Written and created by Ethereal311 (/u/Oranos116)
If there was anything that halted the Super Soldier program, it was Oxygen.
The serums and ingredients required weren’t cheap, but with the interests from the most elite Chem-Barons, price wasn’t much an issue. The issue of high grade nutrition could be dealt with by using edible molds that could even grow in the Grey, but oxygen remained a serious puzzle. Oxygen is limited to lung volume, even then there is only so much surface area of blood vessels that the lungs can provide oxygen to, and even then there is only so much oxygen that can be carried by hemoglobin molecules at one time.
Oxygen was the the rate determining step for the entire project. From modifications that gave men gills for filtering even more Grey through them to lung expansions that crushed the heart, every week hundreds of aspiring chem-merchants had ‘found the answer!’
There were no answers to be had from those circling vultures.
Until one day.
Now there is one thing about scientific discovery. It can come from out of the stupidest things imaginable, like a party. Well… it didn’t come from the party exactly.
There was a meetup for the Biological Extrapolatory Society (really just the Super Soldier Scientists) one night in the Presidium at Margarette’s Scholar Suite (cheap and tacky place that inventor societies could rent and have truck tons of booze). The party was fine until one man slammed on the floor, dead. This wasn’t a romantic death that would spawn a crusade against the villainy of alcohol though.
The man, going by Donny Goddy, had simply choked on an above average sized olive (which was later revealed as a plastic replica). Not being able to breath, he had turned deep purple, his eyes gaping madly at the harsh soda lamps that replaced the noble sun he had loved in life. Of course, Sengevich (later known as Senge the Chemist, and then the Chem-Merchant Singed because it was easier for Pilties to spell) had something of an epiphany. Even if Donny had been a Super Soldier, he still would not have been able to breath, to draw in Oxygen. So what if we removed the concept of Oxygen entirely? There were still Lactic acids, produced by the muscles in order to help grant a spurt of energy to stop whatever predator from catching up. But they were highly toxic in high quantities. So what if those acids could be de-toxified?
Sengevich worked night and day in his little shack, his comrades only knowing that the Chem-Barons hadn’t taken his head by the occasional servant he ordered off for groceries.
The Chem-barons were growing anxious over this. If Sengevich had indeed found something, his discovery had to be licensed and to whom this great achievement would be attributed to was a very serious question (besides the dumb thought that the inventor would get the credit). Whether or not Sengevich planned it, massive gang wars tore rifts and let old rivalries be settled all across Zaun. Only the Chem-barons behind it all knew why all of this was happening, and it was good for business anyway. To say that Piltover responded adequately was a joke. It went down in the history books as “The Grey War; Psychoactive Elements in Zaun’s Grey Smog”.
Months passed until Sengevich had finally emerged from his proverbial coffin, and things started to settle down. He started explaining that his experiment had been an undeniable success yet it had been rather ‘fleeting’.
“How could it be a success if it was fleeting?”
“Well,” Singed laughed, “it was such a success that he managed to get out!”
One in three of the thirty present would meet his joke face to face in the next five years, and only one would be able to explain it afterwards.
“Regardless, I managed to perfect the formula to such a degree that you fine fellows would easily be able to copy my notes just like in the good old days.”
Frantic scrabbling for the research notes ensued, scrubbing any traces of Singed’s involvement from the entire society save for him being utterly mad to give up those notes in such a manner. Most were on the spinal replacement procedure, something many of the Chem-Barons objected to, sounding slightly more invasive than what would normally pass for scientific pursuit in Zaun. Singed’s notes had been rather emphatic in regards to the size of the dialysis vessel that detoxified the subject’s blood, specifically designed around a spine roughly 75% larger than a grown man’s. The general safety (maximum) limit of body extrapolation had long since been 66 to 67%. The amount of distress caused for the engineers by these two facts combined was absurd. By not having the vessel around the spine, the disturbingly large casket had to go outside the body. If they could not have access to the spinal column then ‘backpacking’ was out of the question due to the material limitations of bone. Having a bodyguard dragging around such an bulky machine was not something that sounded worthwhile to the Chem-Barons. It was only after one of the Barons had a trip over to Ionia that another epiphany happened, this time coming from the words of an arrogant martial artist rebelling against the Baron’s host.
“Thine monstrous beast may breath’d through Steel, but my「Fist of Iron」would hath sundered him save your coward’s magics!” was her comment that set everything in motion.
A fist of iron, an Iron Fist! The answer was clear now. By shifting the heavier parts of the vessel along the forearms, the issue of spine snapping could be averted. It also looked cool. Then those Piltover artsy fucknuts found the cool thing and thought “We, too, should have this cool thing!”
So while Zaun’s Chem-Barons were fitting lost men with the ability to protect their masters, Pilties were gluing metal to their cheeks and calling it ‘fashion’.
Months later, from out of Zaun’s depths came the ‘Machine Herald’, Viktor Verakovitz. A rags to riches to rags sort of man, Viktor had seen both the Sun and the Deep Grey. Originally a Doctor of Robotica, his numerous dealings above and below had made him into something of a notoriously uncontrollable figure. Following this ‘fashion spree’, Viktor had finally cracked (although it was largely coincidental), casting himself in steel in rebellion against Piltover’s arrogance.
Politically charged, his stance was well felt by all Zaunites, although this was largely distilled by differences in literary talent and among other channels. Viktor’s rebellion did undeniably have an impact, but it was based purely on scientific grounds. The first ever man fully interfacing with machine, something truly out of science fiction. However, unlike Singed who had made it a point to scatter his research as fast as he could, Viktor’s political act prevented any custody over him from happening, save the occasional self-appointed thief who would rapidly be rendered to the ash bin. This meant no notes on the process could be salvaged from the confines of Viktor’s burrow.
The Biological Extrapolatory Society, though, was having an existential crisis. If their research had been used not to elevate Humankind above themselves and instead resulted in this joke of a mechanical form, then why had they called themselves the ‘Biological Extrapolatory Society’? The Ascension of Man had been the long term goal, they had concluded long ago, and now this Ascension was instead corrupted by mechanisms and machinery! Damn Singed and his Mechanisms that spawned this and those Pilties gluing metal to their cheeks!
The Society was purged of its non-essentials, returning to their fundamental principles. It became rabid and self-destructive, eventually losing the last of its funding from the Chem-Barons. But still those stalwart dozen remained, feverishly and maniacally theorizing their perverse science. The world could have gone through another Rune War and the half-dozen surviving would not have noticed it. The Serum was all that mattered. The Serum must be attained. The three left managed the final calculation.
And then there was one.
The Serum attained, the lab in shambles by even inventor standards, there was no way that he could administer it himself and live to tell the tale. But the tale was written there, in the notes, in the picture of Donny Goddy that the maniac had kept in remembrance. There was no turning back, for this was Ascension from the hell he had driven the others to. It only made sense to attain Ascension now. What else was there?
Dr. Mundo slid the syringe into his arm.
Those damn Pilties are still gluing metal to their cheeks.