should be done within the paradigm; no cloned brains or hybrid monsters. This both minimises the need for large amounts of quintessence for a horizon realm and protective measures, and keeps the researchers focused on work with applications in the real world. The second principle is that the construct will be directed towards applications helping the Masses in the long run, although paradigm engineering and definition is regarded as the most important way to help them. The third principle may be the secret of Tau's success; that the construct should function as a clearinghouse and coordinator of research within the neuroscience field. The research at Tau is supplemented by research across the world, and the construct carefully disseminates information in return. The construct is both well renowned and influential within the Progenitors. While some other constructs resent its central position and favour with the Administration, it is regarded as important in the Progenitor Timetable - if Descartes Null and the Labyrinth Solvers can perfect the neuropsychological paradigm the convention will have gained an important hold on the mental paradigm.

Physical Appearance
Tau lies in Mountain View just east of Concorde, near a wetlands park in the White Mountains. In the surroundings are massive, dune-like hills covered in grass and many species of trees, giving the area a somewhat wild look. Nestled on the plateau lies the construct (officially the "Terence A. Underhill Medical Foundation"), a series of irregular buildings with a trendy look of high technology and ecology. They are all airy, with large windows and soft curves built in stone, bricks and wood. The buildings are connected by concrete tiled paths running gently through the tamed wilderness, an ideal place to stroll. The whole complex fits in its

surroundings perfectly, giving a strong impression of environmental responsibility and balance. Actually, the surroundings have been slightly altered by the construct to fit it better. At the end of the driveway, just in front of the entrance, is a polished black, slightly irregular, stone around a meter in diameter on a small piece of well-kept lawn. On it the letters "Terence A. Underhill Medical Foundation" has been engraved and silvered. Inside, the buildings are largely offices and laboratories. The colour scale is mainly white, with tasteful additions of browns, greys and greens. While the architecture looks irregular and adapted to the randomness of the landscape outside, it actually follows some subtle rules making it easy for employees to find their way around. Most of the buildings are just two stories high, but there are some underground facilities and basements linked by a network of tunnels. Down here are the PET scan lab, reserve power and some of the high-security labs. The Security Director has a tough job with this kind of open architecture. Despite the problems, he has succeeded admirably by partially relying on security support from neighbouring constructs (Research Director Sparrel's political clout has been crucial for this) and high technology. The surrounding landscape is in fact filled with very discrete sensors, a network of tendrils extending from the construct and noticing any disturbance. The windows, doors, ventilation system and parts of the walls are larmed and much sturdier than they look - the windows are bullet-proof. Inside the building most doors are locked with magnetic passkeys combined with personal codes, and access to the most sensitive areas require a DNA scan (camouflaged as a fingerprint scanner). Beside the Security Director, there are six guards in the construct, all equipped with efficient but nonlethal weapons.

There are several amalgams at work within the construct. The four major are: The Labyrinth Solvers, officially the Functional Neuroanatomy Group, map the brain and study/define its functions. The amalgam is not the most prestigious in the construct, but one of the largest and busiest. Most of their work consists of elaborate animal experiments or PET scans of human volunteers. Currently they are mainly supporting the work of Descartes Null and the Unwrinklers, although their long-term project of mapping the limbic system is progressing nicely. Primary Investigator Jonathan W. Lewisdale is a meticulous researcher, often verging on the overcautious, but he leads the various teams of the group quite well. Descartes Null, the Cognitive Research Group is the cutting edge. The Progenitors have for a long time sought to delineate how intelligence and consciousness arise in the nervous system, to once and for all turn mental function into biology. The main problems so far have been political rather than scientific. The New World Order has long demanded to have a say in the question, and not until the amalgam was formed with several representatives from the Ivory Tower did the work get seriously underway. Today Descartes Null is making cautious progress in the uncharted waters of consciousness, gradually defining how it works. To the surprise of many outsiders the amalgam works perfectly together as a team, uniting the skills of Progenitor neurologists and New World Order psychologists. It is led by Primary Investigator Laura I. Sandell, a psychologist fairly new to the construct.

The Neuromedical Research Group, known as the Unwrinklers, are working on the cure for various neurological diseases. Currently their main research thrust is against Alzheimer¹s disease. Apparently the disease is indirectly caused by the extended lifespan of most people, people live longer than they are supposed to and their Avatars seem to move away from them. The group is trying to find efficient methods of binding the avatars more strongly to the brain, so that this degeneration do not occur. Other internal projects study multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and ALS, trying to determine the best way to introduce their cures in the paradigm. Primary Investigator Michel Merleau-Ponty is more of a handson person, and he and his group often visit hospitals and institutes to test their ideas in real life and see what might work from a sleeper perspective. The Preventative Medicine Group is the most secretive amalgam in the construct, and located in its own building a bit away from the rest of the construct. It is however quite clear to the other amalgams that their real work is: biological weapons. Under the direction of Dr. Tytti Vinainen the PMG has developed several discrete and deadly weapons, such as virus infections targeted at individual people, a strain of herpes that attacks bionic interfaces and a form of epidemic meningitis causing debilitating hallucinations. Its general direction seems to be viral and microbial (with some work on psycholytic drugs), often using very subtle means to create diseases for assassination and psychological warfare. It has also supplied the construct guards with some very special ammunition.

The Node
The black stone in front of the buildings (which reappears in its letterhead) is the last visible remains of the old node the construct was built on. Sparrel has determined that this location was a sacred place long before the white man appeared, and it is not unlikely that healing shamanic rites were performed in front of the stone. By inscribing the name of the construct (and sanitising the node) Tau now feeds on its energy. It is only of moderate power, making it essential to economise with the quintessence somewhat, but that only suits Sparrel well since he like to keep his research teams lean and mean. However, the node may not be completely dead. It might not be a coincidence that the Research Directors room overlooks the stone, and that the great man often stands looking through his window at its black surface. Sparrel sometimes indulges in the mental game of discussing with his superego or other personality aspects while looking at the inscrutable surface, sometimes coming to surprising insights. Often he is reminded of his duty to the Masses, to give them health and happiness at all costs.

The Realms
Tau has two separate realms, both very small for a construct of this size. One is the Analysis Centre, where the Labyrinth Solvers perform their most complex experiments. It looks just like an extension of the buildings, filled with labs and experiment rooms where test subjects can be stimulated in various ways. It is reachable from the elevators of the main building by using a special pass key; the car will move up to an extra floor above the others. This is heaven for an neuropsychologist, every conceivable tool for studying the brain is available, including some far beyond current technology like nanoprobes and microwave neural stimulators. A special room is filled with advanced computer workstations and virtual reality gear, where researchers build the final atlas of the brain step by step. The other realm is the High Security Lab of the PMG. It is a bunker- like construction beneath their building, with elaborate security measures. Inside the most deadly projects are developed and stored, and if something goes wrong it will be sealed hermetically. There is even an option to launch it into the Deep Umbra and cut the quintessence supply, something that would lead to the dissolution into nothingness of it (and everything inside). It contains a series of austere labs lit by merciless fluoroscent

light, where waldos and robotic manipulators are used to work with the weapons. Behind thick glass walls rats and monkeys are exposed to them, and latter dissected. This is the domain of PI. Tytti.

Research Director Wolfgang S. Sparrel
Wolfgang S. Sparrel was born into the Technocracy. His parents were both Progenitors, and gave their child only the best: good genes, an impressive education and unshakeable self-confidence. The first thing he learned was that he could become anything he set his mind to, reach any goal, and if he failed the fault was entirely his. He decided to grow up to become a true leader, and of course succeeded completely. Beside studying medicine, he also became interested in history and finished a MA. in history of science shortly after his MD., to the surprise and delight of the Ivory Tower. Since that time he has been a regular guest on Technocracy historical meetings and maintained excellent relations with the convention, something that has proven very beneficial for his career. That he managed to form Cartesius Null is just one testament to his contacts and diplomatic skills. Sparrel is a renaissance man, quite knowledgeable in both the latest recombinant techniques and obscure rites of manhood on the Polynesian islands. He keeps himself in perfect shape, practices positive thinking and various mental techniques that help him remember just about everything. He actually disdains the use of outside help, like smart drugs or implants, but accepts that less gifted people may need them. As Chairman of the Board, he has a firm grip over the construct, and nobody disputes his word. That doesn't mean he is inaccessible, only respected. He is quite likely to wander into someone's lab and demand a full report of current work, mercilessly (but fairly) questioning about methods, results and goals. Physically he looks quite good (naturally). He is 41 years old but looks like 30, with a well defined physique and striking green eyes. His tan is perfect, his hair a slightly bleached brown. His clothing is conservative as expected but with a hint of personal style; on rare occasions he might even look downright fashionable. His office on the second floor is almost a museum of medical history. Old bookshelves are filled with classic literature, interspersed with old medical curiosities. Behind glass he keeps some very old and rare manuscripts relating to the Hippocratic Circle, the origin of the convention, and the knowledge of Galenos. In fact, his library would make many tradition mages envious, and some mages would probably be willing to kill for some of the documents if they knew about their existence. A few of his friends in the Ivory Tower has even warned him that some of this information could be quite dangerous in the wrong hands, so on their urging he has installed an extra alarm system. Roleplaying tips: You are good at leading people, and take pride in it. Everything worth doing is worth doing well, doing less is unthinkable to you. Never loose your temper, in a crisis take stock of the situation and do something constructive. Combine every positive affirmation you have ever heard and make them real. Never patronise people, make them do something useful.

Primary Investigator Tytti Vinainen
Tytti is a small, birdlike woman in her late 50's, reminding most people about a wrinkled sparrow in a lab coat. While she looks unassuming, her raw passion for her work is quickly felt, and few subordinates (or superiors) dare oppose her - her barbed wit has driven more than one student close to a breakdown.

Tytti originally came from Finland to the United States in the 50's, a young biology student uncertain of herself and her skills. During her education she met Jake McNeill, a surgeon she fell in love with and latter married. Jake gave her what she needed, a comforting and safe presence to balance her nervous energy. As her confidence grew, she came to the attention of the Progenitors who invited her to join in their great quest. At first tentatively, later increasingly ambitiously she learned the secrets of true genetics and how they could be applied, all the while supported by her loving Jake. In 1970 disaster struck: Jake was killed in the Vietnam war when his field hospital was accidentally destroyed. Jake, being a mere sympathiser had no clone bodies. Tytti was devastated, and seriously considered committing suicide or joining the Traditions. But gradually her resolve returned, this time sharp as glass. What had killed her love was war; she would kill war. She turned to biological weapons for the solution - carefully tuned means of assassination and control would make war impossible once the Technocracy was firmly in power. Over the years her bitterness and energy has grown, as she sees how little progress she has made towards her goals. She was quite happy to see the Warmonger faction of the NWO dissolve in the late 80's, but that only shifted the wars to the local level. While her skills are remarkable, she has been transferred several times the last decade due to incidents of insubordination and other problems. In fact, Research Director Sparrel is the first superior that has managed to keep her in line for a longer period of time. She has begun to consider developing some new weapons on her own and give to the Masses, but so far she has worked openly under the Research Director. Her latest project, the anti-bionic virus was however too politically sensitive and put on ice to her great disappointment. Perhaps she will not tell Sparrel the entire truth next time. Tytti inhabits a world of abstract passion incomprehensible for most people. To her genes, disease vectors and immune reactions are weapons in her private war for peace, a war that is just as much within herself as it is against the forces that create war: the damnable politicians, the hawks in the Technocracy, the Nephandi, the Traditions. She dreams of an unification that will awaken mankind and kill those responsible for suffering, but at the same time she is coldly rational about it. Sparrel understands some of her mindset, but far from all of it. He regards her as a great but broken spirit, who never dared take the step from darkness into light and unity. If he really understood her motivations, he would probably immediately remove her from her position. Tytti rules the PMG through a mixture of fear, energy and skill. Nothing happens she doesn't know, she always checks every experiments and demands total obedience and efficiency from her subordinates. Her current project is quite elegant: a virus infection attacking just a few of the nuclei of amygdala, destroying the aggressive and dominance-seeking behaviours of the victims. If used properly, it could turn anybody into a meek nobody. Tytti is however looking at the possibilities of making the virus target aggressive people more specifically. Roleplaying tips: You cannot sit still for a moment, and are always in motion, in action. Sleep is for other people, you have work to do. When you talk, you talk with intensity and often poisoned wit (including to your superiors). If someone is violent or admires war and death, he or she doesn't really deserve to live.

The Future of Tau
Tau is so far untested. Its present and near future looks bright, but sooner or latter the Testing will come which will determine its future. Right now everything is tied to the dynamic Research Director, and if he would disappear or change, the entire construct may follow him or collapse. The construct will also get

into problems if it tries to grow larger, as its quintessence supply is already limited. And what will happen to Tytti? Will she eventually explode into self- destructive hate, or will she unite her self again into something new?

The darkness of mystery is mercilessly banished by the light of knowledge. Soon mankind will not have to worry about the mysteries of consciousness, because Descartes Null will have found a suitable truth; the labyrinth of the brain is being solved and the entropic secrets of age and infirmity are being cured. Tau is the Technocracy at its best and its worst; nothing is allowed to be disharmonious or wrong, making everything slightly bland despite the best intentions. The surrounding wilderness serve a purpose, and has been slightly influenced to fit the construct and vice versa. At the same time there is a nuance of conscience in the construct. The Research Director doesn¹t seek personal power (he already got it) or renown (he got that too). Instead he actually seeks to help mankind through the technocratic paradigm, and his views reflect in his subordinates. The old healing oaths passed down from Hippocrates or the unnamed shamans who once danced around the stone still hold some power, albeit in a much different, almost warped form.

Some Results of the PMG
Lymphocytic Meningitis-derived Hallucinogenic Infection 54
This infection causes vivid hallucinations in its victims. Its first symptoms are sweating, headache and mild fever. After a few hours the first hallucinations appear, at first simple visual illusions (shadows looking like people, objects moving in the corner of the eyes) but later more and more vivid hallucinations appear, both visual, auditory and tactile. The victims sometimes completely loose touch with reality. The acute phase of the disease lasts only a few hours, but minor hallucinations may remain for days. Most victims become very distressed and fearful, which in turns makes the hallucinations more horrible. A comforting friend can help the victim, at least when the hallucinations do not warp reality completely. [The minor symptoms give -1 dice distraction beside the hallucinations. The disease has a strength of 5 initially. At infection, secretly roll the victim's stamina against a difficulty of 6, subtracting each success from the disease. A botch will increase the strength with one per rolled one. The disease strength levels is roughly equal to Quiet levels, and mages may release hobgoblins or even start using magick without control. After 4 hours, roll stamina again and decrease the disease strength. This continues every 24 hours afterwards, until the victim is cured. If all stamina dices come up as ones, the disease has become chronic. ]

Shut-Down (CNS inhibitor G)

This is a drug used in the injection pistols used in Tau. It is a very powerful sedative, quite able to calm down a raging grizzly bear. Its main drawback is that it takes a short while to act. [The drug does stun damage. Initially one dose gives 7 levels of stun, but it can be soaked with stamina. Each unsoaked level will decrease the dice pool as if it was an additional lost health level, and if the sum reaches incapacitated the victim will fall asleep. Increased doses will add upp, but if the victim takes the double amount of health levels of stun, there is risk for respiratory arrest. It takes stamina turns to act on the victim, during which time the stun damage gradually appears (eg. if a victim takes 6 levels of stun and has stamina 3, the first turn she will get 2 points stun, the second turn another 2 points, and so one). During this time, if the stun damage is above the willpower of the victim, he will become very calm and peaceful. ]

Herpes Derived Progressive Neurodegenerative Disorder (HDPND)
The Progenitors don't like the idea of Virtual Adepts with bionics at all, and a Research Team at Tau developed an insidious weapon against such implants. It is a slightly modified form of the usual type one herpes virus, almost indistinguishable from the original. The virus causes small sores in the mouth, and between infections it hides within nerve cells. However, when it encounters neurones linked to bionic implants it will change into an active form, replicating quickly and spreading through the nervous systems. The result is at least severe and permanent nerve damage to the nerves linked to the implant, and quite possibly (if the implant is linked to the central nervous system) death. Shortly after Tau had developed HDPND Research Director Sparrel pointed out that it would be an even deadlier weapon against Iteration X - widespread use of HDPND would most certainly lead to great losses among the iterators or force them to retreat to Autocthonia and MECHA. The Administration decided to keep the entire project secret from the rest of the Technocracy. Any use of a HDPND strain (TAU has developed some short-lived strains that will hopefully not spread out of control) has to be cleared with the Administration. [ HDPND will not affect normal people in any way, except for the usual effects of a minor viral infection. It can be cured with Life, but most mages won't notice it if they aren't looking, and to detect that it is in fact artificial requires a detailed genetic mapping (Requires a genetic laboratory, Intelligence + Medicine with a difficulty of 7). When it infects a person with bionics, it goes into attack mode and will begin to destroy the nerves linked to the implant. The first symptoms are usually minor malfunctions of the implant; twitches of bionic arms, cybervision blurring or neural jacks becoming unreliable. This is quickly followed by severe problems with the implant, fever and often paralysis of the limb the implant is in or severe lumbago if the implant is located in the head. For each point of implants, the virus will do one point of localised aggravated damage. The amount of damage can be decreased with one point for each success of a stamina rolled against 8 (botches give extra damage) and in addition quick medical help (Within a few hours, Int + Medicine against 8) or vulgar Life magick can ameliorate the disease. The damage will destroy the nerves linked to the implant and possibly spread further in the nervous system, causing paralysis, mental damage or death. ]

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