Turning to the Vector itself, it is, as we have said, the eighth planet of its primary, hot white Enlightenment. Ordinarily, one would not expect a planet so distant from its sun to be warm enough to be habitable, but the energetic history of the system and the star-forming region from which it was born blessed Enlightenment’s worlds in general and the Vector in particular with a bounty of radioactives. Thus, the Vector is heated to habitable temperature by its fiercely burning core and continuous vulcanism.
The Physical Vector
On approach, Resplendent Exponential Vector is a sooty jewel smeared with wisps of yellow cloud; its twin continents, far-flung Innovation and isolated Discovery black with millennia of layered volcanic ash, set amid esklav-dark seas, and gleaming in the night with traceries of red and blue-white – the red of flowing lava rivers, and the glimmering stars of civilization.
The atmosphere is breathable, rich with oxygen produced by the acidophilic phytoplankton found in the oceans, although the plentiful sulphur compounds therein wouldn’t recommend breathing it to those without appropriately resistant lungs. Nonetheless, this rendered it a prime colonization prospect, since the Vector’s domed cities merely require simple filters and pressurization pumps to maintain their internal atmosphere.
The native ecosystem of the Vector is sparse, simple, and robust: land plant niches are dominated by thermovoric, chemosynthetic fungi, including analogs to slime molds, truffles, mushrooms, lichens, and others, many bioluminescent. The animal niche is occupied by so-called “fungimals”; organisms with chitinous exoskeletons whose cells bear more resemblance to the mycetes than to more conventional animaloid lifeforms.
(To many of those selecting Resplendent Exponential Vector as a scientific colony, the nature of the planet held considerable appeal; agronomists were delighted with the potential of the nutrient-rich ash, while biochemists considered the fungal ecosystem to be a veritable treasure-trove.)
An unusual component of the Vector’s ecosystem is its wild mechanicals; the feral descendants of experimental robotic swarms with unusual low-level intelligences.
The planet itself appears surrounded by a thin ring, visible even from the surface as a gleaming band of junklight; the legacy of millennia of orbital development. While never hosting as grand a labswarm as Phólarae, the orbital band is nonetheless rich with habitats, workshacks, orbital laboratories, research satellites, resource dumps, powersats, orbital mirrors, and other structures.
Of all these structures, two are the grandest. The largest station in the Vector’s geosynchronous orbit is the Tramaharav Kaernar, the “manufacturing warrens”. A group of engineering habitats, microgravity factories, and macroscale fabbers of various shapes and sizes strung together on loose scaffolds like clusters of beads, gathered around a hollowed-out former mining asteroid, it is here that much of the prototyping and assembly into the finished goods needed by the researchers of Resplendent Exponential Vector and for new facilities being constructed in the system is done.
The unquestioned queen of the orbit, however, is Axiom Station – the upper terminus of the Vector’s beanstalk, and the capital of the system.
The golden gateway to this world of science, Axiom Station sits atop the four-stranded orbital elevator descending to the planetary capital of Asymptote, far below. A symbol, it is constructed in the shape of a giant atomic model from the dawn of modern science: the core of the station is formed as a nucleus of 6Li, six merged spheres, in which the protons are clad in shimmering gold chrysadamant alloy, and the neutrons picked out by the dark windows of park terranes and greenhouses. Around these spin the three habitation rings of polished silver, each bearing a teardrop representing the ever-circling electron.
While much of the space aboard Axiom Station is naturally given over to spaceport services and transshipment, the majority of the volume aboard is given over to the operation of system governance, with each of the three “protons” housing the offices beholden to a particular member of the Science Triumvirate: the Supreme Investigator, the Dean of Evidence, and the Sane Man.
A Note on Governance
The formal, conlegial governance of the Vector – the Science Triumvirate – is very much focused on the pursuit of science, engineering, and progress above all else. We will therefore spend little time discussing the routine functions of governance as they are performed everywhere in the Empire, save to note that these rest safely in the hands of the aptly-named Chancellor of the Mundanities, whose offices are located downwell in Asymptote’s Bay City dome.
As for the Triumvirate themselves, they each preside over a distinct segment of the scientific endeavor:
The Supreme Investigator deals with the first stages of the scientific process: in presiding over the Grant Council and the Project Execution Commission, along with Potential Applications and the tangle of other subcommissions beneath them, liaising with the Vector’s private and corporate sponsorship, and coordinating public and private requests for lab space, equipment access, and other limited resources, as well as maintaining the hypothesis bounty board, the Supreme Investigator sets the process of discovery in motion.
The Dean of Evidence concerns himself with the extraction of truth from all the science being done, all across the Vector. As such, the research prediction markets which drive the Evidentiary’s activity are under his purview, as are all matters relating to confirmatory and replicatory experimentation – and by the Vector’s charter, no research conducted there may be published without the Evidentiary’s imprimatur. It is the Evidentiary which arranges for confirmatory experiments funded by the research predicatin markets, and further replications as necessary, all carried out either by the Evidentiary’s permanent staff of consultant replicators, or by scientists willing to carry out experiments – in areas unrelated to their own research and in which they have no investment, to ensure a lack of bias – for compensation or additional priority with the Supreme Investigator.
And the Sane Man endeavors to ensure that the entire system – and, for that matter, the entire System – does not explode, supervising a range of departments along the lines of Laboratory O&M, Range Safety, Precautionary Mandates, Tort Insurance Liaison, Existential Threats and Doom Avoidance, the Science Constabulary – not a police organization, but rather iatropsychic specialists in talking highly-strung geniuses back from the edge – and the Bureau of Mandatory Fun Weeks, and when those fail, with access to certain last resorts, including a peremptory veto on research exceeding the Vector’s indemnity coverage, and a small arsenal of antimatter warheads to terminate prompt experimental excursions.
Asymptote is the Vector’s planetary capital, located in the crook of the “L” where northern and western Innovation meet to form a wide crescent bay almost exactly on the planetary equator.
The city itself is divided into five multi-mile-wide domes; two – Gleaming Children and Evolutionary Park – sit on the bay’s southern edge, while Everlasting Science Fair and the Apparatus Agora lie to the east. Between these, the river of lava originating in the Knucklebones, far to the south-east, oozes its way past the heat exchangers of the Stonefall Geothermal Power Plant and beneath the city’s famous Glass Bridge to a steamy end in the city’s deep lagoon.
(The many small cafés scattered along the bridge, where the ruddy light of molten stone below meets the twilight provided by Asymptote’s dedicated solettas, it is worth mentioning, are the city’s most popular spot for clandestine rendezvous and romantic tete-a-tetes.)
The descent from Axiom Station on the orbital elevator provides a spectacular view of the city. It descends into the center of the bay, and through the apex of the Bay City dome directly into downtown. Passenger arrivals are usually routed via the south-east strand, such that the windows of the descending capsules are afforded a spectacular view of the other city domes, and of “Aspiration to Utopia,” the city’s centerpiece – a huge sculpture upon an island at the mouth of the lava river celebrating the spirit of Imperial progress, a stylized man and woman grown from gleaming spinmetal, standing together and reaching up to claim lightning from the heavens.
Bay City itself is constructed on an artificial island, floating in the bay amid the other domes. Aside from the groundside terminus of the orbital elevator, it is the most cosmopolitan of Asymptote’s domes, containing most of the city’s housing, hotels, and other basic functions. A fleet of environmentally-sealed charterboats provide transport back and forth from Bay City to the quays of the other domes.
The Everlasting Science Fair dome is centered around Resplendent Exponential Vector’s largest exhibition hall and conference center complex, which hosts a never-ending series of presentations by the Vector’s sponsors and many of its leading researchers. The remainder of the dome, however, which gives it its name, is exactly that: a vast, sprawling plaza filled with exhibits demonstrating the principles of science and technology, from the simplest natural phenomena to the most complex of ontotechnologies, a dynamic and joyful collection of knowledge.
(While this does generate a considerable portion of the Vector’s tourism income, it is visited every day by many of the local researchers, who report finding the atmosphere remarkably restful.)
Gleaming Children is Asymptote’s corporate sector, a labyrinth of office plazas and secondary businesses radiating out from the spike at its center, the topaz-and-emerald tower piercing and surpassing the dome’s apex: Exogenesis Plaza, the radiant headquarters of Exogenesis, ICC, most prominent among the Vector’s original corporate sponsors. A full sixth-sector of the dome is owned by them and sublet gratis to their prized “garage inventors”, lending it the nickname “Sponsored By Exogenesis!”.
Also prominent within the dome are Extropa Energy’s twin glass skyscrapers, illuminated from within by the blue glow of the vertically-stretched, transparent fusion cores at their hearts, and from without by arcing lightning between the towers, a living symbol of their function; and the Vault, the Probable Technologies facility housing thousands of paleotech artifacts recovered from all across the Worlds, made freely available to interested researchers.
Evolutionary Park is Asymptote’s glass-garden dome, receiving additional illumination from solar-spectrum lights built into the dome’s framework. Around the fringes, some areas are given over to specialized farming projects, but the majority of the dome is a vast botanical garden and park, an ecosystem woven together from hundreds of Imperial worlds and accented with the finest products of the Vector’s biosculptors; a calm and peaceful oasis amid the city’s bustle.
The Asymptote Maglev Terminal is attached to the outer edge of Evolutionary Park, this garden dome providing, in the view of the city governance, the best and most relaxing introduction to the planetary capital.
Finally, Apparatus Agora is the last dome, and one dedicated entirely to commercial pursuits. The eastern half of the dome is the Supply district in which virtually any apparatus, component, or other item needed by the Vector’s researchers – in any field – can be purchased. To the west, in Demand, a variety of small bazaars offer the fruits of science and invention for purchase, including access to prototypes and experimental models offered on the condition that the purchaser provide detailed reports on their use in the field.
The Vector, of course, has many other cities, primarily scattered across Innovation and linked by a maglev web. Discovery is lightly populated, principally with localized research habs, with much of the continent held in fallow reserve.
The other cities of Resplendent Exponential Vector are, of course, particularly focused on research. These tend to be intentional communities focused on a particular field or area of research. Some of the best known are these:
Cog, a specialized robotics community, whose entire infrastructure is constructed as a dynamic sculpture of interacting gears;
Fusion Pulse and Gravity Resonance, twin cities for the study of astronomy and astrophysics, and centers for the analysis of data from the Empire’s large-baseline arrays;
Memento, the library city, and home of the planetary branch of the Repository of All Knowledge;
Modular Future, a swarm of self-reconfiguring buildings, home to ongoing studies of emergent behavior, coordination, and complexity disciplines;
Volatile Enterprise, the semi-subterranean center for the study of explosives, nucleonics, and propulsion technologies;
and Ascension Praxis, the birthplace of the Transcend itself, and a continuing center for the development of seed AI and trans-singularity thought.