More Aliens

The majority of non-Terran sophonts in the known galaxy seem to have been wiped out by the Destroyers or natural disasters, parahumanity’s survival appears to have been a fluke. However, a few sophonts that have not yet developed the radio signals that draw unwanted attention have been discovered by Federation survey teams.
Cephalogongs: An aquatic species named for their superficial resemblance to a wobbegong carpet shark, except with a larger brain and tentacles unfolding from inside its’ mouth. Cephalogong society tends to be less “tribal” than “a bunch of individuals living in close proximity.” When cephalogongs find a spot on the seabed where they can build a fortified residence safe from predators, others tend to follow. Outside of mating season, neighboring cephalogongs tend to only interact under one of two circumstances, a sort of posse that forms ad-hoc to drive off an obnoxious individual, and the construction of fish traps. The traps are constructs of stone and shells that help to corral schools of fish-analogs towards a point where the builders lie waiting. Builders place their pheromone markers on the stones they handle, and will chase off any “freeloaders” who try to use the trap without contributing a stone. Aside from pheromones they also communicate via electrical pulses similar to nerve impulses, some parahumans and neoctopi have compared it to telepathy. Unfortunately it is most useful for indicating directions and actions, not so useful for communicating philosophical concepts.
The Pack Mothers: A plains-dwelling species with a life-cycle unique among the known sophont species. They have long, hexapedal fur-covered bodies with a narrow muzzle topped with three eyes and four large ears. They can rear up on their rear pairs of limbs to spot prey or predators. For the first 14 local years of their life they are raised by their mothers in a community of other mature females, but upon reaching maturity all become functionally male and leave their maternal tribe to hunt in the wilderness. Some males attempt to survive on their own, but the majority join loose packs that cooperate the bring down larger prey. Roughly once a year the males seek out female communities to mate with, typically offering large kills or rare fruits as incentive. If a male survives ten years in the wilderness they undergo a hormonal and glandular shift to produce ova rather than sperm and seek to join a female tribe. Few females rejoin the same tribe they were born to, but maternal instincts are sufficiently strong to compel mothers to care for any juveniles of their species and a tribe will rarely turn away a mature female if they have room, especially one already impregnated by her former pack.
Geror: Initially, this planet seemed devoid of intelligent life, with no visible structures or tool-using species. However, shortly after landing the survey team found themselves under assault by a veritable army of animals of assorted species. Mercenaries were quickly brought in to defend subsequent landings, but the strange hordes kept coming and worse, seemed to adapt to their strategies. The first hints of the cause for all that strangeness came with the distant observation of a tree-analogue producing some of the more aggressive “fauna” by budding. A dissection of one of those tree-analogues exposed massive nerve bundles with entangled with those of neighbors through roots and that the “trees” exuded pheromones based on their neurotransmitters that could direct the mobile creatures. It seemed that they were fighting a forest-sized brain that directed its’ troops with smelled thoughts.
Working theory on Geror is that the species of the planet evolved advanced scent-based communication to warn of natural disasters produced by multi-moon tides and wandering asteroids earlier in the star system’s history. As most species had mobile and sessile phases this allowed sessile parents to remotely direct mobile offspring and have them settle close enough for their nerve cords to entangle. Species that could smell the same pheromones had an advantage over those “out of the loop.”
It is uncertain how far the forest-brains extend or if the whole planet is one vast mind. More than one Noospherist sect has adapted it as their patron, though its’ biochemistry remains incompatible with Terran life and they have yet to enable communication with Geror.

Inversion Fests

Every long-lived civilization has some form of venting mechanism for the frustrations incurred by daily life in a stratified society. One form, the “inversion festival”, has remained popular throughout the history of Western society under a variety of names: Saturnalia, the Feast of Fools, Mardi Gras, Halloween…

The Noospherists took the meme, like many others, to its’ exaggerated logical extent. Catharsistalia is held on the last day of the Centauran year, once a decade it gets prolonged to the full 19-day month. During this time there is only one rule, “nothing permanent,” no deaths, no ruinous financial damage, no conceptions. Whatever happens during Catharsistalia, stays there. By custom the civil police and even the Bureau of Memetic Health  cannot do anything about the various petty thefts, fights, orgies, or satirical rites of Death worship that may occur during the festival. That said, some token effort at a disguise is customary, most of the costumes worn won’t stop a serious investigation if you commit murder but it’s the principle of the thing.

Many local governments will organize events to limit the damage, especially for the decennial fests. The most common involve designating a park or arcology block as the fair grounds. Residences and storefronts in the area secret away anything of value and lay out cheap snacks or toys someplace they can easily be grabbed. Some places will shell out for a security drone programmed to give chase when something is “stolen” but let them go. Other areas are set up as fighting arenas, in disciplines ranging from wrestling to swordfights with live steel, medichines making even decapitation survivable. Still other spaces are set aside for parties, generally with STD and contraceptive screenings ahead of time. And usually there’s a small space for the minority of pre-pubescents in the population to have fun safely.

Some reform movements, particularly within fringe sects of the Noospherist Church, try to discourage or ban Catharsistalia. Which invariably results in the decennial festival happening early, on their property, courtesy of the local Kitsune skulk.

Transparahumanism

Aside from pantropic modification, negligible senescence, and brain implants there are some parahumans who desire to become even more:
  • Distributed Consciousness: Sharing of memories and thoughts is possible via intensive implants and broad-spectrum signals with AI mediation, but only between bioprinted clones, the brain patterning between individuals is too different. This path is held in particular suspicion after one movement was declared nihilus following an internal war, their descendant forming the Outworlder polity of the Emilia Collective.
  • A variant is the telepathic collective, in which the original undergoes radical hemispherectomy and grows a clone around the removed half of their brain. As with identical twins the original and clone usually share enough natural QEParts to form a telepathic link. By replacing the removed hemisphere with a bioprinted clone organ this process can be repeated, but bandwidth diminishes with subsequent iterations.
  • Cybernetic Expansion: First, the potential posthuman has a digital simulacrum of their brain made, these are not considered sentient by Federation law but are typically used as a sort of “interactive memorial” for the dead. Then they load the simulacrum into a quantum supercomputer capable of running multiple instances of the program, and wire the machine directly into their brain implants. The simulacrums vastly increase the user’s multitasking capability while plugged in but they tend to retreat from the external world as time passes. Their meat bodies lying in hibernation while they mentally explore countless simulations and calculations.
  • Pseudobiological Growth: In it’s simplest form one removes the genetic limiting factors on their growth, allowing their body and brain to continue growing until their mass requires cybernetic reinforcement or a microgravity environment to support itself. However, many end up embracing radical bodysculpting into a body shape more capable of supporting its’ bulk, with many drawing inspiration from mythology. Dragons are frequently popular.
  • Soul Merger: While conventional techniques of recording and saving brain-states don’t allow different individuals to “share memories”, there are translation programs that can attempt to extract a holo-audio sequence that another brain can view through conventional senses. Some people have tried to convert that translation into direct memory information they can use, and either voluntarily or coercively take the brain states of others and add them to their own.
  • Ghul Liege: The “Ghul liege”, unlike most of their kin, is not satisfied with one hard-to-kill body, they have to have several. Along these lines they modify their VN microbots to not only maintain their bodies indefinitely, but to convert other bodies into clones of the original host. At first, the VN bots install a remote puppeting system so the liege can prevent their minions from wandering off, but over the course of several months the minion’s brain is reformatted into a copy of their liege’s brain, connected by microwave network. If the liege is killed or otherwise disconnected their minion may become an ordinary ghul if the process is less than half complete, they may even have the VN bots removed from their system in Fed-space, but if the mind-cloning is near finished they become a new vector for the ghul liege to spread.

Created Deities

The Noospherist religion is distinguishable from most faiths in that it does not believe in a divine creator or an immortal soul, rather they believe in emergent phenomena from the primordial chaos. Balls of acid and lipids form cells, cells join together into biofilms, specialized cells in films form organs, complex biofilms become multicellular organisms, a central nervous system enables communication between organs, these impulses invoke responses, responses become reflexes and behaviors, behaviors become memes, memes and reflexes and impulses all meet together in a sufficiently complex CNS to form the cacophony known as “consciousness”.

 

Noospherists believe that the interaction between conscious beings forms a sort of superconsciousness similar to Jung’s “collective unconscious”. Within this collective stray bits of parahuman brainpower and sets of memes form into entities known as egregores. Early humans, so the narrative goes, attempted to deal with these entities by wrapping them around fictional and/or historical characters, allowing them to be addressed and theoretically negotiated with. Initially known as “gods” and “spirits”, later societies added their “emblems,” “founders,” and “mascots” to the morass. 

 

The Church of the Noosphere makes no secret of the nature of these entities or that their acts of worship are attempts at negotiation with them. While most Noospherists don’t believe egregores have any direct control over the physical world, they can influence the people who host their component memes and that’s enough to worry many people and organizations.

 

The Church tends to describe archetypes rather than naming specific egregores, allowing converts to slot their existing gods and national heroes into them. The “One True SecLand Church” tends to name notable members of the House of Silver as their egregores for instance.

 

Some Archetypes:

 

Imperator:

Names: Ra, Caesar, Selkd the Uniter

The source of authority, they who provides guidance and direction for society. But whose power must be tempered lest the populace be reduced to cogs in a machine.

 

Justice:

Names: The Blind Lady, Lirdrill

They who bring punishment to wrongdoers and recompense to those wronged. Kept separate from the Imperator as a check to their power.

 

Weaver:

Names: Prometheus, Argentum

The force that knits order from chaos. Societies, lifeforms, and celestial bodies alike. Tends to be a favorite of the SecLand Church as the progenitor of the genus they revere was a genetic engineer.

 

Trickster:

Names: Coyote, Loki, Florida Man, Kumiho

The necessary agent of chaos that prevents institutions and entities from becoming too stagnant and set in their ways. Commonly mistaken for a creation of the Kitsune secret society rather than its progenitor.

 

Death:

Names: Thanatos, Azrael, Jack

The prospect of death is nothing but pure terror to the near-immortal parahumans of the Federation. They expect to live for a very long time, if not forever, and the possibility of their eternity being cut short is horrific. Death represents the self-destructive impulse, the decay of all things unmaintained, the ultimate punishment. Their worship is almost exclusively focused on holding them off, much as medical micromachines hold off personal death. But some Destroyer cults borrow from the official cult of Death.

 

Fortune:

Names: Fortuna, “the Dice”

The randomness inherent in life is clearly apparent in the Federation’s clan-based economy, where the circumstances of one’s birth can decide one’s entire life path. The cult of Fortune tends to be one of the most “magical”-thinking deific cults in Noospherism, thinking that the egregore can influence quantum wave collapses in the supplicant’s favor.

Houses and Patronage

The clan-based economic system implied by the Federation’s profit-sharing schemes  bears further elaboration.

 

Imagine if your great-aunt or great-great-grandfather signed the lease on your home and could revoke it if you refused to join the rest of the family on a colony mission or didn’t want to mate with a member of a family they wanted to form an alliance with? And upon refusal you not only find yourself homeless, but nobody else will rent to your Houseless ass? Now imagine that you manage to find an employer who will vouch for you, but your contract with them requires you to do whatever they request, up to and including enlisting in the military or committing crimes? That’s what it means to live in a clan-based society like the Federation.

Continue reading “Houses and Patronage”

Some Outworlds of Note

Tero Besto: During the early decades of involuntary colonization there was an experiment with altering the memories of the “colonists”. Tero Besto is one of the more notable and long-lived examples. In this case the settlers were led to believe they’d come directly from Old Earth, with no memories of the Federation, their actual homeworld of Tau Ceti, or humanity’s role in creating their ancestors. By all accounts, it was a success, the majority of the population believe that they arrived on the planet of their own free will and then destroyed their advanced technology to prevent the Destroyers from finding them. Colonists were assigned to different ancient Earth cultures and dropped in clusters around the planet, which has led to the rise of countries roughly paralleling those of Earth’s 19th and 20th centuries. 500 years after colonization they have achieved a level of technology resembling the late 20th century, but lacking a space program or radio communications thanks to the historical warnings against those technologies.

It’s presently unknown how many, if any, of the planet’s inhabitants know the truth of their origins. Traders sometimes visit but the major governments try to conceal the evidence of their visitations, passing off any offworld technology as “Kolonoj artifacts” and publicly ridiculing those who claim they’ve met envoys from a Galactic Federation. Some Federal officials have expressed concern that someone who believes the UFO stories will try to invent radio in an attempt to make contact.

Carack: One of the biggest failures of the memory alteration project. The colonists here were initially led to believe that they were natives to the planet but the inconsistencies in the fossil record soon refuted that. They had rediscovered radio and were just venturing out into space with plans to build a starship that would find their true homeworld when the Destroyers (conspiracy theorists claim the Federal Guard) detected them and razed the planet.

Cytoran: This planet’s high gravity has led the native flora and fauna to incorporate a high level of metals into their physiology. The colonists not only had their memories altered, but their excretory systems were modded to compensate for the more toxic metals and utilize some of the useful ones, this is one of the few Outworlds where the locals retain baseline hemoglobin levels. Unfortunately, the department failed to take into account the fauna’s behavior, almost all megafauna rely on bioaccumulation to acquire the metals their hardy skeletons require.

In other words, they’re carnivores, and very hard to kill without artillery.

Lacking the natural defenses of the planet’s native fauna many colonists were devoured by pseudo-saurian monsters that shrugged off their bullets. When the colonists had been reduced to a single shrinking settlement the Federation’s observers decided to intervene with a deployment of battle drones and power armored Guards. Unfortunately this intervention led to the colonists treating the offworlders as divine messengers, and one or two of the command staff might have proclaimed themselves gods.

These offworld gods only walked among their grateful followers for a few months before the Senate back on Secland finished deliberating and concluded that they could not justify an extended Federal Guard presence on a planet of Exiles, but they could provide the technology for the Exiles to help themselves, under supervision of their “gods” of course. The new official Emissary and zir “pantheon” gifted their most loyal followers with seemingly medieval weaponry that concealed stellar-age technology ranging from hull alloy blades to “flaming” axes and swords containing plasma projectors, and even some limited Fog hive implants. These devotees formed the beginning of a new class of augmented warriors called “Venturists”.

Traders arrived just a couple decades later, anticipating a new market in genuine natural “monster” parts and Venturist life stories. Every few years they would import a new set of equipment and augmentative “potions”, many cartels maintain semi-permanent presences in the towns and cities on planet just to sell their nanofabricated products to new Venturists. Over the generations the Venturists have effectively become the predominant form of government on the planet, forming “guilds” in the larger walled cities and ruling as petty kings and lords in the periphery towns.

While Venturists are usually too busy fighting off monsters to make war against one another, they can still find the free time to tyrannize their domains. Their augmentations make them difficult to dislodge, save by another Venturist, who often turn out to be just as bad as their predecessors. It’s estimated that for every just ruler there are two slaving despots and three boozehounds.

More Technology

Hull Alloy: So named because they were originally developed as hull material for shuttles. A series of nanofabricated alloys that share the common property of a crystalline structure that allows kinetic and thermal energy to diffuse across the entire structure. This makes items built from hull alloys very strong but if something does manage to damage them they tend to disintegrate completely. As hull alloy items need to be fabricated in a single piece it is usually used for small shuttles or smaller items, hull alloy tools are actually quite popular among traders for sale to Outworlds.
These alloys have a variety of names in both the Federation and on Outworlds where they are traded; adatite, jinnisteel, vibranius…
 
Molecular Lock: Molecular scale welds were one of the first uses of constructor microbots, when done properly they leave no visible seam and the two pieces effectively form a single whole. It wasn’t much of a stretch to apply the technology to locking doors. After all, most conventional locks are physically weaker than the door they close by way of simple physics and materials, as are hinges. Fusing the door to its frame eliminates those weaknesses, but it can sometimes take an hour or more to finish “unlocking”. For that reason alone molecular locks are rarely bothered with save for the highest-security areas, or airlocks.

Raising Capital

15.8.1798 Campaign launched:

Hi, Celia here, I’ve made a breakthrough in my study of xenolife protein sequencing.  Now, if you have followed me for a while you might remember that sequencing proteins from even a single specimen is tedious work, each test takes up to an hour, sometimes even two and often one needs to perform several hundred tests on every protein in the specimen.  To obtain test results in any reasonable amount of time I needed to run several tests on different set-ups in parallel.  But after a couple decades of this work I developed a few tricks for running several different tests from a single root experiment and by this point I believe that it may be possible to miniaturize a testing kit capable of determining whether a specimen of xenoflora or xenofauna is compatible with parahuman biology in minutes.

Unfortunately, performing efficacy tests on this kit will be expensive.  Running tests on any new product takes a considerable investment of time and resources, even more so when the product involves exostellar material such as xenoflora proteins.  As you know, there are few planets with natural ecosystems in the Federation, and since most of them are former outworlds even fewer have a gate connection, meaning that xeno specimens need to be shipped at STL speeds over distances of many lightyears.  Now, a while back I put out an open order on the quantum for new specimens and recently I heard back from a trader who can provide a dozen different Cyreteen organisms that the natives supplement their diets with, they have data on which organisms are mildly toxic and which might be safe to consume, making them ideal for this test.  However, they’re asking a minimum price of eighteen thousand Production Credits for the samples, I’m hoping I can negotiate them down based on the future utility of the kits to their profession, but to be safe and to cover the actual testing costs I am asking for loans totalling twenty-two thousand.

The trader will arrive in a little less than eight years, I have set up an escrow account with links to all the major crowdfunding sites: Hitstarter, Kira, Indcom, feel free to use any of them or send crypto directly to the escrow as detailed below.

Campaign ends: 15.6.1806

15.9.1798 Update:

First month done and we’re nearly to 8% funding, that’s amazing considering how little time has passed and how long we still have before the ship with the samples arrives.

However, most of the material I’ve read on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign says that you tend to get the majority of funds during the first month to a year on long-running campaigns.  Something about how the novelty of a new idea wears off fairly quickly or something.

So, keep on spreading the word!

15.14.1798 Update:

Okay, six months since the funding campaign began.  We’ve made it to sixteen percent, about double what we were five months ago.  I guess this is what the books meant by losing momentum.

However, the books and advice columns do also mention that one might be able to pull off a sort of “second wind” when the campaign starts to come closer to a close.  Playing on people’s sense of urgency you know.

1.9.1799 Update:

Gah! I meant to post this on the one year anniversary of the launch six days ago.  Not that it’s been going too well, just under 18% funded with seven years to go.  I may have to suck it up and start begging from the government for funds at this rate.

I’m also considering revising the rewards as written, maybe something like this “capital shares” concept I see from a few Outworlds.

10.6.1800 Update:

Okay, so I asked a few barristers and they said that it would actually be illegal to issue capital stock.  The whole thing is a bit hard to grasp, but I’ll try to rephrase what they told me.

On Old Terra and a few still independent Outworlds there was a concept called a “corporation”, it was like a person, yet not.  There wouldn’t be any actual parahuman, but contracts could be made with corporations as if they were humans, they could own property known as “corporate assets”, and they paid taxes independent of those working for the corporation, often at higher or lower rates than real people.  Income brought in by the employees of a corporation would go into the corporation’s accounts just like a parahuman employer, but after paying the employees and any expenses incurred the profits made by the people working for the corporation would be distributed among people who owned stock in the corporation.

Oh yes, stock, people could buy and sell pieces of corporations as if they were actual commodities.  These pieces were known as “shares”, not to be confused with the profit-sharing we do with our Houses and friends, though profits incurred by a corporation would be distributed among the stockholders in a similar manner.  The difference is that while House sharing distributes the income members contribute evenly among all the people of the House, and individuals may divert their income to friends as they wish, corporate profits were distributed to the shares and a person could own multiple shares in a corporation.  Meaning that if a corporation issued 200 shares someone could own 1 share and get 0.5% of the profits and someone who had 2 shares would get 1%, and it would easily be possible for one to buy 100 shares and be entitled to fully half the profits.  In addition, owning shares allowed one to vote on major decisions for the corporation, with each share granting its owner one vote, that owner of 100 shares would have as much say in running the corporation as 100 owners of one share apiece put together.  

It gets worse, in many cases it was possible for stockholders to sell their shares with no input from the other stockholders.  Corporations would issue shares and sell them to accumulate capital, then people would buy them and sell them to others when the “market” determined their shares had become more valuable, or they’d be persuaded to sell them during a bad time by someone who wanted to seize control of the corporation.  A lot of corporations would be bought by other corporations and assimilated or forced into a state of vassalage.

Now, despite these problems corporations had two advantages that made them very popular.  First, they’d allow an entrepreneuer to accumulate a great deal of capital rapidly, and second, they provided a legal buffer for the owners, if anything happened the corporation would take the fall instead of them.

But, probably because our ancestors were created and enslaved by corporations, they are illegal to create in Federation space.  Creating one would commit one of two crimes, in fact, fraud for fabricating a person who doesn’t actually exist, or enslavement for owning a person.  Eridani is a special case, their pre-Federation government was actually a corporation as described above, this resulted in the government being owned by an aristocratic caste of stockholders growing rich off the profits their employees earned.  As part of the terms of annexation however, they were required to introduce a few terms to their charter barring people who owned shares from buying or otherwise obtaining new ones or voting more than once.  This resulted in a gradual, but still not complete, shift of power from the oligarchs to the common people as they were suddenly the only people able to buy shares.

Anyways, no I cannot sell capital shares in my enterprise, however I could provide friend profit-sharing as a funding reward.  I got one of the barristers to write up a contract guaranteeing 1% of the profits for 100pc, with higher-level rewards attached to proportionally higher percentages.  Details are on the site.

5.12.1800 Update:

Whoever is responsible for that article accusing me of trying to reinstate slavery did not read the previous post very well.  However, my funding went up to 31% within hours of the attack so I suppose I have to thank them for it.

15.6.1803 Update:

This crowdfunding campaign has been running for almost five years now, with just three years to go before the deadline.  Yet, even with the five minutes of fame from the profit-share reward it is still less than halfway to meeting the goal of 22,000pc.

I have pitched my idea to both the Federal Guard and the Surveyors.  The Guard wasn’t particularly interested, claiming that it was easier to enforce discipline if the infantry was only eating their provided field rations.  Surveyors thought it might reduce mass requirements for landing craft significantly, but couldn’t provide more than 5k.  I’ve contacted every merchant in gated space but the most any was willing to part with was 1200pc if the test kit was going to be completed after they left.  I might have to see who’s in closer to the end date.

19.6.1805 Update:

Okay, as a last resort I went to my family for help.  Great-grandma Thessalia, senior of House Tardiin, was willing to fund my project entirely, on one condition.  That condition being that I enter a breeding contract with House Chelac.  You see, Tardiin is fairly large but our estates aren’t particularly bountiful, if I bear a few children for Chelac they’ll transfer a few square kilometers of land to our House.

Look, I may be two hundred years old already but I have things to do besides spend three decades raising the next generation of a family.  I’ll be busy enough with the testing, assuming I can muster the funds of course.

I asked Great-grandma if she’d be willing to wait until the ship, the Defiant I think, is within neutrino range.  With the last tracking data I have that will be sometime in month 3 of 1806.  So, please spread the word before then.

15.3.1806 Update:

Still only 60% funded, I was able to send a message by neutrino to the Defiant with details of my situation.  It’ll be a day or two before a reply arrives though.  I don’t know what I’m expecting really.

17.3.1806 Update:

Huh, I was not expecting a job offer.  Captain Terryn of the free trader Defiant said he was willing to take on a xenobiologist for the next voyage out with a 10,000pc advance on pay.  They think there might be some fauna and flora on the planet they just left that have commercial potential so it would help if they had the testing kits and someone skilled in their use with them when they set out.  I don’t know how much spacers usually make per trip but it can’t be worse than arranged parenthood.  Not to mention that I’d be able to do my work on board, no need to rent a lab and fabricators.

The downside, of course, is that it’ll be another thirty years or so before the product arrives to my backers, sorry.

Unforeseen Dangers of Nanotech

While there’s many perks to having integral microbots, occasionally things can go drastically wrong.  Aside from the usual glitches in template settings or programmed apoptosis, every now and then you get something a tad more apocalyptic in nature.
There is a reason why symbiotic microbots are not generally self-replicating, while having them produced by a prosthetic spleen can limit their speed it also makes them easier to control.  However some models of microbots have the capability to go into “VN mode” during emergencies.  At such times the microbots will cannibalize dead or damaged cells at the site of trauma to rapidly produce additional microbots that help to patch up the wounds until cells from less vital areas can be grafted into place and transformed into the appropriate tissue.
In and of itself, running microbots in VN mode isn’t too much of a problem, in the same sense that a cell with its’ tumor suppressor genes deactivated isn’t much of a problem.
The problem comes when a parahuman using microbots in VN mode suffers severe bodily trauma, usually around the death threshold.  At this point the auto-cannibalism routines will come dangerously close to killing the patient for real, however the microbots will keep them alive and moving, no matter how emaciated they might become.
Or hungry, so very hungry.
Has it been mentioned before that microbots can seemlessly graft living cells from other parahumans into another?  Or use dead ones to construct extra-cellular matrix and “filler”?
When microbots are allowed to go out of control in a parahuman body the results can be disastrous.  If a parahuman with VN microbots suffers sufficient trauma they may become what modern folklore has dubbed a “Ghul”.
Between the injury and their microbots breaking down their body for raw material, most develop severe protein cravings in short order.  Oftentimes the microbots may depress higher brain activity, leaving an animalistic intelligence in control of the body.  It gets worse when the brain is damaged, in which case the feral state may be permanent.  In this state the subject tends to become obsessed with absorbing additional protein to help their microbots repair them, in Federation regions the standard practice is to get them hooked up to an intravenous feed of synthesized parahuman proteins but outside its’ reach the most readily available source of the necessary proteins may be other parahumans.
The protein hunger subsides after the subject consumes equivalent protein to a pound of parahuman flesh, normal brain functions resume within the hour, assuming the brain was intact.  Unfortunately, the microbot population in the subject remains at its high level and continues to cannibalize its host to maintain its numbers.  Without a microbot reset at a Federation medical facility they feel hungry again after a day or two, starting to revert to the feral state again within the week.
Some Outworlds harbor covert infestations of intelligent Ghuls, usually initiated by a stranded Federation citizen, preying on the unwary and occasionally infecting a new convert.  “Zombie apocalypses” are rare as the microbots are carried only by blood and lymph, a simple bite isn’t enough to transmit the infection, and the Federal Guard is often all too willing to K-bomb the site from orbit.