Friendly Stab

“I noticed the knife the first day we were assigned to work with the Spireguard. It was easy to notice: everyone knows what a hanrian looks like, and there aren’t many who carry around multiple fighting knives. But even among those who did, this one was always set off to the side, away from the others. It’s a very distinctive knife; two opposed blades on the same hilt. One’s got a deep hooked notch near the tip, and serrations along the back of the blade. The other’s a fat spike with a triangular cross-section, and grooves wrapped around it; not along the length of the blade, as fullers would be, but circles wrapping around it.

“But not one ever used in the fight, that I could see, and when we were figuring each other out, asking questions about each others’ kit, and sharing war stories, that one knife never came up.

“So a couple of weeks into the fighting, I asked the question. And that night, I learned that it was called a ‘dignity knife’, and not something considered a matter for polite conversation.

“Eventually, I learned what requisition forms called it, which was ‘BS-11 Biological Security Knife, Block II’. One end is a pithing knife, which – while familiar to us now – was quite the shock to learn about in those days; the other, though? The fat blade was stuffed with incendiary explosive and lenses, those grooves, to focus the force of the blast. Per the manufacturer, that was ‘biotech security’, making sure no corpses were left behind for enemy intelligence to plunder for biotechnological secrets.

“Unofficially? The Legions had a unique interpretation of “no-one gets left behind”. For me, unnerving will always be defined by fighting alongside allies who carried special knives to kill their own wounded, then incinerate the bodies wherever they fell.”

– MSgt. Anvis Ankarian, 14th Drop Shock Echelon,
Memories of the Mnekkej Campaign


“A number of high-biotech polities have taken the immune system as a model for their military forces. What seems an exotic, even amusing quirk when looked at from the point of view of rank titles and equipment designations is much less amusing when you’re drowning in sticky goo, encapsulated, and actively being digested.”

– A Virus Speaks: A Memoir of the Myriasoma War

Trope-a-Day: Living Battery

Living Battery: Given the amount of biotechnology around the place, it should not surprise you that there are, yes, more than a few living batteries.

It’s just that they’re all lifeforms specifically created to serve as living batteries – large cultures of Spheroporus electri inside microbial fuel cells, artificial organs rich in electrophores, that sort of thing. Insert food, get pumped electrons. This is vastly more practical, you see, than trying to use existing living creatures, which are generally not designed to optimize the production of electrical power.


acc3BE: A gene complex used with artificial chromosomes which causes those chromosomes to lose their centromeres in the process of meiosis, thus reducing the genome present in the resulting germ cells to baseline-equivalency. This permits clades augmented with artificial chromosome-based enhancements to be reproductively compatible with both the baseline and with the majority of other clades also possessing the acc3BE complex.

– Bioaugmentation: A Pocket Reference

* * *

From: Clinic Director
To: All Staff
Subject: Nomenclature and Tact


Please remain aware that here at the Nepenene Somatic Clinic a majority of our clients are from out of town, including many from polities where enhancement is not, as it is in Imperial space, thoroughly pervasive; baselines are not rare to the point of nonexistence; and, indeed, the use of biotechnology is considered with varying degrees of caution, skepticism, and even aversion.

As such, when explaining the function of artificial chromosomes and the fertility-preserving function of the acc3BE complex to our clients, be sure always to refer to its operation by its proper technical name, “baselining excision”, and not, whatever the current chic snark may be at other augmenteries, as “bestiality enable”.

A certain junior attending’s slip of the tongue has already required me to calm down and make contractual concessions to one offended client this month, and I do not care to do so again.

Am I clear?

Director of Augmentation,
Nepenene Somatic Clinic


Trope-a-Day: Biodata

Biodata: Something common among the esseli, the eldrae who colonized Kythera (Thirteen Colonies), the mezuar, and other wearers of the masters-of-biotechnology hat, with particular note to the Kytherans’ cortextures, immense computers grown from cultured neural tissue, and the Genetic Memory of the esseli, which both is and has been turned into a general-purpose technology for encoding arbitrary data onto DNA plasmids.

Plus, of course, the identifying, copyright, and GRM information encoded into virtually any product of biotechnology…

Trope-a-Day: Artificial Limbs

Artificial Limbs: Quite possible, but a disfavored technology in Imperial society; in the modern era, when biotechnology is also advanced, it tends to be preferred for internal solutions, or at the least it should be used to ensure that the bionic technology is well integrated with the meat: bones reinforced with carbon fiber, muscles interwoven with myomar, a skin supplemented with a layer of armor gel, and a well-concealed mass driver hidden mostly within the flesh are much more likely than simply chopping off a perfectly good arm and replacing it with a mechanical prosthetic one.

(And, of course, cloned grafts are the way biotech solves the pure replacement issue.)


2016_W(Alternate words: Walk, whitelist, wellspring.)

The Dreamhall on Kythera is without a doubt the most… fragrant supercomputing center in the Empire.

As much can be said of Kythera as a whole – when you’re heavy biotechnology users, living in buried hives along with an entire commensal symbitech ecosystem, a certain organic pungency to the air is inescapable. The locals don’t notice, and given anything more than a stopover, the nose adapts. But even allowing for that, the Dreamhall is special.

For the Dreamhall is no less than the greatest concentration of cortextures ever constructed. In the dozen massive shells beneath Chira-hive, thousands of open pillars climb from floor to ceiling, each with dozens of racked trays housing the quivering, gray-pink, involuted masses of cultured neural tissue kept warmed and wetted by the nutrient fluid that gives the Dreamhall its copper-salt, amniotic smell. The throb of peristaltic biopumps fills the air; while some mechanical support is used for peripheral functions, the Kytherans pride themselves that as much of their super-thinker as possible is purely biological, a product of their art.

It is a marvel of the Empire, for certain. A massively parallel supercomputer, but more, one with an active and creative imagination, for want of a better word. Indeed, many of its most impressive products have come not from submitting problems to its attention, but from allowing it to browse idly through the ‘weave’s data stores and dream.

Using it always makes me hungry, though.

– Rúlf Draehév, “A Dog and Program Show”, Goodbytes Monthly

Truffle House

mycofibrillin was originally a product designed by the space division of Molecular Architecture, ICC, under the Mycofibrillin™ trademark. It was a development of early experiments in creating spaceborne life, such as the regoformer “asteroid lichen”, which sustains itself using solar energy and water extracted from icy regolith.

Unlike its predecessors, mycofibrillin was designed not as an experiment or artwork, but as a functional tool. A designed-from-scratch neogen, it was a reinterpretation of various fungoid lifeforms – which took the form of an intertwined mat of fibers – for the space environment: a recreation of similar reaction networks making use of silicates, silanes, and silicones, at much lower temperatures, relying upon both a trickle of solar energy and provided radio-frequency energy broadcasts to power its metabolism.

The function of mycofibrillin was simply to stabilize aggregate-class “rubble pile” asteroids for relocation, or indeed for other exploitation. A rubble pile infected with a mycofibrillin culture, along with a microwave beacon to feed its growth phase, would swiftly find itself perfused by silicone-sheathed rhizomorphic hyphae of substantial tensile strength, acting to bind the many components of the rubble pile together into a single coherent mass.

Since this promising start, later offshoot technologies have included the thermophilic bionanotech weaves developed in conjunction with the chfsssc for stabilizing tectonically vulnerable regions of planetary crusts along with a variety of refined mycofibrillin derivatives, including a number of strains whose tensile strength is claimed to be suitable for maintaining the stability of large asteroids or small planetesimals when spun up to usable gravity-simulating speeds (although, in practice, the majority of residents of these worlds prefer microgravity environments).

– The Biotechnology of Space: A History, Kynthia Naratyr-ith-Naratyr

Trope-a-Day: Spare Body Parts

Spare Body Parts: The poster-people for this are the kaeth, who come from the kind of… robust ecology (see: Had to be Sharp) that makes a selection of extra backup organs very useful indeed. And a special shout-out goes to the myneni, who have a kind of this by default by virtue of forming all their organs ad hoc anyway.

Of course, it’s not like a lot of other species haven’t been merrily engineering redundancy into at least some clades of themselves in the name of extra resilience, starting with auxiliary hearts and working down, even if they can’t do the same sort of holistically comprehensive job…

Trope-a-Day: No Periods, Period

No Periods, Period: While the Imperials have by and large abolished menstruation, it’s not due to any of the wacky supernatural, etc., extreme versions (found under Menstrual Menace), or even to the analog of our peculiar cultural ick on the topic.  The biotechnologists did it for reasons amounting to the traditional “we do what we can, because we must”, and the marketers successfully pitched this particular biomod all over the place on the grounds that it’s, as the Real Life section of the latter trope page pointed out at the time this was written, annoying and inconvenient.

And, as you may recall from Harmony Versus Discipline, mainstream Imperial culture generally think that the argument from “it’s natural!” is good for a laugh, but never worth taking seriously.

Trope-a-Day: Meat Moss

Meat Moss: A characteristic of the esseli homeworld, and more specifically their cities, starships, and other facilities.

Kind of similar to the way Star Control portrays it, actually.

Kind of similar to the way Star Control portrays it, actually.

See, the esseli are biotech wizards and use it for just about everything they can – although there are many things for which it doesn’t work so well, which is why their ships are cyborgs – a rich, meaty center inside a nice, solid neosteel hull and regular mechanical fusion torch. As such, most of their machinery, their buildings, etc., are essentially organs of one kind or another. (Or several kinds. Check out the heart-valve door in the pic, for example.)

The meat moss, unlike the trope suggests for most of it, does have a purpose, though. It’s the large-scale biotech equivalent of utility tunnels, taking care of distributing raw and processed materials to organs that need them, removing waste, and passing command-and-control signals around – which is to say, it’s a giant plug-in circulatory system and nervous system – complete with interface nodes both sensory and plug-your-exposed-nerve-organ-in-here – laid out on the ground and wrapped in skin.

(As for how it sustains itself? The volatile-digestion organs for ice asteroids and the odd carbonaceous chondrite are over there , the photosynthetic layers are over here, and that odd-looking wind tower yonder is a lung the size of the Empire State building.)

Trope-a-Day: Half-Identical Twins

Half-Identical Twins: Much more common in the Eldraeverse than in real life, while still not exactly common, since this sort of minor zygote-split with sex-chromosome flippery is very much on the list of Easy and Fun Genetic Manipulations You Can Do At Home, or at least if you think it sounds neat.  And yes, arguably, this makes them a type of Opposite-Sex Clone.

(NOTE: Yes, I know the trope name doesn’t match the scientific definition of the term. Don’t write letters.)

Trope-a-Day: Grows on Trees

Grows on Trees: While not something that occurs naturally, the Imperial penchant for bioengineering have produced quite a lot of varieties of fruit and many more plants of pharmaceutical value than nature allows for, along with creations like an industrial bamboo-analog, metal-leaching plants that pull traces of metal from depleted ores and concentrate them for later harvesting – also used for pollution cleanup – and such.  And then there are those (engineered) house-trees…

[A comment on the original posting of this trope read:

“So, we have the potential for space elves that live in actual tree houses? Awesome.”

Yes, yes you do.  See Tree Top Town.  Also, even better, although I haven’t got to these yet:

SPACE TREE HOUSES! ( Dyson trees, etc. )]

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.

Trope-a-Day: Evilutionary Biologist

Evilutionary Biologist: It might seem, at first, that there a whole lot of these (and, indeed, that the esseli are an entire species of Evilutionary Biologists).  Unfortunately for those who fancy this sort of thing, the average bioengineer is of the opinion that evolution is a hopelessly inefficient optimization process that, while it often throws up interesting traits, very often does not optimize for what the customer wants.  As such, in a world of sophont beings who can, with a little prompting, put some decent parameters around what they want, a competent designer can beat evolution quite substantially more than nine times out of ten.

Now, the bioengineers may have the attitude and some of the more scientifically valid methods down pat, but while they may not match 21st-century Earth notions of bioethics – and the Monument to the Martyrs of Science is quite large – local ethical standards are firmly in place.  (See the relevant sections of Blue and Orange Morality.)

You Can Opt Out At Any Time


* * * * *


* * * * *

Contact the Aeternitas Immortality Foundation


Brought To You By

Merlen & Merlen Anagathics, ICC
Crescent Statics, ICC
Golden Circle Noetic Trust & Assurance, ICC

“You’ve Got Friends For Life”

– three subsequent roadside billboards on Thetra (Banners)

Trope-a-Day: Bioluminescence Is Cool

Bioluminescence Is Cool: And available in several varieties from your local bodysculpt clinic, along with some interesting variations on the theme of chromatophores.  Ah, fashion industry, what will you bring us next?

Also used for some more practical purposes, like non-electrically dependent emergency lighting, engineered glowing trees for streetlights, detectors of this and that, etc., etc.

Trope-a-Day: Bio Augmentation

Bio Augmentation: And how.  While not exclusively their preserve by any means, the Imperials are so aggressively transsophontist that pretty much everyone you meet is a walking treasure-trove of millennia of biotechnological advancement.  Not that the original bioengineers, or the later nanoengineers, knew exactly which direction apotheosis lay in, but evidently they figured that “impossibly beautiful immortal geniuses with superpowers” was at least a good start.  In hundreds or thousands of different varieties.  Per original species.


As its end slipped clear of the ribosome, the protein folded once more, pivoting around now free-to-move bonds… snapping back against the already closely-folded main body.

Brelyn Calaris muttered an imprecation upon the heads of all uncooperative fabzymes, paused the simulation, and grabbed the protein with both hands, peering muttering into the region of the faulty fold.  “Where are you, you little ictoch?”  Her fingers slipped along the stem of the protein, feeling the orbitals.  “Too far, too far… could rotate freely, that’s just a hydrogen bond… Hm.  What is that doing there?”

The object of her ire was an innocuous-looking sulfur-sulfur connection.  “Too close, those cysteines.  Can’t be having that.”  A flick of her wrist spun the simulation back in time, and she took hold of the end of the protein chain and snapped the peptide bond before the outermost offending cysteine.  “Let’s give it a chaperone.”  Tap, tap.  “Something polar-friendly, for preference.”  She pulled an arginine molecule out of the palette and twisted it into place on the chain’s new end, then reattached the cysteine after it.  (In the secondary transcription display, a new codon quietly inserted itself in the matching place.)  “And rerun.”

Once more, the protein slipped out of the ribosome and folded itself, its terminal end this time remaining in position protruding from the main body.  “Fab test.”  She watched the playback as other foreground molecules were introduced into the simulation; some slipping neatly into the new protein’s active site, meeting their counterparts, and being transformed, while a counter raced upwards with each successfully simulated catalyzation the parallel-processors executed.

When the counter reached one million, Brelyn dismissed the protein-simulator display with a clap, leaving behind just the transcription display, then reached into her working area to pluck out the main model for her project, a simulation of the ECH-20 commercial fabrication bacterium.  Opening it up, she spun the main customization plasmid around until the remaining space was visible – this was the twelfth fabzyme gene her production process required – plucked the new gene out of the transcription display, and slipped it into place.

“Right, System.  Bactry simulation, ten hours and 10,000 runs each, all the usual variations – what’ll that take, wall-clock time?”

“Six hours, Brelyn.”

“Good.  If it passes, no anomalies, send it straight for sequence printing and fab, and get cultures under way.  If not, page me.  Oh, and if all goes well tell Chelan that, he can have his drug sample for vivo testing by tomorrow afternoon.  Explicit.”

She blinked opened eyes against the room’s half-light, flicked damp red hair back over her virtuality laser-port, and stretched.  But right now, time for a late dinner.