The Denathi are the descendants of Earth mystics who believed that they could, through rigorous discipline, unlock the legendary powers of the mind. The Denathi have in fact achieved this goal — but not in the manner which their ancestors intended.
During the early years of interstellar expansion the Adepts' predecessors established a colony on Denath, which had the characteristics they sought: it was an undesirable world in a resource-poor system, bypassed by the first waves of colonists. There, they were able to study the mysteries of the mind in peace.
The early Denathi studies focused on philosophy, but there were fringe groups who sought to prove the ancient claims of parapsychology. After more than a century of fruitless research these self-proclaimed Adepts concluded that baseline humans lacked the capacity for psionic powers. They then tried simulating such abilities with technology. Some early successes with nanotechnology led to intensive studies of utility fog. Combining that technology with implants and gene modifications led eventually to their current system.
This unexpected success led to civil war with the fringe triumphing and gaining a large following. Very soon after that, the required implants and genetic modifications swept their world. Shortly after their "mental" powers first became well developed the Denathi philosophy turned gnostic – seeking a mystic relationship with the universe by better understanding it and themselves. To that end they learned quite a bit about the nature of the human mind and brain, as well as improved physics, and ever better refinements on the utility clouds and nanobots. A few centuries later they were discovered by the rest of the galaxy. The shock of discovery was bad. That their discoverers routinely used dermal microbots as a matter of course was worse. It almost galvanized another civil war, but as they learned more about other civilizations, they decided it wasn't as bad as they first thought. First, they were unique. The Shambhan (below) was more flexible and effective than the microbots. Second, they decided the society they had built was worthwhile in and of itself, independent of the seeking of mind powers.
The Denathi have since colonized several other worlds (independently or in partnership with other civilizations) and established communities on other worlds and space habitats.
Denathi appear very human. They have the standard human body plan. The height range is from 1.6-1.85 meters with a mass range of 45-80 kilograms (females tend to be slightly shorter than males). All Denathi have slim muscular builds; the heaviest are invariably also the tallest (this is a side effect of having to feed their utility fog colonies). Their eyes are violet or dark blue, though both shades can be so dark as to appear black. Hair color is black or dark blue. Denathi hair is never more than shoulder length, and males lack facial hair — this was originally a cultural feature but genemods have since made it innate. Denathi have dark blue skin, shading to medium blue on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, with light blue skin lining the mucus membranes inside the mouth, nose, etc. Even the tongue is dark blue. Females outnumber males about 2:1.
Several genetic modifications are standard among the Denathi. They are all very intelligent and have neural enhancements that enhance both the speed and depth of thought processes (increased nerve conduction velocity, improved memory and heightened intuition). The corpus callosum — the nerve bundle that connects the right and left hemispheres of the humanoid brain — is larger in Denathi than it is in baselines. This facilitates greater communication between the rational and emotional centers of the brain and allows the simultaneous processing of factual and emotional data. Denathi can, with practice, control the signal flow through the corpus callosum. This gives them conscious control over the degree to which they experience their emotions while processing other experiences. This ability allows the Denathi to be coldly logical or superbly intuitive as needed. This has the additional bonus of affording a degree of resistance to some forms of memetic attack.
The most unique feature of Denathi biology is the shambhan, an organic factory that is the key to the "psionic" powers of the Adepts. The shambhan produces bionano that remains under the producer's conscious control. In effect, one of the Denathi is able to secrete a utility fog of bionano containing both foglets and nanites. An Adept can direct her utility fog to perform a variety of tasks.
- Denathi can duplicate empathic ability by using sampler units to analyze a subject's vital signs and bodily secretions (this works quite well with organics, but is of limited use with the Mecahnicans and none whatsoever with the Stored).
- Those same samplers can react to the presence of magnetic fields of the frequencies and intensities that indicate the presence of a living nervous system, thereby simulating a telepath's ability to sense minds.
- Sensor-equipped foglets can form a long-baseline interferometric array in order to gather sensory data at a distance from the controller — this is essentially clairvoyance and/or clairaudience or even a ranged tactile sense, though the range is limited to a few dozen meters and the nanites can't penetrate an airtight barrier.
- Two or more Denathi who are within range (about 100 meters) can transmit messages or sensory data to each other by passing low-power UV laser signals along molecule-thin lines of foglets. The Denathi have developed a number of coding schemes for these signals; each family has one or more propriety codes, and it's common for corporations, religious groups and even circles of friends to develop their own. Because the signals are relayed from nanite to nanite the participants can communicate "telepathically" even around corners.
- The most spectacular ability of the Denathi is that of channelling their utility fog into doing physical work. "Telekinetically" striking or shoving someone is possible but very energy intensive. Lifting small objects is easier. Easier still is using the nano to cause simple chemical changes — causing an attacker's weapon to fall apart is fairly easy, but manipulating nearby molecules to cause rapid oxidation (including ignition) takes a great deal of skill. Individual Denathi may develop other techniques than those mentioned here.
- Nanites used as protection against grey goo and other destructive nanomachines.
Astute readers will notice that many of these features can be duplicated by dermal microbots. The main difference between those and the ones produced by the shambhan is the factory and base is organic and part of the Denathi DNA. Another is the sheer quantity of them that are produced by the typical Denathi. This represents quite a large improvement over most existing biotech capabilities.
The primary limitation of the shambhan is that a Denathi must learn, through long practice and intense mental training, to control it. Just learning to activate nanite production requires months of practice. The most advanced functions only become possible after decades of study. Consequently, only the most dedicated Adepts are capable of feats that duplicate psychokinesis. The shambhan is also a very energy-intensive structure; even with their highly efficient metabolisms Denathi must consume a great deal of carbohydrate- and nutrient-rich food to maintain their abilities. The foglets and nanites of the utility fog themselves feed by metabolizing secretions on the producer's skin or on airborne microbes and organic hydrocarbons. An Adept can conveniently control a utility fog with mass equal to her own (or slightly greater, depending on skill).
The Denathi are very guarded about their powers. For this reason they have engineered themselves with a self-destruct function to prevent samples of the shambhan from falling into hostile hands. Any Denathi can cause the organ to disintegrate at will, and they will do so with little provocation if they anticipate capture (their medical science can easily replace a lost shambhan). If an individual dies her shambhan will initiate spontaneous combustion within five minutes of the cessation of life functions. Members of other civilizations consider this odd, but let them do it. Its a large strange universe after all.
Perhaps because of their small numbers and the intensive training required for their unique abilities, the Denathi have an enduring and unified culture of any civilization, one that has survived for thousands of years with very little variation over time or by region. The Denathi dialect is a synthetic language of their ancestors' design that derives from no single Old Earth language. The Adepts live in family groups consisting of a husband, two wives and their children. Triads prefer to live in close proximity to their extended family members. Family relationships, especially with siblings, are very important.
Denathi have a distinctive style of dress. They prefer loose clothing in dark colors. Robes and hooded cloaks are common. Both sexes display very little skin; usually only the face and hands are exposed. This seeming prudishness is merely a visible manifestation of the Adepts' regard for privacy. When among those whom they're close to Denathi go nude or nearly so. Denathi garments feature wide sleeves with pockets in them; small items are carried there or worn on a belt. Wedding bands (silver bracelets worn by both sexes on the left wrist) are the only jewelery worn against the skin. Denathi never wear elaborate hairstyles, but they are fond of ornate headgear (complex embroidery trimming a hood or hat, for example). They never wear weapons openly unless they are traveling in a region where it's the custom to do so. Many Denathi adorn themselves with body paint in complex abstract designs. White, silver and electric blue are the preferred paint colors but some individuals favour yellow, purple or pink. Body art is a very personal expression reserved for family and close friends and so is rarely worn on the face. For this reason Denathi refer to knowing someone well as "knowing eir colors" and sexual relationships as "sharing paint."
The Denathi regard their "psionic" powers as a sacred trust and root of their society. Mental, emotional and, to a lesser degree, physical discipline are the cornerstones of their society. Denathi can only develop their powers through years of rigorous training, and the species only gained those abilities after centuries of seeking. Because of this they believe that less disciplined species would abuse the power. Most Denathi extend this belief to the idea that any power will be abused unless it is earned through hard work and dedication. Adepts who show signs of dishonesty — and it's hard to hide such a trait from judges who can read one's emotions — are punished harshly. Those who don't respond to re-education may have their shambhan removed. Denathi are prized as administrators because of their honesty.
In the larger universe, the Denathi are a curiosity. Most civilizations get along well with them, though the Disciples consider them with some caution. The Stardwellers get along especially well with them, pointing out ideological ancestors in common as well as their long relationship since re-discovery. The Logicians cannot stand them, considering them a backwards step with their heightened intuition. The Independents and Spacers are more reserved in their judgement due to the Denathi's deep tinkering with dangerous tools, but admire what they have accomplished independent of the Transcendentals. As individual members of civilizations, the opinion splits between respect and humor. Respect for their accomplishments and beliefs. Humor for the way they've made a piece of technology a core element of their society.
All of the official societies except the Darwinians and Organized Crime can be found among the Adepts. Among the unofficial ones, all save the Mushashi Flex can be found there.
The Denathi and the Roamers
The relationship between the Denathi and the Roamers is, complex. Since the Roamers earn money via espionage and intelligence gathering, the Adepts were initially a sought after target, especially with regards to the Shambhan. The Denathi though guard this very, very well. Unlike the Union though, they do not ban the Roamers (that would only encourage them), but they did, and do, have fun with them.
Roamers initially tried by their normal means, but were transparent to the Denathi. The first results was data that looked very good, data tailored to the agents expectations from reading them. The next effort was more elaborate, covert and using lenses to try to conceal their motives. It resulted in a large collection of traditional Denathi recipes. The next effort lead to several Denathi's losing their Shambhan, some truly entertaining attempts at surveillance and a collection of sexual instructions ranging from the basic to really, really intriguing. And so on. The Roamers became recipients for every bit of mischief that the Adepts could bring to bear as long as the Roamers continued to try to acquire information on the Shambahn.
As a result, the Roamers now have a very good idea of the Shambhan capabilities (and Denathi counterintelligence capabilities), but have stopped trying to acquire information on its creation and control. As one elder put it, “Its not worth the dignity of my entire band to try for that again.” Since then, the relationship seems to have settled down somewhat with elaborate jokes and pranks being the norm and both sides laughing about it a great deal.
Common Name: Adepts
Benefits: Shambahn - a personal utility fog. It is treated as a Profession, and Adepts start with at level 4, and one specialization. It can be improved as a normal profession, but at the cost of two Potential per level, and can have the following specializations. It automatically gives its level as a defense against nanotech attacks. In addition to all of this, it can function as dermal microbots. They also receive a neural mesh.
- Empathy: by using sampler units to analyze a subject's vital signs and bodily secretions (limited use with the Mecahnicans and none whatsoever with the Stored).
- Detect Minds: Those same samplers can react to the presence of magnetic fields of the frequencies and intensities that indicate the presence of a living nervous system, thereby simulating a telepath's ability to sense minds.
- Clairvoyance or Clairaudience: A group of sensor-equipped foglets can form a long-baseline interferometric array in order to gather sensory data at a distance from the controller — this is essentially clairvoyance and/or clairaudience.
- Clairsentience: A ranged tactile sense, though the range is limited to a few dozen meters and the nanites can't penetrate an airtight barrier.
- Secret Communications: Two or more Denathi who are within range (about 100 meters) can transmit messages or sensory data to each other. The Denathi have developed a number of coding schemes for these signals. Because the signals are relayed from nanite to nanite the participants can communicate "telepathically" even around corners.
- Telekinesis: Striking or shoving someone is possible but very energy intensive (good for a low level complication). Lifting small objects is easier. Easier still is using the nano to cause simple chemical changes — causing an attacker's weapon to fall apart is fairly easy, but manipulating nearby molecules to cause rapid oxidation (including ignition) takes a great deal of skill.
Inspector Status: Advisory role only – equivalent to Interpol.
Core Values: Responsibility and Privacy
Responsibility is having a capacity for moral decisions and therefore accountable; capable of rational thought or action; reliable or dependable, as in meeting debts, conducting business dealings, etc. This means the CV rating can be applied to have the Adept be responsible and honest, as well as argue others out of being irresponsible.
Privacy can be used to resist metatech attempts to convince the Adepts to allow him/herself to be recorded or spied on. It is also used to resist someone prying deeply into an Adept's personal lives, including asking about their religious beliefs. Note that some are happy to answer these questions anyway — you just can’t force them to answer. This is somewhat hard to adjudicate, and covers many interactions; the GM should feel free to only apply half the CV rating during non-serious situations.