Alchemists
Alchemist clade
Image from Steve Bowers

Overview

The Alchemists are a clade of bioborgs, living in something approaching symbiosis with several other clades and polities, while remaining distanced from every one, both physically and psychologically.

They are a strange, enigmatic group, living in a handful of different habitats scattered around the Outer Volumes (most of them in and around the Triangulum Australe region). While nowadays co-existing perfectly peacefully with other clades, they tend to keep to themselves, remaining isolated and aloof in their own, closely guarded sections or "enclaves".

Over time, a web of myths and tales has grown up around the clade, reinforced by their peculiar, often bizarre appearance and manners. There are, and have always been, whispers of dark, shadowy deeds perpetrated by the Alchemists in the past, but no story agrees with another on the nature of these acts.

The Alchemist enclaves always appear in the habitats and planetary surfaces of other clades and polities (even in some xenosophont cultures), never on their own. The reason for this is unknown, but speculation has it that the Alchemists live in symbiosis with other clades, rather like the cancer they idealize.

The enclave communities and their population, the every-day life of the Alchemists, are governed and protected by a system of specialized castes. The more apparent are the administrative and warrior castes, but there are also other, less obvious ones, for example the engineering caste.

The Alchemists are regarded as experts in making biotech implements, or muschines of every kind, some of which they export to other clades. Mostly this export consists of trans/neogenic art, bionic implants, obscure tools and household items, some of which enjoys a certain chic or cult status among other cultures. Biotech (living) sculptures, tools, furniture and clothes of Alchemist manufacture are currently in vogue in quite a few places around known space.

Physical Appearance

The physical appearance of the Alchemist general populace vary between an unenhanced baseline human norm, through additions of various large biosymb enhancements or prosthetics all the way to full-body bioware replacements - brain and a few other organs supported and housed inside a bulky, lumbering muschine vehicle. Their biotech augments immediately brand them as Alchemists, being of an indiscreet, necrotic style that most non-Alchemists find repulsive.

Limb, sensor or organ replacements (which, given the perfection of the biotech achieved by the Alchemists, could just as easily could be engineered to look like a perfectly normal baseline limb) are common (although not universal) and often quite grotesquely distorted from the baseline feature it replaces.

The biotech bodies used by more conservative Alchemists (as a homage to their history and former glory) are usually a 2-metre, amorphous onion shape, bristling with sensors and feelers and moving around using either stumpy, sucker-dotted tentacles or a snail-like pseudopod. In addition, there are a wide variety of more exotic platforms - such as humanoid or centaur shapes, as well as flying, swimming and even space-adapted variations. While none of these more customized models looks the same, they share certain features- the nightmarish appearance common among bioware of Alchemist manufacture (see Aesthetics).

Some Alchemist shed the mobile way of life altogether, installing their brain and some few support organs into a stationary structure such as a dwelling or enclave fixture. With the level of biotech wielded by the Alchemists, no transformation is irreversible, so an Alchemist that, one day, looks like a regular baseline might the next day, on a whim, have emself changed into something that doesn't even vaguely resemble a human.

The germ-line genetic tweakings and self-replicative sybionano accumulated over the years are quite enough for most Alchemists, but they acquire and shed auxiliary biotech augments like another clade would change clothes.

In fact, the portion of the Alchemist population that are non-, lightly-, or more discreetly augmented looks surprisingly healthy and handsome, especially in when viewed against the background of their rather twisted sense of aesthetics - the ultra-organic, almost tumour-like style that reflects in their every creation, from enclaves, dwellings and vehicles to weapons, tools and household items.

One of the few certain ways of identifying an Alchemist is to confirm to presence of bioware interface ports dotted around their bodies. These looks like small, tightly pursed, sphincter-like muscle toruses, that can be located everywhere on an Alchemist's body. Their function is to serve as interface points between the Alchemist's circulatory, lymphatic and digestive systems and various biotech support services provided by their enclave.

For reasons unknown, the Alchemists prefer to "outsource" their bodily functions, relying on centralized liver/kidney units in their dwellings to remove waste and metabolites form their system during rest periods. This habit, of course, ties them even more tightly to their enclaves.

While not all "regular" Alchemists could be immediately recognized as such (especially if non-modified), there are individuals specialized for a specific role in the Alchemist community that stand out distinctly from the rest - those are the castes; Warriors, administrators and engineers. Those three are the most distinctive, but other, more subtle castes exist.

The warrior caste are the most distinctive of the various castes, and also the one most often encountered by outsiders, tightly followed by the engineering caste. The administrator caste are more elusive, rarely - if ever - letting an outsider into their presence.

A member of the Alchemist warrior-caste is a quite impressive sight - they rarely stand shorter than 2,2 meters, and broad to proportion. Their complexion is always dusky grey, and their eyes an uniform dusty-quicksilver in colour. Some, but not all, have great manes consisting of translucent, spiraling cords (not unlike a jellyfish's stingers) on their heads.

They rarely or never speak, and most of the time seems rather uninterested in communicating with non-Alchemists. At times, however, they will interact with outsiders - almost always in some strange, enigmatic way. This behaviour might or might not be dictated by their strange, enigmatic set of philosophies, teachings that an outsider can only guess at in any case.

Without exception, they all are heavily and very visibly augmented - large, unconcealed biosymbo grafts and bioware modules adhering to them in every visible spot. The modules all follow the typical Alchemist aesthetic ideal; slimy, bumpy, discoloured blobs that resembles a cross between a brain tumour and a parasitic crustacean, pulsating slowly and erratically.

On all ventures that takes them outside their home enclave, they wear their traditional biological combat exoskeleton, a bulky, full-body affair, seemingly made out of greyish polyp and covered in irregular flanges, bumps and strange protrusions.

In addition, they always wear their traditional weapon of choice - the Biogun. Long since outdated, it has been the warrior-caste's weapon of choice for millennia, an embodiment of the Alchemist ideal, and is now used mainly in their ritualistic combat. Moreover, the gun is gengineered to acquire a limited sentience, somewhat complicating it's use. The bond of honour between an Alchemist warrior and his Biogun is as strong as that between a feudal-Japan Samurai and his Katana.

Another clearly defined caste is the administrative caste. They are also ostentatiously augmented, but for enhanced intellectual, communicative and administrative skills. Members of this caste is rarely or never seen outside the Alchemist enclaves, spending much of their time in communion with the enclave's network of bioprocessors, governing the enclave and communicating with other Alchemist groups. They have the same physical characteristics as as any Alchemist but their bodies are wasted from neglect.

They are skeletal, spindly figures with an abnormally large, swollen head, often trailing umbilical conduits which links them permanently to various wetware processor units and memory banks, in the process also greatly hampering their mobility.

Over time, the administrators submerse themselves further and further into their bionic support systems, finally ceasing to exist at all on an individual level. Their bodies gradually waste away over time, digested quietly as more and more organ functions are taken over by bionic support systems. When the administrator finally dissolves into the gestalt of the enclave, formed by all things living inside it, the remainder of es body is also digested and recycled, before being reintroduced to the system. The semi-biological spaceships the Alchemists use, are usually captained by at least one administrator.

The third caste known to outsiders are the engineering caste. This group is more diverse than the others, their appearance dictated largely by their function, with no two alike. They might look like a household biodroid, have a roughly humanoid appearance or in some cases some huge, dinosaurian shape.

History

There is little anyone knows about the Alchemists other that what they themselves let on, which is, needless to say, not much. Although it might be just another myth, it's usually stated that they can trace their ancestry back to a group of rouge geneticists, genehackers and biopunkers (a legendary group that, in fact, called themselves "Alchemists" and used code names taken from the alchemist community of Western Europe of the 14th and 15th century (Old Earth calendar)) that survived the nanoswarm period in enclave, isolated from the rest of humanity in a rouge asteroid settlement that was propelled on a random trajectory out into the interstellar night. The truth content of this statement will probably never be known, since virtually no records of that chaotic era remains to this date.

It logically follows, however, in the light of subsequent rediscovery, that the Alchemist clade remained isolated and out of touch with the rest of the galactic community for several millennia. Under this time they, utilizing their comprehensive knowledge of genetics and molecular biology, transformed themselves into something quite different from their human hereditary form. In effect, they gradually turned into biotechnological machinery, a support platform housing a still-human brain and some few baseline organs. Some Alchemists, to this day, out of respect and pride, refuses to wear any other form than this, to a baseline monstrous, form.

How and where the Alchemists survived in the interval between the nanoswarm and their rediscovery is unknown to this day. What is known and verified, however, is that in 4745 a.t., an independent scavenging craft rendezvoused with a strange centripetal space hulk (presumed abandoned) that was in the process of entering the Thorain system (TA sector), was quite shocked to find it inhabited by what was first thought to be a race of strange, tentacle-waving aliens.

The exploration vessel's ai couldn't directly identify the nature of the hulkriders, choosing instead to use one of its xeno-encounter protocols. Quite some time passed before it was determined (by no less than a complete genome-characterization) that the Alchemists were, in fact, human. With this encounter, the Alchemists had once again entered the galactic big picture.

When later spreading out and settling down in the habitats of other clades and cultures, the Alchemists decided to revert back to a more or less baseline form, an easy feat considering their genetic and biotechnical skill. They retained, however, the strange sense of style and aesthetics they'd developed during their time in eclipse.

It was during this time that the current system of regulars and castes evolved, although precursors to this system existed long in advance. Learning the skills of interstellar trade, the Alchemists prospered, selling their top of the range biotech at quite low prices to an insatiable market.

Over hundreds of years, the reclusive Alchemists developed techniques of dealing with a large number of different clades - specially augmented envoys (a caste by its own right, now extinct) that handled deals, contracts and legal niceties. While no real tabs could be taken on Alchemist numbers, at least not by an outsider, there seemed during this period to be a large increase in their population.

In 6723, at the pinnacle of the Alchemist culture, a mysterious figure - possibly above Sl:2 and known only as Paracelsus - came forward as the supreme leader of the Alchemists, a phenomenon hitherto unheard of. Paracelsus is the greatest enigma of the Alchemist history, appearing seemingly from nowhere to assume the role of ruler and figurehead of the Alchemist clade.

Historical speculation suggests that Paracelsus was, in fact, a polysomatic intellect formed by the mental and physical fusion of about forty of the clade's administrators who, themselves, had toposophic levels approaching Sl:1.6. Under the supervision of their super-administrator leader the Alchemists began to expand their sphere of influence, their manner of dealings with outsiders taking on a more aggressive, forceful note.

Their warriors multiplied in numbers, each envoy having an army at es disposal everywhere e went. While apparently always strictly adhering to the laws of their various locations, there were indications that something sinister was going on in the Alchemist community.

In fact, for several hundred years, the Alchemists had been practising forced conscription of outsiders into the clade, subverting them by biosymbo modifications or (if the first option failed) breaking them down for spare parts for new biotech constructs. Up until Paracelsus ascended the throne as supreme ruler, this had been a surreptitious activity carried out on the ones no-one would miss; the wanderers, the rootless and the refugees. Now, however, the pace of influx accelerated. The bioware assemblers required fresh feedstock, and it was there, all around, in the form of thousands of other clades and cultures, that that fodder would be found.

This increase passed by relatively unnoticed, as this period (The Age of Crisis (6700-7200 at)) was one of great turbulence and unrest in the interstellar community as a whole. The Alchemists saw this, and used it to their advantage. While larger, more powerful clades were had their heads turned, preoccupied with other things, the Alchemists quickly grew in numbers and military might.

The first overt act of mass assimilation took place in 6948, when the entire Ouverture habitat (a small centripetal vivarium in the Straylight system, Triangulum Australe sector) was taken over by Alchemists, its inhabitants either bionically corrupted - transformed into loyal Alchemist foot soldiers, or summarily killed and fed to the bioware furnaces that produced increasingly larger amounts of biotechnological weaponry.

With this barrier breached, the Alchemist military effort took on an quicker pace, spreading the Alchemist sphere of influence over at least six different, sparsely populated, systems in the Triangulum Australe sector. Every run-down habitat and inhabited world in these systems were taken, and the inhabitants either forcibly assimilated into the clade by means of sequestrating bioware agents or simply used as raw materials. In addition, a fair number of Hider habitats in the vicinity of these systems were also over-run. The word the Alchemists used when referring to their hegemonizing crusade, was "The Malignancy", a name which in turn refers back to the cancerous ideal and viewpoint of the clade.

In late 6955, the Alchemist fleet mustered their entire strength, now numbering some 300 semi-biological ships, for an en masse strike through a recently captured wormhole. This was the break Paracelsus had been waiting for. On the other end of the wormhole lay Ratatosc - a 16-planet, neutral system densely populated and rich in resources, but conveniently lacking AI god protection.

To the Alchemists, Ratatosc was a ripe fruit ready to be picked, its resources (biological or otherwise) to be used to feed the second phase of the Malignancy - full-scale war on the edges of some undefined larger polity, probably the Cygexpa (which had some internal instability during the Age of Crisis, and was therefore a likely target).

The invasion of the Ratatosc system proceeded smoothly, the Alchemist fleet moving through the wormhole and closing in on Marduc, the most densely populated planet in the system. As the Malignancy fleet took up attack positions around the world, disaster struck. From out of the corona of the nearby Ratatosc star, a combat-specialized ISO (speculation suggests it was a Black Angel) emerged from its hiding place.

Like a hellish butterfly emerging from a fiery chrysalis it unfolded its halo and glided in towards the amassed Alchemists. As it brushed past the fleet, the Angel reached out, almost absently, and in its wake every Alchemist ship and crew quietly - gently, even - died.

No apparent weapons were used, no explosions seen - within an instant the Alchemist fleet had simply ceased to be, snuffed out like a candle and with the same apparent effort on the Angel's part. Without even acknowledging their presence, without pause or comment, it left nothing but dead, inert husks behind. After the event, the Angel just melted away into the interstellar night, never to be seen in the Ratatosc system again.

When the population of Marduc finally got around to start clearing the dead Alchemist ships out of their planet's orbit time had already erased any clues as to what kind of weapon was deployed against the fleet. Since no Alchemist bodies (including that of Paracelsus) were ever found it became widely believed that some type of long-range disruptor weapon had been used, reducing all biologically active matter into water vapour, carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide (plus appropriate trace elements). The non-biological hulls and internal struts were left bare, incidentally in pristine condition, and could be salvaged for scrap value.

In the following months, every larger Alchemist population centre was struck by mysterious, seemingly unrelated, accidents - radiation leaks, atmosphere blow-outs, meteorite collisions and so on. While no common denominator could be found to link the various disasters, it was commonly agreed upon that the Alchemists, by their Malignancy crusade, had annoyed some higher toposophic being enough to provoke a response, and were now paying the price. Later comparison with other situations in which higher toposophics took direct action against bionts, suggests subtle tape worms and computer viruses (seeded by an agent of some unknown power) were responsible for those accidents, and must have been working to that end well in advance - in fact, probably even before the Malignancy went from covert to overt.

Due to the general turbulence of the time, the brief Alchemist interlude was effectively forgotten by the majority of the interstellar community. Their crusade and its strange, anticlimactic ending were recorded as a footnote to the more momentous events that took place during this period. Nowadays, probably only historians specializing in this period are aware of the events that took place, especially since they were not really connected to the more studied phenomena of the time.

The Alchemists in 10400 A.T.

No more than a handful of Alchemist enclaves remain nowadays, mostly in habitats scattered around the Triangulum Australe sector. None of these seem to have a more than passing contact with each other, and certainly no kind of centralized decision-making.

While in no way exterminated, the clade was decimated enough to be effectively removed from the political stage for any conceivable amount of time. From this time on, the Alchemist clade started to fall into decline, like cancer forced into remission. Continuing to export their bionics to some few customers, they managed to scrape their way into the present era, but their technology is now hopelessly obsolete. As a clade, they were left behind - no longer able to adapt readily enough to change to compete.

To the eyes of an outsider, the Alchemists are a clade in decay, slowly but surely disappearing from the stage, slipping into oblivion. They have spent the last few centuries barely managing to survive on what little trade they can conduct from their isolated trading posts.

Sometimes stories erupt about people getting snatched away by the Alchemists, but no one takes those seriously. In fact, most regards the Alchemists with mixed feelings of pity and disdain.

The Sol Niger Project

Following their defeat in 6955 a.t., at the hands of a Black Angel, the Alchemists became a broken, scattered people. The mass destruction in Marduc orbit of virtually every Alchemist administrator left them seriously weakened, and unable to do anything but survive for several decades.

With time, the numbers of Administrators and Warriors swelled once more, sufficient to cope with the needs of the enclaves, and an investigation was launched, trying to analyse what went wrong with the war effort. The conclusion that was mutually arrived at was that the clade needed the communal shelter of a high-toposophic entity (higher than that of Paracelsus, anyway), and able to protect the Alchemists from further attacks from higher powers.

In short, the Alchemists needed a God - and they decided to create him in their own image.

In early 8153, as the clade were beginning to recover from their stinging defeat, the Alchemist God was seeded in orbit around Moira III, a red-dwarf star in the Triangulum Australe sector. The god-seed, a biotechnological master piece - a densely packed piece of tumor-derived molecular circuitry - was the result of nearly a century of research and development on the Alchemist's part, kept completely under wraps from everyone else.

The seed was named "Sol Niger", an ancient name stemming from a stage in the medieval, mystical, alchemical process, a name meaning "The Black Sun". Absorbing the asteroids and radiation from the nearby star, it grew (over several centuries) into a mega-scale processing structure, a gigantic wetware processing node as big as a small moon. In 8611, it finally emerged into sophonce. The toposophical tests that the Alchemist caretakers subjected their newly awakened baby God to, suggested a toposophic level around Sl:3.2.

As Sol Niger's development proceeded, however, various flaws and inconsistencies started to appear in the behavior of the emerging godling. The living tumor-cell derived processing substrate was found to be unable to sustain the level of long-time fidelity needed for the Sol Niger node to function efficiently. The godling entity's thought processes started to fluctuate, slipping in and out of awareness; feverish, nonsensical raving mingling chaotically with moments of inhuman clarity and lucidity. Over a time of several years, the Alchemist God slipped down into stark, raving madness.

The psychotic godling was now growing at an uncontrollable rate, not unlike the cancer from which its circuitry was derived. The previously smooth, spherical node grew ridged and furled, the main body becoming lobed and losing symmetry.

In fear, the Alchemists made an attempt to deactivate their creation, resulting in the destruction of several of their maintenance habitats as the God lashed out in blind self-defense. No further attempt was made.

With time, a specialized caretaker caste were developed, dedicated to administering to the needs of the schizophrenic, raving Sol Niger and record, interpret and catalogue the bits and pieces of useful insights it passes on to them in its moments of clarity. These oracle-style foretellings are passed on among the Alchemist community by the Caretaker caste's couriers. The gospels (as the advice is called) are treated and heeded with almost religious respect by the other Alchemists. The advice - ranging from political directives to technical blueprints - may be what's kept the clade in existence until the present day.

In the meantime, Sol Niger continues to feed and grow, e's ravings becoming more and more violent - it won't be long before some higher toposophic entity catches a whiff of what's going on in the Moira III system and decides to investigate, maybe dispatching one of its Black Angels. If that comes to pass, the confrontation will tear this part of the galaxy into shreds with its ferocity. While in no way so powerful as an Angel, the Sol Niger could nevertheless make a good account of itself in a direct fight.

Society and Culture

The basis for the Alchemist culture are the castes, but not in the sense of the various systems on this theme practised by any other clade or culture.

The "castes" (the word implying a social status one is born into) are, in fact, not castes at all; they are the secondary stage of development in the Alchemist life-cycle. As an Alchemist feels that e has lived enough, it's considered natural to undergo major biotech augmentation and modification and continue on as a servant to the enclave. This rebirth entails a significant increase of the toposophic level (from Sl ~0,5 to Sl ~1,5), especially in those choosing to follow the administrator path - some really old administrators has actually broken through to Sl:2, but those are very rare.

The choice on what pathway to follow - what caste to choose for continuation - is largely based on the psychological set-up of the individual entering into the "caste" phase of es life. The way of the warrior is chosen by those not wanting to be kept immobile, preferring instead to continue on as the protectors of the enclave and its inhabitants, with the chance of going out with a bang in the end; sacrificing themselves for the common good.

Those wishing for transcendence choose the administrator pathway, which will, in the end, allow them to immerse themselves completely into the Alchemist version of nirvana. Somewhere in between lies those that chooses the engineering pathway, those that maintain the enclave itself, produce its food and other necessities..

A transformation into "caste" phase entails some changes to the personality of the subject, some inaccessibility for friends and family - but the person is still there, just different. With this system in place, death is something subjective to an Alchemist. Not an absolute article, but more of a gradual slide from one state to another.

Together, the ascended castes form a protective shell around their lower-toposophic siblings, like mother hens they feed them, shelter them and protect them against the antagonistic outer world. The common Alchemists live their life in a surprisingly conventional way, cozy inside their biotechnological "womb".

Aesthetics

While discerning an Alchemist from an ordinary baseline (as has already been mentioned) is difficult by physical appearance alone, the Alchemist ideals of beauty and aesthetics is the more noticeable.

Every item manufactured in Alchemist's bionano assemblers bear their trademark. While their bionic items and constructs are no less (or even more) efficient than any made by other clades, their outward appearance, however, is radically different.

Everything Alchemist-produced, be it a common house hold tool or a complete enclave, has the look of cancer on it, nature distorted and gone horribly wrong. Everything is dripping slime, discoloured and lumpy growths (without any apparent function) covering every surface of every item, be it a dwelling, a vehicle or a wetware computer wafer.

This cancerous ideal shows up everywhere in an Alchemist enclave - parks full of gnarled, crooked bonsai-like trees, from which greyish-green fruit dangle, covered in ridges, furls and slime like an malformed brain. An Alchemist house is, also on this (to an outsider) horrific theme - a sickly, bloated, toadstool-like construct, laced with throbbing veins like a gangrenous penis and with sphincter-like muscle-toruses instead of windows and doors.

To an unprepared outsider, the inside of an Alchemist enclave is like a descent into the second ring of hell, not uncommonly provoking severe psychological trauma and/or psychosis in a sensitive baseline. This is, perhaps, the real reason the Alchemists rarely allow outsiders (especially prejudiced baselines) inside their "inner sanctums".

Everything in an enclave, every house, vehicle, commodity and ornament - even the streets themselves - are alive and linked to each other with fat bundles of neuron umbilicals, hanging slackly in the air just above one's head, or worming their way, like slithering roots, underfoot.

On the organic pathways, strange utility-biobots crawl along, waving long, gelatinous feelers, looking like the result of a forced mating between a headless tortoise, a greenish garden slug and a squashed toad. Great mushroom-like protrusions erupt from every surface along the paths, lobed and glistening like an exposed liver.

These same ideals resurfaces in the various bioware constructs the Alchemists export, not only do they function satisfactorily (but not as good as hylonanotech, of course), they also bear the Alchemist trademark, looking to the rest of the world like something unwholesome and gangrenous.

Technology

As mentioned above, all the technology utilized by Alchemists is biological, conforming to their strange, twisted ideals. Somewhat strangely, however, is the fact that almost all technological items produced by the Alchemists is equipped with a fairly advanced nervous system, giving it a limited self-awareness, and - more importantly - its own will.

This feature makes whatever tool or commodity the tech might be, slightly harder to handle than its hylotech counterpart. In short, you have to reason with your tech, sweet-talking into doing what you want (and more importantly - when you want it to do it). In order to make Alchemist bionics function sufficiently reliable you have to adopt a certain understanding of their aesthetic ideals - at least a sort of horrified fascination. Each piece of equipment must be familiarized with, like a household pet, before it will function flawlessly. Alchemists, of course, doesn't have this problem - they are very much in tune with their slimy, lumpy, gangrenous pieces of tech.

Since most Alchemists "outsource" their bodily functions to some degree, its only natural that this norm is also expanded to their technology. Like their masters, the bioware implements and equipment spends their resting period hooked up to a umbilical that provides them with nutrients and removes waste. Outside of an Alchemist enclave, the bioware need specialized support units providing their services

Curiously, this has not deterred customers from acquiring Alchemist biotech equipment - in some cultures it enjoys something approaching cult status. This is especially true for the curios living jewellery and drugs paraphernalia some enclaves produce, this is a "must-have" among some groups of bio-romanticists, wannabe neobiophunkers/genehackers and people with a taste for the odd and bizarre..

The Alchemist Glow-orbs and Lantern plants (both of which, by the way, are grown purely for export) are quite popular in most polities, as are their selection of - quite normal-looking - bonsai plants, including some rare xeno variants.

Biotech weapons-technology, however, is something the Alchemists keep to themselves. In part, this is due to the crucial role these weapons have in their culture, but also because of its effectiveness. No other manufacturer of bioware weaponry can quite match the range and/or firepower of the Alchemist arsenal. Again, this might be because of the sentience the Alchemists allow their guns to develop, or it might just be that their superior knowledge of genetics allow them to optimize to a degree others are unable to reach.

If challenged, the Alchemists can also mobilize some quite potent standard biological warfare agents, such as tailored viruses, flesh and composite eating micro-organisms and venomous fungal spores. While bioweapons in this day and age are not the doomsday weapon they once were, they still can wreak havoc in a near-baseline biont society, especially in a relatively constricted space such as a small to medium sized habitat (such as the Alchemists favour).

 
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Development Notes
Text by David Hallberg

Initially published on 26 March 2004.