Writer. Mom. Gamer. Geek.

To Excess - Cyberware in the Modern World

A short story for Shadowrun by Linda Naughton.

Shadowrun is a registered trademark of The Topps Company, Inc.

>>>>{This post is apparently from a street doc working out of CFS.  I figured I'd post it here because I know most of you chummers wouldn't be caught dead over in the PUBLIC/SCIENCE/MEDICAL/ forum.   Some of the cyberjocks might find it interesting.  As for the newbies out there... read and learn.}<<<<
	--- Captain Chaos (20:43:20/09-17-57)

Cybertechnology. It’s become the buzzword of the past decade. It wasn’t too long ago that cyber was available to only a few corp and government guinea-pig troops, and bioware was nothing but a hush-hush research project…something you heard rumors about every once in a while if you were lucky. Over the past few years, however, things have changed dramatically. It’s gotten to the point where augmentation is no longer a trademark of the wealthy or the military/security business. The last set of statistics I came across estimated that nearly forty percent of the world’s population has cyber or bio augmentation, even if it’s only something as innocuous as a datajack.

>>>>{Forty percent?  Where the frag did he dig up those statistics?}<<<<
	--- Ozzie (10:15:08/09-18-57)
>>>>{Yeah, the number seems a bit low.}<<<<
	--- Harlot (13:00:22/09-18-57)
>>>>{Low?!  Seems much to high to me, especially when you count in all those poverty-stricken third-world countries and them nature-lovin' dandelion-eaters down in Salish-Shidhe.}<<<<
	--- Ozzie (22:06:02/09-18-57)
>>>>{Watch it, round-ear.}<<<<
	--- Walker (15:17:24/09-19-57)

I’ve even seen trid commercials lately advertising cybermods endorsed by popular sports figures. For better or worse, cyberware has become a staple in our society.

>>>>{He's not kidding, either, unfortunately.  I'm sure you've all seen the ads.  My favorite is: "Air Cyber.. the footwear of the cyber-conscious".  Sheesh!}<<<<
	--- Ozzie (08:46:40/09-18-57)
>>>>{Hey, don't knock those shoes!   Do you have any idea how many pairs of normal sneakers the average street sam can go through when he's consistently running at 40kph?  Despite the cheesy name and the hefty price, Air Cybers are worth the investment.}<<<<
	--- Nos (19:02:11/09-18-57)

This trend is not unlike the popular computer revolution in the latter half of the last century, but its consequences are much more disturbing. From the beginning, mankind has used technology to make his life easier. But I think there comes a point at which the price we pay outweighs the benefits. It’s one thing to buy a telecom unit for your living room. It’s quite another to walk down to the local cyber-clinic and ask the doc to hack off your arm and replace it with a piece of metal. It’s a sophisticated piece of metal, granted… but in getting cybernetic augmentation we’re giving up a part of ourselves. Are the benefits worth the price of our humanity?

>>>>{Laying it on a bit thick, isn't he?}<<<<
	--- Chrome (23:22:40/09-17-57)
>>>>{Maybe not.. and that's the scary part.  Did you catch Hatchetman's post from about a year ago?  If not I have a copy of it.  In any case, I think the name of this piece says it all... "to excess."}<<<<
	--- Slider (01:18:36/09-18-57)

I don’t mean to come off sounding like a doom-sayer who curses the existence of cyber- and bioware (although the world has more than enough of those types to go around.) As with anything, it has its good points as well as its bad ones, and I would be the last person to downplay its redeeming qualities. I can’t describe the feeling you get when you implant some cyber and watch someone able to see for the first time, or walk again after a crippling accident. It was things like that which first attracted me to the field of Cybertechnology when I was in medical school. But over the past five years or so, it’s come to the point where cyberware has become mainstream technology. Many people don’t seem to think twice about drastically invasive augmentation, and quite frankly I think that often they have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.

When it comes to cyber and bioware, it’s not too difficult to quantify the physical effects of the augmentation. We can say that this piece of tech will increase your strength by thirty percent, or that this other piece will give you a hundred Mps of memory at a particular I/O speed. What’s not so easy to predict is the psychological effects. It’s easy for people to be lured by the superman complex. Dozens of trid shows have their token cyberjock, and every Tuesday faithful fans can tune in and watch them outrun cars, dodge bullets and jump moderate-sized buildings in a single bound. Such things are actually possible with cyberware, and that’s its psychological attraction. But what most people overlook is the fact that the human body wasn’t meant to do them. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it ought to be done.

Take one of my former clients for example. He had some reflexes and muscle augmentation done, so that he was one of the fastest things on the street. Soon after he’d gotten the cyber, he wanted to see just how fast he could go, so he headed down to a popular jogger’s path. I don’t know if he managed to reach his top speed or not, but the coroner estimated that he’d been running at about 70kph when he rounded the corner and became intimately acquainted with a jogger going the opposite direction.

>>>>{Poor slot.}<<<<
	--- Ozzie (13:34:27/09-18-57)
>>>>{Similar thing happened to a chummer of mine.. only he tripped and fell.  Had to spend a few weeks in the hospital... nearly broke his neck.  And I won't even mention the road rash.  Ouch!}<<<<
	--- Anthrax (04:01:53/09-20-57)
>>>>{I can just picture some fool getting pulled over by the cops for speeding.     I mean, how the frag do you explain how you were running at 70kph?}<<<<
	--- Bucho (22:17:11/09-24-57)
>>>>{Track star?}<<<<
	---  Wraith (02:51:47/09-25-57)

Another guy I knew got a little carried away with his hydraulic jack. He was technically capable of jumping from the ground onto the top of that ten-story building. He just wasn’t capable of surviving a fall from that distance if (when) he missed the roof. That’s just one example of the mind having trouble dealing with a body that can do things that shouldn’t be humanly possible.

One other obvious caveat, aside from the psychological effects, is that cybertech is not a hundred percent guarantee. No technology really is, but the effects of buying a faulty toaster are just a bit less dramatic than having your new muscle-replacements suddenly stop functioning. With cyberware becoming more and more common, there have been numerous instances of companies springing up which deal in low-quality cyberware for rock-bottom prices. They make a bundle of nuyen and then disappear before any of their unfortunate clients realize what’s what. A word to the wise.. when it comes to cyber, stick with the name brands and reputable docs. Otherwise you might go in for a little bit of neuralware and come out a vegetable.

Even if you do get good tech and a good surgeon, there’s still the consideration of rejection syndrome. One out of five hundred people suffer from it, according to the latest studies. I’ve seen what it does to people, and while it’s rarely lethal, it’s certainly not pretty. With bioware, it’s not too bad. The victim’s usually sick for a few days while the body absorbs the unwelcome augmentation. Cyberware rejection, on the other hand, tends to involve painful tumors growing around the cyberware as the body tries to heal and can’t. Once the augmentation is removed, the tumors can be removed and usually don’t come back. Until then, however, the person is not comfortable, to say the least.

>>>>{Rejection syndrome may be "rarely" lethal, but there's still that chance.  Plus, nobody's really sure what the long-term effects might be.  Tumors.. growth of unspecified cells.  Can anyone say ''cancer"?  Any time you get some augmentation, you're taking your life into your own hands.  Think about it.}<<<<
	--- Nature-Boy (11:51:09/09-25-57)
>>>>{Long-term?  Have you looked at the expected life-span of a street sammy  without any augmentation?  Can anyone say, "dead meat"?}<<<<
	--- Bucho (15:08:55/09-25-57)
>>>>{Yeah, but like the man said.. cyber's becoming more and more common for non-runners.  Kinda makes you think about where things are heading, doesn't it?}<<<<
	--- Doc (07:17:11/09-24-57)

The vast majority of implant surgery goes off without a hitch. If it didn’t, word would get around and most folks like me would be out of a job. But implanting the cyberware and getting the body to accept it is only the beginning. People simply don’t realize the dramatic impact that cyberware can have on their everyday lives.

I can’t count the number of times we’ve had to replace the doors on the recovery room when we have a patient getting acquainted with his new muscle augmentation, and I long ago made it a point never to shake the hand of such a client. It brings new meaning to the phrase, “Didn’t know my own strength.” Even once the body becomes used to the implant, odd effects still turn up… like not thinking twice before lifting up your car to move it when you do a bad parking job. Things that for an augmented person seem perfectly normal, but which leave the rest of the world blinking in amazement.

Another example of the every-day effects of cyberware is an implant of Tailored Pheromones. They sound like a really great idea, especially for all those hapless slots who spent the 20 nuyen for the ‘Ten Best Ways to Make Friends and Influence People’ self-help book. But there’s a down side of course. You get people who just won’t go away and leave you alone, because they think you’re such a great chummer. I’ve also heard of cases where the pheromone levels weren’t quite adjusted right, and gave unique effects: members of the opposite sex suddenly fawning all over you, your best friends suddenly seeing you as a threat. Most cybertech systems are as delicately balanced as the human body itself, and it doesn’t take much to throw things completely out of whack.

>>>>{I'm surprised he didn't mention Symbiotes or Superthyroid Glands.  The warning labels tell you all about the increase in food intake caused by the things.. but you don't comprehend exactly what '"increased caloric requirements"  means until you've seen its effects on a troll.}<<<<
	---  Doc (12:10:38/09-26-57)
>>>>{A hyperactive troll who eats three times as much as normal?  Geez, Doc, thanks for the nightmares.}<<<<
	---  Ozzie (09:34:15/09-27-57)
>>>>{Kinda makes you want to buy stock in stuffer shacks doesn't it?}<<<<
	--- Obsidian (13:02:35/09-27-57)

Most of the time the cybertech gets ‘out of whack’, though, it’s a result of user failure and not the technology itself. Cyberware is designed to be low-maintenance machinery. However, it’s still just that… machinery. Unlike bioware, it is not really a part of your body. It doesn’t maintain itself, and perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t heal when it gets damaged. Under normal circumstances, the amount of upkeep is minimal, except with the more delicate implants (cybereyes being the most notable instance of high-maintenance augmentation).

And even though most cyberware is rarely used in “normal” circumstances, as long as you don’t break anything the most you usually have to worry about is replacing the battery. The more recent models of cyberware power packs are extremely efficient, and also use the body’s own bio-chemical energy to recharge themselves. They do run dead eventually, though, and then must be replaced. With small systems that require little power, a single battery will sometimes last for two or three years. Larger systems, reflexes and muscles being the best examples, invariably drain batteries at a much faster rate.

>>>>{He's got that much right.  I don't think I've ever had to replace the power pack for my headware in the two years  I've had it... but my cyberarm needs a new cell every three months or else it starts acting flaky.}<<<<
	---Chrome (17:14:02/09-20-57)

No commentary on cyberware would be truly complete without some mention of the downright ludicrous cyberware that makes its appearance every once in a while. Things like the eye datajack, for instance. I can’t imagine who in their right mind would want to poke a fiber-optic cable into their eye, of all places. Cranial bombs are another one. Those things scare me. I can just picture a doc putting one in and along comes a stray radio signal. BOOM! I’m glad my clients aren’t the type to request that sort of thing. The oral whip is my personal favorite in the ridiculous category, though. I must admit a certain curiosity, though… what kind of fellow would think of beating someone up with their tongue? I remember one slot who came in and wanted a mono-filament version. I was half-tempted to build one and give the fool what he deserved, but there’s that small matter of a Hippocratic oath.

Every year the cybertech companies come up with new ways to make us stronger, faster and smarter. And every year more and more clients come through my doors, wanting a piece of the action. I’ve heard rumors lately about a way to exceed the natural limitations on the amount of cyberware a person can have before they lose their humanity entirely. Something called ‘cybermancy’. If half the rumors are true, I shudder to think of the consequences. It reminds me of something I heard once… that the scientists “were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Sometimes I think we’ve reached that point with cyberware, and that we need to take a step back, and look at where we are and where we’re headed.

–Dr. A. Goldman (21:15:06/09-15-57)

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