Cybyotan Ship launching shield
Image from Steve Bowers
Cybyotan Seedship launching sacrificial shield The seedships are largely organic, nuclear external pulse craft, similar to a Daedalus class vessel; this design appears to have been included in the instructions carried by the original seedship, which arrived in the Orion Arm thirteen million years ago

Far beyond the current extent of the Wormhole Nexus many independent exploration concerns are engaged in the establishment of pioneering colonies. These colonies will generally exist for several hundred years before they are connected to the mainstream Orion's Arm civilization and the interstellar Net. Many never are; often the colony declines to participate in the wider consensus, or is too resource poor to attract a wormhole linelayer. Many others prosper, however, repaying the development corporation with an enlarged sphere of influence.

The Velpup Borderers, a colonization start-up affiliated to the Non Coercive Zone has been engaged in exploration/exploitation of the worlds of the Vela Puppis border for several millennia. In 10019 a Borderer ship found a complex garden world with a silicon/carbon symbiotic biology. Another was found in 10034, then another, and another. To date thirty-one such worlds have been found, apparently all seeded from a single world, which was finally located in 10297. This world has been named Seedworld or Mik's Planet. The silicon/carbon biology that these worlds share in common has been given the name cybyota (or cybiota) by xenobiologists.

The cybyota were originally a swarm of biological/mechanical terraforming agents, which were sent out by a civilization apparently far from the Terragens sphere thirteen million years ago. They have evolved to fill each world with non-intelligent but very alien biological life forms, and most biological species in this artificial ecosystem are genetically engineered to grow a silicon-based processor shell. These processor shells store and process data, and each processor shell is capable of transmitting this data to the processors of other nearby cybyotan organisms, particularly those of related species.

The datasphere contained within the collective silicon substrate of the cybyota contains many apparently pre-programmed behaviours and goals, consistent with the artificial nature of these organisms. The most important imperative consists of instructions to build pre-designed interstellar seedships, and to spread their silicon/carbon biology to distant worlds. In theory the cybyotan biology should have become widespread in the Orion's Arm volume because of these pre-programmed behaviours, but the strategy has only been successful on a relatively small scale.

Data is transferred between generations of the various cybyotan species in three ways:

  1. Genetic material inherited from the parents; this contains some innate behavioural programming (instinct).
  2. Behaviour acquired by the young from the old of each species by watching and learning, sometimes by language-type transmission (culture).
  3. Data transferred by processor-to-processor direct linkage. These data can be transmitted by electromagnetic means, usually infrared beams, or by sonic means, generally ultrasonic data-rich songs (file-transfer).
As each new world is seeded, the terraforming routines embedded in the biota's cybersphere are activated, and the different conditions on each new world cause the cybyota to adapt and evolve, by genetic and by programming drift. The expansion of the cybyota occurs in a cycle. First a world is seeded and terraformed. The cybyota then build a series of seedships with external pulse drive, and launch them to a new set of suitable nearby stars, with variable results.

However, with each cycle the genetic and programming drift causes the ecology to diverge from the original pattern. After several cycles this drift results in poorly built mutated seedships, which are launched at periodic intervals but are no longer adequate to convey the cybyota to new worlds; these "dead end" worlds, blindly repeating faulty instructions, are in fact the most common type among the thirty-one worlds found so far. Other worlds where the cybersphere has atrophied after successfully launching one or more seedships are also common, and these rarely support complex cyberecologies.

Most of the design for the seedships and for the ecology as a whole is carried by the datashells incorporated in the plant-like organisms. Behaviours for maintenance and assembly are carried by the animal-like creatures. Genetic analysis of the cybyota shows that animal-like and plant-like organisms are closely related, and could perhaps be regarded as a single phylum, as photosynthesis is carried out by symbiotic microbiota which are usually present in the tissues of the mobile animal-like organisms as well as in the plant-like organisms. These micribiota collect sunlight using quantum antennae which selectively absorb the most common yellow and green wavelengths, dimly reflecting red and blue to produce a deep purple tint on most such worlds.

Several other domains of non-cybyotan microbe are also part of the biosphere of these worlds, apparently carried with the cybyota in the seedships. Because the ecology program has to be adaptable this requires the system as a whole to change over time.

The process in its original unmutated state does not seem to have any controlling intelligence to guide it, but rather is a self-organising epiphenomenon. Perhaps for this reason it is unstable, and cannot retain the original purpose after too many stages. It has been suggested that an extremely alien transapient entity could conceal itself within the complex datasphere of each of these worlds, but there seems to be little evidence of this.

The nonsentient datasphere has nevertheless allowed the emergence of various kinds of sentient process to develop on several of the cybyotan worlds. It is possible that this process is part of the intended course of development of such worlds, although the results seem to be excessively diverse and random.

On a few worlds with cybyotan ecospheres the easy transfer of mutable code and data leads to the spontaneous development of a rich culture or datasphere. Very often this is not an intelligent race as such but rather a self-organising series of virtual entities or baroque simulations, which may or may not contain individual separate entities. On the world of Clive's Brain, for example, the datasphere appears to have formed a single vast, slow-thinking entity. Other dataspheres contain many virtual entities shared between locations within the processor shell network. On yet other worlds the animal-like and plant-like organisms have become isolated from the datasphere, and are rarely or never affected by it. Some of the "broken down" ecosystems that have drifted away from their original programming but have not yet found a successful new equilibrium; many show very strange loops of behaviour: species and constructions related to space travel manufactured and then destroyed in an endless cycle, species replicating to cover the whole planet only to die off and be replaced again, and so on. Software wars sometimes make otherwise identical species incompatible datawise; many species are only discernible on a programming level.

Only a very few cybyotan planets have developed physical cultures with any resemblance whatsoever to human societies. These are generally the worlds that have come to develop the most profound relationship with humanity. The dominant species of cybyotan on these worlds is a large multipurpose construction and repair morph, with a large and complex biological brain. Because of the broad range of adaptability shown by this dominant species, the Border Contact Committee has given them the label General Purpose life forms, or GPs. The subspecies which has arisen on the first and oldest cybyotan world, the seedworld, a.k.a. Mik's Planet, is fully sophont and are known as the Jeepers.

Some low energy emission civilizations detected outside the Terragen sphere by the Argus Array have certain characteristics in common with the cybyotan worlds discovered so far. It is certainly possible that clusters of seeded worlds exist elsewhere in the Milky Way Galaxy.
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Text by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 28 February 2005.

Page uploaded 28 February 2005; last modified 7 December 2009