Superior Genemods

Image from Steve Bowers


Unlike their near-baseline cousins, the development of the Superior clade has historically followed a much more organized and planned process, with market forces and random genetic intermixing playing a far smaller role. Superiors were derived from a much more deliberate attempt to enhance human genetic potential and this tradition has continued throughout their history. This has resulted in a much more consistent set of genetic modifications across the Superior clade, with local variations and preferences playing a much smaller part. While they share a number of traits with the near-baseline clades such as enhanced immune systems, Superiors have a number of differences, both as a general rule and in terms of distinct qualities that set them far apart from the near-baseline norm. The following should be seen as a general list and not a total description of every characteristic of every Superior. Over time different Su groups and societies have tended to prefer some traits over others and have engineered themselves to enhance or reduce those traits accordingly.

Note: many augmented species, including various cyborgs, also call themselves superiors (for instance su-chimps, su-dogs and so on); but the Homo superior species has retained and developed the same genome since the Interplanetary Age; this essay relates specifically to them.

Physical Traits

Size and Lifespan
Superiors tend to be about 5 centimeters taller then near-baselines (185 cm on average) with an unaugmented lifespan averaging about 800 years versus the neb average of 180 cm and 500 years.

Respiratory Efficiency
Superior blood and muscle tissue captures and uses oxygen much more efficiently then the baseline norm. In addition their lungs have been redesigned to operate in a manner similar to that of some species of Terran bird, utilizing a counter-current exchange system that permits them to operate at very low partial pressures. This allows su to operate in either low pressure or high altitude habitats in comfort. On average, under conditions of standard temperature and pressure, a su can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes of low activity or 3 minutes of intense activity.

Low-temperature Adaptations
Superior blood contains a series of protein structures that prevents their blood and tissue from freezing in all but the most extreme conditions. Superiors can survive (albeit not necessarily comfortably) at temperatures down to 0° C indefinitely and temperatures as low as -1.6° C for periods of several hours without ill effects although this will normally result in a slowing of their metabolism, rate of movement, and so on if maintained for more then a few minutes. The original purpose of this adaptation was to allow Superiors to more easily be placed into cryogenic stasis. The later development of nanostasis has made this adaptation somewhat superfluous, but most su clades have retained it. Whether this is for sentimental reasons, or as a 'just in case' fallback in case the technology of nanostasis becomes unavailable, or for some other reason depends on which su clade one asks.

Digestion and Metabolism
Superior digestive systems process food with a much higher level of efficiency and discrimination than the baseline norm. A su metabolism will only absorb the optimum amount of nutrients, proteins, amino acids, and minerals to meet the environmental demands that their body is undergoing at the time. Excess or toxic levels of these substances are rejected and removed from the body in the normal course of digestion. Superior bodies also store energy with greater efficiency. This allows them to both go for longer periods (usually of low physical activity) without eating and to compensate for the demands of their enhanced bodies and minds without having to eat significantly more then the baseline norm. Like near-baselines their bodies can also process cellulose. As a result of these modifications superior digestive systems produce a much smaller amount of waste with defecation taking place much less frequently. In extreme cases, superiors have been known to go as long as 10 standard weeks without food and survive the experience, although extensive rehabilitative therapy was required afterward. During these periods, bodily waste production drops to nearly zero.

If desired, Superiors can alter their metabolism to enter a deep hibernation state similar to that experienced by some types of Terran mammals and other lifeforms. Achieving this state requires both training and practice and it is normally desirable to precede it with a significant period of both fluid and food intake to build up the bodies reserves. Properly trained and prepared, a su can maintain a state of deep hibernation for periods of up to half a standard year without ill effects.

Enhanced Musculature
Superior musculature is constructed somewhat differently from the baseline average, allowing their muscle fibers to work together more readily and with greater efficiency. As such, the average su is around 2-3 times as strong as a nearbaseline of equal size.

Ambidexterity and Flexibility
Su can use their right or left hands with equal skill and have no preference. They will use whichever limb is more readily available. Superior feet and toes are also very limber and can (with some training) be used as additional manipulators for limited tasks comparable to those achieved by some humans who have lost the use of their arms or hands.

Kinesthetic Enhancements
Superiors do not get dizzy or disoriented as a result of rapid changes in direction or spinning motions. A su can quite comfortably be spun on multiple axes simultaneously while catching objects thrown at them from different directions. If they choose to throw the objects back they will likely never miss.

General Bio-optimization
Superior bodies are designed to rapidly adapt to changing environmental conditions. Placing a su in a given environment (high temperature, low temperature, humid, dry, high, low, or microgravity conditions, etc.) for a significant length of time will trigger (generally over a period of some weeks, but in extreme cases some changes can happen in a matter of hours) a series of physiological and biochemical changes that will result in the su being adapted to survive comfortably in the environment they are in. This may result in alteration of the physical features, darkening or lightening of the skin, growth or loss of insulating hair and fat layers, addition or loss of bone and cartilage, and so on. In more extreme cases even changes in hair type (straight to curly for example, or vice-versa), height, body proportion, or even gender may be achieved. This ability also leads to su being able to gain rapid immunity to a wide range of allergens, poisons, and other organic and inorganic toxins. In addition, with some training and practice most su can activate and control their adaptive abilities through conscious effort allowing them to both accelerate the adaptive process and make limited alterations to their appearance fairly quickly. Minor changes such as alterations in eye or skin color may take a few days while more extensive changes to the musculature or bone structure may take weeks to months of effort. A side benefit of this ability is that superiors respond very rapidly and effectively to physiological stressors such as exercise. Even the least active su typically maintains a level of fitness comparable to a baseline medium level amateur decathlete, just from normal day-to-day activities and their other biological modifications. However, if a su begins to engage in a pattern of specific additional exercise and diet, their body will rapidly optimize itself to take maximum advantage of the new conditions. For example A superior who takes up running will rapidly adapt to a level of cardiovascular fitness rivaling that of the best marathoner. If weightlifting and exercising for general fitness, the superior will soon match the best results of a dedicated fitness professional. If a dedicated program more geared to bodybuilding or power lifting is undertaken the same rapid and enhanced results will be seen. If a more 'skilled' sport is undertaken, such as martial arts or gymnastics, the necessary reflexes and speed will all develop, usually at a rate and level at least twice that of the best baseline athlete. In essence a su is a 'natural' at any type of physical activity they choose to undertake. Combined with an increased endorphin response from exercise, most su are dedicated amateurs in at least one or two sports at any given time.

Su vision is extremely acute, matching the best of the near-baseline genemods in terms of acuity, color sense, and night vision (felinoid
vertical pupils are the norm among su). In addition, su have limited perception of both the infrared and ultraviolet parts of the spectrum.

The Superior audio range extends beyond that normally developed in the near-baseline human, but not as far as is found in many animal species. Superiors can hear both higher and lower frequencies then near-baselines as well as being able to establish the direction of a sound with a high degree of accuracy. Virtually all Su have perfect pitch.

Mental Traits

Minimal Sleep
Superior brains perform the various restorative functions normally carried out during sleep much more rapidly than the near-baseline norm. As such they have no need for more then 3-4 hours of sleep out of every 24 under most circumstances. Only after periods of extreme physical activity do su have a need for extended rest. If engaged in mostly mental activities and supplied with sufficient nutrients, a su can also go without sleeping at all for several days at a time. However such a feat will require a very extended sleep period later.

Superior brains are much better at dividing up their resources efficiently and handling multiple inputs or trains of thought simultaneously. A Superior can easily handle up to four separate tasks simultaneously, and as many as six with some effort. For example, a su could easily watch four separate data feeds on four different subjects at the same time and gain full information from all of them. Or (if sufficiently motivated) watch one data feed, listen to another, carry on a simultaneous conversation with a person or people, and write two separate papers (one with each hand) on two different topics. Although if kept up for more then a few hours this requires some amount of rest. As a result of this, superior languages tend to carry much more information than near-baseline communication methods. A 'high' superior language may employ a combination of voice (using the maximum number of voice sounds possible), hand signs, and coded blinking all taking place simultaneously and transmitting either multiple levels of meaning on the same subject or information on three entirely different subjects at the same time.

Enhanced Focus
Along with the ability to divide their attention in multiple directions simultaneously, most Superiors also have some ability to devote their entire attention to a single task above all others. When the need arises, a su can focus their mind on a single task to the exclusion of all else, becoming neither discouraged nor bored regardless of how repetitious or unrewarding the task may be. This ability permits su to avoid boredom on long journeys, work on repetitious tasks for hours or days on end without frustration, and keep their attention focused on a task in the face of numerous and even violent distractions. It should be noted that after some well-publicized problems with this adaptations in the early years of su development, the ability was redesigned so that the need for food, water, and sleep will eventually override any degree of focus that a Superior may be employing. While nearly all Superiors have both enhanced multi-tasking and focusing abilities to one degree or another, different sub-clades have tended to prefer one ability over the other for various reasons, either aesthetic or societal. As such, it is rare for a superior to have both abilities in equal measure.

Memory and Observation
Su possess both a redesigned and more efficient brain structure. Su enjoy both virtually perfect short-term memories and the ability to either 'fix' or erase memories at will. In addition, they observe the world around them with a level of acuity generally ascribed only to such fictional characters as Sherlock Holmes. When a superior chooses to, they may remember something at such a level of 'fidelity' as to virtually re-experience it but with the added ability to speed up, slow down, or 'freeze' the pace of events in the memory so that they may examine it at leisure. This ability makes superiors almost unimpeachable witnesses. An additional side-effect of this ability is that su have a virtually perfect sense of direction, and are able to find their way back to their starting point (or anywhere along the journey) after even the most convoluted trip involving turns, switchbacks, dead-ends and so on.

Pattern Recognition
Superiors have extremely enhanced pattern recognition abilities, allowing them to (for example) pick meaningful information out of even highly complex or 'busy' backgrounds or see the connections between seemingly disparate events (although transapients vastly exceed them in this regard). As a result su are able to detect most camouflaged objects or lifeforms that rely on visual mimicry, can pick out 'hidden' words or pictures from a jumble of letters or images with ease, and see the connections between or consequences of events much more readily then their near-baseline cousins.

All Superiors possess this genemod as a core part of their design. Su can learn virtually any task or information comprehensible to a sub-transapient mind. Their enhanced neural plasticity allows them to gain new knowledge and skills very rapidly, with their brains literally adding to their complexity and structure as new abilities are added. Furthermore they are able to achieve virtually total comprehension in a given field and then both extend that field to more general or unique cases or combine it with other information or skill-sets they may have learned. This gives the average su a level of ability previously only seen in ancient Terran 'idiot savants' although in the case of a Superior their talents can encompass multiple fields simultaneously and result in no loss of mental function in other areas. For this reason, it is common for most su to have at least three, if not more, separate occupations, which they will work to bring together in various harmonious ways (often in a manner not at all obvious to the average baseline or neb).

Phobias, Panic and Shock
Superior mental structures have been redesigned to eliminate such things as excessive fear of heights, darkness, enclosed spaces and so on. While they retain those reflexive reactions necessary to maintain the safety of the body (touch something hot, jerk away, think about it later, etc.), they typically do not succumb to 'panic' or the overwhelming of rational thought by emotional stress. In a disaster or catastrophic situation, Superiors will always 'keep their wits about them'. Superiors do not go into 'shock', either physical or mental, regardless of the degree of stress they may be undergoing.

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Development Notes
Text by Todd Drashner

Initially published on 05 December 2005.