Though rather unassuming, this orbital worker bears a whole array of q-augs, from dermal markings on the face and forehead to an anti-g skin sleeve under their suit and a partial exoskeleton.

The Low Age perfected the art of living alongside natural environments, of modifying them with care and precision, of knowing when to intervene and when to live and let live. The interstellar age perfected the art of doing the same thing to the self-contained environment that is a human body.

Body modifications are prevalent through the entirety of human space, be it in the sprawling metropolises of the Earth or the faraway outposts scattered in Orion's Arm, yet it is rare for them to be permanent or invasive: like everything in a solarpunk society, human augmentations are meant to be fleeting, recyclable and versatile.

1 - Theory of q-augs

In general, wearable equipment is preferred to permanent, invasive augmentations for several reasons, the most important of them being social ones. For instance, artificial muscles implanted in one's body would be considered a liability by most, putting the owner of the augmentation at the mercy of the commune that provided them with the hardware and software implanted in their flesh. A wearable exoskeleton might be less practical, but it is just a piece of clothing that can be removed and repurposed at will. This line of thought is prevalent on almost all inhabited worlds and stations. Even in a civilisation of democratic communes where the authoritarian concentration of power is incredibly rare, permanent invasive augmentations are seen as dangerous, creating an intimate link that should not exist between a manufacturer and a private citizen.

This line of thought thus explains the prevalence of what is commonly known as quasi-augmentations or q-augs: wearable technology that links up with someone's physiological systems yet is not implanted within them. Q-augs are often found under shapes reminiscent of ancient ornaments like jewels, tattoos or coloured contact lenses which can be used for mundane tasks such as providing their wearer with an augmented reality display as well as for more complex purposes such as endodermic tattoos capable of tending to light wounds. While there is a rather strict control on military q-augs in mainstream communes, plenty of individuals can be found with more exotic models which may on occasion radically alter bodily functions. The gist of q-augs is that they seamlessly blend form and function: in the image of ancient mythological tales, in the interstellar age amulets and clothes with mystical power do exist and can be worn by anyone. Face tattoos might be as much a symbol of power as a real augmentation capable of turning infrared radiations into visual signals.

2 - Types of q-augs

Q-augs come in many shapes and forms, and there's a q-aug for almost everything one may think of.

The very first q-augs to be manufactured en masse were interfacing teeth, dental implants that create a direct connection between facial nerves and a microscopic sensor embedded in artificial enamel, thus enabling the wearer to physically feel multispectral emissions or virtual reality displays.

Interfacing teeth are a late Low Age technology, and a very simple q-aug.

A very common type of q-augs are dermal markings that can be likened to augmented tattoos. These dermal and superficially sub-dermal q-augs can be applied and removed with great ease and have both an ornamental and utilitarian role. They're mostly used to create interfaces with human nerves and muscles, as a more complex version of interfacing teeth, capable of carrying information in both directions, from the wearer to the q-augs and from the q-augs to the wearer. Most modern interfaces rely on dermal markings for communication and feedback and some variants of them can be embedded in someone's eyes or ears. Some liquid ink q-augs can be moved and repurposed at will on one's skin. Dermal markings have many, many uses, from basic enhancement to recreative purposes.

At first glance it is often impossible to determine what is the purpose of a specific q-aug. These dermal markings could be purely aesthetic, or be a complex sensory interface.

Subdermal markings are often used as interfaces for more complex, external q-augs such as exoskeletons, artificial limbs, remotely controlled drones and extensions. Many of these are aesthetic q-augs, like third eyes, wings, or artificial tentacles -- though they may often have other purposes, these q-augs are first and foremost tailored for appearance. They are extremely diverse and can sometimes become skin sleeves, the most invasive type of q-augs : thin full-body suits protecting the wearer from the environment and providing a complete interface.

Military q-augs are heavily controlled and cover rather generic uses: enhanced perception, interfacing with combat suits and vehicles, and skin sleeves that harden in response to physical trauma.

Images 1 and 3, in order of appearance, are illustrations for Eclipse Phase, distributed by Posthuman Studios under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-alike 3.0 Unported License. Image 2 in order of appearance is from Steven Sander's Symbiosis Creative Commons artbook, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-alike 3.0 unported license.

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