APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 7 August, 2001



Harman Meyerhoff

Special thanks for consultation and proofreading: John Thompson and Janne Kemppi

GREL. Almost an epithet for many Terranovans, few things embody the NEC Colonial Expeditionary Force as clearly as their infamous Genetically Recombined Experimental Legionnaires.

However, while the old war adage of "shoot if it's purple" was sufficient during the invasion, the impending storm before us shows clearer than ever how we need to know as much has we possibly can about our opponents, and to use that knowledge against them. Only by accepting and using knowledge can we win. While the Southern Republic has reverse engineered their Scythian hovertank from captured CEF Predators, and the joint Black Talon missions employ Fury Dropships derived from CEF Tarantula landers, so too should we use knowledge of the GREL, though of course not by copying them as we have with other CEF weapons.

The first step in analyzing a GREL is outward appearance, and while an old saying states appearances are deceiving, a naked GREL basically shouts its intended purpose after only brief examination of its form.

First, let us delve into the base traits common to all Soldiers: purple skin, hairlessness, and increased muscle mass. The purple skin is foremost among GREL design statements. A specific and intentional editing of genetic code has changed the standard brownish melanin to absorb or reflect as much radiation as possible. As basic science teaches us, the colors our eyes see are the colors being reflected the most. Thus, the purple color we see comes from the reflection of increased violet wavelengths and the albedo (reflectivity) of GREL skin tissue continues to increase into the ultraviolet portions of the spectrum. Thus, at the cost of some nonexistent vanity, the GRELs have been rendered highly resistant to sunburn, skin cancers and the ever-present danger of sun poisoning- a potentially deadly affliction under even weak Earth sunlight, let alone Helios' harsh glare. Especially in the deserts of Terra Nova, this mildly useful trait becomes of invaluable utility in the hostile equatorial environment.

Secondly, GRELs are hairless. Due to the "all or none" nature of the genetic coding for hair, GRELs are uniformly lacking so much as eyelashes. But by way of benefit, the average Legionnaire is therefore almost a total nontarget to hair-born pests like lice, fleas, Jotenheim diggermites, and Terranovan grassrunner chiggers. Unfortunately, hair offers normal humans some benefits, such as minor sun protection and a small amount of insulation. But, with the above recombined resistance to sun and the temperature-regulating nature of the standard CEF combat suit, this is a minor tradeoff.

So, while only skin deep, it has probably dawned on many of you that a Legionnaire is far more than a simple bald giant. While by no means an entirely new organism, the GREL is still in some ways a superior adaptation of the human form, albeit hindered by intentional deficiencies and unforeseen challenges that would never even faze the average person on the street.

Now we delve a level deeper into the making of the Soldier, where differences between GREL and normal human become even more readily apparent.

Internally, GREL troops follow the same basic pattern as humans, with only minor differences designed to amplify their combat efficiency. To this effect four simple and obvious changes were made: enlarged lung capacity, a slightly enlarged heart and circulatory system to transmit that oxygen, the removal of all vestigial organs, and adrenal glands re-engineered to almost double the size of those found in a normal human.

The first two modifications are fairly obvious in intent and purpose- to supply the Soldier with enough blood oxygen for extra endurance in combat, and to keep an injured GREL conscious and fighting even after severe blood loss. The fourth follows that same pattern, allowing larger quantities of adrenaline to be released more often during high-stress situations. While this seems a natural and obvious enough design decision, most people fail to realize the semitoxic nature of adrenaline, and its adverse effects on an organism. While providing a physiological boost comparable to nitrous oxide injection in a combustion engine, it similarly causes a buildup of lactic and carbonic acids that can damage tissues if used too often. To this end the GREL is also endowed with slightly larger kidneys and liver, which when combined with the aforementioned amplified circulatory system allows rapid removal of cellular waste.

It is the removal of vestigial organs that shows one of the concrete biological advantages GRELs have over humans. With the removal of the appendix and downsizing of the large and small intestines, the designers had extra room for the above changes, as well as a slightly enlarged pancreas. Of course, the consequence of this would be the a decrease in digestive efficiency and the high-intake metabolism of the Soldier would require massive amounts of food to ward off starvation. However, the standard CEF concentrated combat ration, normally diluted with water and reconstituted for human consumption, easily provides for a hungry GREL without need for reconstitution. Thus, with the increased concentration of nutrient, the adverse effects of a shortened digestive tract were negated. The enlarged pancreas and aforementioned liver also contribute, their increased size beneficial when conjoined with the GRELs' turbocharged metabolism, regulating blood sugar levels to ensure an even release of sugars to the body.

However, while genetic reengineering endowed GRELs with the above traits, it is surprising to many to realize that the Achilles' heel of the Soldier, reproductive sterility and shrunken genitalia, is not entirely the result of specific codon engineering, as it is of the former combined with a simple chemical imbalance. Large quantities of testosterone flood GRELs of both sexes. Long known to have beneficial effects on the musculature and aggressiveness of a recipient, its negative side effects have prevented its use in human soldiers, who would not volunteer for such conditioning with any consistency and would suffer physiological damage from long term use. With gene-tailored //creations//, such concerns were transitory at best, and as a result a large portion of the chromosomal trigger for increased testosterone production were included in GREL DNA. Actual reproductive sterility was achieved by a simple removal of the genetic coding for spermatogenesis in the male phenotypes and oogenesis and menstruation processes for the Minerva, Kassandra, Isabella and Morgana Soldiers. This editing also helps to negate the increase in sexual activity that is a side effect of high doses of testosterone.

This hormonal concentration also, as with many genetic traits, works on a seemingly completely unconnected area, causing brow ridges and some other physiological changes. Ingeniously, such is the nature of the GREL that the presence of these brow ridges actually is of benefit in the overall design. With the absence of hair, and thus eyebrows and eyelashes, glare from sunlight, muzzle-flash, and any other light source would become a problem. Also, the combination of their overhanging nature and the density of GREL bones means they offer a last-resort shield against shrapnel and physical attack as well as serving to shield the Soldiers' eyes as well as a human eyebrow.

In the one distinct divergence from humans, and despite the integral polarized goggles in a standard CEF headset, designers elected to endow their Soldiers with nictitating membranes. In essence a secondary set of eyelids running from the epicanthic fold outward to the outside of the eye, these transparent shields are functionally identical to those found in terran reptiles, allowing a Soldier limited protection from dust and grit without having to squint, allowing them increased visual ability under circumstances that would faze a similarly unprotected human. Also, this allows for the necessary remoisturizing blinking to occur without blinding the Soldier for a quarter of a second- a virtual eternity given their amplified reflexes and the second-to-second nature of modern combat. Also, they allow limited visibility underwater and shield the sensitive cornea from salt water for a short time, a useful protective measure considering the amphibious nature of combat on Atlantis.

The GREL eye itself is a similar example of form-engineering. Proportionately smaller than a human eye, it nonetheless possesses several "hidden features". Firstly and most obviously, it is designed for visual acuity, and no class of Soldier has vision worse than 20/15, and Maxwell, Isabella, and Issac Soldiers posses at least 20/10 with an additional layer of ocular muscles nerve-wired for voluntary control- allowing them to focus on distant or minute objects necessary for their specialized roles. Yet even with these specializations, the internal structure of their eyes are still not so different from other GREL classes, or normal humans. However, the rod and cone structures in the eye of a GREL are arranged much more densely than in a normal human. This concentration, combined with a proportionate increase in rods, allows the GREL to see exceptionally well in less than ideal conditions. While dim lighting makes the cone color-receptors worthless, the Soldier is still able to see clearly. Where a normal human soldier would be able to see color well into twilight, but become unable to see anything clearly once darkness falls, the GREL eye will lose color perception (due to the lack of cones) much sooner, but be able to distinguish objects in darkness where the human would be almost blind. The Morgana commando also possesses limited infra-red perception, another slight specialization for their combat role.

On the subject of the Morgana, there is the seemingly strange fact that among legions of ugly, blocky, purple supersoldiers, the Morgana phenotype is often actually considered attractive to normal humans. The answer behind this anomaly actually lies in the human reproductive imperative, rather than any specific engineering. The Morgana was created for commando operations, and as such slightly modified for that role. Such characteristics as large eyes, long legs, a narrow waist, a lack of excess body fat, and a deep ribcage (containing the aforementioned enlarged lungs) are all good modifications for a crepuscular stealth trooper. Unfortunately, human evolutionary instincts and social ideals assert these same traits as attractive and beneficial for survival, thus resulting in the Morgana being considered "attractive," or in essence, worthy of breeding with to further those traits in the genepool, natural imperatives blind to the inherent GREL sterility.

Other GREL classes also feature specific physical adaptations toward their duties, though overall even the baseline GREL organism has been reengineered to a much lesser extent than most people believe. For example, Kassandra and Issac technicians' posses slightly improved fine motor control and mathematic predisposition. The Mordred shocktrooper only differs by larger size, increased platelet concentration in the bloodstream, and an increased endorphin response to block pain impulses. One minute difference also worth noting in both Mordred and Minerva GRELs is the automatic constriction of local arteries when blood pressure drops in a limb. While included in all seven GREL classes to a certain degree, it is only truly noticeable in these two. In Mordred shocktroopers this serves as an integral tourniquet to locally stop blood loss from a wound, and for Minerva pilots as a sort of internal G-harness.

Otherwise, Minervas have no genetically-improved traits specifically added for their specialization, though they were specified to be female to even further increase their G tolerance when piloting aerospace vehicles. Maxwell gunners are similarly generic GRELs, with only improved reaction time and a different face to distinguish them from other classes. As with most classes, they are simply a standard GREL organism with minor physiological modifications toward their specialization.

Most of the actual specialization of GREL soldiers was not a result of "nature", as to say the genetic engineering, but of "nurture" - the hypnoprogramming that truly made the GRELs what they are. Without the mechanically delivered training that was virtually downloaded into the GRELs after being removed from their cloning-gestation vats, a GREL is rather like a Hunter Heavy Gear. Versatile and effective combat platform they both may be, but both require a motive influence to function. With the Heavy Gear, we employ a Neural Net AI and a pilot, the former providing physical skills to the body and some basic independence, and the latter guidance and decision making. In much the same way, a GREL functions from programming and the orders of superiors and without the latter is only capable of basic actions. And that is the truest weakness of the GREL. Where the GRELs were made for combat, they were not endowed with enough independence or adaptability to succeed. Rather like an experienced Heavy Gear without a pilot, the GRELs were not entirely incapable of independent action, but like the NNet, were restrained by their programming and vulnerable. To combat this, they were programmed for "independent action," but like all of their other training; it was not so much determined by creativity as it was choosing from several preprogrammed options. While their selection of an option was near instantaneous, their faith in it absolute, and their execution perfect, the very nature of needing to rely on preprogrammed patterns made the GRELs vulnerable, and ultimately led to their defeat.

While reports from Caprice indicate the widespread elimination of GREL soldiers from the Commonwealth forces, we should in no way disregard the lessons learned from these now-defunct weapons. The CEF doubtless has learned from their mistakes and moved to correct them. Therefore only by isolating those same mistakes and following their corrective logic can we predict their actions. And just as we identified reactions and defined the patterns of action that helped us to destroy the GRELs during the War of the Alliance, so too can we use the same tactic on a wider scale and end the threat of the NEC and their colonial armies once and for all.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 7 August, 2001