The reintegration of forks is one of the tough problems for group-minded exhumans. Unless the period of separation was short, trauma is a virtual guarantee. Integration is thus a focus of psychosurgical research, and exhumans, of course, take everything farther. What does it take to merge separate egos? Could one gain only skills, aptitudes, attitudes, instincts, acquired tastes? Could a fusion of two egos into one be possible?
The key insight was to let go of the conscious mind. Specially prepared delta forks are so stripped down that they are incapable of experiencing trauma. If merged correctly, areas that conflict will be left dormant, while those areas that are compatible become active. Each fork thus contributes to the formed ego, but only in ways that do not directly conflict with other forks. Merging a strict vegan fork with an atavistic carnivore may produce an ego with no strong feelings on food whatsoever, while mixing socialites will produce a new socialite. Extreme traits are moderated or eliminated, and the produced egos are much more boring than might be expected from exhumans.
Among the exhumans who have begun a new society based on this practice the deltas are called strands, and the formed egos are called braids.
A single strand is sub-sentient, functionally no different from any normal delta fork. Two merged strands will have a weak personality on the border of consciousness. In contrast to single strands they are notably unstable, left to their own devices they may slowly integrate enough for intermittent sentience. Three merged strands becomes a full, conscious ego. Merging more than three produces sub-sentient minds as more and more conflicts between forks require dormancy.
Continuity between braids and strands is based upon commonality. Strands retain memories, or aspects of memories, but they can only be fully remembered by the braid that formed them. If a braid is formed of three strands, then severed, with the three strands become parts of three new braids, the new braids will only have vague access to the first braid's memories. If the three strands are once again woven into a braid, the braid will be the same person, will have full access to its memories, and will feel as if it has simply been unconscious while its strands were separated.
Only continuity of the pattern is necessary; discontinuity of body or disconnections in time do not bother braids anymore than sleep bothers humans. In this society there may be a thousand active egos, but hundreds of thousands of potential egos, awakening and discorporating as strands are shuffled. Death is rarely experienced by a braid directly, for there are so many more potentials than actuals. The destruction of a strand is a significant loss, as it effectively kills all of the braids of which that strand was a part.
Braids are made from specially prepared delta forks; normal delta forks cannot be used. The forks are combined using the same rules as for packages in Transhuman.
Inspired by the tines of Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep.