- "Your body of flesh is utilitarian, crudely functional. But a body like mine, of plastic, wire, and steel, is a wonder of efficiency and grace. It makes me something more than human. I am a work of living art!"
- — Lady Sephia Trell, Lord Captain of the Axiom Imperial
Bionics in the Imperium of Man are mechanical or electronic substitutes for biological limbs or organs. Generally the bionic replacement is stronger, more durable or effective than the original, or gives its user completely new abilities. The use of bionics is widespread in the Imperium. However, bionics are expensive and mostly limited to valuable servants of the Imperium, such as veteran warriors or skilled Adepts, high-ranking Imperial officials, Inquisitors, merchants, Rogue Traders, planetary rulers and members of the Imperial nobility who possess the required wealth.
Augmetic implants are ubiquitous throughout the Imperium. From the prosthetic limbs of Imperial Guard veterans, to the life-extending sanguinary actuators of ancient savants, to the multi-jointed mechadendrites of the Adeptus Mechanicus, one is hard pressed to find a resident of a civilised world who does not sport some form of bionic implant. Within the upper classes of Imperial society, where money is freely spent in service to status and fashion, the scions of nobility strut like peacocks displaying a plumage of coiling wire and ribbed augmetic tubing. But for some, bionic modification is more than a mark of status, age, or devotion to the Omnissiah. For some, it is an obsession. For these few, known as Augmenticists, there is no greater goal than physical and aesthetic perfection. It is through repeated bionic surgery that Augmenticists believe such a goal can be attained.
There are as many reasons for becoming an Augmenticist as there are Augmenticists themselves. An ageing servant, driven by fervent devotion, replaces his failing organs one by one lest he die leaving some task incomplete. A warrior of exceptional skill nevertheless becomes frustrated with the limits of the human body, undertaking repeated muscle grafts and the implantation of ever-more lethal weapons in a quest to become death incarnate. The foppish merchant prince, a slave to youth and beauty, puts himself under the surgeon’s knife time and again until he has attained statuesque allure and an inhuman tolerance to even the most exotic intoxicants. It is not long before such burgeoning Augmenticists pass the point of no return, reasoning in their various ways that they are better off as beings of mechanical perfection than creatures of crude and ugly flesh. As they pursue their physical ideal, many Augmenticists declare their contempt for the flesh proudly, displaying each new implant with gleeful abandon, every graft moving them one more step above the ruck and run of humanity. Others hide their increasingly artificial bodies behind knowing smiles and tailored robes, content in the knowledge of their own physical superiority. However, an Augmenticist’s obsession rarely ends in the realm of the physical. What is the mind, they reason, but another organ to be improved upon or replaced?
The Cult Mechanicus looks upon Augmenticists with the same cold logic with which it evaluates all things. Most Tech-priests applaud the burgeoning Augmenticist for recognising the limitations of the flesh and for taking steps towards the “true flesh” of the Machine God. Unfortunately, as an Augmenticist is implanted with increasingly complex devices for ever-more-selfish reasons, the Adeptus Mechanicus comes to regard him as a fetishistic dabbler, an abuser of both his body and the sacred technology that infuses it. It takes an Augmenticist of exceptional comportment and devotion to maintain the respect of the Cult Mechanicus. For their part, Augmenticists tend to view Tech-priests as hidebound dogmatists weighted down with ugly cybernetics.
Despite their differing opinions, many alliances have been struck between individual Augmenticists and the servants of the Machine God. Augmenticist Rogue Traders have been known to escort Exploratory contingents deep into wilderness space in the hopes of being the first to benefit from whatever bionic technology may be rediscovered. In their quest for the rarest and most potent implants, Augmenticists all too often come into contact with Heretek factions and fabricators of proscribed technology. Augmenticists who report such groups quickly earn the respect and gratitude of the Adeptus Mechanicus, often becoming regular informants for both the Machine Cult and the Inquisition.
As Augmenticists evolve, they find themselves becoming more familiar with the ways of machines and less comfortable amongst beings of flesh and blood. They spend the majority of their time in private, tuning up their implants and polishing exposed metal, emerging only to seek out new cybernetic technology and engage in social activities that best allow them to display their unreal forms. Some Augmenticists come to view those without bionics with disdain, replacing servants and crew with Servitors and augmented savants. To the true Augmenticist, such isolation is a small price to pay for physical perfection and the immortality of steel.
Effects and Distribution
An individual may have artificial bionic limbs and organs implanted to replace diseased or damaged parts, or simply to improve their abilities. Bionics include partial and full replacements of organic body parts, brain implants, cybernetic weaponry and other devices. There is no standard level of bionic technology throughout the Imperium -- many bionics are clumsy and inefficient replacements, while the best can replicate or even improve upon the performance of the original limb or organ. The Inquisition's bionics are among the more sophisticated and can reverse what would otherwise be fatal or crippling injuries. In most Astra Militarum regiments, only the officers will have access to bionic equipment. On the other hand, there are a few regiments where virtually every soldier is bionically enhanced. Also, the Iron Hands Space Marine Chapter is infamous for making extensive use of bionics, almost to the point of removing all flesh in favour of machinery, much like the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus. In fact, personnel in practically all branches of the Imperium use bionics in some capacity. Even some particularly wealthy members of the Imperial citizenry can afford, and have been known to use, bionics. Although bionic parts are mechanical, many of them are tied into the user's bloodstream, nerve endings, etc., so damage to one may be as debilitating as an injury to the original organic part, although in general bionic replacements are a lot more durable than their organic counterparts.
- Bionic Organs - For the wealthy or privileged of the Imperium, bionics can replace diseased or aged organs and therefore offer an increased life-span. Practically any organ can be replaced, even parts of the human brain. The simplest bionics are mere replacements, while the more advanced increase the functionality and performance of the organ beyond its previous capacity.
- Bionic Senses - Such is the level of technology in certain parts of the Imperium that bionic senses can replace eyes, ears, noses, and even touch and taste. More advanced bionic senses can even produce effects of synaesthesia. Bionic eyes can increase a subject's visual spectrum, allowing the ability to see heat, other forms of energy, etc., as well as incorporating advanced weapons targeters and resistance to the effects of blinding flashes. The addition of digi-weapons into bionic eyes is also not unknown for high-ranking individuals. Bionic hearing can improve normal hearing to the point where the user can hear living creatures breathing, hearts beating, etc.
- Bionic Implants - Implants come in all shapes and sizes, from memory upgrades for the brain to implanted weapons. Some of the more esoteric bionic implants are listed below. The Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus are infamous for making use of extensive bionic implants, and some of the more exotic ones they create are used solely by them. This list is by no means exhaustive.
- Psi-Booster - A Psi-Booster increases activity in the part of the brain responsible for controlling psychic ability and accessing the psychic energies of the Warp. A person with one of these implants is usually a proficient psyker and has greater control over his powers compared to someone of the same ability without a psi-booster.
- Mind Impulse Unit (MIU) - A Mind Impulse Unit (MIU) is a neural link between a sentient brain and a piece of electronic equipment, allowing an individual to control and monitor an electronic system by thought alone. MIU's are most commonly used by Space Marine Dreadnoughts and the crews of the gigantic Titans of the Adeptus Mechanicus but are rarely seen elsewhere. The other uses entail shoulder-mounted weapons which allows the user to fire a weapon whilst keeping both hands free. In some rare cases the weapon is not shoulder-mounted but is carried as normal; the MIU allows the user a greater intimacy with his weapon's internal workings, such as ammunition count or barrel temperature. This is sometimes found amongst the Skitarii Tech-Guard of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Wireless MIUs also exist, although they are exceptionally rare and are used to control mechanical familiars or certain types of Servitor. This type of MIU is most common when the user cannot perform a common task himself (perhaps being too large to fit somewhere) or when he prefers to stay out of harm's way.
- Implant Weaponry - An implanted weapon is one that has been grafted onto an existing limb, replacing a hand or occasionally the entire arm, and is controlled by a simpler MIU than that needed for a more sophisticated device. The obvious benefit of finer weapon control is substantially offset by the loss of hand or arm functionality outside of combat. This bionic is thus not especially practical, and is usually intended to intimidate, as the surgery used to graft them onto the user is often quite crude, leaving gruesome suture scars frightening above and beyond the "body horror" qualities of the implant itself. Another reason for implantation of bionic weapons is the user not being expected to need his arm for other tasks; this approach is most often seen in the cases of pit slave gladiators or certain types of combat Servitor.
- Mechadendrites - Mechadendrites are mechanical tendrils used by the Adeptus Mechanicus to aid them in construction, maintenance, and research. These bionics contain small motors and actuators within their armoured shells and wave about the tech-priest implanted with them almost with a life of their own.
- Electoos - Electoos are metallic strips bonded sub-dermally that enable Tech-priests to channel limited amounts of electromagnetic energy; an extreme example are the renowned Electro-priests, who turn themselves into crackling founts of electricity in battle for the Adeptus Mechanicus. Electoos enable the user to directly absorb electromagnetic energy from equipment or other power sources and then expel it, with sometimes devastating results. They also can be used to store digital information and allow the user to interact directly with digital technologies such as Cogitators.
- Rite of Pure Thought - The Rite of Pure Thought is considered an extreme measure even among some Tech-priests. The creative, emotional, illogical right hemisphere of the human brain is replaced with a Cogitator (computer) linked directly to the logical left hemisphere. This frees the recipient of any irrationality and illogic, though it also essentially eliminates much of what makes him or her human.
- Inquisitor Rulebook (Specialty Game)
- Rogue Trader: Into the Storm (RPG), pg. 74
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition), "Technology in the Age of the Imperium", pg. 120
- Warhammer 40,000: Wargear (4th Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000: Wargear (2nd Edition), pg. 70
- Soul Drinker (Novel) by Ben Counter