Starting in the mide 2020s, a long formant human gene began to manifest. There are many theories concerning what caused this manifestation. Some theories are clearly incorrect (it wasn't caused by the Formians because it started before their arrival). Perhaps it was caused by somewhat elevated carbon dioxide levels. Perhaps it was caused by stray nanotechnology experiments. Perhaps its time had come.
In any case, prior to 2019, perhaps two humans per billion would spontaneously exhibit verifiable "metafunctional" powers. Thereafter these powers manifested in several hundred humans per billion. By 2040, there were many thousands of known super-powered humans. They were dubbed "Uniques."
Uniques could display powers that seemed magical (but weren't). "Clusters of functionality" included high strength, invulnerability to harm, extreme speed and dexterity, enhanced senses, and even unaided flight. Much stranger one-of-a-kind abilities were also seen. CURBIT tried to prevent, then control, and then counter the rise of the Uniques. They could never do so.
Uniques ranged from supremely powerful and dangerous powerhouses like Bomb Bay to innocuous but amusing sports like Chameleon Boy (who, unlike his 20th century fictional namesake, was not a master of disguise and shapeshifting, but had an elastic tongue that --according to his latest press release -- was "spranking wicked on flies.")
Fortunately, many Uniques had no ambition to become super-villains or superheroes. Many just wanted to live normal lives. There were plenty of exceptions though. CURBIT created a "Threat Index" to gauge each Unique's potential destabilizing impact on society. The index runs from one to 1,000. Although the Tech Cops didn't publicize it, they had a ranking system called a "threat index" from one to 1,000 they used to pigeonhole these Unique powers. Chameleon Boy, for instance, was a 3. Bomb Bay was 945.
Apparently most primates have the gene that could turn them into a Unique. Attempts to force the gene to manifest were never successful. By the 27th century, the percentage of Uniques was closer to the historic normal of a handful per billion. The reason for this decline is just as mysterious as the reason for the 21st Century spike.
Alien Uniques are not known and are perhaps impossible. Non-human primate Uniques are rare but possible. Most Uniques are native to the Blue Strange Worlds, but they are very occasionally present in the Yellow realities. A few high profile (even legendary) historic Uniques have been identified.The gene for Unique powers is present in humans in Red but there is no record of it ever manifesting. (The population is less than 20 million so the odds are not good.At the same time, a Unique would be difficult to identify when magic is common and can duplicate many Unique abilities).
At about the time Uniques appeared, advanced technology combined with alien technology (including Zyan and to a lesser extent Formian) to create machine-based marvels that had only been imagined the previous century. The inventors and users of all this "Tech" were dubbed "Toolmasters." Many Toolmasters employ equipment that allows them to match or exceed the power of a Unique.
Finally, improved foods and training methods (both physical and psychological) allowed otherwise ordinary men and women to achieve the absolute possible perfection in human stamina, endurance, and skill. These super athletes and mentalities were known as "Ubers." Ubers often specialize in a particular feat (swordsmanship or firearms skills are common). They can be general acrobats or just be very strong. Mental powers include high intelligence, photographic memory, speed reading, multi-linguistic excellence, or intuitive math ability. Although the metafunctional gene does not appear to have anything to do with the enhanced ability of an Uber, they may achieve superior powers and abilities that make them appear to be Uniques.
Starting around the mid-21st Century, there was a convergence between Toolmasters and Ubers. Mechanical and biological enhancements could increase human performance to far beyond that possible through mere training and nutrition. This included cybernetics, which created man-machine hybrids or cyborgs, as well as epification, which used genetic engineering or nanotechnology.