The greatest powers of the Shadowrun world are just beginning to stir. The greatest of the Great Dragons scarcely have an inkling that they exist. The immortal elves will be completely blindsided. These powers are new, and just beginning to coalesce... they are uniquely human, and would not even occur to the holdovers from the Fourth World.
Dragons are too territorial, too independent, and too obsessed with individuality to attain the levels of cooperation of which these groups are capable. The immortal are mired in ten millennia of feudalistic thinking, and cannot wrap their minds around non-hierarchical models of society.
When these powers have matured, the traditional megacorporations and empires will not have a chance. Most of these groups will be very difficult to fight because they have a cellular structure, where each group shares ideas and developments with others, but is itself independent.
The megacorporations understand the value of intelligence.
The standard researcher package of a level 4 Encephalon, a level 4 math SPU, a cerebral booster, and as much mnemonic enhancement that the bio boys can pack into someones skull is well-known among the megacorps by 2054. Scientists can tack on up to nine extra dice onto their mathematically oriented knowledge skills through this sort of enhancement. This drastically increases productivity, and makes it well worth the corps while to pump this cyberware into their smarter employees. Orks and Trolls can even get in on this action, since their resilient bodies can handle more in the way of bioware than a human, and a Troll can wind up getting eleven dice of enhancement, making up for only raising Intelligence from 4 to 8 instead of from 6 to 10. (The occasional spell lock of Increase Cybered Intelligence, while hard to arrange, can make things even more terrifying.)
(Executives are known to take advantage of such packages as well. After all, having a fantastic memory can make your much more able to micromanage the portions of your business empire that need it, as Lofwyr regularly demonstrates. A new breed of executives is just arriving in the boardroom, having taken the necessary hit to their careers of spending a few months recovering from cybersurgery. They arent ready to compete with Great Dragons, but their mental enhancements are powerful... and its much harder to bullshit the boss when he can slot a skillsoft for your profession.)
Naturally, the megacorps are fascinated by the possibility of
enhancing human minds for superior intelligence and the consequent
superior ability in design. Like most beings involved in promoting
someone elses evolution, they arent concerned enough with
what their creation will think of them...
Yamatetsu Advanced Cognition Project
Yamatetsu has a research group that is working with networking human minds, rather than enhancing a single one. Theyre working mostly with off-the-shelf components, and are trying to use a synthesis of magic and technology. They operate using a huge-bandwidth wireless LAN in their research facility, combination encephalon/simrigs that the runners may be familiar with from Imago, and brain-boosters ranging from bioware to spell locks. Their encephalons network with a dedicated mainframe that shares their accumulated short-term and long-term memories with each other, and they can easily tune in to each others senses. Their manager, who is not part of the enhancement team but has spent a lot of time working with engineers, has figured out that the obvious thing to do is let these people who are a great deal smarter than he is come up with ways to make money for the corporation and keep the budget boys happy. As long as they keep churning out a decent monetary surplus, they get as many toys as they want.
Nora Davies is a Trollish psychologist with an Encephalon-4, Cerebral Booster-2, and Mnemonic Enhancer-10; she got into the corporate world on a cyberware scholarship for promising Trolls. She has done a lot of work on the filters for passing information back and forth among the group, and is an expert on group dynamics. Nora has published several papers on efficient and unusual models of project team organization, and has a book in the works.
Fred Rifkin is a dwarf Hermetic mage with 2E worth of cyber and an Increase Cybered Intelligence +4 spell lock. He is a spell researcher who specializes in crossing the line between magic and technology; he has published a number of spells that perform industrial processes.
Fidel Mirabella is a human decker with Encephalon-4, Math SPU-4, Cerebral Booster-2, and Mnemonic Enhancer-4. He does the majority of programming for the project, maintaining the mainframe and exploring new concepts in algorithm design and pseudo-AI techniques inspired by understanding the problem-solving techniques of the rest of the group.
Nathaniel Phelps is a human Air Adept with 2E worth of cyber and an Increase Cybered Intelligence +4 spell lock. He has a wide variety of detection and analysis spells, and assists Nora with mind probes and other such spells to investigate aspects of human consciousness, looking for further areas of enhancement.
Tinuviel Shadowbrook is an elven technician with Encephalon-4, Math SPU-4, Cerebral Booster-2, Mnemonic Enhancer-4, and a Vehicle Control Rig-1; she is an expert in producing prototypes using rigged manufacturing equipment.
Anton Muir is a human scientist with lots of perceptory ware, Encephalon-4, Mnemonic Enhancer-4, Cerebral Booster-2, and Math SPU-4, and a good skillsoft system. He is a specialist in brain-interface cyberware design, and knows plenty about cybertechnology and cerebral physiology.
All of them have a fair amount of knowledge in each others fields; they can work together to solve problems, and are trained in synthesizing insights from their multiple perspectives.
As the group develops better networking technology, their synthesis
of magic and technology will give them incredible data-processing
faculties, giving uncanny insights into magic and technology; the
Advanced Cognition Project is the best bet for a future fusion of
magic and science.
Y Corporation is a think-tank, founded in 2049, that is mostly composed of magicians and adepts capable of locking or Quickening telepathy spells on themselves. They make a fair amount of money in thaumaturgical services setting wards, truthtelling, and so on but their primary work is in pushing the envelope of intelligence amplification and human networking. They have a company initiatory group, and they are publishing and patenting a series of papers and spells on various aspects of telepathy, empathy, and psychology. The second most common spell after telepathy is Increase Intelligence +4.
They have a few non-spellcasters that have been brought into the fold with spell locks some Physical Adepts who run security, and a decker/technician with a full load of headware.
Society in the corporation is very peculiar, since everyone can read everyone elses mind. Everyone seems completely eccentric here, because theres no need to hide differences it just creates stress and everyone else would find out anyway. Personal foibles have to be forgiven, because grudges would fester.
The group is quite insular: once youve adapted to telepathic society, leaving it is unthinkable. The company is privately held; theyve gotten past brewing up orichalcum for funding, and now do regular spellcasting work. The variety of work they perform increases as more mages are tempted into the lifestyle. Those in the company tend to seem very distant from those outside such society.
Among their research projects are creating a group Ally spirit that will link to all of them at once and can be fed karma by the entire group to make it bigger. This spirit would then be able to serve as a central embodiment of the groups knowledge.
Chris Shelley is a human Catholic psychologist with an easygoing sense of humor who keeps pointing out that Teilhard de Chardin had a lot of these ideas before the Awakening. He was a founding member, and instrumental in getting the group over the early days of trying to adapt to telepathic society, by honestly forgiving everyone else their foibles and setting an example, as well as doing a lot of counseling as various people learned to cope with their own psychological dirty laundry as well as everyone elses. He is a full Hermetic mage, from Boston.
Claudia Wong is a human Air Adept and Feng Shui expert who has done a lot of work to make the Y Corporation headquarters building a peaceful and pleasant place to work and live. The center of the building is a garden with fountains and a koi pond under a translucent geodesic dome. She is third-generation Chinese, and another founder of the Y Corporation.
Tim Connor is an Elven Magician of the psionic persuasion and Scottish ancestry. He has a dry sense of humor, and gets along well with magicians because hes figured it all out: magicians are just psionics using psychological crutches of spells and conjuring and fetishes to access their own inner potential. He cant do things quite the same as everyone else, but thats because he harbors fewer illusions about the nature of the world. (Check on psionics and conjuration.) Spirits are self-sustaining thought forms built out of psionic energy, which disperse when they run out. Astral projection and psychometry fit into his worldview quite well, and astral quests are just shared hallucinations required for people to unlock their own inner potential, all part of the collective unconscious. He wont impose his view on anyone else, but will talk about it happily given the opportunity. He was the third founder of the company.
Malika Echols is a black Dwarf shamaness following the call of Cat. She is a retired shadowrunner who got her start in Los Angeles, and has been all around the planet dealing with various contracts. She is an expert linguist, diplomat, and negotiator, as well as a talented combat mage with a specialty in Barrier spells and illusions she prefers to use her tactical ability to get her opponents to take themselves out, rather than blowing them away directly. She helps run security for the group, and is highly devoted to them, since they have forgiven her a less than pleasant past with her own share of killings. She knew Chris Shelley from
Alain and Jeanette Aury are a married couple, a Shamanic Adept following Eagle and a Hermetic Sorcery Adept who met at an international conference on magic theory and fell in love; they had a long-distance relationship across the Atlantic for years, and became extremely good at navigating the metaplanes together as they used metaplanar projection to spend time together. They finally got together physically when Jeanette was tempted into leaving her job with Fuchi Medical Thaumaturgy for the Y Corporation in mid-2050; after he heard about the joys of life with these folks, Alain arranged his extraction from Shiawase France with Malikas help. They have a daughter, Marie, who was born a little less than a year after Alain came over to the Y Corporation; they Quickened a mind link on her as well, to bring her into the group. Jeanette is an accomplished thaumaturgical surgeon, and has an operating theater in the company headquarters.
The employees of the Y Corporation that
founded the company initiatory group chose the name Y Family, because being in the group meant
being at least as close to the other members as they could be to
their own families.
Name: Y Family
Limitations: Telepaths only.
Strictures: Oath. Belief. Fraternity. Material Link. Attendance.
Resources/Dues: High. The company provides a combination of corporate headquarters and living space.
Patron: Y Corporation.
Customs: Members of the Y Family live daily with telepathy; they seldom use their voices to communicate any more. They have developed a new skill, Etiquette (Telepaths), which new members pick up as they live among the group. Living among telepaths is just as addictive as intelligence amplification, and no one has been motivated to leave, though hostile extractions may be a problem.
The Y Corporation is on its way to building a society where each individual exists in their own right, but takes part in a communal overmind. Magic provides the networking, though science will serve them.
There are also grass-roots movements taking place in the hinterlands of the planet and in the cracks between the skyscrapers.
In the wild lands of Europe and Asia, scattered bands of people clustered around shamans and icon followers are learning a new harmony with the land. Their primary breakthrough is a metamagical technique called kenning, a term appropriated to use for picking up the information present in objects and beings at spiritual levels. Hermetic theorists would say they are picking up the psychometric information embodies when a nature spirit is manifest; shamans would say they listen to the whispers of the sleeping spirits.
Individuals who have learned to ken, or who have had a spell quickened on them to grant them a limited access to kenning, gain an awareness of the flow of nature around them. They move with uncanny stealth in natural surroundings, and become superb trackers and hunters.
They also have pioneered a great deal of work in communication with Awakened creatures. Blackberry cats, oracle owls, storm dolphins, and meistersingers
Forward-looking thinkers among Gaias Grandchildren have also invited (and sometimes extracted) biotechnologists to join them. The researchers are working to replace the standard infrastructure of society with biologically created materials: fast-growing weeds that preferentially suck particular metals out of the soil that can be burned and then smelted, evergreen plants with broad leaves that can be woven together to make walls, and mosses for carpets. Combining these with plant-based versions of spells used for cosmetic surgery allows the creation of living dwellings. Theyve got living camouflage nets on the quonset huts that actually hide the genetic laboratories, as they have yet to develop a living clean-room environment.
Gaias Grandchildren are an approach from the opposite direction to the Yamatetsu Advanced Cognition Project. Their approach is more ecologically sensitive.
The otaku mind, accustomed to communion with the Deep Resonance, is far better acclimated to sharing data at multiple levels than the ordinary human one. With every otaku that communes with the Deep Resonance, the Resonance gains a better understanding of humanity, and imparts a better ability to share to its otaku.
The otaku are similar to the Y Corporation in that their specialty is mental networking.
As the otaku spread, more and more children born in the slums and squats of the world will be jacked in at earlier and earlier ages. If nothing stops them, the Children of the Matrix will assert their control over it, demonstrating their power as masters of computing. All major computing efforts will occur under otaku guidance, and they will ascend to the elite of the world.
There are some rather unpleasant possibilities for the future as well.
The Optimals believe in optimizing for efficiency. They conduct time-and-motion studies, send their members to optimization seminars that subtly brainwash people into being happy in their social classes, and indulge in cybernetic experiments with their lower-echelon members.
They are pioneering the 24-hour personafix skillsoft, giving a person the proper attitude they need for their station in life. They know to avoid the pitfalls of putting core job skills on a chip; instead, they insert obedience to authority and desire to excel, and let the person do the proper work.
A more sinister invention is a highly invasive piece of cyber/bioware called the Cerebral Optimizer. It works very well in conjunction with other organic enhancements such as the cerebral booster and mnemonic enhancer. The Cerebral Optimizer occupies 4.5 points of Essence, and consists of a set of tailored glands and a complex web of ultrafine tubes, wires and valves that allows it to monitor neural activity and deliver psychoactive chemicals and hormones to precisely targeted spots in the brain, allowing the network to encourage or discourage different sorts of activity. The brain of a person who has been Optimized can be turned into a finely focused instrument of obsession: an ordinary person can be given superhuman clarity of thought and attention span, and a genius can be made truly terrifying. Of course, there are side effects: anyone who has been Optimized is seldom good for much in ordinary society any more, due to their obsession with their Optimized subject, and the changes are not exactly reversible a person who has been deOptimized will likely be incompetent at a broad range of tasks related to the ones they were previously Optimized for. There is also strong risk of burnout which increases with the degree of Optimization.
The Optimals are also planning to make strides in genetic manipulation, enhancing the caste-like differences of their society over the years and ensuring a reliable supply of human capital. They are still at the early stages of study of the problem, and will not have any functional crops of children until the late 2060s at the earliest.
The Optimals are not as likely to reach a transcendent posthuman level of existence as the previous groups studied, but they are ruthlessly efficient and extremely good at competition; as long as they have the supply of human capital to use and use up, they will be very well equipped to out-work anyone who cannot manage the kind of driven monomania that Optimization can produce.
The Hierarchy are a group of magicians who find mundanes to be rather... inconvenient. The fearful attitudes displayed toward wizards would be nice, if they didnt occasionally lead to muggings and burnings. Being sensible, long-thinking sorts, they spent some time developing useful, subtle spells. Spells for meddling with minds, creating neuroses that make people into easy victims for other mental manipulations. They are also in the habit of wearing mental manipulations that make everyone around them with a low Willpower quite happy to be around them and rather suggestible.