I recently stumbled on a story about how 11 deaf men shaped early space flight. And it got me to thinking about my concept of Specialists. Quick review: they are clones/test tube babies/engineered people who are given Superpowers and an accelerated growth rate. They are there to overcome the fact that some talents are one in a million, and with a population of 3000, they are unlikely to appear due to random chance.
In the tale of early space flight, these 11 deaf individuals were deaf as a result of an illness that also destroyed their vestibular system. Without a vestibular system, they were immune to motion sickness. They could operate in environments that would leave ordinary humans not only queasy, but unable to function.
It jogged in my mind the archetype in Mythology of Disability Superpowers.
What if, in some extreme cases, our Specialists ended up "modified" in ways that marked them as very different from normal people. What sort of superpowers would be required on board, and what kind of side effects would be tolerable to bring about those superpowers?
Augurs are engineered with a condition which attaches their visual perception system to their spiritual senses instead of their eyes. As a result, they can "see" into the spirit realm. The side effect is that they are functionally blind. Augurs are the primary scientific instruments for the ship. They can detect properties of objects millions of miles away, and see inside of solid objects. They can also sense illness and injury in people, functionally surpassing either X-Ray machines or MRI scanners in our world.
Belletrists are engineered to have extremely high mathematical, literary, and logical functioning. They are living computers. They, unfortunately, have the social skills of a machine as well. Belletrists are, almost to an individual, psychopaths. Belletrist require a consort to handle their interactions with standard humans.
Consorts are specialists who are conditioned with telepathic abilities, high social functioning, and a need to serve others. They are often paired with other specialists (particularly Belletrists and Oracles) who require an interpreter to properly communicate with standard humans. Consorts also help guide their charges through the finer points of everyday life, as their partners are often absorbed in intellectual or spiritual pursuits. Consorts are fabricated at the same time as their charge, and the pair of them are engineered to form a special bond. Romantic relationships between a Consort and his or her partner are common, though not universal. Nymphomania is somewhat common among Consorts, and unchecked it can lead to patterns of destructive behavior.
Dactyls are created with superb hand-eye coordination as well as superior analytical skills. They can be trained as either machinists or medical surgeons. Dactyls have a unique hands-on style of learning which means they are often incapable of taking instruction from others. You have to give a Dactyl a problem, and let them sort out the answer in their own way. While Dactyls may be poor book learners, they excel at finding novel solutions to problems. A side effect if Dactyl conditioning is a short stature and even shorter temper. This is balanced with a gregarious nature that, when not on a task, is playful and want of wine and festivity.
Druids are engineered with a condition that allows them to sense and coordinate the activity of non-intelligent life. They can literally speak to trees. They can perform the art of Bonsai without the use of clippers. These abilities allow them to detect problems in agricultural crops, and even treat problems before they physically manifest. Higher level Druids can actually cause pools of bacteria to "print" physical objects. Plasma is also a form of non-intelligent life, and Druids are needed to coax a cold reactors into starting a self-sustaining reaction. This gift has a side effect of making them extremely sensitive to the emotions of people around them. Particularly children. Druids request, and are often granted, special housing isolated from the rest of the crew.
Oracles are engineered with a condition that all but eliminates the boundary between them and other people through the spiritual realm. Low level telepaths can communicate with other telepaths, and only with people they are familiar with. Oracles can communicate with anyone, regardless of the telepathic training. Oracles can even passively hear the collective thoughts of others. Oracles are also able to communicate across space (and time) to Oracles on other ships and even Oracles in other star systems. Oracles value truth above all else, and utterly despise duplicity and deception. Side effects: Substance abuse is common with Oracles, as certain narcotics and inebriates deaden telepathic ability. Oracles who don't lose themselves in drugs frequently lose themselves in other ways. They develop a condition that washes away all sense of their own existence as an individual human being.
Pygmies are engineered to be much smaller in stature than standard humans. This smaller size allows them to withstand much higher G-forces, as well as reduce their consumption of oxygen and other provisions during Extra-Vehicular activities. They are also engineered without a vestibular system. This lack of a vestibular system allows them to effectively pilot spacecraft in situations that would cause other humans to be violently ill with motion sickness. Unfortunately, the process of disabling their vestibular system often renders them either completely deaf or hard of hearing. Pygmies are engineered with latent telepathy to allow them to communicate without the use of voice, or even radios. Owing to the size and difficulty in communicating with non-telepaths, Pygmies often form an enclave of their own.
Some of the ideas are not completely original. A lot are lifted straight from Mythology. But ... I kind of like that they are somewhat familiar, yet have a set of rules unique to the world of the Iliad. They also conform to the Mind/Soul/Will ability architecture as well as my Network Model of Personality. And frankly, what is a story without Alien Races, even if the Aliens are just engineered humans?