Richard explained what he thought to Elena, “I believe the main cause of the issues is the Noxians toxins. Of course, Noxians have been living with toxins in their system since the beginning, and they’re resistant so it’s not a problem. It’s just the way they are, and it hasn’t been a problem. However, the average level of retained toxins has been going up slowly, according to the data I could find.”
Elena frowned. “Unfortunate. That is… exactly what I had found as well. Though none of the toxin levels stay at levels we would historically consider unhealthy for Noxians, some recent changes in the gene pool seem to have caused the former levels to be incorrect.” Elena pulled up some documents on a nearby screen, “The higher levels aren’t immediately damaging to adults, but hinder the development of a fetus. I hadn’t noticed the effects on adult lifespan yet, but perhaps there has been a shift in the most common genes, and they provide less resistance.”
Richard nodded. “That explains why results are usually much more promising in the labs as well. The air is filtered enough to have significant changes from the normal atmosphere.”
Elena closed her eyes in thought. “This isn’t just a genetic issue. Increasing tolerance to the toxins and keeping a lower threshold would help but… that wouldn’t really solve the issue. On the other hand, if we took it too far, there could be problems as well. Noxians do rely on having some level of them.”
“Now yes, but to they have to? Certainly other compounds could fulfill the same vital functions, without side effects. Plus, as a defensive measure… having toxic blood hasn’t been advantageous to the Noxians for what… a millennium now? Instead, it’s a hindrance in social interaction, especially with other species.”
“True. However, with such significant changes, would the Noxians still be Noxians?”
Richard shrugged. “If they chose to be, they would. I doubt people would be strongly for the idea, however.”
Elena sighed. “No, no they would not. The traditionalists especially. They’d rather die than change, especially with something that is so ingrained in our culture. It affects our dress… formal duels are based around it, and it even affects courtship in a significant way.”
“Well, not to sound too morbid… but if they would rather die, let them.” Richard took a deep breath, “They don’t have to get modified if they don’t want to. Though, I suppose we haven’t actually made it work yet, so we might be getting ahead of ourselves.”
“We might be, and taking such drastic measures is… a troubling thought, even to me.”
“It could be best to start with something else, outside the lab. Say, air filters, changes to the soil for growing food. Those can’t be changed too much without affecting the rest of the life on Nox, however.” Richard blinked, “That’s… a massive project, actually. Perhaps the entire planet might have to change, and not just the Noxians themselves.”
Elena stroked her chin, “That’s certainly a huge undertaking. It would need the backing of everyone we could get. First, though, we need to make sure we aren’t mistaken in our thoughts. We should start with talking to some of the other researchers here who are most likely to be open minded. That’s not too hard at this lab, but well… you know how some of them are.”
Richard nodded. There were a few doctors at the same lab who treated Richard and Elena like children instead of fellow doctors. Most respected them as juniors, but several couldn’t help but see them as a princess and… whatever they thought Richard was. A strange tagalong, wannabe noble. Though he was officially nobility, that didn’t mean everyone really felt that way, even some of those friendly to the royal faction.
Richard almost wished he and Elena had been incorrect. Unfortunately, having an idea of where to go was better than not, even if it led to a monumental task like changing a planet. There were other options, of course. The Noxians could move off-planet, like the small portion that already had. However, that was more intimidating in a different way. It would be impossible to ask billions to leave their homes, and it was financially impossible. For those who already lived off planet, modifications to reduce the levels of the common toxins would actually make their lives easier, because they wouldn’t have to specially get food or supplements suited to Noxians. Of course, the culinary aspects of Noxian food would be another major change, because food was expected to be a certain way. Changing the planet, if it was even possible, would change the plants and animals, and their flavors would be different, even if nothing went wrong and everything survived relatively intact.
Opinions were divided on whether anything so drastic needed to happen. Richard was pleased that, at least among most of his colleagues, such opinions were offered in a measured and rational manner. He even saw good points in some of them. If Noxians filtered out more of the toxins, their tolerance increased, or both, it could solve the problem. Richard’s worry was about how permanent that would be. Those results could happen through genetic engineering or perhaps through pills, but neither was a perfect solution. Pills, of course, would need to be taken continuously over the course of life, and while Noxians wouldn’t even necessarily need to take them unless they wanted to extend their life or have children, it wasn’t an optimal solution. It wouldn’t stop the drift in genetics that had brought them to this point. Modifying the genetics would work, but so long as the Noxians still relied on and tolerated the toxins somewhat, they could always drift in a bad direction. It would require constant monitoring. Perhaps it was worth it to help stay as close as they could to how they were, and to their culture. On the other hand, Richard felt that if they truly cared about their culture, they could preserve the important and good parts without actually needing to be potentially deadly- both to themselves and to others. He wasn’t capable of making the decision for them.