Arbiter Gene (Ownage)
The Arbiter Gene is actually an entire recently discovered chromosome, somehow linked to Awakening in humans. Whether it's a cause or an effect is unknown, though opinions on this matter can at times be divisive. It is widely used as a marker to identify Awakened humans, as there have been no cases of an ordinary human possessing it, or of the Gene being absent from an Awakened human.
The Arbiter Gene was first identified (shortly after awakening becomes semi-common), in medical analyses conducted on Awakened humans prior to the (projector incident). This result in a wave of genetic screenings of people believed to be ordinary. In addition to identifying several other Awakened, this revealed that it was always absent from ordinary humans.
The 'Arbiter' part of its name could be a reference to either the infalliability of the gene in determining whether or not a person is Awakened (giving it the final decision, as it were), or the Gene's seeming ability to dictate and rewrite the structure of other chromosomes. The term 'Gene' was a reference to how the earliest specimens had only that single gene in the entire chromosome; the name stuck despite being a misnomer, much to the annoyance of a great many geneticists.
Not enough is known about demons to determine if they have some equivalent to the Arbiter Gene, though general consensus holds it likely.
Human beings generally have 23 chromosomes, each with its own purpose. Thus, 23 is their monoploid number―the number of unique chromosomes in each cell. Humans, like most mammals, are diploid, meaning that they have two sets of each of these chromosomes, one from each parent, for a total of 46 chromosomes (two versions of each of the 23) per cell. A monoploid chromosome, such as the Arbiter Gene, is one which exists in only one of these sets, lacking a partner.
It has been established that the Arbiter Gene is not present from birth. People who have tested negative for its presence have later Awakened, and then been found to possess it. Furthermore, it is impossible to pass it on to one's offspring, as sperm and ova which wind up with this chromosome invariably self-terminate, marginally reducing the fertility of people who possess it.
The Gene typically begins as just that, a single gene that takes up an entire chromosome. It has been observed to change over time, generally doing so as the individual's power develops, and in some cases seems to be responsible for, in some cases altering the person's DNA. The results of this alteration vary, though take the form of anything from mild changes in appearance (although far from a reliable method of identification, it's a documented fact that some particularly potent awakened humans will have no significant physical changes, but odd characteristics like orange eyes, lengthened ears, and the like) to drastic restructuring of one's body (although more common in Thirds, some humans do develop features suchs as claws, tails, fur, and even wings).
Connection to Awakening
It's undeniable that there is some sort of correlation between the Arbiter Gene and human Awakening. All Awakened humans possess the gene, and no humans with the gene are not Awakened. Many people have tried to determine the nature of the cause-and-effect relationship, or even if there is one, with no real success. There are three main theories on how the two phenomenon are related.
- The Hermann-Hiraga Theory is the most popular among the population as a whole, being the first one proposed and generally considered the most easily understandable. It proposes that the Arbiter Gene is a virus brought by the demons when they crossed over to Earth, the ability of the gene to transform itself and rewrite other portions of DNA as evidence. According to the theory, the presence of this gene is somehow responsible for the other inexplicable abilities possessed by the Awakened. This theory explains the existence of Vassals through demons making an effort to 'infect' specific humans with advanced strains of the virus. Although there's no evidence for Awakening being contagious, this theory's widespread acceptance has generated that fear among many, and is at least partially responsible for some of the negative sentiment towards Awakened humans.
- The Granger Theory is essentially the opposite of the Hermann-Hiraga theory, stating that the Arbiter Gene's presence is a result of Awakening. This theory is the most popular among people generally considered to be knowledgeable on the subject, though some criticize it as nothing but a fancy way of explaining away a mystery with "It's magic." That said, it's far from inconceivable that the 'magic' of the Awakened could alter a person's genetic makeup, and rather easily explains how the Gene seems to manifest simultaneously in almost every living cell in a person's body. The primary scientific criticism is that that sort of precision is highly unlikely from such a process.
- The Sakharov Theory was named for Russian scientist Kolya Sakharov, despite his protests. Kolya's theory puts forth that while there is an undeniable correlation between the Arbiter Gene and Awakening, this does not mean that one causes the other, or even that they are directly linked. As he pointed out, they could be totally different results of an as of yet unknown cause. His theory is generally unpopular, though a relatively large number of the people actually studying the Arbiter Gene do favor it
Testing for the Arbiter Gene is a relatively easy procedure, as it has a very distinct 'fingerprint'. The frequency of testing varies—people are generally tested whenever they visit doctors for routine checkups or anything more severe. Members of most major corporations are tested at least once a month, while in the United States anyone who deals with classified material or is a member of the federal government from senators on up is tested daily.
Tests are relatively inexpensive, and generally take a few days, though in cases where a specific individual needs to be tested quickly results can, at certain facilities, be produced in a matter of hours. Perhaps less significant than actually being able to identify the Awakened is what's done with that knowledge.
There have been a number of legal disputes regarding that issue. With few exceptions, they've reached the same conclusion: While the Awakened cannot simply be picked up off the street and thrown in prison, there's nothing wrong with adding them to the national registry (which, in fact, is legally mandated) or discriminating against them in any other way.