Portable Biofeedback Enhancer VT-52317/k ("Bonsai Kittens")

By Moe Lane


Corporeal Forces: 1
Strength: 1
Agility: 3
Ethereal Forces: 0
Intelligence: 0
Precision: 0
Celestial Forces: 1
Will: 1
Perception: 3

Toughness +2, Charisma -2

Body Hits: 3. Note that the life support system gives an additional Protection of 4, to the Bonsai Kitten only.

Skills: Acrobatics/3, Climbing/4, Dodge/6, Move Silently/3

Songs: Numinous Corpus/6 (Claws)

Discord: Angry/3, Paranoia/3. Note that these Discords are not normally obvious (see below).

Well, it seemed a good idea at the time.

When the War is all over, one way or the other, the victorious side is naturally going to want to sit down and reminisce about the Old Days. When that happens, it's certain that at least one favorite game is going to be Top 10 Statements That Were Always Guaranteed To Turn Your Bowels To Water. It's also certain that these hypothetical players - whether angel or demon - would be in universal agreement that you never, ever wanted to hear a Technologist say, 'Well, it seemed a good idea at the time'. Anything that even they thought was an official Bad Idea, all things considered... well, it usually came back to haunt people, or at least break them down to their component atoms.

Bonsai Kittens were a Bad Idea.

Granted, the basic idea was sound - abjectly depraved and sick, but sound. Vapula has always been interested in tweaking the capabilities of his demons: biotech has been getting sexy lately; and there is something to be said for making the whole process modular. Sure, the Genius Archangel could have grown a vatbrain or twenty - there's nothing wrong with vatbrains, Vapula swears by them - but why bother when nature will do it for you? All one really needs is a steady supply of self-sufficient biological units. There are certainly so many kittens around that nobody's going to miss a gross or two.

Luckily, Vaputech cracked the problem of direct neural interface a long time ago, to the point where it's practically safe. Getting fitted with a special connector jack is child's play for Technology - they hardly ever spontaneously combust anymore - so all that was necessary was to design an adequate containment system for the Bonsai Kittens, and the project was ready to go. It worked, too.

This is where the problem starts to crop up.

You see, the basic idea was to essentially give the lucky 'volunteer' two free Forces that wouldn't count towards normal Characteristic limits and/or maximum number of Forces. This was actually successful: while the extra Forces do not affect Body and Soul Hits, they can raise a Characteristic above 12 and Corporeal/Celestial Forces above 6. The skills and Song that came along for the ride are similarly not s u b ject to the normal level caps. It takes (9 - Intelligence) days to learn how to integrate the added bonuses (Intelligence roll to successfully use a Bonsai Kitten during this time), but after that success is automatic. Astoundingly, this works fine.

Now, the fact that a Bonsai Kitten acts as a Very Addictive, Severe Withdrawal (constant) drug might seem to be an actual problem. Nonsense. Vapula designed the things that way: he didn't want his subjects to accidentally lose his latest inventions, and direct electrical simulation of the pleasure centers of the brain is a proven method for assuring that such things never happen. True, this can cause social problems, as it's hard to hide the fact that one has a kitten in a glass jar stuck to his or her body, but that's why they invented turbans, long coats and very large wigs. Demons are supposed to show initiative, no?

Admittedly, the mental effects were... disappointing. One unforeseen problem (see, we're getting to actual problems now) with pouring a kitten into a jar and never letting it out again is that nobody ever thought to consider the kitten's opinion in the matter. They universally didn't like it, to make a severe understatement. Indeed, they hated it, to the point that every Bonsai Kitten is both transcendentally pissed off (Angry) and suspicious of the rest of existence (Paranoid). Of course, even if the researchers had thought of it, they probably would have just shrugged. Who cares what a kitten thinks?

Well, you should when you plug said kitten into somebody else's medulla oblongata. It took a while [(Celestial Forces) months] for the test subjects to start being Angry and Paranoid themselves (read: 'just enough time for this disaster to start going into formal production'), and guess what? The imposed Discords also aren't subject to normal caps. Seeing as a lot of the subjects were pretty bright to begin with, a lot of them were able to successfully Run Away, and not a few of them are now doing a pretty good imitation of megalomania.

Tracking them down has been a bit of a chore, and hampered by the fact that the forces of Heaven are not particularly amused by any of this. Animals is frothing at the mouth on general principles, while the rest of the Host are finding the test subjects to be especially irritating pains in their collective necks. Heck, the situation made Novalis frown and say, 'Oh, dear'. Demons hate it when she does that: it carries precisely the same overtones of dread as hearing the 'KA-CHINK!' of a pump action shotgun behind you - for very good reasons. Never try to piss off the Archangel of Flowers. You might get deeply unlucky, and succeed.

But all of that isn't the entire problem. There's one additional wrinkle, one final bit of icing on the metaphorical cake. You see, there was no theoretical limit to the number of Bonsai Kittens that could be attached to a standard vessel. There's at least one 18 Force (natural) Balseraph out there with six of the Damned Things hanging on for the ride...

Again, well, it seemed a good idea at the time.

For the record, puppies didn't respond well to the anti-growth drugs, they couldn't stop the bunny rabbits from suffering instant heart attacks, white tiger and panda cubs were too rare to be useful, koalas had an unacceptably high life support cost (so did baby harp seals), Christopher gets really, really intense when people start using babies for this sort of thing and humpback whale calves were just too damn big.


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