The Promethean Nanites, also referred to as the Promethean Plague, the Nanite Plague, the Scourge and numerous similar titles, are virus-based artificial swarming strains of proteins and enzymes controlled by microtransponders. They were supposedly designed for use as curative systems in the medical field. They should have been capable of healing any ill or repairing any injury. Instead, they turned out to be capable of instantaneous rewriting of a victim's physical appearance, doing things as 'simple' as blending one physical structure (say, that of a mouse) with another (human, maybe) and resulting in a viable life form, to such apparently impossible effects as creating living beings comprised in part of inorganic materials.
Even considering this, they should have been a boon to mankind, the heralding action of a utopian future where pain and injury, and even sexual or species-identity, could be cured instantly. Instead, disaster was the result.
Nobody knows for certain what the origins of the nanites is. Ostensibly, they were a creation of the (at the time) allied corporations known as RSX and Zephyr. Zephyr was a go-getting civilian-oriented company, while RSX was primarily involved in military contracts and weapons-development. The design of the nanites was somewhat split between the two companies; Zephyr designed the biological interactions of the nanites, while RSX wrote the programming that controlled them; thus arguably either or both organizations could be at fault for how radical the effects were.
On February 11, 2008, parties unknown released the nanites in multiple locations, and explosions rocked the Zephyr facility in Fairhaven, California where some of the primary research and production-work was taking place. Within hours, the world was in chaos as people... Changed. Far too many simply succumbed to the imprinted animalistic natures, while others went mad from becoming totally inorganic. Worse, untold numbers of people were simply gone.
New York, New York weathered the storm, as did some other cities; the solutions for the surviving areas were as diverse as the locations themselves. New York, for example, is a city factionalized between human and nonhuman residents, under martial law.
Worst of all was Las Vegas. Something went even more wrong in the gambling paradise, something that left fewer alive. Known as the Grey Goo scenario, the nanites simply broke down all organic material they came into contact with to create more nanites. The fabled desert oasis is now a dead, disturbing blanket of twitching grayish powder and abandoned buildings.
In every city, it seemed that the effects of the nanites were at least partially different from one another. For instance, while Fairhaven nanites affected the sexuality of those it infected, nanites in some parts of Oregon caused victims to become incredibly bloodthirsty, and those in Detroit caused a massive increase in productivity and motivation.
Of course, multiple investigations were begun, and most are still ongoing. Until recently, RSX and Zephyr each blamed the other for the release, and there are still multiple conspiracy theories as to what really happened. One thing is certain: with so many points of release taking place at the same time, the release was planned and deliberate.
It is more than a year later, and while civilization still stands the world is a VERY different place. Many cities are abandoned ruins, and those that remain inhabited are far less populated than they once were. Feral victims of the nanites prowl the streets and woods, and the food supply is... Questionable. Can you be certain where that steak you're eating came from, or worse, from whom? Factions have risen amongst humanity and their new, inhuman kin, and the tensions are strung like high-tension power lines. Violence is closer to the rule than the exception. However, there are some bright spots.
First, RSX had been carrying out an inoculation program amongst its employees, so there IS a way to prevent the infection. Zephyr, likewise, has created a serum that can aid a victim in maintaining his, her or hir mentality and sanity in the case of nanite mutation, and the nanites themselves aid the physical healing and repair of their hosts.
The Promethean Nanites are airborne, and are generally present in most if not all of the life forms in an affected area. For unconfirmed reasons, they tend to form a relatively-globular 'cloud' over the vicinity, trapping the airborne micromachines inside, while allowing hosted nanites to leave. Mutative infection generally occurs through mucosal contact (blood exposure and sexual contact being the most common) with an individual possessed of an infection. The new victim manifests partial transformations of bodily features as they interact with the previously-infected being, generally matching those of the encountered creature. Agents of Zephyr and RSX seem to be protected from passing infections between their members or each other, perhaps due to the treatments used by them on their personnel.
The nanites are ever-expanding, producing more of their numbers as they infect more and more victims. They have a tendency to manifest disturbing sexual modifications frequently, including organs of vastly expanded size, unusual numbers of organs, true hermaphroditism and, oddly enough, occasionally beings that are totally devoid of sexual features. So far this is chalked up to faults in the nanite programming that have developed since their release, but the reality of this theory is questionable.
The primary theory of the function of the nanites is that their programming is a 'cloud-computer' effect, with the entire swarm communicating constantly with one-another in the globular infection-zone. Thus all of the effects they produce can become standardized over time. However, neither Zephyr nor RSX are terribly forthcoming in information on how the nanites function, nor have they actually revealed how something so far in advance of the state of the art could be developed.
The game focuses primarily on the cities of Fairhaven, California and Woodfield, Washington State. Fairhaven is the headquarters of Zephyr, and RSX has its core in Woodfield. The two cities have had very different but equally disturbing effects from the release- in Fairhaven there are the ‘usual’ ferals and similar threats, and in Woodfield the nanites acted truly strange, animating the dead and transforming many into living dolls. Other, stranger things are afoot, but that is for another page. (cite magic here)
As are all of the locations affected by the nanites, Fairhaven and Woodfield are englobed in a ‘bubble’ of swarming nanites. These nanite bubbles were produced from the initial releases, trapping the airborne micromachines inside, while allowing hosted nanites to leave. Within the bubbles, wounds heal quicker, pregnancies span days rather than months and children mature physically within hours of birth; they gain the knowledge of their parents, but lack the maturity and experience of true adults.
Also within these areas, stranger creatures live. Creatures of living goo, the odd creatures known collectively as the Ember, and the varied beings transformed to mobile-but-nonbiological forms thrive. Outside of the bubbles, the non-biologicals and the protoplasmic creatures simply cannot exist- they require the nanites to sustain them. Further, birthrates and maturation times approach normal, though they are still accelerated by the nanites within the host.
Immunity to the nanites is not impossible. RSX had, and still supplies its agents with, a serum that not only provides resistance to the transformative action of the nanites, but can actually revert a subject to human. Some of the infected, whether feral or not sometimes develop resistance to further change, and amongst a group known as the Survivalists there is at least one report of a totally immune individual.
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