Death, the ultimate end of life, has become less permanent in New Eden over the past century. Many of the dangers that led to death have been mitigated by a variety of technologies, while the point at which a human is capable of being resuscitated has been pushed further and further. In some cases, death can even be sidestepped entirely. However, the reality of true death remains, and every living thing eventually dies.
Causes of Death
Death can be brought about by a variety of factors: disease, the elements, hunger, injury, or old age. All of these causes remain in New Eden, though in certain sections of society they have, to some degree, been tamed.
Many of the diseases that once plagued mankind have been eradicated among the upper echelons of New Eden society. Antiviral and antibacterial drugs, nanobot-assisted immune systems, and genetic alterations have been combined with advanced diagnostic and detection techniques to free people from the worries that threatened their ancestors. Most people who get sick on board the upper levels of space stations, for example, are quickly diagnosed and treated by an AI doctor and suffer only mild irritation, if anything at all.
However, outbreak and illness reports from lesser-developed planet-based societies are sporadic and often inconsistent, and even the Sisters of EVE have had a difficult time charting exactly how badly some of those societies have been afflicted through the years. Moreover, the diseases that do remain at all levels of society are far more potent and problematic than those in the past. Many of them are incurable by current medical knowledge. Aside from the simpler, less harmful ones that have defied mankind for generations, these include such sicknessesas Derj's disease, the Kyonoke infection,and Turit Disease. These diseases can be contracted from a variety of pathogens, be deliberately spread through infectious agents such as Vitoxin, or be coded in the very genes of the sufferer. Even the advanced Jove suffer from their own genetic abnormality which eventually inflicts them all with the Jovian Disease.
Even then, medical science marches on. Much like the diseases that afflicted ancient societies have been contained and eliminated, there is hope that one day all the current maladies of New Eden will be wiped out. Though, in time, new sicknesses will threaten until they too are brought to heel, in an eternal cycle.
While the controlled environments of space ships and space stations, as well as geoengineering and terraforming, have reduced the incidence of death by exposure to a significant degree, nature itself remains a significant threat to human life. Many planets have hostile environments and space itself can be very deadly, even when precautions are taken.
Earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions can occur suddenly and cause large losses of life. Though technologies to predict these disasters have become more complex, they are still not perfect, and large settlements are difficult to evacuate even with significant advance notice, especially on non-terrestrial planets, which face unique challenges. On storm, plasma, and gas planets, massive storms can strike research at a moment's notice, with high-speed winds, massive electrical discharges, and other hazards.
In space, the biggest threat is exposure to vacuum. Damage to a ship or station's hull can cause a breach, exposing individuals to vacuum, causing ebullism, hypoxia, hypocapnia, and other injuries. Aside from exposure, collisions with asteroids and comets are problematic, though thanks to shielding, sensors, and the sheer destructive power of modern weaponry, they can usually be avoided without significant trouble.
Finally, stars, the very things that enable life to exist can bring a violent end to it. Modern technology has allowed for the accurate dating of stellar ages, meaning scientists can roughly predict when a star will expand into a supergiant or explode in a nova or supernova. However, solar flares and other stellar disasters are less predictable. One notable disaster was the stellar instability in Seyllin, where a radiation burst and subsequent plasma ejection destroyed a colony with a population of half a billion.
The problem of hunger and scarcity has been mostly eliminated in the most civilized areas of New Eden. Thanks to genetically modified crops and livestock, advanced agricultural techniques, and the dedication of entire worlds to the production of food, few people in those areas are forced to go hungry. Though the poorest may not receive exquisitely prepared or tasty food, they can usually count on being fed and receiving proper nutrition.
It is in the poorer, more remote areas of New Eden that hunger remains a regular threat. In pirate-controlled areas in low-security space, all the way down to the outskirts of colonized space and sparsely populated planets in null-sec space, shipments of food can be waylaid by miscreants, stolen by unscrupulous haulers, or even forgotten about by sloppy record keepers. Because of this, many outlying colonies strive to be self-sufficient.
Of course, when disasters strike, certain areas can suffer food shortages for a short period of time. A disruption in a system's food production through natural or man-made disaster can cause temporary famines, though there are usually enterprising merchants who quickly fill the needs of the populace for a price.
Blockades of systems can also be effective military tactics. If a planet or system is incapable of producing enough food locally to feed its populace, riots and panic can quickly erupt.
All but the most devastating injuries can be non-life threatening if they are treated quickly enough, so long as the patient has sufficient funds to support the treatment. Lost limbs can be replaced with prosthetics, large wounds can be quickly healed with the application of bio-nanological sealants, and individuals can even be regrown from clusters of cells. There are very few injuries that are consistently fatal: the complete destruction of the heart, the complete destruction of the brain, immolation or disintegration of over 90% of the body, and decapitation almost always lead to death save in very rare circumstances.
Of course, survival after even relatively mundane injuries can rely on swift medical attention. While an individual can survive the loss of a limb, if they are not treated they will die from blood loss and shock. The more serious the injury, the more quickly treatment must be supplied. Because proper medical attention is often not immediately available, injury remains one of the most common causes of death in New Eden.
Even should a person avoid injury, be free of diseases, and be otherwise healthy, eventually time will catch up to them. As people age, their bodies begin to slowly lose the ability to repair themselves and combat trauma. What would have been a common cold to them in younger years develops into a fatal respiratory problem, while a slight jolt can shatter brittle bones. Should even those threats be avoided, eventually the heart stops working or the brain ceases to send signals to the rest of the body. While these can occasionally be temporarily reversed, eventually they prove terminal.
However, the life spans of individuals has grown greatly. While in pre-spaceflight civilizations the average person could expect to live into their 80s or 90s should they avoid other causes of death, the average citizen of New Eden can regularly reach their mid-120s. Certain individuals can live even longer, thanks to implants, cloning, anti-agathic drugs, or other life-extension treatments.
Scientists even hold out hope that, eventually, human aging can be reversed entirely through medicine. However, for thousands of years optimistic individuals have predicted the eradication of aging within 100 years, and science has yet to conquer it.
Even given the myriad threats of death in New Eden, there remain ways that it can be overcome, at least temporarily.
If an individual suffers a life-threatening injury, or is inflicted with a terminal disease for which there exists no cure, the option of cryonic stasis exists. The individual is essentially frozen with a cocktail of chemicals used to prevent cellular damage due to the formation of ice crystals. All biological processes cease at the temperatures at which cryonic suspension occurs, thus preserving the individual. Once they are transported to a proper medical facility, or a cure for their illness is discovered, they are thawed and treated.
This is typically reserved for the wealthy and powerful, as cryonic suspension can be costly to maintain over a long period of time. Those with little hope for a quick solution are typically placed into long-term cryonic storage, utilizing cryo-caskets.
Nearly every organ in the human body can be replicated with some form of cybernetic implant, save for the human brain. Individuals who have suffered irreparable harm to their kidneys, livers, lungs, and even hearts can seek out cybernetic replacements, assuming they survive long enough to be implanted.
The Amarr Emperor and the Five Heirs undergo implantation as a matter of course, greatly extending their natural lives. Some have lived for longer than 500 years. Holders, the noble class in the Empire, receive lesser implants that can keep them living for two or three centuries as well. The design of the implants that keep the Emperor and Heirs alive, however, is a closely guarded Imperial secret, and they have yet to be independently replicated by outsiders.
Perhaps the most powerful method of sidestepping death, and the most controversial, is through cloning. Cloning has existed in New Eden for some time, though it is only recently that the technology has reached a level where it can be used to prevent permanent death. Many religious and moral objections have been raised about cloning, particularly among the Amarr, who have a doctrine of Sacred Flesh that prohibits their royalty from cloning.
A single type of cloning is used throughout New Eden. The clone is grown beforehand from biomass and sculpted to resemble the person to be cloned. Gene therapy is done on the clone to ensure it matches the genetics of the original, in order to prevent immune responses. It should be noted that not all individuals have consciousnesses amenable to cloning. Only a small portion of New Eden's population is estimated to be able to handle the cycle of death-and-reawakening without serious psychological issues, although research in this area in its nascent stages. Therefore, being cloned is a rather substantial risk that is not undertaken, even among the very wealthy, unless after some serious consideration.
By far the most well known and wide-spread kind is capsule-aided cloning, which came to prominence with the marriage of the capsule to the neural burner in YC 103. Capsule-aided cloning is limited primarily to capsuleers, and usually restricted to occasions when they are killed inside the hydrostatic capsule When the capsule is breached through any means, the capsuleer is injected with a fatal toxin, while their brain is copied with a neural burner. This scan is then transferred to their clone, which is imprinted with a near-exact replica of their brain at the time of death.
Cloning outside of a capsule is also possible, although the associated risks remain pretty much the same: The brain is scanned - and thereby ruined - and its contents transferred to a receiving station that instantaneously awakens the consciousness in a new clone. This can be done only under laboratory conditions, although technology in the area is progressing quite rapidly. The possibility looms that cloning may at some point take place outside the strictures of a capsule or a similar machine, though it's considered unlikely that it will ever be anything other than instantaneous.
Because of the short time-period between death and awakening of the clone, this method is not as controversial across the cluster as might have been expected, especially to many religions, who can more easily justify the transmigration of the "soul" from one body to another. However, many religious movements continue to insist that cloned individuals are mere copies, no more the original than a forgery of a work of art can be said to be.
Aside from its psychological limitations, cloning remains extremely expensive and is typically limited to the very wealthy. Capsuleers, as a whole, tend to have the resources to maintain high-quality clones. Non-capsuleers with clone contracts tend to be corporate CEOs and presidents, powerful governmental officials, wildly popular entertainers, or others with access to large bank accounts.
So-called "jump cloning" works in much the same manner. Once a jump contract has been agreed upon, the customer can enter any cloning facility at any station, whereupon they will be brain-scanned, their originating bodies effectively flatlined, and their consciousness transferred to a waiting jump clone at their requested destination. Any implants in the originating body are carefully picked out by machines and just as carefully inserted into a fresh clone waiting at the original jumping-off point. Once the owner finally jumps back, from their point of view, they are returning to the same body, with the same implants and all, when in actuality it is a new clone.
Cultural Attitudes Toward Death
Death has always been a powerful influence over the growth of cultures. It has been depicted in art and explored philosophically. The differences in attitudes toward death can cause great tensions between different cultures.
The Amarr believe that individuals possess an immortal soul that, upon death, is sent to a place of final judgment. Only those who are part of the Amarr religion can be judged favorably, with the most pious receiving entry into God's presence. Those less pious must suffer for some time apart from God; the exact timeframe is not firmly established in the Scriptures and has been a subject of much debate among theologians. Those not part of the Amarr religion and those who profess to be, but have sinned greatly, are doomed to forever suffer torment until the end of creation.
The Amarr have a mixed view on cloning, with the doctrine of Sacred Flesh prohibiting it for royalty. Many members of the clergy and nobility also adhere to the ideals of Sacred Flesh, though violation of it among these segments of society is not considered a religious crime as it is among royals. However, cloning has gained more and more acceptance among the Amarr in recent decades, especially with the rise of capsuleers. Some theologians contend that the soul transmigrates into a new body upon cloning, while others claim that clones are nothing more than soulless shells.
The Amarr treat corpses with a high amount of care and dignity, as long as the person was a member of the Amarr religion during life. Even the poorest segments of society are afforded some sort of burial, while those rich and powerful enough are given massive mausoleums. The tombs of Emperors are massive, ornate affairs. The bones of saints, emperors, and other influential members of the Amarr can become relics after their deaths.
Two prominent schools of thought exist among the Caldari regarding death. Many Caldari follow a religion known as the Way of the Winds, which practices ancestor worship. When an individual dies, he transitions to a fully spiritual existence, remaining in the homes and hearts of his family, lending them his strength and giving them counsel. Conversely, non-spiritual Caldari view death as simply an end; they do not believe in any afterlife. The Way remains popular in the State, however, with many going through the traditions even if they do not deeply believe in them.
The Caldari favor cremation as the primary means of corpse disposal. Those who follow the Way believe burning the body assists the spirit in moving on from its corporeal existence, while secularists instead simply find it the most practical method of getting rid of bodies. Those who follow the Way do not keep the ashes of the deceased, as they believe it is akin to taunting the parted with their remains.
Unlike the rest of the State, the Achura have their own religion unconnected to Caldari spiritualism. The Achura believe that an individual passes into an afterlife following death, but unlike the Amarr, this afterlife is not depicted as either a utopia or a place of torment. Instead, it is simply a place of gathering, where the spirits of the dead congregate, separated from the living. It is depicted as being not unlike life, with individuals performing services for various spirits and earning wages and the like.
The Achura believe particularly wicked individuals can return from the afterlife as an evil spirit. These spirits are incapable of directly inflicting harm on the living, but can cause many sicknesses, emotional problems, and even disturb sleep. Conversely, good people can become protector spirits who help the living, though unlike the Caldari and their ancestor worship, these spirits are not tied to any family or home.
The Federation has a wide number of beliefs about death and the afterlife, as befits its melting pot nature. Many Gallente follow traditions taken from the Amarr, the Caldari, the Minmatar, and even combinations thereof. Unlike the Caldari or Amarr, no global religion ever dominated Gallente Prime, and views of death are likewise quite varied.
In general, however, the Gallente view death as an unfortunate condition of life and see it as something to be avoided. There have often been calls inside the Federation to ban capital punishment, and some jurisdictions have done just that. At large, however, it remains in effect, especially on the national level.
The Intaki follow a religion known as Ida. A major part of Ida is the belief that individuals have immortal souls that can be reincarnated into new bodies following death. The Intaki utilize certain technologies, in some ways similar to a neural burner, to facilitate this in a ritual known as the Rebirth. Unlike a neural burner, a perfect copy of the individual's mind is not transferred upon death to a new body. Instead, aspects of his personality, certain strong and formative memories, and some talents and proclivities are transferred from the dead to newborns. Intaki spiritual leaders utilize ancient rituals to select who is to become Reborn and the exact process is a highly guarded secret.
Even without the technologically assisted Rebirth, the Intaki believe that particularly strong-willed individuals can be reborn into new bodies. Those rare individuals reborn in this fashion are known as Idama and claim stronger remnants of their past lives than those who were not. A small minority believe that utilizing technology to assist with the Rebirth has actually degraded the Reborn, by allowing those less worthy to continue on through multiple lives.
The seven Minmatar tribes have widely differing views of death and the afterlife, though there exists some commonality between them. All seven profess a belief in souls, and believe the spirits of the dead can have some impact on the living. In general, they all believe death is not a complete end, but merely the end of a part of the journey; life as we know it is only the first step in a true spiritual lifetime.
What happens after death is the most widely divergent aspect. The Thukker, for instance, believe the dead gather in great caravans and explore realms outside the perception of the living. The Vherokior, meanwhile, hold the dead become part of a greater consciousness, with which their mystics can commune and learn secrets and portents of the future. The Brutor, on the other hand, assert the bravest and strongest are sent to an afterlife of plenty, where they hunt and prepare for an eventual battle at the end of the universe.
There have been some efforts to marry these different beliefs into one, overarching "Minmatar religion", as other aspects of the mysticism, such as a belief in tattooing and nature spirits, are held in common between all the tribes. The tribes, however, remain independent on these aspects.