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Quality in Rifts: Remembering Pete Overton

Quality In Rifts: High On Life - The Juicer

By Pete Overton

Last Updated: 01/21/1999

Rationale: The Juicer is arguably one of the most interesting and creative classes that Palladium put out with Rifts, and certainly one of its signature character classes. The enhanced abilities and wildly decreased lifespan created a nihilistic warrior who lived for the moment, and the psychological impact was totally unknown. It remains one of their most fascinating characters, and not just because of the abilities. Juicer Uprisings did a decent enough job of detailing a lot of Juicer-related material, although some of it was just plain bad. Hopefully this will expand on the book.

History: During the time of troubles before the Cataclysm, research for the so-called supersoldier was at an all-time high. Everyone was seeking the way to get a perfect warrior out of the amazing technology of the times. The US stuck mainly to genetics and genetic engineering for their experiments, while the Russians and Japanese worked on cybernetics and biotech augmentation. With the scandals rocking the genetics world (the Amphib Scandal chief among these), Germany worked fervently with nanotechnological and neurochemical enhancements. It was late one night a decade or so before the Cataclysm that the breakthrough was made, the first Juicer ever birthed in the bowels of a German Corporate research facility, colloquially known as Adam.

Adam was introduced to the world amidst great fanfare and triumph, the comparatively non-invasive procedure hailed as the future. It wasn't until Adam dropped dead at a public appearance three years later that the horrifying lifespan alteration was revealed. The German public was horrified and the rest of the world scornful and the corporation almost overnight fell apart, the primary researchers being absorbed all over the world. Juicers first started to turn up on the field of battle shortly thereafter, mostly in the African and South American theatres of combat. Their use was justified by their immense efficiency on the battlefield and countries would keep their Juicer sections very quiet indeed due to public outcry, but in the dying days of the 21st Century, there were other problems that came to bear until the Cataclysm finally hit.

In the aftermath as civilization picked up the pieces, there were preciously few places left with the technology to sustain their level of living, and even the most high-technology places left were at reduced effectiveness. The slow process of rediscovery was started, and one of the first things earmarked was Juicer technology. The reasoning behind this was that the civilization in question was dead if nothing was done, so a portion of brave volunteers underwent conversion in order to ensure the survival of their fellows. The first Juicers after the war were extremely grim, cold people with a strong streak of practicality as they lived out their lifespans maximizing their usefulness, be it protecting the area from monsters or clearing away rubble. They were in essence the long-lost martyrs of the early days and it is the tales of these that create a quiet tolerance for Juicers today.

As life stabilized itself, Juicers were soon seen as an undesirable, cruel and unusual lifestyle. With the immediate threat of survival handled, it was soon seen as sick to choose a limited lifespan no matter how useful the tradeoff, and this was augmented by the fact that the newer generation of Juicers knew none of the practicality of their forefathers and instead revelled in their powers, believing a very "better to burn out than fade away" attitude. They acted irresponsibly, and it is this sort of legacy that dogs most Juicers to this day. Today they are seen as suicidal rogues who have no place in common society, and yet are prized as warriors and their quirks tolerated as long as they perform. The multitude of negative publicity also hurt them, with a lone Juicer taking out entire gangs over a slight, accurate or not. They were seen as dangerous lunatics but the demand for them always exceeded the supply due to the small number overall.

In 60 P.A. and beyond, the Juicer population nearly tripled in a small span of time. This was looked upon curiously by sociologists who claimed that the technology to create them was rediscovered by more population centers, and this seemed true, and in an eerie development the primary source of them seemed to be the CS state of Quebec. The knowledge spread quickly from there, and while no firm evidence ever existed to prove this connection, the Quebec underworld seemed to "stumble" onto the secret rather suddenly one year and it spread from there. Luckily the facilities for the full conversion were still rare as the nanotechnology necessary was often out of reach, but it introduced the conversion to places the CS had hoped would never see Juicer technology.

The Juicer Uprising was a blow to most Juicer egos. Those who wanted to change back felt betrayed and guilty for believing it and those who wanted no change were angry that their fellows were duped and that so many were willing to undergo the treatment. This has created something of an internal dissension among the Juicers these days and the small point of whether they would have take the treatment or not can become a hand-to-hand confrontation if handled badly, and few Juicers can handle it well. Juicers as a whole have become more mistrustful of organized authorities in any guise and indeed have become more antisocial and less trusting as a whole.

Abilities: The legendary powers of a Juicer are well documented so I will not reiterate a lot of them here. Due to the combination of performance-enhancing drugs, nanotechnology and so forth, the Juicer ends up with almost inhuman speed, strength, and the mindpower to use them effectively.

The key to the Juicer's powers is the drug management harness with its own dedicated processor. With a constant supply of drugs, the system is wired into the Juicer's biology, taking natural responses (such as an adrenalin increase from the first shot of combat) and reacting accordingly, flooding the Juicer's system with drugs at the drop of a hat. This system uses both biotech and nanotech in it, a primary reason why Juicer conversion services are so rare and expensive. The biotech is wired into the Juicer's nervous system, forebrain, and spinal cord ro receive impulses for increased strength or speed, and the nanotech rides the bloodstream to repair internal damage (like an IRMSS) and to react at equal speed to the enhanced reflexes of the Juicer.

Typically, a drug injection harness is implanted at the time of conversion. This is a full-body length dispersion system, as shown on page 70 of the Rifts RPG. The bio-comp chip is typically installed in both the brain and the chest, and while neither operates simultaneously the other leaps into action assuming there is a flaw in the first (primary one).

Obviously, the major flaw in this are the drugs themselves. Where characters get their drugs is a very big part of being a Juicer and their supply had best be steady. This opens up a large degree of potential control as Juicers usually sell themselves into military service to a mercenary company or kingdom/state to offset the costs involved. Often more unscrupulous such establishments will continue to control the Juicer until he finds an outside source for the drugs and can escape cleanly.

Of course, the most infamous of the unfortunate side-effects of the conversion is the radically reduced lifespan. The record for the longest Juicer lifespan is 7 years and 4 months, and that tends to be very unique. To look at all the Juicer lifespans, one would see a bell-curve of sorts beginning around the 4th year and extending to the 7th, with the majority falling in the 5-6 year range. The implications of this are discussed below.

Culture: Rifts World Book 10: Juicer Uprising does a fabulous job of describing the psychology and motivations of Juicer characters and I cannot recommend it enough, especially if you really like the Juicer. I would ignore the entire Juicer sports section however, but as a rule the book does an ace job of covering the Juicers in detail, the detail they deserve. A few other points to add.

As a rule, the Juicer culture is a society of individuals. This is mainly because the choice to become a Juicer has a lot to do with a need for attention, whether it to be recognized as the best or just to be noted as special. As such, Juicers as a rule tend to be flashy showboaters, and when you get two or more of them in an area, a small pissing war will usually begin, affectionately referred to as the "My Dick Is Bigger Than Yours" syndrome. Like two Dog Boys competing for Alpha, the Juicers will try to outdo each other in grander and grander things until one by necessity backs off. The loser of this unspoken contest usually leaves a short time later. This is why the Juicer Uprising was such a unique event in the history of Rifts Earth, although the idea of a cure unified them as never before.

Juicers are almost uniformly involved in combat occupations. There are rumours of Juicer scientists, but few lend them any belief. Typically the transaction that goes down is that someone signs on to a kingdom, mercenary company or state for a few years term in exchange for the establishment paying the Juicer conversion cost and maintanence. In exchange, the newly created Juicer serves for as long as their agreed-upon term and then is free after that, although many Juicers who survive the initial term often sign back on for the rest of their life, finding what they need in military life.

Quite often a case may develop where the Juicer works for their establishment involuntarily. This case tends to arise when the Juicer has no other source for his drugs but who he signed on with and so they often work in virtual slavery. This is a dangerous practice, however, as the Juicer need only find another source of drugs and then the establishment in question would have on irate Juicer on its hands. In this sort of blackmail case, there is almost no leeway given for Juicers to find another source of drugs.

Generally the most looked-down upon establishment to get a contract with are corporations, and corporate Juicers are derided universally by all their fellows. They get essentially very safe positions and are more domesticated than most normal Juicers and their main function is to bodyguard with a secondary ability to be used offensively against other corporations or anti-corporate forces. They tend to get good pay (as long as they perform), good benefits, great equipment and good maintanence. The downside is that signing on as a corporate Juicer is usually a life commitment as corporations demand 100% loyalty and most Juicers serve them for their entire lifespan.

Another more dangerous employer exists in the Black Market. Very often the underworld seeks muscle and brains and the Juicers tend to be created for their elite force of bodyguards or other special forces. Many Juicers actually prefer this option because they not only flirt with life and death daily but also run against the law as well, and each successful run against the law adds to their rush. On the downside, any Juicers captured by the law will usually involuntarily detoxify the Juicer, and this tends to mean that Juicers who work in the underworld usually fight to the death to avoid capture.

Mercenary Juicers tend to form the largest demographic. The mercenary lifestyle suits more Juicers fine -- the ever-changing scenery, good pay, good equipment, unlimited employment opportunities, the ability to be almost uniquely specialized in the company, and so forth. Military Juicers form the second largest demographic, being essentially the same as mercenary Juicers but usually when they sign on they are more ideological than mercenary Juicers, such as the Free Quebec volunteer Juicer force who believe in Quebec first as a rule.

While not specifically about Juicer culture itself, Juicers tend to still be romanticized by the media (where applicable) and indeed they are idolized offhandedly, usually with the message "they're great men but don't be one yourself kids." That being said, a thriving cult exists around them, not unlike fangroups of modern society, who attempt to emulate and follow in the footsteps of Juicers both fictional and real. Stories of how a Juicer held off 33 men by himself don't help the phenomenon, painting Juicers as the lone wolves who walk with skill and courage. For a short time anyways.

Reputation: As pointed out, very few rational people can understand the mindset of a Juicer. Seen almost as insane as Borgs, Juicers don't help this reputation by acting like a bunch of high school kids as a rule, making people see them as dangerous, loose cannons who are best controlled and controlled tightly. Their inhuman speed, strength, and such often alienate them from others and cause a deep gulf between the normal and the Juicer. This is not to say that every Juicer acts like an immature kid - there are some true professionals - but rather that the side-effects of the augmentation lead to fairly typical conclusions.

Variants: The two most prolific variants of the classical Juicer are the Hyperion Juicer and the Titan Juicer. In the former case, the drugs are tilted towards the reflex enhancement and speed end of things, creating a superfast yet not quite as strong Juicer. The latter does the opposite, concentrating on steroids and muscle enhancements while ignoring speed augmenting drugs resulting in a superstrong Juicer. While barely 5% of all Juicers, these two are the mot common variants, but most people prefer the generalist skills of the classic Juicer to the dedicated specialties of these two types.

Phaeton Juicers are conversions with an eye towards piloting. Reflexes and hand-to-eye co-ordination are enhanced primarily and typically a vehicle-control rig is added. However, as few want to pay so much to create a specialized pilot, they tend to be very rare indeed, although their services can be in demand if one is found. However, one would assume that a cybernetic pilot harness and rig would be cheaper and just about as effective, although surely less intimidating.

The Mega-Juicer is a fresh advance in the field of Juicers. They are still so very rare that most people can name them all, but they are being watched very carefully for any signs of potential. However, as stated above, the Mega-Juicer is too specialty for most people who go through the trouble of creating a Juicer and therefore will remain relatively rare until they are proven a sure thing. That said, there are always those who will trade an even shorter lifespan for greater power. Such is the tragedy of the species.

Finally, Atlantis has not been dormant through this revolution. The Splugoth Juicer is the version of the Juicer designed alledgedly by Splynncryth himself. Using unusual drugs and combining in Maxi-Man training, they are very deadly, although they are so extremely rare as they are still in the experimental phase. One assumes that bio-wizardry would be involved, as well as an even greater amount of mental conditioning.

Roleplaying Notes: There are a number of things to remember when playing a Juicer that I feel people forget too easily.

First, the Juicer's enhancements leave him very active. That sounds like a good thing until you consider that all of that time they are awake they need to fill that time somehow. As a rule, they tend to have shorter attention spans than most people and are very excitable, always craving some action or at least SOMETHING to happen. This is partly because of their extremely wired system but also as they age they begin to realize that death is inevitable and they often want to experience everything. In their final days, they will be obsessive about seeing and doing everything. No matter what age they are, they tend to get bored very easily and need to be kept amused for a happy Juicer which we all want.

Second, their limited lifespan affects their psychology like you can't imagine. If you play a Juicer, sit down and think for a moment, really think about what your life would be life if you learned today that you only had 5 years to live and there was no way out of that. This is not something to be taken lightly, although many Juicers do. In fact, they tend to follow the grief cycle pretty closely as they are damned, which is to say, they go through five general stages, usually in this order:

* Denial: Most Juicers go for some time in this stage, feeling they can "escape" the inevitable death or that they are somehow the exception to the rule.
* Anger: After their first brush with mortality or their first Juicer-induced syndrome, most Juicers are very offended at their situation and become bitter and cynical and walk around with a huge chip on their shoulders. However, this stage tends to be short as it leads into the next.
* Grief: After the anger passes, the grief kicks in as they realize exactly what they have done, signing away their whole mortal life for a few years of intense kicks. It is in this stage most Juicers who undergo detoxification make their decision to do so.
* Bargaining: When they are done mourning their situation, the first thing they do it start to try to find a way to escape it. This usually involves questing for cures, dealing with magic or psychic powers, and so forth, but aside from detoxification (which some are too afraid to take) they find nothing.
* Acceptance: Usually arising near the end of their lifespan, Juicers tend to get serene and almost zenlike as they realize their time on the planet is coming to an end. The more practical of them will put their affairs in order and say goodbye to loved ones while others will throw themselves into suicidal combats and do death-defying things since they have nothing to do. Most Juicers who advocate against others becoming Juicers emerge from this group, but in practical terms, few Juicers make it this far.

Of course, this isn't a shopping list and it varies. Some people know exactly what they are getting into while others never pass beyond the blissful ignorance of a normal lifespan until they die.

Thirdly, something people tend to forget as a rule is that Juicers are addicted to drugs. This isn't an option, this is the nature of their class. If they don't get their drugs, they not only start to lose their abilities but become extremely angry and violent until they get them. I'm sure we've all seen movies of drug addicts, so we can all appreciate this. But this drug addiction is not something that should be conveniently forgotten. Consider carefully where you are going to get your drugs, how much of a supply you keep on hand, and so forth. If you are caught with your metaphorical pants down in regards to your drugs, you better be ready to roleplay that burning urge that overtakes everything else properly.

Fourth, while Juicers are excitable, bored easily, and addicted to drugs, they can be quite antisocial. Not all Juicers are dicks, I mean to say, but you must understand that to see the world as they do, it becomes very easy to ignore the social dimension. For the majority of Juicers, there are two modes, combat and non-combat. During combat times they are too busy to do anything else but revel in it, but the rest of the time they are busy trying to keep their overactive minds and bodies stimulated and frankly a conversation with someone who can't keep up with you is painful practically. This can be overcome in time, especially as Juicers begin to realize their mortality, but initially most Juicers will be quite adverse to social situations. But let's face it, you don't keep them around for the conversation, really.

A substrata of this is that most new Juicers will ignore their old lives for a time as they revel in their new powers and abilities. When they get that first brush with true death, though, they tend to try to recreate their lives before being a Juicer intricately, which almost always fails miserably of course. Juicers who have confidants (parents, siblings, good friends, etc.) often make havy use of them as their moods swing all over the place.

Fifth, Juicers do tend to be arrogant as a rule, even the most reformed one. This is not really their fault, but when gifted with superhuman speed, strength and agility, this thought starts to come naturally and almost accidentally ("Yeah, right, sure you can outrun me, I'm just so better than you."). This arrogance has two major dents in it which can change their minds quickly -- magic and psychic powers. Of the two, psychic powers are the far more personal and invasive and so Juicers tend to avoid psychics like the plague, not just because of the overt danger but they don't want anyone discovering their true hurt beneath the facade. Magic is just something dangerous to their survival and a threat that needs to be eliminated, although carefully.

Lastly, Juicers naturally have problems with long-term goals and other things that seem to define humans. While a CS Officer can reasonably hope to retire someday, Juicers know that they live or die, no middle ground. This tends to cause two main things to occur, varying by Juicer. Either the Juicer will be very fatalistic and nihilistic and yet live for the moment fighting off that selfsame depression (about 80% of the time) or -- and don't laugh -- they find religion (about 20% of the time). A surprising amount of Juicers are religious, seeing themselves patterned after the martyrs of days long gone. This is especially true where the Juicer may be the lone defender or the master of his art. Very often a sort of Christ Complex develops where he sees himself on par with the great saints and almost a divine figure. While the latter are very rare (about 3% of all Juicers who find religion), they are perhaps some of the most disconcerting and dangerous of Juicers because they have a definite *cause*. I mean, you have to remember that the two most popular motviations for becoming Juicers are to be powerful and to help others (be it their family, friends, country, species, whatever).

As a rule, though, religious Juicers tend to be a hilarious paradox. They often go from literally leaping around a battlefield slaughtering everyong on it to bending down on a knee and thanking God for surviving. Equally, many think of themselves as crusaders or knights and many feel a kindred spirit with Cyber-Knights, who had yet to decide what they think about this phenomenon. There is a Juicer nearing the end of his lifespan out there named Michael who runs around in a cloak with a flaming sword and attacks monsters from the Rifts. He claims to have the spirit of the Archangel Michael in him and therefore executes the evil of the world. He's kooky, but his kill count is high and he is doing something useful, which is more than can be said about a lot of folks.

To properly play a Juicer, you must sit down and consider where your character came from, how he was raised, why he agreed to a Juicer conversion, and what stage he is in. From this you can derive an accurate picture of the character's personality, motivations, and expectations (if any). What he does after his conversion is equally important, but the most important thing to remember is that most Juicers feel totally alienated from normal humans due to the fact that they are so very different from them. Many Juicers secretly carry around the quiet hurt of the fact that they now can do so much to help humanity but humanity fears them and rarely thanks them and they will not be remembered when they die, and this is truly a painful way to live.

Note: Scarily enough, the Juicer Uprisings book did a pretty good job covering the Juicer such that I won't be redoing it. Obviously there are things you have to avoid in it (Juicer sports, etc.) but as a whole it was a nicer look at the Juicer overall. If you want to run a Juicer, I suggest you go out and get this book, it is actually worth it as Palladium in a rare moment of lucidity dives a little beneath the surface of this OCC.

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