Questions: Clearing the Decks

‘Cause I have a backlog left over from 2015, that I haven’t found time to answer yet, and it would be nice to go into 2016 all fresh and pine-smelling. So, without further ado:

…okay, one other thing that isn’t a question. It’s an art suggestion, for anyone who wants it.

A steampunk Xbox controller.

Well, okay, but it is kind of relevant. It’d illustrate the differences in technological evolution – or at least technological packaging between there and here during some of the equivalent centuries. Say, the lack of convenient plastics, because of lack of oil on an artificial, young world, and as such the way that ceramic engineering became a high art. That controller, for example, is almost certainly encased in a tough porcelain-based composite.  Add some nice polished brass buttons, some sapphireglass inlays, and, ooh, see if you can extend the control sticks to thumb-powered 6-axis sticks, and you’ve got your very own alien artifact.

…and now back to the questions:

An odd thought hit me while reading over your recent post on why AIs exist:  How would Imperial law deal with the case of a “malicious uplift” (i.e. granting sophonce to a formerly non-sophont entity that was originally someone else’s possession)?

Good question.

Well, the first thing I should note is that this is probably (for values of probably equal to the writer reserving the right to change his mind) not possible. Which is to say, sapience engineering is a distinctly complicated endeavor, which is usually performed starting at the zygote level. For one thing, it’s not just a matter of building a bigger, better cortex – that cortex might imply skull modifications to hold it, and a metabolism upgraded to support it, and adjustments to senses and manipulators, and so forth. Not something you want to try in the field with a proteus nanovirus; at the least, it’d mean a long stay in a healing vat.

And for another, you can grow a fancy cortex, but you can’t shape it by and fill it with life experience. You have a good chance of ending up with a technically-sophont vegetable.

But let’s say it is possible, as a hypothetical. In that case, it’s a simple enough matter of standard Imperial law, considered in its usual atomic fashion. The new sophont is legally in the same position as any other sophont, with all rights and responsibilities thereof. The uplifter is the de jure parent to such degree as is necessary, as is anyone who participates in the creation of a new sophont, and is also arraigned for theft, having deprived the original owner of the use of his property. (Depending on the opinion of the court of his motives, this may also result in his above-mentioned parental status being abruptly terminated.)

(This may also be complicated by the way in which prosophont creatures (say, non-uplifted dogs), which are the best candidates for uplift, cannot technically be property, only minor associates similar but not identical to other dependents, but the legal effect is much the same.)

Are there any particularly outstanding incidents, whether amusing, horrific, or some macabre mix of the two, from the days when all the fancy wonder-techs that the Empire now takes for granted were still having their bugs worked out?

Plenty. Progress is messy, and there’s a reason there’s a Monument to the Martyrs of Science.

But that would be future story-fodder…

With regard to the Repository of All Knowledge:

In short, its charter essentially reads: STORE ALL THE THINGS!  It does its very best to live up to that, even the part of it that “wastes” tremendous amounts of data space on obsolete records and trivia.  But then, the archivists know what happened to the last people to dismiss “trivia” too blithely, and that’s not going to happen again, not on their watch.

Which raises the question; who were the last people to delete “trivia”? And what kind of appropriately horrible fate lead to…

I do not have the exact details of the incident in question, but in general-outline terms, it’s the case of someone deciding that the centuries-old details of some minor vegetable blight not really needing to be moved to the new fancy records system, especially those ancient boxes of musty-smelling handwritten notes. No-one’ll ever need those, right?

And then a few centuries after that, when it turns out that this epidemiologist really would have found those useful with regard to a much more serious medical issue…

…well, that’s when someone’s rep score just drops a hundred points overnight, and the Aláthiëlans and Atheléites get to preach a lot of sermons about how Information must be preserved, dammit.

Do the various darëssef have any stereotypes associated with them by those on the “outside looking in”?  (Put another way, if you got one representative of the best of each profession at a table at a dinner party and they got into a mock-serious discussion about Who Has the Unquestionably Best Job in the Universe, what are some of the things they’d tease one another over to “prove” that their particular job is better than all the others?)

There are some. But I should note that these are pretty weaksauce stereotypes by our standards, because making sweeping generalizations about large groups of individuals is, well, not really their specialty. I understate. (At least where the things that aren’t actually in the Code are concerned, anyway.)

Something which is only reinforced by the tendency for people to have the sort of lengthy and varied resumes that would make most, if not all, of the people having such a discussion members of several darëssef simultaneously.

But there is some of that. Everyone knows that acquiescents are prone to be somewhat distracted. (Because they might be literally talking to god.) Aesthants are known as mercurial and impractical. (Although in Eldraeic, the latter means “this will be a bastard to implement, but it’s really cool“.) Executors carry the reputation of being somewhat pedantic and obsessive (“And aren’t you damn lucky we are!?” reply the executors.) Hearthmistresses are somewhat more careful and conservative than the average (by local standards, i.e., will make sure you pack a lunch before launching yourself into the unknown reaches of space). Plutarchs are always on the lookout for opportunity and it often seems like they’ll trade anything, anywhere, anytime, with anybody. (“Look, seriously, just pass the salt, okay?”.)  The rúner are very calm, very self-controlled, as if they had to give themselves permission for everything they do. Sentinels are stern, verging on cold, but mostly unteasable because you really, really don’t want to have to do their job.

And go not to a technarch for counsel, for they will provide you with a 600-page dissertation on the problem, related problems, new problems you will have after you solve this problem, solutions to those problems, eight appendices, citations, a note explaining why it was the wrong problem anyway, and a clockwork widget/three-line script that successfully replaces your problem with a completely different problem.

From “Sliding Scale of Shiny vs. Gritty”:

One wonders just how bad the the cognitive dissonance would be (for Imperials) if you engineered thing to look like they were entropic when they weren’t (or vice versa)

The former is merely extremely poor taste. The latter, on the other hand, is probably the smoking gun for some kind of devious fraud and/or criminal conspiracy.

Also, how much spheroid has been explored and charted? Had probes already passed beyond furthermost reach of the spheroid, like Voyagers? If Precursors indeed transplanted “greenlife” from Earth to Eliéra, they must have effective means of cross gulf of tens of thousands of ly without recourse to portal network – namely, some sort of FTL drive.

The Worlds themselves are, approximately, 3,300 light-years from coreward to rimward (about the whole width of the spiral arm they occupy), 4,100 light-years from spinward to trailing, and 2,000 light years from acme to nadir, which is basically the entire width of the galactic disk. That’s about 100,000,000 stars, but of those, only about 10,000 are actually connected to the stargate plexus, so those are the best charted.

Relativistic missions are exploring the others, and pushing out a few light-centuries beyond the borders, but they’re only touching a fraction of what’s there. The ones that look interesting from a distance, specifically; and since the Super-Size Synthetic Aperture – a phased-array telescope with a virtual lens nearly 1,000 ly across – has an absurdly high resolution up to great distances, they’ve got a very good handle on what the targets are throughout the galaxy.

As for the Precursors… maaaaaybe. Or maybe their portal network isn’t there any more, for one reason or another. Or maybe they just didn’t mind travelling slowly. Not everyone necessarily uses the same timescale we are using.

1. So Waserai born hermaphroditic but change their biological sex after fully mature(or circumstance dictates), like some Earth animals?
2. How many aliens are bipedal?
3. So general Eldraeverse tank designs are basically alike Dropzone Commander’s UCM tanks?
4. May I ask rough summary about Safir and Voctonari? If you have notes or conception, of course.

1. Waserai are born as hermaphrodites, and remain so in their pre-pubescent state; after puberty, they adopt a (psychological) gender role, and this determines (presumably hormonally mediated) which aspect of their genitalia matures/dominates and which, well, subsides, for want of a better word. It’s not unknown for this to switch back and forth a few times until they settle down into their adult gender.

It’s also not unknown, although it is relatively rare, for it to change again later in life if something alters their self-image in the right way, and to a substantial extent.

2. “A lot”.

Which is to say, it’s one of the most common body plans (frees up all forelimbs for use as manipulators without multiplying limbs all over the place with the associated energy cost), but while it’s probably the most common, there are still plenty of non-bipeds around, in particular those that didn’t evolve from land animals.

…and I’m not going to get into specific numbers.

p.s. hexapodia is the key insight – Twirlip of the Mists

3. I’m not familiar with Dropzone Commander, so I can’t really say. The IL’s tanks are described here, and in general, there’s a fair bit of similarity between species. They all have to make them work with the same physics, after all.

4. Much detail is waiting to be revealed elsewhere, especially when the unspoken details of their societies become relevant, but…

You could think of the voctonari as spider-aliens, were the main body of the spider to be a cluster of bubbles, each of which contains its own brain. Yep, the voctonari are a collegiate intelligence, polysapic, with multiple minds to every body.

…I would prefer not to say more about the sefir at this time.

From “Trope-a-Day: Genocide Dilemma”:

Interesting concept. I wonder why Galian and a handful of unsavory groups have not yet been erased from face of the Galaxy. Also, I am curious Galian mean certain species, nation, or both.

On the latter, the galians/Galians are one of the cases in which the species and nation are more closely identified than most. (Although there are a few galian expatriate communities who can for the most part never go home again.) The reason for that, is fairly familiar – it’s because the Galians are a bunch of racist jerks with intense disdain for anyone not chosen by their particular god.

As for the former – well, I refer you to these wise words of Lorith Amanyr. I mean, sure, they’re assholes now, but ethically speaking, it would be much better – and much less entropic – to fix them than to just wipe ’em out. And much more intellectually satisfying, too.

p.s. BRASS DANCER

After all, it’s not like they pose a serious threat, or anything.

(Also also, casually whacking people you don’t like who aren’t an imminent threat is hard on the reputation, and may encourage other people to clump together into something that is a threat. This would be strategically embarrassing, and the First Lord of the Admiralty and/or the Minister of State and Outlands wouldn’t get invited to the better sort of parties any more.)

I am curious about meaning and definition of these diverse terminologies-digisapiences, neogens, post-technological speciation, polytaxic species, nomads and suchlike-.

digisapiences: sophont artificial intelligences, the ones with consciousness and free will and other characteristics that make them people.

neogens: life-forms that were cooked up from scratch in the lab, not naturally evolved or simple modifications of the same.

post-technological speciation: the tendency of a species, once it develops technology, to take control of its own evolution and as a consequence turn into a set of closely-related species rather than remaining a single one.

polytaxic species: The term itself is somewhat poorly coined: what it refers to is a case in which multiple related species, biologically speaking, evolve in parallel and constitute a joint society, one “species” in the interstellar-race sense. A well-done example would be the Ylii from the game 2300AD; a less well-done example would be Star Trek‘s Xindi.

nomads: Species that have abandoned, migrated from, lost, or otherwise no longer have an identifiable homeworld, just a wandering spaceborne population.

From “Cultural Transfers”:

prehaps Dwarf Fortress would be to thier tastes. after a few scope and graphics upgrades, of course.

Probably not DF, I think. The genre is right – simulations are a very popular genre – as is the degree of complexity (and how), but DF as it is played puts too much emphasis on the And Now Everything Explodes slaughterfest part. The local market would want more constructivity, less breakin’ shit.

Very interesting. How many civilizations have been died out by this stupendous form of stupidity? And how many polities do not recognize civilian rights of AI or restrict/control them through “a bunch of extremely sophisticated coercive mechanisms” or commit other morally reprehensible acts against AI?

Except for the people mucking about with making gods, the former is actually a relatively small number. It takes extraordinary dickishness to annoy people (even people you’ve enslaved) to the point at which they start considering genocide to be the optimal option, and extraordinary incompetence to not have anyone get away in the end.

As for the latter – it’s also a relatively small number, mostly concentrated among rogue Shadow Systems states and less salubrious chunks of the Expansion Regions. (Well, and the Republic, of course.)  Which isn’t to say that there aren’t several other polities that would like to, but there are a number of big players (the Empire, the Photonic Network, even the League of Meridian) who are willing to exchange certain diplomatic words in the interests of preventing this sort of thing. Also, certain bullets.

Also, given the fact that Eldraeverse is a relatively life-rich place, how much percentage of species successfully achieved space-flight independently, without making themselves extinct or at least, stone age and in need of outside assistance?

…that’s not really an answerable question, inasmuch as there’s not really any control as to when in your species’ history the Worlds’ c-horizon is going to overrun your star system and set the answer in stone…

Hm.

I’m going to say that maybe half to two-thirds of the species in the Worlds’ had achieved in-system spaceflight of one degree or another before that happened, and of those maybe 10% had dabbled in subluminal interstellar spaceflight. And the error bars on that first number are very large indeed.

It’s also very much not the case that those are necessarily the successful members of the interstellar community later on, either, I should note.

Finally, can I safely expect Milky Way Galaxy and beyond would be teeming with life as much as Associated Worlds, or this effluence of life is limited solely to Associated Worlds and other such “pockets”(besides, sapient life-emergence must be frequent enough for 80 worlds or so Meridian League or the likes can be claimed as diverse polyspecific society)?

The state of the galaxy varies from location to location. You can say that about much of the middle third of the galaxy. You don’t find much life in the inner third because that close to the galactic core, the radiation is not your friend in general, and the prevalence of supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, and other such things is not your friend in specific. You also don’t find much life in the outer third, because when you get that far from the core, the systems are generally too poor in heavy elements to support much in the way of life.

In the middle: well, the problem is that while the prevalence of supernovae and gamma-ray bursters is less, it doesn’t go away. The prevalence of life in the region of the Worlds is typical for those chunks of the galaxy that haven’t been sterilized recently, but these effects flatten out bubbles of the mid-galaxy with depressing regularity, making a life-map look rather blotchy.

(Which is just more evidence that the universe is BROKEN and should be FIXED.)

Do the eldrae have any terms used like the english “crazy mofo” where it can be a term of respect for a particularly non-rigid thinker?

Hm. I think… probably not.

On the other hand, they do have “If it’s crazy and it works, it ain’t crazy.” as a well-established idiom.

From “Trope-a-Day: Precursors”:

“Also, reputedly, near-solipsists who were literally incapable of conceiving that another entity’s opinion might actually matter, short of a major mental break.”

They were humans weren’t they?

Heh.

I’m pretty sure that local sophontologists would diagnose humans as mostly suffering from the exact opposite problem: far too much group-norming to be considered a psychologically well-adjusted species.

Y’know, if they’d ever met any.

How many homeworlds are named “home”, “dirt”, “place were we are from”, “goddess of our ecology”. Or for flying or swimming species, “sky” or “ocean”. I’m guessing: most to all.

Not quite all, but most, yes. At least some of which now have new common names assigned by the IGS.

(Unrandomly selected example: Eliéra would most closely gloss as little harmonious place.)

 

Trope-a-Day: Klingon Scientists Get No Respect

Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: Notably averted, (see Fantastic Caste System) at least for the skilled classes (as mentioned, say, in the real life section of the original trope), via the formal corporate equality of the darëssef and, indeed, the way people actually behave.  (Notably averted for the serviles, the actual unskilled labor class, except it was always a bit thin on the ground – given the early push for automation or mechanization brought about by the Empire’s labor demographics – and later actually nonexistent, likewise; they say the least skilled job in the modern Empire is botboss, a.k.a., professional supervisor of large quantities of complex automation.)

The Darëssef

These are some short vignettes “by” members of the various Eldraeic darëssef – not castes, not since very early pre-Imperial days, since one can move freely between them and, indeed, maintain a place in multiple darëssef simultaneously, but rather, groups of social-role archetypes with their own sets of philosophies, customs, protocols, and so forth – on what it means to be one of that darëssef, from their point of view.

These are the acquiescents (priests and other god-touched, which these days means people working directly for the weakly godlike superintelligence behind the curtain); the aesthants (artists of one kind or another); the executors (planners, managers, supervisors, and bureaucrats); the hearthmistresses[1] (those who maintain, which covers people as disparate as housewives, doctors, farmers, sysadmins, and valets); the plutarchs (merchants, bankers, and businessmen); the runér (wielders of the Imperial Mandate; governors); the sentinels (the military, law enforcement, emergency response, paramedics, etc.).; and the technarchs (thinkers and builders).

(While there are also the serviles, the unskilled labor darëssef is obsolete in the modern era, and even before that was the case, no-one would have bothered to ask them anything, anyway.)

Acquiescent: The Bridges

We are those who stand between Light and Darkness, and bring fire to the Darkness on behalf of the Light.

We are those who stand at the gates of the Twilight City, and hold them open for the thunders of gods and the whispers of men.

We are those who learn the concepts of, not from, the eikones; who take it upon ourselves to embody, as best we can, the perfected ideals they are, that men may have a light to strive for, and the universe be set right, in the despite of the great Flaw, the Darkness-behind-Darkness, which is entropy.

Thus we are named acquiescent, for alone among our kind, our valxíjir[2] is not an expression of self, but of that concept which we serve and reify.

– Alwyn Muetry of Elmiríën,
Philosopher-Priestess of the Fane of Orderly Blossoming

Aesthant: Beauty Is Truth

The soul of the Empire is in our keeping.

For beauty is our calling, and beauty is the language of the soul. Beauty inspires, uplifts, and enlightens. It comforts the sore at heart, and gives ease to the weary. As the word of Lanáraé proclaims, beauty, like love, calls the divine fire, the lincál, down to earth. With it, we dwell in a civilization of enlightened souls; without it, in mere hovels of scurrying beasts.

And so we must shape all things accordingly. The pure artists among us strive with song and sculpture, with book and game, with edifice and performance, to show the world what it could be. Others work elsewhere, with technarchs and plutarchs to make elegance walk alongside functionality; with runér and hearthmistresses to build shining cities where no shadows fall; even with sentinels, as they strive to preserve and restore beauty in the wake of ruin. So shall we work, until all the world reflects this harmony, and neither ugliness nor darkness lies in wait to cast gloom upon the heart and shadow the soul of its beholders.

Thus is our Heaven built.

– Kynar Cendriane,
Lyceum of the Frozen Flame

Executor: The Middlemen

It’s all in our name: we execute.  All our counterparts have grand plans.  The aesthants create, the technarchs invent, the plutarchs deal, the runér govern – and we take care of the details.  We run the branches and the Initiatives day to day.  We make the schedules, and lay out the critical paths, and keep the books, and write the contracts.  We supervise and coordinate, evaluate and analyze, mediate and facilitate.  We remove the obstacles and provide the necessities to allow those we work with to focus on their intent alone.  We enable every great work to be done.

Ours are lives of estxíjir, the outward focus, but no less pleasing to us.  The machine of the world cannot run itself.  It turns upon a million, million cogs, and of all of them, we are the greatest.  Do you imagine there is no satisfaction to be found in that?

– Medora Allatrian-ith-Alclair,
certified commercial obligator

Hearthmistress: The Answer to Decay

Slice by slice, Entropy eats the world. That is the truth of the Flaw.

We fight it most directly. That is the truth of the hearthmistress.

All the daressëf fight it in their own way, it is true. The aesthants set beauty against it; the plutarchs challenge it with wealth; the technarchs strive with truth and tools; and the sentinels turn it against itself. But in a million million tiny drops, in dirt and rust and error, in disease and decay and disorder, in rot and ruin, the Flaw undermines the grandest of plans and the greatest of dreams.

To that, we are the answer. We maintain. We keep the homes and tend the forests; we heal the sick and console the reft; we oil the machines and operate the ‘weaves; we cleanse the blight and repair the faults; we see that lights shine and water flows, that food reaches the table and garbage the fires; and in all ways uphold the necessities that empower our fellows to do their work.

To all these matters, we attend, for the mightiest of machines turns upon its smallest gears. Thus, we are the bearers of the world, and to all that it requires, we must and shall be sufficient.

– Irys Vidumarvis,
First Chatelaine of the Seat of Storms

Plutarch:  Stokers of the Engine

It is widely said that wealth is energy.  I can’t begin to count the metaphors that hinge on that analogy. “Lifeblood of the Empire.” “Any coin that burns.” And insofar as all our economies are indeed powered by its flow, they aren’t all that far off the mark. But wealth is a superior principle in many ways. Wealth never decays. No-one ever heard of “waste wealth”.  It circulates, turns a thousand cogs as it passes, and is never diminished.  Wealth has no thermodynamic law of decay. Better yet, it multiplies.

Look down there at the Exchange. People come here to trade from all over the Worlds, from Eö to K!rrr!t!llr, and a good half of them are damn fools who think they’re playing a zero-sum game of extracting wealth from greater fools, as if gambling were all we do. They’ll file trades for a thousand years and never know what it is to be a plutarch…

We make wealth. Look around you. Aesthants dream, technarchs invent, and the other darëssef play their parts – and without us, their works would be futile. We move their goods and supply their needs with our markets – and with every trade, wealth grows. We concentrate a thousand thousand rivulets of capital into a river mighty enough to turn the machines of industry – and wealth grows faster.  We find those sparks that have potential, and feed them with those markets and that capital until they blossom into roaring furnaces, radiating prosperity like heat around them. Behind all these dreams that you see made real stand the plutarchs who kindled them.

And always got 12%.

– Idris Cheraelar,
Vice President of Commercial Banking (Seranth),
Gilea & Company ICC

Runér: The Wielders of the Mandate

Runér.

Our name is a word that is hard to translate into other languages.  Most misgloss it as “noble”, seeing in us the closest thing to their own rulers that the Empire has, but that would more accurately be a gloss for korásan, “forceful one”, those who governed in the ancient kingdoms, before the Empire.  Before civilization.

It comes from the name of an eikone.  Not from that of Nimithil, our special patron, but from Rúnel, eikone of harmony, etiquette, and civilization, and so a better way to translate it would be “harmonizer”, or “coordinator”, perhaps.  Unlike the korásan of old, we are not set over people and wealth; we are set among them.  And while – as the korásan claimed to be – we are charged to defend, to enable, and to preserve, neither our station nor our law empowers us to command the least of those we are set among, nor seize a single gram or cycle to meet our necessities.

We do not enforce.  We do not dictate.  The Right of Domain declares every man sovereign over him and his, and we – first among all others, more than any others – must respect that.

While the public infrastructure falls within our dominate, words are our best tools.  With eloquence and persuasion, with promise and contract and oath, with example and suggestion and well-timed whispers in the right ears, we move the world.

But first, we follow where it leads.

–          Olbria Amanyr,
cisatar of Iniscail

Sentinel: Those Who Defend

Despite our towering Galactic reputation as armed-to-the-teeth, prickly maniacs, we’re really a dreadfully soft people.

We live in Utopia.  We have no war, no crime.  No disease, barely any injury, and certainly no death that can’t be easily reversed.  Thanks to the autofac, we’ve never known poverty, and we live on worlds where no-one for generations ever has.  In societies where, by the Contract and the Code and the tireless efforts of archai like Unification, we can always trust, people always care, and happy endings always happen for good people, which is to say, everyone.  We go through our lives without experiencing more than the briefest moments of the mildest pain, or even inconvenience, and few but the eldest of us remember the true taste of suffering, or injustice, or fear, or loss.

And we, the sentinels, are those who must keep it that way.

The hainadar watch the borders against attacks from without, from the savages and deimands and governments and death-worshippers tolerated by the outer world, and watch within them for the madness-spawned malice of the rare, hidden Defaulter.

The seredar guard us from accident, from injury, and from plague.

The dulasefdar watch and guard against the Chaos, entropy and its spawn, chance disaster and decay, the malice of what the acquiescents would call the Universal Flaw.

And so we serve our Utopia by renouncing it.  That the Empire may enjoy its serenity, we shape ourselves into the weapons it needs.  With extensive training, of course, but much more with deliberate exposure to the truths of fire, and blood, and pain, and the never-forgettable knowledge of what the real default state of the world is when the Darkness isn’t watched, and guarded, and fought.  And finally, with death, proving at the last that we can set aside immortality for duty.

Is it worth it?  Look out there.  Take an hour or two to watch what we guard.  What price would not be?

– Minaj Ancalyx,
District-Captain of Lower Iselyain,
Watch Constabulary

Technarch: For Science!

“Knowledge is its own justification,” so the Fellowship says.

Of course, knowledge has lots of other justifications. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is wisdom. Knowledge is civilization. If you like having fire and tamed lightning and the dance of atoms at your fingertips, thank a technarch. If you get an answer when you ask how, or why, or why not, thank a technarch. And since it is it’s finitely but most significantly preferable to reside in a comfortable habitat set among the stars, with the wisdom of millennia and the goods of a thousand worlds to hand, rather than eating in the woods, shitting in the woods, sleeping in the woods, living and dying in the same damn woods, thank a technarch for that, too.

But none of that is the spirit of technarchy. None of those are why we’re the explorers, the scientists, the tool-makers, the builders. Nice spin-offs to have, certainly, but leave those to the plutarchs and their executors to pick up.

There’s a shining truth out there. There are answers to every question, the plans for this magnificent machine-organism-ecology that is the universe and everything – and everyone! – within it; how every cog turns upon every other, and how to bend them to your will – reality, to be commanded, must be understood – to bring whatever you can conceive of into existence. And we have to have those answers. We have to know. We have to understand. We cannot abide ignorance of our own mechanisms. That’s what makes a technarch, and that’s why we do what we do and are what we are.

For science.

Hand me that iridyne key, would you? No, the left-handed one…

– Cirys Lochran,
Academician Excellence,
Union of Circumstellar Artifice

 


[1] This is only a feminine form because “hearthmaster” is somewhat dysphonious and suggests the wrong ideas to the listening Earthling.  They come in all genders, indistinctively.

[2] While not translating well into English, a rough approximation of the meaning would be “uniqueness/excellence/will to power/forcible impression of self onto the universe”.

Full Hab (4)

And here, at last, are the final six cards (previous 1-6, 7-12, 13-18).

19. THE STAR
A vacuum-suited herm kneels in the harsh red-tinged regolith of an unterraformed world, wearing the gauntlet of a nanolathe on hsis right arm, and holding a cornucopia in hsis left, from which water spills onto the ground. Amid the resulting pool, green and blue shoots can be seen. Above hsem, the constellation of the Spiral is seen in the sky, with its lowest star shining brightly through hsis helmet.

20. ENTROPY
Stars and worlds crumble amid the red-glowing accretion disk as they are pulled into an all-devouring black hole; at the right, in profile, raven-haired Entélith watches, stern-faced, but with a single tear falling from her eye.

21. THE MOONS
A floor of glossy black marble, gold-veined, reflects back the pale light of the full Seléne in the starry sky above, centered in a circle of pillars. At the center of the circle, a shallow silver bowl catches the moonlight in water, and a discarded white robe lies puddled behind it. Red Elárion shines dully above and to the right of Seléne; but his light is not reflected. At the edges of the frame, wolves howl their praises to the moons.

22. THE SUNS
The solar disk of Lumenna blazes, filling an indigo sky; above and to the left, Súnaris shines as a very bright star. In front of them, a figure stands, washed out almost to invisibility by the suns’ glare, with twin shadows at his feet.

23. THE AESTHANT
The aesthant, plainly garbed and with hair bound back, stands before a block of stone, inscribing and coloring a complex geometric pattern with ivory-white tools. Mirrors surround him on all sides. In one corner stands a harp, playing without any hand on the strings.

24. THE WORLDS
A pale lady with loose blue-black hair, reflecting moonlight, and an expression of utter serenity stands in front of a drift-habitat window, juggling; on closer examination, the balls which she is juggling are revealed as planets of a variety of classes, from small rocky worlds to gas giants. Outside the window, the disk of the galaxy is seen from far to acme.

Full Hab (3)

Here’s the next six cards (previous 1-6, 7-12). Only six more to go!

13. THE CITY
The marble spires of the city pierce the heavens, roofed in gleaming gold and copper and silver, and tunnels below delve deep into the earth. Balconies and plazas are crowded with people of all sorts. Airships sweep through the sky above and between the spires, and in the foreground, caravans bear all good things towards its gates. Travelers accompany the caravans gazing up at the city and the limitless opportunities therein.

14. THE HEARTHMISTRESS
In the foreground, a fire burns; in the background, a bandaged patient sleeps. To the left, a family dines around a richly set table; to the right, a rack of servers runs, status lights gleaming blue, blue, blue. Amid them all the hearthmistress, carved as a caryatid, upholds the weight of the world.

15. HARMONY
Brazen lamps ablaze with firelight hang from the branches of a tree by a riverbank; old stones support its roots where they dip into the flowing water. A gentle breeze stirs its blue-green leaves and the feathers of the white filwé that perch in its branches. To the left, a reshkef doe reached up to nibble the leaves; opposite, a young man lies with his back to the tree, an open book in his hand, and a black merle bandal curled up beside him.

16. THE STORM
A mass of storm clouds writhes, struck through with jagged bolts of lightning. Among them, tiny figures can be seen, but it’s impossible to tell whether they are being hurled uncontrollably by the storm, or riding it, tamed.

17. THE WILDS
On a mist-shrouded rise in front of a waterfall, a coppery-green woman kneels, clad in flowering vines which become her lower body, and gestures for silence. A mighty wolf, thews knotted with muscle and fangs bared, crouches ready to spring at her left side, restrained only by her hand resting between its ears. All around them, flowers of a thousand colors bloom.

18. THE PLUTARCH
Seated at his desk, the plutarch is surrounded by his work and the products of it. With the needs of the market on the screens at his right hand, and a basket of pleasures at his left, he seeks the balance between the work of production, and the enjoyment of its fruits.

Full Hab (2)

Here’s the next six cards (previous):

7. THE EXECUTOR
The executor sits behind his desk, a rack of scrolls at his left hand and a mechanical calculator to his right.  He holds a stylus and wears AR glasses.  Before him stand two messengers, one arriving, the other departing.  In the background, thousands of tiny cogs turn in perfect synchrony.

8. THE LOVERS
Tangled in silk sheets, dusted with blue petals, hair rumpled, the blissful lovers lie in each other’s arms.  Flowering vines climb the pillars which frame the scene, illuminated by the pale light of a rising moon.

9. LIBERTY
A pair of wanderers walk fearlessly arm-in-arm, eyes raised and proud, towards a distant hill from whose stony summit rises a blue-silver flame.  One bears a hammer and purse of gold with them, and the other a drinking-horn and bowl of ripe fruit.  Carelessly trampled beneath their feet are a pair of broken swords, and in the sky above them, a pure white lowari (a four-winged aviform of Eliéra, similar to the Earth albatross) soars, wings fully extended.

10. THE SENTINEL
His back turned, the sentinel wears a guard’s uniform and carries sword and gun.  He stands in a steel-bound stone gateway, a fierce wardog at his side, and permits none to pass him.  Beyond the gate, barbarians, wild beasts and tempests ravage the land.

11. THE CLANK
A hundred tons of steel and brass, belching steam, tears blocks of stone from the earth, shapes them, and assembles them into the road on which it stands.  Amidst the machine, its operator guides it with the lightest touch of her hands on its levers; the pressure of a fingertip controlling far greater forces.

12. THE LIBRARIAN
The androgynous librarian, standing before shelves of books and racks of scrolls, wears soft gray scholar’s robes and a porcelain mask concealing both face and expression.  With a feathered quill tucked behind one ear, the librarian offers tome, key, and recording tablet to all who approach.

Full Hab (1)

…a deck of playing cards, in the typical Imperial style used for ómith and for some sub-games of kírasseth, contains 96 cards.  72 of these make up the six suits of twelve cards each, each with its particular elemental association: the suit of clouds, representing air and steam; the suit of coins, representing metal; the suit of droplets, representing water and oil; the suit of flames, representing fire and lightning; the suit of pillars, representing stone and clay; and the suit of staves, representing wood and crystal.

The remaining 24 cards are the symbolic cards, which represent the darëssef, and other important archetypes and forces in the classical eldraeic conception of the universe, which they represent in the play of kírasseth upon the Board of Archetypes; in most other games, they are assigned various values as the game in question requires.  The symbols associated with them have also been used for the communication of messages subtle and unsubtle.

1. THE WANDERER
A newcomer walks down a shuttle’s landing ramp, and gazes in wonder at the world laid out before him, heedless of directional arrows or passing traffic.  Officials with documents to sign await him at the base of the ramp, but for now, there are only the possibilities to come.

2. THE GATEWAY
The spherical distortion of a wormhole is contained within the bounding framework of its stargate, seen against a background of stars.  In the foreground, a silver-skinned rocket hurtles towards it, making hard burn across the transition point.

3. THE TECHNARCH
The technarch stands in his workshop, terminal, nanoforge, and automata lying on the table before him.  Among the fanciful machinery that surrounds him, all the elements are harnessed, in boiler and clockwork, pipe and furnace.  Crowned with lightning, with his tools at his command, the power to shape the world is his.

4. THE ACQUIESCENT
The blue-robed acquiescent sits before a pool under the light of the moon, gazing at the shimmering script within its waters.  Around her, petitioners gather, ready with pen and scroll to copy down the wisdom she finds there.  In the background, others read from older scrolls to gathered audiences.

5. THE CONTRACT
An open scroll, covered in script and seals, fills the background, held in the hand of a grey-cloaked obligator.  Before it, two men sit on either side of a balance scale, facing each other, loosely bound to each other by chains of glass.  At each’s back, there are piles of gold, jewels, machines, baskets of fruit, and other goods.

6. THE RÚNER
A man with black curls and a blonde woman in robes of white and gold share a grand throne, the carved heads of six aman (dragons) surrounding them.  They wear the symbols of their authority – crown, chain, and signet – and robed ministers attend them.  In the foreground, a petitioner stands to address the throne, unbowed and unafraid.

(cont.)