Life before the Exodus was varied for all the humans of Earth, but one factor always remained the same: the planet did not have the resources to support all of humanity. When the Exodus ships left Earth, the commanding officers of The Fortitude decided they would only tie humanity’s future to the resources of one astronomical body if it was indefinitely plentiful. If a planet could not support their projected needs, then they would not bind their fates to it. As such, The Fortitude continued to be their home until another, ideal, home could be found. They hoped that through its modification and expansion they could remain in the salvation of space for as long as they needed.
The crew and passengers rallied behind their leadership; and from the thrill and challenges of life on the move in space, grew an unshakable bond. They implemented more advanced CO2 scrubbers, water reclamation processes, hydroponics, larger propulsion systems and were able to travel faster and farther out into the solar system in search of resources. The crew discovered that vast supplies of raw materials could be harvested from asteroids and smaller moons, including water in the form of ice. These materials were the means to expand The Fortitude and befitting its name, the ship soon embodied the strength and constitution of the survivors it housed. Thicker hull plating made it impervious to space debris and asteroid impacts, advanced power generation kept all of its systems optimally running and high energy laser drills dotted its exterior. Before long, The Fortitude became a veritable Fort flying through space.
The ship was not alone in its transformation, as the humans aboard were also changing. Life in space was harsh and unforgiving. If a person did not have a purpose on the ship, then they were simply another mouth to feed or lungs to consume precious air. As a result, from early adolescence every person was required to seek out and dedicate themselves to a vital role. Whether it was maintaining fuel cells and navigation systems or producing clothing and growing food in the massive hydroponics facilities, everyone had a core responsibility; and they were all fiercely proud of their contributions. They had determination to thrive and the resources to support it, but living in space permanently was slowly endangering their bodies.
The purely artificial gravity on board The Fortitude could not stave off the degradation of the crew’s bone mass. Their way of life was a constant barrage of physical challenges that human physiology was not prepared for. Those that could continue to work without issue insisted on carrying the load of those that could not. However, still compelled by the same unbreakable bond they formed when they left Earth, the weakened refused to lay idle. They would rise and attend their post, for the pride and honour they held for their core duties was unwavering. Many years would pass like this, and just as many would perish under the stresses of their work. Each was given a funeral befitting a hero. Those that were not adversely affected began to show similar traits. Thicker bones with higher density, increased musculature, and what would later become key to their prosperity, larger nerve bundles throughout their bodies. These survivors, despite their strength and sturdy frames, mourned the loss of their loved ones. A sorrow befell the ship and laughter became a forgotten sound.
They were dark years, and although their numbers had reduced dramatically, the ship’s enormity still required constant attention. They marched tirelessly through the halls of The Fortitude tending to its upkeep with the necessary tools always clenched in their fists--until they seemed like permanent fixtures of their hands. Eventually, the crew even began to see themselves as tools to their core duties. They gave their bodies to their work, to their specialty, and to their Core.
At first, they used mechanized exo-skeleton suits to increase their productivity. Next, they mastered graphene capacitor technology and could power more complex machinery compact enough to fit on their bodies. Then, bionic neural implants were developed, and their uniquely robust nervous system allowed for more efficient communication between human and machine components. Surgical augmentations became more common as each person specialized in their duties. In their diminished population, every crew member’s contributions mattered. The eldest, growing weaker due to age, remembered the sacrifice their brothers and sisters made in the line of duty and so they too refused to stop working. They gave themselves completely to their Core. Entire limbs, organs and sections of their bodies became intricate machines. They were barely flesh, but still alive and dedicated to their comrades. This devotion was admired by the younger members of each Core and quickly became an aspiration.
The crew had found their course, and their population began to grow again. In time, the expansive halls of their ship once again bustled with life: human and machine. They embraced their mechatronic duality and prospered. After years of hardship, laughter finally echoed off the metallic walls once again, and this time, did not cease. With their newfound physical capabilities, their mining operations intensified. They were wealthy in every known element, and once again the ship began to grow. The further they traveled, the more it grew, until it became a behemoth; no longer recognizable as the original vessel that left Earth thousands of years before. Deep inside, The Fortitude remained at its core, but the ship itself had become a colossal creation teeming with life and activity. They gave it a new name to pay tribute to the technology that saved them and so their home came to be called CAINE-1.
In their travels, far beyond the reaches of the solar system, they came upon a small asteroid field that gave them pause. As experts of resource gathering, they were suspicious of its nature, as it did not appear like any they had encountered before. They analyzed the material and discovered incredible properties. The data was poured over endlessly until finally a discovery was made; a connection that pointed back to Earth. The ship was immediately turned around and all hands prepared for the long return journey. They are hardened survivors bound by duty to their ship, and by fierce loyalty to each other. They are the Augencore.
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