Monday, April 21, 2014

Tangent III. Gen-Mods

Early Trest concept art by Sam Alcarez. Possibly too "human"? I think so.
This bit of color text probably won't see print, it was written more as me thinking out loud. One of the main characters in Broken Contract - Deep Underground is a Gen-Mod Brute named Trest. Trest is your archetypal ogrish character with high strength and a really big weapon. While working on concept sketches of Trest, Sam had questions that forced me to think a bit harder about how I envisioned Gen-Mods, how they came to be, and their role in this dystopian future. This is my attempt to articulate that. -Nick

Science. The quest for understanding and the ability to change destiny through its application has led to wondrous advances in civilization. But science always has an element of fumbling in the dark, as mankind tampers with the unknown.

Advancements in Genetic Experiments

Genetically modified organisms became a commonly accepted scientific advancement in the 21st century. In an effort to control agriculture, mega corporations began creating seeds that were more resistant to pests and extreme conditions; but in exchange they were also engineered to not reproduce more seeds. This meant farmers could not reap the benefits of using these new more resistant seeds year after year. Instead, they had to buy new seeds every season. This was bound to happen anyway, as each season the pests would adapt and overcome the dominance of man, and progress was forced to race ever onward. Untested crops were grown from these seeds imbued with pesticides and warped to entice us, as consumers, with their extreme size, interesting shapes, and vibrant colors. The health risks were obvious, but science was always trumpeted as the solution. As these advances became accepted, they created more negative side effects, leading to the creation of more products sold to cancel out those side effects, however those products brought a slew of new side effects with them. This ultimately led to scientists modifying human genes. When the modification of human genes first became accepted, it was an extravagance only the wealthy enjoyed. If you had enough money you could ensure your offspring's genes were of the highest quality. They would be smart, beautiful, and resistant to disease. And if they failed to be born with those traits even after they were paid for, then more money could be thrown at correcting the errors. However, when the governments dissolved and corporations took their place, the expectations changed. Genetic science was no longer just used for keeping the wealthy at the top of the human pyramid, it was also used to keep workers at the bottom.

Approved Reproduction

When the colonization of space began, the corporate executives had to maintain strict control over reproductive rights. A wave of births would create more mouths to feed and could compromise the colony. Instead, reproduction was and is strictly controlled. The work force is currently comprised of a balanced mix of men, women, and trans folk, designed to be able to adapt to a variety of circumstances; however the water supply is mixed with hormones to both deaden sex drive and tamper with the reproductive cycle. This is done in an attempt to ensure that the only way to have children within the colonies is under strict corporate approval. Upon approval you must comply to specific contracts regarding the cost of upkeep, education, and other resources that must be dedicated to this additional mouth to feed. Occasionally, a person will get pregnant without proper approval. Or, they will receive approval, sign their contracts, and something will go wrong forcing the constraints of the contract to change - such as being injured on the job and missing work. Suddenly, the debts incurred by the pregnancy will need to be collected in some way. Sometimes, a couple just wants to have a child, despite knowing they cannot afford it, and volunteer for a number of intrusive programs. When this happens, the corporations will offer up the option of experimental programs in genetic modification. The children born out these programs are called Gen-Mods.

Purpose Driven Modification

Most genetic modification is done to accommodate maximum profit, through the efficiency of specialty. Genetically modifying corn to adapt to alien soil and an atmosphere with a slightly different make up of gases takes something that might be functional but inefficient, like Earth corn, and helps maximize its potential in its new environment. The corporations do the same thing with humans. A common modification is to purpose build workers to excel in their work environment. Unmodified humans populate the FeSky iron mines, working their 14 hour day for minimal pay, but they have limits on their strength and endurance. Thankfully, unmodified humans are cheap. However, a miner brute, requires considerable additional expense. Brutes are a common modification. Through selective breeding, increased testosterone, and other modifications, hulking beasts of mankind have been created. They have the strength and endurance of two people combined, but also consume more resources, and have to be fed a steady supply of mood altering and performance enhancing drugs to be maintained and controlled. Hormonal imbalances make them prone to violent outbursts that need to be contained, so Gen-Mod Brutes are kept in a constant euphoria. An unfortunate side effect of this euphoria is not knowing when exhaustion or impairment are setting in, so monitors will regulate the brute's daily activity by administering narcotics when injury occurs or adrenaline when an energy boost is needed. In the unfortunate circumstance that their heart overloads and stops, they will even receive a direct injection of adrenaline to the heart. Brutes are the pinnacle of miner efficiency, but they are also more expensive to maintain, which is why they don't outnumber the other miners. Much like the 21st century terminator seeds, they are also deliberately engineered to be sterile so that they may not reproduce.

-Nick Baran. Edited by Lisa Quintero

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