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Aberrant RPG - Sterility Cocktail


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As some of you may (or my not) know, I am one of the few who is working on "The New Flesh". "The New Flesh" is the third and final Aberrant Attribute book (the 2nd fan made one).

Now that the basic intro's are down, lets get to the meat and potatoes of what I am posting about. We on "The New Flesh" team have run into a subject that we are debating about enough that we are looking for opinions from the people who really matter, the people who play (and run) the game.

The question is, How do you deal with Utopia's Sterility Cocktail?

For those of you who do not want to go over there and take the peek (and there is no problems with that), here is some of what we have.

Important Canon References:

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>The Utopian sterility cocktail-

These are the 4 best canon references I could find detailing what exactly the infamous "Utopian sterility cocktail" actually is.

[Exposé: Aberrants]

P. 16: "... a genetic matrix that 'reprograms' a nova's enhanced immune system to recognize native gametes as pathogens- basically turning a nova's own white blood cells against native sperm and egg."

(Sprocket's comment: I think whoever wrote this little gem of technobabble goofed, since it apparently contradicts the material from the other relevant Aberrant books.)

[Aberrant: Project Utopia]

P. 51: "Moxinoquantamine and adrenocilin... are laced with subtle, yet effective, contraceptive drugs developed by Proteus agents from the Nova Medecine section. These contraceptives sterilize novas with a single dose by attaching markers to their gametes that cause the nova's immune system to misidentify these cells as pathogens and destroy them... Proteus does not have an antidote."

P. 110: "However, what these side effects indicate is that adrenocilin (along with moxinoquantamine and Mite) carries a hidden birth-control agent that activates as your node channels quantum energy..."

[Aberrant Players Guide]

P. 103, Health enhancement: "Your body resists... Utopian sterility cocktails, chemical agents of all sorts... One level of this enhancement subtracts the nova's Mega-Stamina from the Virulence rating of any poison, disease... or chemical intrusion."

Boiled down, all that the canon text excerpts give us is this:

1- Proteus has laced the 3 major nova drugs with their special contraceptive drug(s), the "sterility cocktail".

2- The SC is triggered by channeling quantum energy via the M-R Node.

3- The SC marks a nova's own gametes, making them look like pathogens to the nova's white blood cells, which then proceed to destroy said gametes.

4- The SC has a Virulence rating… {of 2}

Here is also what we have 'boiled down' as far (please note that this has none of the actual arguements for or con in it, you will need to read the 3 pages in there to get all that goodness):,,
Quote:

1. Female.

Process:

The SC actually enters the ovaries and changes the base structure (DNA) of the 'eggs'.

Ending the effect:

This would *perminently* make a woman barren as the WBCs would be able to enter the Ovaries and take out all the eggs.

Reparing the Damage:

A nova female can regrow the eggs in her ovaries as well as she can regrow other body parts (like eyes or limbs).

2. Male.

Process:

The SC enters the testicles and changes the process of which they produces sperm.

The Ending the effect:

Changing the process of which the sperm is made enough to allow more to regrow and not be massacred.

Reparing the Damage:

Changing the testes back to what they were before, or change them enough so that they create sperm that can grow more

So now we are hoping to get some input from you guys. What do you think of the entire shebang?
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I define the sterility cocktail by choosing the [Exposé: Aberrants] decription over the others. The genetic matrix (read: retrovirus) makes more sense to me than a stew of drugs that would have to be tweaked for every nova on the planet.

So now we have a situation where the DNA of the novas has been tweaked so their own immune systems (and regeneration, healing, et al) abilities work against them. Can it be overcome? No, not by anything that doesn't (a) protect the sperm/egg/baby from the immune system response, or (B) change the gene code of the nova so that attack doesn't happen. Health acquired at a later time is irrelevant because the damage has already been done by changing the gene code. Same with regeneration and healing; the gene code isn't "damage" per se.

Bounty's largesse only works for a limited time, ergo she's not making long term changes to the gene code of the nova. Possibly she's supressing the immune system response, but since she's not affecting the novas adversely in any other way (they still have the same stamina) she must be "exempting" the sperm/egg/baby from the response or "energizing" the sperm'egg/baby to make it strong enough to withstand the attack instead. Rewriting gene code is within her abilities so this may be an example of someone having a quantum ability of sufficient sublety but lacking the necessary knowledge or education to effectively use the ability to its full potential. Essentially, she has the potential to cure nova sterility permanently, but either does not know how to go about it or chooses not to do it thereby making them dependent on her.

If you go with these interpretations, it changes the way you diagram the process. Let me know.

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Quote:
Originally posted by Psimon:
So now we have a situation where the DNA of the novas has been tweaked so their own immune systems (and regeneration, healing, et al) abilities work against them.
For those wanting an exact effect, the simplest version is that the retrovirus genetically alters the testes/ovaries to produce sperm/ova with a non-self identity, alerting any white blood cells in the area to quickly finish them off.

There are more complex possibilities, but this strikes me as the most elegant and the one most likely to be designed by a human or near-human mind.
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Here's the catch, as I see it. If it is a simple matter of a non-self identity tag in the sperm/ova and the immune system's response to said tag, it beggars disbelief to say that the very, very intelligent novas that have been looking into the "nova fertility problem" haven't (1) noted the immune system response and (2) from that found the non-self identity tag. Once that is found -- even if nobody makes the leap and figures that it is an induced change -- it should be child's play for these mental giants to figure out how to fix it.

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That's an excellent point, TS, and in fact part of my original design for 'The Alchemist' was to tackle exactly that problem.

Let's look at this as a black box problem of what we know happens (from the aberrant timeline).

Immediately after N-Day (almost certainly the same year), the nova sterility compound is created. If there were nova researchers on this problem, the were wholely owned and controlled by the Aeon society. More likely, they were billiant baselines, or at best research oriented mesmerists (this IS the Aeon society, after all).

Novas begin to suspect the existance of a Nova fertility problem at about the same time that Slider is killed, or slightly before.

Nova sterility isn't counteracted before 2015 (it would have definitely been on the overall timeline if it had), and probably not before 2025.

It is probably eventually counteracted. (fully and permanently, not as Bounty's temporary solution)

So, what we have is a problem that is easy enough that only a slightly-superior to human intelligence can invent an implementation, but a vastly-superior to human intelligence cannot solve in the short term.

You know what that sounds like to me? Cryptography. It's pretty nearly the definition of crypto. The trick here is that when they designed the 'crypto system' (sterility cocktail), they weren't particularly worried about how to 'decode' (cure) the end result.

Now, how could we turn the reproductive system into a crypto problem? Well, here's an idea.

We'll go with the retrovirus. We'll hide the genetic modifications that the retrovirus makes inside the same genetic complexes that make someone a nova (or psion, but that really isn't an issue), thus we aren't overly worried about a strain that sterilizes all of humanity, and reserachers into the problem find obvious links between being a nova and sterility.

Then, instead of putting an obvious marker on all nova's gametes (something that distinguishes it from the average person's), we'll make it so that every gamete that is produced, and all existing gametes, have an effectively encrypted genetic sequence. Finding the key to that encryption is difficult for several reasons. First, the message is non-determinate. Each gamete contains only HALF of a person's genetic code, and that half is determined effectively randomly for each chromosome. Second, the genetic sequence that does the actual encryption can be a one-way function, since we aren't overly worried about the ouput making sense anyway.

Why does the immune system attack these gametes? Because they're genetically dissimilar to the body, and in fact would end up being cancerous to the host. Since novas are mostly immune to cancer, and an effectively random genetic structure isn't likely to re-produce effectively, it most likely dies to the immune system.

How does this work? A retrovirus that re-writes the genese for making gametes.

Why doesn't anyone find a cure? The genetic change hides in the nova gene sequence. Since virtually every nova on the planet ends up with this as part of their gene sequence, it's not considdered 'odd', and is probably not researched in the context of fertility. Even if it is, it would be very difficult to isolate the exact portion of the gene sequence changed or added unless you can get a fully fertile nova that has never been exposed to this retrovirus, or a sample of a nova's DNA pre-erruption. Unless a retrovirus is suspected, there would be no reason to compare old DNA against new.

How is it counteracted? The Health ability would protect the nova from the introduction of the retrovirus. I agree with Psimon that if you get the Health enhancement after becoming infertile, you don't spontaneously become fertile. In fact, if another retrovirus is the eventual cure to the sterility, then you will probably NEVER be cured, since you'll be immune to it. Bounty's fertility power, in this case, is actually the ability to take someone's DNA, and create a Gamete from it (probably a lot of them, for men). This explains why the ability is temporary - the body can't produce these gametes itself, they always come out wrong. However, it also brings up the problem that two novas who become fertile through Bounty's power will produce an INFERTILE offspring, as the retrovirus' effects are passed down to the child unchanged from their parent's DNA. As for designing another retrovirus, a nova would have to isolate the changes that the original retrovirus made to someone's DNA, and then design a new retrovirus to counteract those changes.

Nits to be picked:

Why does this genetic change make a woman infertile, since she's already produced her eggs? Probably the retrovirus infects those eggs directly. Possibly, the genetic change causes all currently available gametes to be destroyed right after the infection occurs.

Why doesn't anyone ever find one of these retroviruses laced into readily available drugs distributed at Rashoud facilities? I've always liked the idea that Proteus types only contaminate the first dose or two of drugs that a nova ever gets. I can't remember what book that's from, but it explains why no one ever complains about the 'weird and pointless additive' in Mox.

You're crazy, it'll never work! Yep, crazy. Crazy like a fox. laugh

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Quote:
Harold 'Mythic' Anderson:
Hmm, another retrovirus could correct the damage that's been done... all it'd need to do is remove the "not me" marker from the spem/ova.
Not my field, but AFAICT that's not a simple thing. The immune system is built to prevent things from doing this because any disease that does would then take over.

Quote:
Timeslip:
Here's the catch, as I see it. If it is a simple matter of a non-self identity tag in the sperm/ova and the immune system's response to said tag, it beggars disbelief to say that the very, very intelligent novas that have been looking into the "nova fertility problem" haven't (1) noted the immune system response and (2) from that found the non-self identity tag. Once that is found -- even if nobody makes the leap and figures that it is an induced change -- it should be child's play for these mental giants to figure out how to fix it.
That’s good except for the part about “it’s a simple matter”. It’s kind of a miracle that our bodies don’t reject these things to start with. Adding a needle to the haystack of our genes is easy. Finding that needle would be harder. Case in point, we know lots of things, genetic diseases, genetic conditions, etc are right there in our gene code. Finding them is really hard, and then, after finding them, you then have to fix them.

If you really dig into what is going on you’d find out that the novas’ hyper-immune system was killing the sex cells. That’s fine, but figuring out why could be extremely challenging. It’s like multiplying two very large prime numbers together, this is very easy. Breaking them back apart is extremely complex, and number theory tells us it will ALWAYS be extremely difficult.

Worse, if the marker is random then there might NOT be a “general” cure. Knowing how to find and get rid of the markers on Nova “X” might not tell you a whole lot about the markers on Nova “Y”. DeVries spent lots of time, research, and money to come up with a cure for Anna and a few other female novas. The real question is whether that cure works on anyone else but Anna and those few others.

From what I know about current technology, it would be MUCH easier to make a nova pregnant by taking another woman’s egg, scooping out the DNA, putting hers in, fertilizing it, and then implanting it in her. All of that we can do in theory, and sometimes in practice. On the other hand, looking for a non-specific marker in the insanely large amount of genetic material that we have would be very difficult.
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Alchemist: Immediately after N-Day (almost certainly the same year), the nova sterility compound is created. If there were nova researchers on this problem, they were wholly owned and controlled by the Aeon society. More likely, they were billiant baselines, or at best research oriented mesmerists (this IS the Aeon society, after all).

Another possibility is some crazy inspired the Aeon society defeated was trying to use the SC on all of mankind, and they kept his work in case someone else tried it.

Alchemist: It is probably eventually counteracted. (fully and permanently, not as Bounty's temporary solution)

Sounds like a Q8 solution.

Alchemist: You know what that sounds like to me? Cryptography. It's pretty nearly the definition of crypto. The trick here is that when they designed the 'crypto system' (sterility cocktail), they weren't particularly worried about how to 'decode' (cure) the end result.

Very good. That’s exactly what it sounds like.

Alchemist: Why doesn't anyone find a cure? The genetic change hides in the nova gene sequence. Since virtually every nova on the planet ends up with this as part of their gene sequence, it's not considdered 'odd', and is probably not researched in the context of fertility. Even if it is, it would be very difficult to isolate the exact portion of the gene sequence changed or added unless you can get a fully fertile nova that has never been exposed to this retrovirus, or a sample of a nova's DNA pre-erruption. Unless a retrovirus is suspected, there would be no reason to compare old DNA against new.

It’s worse than that. Many or most novas might change their gene code as part of eruption. Case in point, London Fog. At a bare minimum many novas are going to dramatically change which genes are active (or expressed).

Alchemist: However, it also brings up the problem that two novas who become fertile through Bounty's power will produce an INFERTILE offspring, as the retrovirus' effects are passed down to the child unchanged from their parent's DNA.

Good point.

Alchemist: As for designing another retrovirus, a nova would have to isolate the changes that the original retrovirus made to someone's DNA, and then design a new retrovirus to counteract those changes.

The real question is whether you’d need a different retrovirus for each nova.

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I do not use the "changing DNA" method to define the sterility cocktail, myself. It makes less sense to me that they had something of that degree available to them so quickly, given the unique and varying natures of each novas biology especially when mega-stamina and its accompanying enhancements are taken into consideration.

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Ashnod: Actually, that's exactly the reason I don't buy the idea that it's a drug. Every nova's biology is different, but all biology is based on DNA. Although it is unlikely that someone would manage to produce a sterility-inducing widget that works on 99% of all novas and use it immediately after N-day, that's what happened. A retrovirus is the best explanation I can think of.

Troll: "Many or most novas might change their gene code as part of eruption"

I'm not sure I buy that, but even if the gene code does change for some novas, they would either still have the reproductive code that's being changed, or they will be rendered infertile by their own erruption.

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I had actually brought that point up (somewhat, I did not mention the date, just the process).

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Quote:
If you want to go with a nova making these through powers. I would say that it would be a nova with either Disease Authority (Q6), or the Pestilence technique from it. Suggesting that the nova would have it as an Elemental Mastery dosen't really fit. There are very few techniques that would fit with it.

With Disease Authority/Pestilence, on a Perc+Disease Authority roll (from p 122/123, APG) it would take 4 (a v-rating of 2)+2 (Fertility Drugs)+2 (Nova resistance)+2 (Healing)+2 (Enhancements that dont specifiy the SC) -> 12 successes

In order to get that you would need someone with a score of 5 in Perc, M-perc and the power in question, and if you were lucky you could make it (avg would be about 9 successes if they drop a WP).

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Quote:
Originally posted by Alchemist:
Ashnod: Actually, that's exactly the reason I don't buy the idea that it's a drug. Every nova's biology is different, but all biology is based on DNA. Although it is unlikely that someone would manage to produce a sterility-inducing widget that works on 99% of all novas and use it immediately after N-day, that's what happened. A retrovirus is the best explanation I can think of.
I don't think they could engineer something like that so effectively so quickly. I see "throwing massive medication" at the problem as a more feasible solution. We're talking about ALTERING the DNA of an existing organism that hyper-resistant to most forms of infection and invasion. I just don't buy the retrovirus aspect of it emerging so soon after the advent of novas.

It would be more likely, to me, that a retrovirus is a later stage of the sterility project but not the initial one.
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Worth noting that novas weren't the first hypergeniuses. Superscience has been around since the 20's.

In Adventure terms, if a superscientist is engineering a disease, that's a pretty straightforward set of advancements on a normal disease (hm - cross a retrovirus with HIV in order to bypass the immune system?). The retrovirus itself isn't so hard to imagine - I'd assume that you could create something like that today.

Getting past a nova immune system is a little more impressive, but even anti-aging drugs only take months for a superscientist to work out. For the sake of argument, call that six months to produce the product normally (I'd judge less, but that's opinion). If you're really worried about getting the cocktail into production, put someone with Mad Scientist on the job, who can get the thing done in about one twenty-fourth of the time.

There's nothing to say that advancements can't be mass produced, so it's not unreasonable to say that such a scientist could have a nova-sterility cocktail on the market within a year.

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Quote:
Ashnod:
It would be more likely, to me, that a retrovirus is a later stage of the sterility project but not the initial one.
Totally non cannon and with no proof at all... but...

Max (accidently?) brought the SC back in time to the 1940's so Aeon had it all set up by 1998. For that matter, Max would have had to bring enough info about the future Abby war so that the SC would seem like a good idea.

That last part BTW is one of the things that gets me. The first wave was pretty taint free, just the idea that creating the SC would be good shouldn't have been around without knowing about the war and/or the 2nd Gen.

1998 is before taint, before the Teragen, before any hint of the second gen, and before knowledge of Q6+. Why the heck did someone come up with the SC unless they had access to Max's diary? Aeon had access to supers, I'd hope that genocide wouldn't be the first club out of the bag.
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Quote:
Max (accidently?) brought the SC back in time to the 1940's so Aeon had it all set up by 1998. For that matter, Max would have had to bring enough info about the future Abby war so that the SC would seem like a good idea.
You know, I have been meaning to ask. Which book does it say that in? I recall reading it in forums, but I cant recall if I read it in a sourcebook, or which sourcebook it is in.
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It occurs to me that they had the Cocktail prior to N-Day (Mercer's diary sounds like a good reason, though it may, of itself, lead to the Aberrant War). The drugs were "invented" within months of the first novas erupting, but we later learn that Stalwarts (primative, Pre-N-Day novas) have been around for 70 years, at least. Aeon had people to use as a baseline for the "Cocktail".

Likewise, the Aeon Society knew that their old nemesis Dr. Primoris/Divis Mal would be behind the N-Day, and had reasons to be suspicious of his actions. They have a reason to research retrovirus' tailored for novas.

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Even if Max kept his knowledge of the Aberrant war to himself, there's still reason to believe that the sterility cocktail might be made. Novas are big, novas are powerful, and novas are frightening. And Aeon (and more specifically Proteus) is run by baselines. Even if they don't have CoMA's unreasoning hatred, there's still going to be a desire to control the Nova population.

It's one thing to control the current generation, and another matter entirely to ensure that your control lasts for more than a generation. Limiting the birth rate means you only have to worry about Novas erupting, instead of also having to plan for Nova children whose imaginations don't limit their powers nearly as much, and who age to maturity in four years (and such an event would be a reasonable speculation on their part). If you're afraid that novas are going to overrun the earth, and you want to at once make use of them while ensuring that baselines stay on top of the food chain, it makes sense to keep their reproduction in check.

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Please bear in mind that precognition and time "skimming" or even "traveling" isn't necessarily as useful as it might sound in understanding the events as they unfold. Neither provides the god-like omniscience that we as gamers assume on an almost intuitive level. For all his abilities, and Max is truly an extraordinary man, he is still not omniscient. Ask him what happened on October 23, 2020 and he can tell you. What he cannot tell necessarily is why it happened. And because his life is not linear he doesn't not necessarily understand how his own actions or those of his delegates played a part in making those events come to pass. If anything, I would say Max understands this on some level and its a very pragmatic part of the reason he insists humanity take its own course. he knows full well he cannot understand or foresee all the ramifications therefore he acts on critical points.

Most telling of all is an email from Thetis reproduced in one of the books wherein she asserts not to bother Max [with something happening of interest] because he "needs to focus on more important things." For good reasons and bad, Max doesn't know everything. Only we, being privy to all the details through the books and seeing some patterns emerge from our reading even question why he doesn't know all these things.

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Adding to this, remember that, among other things, Max literally disappeared off the face of the earth for 58 years before N-day, has no major sensory abilities (his time travel abilities give him no special insight into cause and effect), knows only as much about Nova physiology as anyone else in the Aberrant Universe, and is likely working through flawed, mundane organisational structures. There is most definitely enough stopping Mercer from gaining an omniscient view of the world.

So, what Psimon said, in condensed form...

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Limiting the birth rate means you only have to worry about Novas erupting, instead of also having to plan for Nova children whose imaginations don't limit their powers nearly as much...

And what year was this idea proposed? 2002? 2003? The idea that every nova can do *anything* was extremely disturbing and took a fair amount of research to figure out.

Sure, it lends a lot of support for Project Pro making the SC... but the SC predates the research.

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Even if Max kept his knowledge of the Aberrant war to himself, there's still reason to believe that the sterility cocktail might be made. Novas are big, novas are powerful, and novas are frightening. And Aeon (and more specifically Proteus) is run by baselines. Even if they don't have CoMA's unreasoning hatred, there's still going to be a desire to control the Nova population.

So you sterilize the novas you control making sure it's only the novas you don't control that reproduce? And this is the plan that someone comes up with, gets approval for, funds, and starts researching with captured novas (i.e. using extremely unethical methods) from day #1?

1) Getting approval for something this wild should take time.

1a) At least the 4 top people had to be convinced genocide was the way to go, as opposed to just assassinating ‘renegade’ novas.

2) Ditto getting funding.

3) Ditto setting up the research.

3a) Finding researchers unethical enough to experiment on live humans to create a genocidal plague is going to take time.

3b) Capturing and containing novas is also going to take time.

4) Learning about how nova physiology work’s is going to take time.

5) Designing, creating, testing, and packaging the SC is going to take time.

5a) Keep in mind what we have is a genocidal plague for which we don’t have a cure. If it becomes person to person transmittable (like through sexual contact) and affects baselines then that’s a really bad thing.

6) And then we have to manufacture it.

7) And this doesn’t include the research on Mox, etc.

Conclusion: I don’t see how they’d have motivation, much less the time, unless they had some of Max’s knowledge.

They had to know the war was coming. They might even know that the so called “3rd gen” were ‘evil’ (presumably they didn’t know that the ‘3rd Gen’ was a misnomer).

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Aeon did know about the various "morphs" ahead of time, though, and presumably had a decent insight into how Nova physiology worked before N-day--therefore Mox and the like can be manufactured fairly soon, especially since N-day is only the public face of mass eruption, and there's reason to believe that at least a few Novas (aside from Mal) erupted beforehand.

And who says that the SC only works on Novas? It's only applied to Novas (as far as we know), but maybe it can be added to any drug that is successfully ingested. If it's only put into drugs that Nova systems can process (Psychs, at least, let Nova drugs pass through their system with no effects), or if it's only given to Novas, then it will only affect Novas.

The research on the SC doesn't even necessarily have to be from Aeon. Aeon has been dealing with trouble-makers that sound suspiciously like villains for decades. If one of them decides to further the Nazi cause by trying to re-initiate the Holocaust on a genetic scale, Aeon would be obliged to stop them... and a few enterprising Aeon operatives might save the knowledge just in case.

I'm operating on guesswork, of course. Likely, Aeon knew something about what was coming thanks to Max, but we don't really know how much. I am pointing out, however, that they had other sources of information aside from Max himself.

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Quote:
Originally posted by David 'Dr. Troll' Smith:
So you sterilize the novas you control making sure it's only the novas you don't control that reproduce?
I don't think it makes sense to argue both ends against the middle. Regardless of whether Mercer understood why thing were going to happen as they did, he knew major events. The war is a major event and so is the exodus of novas from the planet Earth. Would he care who had babies so long as the number of novas could be kept to a managable level?

Knowing things are going to come to a head in the middle of the 21st Century, would you rather deal with a large or small group of novas? Especially since nova kids give nova parents a reason to actively fight for the planet instead of leaving.
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And who says that the SC only works on Novas? It's only applied to Novas (as far as we know), but maybe it can be added to any drug that is successfully ingested. ...

It's triggered by quantum.

[Aberrant: Project Utopia]

P. 110: "However, what these side effects indicate is that adrenocilin (along with moxinoquantamine and Mite) carries a hidden birth-control agent that activates as your node channels quantum energy..."

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OK, campers. This is a first/rough draft of what the crew is working up for the "Sterility Cocktail" in The New Flesh. By all means, please read it over and offer critique of the ideas presented.

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Project Utopia's Sterility Cocktail

We've taken the time to come up with what we feel is the most plausible explanation of what the Utopian sterility cocktail actually is, how it works and why it hasn't been cured by some medically-inclined nova hypergenius prior to 2015. Of course, all this can easily be changed by the Storyteller to suit the individual needs of his or her own Aberrant chronicle.

• What is the Utopian sterility cocktail, and how does it work?

The Utopian sterility cocktail is actually a retrovirus that was developed by Proteus agents in Project Utopia's Nova Medicine section. Acting under the command of Director Thetis, those Proteus agents genetically engineered the retrovirus so that it would specifically target and infect all the cells of a nova's gonads with extreme speed. Once there, the virus attacks a specific portion of the nova's DNA that is involved in both the genetic basis for nova capabilities and the production of gametes. The retrovirus then alters that portion of the nova's DNA so that all existing gametes (along with any that are produced in the future, in the case of nova men) carry what amounts to an encrypted genetic sequence. Its dirty work accomplished, the virus is then quickly eliminated from the nova's system. The altered gametes are now genetically dissimilar to the rest of the nova's body (with the potential to eventually become cancerous), and for this reason are quickly destroyed by the nova's own leukocytes. As of 2015, there is no known cure for the effects of this retrovirus. Director Thetis' interest lies in controlling the nova population by preventing their reproduction, so creating a cure (a key to the genetic encryption) was deemed both unnecessary and counterproductive.

• If Utopia's retrovirus is the true cause of nova sterility, what about the claims of Jennifer "Slider" Landers and Director Iktome that there are sterility-inducing chemicals in the Utopian nova drugs?

That idea is actually disinformation created by Proteus. Director Thetis knew that novas would eventually get around to investigating the mystery of nova sterility, so she created the false secret of the sterility-inducing chemicals being present in all nova drugs to hide the real secret of the retrovirus. She hoped that if nova researchers treated nova sterility as the result of simple drugs, they would waste valuable time chasing that wild goose instead of learning how to deal with the actual culprit.

• Is the sterility retrovirus present in all of the Utopian nova drugs?

It isn't, for two reasons. First off, the sterility retrovirus was deliberately made too weak to survive for very long outside of a specialized laboratory environment- in game terms, it has a Virulence Rating of 2 when used on a nova. This allows the retrovirus to be used safely - in most cases - on novas without the risk of mutation and subsequent transmission to the baseline population. This changes if the retrovirus is used on a heavily-Tainted nova (8-10 dots of permanent Taint), as the nova's Taint can easily cause severe mutations in the retrovirus. This unforeseen circumstance will prove to be the source of some of the infamous "Taint diseases" that will ravage the baseline populace both during the upcoming Aberrant War and in the Trinity Era. Second, both adrenocilin and moxinoquantamine are readily available to novas (with a prescription), making it all too easy for them to end up being examined in some nova mastermind's biology lab. For this reason, doses of adrenocilin and moxinoquantamine that have been laced with the sterility retrovirus are only issued to Project Utopia's Intervention Teams and the doctors at the Rashoud clinics, and are only used once or twice on any given nova. Since the sterility retrovirus typically needs only one chance to do its dirty work, one or two doses are all that's required. Other batches of adrenocilin and moxinoquantamine that are distributed through other channels will lack the sterility retrovirus.

• Why haven't any medically-inclined nova masterminds discovered this before 2015? And why haven't any of those masterminds come up with a cure for it?

Certain Mega-Intelligent novas have known about the Utopian sterilization program for quite some time, with Antaeus being the most notable of them. Knowing that a problem exists and doing something constructive about it are two different things, however. Provided that a mastermind can see through the "sterility drug" disinformation put out by Proteus, she will then have to investigate other possible ways to induce sterility in novas. If the mastermind suspects a genetic cause of nova sterility, she will then be faced with strong evidence that it is apparently linked to the genes that allow for nova capabilities to develop in the first place. If said mastermind has access to a nova's pre-eruption DNA or to the DNA of a nova who either has not been sterilized or erupted with the Health or Fertility enhancements, she can verify that nova sterility is not a natural part of the nova genome, leading her to suspect that a retrovirus has been at work. That leaves her with the task of locating the genetic alteration caused by the retrovirus within the nova genome, and the task of "decrypting" the genetic alteration once it's been found. That's when attempting to reverse nova sterility becomes a truly Herculean labor. First off, Proteus' genetic encryption has no "key", making it a one-way process, as Director Thetis never intended nova sterility to be reversible. Second, since a gamete has only half of a human's genetic code and the individual chromosomes of that code are randomly selected, the encrypted message is non-determinate. This leaves developing another retrovirus to correct the genetic alteration made by the Utopian sterility retrovirus as the only conventional way to cure nova sterility. Once you add in the difficulties of evading Utopia's Technological Regulation agents, Proteus saboteurs and industrial espionage in the course of developing said retrovirus, it becomes all too easy to see why even nova masterminds have made little progress in the matter of curing nova sterility.

• How can novas resist the effects of the Utopian sterility retrovirus?

Having the Health enhancement is the most obvious defense novas can have against the Utopian sterility retrovirus, although having dots of Invulnerability: Disease works just as well. The only problem with these defenses is that a nova must gain them upon eruption for them to be effective. If they are developed after a nova erupts and is sterilized by the Utopian retrovirus, they cannot restore the nova's fertility. What's worse is that those defenses can also prevent any future attempts to use a retrovirus to cure the nova's sterility. The Fertility enhancement (found later on in this chapter) is also a viable defense, and is more useful as developing it after a nova's eruption will actually allow a sterilized nova to regain his or her fertility.

• Are there any unconventional ways to cure the effects of the Utopian sterility retrovirus?

Yes, but they're not widely available to novas in 2015. Developing the Fertility enhancement will allow a nova to correct the Utopian-induced sterility without any medical assistance. Healing simply will not work, as it doesn't affect a subject's DNA. Biomanipulation is ineffective as well, since the only technique that would directly affect a subject's DNA is Form Manipulation, which cannot be used on novas. Powers that directly control the DNA of other novas (such as possesed by the Terat Altaz "The Apothecary" Zia) are capable of correcting the effects of the retrovirus, provided that the nova has a DNA sample from a fertile nova to use as a template. The Mutation technique of the Ecological Supremacy power is capable of restoring the fertility of the entire nova population with a single use, but the only novas known in canon to possess that power are Antaeus, Regina Mundi and Belladonna. It is speculated that one of these novas not only restored the fertility of the nova population in the 2030s, but granted all novas the equivalent of one level of the Health enhancement as well.

• Was Max Mercer behind the Utopian sterility retrovirus?

Certainly not. As written, Max Mercer is not someone who would countenance the mass sterilization of an entire group of humans, even one as powerful as the novas. Aeon was left to its own devices after Mercer vanished in the mid-1950s. Others in Aeon attempted to carry on what they thought was his dream, but they wound up shifting focus to their own personal agendas. Said personal agendas have diverged greatly from Mercer's original vision of what Aeon's ideals, goals and methods should be. When Mercer returned to Aeon in the mid-1990s, he did not like what found. To Mercer, the lengths to which Aeon projects like Utopia and Proteus have gone indicates that he screwed up royally somewhere. Mercer retains much control over Aeon, but he's got a lot of work to do before Aeon can really be considered "his group" once again. So while Mercer would not have aided in the development and use of the Utopian sterility retrovirus, he was also far too busy regaining control over Aeon to rein in Thetis' premier atrocity.

• That explanation is all very nice, but it doesn't suit my Aberrant chronicle. Are there any alternatives?

Of course! At the Storyteller's discretion, the Utopian sterility cocktail may truly be an assortment of sterility-inducing drugs tailored to affect novas instead of an engineered retrovirus. Alternatively, the sterility-inducing drugs could be too expensive and/or too difficult to produce for it to used widely, leading it to be used in only the adrenocilin and moxinoquantamine Project Utopia's Intervention Teams and the doctors at the Rashoud clinics. Also, the Utopian sterility retrovirus or drugs can also have a more exotic source than we have indicated, again at the Storyteller's discretion. It's not impossible for a mad scientist from the Adventure! Era to have developed either an engineered virus or special drugs with the Super-Science rules.

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On re-reading, there are a few nits.

it would specifically target and infect all the cells of a nova's gonads with extreme speed

If said mastermind has access to a nova's pre-eruption DNA

It's there, in every cell that's not in the gonads. By saying that the retrovirus targets only a specific set of cells in the body (an excelent change, by the way), you are saying that only those cells' DNA has been changed. This sifts the problem away from needing to analyze pre-versus post virus DNA, and it becomes a matter of needing to compare DNA from the gonads to DNA in the rest of the body. So the viral damage is hiding in plain sight, so to speak, but in such a way that looking for it is prohibitively unlikely.

The retrovirus then alters that portion of the nova's DNA so that all existing gametes (along with any that are produced in the future, in the case of nova men)

Two seperate functions. The gametes would have to be attacked seperately from the generative cells that produce them. Perhaps that's where the 'cocktail' idea comes from? There are two retroviruses, or a retrovirus and a drug that neutralizes gametes?

Other than that, looks great.

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It still doesn't address the problem that several people brought up: speed. I mean, it agrees with me that an Adventure!-esque mad scientist could have had something to do with it (in an alternative sort of way), but there remains no definitive explanation as to why Thetis had the virus ready so quickly.

On the subject of that speed, I'm assuming that it's somewhere in the Utopia book? I don't remember reading exactly when Nova sterility was induced/noticed. It doesn't seem impossible to me that the virus could have been introduced two or three months after the fact. I mean, there were only a few thousand novas by that point; if one of them were at risk of becoming pregnant, it could be tracked fairly easily and the fetus could be disposed of within a few days of a confirmed pregnancy. Only a few Novas remember even hearing about a Nova conceiving, and there's little to no evidence left.

For men, at least, it wouldn't even be necessary to change the sperm, just the generative organs. Sperm die so quickly that the Nova in question would have at most a day of fertility, and few Novas go out and attempt to impregnate a woman on the day of their eruption. And if they do go out and sow oats like there's no tomorrow, this can likely be tracked except in extreme cases.

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And if they do go out and sow oats like there's no tomorrow, this can likely be tracked except in extreme cases.

You're forgetting about groupies. Novas could have sex with someone different two or three times a day. I remember other sports figures saying that Will Chamberland's claim of 20,000 women was realistic. That doesn't mean that all men will, but let's say 1% do that and another 20% have sex with someone different two or three times a week.

1000 novas, 500 males, so 1% is 5 and 20% is 100. Note that this is before considering Mega-Socials, so it could and probably is a low number.

Now drag powers into the mix. If any one of those 105 novas has Warp, Teleport, Clone, Shapechange, CopyCat, etc and it becomes extremely difficult to see how they can be kept track of... especially if they aren't living in a country where Project Pro has a lot of influence.

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Troll, I'm aware of how prolific a Nova could potentially be. But if it's been only one day since he erupted, the chances that he'll have a harem on-hand, and that he'll be spending that whole day outside of Utopia's hands, are pretty low. The "one day" catch was pretty important to my point.

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