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Biotechnology on Altair is all pervasive and free of most of the cultural taboos possessed by other cultures[1]. You want to be blue, they’ll make you blue. Want a tail? They can grow one and sew it in for less than a family car. Need a flesh eating virus to drop on your enemies? …Well, that’ll cost you extra[2], but you could get it if you wanted.

Modification of your own genome[3] is fairly standard and the Altairians pioneered the use of genetic Scrubs[4] which can confer a number of health, or cosmetic, benefits. Odd hair colours periodically sweep the teenage population, with the very rich sporting other more complicated modifications such as adding reflective layers to the eyes, or even slitting pupils with the cutting edge stuff.

More subtle and less cosmetic modifications are also prevalent. It has been standard practice on Altair to modify embryos to remove some of the nastier genetic diseases. Cystic Fibrosis, for example, has been nearly eradicated on Altair, and as this has taken place on a genetic level the only way for it to be reintroduced will be a suffer entering the gene pool and not electing to take the free Scrubs provided by the state. Even the more radical, like Down’s syndrome can be mitigated, and there have been ongoing debates about the ethics of removing some of the ‘problem genes[5]‘.

A little less controversial are the introduction of beneficial genes, these generally have a positive effect, reducing the susceptibility to various bacteria, priming the immune system against some superbugs, increasing cancer resistance, and couple add additional metabolic pathways so that the body can process odd chemicals like purines[6] or produce Vitamin C. Generally because of this Altairians will live longer on average, and require less medical care[7] and, as this is encoded into their genome, the benefits of their technology will persist for millennia, even if they forget a lot of their advanced technology[8].

Not all their technology is based around human modification. Altair also produces a vast range of genetically engineered organisms and these can be seen across the galaxy.  Most of the terraforming projects ongoing use Altairian developed organisms, though generally these are of the single cellular variety and can’t actually survive in standard atmosphere, but a few of the more extreme colonies plan on incorporating modified genes as the standard for the world[9]. The wealth and experience generated by this practice is the main reason that Altair is one of the more terraformed planets.

Trade on with Altair is mostly based around the biotech, and this creates a rather odd situation where the volume of cargo exported is actually rather minimal[10] by volume, but massive by value. This is very helpful as the majority of traders avoid Altair due to its dicey reputation, but what do arrive can transport a massive amount. Most trade is actually imports[11] with it being about six times the volume of arriving cargo.

Altairians do tend to overemphasise the risks involved in its technology to defend their monopoly, which works against them fairly spectacularly on several occasions.

[1] Except for modification of the brain, which is really just common sense as even the Altairians struggle to wrap their heads around how it works.

[2] Actually, the Altairians are the only people ever to include an exponential cost per mortality into their contracts. With tariffs and the expense of actually having a lab certified to create deadly viruses there are only about three companies in a position to produce such a thing, and even then it would be cheaper just to drop rocks on your enemies instead.

[3] These are officially referred to as Genetic (or Genome) Modifications, though generally get abbreviated to G-Mods. The youth culture tends to describe these jokingly as G-ods and so, most Altairians accused of playing god will agree and share a private snigger.

[4] Scrubs were invented in 2090, and use a virus to modify the genome. This is actually possible now, but quite dangerous as they virus could easily mutate and escape or cause cell cancer. The Scrubs employ a double layer protection system, where firstly, the virus is sterile and can only be assembled by specially modified bacteria which are carefully monitored, and secondly, the virus structure is entirely artificial and would require thousands of mutations to actually be able to replicate itself, or even encode anything other than the desired genes. This pretty much eliminates any risk of cancer or viral escape, if making Scrubs incredibly expensive (which suits the people that make them down to a tee), and by 2400 they can be used to cause a complete rebuild of a body from the ground up. Even after the End Time Wars Altair maintains its monopoly and famously uses Scrubs to modify its entire population to be telekinetic.

[5] Those that may have a detrimental effect, but only as a probability, not a certainty.

[6] This reduces the incidence of kidney stones and gout FYI.

[7] Turns out it’s cheaper to make people resistant to diseases, rather than having to treat them if they do get it. Who knew?

[8] This serves them well during the End Time Wars, and even with a twenty-first century technology level the average Altairian lifespan is thirty years longer than the current equivalent.

[9] Luna and Arcturus are good examples. The low gravity on Luna means that the standard pallet of terran life need to be modified if it isn’t going to jump and reach escape velocity, and Arcturus has an odd enough light spectrum that unmodified plants would be very slow growing.

[10] Why export cows when you can just sell two hundred embryos and an artificial womb?

[11] Altair imports comparatively little compared to other colonies of its size. This is due to the tariff mostly, and the wealth of the population fuelling internal development. Altair is one of the more self sufficient colonies in human space.


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