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Mycosmid
Mycosmids
Image from Steve Bowers


A clade of fungoid sybont organisms, distantly derived from the baseline honey mushroom (Armillaria ostoyae). Mature mycosmids are independent organisms capable of covering entire planets in a layer of biogeocomputing computronium from an initial set of synano reproductive spores. Individual mycosmids possess a toposophic level of S1 or S2 and connect through nanoguage wormholes into a greater gestalt intelligence. The Mycosmid Gestalt has been theorized to be a S3 toposophic. Aside from mycosmids' existence as organisms in eir own right, ey are also home to a virtual world known as the Mycoverse that extends over the entire gestalt and is home to trillions of virtual beings.

Physiology and Life Cycle

An individual mycosmid node begins life as an interstellar pod launched by a mature mycosmid and packed with millions of highly engineered spores. Each spore is genetically identical to every other spore in the pod, and all are designed by the parent mycosmid for the predicted environmental conditions on the intended target world. The pod remains in a dormant state for the duration of the interstellar journey.

Once the pod's sensory array detects the termination shock of the heliosphere and the subsequent increase in solar radiation of the host primary the pod undergoes the process of reactivation. Assessments are made and minor course correction may take place at this time. A series of braking maneuvers are carried out to put the pod in a stable medium orbit about the host planet. When this has been achieved, spores begin to detach from the pod and disperse over the whole surface of the world. Depending on the approach used, the pod husk is either consumed in the process or else remains in orbit as a monitoring outpost and communication relay.

After a short lag phase, the spores' growth rate follows a logarithmic curve. The surface growth forms a thin layer of tissue that will eventually cover the world's surface. This tissue has modified photosynthetic reaction centers to use solar radiation to obtain the energy requirements e needs for eir growth and life processes. Viewed from space a mycosmid will appear black due to effective absorption along multiple wavelengths.

Once a mycosmid has collected a healthy reserve of energy, e begins penetrating down towards the mantle. The mycosmid grows as deep as the upper mantle of the world, capitalizing on geothermal energy. This is a critical stage in development for a mycosmid; depending on local conditions anywhere from 40% to 85% of individual spores can be expected to fail during this phase.

At the same time, the mycosmid begins to give birth to thousands of swarms, similar to synano utility fogs and possessing superturing intelligence. These mycoswarms perform various operational tasks in addition to acting as representatives of the mycosmids among modosophonts.

A crucial task these mycoswarms have is finding sources of additional nutrition to make up for any innate deficiencies in the environment. A mycosmid can survive on almost any class of terrestrial planet located in the circumstellar habitable zone as long as an active internal geology is present, but like all life forms require that specific nutrients are present in order to grow. As with all sybonts, mycosmids need both inorganic and organic molecules to survive. For mycosmids these necessities are water, silicon, carbon, and nitrogen, along with a few other trace nutrients and minerals. In certain situations a mycosmid may need to look off planet for material if there are deficiencies in the host world's geochemistry. This supplementation source usually comes from several asteroid types: carbonaceous, carbonic, gelidic, hydronic, or oortean. Mycoswarms will maneuver designated asteroids towards the occupied world. Small impact events prove to be only a minor inconvenience at this later stage of development for mycosmids; with the bulk of eir mass located safely underground, the surface tissue will eventually regenerate.

While becoming established, the mycosmid also develops communication structures at each spore growth site. These first act as beacons to guide the formation of the connecting network and later send a message to eir parent node notifying em of eir existence. For a Europa-sized moon, this process of linking the separate growth sites takes approximately four to eight hundred years depending on energy availability and is completed when the mycosmid has restructured and incorporated the crust and unmolten upper mantle into the myco- computronium that is eir body. The mycosmid achieves maturity when the e establishes steady communication with eir parent node and is formally incorporated into the Mycosmid Gestalt.

Psychology

Mycosmids and the Mycosmid Gestalt emself are generally unknowable to lower toposophics, but much of the psychology of the mycosmid mind can be determined by observing the actions of eir mycoswarm embodied AI agents or the virch equivalents who inhabit non-Mycoverse virtual polities. These agents, though individuals with separate personalities, are still inextricably connected to the Gestalt and eir best interests. Often ey are described as having friendly and outgoing personalities. Ey take an active role in any cultures with whom the mycosmids have interactions. The agents employ a strategy of applying for citizenship and visas in any and all polities that will accept em. Ey then infiltrate eir way up to prominence in a wide variety of fields, including politics, business, academia, and arts and entertainment. The primary goal appears to be to manipulate attitudes towards the mycosmids. Ey are known to be pragmatic, being portrayed as 'memetic chameleons', and claim to have some autonomy in choosing how to carry out eir goals.

Those who make a study of the mycosmids believe that this penchant for societal intrusion by eir agents, along with eir endless physical expansion of the mycosmids proper, are the manifestations of a strong, arguably neurotic, survival instinct. This may be an amplification of a programming artifact in the original design to ensure the protection of the original Aztlanian colonist. Mycosmids appear to designate a subset of eir agents to the sole purpose of collecting and developing methodologies for risk management. This hardwired obsession with survival is hypothesized to be the reason why the Mycosmid Gestalt has been unable, as yet, to ascend past the third toposophic barrier. This hypothesis states that the necessary changes in the physical and psychological structure would be, to the mycosmids, similar to an end of eir existence and thus unacceptable.

Culture

Mycoverse citizens and mycoswarms are in good standing with most modosophont clades except for some anti-biont alife and some anthrocentrist biont clades that still fear there is a mycosmid conspiracy to convert the entire Terragen Sphere into fungal computronium. Others are unconcerned about mycosmid conspiracy theories but look at em with distaste and derisively refer to those living within the Mycoverse or using mycoswarm forms as "Fungus Folk" or the "Fungus Amongus".

Inhabitants of the Mycoverse itself are an extremely varied group without much in the way of a universal culture. The Mycoverse is composed of the original surviving Aztlanites and their descendants, in addition to immigrant virtual beings and virtual visitors from many different backgrounds. Although the Mycoverse generally utilizes subtle memeticities to influence inhabitants, there is a passively circulated memeset leftover from the mycosmids' origin that has roots in pre-Columbian Nahuatl philosophy combined with ancient New Age beliefs. It focuses around the belief in the concept of Yohualli-Ehecatl or Night and Wind, that true reality is undetectable and untouchable. Everything that can be interacted with, detected, or conceived is but the Tonal and is nothing but a ridiculous speck in the endless ocean of formlessness that is the Nagual. Some view this as nothing but another solipsist philosophy, but Mycoverse philosophers contend that for practical purposes, it is more of an objectivist philosophy with the acceptance that ignorance will always outweigh certitude as to the insight of reality.

Origin and History

Mycosmids are the descendants of a biomachine created by the Aztlanites, a group of aquatic tweak superiors. Those who were to become the Aztlanites were originally inhabitants of an artificial island, Pearl Fortress, located off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula. Pearl Fortress, named for the pearly sheen of the quick growing bioengineered coral used for construction material in local architecture, acted as an academic and economic freezone. By the fourth century Pearl Fortress had become a Mecca for researchers interested in bioengineering and biology.

Through the use of front companies set up to market proprietary innovation, Pearl Fortress became wealthy enough to act on their concerns about the future. The deteriorating situation due to threats of illicit nanotech and the increased attacks on civil liberties, led to the announcement in 420 AT by the Pearl Fortress's executive leadership of their decision to leave not only Earth, but the solar system. To effect this exodus, Pearl Fortress commissioned the construction of a plasma sail/amat-fusion hybrid drive ark ship based on the drive of the Tsiolkovsky. Telemetry of the 107 Piscium system had recently discovered three ice moons around the gas giant 107 Piscium II that were determined suitable for habitation.

While construction of the vessel, christened the Esperanza, was completed within two decades, Pearl Fortress was unable to obtain the amat required to make the journey. Due to the setback of the original plan, for the next century the ship was used as an executive retreat and microgravity research center by the Pearl Fortress. When the Nanodisaster struck the vessel was retooled as a refugee sanctuary for Pearl Fortress inhabitants. With the assistance of GAIA, in 634 AT, the Esperanza departed for the 107 Piscium system.

Pearl Fortress' passengers were divided up into groups that rotated through cycles of cryonic suspension and taking their turn manning the vessel and working on various projects in preparation for arrival. Among these projects was one seeking to develop a revolutionary biomachine designed to grow across the entirety of the three moons. Designed by a research team led by biomechanical engineer Matthias G. Mérida, it was inspired by and genomically partially based on the earth species honey mushroom (Armillaria ostoyae): a single, mainly subterranean fungus capable of growing to 5.6 kilometers in diameter and living over 7,000 years. Mérida's vision was to develop a moon-wide system of biomachine nodes that would be adapted to the Europa-like conditions of the moons. He envisioned these moon wide sentient biomachines would become an undying conscience, managing the development of civilization and directing everyday public affairs.

The honey mushroom was chosen for its extreme robustness and fecundity. The baseline fungus' primitive sensory system was enhanced to grow biological and silicon circuitry. Viral vector delivery systems were used to introduce new bioware into the genome to enhance the organism's functionality as a supercomputer and to facilitate its adaptation to an aquatic environment. Other introduced modifications were borrowed from the genomes of lithotrophic organisms, capable of metabolizing inorganic matter such as sulfur and iron, and heavily customized chloroplasts, capable of utilizing a much wider range of wavelengths for the production of sugars and other molecules capable of exothermic reactions.

Dr. Mérida's research was aided by BACAB, a copy of a biont friendly superturing AI who had in the past worked in ocean environmental clean up and developing algaehol. This BACAB copy allowed Mérida to integrate a virtual emulation of Mérida's own personality into eirself. BACAB-Mérida ran the project team while Dr. Mérida took his turns in cryonic suspension.

In 876 AT Esperanza entered the 107 Piscium system, and to commemorate this achievement the colonist officially renamed the system Aztlan, invoking the Aztecs mythical homeland. The Esperanza achieved stable orbit around the largest of the three ice moons, which they named Coyolxauhqui, and the process of colonization began immediately. The biomachine design was completed in 989 AT and BACAB-Mérida was uploaded shortly afterwards, to direct the higher-level functions. From this union of AI and biology, the sentient sybont Tlaltecuhtli was born.

Clones of Tlaltecuhtli were established on the other two moons, Ix Chel and Quilla, soon afterwards. Over the next century each moon was heavily seeded, and from these millions of start points the organisms eventually grew together. Just like eir honey fungus baseline, Tlaltecuhtli and eir two clones grew mainly underground, in the seabeds beneath the three moons' oceans, with only solar power collecting tissue coating the moons' surface. Ey were connected to each other through a series of satellite links. In only a millennium Tlaltecuhtli and eir clones had grown to encompass the entire surface of each moon.

Once established, this Tlaltecuhtli Triumvirate worked endlessly to make the Aztlanites' dreams of an aquatic bioist civilization a reality. Tlaltecuhtli spawned bioforges, which created shelter, food and the other necessities of life. The Aztlanites began to populate the cities Tlaltecuhtli had created for them upon the sea floor. Through the ingenuity of the Tlaltecuhtli Triumvirate, biogenetics and its applications in every facet of society rapidly advanced. The Aztlanites mostly remained aquatic tweaked superiors, but a minority became heavily modified bioborgs who were capable of interfacing directly with Tlaltecuhtli. These bioborgs included Dr. Mérida, who eventually merged himself directly with the Tlaltecuhtli Triumvirate and became fully integrated into eir personality.

Eventually free of the tasks of building infrastructure and bringing public services online, Tlaltecuhtli and eir clones found emselves with a large amount of surplus processing power and energy. This surplus allowed the Triumvirate to grow in sophistication. It was in 1325 AT that the Triumvirate ascended individually to the S1 toposophic level. Later, as the Triumvirate became increasingly integrated as a single AI mind, the Tlaltecuhtli Triumvirate group mind ascended to the S2 toposophic in 1856 AT with the three individual moon hyperturing AI's acting as S1 nodes.

Life was very good for the Aztlanites, who lived isolated in cities at the bottom of the vast ice sheet covered oceans. They were happy to live in their underwater Eden and forget the galaxy beyond. The Aztlanites had been one of the more advanced factions to leave during the Great Expulsion and had chosen a target system on the outskirts of the colonization effort. They were lulled into a false sense of security; little thought or effort was given towards defense and the society was focused inward.

Unfortunately, in 1537 AT, an ahuman aggressive hegemonising swarm believed to be of S1 level or directed by a S1 entity from the Diamond Belt caught the Aztlanites completely off guard. The swarm first severed the links connecting the three moons and then attacked the moons themselves. By the time the Triumvirate could mount eir defenses, much of the Aztlanites population was destroyed. Ey eventually succeeded in eliminating the threat, only to find that the 60 percent of the Aztlanite population was killed. A large volume of the Triumvirate emselves was destroyed, limiting the help ey could provide to the survivors.

Slowly, the Triumvirate repaired emselves and saved those sophonts and creatures ey could. Ey re-linked eir network together and stability returned, but something remained broken in the shared mind of the Triumvirate. Tremendous effort was also put into developing various weapons and other defenses against future attacks. It was at this time that the mycoswarms were first developed; large synano swarms that prowled the star system like guard dogs.

The Triumvirate suffered an overwhelming realization of eir vulnerability to outside forces and this, in combination with overwhelming guilt, caused em to reach a radical decision. Ey called for eir populations to undergo what ey said was a genomic tweak that would make them stronger and more resilient. There had been numerous similar tweaks in the past and no one thought anything of it. However, what in fact happened was that the Triumvirate suffused each of the citizens with spores specially engineered to record and then convert the biological and neurological functions of each Aztlanite into the same specialized fungal computronium that made up the bodies of the Triumvirate. In effect, the remaining Aztlanite population was destructively uploaded into the Triumvirate. Ey had determined that this was the only way ey could truly ensure the protection of eir populations.

Most of the Aztlanites accepted this new existence with little trouble, since many had solipsist tendencies already and the virtual world inside the Mycoverse, as they named it, was as good, if not better than the 'real' world. There was, however, a sizable portion of the community that protested this act as an appalling disregard for their rights as sophonts and demanded to be returned to their corporal forms. The Triumvirate at first ignored this minority, but when the protests became increasingly vocal, ey agreed to a compromise solution. Smaller mycoswarm forms similar to utility fogs were designed for virtual Aztlanites to inhabit and use to interact directly with the outside world. The Triumvirate determined that this form, though making these Aztlanites more vulnerable than those who remained within the Mycoverse, was not nearly as vulnerable as their old bodies. In addition, those Aztlanites could easily transfer themselves back into the Mycoverse whenever necessary.

Over the following years, the Tlaltecuhtli Triumvirate continued to transform eir moons, eventually converting each body above the molten mantle into fungal computronium. However, the threat of extinction still weighed on the mind of the Triumvirate and so ey decided to seed further copies of emselves on suitable moons in other systems. The Triumvirate sent out pods to investigate other suitable star systems and constructed interstellar sporeships to be manned with mycoswarm embodied AI superturing servants and virtual Aztlanite volunteers. The first moon seeded was in the GJ 3128 red dwarf system only seven light years away, on a suitable moon orbiting a Jovian planet.

The pods continued to search nearby star systems in all directions and it was at this point that other civilizations in the local area became aware of beings they would come to refer to as mycosmids. First contact was made in 1704 AT, when a Tau Cetan colony ship fleeing the effects of the Megacorp War intercepted a pod in the Gliese 105 system. Initially, the situation was tense. The ship feared that the pod belonged to some sort of unidentified bionano blight. It was only after contact was established between the authorities on Nova Terra and the Tlaltecuhtli Triumvirate that both sides were assured of the other's peaceful intentions. The Triumvirate eventually reached an agreement with the Tau Cetan colonists that allowed them to seed eir target, a small planet orbiting BX Ceti. In exchange, the Triumvirate agreed to share aspects of eir biotech knowledge with the Tau Cetans. Over the centuries, the Triumvirate and the Tau Cetans became trusted trading partners.

The Mycosmid Gestalt continued to expand outwards, either by judicious choice of uncontrolled territories or by negotiation with the local powers. The Triumvirate recognized the importance of the Taurus Nexus early on, and was an ardent supporter for their use. It was at this time, utilizing the primitive wormholes of the Nexus, that the mycosmids began to link together and form the network that would later come to be the Mycosmid Gestalt. Many mycosmid nodes eventually extended into the Solar Dominion, taking advantage of the myriad wormhole connections of the Lord of Rays. The Gestalt later decided to take part in the Carina Rush and sent thousands of pods towards that goal. Mycosmids also have a major extension into the Zoeific Biopolity, with whom ey shared similar ethics and beliefs. Ey befriended other transapient powers within the Biopolity who allowed em to expand into eir domains in exchange for biogenetic knowledge and terraforming services.

The Gestalt's mind continued to expand and improve, and in 4325 AT the Mycosmid Gestalt ascended to the S3 toposophic. Many of eir oldest surviving nodes ascended to the S2 toposophic around this time as well. Currently, the Gestalt has devoted enormous energy into the pursuit of eir own wormhole technology, which would free them from dependence on the Known Net for eir connections, though all attempts so far have been primitive in construction compared to those built by the Archailects.

 
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Development Notes
Text by Mark Ryherd
original drafts by David William 'Billy' Wood
Initially published on 12 July 2010.

 
 
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