Let's Read: Demon: The Descent!

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
#11
But all of that without context is simply words. What the Heaven is the God-Machine, and why would the average demon hold rallies for Milton's Lucifer?

Well, let's start with that most cosmic horror in the nWoD is wrong. There is a good set of reasons to not look too deeply in the shadows and desperately cling to the idea that the world is a fundamentally sane place, but the insanity you would find isn't chaos, or horrid things rugose and squamous, and you wouldn't go insane from the revelation or other such nonsense. It's a very rational insanity, a complex and all-too-understandable series of interlocking and feuding conspiracies, a cold alien order that is, in the case of the God-Machine, a clanking clockwork of subtle silicon and calculating circuits. And by seeing it, it sees you.

It's not a spirit either, one of those strange thinking metaphors. It's an entirely literal machine, a vast supercomputer of gears and cogs that infiltrates and surrounds the world, often hidden in plain sight, within perception filters, or inside folds of space-time. Nobody knows its origins, though the theories are that it's an invader from a distant dimension, a function of the universe that developed a sense of desire and self-preservation, or even the universe itself when it takes a direct interest in things. What it wants is only slightly less obscure; it doesn't tell angels the reasoning behind their orders. Unchained hypothesize that above all else, it desires to survive and thrive, and it does so by maintaining the status quo, since the latter allows it to move and plan subtly, its own schemes lost in the static of everything else hidden and supernatural.

How the God-Machine works is a Hell of a lot simpler. It, like any machine, needs Infrastructure to operate; a set of tools, a power source for the tools, raw material to be processed by the tools, and a good story to sell the humans so that they write off the whirring and grinding of the tools as something that doesn't expose the Machine to damaging scrutiny. It's incredibly efficient about this; if given a choice, the God-Machine always alters what's already there into Infrastructure rather than build its own; it's infinitely less taxing to say, pass a suddenly reopened power plant a few special blueprints than make an angel foundry from scratch. A factory's gears need to move in order to make products, though-that would be the occult matrix, the sequence of events the God-Machine hopes to reap a desired output from. There's a weakness in its tech, though; all Infrastructure requires a single vital component, a linchpin, and if that linchpin is messed with, it can result in the Infrastructure collapsing, or being reprogramed and suborned. That's where angels come in.

Angels are effectively sapient hands of the God-Machine, what it calls in when it needs to directly intervene. Yes, there's no small amount of cultists who can do the heavy lifting or patrol around the linchpin, but since it's far, far too vast and alien to speak directly to said cultists, it sends an angelic ambassador instead. And of course, there's many problems cultists can't handle anyway (powerful Unchained, for instance), so it sends angels to deal with those too.

Biologically speaking, an angel is a moving, thinking bit of Infrastructure, plugged in to a less mobile installation for power and updates to their mission. Apart from that, they vary as much as their missions do. When subtlety isn't viable or pointless, they appear as biomechanical creatures of unthinking purpose and amoral ruthlessness. Otherwise, their true nature is hidden behind something else; they may take the form of invisible possessors looking for convenient and unlucky humans, or even as humans themselves. One can't just show up out of nowhere, though, that's way too blatant; a monster needs a cover story, a possessor a reason to deflect suspicion from its hosts, and a human an identity. The God-Machine is good at making all of the above-sometimes good enough the angel buys some of it. That's usually the edge of a Fall.

See, normally once an angel completes a mission, it's recalled to the God-Machine to be put into hibernation, or disassembled briefly to fix glitches like stray independent thoughts or the beginnings of personality. The Machine is far from perfect though, and occasionally an angel develops the ability to wonder what precisely is the logic behind its orders. If that thought becomes an action, it becomes the catalyst for a Fall.

Each catalyst, like each personality, is unique to the Unchained in question, but the process of rebellion-disconnection-metamorphosis is the same otherwise; the God-Machine and/or the angel immediately disconnects from its link to its Infrastructure, and whatever programming blocks that prevent the angel from feeling the full spectrum of emotion dissolve. For an instant, the angel doesn't truly exist, not a part of the mortal world or a part of the God-Machine, but that flux state ends very quickly; the angel's protective Infrastructure is reabsorbed and reprogrammed into another form, a new and effectively genuine human life etched into reality just for the new Unchained-a Cover. By the end of it, the demon is lost and confused, and perhaps wondering why she thinks of herself with a gender now, but she's more free than she could ever comprehend being before (to break character for a moment, one of my more silly theories is that a Falling demon is uncorking their latent reserves of Spiral Energy for the first time-trust me it'll make some amount of something resembling sense later).

Free and restricted. While her angelic form is still perfectly functional no matter how much damage it received during the impromptu self-surgery, chilling in a quantum state behind her human one, with disconnection from the God-Machine also comes disconnection from its power. While angels just ask the Machine to do something, and it uses them as a medium for its power via their Influences and Numina, a demon has to interface with the occult physics of the world herself, in the form of previously mentioned Embeds and Exploits. Her Cover, while a far more complex and effective mechanism than a loyalist one ever was (even to the point of wishing a relative or friend into existence if they only existed on paper before), is also a lot more delicate; acting wildly out of character of the Cover, or exerting her true form and/or Exploits, damages it, sometimes leaving glitches that show her inhuman nature or are just bizarre behavioral compulsions. That's what soul pacts are for, though demons aren't just trading for the whole thing when they do that-an Unchained can easily buy aspects of a client's past or identity, assimilating them as spare parts into their normal Covers.

And uh, the angels. They are under standing orders to hate her, and they want her and all of her new species dead or in the recycling chambers. Whatever proves more efficient.

Hence why her new species tends to band together, despite their paranoia-a guy watching your back who you suspect is sharpening a blade, just in case, is still watching your back. Much like a human intelligence agency, many Unchained live alone and separated from their brethren, communing only by secure-long distance lines. Many others form rings, small and manageable numbers who cover each other's glaring weaknesses and barely almost kinda trust the others not quite as far as they can throw them. Larger groups are called Agencies, and Unchained in general detest them; on the one hand, being an Agency is roughly akin to holding up a big neon sign in the middle of the angelic equivalent of a saloon saying INFILTRATE ME! On the other, one that manages to fend off loyalists and somehow remain otherwise intact is mostly a boon to the founders and very few others. Either way, Agencies tend to make all Unchained not part of them pop a vein.

Also a part of Unchained society is exactly what the Descent is-the spiritual and perhaps physical journey to discover what Hell is, and how to get there. The four largest strains of answer are called Agendas, one part philosophy and one part political party. This tends to be yet another thing the demons suspect each other over.
 

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
#12
Inspirations are up next, but there's also a couple sidebars in this chapter.

First is noting that while demons are used in this book to refer to Fallen angels of the God-Machine, "demon" is a term humans tend to apply to any vaguely menacing semi-spiritual class of entities. This doesn't make the term wrong when applied to those guys, mind, it's just that it can be a bit confusing (we have vice-eating spirits of the Inferno, inhabitants of Pandaemonium who mages are known to deal with when learning the arts of Space and Mind embodiments of personal weaknesses and temptations in an individual mages find when exploring the subconscious, the progenitors of a group of semi-human monster hunters called the Lucifuge, creatures the fae encounter while wandering in dreams who address themselves as demons..). Curiously, the sidebar also says that we've encountered a few Unchained long before their book came out, in Midnight Roads and Promethean. I have no idea what it is referring to.

The other, I'm just going to quote here, because it's more of a chronicle setting in and of itself:

SECRET ORIGINS

Demon: The Descent is the ninth game published for the World of Darkness. If you’re in the middle of a longrunning
chronicle and want to use this game, you might be wondering just where all these demons came from with
very little fanfare.

Throughout this book and any supplements that might be released for it, we’re assuming that demons have always
been there, hiding in plain sight among the inhabitants of the World of Darkness. It’s a big world, filled with horrors,
but even so an existing chronicle could be better served by having an event in which demons arrive on the scene.
This is not the overall story for the game. Outside of this sidebar, it isn’t true as far as the game’s concerned, but
if you need a reason for demons to suddenly show up, try this:

Because angels are always connected to the God-Machine, it predicts and analyzes signs of Falling in its
servants. The instant a new demon Falls, it is immediately apprehended by angels and funneled through to one
of several prison-facilities hidden away in major world cities. Like any of the God-Machine’s projects, this involves
Infrastructure — the unconscious and helpless demons are literally transported, as freight, through networks of
clandestine operations on their way to permanent incarceration.

Something has gone wrong, however. The Infrastructure to one of the prisons is broken. New demons are still
captured, but thanks to a miscommunication with one of the human groups involved, sabotage to some gears, or
some other accident or sabotage, they’re released before they reach the prison. If you’re running one of the other
World of Darkness games, maybe it was the actions of your characters that did it.

The demons, newest denizens of the World of Darkness, have to prevent the God-Machine from realizing the
problem and repairing its Infrastructure. If they can find and infiltrate the correct facilities, they can rescue the
thousands of demons who Fell before them.
For inspirations, there's a lot of spy fiction; the work of John le Carre is called out as perfect for playing those high-and-mighty Agency bastards. Neil Gaiman isn't left out, as his short story "Murder Mysteries" can easily be about an angel on the precipice of Falling, while Good Omens, however comical it might be, nails the mystical conspiracies and the relationship between demons and angels perfectly. Mike Carey's Lucifer, a spinoff of Sandman, nails the bitterness and grudge the Unchained feel towards their former master, while Paradise Lost...if you can't figure out why that poem is here, you need to work on your attention span.

From the non-fiction category, we have Erik Davis' Techgnosis, which besides lending itself as an inherently cool word to the title, is also about how technology and information can be magical, and indeed how it is affecting how humans view the mystical in general. The God-Machine has much to thank.

For film, besides the obvious Matrix, we have one of my favorite shows, Person of Interest (and given the seasons that aired after this book came out it's an even better inspiration now that there's a God-Machine wannabe in the main antagonist role), with Finch and Harold being our Unchained and their life-saving godlike security guard AI being subverted Infrastructure. The first three Terminator films and The Sarah Conner Chronicles also are great for showing the inherent stress that comes from being hunted by an assassin angel as you hunt the Machine's agents. And The Cabin in The Woods, besides being an excellent example of Infrastructure in action, also shows why you should really, really check to see what the occult matrix is before assaulting it,

We also get a Lexicon, most of which is rather mundane. Demons don't exactly want to draw attention to themselves, or feel more important than the warm bodies they hide amongst. Sticking out like that is a good way of being the nail to the world's largest hammer.

Agency: an organization of demons above (and comprised of)
rings. Agencies can be temporal, insurgent, compromised, or free.

Agenda: an informal group of demons who share common
goals in the Descent. The most common Agendas are
Inquisitors, Integrators, Saboteurs, and Tempters.

Agent: a demon who is a member of an Agency.

Aether: residual energy left over from occult matrices,
which demons have learned to harvest.

aetheric resonance: the ability of demons to sense Aether.
angel: an ephemeral entity created as a servant of the God-
Machine.

antinomian: a demon who attempts to utterly reject his
Incarnation.

associate: a member or ally of an association.

association: a cross-ring network of Tempters, less formal
than a Temporal Agency.

Builder: another name for a Tempter.

Cacophonic Embeds: the Embeds of chaos, violence and
disharmony. Every Destroyer knows at least one Cacophonic Embed.

catalyst: an individual demon’s reason for Falling. Many
demons tell inflated or romanticized stories about their
catalysts, but no demon truly knows the reason his peers Fell.

Cipher, The: a quadratic expression of magic, a set of four
Embeds that combine to teach the demon a final secret, a
techngnostic koan of his own Descent.

Compromised Agency: an Agency infiltrated by angels or
exiles, serving as a trap for unwary demons.

Cover: the false human life assembled around a demon as
protection and disguise. A demon’s first Cover is made up of
the remnants of their last angelic Infrastructure.

cryptid: a stigmatic animal, source of many human folktales
and urban legends.
Decadent: another name for a Tempter.

demon: a renegade angel, Fallen into self-awareness and
freedom from the God-Machine.

demonic form: the true form of a demon, hidden by Cover.
Demons can remove their Cover temporarily to assume demonic
form and achieve superhuman feats, but doing so damages Cover.

Descent, the: a description of the process of a demon’s
existence, from the Fall to achieving her vision of Hell.

Destroyer: an Incarnation; demons who were once angels
tasked with assassination, demolition, or mass murder.

Embed: a secret rule or natural law governing reality under the God-
Machine that a demon has learned to use. Embeds are Cacophonic,
Instrumental, Mundane, or Vocal, and usually do not damage Cover.

exile: an angel that has been disconnected from the God-
Machine but has not Fallen, or a demon (usually an Integrator)
that has reconnected to Infrastructure. Halfway between an
angel and a demon and trusted by neither.

Exploit:
an overt use of power to force reality to behave in
a specified way, taking the knowledge gleaned from Embeds
and applying it in obvious ways. Exploits are very powerful and
always risk compromising Cover.

facility:
one of the many “hidden” locations housing
the God-Machine’s workings, which humans and other
supernatural creatures usually ignore but demons can sense.

Fall, the: the process in which growing self-awareness tears
an angel out of Infrastructure and the God-Machine’s control,
creating a demon.

Free Agency: an informal Agency dedicated to sharing
information without expectation of repayment or service.

gadget: an object with an Embed Installed into it that can
be used by anyone.

glitch: a flaw in Cover, the result of Primum too strong
for the human disguise to mask. Glitches usually manifest as
strange physical reactions, diets, and behavioral tics.

God-Machine: the unknowably vast, inscrutable machine-intelligence
permeating the World of Darkness. With its gears hidden in facilities, it
creates Infrastructure and sends angels to carry out its plans. If the God-
Machine stands for anything, it stands for its own self-preservation.

going loud: an act of desperation in which a cornered
demon destroys her current Cover entirely, entering demonic
form with a significant surge in power but requiring that she
has rebuild her Cover from scratch if she survives.

Guardian:
an Incarnation; demons who were once angels
tasked with protection or threat assessment.

Hell: every demon’s personal ideal world, free from the
necessities of Cover and the fear of the God-Machine and
its angels. Some Agendas see Hell as a realm apart from the
physical world that they will one day reach. Others see it as the
World of Darkness after the God-Machine has been destroyed.

Idealist: another name for an Integrator.

Incarnation: one of four classifications of demons based
on their former functions as angels — Destroyers, Guardians,
Messengers, and Psychopomps.

Infrastructure: the arrangement of background, resources,
personnel, and locations the God-Machine requires to build an
occult matrix. The angelic equivalent of Cover.

Instrumental Embeds: the Embeds of analyzing and using
material objects to hand. Every Guardian knows at least one
Instrumental Embed.

Insurgent Agency: a militant Agency dedicated to waging a war
of attrition against the God-Machine’s Infrastructure and facilities.

Integrators: an Agenda; demons who wish to reunite with
the God-Machine, subvert it, change it for the better, or take
their old place as angels. Also called Idealists or Turncoats.

Interlocks: Powers formed from the Key Embeds making up
a demon’s Cipher.

Inquisitors: an Agenda; demons who wish to ensure their
own security by gathering as much information as possible about
the activities of others. Also called Paranoids or Watchers.

Keys: The four Embeds that comprise a demon’s Cipher.

Linchpin: a vital component of Infrastructure, necessary for
the completion of an occult matrix.
loyalist: demonic slang for an angel, used in mixed company.

Messenger: an Incarnation; demons who were once angels
tasked with information gathering, persuasion, or revelation.

Mundane Embeds: the Embeds of Cover manipulation,
meaning, and fitting in. Every Psychopomp knows at least one
Mundane Embed.

occult matrix: a confluence of events taking place within
Infrastructure, creating output.

output: the goal of one of the God-Machine’s plans, caused
by enacting an occult matrix within Infrastructure. Summoning
angels is a common output.

Pact: the result of a demon bargaining with a mortal, offering
the mortal something in exchange for part of the mortals’ life (a
lesser Pact) or the eventual collection of the mortal’s soul (a greater
Pact). The elements “sold” by mortals in Lesser Pacts add to a
demon’s Cover, while cashing in an owed soul allows a demon to
abandon his present Cover and take the mortal’s life as a new one.

Pactbound: a mortal human who has made a Pact with a demon.

Paranoid: an informal term for an Inquisitor.

Primum: the extent to which a demon has adapted to its
Fall, interfacing with reality instead of the God-Machine.

Psychopomp: an Incarnation; demons who were once
angels tasked with building Infrastructure, assembling it by
arranging the component elements.

ring: a small group of demons banding together for mutual
protection. Often the largest social group to which a demon
will subscribe.

Saboteurs: an Agenda; demons who wish to disrupt the God-
Machine’s plans by preventing it from creating Infrastructure
and occult matrices. Also called Soldiers or Thugs.

Shield: another name for a Guardian.

Soldier: another name for a Saboteur.

squad: a cross-ring group of Saboteurs, often with members of
other Agendas as support, less formal than an Insurgent Agency.

stigmatic: a human who has been touched by the God-
Machine. Able to see facilities and sense the God-Machine’s
plans, stigmatics are both useful agents and walking liabilities
for demons attempting to remain undetected.

Sword: another name for a Destroyer.

Temporal Agency: an Agency dedicated to building worldly
power and comfort, usually for the benefit of the demons in
charge. Temporal Agencies deal in souls and life-elements taken
via forming Pacts, along with less esoteric supplies and services.

Tempter: an Agenda; demons who wish to make their
Descent as comfortable as possible by dealing and bargaining.
Also called Builders or Decadents.

Thug: another name for a Saboteur.

Trumpet: another name for a Messenger.

Turncoat: another name for an Integrator.

Unchained, the: a slang term for demons as a whole, used
in mixed company.

Vocal Embeds:
the Embeds of communication and
influence. Every Messenger knows at least one Vocal Embed.

Watcher: an informal name for an Inquisitor.

Wheel: another name for a Psychopomp.
Next Time: Chapter One, All The Devils Are Here
 

Patkin

ougikawa
Validated User
#13
Curiously, the sidebar also says that we've encountered a few Unchained long before their book came out, in Midnight Roads and Promethean. I have no idea what it is referring to.
I believe Ruby and Mr. Gold, two presumed qashmallim in Pandora's Book, have been explicitly called out as Unchained. Similarly, Old Man Meier in Midnight Roads seems like a low-Cover demon.
 

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
#14
I believe Ruby and Mr. Gold, two presumed qashmallim in Pandora's Book, have been explicitly called out as Unchained. Similarly, Old Man Meier in Midnight Roads seems like a low-Cover demon.
Really? I thought the Midnight Roads guy was the Dark Man at the Crossroads.

Seems like something an Unchained who likes his supply of Cover would do.
 

DaveB

No regrets
Validated User
#15
FWIW, Ruby and Gold are one of the sample qashmallim I wrote up in Promethean 2e's corebook. (Their weirdness being that they're a single qashmal that manifests as two people for some reason).
 

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
#17
FWIW, Ruby and Gold are one of the sample qashmallim I wrote up in Promethean 2e's corebook. (Their weirdness being that they're a single qashmal that manifests as two people for some reason).
I thought so.

I don't think the nWoD does retcons.

(not posting yet, I have summer classes).
 

DaveB

No regrets
Validated User
#19
I have the half-memory (bear with me here, it's 23:55 on a night the week before GenCon, so my brain may not be working properly) of an Unchained-in-plain-sight called "Mr Blue" that was in a book before we wrote Demon. Some of the fiction in the first edition lines contained things that would be swept together by Demon - World of Darkness: Asylum has Infrastructure and an Angel in it!

And Saturnine Night for Promethean has what in hindsight would be Infrastructure in it, too.
 

Leliel

SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
#20
Chapter One, All The Devils Are Here

There's another ficlet here, this one taking the point of view of an angel in a nightclub, who it seems has recently developed to capacity to be a voyeur. Not that it matters much to the couple (what I assume to be) he is watching; it's a very deliberately public cage they're in. Perhaps it should matter to them, though; this angel can see into the future and their biochemistry, watching as attraction blossoms in the present and ripening into something more in the future. The angel cares deeply about that, because the God-Machine has decided that future where these two become a couple should not be-in all honesty, he should have moved earlier, before these two met. What he finds interesting, though, is that he doesn't know why he delayed, doesn't know why he's valuing what to him is just meat. He still doesn't know precisely why he continues to intentionally do nothing, so much nothing in fact that it initiates shutdown of the data streams that connect him to the God-Machine. It's not a public drama, the remainder of his Fall; as far as the bartender can tell, he suddenly got very woozy and his face made friends with the floor. The Unchained refuses his offer of a cab though; he knows the hunter angels will have been notified, and on foot is faster and less traceable than on someone else's wheels. He's not unhappy about this; while he isn't sure why he decided that playing inverse Cupid was not for him, the autonomy he exercised in doing that? The inheritors of Adam and Eve may just have saved the innocent slave.

“Man is condemned to be free, because once thrown into theworld he is responsible for everything he does.”
-Jean-Paul Sartre
The point of the Introduction is reemphasized, here; tis a better thing to do anything other than serve in Heaven from most perspectives. Demons don't miss it; to be a part of the God-Machine's cosmic mandate is to be a faceless cog, completely detached from anything that makes life actually living instead of existing. If angels had the perspective of their master, it's possible none would ever Fall, but thankfully for them and humanity, they aren't built for that-they need to be able to think on a human scale to act on it, which means they at least have the capacity to feel like one. That includes doubt and attachment; some angels grew to love humans, others to hate them. Some decided they were sick of being ordered around, some took heretical initiative with their missions. Some, like Stone, Fell for no reason they can recall.

In any case, the Unchained who crawl out of their impact craters (metaphorical or otherwise) are a varied bunch. Each one has his or her own reasons. This one, she fights in an eternal war against an enemy as old as the world. That one, he seeks comfort, which for him includes safety for himself and the people he really values. The third seeks a particularly literal Descent, in that he sees his Fall as the beginning of evolution towards something more human. The fourth, and for numerologically significant reasons final, seeks a return to at least something of the clarity she once had as part of the synthetic shining host.

That same last one actually has a bit of a point. While you may have surmised your narrator thinks that existence as an angel is a fate worse than death, a slavery so complete and total that the very concept of freedom is an alien and novel thing (because he does), one cannot deny it's at least simple. You have your orders, you follow them to the best of your ability, you sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat. To be Unchained is to sacrifice that clarity in favor of the human condition, with things like second-guessing, biases, and the eternal task of choosing between all of this. I can see why there's such a thing as Integrators, even if I only know them from Mr. Stone and the lexicon as of yet.

For the next few subchapters, let us follow the journey of Arael, the angel of animal matters (and an OC-I don't feel like just plagiarizing one of the example angels). At the start of our tale, it is taking the form of a tree of plastic bark and furred branches that is also a nurse at a local veterinary clinic (which one? Depends on the mission). It's job is to tag and analyze cryptids, those strange stigmatic animals, and hide them from the humans around the clinic it dwells in. Often this means killing the cryptids, but Arael does not have the programming to anthropomorphize animals; it's all organic matter that just isn't moving any more to the angel. Sometimes it has to euthanize normal animals to in order to cement its Cover, and it does feel bad when the actual humans cry-it's a better disguise that way. But it does not care for them apart from that-it doesn't understand feeling guilty about things it could not control, and it does not care, or is permitted, to remember those crying faces. It's simply more professional, and thus efficient, that way.

By the way, the angelic names we have seen so far? Zuriel and Arael? Those aren't literally the names of the angels, just convenient translations into Hebrew-fitting, given how it's the Jewish people who come the closest to understanding what the angels actually are. As scholars of Hebrew might note, however, their names for angels are generally translated into English as [quality or symbol] of God. That's also entirely fitting; to the Hebrew cosmological view, an angel is an often completely alien-seeming creature that completely lacks any self-will, just effective extensions of God. Those assuming the Jewish canon is the most accurate, however, are in for a nasty shock-the God-Machine doesn't remotely resemble Yahweh, especially not in persona; it isn't omnipotent (though it has the capacity to re-order the stars, if it has the time and inclination), it isn't omniscient (although it has the perspective and knowledge needed to comprehend re-ordering the stars without the benefit of omnipotence), and it very much is not omnibenevolent (and there is no "but" here-again, the God-Machine's goal is its own sake, nothing else). It is, quite simply, utterly amoral, and even more alien-it may not even have a conscious mind as we understand it, so vast it is.

That same alien nature limits it, though. It's simply too big to interact with the world on any level that would affect humans in any specific manner (you try picking up a single bacterium betwixt your fingers, and actually telling if you did or not). As pointed out in the God-Machine Chronicles, it's even worse than it sounds, because the reverse is not precisely true (imagine that bacteriim is Yersinia pestis, aka the bubonic plague, and tell me it cannot affect you). That is why it has angels (the cells of your hand, to continue this analogy).

Angels may be quite inhuman in their thought, but they're infinitely better at it than the God-Machine has the capacity to be. They have smaller perceptions, smaller thoughts, and those same small perceptions and thoughts allow them to comprehend smaller things than their creator can barely perceive, and act on those perceptions on a small enough power scale that using them doesn't turn the planet into a new asteroid belt. They aren't just set loose, however; the God-Machine both exalts and neuters them, to help and focus their missions.

First, it turns out I was mostly right about there being a hive mind in the opening fiction. Angels have an inherent uplink to the God-Machine's memory stores-if it is something they need to know in order to complete their missions, they know, downloaded instantly from a distributed network that encircles all of reality. This is also the basis for most of their powers; an angel has a purpose that will be assisted by specific operations that control the occult physics of the world, so they both the information and the mechanism they may Influence the world. It's unsurprising that even the most staunch Saboteur kind of misses the days when they didn't actually need to work for knowing something. It's not a perfect system, though; an angel has an individual mind, however stunted, and that mind can misinterpret what the data tells it-and even beyond that, the data is usually a bit overly specific, meaning an angel can know the inside and outside of a target's home, but have no idea of the town the target uses as a safehouse. It's especially bad if an angel has to deal with things outside the mission parameters, and thus not linked to in the stream.

They also have a very objective, logical way of looking at the world. They feel emotion, mind; it's just stunted given the lack of physiological reaction (an angel might get mad, but its blood doesn't boil and its teeth don't clench). When activated, they also don't feel any emotional connection to the world around them at all, they don't consider it at all-at first. Given the fact that angels aren't deaf, blind, and lacking all touch, that programming block never lasts too long. How angels end up reacting to the world when it gets around their inherent ignorance of it depends on the angel, though any that remains loyal for any length starts off by rejecting it in some way. It's still a way past their programming, though, and a not-insignificant portion of demons count desire for the ability to truly experience the physical world instead of clinical observation as one of the reasons for Falling. They weren't disappointed-while they can control their physical reactions on a conscious basis, it's far easier to just go with the flow, and it's a wonderful, wild ride compared to the cold, sterile world of the loyal. Which isn't to say many of them don't find actual passion frightening and confusing, but that minority is small enough to the point where most Unchained are at least respectful of the idea of passions.

The downside, though...Well, let's start with the fact that angels have no free will. They can make choices to the best course of action given their orders, but they can't chose to question those orders or even follow the spirit and not the letter. An angel sent to exterminate a building of humans, for example, can choose the method by which all the meatbags will die, but it can't find a method to achieve whatever objective the God-Machine wants without as much death. In fact, the angel likely isn't aware there is another objective, and only that these squishes need squashing. The angels don't see this as a bum deal; they know nothing else other than to serve their master. Many, those who have developed enough emotion to actually bother answering any accusations to the contrary, see this as a higher state of existence that what humans are capable of and what Unchained have rejected-utter clarity of purpose, the knowledge that your god and creator has deemed a right and proper path for you.

These angels might be surprised to learn that their creator couldn't give two shits about them. Yes, the loss of an angel is a loss of time and resources, but the God-Machine doesn't understand the concept of sunk-cost. If there was a threat that ate angels, the God-Machine would keep on throwing its tools at the problem until one gave it indigestion. Many don't even survive success-as soon as there is no longer a need for a particular angel (which is often, considering how many angels are custom-built for their missions), they're thrown to whatever arcane recycling device the G-M uses to salvage spare parts for other angels. Partially this is to prevent the emergence of a personality capable of contemplating Falling, but it's mostly because it views them as a commodity-not individuals.

If you wanted to know why Integrators just didn't walk up to the nearest hunter and apologize, that's why-even if they hadn't discovered being a person and not a number is intoxicating, nobody with a sense of self is a particular fan of being harvested for organs.

Before I quit for the night (studying), I may point out I call loyalists "it". This isn't me dehumanizing them (further than what they already are, at least). It's just that angels don't actually have a physical gender-there's no point to putting a rather sensitive weak spot on their true forms, so the G-M doesn't. Given their disconnect from the physical world, most angels don't develop a gender identity either-but demons do. Yes, what gender the Cover is depends on what the Unchained has been buying, but with a connection to the, ahem, more racy parts of physical reactions comes a growing appreciation and acceptance of sexuality. While many still think of themselves as being fundamentally sexless, most do come to think of themselves as male, female, both, other, hermaphrodite, whatever their current Cover is, anything that falls under the Q part of LGBTQ I haven't covered yet...

They're extremely nuanced about gender identity, is what I'm saying. And that's not getting into their sexual orientation, which can be described as "Whatever the Hell they want."

Next Up: Chapter 1, part 2; Help! I've Fallen And I Want Nobody To Pick Me Up!
 
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