Memes: Individualist Anarchism, Morphological Freedom
Scum are space nomads, traveling from station to station in heavily modified barges or swarms of smaller space vessels, mostly former colonial ships. The term “scum” has been gleefully appropriated from its original derogatory usage. Despite their reputation as criminals and scam artists, their temporary presence is often tolerated in many habitats for the entertainment they bring in the way of exotic performances and storytelling, both of which offer change and relief from the isolation of remote habitats and clusters. Their thriving black markets are an open secret but shut down only in the most oppressive regimes, as citizens returning with illegal goods must pass their station’s security anyway.
The scum themselves comes from all manner of backgrounds. They are rejects, anarchists, criminals, societal dropouts, wanderers, artists, eccentrics, and more. As a culture, however, they embrace experimentation and an “everything is permissible” attitude. Many are ardent practitioners of extreme transhuman modifications. Long-time scum are sometimes scarcely recognizable as having once been human. Scum economies are transitional rather than new, due to their constant interaction with other habitats, though among long-term residents an underground new economy often flourishes.
Posted by: Spam del Psycho, Scum Engineer <Info Msg Rep>
We scum are the x-factor of the Alliance. Primarily anarchist in character, our politics lean more towards individualism. We take more of an anything-goes, fuck-’em-if-they-can’t-take-a-joke attitude towards life, the universe, and … well, just about everything. Internally, we are probably more fractious and conﬂicting than any of the other autonomist factions. We rarely pose our own Joint Resolutions, though we’ve supported most of those raised by others.
Among the autonomists, we scum enjoy a rather unique position. Like the Extropians, we are a bridge between the outer and inner system. Where the Extropians are more of a gateway between cultures, however, many of our scum ﬂotillas spend months or years traveling the inner system, hopping from habitat to habitat. This gives us a unique perspective not shared by the rest of the Alliance members. It’s not just the sunward part of the system that we wander, either—we have more direct contact with other factions than probably any other. Because we often operate outside of ofﬁcial channels, we also get glimpses into the inner workings of many habitats and cultures that no other outsiders come close to. A lot of people think the scum are losers, but they have no idea how much dirt we’ve collected on the rest of you.
Growing in the Cracks
The scum have been around since well before the Fall. Our roots stem from the very ﬁrst group of orbital workers that decided they didn’t want to go back down the gravity well when their contract was up, but they didn’t want to work their asses off for some crappy corp gig neither. These scrappy types found a way to survive in the niches of Earth orbit’s booming space economy, usually by freelancing odd jobs and scavenging anything they could get their mitts on. Given the restrictions a lot of the corps put on gear taken into orbit, a black market economy was inevitable. Some of them got ahold of their own spacecraft, others set up their own hideaways—which eventually drew others. As we expanded outwards, these drifters, itinerants, smugglers, and wanderers followed. Before long, we had space crusty punks, homeless vagabonds, and cut-throat opportunists wandering all over the solar system—just because they could.
Our deﬁning moment came just a few years before the Fall. A group of 20 or so indentured Chinese vacworkers—all former convicts—were simply abandoned out in the Belt. The asteroid they were left on was mined out, the valuable equipment already lifted away, and the corp that owned them simply decided they weren’t worth the fuel mass to pick up and relocate. They weren’t even left a fabber to survive on. Lucky for them, a small drifter ship stopped by right about the point they were getting ready to murder each other for the last few days’ worth of food. The drifters strained their own life support resources to haul the vacworkers to the next nearest mining operation—a two-week, hellish trip. When they arrived, the manager in charge ﬂat refused to let them in, infamously proclaiming “I will not let you scum on board!” The numerous miners underneath him—many of whom were itinerant vacworkers—took one look at each other and shoved the manager out the airlock. The manager’s recorded message, and the story along with it, went viral among workers and wanderers throughout the solar system. The scum meme stuck, and before long, drifters everywhere were using the term for themselves among their own kind. Soon, everyone was using it.
When the Fall came, we scum stepped in and pulled our weight when it came to getting people off Earth. We were already experts at MacGyvering space ships, habitats, and functional systems out of whatever was available. If it weren’t for our help and expertise, thousands would have fallen back into the atmo when their engines failed or suffocated in space. Our ranks were also swelled by the massive amount of refugees. Entire ships full of survivors were being denied entry to every habitat they went to—some habs went so far as to destroy those that attempted to dock anyway. With nowhere else to go, thousands had no choice but to group together, share what meager resources they had, and wander about scrounging for more. Anything that could be converted into living space—ship wrecks, pieces of shattered habitats, discarded fuel tanks or supply modules—was salvaged, converted, and attached to a tug for towing. Many ship crews also found that the governments or CEOs they had formally worked for no longer existed; these too drifted aimlessly.
Over time, these refugees accumulated into a number of swarms. Many were already accompanied by self-identified scum, and soon they too were integrated into our nomadic lifestyle. Others simply adapted to the times, and through frequent contact with other scum travelers, transformed into scum on their own. Today there are hundreds of scum ﬂotillas around the solar system—no one can say for sure how many. Dozens of these are huge, with hundreds of ships. Many others are small, composed of simply a dozen or so.
Scum society is best described as tribal, with each ship crew an individual tribe. On larger ships or LaFrance rigs, the population tends to be divided among different groups much like families or clans. Though anarchistic, we are not as collectivist-minded. We are egoists that pursue relationships that are in our personal self-interest, and we abandon them when they no longer suit us. The communalist obsession with organization is far too stiff, static, and formal for our affairs. We live for ourselves, in the now, without rules that require sacrifices or bind us to others. Among our kind, we don’t tolerate bullies, despots, or anyone that wants to control others, but beyond that, it’s each for their own.
The various tribes, crews, clans, families, and other groups are tied together by common interests, and sometimes by blood. Our social systems are otherwise ad hoc. Many crews elect a leader, but their authority rests on their ability to convince the others to respect it. Others will operate collectively, but only as long as we have a common purpose. We tend not to waste too much time hashing out disputes. If they can’t be settled by heated words or spilled blood, we move on. Reputation handles the rest.
There are some things that no scum will tolerate. Coercion. Mental manipulation. Torture. Rape. Brain hacking. Slavery. These are offenses that will get you airlocked, and no one is likely to bother with your backup.
When you’re living a meter from vacuum with limited resources and surviving on your wits and chutzpah, you gain a solid appreciation for the good things in life. In fact, you live the fuck out of your life, because your homeworld just got overrun by machines and you might pick up a brain-melting nanoplague tomorrow. Plus there are these nifty mind-bending drugs and wares available from your neighbor, the “clinic” down the corridor will do almost anything you want to your body, just to see if they can, and the morph you’re sporting makes almost everyone around want to have sex with you—quite possibly at once.
Body modiﬁcation is one of the hallmarks of scum culture. Remember that many of our early trailblazers were corporate indentures, often convicts. Bad prison tattoos of the non-nano variety were a common sight, and many original scum still keep them as a badge of honor. The liberty to adorn our bodies as we pleased came hand in hand with the freedom we granted ourselves to roam and live apart from authority and mainstream society. Morphological alterations for living in micrograv were common and useful—and why stop there? As our collective resources grew, the options for modifying ourselves increased. Extreme and unusual body-mods became a source of pride, a rejection of the bland, lifeless, consumer-focused corpse of a society we all came from. What was taboo or poor taste in sterile corporate habs became celebrated in our swarms. You didn’t need to be a skilled genehacker to modify a morph on our ships, you just experimented. If it failed, you went back in the vat and tried again. We embraced individuality and diversity, goaded each other towards more extremes, pushed the available technologies to the limit. What most outsiders don’t realize is how much of our efforts are focused not on resleeving into new exotic morphs (though this is, of course, explored ad nauseam), but on modding the skins we have. Because many of us were refugees from Earth and we do much of our traveling the old-fashioned way (without egocasting), a surprising number of us scum still have our original bodies—though you might not guess from looking at them.
We didn’t stop with our bodies. Our minds are just as fair game. Mental adjustment is a far trickier prospect, however, too dangerous to play with as a hobby, unless you really enjoying cranking through forks. Skilled psychosurgeons have a hallowed place in our ranks, they are our shamans, our priests. Along with them come the chemists, programmers, and assorted drug-dealers that provide the tools for altering our minds and expanding our perceptions. Finding new ways to get high and new ways to experience the world is our culture’s favorite participatory sport.
Our libertine attitudes are enmeshed in all aspects of our society. The way we live together, fuck each other, communicate, socialize, play, and work—all are open to experimentation. Everything is possible, nothing is prohibited. Cross-species relationships? Mass forking? Group orgies? Male pregnancies? Vacuum raves? Consensual multi-ego merging? Indescribable fetishes? You’ll ﬁnd it all, and more.
Can’t you wait to dive in?
Among our swarms and tribes, we do not use money. Most basic resources are public and shared. People keep private property in varying degrees. As a unit, however, we watch out for each other. No one starves, no one dies from want or suffers from lack of aid or attention. Like other autonomists, one’s reputation matters in major dealings.
When it comes to outsiders, we handle things differently. Non-scum must pay us for goods and services, or barter in kind. Because our ﬂotillas survive by trading between habitats, we are always on the lookout for things that will be valuable elsewhere, whether that’s a unique piece of art, an illegal weapon, or rare element feedstock for nanofabbers. We supply and serve the black markets that thrive between habitats.
Much of the credits, resources, and favors we gather is turned right back around and spent in ways that beneﬁt the swarm. Repairs, new ships, fuel mass, new tech: we buy what we need and move on.
Sidebar: Red Markets
The capitalists have black markets; autonomists have red markets. Given the lack of laws among anarchists, Extropians, and scum, there is no illegal merchandise or services to incite a demand. There are, however, goods and intangibles that are uncommon, unpopular, or proscribed by local custom: experimental technology, bioweapons, secrets, violence, rep network gaming, blackmail material, private sensor nets, ego trading, personal privacy hacks, certain hard drugs, and so on. Since autonomists find many of these things distasteful or threatening, those that trade in red market products do so secretly so as to avoid a backlash, hit to their rep, or worse.
Red markets are often perpetuated by the same cartels that operate in black markets elsewhere. Many red marketeers even conduct their transactions with credits, though favors and simple bartering are also used. Guanxi reputation is predominant in red market deals, far more so than @-rep. Most notably, violence—or the threat of violence—is what backs most deals. Bad faith trades almost always result in violent retaliation, rather than more traditional autonomist methods of accountability. Failing to damage those that cross or cheat you is much more likely to hurt your reputation than doublecrossing or cheating someone yourself.
The arrival of a scum swarm in nearby space is cause for celebration or alarm, depending on your point of view. Even—or perhaps especially—in the most conservative and repressed habitats, people look forward to the excitement and culture we bring. Every scum swarm has troops of musicians, performers, artists, and exhibitionists of every stripe conceivable that are always looking for new audiences. We bring the party like no other, and everyone knows it. Even normally isolationist brinker stations welcome us; on the fringe, it’s nice to see a crowd of new faces every once in a while.
Even more than the carnivals, our customers relish the goods we bring. New drugs, brainbenders, XP, morphs, bio-mods, pirated blueprints, prototype electronics, bots, weapons, information, and even ships—we have it all. Our services are also in high demand: programming, hacking, psychosurgery, protection, thuggery, companionship, sex, kink play, dwarf tossing; the list is endless. The bureaucrats and ofﬁcials condemn our “contraband smuggling” and “black markets,” but illegality is relative. We have no laws to break and owe allegiance to no authority. Anyone is welcome to do do business with our swarms.
Getting whatever you buy back onto your station, past the watchful eyes of your police and overlords, however, is your problem—though we can often help with that too. Truth be told, many habitats turn a blind eye to trafﬁc to and from our ﬂeets; we provide a much-needed safety valve for societal pressures, after all. The people in power also ﬁnd us useful for their own purposes, so they are willing to keep security lax to deter eyes on their own affairs. Each colony is different, of course. For every station with open arms, there is another that goes into extreme lockdown when we come near. The most repressive regimes have too much to lose by letting our kind near their populations. This is why no swarms bother to venture near Jovian Republic colonies.
Perhaps the most significant currency we trade in is favors. We scum are fantastic social networkers, and we offer many things that our clients would prefer others not to know about. This allows us to rack up credit with people all over the solar system, which comes quite in handy when we need to bypass certain legalities, cut through red tape, or acquire things of importance for our swarms. It also helps us to recruit people to act as fronts for our interests—in this way we can strike deals via middlemen with the third party never knowing they were negotiating with the scum.
When a scum ﬂeet enters the regional proximity of a habitat or world, we typically egocast representatives ahead of time to establish contact, set terms, and negotiate events and deals. If ofﬁcially unwelcome, we will use darknet channels and link up with the colony’s more open-minded residents. As the swarm draws nearer, shuttles and small spacecraft begin making trips back and forth, transferring people and physical goods. It is far too costly in fuel terms for our larger ships to actually stop and dock at each habitat, so instead we simply ﬂy by. This usually leaves a window of about a week for craft to easily and economically travel back and forth. For larger worlds and moons or important habitats, the swarm may sometimes enter a parking orbit and stay longer, but usually our visits are brief and intense.
Traveling with the Scum
Our ﬂotillas offer a chance to travel “off the grid.” Though slow, the payoff in anonymity and being able to carry any cargo you like is worth it to many parties. Some passengers simply prefer taking the leisurely road, and the company is good. The nomadic lifestyle is also a great way to experience the solar system and its diversity of habitats.
Getting a lift with a swarm is simply a matter of ﬁnding a crew willing to take you on board. If you have skills, be they practical or creative, it is often easy to work your way. Scum are not particularly picky about passengers; new faces are a welcome change. Stiff corporate types, biocons, and ultimates may face a challenge, but even these can usually ﬁnd a crew that will take their cred. Discretion is customary; no one will pester you about your past or activities, though we love to hear a good tale.
Almost every scum ﬂeet has an overcrowded larger ship or barge-towed LaFrance rig that is open to anyone who can ﬁnd a way on board. The tricky part is usually ﬁnding someplace to sleep and stash your stuff; almost all of the good and comfortable places have long since been claimed. If you’re lucky or have a solid rep, you’ll score a recently vacated common room berth and a storage locker. Otherwise, you’ll be getting used to sleeping with the whine of the air circulation fans or the septic smell of the overworked recycling systems. It’s not uncommon for habitats to dump their unwanted convicts and outcasts on a passing swarm. We take all types, and they usually ﬁt right in. Heck, we sometimes do the same to them.
Cargo shipments are as common as travelers. We’ll haul just about anything, for a price, no questions asked. Most ﬂeets have standing arrangements with various cartels, smugglers, and even clandestine hypercorps to move their goods along certain routes.
Notable Scum Fleets
Scum ships and swarms tend to take names that are more akin to phrases. While each ﬂeet has its own distinct character, a few speciﬁc ones are worth mentioning.
Carnival of the Goat
The flagship for hedonism and creative body switching, the Carnival is known even among the scum for the sexual deviancy of its residents. This swarm has attracted some of the most artistic biosculptors in the system, who compete with each other to devise outlandish and interesting bio-mods. While you can ﬁnd morphs with two penises or a pair of extra tits on the back in any swarm, the Carnival’s bod-modders scoff at such lack of inventiveness, and will point you towards their latest creations with their stream of auto-erotic, self-penetrating, multi-oriﬁce, unending orgasm, and distance ejaculation features. Morphs have been sculpted to enhance and explore almost every conceivable fetish, plus a few inconceivable ones. Carnie scum are proliﬁc resleevers, many trying out a new skin on a daily basis. Some go even further, experimenting with multi-ego cohabitation, ego-merging, and similar mind and body games.
The Carnival circulates primarily through the Main Belt, occasionally veering out towards Mars or the Jovian Trojans. Residents rotate through various leadership positions for the swarm, ensuring that no one accumulates too much authority.
Fool Me Once...
Winding a meandering path among the rimward planets, this swarm had a reputation for interest in artiﬁcial intelligence, having accepted a sizable number of exiled former AI researchers into their ranks after the Fall. Though many of the scum scientists openly declared their desire to learn from the mistakes in previous AI research, it was clear that others were eager to continue delving into areas that other factions had made illegal or socially unviable. Drawing a number of AGI refugees and singularity seekers to their ships, the ﬂeet had a sudden and disastrous split in their ranks just a year ago—one that left a sizable portion of the ﬂeet disabled or destroyed after serious ﬁghting. The battle saw a third of the survivors leaving the swarm. Rumor is that the exiles have formed their own exhuman outpost in the Neptunian Trojans.
Get Your Ass To Mars
Endlessly circling between Mars and Titan, ﬂying by a variety of habitats in between, this swarm is known for hosting the yearly Scum Olympics. Scum, spectators, and anyone brave enough to throw in egocast to the ﬂeet for a rotating mix of eclectic games such as hull running, void jumping, keelhauling, micrograv soccer, gangbangs, crowd surﬁng, fork boxing, mech wrestling, capture the ﬂag, and missile riding.
Glitter in the Dark
Roaming in the outer system, the Glitter ﬂeet is notable for actually towing a small functional Bernal sphere with them, possibly making it the only scum swarm with a majority of residents that live with gravity. The majority of this swarm’s residents are infugees from Indonesia and other former Southeast Asian and Micronesian states, including a sizable number of members of the Bugis tribe, who recognized ﬁve gender identities in their culture even before resleeving made fucking with gender notions par for the course. With the Bugis leading the way, the Glitter scum embraced experimentation and have taken exploration of alternative gender and sexual identities to a new level, going further than many other elements of scum and genderqueer anarchist culture.
Lick Me I'm Delicious
This ﬂeet has the stated goal of visiting every planet, moon, and habitat in the solar system. Having visited a significant percentage of inner system stations, they are now working their way to a few remote outposts before hitting the Martian Trojans. The swarm’s founder, Gremlin Jane, has an impressive XP collection of herself posing on the hull or surface of every station they have passed with a black ﬂag in hand.
There's No Going Back
This ﬂotilla is home to a group of scum called the anachronauts, who attempt to recreate a variety of historical settings or, more accurately, alternative interpretations of these past visions. Each ship is dedicated to a speciﬁc theme. For example, the Gear Knight recreates Arthurian medieval culture, but with synthmorphs. The Ronin explores the days of the Japanese shogunate, but with cyberpunk-noir cybernetics. The Sassy Wench is predictably pirate themed, but with only women. Their LaFrance rig, The Keep on the Borderlands, is designed as a fantasy RPG dungeon, with the residents taking on roles as speciﬁc monster tribes. The anachronauts take their character personas very seriously, and expect visitors to play their roles appropriately.
Scum Views on Others
The scum view towards almost everyone else can be summed up in one sentence: Get the stick out of your ass. The anarchists are generally an OK lot, except when they get all moralistic or get off on one of their collective responsibility riffs. Everyone else needs to drop their hang-ups and their pants and learn how to party. There are too many experiences to be had to waste time on maximizing proﬁts or ﬁnding all of the answers. We already have everything we need to live life to the max, all the way until the heat death of the universe.