In the unforgiving environments away from Earth, there is a heightened need for medical aid in those cases when unfortunate events happen to people. These environments add unusual elements that need to be considered, as does what Handwavium allows to be created.
Healthcare in Fenspace
For all that can happen in space, sometimes you need to get fixed up. Given the resource levels in Fenspace medical treatment can be an expensive proposition.
Or it would be, had the Fen not done something about it.
Faction membership, for all the seeming downsides to the individualist, comes with automatic health insurance. The Convention subsidises healthcare quite healthily, with faction dues including a small premium. All necessary (note the emphasis) medical procedures are apparently free. What really happens is that the doctor or institution doing the work takes your details and submits a bill to the associated faction, with additional subsidies allowing them to treat the non-aligned without impoverishing them to pay the medical bills.
All elective medical treatment is charged directly to the individual involved. (Although a very few factions with plentiful resources (such as the Trekkies and StellviaCorp) or a deep respect for their fellow faction members (such as the VVS) subsidize elective health-care as well, either partially or completely.) There are also pharmacies in the major enclaves which stock common drugs and small medical items like first-aid kits. While many home-grown alternatives exist, the majority of stock in pharmacies involves imported items like aspirin, vitamins, and self-adhesive plasters.
Due to the environment and typical diet the Fen have, they are subject to certain common problems and diseases. The primary ailments the Fen suffer from are:
- Communicable diseases, normally colds and flus, due to improper air filtration in the closed environments of space.
- Respiratory Problems, like coughs, sneezing, and sore throats, again due to improper air filtration and sometimes lack of air movement.
- Malnutrition, primarily vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the selection of foods available and barely handled by supplements, to lack of suitable protein (fresh meat being expensive), through to diabetes and cardiovascular disease due to junk food.
With the propensity of Handwavium to try and prevent damage to life (The Slapstick Effect as it is commonly known), there is a large amount of technology available in the medical arena.
Rapid diagnosis of what is wrong is crucial to preventing what could be minor ailments from worsening. From the ever popular Tricorder (especially its medical variant), to examination beds filled with miniaturised MRI and X-Ray machines, to labs filled with blood analysis machines, to mundane items like thermometers and blood pressure cuffs... All the variants of diagnostic sensors are available. Supplementing this is analysis software allowing the somewhat rough-and-ready medical personnel of Fenspace to quickly figure out what needs to be done.
Once you know what is wrong, you can fix it. Hyposprays use compressed air inject drugs without needles and for long term uses automated drug dispensers can be worn, allowing patients to get up and about. Slap Patches let the medicines be absorbed through the skin, while Automed Bands (as used by Great Justice combat personnel) can deliver timed doses of a variety of drugs, or respond to events it senses.
For physical wounds we have Bandage Spray and Foam which dries quickly to seal and stop bleeding. It is also usually impregnated with the drug Quickheal. There are various dispensers for these 'liquid' bandages, including some that 'paint' strips that can be used to wrap body parts.
When surgery is required, the use of robotics is the norm. Using Augmented Reality systems tied into sensors the surgeon can see precisely what they need to do. The systems even allow remote control of systems like medically adapted Bush Robots and the portable Automed Pods which can handle many things on their own.
The technology most seen in this category are the medically-adapted Bush Robots mentioned before, used as nursing support. Things not usually seen are the integrated sterilisers on the robotic instruments, drug synthesisers, and the adaptive expert systems managing the facilities. One major advantage in this area is the use of the Emergency Medical Hologram. This is a Gamma-class A.I. specifically programmed for medical duties. They are mostly used to provide emergency medical cover (as per the name) or round the clock priority care, and their extensive medical databases help with tricky diagnoses. They normally use the Bush Robots if they need to interact with physical objects.
Drugs are not normally thought of as technology, but they need to be created just like the rest of the items in this section. Given the sheer variety of pharmaceuticals available, only the most common will be covered below:
- Buzkil - This is the most common name for an anti-intoxicant drug normally used to counter alcohol and its attendant effects (including hangovers).
- Rad-X - This preventative drug helps deal with exposure to radiation.
- Gravnol - This drug prevents bone deterioration due to lack of gravity. It also has anti-nausea properties.
- Quickheal - This is actually a combination of 10 very similar drugs that promote healing and the immune system. The cocktail has some limits on its use, mainly because it can cause Biomods if taken in very high doses. The individual components are also used separately to greater effect in their focus than general Quickheal.
- Bugstomper - This is an extremely effective anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It also can be taken preventatively.
- Painaway - As indicated by its name, this drug suppresses pain for up to 8 hours without causing loss of feeling. Overuse can however can cause loss of feeling.
- Purge - The newest of the drugs on this list, Purge forces the body to get rid of foreign substances. This affects useful drugs as well as things like poisons. It is also the only drug known that can reduce Handwavium contamination, even if only by small amounts. The main problem of this drug is the risk of dehydration as it works.
Red Band Drugs. This boosts the effects of the drug, but has enough Handwavium content to Biomod a person. Thus Red Band drugs are normally only used by those who are already biomodded.
Even with the treatments available to the Fen, occasionally injuries can't be healed and a person loses an organ or limb. This being the Fen, a simple mundane prosthetic isn't good enough. Although it is used in those cases where a replacement limb is required, most cybertechnology (known as Cyberware) was developed for enhancements.
Because of its origins as an enhancement technology, cybertechnology is commonly assigned grades as to its quality and/or the quality needed for it to do its designed role. More mature cybernetics exist in multiple grades, as they become more manufacturable.
- Kludgeware (or Class 0) - Pretty much what it sounds like, cybernetics put together out of scrap and 'Wave and more likely to biomod you than not. It's poor reputation means the owner doesn't get much sympathy, unless the operation was a lifesaver in poor conditions in which case the owner gets a rep boost because it means one of the BNF cyber-surgeons probably did it.
- Basicware (or Class 1) - Cyberware of this grade is pretty much the standard for civilian medical treatment. It does the job well enough that most that get it are happy. Due to the fact Basicware is also produced in the 'Danelaw, it is virtually Handwavium free, and as such there is virtually no chance of an accidental biomod from Basicware.
- Alphaware (or Class 2) - Higher quality cyberware, built with better tolerances. This means the devices can be enhanced somewhat, leading to it being standard for military medical treatment.
- Betaware (or Class 3) - The cyberware equivalent of a luxury car, built with very high quality parts and materials. They need to be ordered, allowing the customer to customise the items to various degrees. The surgeons basically construct the device during surgery to better fit the customer. One of the downsides of being known as having Betaware is the assumption you are someone dangerous, as most Betaware users tend to be in the 'Security' business. This could get you into trouble.
- Deltawear (or Class 4) - Cyberware of this grade is utterly bespoke. It is custom made to the user's specifications, and woven into the subject's body to make it as much a part of it as the rest of him. The technologies involved are always cutting-edge, and use the highest quality materials. Deltaware grade cyberware almost always requires a top cyber-surgeon (usually a BNF) and/or a lot of resources to afford the cyberware.
- Edgeware (or Class 5) - If Deltaware is cyberware's equivalent of Supercars, Edgeware is the secret military project that goes past the bleeding edge (hence its name). And good luck finding it, as those who have it tend to be a bit paranoid about revealing it.
There is also Oopsware, which is a term used to describe the enhancements of accidental cyborgs.
Based on the amount of cyberware in an individual, there are four classification levels used:
- Medical - This classification is for those who have received cybernetics for medical reasons. Medical cybernetics do not normally (see the entry on Alphaware above) enhance the individual who receives them. The cybernetics used are considered prosthetics.
- Partial - Technically, any cybernetic implantation makes one a partial cyborg. In general, any cybernetic enhancement replacing between 5 and 30% of the body (or not more than one limb) makes one a partial cyborg.
- Active - An active cyborg has between 30 and 50% of the body replaced.
- Full - A full cyborg has between 50 and 75% of the body replaced, not including the central nervous system and brain.
- Total - A total cyborg has greater than 75% of the body replaced with cybernetics, or otherwise classifies as a Full cyborg with significant nervous system and/or brain work done.
Under the heading of biotechnology, there are two sub-categories, Genetic Engineering and Tissue Engineering.
Genetic Engineering is an infant science in the medical arena. While its use on insects and non-sapient animals has been done, its use in Humans is one of the few areas the Fenspace Convention regulates strongly. As such, there are no available treatments in Fenspace. This doesn't mean the Mads aren't working on it.
The newest technology in the medical spectrum, Tissue Engineering is mostly involved in the artificial growth of compatible (mostly cloned) organs to replace missing or damaged versions. Cloned replacement parts are more commonly being the name Cultureware.
Cyberware vs. Cultureware
You may ask yourself, why get cybered up if they can grow you a new arm? Two factors explain the majority of this. The first is that ever present bane of our lives, time. Even with the fastest fast-growth techniques, getting a typical clone grown to adulthood takes about two weeks. Then you have to get used to the implant, which can take upwards of a month depending on various factors. For implanted limbs there is also conditioning the new limb and reconditioning your body after all the time out. With cyberware, all it takes is the operation and healing, and you're technically ready to go. Second is cost. Simply put, a body is biomass. It needs input to grow, and effort to maintain. A clone is a significant investment in time and effort, and then it's used to patch someone together again. While a large portion of the cost is offset by 'recycling' the remainder back to useful materials, it's still roughly three times the average cost of good quality cyberware. As such cyberware is the preferred option for emergency departments and military doctors.
However, cyberware normally needs regular maintenance and with the cost of repairs/upgrades over its lifetime cyberware can add up to an expensive proposition, compared with cloned organs/limbs which self repair. Still, there are a few people and biomods that cannot take cybernetic replacements and there are those who do not want cyberware. As such cultureware fills a need.
Nanotechnology has not officially been developed in Fenspace, although there are several groups researching it. As such, there is no medical nanotech in Fenspace.
Main article: Biomodification
By the strictest definition, Biomodification should be listed under Biotechnology. However, the most common involves the use of Handwavium to induce a mutagenic change in a person. The one fact that makes this a medical technique is that (given no existing biomod) it will always save the life of the modeé. While in general this can only happen once per person, there have been developed two methods of getting around that limit.
- Bio-molding - Based on techniques used by the Catgirling Machine, this is the application of a specific template to a person to achieve a predictable effect. There are however several downsides, including limits on how often the process can be used on an individual and the sheer amount of handwavium the person has in their body.
- Re-modding - An experimental technique with a high degree of risk, re-modding actually restarts the biomodding process in a person and attempts to change the existent biomod. Needless to say, this is only used as an emergency technique in medical use.
There is a significant minority who want to be biomodded, because they feel that they are not who they are supposed to be. Several factions have developed fairly reliable handwavium strains and processes so the modeé fits into the faction better. Beyond this, there are several handwavium researchers and Mads that have reputations for biomodding to order.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lack of Neural interfaces
There are plenty of 'Waveborgs out there with built in radios attached to their brains, so why hasn't a neural interface been introduced? The main reason is that current techniques in brain surgery are still too coarse in general to do it without too much other damage to the brain. This hasn't stopped research into this technology.
However, there is one time such surgery is done. For a Total Cyborg Conversion.
When a cyborg reaches the 80% mark (the value is a rough estimate, based on the nature of the cyborg's current enhancements and the skill of the surgeons who have worked on them), the remaining meat becomes crucial to keeping the brain stable (through various hormones and such). While it's possible to replace said meat with tech to maintain the balance, it's tricky and the tech is delicate. The alternate option is to start manipulating the brain to reduce the dependence on said hormones for stability, and if one was going to do that why not go all the way?
Total Cyborgs are not as rare as one might think. Most are either 'Waveborgs (born via biomod), or single successes (nicknamed Lone Stars) from various cyber-docs or techs who rarely get a second. However, there are very few places in Fenspace that can consistently do total cyborgs, and if they aren't one of the above types the conversions could only have been done in one of eight places. These are the Delta clinics.
Of the Delta clinics, only six remain in operation. One belonged to the Lin Kuei, and was taken out towards the end of the Boskone War. The other belonged to Greg Sanders, and he was 'put down' by A.C. herself when he went over the edge. The remainder of his team either died in Greg's madness or ended up in Azkaban.
The remaining six (and their lead surgeon) are:
- Kandor City Hospital
- Location: Kandor City, Luna
- Head Surgeon: Dr Michael Groves a.k.a Metal Mickey
- The most well-funded Delta clinic in Fenspace, and certainly in the top three for numbers of procedures done.
- Ares Medical
- Location: Noctis Labyrinthus, Mars
- Head Surgeon: Dr Tsu Ann Spengler
- Being in the heart of the Panzer Kunst Gruppe, Ares Medical probably does the lion's share of conversions in Fenspace.
- Location: Novyi Petrovichi, Vesta, The Main Belt
- Head Surgeon: Professor David Starr
- With the help of their sister institute, VIR has established a reputation of good methodical work and helping 'Waveborgs understand themselves.
- Phobos Medical Centre
- Location: Port Phobos, Phobos, Mars
- Head Surgeon: Dr Sarah Connor
- With it dealing with the largest port in Fenspace, the Phobos Medical Center has some quite skilled if overworked cyber-surgeons to be found in the Black. This doesn't stop Dr Connor from trying her best to get more customers to Phobos.
- Location: The Main Belt
- Head Surgeon: A.C. Peters
- As one of the founding lights of modern cybernetics, A.C. is regarded as one of the best when it comes to creating, implanting, or analysing cybernetics.
- Location: Wherever The Professor wants.
- Head Surgeon: The Professor
- Being the definitive Mad in Fenspace, The Professor has the facilities to perform total cyborg conversions and is known to have done so at least three times.
- For those who don't get the Vitamin Man stopping by.
- Since a small but noticeable fraction of Fen (including 0.5% of unmodded human males and a large percentage of Furries) are red-green colour-blind, these drugs are also labeled with other warning symbols.
- The enhancements are hard disabled by default in case of treating civilians in warzones
- Or that you had enough money to buy it and get a BNF Cyber-Doc to put it in
- There's euphemism if ever there was one.
- Depending on the grade, who made it, and/or who installed it, this may be much reduced.
- There is only a mention of '...a quick response team...' pulling this off, so nobody knows who did it.
- Being a Mad helps a lot as well.