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Making a more powerful, evolved Virus


Not too long after getting the TNE books (like, not too long after they were published), I noticed some ominous text saying something about, while vampires seem to be decreasing in numbers, it could actually mean a dramatic upswing in their numbers.

And I thought "How could that happen?"

And this is basically what I came up with:

A more mature virus takes control of a construction facility. Say maybe a Depot (but I didn't go that far). it would have to be far from Core, and after several mutations to make the thing a lot less insane. This gives it the ability to make things. Ships, tanks, warbots, fluffy electronic bunnies, whatever it wants. It goes and makes enough defenses to clear out the suidical and really crazy viruses floating all over the place, shooting themselves up.

Now that it's fairly safe, it decides to do research. It researches anything and everything. it's a computer. It doesn't sleep. It has endless patience, and can afford to do an experiment 1,000,000 times, making only minor changes. It can do brute force. Who says it can't think either? Thinking allows it to see shortcuts, kind of like what WE do. Brute force research isn't always necessary, but it does allow the thing to discover stuff WE wouldn't think of.

It's going to work on expanding its own processing capacity. Who doesn't want to think better, more clearly? It can build computer brains, infect them, and parallel-process them into a more powerful brain. It can build bigger and better brains, and simply transfer into them. It's got nearly unlimited intelligence expansion possibilities; it's just a matter of time.

70 years is a long time, especially in the life cycles of THESE critters. What kinds of things could such a machine do in that time? What would it have researched and gotten the most results from? What else would it be trying to learn? Would it be able to discover important things that have eluded scientists for years?

The secret to misjumps, perhaps? There IS a way to get more oomf out of a jump drive, you know. It is possible for a J1 drive (and J1's-worth of fuel) to perform a J36. All it would take is a lot of experimentation and time to find out how to get it to do this more reliably. The virus could then go pretty much anywhere really really quick. It has a much smaller jump drive than anyone else, so it can pack a lot more firepower. Kind of like an SDB or Battle Rider, but with a small J-drive.

New materials? Coherent Superdense, perhaps? With much of the Imperium's highest-tech worlds at TL16 (actually, if you read the descriptions right, those TL-G worlds have a MINIMUM TL of 16), it's not unreasonable to suppose that the Imperium wasn't that far from making such discoveries themselves.

New power-generation methods? Reread the above paragraph, and replace Coherent Superdense with Antimatter Reactor.

Better electronic fluffy bunnies? Oh, definitely! They'd be so realistic in their behavior, you'd swear they were alive, but keeping them away from your PC is generally a nuisance....

So, is this a far-fetched idea, or do you have a list of things that might become possible? (And what happens to human-space when it meets this high-tech juggernaut?)
Originally posted by TheDS:
Better electronic fluffy bunnies? Oh, definitely! They'd be so realistic in their behavior, you'd swear they were alive, but keeping them away from your PC is generally a nuisance....
There'll be no stopping the Energizer bunny when it's powered by antimatter... :D

Maybe this might be what the Black Imperium is. Er, that is, they might be superevolved Viruses, not that they might be the antimatter-powered bunnies
Time for a Core Command post singularity culture that has decided to blow up the galaxy to make a prettier pattern on fourth dimensional space!
Actually, Doc, I thought of that too. However, there were some indications I'd read somewhere that the viruses were actually keeping Lucan alive, so he could either be tortured or because he was leading them.

Also read that it was a place of constant conflict. Vampires migrated into (and out of, yes I read that somewhere) the Black Sphere. The Vampire Highway was supposedly a tourist route for viruses to go see Cymbaline or perhaps to search for hardy survivor-ancestors.

Nonetheless, it is a place of constant conflict. Anyone who's played a rousing good, back-stabbing game of Ultimate Risk against 7 computer opponents (not Risk2, btw) can tell you that, if you're always at war with EVERYONE, and alliances last only as long as the end of a swordpoint, well, that's not a good position to build an empire from.

Look at Europe. For hundreds of years, various of its nations has tried by force to unite it under their own flag. In every case, once some one got too powerful, he'd get back-stabbed by his allies, and they'd take them back down a notch. The game Europa Universalis (before the patches) will demonstrate this concept to you like nothing else can.

Choose a nation. Start expanding your territory. Peacefully, by fighting, it doesn't matter. Eventually, you will accumulate so many "bad boy" points (sort of an indicator how how much strength you have in relation to the other nations, doesn't necessarily mean you've been bad) that other nations will declare war o you for no apparent reason.

I mean, like I was France, it's about 1550, I've managed to take most of Spain, Italy, and Germany, and while I'm going after England (cuz they're just too snooty for me), suddenly some rinky-dink country the size of Paris declares war on me. It brings all its allies too (about 4-5). Okay, I munch them, but no one is willing to call for peace unless I have captured all their territory, and if you've done THAT, you may as well make them YOUR territory. Some one else declares war, then some one else. Soon, instead of fighting the 2-4 countries I WANTED to fight, I'm at war with about 20-30 countries. Even the little poodles can hurt you if they gang up on you like that. The only way to stop this "bad boy war" is to make peace with EVERYONE at the same time, and hope no one else throws in. Usually, you have to give up territory (and you usually paid a high price for it too). So you might be at war for the WHOLE GAME, and this makes it hard for you to develop your economy. Eventually, you collapse under your own weight, with all the revolts and enemies. No allies ever come back. Everyone hates you...

Patches tone this down a bit, but you still don't want to go ape sucking down little countries.

The REAL Europe remained fairly fragmented in all this time, because if anyone got too strong, everyone else would gang up on them and knock them back to where they were. Occasionally, people like Napolean were able to carve out larger pieces, but they eventually fell back.

So, the moral is that the Black Sphere is MUCH too turbulant for anything like this to happen. So I placed it in... I don't remember, near Old Expanses. I'd created a fortress system and placed it near Solee; let them stumble into it and find out what happens... Not too far from RC. The super-virus I put in that same sector as well. Was going to have PCs coming from the fortress world, thinking they were the only survivors, bump into the Solee, think they were hot stuff, bump into the RC, think they WEREN'T, until they captured some and then try and change their minds, then wipe out Solee and the Guild. These people were VERY against things like enslavement, or prolonging the suffering of the Collapse. (I think it was Solee... which ever one that was rubbing the RC the wrong way.)

Eventually, the PCs would stumble upon the super virus, which was gathering lifeforms from all over to experiment on; it didn't understand how organic life was possible) and would have to find some way to shut it down. How does a TL12-14 world beat a TL17-19 pocket empire? With PCs, of course. :D
"The REAL Europe remained fairly fragmented in all this time, because if anyone got too strong, everyone else would gang up on them and knock them back to where they were. Occasionally, people like Napolean were able to carve out larger pieces, but they eventually fell back."
I've heard the term "balance of power" used to describe that situation. It's sort of a catchy phrase so it might actually take root. ;)
I had a similar notion for my game. A super automated depot churning out berserkers.

I'm not sure we want to see something as extreme as Berserkers here. While my creation doesn't exactly care about people, it's not actively exterminating them. A Berserker would probably be too busy scouring the local area for things to kill that it wouldn't take the time to develop itself.

I was reading through an old Challenge magazine, and one of the adventures (obviously inspired by Terminator 2) had as the central plot device a morphing robot. That in turn inspired me to make one that didn't know what created it and was searchig for its maker; it would be presented to the PCs as two people, since it had enough mass to get away with being two at a time. It couldn't mimic skin and stuff, so it had to wear real skin. I didn't work it all out then, but it occurred to me that the typical "Grandfather as the inventor of all that is cool" was just way too formulaic, so I thought, what else could make such a thing?

And then it occurred to me that a computer has infinite patience (drew some inspiration from reading Protector about that time) and could do the brute-force experimentation required to produce some lucky inventions. It would have to be extremely curious too, and not an idiot.

I was left with the obvious, that it had to be several expert systems infected by a stabler virus (well, it might take a few tries, but one eventually wins out) that are networked together to make a superbrain. The first order of business is self defense, accomplished by taking over any vampires in the area, then on improving itself and adding redundancy - more brains networked together.

Finally, it will be safe enough to start building a small fleet of its own, and conducting experiements. Once it rediscovers life forms, and then intelligent ones, well, it's truly amazing what biologicals can do. There's growing evidence that we will turn more to biotech than to nanotech, and a computer seeing that certain organisms inately do things that it cannot... that warrants study.

That virus isn't evil, though it certainly has no qualms about "testing to destruction" anything it wants to know about. It can make use of living brains (though preferably willing ones, still encased in their natural containers (no brain-removal surgery for me, thank you; too much bad stuff going on as it is)) to do theoretical research, so not everyone who is captured is doomed to be dissected.

A virus with a manufacturing facility does not NEED humans to perform maintenance, like most vampires do, but maybe they will be more efficient in some circumstances.

Anyway, I supposed by the time 1200 rolled around, this thing should have discovered a third generation of jump drives (first gen = "flawed" Vilani J1 drive 9and indicated for some other races too), 2nd generation = model used by everyone since then and limited to J6, and third gen finally unravelling the mystery of J36 (though calculating one takes a LOOONG time)) and meeting any other pocket empire in its immediate area.

The PCs would then utilize their befriended probe (the morphing thing) to try and get the attention of the supervirus, and ally with it, and then start smashing down the galaxy's biggest problems.

Of course, this arc never got off the ground as a game. I envisioned it as a 6 (or so) part grand campaign, and then started writing a book to see what kinds of holes I could poke in it. There would HAVE to be some way to bring the supervirus down a notch or so, since the core supposition is that a big enough brain can figure out the mysteries of the universe, and Traveller is clearly against that idea, seeing all the computational power that's been available through 4 millenia should have solved all these by now.