Homebrew Exhuman Clade

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Laskeutua Laskeutua's picture
Homebrew Exhuman Clade

So reading the Silent Mercy write-up inspired this short piece, I tried to write it in the same sort of style and all...

Anyway, this is a homebrew exhuman faction I penned during a campaign a ran for the past 6 odd months because the material I had at the time frustrated me in the lack of diversity in exhuman depictions (also, the stuff present in X-risks is a good write-up, worth reading).

This is a 'friendly' exhuman faction, or at the very least, one that's not inclined toward directly threatening transhumanity in any way. I'd argue there is some precedent for this, as the morph recognition guide did have Sava mentioning an exhuman 'friend' of theirs but I guess it is a pretty thin argument - Sava strikes me as having a storied past.

Write-up hidden in the spoiler tag. Enjoy.

Spoiler: Highlight to view

The Stewards
Posted by: Trufflecide, Proxy < Info Msg Rep >

You probably noticed the angry snorting in the attachment field. There's a reason for that, pigs in the audience will understand exactly what it means...
It's hard enough being taken seriously as a mercurial, especially when I have to risk my good name for your hairless apes so I really don't appreciate having to dirty my trotters if I can help it. This Scum Swarm's been good to me and I have their ear when it comes to the assessment of X-risks, and I'm not exactly in the mood for sentinels to fuck up that rapport.
Some background for people coming into this thread cold: someone in our happy little organisation got wind of an exhuman clade within the 'Godspeed You! Black Emperor!' scum swarm. Turns out the clade represents a bigger but relatively quiet breed of exhuman and...
I'm not going to name and shame but I'd like to ask that I be brought into the fold when we have ops aboard the swarm, no? I get operational security and all, but...
I'll just let the following speak for itself:
I received the head of a sentinel on my doorstep with an ecto and a bunch of stacks strapped to it. The ecto contained the attached simulspace recording, filmed by the queen bee only known as 'Matriarch'.
You want to review this recording. My opinion: I'm interpreting this as an olive branch rather than a threat.
I just hope I'm right.

Origins and Comparisons
[A female pod enters a dimly lit interrogation room, her body covered in arthropod features - chitin plates protecting parts of her body, an array of spider legs running down her spine. The egos of a whole firewall cell have been loaded into the simulspace, but all are clearly bound to their chairs and gagged, but not blindfolded. Her spider legs pin themselves into the floor as she leans back onto them, sitting as if she would in a chair.]
I greet you sentinels. It didn't take long to extract that little thread of information from your forks. Apologies by the way, but you did attempt an egonapping and it seemed only fair to repay that favour. Though in all fairness, Firewall is perhaps the worst kept secret in the solar system. At least: among people who matter. You shouldn't look so shocked that I know what you are.
If you're wondering, no we haven't kept copies of your egos on file. Euthanasia, it was humane, I oversaw it myself. We needed room on our servers and... frankly our offspring are more important than you. You look surprised? yes, exhumans sometimes breed. We consider ourselves a family, all the collective are parent to the child as we all pitch in the best pieces of ourselves into creating the ideal child. In fact you met a couple of our offspring earlier, we let them play with the transhumans - can't let them grow up frightened of the wildlife now.
More importantly, your stacks will be delivered to your nearest representative along with a recording of this meeting.
Understand, we harbour you no ill will for the attempt. Children will be children after all. I am however mildly disappointed that none of you could piece the breadcrumbs together and work out the questions your superiors wanted to ask. Moreover, I find it a little hurtful that you never thought to just ask - we would have told you whether you liked the answers or not.
So, when your async stops whimpering - we can help with the symptoms if you are ever interested - we can begin.

You are already aware of exhumanity and what that entails. I'll answer the surface questions now: yes we are superior to you. That is not arrogance, that is fact. You are to us as children. Well, we prefer the term 'Chrysalis', as there is an implicit hope that one day you'll grow to join us, but the point remains. You see us as a threat, we see your sabre rattling as a temper tantrum.
Humanity is a failed structure. We - that includes you - should know this.
All exhumans agree that it was The Fall that proved this. Humanity clings on to sentimental visions of itself to its detriment. Even I am somewhat guilty of this, my shell still resembles a female human, but the adjustments I've made to it many would consider a blasphemy. Make no mistake, the sentiment humans have over their vague 'shape' seems to be cult-like, wailing and weeping follow should this sacred ideal be dragged into the realm of us - what many would term the profane.
So exhumanity posits that the very idea of self is not quite as sacrosanct as many hold it to be. Even the most progressive humans and transhumans feared the posthuman, desired limits to that threat. Unlike many exhumans however, I harbour no bitterness, and I like to think those I am mother to, those who flock before the banner of the Steward, share that sentiment.
Think about it, how many exhumans define themselves by... you? I would contend that many of the very first exhuman pioneers, many of whom never survived The Fall, would be appalled at the weakness rife within their progeny. They changed themselves to be greater. To be better. To excise weakness. To adapt. To survive. Did they then look upon humanity and gloat about their superiority like cartoon villains?
I don't remember them doing such. Some of these modern converts to the 'lifestyle' they brand it as - why is it that doomed strictures present themselves such? - are very quick to do exactly that at the mildest provocation. I won't deny a Predator's aptitude for the hunt, I won't deny a Sublime's raw intellect, these are mere facts. I do however question their motives. They desire either ultimate survival at all costs or apotheosis - this is obvious to anyone who listens to them for more than a minute or two. But have you ever stopped to wonder how they obsess over their comparisons to you? Oh they are also so quick to deny it. They preach strength, but they are ultimately cloying, grasping for a thin shred of strength to prove superiority.
Superiority.
Over you.
How petty.
This is where we come in. Cuckoo-1 had the right idea, but the wrong solution. She drew ire with her attention whoring. Ultimately that's what the wildfire memetic spread of her manifesto will amount to once she's crushed under the heel of the dissenting regressives she's pissed off. Oh, pardon my manners, 'regressive' is a... negatively charged term for us, it has no place in polite conversation, forgive me. Her manifesto did highlight a fundamental truth, as well as a misconception held by many exhumans. See many exhumans believe that Homo Sapiens evolved for a long extinct and moot ecological niche, but they are ignoring the very nature of 'Survival of the Fittest', a law they are so quick to quote themselves. Cuckoo-1 was right when she pointed out that ecological niches are just what the species has adapted to at the time, and that the species will either adapt away or die upon the niche once it does become truly moot. In short, humanity has demonstrated its ecological niche was simply to adapt and survive. They cannot be routed, they're too stubborn.
So, she advocated a dogma of parasitism, hiding among you. Cowardice. Weakness. Some would say 'pragmatic', but those people forget the circumstances parasites are tolerated under. Mutualistic symbiotic relationships - the kind where the parasite has a mutually beneficial relationship with their host is antithetical to exhuman values. I shouldn't have to explain why. Commensal symbiosis - the kind where the parasite benefits and the host is utterly apathetic to the parasite's presence, requires that the parasite in question be so utterly inoffensive to the host that upon discovery, the host's response has the emotional gravitas of a nutrient paste pack. Again, I shouldn't have to explain why this isn't what's being advocated - exhumans don't really do 'inoffensive'. Any other form of parasitism does something, whether inadvertent or intentional, to ultimately harm the host. Either the host dies, or the host is strong enough to excise the parasite. I feel transhumanity, as a host is in the latter category.
So when I read her manifesto, I found myself at a crossroads in my life. You see, I was once part of the Adaptive clade, though I was present at the earliest incarnation of the Soul Eaters. I found them wasteful and needlessly sadistic, relishing the languishing of others is a weakness, such satisfaction reeks that part of you saw them as your betters to be brought low to begin with.
As for my time with the Adaptives, I liked the idea of adapting to the harshness of the universe, forging useful extremophile morphs to conquer everything, but too many of them have overlaps in Predator ethos, to the extent where 'conquer the elements' means 'I want to hunt and eat surya morphs'. Pathetic.
Top of the food chain still implies dependence after all.
I had been looking for an excuse to leave the clade. Again, the narcissism was suffocating, the need to prove themselves to transhumanity as the true dominators... In exhuman circles, 'Weakness is a crime' is such a powerful ideal, particularly in predator circles, that some of them have taken to using it as a valediction.
I was mired in that weakness. It clung to me like tar. I loathed them all for it.
So I packed my things, cut ties and left for the scum barges. I traded my skills in morph design and psychosurgery to earn my keep. Keep in mind, this happened about 4AF, and I know you remember barely anyone speaking of exhumans even that short time ago. So my ideas were eccentric to the swarms, but not unwelcome. A flock gathered. My ideas reached an audience.
Before long I was mother to a new way.
A way that has proven, so far, enduring.

Manifesto
Many within the exhuman clades would accuse me of being populist, pandering to transhuman interests to legitimise myself. To lower myself.
To an extent, they are right.
We see ourselves as a glimpse of transhumanity's inevitable future. We hold it in our hearts that one day, transhumanity will understand our way and join us. We will not coerce or cajole, those are the tools of the weak. You will join of your own volition, and all who join, I will personally embrace into the fold. It is my duty, and my privilege to midwife transhuman rebirth into our family.
It brings me joy. If the divine were real, I believe motherhood would be part of that equation.
Until then, I advocate stewardship over transhumanity. I mean, humans spent inordinate amounts of time and resources to try and rescue the notoriously chaste Pandas from extinction. In my worldview, you are the Panda, and I the zookeeper. And the analogy doesn't fall short either, while promiscuous, transhumanity's current zeitgeist seems to prohibit or at the very least, vilify, any degree of fecundity. And therein lies the core of my argument: so determined you are to utterly destroy yourselves that you've fashioned multiple paths to that end. You do not breed, you infight over petty feuds that should have died in The Fall. You're naught but a bald monkey still killing their brother over pieces of the ground. This galaxy is an eden, and all the hungry may approach the cornucopia. But some don't want their fellows to be sated.
Before I sound too autonomist though, I'd like to draw attention to the fact I stressed 'You', not 'We'. We don't care for your politics, and the autonomists are just as polluted with weakness as the rest of them. All transhumanity views the world by staring unceasingly at their toes. How can you be expected to build a lasting structure if you can't even comprehend the sky.
We can see the forest for its trees, we can see the rotted limbs that need cutting. See, there were creatures on old Earth who had the potential for explosive breeding seasons where they'd devour themselves into a drought and the entire population would starve. So humans would cull them to prevent their numbers from causing a local extinction.
Some would call this responsible stewardship.
And therein lies the point. This is not a threat, this is a matter of fact. Too often, transhumanity risks itself gleeful abandon. In some dire, unfortunate circumstances, culling the weak to promote the strong is the only way to save you from yourselves.
And we are responsible stewards.
We want transhumanity to survive, and thrive.
Sometimes you'll deem the necessary decisions monstrous.
But that's okay, we don't feel guilty for saving your kind, no matter the means to that end.

Opinions on other Clades
Our differences to other exhumans are perhaps the best way to illuminate where we stand.
Predators:
On the surface, the Predators have the best grasp of shedding sentiment to do what needs to be done, but they work solely for the betterment of themselves, they forget that iterations of humanity before them were social creatures. The Formorians are perhaps one of the few groups that remember this, but their behaviour is... not entirely dissimilar to the Nine Lives cartel. Full circle is it not? so much effort to exceed transhumanity, only to wind up filling a niche transhumans beat them to.
Suppose they survive, suppose they win and they outlive all of transhumanity and each other, if they aren't extinguished by an alien civilisation millennia down the road as a threat to their kind, or cop an unlucky gamma ray burst, they'll live a lonely and maddening existence until the heat death of the universe.
Such wasted effort.
The Sublime:
The Sublime are hilarious for their lack of self-awareness. I'd wager this very morph that they have never even heard the word 'irony'. I never paid heed or even gave thought to old classical Greek tales of hubris and how that renders men undone, but The Sublime are treading that story so closely that it's amazing none have realised the path they're on. A child can see that they've set themselves running for a fall.
We just have to be there to ensure their self-destruction doesn't take you with it.
Adaptives:
Adaptives come in two flavours: larval Predators who have yet to realise their sadistic streak, or the minority of true believer extremophiles. The former are weak - after all when humanity crushed the Earth ecologies it was always the predators who suffered first, no matter how 'adaptive' they proved. The latter are either dangerous or useful, depending upon their means. Sometimes an individual can be either on a whim.
Parasites:
The Parasites I've already spoken long about. But to reiterate, no host will tolerate such sickness. To truly remain unseen, they would have to act against their own worldview. To act in accordance with their worldview, they will draw attention - and then bullets.
Soul Eaters:
On the surface, working in scientific fields without regard for limits sounds like a bold, if effective plan. But they often discard safety measures designed to protect the scientist themselves along with them. In short, they are their own greatest threat. I get that's part of the point, the 'Goya' machines are a kind of fast acting natural selection and all that, but to draw an analogy: they fistfight bears in a flat in order to learn how to draw. Chronologically, it may be faster to fight the bear and maybe win, but... It's a bear.
it seems antithetical to all exhuman values of self-preservation.
Perhaps I'm looking at it all wrong. Perhaps for this clade, self-preservation is not the point, but rather legacy preservation. In which case they're just mimicking the entire history of humanity. Great plan for ascendancy over all humanity.
Bravo?
As for the ego-merging specifically - All they've done is created risky, permanent skillsofts with sometimes unforseen and horrendous side-effects that necessitate transhuman suffering. Sure, it's better than present skillsofts that are available, but technology has a habit of improving at glaringly rapid paces - and has a habit of being as safe as possible for the end consumer.
'Slow and steady wins the race' is a tired idea I never had much stock in, but this is an instance where I see its merit. Like The Sublime, because I like using this phrase: they're running for a fall.

Final Thoughts
Ultimately, what you need to understand is that, yes, we are exhuman. We might be 'friendly' compared to the other clades but... don't forget our place in Sol's ecosystem.
As long as you mind that detail, we'll get along swimmingly.

emobob emobob's picture
I like it

You've captured a lot of my issues with exhumans as they're presented in canon, and made a good example of the underdeveloped niche of 'human-friendly' exhumans who realize that maybe, just maybe, pissing off the rest of transhumanity is a great way to get permakilled, and that transhumanity has value beyond just being resources or prey. There's a whole spectrum between brinkers, mercurials, and exhumans, but most of what gets focused on are the ones that want to murder you for the lulz. Yours come across as 'precautionist exhumans,' which is a combination I've considered before, but not been able to do much with.

The best thing about this clade is that it gives a strong example of an active exhuman faction that's actually nuanced in line with the rest of the game. A lot of the exhuman philosophies described in X-Risks aren't inherently evil, but the majority of them that have active goals beyond "go off and do our own thing" see transhumanity in an antagonistic manner. So to the average person, they're either monsters or weird people who might suddenly go insane or try to kill you.

But your clade has goals that will actually affect people, and they raise moral questions that aren't basically cut-and-dry.

  • Who watches the watchers?
  • What if their definition of 'benevolent' drastically differs from ours?
  • Is it moral to benefit from others performing actions you view as immoral?"
They raise valid points without appending the exhuman standard "...and therefore be a huge dick to everyone." Reasonable people can have a wide variety of positive or negative opinions about the clade without having their reasonableness called into question.

Top-notch writing too. You've really captured a combination of an exasperated mother and a gardener who's willing to do what it takes to make sure his garden turns out right. Just the right mix of compassion, idealism, and cold, inhuman logic, of cautiously pursuing admirable goals by any means necessary. The quiet, unassuming mother who's willing to perform atrocities for her kids' benefit.

Laskeutua Laskeutua's picture
I'm really glad you liked it!

I'm really glad you liked it!
I might append another write-up in this thread too by one of the exhuman children to give a slightly different perspective on their worldview as well.

I imagine your questions listed would be similar to what Firewall would be asking themselves about this faction too, their ideology would tangle them up in x-risk scenarios regularly after all.

I like to think of them as a faction Firewall hopes they don't bump into during most standard ops, but are really glad when they're present during 'Destroy at all Costs' moments.

Laskeutua Laskeutua's picture
Woops, didn't mean to double

Woops, didn't mean to double post

Kojak Kojak's picture
Yeah, I really like this idea

Yeah, I really like this idea, for pretty much all the reasons Emobob outlined. Hell, this seems like a great way to work an exhuman player into a campaign...

"I wonder if in some weird Freudian way, Kojak was sucking on his own head."
- Steve Webster on Kojak's lollipop

Laskeutua Laskeutua's picture
Kojak wrote:Yeah, I really

Kojak wrote:
Yeah, I really like this idea, for pretty much all the reasons Emobob outlined. Hell, this seems like a great way to work an exhuman player into a campaign...

Actually a good point there: having exhuman PCs scream of the old D&D problem of having a chaotic evil necromancer in the middle of a lawful good party - unless you've got a player with a really good concept and a mind to not be a dick at the table, it's often easier to just ban players from being the alignment outright.

uwtartarus uwtartarus's picture
I like this, very interesting

I like this, very interesting set of goals and outlook beyond the stock "exhumans are scary monster people."

The line in Firewall about Fleet Intel for TC needing to recruit exhumans to stay ahead of the curve sort of implies that exhumans are more than such lazy villain cardboard cut-outs.

Exhuman, and Humanitarian.

Laskeutua Laskeutua's picture
Thanks!

Thanks!

I remember that too, but I suspect the writers had members of The Sublime in mind when they wrote it.

Honestly I don't think the write-up for exhumans was lazy, just ... didn't go all out on the potential of what Exhumans could be

Kojak Kojak's picture
My current campaign has a

My current campaign has a player whose character is an exhuman, although the rest of the group doesn't know that. He's a soul-eater, and has a goya machine installed; he surreptitiously collects stacks in the course of missions (using secret Palming skill rolls) to feed his habit.

"I wonder if in some weird Freudian way, Kojak was sucking on his own head."
- Steve Webster on Kojak's lollipop

Laskeutua Laskeutua's picture
From the sounds of it he's

From the sounds of it he's doing a good job of roleplaying it on the tabletop? Because honestly that actually sounds like a good concept.

Though if I were GM, I'd throw him a curveball with the occasional brain-print scan - anomalies on the scan would be something he'd be genuinely concerned about others seeing.

Kojak Kojak's picture
Well, what he doesn't know is

Well, what he doesn't know is that he was captured and psychosurgically "leashed" by the inner circle of Firewall years ago, as those memories were edited away. Instead, he believes he's infiltrating Firewall for his own ends, which (along with the mind edits) keeps him from questioning why he's working for Firewall in the first place.

"I wonder if in some weird Freudian way, Kojak was sucking on his own head."
- Steve Webster on Kojak's lollipop

Laskeutua Laskeutua's picture
Well there's no way in hell

Well there's no way in hell Firewall would allow someone affiliated with a potential x-threat would walk around without some controls or insurance.