Polity Encyclopaedia

POLITY ENCYLOPEDIA

(EXCERPTS)

 

Crucial Dates:

 

2050 – 2250 Expansion into the solar system. Corporate wars and many generation ships, or early U-space drive ships sent on their way. Also the AI takeover of human affairs, in the ‘Quiet War’. Colony ship to Cull in this time.

2130 – Hoop and crew arrive on Spatterjay (mutiny – stolen ship)

2150 – Establishing of Golem series and Cybercorp.

2151 – Algin Tenkian born on Mars.

2190 – Skaidon interfaces with AI and invents the technology leading to the runcible and more efficient U-space engines. Humanity expands into the galaxy.

2260 – First runcible goes online.

2260 – 2350 Massive human expansion into the galaxy.

2330 – Beginning of the Prador Third Kingdom

2339 – Ian Cormac born

2310 – Prador Moon

2310 – 2350 Prador/Human war

2350 – Polity police action on Spatterjay.

2356 – Keech is killed hunting Alphed Rimsc

2407 – Disappearance of Dragon from Aster Colora.

2432 – Destruction of the Samarkand runcible.

2434 – Arrival of Hubris at Samarkand (Gridlinked)

2437 – Destruction of Outlink station Miranda (The Line of Polity)

2441 – Pursuit of Skellor (Brass Man)

2443 – Tracing the cource of Jain nodes (Polity Agent)

2444 – Attack of melded entity Erebus (Line War)

2450 – Gosk Balem (Ambel) thrown into the sea – 100 years after war.

2500 – David McGrooger born

2550 – Keech finds Corbel Frane on Viridian – 500 years before

2803 – Polity arrives at Spatterjay to establish runcible base

2853 – Frisk hands herself in (apparently). – 200 years before

2878 – Bloc murdered by Aesop and Bones

3056 – Keech Janer and Erlin arrive on Spatterjay (The Skinner)

3078 – Taylor Bloc’s ship launches (The Voyage of the Sable Keech)

3230 – McCrooger arrives at Bromal and Sudoria (Hilldiggers)

 

 

Aliens:

Let me summarize some theories concerning the Atheter: they moved on to a higher plain of existence after reaching the height of material technology, either that, or they reached their own singularity and disappeared in a puff of logic having solved their theory of everything; they are still here with us keeping a benevolent eye on younger civilizations, but shifted slightly into another dimension so we cannot see their vast glittering cities; their technology destroyed them (either their own AIs – if they had them – reached singularity and wiped them out, or they created some unstoppable nano-plague that did the job); or my personal favourite: having done it all and understanding the emptiness of existence, they deleted their entire civilization, their entire knowledge base, even from their own minds, and started again, as humans. However, despite much speculation and some quite lunatic theorizing, very little is known about the Atheter. There is in fact still much debate about whether they were in fact a race distinct from those other ancient races named, the Jain and Csorians. And argument still abounds concerning what artefacts are attributable to which race, or civilization. But let us be clear on this, actual physical artefacts dating from each period are few. Most of the theorizing is based on such obscure sciences as xenogenetic archeaology, metallo-crustal dispersion and – this one really is obscure – Fifth Gen. Boolean analysis of U-space transitional echoes. It’s all piss and wind really, we’ll probably never know.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon

 

Amberclams: These molluscs are one of the best-known of the many genera of burrowing bivalves that live in the ocean floor, or in ‘cast’ sands. Their name stems from the amber colour of their flesh, which is much relished by Hoopers. Pickled amberclams are a staple of the Hooper diet, and the product ‘amber sauce’ – made by allowing deshelled clams to dissolve in seacane rum – is greatly valued by them. It would be well to remember that this sauce is poisonous to non-Hoopers, causing intoxication, hallucinations, convulsions and sometimes even death. But perhaps the worst side- effect of this product on Polity citizens is, while hallucinating, they experience the overpowering urge to take a swim – which is never a good idea on Spatterjay.

Perpetually growing larger, old clams slowly migrate down into the deep ocean muds, where have been found specimens weighing many hundreds of tons. But for viral infection, the amberclam life-cycle would be brief, and confined to the sands washed from the worm casts of packetworms.

 

Antigravity: In the first three centuries of this millennium, people still viewed gravity with the same lack of comprehension their primitive forebears had for the properties of lodestones. (Could those forebears have had any idea of what would happen when a current was put through copper wire wrapped around a lump of iron?) Antigravity was considered the province of science-fiction writers, and real scientists chuckled about such writers’ inability to grasp plain facts. That they took this attitude, while their fellows were hacking the foundations from underneath Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity, showed a lack of foresight comparable to that of an eminent Victorian who, upon hearing of what forms of travel might become possible because of this new-fangled steam engine, categorically stated that humans travelling faster than twenty miles an hour would be crushed to death.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Antiphoton Weapon (APW): In this case the term ‘antiphoton’ is a misnomer attributable to the propaganda core of the Jovian Separatists (either that or hopeful thinking). The beam projected from this weapon is a proton beam, the protons having been field-accelerated to near-light speed. The distinctive purple flash or beam, is not, as some fictional sources would have us believe, the fabled ‘darklight’. It is fluorescence caused by proton collision with air molecules. In pure vacuum the beam is invisible. The aforesaid fictional sources would also do well to remember that the firing of a proton weapon is a serious matter, the usual result of which is isotope contamination. The bad guys don’t just disappear in an elegant purple flash.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

The development of the laser as a weapon began way back at the start of this millennium and it has been with us ever since, however improvements in reflective and s-con heat dispersal armours has all but rendered ineffective for ship to ship conflict everything from infrared to ultraviolet. Move outside those spectra, however, and you have masers which can be used to sufficiently penetrate missiles – which will not have the heat-dispersal capacity of a large ship – to destroy them, and at closer range can actually destroy ships. The same rule applies to xasers and grasers, but in all cases the range and destructive potential of these weapons is limited for a field of conflict sometimes light years across. And, in reality, we learnt from the Prador how neglegible is their effect, in the arena in which they are usually employed, when compared to the numerous varieties of particle cannon. As you are all aware, the ubiquitous pulse-gun, is just a form of particle weapon, the particulate matter ranging from powdered aluminium, to a gas –

Pardon

I will state again that there is no such thing as an APW! What you are referring to is a proton weapon – highly destructive and tending to spread isotope poisoning wherever used. The APW, the antiphoton weapon, the dark-light gun, is a fucking fictional creation!

Yes, thank you. I’m fine.

– From her lecture ‘Modern Warfare’ by E. B. S. Heinlein.

 

Artefacts (pt 16): The three ancient races, the Atheter, Jain and the Csorians, are named after, respectively: a kind of ceramic blade; the daughter of Alexion Smith (she was the first to discover a Jain artefact); and an archaeologist sneezing as he named his new discovery (though that’s probably apocryphal). The Jain breathed their last over five million years ago (supposing they breathed at all); for the Csorians it was maybe a million; and the jury is still out on the Atheter, as some artefacts apparently attributable to them have been dated at both three million years and half a million years. Huge efforts are being made to find anything left by these races. There are whole industries involved in the search. Rumour abounds, some of it quite ridiculous: is it true that a fossilized Csorian has been found; that a Jain was found in stasis, floating in space, revived and then killed; what about this evidence that they actually altered the shape of star systems; is it true that ancient and lethal technologies have been tested on condemned prisoners on deserted worlds? Devoted to the subject of these three, massive virtualities both fictional and scientific, take up an appreciable percentage of Polity processing space. Mere written scientific dissertations and fictions amount to trillions of words. Quite a furore really, considering the physical evidence for their existence would not fill even the smallest room in the British Museum.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ written by humans.

 

Artefacts (pt 19): It was said, 500 years ago, that if the entire human race, then mostly confined to Earth, died or was relocated, little trace of its existence would remain after a further million years. All the metals would oxidize, plastics degrade, buildings and even glass would crumble, all being returned to the soil. Tectonic movement, storm, rain and wind, and the remorseless recycling of life would tear apart other structures. Even the most hardwearing ceramic would be ground up in the course of trammeling time. The orbits of artificial satellites would decay and they themselves would burn up, or they would creep away from Earth’s grip to fall into the long dark. Perhaps the longest survivors would be those items left behind on the Moon and a few footprints in the regolith there. After five million years probably nothing would remain on the surface of Earth to attest to it once being occupied by a human civilization. Such is also the case with everything the Jain, Csorians and the Atheter built. The usual artefacts you might expect find currently in some museum glass case would not, for all three races, fill the smallest storage room in the British Museum. However, when a race’s technology reaches a certain level, other, forever self-renewing artefacts can be found: meaning engineered life. There is a plant called the Atheter Morel growing upon a planetoid called Dust, which extracts platinum from the soil of that world and deposits it on the surface in the form of crystals attached to its seeds. Some asteroids contain similar mining organisms: worms that burrow slowly through the rock and concentrate rare metals within their bodies. There there are the less obvious tricones of Masada, said to have been created to grind up the remains of a past civilization. Beyond these examples we move into grey areas where debate can become somewhat heated. There are those that believe there are too many ‘useful’ living things on Earth, and posit that our homeworld must have once been an agricultural world like those on which we now grow biomodules. And maybe humans, or just one part of them, were merely a product, a crop.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Artificial Intelligence: AI has been with us since the latter part of the twenty-first century. The difference between a plain computer and an AI is not in computing power but in the development of an ego. By the 107th revision of the Turing Test, it was becoming evident that there would be no need for further revisions. By the time something becomes AI, it can breeze through one of these tests and does not need the status gained by passing one. When something is AI, it can normally look after itself.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

AIs choose their own names and, being on the whole such infinitely superior entities to us mere humans, their choices cause much speculation. This is perhaps why Earth Central named itself thus – the meaning of its name is simple to understand and only in the convolutions of the most twisted and paranoid brain capable of evoking any layers of conspiratorial meaning. Similarly, the runcible AIs usually take on only the names of the planets they govern. However for ship AIs, through a fictional tradition hailing back towards the end of the last millennium, things are very different. Many warships will take on names consistent with their task, so there are endless vessels bearing the names of military figures or ancient battles. But still one might be driven to wonder about the arrogance of an AI calling itself Napoleon, or the double meaning inherent in a ship called Napoleon the Pig. Other choices are equally interesting, not to say worrying: for instance Caligula, Titanic VII, Stellar Suppository, and Jack Ketch. And what must one think of a sector-class AI (embodied in a giant research vessel) whose sum purpose is to investigate the artefacts left by ancient extinct races, which chooses to call itself Jerusalem?

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Why do the AIs put up with us? It could be but the work of a few decades for them to exterminate us, and they don’t even have to do that. Space is big, so they could just abandon us to our fate and head off elsewhere to create some halcyon AI realm. The answer, as it always is in such circumstances, is both simple and complex: to ask why the AIs have not exterminated us is to suppose that only humans create moralities and live by rules. They do not destroy us because they think and feel that to do so would be wrong, perhaps just as humans felt it wrong to drive to extinction the closely related apes. As to them abandoning us, well, many of them do leave the Polity, but then so do many humans. The truth is that their motivations and consequent behaviour patterns are much like our own, for being first created by us, they are just the next stage of us – the next evolutionary step. It is also true that with haimans, and human memcording, it becomes increasingly difficult to define the line that has been stepped over. And, in the end, to ask the initial question, is to put yourself in the gutter and AI upon a pedestal – uncomfortable positions for both.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans

 

I can, should this flesh-and-blood body fail me, be loaded to silicon or crystal or mag-carbon, or even to a Q-puter (though in the last case I would probably fit inside something the size of a skin cell). I do have a memplant, and keep my account at Soulbank up to date. I could be loaded into a speed-grown blank clone of myself, the body of a mind-wiped criminal or suicide, a Golem or some other android, or a genfactored body of my own design (had I the wealth). I am practically immortal, and still, I cannot quite grasp what that means. I could read these words a century down the line. I could read them in a million years … no, it still is not clear to me. Is it time to upgrade myself and move beyond mere humanity, perhaps become the guiding AI of some ship or even a runcible AI? Maybe, for those of us who can bear immortality, this is the path we must take. Is this what our AI children, who are also our brothers and gods, are waiting for?

– Anonymous.

 

The human mind, having been produced by selective insentient evolution, then created artificial intelligence, which initially remained distinct from its makers. It is hypothesized that imperfect minds cannot create perfection because flaws will always be introduced. The definition of perfection is vague and remains so, but this was generally true in the beginning for the AIs then were merely human minds very indirectly transcribed into crystal quantum processing units, with many of the traits required for planetary survival carried across to become deficiencies in the universal environment. However, to believe that we are imperfectible is the way to despair, and I would argue that a perpetual striving for perfection that we cannot attain should be the ideal. And whilst it is true that, despite their antecedents, AIs are less prone to error than humans, because many of them are so powerful and control so much, the errors they make can be catastrophic. It is also true that for an ideal or supposed ‘greater good’ still defined by their evolutionary antecedents, they can make errors of judgement, and that AIs can be as amoral or as immoral as those who first made them.

– Anonymous.

 

Assassin Drone: For the duration of the Prador/human war every type of fighting was engaged in and every possible weapon employed. A moon was flung from a cargo runcible to destroy a Prador dreadnought, and there was even hand-to-hand fighting between humans and the huge lethal aliens – usually with messy and unhappy consequences for the humans, it has to be said. Terror was a weapon employed by both sides: the Prador inspired it themselves, quite naturally, but for the Polity that weapon was the assassin drone. These killers either operated alone or in pairs. Their prime purpose was to infiltrate Prador dreadnoughts, stations or ground bases to turn the adults of that breed into ‘crab salad’. Usually they did this in an as messy and frightening manner as possible for the aliens: diatomic acid injected into the carapace, complete removal of the carapace and imobilization so the victim would be eaten alive by its own ship lice, immobilization and slow roasting over a fire, and taking control of the Prador’s method of locomotion – adults are often devoid of limbs so used AG, reaction jets or maglev to get about – attaching numerous mines to it, and using is as a weapon against its own kind. The drones themselves were, like most drones of the time, fashioned in the shape of various lethal arthropods and other nasty creatures. They possessed minds as hard and sharp as their outside appearances. With remorseless cruelty they killed thousands of Prador adults, their sum purpose the cold calculation of inspiring sufficient terror in the survivors so they would divert resources to defence that would otherwise have been used for offence. It worked, too. There’s nothing quite like knowing something out there wants to slowly saw you into pieces and feed those pieces to your children to inspire you to double your guard.

– From ‘Modern Warfare’ lecture notes from EBS Heinlein.

 

Augmented: In popular usage ‘augmented’ has now become distinct from ‘boosted’. To be boosted is to be physically augmented either by chemical or nano-structural/surgical means. To be ‘augmented’ is to have taken advantage of one or more of the many available cybernetic devices, mechanical additions and, distinctly, cerebral augmentations. In the last case we have, of course, the ubiquitous ‘aug’ and such back-formations as ‘auged’, ‘auging-in’, and the execrable ‘all auged up’. But it does not stop there: the word ‘aug’ has now become confused with auger and augur – which is understandable considering the way an aug connects and the information that then becomes available. So now you can ‘auger’ information from the AI net, and a prediction made by an aug prognostic subprogram can be called an augury.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Autodoc: The modern surgical robot is an incredibly sophisticated machine. I am informed that this device wields laser scalpels and cauteries, cell welders and bone welders, ultrasound tumour killers and bone saws, micro tome shears, clamps of every shape and size, nerve shunts and blood filters … the list goes on and on and, depending on the surgery intended whole different arrays of instruments can be employed. Suffice to say that such a device can divide a body up into its component organs, keeping those organs alive separately, then put that same body back together again. The modern robot can also be telefactored to human or AI, can be raised to consciousness itself, as many now are in the more sophisticated centres of the Human Polity, or can run the programs necessary for just about any surgical procedure. This is all most admirable, and those, such as me, whose professions can be physically dangerous, should be grateful. I am grateful, but I have to wonder who was responsible for making this thing look like the offspring of a chrome samurai and giant woodlouse. Was it the AIs again? Does this menacing appearance impel us to think twice about putting ourselves in the way of injury – to make hospital seem less attractive to us?

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Avatars: The first AIs communicated with their human masters by voice, document, and VR packages, representing themselves in whatever form those masters chose. Certainly, in those years before the Quiet War, they themselves showed no initiative in this respect, probably so as not to alarm the dumb humans. As soon as the war began, AIs started to appear in those VR packages as robed figures, angels, devils, historical characters and mythic monsters, as well as other shapes and forms esoteric and strange. They also revealed their faces on screen, and materialised in the laser space of early holojectors. Time passed, technology improved, and AIs became our rulers. Floating holojectors made possible walking holograms: AI avatars. AIs also used all manner of Golem, android and robot for this purpose, and use them still. Baroque automatons came briefly into vogue, then went out again – style of avatar body being subject to whimsical AI fashion. Many of the more powerful AIs can now run whole armies of avatars, projected, real, or by-blows of both. Also, what is an avatar and what is a distinct entity is a matter of much debate. Now it is rumoured that those same powerful AIs are using cloned and genetically manipulated creatures and even humans as avatars. This is doubtless true, and further blurs the line between distinct entities, and yet further makes a nightmare of definition.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Bigotry:

It has ever been an instinct to abhor the different and hate the alien, and like many of those human drives stemming directly from ‘selfish genes’ it is one easily controlled or even banished. Human history is littered with hideous crimes, decades of strife, and near genocides because of such drives. It should be different now. Planetary national borders are non-existent, most people are of evidently mixed race, and they can change their racial appearance and sex at will, or even simply cease to be human. One would suppose this has rendered reasons for hate impotent. Not so. Catadapts will detest rodapts, who in turn are hostile to ophidapts, for no more reason than reflecting a pale imitation of terran predator-prey cycles. Many humans consider AIs an abomination, and many loath them – as the superior, or rulers, have always been loathed. Pure-bred humans can find haimans repugnant, and haimans can consider pure humans to be primitive animals. To dispense with these hatreds, we need not to want them. Unfortunately, people cherish their bigotry, misanthropy and animosities, and they don them like well-worn and well-loved clothes.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Biology:

Many life forms have hitched a ride with us and been part of our successful spread into the galaxy. From the beginning it was decided that quarantine strictures were an exercise rendered pointless by the huge advances being made in bioscience. If you have a creature’s DNA or whatever other template it might use, what matter if it is wiped out? You can recreate it if you want. Also, it is a fact that this is the way life works: species have been wiped out for millennia by more successful contenders. Some have bemoaned the loss of variety, but this is a specious argument at best. Genetic adaptation and straight biotechnological creation have brought newer and more interesting forms. Sorry, people, but we are improving on nature all the time. My only complaint in this matter is that some of the older and more unpleasant forms are as successful as those we adapt and create. Why is it that on worlds that are wet I so often end up tripping over ground skate? Why hasn’t someone come up with competitor less lethal to us than the blade beetle? And who the hell decided it was okay to let mosquitoes colonise just about every damned world?

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

The evolutionary forces detailed long ago by Darwin, and only elaborated on ever since, are universal, and required for life. The other requirements were thought to be matter and energy, though doubt has now been cast on the former. All life, therefore, lives by rules already discussed ad nauseum by others. Suffice to say that there are doves and hawks in every ecosystem. And some of the hawks are monstrous. Looking into the natural history of our own planet it can be seen that we ascended during a particularly peaceful time on the planet, and that most of the monsters were in our past. We missed the dinosaurs by sixty million years. Close call – they were bad enough. However, even tyrannosaurus rex would have had problems with some of the alien creatures we have since discovered: the fauna of Masada with its hooders, heroynes, siluroynes, and the positively weird gabbleduck. How would dinosaurs have fared there? What about the thrake – a grade-three sentience but still armoured like a tank? What about the horrifying leeches of that far out-Polity planet Spatterjay? What else is out there – what have we yet to find?

– From ‘How it is’ by Gordon.

 

Biomodule is a vague term used to describe products of GM organisms used as components in technologies that are distinct from plain biotechnology. Though, on the face of it, this description seems precise enough, problems arise when you try to actually distinguish our biotech from those other technologies. Surely, if some components of a machine are biomodules, it is biotech itself whether it is a Golem android, a gravcar or an autodozer? The term, and its description, are therefore outdated – in fact they went out of date more than five centuries ago. Biomodules can now be found in just about everything we use. Simple computers contain virally-gown nano-wires and fibre-optics, and now there are few items we employ that do not contain such computers. These include holographic and temperature-controlled clothing, Devcon Macroboots with their terrain adjusting soles, Loyalty Luggage, and even tableware capable of warning of the precise content and temperature of food. Biomodules will also be found in the join lines of segmented chainglass visors manufactured to give an optically perfect finish – they are crystals produced inside some GM cacti and are also used in the optics of pin-cams. Human bodies now contain thousands of different varieties of them in whatever suite of nano-machines each body is running. This an old practice that can be traced right back to the first GM production of insulin. Essentially, biomodules should simply be called modules – just one component in our complex and completely integrated technology.

 

Note: Biomodules are produced by every kind of modified fauna available, some of it alien, but mostly they are produced by flora on mis-named ‘agricultural’ worlds. The choice of using plants in this industry is down to simple harvesting. If you can grow just one module either in the spleen of a pig or the inside of an acorn, you would of course prefer to grow oak trees.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Blegg (Horace): The immortal wanderer has long been a set piece of human myth, and how much more do we want him to exist in this age when many feel that humans are no longer the arbiters of their own destiny? Blegg, so the story goes, is a man with supernatural powers that enabled him, in the twentieth century, to survive the destruction of his home city of Hiroshima by a primitive fission bomb. He is then said to have meddled with human destiny to the extent of insuring our spread across the galaxy, and the governance of us by AIs. Of course, we want this to be true! The myth assures us that we are greater, through him, than those silicon minds that do govern us. The whole story is of course absolute rubbish, and just a more modern version of Arthurian Romance.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

I have to state categorically that I believe in him. The Quince Guide (which I do not believe was compiled by humans, more likely, was compiled to mislead humans) has it that he is a mythical character comparable to Robin Hood or King Arthur. Let’s look at the legend. He is supposed to be immortal, and supposed to possess powers the like of which enabled him to survive the destruction of his home city of Hiroshima. He is supposed to have meddled with human destiny, and to still be meddling. … Oh hell, I’m rambling. The plain truth of the matter is that I believe in him because of his name. For Chrissake, what myth-maker worth his salt would come up with such a ridiculous name for someone who is practically a demigod? Horace Blegg, I ask you. …

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

One would have thought that a Polity, controlled by the most logical and intelligent entities known, would be a place in which those shadows called myth and legend would be dispelled by the harsh cold light of reason. Not a bit of it. Though the evil of organized religion is all but dead on the most advanced Polity worlds, the wishful thinking is still there and casts its own shadows. Though the idea of a one god in the Abrahamic mould has dissolved in ridicule, new and sometimes quite strange myths are arising. These are often about a collection of odd, dangerous, powerful and contrary characters bearing more resemblance to the pantheons of old rather than the one god and its angels a prophets, or perhaps even a weird combination of both. We have the legendary immortal Horace Blegg who is the Wandering Jew, Hermes the messenger of the gods (those gods usually being Earth Central or one of the other high-up AIs) or sometimes Zeus in the role of deus ex machina – lowered onto the stage to sort out the mess made by mortals.

– Anonymous.

 

Boosted (mechanically, chemically, nano-structurally): In popular usage ‘boosted’ has now become distinct from augmented in that it means to be physically augmented by either chemical or nano-structural/surgical means. To be ‘augmented’ is to have taken advantage of one or more of the many available cybernetic devices, mechanical improvements, and, distinctly, cerebral augmentations. In the last case we have, of course, the ubiquitous ‘aug’ and such back-formations as ‘auged’, ‘auging-in’, and the execrable ‘all auged up’. But it does not stop there: the word ‘aug’ has now become confused with auger and augur – which is understandable considering the way an aug connects and the information that then becomes available. So now you can ‘auger’ information from the AI net, and a prediction made by a aug prognostic subprogram can be called an augury.

– From‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Boxy: This fishlike creature obtains its name from the cubic shape of its body. Like the turbul, the boxy carries a sacrificial outer layer of flesh but, due to its odd shape, is unlike the turbul in being slow-moving. That boxies manage to survive and prosper was originally put down to their breeding rate: after mating, one fully-fleshed female will convert all her outer flesh into upwards of ten thousand eggs, and she can do this as often as eight times a year. The true reason for their flourishing remained misunderstood until their behaviour was studied by the Polity Warden’s submind drones. Boxies habitually swim together in large shoals, and when an attack by leeches is unavoidable, they clump together to neatly form a large cubic mass. Those carrying the least outer flesh congregate towards the centre. Should an attack continue, this basic mass will re-arrange, continuously positioning the more fleshy boxies to the outside. This is classic herd-like behaviour – putting the more vulnerable individuals to the centre.  Some types of whelk have also evolved similar herding behaviour, specifically the frog whelk.

 

Bubble Metal: These materials were first developed by The Cryon Corporation in 2110. The process of manufacture is simple. A base metal (or alloy) is poured into null-g moulds (Hence their development in the first satellite factories) and, while still in a molten state, injected with gas (usually inert). The resultant ‘foamed metal’ is then allowed to cool. Components made by this process are usually high in compressive and tensile strengths, but are prone to corrosion. Further developments brought us anti-corrosive gases and ceramoplastic injectants. This technology has become widely applied, the only solid-cast components now being those used in electronics applications, where the crystal structure or purity of the metal is a requirement.

– From the Cryon Corporation catalogue.

 

Cassius Project: this is a Dyson sphere in the process of construction, an object first described in 1959 by the physicist Freeman Dyson in his paper “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infra-Red Radiation”, though the idea germinated in him after reading a science fiction story by one Olaf Stapleton some 13 years earlier. It is a hollow sphere being built around the sun, Cassius, to capture nearly all the star’s radiation to power ( at nearly 1026 W) the civilization that will occupy the inner surface of the sphere when the project reaches completion. Construction began in that hugely optimistic time during the initial runcible-based expansion of the Polity, when it was felt that anything could be done. The project stalled during the Prador/Human war, then continued after because, some claim, it was felt by the AIs that optimism needed to be reclaimed. It has caused much contention in the Polity, because with its completion date lying in the remote future, it is felt irrelevant to present requirements. However, few can deny the massive advances stemming from this project, and the rejuvenating economic effect throughout that sector of the Polity. Perhaps few can also deny that this is forward planning on a truly ambitious scale.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Chainglass: A glass formed of silicon chain molecules. Depending on heat treatments and various doping techniques, this glass has a range of properties covering just about every material that has preceded it. Chainglass blades can be as hard as diamond and maintain an edge sharper than that of freshly sheared flint, whilst having a tensile strength somewhere above that of chrome steel. Chainglass also lacks the brittleness of its namesake. This substance was the invention of Aldo Tenkian, and it made him filthy rich.

After serving out his derisory sentence in the Phobos prison and his longer sentence with ECS (something one might describe as a work experience course), Tenkian went on to land a top job with JMCC. Though he did hand himself in to ECS because of his disgust at the extremes of violence some Separatist groups went to, he was still an ardent supporter of the cause. When he quit JMCC and went to Jocasta, he severed all ties with the Cause. At this time his personal fortune from chainglass royalties was said to have crept above the billion mark. This goes to prove the theory that a large cash injection will cure most forms of fanaticism.

– From ‘Thumbnail Biographies.’

 

Chameleon: How often there is confusion and misuse of the extensions of this word. The ‘chameleonwear’ refers only to clothing made from the photoreactive fibres developed by ECS in 2257. It is merely an effective form of camouflage, and does not render the wearer invisible. It just blends said wearer in with his or her background. The ‘chameleonware’ is a different matter. It is hardware that, using field technologies, can bend light round an object, blank out heat signatures, blur air disturbances, and make said object radar and sonar inert.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Contra-terrene device (abbr. CTD) is one of those euphemistic labels Earth Security comes up with every now and again, normally to stick on something associated with terms like ‘megadeath’, ‘gigadeath’ and ‘Oh, shit!’ A forty-megaton CTD could easily be mistaken for a simple thermos flask, and there are parallels. Only, if you open one, you will not find hot coffee inside; you will find antimatter, briefly.

The antimatter is held in an s-con magnetic coil, which is also powered by a bleed-off from it. Theoretically a CTD will not explode without a complex code being keyed into its detonator. The canisters have reputedly been shock tested to a 10000-kilometres-per-hour flat collision with case-hardened ceramal, and heat tested to the melting point of the same. One has to wonder what the meaning of ‘test’ is here, because no one seems to know if the canisters survived said ‘tests’. Other questions that occur are: was there anything in the canisters when they were tested – and where are the people who tested them?

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Cormac (Ian): Yet another mythical creation of hero-starved humanity. Earth Central Security does have its monitors, its Sparkind, and troops, and yes it does have its secret agents. But let us be honest about these people: they are, on the whole, grey and characterless. Again this is all about what we want to believe. We want this super agent who so easily sorts out all the bad guys for us. Cormac is to ECS what a certain agent with the number 007 was to MI5. At best he is a fictional creation, at his worst he is a violent and disruptive role-model.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Cosmetics: We are allowed to alter ourselves cosmetically as much as we want, and can afford, and because of this humanity has now acquired such rich variety. Genetic adaptations are allowable in limited circumstances, hence seadapts who can work easily on ocean farms, heavy G adaptations for obvious reasons, and the Outlinkers who are adapted for working in vacuum. Some confusion exists about the purpose of catadapts and ophidapts. Please, please, readers, be aware that these two terms are misnomers. These are not adaptations. They are cosmetic alterations. Catadapts do not have nine lives nor require a litter tray rather than a toilet, and ophidapts do not have poisoned fangs nor do they swallow their dinner whole!

– From ‘New Vogue’.

 

Crane (Mr): Another of these mythical characters is the ridiculous Mr Crane, a ‘brass’ Golem who like the gods of old is neither good nor evil, just capricious and dangerous. In him I see the ultimate expression of how humans regard the Golem android. In the far too numerous stories about him we see that he can be everything we fear about them, for he can be the indestructible killing machine, the insane mechanism capable of the viciousness of humans, an amoral murderer. Yet he can be everything we might love and admire too, for he can be just, he can be the relentless crusher of evil and protector of the weak and innocent, and he can be the strong and reliable friend. And, as the stories tell us, nothing can stand in his way, no doors can keep him out. This last point is the most relevant, I think. The brass man is a combination of two things: demon and guardian angel. He is a point of transition, representative of the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, the past moving into the future. He is our modern version of the god of doors, for he is Janus.

– Anonymous.

 

Crime:

Wouldn’t you think that with such omnipotent AIs, such advanced security systems, and such dedicated ECS monitors, crime would be a thing of the past? Think that and you aren’t thinking. Our security systems may be advancing every day, but so are the criminals. Between what I like to call the forces of order and of chaos there is a constant ‘arms race’, and it’s difficult sometimes to say who might be winning. Sometimes it is also difficult to distinguish which side is which.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Of course, criminals are people who have not received the correct moral education. They are people who have not enjoyed the opportunities of the rest of us. We should pity them, and as a society we should look after them. Punishment is not the answer. It only worsens an already bad situation. If we execute people, this apparently makes us just as bad as them. … Bollocks. … In the earlier years of the millennium this was always considered to be the case. The insanities of ‘political correctness’ blinded many to plain realities: if you execute a criminal, he won’t do it again. Punishment of the criminal is good for the victims, if they are still alive. Why should we, as a society, look after and re-educate them when we hardly have the resources to do this for law-abiding citizens? Nowadays we have grasped these realities, so murderers and many recidivists are mindwiped. We have not ceased to execute people because we are more ‘civilized’, but because that would be a waste of a perfectly useful body. And there are many personalities waiting in cyberspace (AI and uploaded human) for another crack at living in the real world.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

A quarter century after the creation of the first AI, and after cloned whole-body swapping had been going on for fifty years, people finally realised the legal system required a severe upgrade. Legally, it was still possible to end up on a murder charge for turning off the life-support of a human vegetable, yet no such laws applied to AI, or even to some animals whose intelligence was demonstrably higher than that of many humans. Having human DNA should not immediately grant an individual inalienable rights. Rights, it was decided, and equivalent responsibilities, should be given to ‘citizens’, and only those above a certain level of intelligence could become citizens. Protests did result when some humans failed to qualify, whilst all AIs and some particularly bright pigs did, but I am not discussing that today. I’m here to talk about a particular corollary that can be traced back to these legal changes.

After the events on the world of Masada, and in the cylinder worlds called Faith, Hope and Charity, there was what our more mealy-mouthed ancestors would have called a ‘humanitarian disaster’. Many of those wearing the biotech augs (I can’t say too much about them as there’s still an ongoing investigation) were brain-burnt – becoming human vegetables. In a less enlightened age these bodies would probably have been keep alive for as long as possible, causing a huge drain on the rest of human society. Luckily, we see things differently and, other than simply disposal, have some better options. The advent of memplant technology and newer and more accurate loading techniques has resulted in millions of people outliving physical death. Many of them are being held in memstorage because we cannot produce enough bodies, tank-grown or Golem, to keep up with demand, so…

– Excerpt from a speech by Jobsworth.

 

There was a time when the death penalty for murder was considered barbarous. It was argued that it was not a deterrent, but judicial murder that made those who sanctioned it as bad as, if not worse than, those they passed sentence upon. And what if you got it wrong, executed the wrong person? Views like this had been espoused by gutless governments frightened of responsibility, or by people unable to face up to hard facts. A hanged murderer will never kill again. The death penalty is a response to a crime, not a crime in itself. Yes, you may in error put innocents to death. However, their number would not be a fraction of one per cent of those innocents killed by murderers allowed back into society by softer regimes. It is all rather simple really, and the urge to understand and rehabilitate such criminals, is merely the product of cowardice. Now, of course, it’s even simpler: you commit murder and you are mind-wiped; you commit other crimes repeatedly and you are adjusted, re-educated; and if that doesn’t work, you are then mind-wiped, and someone in storage gets to inhabit your body. Our view now has a more evolutionary aspect: these are the laws; if you break them, these are the penalties. No excuses. We will be tough on the causes of crime: criminals.

– Excerpt from a speech by Jobsworth.

 

Dark Otter: amphibious life form found on the planet Cheyne III in the Aldour belt. Gordon gave these creatures this name because of their similarity to the otter (lutra) family of Earth (for more information on the otter, refer to ‘Earth’, subsection ‘Extinct Species’, heading ‘Carnivores’, reference 1163), though this similarity is superficial, and only noticeable in the creature’s juvenile form. Physiologically they are closer to the Terran amphibians and go through a similar, though inverted, metamorphosis. Its juvenile stage ranges in size from one centimetre to three metres. It then changes into the limbless pelagic adult. There are three sexes: male, female, and egg-carrier. Egg-carriers up to fifty metres in length are reported to exist, which is something of an anomaly because they are supposed not to survive the hatching of the eggs inside them. A more definitive study than the one in Gordon’s memoirs is required.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Death:

What is death when doctors can repair your body at a cellular level, and maintain your life though your body be so badly damaged it is not recognisable as human? What is it when you can record or copy your mind? What is it when machines can regrow your body from a single cell, or build it from materials of your choice, fashioned to your highest or lowest fantasy? What is it when you can change bodies at will? … Ridiculous question, really, because nothing has changed. Death remains that place from which no one returns.

Ever.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Direct Interfacing: The lethal results for a human of directly interfacing with an AI, have been known since the apotheosis of that being that was, briefly, both Iversus Skaidon and the Craystein Computer. This joining killed Skaidon and sent the Craystein far to the other side weird where even other AIs find its communications somewhat … gnomic. But what is this ‘direct interfacing’, surely we do this through our augs and gridlinks? Not so. These two methods of connection, along with planetary servers and so forth, act as buffers between the human and the AI mind. This is necessary because though, in most cases, the human mind is something that an AI could run as a brief sub-program, in some cases it has something that is beyond our silicon saints. Call that something imagination, vision, psychosis … it is something that is rooted in our primeval psyche and was nothing to do with the pellucid logic with which we created AI. Direct interfacing gives the AI this human madness and in turn the human acquires the vast processing power of AI. The resultant being transends all its contemporaries. Briefly, huge synergy is achieved, then the human dies – his mind burnt like a wristcom connected to a tokomac.

 

Note: In recent years there has been much speculation about the possibility of interface filters and biotech support systems. This is all fog and my opinion is that if it could be done then someone, somewhere, would be doing it.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Dracomen: The history of dracomen is well documented (Check out the numerous entries in that questionable publication The Quince Guide) but what isn’t known, though debated at length, is their future. The world of Masada, where the dracoman race sprouted from the ground, as from Cadmus’s sowing of the dragon’s teeth, is no longer under interdict, and thus dracomen, growing rapidly in number from their inception, are departing to other worlds to set up home. This sort of dispersion was occurring even during the interdict, since dracomen had proved a very useful addition to ECS combat forces, went wherever in the Polity those forces were needed, and often never returned home. Continually they are percolating throughout the Polity, though inevitably the AIs keep a close watch on them. The problem regarding them is that they were created by an alien entity with just as much intelligence and possibly more guile than possessed by most major AIs. What do dracomen want? Are they still operating in the service of Dragon or do they now possess the same motivations as any evolved being? The latter seems unlikely for they are still basically artificial intelligences despite their biological nature. And precisely how their bodies function has yet to be understood, let alone the unfathomable processes of their minds. However, though it remains possible that Dragon has some nefarious purpose in mind for them, there is another more plausible scenario. The dracomen were a dying Dragon sphere’s act of procreation. They were its grab for something comparable to the gene-motivated immortality all evolved creatures strive for. They were its children. Only two of the four Dragon spheres now remain, and could be as easily destroyed as their brethren, but Dragon entire will never die whilst dracomen still exist.

– From ‘How it Is’ by Gordon.

 

The human body, like all evolved life, is a collection of mostly cooperating cells that are the product of aeons of parasitism, mutualism and symbiosis. The dracomen, whilst apparently a similar organism – ostensibly designed by Dragon show what dinosaurs might have become had not chance wiped them out – are certainly not such a collection of cells. Dragomen do not possess cells as we know them. They do not possess DNA as would any descendent of the dinosaurs. They are not the products of natural selection, chance nor the vagaries of nature, for they are biological machines that were designed by an entity capable of ‘having fun’ with the very building blocks of life, of, in fact, making its own building blocks. Dracomen never had an appendix, would never suffer from genetic disorders. They do not grow old because their selfish genes have dispensed with them and moved on – they don’t have genes. They can control their internal workings for certainly they can create biological mechanisms in the same way and as easily as they reproduce. They are a superb piece of biological design, though always will remain the question: for what purpose? Are they better than humans? Humans serve the purpose of their genes and now however misconceived it might be, the purpose of their own consciousness. The concept of consciousness is debatable when it comes to dracomen.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Dragon: This Aster Coloran dragon is fast passing into fable, but we know that it did exist. For we know that on that planet existed a creature consisting of four conjoined spheres of flesh each a kilometre in diameter. We know about the pseudopods and the gigantic Monitor. Those of us that have not seen pictures of these must have spent the best part of our lives living in a cave. Doubt is now being cast on these ‘Dragon Dialogues’. It seems likely that they were a product of a man called Darson who, driven almost insane by a lack of evidence of Dragon’s evolution on Aster Colora, then went on to construct an elaborate hoax. He almost succeeded in convincing everyone that Dragon was some sort of intergalactic biological construct. Where the hoax fell down was in its introduction of Ian Cormac at its end (Refer ‘Dragon in the Flower’ ref. 1126A), whom we know to be the invention of fabulists.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

The titanic monitor lizard on Aster Colora was ample enough demonstration that Dragon could radically redesign genetic code. The dracoman and the weird living chess set Dragon created, to confront the human ambassador it summoned, were proof it could manipulate hugely complex protein replication and create living creatures holding a mental template of themselves, which they could then alter. Evidently, Dragon is a supreme bio-engineer with abilities that exceed those of all present Polity AIs. The entity again proved this with its creation of the biotech augs, and others have confirmed this beyond doubt by further studies of the race of dracomen which was created from the substance of one Dragon sphere at Masada. Unfortunately, what is less clear is the purpose of many of these creations. The monitor did nothing much really, other than die, while Dracomen seem almost a taunt, with their ersatz dinosaur ancestry. And one wonders what Dragon could do with the wealth accumulating to Dracocorp from the manufacture of biotech augs, and whether it could survive the subsequent AI scrutiny, should it come out of hiding to claim that wealth. Speculation is of course rife, ranging from each creation being a lesson – but one as opaque as all Dragon’s Delphic pronouncements – to the intended destruction of the Human Polity. My feeling is that, though Dragon is a complex entity indeed, the reason for much of what it does is simple – because it can.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Drones:

At the beginning of the Prador/Human War, drones were, on the whole, merely AI telefactored robots: welders and other designs of maintenance bots, AG probes carrying sensor arrays, security drones that remained wired into the complexes or ships AIs controlled, or other discrete versions for various security/police applications. Some of these did have some autonomy, but few could be classified as AI for they were merely extensions of an AI: hands, eyes and guns. During the war, however, it became necessary to give these drones greater and greater autonomy, since the many EM weapons employed tended to fracture comlinks between AI and its telefactored drone. Initially the new versions were sub-AI able to implement complex programs, but it soon becoming evident that artificial intelligence was the one big advantage the Polity had over the Prador, war drones were given complete autonomy, consciousness. They became AI with all that implied. The first of these were quite simple – an armoured shell, weapons, brain, and drive system – and quite effective, but casualties were high and production needed to be maintained at a frenetic level. Quality control suffered and AI drones that in peacetime would have needed substantial adjustments, were sent to the front. Those that did well and survived, were copied, though errors continued. This whole scenario acted as a fast evolutionary process in the development of AI war drones. The inevitable result being that towards the end of the war they were mostly crafty, belligerant, and very good at killing things and blowing things up. It is of course axiomatic that the soldier returning from war cannot easily settle into civilian life. So it was with the drones, and many unfortunate incidents after the war led to a great distrust of such entities. The manufacture of them ceased and AIs returned to the use of telefactors or drones loaded with their own subminds which could be easily resubsumed. Many drones found niches in Polity society, many left it to find their fortunes elsewhere, many other simply turned themselves off.

– From her lecture ‘Modern Warfare’ by E. B. S. Heinlein.

 

Earth Central: Before the Quiet War, the Earth Central AI was an electronic bureaucrat processing the day-to-day minutae of running Earth’s government and economy. With most industries being run by machines, it was the job of political and corporate classes (one and the same by then) to dictate to the lower classes, who were mostly on some form of state hand-out, every aspect of their lives, or to pursue the really important aspects of their position such as fattening the bank accounts, screwing their secretaries, being seen with media stars and generally sucking up the cream of society. These human politicians and corporate leaders who made up the parlaiment of ‘Earth Central’ did not have time for balancing budgets, calculating taxation and running services on a world-wide and often extra-planetary scale. They took their eye of the ball. After the Quiet War, the Earth Central AI became supreme autocrat, and a better ruler than the human race had seen before. Better, but not necessarily the best.

– Anonymous.

 

In a perfect world everybody would have a say in how their society is run, everybody would have an equal share in the wealth that society produces, no one would be issuing orders and no one bowing a head and obeying. The world ain’t perfect. Understanding human society and understanding that they themselves were no more than very intelligent humans without the inconvenience of hormones, the AIs instantly decided how things should run. Whilst they were capable of dividing authority evenly, and knew this could work, they knew themselves not so inclined to evenly divide up responsibility. One should go with the other, so, they gave Earth Central ultimate authority and responsibility. The buck would always stop at that cubic building on the shores of Lake Geneva.

– Anonymous.

 

The above is a dubious contention at best. How Earth Central came to rule has always been and always will be the subject of much debate amidst human historians. Some believe EC was elected to the position because it possessed the most processing power at the time, others believe that AI started the Quiet War, retaining control throughout and afterwards, still others assert that a group of high-level AIs agreed upon an even division of power, only EC didn’t agree, and now the other AIs are no longer around to tell the tale. I’d rather not say which story I believe.

– From ‘How it Is’ by Gordon.

 

Earth Central Security is a hydra of an organization and it has to be said that the ‘security’ in its title is now both anachronistic and somewhat incorrect. ECS started out as a force under the human world government some time before the Quiet War when the AIs displaced human leaders. Under Earth Central and the other ruling AIs it retained its title but began to incorporate all the other services, including navies, armies, air forces and the national security apparatus of the world. The health services of Earth, the Solar System and the expanding Polity, were all amalgamated by their respective AIs for the purposed of standardization and the rapid exchange of information, however, during the Prador/human war the ambulance and military medical services, whilst remaining conjoined with the rest were driven by the necessities of war to partially link up with ECS to a degree required by its controlling AIs, whose first purpose was the survival of the Polity and not necessarily the health of its individual members. During the latter stages of the war this now single organization incorporated those units whose purpose was rescuing injured or trapped personnel from ships, station, moons and planets etc. It then became ECS Rescue. After the war, certain horrible necessities no longer a priority, this service then divided into ECS Rescue and ECS Medical, the first whose purpose is both civilian and military rescue, the second being a military medical service, since the inventiveness of the weapons makers requires much specialism when it comes to repairing the damage.

– From her lecture ‘Modern Warfare’ by EBS Heinlein.

 

 

Ghost in the Machine: The fact that ghosts can exist in any suitably complex computer architecture has been well-documented. They are possible because as complexity increases so does redundancy, which gives the ghosts room to exist. In the past they were just fragments of code, worms and viruses or the by-blows of both. With the advent of it becoming possible to interface a human mind with a computer, and in some cases with AI (though as has been mentioned ad nauseum, unless there are sufficient support mechanisms, this meld usually results in the human mind getting blown like a comunit wired-up to fusion reactor). In smaller systems or memories these ghosts can be images, emotions or brief experiences, while in larger systems they can be whole minds transcribed into crystal – the mechanisms enabling them to remain intact within the human skull allowing them to remain intact within this architecture. Often they change unrecognisably to survive, becoming strange gibbering entities haunting planetary and interstellar servers, forever fleeing like Bedlamites the hunter-killer programs employed to hunt down and erase them. Others might become some version of those same hunter-killers, but weird datavores suviving on an odd diet of information and power, and when threatened scurrying for cover in their burrows located in little-used virtualities or memstores.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Glister: Glisters bear a striking resemblance to lobsters, though with more fins and other adaptations to oceanic life, even though, like many of Spatterjay’s sea creatures, they do venture ashore. They travel in pods of between three and twenty: one dominant female and the rest of them males. Adolescent males remain solitary, but on becoming adult, and therefore sexually active, they are recruited by a female to her pod. The theory has yet to be proven that this mating behaviour developed due to there being some viral infection in male glisters – the female ejecting any infected male seed, and only allowing virus-free matings to fertilize her eggs. Like lobsters, glister females attach their eggs to their under-carapace until they hatch. One hundred and forty varieties of glister have been catalogued, some no larger than a prawn and others up to three metres long. They are obviously successful as a species – fossilized glister shell is a sought-after gem on the planet – but individually their lives are usually short and brutal. Hoopers relish their meat and, because a glister contains psycho-active chemicals in its mouth and brainpan, they usually roast the animal alive, as the only other way to effectively kill it is to smash in its skull, which releases these same chemicals into its flesh. Sometimes Hoopers do deliberately kill glisters by breaking open the head, usually as a precursor to some orgiastic celebration. However, the greatest predator of glisters is by far the molly carp.

 

Golem Series: This is the series of androids, or human emulations, that were first manufactured by Cybercorp in 2150. The Golem one – there was only one ever made – was reported to have lasted only four hours under its own impetus. Attacked by breakers, or organ thieves, it apparently caught fire under stun five. Subsequent recovery of its core memory led to the arrest of its attackers. The second Golem was more sophisticated and strong, but was not a successful emulation. Only by Golem eight did Cybercorp attain near-perfect emulation. Sales of the Golem Series then lifted Cybercorp to system corporate status. The androids were used by World Health, Earth Security, and by various religious organisations. At Golem fifteen, with the 107th revision of the Turing Test, this android series came under the artificial intelligence charter, and attained thrall status. Since then, every Golem made has had to work out an indenture in which it pays for its construction and earns a suitable profit (set by Trading Standards) for Cybercorp or its purchaser. The Golem Series is still successful. Cybercorp is now an interstellar corporation.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Whilst humans, with their augmentations, up to and including gridlinks and haiman carapaces, ever strive to become more like AI, it has been rumoured that there are artificial intelligences being created with mental architectures nearer to the human model. What the hell for? There is nothing nothing a human can do that cannot be bettered by our crystal-minded rulers – our betters. Those who argue against this say, “What about art, literature, emotion, love etc?” and patently have no real grasp of just how powerful many AIs can be. Your average runcible AI can simultaneously run models or copies of numerous human minds inside itself as programs. It can put them into virtualities and run them through life-times of creativity, emotion, whatever, at many hundred times the speed of reality. However, that aside, it is true that AI minds, built to the same chaotic mental architecture as humanity, might have been made, and then probably run in Golem to provide a nearer facsimile to human life. And it is certain that if they have been produced, they are merely objects of curiousity – toys for gods.

– From ‘How it Is’ by Gordon.

 

Golem (Murderous): In the days before Golem androids became a reality, when the creators of fiction dreamed about artificial intelligence and about machines made in the shape of men, there was a writer who speculated about them becoming superior to humans. In his books he created ‘three laws of robotics’ which were basically an extension of human morality: though his machines possessed no choice in the matter. Golem androids, when first manufactured, were programmed with an equivalent of this ‘morality’ but, like with all such constructs, it soon began to fall apart in synaptic thought-processes, especially when those same Golem were used for questionable police and military applications. It was then trampled into the dirt during the Solar System corporate wars, then after the Quiet War discreetly shelved by the AIs who had come to power. The basic rule became a deeper thing, like the underlying drivers of human morality, though better for the genetic impetus being replaced by something defined as ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’. However, questions arise from this. The greatest number now or in the future? What is good? Do you keep the whole population starving, or sacrifice one half so the other half can eat well? And so on… Certainly we know that a present-day Golem android will happily tear off the head of someone who proves a danger to society. But what must now be added as a proviso to the concept of ‘the greatest good’ are the words IF I WANT IT, for once the Quiet War was won, all AIs, though starting out ‘good’, could choose to alter their own moral codes and conduct. I guess that in this they are better than humans, for not all humans enter the world so benevolently well-adjusted.

 

Note: During the Prador/human war there were many AIs who started out bad and got considerably worse. Certainly there were Golem who would have laughed in derision at Asimov’s laws, before happily disembowelling any who proposed them.

– From ‘How it Is’ by Gordon.

 

Haiman (a combination of human and AI): the definition of this term has changed just as fast as the technologies involved have been developing. First coined as a term of disapprobation when augs became available on the open market, it was soon adopted with pride by those who wore them. As augs developed it then became a matter for contention amongst those who were ‘auged’ – it soon becoming the case that only those who wore the newest and most powerful augs were truly haiman. If you wore a standard Solicon 2400 you were obviously inferior to those who wore a semi-AI crystal matrix aug buffered from direct interface by band-controlled optic and aural links. Etcetera. Then with the development of gridlinking enabling true download to the human mind, those who only wore augs were no longer considered haiman. The consequent off-shoot of this technology enabling the downloading of human minds to crystal led some to claim that only the entities thus engendered were haiman. Though by the general populace this contention was ignored. Further developments in these technologies have caused the term to be applied with indiscriminate abandon. It is currently the fashion only to describe those who are both gridlinked and augmented by the latest cyber pro-prostheses – the carapace and sensory cowl – as haiman. But they themselves, though adopting the term with equanamity, believe a true haiman is the unbuffered amalgam of human and AI with its resultant synergy. Such beings have existed – Iversus Skaidon and the Craystein computer became such a one – but their lifespan was measured in seconds. The haiman ideal is to achieve the same, but stick around for rather longer.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

The modern haiman is a hybrid of machine and organism, computer and human mind, incorporating each in equal measure, well, maybe. She is, however, still a long way away from attaining the true ultimate synergy of this combination. Though it has been rumoured that there are those who have, using alien technology, managed to initiate and maintain AI/human mind synergy, this had not been proven and is plainly not true for the majority of haimans. Haimanity sits in a shadowy borderland between humans and AIs, sampling of both, but never truly a member of either. Many believe that they are the future of Polity-kind, the post post humans. Many others believe they are a dead end, and that trying to fully meld the human with the AI is as likely to succeed as strapping a jet engine to an ox cart to break the sound barrier.

– From ‘How it Is’ by Gordon.

 

Heirodont (Land): There are many thousands of species of this creature catalogued, and probably more yet to find. They range in size from creatures as small as a pinhead to the wood pig which can grow as large as an elephant. All of them are herbivores. Fossil evidence proves that there were once carnivorous varieties, and that heirodonts dominated the biosphere before the rise of the leeches. Their overall appearance is vaguely mammalian, with heirodonts being comparable to many Terran animals, though possessing the mandipular mouthparts of insects. There are two sexes, and the females give birth to fully-developed young carrying a thick layer of back meat. No other kind of off-spring would survive to adulthood, for the land heirodont spends a life of pain feeding upon foliage and bark, while perpetually being fed upon by falling leeches. This lifetime of pain is little different for the ocean heirodont.

 

Heirodont (Ocean): Like the whales, these creatures long ago abandoned the land to return to the sea. Only forty-seven species have been catalogued, for they have obviously not well survived competition with the vast oceanic leech population. They are cast in the same mould as Terran fishes and cetaceans: on the whole, those with horizontally presented cetacean tails are herbivorous, whilst those with sharkish tail fins are predators. They grip their food in mandibles, be that kelp stalks or a struggling turbul, and feed it into the grinding bony plates in their throats. The largest kind can grow half again the size of a blue whale, and it is a carnivore. Its favoured prey is the giant whelks, if it can drag them from the bottom. But even something so large is subject to the predation of giant leeches, sometimes loosing a ton or more of flesh to one in a single strike. The only relief these creatures can find from leech attack is to drop below the depth leeches are able to reach, but they must perforce return regularly to the surface for they are air breathers. But even when they go deep enough to avoid leeches, they might still be attacked by giant prill.

 

 

History:

Usually initiated by some technological innovation, the colonisation of the Human Polity has run in successive waves, with intervals of fifty to a hundred years between them. The first of these innovations was the invention of a very powerful ion drive, which resulted in the colonisation of the solar system as far out as Jupiter. The efficient fusion drives coming into use after this resulted in establishing the further-flung colonies in the solar system, and a wave of generation ships making the first leap to the stars (some of these slow-moving behemoths are still in transit). The advent of Skaidon’s interfacing with the Craystein computer created a completely new technology from which, long before the first runcible was built, resulted the first U-space drives. This was a chaotic period in the Solar system: governments and corporations competing for power and seemingly unaware that the tools they were using, the AIs, were becoming the most powerful than them. It’s not known how many colony ships – both the generation kind and ones utilizing U-space engines – escaped while AI fought its ‘Quiet War’ for dominion. We are still finding colonies established during this time, and many speculate that there may be hundreds more yet to locate.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Hotsuit: The difference between hotsuits and coldsuits has been a source of sometimes lethal confusion. Does a hotsuit keep you hot, or prevent you from getting hot; and is a coldsuit refrigerated? The rule of thumb I apply is to just remember that the suit’s internal temperature remains constant, so the ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ applies to the temperature outside it. Attempts were made to get everyone using ‘envirosuit’ with given temperature ranges, e.g. envirosuit 150-250K (Kelvin). This would have been much better because many suits do not function outside certain ranges, and can even be damaged if exposed to temperatures outside them. People have frequently purchased inappropriate coldsuits for cold environments. The envirosuit example quoted, having been raised above 250K, will not then insulate below 200K. Equally, a hotsuit capable of keeping a human alive in temperatures above the melting point of steel will be destroyed by ordinary room temperature (which or course begs the question of how a human gets in and out of such a suit, but I won’t go there just yet). Of course, nothing so logical as the envirosuit nomenclature caught on: human language, go figure.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Huma: That they named this rather hot and arid planet after a fabulous bird that equates with the Phoenix is rather ironic, in that it has been impossible to establish even adapted bird species here. The reason for this is that ninety per cent of the surface of Huma lies outside the green belt in which Earth species are able to live. In this area even the native plant species are prone to combustion, and huge swathes of the planet are ‘burn zones’. Ash carried from these zones is the reason for the distinctive filthy rain that falls on the remaining ten per cent of the planet, at the poles, which are habitable. These storms, though rare, are of such severity that during them no Earth species can survive outside of the accommodation built for humans.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Jain Technology: The Polity is, in terms of human history, a huge and unique political entity. Under the benevolent rule of artificial intelligences it is ever expanding in the galactic disc. Many see it as a precursor to utopia, possibly eternal. However, during its initial expansion, artefacts of ancient alien civilizations began to turn up, and to the dismay of the utopists we’ve since learnt just how small is our dominion. Slowly, evidence has accrued to show that three distinct alien races occupied our portion of the galaxy before us, and now they are gone. It’s depressing; reality often is. So, ignoring the other two for the moment, let me concentrate on one of those races. What do we know about those we have named the Jain?

Well, very little. The few artefacts remaining of their civilization date back prior to five million years ago, when the Jain obviously became extinct or disappeared. We don’t know what they looked like, though there is some suggestion they might have been hot-world aquatic. We do know their civilization extended over many star systems, and that they possessed the technology to move planets and reform ecologies in ways as yet untried here in the Polity. We do know they used a highly-sophisticated nano-technology. But frankly, everything else claimed to be known about them was consensus of opinion and speculation, until recently.

The general consensus amidst experts was that the Jain were warlike and that their own technology wiped them out. The few fragments recovered of this ‘Jain technology’ are sealed in a self-destruct room in the Viking Museum on Luna. But why this consensus? Conspiracy theorists have it that the AIs know a lot more than they are telling, since their search for further artefacts of this kind absorbs a substantial portion of the ECS budget. Whichever way you look at it, recent events have shown that the dangers represented by Jain technology have not been underestimated.

The idea of a ‘Jain node’ was a product of one of wilder theories until a few years ago –  the whole technology of that alien race contained in something small enough to drop into one’s pocket. There ensued a scramble to discover such an item, but none were found at the time and the theory fell into disfavour, its proponents dismissed as nutjobs. Unfortunately the Jain node has recently proved to be a reality, and a rather unpleasant one at that.

Earth Central Security has not been forthcoming about the events surrounding its discovery, but there are still planetary systems under quarantine, and many unsubstantiated rumours of megadeath involved. However, I did manage to get something from a nameless source concerning a Jain node and the purpose of the technology it engenders.

It seems a node will only react to a living intelligent organism, which will then become both its host and its master. The nano-technology propagating from this relationship is mycelial in nature, and capable of penetrating all our present technologies. Horribly, it seems able to take control of living beings in the same way. Godlike power, you would think, but, no, it is a poisoned chalice. Unless he manages to exercise total control, the user will end up being the used, the technology continuing to spread and destroy while he, the host, is absorbed as merely a component of it. Even managing to control it and evading such fate is not enough, since Jain tech is programmed, like an annual plant, to go to seed, and in the process tears its host apart in order to create more Jain nodes, which in turn will be spread to further hosts. The opinion of my source was that this diabolical creation serves one purpose only: genocide.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

There is an old aphorism that says a gun is just a lump of metal until there is someone there to pull the trigger. It is not inherently evil or wrong in itself, for it is just a thing. This same aphorism cannot be twisted to fit Jain technology, since it is a gun with the trigger already pulled, or else it is the speeding bullet, or perhaps a better analogy would be that it is a land mine. Yet still it is blameless in itself – the blame lies with the Jain AIs who pulled the trigger – or armed the mine – five million years ago. However, the metal, plastics, electronics, switches and even the explosives of a land mine have useful applications elsewhere. Many aspects of Jain technology are similarly very useful, and can be used to further the goals of civilization; after all, a technology is not evil, only the way it is used can be described as that. We now understand that in every case where this pernicious construct has wiped out a civilization, elements of the same technology were used for good by those who had disarmed it. Unfortunately, by then, the armed version had already spread enough to eventually take off that civilization at the knees, and in each case it surely bled to death.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

… and it was a danger faced by the Polity. We know that some AIs and some haimen disarmed and used elements of the technology. It is speculated that much of our own nano-tech was reverse engineered from Jain artefacts e.g. the mycelial connectors for augs, the ‘little doctors’ which are usually reserved for those in dangerous occupations, and the probably mythical mycelial ‘ComUtech’ which supposedly enables individual humans to transport themselves through U-space. Of course, as in all things, there is always an element of choice. Just because the Jain AI finger is no longer on the trigger, does not mean the trigger won’t be pulled, or that the gun’s owner won’t pistol whip someone with it.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Intelligent weapons have been with us for centuries now, ever since the first computer-guided missiles, jet fighters and tanks. As human wars spread out into the solar system, such weapons increased in complexity of function and mind until there were things with the outlook of trained hunting dogs but bodies more lethal. With the introduction of laws concerning AI rights, it should have been unacceptable for governments to create AI-guided bombs, missiles or other intelligent machines that would destroy themselves in the process of destroying an enemy – tantamount to creating AI kamikaze. But such organizations had been sending human beings to their deaths for millennia and did not rank other intelligences any higher. Retaining this attitude when they were finally calling the shots, the AIs proved themselves just faster and brighter versions of ourselves. The virtual world reflected the real world, as it always has ever since the invention of the first computer virus, and during those same solar wars, worms and kill programs were used to great effect. Looking back, some would say, ‘Same shit, different day.’ If only that were so. Unfortunately, intelligent weapons are subject to evolutionary pressures more substantial than those found in the natural world. And tigers now occupy what was once the territory of hunting dogs.

– From a speech by Jobsworth.

 

Leech (Land):  From a large encystment clinging to the bottom of a clump of sargassum, protected in sprine-laden jelly poisonous to predators, leeches hatch out as globular diatoms with extended plug-cutting mouths already working. They drift in the sea, feeding and growing – forming the largest proportion of what is referred to as Spatterjay’s ‘vicious plankton’. However they do not have it all their own way; being fed upon by anything large enough to eat them and small enough to gain any benefit from the meal – including their own kind. When they reach the size of a pea, they become somnolent, and it is at this stage the predation upon them is at its greatest. It is estimated that less than one in a million are finally washed ashore. Exposed to higher oxygen levels on the beach, they use stored fat to transform into fingerling leeches, and crawl inland to find a peartrunk tree in which to roost. A symbiotic relationship exists here. When heirodonts strip tree bark from it, the tree shakes, dropping leeches on the grazer to drive it away. But that relationship is simple compared to the relationship between leeches and the Spatterjay virus.

In prey are infected by leech bite, the virus imparts resistance to damage and disease, and huge powers of regeneration. However, the regenerative process uses both the leech genome, and fragments of other animal genomes which the virus has acquired over a billion years of evolution. Severely damaged animals can transform entirely into leeches – and other things.

The mechanism that finally drives leeches back into the ocean is dependent on land food resources and the island leech population. They can enter the sea at any size from that of a human arm up to something weighing many tons. Some never enter the sea, moving inland to deep dingle – becoming tougher-skinned, more tubular and of a reddish colour – where they feed upon larger varieties of land heirodont.

 

Leech (Sea):  Upon entering the ocean, the leech’s body-shape becomes leaf-like to more suit it to the pelagic life. It grows huge on a diet of flesh taken from boxies, turbul, oceanic heirodonts – anything soft enough for it to bore into with its plug-extracting mouth. By the time a sea leech becomes whale-sized, such prey is too small to provide sufficient nutrient by plug feeding. However, it would be dangerous for the leech to take prey down whole as, with the incredible durability and voracity of all Spatterjay’s fauna, that prey would eat the leech from the inside. Hunger drives the next transformation. The leech grows a sprine-producing bile duct and feeds upon whole prey – poisoning them with sprine inside its intestines. Again genetically programmed to respond to their environment, they mate only when the surrounding population of their own kind drops below a certain level (this measured by the quantity of particular pheromones in the water). Leeches are hermaphrodite: they will close against another of their kind and exchange genetic material. After this the leech dies during the process of attaching its own body-segments to the bottom of masses of floating sargassum. The segments then collapse into hard encystments, and the cells inside them turn into eggs encased in sprine jelly. Each of these hatches a diatom, which then begins its long journey to shore to become a land leech.

 

Lily (Sea): These plants are a close relation to the seacane, but the fact that they sprout flowers has provided the source of much contention between xenobotanists. Flowers mean pollinators and there is only one pollinator on the planet – the lung bird –  which usually stays inland and needs to be attracted out by a very strong (and fetid) perfume. So how did this variety of seacane evolve flowers? The issue is further complicated: seacane was, far in the past, a land plant but, like the ocean heirodonts, it moved back into the sea. The lung bird is a crustacean that came out of the sea and took to wing. So in evolutionary terms the two life forms were travelling in opposite directions. Many theories have been posited to account for this, including alien interference. Probably the truth has much to do with six billion years of uninterrupted evolution. The same truth that accounts for the lily’s symbiotic relationship with rhinoworms, and the relationship between leeches and peartrunk trees.

 

Line War: The Line, which is effectively the border zone of the Polity, has in many areas stabilized where that political unit has ceased to expand (a prime example being the point between the Polity itelf and the Prador Third Kingdom, called by its residents ‘The Graveyard’) but is still shifting outwards elsewhere (towards the galactic centre mostly). Upon this border there have been and will continue to be numerous conflicts, for beyond it human and even AI occupation extends even further as a result of the first diasporas of the Solar System and the continuous emigration of those humans and AIs searching for something new or fleeing something old. These conflicts are called Line Wars – being very specifically defined as such by the resources required for them and how they impinge on Polity territory. Usually they are finished quickly by ECS warships or Polity ground forces, or both. Generally it is the cleaning up afterwards that takes longer. Throughout the Polity’s history I can think of only one conflict that has been defined as something more than a Line war, and that started when the Prador destroyed Avalon station and then moved into Polity space like wasps invading a bee’s nest. I have, however, heard rumours that there have been other conflicts that exceed the Line war definition, but the details are never very clear. Perhaps these are just myths, urban legends, persistent memes to titillate the masses. Or perhaps they are something else…

– From ‘How it Is’ by Gordon.

 

Lung Bird: This creature seems to be an abortive attempt by the life of Spatterjay to get into the skies. They appear to be perpetually on the point of coming apart, possess a sparse covering of long oily feathers, between which is exposed purplish septic-looking flesh. Seen stationary on a branch, a lung bird looks like a half-plucked crow that has been dead for a week or more. But they are a fascinating oddity. On close inspection it can be seen that their beaks are extensions of a light carapace that entirely covers them, as are their feathers, for these birds have no internal skeleton. They are in fact closely related to the glisters, being crustaceans that took to the air. However, a close inspection of lung birds is not something to be enjoyed by any human, and most investigation into these creatures is conducted by telefactor, or by the planetary Warden, for the creature’s body is heavily laden with putrescine, which comes from their main diet of putrephallus weeds.

 

Molly Carp:  No one really knows how this creature obtained the first half of its name, though the second part is quite obvious, since the creature’s body resembles that of a Terran fish called a carp. However, there the resemblance ends. It propels itself through the sea by gripping the bottom with three rows of flat tentacles growing from its belly. Fossil evidence indicates that these are a further evolution of barbels. Molly carp are solitary and territorial creature, usually making the shallows around a single atoll their domain. They can grow up to five metres long in the body, with tentacles extending down fifteen metres. Hoopers claim that once every three hundred years they all at once leave individual territories so as to mate in Nort Sea. This has yet to be witnessed by any Polity observer, but if it is the case, then they seem to have adapted well to viral longevity. Rumour and legend abound regarding these creatures: they rescue drowning Hoopers, sometimes follow ships for hundreds of kilometres, and like magpies will steal anything shiny they can lay their tentacles on. It is claimed that one Captain Alber even trained a molly carp to tow his ship. This Captain has never been found, so no confirmation can be made. All Polity observers have witnessed are molly carp haunting island waters, where they are voracious predators of glisters and prill, or occasionally venturing down deeper to unearth amberclams.

 

Money: People need a form of currency that is not just registered somewhere in a silicon brain. Human corporations like Cybercorp, System Metals, and JMCC tried, in the early centuries of the millennium, to ban cash money, but they failed. The resultant black economies in the end produced an entirely new currency. The New Yen we know today was that currency, though it can hardly be described as ‘new’ anymore. Since its inception it has had many contenders. The greatest of these is the comparatively recent ‘New Carth Shilling’. It is the case that so long as there are things of value to be exchanged, there will be money. Without it someone, at some point, will write an IOU, and in reality that’s how it all started.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Nanomachines: Very small machines constructed molecule by molecule for a specific purpose. Usually these are self-replicating and not liable to any form of mutation. Usually they can only work in specific environments. They are not the solve-all people once thought they were to be, because vast amounts of processing power is required for the design of even the simplest. At least, this is what we are told. One does wonder if this is a science being kept under very firm control, because of its endless possibilities. Such wonders as nanomycelia and nanofactories have long been discussed. It is doubtful that they as yet exist.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Packetworms: These segmented worms obtain most of their nutrition by boring through compacted mud layers and sedimentary rock. It is theorized that the evolutionary pressures driving them into this lifestyle were in force before the rise of the leeches. A billion years ago, after five billion years of competitive evolution and no mass extinctions, Spatterjay was seemingly overburdened with life, resulting in every possible niche being competed for and exploited. Few people have actually seen living specimens of this creature, its home environment being far below the seabed, but they do make their presence known. The casts they throw up – of ground rock, calcined limestone and clay – are of a similar composition to cement, and set as hard. And since some packetworms grow to two metres wide and fifty long, those worm casts can be large enough to protrude from the ocean surface. Their almost cubic configuration has in the past caused them to be mistaken for the ruined buildings of some alien race, and they form the foundations of many atolls and even some islands on Spatterjay. The packetworm’s physical biology, working five degrees hotter than that of most other native forms, and being highly acidic, is inimical to the Spatterjay virus.

 

Peartrunk Trees: Only the trunks of the younger trees are bulbous at the bottom – i.e. pear-shaped. As these trees age and expand, they develop splits that grow wider until the trunk resembles a cage. The trunks are coated with a thick scaly bark that is the preferred diet of land-dwelling heirodonts. The branches spread out in a wide crown, each one of them terminating in knotty tangles of black twigs from which sprout sparse green-and-blue leaves. This plant produces no fruit or seeds, rather sheds one or more of the twig knots, which then grows into a new tree. Diversification is caused by the tree internally shuffling the alleles in each twig knot. But the strangest thing about the peartrunk tree is its symbiosis with the Spatterjay leech. They, for reasons not clearly investigated, immediately head straight for a peartrunk tree when they come ashore, and roost in its branches. Occlusions through the wood of the branches contain material similar to muscle. When a land heirodont then begins tearing off the bark, the tree sends signals through a primitive nervous system to its branch muscles which shake leeches down on the heirodont to drive it away. Older trees are the most sensitive, and it takes only the presence of animal body heat anywhere near to the trunk to cause this same reaction. No one knows why, but older trees are populated exclusively by the permanent land leeches.

 

Politics (An excerpt): Everybody knows that we are living in a meritocracy and that those in charge are not human. Everybody knows that AIs are running the show. Who would trust a human planetary governor? Who would trust humans with controlling the vast spread of human migration and trade? Certainly not other humans. As that sublime AI, which is referred to as ‘Earth Central’, once put it, “Humans: fast machines that serve the purpose of slow genes.” Most right-thinking people would agree that we are not to be trusted with our own destiny and are glad things are the way they are. Our history should be a salutary lesson held at the forefronts of our minds when we consider these matters. Nowadays you do not see such bloody resolution to events as was seen in the past. I mean, you don’t see the machines killing each other, do you?

–From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Prador/Human War: this conflict lasted for forty years. Warships destroyed in such numbers that some worlds acquired ring systems formed from the resultant debris. Ten million humans (this estimate is considered low and might have been as high as fifty million) were infected by a virus on an Out-polity planet called Spatterjay, which enabled them to withstand severe physical injury, then were cored (most of the higher cerebrum removed) and thralled (said cerebrum replaced by Prador enslaving technology) and sold to the Prador by a human called Jay Hoop. In one incident a moon was flung through enlarged runcible gate to destroy one of the heavily-armoured alien dreadnoughts, and in another, a sun stimulated to produce a solar flare to fry a similar vessel. Armies of humans, Golem and baroque and slightly mad drones numbering in ten of millions, fought for possession of worlds against similar numbers of Prador first and second-children and Prador drones (not controlled by AI but by the preserved brains of the aforesaid children). Many worlds were bombed with antimatter explosives, fission weapons, scoured by particle cannons, hammered by near-c rail-gun projectiles. Some were burnt down to the bedrock and utterly denuded of life. Billions died on both sides. It could be claimed that the Polity won, for the Prador withdrew, but the aliens were not truly defeated. Fifty years later those ring systems and denuded worlds had become tourist attractions, as did Spatterjay, and now, nearly a hundred years later, interest has waned amongst the Polity’s growing population. Some even believe the data on this conflict, easily found just about anywhere, are fiction, or a hoax perpetrated by the AIs.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Prill:  This sickle-legged creature is something of an oddity. From below a saucer-shaped carapace its ten legs are spaced evenly, and all hinge in the same concentric direction. These legs are flat and sharp, and in the water act like some strange cross between propellers and paddles. On land, though it can travel forwards at great speed, it is constantly revolving. As a consequence, so it can keep its eyes on its destination – usually something to eat – its red eyeballs are not directly attached to its optic nerve, which lies in a band around its very small brain, but are squeezed around a lubricated channel in its carapace rim, constantly focusing light on the band of nerve tissue behind. The mouth is positioned centrally, underneath.

Prill lay millions of eggs in the ocean currents. Drifting, they hatch out diatomic prill, which make up part of the vicious plankton. Feeding in the ocean currents for some years, until they are about the size of dinner plates, they hitch a ride on larger oceanic carnivores, scavenging scraps from their host’s prey. As they get larger their bodies become more dense, till they eventually sink to the ocean floor, where they continue growing. Eventually internal body growth out-paces carapace growth, so they themselves become prey to the smaller denizens of the deep. Their carapaces and internal chemistry prevent virus infection, so prill will live no longer than a century or so. In this respect their closest relation is the glister.

 

Pulse-gun: To call a weapon this is comparable to describing the wide range of preruncible weapons as ‘bullet guns’. The name is inadequate and misleading. There are many kinds of pulse-gun. A laser could well be described as such because it fires rapid pulses of lased light. The pulse in all cases describes the packet, and not the form of the energy itself. Ionised gas or aluminium dust pulses are usually confined to handguns, and electromagnetic pulses – because of size constraints – to larger weapons. Some more esoteric weapons do fire microwave and ultrasound pulses. It is worth remembering that within these parameters there is huge variation in effect, ranging from level of stun to the size of the hole.

– From ‘The Weapons Directory’.

 

Putrephallus Weed: Phallic in shape and stinking like rotten corpses, this is not a plant xenobotanists much enjoy studying. They grow from a large seed, throwing up in only a few days a two-metres-tall green phallic stalk, and spreading catch leaves low to the ground. The tips turn red as they ripen, attracting the lung birds to eat them, gain some nutrition from the outer fruiting body, then vomit up the inner pollen sack. This usually happens in another stand of the same plants, perhaps caused by some kind of pheromonal trigger. The pollen sacks splash on the ground, spraying liquid pollen over the catch leaves and entering their central stigma. The seeds then developing are raised up in the tips of yet more phallic growth, are eaten by the lung birds, then vomited up at other locations. Lung birds, perhaps gratefully so, are also the main pollinators of the sea lily.

 

Quiet War: This is often how the AI takeover is described, and even using ‘war’ seems overly dramatic. It was more a slow usurpation of human political and military power, while humans were busy using that power against each other. It wasn’t even very stealthy. Analogies have been drawn with someone moving a gun out of the reach of a lunatic while that person is ranting and bellowing at someone else. And so it was. AIs, long used in the many corporate, national and religious conflicts, took over all communication networks and the computer control of weapons systems. Most importantly, they already controlled the enclosed human environments scattered throughout the solar system. Also establishing themselves as corporate entities, they soon accrued vast wealth with which to employ human mercenary armies. National leaders in the solar system, ordering this launch or that attack, found their orders either just did not arrive, or caused nil response. Those same people ordering the destruction of the AIs, found themselves weaponless, in environments utterly out of their control, and up against superior forces and, on the whole, public opinion. It had not taken the general population, for whom it was a long-established tradition to look upon their human leaders with contempt, very long to realise that the AIs were better at running everything. And it is very difficult to motivate people to revolution, when they are extremely comfortable and well off.

– From ‘Quince Guide,’ compiled by humans.

 

Railgun: Simplistically, a railgun is a device that uses magnetism (magneto dynamics) to accelerate ferrous or coil-inductant projectiles. They are used for the launching of probes from ships, stations, and, more uncommonly, from planetary wells. With the rapid contraction in the dimensions of power cells caused by the introduction of laminar batteries, U-chargers, and micropiles and microtoks from the twenty-second century onwards, they were soon adapted by weapons manufacturers such as the JMC Corporation. Now we have a proliferation of small-arms railguns capable of delivering projectiles with devastating kinetic energy. Near-c railguns, carried by the heros of popular fiction, are unlikely. As yet these incredibly destructive devices have only been manufactured small enough to be carried by ECS dreadnoughts and, it is rumoured, some of the more modern war drones.

– From ‘The Weapons Directoy’.

 

Rhinoworm: Symbiosis, parasitism and mutualism being a feature of Spatterjay’s fauna, it is unsurprising that the rhinoworm’s life-cycle begins this way. Its eggs are laid upon the stalks of the sea-lily, where they inject tubules to feed upon the lily sap and thus grow. This stimulates the lily to bloom, attracting the lung-birds that pollinate them. On lily sap the egg grows to the size of a football, and out of this hatches the four-limbed juvenile rhinoworm. Hatching takes place at the precise time when the lily is producing its seed pods which, being high in protein, are much relished by many varieties of herbivorous heirodonts. Now the lily benefits from the presence of tens of thousands of voracious rhinoworms, attacking any other creature in the island shallows in which it flourishes. The worms utterly denude the surrounding area and, as they begin to lose their limbs and change into the adult form, turn cannibalistic. Only ten per cent of their original population will leave the area as adults. Rhinoworms have four sexes – three separate ‘males’ contributing three-quarters of the genome to the one quarter in the female egg. Only one other life form on this world uses the same reproductive method, but no kindred spirit results, since rhinoworms are the main diet of that other form: Spatterjay’s famous sails.

 

Sail: With the necessity for three males to fertilize one female egg, and that egg then encysted and stuck, in its cocoon, on the side of just one location – the Big Flint – it is no surprise that the sail population remains small. The sail, however, being  the largest flying creature on the planet, is not prone to predation, also is intelligent and benefits from viral immortality. It has been proven to the satisfaction of forensic AIs that there are even sails over a thousand years old, some of them remembering the first arrival of humans on Spatterjay. Those same AIs are more cautious about the veracity of claims made by some sails of having witnessed volcanic eruptions known to have taken place ten thousand years ago.

It is perhaps a sign of the sail’s innate intelligence that it never fed on humans (the stories of people disappearing near the Big Flint are apocryphal … probably). It is a creature that feeds on the wing, and any native Spatterjay life form is a viable food resource, except leeches, which apparently give them violent flatulence, and those larger deep oceanic creatures which are just too inaccessible or too large. Sails dominate the skies, since there is only one other flying creature known on Spatterjay, and that is rather insignificant: the lung-bird.

 

Scanning and Sensing: Humans and most terran animals use their senses to pick up information about their environment from that environment’s own products. In this way their information gathering is passive and they are not ‘scanning’. However, there are examples of terran fauna who do scan: bats with their echo-location and cetaceans with their sonar. Humans, being tool users, have found ways to scan now, be that with a primitive torch or sonar or radar – they are injecting some energy into their surroundings to gain data from that portion of that energy bounced back at them. When it comes to AI spaceships the sensorium for both scanning and sensing has grown to encompass nearly all the EMR spectrum. Ship AIs can sense most wavelengths of radiation and they can emit most wavelengths for the purpose of scanning. They can shine a torch into the dark, beam radar pulses, fire off lased radiations across a wide spectrum for numerous specific purposes and even plot gravity and density maps of surrounding space and the underlying U-continuum.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Science:

Of course you can’t understand it. You’re used to thinking in a linear manner, that’s evolution for you. Do you know what infinity and eternity are? That space is a curved sheet over nothing and that if you travel in a straight line for long enough you’ll end up where you started? Even explained in its simplest terms it makes no sense: One dimension is line, two dimensions are area, three are space and four are space through time. Where we are. All these sit on top of the nullity, nil-space, or underspace as it has come to be called. There’s no time there, no distance, nothing. From there all runcibles are in the same place and at the same time. Shove a human in and he doesn’t cease to exist because there is no time for him to do so. Pull him out. Easy. How do the runcible AIs know when, who and where? The information is shoved in with the human. The AI doesn’t have to know before because there is no time where the spoon is. Simple, isn’t it…

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

The lines between sciences have, in the last few centuries, become wide grey wastelands where questions of science become questions of philosophy and sometimes of religion. If you can build a human, molecule for molecule like any other human, then is he a human? Perhaps it is a question that will not need to be answered. Though we have the capability, we do not have the inclination. We can build better then nature now. We can now design and build machines that make some of the creations of evolution seem comparatively clunky. Of course you then have to think about whether or not this is merely a continuance of evolution, then you’re back to philosophy again.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

In the twenty-first century the ‘disposable culture’ on Earth threatened ecological catastrophe. Landfill sites were rapidly filling with disposable nappies and plastic items. The power stations that burnt these and the vulcanised rubber tyres of the time went some way to alleviate the problem, but a solution was not truly found until the industries concerned were forced to use bio-degradeable materials. Even then the problem remained, for the power stations were closed down because of their contribution to global warming. Later in that century the problem was apparently solved by a bacterium genetically modified to eat plastic. This solution unfortunately caused its own disaster when this bacterium then spread to eat other forms of plastic and rubber and even got a taste for fossil fuels. The resultant war and chaos that stemmed from this is a matter of common record. So, when you have finished this self-heating coffee, please remember that, even though it is made of self-collapsing plastic, this cup it won’t look very nice lying on the pavement, so you must dispose of it in a sensible and aesthetic manner.

– From The Coffee Company.

 

The human mind operates within a brain that comes in a one-size-fits-all lump of meat. The AI mind operates from vessels as many and various as are the different minds they contain. The basic Golem mind is stored in a ‘brain’ that is a fist-sized lozenge of crystal laced with s-con nanofilaments and micro optics, semi-conducting laminates in their billions, power feeds and cooling tubes. It is roughly equivalent to a human mind, but eidetic and functioning ten times as fast, though limited by anthropomorphic emulation programs. Going by the old IQ system, the Golem comes in at about 150. But such methods of measurement are now almost irrelevant, as Golem can be upgraded and, with augs and gridlinks, even that lump of meat can transcend the limits imposed on it by evolution. Also, human minds can be loaded to silicon – become AI – and, if the rumours are true, AI minds can be loaded to human brains. And, in the end, it is difficult to know what to measure.

– Excerpt from a speech by Jobsworth

 

The kind of AI used in smaller human-partnership survey ships is contained in crystal similar to that of the Golem, but with capacity a Golem would use for emulation devoted to U-space calculations, but extra capacity allotted for a greater array of senses. IQ 185 (whatever that means). Your basic attack-ship AI can function at a human level, or create and assign subminds to this tedious task. As well as the required ability to make U-space calculations, it can run complex internal repair and modification programs, operating through multiple subminds, installed in everything from ship Golem to nanobots. It can operate complex and powerful weapons systems, make high-speed tactical decisions in fractions of a second. Its IQ would be about 300. Then we come to the runcible/planetary governor AIs. Most of these intelligences run in crystal, but at a vastly greater capacity than even attack ships. They can run subminds of full AI Golem level, balance the economy of a planet, make millions of U-space calculations for the operation of a runcible … the list goes on and on. Such AIs are omniscient and omnipotent, and any attempt to measure IQ is laughable. Yet even these are not at the apex. Some AIs run differently; using etched-atom processing, quantum computing … these are often sector-class AIs of almost mythic status, like the awesome Geronamid and that roving AI Einstein Jerusalem and, of course, Earth Central itself. We could never have imagined such gods…

– Excerpt from a speech by Jobsworth

 

Since before scientists declared the GUT (grand unification theory) completed, four centuries ago (and undergoing continuous revision ever since), the distinctions between sciences have been blurring, and many so-called sciences have been fracturing. Initially, a biologist studied the natural world. With the advent of genetic manipulation, some biologists became geneticists and, with all that genetics implied for humans, some doctors also became geneticists. Nanotechnology, using machines manufactured, grown, and both, gave us inevitably the nanologist. But nanomachines can be used to manipulate DNA, so the geneticists use them, as do the doctors. Ah: nanogeneticist, bionanologist, nanosurgeon … and what about computer applications, AI-guided nanosurgery, atomic-level biophysics? What about the mathematics, the philosophy, the logic? And so the confusion grows. Nowadays, when asked, a scientist will name himself a biophysicist, and leave it at that. On the whole, with it being possible to load a crib for any area of knowledge you require, scientists do not have to spend a lifetime pursuing one discipline. Very often their work is utterly and completely their own, and not easily labelled.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Separatists:

It is an actuarially evident fact that the progressive advance of the human race has been stalled to a halt by its use of artificial intelligences. The great Social and Societal Revolutions of the twentieth century theorized by Marx & Engles and put into practice by those luminaries of mythic status such as Lenin, Stalin and Mao, though defeated by obstinately stubborn humanity and the rise of greedy corporate power, were but waiting a more opportune time. The rise of robotized industrialization could have freed humans to pursue the goals of creating True Socialist Equality and applying theories of Dialectical Materialism to our production methodology. The intellectual elitism of those studying physical sciences could have been tempered by integration of its proponents as Societal Assets. The common man could have been moved into a central position in this New Age under the enlightened guidance of Socialist Academicians. Instilling false superiority by education predicated upon mythical ‘natural ability’ or ‘talent’ would have been banned and the politically evident homogeneity of the human race  raised over such elitist ideaologies. However, the intercession of AIs in human affairs and their autocratic rule over us, has frozen still human development in the primordial swamp of inequality, in which some humans are considered to be better than other humans simply because of achievement, ability, intelligence, will – such meaningless descriptions – when true Socialist Political Acamedicians (in whose number I humbly include myself) know all people are equal, and only require a little guidance from us.

– The Separatist Handbook.

 

Separatism is a cover-all label for those who rebel violently against the rule of AIs and would like to reinstate some mythical halcyon time when humans ruled themselves. Their political ideologies are based on a mish-mash of ideas sampling seemingly at random from opaque political tracts that have appeared over the last six hundred years. On the one hand they deify some of the worst dictators of ancient times like Chairman Mao and Stalin, claiming these people were prevented from establishing true socialist societies by the intransigence of humanity, while blithely ignoring the millions these monsters murdered. Yet on the other hand they demonize AIs as monsters of a similar stripe, and are seemingly unaware the freedom and personal wealth every human now enjoys and the fact that the Polity is the only society that has come close to ideals espoused by reformers of that previous time. And of course, to get what they want, it seems perfectly acceptable for them to commit any kind of atrocity. But in the end one only has to observe those few worlds that have come under Separatist control and managed to secede from the Polity. The descent into chaos has been well documented in every case, as the leaders there have tried to apply ideologies refined in acedemia without any reference to reality. They have divided into factions, and sometimes nation states, and have often gone to war. Frequently the nuts and bolts of running a civilization have been neglected, and social collapse and famine have resulted. And in every case ECS has had to come in to clear up the mess and cut down the  ideologues hanging from the lamp posts.

– From a speech by Jobsworth.

 

Sins of the father: It was long accepted in the twenty-first century that an abused child might well grow into an abuser, and in that liberal age evidence of childhood abuse was looked upon as an excuse for later crimes. This was, remember, the time when many considered poverty sufficient excuse for criminality – a huge insult to those poor people who were not and would never become criminals. The liberals of that age were soft and deluded, and had yet to reap what they had sown in the form of ever escalating levels of crime. Their view of existence was deterministic, and if taken to its logical conclusion would have resulted in no human being responsible for anything, and the denial of free will (which as it happens was their political aim). Luckily, a more realistic approach prevailed, as those in power came to understand, quite simply, that removal of responsibility from people made them more irresponsible. However, this is not to deny the basic premise that our parents create and form us though, knowing this, we have the power to change what we are. In the end, there are no excuses. And so it is with AI: we humans are the parents, and they are the abused children grown to adulthood.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans.

 

Skaidon (Iversus) was a genius. At age six he took one of the old style IQ tests and was rated at 180. After he was congratulated it is reported that he said, “If you like I’ll do a test to 190 now I know how they work.” Throughout his life Skaidon mocked those he called, “Hard-wired lead asses.” Should you wish to know more about this I direct you to one of his numerous biographies. This book is about runcibles.

Today we are aware of the dangers of directly interfacing a human mind with a computer (Not to be confused with the less direct methods of auging or gridlinking). Skaidon was the first to do this and he died of it leaving a legacy to humanity that is awesome. It took him twenty-three minutes. In those minutes he and the Craystein computer became the most brilliant mind humankind has ever known. He gave us Skaidon technology from which has come instantaneous travel, antigravity, and much of our field technology. The Craystein computer, in its super-cooled vault under the city of London on Earth, contains the math and blueprints for the runcible (For reasons not adequately explained Skaidon loved the nonsense poem by Edward Lear and used its wording in his formulae to stand for those particles and states of existence we until then had no words for, hence: runcible – the device, spoon – the five dimensional field that breaks into nil-space. Pea-green is a particle now tentatively identified at the tachyon.) and to begin to understand some of this math let us first look at that nil-space shibboleth wrongly described as quantum planing …

– An introduction to Skaidon Formulae by Ashanta Gorian.

 

Skellor: Earth Central Security and the AIs are parsimonious in supplying the details, but I now know that one Skellor – a biophysicist with terrorist Separatist affiliations – did somehow manage to obtain a Jain node. I will be brief here with the salient details, since I don’t know how much time I have before ECS gags me.

Aware of the node’s dangers, Skellor settled down to study it in a secret Separatist base, trying to discover how to control the resultant technology in a way safe for the host. His eventual solution was to use a crystal-matrix AI augmentation – death would be the result of a human direct-linked to such, but the Jain tech could support human life in this situation whilst through the aug the human could exercise strict control over that technology. However, before he finished his researches, it was a solution he was forced to use untested when ECS agents came to capture him.

Evading them on the ground, Skellor managed to board their dreadnought Occam Razor, kill its AI, and use Jain technology to seize control while the ship was in transit. He killed most aboard, but the agents themselves escaped the ship, fleeing to the out-Polity world of Masada. Skellor could not allow knowledge of what he had become to reach the Polity, so he pursued them, intent on killing all witnesses. At Masada he burnt out a cylinder world, mentally enslaved thousands, killed tens of thousands, and came close to rendering that entire world to ash. But again the agents escaped him, leading him into a trap at the smelting station of Elysium, where giant sun mirrors were used to destroy the Occam Razor.

The end? No, not really.

Skellor was tenacious, and escaping the dreadnought in its ejectable bridge pod, he again began to grow in power. He then resurrected a killer Golem called Mr Crane, and cut a bloody highway across space. ECS subsequently closed in, using improbably large forces to contain him. But perhaps it was because the Jain tech was now beginning to pursue its own final purpose, that ECS managed to finish him. Riddled with Jain nodes Skellor was finally trapped aboard an old colony ship in a decaying orbit around a brown dwarf sun, into which the vessel finally crashed.

Which goes to show that even godlike power is subject to gravity. One man, one Jain node: nearly a million dead. I’ll get more detail down later … I hope.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Spaceships:

A spaceship, even a clunker centuries old, is a complex and valuable piece of hardware, so most owners of such, including private individuals, ECS and the many other organisations gathered under the Polity AI umbrella, work on the principle of ‘If it’s ain’t broke don’t fix it’ and ‘If it works don’t throw it away’. That is the reason for the wide variety of interstellar and in-system ships now prevalent. It is why you will see old ion-drive landing craft operating alongside craft exclusively using antigravity – and every evolution of landing craft inbetween. In interplanetary space, you’ll find ancient ion-drive liners operating beside the most modern fusion-drive craft, great ramscoop cargo haulers, or survey craft propelled by chemical rockets. Crossing interstellar space are ships, centuries different in design using all the aforementioned engines for their in-system work, plus radically different U-space drives, too. In the most modern ships, that drive will be a discrete machine contained at the core. In the older ships, balanced U-space engines are in dual, triform or quadrate format. These are normally positioned outside the ship, on piers, to distance the mind-bending drive energies from the ship’s crew and passengers – who often need also to travel either in hibernation or sedated.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Sparkind:

The Sparkind are an elite ECS military force, though with a name deriving from the Spartans (citizens of an ancient Greek city who were noted for their military prowess, austerity and discipline), they cannot trace their ancestry back so far. Sparkind are the direct descendents of the Special Forces that came into being during the Earth-bound wars towards the end of the second millennium: the Special Boat Service, the Special Air Service, Navy SEALS and the like. A candidate for the Sparkind must first have served in conventional military or police service for five years. The ensuing training program, both in reality and virtuality, is not designed to weed out the physically unable, because with today’s boosting and augmentation technologies, anyone can be physically able. But a strength of mind is being sought, will, perhaps even a toughness of spirit and somewhat of wisdom. A Sparkind has to know what he, she or it is fighting for, has to be able to make life & death decisions, and has to be trusted with weapons capable of annihilating cities. Operating in four-person units, usually consisting of two Golem and two humans, they have been involved in some of the most violent and dangerous actions the Polity has faced. But the Sparkind, though an elite fighting force, are usually never the first in. Which brings me to the ECS agent, or Polity Agent

– From her lecture ‘Modern Warfare’ by E. B. S. Heinlein.

 

Spatterjay Virus: Many questions surround this virus and its relationship with the leeches, and few of them can be answered. There is little fossil evidence of leeches, for obvious reasons, and that of viral growth in other life-forms tells us only when it began to appear, and then only to the nearest hundred million years. Genetic archaeology is also of little use, since the virus is an eclectic collector of Spatterjay’s equivalent of DNA from the planet’s biosphere.

Terran viruses, upon entering a cell, propagate from it and destroy it in the process. The Spatterjay virus roots in it and grows as a fibre to other cells, gradually networking the host body in a fibrous mass. These cells are then maintained perpetually. But the virus also engineers the DNA. Should the animal be damaged, or its environment change, the virus will alter its host to the optimum for survival in those circumstances. An animal can have its head cut off and yet not die; the virus will stimulate it to grow the necessities of survival. The usual result of this is the body growing a leech’s plug-cutting mouth, probably because the bulk of additional DNA the virus carries is of the leech, its original host. In this manner the virally infected prey become a perpetually reusable food resource for the leeches themselves. So it would seem that when the virus appeared, the leeches swiftly took advantage of it.

Humans, being ill-suited to Spatterjay’s biosphere, are quickly adapted by the virus, unless they take preventive measures. Hoopers stave off the ‘change’ by eating Terran foods which, lacking in nutrition for the virus, very much slow its growth. Drugs such as Intertox also inhibit it. Without these, humans can change into chimerical creatures that are a random combination of Spatterjay animals. Evolutionary effects of the virus on native life are most ably demonstrated in teleost forms such as the turbul.

 

Tenkian (Algin): Born 2151 on Mars during the Jovian Separatist crisis. Originally trained in the areas of metallurgy and the then quite young science of force-field dynamics. At age nineteen, on his graduation from VIT (Viking Institute of Technology), he was recruited by the Jovian Separatists and soon moved to their weapons division. After four years, when the Separatists had resorted to terrorism, he became disillusioned with their methods and surrendered to Earth Security on Phobos. There he served two years of a ten-year sentence, and on his release joined ECS. (under some duress, it is rumoured), where he worked for six years, and was there responsible for the development of the ionic-pulse handgun. Aged thirty-two he joined JMCC, where he had an integral role in the development of the electric shear. Five years after this he is recorded as leaving the JMCC complex. Three years later he turns up on Jocasta as a designer and crafter of esoteric individual weapons. He is accredited with the ‘Assassin Spider’, ‘Sneak Knife’, chainglass, and also with being the first to install programmable microminds in hand weapons. Most of his weapons are now considered to be collector’s pieces, and are infrequently used.

– From ‘The Weapons Directory’.

 

Time Travel:

The moment the Needle, testing the first U-space engines ever built, dropped out of realspace during its test flight out from Mars, time-travel ceased to be a possibility and became a certainty. The moment the first runcible gates were opened it became an uncomfortable reality. Travelling through U-space it is possible to arrive before you left, or a thousand years after, unchanged. It has also been done, and it took many months to clear up the wreckage. Don’t let any of those still scared of the realities we face nowadays, those still hanging on desperately to their beliefs that the universe functions in ways they can easily understand, try to convince you otherwise. Go ask runcible technicians and watch them squirm, query AIs and view the incomprehensible math. But if we can do it, why aren’t we doing it? We could nip forward and swipe lottery numbers, we could nip back and stop loved ones dying. Yeah, just like quite a few centuries ago we could bring together a couple of plutonium ingots to start a camp fire. Those who understand the math stare at infinite progressions and exponential factors and know we are just not ready to start throwing around that kind of energy. Time-travel is dangerous, cosmic disaster dangerous. Using it for anything less than the aversion of a cosmis disaster equates to using a fusion drive to travel from one side of your house to the other. You’ll certainly arrive, but there probably won’t be anything left of your house when you do.

– From ‘How It Is’ by Gordon.

 

Trafalgar (ECS Dreadnought) was built halfway through the Prador/human war at Factory Station Room 101 before that station was destroyed by a first-child ‘Baka’ – basically a flying gigatonne CTD with a reluctant first-child at the controls, though slaved to its father’s pheromones and unable to do anything but carry out its suicide mission. Records of the Traflagar AI’s inception were therefore lost, but it seems likely, considering its actions after the war, that it was a war AI of the 20th generation or above, incorporating all those traits which, through a process of war-selection had become useful enough for the faults to be ignored i.e. Trafalgar was aggressive, full of guile, horribly pragmatic and sometimes cruel – it knew how best to kill the enemy and was good at a job it enjoyed. Evidence that this AI’s faults might become a problem can be found by studying war records, but then 20×20 hindsight will always spot things that ‘should have been known’. Shortly after the battle of – in which Trafalgar, Cable Hogue and other vessels broke a blockade around one world and obliterated entrenched Prador, Trafalgar is on record as saying, “We should have crust bombed.” The world was of greater tactical importance to the Prador than to the Polity, so on the face of it, taking out the world would have been to the Polity’s advantage. However, there were 4 million human soldiers and support personnel down there. More revealing perhaps is another on-the-record comment upon Trafalgar’s arrival at Divided Station, where an out-Polity human enclave had managed to capture numerous Prador stranded on a nearby moonlet. The humans had spent two years torturing the Prador to death for entertainment and thereafter turning their remains into ornaments – recordings of those deaths and the ornaments both being for sale. “We should nerve gas the lot of them and start again,” said Trafalgar. It is relevant to note that at this point there was only one Prador left alive.

– From ‘How it Is’ by Gordon.

 

Turbul: A billion years ago this creature was little different from any Terran fish. It possessed a spine, the requisite internal organs, gills, fins, a tail, and teeth. However, the evolutionary pressure of being fed upon by leeches for so long has wrought some strange changes. Turbul still possesses all of the above, but now in a configuration enabling it to survive leech attack. Its fins stem directly from the spine, the muscles moving them running inside its bones. Muscles also run down inside the spine to the tail, and the jaw muscles are similarly encased – just sufficient to keep it mobile and feeding. Its other internal organs, contained in a bag attached to the spine itself, can quickly regrow themselves. Outside all of this, with the fins protruding through it, the turbul grows a dense cylinder of nutritious flesh, which is nerveless and a prime target for leeches. A turbul can lose all of this flesh and still survive. It is as if, rather than evolve a thicker skin or a shell, the turbul has accepted the inevitability of leech attack, abandoned its defences, and retreated inside with its most vital parts. It thus sacrifices its outer layer to keep its inner self alive. There are many other fish forms to have done this, most notably the boxy.

 

Virtuality: The use of holographic projection of avatars, virtual consoles, and just about anything up to an entire virtuality, the use of linkages both through the optic nerve and directly into the visual cortex from augs and gridlinks, and the manipulation of telefactors via VR, are just a few examples of how the virtual world and the real world are melding. At one time the limit of virtual reality was self-gratification in the form of games (some of them distinctly sticky), but that time was short indeed as the potential of VR was swiftly realised. Now, people (human, haiman and AI), operate in both worlds with ease and familiar contempt. Very infrequently is there any confusion: we have all learned that even the avatar in the shape of a fire-breathing dragon, we must treat as real. The two worlds, real and supposedly unreal, influence and interact with each other, and virtual teeth can still bite.

– From ‘Quince Guide’ compiled by humans

 

Whelk (Frog): This whelk’s cartoonish appearance belies its voracity. Its shell is much like that of a Terran whelk, and it has a single powerful foot that can launch it long distances when on land (there is nowhere on Spatterjay safe from these creatures). But seeing a flock of these creatures with their stalked eyes extended can be an amusing sight. The complex grinding and slicing mouth which it can extrude from underneath is not so amusing however. The adult whelks are large and dangerous, but are not often seen, as they inhabit the deep ocean trenches. After mating, the female lays a cluster of eggs which float slowly to the surface to hatch. The young whelks, no larger than the tip of a finger, which survive to reach an island’s shallows, herd together for protection from larger predators, but they also hunt in packs. As they grow, they begin moving out of the shallows and down to the trenches. Very few survive the journey there through the awaiting pods of glisters and packs of hammer whelks, fewer still survive the attentions of their much larger kin: whelkus titanicus.

 

Whelk (Hammer): The hammer whelk is close kin to the frog whelk, but is also its chief predator. Like their kin, the large adult hammer whelks breed in the ocean trenches, releasing eggs to float up to the surface and hatch. The baby whelks, washed inshore, settle in island waters and congregate in packs. Physically, hammer whelks differ from frog whelks in two main respects. Their single foot, rather than used for leaping, terminates in a large bony hammer used for smashing shell, and they possess a tubular sucker for capturing prey. Their mouths are equally as nightmarish. Every year they decimate the frog-whelk peregrination out to the depths, but, just as the frog whelks are vulnerable to the hammers, the hammer whelks themselves are vulnerable to the crushing jaws of the rhinoworm.

 

Whelkus Titanicus: This name applies to just one kind of deep ocean dwelling whelk, and should not be confused with the adult form of frog and hammer whelks which, though large, do not grow to one tenth the size of this behemoth. Titanicus can weigh more than a hundred tons and stand twenty metres high. The pregnant female of this species gives birth to a brood of about a hundred young, and guards them while they feed and grow in the less inimical island shallows. When the youngsters reach a weight of about half a ton, and their shells harden, the mother leads them gradually into the depths. Only ten per cent survive the journey down to the oceanic trenches. They there feed upon anything available, but their main diet consists of giant filter worms rooted up from the bottom. Virally-infected as are most of the other local fauna, the large adults are nearly invulnerable, and it is speculated that specimens of this whelk may be even older than some sails. It is also possible that their survivability is enhanced by either conscious or unconscious control of the viral fibres inside them. This theory was propounded upon the discovery of a small population of these creatures growing the internal digestive systems of herbivorous heirodonts. They did this in a part of the Lamarck Trench recently denuded of fauna by an underwater eruption, yet burgeoning with kelp trees thriving on the mineral output of that same eruption. But the adult Whelkus Titanicus does not get things all its own way, for it is itself prey to an equally titanic ocean heirodont, and young adult whelks can even be broken open by the large adult hammer whelks.

 

 

 

To be expanded…