The desire of sentient beings to improve themselves has always been a driving force, but the use of artificial means to boost personal attributes such as endurance, brain power and so on, has gone in cycles driven as much by the prevailing morality as by technological ability.

Even before humankind took to space, there were crude methods available to increase bodily strength or endurance. Despite their illegality, these were widely used by sportspersons until it became all but impossible for anyone to succeed at their chosen sport without resorting to drugs or other artificial treatments.

As humans spread to the stars and contacted other races, technological advances meant that improving brain power, endurance, muscles and nerves became popular amongst the Galaxy's population as a whole, although it was only in Sol that such techniques were offered. For a while, it was a clandestine affair in which only those in the know could indulge. Esoteric ways of contacting those who offered the services evolved, and although history does not record exactly what was involved, there are rumors of a well-known courtesan being enticed by gifts, a vending machine in a hospital that dispenses some kind of superfood, and mysterious alien equipment hidden in a cave system on Mercury.

As the Emperor Ming's reign came to its violent end, a general loosening of restrictions on personal behavior saw the provision of personal enhancement services come out of the shadows. Businesses on Earth operated openly, selling boosts to all kinds of attributes. The most popular were the so-called "stat shops", such as the Insta-Learn University, which offered stamina, strength, dexterity and intelligence boosts to those who could afford their outrageous prices.

But as often happens, there was a backlash against the stat shops. A new morality arose amongst the general population, which held that it was unfair that rich people could afford to improve on nature while poor people had to put up with the attributes they were born with. Along with bio-sculpting and genetic engineering, stat improvement was made illegal. And so it has remained, even as the other laws enacted in the same moral panic have eased.

Political commentators today doubt that we will see stat shops once again openly setting up in business, since there is still a wide puritanical streak amongst Sol's citizens, particularly when it comes to health issues. However, whispers on the grapevine will lead those willing to risk breaking the law to clandestine operations:

Although there's no hint of collusion between these four disparate enterprises, they have come up with a remarkably uniform pricing policy. Each treatment, which boosts a stat by one point, costs a slithy tove. None of them will administer the treatment if the client has already received a booster treatment of any kind in the same day - they all claim that for health reasons, it's just too dangerous to enhance more than one stat a day.

They are also all very aware that what they are doing is still illegal, but since we know for a fact that high-ranking members of the Galactic Administration have suddenly been demonstrating vastly improved brain power, endurance and so on, we expect that the forces of law and order will be turning a blind eye.

It seems we really have come full circle!