(Based on “”Methusalahs by M. Alan Kazlev)
[ 🎶(Mass Effect - The Citadel: Upper Wards [1 Hour of Music])
[ lilliputian “Methuselahs”, with their ungulate-like limbs and pointed ears that give them an equine appearance. ]
Prelude - Life Extension during the Information Age
During the Information Age, genome-editing research and later commercial genemods were not only concerned with augmenting acuity, acumens, physical prowess, and resistance to disease, but also eliminating senescence, “fixing nature’s foibles” to develop beings able to live for longer periods. Some of these concepts hearkened as far back as the turn of the 21st century, but it would be many decades before these approaches became a viable practice.
Lifespan-enhancement involved many factors, each of which had to be resolved under their own fields. Osteoporosis, myasthenia, atherosclerosis, organ failure, genetic copying errors, and telomere deterioration were just a few on the list of problems that had to be dealt with. Progress was slow, and optimistic predictions often failed to eventuate.
By the early 22nd century however, the nascent biopunk subculture, ribopunk splicer groups, and big genetech corporations had managed to surmount many of these hurdles. The result was an emerging clade of “Homo Sapiens Superior” with estimated multi-centenarian lifespans with bionanotech, and at least 120-to-150 years without, while remaining youthful and fully robust as well for most of that time.
Biotechnology was often ravenous to resources, however, requiring either wealth, technological adroitness, a network of friends and co-workers, or even all of which combined. Thus, in addition to the unofficial but entrenched echelons of digitally literate and illiterate, there emerged the augmented unhindered (sometimes called ““Gattacas
, referencing an old 2D motion picture that became a classic among the disenfranchised) and the biologically disadvantaged.
The Emergence of Methuselahs
In the corporate, reputation, and fad-n’-fashion driven world of late Information Age Earth, impressions and appearance were as vital as talent and intelligence. Even the biopunks and ribopunks, now celebrities, had become less motivated in improving the human condition; their interests moved onto maintaining and stylizing their public images, mostly through attempts to exceed further past the already-redefined boundaries of genegineering. For this reason, the most daring experiments were conducted in the unregulated micro-nations like Academia, Haven, and Lyonesse, and later, up the well on the last frontier, within brave new orbiting utopias like New Academia, Rama 1 and 2, Oikos Station, and Kibbutz Orbital.
By no means the most extraordinary or controversial of these experiments, but still one to have a great impact nonetheless, was the Methuselah Project, initiated in 2148 CE. A team led by Dr. Darwin Jamie Pennak, 2nd-gen hyper-intelligent “superbright” and part-time consultant for Biotopia, and ex-Modernbody biohack Patricia Heng, decided to pull out all stops and create a true Methuselah - “life longevity as if aesthetics did not matter”. They took the baseline human genome and decided to overhaul and redesign it, as if evolution had selected for functional lifetime and lifespan of a century and more, even without bionano or telomerase treatments.
The result was one of the less aesthetically “archetypal” of the new “clades”.
Almost every part of the human anatomy was redesigned into them on the basis of optimal function.
The most obvious difference was in the stature of the new “species”. The inefficient upright posture was replaced with a horizontally-lain body; The entire musculoskeletal structure of the torso and arms was altered to allow for a quadrupedal form, still capable of occasional upright stances and bipedal walking (when necessary), while the hands and feet were resculptured into hooves. The neck was thrusted out slightly at a forward-slanting angle, as well as being thickened, to make it easier to hold up the head. The height was reduced to help prevent falls and hip fractures caused by aging. The old and new pairs of legs were plumped with more fat, muscle and thicker bones to withstand tripping. More difficult to organize, the more powerful “hindlegs” were made to bend backwards, so the wear and tear on their knee and ankle joints was reduced. Much of the internal anatomy, the digestive and urogenital tracts, and glands were all redesigned. The ears were enlarged and pointed, to increase the amount of sound they can conduct, and could swivel back and forth to focus better. The eyes were enlarged and optimized, balance and coordination was improved, and more.
The result, was a clade oddly similar in appearance, to a short and robust pony.
Life in the Solar System, and Beyond
In 2168, twenty years after the project had begun, the first of the methuselii, ““Arion
, reached maturity in the Aquarius Submarine Free States. He was soon joined by his kith. Although reasonably intelligent, they did not have superbright intellects, as their whole purpose had been geared toward optimized life extension. The Methuselah Project closed soon after; in any case, Pennak, Heng, and the rest of the team had long since moved on to other prospects, taking the property rights of the methuselah genome with them. It was the low point of despair for the new equine-looking species. As Arion-Methuselah was later to say, perhaps with understandable bitterness, in his memoirs; “no-one was interested in tank-bred dwarf-horses who could live forever”. But with the help of several sapient rights groups and a friendly advocating AI, and after an extended legal battle, the methuselii eventually claimed legal possession of their geneprint. They migrated up from earth to Oikos Station, where they were given citizenship and like many newcomers took the surname “of Oikos”. The solar system was being opened up to colonization and development, and the robust, compact, equine-looking methuselii found work was available on the frontier, where no-one cared what you looked like, as long as you could get the job done, and do it well.
It was during this time that the name ““pit-pony
was first used to refer to these stocky equine-looking morphs. It was part of the frontier culture, along with “gookle”, “etie” (for space adapts), “tinhead” (for cyborgs) and “beastie boy” (for animal hybrids). Some wore the sobriquet with pride, others resented it.
With longevity and rejuvenation treatments available for those who could pay, the growing Methuselah clade were the first true immortals - their bodies were optimized for 200 year lifespans even without any treatment at all; with longevity treatment they could continue for literally thousands of years with little need for further augmentation. Many invested in long-term projects like Oort cloud mining and interstellar development.
The attitude of the methuselahs toward wetware and other such cybernetics was variable. Although A-M of Oikos enthusiastically embraced the new technology “as a way of staying competitive”, others, especially the faction headed by his younger kin ““Enbarr
of Kibbutz, refused having anything to do with such things, an attitude Arion-Methuselah himself found puzzling. On the other extreme end, there were some who went for radical augmentation and hybridization to the extent that they were no longer recognizably methuselan. Thus, from even a relatively early period, the small “herd” was rent by dissensions and schisms. Despite all of this, Arion-Methuselah retained a firm leadership, although some put this down to several hyperturing AGI(Artificial General Intelligence), including Metis-5 of Rama 1, and a cloned “fork” of Arion, Arion-24-c of New Academia, who had advised his progenitor with legal matters in the fight over Methuselah genome ownership, and were actually grooming the clade for reasons of their own (most probably scientific or ethnological curiosity, although in his autobiography Arion-24-c has strenuously denied this).
Like many rimward-moving clades, the methuselahs were little-effected by the “Technocalypse” of 2509 CE that brought such devastation to the inner solar system, but the isolation of the surviving habitats only served to deepen the rift between the Arion-Methuselites (the largest of the 6 solsystem herds), the Enbarrite Purists, and the various cyborg factions. By the time the Technocalypse had ended, there were no less than half a dozen methuseline species and subspecies within the Sol System, and an unknown number already outsystem (we know that the Herd Sleipnir reached Barnard 33
in 2882 CE on the “autonomist” colony vessel Destrier
); each one of these groups claiming to be the “true methuselahs”. In the end, while Arion-Methuselah’s clan voted almost unanimously to serve a part in the restoration of inner-system civilization, most of the other separated factions of the clade, fearing assimilation or subversion, chose to remain autonomous.
The methuselahs found their talents in high demand in the inner system. As ships were not yet capable of traveling at FTL velocities, there was need for long-lived bionts who could serve as crew during long voyages. The stolid, dependable morphs were quite happy to spend decades having the run of ships, especially if there was a suitable commission as part of the deal. As a result, the methuselahs grew very wealthy indeed. Even the emergence of FTL travel did not faze them, for not all nations, corporations, or individuals could afford the technology or materials needed to push a ship to past the speed of light.
With the development of the wormhole transit nexus however, and the eventual increasing availability of FTL and reactionless drive vessels, the methuselahs fell from prominence. Even so, managed investments ensured that those who wished to stay in the Sol System could remain in comfort and luxury. And those that wished to move outward to the ever expanding frontier, found new worlds and investment opportunities. Many established successful and long-lived populations in many of the ordinary (non-transapient managed) middle tech societies, and a lesser number of high tech societies, especially in the Inner Sphere and Hinterworld regions.
Among the Old Houses in civilized space, methuselahs today are renowned as reserved, humble, and rustic. They have no pomp, no spectacle, no servants (not even turingrade drones), no finery. They’re more likely than most to invite visitors into their habitats for a cup(Coffee Cup In Space)
of coffee, and are known to raise the bemused eyebrow if ever addressed with common illustrious honorifics like “Excellency”, “Majesty”, or “Greatest Zar”. They have also changed remarkably-little throughout their existence. They still look like plump miniature horses with large eyes, and the occasional palette of odd fur colors. Most have minimal cybernetic augmentations, usually only enough to interact effectively or comfortably with work and household appliances. Many have been cheated out of their inheritance by more cunning sentients, but have just shrugged off the whole affair and taken up a life on the spaceways, or some development project in the Outer Volumes, where they seem to enjoy doing the sort of long-term tedious maintenance work they have become renowned for.
Not a single methuselah is known to have ever breached even the first singularity toposophic
- hence the expression “about as likely as a hyperbright horse.”