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The Nanophage is a condition afflicting cybernetically augmented organisms in the world of Observer.


Over the past decades, many experts anticipated that the proliferation of cybernetic augmentation would lead to new strains of lifestyle diseases. Few could predict the exact nature of the disease, or the scale of the eventual outbreak. Suffice it to say, when the nanophage hit, we were not ready.
Dr. Anthony Skalski, "The Disease of Transition"

The nanophage has been described as 'one of the most insidious conditions known to contemporary medicine' and 'the disease of the 21st century'. While it exclusively attacks cybernetically augmented organisms, it does so with unyielding voracity. The unique aspect of the nanophage is that it can be contracted both digitally and biologically. At the early onset, the disease can only be transmitted via a wireless network. In later stages - it becomes physiological in nature. While the early symptoms are barely noticeable, by the time the disease is in full swing, the patient is usually past help.


"(...) We triumphed over enemies lurking at our doorsteps, we must now prevail against the foes hiding in our very flesh."
Chairman Hoffman, The Nanophage Address

The cause of the disease is software-based, a fatal flaw in the programming of nano-machines meant to aid the merging of cybernetics and living tissue. The faulty algorithm, dubbed 'the AA Glitch', causes the nanobots to 'go rogue' and attack the host organism, treating it as a hostile entity. This rare form of autoagression, combined with the rapid deterioration of the patient's organism, make the nanophage a unique blend of neoplastic diseases and immune system disorders that were prevalent in the late 20th century.

The error does not manifest in pre-implantation stage. Once the machines are implanted, they start a cycle of mutual reproduction - thousands of microscopic robots building millions of microscopic robots, each created in the image of its predecessor. If somewhere along the chain, one of the bots is not assembled properly, if there is the slightest glitch in its cognitive functions, then every single one of its 'offspring' will bear the same fatal flaw.

Symptoms and Transmission[]

"I've seen people gnawing at their limbs in a desperate, albeit surprisingly clear-headed attempt to sever the source of the infection. It was all futile, of course - by that time, the nano-machines would spread to the entire body and started attacking vital organs."
Dr. Anthony Skalski, "The Disease of Transition"

Early onset symptoms of the nanophage are subtle and similar to those of several other, less malicious ailments. Mild fever and muscle aches are easily mistaken for the common influenza. The only surefire way to detect the disease in its early stages is to perform a full biometric scan. However, this diagnostic tool is rarely available in class C districts, which have seen the most outbreaks due to their high population density and the proliferation of cheap, defective implants.

The point at which the disease becomes easily identifiable is the 'puncture stage'. Tiny dotted wounds start to appear on the patient's body, usually originating at the point where cybernetics meet flesh. As the microscopic robots wreak havoc in the host's organism, the pain increases exponentially. The fever rises as well, making the patient delirious. Unfortunately, it is also the point at which the disease becomes contagious on a biological level and can be transmitted via direct contact, or - in some cases - even airborne.

Ultimately, the symptoms become more and more severe, resulting in gradual degradation of the host organism. The fever does not subside and the delirium gets worse, making the patient a danger to both themselves and those around them. By the time the infection turns every juncture in the body into a gangrenous mess, the patient loses all contact with their surroundings. The final stage of the disease occurs when the nanites engage vital organs, causing a complete biological shutdown of the host organism.

Treatment and Prevention[]

"I personally 'baptized' more than a dozen patients, two of which survived and one maintained a certain range of motor skills. And by that I mean - he could still blink. Looking back, I think we were mostly just trying to make ourselves feel better - hey, at least we're doing something."
Dr. Anthony Skalski, "The Disease of Transition"

Despite longstanding research, modern medicine still offers very few viable treatment options. The unique biomechanical design of the nanites rendered EMP nearly useless in combating the threat. Another problematic aspect was that, for a number of years, it was practically impossible to isolate the flawed nanites from the healthy ones. During the early outbreaks, a lot was left to chance - ultimately, the 'healthy' drones could potentially overcome the 'infected' ones, which would result in partial remission. More often than not, however, the infected would dominate the host's organism.

At this point, the doctors would try to instigate a mass recall of nano-machines, hoping it would make them return to the juncture (the point where flesh and machine merge), followed by surgical removal of the patient's cybernetic augmentations. This procedure came to be known among medical staff as a 'baptism' - as in 'baptism by fire'. However, this was always perceived as a desperate last resort, rather than a valid method of treatment. Putting aside the inevitable side effects, such as nerve damage and partial paralysis, especially in the case of neural implants, the recovery rate was still rather dismal (approximately 4%).

Public Perception[]

"The so-called 'cleaners' are a myth. A boogieman created by insurgent propaganda. A sick fantasy conceived in the twisted minds of antisocial rejects. The treatment of nanophage patients have always been humane and anyone publically stating otherwise better be ready to deal with the consequences."
Hubert Trynkowski, Head of Chiron Inc. Public Relations in an official press statement

Ever since the Great Plague of 2047, the nanophage has always been met with extreme anxiety from the public - perhaps unsurprisingly, considering that the average percentage of cybernetically augmented citizens has not fallen below 86% in the past forty years. In class C districts, the mere mention of an outbreak would often result in public unrest, or even riots. The reaction was caused not just by the disease's gruesome symptoms and dismal survival rate, but also by the general public perception of the treatment methods used by Chiron quarantine personnel.

During the Great Plague, nanophage outbreaks became so frequent as to warrant the installation of safeguards meant to stop the disease from spreading. Tenement buildings in high-risk areas were fitted with robust lockdown mechanisms - upon detecting the 'AA Glitch', the entire building would be physically isolated from the outside world by steel shutters. Any and all web connections would also be severed to contain the threat. Soon after, a corporate team of doctors and security personnel would descend upon the scene. While their official task was to save as many patients as possible, rumors quickly started to circulate. Statements from outbreak survivors painted a dismal picture of the alleged atrocities committed by Chiron staff. Allegedly, these so-called 'cleaners' were more interested in studying the infected, often subjecting them to inhumane treatment and conducting painful experiments. Once they got all they could, they would allegedly 'clean out' the source of the outbreak, using isolated chemical ignition. It should be noted, though, that most of these allegations are based on hearsay, as none of these alleged witnesses have ever testified in a court of law.