Accelerating Future (working title)

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Magister Militum
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Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Thu Sep 13, 2012 1:02 am

First off, I'd like to say that it's been a long time since I dropped by. Finally finding a job, and now leaving that for an actual career in my field of study ( :mrgreen: ), have sapped a lot of my attention, among other, personal things. In that time, however, I've been busy as ever worldbuilding when I get the chance. I've decided to be much more active on O1 because I see no point in letting all my worldbuilding go to waste. And, honestly, I think O1 needs some good old fashioned worldbuilding, you know, getting back to our roots.

Which brings me to Accelerating Future. Essentially, AF is the synthesis of several distinct concepts that have been floating in my mind for the past two years or so. The project really took off after I decided to end my first great worldbuidling attempt, The Eternal Game. I had a lot of fun with that 'verse, and it did serve as a good exercise for me, but I ultimately outgrew it. Of course, I was 17 when TEG was conceptualized and I have changed considerably in those years since, so there you go. There are several ideas that I've developed an avid interest in and a desire to experiment with in a worldbuilding setting. Stuff like transhumanism, postscarcity, aternative future political and economic systems, and the technological singularity (at least when it comes to a soft singularity) are concepts that fasincate me, and I've definitely wanted to explore them after reading many radical hard SF that incorporates and explores these concepts. I've also been fascinated with galactic-scale empires, mostly because of the sheer complexity and magnitude of political complexities/intrigues of such a behemoth polity, as well as the sheer epic-scale of every facet of such an empire in order for it to operate smoothly and cohesively. Since so much science fiction that features 'galactic' empires barely qualifies at all, I decided that my next project would delve into that concept as well. Finally, there's the other favorite genre of mine for SF, new space opera, a fusion of traditional space opera with the various game-changing technologies and concepts present in more radical SF to create a universe of baroque wonders that - gasp! - occasionally has a connection to science. The Culture series and Alastair Reynolds’s works, particularly House of Suns, are prominent examples of the movement. The sheer potential of the genre is a major appeal to me and a major motivator in creating Accelerating Future. Anyway, let's talk about it, shall we?

Introduction and History

To modern eyes, it is sometime in the 60th Millennium (possibly the 100th, depending on how long civilization mucks about with lighthuggers and, later, wormholes). Transhumanity, through trial and error, managed not to completely fuck over Earth and settle/exploit Sol before stepping out into the wider universe. Through von Neumann probes, lighthuggers, and seedships it managed to push far out, encountering a multitude of alien civilizations - some equals with the transhuman polities, some well behind, and others uplifted to interstellar standards - and forming the beginnings of the transgalactic community. While colonizing quite a bit of the galaxy, interaction was limited by the lightspeed barrier, as was any meaningful attempt at large-scale interstellar polities. The wormhole gates completely transformed that paradigm, sparking a renaissance in technology, culture, and politics. True FTL, first through space warp engines, then quantum teleportation, and finally the hyperdrive, would accelerate these changes in later epochs. The polities and galactic common institutions of the Milky Way, and by this time the early colonies in the closest dwarf satellites, would become increasingly interconnected and interdependent on one another. Eventually, the great powers in the galaxy hit upon the idea of turning the transgalactic community, already a de facto union, into a de jure transgalactic federation, one that would purge the remaining red tape and act as a bulwark against threats to Civilization (the capitalization is important). Lot of people like this, but lots of other people, namely hyperimperialist empires and barbarian fiefdoms, don't since this means an end to their pillaging and conquest sprees. The Unification Wars take off, as the proto-Commonwealth fights the anti-unification alliance to the death, smashing the galaxy in the process. In the end, the last die hard opponents flee to the fringes of civilization, and the Transgalactic Commonwealth is finally formed.

The Commonwealth, referred to commonly as the Union or Civilization, has ruled for millennia (tens of millennia?) and things couldn't be better. Under its protective and nourishing umbrella, the member polities of the Commonwealth and its citizens have flourished. Postscarcity technology coupled with a universe of raw materials and energy has created tremendous levels of wealth for all sophonts, as well as facilitating cyclopean examples of megaengineering. Science and technology, along with improving the sophont form, are advancing at a breakneck pace, while the overwhelming military power of the Union keeps the peace within its borders and beyond. After a period of isolation, the Commonwealth surged forward in its exploration, colonization, and exploitation of the dwarf satellites and the Magellanic Clouds, eventually pushing to the fringes of Andromeda and now exploring the Local Supercluster and even beyond. Culturally, society is wonderfully colorful and diverse, with postbeings of titanic power at one end pushing the boundaries of science to countless permutations of nearbaselines living out an innumerable number of lifestyles at the other. Utopia is a loaded word, but things truly are semi-utopic, an oasis of prosperity in an ocean of indifference.

Since utopia where everything is 100% super is boring, there exist a multitude of problems and threats to this established order, both internally and externally. Imperialist-leaning member polities, devolved regional governments administered by overambitious governors, and insincere client and associate polities would love to expand their sphere of influence at their neighbors’ expense, or even declare outright independence and create their own would-be empires. Militant revolutionaries, terrorists, criminal syndicates, virulent fundamentalists, transgalactic conspiracies and simple psychopaths prowl the fringes of civilization, especially in the expansive Outer Rim Region. Barbarians from the galactic halo and void are a constant nuisance despite the Commonwealth's efforts to tame them, and foreign polities in Andromeda and beyond the Local Group - of which a few in the latter category can actually match the Commonwealth in a certain areas - add a new element of uncertainty. All these factions have access to potentially cyclopean quantities of resources, making them even more dangerous. And then there are those far away supercivilizations and eldritch entities so powerful that they make the Commonwealth look like a slime mold. Or those cosmic horrors so inscrutable that they drive even the most resolute person to utter madness.

Of course, there are many tools at the Union's disposal to combat these threats to Civilization. The Ministry of Public Safety, Commonwealth Intelligence Consortium, and Armed Forces of the Transgalactic Commonwealth act as the shining shield of the Union. Those aren't the only tools the Comonwealth has, however. The Deep Spacers, those famed explorers, adventurers, and diplomats of Civilization, frequently find themselves battling far-away threats to their homes beyond teh Known Universe. While typically not willing to start conflicts, they nevertheless will match wits with those that oppose the Commonwealth's ideals. Lurking in the shadows is another asset, the Commonwealth sanctioned but clandestine secret society/conspiracy known as Overwatch. Supposedly formed in the days of the proto-Commonwealth, Overwatch has but one continuous mission: the preservation of the Commonwealth and its citizens from all threats, internal and external, mundane and Outside Context. It's agents are everywhere, hiding in plain sight within the structure of militaries, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, government ministries, labs, hypercorps and economic collectives, and criminal syndicates. It's methods range from subtle diplomatic actions and conflict resolution to military intervention and planetary sterilization. While not the most pleasant entity, they have saved the Commonwealth more times than its citizens know.

The universe is dangerously indifferent and not for the timid, but exciting to explore and truly bountiful in its riches. The Commonwealth and her people are eagerly accelerating their interactions with the greater universe regardless of what lurks out there, confident that, together with new found friends, they can defend their oasis of prosperity from vigorous opposition and enter into a new, perpetual golden age.

Notes

Accelerating Future is essentially the story of the Commonwealth, her institutions and internal factions, and her people thrusting themselves into the wider universe, encountering friends, enemies, and who knows what else. They're optimistic and idealistic, but they're coming to realize that not everyone happens to share the same ideals as the Union; some are very much diametrically opposed to such annoying Commonwealth concepts as sophont rights, egalitarianism, technoprogressivism, autonomy, and, most dangerous of all, self-determination. The Commonwealth strives to live up to its ideals and routinely espouses them in order to create an intergalactic community of like minded polities, but is perfectly willing to play utterly ruthless hardball and kick people's teeth in if it’s well being is threatened. This apparent contradiction is not lost of people, and is a source of resentment among many who feel that the Commonwealth is betraying its principles at times. This ultimately ties into the recurring question of how far can a benevolent society violate its own ethics and ideals in order to ensure peace and prosperity (more on that later).

As far as themes go, there are many at work here. Among the many themes I hope to explore are:
  • Idealism vs. Realpolitik: How is it possible to balance political/social ideals with the blunt realities of the outside universe?
  • Life in a postscarcity society: If everyone's material needs are fully met, what do people strive for in life?
  • Transhumanism: If death is the equivalent in severity to a broken limb thanks to backup technology, how to people react to risky situations? If people can routinely switch from biological, robotic, and information-based bodies at will, then what truly counts as a sophont individual? If someone splits their minds into distinct, sapient components and does not merge them back, what happens to continuity of conscience?
Now, as for stories, there's a lot of potential here. Obviously, exploration and discovery are major currents running through Accelerating Future, and I definitely hope to explore that. The Deep Spacers, which come in many varieties, in particular espouse that feeling, and they have significant potential in terms of stories. Isolated from the home galaxies, the Deep Spacers plow through the universe in their cyclopean Deep Space Exploratory Vehicles (my version of a Culture GSV), a combination exploration ship, manufactory, worldship, and, as a last resort, warship, encountering strange new civilizations and interacting with them, establishing independent colonies to spread Local Group-based life, and discovering fantastic relics of supertechnology that litter the universe. There's a definite Star Trek vibe with the Deep Spacers. The activities of Overwatch would be another major source of storytelling potential, as they run around diffusing regional crises that could very well doom the Commonwealth. It could be something as simple as stopping a would-be galactic conqueror to trying to deal with a hypertechnological artifact that's traveling to the Milky Way for unknown reasons. The politics of running the Commonwealth would be interesting to explore as well. Many of the constituent polities of the Union have their own agenda, and it ultimately falls on the Commonwealth to ensure no one goes completely out of line. Finally, there's the military. While this is not military SF and the military is not a central focus as it is in, say, the Honorverse, there would definitely be opportunities for military-centric short stories, especially since, at the scale we're talking about, there's bound to be tons of comparatively small-scale conflict.

Well, that about it for now. Next, I'll probably go into detail as to the workings of the Transgalactic Commonwealth; I have a monster of an article on it that needs a bit of a polishing up that should provide a general overview of the Commonwealth (specificalities would come in later articles). After that, maybe something on the deep spacers, Overwatch, and transophontism. A rough primer on some common elements of Accelerating Future might also be in order.
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Germania your game is through, now you're gonna answer to... The Freestates! Fuck Yeah! Now lick my balls and suck on my cock! Freestates, Fuck Yeah! Coming in to save the motherfuckin' day! Rock and roll, fuck yeah! Television, fuck yeah! DVDs, fuck yeah! Militums, fuck yeah! - Shroomy

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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Booted Vulture » Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:13 pm

yay! World building: The lost art.

Certainly some good detail there. Again you've gone for a very 'big' setting. So you've got lots of room to do different stuff in. Which is cool. And Commonwealths are always good.
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Invictus » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:09 pm

Very much interested in seeing more of this.
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Heretic » Fri Sep 14, 2012 10:25 pm

A post-scarcity, transhumanist near-utopia that actually have part of its population resenting its ideological imperialism? The fact that the Commonwealth isn't the only big fish in the bond, and every other "barbarian" fringe group might have a chance?

I'm listening.
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Sat Sep 15, 2012 7:21 am

First off, thanks for all your support. I've put a lot of time into Accelerating Future and I'm glad people are enjoying it.

Heretic: While that's probably a cynical view of the setting - it is supposed to be mostly optimisitc, after all -, you're closer to the truth than you realize. In many ways, they're like the Culture in regards to their foreign policy, which is both good and bad for many reasons. As for the barbarians, an explanation is in order. Very briefly, the barbarians that inhabit the galactic halo and roam the intergalactic void are made up of two groups, the degenerate decendants of those that fought in the Unification Wars and the xenophobic, autocratic natives that are vehemently hostile to galactic civilization. Altogether, they are not nice people, and prefer to launch opportunistic raids and cause chaotic damage than open relations with the Commonwealth. While some groups are trying to better understand and communicate with them, there's frankly too much bad blood for any immediate reconciliation and integration.

Now let's talk about a group that has come to endear itself to me, the Deep Spacers. Broadly speaking, the Deep Spacers are a group of explorers and adventurers with a mandate to explore the universe and its associated realms. More specifically, this includes, beyond the obvious exploration part, setting up independent colonies (which can take on some really radical forms), scouting for hypertechnological relics, establishing first contact with new civilizations, and other assorted duties. Deep Spacers are an ancient metaculture that spans tens of millennia. Originally, they plowed through the galaxy with lighthuggers, establishing sublight travel routes and facilitating the transfer of technology and ideas in an age when the lightspeed barrier made that a near impossiblity. Advances in technology allowed for greater adventuring and travel for the Deep Spacers until they reached their current state.

Deep Spacers have been heavily romanticised and even mythologized by the public due to their exploits. They push the boundries of Civilization's reach and knowledge, encounter exotic new civilizations and technologies, and battle fiendish foes. The latter view of the Deep Spacers is by far the most famous image among non-Spacers. With some exceptions, most Deep Spacer factions don't activity pick fights, even if they have enormous amounts of power available to them if they apply to warmaking. However, so far away and isolated from the nuturing protection of the home galaxies, all Deep Spacer factions realize the need for self-defense. In addition, their isolated presence on the frontier necesistates them to occasionally take up arms to defend their homes, knowing that no one else is remotely close enough to counter any rising threats. Many have lost their lives in those incidents, but the Deep Spacers have been credited with thwarting the malicious intentions of many hostile groups beyond the Known Universe, either through their collective action (essentially acting as an ersatz military) or by rallying friendly native groups to oppose their mutual enemies, in effect creating micro-scale alliances in the name of the Commonwealth. Deep Spacers, unfortunately, have also been somewhat viewed with suspicion by those who believe that they have been corrupted by eldritch hypertechnology and postxenos. While this is not common, it has occasionally occurred when overeager or overambitious Deep Spacers interfere with things out of the depth. While some most commonly go completely insane, others have been turned into grotesque abominations or, worse yet, made into unwilling agents for some cosmic horror. For its part, Overwatch has managed to keep the latter incidents from spiraling out of control, though no one is completely sure how many close calls the Commonwealth has had.

The Deep Spacer factions are several. Generally speaking, they can be divided into the following groups:

Blue Spacers: Blue Spacers are the patriotic wing of the Deep Spacer metaculture. Viewing the exploration of the universe as instrinsicly linked with the well-being with the Commonwealth, Blue Spacers undertake their duties in the name of and benefit of the Commonwealth. They can be divided between those Spacers under the authority of the Commonwealth Navy's Exploratory Starfleet and those that are independent but are allied or affiliated with the Union. Of all the factions, Blue Spacers are most likely to kick all kinds of comsic horror ass that pose some kind of threat to the Commonwealth. At the same time, however, they take their duties of acting as political and cultural emmisaries very seriously. Blue Spacers include some of the brightest and most capable scientists, diplomats, astronauts, engineers, explorers, and colonists available to the Commonwealth. Being fully backed by the Commonwealth Government and its executive ministries and bureaux, the Blue Spacers enjoy effectively unlimited resources, as well as support from the Navy, Ministry of Colonization, Diplomatic Ministry, and NGOs such as the Consortium for Universal Analysis. Overwatch is believed to be active within the Blue Spacers, mostly to get the jump on alien hypertech and postxenos that might be a threat, though to what extent is unknown. Ultimately, all their actions can be traced to their higher goal of aiding the Commonwealth, which other Deep Spacers do not view as that great of a thing.

Red Spacers: Like Blue Spacers, Red Spacers also act as a political manifestation of the Deep Spacer culture. In their case, however, the Red Spacers represent the ideals of Autonomist polities of the Union, a collection of radical technosocialists, communists, anarchists, and ousters. Deep Spacer and Autonomist ideologies, as it turns out, meld very well together; the freedom that the void provides is very much in line with the Autonomist concept of individual sovereignty. The ousters and anarchists in particular embrace the Freedom of the Void, though they differ as to what that actually means. Red Spacers view it as their imperative to ensure the flourishing of their memes across the universe. This includes promoting Autonomist memes in new civilizations, establishing relations with newly-contacted polities that share similar ideals, and forming Autonomist colonies that will ensure their peaceful expansion across the universe. Red Spacers, more than any other faction, utterly loathe the Black Spacers, and while relations with the Blue Spacers are cordial - some crossover between the two, such as Blue Spacers that are anarchists, is quite common -, more radical Red Spacers are suspicious of the more nationalistic Blue Spacers. The Red Spacers are known to be backed by several Autonomist organizations and collectives, including the Institute of Cosmic Exploration, the Pan-Autonomist Spaceflight Syndicate, and the Autonomist Solidarity. They are nominally supported by the Transgalactic Commonwealth, though rumors that Public Safety and Commonwealth Intelligence keeps an eye on them to ensure they stay 'honest' (read: not overly zealous and militant) circulate.

White Spacers: Non-political, non-government, independent Deep Spacers. White Spacers do not follow any overriding ideology or meme like the Red or Blue Spacers and aren't murderous psychopaths like the Black Spacers. Rather, they are a hodgepodge of different groups that band together though their mutual commonality of not belonging to another group. White Spacers are the most diverse bunch of the Deep Spacers, including just about every other faction, meme, and metaculture. Some are supported by independent scientific groups such as the Camberas Society, others by member-polities/dependencies/associates of the Commonwealth, independent polities, hypercorps and economic collectives, and ideological organizations. As such, their motivations and goals can be wildly different, from purely scientific to self-serving. Naturally, internal conflict is common among White Spacers, but at the same time are more than willing to help one another out in the name of solidarity.

Black Spacers: Violent, imperialistic, bigoted explorers, Black Spacers are every negative stereotype of explorers wrapped in one neat package. Black Spacers believe that the freedom of the universe grants them the birthright to carve out their own narcotic utopias of despotism and tyranny from innocent worlds. Their high level of augmentations has given them an arrogant belief that they are the pinnacle of evolution and thus have the right to subjugate their lessers. Like all spacers, Black Spacers spend most of the time living on spacecraft, which further inflates their prejudices against the flatworlder masses. Most Black Spacers are affiliated with various Alphanaut factions and are considered their expeditionary and colonization wing. They are known for committing repeated crimes against sophance in their pursuit of domination, including but not limited to: slavery, genocide, involuntary bodily modifications, egonapping, and use of strategic weapons on civilian population centers. The Commonwealth maintains a kill on sight bounty for all known Black Spacers and are actively hunted down by the Navy. Luckily, military action and infighting has whittled their numbers down, but they will always be a threat.

Deep Spacers don't really have much use for planets, moons, or stationary habitats. Typically, they live within their massive Deep Space Exploratory Vehicles (DSEV) for years and decades at a time. Spending all their time in deep space also has necessitated extensive levels of augmentations. Most Deep Spacers are heavily cyberized - cybernetics are viewed as more durable than biomods or nanosymbiots - and feature major adaptations to space and starship life. Genegineering and nanotech augmentations have their place, mostly to complement cybernetics, though some Deep Spacers make heavier use of them. Alternatively, some Deep Spacers abandon their biological forms and instead sleeve into a synthetic body, or synthmorph. Others will progressively cyberize themselves until only the (partially organic) brain remains. All this has definitely colored their culture; stationary life is considered way to boring for Deep Spacers, and many would question the reliance on biology over synthetic components. Conversely, Deep Spacers, for all their romantication by the public, might find a hard time relating to non-Deep Spacers.

The premier choice for travel by the Deep Spacers is their deep space exploratory vehicles. Massive spacecraft, DSEV tend to measure in the 300 kilometer range, not including their fields, and weigh quintillions of tons. Being hybrid exploration ships/worldcraft/manufactories/warcraft, DSEVs are some of the most multifaceted starcraft in existence. This is aided in large part by their ability to use their internal manufactories and self-repair abilities to reconfigure themselves at a moment's notice, switching from a worldcraft carrying billions to a warship capable of destroying planets with little difficulty. Given the fact that Deep Spacers will often be isolated for prolonged periods of time, DSEVs are built to be versatile, self-sufficient, and accommodating for their crew. Hyperspace taps provide effectively unlimited energy, while either GUT engines or reactionless gravitic engines provide sublight travel without the worry of reaction mass. The internal manufactories can produce anything needed by the crew, even up to individual starships, and can be fed by either the ship's rawmat supplies or a random asteroid field. Crew comforts are especially important, and can be seen with the many creature comforts within a DSEV. Fully functioning and diverse biospheres, either within the ship's volume or project within an external field, provide a much needed sense of escape for passengers and crew, while stadiums, parks, amusement centers, simulated reality parlors, and other facilities provide recreation. While makers can provide all the food needs of the crew, it is common to use hydroponic and meat vat farms to provide additional food. If configured in its worldcraft mode for mass colonization, a DSEV can comfortably hold billions within its volumes.


And, I suppose that's it for now given how tired I am. This is a rather crude write up of a more in-depth Deep Spacer article, but it serves its purpose in regards to getting across an idea about them. Up next, I'll talk about the Commonwealth proper.
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Germania your game is through, now you're gonna answer to... The Freestates! Fuck Yeah! Now lick my balls and suck on my cock! Freestates, Fuck Yeah! Coming in to save the motherfuckin' day! Rock and roll, fuck yeah! Television, fuck yeah! DVDs, fuck yeah! Militums, fuck yeah! - Shroomy

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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Siege » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:01 pm

This sounds very promising indeed. I'm seeing some overlap with TEG, and certainly with the Culture. Personally I hope to see more of the former than the latter, but that's just me :).

Question about Spacers: does the fact that they were big into lighthuggers back in the day mean that maybe amongst those guys there are people who due to the magic of relativistic travel still remember the early days of space exploration? Perhaps they set out tens of thousands of years ago, and to them they barely set up shop in the galactic halo when the first hyperspacers showed up with their fancy tech. In which case they might be the galactic equivalent of cranky old codgers going 'git off mah lawn!'... Well not quite, but you get what I'm getting at I'm sure ;).
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:41 pm

Siege wrote:This sounds very promising indeed. I'm seeing some overlap with TEG, and certainly with the Culture. Personally I hope to see more of the former than the latter, but that's just me :).
Thanks. As I mentioned, the Culture is a major inspiration for me, but not the only one. There's a significant amount of influences from Star Trek, Star Wars, Revelation Space, Eclipse Phase, and the GURPS supplements (mostly for flavor). Of course, TEG is always going to be an influence, but they're are major differences. For starters, the whole space imperialism angle is mostly missing, and the conventional politics of TEG is replaced in AF by much more supermodern and emerging political structures, such as cyberdemocracy, participatory democracy, anarchism, technocracies, AIcracies, and I'm sure many others. More traditional (through our perspective) institutions, such as parliamentary democracy and various economic models, would come to adapt to new technologies. Remember, Accelerating Future is also meant to serve as an analysis of emergent technologies and socio-political movements and how they might work. You can't do that if politics are exactly the same as they were a hundred thousand years ago.
Question about Spacers: does the fact that they were big into lighthuggers back in the day mean that maybe amongst those guys there are people who due to the magic of relativistic travel still remember the early days of space exploration? Perhaps they set out tens of thousands of years ago, and to them they barely set up shop in the galactic halo when the first hyperspacers showed up with their fancy tech. In which case they might be the galactic equivalent of cranky old codgers going 'git off mah lawn!'... Well not quite, but you get what I'm getting at I'm sure ;).
While I'm not sure about them arriving through hyperspace - depending on the as of yet undefined rate of technological improvement, it might have been with very advanced warp engines or quantum teleporters -, that's pretty much what happened, both to the Deep Spacers and others that roamed around in high relativistic spacecraft. The oldest of the Deep Spacers are absolutely ancient, especially given how durable they are as total conversion cyborgs or synthmorphs. That also tends to be one of the reasons why some of them can be so culturally ossified at times
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Germania your game is through, now you're gonna answer to... The Freestates! Fuck Yeah! Now lick my balls and suck on my cock! Freestates, Fuck Yeah! Coming in to save the motherfuckin' day! Rock and roll, fuck yeah! Television, fuck yeah! DVDs, fuck yeah! Militums, fuck yeah! - Shroomy

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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Invictus » Thu Sep 20, 2012 4:03 pm

Granted I don't have a strong sense of the general tech level so far, but it seems pretty high so far. I particularly want to know how FTL communication functions in this universe. Does its limitations help create the isolation of the Deep Spacers, or has it more to do with the sheer distance the Deep Spacers go away from civilization? Also, what kind of crazy postalien hypertech are we talking about here to be remarkable discoveries in a place like the Commonwealth?
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:00 pm

Granted I don't have a strong sense of the general tech level so far, but it seems pretty high so far. I particularly want to know how FTL communication functions in this universe. Does its limitations help create the isolation of the Deep Spacers, or has it more to do with the sheer distance the Deep Spacers go away from civilization?
Bit of both, really. Within the Commonwealth, communication is effectivey instantaneous due to the pervasive cybersphere. Outside of its borders, it depends on where you are at. Farther you go out, the longer the time lag until you're effectively on your own, at least for hyperwave. Now, wormhole comms and, at the cost of massive bandwidth, quantum entanglers do provide instant communications regardless of distance, but they come with limits. The isolation comes from the sheer distance and removal from their familar civilization than anything else. What good is being able to phone home if by the time help arrives you've been long dead?
Also, what kind of crazy postalien hypertech are we talking about here to be remarkable discoveries in a place like the Commonwealth?
Utterly rediculous hyertech, like a nonfunctioning Tipler Cylinder or a high-end metric tampering machinary (read: spacetime engineering). Most of the stuff was built by long-dead civilizations that doesn't work anymore, but the Deep Spacers will jump at the chance of studying a relic for further insights. Finding a functioning one would be the holy grail of the Deep Spacers. It's important to note that the setting is built around the concept of mundane miracles. Your average sophont is surrounded by tech that we consider miraculous but is utterly common for them. It takes some real Godtech to make them perk up. I need a tech article to better describe that.


Anyways, here's an introduction to the staring polity of Accelerating Future. Personally, I think the article needs a bit more tweaking before it goes gold, so to speak, but it gets a rough idea about the Commonwealth across. In the future, I'll probably be adding in more in-universe quotes for flavor in order to make if feel like an in-universe article. How I envision this article is that it will serve as a general introduction to the Commonwealth in a 'Transgalactic Commonwealth' thread. Subsequent articles will cover the Commonwealth Government, the President of the Union, the constituent polities, and the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth.


Transgalactic Commonwealth

The Transgalactic Commonwealth is the name given to the “state manifestation of the existing social, societal, political, economic, and interstate community and perpetual union of transgalactic civilization” (Article I, Section I of the Basic Law of the Transgalactic Commonwealth). Commonly referred to as the Transgalactic Union or Transgalactic Republic, the Commonwealth is the transcendent body politic of the Southern Group and the Local Group as a whole, having successfully absorbed or dismantled all other forms of competition in history.

Government

The Transgalactic Commonwealth is officially a federal cyberdemocratic parliamentary republic. It contains multiple levels of government, including the federal government – the Commonwealth Government – and her devolved regional governments, the semi-sovereign and autonomous member polities - the sovereignties -, and their institutions, the innumerable dependencies under the aegis of the Commonwealth or the sovereignties, and the not-fully independent client and associate polities of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government is the official name of the federal government that heads the Union. It consists of the entirely of the executive body of the Commonwealth, i.e, the President of the Commonwealth – the head of state – the General Minister – the head of government – and the Executive Committee, the various all-Commonwealth ministries and bureaux, and the devolved regional governments. Limiting itself to issues of all-Commonwealth importance and impact, the Commonwealth Government oversees such issues as pan-Commonwealth diplomacy, inter-sovereignty disputes, defense, resource allocation, universal exploration and colonization, large-scale infrastructure and megaengineering projects, and the establishment of uniform standards. Despite rulings over billions of worlds and octillions of citizens, the Commonwealth Government is a surprisingly lean organ. Extensive automation and the use of AI networks for day to day operations and societal maintenance make a massive bureaucracy pointless, while personal augmentation, the datasphere, telepresence, and ubiquitous computing with massive processing power have made civil servants highly efficient and productive in their duties.

By far the most important organ of the Commonwealth is the unicameral Parliament of the Sovereignties in Congress Assembled, frequently shortened to Parliament. Like all other aspects of the Union, Parliament originated from the various assemblies, senates, and parliaments that existed among the interstellar and galactic institutions of the pre-Commonwealth era. Enjoying parliamentary supremacy, Parliament is the supreme organ of governance in the Transgalactic Union, its importance and authority trumping that of all other major organs. Each sovereignty is granted one Member of Parliament, elected to five year terms according to broad Commonwealth standards. In addition, dependent polities and Associates of the Union are frequently granted the right to representation within Parliament, particularly if an issue emerges that directly effects their volume of space. Parliament is a cyberdemocratic institution, with all meetings occurring online in the cybersphere. A massively redundant computer network ensures that Parliament and the Government are always kept functioning, with progressively less advanced but harder to disable computing substrates and communication networks, some of which are practically Neolithic in sophistication, providing backup should the primary hardened networks fail. The processing power and speed provided to Parliament by meeting in a simspace has proven especially invaluable during times of crises, when rapid response and decision making are vital. In addition, the online nature of Parliament conveniently sidesteps the issues involving in managing such a massive legislative body.

The head of state of the Commonwealth and the most important of the Executives of the Union is the President, sometimes known as the Chancellor or Consul depending on linguistic conventions (the Presidency attempts to rectify the confusion by officially styling the title of the head of state as the President, Chancellor, and Consul of the Transgalactic Commonwealth, a bombastic title that appears only in the most formal and ceremonial of documents). Like Parliament, the Presidency is a child born of compromise with regards to the nature of the head of state. The President is elected by popular vote among the citizens of the Commonwealth for a theoretically unlimited number of five standard year terms, as desired by the Federalist faction. To appease the Autonomist and Parliamentary factions, the President upon election would be required to always maintain the basic confidence of Parliament. Failure to do so would result in their resignation and a new round of elections. How long a President can stay in power has varied immensely throughout the ages; some Presidencies have lasted for decades, while others have only lasted for weeks. As head of state, the President serves as chief of state, supreme commander-in-chief, and the highest ranking diplomat of the Executive branch. The President chairs weekly meetings of the Executive Committee alongside the General Minister, and oversees all issues of pan-Commonwealth importance. The President is assisted in their duties by a Vice President and the Privy Council, a collection of advisors headed by the Chief Advisor of the Council. Traditionally, the Chief Advisor has always been a hyperintelligent AGI of a S3 rating or above.

The General Minister of the Commonwealth is the head of government and chief administrator and civil servant of the Commonwealth Government. In contrast to the President, the General Minister is appointed by the head of state and confirmed by Parliament. Typically, the General Minister is the leader of the coalition or dominant party of the coalition that the President belongs to, though technocrats have been appointed at times. The General Minister is the head of the Executive Committee, a governing body consisting of the heads of the ministries (i.e, Diplomatic Ministry, Ministry of Public Safety, Energy Ministry), heads of independent executive agencies and bureaux (Office of Resource Allocation, Commonwealth Intelligence Consortium), and Ministers without Portfolios. The General Minister is responsible to both Parliament and the President, and can be sacked alongside their government if Parliament passes a vote of no confidence or if the President feels it necessary (though the President will never do so if Parliament approves of the General Minister, lest a constitutional crisis emerge). At times, the President and General Minister have developed a strong relationship, with the latter acting as the chief implementer of Presidential decisions and micromanaging government operations. In other cases, however, such as cohabitation, the General Minister will act as a sort of second head of state, acting as a powerful check on the Presidency.

The basic building block of the Commonwealth is the sovereignty, the official term for the wildly different member-states that form it. Most of the original sovereignties in the Milky Way were founding members of the Commonwealth or joined it at a later date, with new sovereignties being carved from colonized regions of space sufficiently developed to stand as independent polities. What a sovereignty is or is not can vary immensely – some are anarchist confederations that encompass millions of star systems, while others are democratic technocracies based on a cluster of stellar brains. Democracies of some sort –, parliamentary, cyber, demarchic, and council, to name some of the most popular – are the most common type of government, though many more types can be found, ranging from elective constitutional monarchies to group mind collectives to small scale federations, confederations, and alliances. While the Basic Law and other Primordial Laws do not specifically ban certain types of governments, those that are not friendly to sophont rights will almost always run afoul of the Basic Law, Charter of Universal Rights, and other Primordial Laws, as do more autocratic polities that do not feature a high enough Sophont Development Index, full civil rights, and other safeguards.

For the most part, sovereignties enjoy broad rights, including the right to organize their society based on popular consensus, manage internal affairs, and raise a security force. Many of the old institutions that united the sovereignties prior to the Commonwealth still exist in some capacity. The Autonomist Solidarity, once the preeminent alliance among autonomist polities, continues on, as does the Core Union and the United States of the Crown Colonies. These interstellar and galactic institutions carry out many duties on behalf of the Commonwealth, such as resource allocation, though the Government has the ultimate right to intervene. Despite their autonomy, the sovereignties are still subordinate to the body politic that is the Union. The Commonwealth is a hyperpower and a federation, and all laws passed by Parliament or Government edicts are universally binding. Even the Great Powers among the sovereignties, resting at the center of a constellation of territories, associate polities, and industrial-military might, cannot resist Commonwealth authority for a significant period of time. Sovereignties that violate Commonwealth laws or sophont rights, sponsor terrorism, or even invade other polities are subject to check by the awesome military might of the Union, and can suffer embarrassing occupation, regime change or even outright dissolution.

While the sovereignties make up a substantial portion of the polities under the Union, a large number of polities within the Commonwealth are not enfranchised or self-governing. The Organized Unincorporated Areas, as they are officially known, are, broadly speaking, junior dependent polities that fall under the aegis and administration of either the Commonwealth Government itself – via the responsible devolved government and Ministry – or a particular sovereignty as authorized by Parliament. Compared to the federated, enfranchised, and semi-sovereign sovereignties, the Organized Unincorporated Areas, or simply the Internal Areas, are not sovereign or fully autonomous. Internal Areas can cover many different types of polities. Traditionally, the most common type of Internal Area is the historically small, immature, and dependent polities that fill the volumes of the Commonwealth. While constituting a minority of the Union’s population and economic productivity, their sheer number – outnumbering sovereignties by a factor of 30 – makes them one of the most numerous types of polities. These dependent polities are often governed as a mandate, held in trust and administrated by either the Commonwealth Government – through the appropriate devolved government and colonial administration – or a particular sovereignty via an Act of Parliament. Beyond the mandates, there also exist colonies under Commonwealth administration (currently the most numerous), insular areas, codominions and the Non-Self Governing Territories, territories under the control of the sovereignties themselves. All the Internal Areas can be the recipient of an Organic Act passed by Parliament that elevates them to sovereignty status if they meet certain criteria and their population desires it through a referendum.

The last major component of the Commonwealth is the External Areas, the not-fully independent polities that exist outside the Commonwealth’s borders. These polities include the Client Polities, those independent polities that have naturally fallen into the sphere of influence of the Union, and the Associate Polities, those that have signed a treaty of association with the Commonwealth in exchange for certain benefits. While technically independent, in reality the Clients and Associates of the Union were intrinsically interconnected with the Commonwealth and her components on a political and economic level, either de jure, as in the case of the Associates, or de facto, as in the case of the Clients. Like the sovereignties and the dependent polities, their scope, power, and structure could vary significantly; some Associates and Clients, such as the 4th Empire and the Extropian Free Volumes, are great powers in their own right, for example. External Areas typically surrender certain prerogatives or grant the Commonwealth special rights, such as the right to establish military bases or assume control of their militaries, in exchange for beneficial arrangements with the Commonwealth Government.

Culture and Memetics

It is difficult to paint a broad picture of Commonwealth culture, mostly because, strictly speaking, a pan-Commonwealth culture does not technically exist. Indeed, having such a monochrome civilization would run contrary to the spirit of the Commonwealth. Instead, it is a staggeringly diverse polyculture, an agglomeration of countless cultures, lifestyles, and memes that frequently and constantly blend into one another as people experiment with new ideas. At one extreme, there are god-like AGIs, hive minds, group minds, and postbeings of potentate power, conducting projects of grand scope. At the other extreme are the teeming masses of nearbaselines living out a similarly infinite number of lifestyles. Tastes in fashion, cuisine, music, art, architecture, etc. are frequently copied, merged, creoled, and coped again. New discoveries in the universe frequently find their way into Commonwealth culture, creating a wave of ‘alien vogue’ in many regions and altering many other cultures as they are assimilated into the greater polyculture.

Despite this polycultural society, large scale trends do emerge. Given enough time, these trends can alter society in highly unexpected ways. It is important to stress, though, that, like the government, these cultural shifts are of a cyclical nature; what might be popular now could radically change in a few thousand years before returning to the standard deviation once again due to social inertia. There have been periods of time in which uploading, simulated reality, and egocasting became highly popular, while others saw a greater collectivist outlook that resulted in vast communal works projects, such as an unprecedented expansion in fixed FTL transit over independent starships. Even the government is not immune to these trends; in some eras, ministries have been replaced by colleges run by secretaries, or commissions run by high commissioners, while the nature and structure of the federal government and the military also change, for example. No matter how radical the cultural shift, society always seems to find a way back to its comfortable, stable center.

While there are millions of official languages in use, the most notable of this assortment is Commonwealth Standard. An artificially constructed language, Standard was based on the idea of creating a language that would be both easy to understand and use. Standard’s grammatical rules are relatively straightforward and concise, and can be picked up by most sophonts relatively quickly. While Standard is taught during a sophont’s formative years and most citizens have at least a basic, conversational knowledge of it, it’s most active users tend to be those whose professions or hobbies result in widespread travel and interaction with a large number of diverse cultures, namely soldiers, civil servants and politicians, businessbeings, explorers, and troubleshooters.

Physiology

The Transgalactic Commonwealth is massively diverse when it comes to sophont species and clades. The Union encompasses thousands of distinct sophont species, ranging from elder species that are highly pervasive, such as humans and avercyaens, to budding interstellar species that were socially and technologically uplifted in order join the transgalactic community. Transophontism – the modification of the baseline form through cybernetics, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, psychosurgury, and pharmacology – is extremely popular and common among the various member species, and it shows; the number of distinct sub-species, or clades, for even one species can be utterly immense.

Of all the possible chemistries available for the formation of sophont life, the most common within the Union is that of carbon-based life that makes use of water and oxygen due to it being the easiest biochemistry to evolve complex life in and develop technology in. Other types of chemistries, however, are not uncommon. Sophonts whose biochemistries are based on ammonia, hydrogen, chlorine, sulfur, silicones, hydrocarbons, and others exist within the Commonwealth to various extents. While convergent evolution means that many species develop analogues to legs, arms, fingers, wings, heads, eyes, etc. due to their optimal design, evolution also guarantees that there will be many wonderfully diverse body plans, features, and abilities among sophont species based on the particularities of a species’ environment and cosmic events; there just as many ‘alien’ sophonts as there are ‘humanoid’ (as in two arms and legs, one head, bipedal design) sophonts.

As previously mentioned, most sophonts will modify themselves with technology for various purposes, creating a wide array of sub-species, or clades. In addition, the ability to back up a sophont’s conscience, run it on a computing substrate, or transfer it to a new body is freely available and quite common, with countless types of bodies, known as morphs, available. Indeed, this dizzying array of morphs and clades can overwhelm some individuals, which is why the Commonwealth has standardized morph and clades into several distinct categories.

• Biomorph: Strictly speaking, biomorphs are any morph or clade that consists primarily of biological components, with cybernetics and dry nanotechnology providing complementary – and often times significant - augmentation. Biomorphs can run from the unassuming and restrained, such as a nearbaseline morph with only modest enhancement, to the exotic and bleeding edge. While weaker in terms of such qualities as durability, strength, reaction time, etc. compared to synthmorphs, genegineernig, cybernetics, and supporting technology has done much to shrink the gap. In addition, many sophonts find a biological form to be familiar and comforting, usually keeping one for everyday use. Clades that are categorized as biomorphic include nearbaselines, parasophonts (biomorphs spliced with foreign DNA), bioroids/pods, uplifts, ultimates, neogens (uniquely designed lifeform), and others. Biomorphs can either be grown as a whole organism or as modular components fused together (such as with bioroids). Cyborgs tend to be viewed as a separate designator that can be attached to any particular clade or morph. Some of the most high end biomorphs tend to be biosynthetic morphs with considerable cybernetic components. Total conversion cyborgs tend to blur the line with synthmorphs.

• Synthmorph: A synthetic morph, or synthmorph, is a fully robotic morph with no biological components. Proponents of synthmorphs ague that they provide significantly greater benefits than purely biological or biosynthetic morphs, such as greater strength, durability, sensory capabilities, and no dependence on eating, sleeping, or breathing. Synthmorphs are perhaps even more diverse than biomorphs, including such clades as androids, mechanoids, von Neumanns, nanomorphs, total conversion cyborgs (debatable), biomechanoids (aka, cybrids), sophont spacecraft, and others.

• Infomorph: Also known as digital intelligences, infomorphs are those morphs that existed solely as information in a computing substrate. Freed from the dependence on physical forms, infomorphs can take on whatever form they choose within cyberspace and have near-God like powers within ‘inner space’ depending on the processing power at their disposal. If necessary, infomorphs can remotely operate or download themselves into a physical avatar of whatever type they choose. Infomorphs can include expert systems (non-sophont), AGIs, and uploads.


Economy and Industry

Given cornucopia technology, access to the superabundant raw materials and energy of the universe, von Neumann probes, and superintelligent expert systems, it is of little surprise that the Commonwealth as a whole operates an effective postscarcity economy. The average citizen is tremendously wealthy and enjoys an unparalleled standard of living compared to past ages. All the basic needs of the citizenry and even goods once considered to be extreme luxuries are freely provided through either a generous daily stipend of raw materials and energy or through common manufactories. Those items that are truly scarce, such as land, additional resources, novelty goods, and modern luxuries, are distributed depending on the politics of the sovereignties; some polities make use of a market economy, while others have abandoned fiat money for reputation, technosocialist, or energy economics. The same superabundance of wealth and material resources that has massively enriched society has also allowed the Commonwealth to undertake truly cyclopean cosmic engineering projects that bind its realms together and create a vast defense establishment without equal in quantity and quality. Such is the level of wealth available to a type III civilization. While scarcity still exists for the collective whole – there will always be resource and production bottlenecks, particularly in exotic technologies -, scarcity for the individual is nothing more than a bad dream.

The liberation from the dependence of working for survival and modern technology has dramatically changed the nature of employment. The difference between an intensive hobby and a career has blurred to the point of irrelevance, as citizens choose to work in areas they are truly passionate about. Dirty and undesirable but necessary jobs are managed by AIs and bots to free up sophonts to pursue their interests. Those that work frequently modify themselves and sleeve into a morph suited for their profession, or simply remote operate a bioshell or synthshell from an office or home. The use of AR overlays and simulated reality environments are ubiquitous, often eliminating traditional offices in the process as whole departments or even businesses feature virtual facilities. Additional wealth beyond that which is freely provided is awarded to those that contribute to society in the private and public sector. While it is inefficient to provide employment to sophonts who wish for it compared to simply automating the entire process, the hyperproductivity and efficiency of the economy easily absorbs the costs of providing work and remuneration for said work.

As previously mentioned, scarcity for the individual is no more, but scarcity for the whole still does. Rather than being focused on limited supply of goods, however, scarcity for the Commonwealth comes in the form of the monstrous but fixed quantities of raw materials and energy it has at any given moment. While the sovereignties have the right to organize their economy as they see fit, the Commonwealth ultimately assumes responsibility for resource allocation in matters that affect the Union as a whole. The Office of Resource Planning is the primary institution that handles the macroeconomic planning of the all-Commonwealth services. Through its enormously powerful computer networks and the raw processing power of its hyperintelligent infomorphs, the ORP can estimate production levels and resource needs for Commonwealth industry and projects to a precise degree, as well as account for potential pitfalls, such as resource or production bottlenecks. The regional galactic institutions often provide assistance in resource allocation for those polities under its influence, freeing up the Union in the process. While not particularly loved by certain sovereignties or factions, even the most staunch opponent of the ORP's centralized planning admit that it is effective.

General Scope

The total territory of the Transgalactic Commonwealth is centered mostly within the Milky Way sub-group. The majority of the Milky Way, roughly 65% or so, falls under its authority, as do territories in the Magellanic Clouds and dwarf satellites. Extensive colonial settlements have already been developed within the Andromeda sub-cluster, with the lion’s share in Triangulum and Andromeda proper. Beyond that, there are several thousand minor colonies, outposts, and enclaves scattered throughout the rest of the Known Universe.

The Commonwealth as a rule of thumb will make use of any object for habitation, whether it is natural or artificial. The preference for artificial or natural worlds heavily depends on the needs, environment, and culture of a particular region. The Core Worlds Region, located region in the Milky Way where the spiral arms meet the bulge, and technocratic or technocratic-leaning polities make almost exclusive use of artificial megastructure habitats, for example. Unlike natural worlds, artificial habitats are fully controllable, much more space efficient, completely customizable, and can support far larger populations. Stellar-scale megastructures, such as Dyson spheres, ringworlds, Alderson disks, Jupiter shells, and topopuli, are widespread for industrial, military, and habitation purposes, with countless large-scale (up to tens of thousands of kilometers) space habitats and stations being even more common throughout the Commonwealth.

Natural worlds, which include planets, moons, asteroids, gas giants, and brown dwarfs, are exploited for a number of uses. Habitation is one of the more obvious uses, and can vary from aerostat colonies on a Venusian pressure cooker of a world and giant underground bunker-megacities on a sterile moon to city worlds housing hundreds of trillions to quadrillions of inhabitants and artificially sculpted ‘luxury liner’ worlds. While makers and food vats can provide large quantities of foodstuffs, it is quite common for certain worlds to be turned wholesale to the production of food and other organic goods. These agriworlds are most common in galactic regions that are hospitable to life and are preferred to artificial agriworlds due to nature doing all the setup work beforehand. Agriworlds are particularly valuable for heavily urbanized and densely populated worlds. Dead worlds are frequently targeted for conversion into cornucopia worlds - planets, asteroids, and moons given over to pure manufacturing through either in-situ resource collection or outside sources. Finally, there are those worlds that are utterly useless to the average sophont, but are prime locations for hiding, testing weapons, conducting experiments, or dumping something and trying to forget it ever existed.

Military Capabilities

Originally, the Commonwealth had no standing military force save for a joint multipolity task force and a unified command structure. As the limits to such a system became more apparent, the need for a standing pan-Commonwealth military became accepted, though some sovereignties were adamantly opposed to the concept and seceded. The Armed Forces of the Commonwealth is responsible for the overall protection of the Commonwealth’s citizenry and dependents within its sphere of influence and projecting its power across the Known Universe. It draws upon the traditions and organization of countless other militaries; its renowned professionalism stems from the Armed Forces of the Olympian Concordiat, while its famed democratic-meritocratic election of officers is adopted from the Cyteric Self-Defense Forces. It’s administrative and resource needs managed by the Ministry of Defense, all military matters are governed by Commonwealth High Command, specifically the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and his staff. Below him are the heads of each of the armed services, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Chief of the Army General Staff, and the Commandant of the Espatier Corps. The Director of Transgalactic Intelligence/Director-General of the Commonwealth Intelligence Consortium frequently attends meetings as well. In terms of operations, the AFC is divided up into the Commonwealth Navy, Commonwealth Army, and Commonwealth Espatier Corps.

The senior service, the Commonwealth Navy conducts such myriad operations as space superiority, base strikes, spacelane interdiction, planetary and stellar destruction, local/tactical/strategic ortillery, and escorting the Army and Espatier Corps to their destinations. During times of peace, the Navy can count on billions of warships, ranging in size from hundred meter long scout ships to combat planetoids the size of Luna. Autonomous and semi-autonomous robotic vessels– the spacecraft themselves ranging from expendable tin cans to automated terrors – are very common and form a integral component of the Navy. The massive numbered starfleets of the Navy tend to have varying ratios of robot to crewed warcraft depending on their current mission and deployment orders, and, thanks to a fleet of cornucopia tenders, construction swarms, and support craft, can 'live off the land' and even expand to massive levels should the Admiralty deem it expedient. Transophontism thrives in the Navy. Infomorphs and forks tend to be ubiquitous in the Navy, filling the role of pilots, shipminds, infowarfare operators, and drone minders. Enhancements are also very common for all spacemen, ranging from chief engineers being vacuum adapted and radiation resistant to flag officers linking their mind to massive computer networks for increased intellect, while it is a common practice for all crew and AIs of a ship to link themselves into a gestalt consciousness during combat for maximum efficiency.

The Commonwealth Army, while lacking the importance of the Navy or the glamour of the Espatiers, is nonetheless vital to the survival of the Commmonweath. In terms of personel, the Army is the largest of all the services, and holds the distinction of being the largest army in the Known Universe. It is an all-volunteer force, with its citizen-soldiers equipped with the best weapons, armor, equipment, augments, and morphs available, including battle armor with a full weapon, defense, and propulsion suite, a wide variety of support and heavy weapons, top-of-the-line vehicles, autonomous, semi-autonomous, and remote operated warbots, and combat morphs. A noticable percentage of the Army, however, consists of warbots of all grades and specially commissioned bioroids. These vast, synthetic armies are invaluable to volunteers, as they are extremely useful and as a force multiplier. Armored formations, particularly of the heavy type, are very common in the Commonwealth Army, and play a vital role in its strategy of nodal warfare, the securing of key military, political, industrial, communication, and cosmodrone facilities in order to secure a world. As the Army is responsible for all operations within an object’s gravity well, it also controls the quasi-autonomous aerospace force, marines, and maritime fleet, each with their own unique rank structure and traditions.

In contrast to the Army, the Commonwealth Espatier Corps is a lighter, more mobile force meant to handle rapid response operations and expeditionary warfare in every imaginable environment. To this end, the Espatiers lack much of the heavy and superheavy war materiel that the Army enjoys in favor of speed and mobility. It would be a mistake to assume that the Espatiers lack much in the way of firepower, however. Much of the strategic and tactical fire support is instead provided by orbital and aerospace assets, such as their battleship-transports or transatmospheric gunships, which, combined with the spacemobile nature of the Espatiers, allows them to strike fast and brutally hard, crippling enemy forces and securing landing zones before they lose their advantage. Their need to fight in every type of conceivable environment has led the Espatier to make use of whole legions devoted to unique environments, including the vacuum of space, Venusian pressure cooker worlds, the crushing depths of colonized oceans, and radiation-bathed celestial bodies. The Espatiers are often presented as a force of elites with considerable ceremony and tradition, a reputation the Corps strives to live up to. Whole legions have often been promoted to Guards status for their valor and skill, while individual Espatiers who show promise are often transferred to special forces regiments, such as the Espatier Raiders.
Last edited by Magister Militum on Tue Nov 20, 2012 6:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Invictus » Fri Sep 21, 2012 7:48 pm

Wow, this is probably the most whiggish space opera setting I've ever laid my eyes on.
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Fri Sep 21, 2012 10:28 pm

Hmm, not sure how to take that. :?
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Invictus » Sat Sep 22, 2012 5:29 am

It's not meant to be a condemnation or anything! Now I'll have to come out and say that the setting isn't my personal cup of tea, but this doesn't mean that I'm not interested in seeing more of it. This, however, means that my comments might get a bit pointed. :P
Magister Militum wrote:Utterly rediculous hyertech, like a nonfunctioning Tipler Cylinder or a high-end metric tampering machinary (read: spacetime engineering). Most of the stuff was built by long-dead civilizations that doesn't work anymore, but the Deep Spacers will jump at the chance of studying a relic for further insights. Finding a functioning one would be the holy grail of the Deep Spacers. It's important to note that the setting is built around the concept of mundane miracles. Your average sophont is surrounded by tech that we consider miraculous but is utterly common for them. It takes some real Godtech to make them perk up. I need a tech article to better describe that.
"We're well beyond being a Type III Civilization but at least we don't build cocktail sticks out of neutron stars!" :) I see what you mean. Again, the scale here isn't something I have a good handle on yet, so it did feel a little like having your cake and eating it too. But anyway, would it be the case that alien artefacts brought back by the Deep Spacers acquire a mystique because of the mere fact that they've been discovered by Deep Spacers? Would the whole Spacer mystique (and seeing that they're one of the few things that are possible of getting romanticized in the Commonwealth, due to the limits on information access) play into magnifying the impact of each discovery well beyond its bare technological/academic value? (For alien artefacts that pass a certain minimum threshold of interesting, anyway. "Yet another ruin from a stone age alien civilization that went extinct millions of Terran years ago. Ho hum.")
Magister Militum wrote:- snip Transgalactic Commonwealth -
My other question is, as the designer, what made you go with having one super-polity dominate the stage, as it were? I have to admit that it's one reason I got the impression I had in my previous post.
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Sun Sep 23, 2012 7:44 am

Invictus wrote:"We're well beyond being a Type III Civilization but at least we don't build cocktail sticks out of neutron stars!"
That best summarizes what the situation is. They're a Type III civilization (just a Type III, like the Galactic Empire or the Culture, I may add - "well beyond" is far out of reach for them), but what they find are the relics of civilizations that used to play around with large fractions of a supercluster, for example. I suppose that, having the resources of the whole Milky Way, they could build a Tipler Cylinder, but it would be a horrendous waste of resources for them. More importantly, they have no clue as to how to even begin doing that.
Again, the scale here isn't something I have a good handle on yet, so it did feel a little like having your cake and eating it too
This is understandable; the scale is somewhat unclear, I admit. Essentially, the Local Group is the main astropolitical stage of the Commonwealth, with the Milky Way sub-group being under its purview alongside other independent polities. Outside of the sub-group, the Commonwealth's power and influence is dictated by the inverse-square law until its nothing more than a loose affiliation by the time you reach other galactic clusters. The Commonwealth has some rudimentary contact and diplomacy with the closer clusters, but the vast majority of the Local Supercluster is still unknown. Of course, Deep Spacers probably do have contacts far out there, but they aren't well known.
But anyway, would it be the case that alien artefacts brought back by the Deep Spacers acquire a mystique because of the mere fact that they've been discovered by Deep Spacers? Would the whole Spacer mystique (and seeing that they're one of the few things that are possible of getting romanticized in the Commonwealth, due to the limits on information access) play into magnifying the impact of each discovery well beyond its bare technological/academic value? (For alien artefacts that pass a certain minimum threshold of interesting, anyway. "Yet another ruin from a stone age alien civilization that went extinct millions of Terran years ago. Ho hum.")
Yup. You can also say that it gives them an understanding of how ancient and vast the universe is, which would definitely grant them even more mystique. That isn't to say that primitive technology is derisively ignored, however. People love to see in what ways different cultures took their technology in, especially if its rather novel or unique to their environments. More pessimistically, all these hypertech discoveries also begs the question of just what happened to all these supercivilizations who were seemingly capable of God-like abilities.
My other question is, as the designer, what made you go with having one super-polity dominate the stage, as it were? I have to admit that it's one reason I got the impression I had in my previous post
Well, this question entails a rather complex answer, so if you can indulge me a bit:

A long time ago, when Accelerating Future was in its embryonic stages, one of the earliest decisions I had to make was with regard to the factions of the setting. Ultimately, two options presented themselves: a setting dominated by a handful of superpolities scattered across the Milky Way and Local Group, or a singular hyperpower that dominated its local environs. As can be seen in yon thread, this was a question that was on my mind for a while. In fact, I actually changed the setting three different times because of this question. While the very raw, core elements stayed the same in each iteration (with the exception of the human focus; that was ditched in favor of a multispecies setting of equals), the finer details radically changed. In the end, a settled for a single superpower for various reasons.

First, I had already done the whole 'squabbling great powers' thing in the form of TEG. While TEG is an influence in AF - the intricate nature of politics being the most noticeable element that was adopted - , I didn't have an interest in repeating myself another time. As time went on, I found that, from a thematic point of view, that type of setup didn't jive with the current themes of AF.

Second, a singular superpolity was more interesting to me in terms of exploring its workings, as well as being more interesting in general to explore. I previously mentioned, both here and by implication in this thread, that I have an interest in analyzing true galactic empires in terms of their workings and political structure (I'm a politics buff, so this is a given). This is partly related with my utter disgust with a lot of terrible SF by people with absolutely no respect for the scale of the universe, as well as terrible political science that runs rampant. I mean, fuck, how much SF do you see that is just a regurgitation of the American political system or a stereotypical monarchy? If I was going to have a true galactic empire with an organic political structure that makes sense for such a titan, I wasn't going to pussyfoot around it. Going with one superpolity was the best way to do that. You'll note that I will occasionally use the word 'Civilization' as an alternate term for the Commonwealth. Besides this being a nod to Doc Smith, it also neatly exemplifies how, in the eyes of many sophonts, the Commonwealth and the transgalactic community in much of the Local Group are one in the same. This strong sense of ecumenicism invites exploration into how it affects political arrangements within such a polity that wouldn't really exist in a fractured setting. The idea that a setting dominated by a single polity is boring culturally or politically is lazy thinking born of ignorance and a lack of imagination. On the contrary, a superpolity that is synonymous with a civilization must contain an amazing level of political, social, cultural, and memetic diversity, as well as very interesting internal workings with regards to its member polities. Many of the sovereingites, for example, continue their diplomatic activities and rat race with their rivals as if nothing happened. The main thing they have to worry about now is "how can we get away with X without upsetting the Commonwealth Government?" rather than "how can we get away with X without upsetting rival Y?"

Finally, there are thematic concerns. One of the core tenants of Accelerating Future is how mutual cooperation can overcome any challenge. It was through mutual cooperation that the Commonwealth was formed. It was through mutual cooperation that the surge in universal exploration began. And it was and is through mutual cooperation that peace and prosperity reign within the Commonwealth, thanks in large part to a dominant military machine that would never have existed without grand cooperation and coordination from all parties. Despite the ever growing number of threats from within and beyond the Local Group that are pushing against the Union, it has managed to keep all at bay and preserve its utopic existence and moral right to exist. Yeah, there are plenty of selfish assholes that try to fuck it up, but, on the whole, things are working despite the looming storm clouds. I guess if you forced me on it I could maintain the same theme in a fractured setting, but having a polity like the Commonwealth makes it so much easier and salient to explore that theme.

If you take anything away from that answer, just note this: everything in AF from a setting standpoint has a purpose. I didn't invent the Commonwealth so that I could explode in seminal fluids due to its sheer power and scope. To be blunt, the current structure and nature of the Transgalactic Commonwealth is intrinsically linked to the major themes and overall optimism of Accelerating Future; it is Accelerating Future. It may seem overpowering and dominant, but that just because of the scale. It has rivals lurking out in its local patch of the Local Supercluster, and farther out you'll find something like the Xeelee that take a look at the Commonwealth and mock their delusions of power. The universe is ancient and vast, and there's plenty of stuff out there that can humble even the Commonwealth, which they know. In the end, all that is irrelevant, though. What matters is that the nature of the Commonwealth plays a major role in exploring the themes of this setting.
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Thu Sep 27, 2012 6:08 am

Let's talk about Overwatch. Broadly speaking Overwatch would be officially classified as an unincorporated autonomous paramilitary governmental organization. What does all that actually mean? Well, unincorporated signifies that Overwatch has no formal charter of incorporation, founding executive order, or constitutional provision. You can't just space google the founding details of Overwatch. Any orders to formally create Overwatch would have been transmitted orally, or through very heavily encrypted documents that provide only the most general of details.Autonomous signifies that they operate outside of the normal civil and military command structure. Technically speaking, they answer to no other government authority save the Special Committee for the Preservation of the Commonwealth, a regulatory and coordinating body of select individuals charged with holding groups such as Overwatch accountable. While it definitely has elements of a secret society and even a conspiracy (albeit a relatively benign one), it is still a government agency. Having drawn from many military outfits, Overwatch maintains a paramilitary aspect to it, particularly in areas such as Special Conditions. It has a rank structure that is closer to a military force than the civil service, though its ranks tend to be more fanciful and eloquent, often referencing their duty to defend Civilization (e.g., Sentinel, Warden-Commander, Commonwealth's Shield, etc.)

Groups such as Overwatch existed long before either it or the Commonwealth. During the proto-Commonwealth era, there were perhaps five or six major groups that shared similar, wide-ranging goals. Some were based around certain memes or ideologies, such as Foresight, while others served a particular superpolity or bloc, such as the Core Union's Special Conditions Executive. Their end goals also tended to vary somewhat depending on who was in charge; the Special Conditions Executive was committed first and foremost to the preservation of the Union and its goals, while Foresight was considered with the survival of civilization rather than a specific polity. As can be expected, the relationship between the Big Six was complicated, to say the least. If they weren't shooting at each other for half the time, they were teaming up to take on a far more monstrous threat. As the proto-Commonwealth took on a more definitive shape, however, they found themselves working together more and more. In the violent, dark years immediately before the Unification Wars, when the call for Federation was strong and the shrieks of opposition from the warmongers and robber barons were louder, the heads of the Big Six met at what became known as the Congress of Pylex to pool their resources and assets under a coordinating committee with the goal of seeing through the survival of the infant Commonwealth from external savagery. Just as the proto-Commonwealth fought against the Anti-Unification Alliance (man, they need a better name. Any suggestions?), the proto-Overwatch would fight a secret war against its rivals, unleashing nanophages and computer viruses here, assassinating key warlords there, and blowing up an occasional megastructure or planet. When the Unification Wars finally ended and the Commonwealth finally formed, one of the first things the newly elected government would do is formalize the proto-Overwatch. Working with their leaders, clandestine elements of the Commonwealth Government - at this era in time known as the Commonwealth Authority - would secretly authorize the formation and support of Overwatch with a new mission of defending the Commonwealth and Civilization to the death from all exceptional threats.

Organizationally, Overwatch favors decentralization and a more horizontal hierarchy due to both its greater flexibility, response time, and survivability and the ability to counter creeping authoritarianism and entrenched power blocs. At the broadest level, Overwatch can be divided into the Inner Sphere and Outer Sphere. The Inner Sphere comprises the core structure of Overwatch and acts as a typical black ops group. The Outer Sphere, in turn, contains the autonomous assets, front groups, and sleeper agents that support Overwatch on a part-time basis/double agent. The Outer Sphere, in simple terms, acts as a secret society and conspiracy. The Inner Sphere of Overwatch is divided at the highest level into several directorate-generals (all terminology subject to change; I want something that sounds less bureaucratic and more unconventional). These include Direct Action (standard field work and support), Intelligence and Reconnaisence (HUMINT, SIGINT, emergent threat analysis), Advanced Projects (R&D), Special Conditions (when things go tits up), Internal Security, and Memetic Operations (disinformation, cover ups, etc.). Each directorate is governed by an elected director-general, who is charged with managing day to day affairs of their environs and coordinating with other directorates as necessary. Directorate-generals, in turn, tend to be subdivided into a number of smaller sub-divisions that deal with either specific regions (e.g., General Headquarters, Vivon Expanse Sector) or fields of expertise (Lab 05, Personal Augmentation and Morph Section). The entire organization is governed by the Executive Council and led by the Chairman of the Council, who typically holds the highest rank in Overwatch. Outside of Overwatch is the aforementioned Special Committee for the Preservation of the Commonwealth. Essentially, it is the body that Overwatch is held accountable to, and consists of the highest ranking Commonwealth officers that are cleared to know. Only the Special Committee has the authority to overrule and reign in Overwatch.

While Overwatch can be very ruthless if it needs to be, it is also very self-conscience about excessively violating the principles it swore to defend. The last thing its leadership wants is for their organization to become some authoritarian parastate that's trying to overthrow the Commonwealth. That that end, there are several safeguards in place to keep them honest. Transparency is common among all sub-divisions; while a degree of secrecy is necessary to avoid divulging too much information, those in the know usually have a good idea as to what their peers are working on. Generally, the actions of a particular subdivision are decided on through a vote, though in times of crisis, an executive agent can make a unilateral decision. In those cases, there is always an after-action inquiry by their peers, especially if the decision led to negative repercussions.

It is important to realize that Overwatch is incredibly secretive. Incredibly. If clandestine elements of the Commonwealth Intelligence Consortium are rumors, then Overwatch isn't even a word. Because of this, Overwatch has to be particularly careful how they operate within the Known Universe. The remedy to this situation is the operation of a multitude of front organizations. It either maintains high-ranking agents or outright controls (directly or indirectly) puppet hypercorps, economic collectives, research labs, mercenary groups, military and government organizations, security agencies, and even criminal syndicates. These fronts not only provide convenient cover for Overwatch operations, but many also provide valuable support for agents, including military support, intelligence, resources, and transportation. In many cases, these fronts do not realize they are being directed to support Overwatch's goals; a high-ranking agent or autonomous asset can simply use their authority to direct their operations or, in the case of government outfits, utilize letters of patent from the Commonwealth Government to conscript whatever assets they need with no justification.

Agents of Overwatch fall into two categories, full-time staff and autonomous assets. Full-time staff is those that dedicate themselves fully to Overwatch operations. This includes both support staff and field agents, both of which effectively disappear from public records the moment they work for Overwatch full time. Typically, Overwatch provides for all their material needs and wants, with greater rewards for those that show skill and initiative. If working in the field, they merely note that they represent a particular government agency and promptly show their letter of patent. Full-time staff can elect to retire and live a public life, but they are under perpetual surveillance from thereon out for both their protection and Overwatch's protection. Those who talk or even think about talking are visited by their former coworkers one last time. Autonomous assets, in turn, are individuals who work for Overwatch on a part-time basis. They are typically tapped for use by handlers that are on the lookout for exceptionally talented and well-connected sophonts. Unlike full-time staff, autonomous assets are expected to continue their day-to-day activities and work irrespective of their new found status. If needed, their handlers will change their status from 'dormant asset' to 'active asset' to assist in a particular operation. Autonomous agents are expected to provide their own cover stories for their absence, as well as justification for the usage of any assets under their disposal for Overwatch activities (of course, Overwatch does provide some assistance if prudent). Autonomous assets tend to be less in the know than full-time staff, which can cause occasional resentment. Autonomous assets are invaluable for Overwatch due to their potential connections. Spies, gang leaders, hypercorp executives, admirals, and diplomats are all counted on the roster, providing insights into the operations of a specific group, utilizing their authority to provide valuable resources or direct subordinate forces to accomplish a specific goal, and masking Overwatch activities. As with the Civil Service and Armed Forces, Overwatch also maintains a rank table, though in its case, their ranks are much more fanciful, often invoking their duty as vigilant guardians.

The types of missions undertaken by full-time and autonomous agents can vary immensely. Furthermore, the traditionally large amounts of leeway granted to an agent to accomplish their goals can result in rather colorful ways to deal with a situation. To a large extent, this also influences the types of missions an agent will deal with alongside their area of expertise. A diplomat with the Commonwealth's Diplomatic Service or the foreign ministry of a sovereignty might be assigned to secretly guide the outcome of a summit between multiple factions in a way that benefits the Commonwealth in the long-run, while an assassin for hire might be required to permanently kill a Public Safety agent that is a sleeper agent for a hostile conspiracy. Agents are typically given a set of resources (material, information, personel, etc.) to accomplish their goals, though they are free to augment their resources through indepenent contacts or request additional assets from Command (their sucess in the case of the latter depending on the situation at hand). All agents are connected to Watchtower, the distributed and heavily encrypted infosphere network that links agents with one another and with Overwatch itself.

As a general rule, Overwatch is wealthy enough to field signficant quantities of military hardware independent of whatever is donated of 'borrowed' from conventional entities. This can include interstellar warcraft, strategic weapons, milspec augments, and prefabricated military bases. All of this is provided by a black budget derived from the Commonwealth Government, as well as resources aquired from affiliated/sympathetic factions and from side activities (again, often through its front groups). While it has notable military power, Overwatch prefers to make use of its Outer Sphere assets if it has to make use of serious striking power. These military forces can be even more diverse, ranging from criminal assassins sleeved in nanomorphs to hypercorp tactical security to frigates taken out of the command structure for 'special assignment'. These assets are ubiquitious, used to exposure, and can provide a reasonable cover for Overwatch actions. It's in-house and affiliated labs within its network grant it access to bleeding edge equipment, while contacts and taps within major organizations keep it in the know.

Throughout its history, Overwatch has difused countless exceptional threats of varying magnitude, inlcuding invasive memetic viruses, would-be galactic warlords, and hostile Outside Context Problems. At the same time, it also has to share the stage with several other secret organizations, all of which have their own agenda. Some, like Autonomist Interstellar are relatively friendly in regards to fighting theats to Civilization, though their emphasis on promoting Autonomist memes and defending friendly polities makes them unrealiable allies at best. The nigh-mythical but very real Guanjii Guild, the most powerful and pervasive criminal syndicate within the Union, is a constant thorn in Overwatch's side, though so far it has managed to thwart its goals of subverting the Commonwealth for its own benefit. The remnants of the Anti-Unification polities in the halo have been known to infiltrate Civilization from time to time, as well. Finally, there is the matter of Outside Context Problems. OCPs are quite simply those threats and situations that utterly defy Overwatch's understanding. Most of the time, an OCP isn't even hostile in the traditional sense; indeed, it's concept of morality (if it is even intelligent) may be so alien that it is incapable of recognizing the damage it is inflicting. One that is, though, is perhaps the most serious of threats Overwatch can face.



With Overwatch, I'm trying to go with the feeling of a benign conspiracy. They stalk the shadows, striking out of nowhere to keep you safe from things you'd rather not think about. Along with several other organizations, Overwatch is part of the reason why the Commonwealth has been so stable and long-lived. The fact that Overwatch has no qualms with using extreme measures and colluding with unsavory groups to get the job done not only highlights the type of threats they face that forces them to play so dirty, but also provides some grayness to the normally decently clean image of the Commonwealth (they did sanction these guys, after all). This all goes back to one of the core themes of Accelerating Future: how far are you willing to push the boundaries of your morals to safeguard utopia? Overwatch would have you believe quite a lot if the alternative is the collapse of civilization, but there isn't a right answer other than what the reader thinks (no, I won't say what I think, so don't even bother). Aside from those deep questions, Overwatch provides plenty of opportunity for all manner of adventure involving conspiracy, unusual threats, and pretty explosions and gunfights, and that's what truly matters, right? :)
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Invictus » Thu Sep 27, 2012 2:21 pm

It seems that Overwatch serves as the designated perspective vehicle here.

I think giving more concrete examples of the specific threats that Overwatch thwart, especially the ones from without, would make the group more vivid. I appreciate all the worldbuilding work under the hood from the sheer amount of namedropping in the article, but the scale of the theater makes generalizations unavoidable.

Also regarding taking actions with the autonomous assets: what does it look like to the public? Sure, a private front organization/actor can just do whatever, but wouldn't it look to an admiral's chain of command that he has suddenly gone rogue? I suppose though that a lot of care is taken to limit the possible actions that such assets are required to undertake - the more deeply they are embedded in the actual apparatus of the Commonwealth, the more scrutiny they will be under.

Hmm, I'm rambling.

EDIT: I agree with teh Vulture on this point - purely internal transparency and small-circle democracy doesn't seem a sufficient safeguard against abuses of organization or power, especially if the whole subdivision goes rogue. But I guess that's just the risk of operating a top secret and heavily armed conspiracy.
Last edited by Invictus on Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Booted Vulture » Thu Sep 27, 2012 2:46 pm

Throughout its history, Overwatch has difused countless exceptional threats of varying magnitude, inlcuding invasive memetic viruses, would-be galactic warlords, and hostile Outside Context Problems
If you can diffuse them. They probably weren't really Outside Context Problems at all.
Outside of Overwatch is the aforementioned Special Committee for the Preservation of the Commonwealth. Essentially, it is the body that Overwatch is held accountable to, and consists of the highest ranking Commonwealth officers that are cleared to know. Only the Special Committee has the authority to overrule and reign in Overwatch.
How effective would this actually be against rogue agents?

I'm guessing really that your cheif defense against rogue overwatch is.. other overwatch agents. It's like how the question 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes' is answered in the Discworld? Who watches the watchers? Oh they watch each other.

(only Commander Vimes is badarse enough to effectively watch himself.)
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Thu Sep 27, 2012 5:27 pm

Booted Vulture wrote:
Throughout its history, Overwatch has diffused countless exceptional threats of varying magnitude, including invasive memetic viruses, would-be galactic warlords, and hostile Outside Context Problems
If you can diffuse them. They probably weren't really Outside Context Problems at all.
Not necessarily, though I see your point. I admit that the world placement in that sentence implies that OCPs are no big deal. I'll go in and revise that later.
Outside of Overwatch is the aforementioned Special Committee for the Preservation of the Commonwealth. Essentially, it is the body that Overwatch is held accountable to, and consists of the highest ranking Commonwealth officers that are cleared to know. Only the Special Committee has the authority to overrule and reign in Overwatch.
How effective would this actually be against rogue agents?[/quote]

Reasonably effective given that the Special Committee can, though its membership, make use of the entire defense and justice establishment to hunt down rogue agents. It would be expected that Overwatch would vigorously assist in eliminating rogue agents.
I'm guessing really that your cheif defense against rogue overwatch is.. other overwatch agents. It's like how the question 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes' is answered in the Discworld? Who watches the watchers? Oh they watch each other.
Precisely. You can never police something as clandestine and invasive as Overwatch without them giving it their all and keeping themselves honest. Of course, in the case of large-scale treason, such as a rogue sub-division Vic suggested or even total rebellion by all of Overwatch, contingency plans do exist. They are not pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but they'll get the job done.
Invictus wrote:It seems that Overwatch serves as the designated perspective vehicle here.
One of many perspective vehicles, but this is essentially correct. By necessity, Overwatch will have to do some terrible dirty things to make everything else seem so squeaky clean. Of course, a question that arises from that is whether an agent manages to keep his ethics intact despite all of this or he says 'screw it' and really goes axe crazy with his modus operandi.
I think giving more concrete examples of the specific threats that Overwatch thwart, especially the ones from without, would make the group more vivid. I appreciate all the worldbuilding work under the hood from the sheer amount of namedropping in the article, but the scale of the theater makes generalizations unavoidable.
No, you're quite right about generalizations, and in fact it is intentional from an IC perspective. The fact that you have to generalize I think shows the disturbing frequency Overwatch has been going around doing their thing. Of course, that is a matter of scale; it may seem frightfully common for us with our sense of scale, but for a transgalactic setting the frequency of threats will probably fall within the average. That being said, this is a very rough article, so I'm afraid I couldn't be too specific about details. With time, I'll definitely be fleshing all this out. History needs to be expanded considerably, as well as internal factions, for example.
Also regarding taking actions with the autonomous assets: what does it look like to the public? Sure, a private front organization/actor can just do whatever, but wouldn't it look to an admiral's chain of command that he has suddenly gone rogue? I suppose though that a lot of care is taken to limit the possible actions that such assets are required to undertake - the more deeply they are embedded in the actual apparatus of the Commonwealth, the more scrutiny they will be under.
Like you mention, this all depends on their status in society and their normal rank in public. No one's going to care if some mercenary or private lab runs around doing Things They Shouldn't as long as they have a legitimate sounding cover and don't go completely overboard. As for an admiral? Well, actions tend to be more subtle and subversive at that scale. An admiral can assign a naval task force to carry about a 'special assignment', for example, but his superiors might raise their eyebrows (or equivalent body parts). Before they can investigate or brand the admiral as a rogue officer, they might find a new set of orders from even higher up removing the admiral and his task force from the normal command structure. If they ask questions, an official Overwatch agent or someone really high up the chain of command (say, the Chief of Naval Operations) tells them to shut up and quit asking questions. People that high up in rank know not to ask too many questions. Now, if its Intelligence that's asking questions, then Overwatch has to be even more subtle, as those guys are far more in the know than they let on.
I agree with teh Vulture on this point - purely internal transparency and small-circle democracy doesn't seem a sufficient safeguard against abuses of organization or power, especially if the whole subdivision goes rogue. But I guess that's just the risk of operating a top secret and heavily armed conspiracy.
Your quite right, and this is an unavoidable fact of the nature of their organization. They could go even farther in curbing any potential abuses, but then you run the risk of being too transparent and open. They're trying to split the difference viz a viz openness and secrecy and it's rather messy. Their internal culture tends to make this easier, but it's a very real problem.
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Unincorporated Polities of the Milky Way

Post by Magister Militum » Thu Oct 18, 2012 5:31 am

[The following report has been declassified following analysis by Information Control Command. Its coarse language, unprofessional writing style, and dubious grammar have been noted.]

“For tens of millennia, the Transgalactic Commonwealth has been the unassailable juggernaut of the Known Universe! No other polity has capable of matching the capabilities of the dominant transgalactic superpower. It is for that reason that peace, prosperity, and stability have reign for so long in much of the Local Group. In the end, even the largest rivals to the Union’s power have been…”

[Video Paused]

That’s enough of that for now. I gotta admit that I’ve got a soft spot for the old propaganda clips like this one, but they can give you a false sense of security. With our line of work, false senses of security are lethally dangerous. If you’re gonna be running around the Local Group saving the Union from doom, you need to know about the other guys, the polities that exist outside the Commonwealth and her sphere of influence. Now, it’s true that the Transgalactic Commonwealth is the only unchallenged superpower in the Southern sub-group and one of the strongest polities in the Known Universe; there’s a reason she’s known as the transcendent body politic, after all. That doesn't mean, though, that everyone else stops mattering. There are millions of polities and factions in our local patch of the Known Universe, ranging from tiny pissholes of a habitat-polity to superpolities that claim billions of star systems. These guys are the Unincorporated, also known as the Unassociated and the Independents. Some are friendly, others are neutrals and others still either hostile or pretending to be friendly so that they can stab us in the back. The most powerful of the unincorporated are the ones we need to keep an eye on.

Now, let’s just be clear as to what I’m covering. This is NOT a primer on all the polities for the Known Universe. This is strictly focused on polities in the Milky Way and its environs that will be significant/notable in some capacity for Overwatch agents. I know, I know, you’re all crushed by the fact that I won’t cover in exhaustive detail the automated continent-farms of planet Bumfuck in the Ass-end system, but there’s no need to go into exhaustive detail. Second, this only serves as a general introduction to these polities. If you want more in-depth knowledge, check out the Enquirium or, if you want the really juicy bits and have the right clearance, the Overwatch Fact Files for a particular unincorporated polity.

Now, we often like to talk about how the Southern Sub-Group is under the purview of the Commonwealth, and to an extent this is true. Within these volumes, however, are a multitude of polities. Most are small-scale polities of little interest to the Commonwealth, but there are several large-scale interstellar and even transgalactic polities outside of the Commonwealth structure. The most powerful of these polities are full-fledged great powers. They can't beat the Commonwealth but they can definitely affect it on a local and regional level. Here are a few major unincorporated polities that you might bump into.

Autonomist Accord

The Autonomist Accord came about a while after the Commonwealth in a volume of space that was mostly undeveloped at the time. It was envisioned as a bastion for all the different types of anarchists and ultra-leftists, a vast volume of space where they could enjoy great prosperity and peace without having to ‘compromise’ their ideals by ‘subordinating’ themselves to a state apparatuses. I’ll give the Accord credit; they certainly managed to thrive without any outside help and successfully fight off any attempt by outside groups to rein them in. They also know when to avoid causing too much trouble, which tends to let them avoid any serious confrontation. It’s all these things that have allowed the Accord not just to thrive in the Known Universe, but also become one of the most powerful polities within the Local Group in spite of having a colossus like the Commonwealth as a neighbor.

Basically, the Accord is a loose nested federation of anarchist polities scattered across billions of stars, though they concentrate in dense volumes near the Galactic West. For the most part, each polity is fully sovereign, independent, and goes about doing their own thing. The permutations are endless; there are anarcho- communists, demarchists, technocrats, extropians, syndicalists, and others. Individual polities will frequently band together on an as-needed basis to handle projects and threats too big to handle alone, with the Accord itself stepping in to manage pan-Autonomist projects and events. It’s important to note that the Accord isn’t a true government. There is no head of state or government other than the delegates from the member-polities. Similarly, ad hoc collectives and syndicates fulfill the role of ministries and executive agencies. Hierarchies are horizontal and bureaucracy minimal, with ubiquitous AIs administrating mundane tasks and coordinating such a vast entity. Despite what’d you think, the autonomists can respond relatively rapidly. Don’t underestimate their military, either. While they don’t have a unified military – though they do have a unified command structure - , their systems are all armed to varying levels; pacifistic systems make do with citizen militias, upgunned civilian ships, and giant, fuck off automated defense networks, while, conversely, systems near trouble spots are completely militarized to a ridiculous degree.

The Autonomists are an interesting bunch in regards to the Commonwealth. Despite our nature, they appreciate our decentralization, member-polity autonomy, and federal structure. In addition, the autonomist sovereignties and associated polities within the Commonwealth have done quite a bit to develop better relations between us and the Accord, culminating in some integration and interconnectivity between our economies and infrastructure. Still, they’re an Independent and an exceptionally powerful one at that, which means that they have their own agenda, as everyone does. Their ultimate goal is to continue the expansion of the Autonomist meme across the universe and support autonomist polities in any way they can. More radical member-polities actively agitate for exporting the revolution or, at the very least, invade and liberate shithole worlds run by robber barons and thugs. Sometimes we’re on the same page, especially if the sustainability wing of the autonomists take root, but we'll also butt heads, leading to occasional misunderstandings at the local or regional level. And, of course, they’re the clandestine patrons of Autonomist Interstellar, who we can never fully trust.

4th Empire

I hate the 4th Empire. They know their powerful enough that they can muck up the Commonwealth's plans, but at the same time they know that they’re weak enough that the Commonwealth could kick their teeth in, which means that they've become masters at choosing their battles and hitting hard. The Empire was another transgalactic that emerged in a corner of the Milky Way. They definitely had grand plans of being the masters of the baryonic universe, and came close a few times. During the Great Decline of the Second Commonwealth, the 4th Empire was one of the major factions who were vying for control of the transgalactic community, but they ultimately lost out to the Third Commonwealth. Add in some new Commonwealth-Imperials wars and subsequent internal conflicts and they were knocked down hard. This caused a major identity crisis within the rarified heights of power, sparking even more conflict and fragmentation. Eventually, the pragmatist faction assumed control and reunified the shards of the Empire, acknowledging the dominance of the Commonwealth and the realities of current astropolitics. Now, they’re mostly focused at maximizing their own prosperity and power. Their recovery means that they’re effectively the most powerful of the unincorporated in the Southern Group, and the primer rival of the Commonwealth in its home volumes.

While it’s called the 4th Empire, these guys are actually quite democratic for having such an anachronistic and eccentric political system. Their head of state is the democratically elected King-Emperor, currently Indutiomarus V, who rules until retirement, death, or removal by the General Congress. Ol' Indy actually isn't that bad of a ruler, though I think he tends to buy into the whole 'preserving transgalactic stability' shtick way too much. The Minister-President is the head of the cabinet and head of government. Depending on how vigorous the King-Emperor is in exercising their duties, the Minister-President can vary from being a glorified civil servant to a powerful executive. The General Congress is the Empire's legislature, and is divided between the lower house, the all-inclusive cyberdemocratic Universal Assembly, and the upper house, the Senate of the Dominions. It's worth noting that the Empire and Imperial State are far more internally interventionist and centralized than the Commonwealth (to say nothing of the Autonomists). While the Dominions of the Empire, their name for their member-polities, are theoretically quasi-sovereign, the Imperial State has absorbed many of their prerogatives and isn't afraid to step in and impose its statues and mandates in areas traditionally under Dominion purview if it creates greater internal harmony and stability. In general, they tend to be a very militarized society, with the Armed Services of the Crown providing far more services than in other polities, such as megaengineering and policing. Technocratic and meritocratic tendencies tend to bleed in as well in various forms.

Imperial-Commonwealth relations have been odd and sometimes contradictory at times. Since the Imperial Civil Wars, relations between the two titans are decently cordial, if pointed and cool. From a military standpoint, the Empire can actually give the Commonwealth a run for its money, at least in the short term. Luckily, general war between the two hasn't occurred in a while, and when it does it tends to be short-term, but local conflicts tend to be decently common in various hot zones. In addition, the 4th Empire always finds ways to interfere with the Commonwealth’s short- and long-term plans if it is in their benefit. They routinely engage in transgalactic policing and military adventurism, particularly in colonial volumes, wild space, and Triangulum; though they claim their actions are done in the name of stability, there is no denying that they profit from their actions. Despite the historic bad blood between the two polities and how much they dick around with each other, their politics and economies are heavily intertwined with one another like many other of the unincorporated. While they’ll do their best to make the other uncomfortable, they’re both not going to risk general war anytime soon. Of course, if they have a solid shot of upsetting the status quo, then all bets are off. Keep a very close eye on any Imperial Agents of the Throne you run into and always assume that they are not friendly, because their presence typically means the Empire is up to no good in that patch of space and doesn't want anyone to find out.

Alphanaut Diaspora

What happens when a bunch of Deep Spacers and really radical Floaters with an augmentation fetish get together and create a polity? These guys. The Alphanaut Diaspora is a loose federation of nominally autonomous fleets of cityships, worldships, mobile habitats, and support vessels that roam throughout the Known Universe and beyond, seeking out new cultures and societies and incorporating elements into it. Anyone familiar with macrolife – self-replicating worldships and mobile habitats – should be quite familiar with the Alphanauts. While similar nomadic polities exist within the Commonwealth, either as sovereignties or associates, the Alphanauts represent the largest collection of such individuals. They have no borders, freely moving across space as they hope to better understand the wonders of the universe and all that touchy feely stuff.

Politically, the Diaspora is principally divided into multiple fleets known as Clouds. Clouds are enormous aggregates of ships, capable of fulfilling the role of construction swarms, mobile civilizations, and interstellar warfleets, as well as fully independent operations. Clouds have broad rights and autonomy comparable to a Commonwealth sovereignty, which, when coupled with the Alphanaut's fondness for weird shit, can create some very colorful and diverse tendencies. At the very least, all Clouds have a universal cyberdemocracy to make decisions and elect their admirals. Representatives from each Cloud, in turn, elect an Admiralty Board to govern the Diaspora and coordinate their actions on a large scale. The Diaspora is incredibly libertine; Clouds and even individual spacecraft frequently do their own thing and can be out of the loop for decades at a time, only to return and join up with their family. They have an obsession with 'alien vogue', and will eagerly incorporate exotic memes, technologies, and cultures into their own if it appeals to them. Alphanauts tend to agree with floaters on viewing living on planets and moons as a bizarre and crippling fetish compared to the mobility, unlimited expansion, and total control that spaceborne life provides ('course, Alphanauts think that floaters limit themselves by staying in place in space). Because of this, they treat natural celestial bodies as either raw materials to be mercilessly exploited or colonies under their protection.

The Diaspora isn’t a threat in the traditional sense. Like more absent minded Deep Spacers, Alphanauts can be a frequent target for corruption by hostile artifacts and postxenos originating from malevolent civilizations. Some idiot stumbles upon an Artifact of Infinite Mysteries, gets sloppy ‘cause of their excitement and triggers a ballisk hack that rewires them into a sleeper agent. Next thing you know, their brainwashing other people, releasing memetic viruses, and trying to replace the Chancellor with a puppet so that they can forcibly upload everyone and turn the Milky Way into a giant computer to run their new hive mind. Not that that’s ever happened, of course. We try out best to guide them so that they don’t cause a massive galactic fuckup and they have their own oversight group which is (usually) on top of the game when it comes to these kinds of threats, though. On the other hand, they’re knowledge of the eldritch can be extremely useful. If you can get pass their occasionally eccentric and bizarre mentality and customs, they can be a valuable source of information.

Systems Concordiat

No one likes a bully, right? The Commonwealth certainly doesn't, just like the major unincorporated. Unfortunately, the so-called micropolities -anything system-scale or less – and minor polities tend to get the worst of this, as pretty much anyone with access to a handful of star systems can play merry hell with them. You could always run to a bigger power, as many do with the Commonwealth or, say, the 4th Empire, but some don’t like trading away their autonomy to such a behemoth. A then novel option proposed by many micropolities was why not unite all willing small powers together into one giant bloc? They wouldn’t be galactic juggernaut, but that wasn’t the point. The idea is that, with enough of them under one umbrella, they could successfully use their clout to leverage favorable conditions in their home volumes. The idea was favorable with many minor polities, and through a constitutional convention formed what we now know as the Systems Concordiat. It’s a testament to their diplomatic skill, bravery, and luck that they’ve not only managed to survive, but indeed thrive.

The Systems Concordiat is, simply put, a strong military-political-economic alliance. Each member-polity is fully sovereign and independent, and assumes full responsibility for governing their peoples. The closest analog to a traditional government would be the General Convocation, a standing body of representatives that, alongside the Security Council, mediates diplomacy between member-polities and administers projects, policies, and resolutions that affect the Concordiat as a whole. This includes things like passing treaties on military strength, coordinating joint military operations, facilitating trade, and mediating colonization plans. While there’s a metric asston of member-polities, the ones that matter are the Optimae, the big boys of the Concordiat. In particular, you can expect the Agoris Empire, Unified Republic of Ostark, Burgruiinian Demarchy, and Autonomous Commune of Pandemonium as key Optimae. Their military and intelligence apparatus is built around that of the member-polities, though occasional talk is heard about an independent, pan-Concordiat military service. Debate about that is… heated, to say the least. They do have a pan-Concordiat police force, though, in the form of the Inter-Concordiat Constabulary. Diplomacy with the Concordiat can be two way; the Commonwealth, for example, might initiate diplomacy with both the Concordiat and a particular member-polity simultaneously.

I've got a lot of respect for the Concordiat; it takes balls made out of neutronium to stare down much bigger polities in order to carve out a nice undisturbed volume of space to call your own. They don’t really make too much of a fuss and would much rather cooperate with you than try and fail at political brinkmanship. The Commonwealth has a warm relationship with them – probably because of the similarities between the two - and considers it a minor ally, which partly explains why no one tries to overrun them and simultaneously piss off their much, much bigger brother. In addition to acting as a forum for minor polities, the Concordiat has used its non-threatening status to act as a mediator for all polities in the Milky Way. We're all for that, since it helps defuse threats that could grow to become sector or regional crises. The flip side to this is that the Concordiat is filled with diplomats-cum-spies that are trying to sniff out interesting tidbits of info and see what everyone and their muse is scheming to do. You decide to involve yourself in Concordiat then get ready for some good ol' fashion spycraft.

Sespertine Republics

Before the formation of the proto-Commonwealth, the volumes of the galaxy that would form the Transgalactic Commonwealth were neatly divided into multiple interstellar common blocs and superpolities. Some of these, like the Core Union, still exist within the structure of the Commonwealth or as an associate polity, while others have since died out. One of the more notable blocs near the fringes of the proto-Commonwealth was the Sespertine Republics. The Republics are ancient, dating back to the early formation of the wormhole network and the old lighthugger routes. Unlike a lot of their peers, they never really got into this whole fancy notion of 'interstellar unity' and subordinating themselves to a higher authority. They're ardent nationalists, and while they have no problem with cooperation, there's no chance in hell that'll give up some of their sovereignty. As you can guess, this all meant that when everyone else decided to federate into the Commonwealth, these guys jumped ship. They undertook some expansionism and grew, trying to play up the image of a viable rival to the Commonwealth and running around and doing all sorts of stuff befitting a wannabe superpower, but even then they tended to be viewed as an ossified and outdated bunch. By modern times, the old Sespertine Republics is in its twilight years; assuming a lack of reform or resurgence, it will most likely fall apart under its own bloated mass rather messily, sparking problems for nearby sectors.

The Sespertine Republics is a much more centralized polity compared to some other factions. It's organized along nested lines, starting with a planetary government and ultimately reaching the all-Republics central government. While the republics and lower subdivisions have a decent amount of autonomy, the central government has considerable authority and oversight. A unicameral Senate of the Republics governs the Republics as a whole, with an elected Consul acting as chief executive. The Sespertine government is a confusing mess of sometimes contradictory and competing organs, made even worse by the favorite Sespertine dodge of creating and layering new organizations and political units that one-up old ones. In addition, the Sespertine Republics is the controlling member of the Federation of Sespertine-Aligned Polities. In a perfect world, it's a way for the Republic's and its 'sister republics' to work together. In reality, its just a rubber stamp and exploitative tool for the Republics.

The Sespertine Republics never really became what it set out to become, reaching regional power status at best. It's ossified, out of touch with modern astropolitics, and decaying from within. Their hubristic claims to the contrary probably don’t help, either. Tensions within the Republics and its federation of puppets are becoming more and more obvious with each passing day. Within the Republics, political reformers and radicals pushing for new political structures are pushing hard against an unyielding and old fashioned government, often violently. The Governor-Generals of more than a few republics have been openly questioning the competency of the central government and the Consul, while the Sespertine military is similarly factionalized. Its network of protectorates are even worse. Riots and insurrection in many of them are more common, straining the Republics in the process. Everyone sees the blatantly obvious collapse of the Republics and is already preparing for that eventuality. Both the Commonwealth and Overwatch have assets in place for that day, as do our rivals. Ideally, we'd like to limit any spill over to nearby sectors and prevent anyone from exploiting the situation for ill deeds, but either way expect a lot of blood to be spilt.

Ouster Systems

The galactic rim, galactic halo, globular clusters, and intergalactic void are known for three things: gun-ho, ruggedly brash he-man polities, isolates and absolutely eccentric and/or experimental memes/cultures/societies/colonies, and the Ousters. When the Commonwealth formed, it, or rather the proto-Commonwealth, fought a brutal series of wars with the thugs, imperialists, and their barbarian pawns that opposed what the Commonwealth stood for. They lost badly, and while some ultimately yielded and accepted their defeat, the remnants of many others refused to surrender and instead packed up what was left of their empires and got the fuck outta there. They exiled themselves to the margins of the galaxy and joined forces with the minor xenophobe species there to reconquer their lost empires. Obviously, a bunch of retrograde asshats living in the shittiest real estate in the Known Universe does not a galactic superpower make. Instead, most of them were content with holding not just Civilization, but indeed all other civilized polities at bay and preserve their way of life, with the occasional pillaging and raping for good measure. Occasionally, though, some random warlord will gain enough support to launch a crusade and destabilize the whole galactic region. It's the latter we worry about, and that's why we'll never show them any mercy.

First thing to note about the Ouster Systems is that the name is just a astrographical term. There is no central government or even binding treaty that unifies them. Rather, they're a bunch of hyperimperialist polities, rogue states, minor species, criminal syndicates, and void barbarian fiefdoms loosely allied through a confusing network of gentlebeings agreements. Competition and even war among the ousters is common ('keeps us sharp and weeds out the unworthy' is what an ouster once told me), though go too far and everyone gangs up on you. There do exist some factions that provide some sort of pan-Ouster services, though. Eternity Station, a megastructure rosette orbiting a red dwarf, acts as a trading and exchange center, for example. In general, they'll only act as a unified front if it suits them or they're all threatened (more on that later). Being forced to live in the margins of civilization means that resources can be scarce for them, and technology is less advanced and reliable compared to the transgalactic standard. That translates into sporadic raids into the galactic disk or, more recently, the other settled galaxies.

When the Commonwealth expanded enough to be in contact with the Ousters, several wars were fought before the borders stabilized. Relations between the two groups is poor, to say the least. The Ousters have an intense distrust of the Commonwealth and any polities that affiliate with it, especially those in their home turf. In their paranoid little minds, the Commonwealth is the great boogeyman, an ever-hungry galactic empire that will rape the halo for resources and finish them off once and for all. The Commonwealth is even less flattering in its opinions of the Ousters. It views them as a bunch of fanatical retrograde barbarians that cry about oppression regarding their 'way of life', i.e., raping, pillaging and all the stuff that wholesome people take part in, while sponsoring barbarians and independent factions to do the dirty work for them. As with everything, there's a little bit of truth in both stories, but, honestly, this is a time where the propaganda about the Ousters is closer to reality. If they're such a threat, why doesn't the Commonwealth just smash them into a million shards? Escalation, that's why. While normally divided, a general war against them will unite them as a single entity and initiate the mother of all dirty wars. The Ousters would have no qualms about unleashing unspeakable atrocities and war crimes if it will save them, and if it doesn't save them then at least the Commonwealth will know who scarred them so badly. No one wants that, even if victory is inevitable. Instead, the Commonwealth is content with containing them and promoting reconciliatory memes in Ouster Space. For our part, we have countermeasures in place; if war breaks out, it'll be Overwatch making the first strike.

TBC


Alright, so these can be thought as part of the supporting cast, as it where, of Accelerating Future. They are part of a broader group of independent polities, which includes the transgalactics of Andromeda, the petty empires of Triangulum, and the Commonwealth's true rivals that lurk beyond the Local Group. While the unincorporated in the Milky Way aren't going to win any grand wars of conquest against the Commonwealth anytime soon, they can definitely keep it on edge and alert for any perfidious actions that are meant to weaken them locally.

Thematically, the major unincorporated that I listed above each have a distinct feel to them that matches what they are. The 4th Empire is meant to evoke the pomp and circumstance of the Old World monarchies, but at the same time blends it together with a supermodern, cosmopolitan and post-cyberpunk feel. The Autonomist Accord, given its anarchistic nature, is perhaps even more diverse than the Commonwealth in virtually every form. The Accord should be a melting pot of virtually every lifestyle, mode of existence, culture, fashion, art form, and government imaginable, as people are free to experiment. Even the military should reflect this, allowing for everything from simple citizen militias with heavily customized gear to proper, combined arms war machines. The Alphanaut Diaspora should feel exotic and alien given their penchant for adopting alien aspects and taking transsophontism to the extreme to cope with a life of constant space travel. The Systems Concordiat, like the Commonwealth, should evoke a feeling of what sophonts can do when they work together. The Sepsertine Republics is like a decaying dynastic China or Spanish Empire; the sun's setting on what was once a glorious polity. A look at their greatest achievements and glorious feats should make people weep for what was lost and what will soon consume all of the Republics. Finally, the Ouster Systems should feel like an overgrown hive of scum and villainy making an existence on the margins of Civilization. They're a seedy and sinister version of the Commonwealth and that should be reflected in their volumes as a gritty, desolate setting (compare with the quasi-utopianism and optimism of the Commonwealth) that makes the Terminus Systems from Mass Effect look like a land of ponies and rainbows. In doing this, I hope I can create an interesting contrast to the Commonwealth and its thematic characteristic and explore how other polities make do in the shadow of such a colossus.
Last edited by Magister Militum on Tue Nov 20, 2012 6:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Heretic » Thu Oct 25, 2012 1:58 am

Pretty ambitious stuff here. I think my head exploded when I got to the politics of the Commonwealth. It would be interesting to see how the fringe polities work. I always was deeply fascinated by those that resist transhumanism and big utopias. I dunno, I feel more sympathetic to the opposition than the super big diverse entity that can build solar systems for fun.

Still, it would be interesting to see how this project goes, even if it requires me to scoop up my brain matter from the floor and try to read it again.
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Thu Oct 25, 2012 5:16 pm

Heretic wrote:Pretty ambitious stuff here. I think my head exploded when I got to the politics of the Commonwealth.
Then I have been successful. :) Remember, the Commonwealth is a supranational federation, not a traditional federation like the US. It's naturally going to give broad rights to its member-states. Think the United Federation of Planets, Citadel Council, or even the Imperium of Man. I did notice, though, that some parts of that article are obsolete; the executive government, for example, is much more in line with a parliamentary republic than a semi-presidential one now that the President is more of a ceremonial head of state compared to the significant power held by the Chancellor (the new name for the General Minister). The section of transsophontism is also very out of date compared to my current ideas, which hopefully I'll post by the end of the week. It's all a work in progress, with everything being refined as a go along and the setting matures more and more

It would be interesting to see how the fringe polities work. I always was deeply fascinated by those that resist transhumanism and big utopias.
Fringe polities can cover quite a bit. On one hand, you have the fringe sovereignties of the Commonwealth in its outlying regions, which tend to be a magnet for political structures that appear eccentric, experimental, or quaint and archaic, i.e., stuff like interstellar monarchies, AIcracies, group-minds. If you mean the unincorporated, then you'll definitely see more of them. In addition to groups like the ones I mentioned, there are the major civilizations in Andromeda to contend with, some of which are quite potent. And, of course, you have those beyond the Local Group. The latter are the true threats to the Commonwealth.

As for the transhumanism, sorry to squash your hopes, Heretic, but EVERYONE uses transhumanism. Basically, an overwhelming majority of sophont species will enhance themselves because 1.) it's so damn useful and 2.) it's vital to creating a thriving interstellar society, let alone a transgalactic one. Those that reject transhumanism (well, transsophontism, actually) are either baselines who live their lives peacefully on an uneventful world or fanatics that ramble about the immorality of transsophontism but can't do shit 'cause they're so woefully outclassed compared to everyone else. Remember, AF is a transhumanist setting, so this is a given.
I dunno, I feel more sympathetic to the opposition than the super big diverse entity that can build solar systems for fun.
That's a completely justifiable position. I mean, yeah, the Transgalactic Commonwealth is a very nice place to live and is an oasis of prosperity and all, but it really is rather two-faced when it comes to groups that can upset its status quo and carefully arranged set up. Mind you, this is not lost on many groups within the Commonwealth, and I imagine that many unincorporated bitterly resent this, as well. At the same time, the unincorporated are not saints by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s doubtful they could do a better job than the Commonwealth. I guess it's a case of rooting for an underdog that, while incapable of winning, can carry on in spite of its limitations.
Still, it would be interesting to see how this project goes, even if it requires me to scoop up my brain matter from the floor and try to read it again.
As always, comments are appreciated. A rough primer on transsophontism is next, followed by maybe a tech article or even a very short story (or both).
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Sun Oct 28, 2012 5:07 am

I was working on a full-fledged article on this, I'd rather like to do a brief write up to get the idea across. Transhumanism in Accelerating Future is a major component in this setting, probably one of the biggest in terms of thematic elements. Almost all sophont species in the Known Universe, or at least the transgalactic community - that part of the Known Universe centered around the Milky Way, make use of transsophontism, which is AF's term for transhumanism applied to all species. Those species that don't either haven't reached a level of development to use transsophont technologies or actively reject enhancement due to religious/ethical/political reasons. Broadly speaking, transsophontism involves using cybernetics, genetic engineering and biotechnology, nanotechnology, brain uploading, chemicals, and/or psychosurgury to enhance the sophont condition to a desired state. Just what exactly that desired state is can vary immensely due to personal tastes, changing fads and occupation; a soldier or spacecraft engineer is going to be very different from someone who exists as a coruscating swarm of nanomachines. It's expected that sophonts will change themselves considerably as time goes on, either through the addition/removal or specific traits and augmentations, sleeving into a different body type (more on that later), or living in the infosphere.

You can generally classify what particular sub-species, or clade, a sophont belongs to or what type of body, or morph, they use through a four tiered system of identification: baseline, nearbaseline, transbeing, and postbeing. Baselines are just that, a clade or morph with absolutely no enhancements and all the defects and quirks evolution loves to provide. Almost no one is a baseline in AF just because of how utterly outclassed they are, not to mention their incompatibility with modern society. Baselines mostly keep to themselves on their worlds, where they live peacefully and without intrusion from society. Nearbaselines tend to be those that have been enhanced quite a bit, but not so much to fully separate themselves from their original species. Biological immortality, disease immunity, implanted computers, cosmetic alterations, and many other 'minor' upgrades and augmentations fall in this category, with extreme nearbaselines blurring the line with transbeings. I would say that a simple majority of sophonts fall into here when social inertia returns to its normal spot and isn't flung into a whole 'nother cultural shift. Transbeings are sophonts that have opted for extensive and radical enhancements through some combination of cybernetics, nanotech, and genegineering. High end cyborgs definitely fall into this category, as do pantropic morphs, parasophonts (sophonts spliced with foreign DNA), and others. Finally, postbeings are those fellows that have completely moved beyond their original, fleshy forms for either life as a digital intelligence (uploads and AGIs) or in a synthetic morph. Obviously, this also includes those manufactured from the get-go as a postbeing. People routinely climb up and down the categorization list depending on current situation. Take someone joining the Commonwealth Army, for example. Assuming they're a standard, no-frills nearbaseline, the Army will modify them considerably with various implants and mods in order to fit a particular morph template suited to their job, pushing them into transbeing territory. Given enough time, said soldier might become very transsophont or even a full-fledged postbeing if they become a DI for coordinating information for a GHQ or sleeve into a monstrously powerful synthetic killframe. At the end of their service, though, they'll be 'demilitarized', as their augmentations are removed or adapted for civilian use, sending them back down to nearbaseline status.

While biological/physical immortality is a given (how long someone lives being determined by personal choice and all), people can still unintentionally die due to accidents and deliberate violence. Because of that, brain-state backups are extremely common, with those that refuse to use them being scorned as eccentric sociopaths. Brain recording involves capturing a sophont's consciousnesses and that makes someone a living, thinking being. How it's actually done falls within two categories. The first method involves using something called a ego drive, also called an cortical stack or back-up brain. It's a grape-sized computer that continuously scans a person's brain with nanomachines right up to death. Ego drives are ludicrously hardy, capable to resisting damage that would ordinarily reduce the rest of the morph into a red paste. In the case of death, it's just a simple matter of taking a knife and popping out the drive from the base of the skull (squeamishness may or may not occur depending on a person's constitution). Trying to remove an ego drive while someone is still alive will always fatal for the person. In addition, it's considered good form to stop by a hospital - usually weekly, but some go daily - to have a more traditional brain recording, whose end product is stored in hardened, off the infosphere mainframes.

So what does happen when someone dies? Well, there are few options depending on a sophont's instructions. If the death was planned, then obviously they would remain dead. They can also be revived, either by putting the body in a healing vat if they've been stabilized before information death, i.e., the death of the brain, transferring their intact braincase to a new body, or downloading their backup into a new morph. Alternatively, they may tire of existing in physical form and instead opt to become an upload or go post-biological as a synthetic. Some might want to become part of a group or hive mind, or form the personality of an AGI. Those that are REALLY board might opt for nanostasis or uploading before being put in dead storage for years, decades, centuries, millennia, or eons until a predefined period.

Now, the mentioning of body swapping deserves some more clarification. Resleeving is the process where one's ego is transferred to a new morph. The reasons can be many. Someone having lost their original body is of course a given, but it could also be that someone wants to run around in a morph that is radically different from the one they're using or that they don't want to take the time to gradually modify themselves to eventually reach that state. A person's profession might require them to use a morph that, in any other situation, would not be comfortable to use, e.g., a vacuum adapted biomorph is perfect for working in the orbital shipyards of Luna, but would suck to use in your home. And some people might not want to be married to a particular morph and its features and instead opt for several morphs for several occasions. How the process occurs depends largely on whether the ego or a braincase is being transferred. In the case of an ego, the person in question will be connected to an ego router, a device that transfers the consciousness from one substrate to another. Downloading to a biological brain typically takes much more time, as the nanomachines deployed by the router are essentially rewriting the blank brain to match that of the user. Transferring to a new morph with a braincase is of course much easier and faster. The sophont's braincase is removed from the old morph and installed into the new morph, bypassing any computing substrate transfer. Sophont's with a cyberbrain, a completely synthetic brain, have it even easier, as they merely download into the new morph within seconds.

Transsophontism has many ramifications on the transgalactic community. For starters, identity is now based less on physical appearences or forms and more on a person's ego, their consciousnesses, regardless of what substrate or morph they're inhabiting at the moment. If you decide to switch bodies to that of a ten foot tall combat mechanoid, you're still regarded as you, no matter what your exterior is like. Gender is also pretty fluid, too. A person, having the right biomods, can induce a sex change to whatever gender they want (male, female, neuter, transgender) or simply use a healing vat to make the change. Changing your sex to experience something different is considered quite normal, though gender identity is more ingrained in a person. As a corollary to that, built-in contraception and STD immunity, along with major changes in terms of how society views sex, means that people are less hung on sexual mores than compared to our time. Since death is cheap, there's less aversion to life threatening scenarios. At most, getting killed is akin to getting a broken arm or particularly nasty cold. Yeah, it sucks you got pasted, but, hey, we can always dump you into a healing vat or resleeve you and you'll be solid.

While people are generally quite open about modifying themselves, some things are explicitly taboo, at least within certain circles. Psychosurgery, modifying your psyche, is generally considered a good thing, especially when used to treat personality disorders, traumatic events, or loss of continuity of self. Using it, or rather abusing it, for malign purposes, such as interrogation and torture, is severely frowned upon, although the reality is that it still happens in some quarters. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with partitioning your ego into distinct entities for multitasking if the partitions are merged together within a reasonable amount of time. Things become hairy, however, when someone decides to let their ego partitions run amok for more than a day. Most people are uncomfortable with the idea because, as enough time passes, the individual partitions begin to develop in their own unique way due to new experiences. Continuity of self becomes very messy to sort out in these cases when you have multiple, unique yous running around. Forcibly uploading someone, or doing it without their consent, is viewed as a particularly loathsome crime, especially given the horror stories that have emerged when authorities discover what became of the uploads. Some sub-cultures have abused the cheapness of death by indulging in recreational cannibalism. Needless to say, sane people are not amused by this barbarity. Finally, it's important to stress that just because you can sleeve into any type of morph doesn't mean you should. An uplifted gorilla would be particularly offended if a human sleeved into a gorilla morph just for joyriding, for example.

This just scratches the surface of transsophontism in Accelerating Future. There's more to discuss, but that can wait for later. Next, because I've been bitten by the writing bug, I want to get out a very short microstory that'll serve as in introduction to the deep spacer stories I plan on writing. There will probably be one for Overwatch, as well.
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Wed Nov 07, 2012 4:27 am

So, after hearing about it for sometime, I decided to take the plunge and create my own nation, the Autonomist Technocratic Commonwealth of Aedinor, in Nationstates. For those not in the know, Nationstates is an online political simulator where you create your own nation and roleplay it on their forums. Besides being a place to play around with my own political leanings (namely, a democratic socialist, technoprogressivist, and participatory federation with but a touch of technocracy), it also gives me the chance to develop some ideas I've had. In filling out its history, I decided that Aedinor would follow a cyclical pattern of normally fragmented states banding together under a new government. Each pan-Aedinor superstate would be generalized historiagraphically as an iteration of the Commonwealth, regardless of how politically different it was from its predecessors or successors. the 1st Commonwealth was the Aedinoric Conclave, a loose confederation analogous to the very early Swiss Confederation or pre-Peace of Westphalia Holy Roman Empire. After its collapse, a more centralized, monarchal government called the Royal Federation of Grand Aedinor, the 2nd Commonwealth, took hold. The 2nd Commonwealth is influenced by the federal Imperial Germany and the theoretical models for a federal British Empire. Finally, we have modern Aedinor, which, among other things borrows from anarchist/libertarian socialist thought, a hypothetical strong EU, and other supranational/multinational federations and states.

What does this have to do with AF? Well, I've made vague references before to a 1st Commonwealth and a Interregnum/Restoration. I also talked about how the Commonwealth tends to go through cyclical periods in regards to politics/political structure and culture. The way I figured it, why not introduce the concept I've been playing with to the Commonwealth? How I see it, much of the transgalactic community that normally makes up the Commonwealth is intrinsically tied together through several means. These ties eventually cause the formation of a Commonwealth. Occasionally, the Commonwealth will take on a new, sometimes radical form. In extreme cases, it might dissolve, but the desire for the good old days will draw the new polities to reunification. Like with Aedinor, each iteration of the Commonwealth I think would have some distinct political overtones and style to it, in addition to differing structures depending on the socio-political climate of the day. The 1st Commonwealth, for example should be very loose and confused due to the influence of the proto-Commonwealth, akin to the Articles of Confederation-era America. At some point, a reaction against the chaos of a excessively decentralized Commonwealth might spark a radical movement for a tighter federation and more powerful executive, perhaps creating a bonafide democratic, republican Transgalactic Empire with all that pomp and circumstance people love. Eventually you get the modern Transgalactic Commonwealth, perhaps after a dissolution and reunification, which splits the difference between the broad political movements in the transgalactic community. This definitely provides a lot of potential to fill in the millennia of history that the Commonwealth has, as well as making the Commonwealth a much more vibrant and living polity. This definitely sounds very promising.
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Germania your game is through, now you're gonna answer to... The Freestates! Fuck Yeah! Now lick my balls and suck on my cock! Freestates, Fuck Yeah! Coming in to save the motherfuckin' day! Rock and roll, fuck yeah! Television, fuck yeah! DVDs, fuck yeah! Militums, fuck yeah! - Shroomy

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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Invictus » Mon Nov 12, 2012 1:25 pm

As a student of Chinese history, I am very intrigued by this development.

I also have some questions regarding you article on transhumanism. I get that technology has removed almost all technical barriers to changing one's body, and that has also enabled a radical shift in the concept of self-identity - but where does that leave interpersonal relationships? Instead of judging each other by physical appearances, do sophants who meet for the first time look up each others' rep or public profile instead? How does this primacy of personal agency - albeit tempered by a kind of institutionalized optimization for all walks of life - affect how people relate to each other? Of course, society and culture would become more permissive of people choosing to walk down the street as a 10-foot combat mechanoid, but is shifting culture alone really enough to make transumanity live coexist in the midst of this kind of 'morphological explosion, or does transhumanity find itself needing to reach in to rewire the bits of their own brains that panic at the sight of big scary things with teeth? What are your assumptions on this?
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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:27 am

Invictus wrote:As a student of Chinese history, I am very intrigued by this development.
Thanks. I'm still playing around with the concept, of course, but I'd imagine that while its structure and relative tightness will vary on the era, the core concepts it's built on - self-determination, sophont rights, extropianism, and all that jazz - endures as an unchanging constant. That, along with the Commonwealth's triumphs, is probably what really binds it together. Politics will have a lot to do with the structure, as well. Whenever the autonomists have the upper hand, the Commonwealth will be very loose and quasi-anarchistic, with the ultimate goal being a full-fledged anarchist confederation. Conversely, times of crisis might trigger a transgalactic empire that binds Civilization together but then reverts to its default state when it no longer needs the Shiny Red Buttons of Power.
I also have some questions regarding you article on transhumanism. I get that technology has removed almost all technical barriers to changing one's body, and that has also enabled a radical shift in the concept of self-identity - but where does that leave interpersonal relationships? Instead of judging each other by physical appearances, do sophants who meet for the first time look up each others' rep or public profile instead? How does this primacy of personal agency - albeit tempered by a kind of institutionalized optimization for all walks of life - affect how people relate to each other?
Hmm, a very thought provoking question you have there. As a general rule, people naturally assume that the person they just met will change their looks, subtlety or radically, at some point in the future. Someone who decides to change their looks or sleeve into a new morph will typically send a notice to their friends, family, and associates regarding the change, as well as a picture showing what they'll look like. People always look at someone's online profile and rep score for an idea as to who they really are, especially given how fickle looks can be. While morphological makeup does color interpersonal relationships - you or I relating to a superhuman AGI would be difficult regardless of their extensive anthropomorphism - it by no means dominates or interferes how people relate to one another to a significant degree (there are always exceptions, though). The mark of a truly cosmopolitan being is one who can relate to and build strong relationships with as many different and exotic sophonts as possible. Society has also done a commendable job in fostering inter-sophont solidarity and cooperation, too - multispecies polities are the rule rather than the exception. Same goes for alien sophonts rather than transhuman clades, even if they are more difficult to comprehend at times what with differing biologies and brain structures.

If this sounds somewhat vague or lacking in in depth analysis, then you're right. This isn't an easy question to answer and requires a bit of philosophical analysis, which I love. I expect this aspect of Accelerating Future to mature more once I begin writing more substantial things within the setting.
Of course, society and culture would become more permissive of people choosing to walk down the street as a 10-foot combat mechanoid, but is shifting culture alone really enough to make transumanity live coexist in the midst of this kind of 'morphological explosion, or does transhumanity find itself needing to reach in to rewire the bits of their own brains that panic at the sight of big scary things with teeth? What are your assumptions on this?
Mostly the former. Really, a bigger issue would be transhumanity living alongside countless other sapient species without being utterly panic struck by truly alien aliens. Modern civilization is pretty old - around the tune of a hundred thousand years - so presumably civilization would have worked all that out through cultural understanding and all that.
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Germania your game is through, now you're gonna answer to... The Freestates! Fuck Yeah! Now lick my balls and suck on my cock! Freestates, Fuck Yeah! Coming in to save the motherfuckin' day! Rock and roll, fuck yeah! Television, fuck yeah! DVDs, fuck yeah! Militums, fuck yeah! - Shroomy

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Re: Accelerating Future (working title)

Post by Magister Militum » Fri Dec 28, 2012 2:00 am

OK, now that the holidays are nearly done, I can start to give AF more attention again. You're getting a twofer today. The first part is a little microshort I wrote on the blue deep spacers, which might shed some light on their motives and outlook. As time goes by, I might put out more of these for the other spacer factions. The second part consists of a mock up of an article on the Commonwealth Starfleet, which will probably get a lot of attention in Accelerating Future. I don't really touch on the Exploratory Fleet that much, so I'll have to look into another article for them. After this, I might begin to explore some of the other polities that exist in the setting, and possible a look at some tech or economics, which I haven't addressed too much yet. If the writing bug hits me, I might try my hand a more proper short, possibly Overwatch related.

Argus Fortinoit had always been a spacer. He was born on the Temriili Association worldcraft New Hope, one of the oldest of the Temrilli worldcraft that dated back to the Sundering during the Unification Wars. The perpetual wanderlust of the planetoid-sized spacecraft made an impression on Fortinoit as a child; so much so, in fact, that once he came of age he joined Starfleet in order to experience even more of what the universe could offer. As a flag captain and commanding officer of the dreadnought CSV Eternal Aegis of Democracy, Argus spent much of his career seeing and experiencing things that people only usually read about or see in infosphere videos. He skimmed across the event horizon of black holes and cosseted himself within the raging nuclear firestorm of stars, cracked open worlds with the thunderous guns of his battlewagon like a war god clamoring for vengeance, and made port with exotic worlds of virtually every type imaginable, from Venusian pressure cookers and their constellation of aerostat-colonies to Alderson disks encircling red dwarfs, great tributaries of spacecraft streaming to and from the impossibly huge construct. But this was something much greater. To transfer over to the Exploratory Fleet of Starfleet and become a deep spacer, a quasi-autonomous explorer-diplomat-scientist-soldier of the Transgalactic Commonwealth, was a major opportunity. While it lacked the bellicose glory and martial excitement of the Defense Fleet – he doubted he’ll be glassing planets anytime soon - the Exploratory Fleet opened a whole new set of possibilities as the cyclopean deep space explorers ventured beyond the frontiers and into the true unknown.

The Blue Deep Spacers, all the deep spacers affiliated under the banner of the Commonwealth had a long and proud history. The Commonwealth wouldn't have existed had it not been for the first deep spacers who strengthened the bonds of the interstellar community through their regular travels. The Deep Spacers helped spread the ideas of pan-Civilization among the various polities of the then-Interstellar Community, creating common ground and the idea of the Commonwealth. They explored and settled the Milky Way and several of its satellites, and now history was to repeat itself with the Andromedan sub-group and the rest of the universe and its associated realms. It can be a dangerous line of work, true, but also immensely rewarding, as Fortinoit had heard from veterans of the Exploratory Fleet. To help create a universe-spanning community of like-minded sophonts and civilizations was the ultimate goal of many deep spacers both within and outside of the Commonwealth, and Argus was going to be a part of it.

From his observation pod, Fortinoit could see the full extent of his new command, the CSV Celestial Sojourner, nestled within the cavernous dock of Cornucopia Dyson Sphere, the enormous shell that encapsulated its star. This particular megastructure was devoted to one thing: manufacturing. The amount of raw material that the monster took in could start nose bleeds from counting, and its output was similarly large. In this case, it just happened to be that one of those finished products was the Celestial Sojourner. Two hundred and fifty kilometers long and massing an enormous amount of tons, the deep space explorer was built from the bottom up for the type of mission Fortinoit was to launch. She was completely self-sufficient in every way, as well as sporting extensive crew for a multi-year voyage. Between her modular nature, onboard manufactories, and self-repair capabilities, the Celestial Sojourner could modify and expand itself to meet any situation. And, of course, her default armament was enough to defend against any reasonable threat that could be encountered in the greater universe. Like her crew and captain, the ship was just as varied and multipurpose; a worldcraft, explorer, mobile manufactory, and warship all rolled into one. While he missed the Aegis, the Sojourner would be a perfect new home for Fortinoit.

“You know, a lot of times I also like to sneak out and sit in the void like this, the audio emulators off and just looking silently at the traffic floating in and out of the docks, " said a voice from behind Argus. "I look at all those thousands of ships and think to myself of all the unique stories they must have, all the places they're going to." His executive officer, Captain Voriic Mal-Ganarogh, didn’t bother using the door to enter, instead disassembling himself into his base nanotechnological components and sliding through the cracks in the door. He towered over Fortinoit once reconstituted, his nanomorph configuring itself to appear as Mal-Ganarogh’s favorite form, a living suit of beautifully sculpted ebony armor, the faint blue glow of light emanating from the areas where the plates connected and the two pits on his head that represented his eyes.

"And we're probably the best example of that," replied Fortinoit, taking a sip of tea that had been brewed from the water of an ice comet. "Think about it, Voriic; five years of us completely isolated from the Commonwealth in the unknown bulk of Andromeda, exploring virgin space and visiting worlds that have been untouched for thousands, millions or maybe even billions of years. Making contact with civilizations ranging from budding transgalactic societies linked by warp corridors to planet-bound civilizations still stuck in at Horologitech levels. Setting up independent colonies so that Civilization can spread itself farther and farther. Helping create a greater transgalactic community across the universe.” There was a definite gleam in Fortinoit’s eyes; he was an idealist and optimist.

"You're talking like this is the first time you've ever explored deep space," said Mal-Ganarogh as he took a seat next to his captain.

"It kind of is, in a way. I visited a lot of places while in the Defense Fleet but it isn't exactly the same. It was all peacekeeping in hot sectors and defusing regional crises, showing the flag in Commonwealth-aligned and independent factions, goodwill visits with the colonies, expeditionary campaigns in hostile and lawless volumes, et cetera. I had a purpose, but in the end it was to maintain a cohesive galactic society and make sure no one who wanted to play ball got out of line, not pushing beyond the fringe. I'm a spacer, Voriic, and I belong in deep space, not in home space. There's just too much out there and too much to see and do for me to stick around the Known Universe. We'd be idiots not to go out and see what's out there."

"Even if we don't like what we find?"

"Well, that's part of the fun, isn't it?" Argus said with a smile. "Look, we both know that not everyone will treat our arrival benevolently, especially the major polities in Andromeda or Triangulum or wherever we go, and that there are plenty of competitors from the Milky Way and Megallanic Clouds that'll want to outmaneuver us and leave us out in the cold. And the farther we get away from Civilization, the greater the chance we bump into something completely terrifying or hostile. Perhaps someone will run into a supercivilization or an alliance of major polities that wants to brutalize us and bleed us dry for anything useful, or maybe we discover a cosmic horror that'll reduce us to a collection of half-insane psychopaths wandering through the ruins of our home. Or maybe it's something as mundane as stopping an intra-colonial spat or deterring non-Commonwealth spacers. Either way, for every outright hostile, uncaring, or manipulative civilization, faction, or polity we find, we'll find another that shares our ideals and wants to work with us. The end goals of many sophont species tend to overlap. It’s in everyone's interest - not just ours - to cooperate to create an interconnected community that will be far greater in capabilities than its components, a community that can not only survive in an uncaring universe, but thrive to the very end in defiance of whatever we face. That, more than anything, makes the hardship and risks worth it."

"Oh, I know that, captain," said Mal-Ganarogh. "I just wanted your thoughts on the matter, especially given that you're an officer transferring from the Defense Fleet. There's a noticeable divide between the optimists and pragmatists when it comes to exploring the universe and what it all means. And then there are explorers like you, captain, who have a healthy mix of the two. You're not blind to the political realities and dangers tied to exploration, but you still hold onto the ideals of a blue deep spacer and work to make them a reality. You'll make a good explorer."

"I appreciate that. It's going to be a good five years, Voriic, just wait and see. Exciting, exotic, and maybe a touch terrifying, but definitely never boring. I can't ask for a better job."


The Commonwealth Starfleet is one of the oldest of the institutions of the Transgalactic Commonwealth. It predates the Commonwealth and its iterations, directly tracing its lineage to the multinational Unified Starfleet of the Interstellar Community - aka, the proto-Commonwealth - and its member polities such as the Nirvanan Republics and the Technocratic Federation of Aedinor. Like the idea of the Commonwealth itself, the concept of an interstellar starfleet with nigh-universal jurisdiction to maintain security of the Interstellar Community was a popular idea. Everyone wanted to maintain their own separate space force, of course, but having a supranational starfleet for policing and peacekeeping was acceptable. It took the proto-Commonwealth and the Unification Wars for Starfleet to truly emerge, though. At first, it was mostly a multipolity fleet consisting of donations by the various member-polities that augmented the more traditional starfleets, space forces, and navies of the Interstellar Community. In spite of its somewhat motley nature, it managed to snag some major independent victories while the other fleets struggled to break the stalemate. Given enough time, Starfleet began to act as a true transgalactic space force independent of the member-polities and answerable to the Supreme Allied Command of the Interstellar Community. Widely credited alongside the proto-Army and Espatier Corps for being one of the decisive tools used to end the Wars, one of the earliest acts of the newborn Transgalactic Commonwealth was to 'upgrade' the Unified Starfleet into the Commonwealth Starfleet, the senior service of the newly formed Armed Forces of the Commonwealth. No longer dependent on the sovereignties for its existence, Starfleet would now enjoy vastly increased resource and manpower flows, access to the best technology in the transgalactic community, and universal jurisdiction within the Commonwealth and her interests. While this might have gone just a tad bit to their heads - Starfleet is sometimes infamously known as the Kings of Known Space - they're competent and dedicated enough that no one really minds.

Starfleet primarily maintains a universal mandate to uphold the security and integrity of the Commonwealth and transgalactic community from internal and external forces, as well as a secondary mandate to explore the universe, engage in early diplomacy with new civilizations, and advance research in various scientific and technological fields, particularly those with space applications. Out of all the other armed services – the Commonwealth Army, Commonwealth Espatier Corps, and the quasi-autonomous Commonwealth Intelligence Consortium - Starfleet enjoys the largest resource budget and is one of the pillars of Commonwealth foreign and domestic policy, a fact that is resented by everyone else. While Starfleet maintains offices on Marathon, the capital world of the Transgalactic Commonwealth, the true general headquarters of Starfleet is the orbital fortress CSF Unrelenting Bastion of Civilization, home to not only the Admiralty, but also the GHQ of the 1st Starfleet, aka the Commonwealth Home Fleet. Organizationally, Starfleet is headed by the Chief of Starfleet Operations, who is granted the unique rank of Admiral of the Void upon being confirmed. The CSO chairs the Admiralty Board, which includes the Chief of Starfleet Personnel, the Chief of Starfleet Procurement, the Chief of Starfleet Aviation (the Starfighter Corps), the Chief of Starfleet Supplies, and other select individuals, such as Astrogator, Minister of Starfleet and Master Engineer-in-Chief. Below the Admiralty Board are several subject-matter branches called Commands. These include the following:

Fleet Command: The largest of the Commands, Fleet Command oversees principal responsibility over all combat and exploratory starcraft in Starfleet. Fleet Command further divides itself into two sub-commands, the Defense Fleet, which encompasses all mainline warships, and the Exploratory Fleet, which oversees the deep space explorers and associated vessels. The Defense and Exploratory Fleets are further subdivided based on their specific goals, and can include sub-divisions such as the Combined Starfleet, the principal strategic reserve of Starfleet. Starfleet’s stockpile of WMDs and the facilities used to house them are also under its purview alongside that of Fleet Aviation Command.

Fleet Aviation Command: Sometimes known erroneously as the Starfighter Corps, in actuality a sub-division of FAC, Fleet Aviation Command oversees all aspects of Starfleet’s parasite craft, from scouting nanoswarms controlled by weak AIs to upload-flown starfighters and robotic warcraft attached to larger ships. While all of Starfleet, like the military, is quite transsophont, FAC takes it to the ultimate conclusion, as biological pilots are eclipsed by DIs and, in some cases, braincases controlling super-advanced robotic spacecraft, with swarms of mass produced, expert system controlled parasite drones providing mass cover. While all Commands frequently work together, Fleet Aviation Command is known to have especially close relationships with Starfleet Command’s carrier force, the Corps of Engineers, and the Corps of Infowarfare.

Fleet Support Command: The Command most people never hear about, Fleet Support Command provides logistical and engineering support to all spacecraft in Starfleet. To this end, FSC operates the shipyards, cornucopia tenders and repair swarms, as well as employing its talented engineers to maintain, improve, and repair the incredibly complex machinery Starfleet uses. Fleet Support Command is intimately related with the civilian-side of the defense establishment in order to keep the rawmat and energy needed for Starfleet flowing, and also maintains the manufactories and shipyards under Starfleet purview. Several major laboratories dedicated to such diverse field of superluminal and subluminal propulsion, power generation, digital intelligence, metric engineering, and other fields are also operated by FSC, often in partnership with civilian groups. The Bureau of Ships and the Starfleet Skunkworks are among the more prestigious entities that exist under FSC in a quasi-autonomous fashion.

Support Services Command: Oversees the various services that support Starfleet operations across the universe. Most famously, SSC controls Spacelift Command, the enormous fleet of transports that provides transgalactic transit to all elements of the government and military (save the Espatiers) and the Surface Establishment, the primary body controlling all Starfleet fortresses, bases, and yards. Starfleet Academy branches, postgraduate colleges, and boot camps are administered by Support Services Command, as is Starfleet Biological Group, the Communication Corps, and other myriad entities.

Starfleet, like the Commonwealth itself, is deeply transsophont. At the most basic level, every spaceman is upgraded with a standard space warfare combat package, which includes an aegis nanoimmune suite, upgraded nervous system, milspec brain-computer interface, radiation resistance, and immunity from bone-muscle degeneration. Beyond that, additional enhancement or morphs are assigned based on duties and rank. Spaceman that serve in engineering, in addition to having a particularly in-depth connection to their ship/station, are either heavily cyberized or sleeved in robotic morphs in order to conduct their duties even in the most lethal environments and circumstances. Security personnel and attached espatier units are augmented to dominate vacuum and shipbound combat, while fleet commanders are linked to Digital Intelligences and massively powerful expert systems to radically enhance their strategic and tactical planning capabilities. DIs of all types are ubiquitous in Starfleet, filling vital roles where organics are at a decisive disadvantage, such as infowarfare and piloting parasite craft. Bioroids are routinely created using a wide variety of templates for specific purposes within Starfleet, such as command or tactical operations, and can reach particularly high ranks should they choose to continue to serve after their tour of duty is finished. Starfleet generally tries to accommodate as many sophont species types as possible in order for them to serve, whether they are methane breathers from a low pressure world or natives from a world in the ancient remnants of the dark baryonic matter universe (the galactic halo, etc.). Wearing a military-grade envirosuit, sleeving into a synthetic body, or uploading into a spacecraft or space station are common avenues for service. In limited cases, Starfleet has approved the use of ships crewed exclusively by species with a common enough biology to be compatible, though it prefers multispecies integration where feasible.

Given that the Commonwealth isn't particularly militaristic compared to other civilizations in the Known Universe and lacks mass conscription/universal service, automation within Starfleet is common. At a glance, it would appear that most Starfleet vessels and space stations are far too undermanned for their volume, at least during peacetime or in low-risk sectors. In reality, dumb but exceptionally powerful AIs and bots manage a multitude of ship systems, which are overseen by crew members and sophont DIs. In particular, some duties on a warship are beyond the capabilities of a regular spaceman to manage and must be done by either AIs or digital crew members; an organic spaceman would be hopelessly useless trying to run the cyberwarfare suite against the DI of another ship, for example. Wartime or long-duration operations, however, up the crew compliment considerably to account for casualties or boarding/surfaceside operations. Parasite craft get a similar treatment, as well. They can either be controlled by expert systems, remote operated, controlled by a copy of a pilot's brainstate, or sleeved into in the case of high-end parasites. Expendable drones are almost always controlled by mass produced AI cores. Self-replicating, autonomous robotic warcraft - in essence, militarized von Neumann probes - exist in all shapes and sizes, providing valuable support in such diverse fields as interdiction, reconnaissance, space superiority/fleet dominance, and base strike. While a significant amount of the drone fleets are active, much of it is kept in reserve at various 'Peace Vaults'.

At its broadest level, all warcraft in Starfleet, from the smallest escorts to the largest combat planetoids, fall into either the manned or autonomous category. Regardless of the type of warship, most ships tend to have a similar design concept. The average spacecraft in Starfleet is built around the concept of maximal quality – warships, parasite craft, and space stations are built to the highest standards of quality that are possible at a practical level. Utilizing the resources, technological base, and the collective spaceflight experience of the thousands of civilizations that make up the Commonwealth, Starfleet creates ships that are built to last. The core of any warship is its spaceframe, its (ideally) unbreakable foundation from which everything else is built around. Spaceframes are typically built from composite materials that use a mix of high-end conventional and exotic materials that can guarantee long periods of continuous service, as well as ensuring that the vessel’s holds together during extreme maneuvers and situations. Connected to the spaceframe are the habitable decks of the starship used by the crew. Compared to other parts of a starship, the crew decks only occupy a limited portion of the total volume of the vessel. Residing in the innermost core of the vessel, the crew decks are surrounded by cubic kilometers of machinery, void spaces, bulkheads, armor belts, and fields that provide crucial defense against deep penetrating attacks. The habitable decks are were facilities such as command rooms, combat information centers, astrogation suites, engineering facilities, medical bays, recreational facilities and seemingly every other vital operation center are located. Surrounding the crew decks is the ship’s vital infrastructure, a vast assortment of weapon batteries, magazines, sensors, power plants, field projectors, engines, manufactories, and general bays. In contrast to the habitable decks, most of the infrastructure is kept at microgravity conditions if feasible. Finally, the outermost armored hull of the warship envelops everything else and protects it alongside a vessel’s own dense fields. The hull of a warship is built to withstand tremendous thermal and kinetic energies and radiation, especially should the fields be compromised or bypassed. Layers of high-end materials are used to create the thick composite armor, with fields frequently being used to further enhance the capabilities of the armor belt. Multiple redundancies for all systems are the standard in Starfleet, while, thanks to the smart matter present in warships, their internal manufactories or cornucopia machine suites for smaller craft, and AI networks, warships can, given enough rawmat and power, repair themselves or even reconfigure the ship structure, though there are limits depending on a warship’s capabilities. Drone spacecraft can take this one step further and self-replicate should its AI or its handlers deem it expedient.

Warships in Starfleet are broadly classified as escorts (corvettes, frigates, destroyers), cruisers (light cruisers, heavy cruisers, large cruisers), capital vessels (battlecruisers, battleships, dreadnoughts, carriers) and combat planetoids. At the same time, warcraft tend to also feature specific designators that reflect what its intended role is. These include:

General Purpose: A standard warship, with an ideally optimal balance of weaponry, engines, defenses, and parasite craft compliments.

Line: A warship built purely for heavy fleet engagements. Unlike a General Purpose or Hybrid Carrier vessel, line warships have an absolutely minimal parasite craft compliment, limited mostly to a few shuttles. Space normally used for hangers and parasite craft are instead dedicated to weapons systems, magazines, power plants, and defenses.

Command: A vessel designed to be heart of a spacecraft formation. In addition to featuring comprehensive C4ISTAR systems, command vessels tend to also feature much stronger defenses than average, as well as expanded logistical systems to support lesser warcraft.

Rapid Reaction: Warcraft built for speed and firepower. A far larger percentage of its total volume and tonnage is devoted to sublight and supraluminal engine mass compared to other warships. Its defenses, however, are notably weaker than on other vessels, especially in regards to armor.

Escort: Ships built around area defense. Escorts have little in the way of heavy offense weapons, but have enormous quantities of point defense clusters and light armament batteries, weapons perfect for destroying large swarms of missiles, parasite craft, and light warships.

Hybrid Carrier: A warship that has a much larger than normal parasite craft compliment while still retaining much of its original armament.

Reconnaissance: Usually only seen with lesser warcraft, Reconnaissance ships are designed to penetrate deep into potentially hostile space undetected and gather as much information as possible. A Reconnaissance vessel will have very powerful and expansive sensor suites, as well as a sufficiently powerful computronium core to analyze data and manage its swarm of probes, scouting swarms, and other intelligence-gathering parasites and the systems necessary to mask as much of its signature as realistically possible.

The spacecraft of the Exploratory Fleet tend to follow their own naming designations and descriptors.

Like all space forces, the Commonwealth Starfleet uses a system of highly educated enlisted spacemen, veteran non-commissioned officers, and space warfare officers to man its warships and space stations. Education is imperative in Starfleet, with its widely known training centers, academies, and fleet colleges providing instruction and degrees in everything from sensor operation and xenobiology to spacetime engineering and algemic economics. As is with the case of the Espatiers and Army, there are definite influences from other member polities of the Commonwealth when it comes to the particulars of combat personnel. All officers, for example, are required to serve as an enlisted spaceman for a minimum of a standard year before being eligible for Starfleet’s many officer academies and fleet colleges, as is the norm within the Defense Forces of the Quonerian Demarchy. The promotion of personnel to new ranks is highly meritocratic, managed by Starfleet's technocratic AI networks and based on aptitude scores, field experience, statistical analysis and success in the fleet. While to advance in rank is considered an honor, with flag rank - Counter Admiral and above - being an exceptional feat, there is no stigma attached to someone who instead knows the limits of their capabilities and settles into a general position, or who is demoted back to a previous rank if it is felt that the sophont in question isn't ready for such a responsibility or if their abilities are best used in another context. While Starfleet never did quite go down the autonomist route of having democratically elected and managed officers and fleets (of course, autonomist polities inside and outside of the Commonwealth have done so to reasonable success), some of that has invariably bled off. There is a definite feel of democratic management within most organizational units of Starfleet, starting with ship departments and going all the way to the Admiralty Board. A captain's executive staff, for example, is less of a tool to enact the captain's immutable will and more of a governing body that ensures that the ship is managed in the most effective ways possible, with consensus being the main tools of management. In the end, though, it is the head of that particular unit that is entrusted to make the right decisions for Starfleet, their crew, and the Commonwealth when prompt action is required.

Starfleet makes use of several uniforms depending on the degree of ceremony, the type of environment, and the role of the spaceman in question. The standard on-duty uniform when serving on a spacecraft or space station is the Space Battle Dress (SBD). SBDs are essentially powered, low-profile armor consisting of fullerenes, diamondoid, and smart materials and equipped with a plethora of electronics and support systems, including life support, limited countergravity, and basic sensors. SBDS, like all uniforms, are nanoactive and capable of self-cleaning and repair, and during combat can be fully sealed with a mental command. Visually, they appear as dark blue-colored fatigues outside of combat, with different colored piping identifying their branch of specialty. Colors include:

Red: Operations and Command
Green: Tactical
Maroon: Security
Light Blue: Medical
Teal: Sciences
Orange: Engineering
Yellow: Logistics
White: Parasite Operations
Grey: Intelligence

Security spaceman will typically forgo a SBD for combat armor while on duty, while Engineering personnel will opt for a similarly armored environmental hazard suit if not sleeved into a suitably resilient morph when working in hazardous conditions.

Dress uniforms are the uniforms traditionally used in formal events like ship commissioning, change of command, award ceremonies, and certain public events. Dress Uniforms consist of a standing collar shirt, single buttoned tunic, pants, and dress boots in spacer black (white in warm climates) with either silver trimming for enlisted and NCOs or gold trimming for officers. Enlisted spaceman and NCOs are authorized to wear ceremonial daggers, while officers can carry ceremonial sabers.

OOC: I left out the rank structure because I have yet to finalize it, especially in regards to what ranks command tactical fleet formations that fall between a unit of warships and the beginning of the more strategic-oriented formations (naval garrisons for sectors and regions, enormous roving starfleets for nigh-galactic wars, etc.). There will probably be more stuff that comes to me later that will be included in a more refined article.
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