Image from Keith Wigdor and Midjourney Ai

"I am so sorry to bother you Sir, however one of your augmentations appears to be malfunctioning."

I sighed and excused myself from conversation. The majordomo had spoken silently via my implants, but it wasn't polite to focus on inner matters while at a party. I moved to a secluded corner of the gilded hall and replied in the same fashion.

"What exactly is this problem that couldn't wait?"

This wasn't my prefered style of interface. Normally if there was a matter needing conscious attention the relevant facts would be wired into my short term memory. I would simply remember the issue. But the theme of the evening was "primitive decadence", and so in addition to my augmentations I had adjusted my exoself. I was beginning to regret that.

"It concerns the cosmetic genemod applied to your epidermis. Sir, An unforeseen error has occurred compromising your immediate health."

That made me pause. Like many of the guests tonight I had undergone augmentation for the occasion. I sported a second pair of arms. Two slim, synthetic limbs adorned with filigreed platinum. They held aloft a tray of sweat meats and wine for my pleasure. My legs had been atrophied as a symbol to indulgence. In place of their service I rested upon a spider throne of black iron.

Most notably, and pertinently to my current issue, I had undergone somatic genemodding to render my skin a brilliant sapphire. I admit, I appreciated my look. But I couldn't hold a candle to the most committed of guests. The hosts, the Arieli twins, were heavily cyborged. Only their brains remained organic in glistening machine forms of silver, iridium, and porcelain.

"How badly am I affected? Will I need to cast home and change?" It would be quite the faux pas to miss the main event, it would be starting soon.

"Diagnostics suggest diminishing nervous function over the next six thousand seconds. Toxic buildup will progress exponentially after this point." A book appeared hovering in front of me. A visceral hallucination courtesy of the implants in my visual cortex, indirect but still on theme. Ornate drawings of tissue layers, cellular structures, and molecular technology unfurled on the pages.

"The problem," the majordomo continued, "is an enzyme servicing the Rayleigh trees."

My attention was directed to a picture of a tree-like structure growing from a skin pore. Its branches were wafer thin sheets, held flat and close to one another. These little mods gave my skin its dazzling blue colour. Not via pigment, but by nanoscale structures manipulating the scattering of ambient light. There was something wrong with the trees however, they appeared to be drooping.

"Why wasn't this enzyme problem foreseen?" Simulations for my custom mods had ran for hours, grinding the diminishing returns of optimisation until reaching a projection of 99.999% operational performance per year.

"I'm afraid no model can be perfect Sir, and in this case there was a factor the simulations could not take into account." A haze of soot-like particles appeared on the trees. "Your esteemed hosts tweaked the incense burners to release a mood-altering pheromone. It is compliant with the endocrinal dress code, but we were not aware of its exact structure. The pheromone is inhibiting an antitoxin enzyme vital for Rayleigh tree metabolic function. Waste products are accumulating in your epidermis. However, I am happy to report a corrective is available."

The hall had hushed by this point. I could see the twins taking up positions in the center of a crowd. "Make it quick, what's the treatment?" I asked.

"There is a suitable medicyte template in the archive. It is simple to manufacture and specialised for subcellular toxin clearance." The next page showed a small, pale, pyramid. Various dark filaments trailed from its vertices, clinging to a biont cell several times its size. "It will take two thousand seconds to breed the relevant culture. Once deployed optimal physiological performance is expected. A patch mod can be applied at a later date as a permanent solution, should you wish to retain the augmentation."

I thought there was slim chance of that. "Any downsides?" I asked impatiently.

"I'm afraid some minor symptoms are expected. Rapid synthesis is likely to cause hyperthermia, nausea, and skin irritation. The symptoms are short lived, but neural overrides stand ready should they prove inconvenient."

The twins had turned to face each other. "Get it done!" I snapped and dismissed the book with a wave of my hands. I directed my throne to carry me closer to the crowd. The Arieli twins' clade had a curious childhood ritual. All newborns are forked to produce a truly identical twin. The pair are raised together, but encouraged to develop individually. At their age of majority the twins are expected to merge, or declare individuality. Those that combine are said to be "reuniting so as to bring two unique perspectives into adulthood".

As a hot flush hit me the pair executed a rapid dance. Twin mechanical bodies whirled around each other, their appendages splitting along invisible seams. After a minute my eyes could not discern two distinct bodies in the maelstrom. With a boom all motion stopped. There was a final click, as two skull-cases folded together, completing the neural mesh. One sophont stood before us. I cheered, not least to take my mind off of the nausea.

Accounts from Modders, circa 4089at.

Augmentation is the biological, synthetic, or virtual engineering of a sophont for the purposes of aesthetics and/or enhancement of natural abilities. Augmentation technologies have existed for thousands of years, and are a staple of terragen life.

Augmentation may be done for aesthetic purposes, personal-betterment, peer pressure, memetic persuasion, or as a means to an end for a hobby, project, or vocation. For example, non-Empledok-cetic sophonts require heavy augmentation in order to operate Empledok-cetic ultratech.

Augmentation can be as simple as installing an exoself module, or drinking a broth of pre-programmed medicytes. In both of these cases the augmentee is typically free to go about their life normally as the augmentations install themselves. By contrast gross morphological changes can require hours, or even days, of surgery by autodoc. Consequently, while terragens across the sphere regularly use such services the frequency of any given augmentation is proportional to its simplicity.

While there are millions of specific augmentations documented in the terragen sphere, they can be grouped into loose categories.

  • Biological augmentation includes tissue, gland or organ grafting, xenotransplantation, gengineering, and phenotypic sculpting.
  • Synthetic augmentation involves the fusion of cybernetic implants, prosthetics, and technocyte cultures with a host's body.
  • Virtual augmentation consists of modifications to one's mind via the exoself, such as the installation of auxiliary neural networks, memory archives, and votic helpers.
Image from Bernd Helfert

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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev, Ryan_B
Initially published on .

Initially published in 2001. Snapshot added 2021