Trope-a-Day: Recruiting the Criminal

Recruiting the Criminal: There are those who wonder about the existence of crime (actual crime, not merely the assortment of smugglers and people like the Eldinimieuthunimis who no-one locally would consider to be engaged in real crime) in Imperial and near-Imperial space.  Surely the Transcend should be able to stamp that sort of thing out completely, not just near-completely?  (Well, no, for reasons which among other things, involve showing some respect for free will.)  Other people also point to the influence of one of the more morally gray of the eikones, Éadínah, the Princess of Shadows, eikone of night, darkness, subtlety, deeply-laid plans, and some would indeed say organized crime, or with a roll of the eyes point out the way in which all too many Imperials will look at the Gentleman Thief or the Classy Cat Burglar and permit their respect for talent, skill and sheer awesomeness to outweigh, albeit not overpower, their sense of moral outrage.

And, while those are most of the reasons, there is also the fact that various agencies – from the Fifth Directorate through more well-known parts of ISS, certain private agencies and even, indeed, some parts of official law enforcement – find having people like Mass Effect‘s Kasumi Goto, the Leverage team, etc., around to call on for those skills that they don’t teach in academia extremely useful.

(Nor, indeed, are they particularly shy about occasionally recruiting out of the justice system, when they can, with the promise of challenging work, an excellent benefits package, and the opportunity to keep any unconsidered trifles one might pick up along the way…)

Little Darknesses

While it is true that the Church of Celestial Harmony has no named adversary, no personification of evil, or rather – bearing in mind that neither are any of the eikones personifications, strictly speaking, of good – of negatively aligned concepts, it nonetheless maintains a fundamental opposition of cosmic principles.  There is the Flame, the positive cosmic principle of volition, creation, excellence, and energy; and there is the Darkness, its opposite.  Neither is the former personified as a whole; the eikones are considered shards seen through a prism, individual colors derived from the pure light of the Flame.  The latter, however, while not personified, is strongly identified with things considered manifestations of the universe’s negative principle, which Church doctrine refers to as the Universal Flaw – Void, Chaos, and Entropy.

Entropy exists in opposition, in the Church’s cosmology, to all the eikones, but most specifically such eikones as Entélith, eikone of death and endings; Éadínah, eikone of night and darkness; Olísmé, eikone of grief and loss; and Pétamárdis, eikone of necessary rot and decay.  These stand in particular opposition to Entropy, given Olísmé’s role as the consoler of the pantheon, and that both Entélith and Pétamárdis represent different aspects of that destruction which must lead to new creation.  Entélith presides over rebirth and major transitions, while Pétamárdis rules the ephemeral cycle, presiding over reuse, recycling, and repair, along with consumption as food or fuel, and ecological cycles of death and birth.  Entropy, by contrast, is the force of absolute destruction that leads to nothing new; waste – and waste heat – dissipation, and unbeing.

Of course, it is quite possible to engage in religious devotion to an abstract principle rather than an eikone (and indeed, where they sprang up, these cults have usually refrained from creating personifications of Entropy), and Entropy-cults by various names (Nightbringers, Children of the Void, the Breakers, the Cult of Finality, the Chaos-Spawned, etc., etc.) have not been unknown in eldraeic history, drawing principally from the discontent, unfulfilled or bitter among the “failed” – those unable to meet the standards demanded by society and eikones alike – and the unsated power-hungry, and from the dissonant, who found purpose and justification therein.

In the early days of the Empire, these cults often ran afoul of the secular authorities, since the activities in which they engaged as part of their devotions led them into conflict with secular law and the Fundamental Contract.  They were also widely persecuted by the templars of the Church (in particular those sponsored by the orders of Entélith and Pétamárdis) as promoters of Darkness, and this was done with the consent and assistance of the secular authorities, who took the legal view that such groups, engaged in activities intended to serve or unleash the cosmic principle of destruction, were eo ipso also engaged in conspiracies to commit crimes of entropism.

(It is entirely possible, indeed likely, that many non-cultists who engaged in activities deemed entropic – serial murderers, book-burners, rioters, vandals, and others – from entirely non-philosophical motives were caught up in the templar actions; since doctrine held that serious or chronic engagement in such activities was a sign of anathematic entropic deformation of the soul, willing or unwilling, this was not considered a significant problem by those authorities of the time who considered it.)

Likewise, the Church engaged in several military actions against entropism abroad, when they found it.  Societies which sacked cities, burned libraries, destroyed artworks for vengeance or for the value of their materials, ravaged lands and populations – all could be, and many were, deemed anathematic and made the target of a holy war.  These Marches of Purity, independent from any secular military actions, performed many punitive raids on such societies, and destroyed no few root and branch, while nonetheless taking great care to preserve their knowledge and artifacts.

While in the modern day such templar persecution and such Marches have not existed for millennia, nevertheless some Entropy-cults (and individual devotees) continue to crop up.  Even in a near-post-scarcity, sanity-guaranteed, libertist utopia, there are some very few people who can still be discontent with their lot – and are all the more so because everyone around them is satisfied with and fulfilled by their lives.  Fortunately, in the current age of ubiquitous law enforcement almost none are able to commit crimes in the name of their beliefs, and the remainder finds the unofficial persecution from their peers onerous; few will deal with, or associate with, an admitted or apparent entropist.  Some seek rectification through psychedesign and others choose to flee the Empire for more tolerant polities, but few remain for long.

– A History of Counterflamic Belief, Introduction

Trope-a-Day: Gambit Pileup

Gambit Pileup: The more or less inevitable, continuous, and ongoing consequence of people who see social-fu as something to be mastered every bit as much as any other excellence; a society that despises violence and coercion – and, for that matter, outright fraud – and as such places a premium on the ability to get people to do what you need or want them to do without resorting to such things; and a whole lot of people who are far too clever for anyone’s own good.

Everyone, and every organization, has a plan.  Anyone who tells you otherwise has two plans.  Minimum.  (The incomprehensibly ultratech machine-gods, of course, have ALL THE PLANS.)

That four eikones (Éadinah, eikone of night, darkness, subtlety, espionage, and deeply-laid plans; Leiriah, eikone of mists, illusions, deceptions, trickery, wit and intrigue; Úlmirien, eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, more trickery, epiphanies, unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts; and The Unnamed, eikone of seals, secrets, mysteries, and that which you are not cleared to know) find this sort of thing entertaining, useful, and eo ipso worthwhile – and in a couple of those cases being essentially incapable of playing anything straight – only adds to the fun.