Anyone whose genome departs noticeably from the norm is referred to as a 'specific'. Extreme peculiarities may occur, and specifics are rarely good-looking, but the kinds of mutation which are witnessed don't include extreme wide-ranging impairments, as all adults must be viable breeding stock. Even those with damaged gametes are capable of hit-or-miss conception and attracting partners -otherwise the species would become too much of a hothouse orchid. Preservation of a viable breeding population is paramount. Specifics may have peculiar joints, extra bones, digital modifications, enlarged organs (or extra ones from some lost ancestor, or unseen descendant), alternative respiration methods (gills / filters on lungs for protection or underwater breathing), metabolisms that deal with unusual things (eg seawater) and unusual hair or skin pigmentation (very brief sample list only). Internal changes which are at a non-metabolic level will almost certainly alter body contours or be otherwise visible.
(There is some talk of mutations and teratogenies whose effects are not physically apparent, but officially these do not exist: at least, the public has no knowledge of any, or which, individuals may possess such adaptations. Unless you've come across them at work, or are close with one of these almost mythical cases, you will probably dismiss this as rumour.)
Too many mutations in one foetus will get it destroyed - genes that unstable can't be counted on to replicate reliable in the organism and would throw up really odd offspring, if any survive. Occasionally a combination mutation may look so useful that the individual will be allowed to survive, but none have yet succeeded in passing gamete screening on adulthood. This does of course mean that there is a considerable social premium on looking 'normal': although children are brought up to count this merely as good fortune rather than a mark of superiority, human nature is such that it inevitably takes on a cachet. It means your chances of getting the partner you wish for reproduction is higher.
It is undesirable for people to be made aware that an individual is a specific, as it might affect their reproductive chances. Randomness is a good way to rebuild the genepool, within limits, and that's what attraction is for. No need to let unnecessary revulsion or fears arise when all normal checks wouldn't reveal a cause for concern. Therefore it is considered taboo to inquire what a person's specialization is outside the working environment, even where they are obviously mutated. Speculation is, naturally, pretty rife. It is incredibly rude for someone to pass on such information concerning an individual, when it is gained within a working or medical relationship. Friends who pass on such information are no longer friends. It's a very intimate detail for a specific to reveal.
Nevertheless, word has been known to get around.
Some see the future as lying in the hands of the specifics, others are sure that the clean genetic heritages will win out. Mutation potential is detectable - you'll know if your children will be normally shaped.
Some beneficial mutations might have disadvantages incity, eg. the ability to survive outside the normal human air pressure range. Biotechnology does not let these unfortunates down. Provided that their brain is capable of normal intelligence or better, their bodies can be compensated for by prosthesis.
Fitness / Aerobic capacity
The standard of physical fitness is generally high. People don't want to let the species run to seed and lose competitiveness. There is job-related variation however - keyboard jockeys and in-City workers tend to be less muscular, unless they prefer competitive sports - old ones such as wrestling, boxing, martial arts, football, rugby etc, plus newer variants such as jetball, and fetch. These slightly risky activities provide another outlet for frustration and aggression, and support the notion that the species is maintaining it's competitive edge in the physical arena as well as expanding other capabilities.
For longer breaks, activity holidays are commonplace among those other than the very lowest Merits. Ski-ing and other wintersports, swimming in the warm seas, hillwalking and climbing, trekking through rough country, safari - every Mammonite looks forward to their next break. These leisure pursuits are slightly different from those enjoyed by their forebears, though: rather than venturing into unknown territory, or trekking across uncharted wasteland, they take place on land firmly controlled and managed by specialist component companies. And almost every conceivable chance of bodily harm has been removed: there are no wild animals large enough to threaten humans surviving in the wild in any case, but atmospheres are sterilized, food and drink purified, and every precaution taken against accidents, with light biotech armour protecting every vulnerable joint. Sanitized this form of adventure may be, but no less fun for that, as any sub will tell you.
Healthcare provision to the subunits of Mammon Inc is universal, efficient and highly capable. This is just as well for OUT-workers, because the hazards of the post-Catastrophe working environment, minimized though they are by the conglomerates' efforts, are highly injurious to health, and would greatly shorten life expectancy were it not for the strides made in biotechnology in recent decades. It extends the working lives of the physically impaired (older, accident victims, career-change volunteers), and helps the extreme specifics, who would otherwise have problems incity, away from the environment to which their altered physiology is suited.
The society of the 22nd century will go to considerable lengths to minimize exposure to physical harm, whether systemic or disease-borne, but risk is unavoidable during OUT clean-up operations, as discussed earlier. People perceive illness (infection rather than damage) as very threatening. It's more common among OUT workers, but they almost invariably recover. Sneezing in public is socially unacceptable, as is blowing your nose. It is usual for all signs of illness to be checked (including blood tests) by a qualified medic, in case Saddam's box released any extra terrors before it was comprehensively incinerated. Workers in unclean OUT areas spend a quarantine and clearance period in the city's cleandit, for tests to qualify them to re-enter the domes. Merits within cities are well shielded from further damage. Contamination by malign substances / organisms is a phobia, cleanliness an obsession. Infection is thankfully rare among incity dwellers, or the population would be permanently on the verge of panic. The numbers of health care staff needed for all the compulsory testing ensures a large percentage of incity subs are in health sector companies.
The health obsession and secure environment may inadvertently weaken the immune system of incitiers, but the subs with OUT experience remain hardy, and allowing exposure has been evaluated as too risky.
Prostheses are far in advance of what the 20th century dreamed of. Variable (ie. can alter intensity level and / or switch waveband reception) improved eyesight and hearing is provided to accident victims and volunteers.
Bionic limbs and sensory organs with capabilities superior to the natural are far from uncommon, as are the conditions they remedy. Humans still can't replicate the nose, though: instruments which identify chemical constituents of odours exist, and can be miniaturized, but no-one wants to turn up the volume of his neighbour's stench. It would be genetic suicide to be so sensitive that even uber-clean humanity reeks - you'd have to mutilate yourself to breed.
The ability to interface inorganic material with organic systems is highly advanced, and it is possible to, for example, imbue specialized Gloop as a continuous subcutaneous layer into skin to produce a light yet strong armour. These techniques are of course applied to those who suffer accidents, or those whose work calls for unusual physical precautions, as well as those who were born with imbalances requiring extra precautions incity. This armour slows impacts, yet is 'soft' when it comes to momentum transfer, preventing damage to surrounding tissues.
There are still limitations on prosthesis. Data on skin (tactile capability), smell and taste is too complex to hack into at a large nerve relay - hardware instead connects to sensory receptor relays closer to the perceived stimulus, or Gloop pressure / transmission is used. Our reactions to (/ processing of) these inputs is also far more complicated (ie hard to comprehend or evaluate as data). Materials analysis is more usefully done by small (hand-held, hand(back)-mounted or wrist-mounted) devices which convey data, rather than (pro/e)voke a reaction/memory. Mountings can be temporary or permanent.
The presence of species and genetic prejudice creates some agonising dilemmas in the utilization of biotech. People of working age who have become physically unfit must accept the loss of 'humanity' in order to secure their home and needs, but the blow to self-image is such that many of the elderly will allow organs to cease functioning rather than replace them with non-human parts. Lab-grown parts from human tissues are OK for skin grafts, but too delicate for other purposes. There is no market in donor organs - humans die while salvageable. Accidental deaths only occur in contaminated regions (where the risks are), so bodies are cremated on the spot. The interfacing of electromechanical sensory and control devices to the wearer's / operator's nervous system is a firmly established and secure technology, for vision and sound, not for the other senses. This is why Gloop must be used for tactile virtualities.
The size limit on population means that society needs to keep the active genepool (that of living humans, rather than in stored tissue or data) moving forward, to enable new combinations to be tried. The old, those who have fulfilled their reproductive function, are routinely spared pain, awkwardness of movement and restriction of enjoyment, if desired, but it is not thought desirable to seek to postpone death indefinitely after the capacity to work has been lost.
Many people 'retire' out of life, rather than going into retirement. This semantic difference usually indicates suicide / self-termination. Euthanasia is only allowed when self-administered. Most people enjoy a period of extended leave before they take their chosen exit (natural or unnatural). When a person feels they have lived long enough, euthanasia is readily available, and it is often accompanied by a celebration of the person's life. They may go unobtrusively or choose to throw a party before carrying out self-termination. ('opening the door themselves', as it is known). They're less prissy about death than earlier centuries were, in general, but self-termination is not seen as a 'clinical' choice - the euphemism is a sign of respect for the departed individual. There is an 'internment' ceremony, but bodies are known to be recycled (though not for food, usually fertilizer. There is a strong taboo on mammalian flesh-eating). People don't dwell on this aspect of death.. Some spend a long time planning their farewell event. Inventiveness is actually competitive - you want yours to stand out in people's memories, both because of a desire to be memorable, and to demonstrate your inventive capacity. A mere party is considered a feeble effort, unless the individual is known to scorn fuss or self-aggrandizement.
The loss of the horse, and other sad stories
No mammals larger than the Scottish wildcat survived the two plagues. This suggests that the design of the released forms was unfinished. While it should affect such a variety of species, and why it should leave some members of a genus alone for such an arbitrary reason as size, has been hotly debated. One suggestion is that blood pressure is different in smaller mammals, another that the larger animals require a much more finely tuned balance in order for their bulk to be viable.
Research was concentrated on saving the human species and no-one thought to hire extra vets. Much zoological information was lost and there are sadly no large mammals around to do comparative studies on. However this came about, the result is that without technologically-assisted transport, civilization would be limited by the distances it is possible to cover on foot or boat, and also the loads and times possible under such limitations. This would mean that even the level of commerce and travel possible in Biblical times would be impossible. All human settlements would have to be coastal or riparian even to approach the complexity of Ur.
Ensuring the existence and maintenance of fleets of powered vehicles is therefore of almost paramount importance. This is why the low Earth orbit straight-up-straight-down ballistic shuttle was finally put into general use - it reduced the distances to be travelled to near-identical levels and was relatively efficient in energy terms, as well as avoiding the dangers of variable terrain and pollutants. It means that those whose business is unrelated to the wastelands need never even pass through them.
'Toy' dogs still exist. These, with cats, are extensively used in fringe agricultural regions to prevent incursions by the rats and mice, who now lack a large proportion of their natural predators. These have no way into the cities - sewage outlets etc are redundant features of old cities, with inefficient recycling systems. All city entrances have 1ft high metal sills with low level electric currents to shock small creatures (below kill levels for most). These preserve the safety of zoological gardens, which have arisen within the last 70 years.
Rabbits are kept out by the fences and are, sadly preyed upon by the rats outside the clean areas. Rats can still carry conventional diseases. Small foxes still exist, badgers don't, hedgehogs do, etc. An interesting variety of small Australian marsupials remains, but dingoes are dead.
|'Do you have to watch that thing every night? Can't we go out to the
3V once in a while?'
'Ssh! Geraldina's just about to tell Ramon that she wants to take the OUT job.'
'This modern holo is so daff. Put "Valley People" back on.'
'Horosho! That show is so trill. When we get vr, that's the first one I'll try, that "Valley People" immersive. They say you can feel every drop of rain.'
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