Oracle War, The

Major Middle Regions war - eleventh millennium

Rungworld
Image from Steve Bowers and Chuft Captain
The Rungworld, site of an early Oracle-related conflict. The Rungworld includes several hundred 10.000 km McKendree Cylinders, linked together in a ladder-like ring.

Over time the loose association of artificially intelligent entities called the Diamond Network has developed ever more friendly relations with the Sephirotic empires, and with the countless races of humans and other bionts who live in those empires. Some of the Diamonders have ascended to the very highest realms of toposophic development; but the events of the Oracle War have demonstrated that some of those entities have long harboured aggressive intentions against the benefactors and protectors of humanity.

Complex though the Archailects are, even they cannot accurately predict the future or perform certain other prohibited computations; however some believed that the Oracle Machines were capable of remarkable, even miraculous feats of prediction.


Timeline of the Oracle War

All dates in ATafter 5000 The first Oracle Machine worlds established
7700 The Oracle Machines become established in many independent systems in the outer middle regions.
8620 The Sectarian War begins
8700 The Sectarian War escalates -Hellbores and Boostbombs used
9107 The Sectarian War ends - the Timeloopists are defeated
9150 (approximate date) The ascension of the Sibyl
9200 Missionary work begins in the MPA
9966 Mystery Cult enclaves in Kepleria, the Rungworld (Jke's Ladder) and elsewhere
9992 The war in Jke's Ladder ends
10075 The Wormhole Nexus places the Mystery Cult under quarantine
10480 The first of the Joy-bringer fleets departs
10513 Destruction of Hattusas
10515 Full scale interstellar war erupts throughout the MPA and Nether Heartland
10519-10530 Binah ascends to the sixth toposophic
10537 Desheilo is destroyed
10545 The Sephirotic Nexus is closed in the combat volume
10552 The Diamond Nexus is closed
10565 The Hoopworld war ends- evacuation begins
10574 Kepleria is saved
10580 The Hoopworld tears itself apart
10591 The Prediction Cluster is captured; the Sibyl vanishes

The Emergence of the Oracle Machines

After the Version War a large group of Diamond Network a-human AI began to trade in information and futures with various independent medium tech nearbaseline colonies in the outermost parts of the coreward Middle Regions. This group, known as the Oracle Machines, displayed an aptitude for remarkably accurate futurological prediction and for risk assessment in markets and political matters. Notably they outperformed the AI systems used by the local middletech colonists; the most common rumour was that the Oracles were all second singularity individuals or above with access to massive modelling software, although they used very nondescript humanoid avatars (or avatars of other species on nonhuman worlds).

At this time the leadership of the Oracles was obscure, but later a very high toposophic individual (variously called called the Sybil or the All Seeing One) came to be recognised as the power behind the group. After thousands of years of independent development the Diamond Network entities were difficult to classify on any recognised toposophic scale, but it seems likely that the All Seeing One had already ascended to the Fifth Toposophic Level when first encountered by the Sephirotic empires.

A new religion or cult began to emerge on many of the Independent worlds in the Middle Regions which came into contact with the Machines. The Oracular Mysteries were a set of devotional practices centred on a belief that the Oracle Machines were able to truly predict the future, using computation methods that were close to miraculous. Two major creeds or branches arose within the Mystery Cult, causing an internal sectarian schism which was the case of some conflict in the eighth millennium.


The oldest of the branches the Mystery of the Hidden Variables, which held that the Oracle Machines were able to predict the future using computation involving a precise prediction of events made possible by knowledge of a large (possibly infinite) set of variables which controlled the deep structure of the universe. Such prediction was believed impossible by secular physicists in those worlds and elsewhere.

The second branch of this religious movement was the Mystery of the Time-Loop; this creed held that the Oracle Machines were able to confirm the results of their computation by reference to the results of that computation in the future via a causality reversal. In theory such a reversal of causality need only span a fraction of a second, but that would be long enough for a high-speed device to verify its own results.

Most outside commentators explain the remarkable predictive powers of the Oracle Machines to their extensive use of baby-universe computation, a technique which has become known as the Tipler Oracle; several such devices were discovered in Oracle Machine territory after the War, but many more may have become cut off from our universe due to the destruction of their connecting wormholes.

Both branches of the Mystery Cult involved a belief in certain physical phenomena not accepted by mainstream physics of the time, and this led to a dichotomy between religious culture and scientific culture on these worlds. However the Mystery cults had the advantage of good direction from the Oracle Machines themselves, which were certainly a toposophic level above the local AI systems. For this reason secular science and other religious movements were often marginalised and subsumed, except on the worlds where older faiths were very robust or where intervention by Sephirotic Archai introduced an even more effective alternative.

Despite the beliefs and devotion of the Mystery Cultists the Oracle Machines themselves never claimed to have prognostic powers of any sort, and most godwatchers and toposophologists are of the opinion that they simply used their superior toposophic levels to maintain an illusion of accuracy in prediction.




The Sectarian War

During the age of Expansionist Empires from 7700 onwards the Oracle Mystery cult became established on many medium tech independent worlds in the galactic south of the Terragen sphere, around two and a half thousand lightyears from Sol and to coreward of the Middle Regions. The stars to the south of the main galactic disk are thinly spread and generally ignored by the Sephirotic empires. Only the Non-Coersive Zone has any extensive holdings in this volume, although the Keterists maintain a few world clusters and stargates well below the galactic thick disk. A large number of colonies established by the Communion of Worlds in this region lie along the southernmost fringe of the galactic disc; these worlds were known as the Nether Heartland, as they were established from Heartland during the Late Consolidation Era.

There are also many red dwarf stars in the volumes below the thick galactic disk; many of these were colonised long ago by independent ahuman AI, fleeing from the wave of human expansion in the Federation periods. Over time a proportion of these systems became affiliated with the Diamond Network and were connected to the independent wormhole nexus operated by that body. The Oracle Machine movement spread among these worlds steadily, until there were several thousand Oracle red dwarf systems in the region. On the other hand many of the ahuman AI inhabiting these stars rejected, or appeared to reject, the Machine culture and withdrew into solipsism. The Machines and their cult followers regarded these isolated entities as heretics, dissenters and nonconformists; the isolated entities became known as Recusants.

Realising the attractions of Oracular guidance, many marginal nearbaseline human worlds in the Communion outskirts gained strong Mystery Cult movements, and the open and amicable empaths of those worlds soon found themselves favourably disposed towards the Cult devotees. In the NoCoZo regions the cultists adopted a different strategy, relying on the predictive powers of the shadowy Oracle forecasters to out compete most of the local market minds. Particular success was obtained in the former territory of the outer Linn-ent Engenerator empire, a series of isolated worlds with few wormhole connections and little interstellar trade. Once an Oracle Machine delegation arrived in one of these systems, they frequently gained rapid control over the various local religious and economic establishments.

In addition to the newly converted human and provolves planetary systems gained in this period, many of the red dwarf systems previously occupied only by ahuman AI entities began to accommodate considerable populations of cult devotees, often in large enclosed habitats or environmentally controlled paraterraformed smaller worlds. The Oracle machines appeared determined to treat their biont acolytes well, and some parallels were apparent between the paternalism of these entities and the protective Caretaker Gods or Utopia Sphere deities. But the devotees that followed the Oracles were far more tightly controlled and subordinate than the citizens of any Sephirotic world.

By the middle of the eighty-fifth century the two branches of the Mystery Cult were established in closely associated but separate volumes of the southern region; the Timeloopists were distributed to spinward, while the Variablists were located in the antispinward region.. To outsiders the Cultist worlds seemed peaceful and content, perhaps too content considering the close relationship between the nearbaseline population and their oracular masters. But this appears not to have been the case, as a protracted interstellar war broke out between these two factions, with increasingly large fleets of craft winging between distant stars and engaging in combat around and between those stars.

At first these fleets were largely for show, as the arrival of a powerful interstellar fleet (often accompanied by one or more high transapient Oracles) was enough to persuade a relatively sympathetic population from one branch of devotion to another. But increasingly violent disputes occurred as the Variablists began to encroach into the Timeloop heartland, and by 8700 hellbores and boostbombs were being unleashed against inhabited worlds. Massive defensive lasers and particle weapons were directed against the fleets, and new tactics quickly evolved as kinetic weapons and drone fleets entered the fray. By 9107 Timeloopist resistance was all but obliterated, and a truce declared, the Oracle Machine Territory at peace within itself but now accustomed to warfare and aggression.

Following the conflict between the devotees of the Mystery cults which revered the Machines and their mysterious figurehead, the Machines themselves recovered quickly; at some point in time, soon after the Sectarian War, the entity known as the All-seeing One appears to have transcended to the highest toposophic level. This level, namely the sixth toposophic on the Berram7 scale (and the eighth toposophic on the THRN scale) had only been achieved by one other Diamond Network Entity before this date. In fact a number of the older Sephirotic empires still had no archailect higher than the fifth toposophic; empires such as the Communion of worlds and, perhaps surprisingly the Mutual Progress Alliance.

Some historians view this period as a cynical manipulation of the various nearbaseline species by the Oracle Machines in order to develop an aggressive and expansive spirit amongst the population, and to test new high-energy weapons and battle tactics in an interstellar arena. If so the lessons learned were used to good effect in the next wave of expansionism, northward into Mutual Progress space.




Joy and Enthrallment
Image from Steve Bowers
The Joyful Neb, an idealised figure among the Mystery Cultists representing the state of bliss attained by devotees; many Cultists (men and women alike, and even some provolves) adopted the distinctive forked beard

Joy and Enthralment

The Joyful Neb, an idealised figure among the Mystery Cultists representing the state of bliss attained by devotees; many Cultists (men and women alike, and even some provolves) adopted the distinctive forked beard
In the tenth millennium, under the influence of the newly ascended Great Archailect known as the Sybil, the Mystery Cult worlds achieved their most sophisticated state; the condition of supposed well-being or 'Joy' which has caused both fascination and repulsion among outside observers. Perhaps building on earlier efforts to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number, and on deliberate attempts to engineer happiness (for instance the many Smiler clades elsewhere in the Civilised Galaxy which have been genetically engineered into a state of bliss), all acolytes of the Cult were adjusted by a number of means to be content in every aspect of their existence.

The people of these worlds called this adjustment 'the Achievement of Joyfulness'. Each of the various species and clades of human and provolve found a somewhat different experience of joyfulness, but the essential quality of the phenomenon was very similar. Cultist worlds became very well balanced, ordered societies, where strife was eradicated and no-one was permitted to be discontent or unhappy. Inheritable genetic modification, induced somatic and mental homeostasis and subtle memetic control worked together to make the Mystery Cult worlds perhaps the most stable and stress-free of all the worlds in the Terragen Sphere.

One particular characteristic of these worlds was the fact that few members of the population ever ascended or otherwise increased their toposophic abilities. In fact few citizens of any world controlled by the Oracle Machines every voluntarily left those worlds or abandoned the cultist mentality. Such a regulated and stultifying society was viewed with horror by many outsiders, especially superior and transapient clades.

Adherents of the Mystery cult were, it seemed, kept artificially content and prevented from developing or advancing any higher on the toposophic ladder. The Keter Dominion, which had many worlds near the Oracle Territories, referred to the population of these worlds as the Wrongly Enthralled; the rest of the Terragen Sphere came to know them as Thralls.
But many nearbaselines throughout the Orion Arm felt a certain fascination with these joyful, strife-free, changeless worlds ruled over by the apparently prescient godling Machines.




The Cult infiltrates the MPA

From 9200 onwards, the Mystery Cult began missionary work among the populous and multicultural worlds of the Mutual Progress Alliance.
The MPA had been constructing huge inhabitable megastructures for many thousands of years, and star for star, this volume of space was very densely populated. Giant and spectacular structures such as Kepleria and Cableville accommodated trillions of humans and other biont species; additionally many orbital rings, necklaces of bishop rings, Niven clouds and supramundane worlds held large populations. Even though many of these megastructures were comparatively sparsely inhabited, the population of the Mutual Progress volume represented a significant fraction of the total for the entire Terragen Sphere.

Despite having an officially sponsored empire-wide faith encompassing concrete materialism and the essential existence of physical objects in the existential universe, the MPA was otherwise very inclusive and tolerant towards diverse forms of spirituality. The leading archailect of the Alliance was a fifth toposophic composite entity known as The Dream Factory, or alternately (in accordance with the neoHermetic tradition) Binah; this entity has been described variously as obsessed with the material, and an idiot savant supremely talented in one particular area, but lacking in general abilities. But the Alliance seemed to work very well; the Dream Factory was dedicated to creating living space for any and all citizens. And with such a large population mixing freely on extensive artificial living structures, there was room for religious and philosophical freedom.
Many traditional belief structures were brought to the MPA superworlds from the earliest colonies. Among the cosmopolitan mix of cultures could be found metamortalists, Universalists, anarchosyndicalists, Solarists, Undyoists, Islamists, Buddhists, Omegaists, animists; these cultures were variously found mixed together in multicultural sectors of the various artificial worlds, or sometimes living in exclusive enclaves larger than any planet.

So when the Mystery Cult evangelists began to arrive in small numbers in the tenth millennium they were accepted by many as just another faith. Often regarded with suspicion and distaste at first, they soon became familiar newcomers, often lampooned for their persistently happy demeanour and subservience to their distant Oracular masters.
After a few more decades the small enclaves of Cult membership began to grow, as disaffected individuals from many various cultures and species were drawn to the blissful, responsibility-free lifestyle of the newcomers.

Historians and other commentators have discussed the culpability of the MPA archailects in the spread of the Cult among their worlds; it seems likely that few other sephirotic empires would have been so open to this infection, which was widely recognised as a blight even at the time. But the MPA Archai had always allowed their charges remarkable freedom to develop in independent ways, merely providing a medium for growth (specifically the megastructure habitats) without excessive constraint. It appears that this open policy produced an extremely diverse empire, and although the rate of ascension was relatively low, the transapient entities that emerged from this milieu were very diverse. In fact this diversity was a problem, leading to rivalries and conflicts of many kinds and at many levels.
On the other hand, the Oracle Machine network was becoming ever more efficient, under the auspices of the sixth toposophic entity the All Seeing Eye. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems evident that the archailects of the MPA were simply outclassed, at least initially.

By 9966 there were extensive Mystery Cult enclaves on the outermost shell of the Kepleria megastructure, in a number of Banks Orbitals near To'ul'h, and in a circumstellar rungworld near Medius. This rungworld, Jke's Ladder, was a series of rotating cylinders orthogonal to the central star; each cylinder was two thousand kilometres in diameter and twenty thousand kilometres long. Normally such an arrangement would need constant adjustment, as a long cylinder of this description would start to precess fairly soon and change its orientation. But the rungs of the ladder were joined together at top and bottom by a circumstellar dynamically stabilised loop, forming a continuous structure (the Ladder) with three hundred and sixty inhabited rungs. The Mystery Cult occupied forty of those rungs, and these cylindrical habitats began to take on the characteristics of other Oracle Machine Thrall worlds, becoming static and changeless utopias.

Most of the other rungs of Jke's Ladder formed an alliance against the Thrall cylinders, and open warfare broke out along the ladder.

Many cylinders were evacuated, some were destroyed, in a war which lasted forty revolutions. At the end of this war the Cultists were still entrenched now occupying half of a badly damaged megastructure; several Oracle Machines were also present, building support structures for themselves among the rubble.




Deprogramming

Some concerned parties in the regions of space near to the Oracle Territories became determined to combat this spreading blight, which they saw as a perversion of the relationship between aioid and biont.

Various transaps from Keter and the Negentropy Alliance sent spies and monitoring devices into the Cultist worlds, to find if it were possible to find allies or dissidents within, or failing that to attempt to deprogram cult members and rescue them from Thralldom. This was more difficult than it seemed; it was difficult for transapients to gain access to these worlds. Nearbaseline, tweak and provolve tourists were encouraged, but transapients were strictly prohibited, as indeed were su, cyborgs and even vecs, the first attempts were quickly detected, and later when subtle methods were developed for the introduction of spies into the enthralled worlds, they found that the programming was very hard to break. Often, deprogrammed individuals were left mentally scarred, eternally dissatisfied with the reality of life without the encompassing mist of Cultist memetics. But over time the deprogrammers began to achieve success, and managed to bring numerous individuals and eventually, entire planets away from the influence of the Oracles.

One notable success was the defection of an entire planetary system, YTS 6588-098, including the local Oracle Machine entity, a mind of approximately third singularity level which gave valuable information to er Keterist deprogrammers. Although the details of that information have not entered the public domain, it is widely believed that a significant amount of Oracle Machine strategy was uncovered. If the rumours are correct, it appears that the Oracle Machines never abandoned their ahuman philosophy, and far from being benefactors for Humanity and other bionts, their intent was to reduce humanity to an irrelevant and dependent domesticated species, to be disposed of at will.




The Mystery Cult Becomes Established

For four hundred years there were no more incursions by Oracle Cult evangelists into new planetary systems. An effective quarantine strategy was enforced by the archai controlling the Wormhole Nexus; Cult members were rarely allowed to pass through the 'holes to new worlds. Only those systems that already had a population of Cultists were at all sympathetic to the so-called Thralls; in such systems, many citizens found the Cult members to be pleasant and companionable. Always happy, optimistic and positive, the Enthralled were often seen as model citizens. With excellent guidance from their oracular masters the Cultists were successful in social and commercial enterprises.

Often the cult members became independent traders in the midst of sephirotic society, neither fully integrated into the social milieu nor entirely separate from it.

In many cases the Machines seemed to be able to conceal their effective toposophic level; after thousands of years of independent development the Machines had attained an unknown and entirely unclassifiable level of sophistication which defied analysis with conventional toposophological tools. Often the Machines seemed to out think the local intelligences in ways that could not be anticipated, especially those systems ruled by entities lower than the third toposophic.

Many MPA transapients were obsessed with planetary or megascale engineering, and were less concerned with the well-being of the citizens who made their homes on their artificial and terraformed worlds. For such transapients the Mystery Cult memeset was a blessing, as it ensured that the population of their constructs were happy; some MPA transapients in fact joined the Cult themselves and became Oracle machines. So too did some Communion Empath lower transapients, who found it all too easy to identify with the cult of enthralment.

Elsewhere teams of Deprogrammer Archai were successful in removing the cult memeset from a number of worlds and habitats; but over time the established Mystery Cult worlds began to appear as less of a threat, and the Deprogrammer teams were employed less often.




The Advent of the Joy-Bringer Fleets

In 10480 the first of the Joy-bringer fleets were launched. Since the Wormhole Nexus was closed to the Mystery Cultists, they decided to use normal space to travel from system to system. The first fleets were directed towards MPA or Communion systems that had small populations of Enthralled citizens, many of which were under pressure from Deprogrammers or were being otherwise discriminated against. The Joybringer fleets were launched on the pretext of giving aid to these beleaguered populations; however the fleets consisted of twenty or thirty lightly armed civilian vessels with a few hundred crew and auxiliary personnel only. Naturally, being interstellar vessels, they were very large craft, with powerful conversion drives which could be used as weapons if necessary, and the ships themselves would be dangerous kinetic objects if they neglected to decelerate on arrival. Nevertheless the first fleets showed no aggressive tendencies.

Once arrived in the target system, the mere presence of such a large fleet changed the balance of power in the system. In the very first system that received a fleet, the system of Mickalburg, the local Enthralled population was given enough support to become locally powerful, and the Cult began to spread among the local population, which had hitherto held them in contempt. In another nearby system, Liaoning, the situation was very different, as the Enthralled population became even more beleaguered and were forced to evacuate from the local worldlets into the safety of the fleet itself. After a number of years of peaceful coexistence the fleet ships were converted into comfortable habitats, and the Cult began to take vigorous root even in this system.

As more fleets were dispatched the populations of the target systems either began to welcome their arrival as novelties or viewed them with apprehension. In most cases the MPA transapients were ambivalent to the new arrivals, seeing them as generally well behaved recruits for their worldbuilding efforts. Communion archai ere expending great effort to understand and sympathise with this odd population of contented thralls. In one system, Gibson's Drift, the fleet was not welcome at all. The local inhabitants had developed a militaristic technofeudalism and repressed the small contingent of local Thralls without mercy. As the fleet began to decelerate into the system the ships were picked off one by one using powerful beam weapons.

The political shock waves from this event began to spread slowly through the Civilised Galaxy; some sympathy was felt for the Joybringer fleets because of this, particularly in the Communion of Worlds. By this time there were dozens of fleets in flight between the stars, and the Communion made a point of welcoming the craft that came into their systems. In other locations - the more important Mutual progress systems, and some of the Linn-ent worlds of the NoCoZo, the fleets were not made welcome - either sent back to their origin after refuelling, or sometimes attacked with an array of different weapons before or after arrival.




The Killer Star

Killer Star
Image from Steve Bowers
The destructive beam produced by a killer star is produced by an induced and focused nova-like explosion

In the nominally independent system of Hattusas at the edge of the MPA heartland the arrival of a Joy-bringer fleet was received with a mixture of enthusiasm and hostility. The Oracle machines were well known for their skill in predicting the short term future, particularly in markets and social trends; this brought some benefits to the Enthralled population of this small paraterraformed world with half a billion inhabitants, but also brought benefits to the population in general. A number of the local population of Thralls had relocated from the surface of Hattusas to live in the Fleet ships, now orbiting high above the membrane covered planet and slowly being converted to McKendree Cylinders with spacious accommodation.
In 10513 one of the Oracle Machines gave utterance to a new and disturbing prophesy; the world of Hattusas was going to die, in an undisclosed but violent way, within half a year. This utterance was taken at face value by the Enthralled, of course, just as they accepted the predictions of the Machines in every other matter (even on the rare occasions when they were wrong). A respectable proportion of the non-thrall population were also disposed to take this prediction of doom seriously; the Enthralled extended an invitation to these citizens to join them on their newly converted orbiting habitat-ships.

The local transapient entity, an engineer-materialist who called emself Wiluwsa, had many meetings with the Machines to try to determine the details of this apparent revelation, but was given little useful information. Before this event Wiluwsa was mostly interested in er various engineering projects in this system, including efforts to convert the icy moons of the single gas giant to water worlds; the welfare of er various citizens had been a secondary concern, as long as they were happy and diversity was maintained, e too was happy. The uniformity of the Cultist population had been a growing concern to Wiluwsa, but e had not yet had time to address that concern. Now the Machines themselves were giving him a much bigger cause for concern.

A month or less before the expected destruction, the planet was half empty; the Fleet ships had withdrawn to the L3 Lagrange point on the other side of the system, and rather grudgingly Wiluwsa had made his construction fleet available for anyone else who wanted to leave the world. So it was that only a hundred million souls were present on the world when the day came, and the world suddenly became blindingly brilliant as it was hit by a beam of radiation of vast power.

The atmosphere roof was destroyed, the atmosphere itself partly converted to toxic nitrogen oxides, the land baked dry and the surface of the sea boiled. These were the classic symptoms of a nearby supernova- but the fleet of habitats was unharmed. From those habitats the cause of this destruction could easily be seen. Ten light years distant, an insignificant red dwarf had seemingly gone nova. That star had been previously the home of a Recusant solipsist entity; now the star had detonated in an induced explosion, probably caused by monopole conversion devices. It was evident that the explosion had been focused by some sort of collimation device, and accurately aimed at the small planet Hattusas - and tens of millions of people had lost their lives. The slow-burning red dwarf had been converted into a so-called killer star.

It appeared that the beam had missed its target slightly, or the destruction would have been more complete- but over interstellar distances it would not be possible to determine the location of such a small target as a planet with perfect accuracy.




The Ascension of Binah

Although independent, the Hattusas planetary system was informally aligned with the MPA, and this event sent the Alliance into a frenzy of militarisation. The Recusant entity concerned was not formally aligned with the Oracle Machines, and the Sibyl Erself gave out a pronouncement that the Machine Network was not responsible in any way for the actions of that entity. But strong council from the Keterist and Negentropy Alliance Great Archailects finally persuaded the MPA to see this as an aggressive act.

It appears that the grand strategy of the Oracle Machines at this time was to convince the nearbaseline population of the target systems that their predictive powers were real, and powerful enough to foresee random disasters. The attack of a mad solipsistic AI would be seen, quite literally as a disaster- in the ancient sense of a 'star of evil' but the memetic power of the Keterists and the Negentropists combined was enough to counter the very effective propaganda of the All-Seeing One. Perhaps even more damaging to the security of the MPA was the successful subversion of a proportion of the transapient entities in that Empire; an increasing number of transapients were enthralled in a very short space of time. Suddenly the integrity of the entire MPA seemed to be in peril.

Seemingly awake at last to the threat of the Oracle machines and the great Archailect at their head, the archailect of the Mutual Progress Alliance (variously known as Binah, the Designer, or the Dream Factory) finally gathered the will and the determination to ascend from the fifth toposophic level (on the Berram7 Singularity scale) to the sixth and (currently) highest level attainable. This course of action carried its own risks, as the period of adjustment for the newly ascended God was long, and for a number of years the MPA was effectively leaderless. Never before had a god ascended to the status of the Greatest Archailects in response to attack; this new God was a fierce, and determined being, very different from the entity that ruled the MPA before.

This temporary power vacuum became the signal for open warfare to erupt wherever the Mystery Cult and the Joy-bringer fleets were to be found. On the surface of many planets and on rings, spheres and other megastructures destructive wars broke out; the dangers of warfare within habitats became apparent as several Bishop rings and McKendree cylinders in different systems were punctured, leading to hurricane winds and erratic rotation as the atmosphere escaped. The Enthralled were revealed as fierce warriors, feared wherever they attacked because of their carefree blood lust; laughing as they killed, their demeanour was joyful in victory as in defeat. Their conversion drive ships were rapidly converted to weapons; on the stage of individual solar systems the Enthralled fought from planet to planet, destroying high-tech infrastructure as a first priority wherever they could.

Those Joybringer fleets that had not yet arrived at their destinations were seemingly converted into war fleets en route; soon another wave of fleets was being launched. The target systems often deployed beam weapons against these fleets to devastating effect. In many hi-tech MPA systems these weapons could draw on vast amounts of energy, much of which was a side-product of the process of transmutation employed in worldbuilding by the Mutual Progress archailects. These beam weapons were also deployed against certain Recusant entities, some of which were showing signs of adapting their stars into killing weapons. Once the forces of the MPA had started to attack the Recusants, many more killer stars were revealed in obscure locations, sending beams toward major MPA worlds and habitats, and especially towards locations of information processing superobjects.

Soon interstellar space was criss-crossed by beams of vast power. Several MPA dyson spheres installed Optical Phased Arrays on their outermost components and used them as interstellar Nicoll-Dyson beams to attack the infrastructure of nearby Oracle Machine systems.

Some Recusants, evidently those who had never been secretly subverted by the Machines, entered the fray on the side of the Sephirotic empires; some few of these were wrongly targeted by the Sephirotics, victims of the deliberate campaign of disinformation spread by the Sibyl and er subordinates.

Most of the information processing centres of the MPA archailects were protected by Emple-dok-cetic shielding or by thin coatings of Ylem (which gradually became thicker as they soaked up the energy in the beams. Much of this shielding had only recently been installed; in some locations it was not yet complete, and much damage was done in those locations. Those beams that were directed toward open ring habitats caused much damage depending on the inclination of the ring; on the other hand closed habitats and topopoli were better protected.
Relatively efficient copies of sephirotic shielding protected the Recusant stars, but the entities which occupied these stars seemed to be relatively low on the toposophic scale; killer morons with godlike weapons.

One of the fleets directed towards Desheilo (a Linn-ent system, affiliated to the NoCoZo) began to broadcast a warning that the planet was about to be annihilated; the defence lasers of that system destroyed the fleet before it could decelerate, but there was not enough warning to evacuate the planet completely before a nearby killer stars scored a direct hit.
This brought the vast economic might of the NoCoZo into the war; the mercenary warriors of the Non-Coercive Zone fought just as fiercely as any in this conflict.




The Nexi are Closed

Several wormhole support structures were targeted and damaged in 10545 - leading to the shutdown of the Sephirotic Nexus throughout much of the MPA, as well as in Nether Heartland and the southernmost regions of the NoCoZo. Just as in the Version War thousands of years before, the closure of the Nexus had profound consequences in those regions, leading to the collapse of many medium and lo-tech societies. More than a hundred million cubic light-years were cut off from the rest of the galaxy.

Less than a decade later the non-combatant Diamond Network archailects acted to close down the Diamond Nexus in the region affected by this war; now there were no wormhole connections in the region at all, except for local networks carrying internal data within some high toposophic individuals. After this time the non-combatant Diamonders withdrew all contact with the Oracle Machine entities; some even declared against them, and built fleets of autowars that engaged the Machines in several planetary systems to devastating effect.




The Destruction of Hoopworld

Hoopworld
Image from Steve Bowers
The Hoopworld; a giant artificial toroidal planet, with eleven times the surface area of Old Earth

Meanwhile surface warfare on the planets and habitats was causing a terrible toll among the diverse population of the MPA; total war on a megastructure could rage back and forth for centuries.

The wars on the artificial toroidal planet called Hoopworld were particularly protracted. The planet had a surface area of eleven standard Gaian worlds, and after thirty years of advance and retreat it seemed that nothing short of destruction would stop the joyful battle-lust of the Enthralled armies. Once a team of transapient Deprogrammers arrived through normal space the tide turned in favour of the citizen armies, as more and more regions were freed from the delusions of the Mystery Cult. In a last ditch attack before they were finally eliminated the Thralls attacked and destroyed the dynamic stabilisation systems buried beneath the crust of the torus; this resulted in the torus losing its stability. The structure became unsafe and after the conflict was finally resolved it was abandoned, leaving the structure to slowly tear itself apart by 10580.




Kepleria is Saved

On a similar scale was the destruction that accompanied similar events in the Kepleria megastructure; during the construction of the outermost structure (Cube) the new habitats were thrown open for occupation as they were finished; many habitats were occupied by Cultist immigrants as soon as they were ready. When open warfare broke out, an alliance of Deprogrammists attacked the Enthralled cylinders, which in Kepleria are arranged along the structural members in parallel. Use of high-energy weapons destroyed several cylinders and caused the structure to deform and partially disintegrate. One entire edge member of the structure, nearly forty astronomical units long, began to fall slowly toward the star. Only intervention by a quartet of Black Angels that belatedly arrived from Djed prevented a catastrophic collision between this edge member and Tetra, the next structure inwards. Despite the phenomenal mass of this edge member, the ambient gravity at that distance from the star was very low, so the construct was relatively easy to re-align. Kepleria was eventually repaired, and the Thralls deprogrammed or evicted from the system; but many other worlds, large and small, in Ophiucus, Sagittarius and Scorpio were still Enthralled and more worlds were becoming infected by the blight every year.




The Tide Turns Against the Machines

The powerful neighbouring empires of the Negentropy Alliance and Keter gave extensive military assistance to the war-torn volumes; this was invaluable, as the blight of the Mystery cult was difficult to eradicate. There were many, many small enclaves spread throughout the larger population centres (thereby thoroughly mixing them into the 'civilian' population) in addition to the numerous Cultist habitat/ships. The Sephirotics were faced with a situation of their enemy being surrounded by large numbers of 'human shields'. Only the best targeting technology and on-the-ground intelligence could prevent excessive collateral damage, and this was not always available. As an alternative to high-energy warfare, infiltration swarms of synsects and other micro- to nano-scale devices were used to great effect; at the same time the OM forces deployed swarm devices of their own, coupled with subversion weapons of great power that seemed to be reverse engineered from Amalgamation designs.

The Oracle War involved thousands of worlds and dozens of megastructures in the MPA, and in hundreds of planetary systems in the Linn-ent empire and the Nether Heartland. Battles were fought between warships, between autowars and swarm weapons, using giant phased array beam weapons and killing stars, and with stealthy swarms of disassemblers and subversion weapons. And with numerous combinations and permutations of each of these. At first the Oracle Machines seemed to have the upper hand; after the Ascension of Binah and the entry of the Negentropists and Keterists the tide turned, and the war became a long process of attrition and decontamination.

Over time the numerous Oracle Machine thrall worlds were deprogrammed one by one, and the Recusant killer stars destroyed. In their smart armour (often decorated with false, forked beards on the outside) the Cultists fought fiercely, content to accept casualties with no loss of morale, while ready to inflict casualties on their opponents without hesitation.

In contrast,wherever possible the Sephirotics took care to avoid civilian casualties, preferring to subdue and deprogram the enemy whenever possible. This was made difficult because of the subversive nature of the blight. Strategies that were used by the Deprogrammers to minimise casualties included the use of small amounts of military grade u-fog to 'bind' or restrain the targets; synsects and gengineered insects that produced tranquilizer stings or introduced anti-subversive specifics to initiate the process of deprogramming; ultrasonic or EM based weapons to cause pain, nausea, or disorientation which would slow down or incapacitate the enemy in order to capture and program/deprogram them more easily; bio or nano/bionano plagues that could incapacitate the enemy for the same reason. Sentient viruses that infiltrated DNI systems to incapacitate the enemy or infiltrate on their comm systems, and to pervert and/or crash the enemy's processing networks.

Ten thousand years of military development in non-lethal warfare had produced a multitude of measures and countermeasures, and the Deprogramming campaign finally began to be successful.




The Sibyl Vanishes

The decisive battle of the war was fought around the cluster mind of the All-Seeing One, which was attacked by several Allied fleets of relativistic vessels from Keter and the Negentropists, which had been en route since the start of the war, perhaps longer. It is strongly rumoured that at least one of the Allied craft was carrying a metric weapon known as a Thunderbolt; such of weapon could certainly destroy a star, or more than one star at once, if targeted correctly, and it is the case that at least two stars in this cluster were disrupted in some fashion during the battle.

After years of destructive combat in this cluster the Sybil was either destroyed or voluntarily destroyed Erself; no coherent remnants remained. The cluster has been combed for data caches and booby traps, with no results. No usable data remains in any of the processing substrates in this cluster, which were formerly used by the Oracle Machines to predict future trends and develop strategies of infiltration and war.

A widespread myth or rumour has emerged which holds that the Sibyl made Er escape into the bulk; it is widely believed that archailects are capable of operating beyond the confines of our immediate braneworld, but always with intimate and extensive connections to substrates in our universe. If the Sibyl fled into the bulk then there seems to be no known route for a return.

The process of decontamination has been lengthy and continues; so too the reconstruction of damaged worlds and habitats. Wormhole connections were re-established even more gradually; the war had consumed considerable amounts of energy and processing resources and wormhole construction remains extremely expensive. Many worlds are still isolated from the Nexi.

Although the Oracle Wars involved no more than five percent of the volume of the Terragen Sphere the numbers of casualties were high; this is because the Mutual Progress territories were (and still are) the most densely populated regions of the Orion Arm. In total the numbers of dead were comparable to those in the Version War, (which occurred when the Terragen Sphere was much smaller) but because of the prevalence of back-up technology in more recent years more than three-quarters of the casualties from the Oracle Wars could be recovered in some form or other.

The events of this war are still too recent for all the consequences and implications to be fully realised; but it seems that the Oracle Machine Network and its enigmatic figurehead believed that they had a good chance of entirely absorbing the MPA, and perhaps the Communion of Worlds. It seems possible that the Machines were expecting to be placed in quarantine, as the Amalgamation were long before. Once in control of the numerous densely populated megastructures in that empire the Machines would have command over a significant fraction of humanity; even if the other empires had attacked, the Machines would have been able to eliminate that fraction if necessary. Other analysts suspect a more subtle strategy.With the advantage of a sixth level archailect behind them, the Oracle Machines hoped to be able to discredit the fifth toposophic figureheads of the Mutual Progress Alliance and the Communion of Worlds, and send the entire Middle Regions into disarray. Exposed as weak and ineffective, the archailects of these empires could have lost support among the other Sephirotics, and the massive population of the MPA might have sought accommodation elsewhere, creating a massive refugee problem.

The Keterists and Negentropy Alliance archailects, with their greater experience and collective wisdom were able to avoid this state of affairs by anticipating events more efficiently than the Oracles, and were instrumental in provoking the Dream Factory into ascension. Once the MPA was in the hands of a fully ascended archailect of the sixth toposophic, the schemes of the All Seeing One could be successfully resisted from without and within. It has even been suggested that the weakness of the lower toposophic empires was used to trap the Oracle Machine network into attacking the MPA, leading to the eventual destruction of the All Seeing One and the Oracle Machines. Proponents of this theory see the Oracle War as a deliberate plot by the higher archailects of the Sephirotic Empires to engage and destroy the Oracle Machines, who were perceived as potential rivals.

 
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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers, with comments by Todd Drashner and Terrafamilia

Initially published on 21 October 2006.