Parahumans were created to exploit a star system humanity lacked the courage to venture out into themselves. Grown from a blend of human and animal genes and printed over an alloy skeleton in a vat rather than born they were designed from the cells up for life in space.
But now, after years of fighting, they are free of Earth's tyranny. The Asteroid Belt is now a constellation of Parahuman habitats just figuring out how to survive without their old masters. Experimenting with every form of government from democracy to feudalism.
Argentum, Aniya, Cole, and Denal were just freelance prospectors based out of the Ceres Directorate when they ran into a pirate. It was only after they splattered him across space that they realized he had powerful relatives. They thought they could escape retribution by migrating to the anarchic habitat of Vesta.
But it turns out that no government doesn't mean no rulers. When Argentum gets a job with the Society for the Preservation of Parahuman Species that produces clones for Vesta's elite ze finds zirself with the very future of zir clade in theirpaws.
Joel originally self-published the novel in early 2015, but reconsidered his strategy in 2016 and submitted it for publication to Thurston Howl Publications, who premiered it on December 31st, 2016
- Alien Blood: Parahumans have so much hemoglobin and myoglobin their blood is practically black.
- Anarchy Is Chaos: Vesta was intended as peaceful anarchy after independence, but things broke down as the life support began to fail and homicide rates skyrocketed until the Protectors' Guilds restored order. Now it's more like feudalism.
- Artificial Human: Parahumans are created by printing transgenic cells over a titanium-alloy skeleton.
- Asteroid Miners: Parahumans were created for that very purpose, humans wouldn't sign all the legal waivers. Many still pursue this profession such as Argen and zir friends.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: Parahumans can't breathe in space, but they can remain active in vacuum for at least ten minutes and survive, unconscious, for about an hour.
- Beast Man: Most parahumans look like anthropomorphized animals.
- Bounty Hunter: Argen runs into a bloodhound sent by the Ceres Directorate.
- Centrifugal Gravity: The only method of simulating gravity available. Most ships don't bother since parahumans don't suffer from osteoporosis, but Argentum has a small rotating room for zir biotech experiments.
- Chameleon Camouflage: Active camo-suits.
- The Clan: Wealthy Vestans that can afford multiple clones tend to form Cloneclans, they're also the only parahumans with surnames. The Protectors' Guilds are jokingly known as "Houses".
- Clones Are People, Too: They're not really any different from other parahumans, save that they share the genome of an older "parent" and are younger.
- Cloning Body Parts: Bioprinters are used to produce individual organs on demand too. Argen has a piece of zir liver and intestines replaced in a couple days after the harpoon. But ze opts for a prosthetic hand as the rehabilitation would be shorter.
- Crime of Self-Defense: The plot is kicked off when the crew kill a wannabe pirate, Ceres does not even recognize the right of self-defense, part of the appeal of Vesta is that it's one of the few parahuman habitats that did think of that.
- Feudal Future: It's a common joke on Vesta that the Cloneclans running the Protectors' Guilds are actually noble houses. Or maybe not a joke.
- Holographic Disguise: A bloodhound bounty hunter in full armor disguises himself as a shirtless fox to try and lure Argen in.
- Kangaroo Pouch Ride: "Rescue taur" parahumans such as Aniya have marsupial genes and airtight pouches that can accomodate a human-sized being.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Gauss weapons are preferred for deflecting meteors as the kinetic energy of a slug will push a rock further than a laser. Also they're cheaper. Handheld laser weapons don't even exist at this tech level.
- Law Enforcement, Inc.: The Protectors' Guilds of Vesta provide safety from crime and legal resolution services under an insurance model, with regional monopolies.
- Matter Replicator: 3-D printers capable of extruding a variety of materials such as metal, plastic, and circuitry known as Omni-Printers are commonplace. Nanofabricators are alluded to but are too expensive for most parahumans.
- No Biological Sex: Argentum was part of an experimental batch that tested whether parahumans with no genitals or (hypothetically) sex drive to distract them would be more productive. They were lazy instead. Most parahumans have a clear sex identity but are still sterile.
- One Nation Under Copyright: The Ceres Directorate runs the asteroid under a similar structure to the terrestrial corporations that used to own the population. It's just that now the Corrupt Corporate Executives are parahuman instead of baseline human.
- Privately Owned Society: Vesta.
- Pronoun Trouble: Neuters such as Argentum mostly use ze and zir.
- The Social Darwinist: Jakob Griggs intentionally wants to skew the parahuman genepool towards the wealthy and powerful, such as his own clan. His son Maximus, having actually read Darwin, thinks he would be crippling their genetic diversity.
- Space People: Parahumans have titanium alloy skeletons to prevent osteoporosis in low gravity, and can survive considerably longer in vacuum than most mammals.
- Space Pirate: Some idiot tried to pursue a career in piracy. He got splattered. Unfortunately he had powerful relatives.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: Argentum is shot out of a railgun into space. Ze survives, thanks to zir genetic modifications and a grappling harpoon.
- Tranquillizer Dart: The preferred sidearm of many parahumans is a dart pistol loaded with tetrodotoxin, which doesn't knock you unconscious so much as paralyze everything but the heart for several hours, you can still hear and sometimes see. And to people without respiratory augmentations it's usually lethal.
- Unbreakable Bones: Downplayed, parahumans have titanium alloy skeletons but it's to prevent osteoporosis in zero-gravity, any extra durability is incidental.
- Uplifted Animal: Some parahumans are more animal than human. Particularly intelligent species that swim or fly such as birds, dolphins, and octopi. Such as Cole, a raven.
- White Sheep: Maximus Griggs and Olga Wolf are the odd ones out in both their crooked families.
- Younger Than They Look: Parahumans are bio-fabricated with fully adult bodies. And their educations are accelerated so they can be fairly functional in a couple years. Unfortunately most parahuman governments make no legal distinctions between twenty year olds and impulsive two-year-olds.