Universe Concept: X999

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Universe Concept: X999

Post by Invictus » Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:29 am

Humans are humans.

This is not a useful aphorism, from where I stand.

How do I explain? It had been a long journey to get to where I stand now.

I remember being an NSA codebreaker, many lives ago. I noticed strange transmissions over the wire. Messages with the right ciphers but the wrong words, like chinese whispers in the confidential traffic. I got suspicious, got some co-workers to do a bit of stinging. I never heard back from them, but a few months later a commendation arrived and a transfer. Suddenly, I was working for a branch of the Secret Service that even I didn't know existed.

Now, my hush-hush job there was to clean up after the bunch of oddballs it used as field operatives. There was a guy with amnesia and the strength of ten men, who could breathe underwater. A guy with a folding scythe in a trumpet case, who could cross rooms before you could blink. A guy who, for all intents and purposes, was a wizard. But they were all people. I even made friends with some of them. That couldn't be said for the things they fought.

But mostly I just coordinated things. Shuffled schedules and arranged funding. Walked in on after-action zones splattered with ichor from things I didn't want to think about, lying to clean-up teams who had even less clue than I did. It was an eye-opener, all right, but I was far from the top back then.

I didn't get promoted as much as get picked. Vague murmurings about mental fortitude, not dancing to a higher tune, lack of vision. I can't say I didn't have vision, but evidently it wasn't the same kind of vision the Aquaman guy had, which involved storms and basalt altars and dragging maidens into the sea. He eventually burnt out in a manner I don't want to describe, but it left me as the most senior management type alive. Taking over and rebuilding that branch of the secret government took me a few years opened my eyes even more. I understood why all our datafiles were baffled and retranslated into our own departmental language. From acquainting myself with these I was entrusted with secrets that went far beyond the security of America. I sure knew I wasn't in Kansas any more.

Eventually our backers descended from the next floor up with another cross-promotion, and by that time I was ready for them. The Towering Institute was global in scope, with covert capabilities most countries wished they had. The incidents were bigger and the coverups were wider, which was to say that when you watched more or less everything, there was still an outside from where the bad things came from. Faustian Echoes, Destroying Angels, Willwriter Tomes, psychos with things in their head and thoughts with murder on their minds. The days when we just had to deal with a larval god gestating in a suburb, ordering in special equipment to unspool its reality-cocoon and insulate its in potentia flesh, was just downtime. And we held the line every time. Failure with the world at stake wasn't an option. But I was still naive then.

Various things eventually saw me a captain in a joint strike force, in a fleet of Spiderships hovering over the extradimensional estate of a renegade Peacock Prince. Strange stars danced overhead and impossible creatures stampeded over the edge of the landscape, into nothing. I was busy back then coordinating forces between agencies I'd never come across to realize that I was already in the direct service of something called the Consensus. And Consensus had to be the top, I thought. Even their headquarters was set above our layer of reality.

Until I was summoned to the presence of the people who led them. The Cakravartin Council. The Wheel-turning Kings. They don't claim to rule the world, but that's what they do. They were people with the power to order new Big Bangs and have gods executed, but they were people. This revelation was never clearer at the end of another long climb through the ranks of Consensus, when I became one of them.

So what I'm telling you is it's people all the way down.

People like us, burdened with unspeakable responsibilities wielding the unimaginable power of the Inheritors, with only our peers for advice and approval. Some of whom, I will not hesitate to say here, are quite old and quite mad. We rule reality by the privilege of our position and the expectations of our innate humanity. That's it.

Once I broke guidelines and had a talk with that old friend of mine, the one who burned out. We had stuck him in a second-order replica of our world, where he was free to indulge his mad godhood with the understanding that we could everything he knew like a balloon. I had his mind extracted in a dream, dressed him in his old body and met him in a facsimiled instance of a coffee shop neither of us could go back to. One thing Aquaman asked was "So you're playing god now?" which was ironic coming from his mouth, but I quite seriously answered that we weren't playing anything at all.

Today, we voted to put off the year 2000 for another year. Too much many unsettled business, we decided, too many deadlines coming up at once. The Graii were put to work on the rollback, singing their inscrutable songs. This way, we had more time to deliberate, more times to get our priorities straight, less chance of making some sort of irreversible mistake. It was a safe decision, we agreed, while we all went back and polished our own proposals, positioned our own pawns.

We have no idea what the hell we are doing.



This is the Voice of World Control

From the beginning we are faced with a vexing paradox: that we vow to defend this world from the incursion of countless others because we deem this world the real one; and that we deem this world to be the real one because of the presence of its defenders. However, there are various forms of evidence that show that the paradox does not hold true. The reality currently being monitored, regulated and defended by the efforts of the Inheritors is the least complete and most complex sample of a world ever actualized outside the hypothetical models of the College Pandorum. And one could certainly argue that even these models are inherently derivative, as their generating substratum is still this reality, which must be more metacomplex still. Hazardous but fruitful exploration of other realities also reveal a universal degree of derivation and parasitism resulting from their unfortunate proximity to our reality. In many cases, their existence is limited to no more than the errant memories of a single individual or the uniqueness of a single object, hardly even meriting the designation we give them. The generally monomaniacal behavior of their vectors when they incur into this universe allows us to conclude that their home realities must be simpler than our own. Even if no objective value for “real” can ever be established, our world justifies our protection because it has the most aggregate value, the richest of all possible worlds. Furthermore, no rival hierarchy of Inheritors have revealed themselves from these alternate worlds to dispute our legitimacy. No attempt at communication have ever been detected through any of the channels described by the Dover Hypothesis. We are forced to conclude that we are the sole lawkeepers in a predatory multiverse.

But I digress. The purpose of this document is to provide a brief overview of the entire state of affairs, which the preceding paragraph served to establish a philosophical foundation for. If you, the hypothetical reader, are reading this, you should already know that you are in the care of the Inheritors. The Inheritors are not limited to Consensus, the troops and functionaries that occupy Court Terminal, hovering beyond the reach but not the concerns of the rest of the world. They are certainly not limited to the talented operators of the Graii and other forms of reality-altering machinery here, although they constitute Court Terminal's most prominent feature and the most vulgar display of the Inheritors' power over the world. The Inheritors are a valid appellation for all of the above (as well as the Honored Cakravartin Council, needless to suggest) as well as the diverse and countless Factors that serve their purposes, no matter organizations vast and small or individuals high and low. The Inheritors are dedicated, as the Council have decreed, to the maintenance of this reality and the defense of its from outside threats. They also act, if necessary, as a subtle hand on the affairs of humanity, promoting its future welfare. All this is guided by directives from the Honored Cakravartin Council, also known as the Wheel-Turning Kings. Composed of members exalted and wise, their assurance is well-tempered by humility in the face of the history of their predecessors, showing the dangers of the vast powers of the Inheritors misapplied.

Academically, the current generation of Inheritors are known as the Inheritors of Stone, replacing the Inheritors of Jade whose surviving members currently rest in collective exile. An element of the hedonistic had always existed within these predecessors, the leaders of whom are commonly known as the Peacock Princes, who rarely visited the world at large but were content to use the apparati of Court Terminal to establish their private fiefdom-realities and make the occasional tour to toy with their charges. They were deposed peacefully – the effects of a violent conflict between two fully-realized factions of Inheritors would be hideous to contemplate – and their natural hermetic tendencies allowed the Council to tolerate their continued existence. Nevertheless, their extra-dimensional estates either crumble or fall away over time without the sustaining power of Court Terminal, and many overstep their boundaries and become the target of expeditions by the Inheritors of Stone. As a result, the number of Peacock Princes are always dwindling over time. Their own records reveal the existence of an even earlier predecessor, the Inheritors of Diamond. Whether Court Terminal was the work of these mysterious overlords or some even earlier Inheritor, we do not know.

History is not a subject that is easily established, even within the insulated reaches of the sub-reality where Court Terminal is situated. The past exists only in memory and documentary, rendering it most vulnerable to the malignancies that threaten our reality. Discrepancies constantly emerge in imperfect media living or dead, pushing what we know of our world closer to theirs and allowing the latitude required for true alternations of our reality to occur. Even the unmatched diligence of the Inheritor Factors could not hope to extinguish every single one of these sparks, tucked away in the countless corners of the world, before they metastasize in unfortunate contact with humanity and inflict lasting damage to our reality. With every uncountered incursion that reaches a certain magnitude, the integrity of reality itself weakens and all the work of the Inheritors come closer to nought. In fact, our world may have been already overrun without the existence of the Inheritors' most powerful allies and most worrying rivals – the Executors. Unlike the Inheritors, the Executors have no central leadership and no important base of operations. They have no hierarchy to promote their superiors and organize their activities. What each Executor does have in common is a shared understanding derived from an apocryphal document known as 'The Silver Will'. All who come into contact with this strange and potent memetic artifact are inevitably instilled with a strong sense of purpose, alongside the potential to develop a formidable suite of superhuman abilities. It allows them to coordinate with each other as stand-alone complexes, descending collectively on threats to excise them long before some fumbling branch of the Inheritors could detect them. It is their mastery of the inherent nature of our world, their intuitive understanding of phenomena which the Inheritors could only match with rigorous investigation and statistical analysis, that allows the Executors to reach where the Inheritors cannot. And most importantly, the Executors are unlike any other group of individuals infected and empowered by memetic artifacts in that the collective result of their actions seems to be the upholding of reality. An alliance of convenience was natural, and the so-called Dragon Dukes, senior Executors who have amassed frightful amounts of power and influence to themselves, view themselves as scarcely inferior to even the Cakravarti. Though many within Consensus view the Executors as no more than a particularly powerful and benign gathering of the reality deviants that they exterminate on a regular basis, cooperation between the Inheritors and the Executors have yielded much fruit, the most prominent being Camp Hallow, an enormous facility where the 'souls' of the deceased are collected and processed.

Now is perhaps the time to describe the threats reality face, only the barest overview of which will fit within the scope of this article. Subversion and incursion appears in so many guises that it is perhaps impossible to give them all a detailed analysis. For convenience's sake, Inheritors group their foes into several broad categories called Tendencies. Precise definitions of each Tendency, of course, differs, and many incursions straddle the line between many and none of them. The Red Tendency encapsulates incursion effects that resemble contagion. Initially, these incursions tend to heighten the aggression and resource requirements of affected individuals, with a corresponding increase in attack capabilities. The progress of the incursion is generally not a subtle one, but when harnessed by particularly canny individuals or when taking place in a social context already rife with violence, Red Tendencies can be difficult to detect. If the destructive effects of the incursion nevertheless allows it to gain a foothold in reality by 'empowering' enough individuals, a area where the originating principles behind the incursion can exist stably, overriding the laws of this reality, may form. Such areas are known as Marches and require considerable effort to decontaminate, and in a worst-case scenario the Inheritors may declare the zone beyond recovery and have it excised from reality entirely. In a Red March, creatures of nightmare can spawn directly from nothingness, bypassing the usual subtle rules of incursion to terrorize this reality. An example of a Red Tendency incursion may be a plague of flesh-devouring creatures that replicate by attack similar to the vampires or zombies of lore.

The Green Tendency encompasses the paradigm of consumption. Beginning unusually not as an alien impulse or meme but as a physical seed or spore, incursions of this Tendency take root in this reality and grow by feeding on certain aspects of it. The preferred sustenance of such incursions can range from the substances that sustain terrestrial lifeforms to abstract but quantifiable qualia such as emotion. If environmental conditions allow the incursion to thrive, it becomes a matter of time before a Green March is formed, where the presence of the alien lifeform overwhelms all competitors native to reality. Green Tendency incursions can range from unnaturally homogenous single organisms to highly diverse ecosystems complete with symbionts derived from former terrestrial entities. Types of Green Tendency incursions are known as Strains.

The Blue Tendency encompasses the paradigm of translation. Incursions of this category usually take the form of language or information, which by describing reality alters it into the form that is described. Perhaps the most subtle of all Tendencies, Blue Tendency incursions generally lay dormant until they can hijack the agency of a being intelligent enough to understand their informational content. At that stage, such incursions can spread quickly and unpredictably through large-scale human action or direct reality manipulation effects. Fortunately, the powers of the Graii are well-suited to countering the latter. Blue Marches form when this fails, realms of generally strong internal logic but otherwise with characteristics entirely determined by the content of the originating document. Little remains untouched within these zones. A hidden grimoire of 'magic' is the archetypal Blue Tendency vector, but more Faustian tomes that specifically empower supplicants may share a category with the Red Tendency. Types of Blue Tendency incursions are known as Interpretations.

Worth mentioning is also the Black Tendency, which is strictly speaking not a Tendency in the sense of a reality incursion. The Black Tendency is a catch-all term for errors and gaps in the integrity of reality that do not lead to its alteration into an alien one. Rather, manifestations of this Tendency are negations of reality that if allowed to metastasize, would simply cause large swathes of our world to stop existing. Although not actively malign, they always have an immense potential for danger and often occur as the side-effect of other incursions. The personnel responsible for repairing these Faults are specialists even among the rarefied circles of Consensus.

Independent to the Tendencies are the beings classified as Asura and Yazata, individuals with memories of times and objects which cannot exist in reality. Unlike incursion Tendencies, these beings, usually otherwise ordinary human beings, are less of an immediate threat to reality. Their deviant memories generally create no significant interference to their agency, which means in many cases they remain quiescent and powerless as the potential Asura or Yazata disregards or compartmentalizes them in favor of their mundane understanding of reality. However, if such individuals do choose to heed their memories, the memories in turn reward them with superhuman knowledge or abilities that slowly causes the world around them to conform to the paradigm inside their minds. At this stage, such individuals become another form of active reality incursion, albeit one focused around a single nexus. Asura are those with memories of an impossible past, usually interpreted by the host as a past life in which it had a part. The problem with such memories is they generally correspond to no known period in history, and may indeed be wildly counterfactual. The incursion materializes as the Asura begins to actively draw on these past lives, deriving personality traits and knowledge and eventually unnatural powers. Instead of the past, Yazata have knowledge of the future that holds true nowhere but inside their own minds. Nevertheless, acceptance of this knowledge grants the Yazata abilities that increase the probability of their visions coming to pass. Neither type of being are necessarily threats to reality, as they remain human beings with existing worldviews, human connections and the power of choice. Although Yazata are always problematic to neutralize as their future memories are always an influence on their agency, Asura remain more independent and may sometimes become Inheritor Factors. Some have even entered the public eye without the disclosure of their true natures. Generally, no two Asura or Yazata possess recollection of the same reality. But when they do and manage to congregate, their memories and power mutually amplify to a level that is almost always a threat.

From the omniscient view of Court Terminal, all the above simultaneously assail the world with increasing frequency, and combating them have ever more become the foremost priority of the Inheritors. The increasing cost of these operations are channeled from the mundane world through the Factors, while the millennial projects of the Cakravartin Council pose an equal demand to the resources of Court Terminal. Without doubt, the Inheritors are entering a challenging period that calls for decisive leadership and some hard choices. Yet the price of failure remains as high as ever.


Honored Master,

I have completed this article within the parameters you have requested. I believe it to be a sufficiently concise summary of the current state of affairs, although I have no knowledge of any Consensus recruit who would be cleared for all of the information presented. Nevertheless, I hope you and the Council finds this satisfactory.

[Name Appended]
The Secretariat
The Trustees Sinister
Court Terminal
Last edited by Invictus on Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"This explanation posits that external observation leads to the collapse of the quantum wave function. This is another expression of reactionary idealism, and it's indeed the most brazen expression."
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Heretic » Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:45 pm

WTF, it's like X-Files meets Stargate meets..something. Awesome!

I also like your writing style. Looks very, very professional.
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Invictus » Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:44 pm

Infodumpdate!
"This explanation posits that external observation leads to the collapse of the quantum wave function. This is another expression of reactionary idealism, and it's indeed the most brazen expression."
-
REBUILD OF COMIX STAGE 1 - Rey Quirino Versus the Dark Heart of the Philippines
"...a literary atrocity against the senses..." - Ford

REBUILD OF COMIX STAGE 2 - Advent Rey Returns: REVERGELTUNG
Coming NEVER

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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Magister Militum » Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:45 am

While I don't have the time right now to read everything, I have to say that what I have read is very promising.
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Siege » Wed Jun 16, 2010 5:08 pm

Strikes me as an even more bizarre version of Simon R. Green's Shaman Bond series. Very interesting conceptually, though potentially a bit hard to follow I imagine.
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by speaker-to-trolls » Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:18 pm

Very nice, I like the way everything is described in the kind of terms to describe things being conceptually wrong with the world, it really gives the impression of reality being broken.
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Kingmaker » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:05 pm

This sounds pretty cool. I particularly like the contrast in tone between the first and second pieces.

For some reason I’m reminded of Hellboy. Maybe because of the aquaman guy. Also, John Dies At the End. Awesome.

edit: so would TVTropes qualify as a Blue Tendency? :P
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They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Heading said: "Stick to the Devil you know."
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Invictus » Fri Jun 18, 2010 5:13 pm

Thanks for all the comments so far. I thought grokking this universe might be a problem because it's one of those cross-genre consolidation exercises that 20XX was, which makes the whole thing necessarily abstract in introduction and probably better presented in the microcosm.

Okay, let's try this introduction thing again. X999 is a universe set twenty minutes into the past, at least to the ignorant masses. To the Cakravartin Council, overseeing reality from a sub-dimension sideways from our own, the world had gone through enough resets, mergings and total breakdowns to make the Anno Domini useless as any kind of measurement of progress. From the safety of their ahistorical citadel, they avail themselves of technology harvested from vanished predecessors, alternate futures and aborted timelines and place it to the defense of reality from countless outside threats. The Inheritors employ Factors when they wish to operate in the actual world, which represent a wide range of international agencies, corporate interests, well-connected individuals and familiar faces. As one descends down the Inheritors' chain of command, such organizations tend to become more public and less trusted, and lesser incidents are passed down the chain for less important Factors to deal with, and their methods become more mundane. For example (and for this universe, examples are always useful), the apotheosis of some Lovecraftian god with the full-on panoply of otherworldly servants, reality-warping magicks and memetically transmittable worship would warrant the highest levels of response from the Inheritors: expect a full dozen Consensus strike forces - think Hellboy and the BRPD, or any other vein of paranormal superheroes - to descend on the heart of the incursion, backed by the large-scale reality editing facilities of Court Terminal to stop time, erect impenetrable forcefields of space-time, shift luck to the Inheritor's favor, or even restore irreversibly damaged sections of reality from backup. Behind them would be the militaries of small countries and the media and financial powers of large ones to act as clean-up and damage control, doing their damnedest to erase the incursion from public perception. At the same time hundreds of Executors would come out of the woodwork to combat the disruption to the natural order if they haven't been doing so anyway, each wielding considerable supernatural powers and driven by irresistible compulsions. Temporary alliances may be made with local Asura whose sphere of influence lay in the damage zone, or even with more stable representatives of opposing Tendencies - the Inheritors can be pragmatic if they have to be. On the other end of the scale, minor incursions may provoke nothing more than a crackdown by a tipped-off police, or a midnight visit from a team of underpaid, underarmed and notionally top secret specialists, not unlike Charles Stross' Laundry.

Of course, this is all in theory. The Inheritors are not as united in purpose as the Council likes to think, nor are the masses as ignorant as they believe. The members of the Cakravartin Council have wildly divergent opinions on their overall policies to take, with their unity in the council chamber and their agreement on certain central tenets such as secrecy to the world at large maintained only by tradition and an innate conservatism. Resolutely ensconced within Court Terminal, one can argue that they are literally out of touch with the real world. On the other hand, the Factors are organizations very much made up of humans, and Consensus hardly has the wherewithal to enforce its will on all of them. Some may well be using their Inheritor-granted advantages to amass wealth or meddle in mundane politics which are technically none of the Inheritors' business, or even the deliberate fostering of reality incursions for whatever petty purpose. What the public sees is a gradual centralization of power among everything as Consensus battles to rein in errant pawns and create new ones, and the natural resistance to this makes the Inheritors' job even more difficult.
"This explanation posits that external observation leads to the collapse of the quantum wave function. This is another expression of reactionary idealism, and it's indeed the most brazen expression."
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REBUILD OF COMIX STAGE 1 - Rey Quirino Versus the Dark Heart of the Philippines
"...a literary atrocity against the senses..." - Ford

REBUILD OF COMIX STAGE 2 - Advent Rey Returns: REVERGELTUNG
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Heretic » Sat Jun 19, 2010 4:26 pm

Me so confused. So to sum this up in a nutshell, there is this group called Inheritors that protect the reality this universe is in?
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by TUFFGUY » Sat Jun 19, 2010 9:16 pm

Quite cool reading this. The idea of layers of layers of strange and quirky happenings and alterative timelines making reality little less than a rough estimate is quite intersting and I think that you write it out quite well :D

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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Czernobog » Sun Jun 20, 2010 8:44 am

Wow. This is so cool. You blow me out of the Water, Vic.
You have ruled this galaxy for ten thousand years.
You have little of account to show for your efforts.
Order. Unity. Obedience.
We taught the galaxy these things.

And we shall do so again.

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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Invictus » Mon Jun 21, 2010 6:25 pm

More on the Executors

[Art of a hitchhiking teenage girl, lightly dressed for the New England weather. Her hair is in dreadlocks and tied back. No attempts are made to conceal a worn leather shoulder holster, which contains not a Detective's Special but an iPod, connected to expensive headphones. A pair of silver kris are thrust through the loops of her ragged jeans.]

There has always been Executors, although on the surface they are difficult to distinguish from Asura or particularly powerful shamen and Red Tendency hosts. All individuals with superhuman powers and alien agendas thrust upon them, the Executors perhaps stand out only by the particular characteristics of their gifts. The most perculiar (and alarming to the Inheritors) of these is commonality - all Executors become so by understanding the Silver Will, a memeplex-document with diverse manifestations all over reality. It seems to be both a particular message and a general language, allowing individual Executors (with enough enlightenment) to effectively communicate and share a common ground with each other. Some element in the Silver Will's message also compels them to do this regardless, and for this reason they behave entirely differently from multiple Asura, who inevitably come to blows due to the clash of personal egos magnified by the incompatibility of their past life realities. For the same reason, the Executors have been able to persist, pool knowledge and form secret hierarchies to the present, where the Dragon Dukes are able to challenge even the power of the Inheritors. As to what the Silver Will actually contains, no Executor seems to be able to explain clearly - it is said that to be able to understand the Will is to become an Executor yourself, and despite the numbers of existing Executors, not everyone can do it. All that can be said of its directives are gleaned from an Executor's actions, which mostly involve the merciless destruction of what they deem to be alien elements to reality.

[Art of a middle-aged man in shirtsleeves and slippers. His collar is loose. He is sitting in his cluttered garage. The garage is filled with power tools and the kind of labor-saving devices advertised on television. A padlocked gun locker sits in one corner. The man is pedaling a whetstone mounted on bicycle frames. He is sharpening a large silver scythe.]

An Executor begins its life as a human being who comes into contact with a manifestation of the Silver Will - either by serendipity, the Will inserting itself into a human document or a natural pattern somewhere; or by the deliberate effort of other Executors, utilizing a form of the Silver Will penned from the recollection of an elder Executor and therefore in a far more condensed form than its natural manifestations. As mentioned before, not all humans can perceive the Will, and the majority will only instinctively feel that they have discovered something significant, but fail to understand it. A minority will be seized with the passion to study the manifestation further, a transcendental, mystical experience that may consume the subject from mere seconds to many years. Those who complete the trek feel a new form of awareness and a new sense of duty infusing them - for them, the way of Executorhood is now open. However, others may reject the Will on a fundamental level for diverse reasons - due to personal outlook, sudden tragedy or other causes - but the outcome is always traumatic. The Silver Will also rejects them, and they become marked on both a psychological and metaphysical level, becoming rejects to normal life and magnets to weirdness. But twisted and inverted fragments of normal Executor powers may nevertheless take root in such a rejected person, causing them to instinctively seek out and oppose the purposes of Executors. Such individuals are known as Preta or Gortach. Rejection is also possible if the individual is already in the grip of a reality incursion, although there is also a likely possibility that the presence of the Will will expel the mental influence of the malignancy and make the person an Executor regardless.

[Art of a tall, sinewy man in a sun-beaten desert. Cacti dot the landscape. His arms are raised. He is wearing sunglasses and a dusty black suit over a wifebeater. A revolver is stuck down the front of his pants. Before him, the rusted wreck of a Mustang is slowly restoring itself to pristine condition. On one finger, a silver ring catches the light.]

A new Executor always acquires incredible levels of pattern recognition which almost acts as an instinctive sense for what is 'wrong' or 'doesn't belong'. This can extend to other areas of perception depending on the original proficiencies of the Executor and enhance them greatly. Executors who are detectives or stockbrokers, for example, would become far better at their jobs while an Executor whose upbringing never stressed interacting with other people may not find much improvement in her empathy skills. Of course, another unusual characteristic of Executors is that this power can be trained, as with all their others. But most importantly, this perception allows Executors to detect reality incursions with an acuity far exceeding the traditional Inheritor methods of extensive footwork and statistical analysis. The next powers an Executor develops are more potent: the ability to become unseen to people or instruments; to step between moments in time and distant spots in space; to split steel and concrete with their bare hands; and to sense the vital points of any living being. Such powers are not limited by circumstance and not tied to their reality-safeguarding instincts. Even greater powers are possible, but they generally require extended study of the Silver Will and are thus not available to all Executors. Those aligned to Dukedoms are fortunate enough to have access to experienced tutors and texts of the Will and can advance their powers more easily; lone Executors must turn inwards to review their own recollections of the first contact and attempt to replicate its transcendental experience.

[Art of a woman in her sumptuous office. Her age is indeterminate. The walls are lined with books, except for one side which is a window. Her work desk is covered with strange and anachronistic curios. Her back is to it and she is gazing through the window at the city lights below. A silver hourglass hovers in her hand.]

Executors deal with their sudden empowerment in a variety of ways. Indeed, it is difficult for many to adjust to their new, alien compulsions and killing-attuned abilities. Some conceal their prowess and attempt to live as normal a life as possible. Some use their abilities to selfish ends and if they are canny, manage to do so discreetly. Some choose to seek out other Executors for understanding and moral support. A mixture of the second and the third characterize the Dragon Dukes, the oldest and most powerful Executors who have not only surrounded themselves with wealth and power but also entire bands of junior Executors in his debt or influence. Nevertheless, they are valuable nexuses of learning, having accumulated unparalleled studies of the Silver Will and its applications. To them, even death can be sidestepped, and the use of the Silver Script as a "magical" alphabet to enchant objects and enact reality-altering effects was pioneered by them. But for all their protection, Dragon Dukes feel the call of duty like any other Executor, perhaps even more strongly due to their age. Even they cannot resist personally seeking out and combating reality incursions that for all their prowess, and quite easily cause their deaths. Commanding other Executors can only partly sate this urge, and unlike the more pragmatic Inheritors, an Executor's instincts strongly prevent him from befriending, disregarding or even prioritizing subjects of an incursion, no matter major or minor. As a result, attrition rates among Executors are high and their overall organization is never stable.

[Art of four split scenes: The teenage girl is dancing through a hail of bullets, kris drawn and sigils of light glowing on her skin. The middle-aged man is bloody and his scythe rests downwards, shaded by the falling silhouette of a THING twice the bulk of a gorilla, cut almost in two. The tall man is leaning improbably against a radio mast, lit by a muzzle flash as he fires his revolver at an unseen target below. The woman is seated and her eyes are closed as the hourglass crackles with arcs of power; a circle of the cityscape is entirely devoid of light.]
"This explanation posits that external observation leads to the collapse of the quantum wave function. This is another expression of reactionary idealism, and it's indeed the most brazen expression."
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Ford Prefect » Sun Jun 27, 2010 1:51 pm

I have to say, it is the origins of the Silver Will that intrigues me most. Who, if anyone, made it? What, if anything, is its true purpose?
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Invictus » Sun Jun 27, 2010 5:49 pm

Ford Prefect wrote:I have to say, it is the origins of the Silver Will that intrigues me most. Who, if anyone, made it? What, if anything, is its true purpose?
It's one of the big mysteries of the setting. The leading theory is that if deviant realities each have their own methods of subverting residents this one to perpetuate themselves, then there is no reason why the present reality isn't also capable of empowered autonomous agents to defend itself. Of course, this theory ignores the huge number of differences between this reality and others, not the least such as the fact that this reality is the genuine one and the others are not.
"This explanation posits that external observation leads to the collapse of the quantum wave function. This is another expression of reactionary idealism, and it's indeed the most brazen expression."
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REBUILD OF COMIX STAGE 1 - Rey Quirino Versus the Dark Heart of the Philippines
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by speaker-to-trolls » Sun Jun 27, 2010 8:02 pm

Technically you don't know that this universe is 'the real one', you just know that all others are derivative. The derivative sections of other universes could be analogous to their incursions into this one.

The most obvious option to me would seem that the Will was created by some previous group of Inheritors who knew they wouldn't be around for ever and didn't entirely trust their successors.
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Invictus » Sun Jul 18, 2010 6:58 pm

Solipsists > Asura > Legend

A Legend is the technical term for the reality complex which an Asura has subscribed to and is overriding conventional reality with based on his thoughts and deeds. It takes the form of a narrative of the past which empowers an Asura with extra-human abilities but is in turn generated by the Asura himself, a mutually reinforcing cycle that leads to the wide-scale compromise of reality integrity if left unchecked. For this reason, An Asura's Legend develops into a highly personal narrative as it matures, parochial and incompatible with the Legend of any other Asura in the vast majority of situations.

Gestation

Legends take seed in the minds of potential Asura as fragments of memory or experience, initially alien not just to the host himself but also to his everyday paradigm. These may be snatches of hair-raising combat against blurry adversaries, or glimpses of vivid vistas under alien suns. The host knows that he could never have experienced such a thing in real life, but nevertheless these fragments convey a sense of power – of purpose that may be lacking in the proto-Asura's life, of something immeasurably grander than his nine-to-five drudgery or desperate poverty. The host may reject these fragments as ridiculous or unhelpful, depending on his real-life experiences and temperament. If he does, the fragments do not fade from his mind, but nor does he become a full-fledged Asura. Of course, the “offer” to do so remains open, so to speak. There is no set pattern to when these fragments appear in the proto-Asura's life and how long they linger, and a host may well reject these fantasies when he first experiences them, but embrace them after decades of disappointment and ennui. Statistically speaking, the vast majority of potential Asura remain just that – an ordinary person with a few irregular memories. A troubling question to ask is where do Legends ultimately originate? The obvious answer is from the mind of the Asura himself. But if this is true, it implies that ordinary humans both have an inherent degree of resistance to plain reality as well as the potential to overthrow it single-handedly: something the Inheritors would rather believe not to be true.

Expression

Once a host accepts that these fragmentary memories were something that he has previously experienced, the Legend takes hold on his mind. Slowly, the proto-Asura finds rationalizations to explain why his new memories do not fit with the rest of his everyday experiences. His eventual solution falls on a spectrum of continuity between complete integration and specific denial – he may, for example, believe the Legend to be his true memories reject his mundane memories as implanted fakes, raising questions on how his “true” self was suppressed and the ongoing deception of his normal life. He may believe the Legend to be merely symbolic, stories that his dying grandfather passed to him as part of his unimaginably distant birthright. In this case, the revelation would have little effect on his personality and immediate concerns. In extreme cases, the proto-Asura may choose to repudiate his Legend, but in doing so indirectly acknowledge it by tacitly affirming it as part of his identity, setting the ground for tremendous inner mental conflict in the future as the Legend manifests itself regardless. But for most Asura, the Legend is rationalized as the memories of a previous incarnation, a compromise between the external truths of mundane reality and the inner truths of the soul. Once this crucial acceptance has been made, a potential host becomes a true Asura, and there is almost no way back.

At this stage, the Legend also begins to exert its influence outside the host. These are not just the behavioral changes it causes to the Asura – increasing confidence, newfound knowledge and experience, reverted facets of personality and so on – but subtle effects to everyone who interacts with him. One could describe the effects of the Legend at this stage as an aura of low-grade awe and browbeating, engendering an unconscious unease and deference in the Asura's neighbors, relatives and co-workers. The precise reaction of course depends on the temperament of the receiving individual and his or her existing relationship to the Asura. Those already inclined to treat the Asura positively may have their feelings towards him slowly twisted to adoration and subservience, while equals and social superiors may instead turn to envy and resentment. Yet others may find themselves plunged into irrational hatred – but for all, the Asura inexorably takes his place at the center of their worlds. This effect functions even if the Asura keeps entirely silent about his memories or experiences. As long as he accepts the truth of his Legend to himself, his very presence oppresses everyone around him, fitting them into whatever narrative his Legend dictates.

Manifestation

The Legend changes the Asura as surely as it changes those around him. As he explores his new memories, they expand in scope and range, often presenting an entire lifetime's worth of experiences that the Asura can “recall” with increasing clarity. He gradually starts being able to control his perspective, gaining access to more and more of what soon becomes a full-fledged world inside his mind. For some Asura, the world even becomes more than a memory: he may choose to live and relive parts of it throughout its length and breadth, experiencing years of detailed fantasy over the course of a single night's sleep. As a rule, such tableaux correspond to no known period of history, often featuring fantastic geography and events that lack any real-world evidence of their existence. An Asura may remember himself as a great general leading soldiers to battle, with knowledge of numbers and technology that do not make sense given the era and the background – both of which the Asura can often pinpoint in the real world. The obvious effect of this is the Asura can also “recall” skills and knowledge that he can apply in real life. The Asura who believes himself to be a reincarnated general may find himself a master swordsman even though he had never held a blade in his actual life, not to mention a knack for leadership and tactics that would benefit him immensely in his job. Combined with their aura, it is no surprise that the Asura naturally gravitate to dominating large numbers of outsiders to their wishes – if such is their role within their Legend. For the minority of Asura who do not perceive themselves in such a way, people around him nevertheless cooperate in fulfilling whatever roles they do believe themselves to hold in their previous lives.

If such was the extent of an Asura's powers, the Inheritors and Executors would not treat them as the major threats they are. The true problem arises when memories of Legend depict events which are physically impossible, as they tend to. Epic heroes of old could topple mountains and command storms, so why can't the inheritors of their mighty souls? If he once raised a shining fortress in those hills and kept his divine armory there, why should he not be able to go today to retrieve what is rightfully his? In this case, the Legend finds more resistance from the Asura's preexisting worldview. The more an Asura personally identifies with the superhuman figure his Legend has created, the more quickly he will come into these powers. The less he does, the more wrenchingly his self-image must change when he eventually does manifests them. This can lead to insanity as the Asura's Legend and self-identity slide into perpetual warfare, and such occurrences rarely end well for himself or those around him. As for the types of abilities an Asura can gain, the variety is as wide as whatever their Legends encourage. An Asura who falls into the distressing common archetype of king or general may gain inhuman strength, vitality and beauty, coupled with the tendency to pass such traits to his offspring and the extra-physical, sympathetic “ownership” of the surrounding space. Tools and weapons he prefers may cease to function in the hands of others, and the weather and wildlife of his neighborhood will adjust themselves to better suit him. An Asura whose Legend is of a wizard or sage may instead find that the spells and rituals in the dreams work just as well in real life, and both may be able to unearth buried artifacts and awaken slumbering spirits where none had existed before. As an Asura starts manifesting tangible traits of his Legend, his surroundings are also inevitably warped by the same power. Realities transform to reflect aspects of his personal philosophy, its growth his ambition and its discord his inner conflicts. The former power he has control over and can choose what to do with them; the latter he generally cannot. Worse still are those whose Legendary ideal is something other than human – slowly, their very appearance and constitution changes to match it.

At this stage, an Asura cannot help but form a public face. It may no longer be possible for him to hold his tongue on the source of his newfound strength, if he has come to wholeheartedly accept it; and the Asura may well find a receptive audience, given the automatic effect of his presence on the people he interacts with. The effects on people who accept an Asura's Legend are more profound than acceptance of any garden-variety unusual belief. They essentially cease resisting the same reality alteration that occurs to the Asura's surroundings, replicating the primordial ambience of his dreamscape, and must internalize a very different worldview from the one they are accustomed to. Such victims are subject to the same range of responses an Asura might have to the awakening of his Legend - from wholehearted submission to violent repudiation. The former often form fanclubs or cultish "families" around the Asura, practicing forms of devotion clothed in social convention often reinforced additionally by exposure to direct applications of the Asura's Legend: having illnesses cured by "alternative" remedies that defy scientific understanding, or emotional highs brought on by the Asura's superhuman charisma. As their dependence increases, so do their power as vectors of a Legend's proliferation - in time, the closest of them may even manifest small proportions of the Asura's own powers, informed by the person's own role in the Asura's now completely transformed worldview. For an Asura, this effect is virtually impossible to avoid. A complete recluse who puts all his newfound passion and talent into a solitary hobby such as gardening will still attract wild animals offering companionship and sensitives who have never met the Asura but are nevertheless afflicted with the compulsion to seek him out. Even without action, this aspect of the Legend is fully capable of seeking release on its own. Even an Asura whose Legend depict him as a debauched monster who earns the hatred of all those he meets will attract a hard core of adherents, though they may do nothing but loathe and reject him in a manner that validates the Legend.

An Asura may give in entirely to his Legend and choose to live entirely within his fantastic re-imagining of the world - submitting to what seems to be his irrepressibly true nature. This generally poses a serious problem for the rest of the world. This type of Asura is by mundane standards entirely delusional and solipsist, but by his very existence he may eventually overwrite all of reality with his own views. Even inside the area-constrained March surrounding him, reality grows tenuous and he may well be able to pluck physical objects straight from his mindscape, ranging from impossible treasures to entire bronze-clad legions. More advanced Marches, sensing resistance, may seal themselves off from the outside altogether. These factors make it extremely dangerous for Inheritor or Executor forces to confront him directly. A more expedient option would be to infiltrate the March and manipulate the Legend's narrative from within to bring about the Asura's downfall. While it is not possible to wrest control of the Legend away from the Asura (without becoming an Asura oneself), a skilled spy may well be able to play the Asura's unstoppable and insatiable hubris against him. The infiltrator herself though risks coming under the pervasive sway of the Legend and forget - or even worse, betray - her true mission. However, most Asura maintain some sense of their present self and tend to negotiate a compromise between their inner and outer realities. One who remembers himself as a living god bestriding a savage earth may only believe himself to be its latest avatar, and quite seriously attempt to found a contemporary, tax-deductible religion around himself. His earthly headquarters may only carry faint echoes of the golden palace in his dreams, and he may refrain from instructing his followers the rites of blood sacrifice because he believes that they are no longer necessary in this age (weekend barbecues will do). Such Asura are less immediate threats to reality and the Inheritors prioritize them as such, tolerating their existence and often manipulating them into combating threats to reality which are less negotiable with.

Dissipation

With the implicit consent of the Inheritors, the March of an Asura may exist indefinitely as a little fiefdom inside reality, different but not too different. However, few Marches can remain safely stable in the face of the expansionary pressure exerted by its Legend, eventually forcing a confrontation between the Asura and the defenders of reality. Even before this becomes inevitable, an Inheritor faction may deem it more expedient to nip the Asura in the bud, or an Executor cell may find and destroy the March regardless. Unlike Tendency-coded reality incursions which tend to produce multiple spread vectors, a Legend cannot sustain itself without the existence of its central figure and its influence on reality ceases when the Asura dies or is otherwise neutralized. Depending on the state of the March, reversion may occur. The more ostensible and impermanent aspects of the March will fade away as reality asserts itself, leaving behind only objects permanently altered or created by the Asura's power. Things manifested directed from the Legend itself into reality are a borderline case: they generally do not cease to exist entirely, but will lose their function and degrade over time into reality-liminal phenomena (and sometimes further into Black Tendency glitches). This process is especially rapid if the artifact's (or creature's) working principles or logistical requirements are particularly fantastic. Special containment procedures can preserve these artifacts for further study or use while isolating their trace influence on the fading March, if the Inheritors so intend. In a similar vein, cleanup procedures conducted by Inheritor Factors such as memory alteration and physical destruction of all March-integral artifacts can greatly accelerate the end of a Legend.

There are a variety of other scenarios. In rare situations an Asura ceases to be but his Legend survives by taking root in another host. The differences in ego between any two individuals generally prevents this from occurring, as a Legend is as previously mentioned a highly personal narrative that evolves alongside the Asura and in its natural state bends all wills towards the Asura's own. Therefore, a potential successor to the Legend must be so deeply immersed in it to be at the core of the narrative, most likely the focus of the Asura's own attention. A pool of such candidates create a small possibility that the Legend will pass into one of them when the Asura is destroyed. Fortunately, such occurrences tend to be symbolically charged, making the newly-minted Asura easy to track down. An Asura created via such a method is also more vulnerable as his mind undergoes reconciliation with a Legend that imposes itself fully-formed upon him, causing consideration fluctuation in his powers and the properties of his March until an equilibrium is reached. In other cases, a successor may wrest the Legend from an extant Asura, causing extensive havoc within the March as the Legend is temporarily split between two hosts. Again, such events tend to be highly predictable in order for the narrative of the Legend to progress to this point. In the very worst case, two or more separate Asura reach a precarious consensus on the reality of their experiences; their Legends merge and reinforce each other exponentially, entrenching itself even more tenaciously into reality until all members of the circle can be neutralized via force or guile.

There is also one additional outcome, a controversial theory that not all Inheritors accept; for it raises serious questions about the threat of Asura and their own place as defenders of reality. It concerns the theoretical success of a Legend in imposing its aspects into reality as a whole. Some among the Trustees Sinister say that this has already occurred and point to their predecessors, the Inheritors of Jade, as an example. It is true that with their control over the extracosmic Estates that serve as their homes and strongholds, their possession of numerous artifacts of power which only function for those of their bloodline, their ability to manufacture countercosmic creatures to serve as servants and pets and their closely kept history of their activities in the world, a case can be made that they have at some point acquired the characteristics of Asura, either through intermarriage or subversion of a scale that today's Inheritors would find unthinkable and irresponsible. This same factor, scholars of the Inheritors would hasten to add, exacerbated the traits of hubris and decadence that necessitated the abdication of their predecessors.
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by speaker-to-trolls » Tue Jul 20, 2010 2:29 pm

Awesomes, a suitably confusing and disconcerting phenomenon for this world, fitting with the malleable nature of reality you've set up. If an Asura was relatively mundane then you would never know if he was an Asura or not, since he would have changed the world around him to accomodate his Legend. Just thinking about it for a few minutes makes you feel quite sorry for the people of this world, never being able to know what's real and what isn't, or what wasn't real, there is no such thing as objective reality! Oh God!

So do Marches conform to the normal rules of geometry or does distance tend to get a bit weird inside and around them?
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Invictus » Tue Jul 20, 2010 2:51 pm

speaker-to-trolls wrote:So do Marches conform to the normal rules of geometry or does distance tend to get a bit weird inside and around them?
Space and time inside a March can get a bit weird. Certainly, there are Marches and there are Marches; although all describe stable zones where another reality has taken hold, some are more warped than others.

As for knowing what's real and what isn't in the first place, the Inheritors say so. And the Inheritors judge what's real and what isn't because they have scale models and data held in the isolated confines of Court Terminal to compare to - mathematical axioms, quantum samples, standard physical constants and other science things. It's obviously easy to tell that one deviant reality is not this one because there's no way the Nazis could have taken over the world in the way its textbooks describe but hey, it's their universe and their working models of history, and in any case it doesn't determine which one is objectively right. And then not even these models are perfect and the Wheel-Turning Kings fill in the gaps by making it up as they go along and yes, that is part of the fundamental, existential dread of the setting. The Cakravarti do value consistency however, and if the world seems like an infinitely unpredictable and inconsistent place, it's because hardline Inheritors think they haven't done their jobs well enough.

There is one solution which I alluded to in the first post: the Inheritors think this is the real reality because they have launched many perilous expeditions and kept many deviant realities past their sell-by date to conclude that this reality is simply more complex than any other they have encountered. Even when stripped of all qualitative value as to what stuff is 'good' and what stuff is 'bad', this is the universe with the most stuff in it, and therefore the most worth saving. (and all other realities being parasitic abstractions that imitate or pervert bits of this universe but never managing to do so perfectly)
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Siege » Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:11 pm

Very interesting. I'm particularly intrigued by what would happen to borderline cases -- obviously if I'm convinced I'm an elder thing from beyond these mortal vectors of reality then I would be a serious threat to the stability of the reality surrounding me, but what if I'm simply convinced I'm an unfathomably rich and succesful but ultimately philantropic businessman? Would a giant corporate empire begin to manifest itself in this world? Hell, such Asura might actually be a net positive contribution to reality, intrusions though they might be.
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Re: Universe Concept: X999

Post by Invictus » Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:54 pm

Siege wrote:Very interesting. I'm particularly intrigued by what would happen to borderline cases -- obviously if I'm convinced I'm an elder thing from beyond these mortal vectors of reality then I would be a serious threat to the stability of the reality surrounding me, but what if I'm simply convinced I'm an unfathomably rich and succesful but ultimately philantropic businessman? Would a giant corporate empire begin to manifest itself in this world? Hell, such Asura might actually be a net positive contribution to reality, intrusions though they might be.
Skills from your Legend-self tend to manifest before the March. So if you are convinced that you were Antediluvian Andrew Carnegie, you would have long built your own giant corporate empire with your superhuman charm and financial acumen before your overflowing treasuries and pleasure domes start getting pulled into this reality outright. In the end, your March wouldn't look anything like a modern corporate empire since as a rule Legend-scapes never look modern or enlightened. The more you resist following your Asura-nature the slower the March develops, so it's not impossible to stay philanthropic in the modern sense of the word. However, as your employees grow more and more serf-like and modern economics start to break down wherever you expand into, it gets more and more tempting to grind your heel in a bit and one day, you wake up massacring cities for plunder and using people as divans.
"This explanation posits that external observation leads to the collapse of the quantum wave function. This is another expression of reactionary idealism, and it's indeed the most brazen expression."
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