I ran into a snarl with Splintegrate regarding the timing of some events. In sorting this out it became clear that I needed to work out more details about the cloning process used in the Sa’adani Empire, which is referenced in the novel.
I thought it would be nice to share some of these notes on this WIP, so I’m writing this post as what you might call some quick “Design Notes” on this aspect of my science fiction setting. Well, for some value of “quick”, anyway… Plus, there’s an interesting graphic of the process at the end. (My interest here was in nailing down timelines, so there are other steps not shown in the graphic, but mentioned in the text of this post.)
Psionics, Medicine, and the Role of the Soul
Reincarnation is an established doctrine in the Empire, not because it is a matter of “belief”, but because there is widespread evidence, personal experience, and shared memories of various persons’ lifetimes in prior incarnations. This culture also believes that the circumstances and often events during a particular lifetime are the result of conscious choices made at the soul level.
For this reason, the cloning of organs was never seen as controversial or “playing god” (whichever god one may choose) in any regard. But creating a complete human clone – an empty shell – was seen as at least morally questionable if not an outright abomination, unless it could be awakened with the unique spark of a soul who wanted to incarnate there.
There is a high psi factor among the Sa’adani population (or certain genetic strains of it, anyway), and the meditational, spiritual, and applied psionics disciplines in that culture have resulted in some individuals able to “call” a soul into an earthly existence, easing the passage from a disincarnate state and into a material plane existence. Certain religious disciplines can do this, as can healing professionals called biotechs.
A biotech’s training includes psionic manipulation of life forces and technological training. Clone facilities in the Empire employ the highest concentration of biotechs outside of major hospital complexes.
Clones were developed first as “medical insurance” for the very wealthy, with complete brain scans recorded and specialized engrammatic download processes developed that could “scribe” memories and personality matrix into a brain’s neural network. Even with a brain “fully loaded” in this manner, the mind still would not awaken until the clone was ensouled or Awakened by a qualified professional. The objective in awakening a clone or “reviving the backup” of a deceased person (to put it in the crude vernacular) was so that person could carry on their life. Needless to say it was important to the original to have their “self”, their unique soul, brought forth into the new clone. Biotechs played a critical role in this process.
As cloning processes became cheaper and maturation cycles shorter, the demand for them grew, as did the demand for those who could Awaken clones. In some cases shortcuts were taken and attempts made to find other ways to enliven a clone. The results were often unpleasant if not outright disastrous. Regardless of what personality transfers had been brain-scribed, the conscious clone was typically reported to not be the same person as the deceased. That is, their personality or behaviors differed in some way, as if someone else inhabited the body – as was, literally, the case.
It was found that without the guidance of a biotech, “random” souls entered the revivified clones upon awakening. The resulting person would have the baseline skills, memories and behaviors that had been programmed for that body, but whether or not they behaved as the clone was expected to all depended on the incarnated soul in that corpus.
This kind of result made people very uneasy if they were counting on a clone to be a death insurance policy for themselves. After some fraudulent practices and resulting lawsuits, the insurance-cloning industry became very highly regulated, and now attendance by biotechs or other qualified individuals as part of the revivification process is required by law.
The Sa’adani Empire does not maintain a standing army; the Emperor depends instead upon troop levies and the loyalty of his leading nobility and aristocracy to respond to any necessary calls to arms. This introduces considerable vagaries of politics into what armed support the Empire can command at any one time. However, as power elites will, Sa’adani Emperors found a way around these limitations.
First and foremost is the large size of the Imperial Navy. It is the single largest military force anywhere in the Empire, and although it is broadly dispersed with bases in many strategic and tactical locations, advanced warp technology permits the Navy to amass quickly when and where needed. This gives the Emperor a force-projection capability that far outstrips what any single noble, warlord or system cluster of planets can usually marshal.
Space Marines as Shock Troops
The answer to the “no standing army” laws has been a side-maneuver around them. Space marines, long trained to serve as shock troops in joint maneuvers, have grown vastly in numbers over the years. Today they form a large, rapidly ship-deployable force of “storm troopers”, who are either attached to joint actions, or may serve to enforce the Emperor’s will were and as needed. Once a powerful but relatively minor adjunct in space and ground action, space marines are now the tip of the naval spear, and give the Emperor a formidable first-strike capability if it is needed.
Imperial Marines have long had physical and mental standards for the ideal soldier, and as their numbers grew (and grew more rapidly over the last three centuries of frontier expansion and annexation), it has become more difficult to find suitable recruits. Needless to say, cloning began to look interesting to military scientists, who began to work with it in earnest about two centuries ago.
The military quickly ran into hurdles with cloning. The length of time it took to grow a clone, the bottleneck of needing psions to Awaken clones, the sometimes imperfect engram transcription processes – all of these were reasons why clones could not be produced reliably for military purposes. The solution was not to abandon the project, but to build out research and production facilities intended to solve these problems. (This gave the first big impetus to the proliferation of Naval Research Stations, a network that now has facilities on many worlds.)
Clone research initiatives gave rise to the Danru clone facilities in Penura subsector, at the heart of the imperial Marine training program in the Core Worlds. There they perfected the Beschcarra Technique: the so-called “random soul” revivification of clones. In this process, alpha- and theta-wave inducing biofeedback systems make a fully developed but still sleeping clone a “magnet” for ensoulment. The result is a spontaneous natural awakening of the clone without the need for biotech attendance in most cases. In this process, the incarnated soul is almost never the original warrior, but another (often kindred) spark stepping into a warrior’s body and memories. This tradeoff was deemed ethical because it was the soul’s choice to enter that particular experience.
Developments in growth and aging hormones radically reduced the time needed to grow clones to maturity, and age them older if needed. Refinements in incubation to viability and growth tanks greatly reduced clone misgrowth and failure rates. Qualified Marines, top specimens of their type, were recorded and began to be reproduced en mass in the Danru facilities.
When the frontier CAS Sector was annexed a little over a century and a half ago MLT1, this was the first major military initiative to deploy large numbers of cloned marines. It is widely agreed that the effectiveness of those marine forces ensured imperial victory in the annexation wars.2,3 Since then, more cutting edge and experimental clone work has been conducted in second-generation facilities built on Corvus (CAS Sector), which has also become a secondary production base for naval manpower requirements.
The Clone Growth Process
Many developments in military cloning have tech-transferred to the civilian sector, improving speed and success rates of civilian cloning as well. The following graphic shows the basic flow of the cloning process, with the different time frames common to civilian and military processes. Times noted are given in Mean Local Times, not the Imperial Standard long-count.1
1. The length of a year on habitable planets varies widely throughout the Empire. Clearly, there can be no single calendar that accurately fits all planets. However, it has been found that the 372-day year of ancient Àstareth is close to the mean calendar year of settled planets in the Empire, once the 10% of outliers at either end of the bell curve have been eliminated. This number produces a “generic”, rough rule-of-thumb for time reckonings: if one doesn’t know the day/month/year cycle of planet X, one may assume it probably roughly resembles Mean Local Time (MLT): 7 day weeks, 28 day months, 13 month years.
In contrast to MLT is Imperial Standard Time, the arbitrary Weights and Standards measure set based on the nearly 100-day month of Calex, the imperial homeworld. All official reckonings are dated in IST, which, it must be admitted, bears even less resemblence to typic Local times than does MLT. IST is for administrative and military time-keeping purposes only. Local customs will generally site local times, and translate this to IST only if necessary.
2. The CAS Sector, and Lyndir subsector in particular, is the location of events in Mainline and Splintegrate. The hot jungle world of Lyndir is the capital planet of the sector.
3. This landmark use of clone forces also made the CAS annexation the first major territorial expansion not indebted to a variety of Great Houses for the military wherewithal to accomplish it. This has made it easier for the Emperor to distribute governorships and other perqs on the basis of merit and political trustworthiness, rather than as obligatory rewards for services rendered during war. This capability has also unsettled many of the leading Houses and threatened the balance of power between them and the throne.