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Old 04-11-2024, 12:21 AM   #1
Johnny1A.2
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE Sidebar: The Thrith Process...

The process of cloning is natural, or can be. Identical twins (or triplets, etc.) are examples of natural clones. Clones occur naturally in some other contexts as well. Artificial cloning is also possible, but most of the time, a clone produces simply a genetically more-or-less identical version of the source cells, and the clone must gestate normally and takes the usual amount of time to reach maturity. In lurid fiction, clones have the knowledge of their cell donor, can be mass produced quickly, and other improbable traits, but normally this is not reality.

The Humans of the planet Thakaria, however, found a way to make pretty much exactly that happen.

The time, on Earth, was roughly 1200 A.D. Roughly, because time rates and simultaneous occurrences are fuzzy concepts across interstellar distances, but close enough. Thakaria, in those days, was divided between a handful of states, the ancestral polities to the great Clans that would rise later. Technologically, in terms of physics and astronautics they were not much more advanced than Earth in 2024. In biosciences, though, they were substantially more advanced.

Knowledge is a tool, and can be used for good or evil, wisely or foolishly. The Thakarians of that age did all of the above.

The 'Thrith' process, to use the Thakarian word for the technology, was an outgrowth of the artificial wombs that the Thakarians had already developed. The Thakarians discovered ways to restore an appropriate Human cell to an embryonic state, and then to accelerate the division process so that an adult, fully functional close could be grown from that cell in less than one Terran year.

That alone was useless, though, except as a source of donor organs, because a clone grown that way lacked the experiences and influences that would enable them to become sapient. They were 'vegetables' in the common parlance. For a time, they were indeed used as donors for organs.

The other half of the Thrith process came when the Thakarians discovered ways to connect a living, thinking Human brain and central nervous system to the growing clone, and to more or less induce the new body to copy the original, even transferring knowledge and experience to the clone. The process involved by telepathic skills and physical connections from brain to brain, and it was invasive and difficult and expensive. In the course of perfecting the Thrith process, experimentation was necessary, and some of the results and side-effects of these efforts were genuinely horrific. In time, though, the process was more or less perfected.

The difficulty and expense of the process was real, but the results were tempting beyond tempting. It was possible to take a person with useful skills and abilities, and produce multiple copies of him or her, ready to function and contribute, in little more than a Terran year. In the wars that were raging at the time, the process was used to multiply the size of armies. Economically, the Thakarians made up for a shortfall of population using it. The process could also be used as a form of interrogation, if the subject did not know how to resist the copying process.

It did not prove possible to 'record' skills and personality. It was necessary to link the original directly to the clone(s), and allow the ongoing processes of the donor brain to shape the growth and contents of the clone brains. The donor would be in a coma, more or less, while this went on, floating in a sensory deprivation tank, kept alive by nutrient feeds and waste removal links.

The problems did not become obvious until some years later.

In theory, the clones should have been almost indentical to their donors, in practice, for reasons the Thakarian biotechnicians never did fully understand, as time passed the clones began to deteriorate. Usually, it began with various forms of mental illness, mild at first, but progressive. Then would come the physical deterioration.

At first it would be bad health, a tendency toward various types of cancer, cellular degeneration of various sorts. In some ways the effects resembled the condition known as progeria, in others it was more like muscular dystrophy or Parkinson's Disease. Both the mental and the physical deterioration began gradually (usually, there were exceptions) and slowly accelerated. In the vast majority of cases, death came within ten to twenty years of 'birth', and the final stages were not pleasant.

It was discovered that using a Thrith clone as a templatre was an especially bad idea, the deterioration of the third-order clones would come much sooner and proceed much more swiftly, especially the mental deterioration. Using a third-order clone as a template almost never worked at all, the resulting clones would be non-viable before decanting, and the 'why' was a mystery.

Thrith clones could sire or bear children normally (as long as they did so before the physical deterioration made it impossible), and generally their offspring were normal, with normal spans and normal health.

MORE LATER.
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Old 04-11-2024, 01:55 PM   #2
johndallman
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Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE Sidebar: The Thrith Process...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny1A.2 View Post
At first it would be bad health, a tendency toward various types of cancer, cellular degeneration of various sorts.
Nothing surprising about that in a force-grown clone. It working this well is quite impressive.

The mental copying is not described clearly in a few vital areas. Can you copy a mind into more than one clone at the same time? Do copied minds lose quality if they're copied from a copy?
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Old 04-11-2024, 03:47 PM   #3
Johnny1A.2
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE Sidebar: The Thrith Process...

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Nothing surprising about that in a force-grown clone. It working this well is quite impressive.
Yes. They thought they had it perfectly solved, and they did have a miraculously effective result, it lasted just long enough to let them fool themselves.

Quote:

The mental copying is not described clearly in a few vital areas. Can you copy a mind into more than one clone at the same time?
Yes, and they did it. A lot. That was part of the appeal of the technique, you could take one highly skilled soldier or scientist or whatever, and make dozens of him or her, and do so quickly. The process did take the original template out of circulation for a year, but the payback was enormous.

Exactly how many you could copy from one template at a time varied with how much equipment and resources you were prepared to invest, but it could go as high as one hundred in some cases. That was super-expensive and they usually did somewhat smaller numbers, but it could still easily be thirty or forty at a time.

The mental copy process was never absolutely perfect. There would be always be some data missing, some skills degraded or just off. But if done right, with the cooperation of the original, it got very close, at first.

Quote:


Do copied minds lose quality if they're copied from a copy?
Yes. Absolutely yes, though the effect is not immediately obvious for the third-order clones. The differences will show up very quickly, though.'

And of course, as mentioned, fourth-order clones were not usually even a thing, it didn't usually work.
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Old 04-11-2024, 09:17 PM   #4
Johnny1A.2
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE Sidebar: The Thrith Process...

LATER.

The actual process involves an artificial womb tank, or more than one, connected to an elaborate network of telepathically-conductive filaments, along with more conventional electronic connections and tubes carrying various hormones and other chemical signals, as well. The sheer volume of information necessary for the process to work successfully is staggering, the necessary bandwidth, even for that part of the data flow that can be handled 'conventionally', is titanic, and some of the information to be transferred has to be done telepathically.

The brain, central nervous system, peripherical nervous system, endocrine system, digestive system, and others have to develop in accordance both with the genetic instructions from the original template cells, and in parallel with the similar ongoing processes in the source template.

It should be noted that the associated systems are just as critical as the central nervous system proper. Just for one example, the digestive track of a humanoid is heavy innervated, and considerable feedback goes on between the nervous system and the digestive system, influencing both. Contrary to a common fictional misconception, the humanoid brain is not a 'plug in unit'.

(The phrase 'gut instinct' is more than just a saying.)

Likewise, the endocrine system is a vitally important element of thought and personality. Slight changes in hormone balances can have major effects on the mind. The exact behavior of the endrocrine system in the adult is shaped by its formation in childhood and pre-birth, and this is the more so in the force-grown clones of the Thrith process.

All these intricate processes must occur in proper balance with each other, even a slight error can render the clone dead or effectively non-functional. The development process must be guided as it goes, by the ongoing processes of the original template.

An observer looking at a 'Thrith machine' would see an array of artificial womb machines, linked to a large tank within which a sedated Human or near-Human floats. Tens of thousands of filaments link the sensory deprivation tank to the artificial wombs, the leads duplicating to reach each specific artificial womb. Some of these thousands of filaments contain strands of telepathically-conductive material, some carry conventional data lines, some microscopic tubules through which minute amounts of key hormones flow.

Linked to the entire assembly are support systems providing the necessary nutrients, oxygen, and other consumables, and removing waste products. A major macroframe* computer is necessary to supervise the entire assemblage and the ongoing processes moment-to-moment. There will be control consoles for the experts to supervise the process. Most of these systems are at least duplicated, often triplicated, since even a momentary interruption can be catastrophic.

A Thrith clone can be distinguished from a normal humanoid, even before the physical and mental decline sets in, by a few traits inherent to the system. A Thrith clone will have no navel, unless an artificial one is provided for the sake of appearance. On the other hand, here and there on the body there will by minute marks where nutrient, waste-removal, and data-feed lines once entered the body during the growth phase.

As with the navel, these marks can be cosmetically removed, if desirable. What can not be removed are the remnants of the technological systems within the body, that the body literally grew around. These are tiny**, bits of plastic and metal, traces of unnatural substances that would never normally occur in a humanoid body, sometimes nothing but the marks left on developed organs and tissues where implants once existed.

These marks are detectable by a detailed medical examination at TL8+, if the doctor knows what to look for. There is a chance that a very detailed TL7 examination and blood work will reveal some oddities.

The Thrith process absolutely requires genetic identity. Attempting to 'grow' a clone around a different person than the genetic donor always ends in a failed clone, usually very quickly (hours to days into the growth cycle). The process must use the cells of the prime template to start the clones. Even using a cell from the identical twin of a template will fail, because epigenetic and other factors will have changed.

The process, as one might expect, is extraordinarily delicate. Almost any interruption of the connection between template and clone lasting more than a
few minutes*** is sufficient to irreversibly disrupt it, up until the final weeks of the process, which is more robust. Interruptions then can be as long as a few hours and still recovered, if the operators are sufficiently skilled.

The template must be willing as well. A clone can be initiated without permission, of course, but to use the Thrith process to produce a duplicate, the template must be willing for it happen. So delicate is the process that the simple unwillingness on the part of the template will prevent success.

The process sometimes works if the template is simply ignorant of what is being done. It is uncertain, but sometimes it works. This is how the Thrith process can be used for interrogation purposes. A potential template actively opposed to what is being done is sufficient to make duplication impossible.

If the process is attempted with an unwilling template, the clone will usually fail to mature to 'adulthood' in the tech-womb.

MORE LATER.


*A macroframe was necessary when the Thakarians first developed this technology, by TL10 a mainframe is sufficient.

** Sometimes nearly microscopic.

*** In the event of an interruption, roll 1d. That is how many minutes before the damage is irreversible.
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Old 04-11-2024, 09:46 PM   #5
Johnny1A.2
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Default Re: ORICHALCUM UNIVERSE Sidebar: The Thrith Process...

LATER.

As might be expected, with minds so incredibly similar, and genetically identical, telepathic connections between clones of a given template, or the template and the clone(s), is not unusual. Unless the template is himself/herself a telepath, or has a family history of such, such connections are usually very short-range. On the other hand, they often are very clear and dependable within that range.

(Roll 3d6 for a given non-Telepathic template. On a critical success, he or she will sometimes have a Power (1d6) Telepathic connection with the clones/other close/the template. If the original template is an active Telepath, then roll 1d6, only on a '1' will the clone not be a Telepath of comparable Power and skill.)

The 'decline' process for the Thrith clones is slow...at first.

As a rule, depending on the quality of the equipment used, the skill of the operators and the software designers, and the genetic, physical, and psychological health and age of the template, a Thrith clone can expect fifteen to twenty-five years of reasonable health.

The life the clone leads affects this as well. Stress can bring on the decline sooner, regular health care, perfect nutrition, etc. can delay it somewhat. Serious non-fatal injuries, or other massive system shocks, can sometimes initiate the decline much sooner.

(Assume 13+2d6 Terran years of good health. Any major injury or comparable shock has a chance of triggering the decline, roll vs HT for any such instance, regardless of age, on a failure as many years as the roll is failed by are cut off of the healthy period. On a critical failure, the decline initiates at that point.)

The first signs of decline are usually mild. Mental processes slow, and begin to become somewhat irrational. Health weakens, the clone becomes more vulnerable to infections and sickness. After a year or two, the decline accelerates, and continues to accelerate until death.

(Once the decline begins, roll vs. HT every six months, on any failure, HT permanently declines by 1, on a critical failure by 2. Once every six months, roll vs. Will, on a failure the clone develops a negative Quirk but gains no cp. On a critical failure, the clone loses a point of IQ and develops a 5 point mental disadvantage.

At the end of the first year, roll vs. HT, on a failure the clone develops a serious cancer.

After two Terran years, start rolling against HT every Terran month for the reduction in HT, roll vs. Will once a Terran month for quirks and mental Disads and IQ reduction. After another year, both rolls come once a week.

At the end of the second year, roll vs. HT. at -2 for a cancer, or if a cancer already exists, roll vs. HT at -4 to develop a second cancer.

These are guidelines, sometimes the process takes peculiar courses, and the GM can adapt it, or penalize or bonus rolls as seems reasonable for circumstances.)


The final few Terran months of a Thrith clone life are usually a waking nightmare of suffering, of failing faculties and physical collapse. Sensory failure is common in the last stages, nearly a third of the clones go blind before death, deafness runs closer to fifty percent in the last year. A handful of 'lucky' clones develop partial or total immunity to pain in those last stages.

As noted above, Thrith clones can reproduce normally, and their offspring and descendants are normal Humans and humanoids. Interestingly, pregnancy does not seem to increase the risk of premature decline in the clones, unless it goes radically wrong. In fact, for unknown reasons, having successfully carried a baby to term seems to have a protective effect, female clones who have done so seem to gain some extra time.

(A Thrith woman who has successfully carried a baby gains 1d6/2 years of good health, minimum 0.)

One thing that very few people know, even among the Thakarian historians and experts, is that there are a handful of exceptions among the Thrith clones. These individuals, for unknown reasons, do not experience the decline at all, and indeed, they live longer than baseline Humans. A few such have displayed multi-century lifespans.

(For any given Thrith clone, roll 3d. On a critical success, role 3d again, on another critical success, that particular clone has an open-ended lifespan.)

MORE LATER.
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