An illegal narcotic that has been in general circulation for almost two hundred years, Red Ash is outlawed in most systems due to the high addiction rates and crippling withdrawal systems.

Development and History Edit

Red Ash was developed by ImperaLife Pharmaceuticals in IY 13,221 as a means to enhance performance amongst military personnel. Under tight security, the drug was synthesized by several scientists working under the direction of Dr Lii Anlan, one of the most pre-eminent chemists of her time. The aim was to develop a compound that would enhance mental discipline by enabling the mind to focus on the task in hand without emotional interruptions and distractions. It was envisaged that this would enable soldiers to perform with increased discipline and skill whilst under-fire or in otherwise stressful conditions. Trials attempted to discover what neural activity could be tampered with to reduce or remove emotional behaviour without otherwise impairing cognitive functions.

Initial trials and tests were unsuccessful, but pressure remained, particularly from Imperial military commanders, for continued research. Funding for the project, initially from the Imperial R&D budget, was shifted to the military budget and the project placed under the supervision of General Neel Singh. Under Singh, the project saw numerous changes including heightened secrecy and a removal on the restrictions of substances approved for use on test subjects. The source of test subjects was also widened to include involuntary testing on criminals and institutionalized patients. The lack of outside supervision allowed these violations of the Imperial Ethics Council (IEC) to proceed unnoticed. Singh's motivations appear to have been the projected upcoming campaign against the Dera Freehold which, ultimately, failed to materialise. Desiring a drug that would provide his soldiers an edge in combat, to hasten the end of the campaign and boost Singh's own image seem to have driven the General to take any and all measures he deemed necessary.

Eventually the team discovered what they were looking for in a most unusual source. Tae Ora II, a very geologically active planet, had recently been discovered to be rich in tiny microbial life thriving in the thick ash deposits spewing from the active volcanoes and geo-thermal vents on the surface. With little to lose, Dr Anlan secured a supply of this ash and the microbial life living within it. Tests revealed that, when exposed to liquid, the microbes would die, releasing a red-hued chemical that, when ingested by humans, caused the sought-after emotional suppression and a noticeable increase in performance. However, the substance also proved to be highly addictive. Dr Anlan’s own research notes reveal that she believed the experiment to be a failure and that she indicated as much in a report to General Singh. The General, on the other hand, saw that the addictive qualities could be used to enhance loyalty among the troops. Whoever held the supply of red ash would hold the soldiers’ loyalty, so desperate would they be to get their next fix.

Whatever plans may have then resulted were laid to rest by Dr Anlan whistle blowing the project to the IEC, which promptly terminated the project, detained the lead scientists and had General Singh arrested, court-martialled and imprisoned. The resulting scandal, however, brought red ash to the attention of other unscrupulous individuals. Just who managed to secure the supposedly destroyed files on red ash remains a mystery but within two years of the initial scandal, red ash was appearing in a number of systems under Imperial control. The red ash appearing on the market, however, was in a much diluted form. The addictive effects had been tempered and, like most drugs, occurred only through general long term use and dependency. It is unknown who tampered and expanded upon the original drug as discovered by Dr Anlan.

Usage and Effects Edit

Red ash has proved most popular with public performers and competitors in a variety of fields and events. The drug is distributed in small, clear ampoules which can be easily broken in two. The red ash is poured into a liquid, usually water, which results in the death of the microbial life forms living in the grey-hued substance. Upon dying, the microbes release a reddish chemical which, when ingested, suppress the emotional responses typical in humans and allow the mind a level of focus and clarity previously unprecedented. The removal of fear, doubt and stress in particular has enabled individuals to perform to a level they had previously not thought possible. It takes time for the body to become dependent on the drug; long-term usage is not advised. Infrequent usage has not been shown to have any noticeable long-term ill effects. Long term use will guarantee addiction; dependency will vary from individual to individual but generally, the greater the usage the more pronounced the addiction and the more frequently doses of red ash will be required.

Withdrawal is crippling and sometimes deadly, and takes place incredibly rapidly. In the early hours of withdrawal there will be a heightened emotional response to situations and a decline in the ability to perform any given task, whether mental of physical. As withdrawal deepens, physical side effects show, including a perceived drop in temperature which provokes extreme shaking. Recorded deaths have shown that a number of individuals have died from overheating whilst attempting to restore normal body temperature, which has actually overheated the body. Between eight and twelve hours after withdrawal starts neural activity fluctuates, some nerve endings have been known to 'short-out' and chemical imbalances in the brain may result in a comatose state. Addicts suffering from withdrawal are simply unable to function; they are the antithesis of the logical, rational individuals red ash creates, becoming instead gibbering emotional wrecks until the addiction has worked its way out of the system. Doctors on a number of worlds where red ash is common operate anonymous treatment programs in an attempt to encourage individuals to wean themselves off the drug. Despite this, re-addiction rates remain high.

Distribution and Supply Edit

Red ash can be found solely on Tae Ora II which, until the outbreak of civil war, was actively and efficiently patrolled by the Imperial navy. The military presence dissuaded whole scale collection and refining operations, regularly seizing pirates, smugglers and other criminals who sought to distribute red ash to the black market. There were always sufficient numbers of criminals, however, who were able to breach the blockade to keep the trade alive, earning spectacular profits in the process. The removal of regular patrols and blockades has ensured that increasing numbers of criminals are committing successful raids on Tae Ora II, and the supply of red ash has increased by several factors. The price of the drug has fallen in recent years, but the increased numbers of users has ensured that profits remain high for all involved. Red ash remains a lucrative galactic trade.