ENTRY 053: Oxygen Emancipation
Elemental oxygen remains one of the more critical resources for transhuman life, at least for biomorphs. It forms a component for the vast majority of metabolisms and ecosystems, and supplies of oxygen and liquid water still largely determine the ability of a habitat to sustain any number of biomorphs for any length of time. Even in habitats populated entirely by synthmorphs and infomorphs, water is still necessary for many industrial processes. While not exactly scarce, this does impose in at least some minds an onerous burden for long-distance space travel and exploration, and at least in some rather stricken colonies a mandatory “oxygen tax” designed to raise funds necessary for essential maintenance. It was seeking to overcome this biological barrier and its attendant difficulties that researchers have sought alternative metabolic strategies in the so-called Oxygen Emancipation Movement.
Most OEM technologies began by focusing on cellular respiration and examining anaerobic organisms, which are mainly bacteria and simpler lifeforms, and attempting to replicate and scale up the action, but quickly ran into problems. The few actual anaerobic biomorphs were little more than small gelatinous jellyfish-like creatures powered by bacterial stacks, unable to support a human brain, with limited mobility and an alarming tendency to explode or melt if their complex internal chemistry went out of balance. More recent efforts at Oxygen Emancipation tech has focused more on temporary anaerobic modes for human-like biomorphs, utilizing biological tricks and technological implants to maximize oxygen storage and efficiency, and have been far more successful.
Using Oxygen Emancipation
In every era of human history, despite any proof to the contrary or logic, there will always be individuals that pursue goals that seem completely impossible. Of course, in many cases these goals turned out to be possible, if not practical—nuclear transmutation of elements achieved one of the supreme goals of alchemy, albeit in a fashion that no alchemist ever dreamed was possible. So it is, largely, with Oxygen Emancipation, at least at the moment—all grandiose claims and visions, with as yet little proof that it will yield anything worthwhile. Yet it is a golden dream that entices many transhumans, and there are an unscrupulous few who continue to sell it, even as there are many well-meaning and diligent researchers actually plugging away at the inherent problems.
- A seeming breakthrough in OEM-tech has the Mesh aflutter, with a small hypercorp ready to offer “conversions” of oxygen-reliant biomorphs to oxygen emancipated morphs. OE Watchdog groups are highly suspicious, and hire the player characters to infiltrate and investigate what is really going on before the market opens and someone gets hurt. The results are grim—the “conversion” involves modifications to block oxygen intake in the lungs and remove autonomic breathing processes while nanites deliver elemental oxygen to the cells for respiration—which gives the appearance of being free from breathing, but really just makes the subjects reliant on buying oxygenated nanites from the hypercorp or else they die.
- Early OEMorphs released “into the wild” in Europa’s seas have amazingly survived and bred; researchers hire the player characters to go down and document the new generation, tag them to trace their movements, and take samples to see how they are adapting.