Claiming is the act of taking telepathic control of a Sundered One.
The Non-Spoiler Version
Claiming requires training and willpower on the part of the human, and is one of the key purposes of the Academy.
Claiming is only possible because Sundered Ones are what the humans call “broken;” something is very wrong with these creatures, and a human with steady, strong concentration can impose their will onto a Sundered.
If successful, a claim results in the Sundered One’s neural processes being connected to the human. The human can command the Sundered One to do anything; the only two limitations are the power of the particular Sundered (depending on tier) and the willpower and creativity of the human.
Risks and Benefits
- The primary risk is reversal. In the immediate moments of claiming, the Sundered One can push back against the human’s effort, and when that happens, the human dies. The second risk is when Sundered Ones slip the leash, which means breaking free of a human after a successful claim. In this case, the primary danger is the Sundered One attacking the human who claimed them.
- The benefits are really better viewed as “the only reason humans survive.” Thanks to the black water, very little arable land exists any longer, and the risks of touching it make growing crops impractical. Sundered Ones, however, can grow and harvest crops; there are no trees left, but they can grow genetically modified fruit from vines, wheat, oats, rice, and more.
- The Sundered are also responsible for separating the black water so humans and their animals can drink it and bathe in it. Without them, black-water related death would be a lot more common.
- The Sundered are also the only ones who can build. They acquire malleum – a risky, dangerous operation requiring digging int the limited land humans have left.
Food, water, shelter – without the Sundered Ones, humans would already be dead.
The Spoiler Version
The act of claiming wirelessly networks the electrical communication of neurons in both the human brain and the Sundered Ones’ bodies. It should be noted that Sundered Ones don’t actually have brains, per se; they chose to appear that way once they studied humans for a while, which includes genitalia, red blood, and, of course, a similar skeletal and organ structure.
Jason Iskinder created claiming when he came to the conclusion there was no chance of getting The Hope back into space. Part of The Hope’s purpose was to preserve the lives of the 53 humans who survived Earth’s demise as long as needed. This meant some kind of suspended animation, and that meant equipment with unlimited power supply, capable of freezing all biological processes in such a way that ensured life but prevented aging.
Long story short, chemical options were ruled out early on; it wouldn’t be a renewable resource, and there was no guarantee of being able to replace those components. Cryogenics didn’t work; after a certain number of years, there was tissue death, and that was unacceptable. Thus, in the end, The Association used a combination of space-based radiation, nano-bots, and a special brain-wave suppression technology to freeze humans and keep them from aging.
Jason Iskinder was able to alter the suppression device to access not only human brain waves but the particular electrical pulses Sundered Ones gave off with their entire being.
This is why claiming works: Sundered Ones don’t have “a brain.” They are one substance, entirely sentient down to the smallest cell, and the neuron-like communication of their whole body let Iskinder’s equipment affect them down to the core.
It’s not automatic, however, even though Jason Iskinder tried to make it so. For reasons he couldn’t understand (involving that pesky little concept called “the soul”), Sundered Ones could not be claimed without humans intentionally putting in the individual effort.
The neural net created by the Hope allows humans to access specific Sundered Ones, at which moment, the device attempts to match their brain-waves up. It’s far from perfect; it can fail (reversal) or be
There are side effects to all of this. When the Sundered Ones function optimally, they’re all linked up like one giant neural network, and no human could hope to control that; it’s simply too much. To combat this, Jason Iskinder adjusted The Hope to shut down some of the Sundered Ones’ processes and weaken their connections. It’s akin to a stroke-victim being unable to use muscles on one side of the face or body; Sundered Ones, affected by The Hope, are crippled.
This limits powers and strength, leading to Sundered “death” on a regular basis. It also cuts them off slightly from Motherwater, which is yet another reason why she hates humans so very, very much.
The Sundered cannot avoid attempts at claiming. They cannot even remain hidden beneath the water; Jason Iskinder made sure to program that in as part of the equation.
He also made sure that if The Sundered attempted a mass revolt, they’d die; if they approached The Hope, they’d die; if they did anything he could think of that might lead to their freedom, he’d die.
Fortunately, Aakesh had a better grasp of hubris than Jason Iskinder did, and was able to plan around it.