- "The man was tall, with pale unhealthy-looking skin and dark hair shaved close to his skull in a patchy, unflattering fuzz, like lichen on a boulder. Big nose, small ears, a lugubrious expression on his rubbery face -- he looked strung out, actually, eyes dark and ringed. Long, skinny arms and legs; a loose tunic or poncho concealed the details of his big upper torso. His hands and feet were especially distinctive ... the webs showed distinctly, a dark rose color between the over-long fingers. The feet were concealed in soft boots or buskins, tied at the ankles, but they too were about double the length of a normal foot, though no wider."
- ―Miles's first look at Guppy[src]
Russo Gupta was one of a group of genetically-engineered merfolk created on Jackson's Whole by House Dyan. Most of the members of the group performed as an underwater ballet troupe; he was submersible stage crew. The members of the group were amphibious, with gills in their chests that enabled them to swim underwater without breathing apparatus.
The group was acquired by House Ryoval in a hostile takeover of House Dyan; Ry Ryoval had no use for Russo Gupta, so he found himself houseless on Jackson's Whole. On the whole, despite the lack of a job and of protection, Russo considered his fate to be happier than his mer-cohort.
He ended up working as engineer on a smuggler's ship with three other refugee Jacksonians; together they considered themselves a family of four consisting of a woman, Gras-Grace, and her three husbands, Gupta, Firka, and Hewlet.
He and his fellow crewmembers were betrayed by one of their customers, a renegade Cetagandan ba; he was the only survivor. Gupta chased the customer down, seeking vengeance. When his attempt failed, and he was captured, he met Miles Vorkosigan at the Union of Free Habitats and told him his story.
Miles eventually recommended to him that he join the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet.