Arion Ascendancy, The

Hyperexpansionistic interstellar empire in the NoCoZo outer periphery

Shar su-borg
Image from Steve Bowers
A Shar su-borg individual, the dominant clade in the Arion Ascendancy

Arion Ascendancy - Data Panel

Status:Hyperexpansionistic interstellar empire
Tech Levels:Transapientech, Godtech
Tech Scale:Macroscale to Picoscale Magmatter Technology
Established:7610 AT, after the clade Shar underwent a collective ascension and began a long-term project for restoring order in the Arion Outer Sector after its social breakdown.
Origin:The Arion Outer Sector Colonization Initiative, a multi-corporation effort aimed at establishing a wormhole-link to the NoCoZo Periphery.
Ruling Archailect:Shiron{Unique} (fifth toposophic)
Capital System:Arion Dyson Swarm
Political System:Generally aicracy. The decision-making process used by the Overnodes is not entirely understood by modosophont commentators, but is thought to be some sort of meritocracy/panocracy.
Logo:An animated image of a ever-expanding starfield.
Core Population:1.7 trillion physical beings, with six times as many virtuals and AI.
Core Population Breakdown:100% cyborgs (adhering to the Shar body- and mindtype is central in Arion memetics)
Colonial Population:6.8 trillion physical beings, with twice as many virtuals and AI.

Colonial Population Breakdown:
36.5% cyborg
22.2% su
13.7% tweak
10.4% vec
17.2% other
Top Five Most Important Systems:Arion Dyson Swarm - Capital and most heavily populated system within the Ascendancy. Major processing nodes for Shiron{Unique} and several Overnodes.

Camarsis Dyson Swarm - Various AI processing nodes. Mind clusters and collectives concerned with long term planning, research and
development, internal and external policies, expansion efforts etc. Seat of the Far Reach Project.

Lunstone Hub - The Ascendancy's largest wormhole hub (62 wormholes), and important way gate for rimward expansion.

Chir - Major wormhole production centre.

Thon - Over a thousand j-nodes moving in the same orbit; major data processing centre and storage for inactive backups. Other massive AI installations also exist in that system

History

The Arion Outer Sector (NoCoZo Periphery) became isolated from the rest of terragen civilization when OutThatWay, the only nearby stargate, was destroyed in 7610. The establishment of the OutThatWay gate had been an exceptionally long distance venture by an organization of megacorps with the intention of sending relativistic expeditions to legally lay claim to a vast number of star systems in the Periphery. By the time 'normal' wormhole-expansion caught up with them, they would legally own an enormous amount of real estate. But things didn't go exactly to plan and the wormhole collapsed due to sabotage - almost certainly done by a rival megacorp, although the guilty were never found. Thus, the Arion Outer Sector suddenly found itself several centuries of relativistic travel from the nearest system connected to the Nexus. With the loss of the wormhole link, the sector-wide hypereconomic recession was enough to trigger a total social collapse. This in turn caused a virtual earthquake in the political climate. It would take centuries for order to re-emerge in the sector, and what grew out of the wreckage of countless houses, polities and megacorps was the Arion Ascendancy.

Named after their original headquarters in the Arion system, the Ascendancy began as an economic-political cooperative pact between the suborg clade Shar and various resource-impoverished orbitals. The Shar soon became the largest provider of raw materials and volatiles, quickly reaching tremendous influence within the system. In 7692, some eighty years after the loss of the wormhole link, the Shar began a program of ultra-fast autoevolution and over a relatively short time underwent a collective ascension. The Shar began working hard to restore order, first in the Arion system and later in the rest of the sector, while feeding ascension templates to everyone who wanted them. Over the next four centuries the newly proclaimed Arion Ascendancy defeated the hundreds of petty warlords and dictators that had sprung up. By the early 8050s they had become a thriving relativistic empire controlling all of the one hundred inhabited star systems of the former Arion Outer Sector.

The Shar had become the dominant clade within the Ascendancy when in 8067 a number of infolinked mind clusters ascended to SI:2. These new Ascended Intellects became the seeds of what would later become the Overnodes. The AI added greatly to the memetics of the Ascendancy, causing profound changes in Shar thinking. In eir great work,'Developing Minds' (and the sequel 'Shared Mind Architecture'), Sorn{γ} outlined not only the future development of the Ascendancy, but also spoke about how the Arions had a duty to spread their society among the stars so that less fortunate sapients and transapients could benefit from it, too. Auvyn{α} later provided guidelines of how this should be done in eir 'Principles for Expansion'.

The Arions embarked on an aggressive interstellar colonization program combined with an intense memetic subversion effort. Between 8070 and 8500 thousands of survey ships, colony ships, and system control vessels were built and launched from the Arion Ascendancy. Any unclaimed star systems were appropriated immediately, while inhabited systems were subjected to memetic subversion. In the mostly information-poor and technological backward polities of the Periphery and Outer Volumes this was usually a walkover. While there were times when the Arions were met with military resistance, the Ascendancy was already by far the most well-developed and technological advanced power in the region, and most of the time the hostile polities found the Arion System Control Ships to be absurdly lethal. Several times, however, the Arions came across blights, rogue autowars and aggressive panvirt and diamondic AI colonizers. In such cases the Arions had to deploy regular warships, resulting in several short but intense wars.

Meanwhile, the ascended mind clusters had merged with several former house and megacorp AI and ascended further to third toposophic. In order to keep the communications lag in eir processing nodes at manageable levels, the AI had to reinvent the same kind of early wormholes originally developed by ahuman AI during the Late Federation period. Primitive, unstable and dangerous, the use of such wormholes as databuses was a calculated risk. It was these new minds who deserve much of the credit for keeping the rapidly expanding Ascendancy together during these years without macroscopic wormholes.

In 8564 the Arion system was reconnected to the Wormhole Nexus by Lihm Terraforming and Investment, who had originally been the biggest supporter for the colonization of the Arion Outer Sector. The corporate representatives that accompanied the linelayer had expected to find a barbarized region ruled by warlords. Instead they were astonished to find a huge relativistic empire stretching across 200 light-years in every direction, and containing over a hundred thousand starsystems. Since Lihm still claimed ownership of the entire sector, they sued the Arion Godlings for theft of property. The Godlings retaliated by suing the megacorp for 'criminal negligence in eir duties of administrating, maintaining and protecting the Arion Outer Sector'. The legal tug-of-war went on for nearly two hundred years until the two parties reached a settlement in 8749. Lihm would recognize Arion independence and hand over control of the wormhole, while the Ascendancy would pay the cost of establishing it, in addition to a generous compensation for the loss of the Arion Outer Sector.

In 8981 a multitude of Arion Godlings ascended to the fourth toposophic (after importing ascension templates from the Keter Dominion) and firmly established the Overnodes. The changes in foreign policy included buying up controlling interests in a NoCoZo mediacorp and use it as a launch platform for eir memetics. The adventure\strategy\historical interactive 'Flesh and Steel', which put the user in the role of an Ascendancy Godling fighting wars against panvirt AI, became an instant best-seller throughout the Inner Sphere. It benefited eir memetics enormously and caused a whooping 0.2% increase in the number of colonization efforts.

Far more important, though, was the decision to hire Planom Synerg (who was already in the NoCoZo middle Periphery) for the manufacture of as many modern wormholes (both nano-gauge comm-wormholes and macroscopic) as the Arions could afford. Over the next centuries the dangerous early wormholes were gradually phased out, much to the relief of the Overnodes.

By the early 9300s many SI:4 Overnodes had formed a single infolinked mind cluster for long range planning. Each Overnode specialized in one relatively narrow direction, so that they could better contribute to the whole. In continuing eir mental development, it was perhaps unavoidable that ey ended up as transavants with SI:5 'spikes' in the area ey specialized in. These specialized Overnodes formed a tribemind in 9311 to best take advantage of this, and while not as 'broad' as a normal SI:5 intelligence, ey were able to construct the first Arion weylforge among other things. Several more weylforges followed over the centuries, and wormhole construction caught speed.

While the famous Central Alliance was by now waging war against the blight/perversity known as the Hyperutilization Supremacy, the Arion Ascendancy was too far out to be of any interest to either party. However, the Ascendancy was also facing the beginnings of a war of its own. Through eir relentless expansion the Arions had succeeded in antagonizing a number of beings of comparative toposophic level, particularly panvirt and diamondic godlings. In the early 9420s, a group of fourth toposophic AI lead by the panvirt ISO 'Expanding Mind' began forging a military alliance between a large number of anti-Arion vec and AI polities, clusters and enclaves in the Outer Volumes. When this hadn't happened before, it was because the Arions had been very careful in not stepping on the toes of beings more powerful or of a higher toposophic level than ey. That said, it was unavoidable that some sort of organized opposition would appear sooner or later

In 9653 the hostile Periphery Pact launched their relativistic fleets toward the Arion Ascendancy, starting what was later somewhat misleadingly named the Periphery War. They initially enjoyed great success and by 9950 half a dozen major and over a hundred minor systems had been conquered by the well prepared Pact forces, and Arion defences had proved dreadfully impotent in stopping this highly advanced foe. But the success of the Pact was short lived and founded upon two main reasons.

The first was bad luck on the Ascendancy's part. The attacks came from an unexpected direction at a time when most of their warships were busy dealing with a resurgence of the Aqin Blight as well as suicide attacks from the hostile Carin Theocracy.

The second was that the majority of the conquered systems was still under development, and thus of a lower (in some cases much lower) technological level than most Arion worlds. Pact opponents usually consisted of local first or second toposophic defensive forces and the occasional System Control Ship.

When in 9955 the Pact advance forces attacked the major wormhole hub Neu Vela, they suddenly had to fight Arion Battlecruisers, Blighthunters and military ISOs. The battle went poorly for the Pact from the beginning, and it ended when the attacking forces were repulsed with heavy casualties. Over the next decade this repeated itself across the Ascendancy, and the Pact came to realize they had seriously underestimated their foe's military capabilities. Following the massive release of godtech autowars, the tide began to turn. Over the next few centuries the massed battlefleets of the Ascendancy steadily pushed the Periphery Pact back, clearly showing the vast gulf between a fourth and a fifth toposophic intellect - even if the latter was merely a tribemind. In 10255 Arion infowar infiltrators succeeded in subverting a key Pact ally, the Mirovich AI Sphere, which then defected to the Ascendancy. Exploiting the confusion, the Arions launched a daring stealth-assault which destroyed all of the major Pact factory-logistics centres. The Pact fell apart after this, with most of the parties declaring themselves neutral. A few (very few) chose to fight on to the bitter end, and kept up harassment-actions of Arion frontier systems for centuries. The fate of Expanding Mind eirself is unknown.

The Arion tribemind ascended to fifth toposophic proper in 10378 (almost certainly as a response to the war), taking the name Shiron{Unique}. The new intellect allowed the transavant Overnodes that had once composed e to retain eir individuality, turning em into semi-autonomous sub-totalities. Under Shiron{Unique}'s gentle guidance the Arion Ascendancy would reach a radius of some 480 light-years centred on Arion Dyson Swarm by 10500, partially overlapping with NoCoZo and Sophic League space.

Expansion began to slow down after the 10400s, both because the increasing vastness of space and because anti-Arion or Arion-neutral polities and empires were beginning to take precautions. While NoCoZo worlds had in the past withdrawn their membership in the Zone and joined the Ascendancy, all major systems had by now bought a hefty insurance policy to prevent subversion. That only left poor and sparsely populated systems that couldn't afford insurance, and which would require extensive development in the event of subversion. Additionally, the Arions have always been wary of the highly evolved entities within the much more powerful Sophic League, and expansion in that direction had now stopped completely. At present it is the Disarchy that is catching the brunt of Arion expansionism. There have been talks about a defence treaty with the Mensa Federation to stop the fighting in the Velarian Confed from spilling over, and the emissaries sent to the Locality of Wolfra are probably Up To Something, too. Meanwhile, rimward starsystems is being populated and industrialized by development fleets at a furious pace.

One final point of note is the Arion Far Reach Project. In 10421 the Ascendancy began launching heavily armed linelayers carrying nano-gauge wormholes and extensive autofactories toward remote targets. So far three have been sent out; two toward the Perseus Arm and one toward the Sagittarius Arm, with several more currently under construction. The goal is obviously to create new, remote colonies for use as a convenient gateway to both Arms, but the reason why Shiron{Unique} thinks this is necessary is more unclear. The rumours and theories are many, such as the rumour that Shiron{Unique} is almost ready to ascend to sixth toposophic and possibly beyond.

Ideology

Much of Arion ideology is incomprehensible to SI<1 intellects, but at its most fundamental level it can best be described as aggressive memetic expansion followed by economic and political consolidation. Ey firmly believe that the Inner Sphere empires are obsolete, and that the new empires that are on the rise must compete in a galactic survival of the fittest. The winner(s) will then replace the old archailects and rule Terragen civilization.

The Arions are doing everything in their power to ensure that ey win the battle for survival. Because of this eir entire culture is geared toward expansion, striving to spread their memetics and way of life as far as possible. However, ey are quite aware that there are a great many empires out there that are more powerful than ey and\or of a higher toposophic level. Ey are therefore extremely careful in not making enemies ey can't handle.

The Arions have always been cautious, and have always preferred memetic subversion as the main tool for expansion. But the Periphery War taught em that the military option is sometimes the only option, and the Ascendancy Navy have in newer times risen drastically in importance. Ey still view military conquest as the last resort, however.

Physiology

A Shar resembles a six-legged robotic spider, about 1.2m tall and 2.5m long. The outer skin can take on a variety of appearances, but it is always made of a reactive material which is normally semi-flexible but can harden nearly instantly to protect internal components from damage. The main body is composed of three linked ovals of varying sizes, with most of the sensor array and vocal communication apparatus in the front oval. For manipulating tools the Shar use the two foremost limbs, which consist of programmable smart matter that can be reconfigured almost endlessly. The Shar have extensive nanoimmune systems, quantum cryptomodules, firewalls, data filters, several different types of sensors and an impressive array of EM communication equipment.

The Shar mind exists in a number of so-called 'mind clusters' distributed throughout eir bodies. Each mind cluster (biological, artificial or anything in between) has one particular speciality; one might excel in solving mathematical problems, another in linguistics and so on. Each mind cluster again is made up of various subminds which share the same speciality. This allows a Shar to think in parallel and perform a large number of complex tasks simultaneously, while observing the whole process from a detached viewpoint. Alone one mind cluster would barely qualify as a superturing expert system, but the network of optical fibres that tie them together allow the clusters to form a pseudo-hivemind of sorts. The information flow is coordinated by a superturing control system which acts as the Shar's subconsciousness. If, for instance, one mind cluster is dependent on input from another in order to solve a problem, the control system automatically assign a higher priority to the latter.

The clade originated with the experiments of the Dene6 hyperturing, Aquarium Orbital Band, Airon system. Unfortunately, all of eir notes were lost when e metamorphosed into the famous Aquarium sub-turing mechology, so we don't know the purpose of these experiments. We can, however, determine a lot from the average Shar's body- and mindtype.

The machine-parts of the Shar has been heavily modified, but still carries many similarities to the Horgen-series creativity-vecs from the machine-only corporation Indel Development (collapsed with the loss of the wormhole link). The Horgen-series were built by the R&D department for the purpose of investigating near-baseline markets via social analysis.

The genetic raw materials for the biological parts seem to have come largely from the ultra-analytical radical heteromorphs of the Examar Clade (now subverted and assimilated), although there are significant additions of genetic material from other sources; including several tweak and splice clades. The Shar also seem to have been heavily augmented with su genome.

Mentally, the Shar approach to problem solving is very similar to that of the hyperturing expert systems of House Scorth (bought up by the Ascendancy in 5603), while the AI hive clusters of the Chang!Ber Polity (now subverted and assimilated) seems to have formed the theoretical basis of the Shar distributed mind.


Society

The mind architecture described above is an integral part of Arion memetics, and is much of the reason why individual Shar have a tendency to form larger mind clusters with other Shar after about a millennium of physical existence. This usually ends with eir ascension and the creation of a new Overnode. After another few millennia (exact number of years varies greatly) the Overnode begins to specialize, eventually attaining transavant status and becoming another of Shiron{Unique}'s subtotalities.

The Arion society can thus be seen as a hierarchy based largely on toposophic levels. On top is Shiron{Unique} eirself and eir subtotalities (specialized Overnodes) who oversees the entire Ascendancy and is in supreme control. Next are the non-specialized Overnodes (third and fourth toposophic) who take care of most of the day-to-day running of the Ascendancy. Every major system has at least one Overnode, while the most important ones can have hundreds. Then there are the several hundred thousand mind clusters, virtuals and AI who often form an integral part of the Ascendancy infrastructure (usually second, sometimes first toposophic). On the fourth level of the Arion hierarchy is the ordinary, physical Shar (first toposophic). Finally, at the very bottom is the colonial population; sapients (and some transapients) who haven't been fully integrated in the Arion society, yet.

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A note on names
: The Arion naming-scheme deserves some explanation. When a Shar uploads eirself and begin forming a mind cluster with other Shar, e often copies eirself, first. The letter between the '{}' designate which copy it is. Sorn{β} and Sorn{γ} are the second and third copies of the original Sorn{α}, respectively (the Arions use the Old Earth Greek alphabet for some reason). Shiron{Unique} doesn't have any copies (except inactive backups), hence er 'unique' designation
 
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Development Notes
Text by Espen Antonsen

Initially published on 02 November 2005.