Rolk On!

Precursor artifact Spirel-1,147: “The Rolkifier”

Recovered from a vault in the Spirel Precursor site (located on Spiridon (Dexlilal Convergence)), the Rolkifier is a 3″ x 3″ x 5″ teardrop-shaped artifact constructed from an unidentified green-bronze substance. Attempts to examine the interior reveal it to be solid and apparently homogeneous to currently available scanning technology1.

All solid objects touched with the operant end of the artifact acquire (or lose, should they already have it), the property of “rolky-ness”.

This seems to be an ontic, rather than cognitive effect: while various different species and linguistic clades may construct their own names for the property (rolky being the identifier used among cosmopolitan Imperials), nonetheless, all are able to identify which objects in a random set are rolky, and which are not, with complete agreement across groups. None, however, are able to provide any explanation of what it means to be rolky, which perceptions allow it to be identified as rolky, nor does the possession of rolky-ness appear to affect any of the other properties or behaviors of any object in any way.

Thus, artifact Spirel-1,147 has been tentatively classified as an cosmontological semantic pointer editor capable of assigning and altering arbitrary universal conceptual tags tied, in an unknown way, to conceptual objects.

That this effect is not explained in any way by any of the three major ontophysical theories understood at this present time, and may imply contrary to all current scientific understanding that the universe has a notion of “conceptual object”, make this among the most puzzling artifacts presently undergoing research.

Footnotes

  1. The Rolkifier does not appear to be in and of itself rolky.

“I’m done, or at least taking a lengthy sabbatical. We all find our outweirding limit eventually, and this is mine. I’m going to the High Cysperia Luxurium and not dealing with anything more outré than a green-fuming finelle and a high-class honey-dream for the next decade.”

– Academician Excellence Alleyne Celdinar, chief researcher

Question: Useless Machines

Specialist290 asks:

So what do the eldrae make of the idea of “useless machines”?

The most famous example, of course, being the machine whose sole purpose, once turned on, is to turn itself back off. (Like so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z86V_ICUCD4 )

Insert usual disclaimer about the reliability of capsule summaries of the opinions of over a trillion sophonts.

Well, for a start, they aren’t “useless machines”. Useless machines manifestly fail to work properly. These are “amusing mechanical follies”, like Rube Goldberg designs, which are… amusing. Also decorative.

(The ur-example of the class *there* is actually a Precursor artifact, nicknamed “The Uncrater”, a black-box widget whose sole function appears to be declining to be packaged up in the current local language, then quietly disintegrating any packaging material used to attempt to do so.

You’ll find it indexed under “Amusing Mechanical Follies”. Also under “Suspected Precursor Practical Jokes”, and “Seriously, Guys, What The Hell?”)

 

Trope-a-Day: Depopulation Bomb

Depopulation Bomb: Two, in eldraeic pre-history: the asteroid impact preceding the Winter of Nightmares, which wiped out almost everyone, and the Gray Wasting, a Precursor bioweapon that got out of its bottle a couple of hundred thousand years later and only managed to kill one-half to two-thirds of everyone. There are also some ruined planets out there to remind everyone that this is not a local phenomenon, either.

In the modern era, this is why people are encouraged to be careful with their bio/nanoweapons, because it’s frighteningly easy to create one of these by accident.

Trope-a-Day: Benevolent Precursors

Benevolent Precursors: Not the historical examples so much, mostly because within delta of none of them actually expected to become Precursors, belike, putting them firmly in the Neglectful box by default. But, y’know, who plans on their own extinction?

(While also not planning on achieving the vanishment part of Precursor-dom, the eldrae are determined to be this with regard to their child and client species – primarily the various Uplifts – being sure to involve them fully in society and hand them autonomy and equivalent position just as soon as they’re capable of holding it.)

Trope-a-Day: Archaeological Arms Race

Archaeological Arms Race: Not nearly as common as it might be, given the amount of stuff various Precursors have left lying around, inasmuch as most of it isn’t weapons technology, most of it isn’t working, and not all of it is super-high-tech, such that a lot of time you just end up with an interesting design twist on principles you already knew. Which can still be valuable, of course, but isn’t quite the same thing. When it does happen it can do interesting things to the local balance of power, but by and large it’s a really bad idea to bet your life on being able to dig up some ancient godweapon just when you need it.

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: Precursor Killers

Precursor Killers: While not actually known with any certainty, it is generally believed that the Precursors were wiped out by… the Precursors.  (Being the lovely near-solipsists described in the previous trope, well, once they started interfering with each other’s whims, they just couldn’t cope with each other’s’ existence.  Splat.  There are other theories, but this is the leading one.)

…so far as the best-known, usually-referred-to-as Precursors go, anyway. Why there is a general lack of extant Precursors around is a whole other problem. Suggestions on a postcard, please, addressed to the Existential Threats PWG, codeword BERSERKER VOID.

Trope-a-Day: Precursors

Precursors: Played straight – but not completely.  The species generally referred to as the Precursors got the name for having some of the most extensive local influence, and for being the species that made the eldrae, but in practice, they’re most notable for (a) being one of the oldest (but not the oldest) of the elder races, and (b) being not around any more, almost certainly through self-induced war-extinction.  Certainly not the first race to ever gain sophoncy in the galaxy; there’s plenty of evidence around of older species yet.

(Also, reputedly, near-solipsists who were literally incapable of conceiving that another entity’s opinion might actually matter, short of a major mental break.  This might just have something to do with why they aren’t around any more.)

Trope-a-Day: The Plague

The Plague: In the ancient pre-Imperial past on Eliéra, the Gray Contagion, a wasting disease with the same sort of morbidity and mortality as the Black Death.  It was responsible for one of the two great prehistoric population diebacks there (the one not caused by the astrobleme/ensuing Winter of Nightmares), and is thought to have originated as a leftover Precursor bioweapon.

Trope-a-Day: Our Dragons Are Different

Our Dragons Are Different: Inasmuch as the eldraeic mythological aman (“dragon”) was – if you believe “certain not-entirely-accepted parahistorical theories” – imagined in the image of the local Precursors, as were a number of other similar-looking mythologae of the known galaxy.  What’s known about them is that they were about the right size and shape (from the ruins), scaly (from the fossils), near-solipsists (like the rijzh) who ended up wiping each other out through inability to cope with each other’s’ existence, and possessed of technology which, while in general not all that exotic compared to the current galactic mainstream, included some ontotechnological wonders or natural gifts that made them dangerous force-of-nature-level Reality Warpers to everything around them.

And they’re also responsible for the existence of various of today’s species (starting with the eldrae), various acts of ecopoesis and ecological modification, and contributing significantly to the Galaxy’s piles of archives and ancient, dangerous artifacts.  (And, of course, tend to get other examples attributed to them because, well, they’re there, belike.  Despite not being the only older-than-elder species out there.)

All other dragon-like characteristics are from these extrapolated.

(There are also the ékaláman, translated as “wyvern”, which look like small, non-fire-breathing Western dragons – reptilioid, following the bluelife hexapedal model with the mid-limbs turned into wings – but are not so much terrifying magical beasties as hard-to-kill dangerous flying predators and damned nuisances to people living in their home range, and specifically to their sheep, cattle, and – if flocking – children.  If you’re going out, don’t forget your clockbow.)

Trope-a-Day: Higher Tech Species

Higher Tech Species: Lots of them, arguably.  The Imperial member species are this for most, if not all, of the Associated Worlds.  The elder races – which, despite the technical definition based on the information entropy of their communications, in practice means “significantly older than the oldest of the current galactic mainstream” – are this to everybody, although nearly all of them aren’t particularly active any more, and have, for example, retreated into a virtual civilization in their own “Happy Fun Ball” (for which read, the matrioshka brain about eighty light-years to nadir of the Cordai Gap).  And finally, of course, the Precursors, who would be this to everyone except that they’re simply Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.

Trope-a-Day: Older is Better / Lost Technology

Older is Better/Lost Technology: Subverted in that while there are some awfully nice bits of leftover Precursor and/or elder race technology around, and piles of interesting things buried in the archives (assuming that some leftover perversion doesn’t eat your soul when you go looking for it), it’s more or less absolutely averted within the lifespan of any given civilization.  Things get better, not worse, the more so for those people who are appropriately obsessive about not losing stuff along the way.

And in any case, in many areas, modern civilization has beaten the best (extinct) elder-race tech that’s been found.  After all, it became the starting point for development.

Liberty’s Praxis

“Freedom is sanity; sanity is freedom. They are natural co-dependents. One cannot exist without the other.”

“Consider, first, the Precursors. The ancient lin-aman were exemplars of whim untamed by reason; self-interest without enlightenment; a void of talcoríëf. And without rationality to guide them, they were slaves to their passions, to their instincts, and for all their powers and the glories of their civilization, they warred themselves into extinction.”

“And consider, second, the people of the outworlds, the dwellers in korasmóníë. What sanity can they have? Being owned, being ruled, being put up to vote – being subject to any master distorts the perspective. Those who are told what to think never learn how; those who are required to obey learn to never ask why; those who are shielded from consequences cannot understand causes. The servile can never see clearly enough to reach talcoríëf.”

“To this second necessity, we have the Contract and the Charter to keep us free; to the first, the Collegium exists to keep us fit for its exercise.”

– Academician Selidië Ciellë, founder of the Eupraxic Collegium

In Many Shapes and Forms

The ecology of Eliéra is uniquely complex in the known Associated Worlds, since it is not, as most are, the product of either natural evolution, or ancient or modern ecopoesis.  Rather, a few unique survivals excepted, its ecology is a mixture of species from three separate origins and their coevolved descendants; referred to as bluelife, greenlife, and silverlife.  It is believed that the progenitors of these ecologies were transported to Eliéra during the tenure of the Precursor species, and in the case of bluelife and greenlife, that their descendants reflect those ecologies which were best fit to survive and adapt to the world in the absence of the Precursors and thus anyone to tend their gardens and biological preserves.

Both bluelife and greenlife are examples of oxygen-breathing ecologies using the common L-protein/lipid-D-carbohydrate biochemistry, with nucleic acid-based information-storage molecules; although the encoding used for these information-storage molecules differs greatly between the two classes.  There is considerable overlap in the specific compounds (amino acids, for example) used by the two classes, to a sufficient extent that heterotrophs and saprotrophs of both classes find the other edible, although in many cases lacking in some essential nutrients.  Indeed, some members of each class, including the sophont species of Eliéra, the eldrae, now naturally require some essential nutrients from each of the classes in their diet.  (The eldrae, among some other large animal species, are particularly notable for having adopted some symbiotic bluelife organelles into an essentially greenlife makeup, giving them their distinctive indigo blood.)

Bluelife, a class including a large number of non-cellular and single-celled organisms, also includes among its complex organisms the majority – around 85% of species – of Eliéra’s plant life (whose distinctive and predominant blue photosynthetic pigment is the source of the name of the class), a smaller percentage – around 75% of its species – of its animal life (including both scaled and furred hexapedal land animals, four-winged birds, duodecids, and tubefish), 90% of its fungi, and all of its algae and plankton.  It is strongly believed to consist of evolved and/or modified forms of life transplanted from the nearby world of Revallá, which used a near-identical biochemical substrate and set of body plans, the more so when Eliéra bluelife’s adaptations to coexistence with greenlife and, to some extent, silverlife are considered.

Greenlife also includes a large number of non-cellular and single-celled organisms, along with another 14% of Eliéra’s plant life (again, the green photosynthetic pigment, chlorophyll, gave its name to the class), the remaining (with very few exceptions) 30% of its animal life (including both scaled and furred quadrupeds, two-winged birds, arachnids, cetaceans, and bony fish), and nearly 10% of its remaining fungi.  The origin of greenlife is unknown; no world currently known to the Imperial Exploratory Service appears to have a compatible ecology.

The final class of life on Eliéra is the silverlife, a class of lifeforms descended from what are believed to be a number of simple Precursor nanites which survived the destruction of the Precursor civilization, many of them mutated by radiation effects and evolved over time.  By far the vast majority of silverlife is composed of microscopic organisms of the crystallite and metallite kingdoms, of which the most notable are the saerymaharvéi, descended from simple assemblers and responsible for the many crystal deposits and outcroppings across the surface of Eliéra.

Silverlife also includes some simple macroscopic organisms, including some silicate pseudo-plants found in sunlit, rocky areas of appropriate compositions (most prominent are cikril, which forms tall, slender columns of translucent crystals, charged with photoelectricity, and cikrieth, a swamp-dwelling variety of cikril which extracts materials from seawater and forms intertwined resource-sharing complexes), and some colonial organisms roughly analogous to slime molds.  These together make up the remaining 1% of Eliéra’s plant species, and 0.5% of its fungi.

Silverlife in general has many aspects and features in common with the lower lifeforms of Galáré, the homeworld of the galari; while the evidence suggesting their origin in Precursor nanotechnology remains convincing, scientists are studying the possibility of a link between known Precursor nanotechnology and the ecosystem of this world.

– An Introduction to Eliéran Biology, Imperial University of Almeä Press

Of Things Dug Up

Artifact #19,246: the Sapphire Sphere

Unearthed during the Iniscail excavations, located in a central position in the third lefthand side room of chamber seven. The Sphere is a dull matte sphere two spans in diameter, a pale blue in color and emitting a constant glow of the same color. The Sphere weighs five stoneweight.

– Excavator Taris Veran-ith-Vere

ANNOTATIONS

1

Artifact 19,248, located nearby, is an ornate brass stand which may be intended to hold the Sphere.

– Excavator Taris Veran-ith-Vere

3

Intended usage: a light source, perhaps? Or given the position of respect it was found in, possibly a religious symbol?

– Academician Halir Muetry-ith-Mirari

4

A light source? Of which we’ve found no others of its kind in the entire rest of the complex? Are you seriously suggesting that we’ve found a Precursor ornamental lamp?

As for a religious symbol, if we called everything we dug up and couldn’t understand a religious symbol, we’d have nothing but. And there’s no reason to believe the Precursors even had religion.

– Academician Iridal Selequelios-ith-Serris

8

Whatever temperature the surrounding room is in, the Sphere maintains a constant temperature, around blood heat. Intense heating or cooling can change it locally, but it returns to its normal temperature unnaturally fast.

– Academician Hieras Octarthius-ith-Octian

14

The Sphere cannot be opened by any method familiar to us, nor does it possess any discernible power source.  Exposure to sunlight or common chemicals effects no change or reaction.

– Academician Hieras Octarthius-ith-Octian

33

The Sphere is unresponsive to attempts at verbal or telepathic interrogation.

– Academician Hieras Octarthius-ith-Octian

372

In light of the inability to open the Sphere with conventional methods, drilling, or chemical erosion, I have submitted a request for explosives.  Perhaps careful blasting will let us investigate the interior.

– Academician Isif Larathyr-ith-Lyrian

374

Academician Larathyr-ith-Lyrian has been dismissed from the Initiative. Firstly, Precursor artifacts are very rare, and while permission may occasionally be granted to perform destructive testing on those of which we have multiple examples, no such testing is to be proposed on unique examples.

Secondly, blasting? After what happened to the Penjel facility, a researcher proposes blasting?

NO EXPLOSIVES! EVER!

– Supervisor Kendrian Cyprium-ith-Reyne

1118

With today’s better measurement instruments, the constant temperature of the Sphere is recorded as 307.54 degrees. No variation in this was observed over a half-year period. Nor has any previously-undetectable variation in the intensity of the glow been identified.

– Academician Excellence Hieras Octarthius-ith-Octian

2019

The Sphere doesn’t just emit blue light. It emits monochromatic blue light of wavelength 464 nm along with thermal radiation appropriate to its temperature.

– Academician Sinté Quendocius-ith-Quendocius

4311

Under new scanning series, the Sphere appears to be opaque to neutrinos. It’s another datum, I suppose, but still no progress in identifying anything that might be in there.

– Senior Technician Vivalíé Peressin-ith-Peressin

5096

The Sphere may be the device referred to in sections 91.4 and 93.2 of the damaged inscriptions from the Mazir asteroid site. Relevant translatable phrases include its description as a ’resonant monoluminor’, as an ’automorphous facilitator’, and ’the purpose of noetic energy-conversion for dynamic change’, although, per 33 above, it remains opaque to mental interrogation.

While this in itself provides little insight, it is hoped it may provide some possible directions for future research.

– Linguist Excellence Ciriath Essenye-ith-Estrey

6522

No, clear it for shipment to the Museum. It’s been sitting on the supervising researcher’s desk as a paperweight for nearly 1,400 years at this point. If it wasn’t a danger then, it’s not going to start being one tomorrow.

– Administrator Excellence Antar Calaris-ith-Calir

7322

Oh, for the love of –

It is a lamp. Of course it’s a lamp. ’Resonant monoluminor’ – makes light of one color via resonating electrons. As for the rest – ’automorphous’, ’noetic’, ’dynamic change’ – it’s a light you think by, or rather, a light you learn by.

Five millennia to discover that we’ve found a self-powering Precursor library lamp. We’re the best in our field, ladies and gentlemen.

– Academician Excellence Iridal Selequelios-ith-Serris

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