A mnemonic neural recall stimulator, also known as a gray box, is a device implanted in the brain to assist and prioritize memory. Originally developed to slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease, grayboxes function by helping the amygdalae "chunk" incoming stimuli into recognizable pieces for memory consolidation. Each memory is assigned a shape or sensation from other memories, tying the concepts together into a block that is more easily recalled.
When Synthetic Insights first released them onto the market in 2140, grayboxes were hailed as a way humans could level the playing field between themselves and the salarians, whose natural eidetic memories gave them an advantage. However, because the implant procedure of a graybox requires the brain to irreversibly shift its workload over to the machine, software bugs or attempted removal of the graybox for maintenance purposes could lead to incapacitating brain damage. For this reason, grayboxes soon became used only by those with a dire need for photographic memories, such as researchers and spies.
In 2175, sale and implantation of grayboxes were outlawed by the Systems Alliance following an incident with Abraham Rumoi, an employee of the Alliance Intelligence Agency. Rumoi was believed to be a professional con man and thief named Keiji Okuda, who accessed and sold classified data. However, prosecuting attorneys were unable to use his assisted memories as evidence due to the Alliance court systems prohibitions against self-incrimination (based on the Fifth Amendment of the old U.S. Constitution). Rumoi soon disappeared off the map following his trial, further heightening suspicions that he was Okuda and living off of ill-gotten gains.
When found outside a human head, grayboxes are usually accessed with a specialized reader. A separate decryption key is almost always required, as users with data sensitive enough to require a graybox invariably install their own encryption.
Kassa Fabrications Locust Edit
"The gun that killed two Presidents" is the infamous legacy of the Kassa Fabrications Model 12 Locust. Originally created for the Systems Alliance, who wanted a lightweight weapon for high-gravity worlds, the Locust was designed to overcome the limitations of traditional submachine guns at long range.
With bullet velocity of modern weapons already pushed to the limit, the Locust's designers sought a way to improve accuracy through reducing weapon kick. They created an internal "floating bed" that absorbs the gun's recoil with a minimal jarring of the gun frame itself. The barrel, magazine, chamber, and operating mechanism all move within this bed, which absorbs shock with springs and buffers. This creates a platform stable enough that the Locust can use auto-targeting software usually reserved for match-grade weapons.
The Locust's lethality on shielded targets has been amply demonstrated. In 2176, a Virginian patent clerk named Michael Moser Lang brought a Locust concealed in a shoulder-mounted video camera to a photo opportunity between Enrique Aguilar, President of the United North American States, and Chinese People's Federation premier Ying Xiong. At a distance of about 25 meters, Lang pierced the kinetic barriers covering the stage with the first burst, and when Xiong heroically tackled Aguilar to remove him from the line of fire, Lang's succeeding bursts went through the premier's body and fatally wounded both men.
Donovan Hock's collection contains two antique ivory-handled Locusts, modified to take thermal clips. A detachable data drive rests in the lining of the box, containing omni-tool specifications for fabricating copies. A quick trip to the extranet reveals one of the weapons has the same serial number as Lang's original. If it's a fake, it's extremely well-made.
Lady Liberty Edit
The Statue of Liberty was the target of several terrorist attacks over its 210-year lifetime, but in 2096, a motley group called Freedoms First finally brought the statue down. Protesting the induction of Canada and Mexico into the United North American States, the New York chapter of Freedoms First wanted a symbol that they would secede from this new union if necessary.
In the early morning hours of November 1st, they smuggled small arms and 15.5 tons of high explosive onto Liberty Island. Shooting or capturing guards, they planted explosives under the pedestal and detonated them at 7:37 a.m.. The statue crashed to the ground in pieces, unexpectedly killing four of the Freedoms First terrorists. The remaining team members were apprehended after long manhunts, but the damage was done. The outrage at the secessionists kindled the fires of the Second American Civil War.
On November 4th, President Kaitlin Cheung signed an executive order to rebuild the statue. Approximately one-tenth of the steel beams and copper plating from the destroyed statue was recovered and used in creating the new one. The original's head was put on display in the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.. It remained there for two years until the Battle of Washington. During heavy shelling by secessionist forces, the head disappeared.
A new statue was completed in 2101, and the fate of the original pieces was left for speculation and pulp novels. Interest flared up briefly in 2159 when photos surfaced of the head in the cargo hold of a star freighter, but by that time human media were far more concerned with the future. In the face of humanity spreading out among thousands of new planets, a statue titled "Liberty Enlightening the World" seemed small and quaint by comparison.
"More glittering than diamonds, more expensive than surgery," is how travel agents describe this planet behind closed doors. Given the opportunity to colonize planets after the First Contact War, the Systems Alliance chose Bekenstein to be their trading arm, producing goods to be sold on the nearby Citadel. Cracking the vast galactic marketplace proved difficult -- the first human products sold on novelty alone, then lack of demand hit Bekenstein's economy hard. Only in the second generation of colonists did the planet find a sustainable niche in high-quality entertainment and luxury goods. Once brand awareness sunk in, aliens flocked to Bekenstein's many spaceports. The planet today boasts more millionaires and billionaires per capita than any other human colony.
Though its crime tends to be white-collar and nonviolent, Bekenstein is not without its dark side. Both its suicide rate and inflation are extremely high compared to other worlds. Unemployment is artificially low because few people immigrate to the expensive planet without having a job lined up, and the cost of living is so great that unemployed workers typically leave for kinder planets after just a few months. Those who stay see themselves as tougher, sharper, and more skillful than the rest, as well as capable of getting respect and employment on any lesser planet. As a popular song says, "If you can make it on the Bek, you got 'em by the neck."