We are the architects of dreams.
Phantoms are the stuff of myths and scary stories. While most will never come face to face with one, they do exist in the shadows, waiting for their mark. Phantoms are genetically modified assassins, working solely for the Meridian Society until the day they are decommissioned. They are able to read a person’s thoughts with their tendril like augments and most Phantoms are highly trained as snipers. Many of their marks never even know that they were hit… they simply die. Rumor has it there are a few rouge Phantoms, meant to be decommissioned but still alive and out there… somewhere.
Active Camoflage (?)
The surface of a Phantom’s hair and skin is covered with tiny, extraordinarily versatile cybernetic chromatophores. These give Phantoms the ability to alter their hair and skin color at will. Complex nanocybernetic systems can coordinate this ability to produce a kind of active camoflage, whereby the Phantom can conceal himself by producing images of his environment on his skin. Undressed, a Phantom is capable of rendering himself virtually invisible in the bulk of the visible spectrum under ordinary environmental conditions.
The chromatophores can react quickly enough to preserve a cloaking effect against a fairly uniform backdrop even while the Phantom is moving, up to a brisk walking pace (about 2 meters per second). Faster motion, or motion against a backdrop of greater visual complexity, produces artifacts and distortions that may give away the Phantom’s position. Generally, the more complex the visual surface against which the Phantom is being viewed, the slower the Phantom must move in front of it to remain well cloaked. A Phantom’s chromatophores do not have sufficient resolution to accurately render such complex images as fine text or similarly detailed information, but it takes extraordinarily close inspection to detect the inaccuracy of the Phantom’s projections from any appreciable distance.
A Phantom’s cloaking ability relies on the ability of his skin to mimic the colors and details of object that would ordinarily be obscured from a given line of sight by his body. Thus, it is easily defeated by covering the skin by clothing, dust, paint, or any other substance that obscures or alters the skin’s natural appearance. Disruptions of the skin may cause visible disruptions in its active camoflage, so wounds may show up if not covered by another, intact part of a cloaked Phantom’s body. Additionally, the inside of a Phantom’s mouth and the corneas of the eyes do not have the chromatophores required to cloak them, so if a cloaked Phantom opens his mouth or does not conceal his eyes from potential observers, these features can be detected. (The whites and irises of the eyes are capable of cloaking.)
Cloaking takes an extraordinary amount of energy, so Phantoms who make frequent use of this ability have much higher nutritional needs than ordinary humans. It is not unheard of for a Phantom to require in excess of 10,000 calories per day to power his or her cloaking abilities. The more time a Phantom spends cloaked in a day, the higher his or her caloric needs will be.
A Phantom’s cloaking system is generally installed in the laboratory shortly after conception, and develops along with the Phantom’s biological system prenatally. In cases of natural conception and gestation, a Phantom’s cybernetic systems are inherited from the mother. Thus, these systems require no special equipment to install — virtually every Phantom whose development has not been artificially interfered with has them, and is capable of passing these systems on to offspring as though they were natural, genetic traits.
Mind Hacking (?)
From birth, Phantoms are equipped with polymorphic implants in their fingertips designed to be used as neurological probes. These probes can be employed in a variety of ways. Though similar to an Amphiox gauntlet in basic design and function, these probes are far too flimsy to make effective weapons. They are extremely sharp, however, and can easily penetrate flesh, bone and heavy clothing. With some degree of training, a Phantom can use these probes to stimulate sets of nerves in a target to produce a variety of effects. The simplest of these is to provoke simple sensations like heat, cold or pain. More complicated applications can interfere with the body’s natural regulatory systems to temporarily paralyze a target or render him or her unconscious.
A skilled Phantom can even use his or her implants to read and influence the thoughts of a subject. Colloqially known as “mind hacking” within the Elderworlds Alliance, this process requires that the Phantom embed his probes in the subject’s brain. Each probe carries a regenerating payload of nanomachines that, when injected into neurological tissue, rapidly disperse throughout the region and monitor the activity of neurons. Once in place, these payloads can relay detailed information about the workings of a living brain back to the probes from which they were deployed. By interfering with neural signals, they can influence the function of a living brain under directives related through the probes from the controlling Phantom. Information gleaned through this proceedure is as reliable as the subject’s own memory, and posthypnotic suggestions implanted during it can be overpowering even to those with rock solid wills.
A Phantom’s neurological probes are closely tied in with his or her own central nervous system, and can be controlled as thought they were an extension of the body. The information they relay, and the commands they carry out, manifest or originate as the Phantom’s own conscious thoughts. So, when a Phantom reads a subject mind, he literally reads his subjects thoughts and experiences them as though they were his own. This has a number of advantages — immediacy of understanding being one of the most significant, along with the fact that whatever information a Phantom obtains from a neurological probe he will remember later as though that memory had always been his own. A significant drawback to this ability is that it can sometimes be difficult for a Phantom to differentiate between his own memories and those of the subject he has probed. After a probing, Phantoms sometimes have been known to take on personality characteristics of their targets. Some have been known to even lose track of their own identities entirely, believing they in fact are those individuals they have probed. Extensive probing, especially without the proper training, can lead to debilitating cases of identity dissolution.
Using the same system a Phantom can use to cloak him or herself, a Phantom can alter his or her physical appearance. Skin tone can be altered with astonishing precision, across a Phantom’s entire body or only in small, isolated patches. A Phantom can mimic scars, birthmarks, tattoos (within the limits of detail described above), freckles, or virtually any other natural skin feature. To a limited extent, a Phantom can even voluntarily produce swelling in key locations to change the shape of his or her features.
This ability generally allows a Phantom to mimic the appearances of others well enough to fool casual acquaintances. It’s not perfect — individuals who know mimicked targets well can usually see through the subterfuge. But, for purposes of evading attempts at identification or passing a cursory physical comparison with a particular individual, it works extraordinarily well.
Phantoms are also capable of changing the tone and pitch of their voice well enough to pass for another individual (with a bad cold, perhaps). Does this is substantially more difficult than simply mimicking appearance, and often takes a period of study to get right enough to fool individuals who know the target’s natural voice. In any event, this ability will rarely fool any but the most primitive voice recognition equipment.
Phantoms are generally not capable of mimicking such fine details as fingerprints or retinal patterns, and their feature-changing ability will rarely fool advanced facial-recognition technologies. They cannot change their height or weight, and, in any case, there is more to impersonating someone than simply looking like them. So while this ability can give a Phantom a substantial advantage in passing themselves off for someone else, it remains far from guaranteed that any such effort will succeed.