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|By M10||Part of the Break the Cycle continuity.|
Augmentation refers to the practice of supplementing or supplanting body parts with unnatural material and machinations. They were supposed act as advanced prosthetics of sorts but the Overseers have corrupted their usage and use them as kinds of binding devices to deliberately hinder and impair their servants. They are rigged or otherwise left incomplete in Earthbending slaves in order to "encourage" them to develop Metalbending simply to move without pain. Upgrading or otherwise enchancing one's augmentations are often used as rewards for diligent and loyal slaves, but individual Overseers decide who deserves the improvement and who does not at their own discretion.
Particularly valued persons are given augmentations as they were intended: to improve one's physical abilities beyond the normal human parameters. Modern augmentations range from the original cheap and crude design to the enormously expensive and complex. When they were first employed as enslavement mechanisms, augments could not be removed at all. Augmentations are almost universally mandatory for Earthbending slaves who have reached maturity. Normal augmentations that may or may not aid a person's range of movement are employed in non-Earthbenders, but particularly cruel Overseers are known to apply the slave versions to intentionally cripple them.
Some Overseers have taken to placing identification tags in their servants' augments. These can range from simple marks to minute electrical devices, but the effect is essentially the same as branding cattle.
The Mechanists play a vital role in continually evaluating augmentation methods in addition to developing new or more efficient procedures.
Augments, as they were originally intended, serve to allow those who were crippled or otherwise physically impaired a chance to reobtain a level of motor function. Eventually they were perfected and raised the limits of human physical ability. They were, however, believed to interfere with one's ability to bend the elements, and did not catch on until the Overseers took over their direction. Because the bending practices of the old masters have fallen into obscurity, it is difficult to measure the differences, if there are any.
However, where augments bestow benefits, they also carry drawbacks:
- Metalbending - as most augmentations use some form of metal, Metalbenders are more easily able to damage them, but internalized designs reduce this problem somewhat as does more skill in Metalbending on the part of the defender
- Electricity - poses a significant threat to augmented people as the metal amplifies damage, but certain metals and designs are able to channel electrical charges and reduce damage
- Water - many heavily augmented people have great difficulty swimming due to the properties of their augments, so drowning is a very real threat that must be considered
- Heat - external augments pose a risk to their user in that, depending on their design, they tend to reduce heat loss and thus require the user to avoid strenuous activity in certain temperatures or else risk dangerous overheating
While not an official stage, this refers to people who have not undergone augmentation but are eligible, which is mostly anyone. More often than not, it is informally used to refer to those who would have been augmented but were not for whatever reason.
The first stage of augmentation involves reinforcing and supplanting parts of an Earthbender's spine. While it is possible to move without Metalbending, certain actions are limited or impossible without incurring great pain if not outright damaging the spine. Even then, the procedure needs to be completed fully and incomplete augments at this level can continue to cause pain and hindrance even with Metalbending.
There exists a version of spinal augmentation that does not require Metalbending to function normally, but this is typically reserved for people that actually need and can benefit from it rather than slaves.
Example: Hong, other slaves, security and other light infantry
The second stage of augmentation refers to any further reinforcement or light adjustment to a person's limbs. Again, these may or may not require Metalbending to operate fully. A slave must have undergone stage one before being eligible for stage two, but again there are "civilian" versions.
- Sabat, soldiers and other heavy infantry
Stage three augmentation is a catchall for heavy adjustments made to a person. This includes modifications made to a person's organs as well as the threshold at which point a person has a significant portion of his or her body made of foreign material. It is largely irreversible.
Example: The Bones, other specialized forces
The fourth and most recently developed stage of augmentation pertains to the replacement of a number of a person's organs with falsified ones, excluding the brain, as well as the most intensive operation to date. Stage four augmentation is very risky and requires a mastery of augmentation procedures. It is also irreversible.
A project designed to give augmentation a basis for further experimentation beyond what was originally considered to be the safe limits, it is essentially a super soldier program if not in its goal then in practice. The Overseers collaborate and round up individuals of various specifications to be put forth for this extreme augmentation and have had mixed and sometimes messy results. The Bones are a notable result of this movement. Professor Suchong was revealed to be a former project lead.
In recent years, the project has largely fallen into disuse, but its more stable results have been reproduced ever since.
For the collective works of the author, go here.