Metaphysicist Agnieszka Nowak had been working on with the premise that an individual's lifespan adheres to similar natural laws like those which describe the conservation of energy and matter. The core idea is that each of us have a predetermined lifespan (c.f. the Moirai or Fates from Greek mythology and the thread of life), but that this span can end prematurely due to violence or accident. Under such circumstances, the unused life energy is a wasted resource. Nowak became obsessed with harnessing that resource.
She teamed up with Ozymandias Shortbread, a parapsychiatrist who discovered that the grief of close survivors could be ameliorated by a siphoning off the feelings of loss into an ectoplasmic slurry. Nowak identified this slurry as the unused portion of lifespan left behind by the decedent. Working together, the pair found they could contain the slurry for a limited amount of time and that each 'batch' exhibited a number of different markers (think bone marrow marker proteins). Shortbread found that living individuals could be tested for the markers in the ectoplasmic slurry, and that where a match existed, the slurry could be administered to the living person with two astonishing results.
First of these was the healing of virtually any physical damage (including the sudden regeneration of limbs!). Shortbread believes that the amount of damage repaired is related to the amount of leftover lifespan that gets used up.
Second, the original decedent lives on in the recipient of the ectoplasm, becoming a voice inside the recipient's head. They possess the full range of experience and memories they had in life, right up to the moment of death. This has led some to suggest that what gets passed on to the recipient (over and above the healing effect) is some or all of the original decedent's "soul."
Nowak and Shortbread were "recruited" by the US military and put to work as the heads of Project Psychopomp, which attempts to find matched pairs of ectoplasm and wounded soldiers. When successful, the soldier can be restored to complete health and will, for a limited time, be virtually invulnerable. Such soldiers can then be reassigned to special missions which make use of their unique abilities. Project Psychopomp is overseen by Major General Charles Whistler.
A major theme running through this series will be the complex relationship between the triad formed by the Survivor, the Decedent, and the Soldier.
The Survivor typically never learns what exactly happened, that their grief provided access to the unspent portion of a loved one's lifeforce that in turn saved the life of a member of the military. Early in the process, the siphoning of that initial grief may leave them quite numb. But we can expect that the Soldier who has been bound to the personality and memories of the Decedent, may reach out to the Survivor.
The Decedent further complicates possible plots. They may have strong feelings for or against being used by the military. They may have issues with the race/sex/religion of the Soldier that they find themselves bonded to. They may know and have a past relationship with the Soldier. They may resent being dead and try to return (via the Soldier) to some version of their previous life, or may try to convince the Soldier to fix situations or watch over individuals who had been a part of their prior existence.
The Solidier may be traumatized by whatever event led to their profound injury. They may experience PTSD. They may be in denial about their obvious healing. They may not be able to accept or understand that they owe their lives to a dead person who has taken up residence in their head. They may resent (or at least be seriously confused by) the intrusion another person's memories and experiences in their head. At a minimum, they will have to forge a relationship with the Decedent if they wish to go forward at all.
Every novel will tell the story of a different triad, set in the context of some military mission. In the background will be the common threads of Nowak, Shortbread, and Whistler, who have their own conflicts and personality quirks, as they all contribute to the oddity that is Project Psychopomp. A minor thread that may reoccur is the push to test all combat personnel and develop a database of lifespan markers (again, draw a parallel to bone marrow donor database) so that when a new portion of ectoplasmic slurry is acquired, it can be matched to a soldier in need.
When coming up with story ideas, the relationship that's being explored with two or more of the triad should be the main focus — military missions can be fabricated as needed. In particular, when the Decedent is also military, we will be stressing the theme not only of sacrifice, but also that nothing is lost or wasted, and that the Decedent lives on in the Soldier, continuing to do good, continuing to serve.
Back to World Building.