Denathi Adepts

denathi adepts
Image from Steve Bowers

The Denathi were a Superior Clade of some renown (or infamy depending on one's position). They saw themselves as the transhuman descendants of Old Earth mystics and believed that they could, through rigorous discipline, unlock the legendary powers of the mind. The Denathi arguably achieved this goal — but not in the manner which their ancestors intended.


The clade began as an early Hider culture. During the early era of interstellar expansion the Adepts' predecessors established a colony on Denath, which had the characteristics they sought: it was an undesirable world in a resource-poor system, bypassed by the first wave of Terragen colonists. There, they intended to develop their mystic practices in relative isolation. The early Denathi studies focused on philosophy, but there were fringe groups who sought to prove the ancient claims of parapsychology. After more than a century of fruitless research these self-proclaimed Adepts adopted a belief that primitive mysticism on so-called "psionic powers" were prophecies of what mindkind is to become. Historical data is sparse but it is currently believed that these beliefs became wide spread so quickly due to the extensive use of neural implants to induce transcendental states whilst considering old texts on mystic powers. Consequently the Adepts began a project to create a clade that fulfilled the ancient promises of a psychic mind. Some early successes with nanotechnology led to intensive studies of utility fog. Combining that technology with implants and genemods led eventually to their basic clade template. Shortly after their "mental" powers first became well developed the Denathi were discovered by the rest of the galaxy. News of the burgeoning promise of the Taurus Nexus (combined, no doubt, with the death of the paranoid old guard) was enough to persuade the Adepts to join the Civilized Galaxy as part of the First Federation.

By 5,200 AT. Denath had become part of the Communion of Worlds, and had established colonies in several other systems (independently or in partnership with other species). Despite this surprising longevity for the niche clade the Adept culture did not last much longer than this.

Appearance and Capabilities

The Denathi clade template used the standard human body plan. As their principal aim was to create a Homo sapiens template with the prophesied abilities they did not deviate from this significantly Their height ranged from 1.6-1.85 meters with a mass range of 45-80 kilograms (females tended to be slightly shorter than males). All Denathi had a slim muscular build; the heaviest were invariably also the tallest. Their eyes were violet or dark blue, though both shades could be so dark as to appear black. Hair color was black or dark blue. Denathi hair was never more than shoulder length, and males lacked facial hair — this was originally a cultural feature but later modifications to the primary template made it innate. Denathi had dark blue skin, shading to medium blue on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, with light blue skin lining the mucus membranes inside the mouth, nose, etc. Even the tongue was dark blue.

The clade featured superbright intelligence with neural enhancements to enhance both the speed and depth of thought processes (increased nerve conduction velocity, improved memory and heightened intuition). The corpus callosum — the nerve bundle that connects the right and left hemispheres of the humanoid brain — was larger in Denathi than it is in baselines. This facilitated greater coordination between the varied faculties of the mind. Denathi could, with practice, control the signal flow through the corpus callosum. This trait was designed to allow for conscious control over the degree to which they could experience emotions while processing other experiences. Denathi would routinely shift from being coldly logical to superbly intuitive as needed. This had the additional bonus of affording a degree of resistance to some forms of memetic attack. The final clade template version conferred a lifespan of about 500 years without medical intervention.

The most unique feature of Denathi biology was the "shambhan", an organic factory that was the key to the "psionic" powers of the Adepts. The shambhan produced bionanotechnological utility fog that remained under the producer's conscious control after being secreted from pores on the skin. An Adept could direct her utility fog to perform a variety of tasks such as sensory analysis. Often this manifested as a hazy cowl that extended from the neck and acted as a multi sensor array. Sub-assemblies could be directed to act in a semi-autonomous manner to perform remote sensing. In the Denethi culture this was used to supplement empathic abilities by using sampler units to analyze a subject's vital signs and bodily secretions (this worked quite well with nearbaselines but was of limited use with tweaksm, vecs or nonterragen bionts and none whatsoever with virtual or AI entities). Those same samplers could react to the presence of magnetic fields of the frequencies and intensities that indicate the presence of a living nervous system, thereby simulating a hypothetical telepath's ability to sense minds. Remote clusters could form a long-baseline interferometric array in order to gather sensory data at a distance from the controller — fulfilling the Adept desire for clairvoyance and/or clairaudience. Two or more Denathi who were within range (about 100 meters) could transmit secure messages or sensory data to each other by passing low-power UV laser signals along molecule-thin lines of foglets. The Denathi developed a number of coding schemes for these signals; each family has one or more propriety codes, and it's common for corporations, religious groups and even circles of friends to develop their own. More traditional means of transmitting mental data (such as via neural implants operating standard communications software) were eschewed for not being "authentic".

The most well developed ability of the Denathi was channeling their utility fog into doing physical work. This "telekenetic" ability operated via a sparse effector swarm. The typical strength of a Denethi effector was low compared to technological versions of the same technology, due to the limitations of fog mass and energy[/b]. Lifting small objects was easy as was short periods of "levitation". Individual Denathi may have developed other techniques than those mentioned here. The only subconscious function of the utility fog was a blue goo defence against hostile nanotech agents. All other applications required training.

The Denethi believed that the abilities granted by the the shambhanic organs had to be earned through hard work. Consequently this pervasive meme in their culture led to a deliberately unoptimised user interface. Operation of one's fog required highly specific and fragile mental states to be maintained. Denathi were required to learn, through repetitive practice with limited educational technology, to control it. Just learning to activate foglet production requires months of meditative practice. The most advanced functions only become possible after decades of study. Consequently, only the most dedicated Adepts were capable of feats that duplicate psychokinesis. The shambhan was also a very energy-intensive structure; even with enhancements to metabolic efficiency the Denathi template required consumption of a great deal of carbohydrate- and nutrient-rich food. The foglets and nanites of the shambhan themselves fed by metabolizing secretions on the producer's skin or on airborne microbes and organic hydrocarbons. An Adept could synthesise, store and maintain a utility fog with mass 1% to her own body.

The Denathi were very jealous of their powers, despite the fact the rest of the Terragen Sphere could replicate them with far less hassle. This belief that others would covet their abilities was so strongly ingrained in their society (whether by neuroengineering means is unclear) that they engineered themselves with a self-destruct function to prevent samples of the shambhan from falling into "unworthy hands". Any Denathi could cause the organs to disintegrate at will, and did so with little provocation if they anticipate capture (new shambhans would be grown and grafted only in their exclusive habitats). If an individual died their shambhan would initiate spontaneous combustion within five minutes of the cessation of life functions. The fact that Denathi self-cremated when they die made resuscitation problematical at best. Without backup or very prompt medical attention death was permanent. The culture remains one of the most notable early terragen cultures to heavily incorporate primitive mystic rituals into their technology.


Perhaps because of their consistently small population and the intensive training required for their unique abilities, the Denathi had a relatively enduring and unified culture. The Denathi dialect was a synthetic language that derived from no single Old Earth language. The Adepts lived in what they saw as traditional family groups consisting of two husbands, two wives and their children. Household's preferred to live in close proximity to their extended family members. Family relationships, especially with siblings, were very important.

For much of their history aesthetic taste was static (evidence suggests the pervasive belief system contained effective memetic engineering on this front). They preferred loose clothing in dark colors. Robes and hooded cloaks are common. Both sexes displayed very little skin; usually only the face and hands were exposed in public. This seeming prudishness was a visible manifestation of the Adepts' regard for privacy. When among those whom they're close to, Denathi would go nude or nearly so. Denathi garments featured wide sleeves with pockets in them; small items were carried there or worn on a belt. Wedding bands (silver bracelets worn by both sexes on the left wrist) were the only common jewelery worn against the skin. Denathi never wore elaborate hairstyles, tending to cover their hair with ornate headgear (complex embroidery trimming a hood or hat, for example). They never wore weapons openly unless they are traveling in a region where it's the custom to do so. Many Denathi adorned themselves with body art in complex abstract designs. White, silver and electric blue were common colors initially this later shifted to favour yellow, purple or pink (the symbolic meaning of these colours was a cultural secret and due to their isolated nature no historical record accounting for the meanings has been found). Body art was a very personal expression reserved for family and close friends and so was rarely worn on the face. For this reason Denathi referred to knowing someone well as "knowing eir colors" and sexual relationships as "sharing paint."

The Denathi regard their "psionic" powers as a sacred trust. Mental, emotional and, to a lesser degree, physical discipline were the cornerstones of their society. They vehemently opposed sophisticated neural implants, tachydidactic methods and psychoengineering. They saw the inefficient challenge of learning by rote as a necessary requirement of their personal development, though many were quick to point out at the time that their superior mentalities appeared to contradict this belief. As Denathi could only develop their shambhanic abilities through years of rigorous training they often opined that less disciplined cultures would only abuse power. "Power will be abused unless it is earned through hard work and dedication" was a common mantra. Falsehood was a taboo in Denathi culture, it was commonly believed that one should be silent if one cannot speak the truth. This taboo was so severe that Adepts who show signs of dishonesty — and it was hard to hide such a trait from judges who could read one's emotions — were punished harshly. Those who didn't respond to re-education had their shambhan ritually existed.

Denathi were not widespread during their culture and clade's heyday. At first this was due to their closed-off nature leading to tight immigration and information control on their habitats and a tendency for individual Adepts to not travel. As the original polities began to interact with a greater number of terragen cultures, particularly with the rise of the Lightways and later the Nexus, more and more Adepts dropped the clade in favour of other morphologies and cultures. In a relatively short period their conserved culture began to dwindle in numbers, fragment, and ultimately dissolved.
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Development Notes
Text by Michael Walton
Initially published on 10 October 2005.