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A Game of Conspiracy, Transhumanism, Office Politics, and Self-Sabotage

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Panopticon Quest is a Mage: The Ascension quest currently running on the Sufficient Velocity.com forum. It follows Jamelia Belltower, a veteran New World Order spy who has just taken over as Director of a small Construct, and her newly acquired team of cross-Convention misfits. Pretty soon, they find that a seemingly simple mission to recover some stolen artifacts and disrupt the smuggling activity by Reality Terrorists is more than it seems as they keep running into Panopticon, a secretive unit that somehow has recent, valid orders from the long-lost leadership of the Technocratic Union...

The quest is run by MJ12 Commando.

Beware possible unmarked spoilers for Mage canon!


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Panopticon Quest provides examples of:

  • Alternate Universe Fic: There are a number of background changes from canon Mage.
  • Antagonist Title: Panopticon are one of the various hostile factions.
  • Anti-Hero Team: At least according to the Traditions, which have been the traditional player faction. The Technocracy and its members would, of course, disagree.
  • Armchair Military: As shown in the Britain arc, the current senior leadership of Iteration X wants to focus on the peaceful applications of hypertech, a sentiment not appreciated by the men fighting and dying on the ground.
  • Astral Projection: Thanks to a mental attack by Ms Clock, Jamelia's consciousness is separated from her body and stranded in the Umbra, which sets the course of the entire fourth arc.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking:
    • Averted with Jamelia. She's very clear on the fact that she would be in very big trouble if she got into a direct fight with Kessler or Rose.
    • Advertisement:
    • Played straight with EXEMPLAR IV. The extrusions of the Control Incarna had been intended to be embodied in avatars fit for the true heads of the Technocracy and masters of the baryonic universe. Physical gods, in other words, with nigh invulnerability, flash stepping super speed, super reflexes, super strength, forcefields, high-end countermagic, super healing and super senses. As things turned out, Leon had to cut corners to get some units out in time to resist the attack on Izanagi, but they're still immensely deadly nevertheless.
  • Badass Crew:
    • Not at first, where they were a ragtag bunch of misfits, but the team has come a long way since the beginning.
    • The Iteration X survivors from 1999. When they mention that their definition of "not a real combatant" is anyone that can't survive repeated hits from an ER-8 Plasma Rifle or kill a HITMark V within 5 seconds of engagement start, Jamelia realises that by that definition, only Kessler amongst her team would count as a real combatant.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Discussed by Jamelia in Moscow when she asks Siddharth if the real Control, as opposed to some exhuman echo thereof, would really use the same religious symbolism as the mad sorcerer-kings the Order of Reason and its successor the Technocratic Union were fighting.
  • Big Damn Heroes: On several occasions:
    • When Jamelia and Serafina are cornered by vampires, Cross makes a timely arrival by rocket and headshots them all.
    • Henriette is on the ropes in her battle against the horrifying godmonster that was once her sister when Mari appears piloting the Core Defender to protect her sister.
    • After Serafina is hit by a suicide meme and tries to kill herself, Alicia subverts some of the Vanessas sent after her, kills the others, and uses a Progenitor crashkit to keep Serafina alive.
  • Blasphemous Boast: In JB CXCIX, Gregor Leon thinks to himself that the Christian God would have been barely qualified to be a lab assistant for high-end Progenitor work.
  • Boring, but Practical: Jamelia considers this the ultimate form of magic to carry out and pushes the rest of the Construct to do it this way. So far, there has been magic pep-talks, magic disruptive phone calls, and magic use of a flare to blind vampires.
  • Bottled Heroic Resolve: After Jamelia's INVISIBLE BEAR augmentations get their killswitch activated by Panopticon, Serafina configures the automated medical dispenser in her Powered Armor to release drugs that keep her fighting.
  • Brought Down to Badass: In Moscow, Siddharth uses Jamelia's INVISIBLE BEAR killswitch, locking her out of the augmentations. She is still a Senior Operative with decades of combat experience.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: In JB CLXXXIX, Jaron takes a call from Daniel while engaged in a firefight.
  • Child Prodigy: Common among the Technocracy. Serafina Awakened at age nine - and was a little bit put out to find that Henriette had beaten her by Awakening at five. The Damien Academy is a high-stress hothouse school designed to encourage the children of high-ranking Technocrats who go there to Awaken.
  • Crossover:
    • Though the main conflict is Mage to Mage, vampires and werewolves make appearances from time to time.
    • LaCroix and several characters from Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines appear in JB CXXXIV and eventually develop into a subplot.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: Tatterdemalion never had any real chance of winning against the Panopticon kill team, but they do manage to get the EXEMPLAR II clone of none less than Lu Bu to bleed and wound if not not outright kill some of the heavily-enhanced cyborgs in Powered Armor with him.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Discussed. Henriette talks to Kessler and Major Clarent while considering augmentation, and they both tell her that more drastic modification fundamentally changes who you are. It's also definitely the case with the Autopolitans, who have had their original bodies and identities completely subsumed by a technological Hive Mind.
  • Dead Man Writing: The Loved Ones caches, videos from those stranded by the Dimensional Anomaly to their next of kin. In JB XLVIII, Henriette gets to see the one her mother left.
  • Decomposite Character: Technically a unit type. In Mage canon, the HITMark VI and the NT-1 are alternate designations of the same thing. In PQ, the two are separated; the HITMark VI is a vastly-improved combat version of the HITMark V, while the NT-1 is the biomimicking infiltrator unit.
  • Despair Event Horizon: It is revealed that Silent Starling went Nephandi after coming to the realisation that the World is so Crapsack that it's preferable to just Mercy Kill the whole thing.
  • Dirty Business:
    • Serafina knows full well that using nukes on Moscow to destroy some of Henrietta's warforms and the telecommunications hub they were after was necessary, but finds it hard to forgive herself for the thousands of innocent civilians killed in the process.
    • Donald knows that with how radicalised his ex-lover Karen is, letting her go or a more humane means of deprogramming is impossible. The only possible options are immediate death or getting Reforged into a Minion. He doesn't have to like it, though.
  • Dragon Their Feet: After the defeat of the Man in White and his fellow EXEMPLAR IV-incarnated members of Control, Ms Clock is still around on Earth doing what remains of their bidding.
  • Dramatic Irony: In CIII, Donald laughs off the idea of Jamelia becoming a mother, not knowing as the audience does that she already is one.
  • Dungeon Bypass: In Alice VI, Panopticon forces assault a chantry by tunneling beneath it.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: The Russian Celestial Chorus recruits from Spetsnaz and other special forces, meaning they were already elite soldiers even before they started learning magic.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: In SR XVI, Serafina notices far too many similarities between Alice and Jamelia to be coincidental and comes to the conclusion that the latter was a gene donor for the former, who she is then led to suspect is a high-functioning construct. She's right about the gene donor part, but wrong about the construct part. Jamelia is technically a gene donor for Alice... because she's her mother.
  • Extended Disarming: In LXXXII, Kessler dumps a veritable Hyperspace Arsenal's worth of firearms before duelling a werewolf pack leader. His teammates, experienced cyborg shock troopers all, are stupefied by just how much he's managed to squeeze into his trenchcoat.
  • Fission Mailed: In JB CLV, Kessler seemingly gets killed by a Rogue Council mage, complete with the Storyteller prompting the players to write his eulogy. It's then revealed that all the mage's Life spell did was kill his biosign emulation.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In JB XXVI, Serafina remarks that Moscow is so infested with vampires that the party should nuke it. That is exactly what she ends up doing some time later.
    • In the Loved Ones cache message to Henriette from her mother, the latter is touching her abdomen, a lead-up to the introduction of her sister Henrietta.
  • Gambit Pileup: There are a dizzying number of different factions all pursuing their own agendas.
  • Genius Bruiser: Several characters are listed as having a "Ph.D in Asskicking", which turns out to be a real thing - although it's technically called "Doctorate in Tactical Combat Sciences".
  • Godzilla Threshold:
    • When shit hits the fan beyond what Jamelia's extant resources can be expected to deal with, Shockwave Codes allow her to temporarily call in reinforcements that offer a higher level of firepower than what she has for everyday use, but also correspondingly higher lack of subtlety and potential for collateral damage.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in Moscow. Normally Jamelia can only call in two or three at most. The fact that she gets unlimited to deal with what looks like rogue Iteration X personnel shows exactly how bad Command thinks the situation is.
    • When Panopticon opens a breach in the Gauntlet to let Threat Null in, the Void Engineers declare a REVELATIONS scenario and prepare to hijack missile silos to turn Moscow into a radioactive crater, risking World War Three and/or full-blown nuclear war, should ground forces fail to contain the incursion.
    • Moscow ultimately gets even worse. Humongous Mecha engaging in building-wrecking brawls. Orbit-to-surface and nuclear bombardment. A temporary truce between the Traditions and the Union. A major ritual to revive Russia's war dead as ghosts. Options for deliberately invoking a Paradox Realm, ruining post-Industrial technology worldwide, throwing targets into the past before the formation of the solar system, dredging alternate timelines in the hope of finding something that could stand up to the existential threat. Almost nothing was off the table to stop the invaders.
    • This is the reason for Donald defecting from the Traditions to the Technocracy - hardline Traditionalists were planning on doing something that would have ended very poorly for everyone and the rest wouldn't stop them, so he gave himself to the Technocracy in exchange for their help in stopping it.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: JB CC.5 is a series of scenes of Cross calling in help from every Progenitor he can get.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The plan to enrage Henrietta so that she won't be thinking clearly succeeds a bit too well and she ends up turning herself into a god of rage and murder.
  • Grandfather Clause: An In-Universe discussion on primium notes that, under the Technocratic paradigm, an alloy primarily of gold and silver should not be able to result in a super-material tougher than anything the Sleepers have been able to produce in the centuries since it was first created, yet also able to resist Reality Deviance and invoke the weaknesses of Reality Deviants. Where it does make perfect sense is under the Hermetic paradigm, where gold and silver's symbolic connections to the sun and moon grant them the properties they pass on to primium and Hermetic defectors brought to the Order of Reason. Nowadays, it's one of those dirty little secrets of the Technocracy's past that are too useful to purge outright
  • He Knows Too Much: The Void Engineers have a tendency to either absorb or "let accidents happen to" Technocrats outside the Convention who discover the truth about Threat Null. This becomes a problem when the party figure it out, and even moreso after they get Void Engineer "chaperones" following the Umbra Arc.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Contingency-5 are defectors from Iteration X who take the fight against the Technocracy so far that they sell their services to terrorists like Daesh, deliberately target civilians to lure out their real targets, and are shunned by all but the most hardline militant Traditionalists.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Used almost word for word in JB CLIV, when Kessler notes that the Rogue Council base being set up to degrade technology while enhancing martial artists would be good against most Technocrats... but against someone like him who's pretty good with martial arts himself, it just makes him stronger too.
  • Human Resources: Henrietta's warforms eat humans and vampires to restore their energy reserves.
  • I Am Legion: Control had always referred to itself as one entity, a Collective Identity. Post-Void Adaptation, the individual members have merged into one Incarna.
  • I Want My Jet Pack: Kessler was lost in space in 1994, when the Technocracy was at its height, and only made it back to Earth in 2014. One of the things he's having difficulty getting used to is how the Union has fallen behind the Timetable in doling out technological advances to the Masses.
  • Ineffectual Loner: The Void Engineers are this as a Convention. Due to their not entirely unjustified fear of Threat Null subverting the other Conventions, they're trying to recreate all the other capabilities inhouse, and not doing as good a job of it as they would if they were willing to let the specialist Conventions handle it.
  • Internal Reveal: The players know the truth about Threat Null, but the party initially doesn't. Figuring out what to do with that knowledge ends up an ongoing problem once the party stumbles into that information without the Void Engineers' permission.
  • It Gets Easier: Discussed by Jamelia in LXXIII, where she tells Serafina that the New World Order measures "humanity" by how easy its people find the doing of unsavoury deeds.
  • Kick the Dog: There are occasional flashbacks to Jamelia doing things like murdering Traditionalist faith healers, serving to remind readers that for all her pragmatic flexibility, she is still an agent of the Technocracy, not a squeaky-clean classic heroine, and should not be sympathised with too much.
  • Lies to Children:
    • The Technocracy and the Traditions both teach simplified explanations of reality to their recruits. Though the Traditions version is in some ways more accurate, it's still a dumbed down version of the true nature of Consenual Reality, which acts as metaphorical training wheels for mages. Actually grokking Consensus requires Arete/Enlightenment 6 in mechanical terms, and very few mages or enlightened scientists ever reach it.
    • When circumstances force the Void Engineers to finally explain the truth behind Truth Null to selected members of the other Conventions, they have to jump through hoops to explain Void Adaptation in a Technoparadigm-kosher fashion.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: In the Spy's Demise, Donald amputates his own arm before one of the Anathema's attack programmes can spread its infestation from the arm to consume the rest of him.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father:
    • Parodied. Catherine Nichols tells Jamelia that she is her father. Despite being a woman.
      Nichols: Oh, you’d be amazed at what Progenitor medical science and a voice coach can do.
    • Amusingly enough, it is later confirmed that Jamelia is a descendant of Christos, and very strongly implied that he was her mother. For an Adept of Life, this is well within the realm of possibility. Nichols was probably still joking, though. Probably.
  • Meaningful Rename: The Iteration X survivors from 1999 reclaim their convention's previous name of International Brotherhood of Mechanicians as a sign of their break from the Computer.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: The Society of Ether's Shadow Ministry gained a lot of recruits from the NWO after the latter had psionics declared no longer kosher.
  • More Expendable Than You: In Moscow, Kessler is about to take the targeting device for the OMEN and use it, knowing full well that the backlash might fry his irreplaceable 80s-era augmentations. Cross takes it himself, saying that the organic nature of his augs means it's more likely he'll survive.
  • More Than Mind Control: After the Anathema uses Conditioning on Rose, after which the latter tells Donald that there was no And I Must Scream in effect but she felt like she genuinely wanted to do what she was trying to do, Donald wonders if the reason why he himself so readily abandoned his Cult of Ecstasy ways was entirely willing or was pushed along by subtle and insidious hyperpsych.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: The Tradition scene in Russia is hardcore. For example, Celestial Chorus recruits from special forces and Virtual Adepts are less fat, sweaty nerd in a basement and more cyberpunk protagonist.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Time-travelling Jamelia, maybe using a guy with dots in Mind as a host, using Conditioning overrides to puppet him into doing your bidding rather than explaining what's going on and getting him killed by your pursuer wasn't the best of plans. Especially not when said guy sticks around as a ghost and managed to get vital information from Jamelia's possession of him that Panopticon can use.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond:
    • The stuff used by the Iteration X personnel from 1999 is incredibly potent compared to Earthside. When looking at what they consider a hostile environment suit only rated for backblast, Serafina remarks that it's stuff that Progenitors would regard as full combat gear.
    • Technocracy stuff in general compared to what Sleepers have. Partway through, Jamelia and co investigate several companies that used to be Technocratic assets but were left out in the cold, reduced to working with stuff behind the curve. Even 70s or 80s Technocracy hypertech is still comfortably beyond what 2010s Sleepers have access to.
    • The SPD forces guarding LaCroix's hideout get shredded by Juliet and Rose, who are merely medium-high end combatants, but they themselves are more than potent enough to deal with werewolf raids or stomp Sleeper special forces.
  • Not So Different: Euthanatos and NWO methods and philosophies are repeatedly noted to be very similar, possibly culminating in Senex making Jamelia an honorary Euthanatos. Smart people notice this. Wise people don't point it out to members of either.
  • Person of Mass Destruction:
    • Piero Dominci, an EXEMPLAR II clone of Achilles, is considered more destructive than many Etherite Humongous Mecha while on foot.
    • The HITMark VI was intended as a more precise alternative to a 50 megaton antimatter warhead.
  • Perspective Flip: When thinking about which place to investigate at the start of the quest, Jamelia muses that choosing North Korea would have meant experiencing for herself what it would be like to be a Traditionalist in the rest of the world - hunted by superhuman killing machines even before the Awakened come out to play.
  • Playing the Player: CI.4: The woman going through Jamelia's memories was never Jamelia herself, but Ms Clock.
  • Reference Overdosed: The Shout Outs are incredibly numerous. The Technocracy is essentially one big homage to science fiction from every form of media imaginable.
  • Retcon: When talking about the Men in Black films, Nichols initially says they incorrectly conflated the NWO and the Void Engineers. Later, the Neutralisation Specialist Corps methodology of the Void Engineers are introduced, who are said to be the actual inspiration for the MIB as in the films.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: As much as the Technocracy wants to present the image of an unstoppable juggernaut, this no longer is the case for them after the losses due to the Dimensional Anomaly in 1999, and the shortage of resources features prominently in several arcs. Seemingly played straight for Threat Null and Panopticon, however.
  • One Steve Limit: Very much averted. There are at least four Catherines in the quest- though one of them is spelt with a 'K'.
  • Reality Ensues: Take Your Time is not in play; quests can be lost out on if not taken because something that happens in one quest can lock out another. Recruitable characters are all Hero of Another Story with their own lives and can be locked out if not outright subverted by the enemy if not taken.
  • Reforged into a Minion: The nature of the NWO's Series P and its ATLAS successor - take a Reality Deviant too potentially useful to just kill, destroy his identity and replace it with programming.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: The Technocracy inherited from the Order of Reason a mission of stamping out Reality Deviants, but Control permitted Vigilance, and presumably that Convention's successor Panopticon, some leeway to use Reality Deviance in the pursuit of internal security goals.
  • Shoot the Medic First: Standard operating procedure for any organised group of combat Mages.
  • Something Only They Would Say: In JB CLXII, Kessler tries to tell Rose that he is the real him by bringing up shared experiences.
  • Terminator Twosome: When Jamelia travels back in time to erase critical information in order to weaken Threat Null, the Computer sends a cyborg back as well to try to stop her.
  • Theme Initials: The NWO likes to gift its agents with names that initialize to J.B. once they've proven themselves and reuse certain last names as status indicators within the NWO. Needless to say, people within the Union quickly learn not to assume that NWO agents are related when they have the same last name.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
    • How badly does Ms Clock want to Make Sure He's Dead? She sends eight Vanessas - each a superhuman combat construct probably enough to get the job done on its own - against Serafina after already hitting her with a suicide memeplex.
    • Justified with Alice giving al-Saud a Multiple Gunshot Death. Every hit location has symbolic value in ensuring that he is Deader Than Dead.
    • When fighting the two Rogue Council mages in the Russian base, Kessler gets so many successes on his plasma cannon shot that he not only immolates the both of them, but also blasts a hole out of a bunker.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Deconstructed. Holding on to Shockwave Codes for an opportune moment when shit has hit the fan enough sounds sensible to any player, but the Technocracy does not have unlimited resources. As one post from the GM told the players, going too long without popping a Code could well result in a Syndicate oversight committee deciding that, hey, you're not using the Codes, so you don't need them, and pass the option on to another amalgam that needs it more urgently, such that Jamelia's team could end up without the option when they need it most. Better to make regular use of them instead.
  • Unfriendly Fire: In the Moscow arc, Panopticon drop a jamming field on Jamelia's location, then fake a distress signal calling for danger close fire support to give themselves an excuse to fire on her.
  • Unhand Them, Villain!: A Rogue Council member asks Kessler to let the mage he has grabbed go. So he throws her at him.
  • The Un-Reveal: Roth reveals that Janice Moullin is not actually her real name, but just as he's about to say what the true name is, he gets interrupted. The Reveal does eventually happen later.
  • Unwanted Revival: Ami is unhappy that Janice tried to call on her.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Blanc's obsession with destroying Jamelia can be traced back to a seemingly random Nicaraguan farmer who manages to get a lucky shot at the latter, badly wounding her. This caused Britannia/Starling to snap and fall into the Despair Event Horizon, which made him vulnerable to Jodi Blake's corrupting him into a Nephandus. Following this, Jamelia had an opportunity to hit Enlightenment 6 but failed, which Blanc took very badly. Of course, given that Entropy and Time are things Mages can manipulate, it is anyone's guess whether this was truly happenstance or part of a Gambit Roulette by some Arc of Entropy or Time.
  • We Can Rule Together: In SR XXVII, General Aleph offers Serafina a position in his inner circle.
  • Wham Episode: JB CCII: Donald seeks out the Abjad.
  • What If?: One alternate ending gained from time-travelling Jamelia deciding to take fatal Paradox in order to help the 1999 Union mitigate the damage from Ravnos and the Avatar Storm results in a 2015 where the Technocracy has almost won the Ascension War and life for the Sleepers is far better than in Real Life. Well, apart from those liberty and privacy-obsessed crazies, but how much do you really value Liberty Over Prosperity?
  • Zeerust: This Quest acts to counter this element in canon Mage: The Ascension by updating the aesthetics and traits of the Technocracy.

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