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Shimmerers, The

Neogen/Neumann clade in the Serpens outer volumes

Shimmerers
Image from Steve Bowers
Several Shimmerers and some Glints start to colonise a new system

Physical Description

Shimmerers are nanotech based Neumanns composed primarily of diamondoid and sapphiroid. The standard body of a mobile Shimmerer is a circular solar sail anywhere from a few hundred metres to a few hundred kilometres across. A sparse mesh of nodules connected by a nanotech circulatory system are spread across the sail. These contain a distributed intelligence (contained in nanoprocessors), energy storage, sensors, and nanotech/chemical processing centres. The outer circumference of the sail holds a dynamic compression member which holds the larger sails open and plays a role in megastructure creation in the later part of Shimmerer life. In addition, the circumference contains several and plasma thrusters. Superconducting wires can be extended from the circumference for a variety of purposes. Energy is obtained via solar power or stellar magnetic fields. To obtain raw materials, a Shimmerer will grow a small probe from one of its nodules which will detach from the main body and then mine asteroids or collect interplanetary dust, and send the useful material back to the Shimmerer. Shimmerers are able to fold up into a body that is somewhere between a human baseline and a whale in size (depending on the unfolded diameter). Folded Shimmerers with some augmentations can operate in a standard Gaian environment.

A Shimmerer hosts a number of symbiotic Glints. Glints are heavily cyborged octopuses provolved to superbright level and capable surviving in a vacuum. They are in constant contact with their host Shimmerer and make physical manipulations that the Shimmerer itself is incapable of.

Shimmerers are capable of a degree of shape-changing. This is a learnt ability and has developed into increasingly subtle and advanced forms as the culture has developed. Shimmerers in Oort clouds have abandoned most of their sail and instead sport masses of fusion-powered thrusters and probes. Those around gas giants and brown dwarves are mostly loops of superconducting cable to take advantage of the strong magnetic fields. Interstellar travelers may paint their sail with radioactive materials acquired from their food for additional thrust or extend their cables to form huge magsails to utilise charged particle beams and turn using the Lorentz force against the galactic magnetic field like beamrider craft.

The older Shimmerers often link up their bodies into stationary megastructures sharing their dynamic compression members for support. Many stars are surrounded by partial Dyson spheres supported by a combination of light sails and dynamic compression members, though numerous smaller structures in a variety of forms are also found across Shimmerer space.

The largest such structure is a number of linked partial suprastellar shells around the binary Shimmerer home system Doubleheart that incorporates many thousands of Gaian environment habitats.

Psychology

Shimmerers are usually described as "playful dreamers" by nearbaselines. They are often far more interested in potentials than actualities, though are capable of enough realism to bring their ideas to fruition. They are naturally curious about the world and what can be done with it. Most tend to avoid virchspaces for not being tangible enough, though it is not unknown for a few Shimmerers to upload themselves into the Cyberian network on occasion and become cybercosm engineers.

Usually, however, Shimmerers like to build megastructures out of their own bodies. Beyond a certain age (usually between 50 and 300 years) Shimmerers tend to get an almost irresistible psychological urge to "settle down" and link their bodies together into artistic stationary structures around their primary, sharing Glints, mass streams, and resources, but retaining their individuality. Such stationary Shimmerers occupy themselves with sharing ideas for new structures with mobile individuals, or constructing narratives and worldbuilding scenarios to entertain their peers.

Shimmerers are communal beings and are very good at working together without clear leadership. More intelligent and elder individuals are respected, and their advice is often heeded by the younger Shimmerers, but they have no real power in society. Most Shimmerer organisations therefore tend to be anarchistic or libertarian in nature.

A notable ability is Ontology Switching. Shimmerers have an inbuilt ability to change the way they interpret the world. This has allowed a degree of fluidity in their culture that many clades lack, and was essential in ending the Reflection war.

Shimmerer intelligence varies from baseline level to somewhere around SI:1 with numerous transavant abilities for the largest individuals. There are a small number of post-Shimmerers elsewhere in Terragen space.

Culture and Society

Shimmerer society is split between the Traditionalists, who only wish to use their own bodies and the technologies they were created with, and the Creole, who happily adopt Terragen technology and know-how to increase their artistic potential. These two factions have lived alongside one another peacefully since the end of the Reflection War. Most Traditionalists and Creole live in the Reflective Balance Mutuality, the main Shimmerer polity. Many Creole Shimmerers have left their region since the introduction of wormholes to their volume and traveled across the rest of the Terragen sphere, and is rumoured there is at least one independent Traditionalist hider polity.

Reproduction

Shimmerers reproduce via their megastructures. When a number of older Shimmerers have linked together, they can grow new individuals from the structure. The new Shimmerer is provided with nanites, circulatory fluid, dust for its mass streams, Glints, and education from its parents before it buds off from the main structure and begins an independent existence.

Glints reproduce sexually. The young are then cyborged and educated by the host Shimmerer.

History

The Shimmerers were created around 7700 in the Doubleheart system, an A1/G2 binary on the periphery of MPA space in the Serpens region. The entity responsible for their creation is unknown, though due to the similar modus operandi it has been suggested that it may be the same AI (or a copy thereof) that created the Nekology or the Echir(n). The initial Shimmerers were given hardly any prior knowledge or technology, and were ignorant both of their creator and Terragen civilisation. The only other artefacts left in Doubleheart were a number of unresponsive jupiter nodes.

Most of the Shimmerers technological and cultural development was based around exploring their shape changing and nanotech abilities. Where they needed to build technology not based on their own bodies, a combination of probes and Glints were used as a workforce. Notable achievements were adaptations that allowed them to live first in the outer regions of the system, then in the Oort cloud and around brown dwarves; the first circumstellar mass steam in the Doubleheart system; and finally the construction of a form of beamrider technology that allowed the Shimmerers to begin exploring surrounding space. By the time they were contacted, the Shimmerers had detected and begun observing Terragen civilisation.

The Purity War

In the 8300s the main wavefront of Terragen colonisation arrived at the edge of Shimmerer space. Many of these colonists, prospectors, researchers and traders knew of the Shimmerer civilisation having observed it prior to departing. Those who didn't were usually able to reach an amiable agreement for sharing their system with Shimmerers. However, in 8310 the Purity, a hyperturing governed Bitenic Squid relativistic colony ship, arrived at an F2 star just inside the Shimmerer sphere. The Purity was set up as a springboard for further colonisation into the surrounding area. The colonists, who had set out before the Shimmerer civilisation had been detected, were less than pleased to find their fresh start already inhabited. What happened next is unclear, whether the colonists mistook the Shimmerers for a subsentient infestation or merely had no qualms about killing them, hostilities erupted soon after the colonists had established an industrial base and the Shimmerers of that system were exterminated.

For the local Shimmerers who had yet to receive news of other colonists elsewhere, the Purity colony was the first interaction with Terragen "aliens", and this attack marked the beginning of a long running strain of xenophobia among these Shimmerers. As news spread,the Shimmerers elsewhere learnt of the attack on the Purity colony, and they turned to the more peaceful colonists for help. Though few were willing to actively aid the Shimmerers in defence, many Terragens sold weapons (often of questionable legality and quality) to the Shimmerers in exchange for use of their beamrider network, construction abilities and cultural products.

The Shimmerers began to arm themselves. Meanwhile, the Purity colony had proceeded to send out ships to "clear the area" in preparation for further colonisation, had eradicating Shimmerers and establishing installations from three adjacent stars and seven brown dwarves surrounding their colony. In 8450 the Shimmerers attacked the Purity installations in the surrounding systems with autowars. A difficult and bloody relativistic war ensued. Both sides were directed by first singularity intellects. The Shimmerers had more territory and were more established, but their weapons were of questionable quality, they were new to warfare of this sort, and the Purity colony was heavily armed from the start.

In 8600 the Jupiter nodes in the Doubleheart system responded for the first time in Shimmerer history. Apparently the nodes were established as transavant systems in case of such an eventuality. The Shimmerers were given a number of autowars equipped with godtech and taught how to use them. This marked the turning point in the war, as these new Shimmerer autowars swept aside the Purity warships and installations, and drove them back to the original colony within a century. The remaining Purity colonists surrendered after the Shimmerers started systematically destroying the habs in their home system. They were given the right to develop the inner part of the system without Shimmerer interference, and have not been any trouble since. This event is widely considered proof that the Shimmerers are under the protection of a watchful but taciturn caretaker of largely unknown capabilities.

As the Purity war was drawing to a close, more Terragen colonies were being set up around the Shimmerer bubble, allowing them greater and more diverse access to the products of Terragen civilisation. Those Shimmerers on the Terragen side of the Shimmerer sphere who had been contacted by peaceful MPA colonists had been adapting to the use of new technologies for many years now, and began to set up treaties, build megastructures for Terragen tourists, and travel deeper into Terragen space. Those on the far side of Shimmerer territory retained traditional methods, and those who had been at the forefront of the Purity war had become more xenophobic than their kin. This divide was exacerbated as those with an interest in Terragen technology - the Creole - migrated closer to the near side where the colonists were, and the Traditionalists and xenophobes moved further away to avoid being contaminated by alien influences.

The Reflection War

These tensions came to a head in 8814 when a Creole group tried to form a supraplanetary shell with a gaian-environment surface for tourists in a primarily Traditionalist system and were forcibly stopped. The Creole, considering it their right to build non-intrusive megastructures wherever they please, responded in kind leading to the start of the Reflection War. Three things are notable about the Reflection war. First: Unlike in the Purity war, Glints were never seen to take part in the battle; Shimmerers would denude themselves of their symbiotes prior to battle. Apparently Glints during this period took on the status of a neutral third party. Second: The autowars used to win the Purity War were never used. The Shimmerers are silent to this day on the question of whether they were unwilling or simply unable to use them in a civil war. Third, stories of a vast civil war notwithstanding, fighting only extended across 30% of the Shimmerer volume closest to Terragen influence where tensions were highest, and only rarely did the battles actually end in Shimmerer deaths.

The end of the Reflection war came from a third group, a coalition between Creole and Traditionalists who opted to shift their ontology into a more co-operative form and work together to avoid getting into the conflict unless necessary. As the war dragged on with mounting casualties, this coalition became an increasingly attractive option, each side viewed it as an Ontology shift that was better than surrendering their beliefs, and better than continuing to deplete their population. Eventually the war simply petered out as most of the population either underwent the shift, killed each other off, or left the Sphere to become hiders (in the case of the Traditionalists) or Inner Sphere citizens (in the case of the Creole). In 9050 the war had effectively finished and the coalition Shimmerers formed the Reflective Balance Mutuality. The core system of Doubleheart was the capital, with one star used by the Creole and the other by the Traditionalists. Terragen archai established wormhole links to the edge of the Shimmerer space in 10100 for ease of research.

The Shimmerers Today

Since the end of the Reflection war, the Creole Shimmerers have been making their mark on the rest of Terragen space. Most of those who leave the Mutuality become citizens of the MPA, Deeper Covenant, or TRHN and integrate themselves into the local culture while bringing their own special flavour to the local system. Many of those who have joind the TRHN have ascended further up the toposophic latter. In the MPA and some Deeper polities, Shimmerer megastructure have become very popular. Other Shimmerers have chosen to set up relations with the Nekology Processors or the Echir{n} due to the similar psychological traits of these clades.

In return, many other Terragen sophonts have chosen to join the Reflective Balance Mutuality, living in the habitable regions of Creole Megastructures.

 
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Development Notes
Text by Liam Jones

Initially published on 12 June 2011.

 
 
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