Trope-a-Day: Super Reflexes

Super Reflexes: Another one of the many things to go into the standard upgrade build, in the sense of better, faster, etc., nerves.  Can, of course, be improved still further if you feel like upgrading your nervous system to milspec, or adding various special cognitive enhancements to run tell analysis and predictive motion routines on everyone in the vicinity, letting you pull off that nifty “see-and-react-to-things-before-they-happen” trick.

(In less deliberately civilized societies, it may be best not to include the “respond automatically and lethally to incoming attacks” option.)


Trope-a-Day: Fantasy Contraception

Fantasy Contraception: Full fertility control is built right into the genome of each alpha baseline, and therefore into every clade built on top of that alpha baseline.  The male reproductive system does not produce gametes and the female one does not cycle (or their alternate-species equivalents) until instructed otherwise by the proper pharmaceutical and/or biofeedback impulses.  And, importantly, default is off.  No accidental children, m’kay?

(Of course, most of the time it’s just off and stays off, since actually producing children in vivo rather than in vitro is the sort of appalling, painful, inconvenient, medically hazardous (for both parent and child), etc., etc., relic of a barbarous past that civilized societies don’t expect people to do.  The Imperials go even further than the Vorkosigan universe’s Betans in pointing this one out.)

Trope-a-Day: Evolutionary Levels

Evolutionary Levels: Subverted, inasmuch as Eldrae anthalis and Eldrae kirsunar (which could be read as direct parallels to Homo superior and Homo summus) aren’t markers of more advanced evolution, but markers of increasing degrees of highly sophisticated engineering.  And engineering for specific desirable traits, at that.

The Money, The Principle, or The Trouble

“Context is important.”

“Take, for example, this syringe. From an objective perspective, it contains a small quantity of greyish fluid, a suspension of nanoviruses and proto-cytomachines in impure saline. Not the most commonplace of objects, but hardly a rarity, either.”

“A pharmacist, however, would recognize it as an alpha-baseline corpus-editor, which while delightfully sophisticated in its own way, is a simple proteus treatment; one which you could well purchase on the open market for a few selenis, were it not that our desire that neither the newly born nor the newly immigrated should walk around crippled in mind and body ensures that every medical facility from the homeworld to the Exclaves has gallons of the stuff on hand.”

“And off in the more backward parts of the Expansion Regions, those in a position to know would recognize it as an object of great value indeed; an object of delight and terror and desire and horror, to be bought with the wealth of nations, fought over, warred over, controlled, proscribed, smuggled, praised, condemned, and worshipped. Out there it makes heroes, villains, supermen, devils, and gods.”

“To reiterate, then, an object’s context is important. Especially when you find yourself with a few displacement-tons of them on an unfamiliar world, and a pressing need for hold-space.”

Trope-a-Day: Big Eater

Big Eater: Of course, this depends greatly on species, which in fairness doesn’t count, because it applies equally to everyone of that species.  It does apply – in its “thin kind” form, mostly – to most transsophonts, though, simply because none of their modifications repeals the law of conservation of energy, and so that energy has to come from somewhere…

To work an example, the caloric requirements for an average eldrae baseline, before extensive transsophontism set in, were around 3,500 kcal/day (contrast with the human requirement of the order of 2,250 kcal/day; powering various capabilities the Precursors found desirable already made their metabolisms run fairly hot).  By the time you count in the modifications included in the modern alpha baseline, that’s roughly been doubled (i.e., around 7,000 kcal/day), although food intake hasn’t increased that much because of efficiency improvements made to the digestive system, including the ability to digest quite a healthy portion of the cellulose included in the diet.  So, yes, rich food and plenty of it, eaten heartily, is the rule of the day!

Additional enhancements, like, say, all the military-grade combat add-ons, of course, only increase the effect.  And also, that’s base rate, before exercise, etc., are taken into consideration.  I have not yet addressed what MREs are made of in this universe, but if I turned out to be a big steak with buttery mashed potatoes and a sherry trifle chaser, it would not surprise me one bit.

(Also, yes, there are people who have noticed this – really fairly obvious – effect and so tap the secondary market created by selling artificial immune systems, etc., as calorie-consuming slimming aids.  Of course there are.)

A Good Man

“Vinav Amanyr-ith-Amaranyr is a good man.”

“You are surprised to hear me say that?  You shouldn’t be.  Many of our Renegades are – the ones who become Renegades because they’ve seen the Galaxy’s problems and can’t stand not doing anything about them.”

“So what do you do about poverty and oppression?  You can try and persuade people that things have to change, and you can ask Valeä Andreth’s people how slowly that works, and at what cost.  Or you can join the belligerati and try advocating Imperial takeovers, but everyone knows how well they work, or rather don’t.  But in any case, you’re pushing a mountain uphill because the root of all these bad things is nothing but bad ideas, and ideas that run in parallel with one’s species-nature are hard to kill, however insane or counterproductive they might be.”

Or you can take the short road, and reason that the solution to bad ideas is better people, and that you can save a lot of life and time if you can create better people here and now.”

“And so, you can reengineer a grab-bag of autoevolutionary improvements from the alpha baseline into a contagious self-replicating neurovirus – say, the cognitive bias eliminations, the empathy enhancement, the motivation restraint, the self-deception resistance, and the neophobia and xenophobia removal.  Then you spray it generously into the planetary atmosphere, and let the bad ideas kill themselves off.”

“It’s a good plan, simple and elegant.  Worse, it’s a plan that could take only a matter of days to execute.  It probably would work, if we let it, and – and I’m fairly certain this is the rationale he’s using – former citizen-shareholder Amanyr-ith-Amaranyr will get the retroactive consent he’s hoping for, because it almost certainly would improve the lives of everyone on his target world.”

“So, yes, Vinav Amanyr-ith-Amaranyr is a good man, and because he’s a good man who cares deeply for the well-being of his fellow sophonts, he’s about to violate the first ethical principle by performing non-consensual modifications on the minds of millions.”

“And that’s why we have to kill him.”

– induction briefing, Operation <blank>, ISS Internal Security & Surveillance Directorate