Dusty Scuttlers
Dusty Scuttlers
Image from Steve Bowers
Dusty Scuttlers are an extinct vec clade from the Interplanetary and Nanotech Ages, which have since been lazurogened in the Metasoft Version Tree.

The clade was designed to be a native of Mars that would be able to thrive on the planet even after the terraforming was complete, and so would help to provide cultural continuity, especially as many of the Martian tweaks were by this point migrating out-system.

Physiology

A Dusty Scuttler has one large central section to their body. This is an ovoid shape, containing all the vec's systems. At the front of this body are four camera lenses, or 'eyes', with a resolution similar to that available for human superiors, extending throughout the visible light range and also into the infrared. Half way back, on top of the body are microphones and speakers. The microphones can make out infrasound right through to ultrasound, and while the speakers are not quite as variable, they can produce much more varied sounds than a human baseline, or indeed most bionts. Within each Scuttler's body is a radio transmitter and receiver, which is used for long-distance communication, with Scuttlers or with any other sophonts or systems, and also for communicating with their nanoforges, which are used for reproduction. Protruding from below the body, at the front, are three arms. Each has six joints, and ends in four fingers, each of which have seven joints themselves, giving the vec great levels of control. Two of the fingers on the central arm of the three are equipped with chemical sensors, which the vec can use to test the chemical composition of the soil, and of many other substances the vec might come across. Each Scuttler has six legs, consisting of three pairs, evenly space along the sides of the vec. They have four joints each, and end in flexible pads, which provide grip on the surface below the Scuttler, and are also wide enough to defend against sinking into sandtraps. Usually Scuttlers are too cautious to wander onto such treacherous terrain in any case.

Scuttlers gain most of their power using a set of photovoltaic panels on their backs, which operate at a high enough efficiency to keep the vecs going even in Martian sunlight. They usually become less active at night in these more primitive communities, in such natural environments. Additionally, Scuttlers can receive power from specialized sources, usually their own nanoforge which often has an excess of power, using induction charging. In the present day almost all power used by Scuttlers is acquired in this manner.

At every joint within the arms and legs of a Scuttler is a rubber seal, to defend against the invasion of fine dust into their systems. These are kept repaired by specialized nanorobots. Two types of nanorobots are created by the Dusty Scuttlers, and secreted through a few pores near the back of the vec's body. They are both very specialized. The first type travels over the vec's body and cleans off dust, especially on the photovoltaics. The other type travels to all the joints in the body, and repairs the rubber seals by applying heat and occasionally secreting some of their small store of molten rubber. Both types are charged within the body, and travel back there for the purpose. Both are also manufactured there, for when spares are necessary, as is rubber to supply the rubber seal maintenance nanorobots. The nanoforges used for reproduction are capable of manufacturing slivers of the material needed to supply these manufacturing process, which are then inserted into the back of the Scuttler, through a triple-locking slot to protect itself from dust.

Dusty Scuttlers in their original form are hovering around the borderline between turingrade and superturing in terms of their level of intelligence. They have large optical and quantum computing arrays within their bodies to support this level of intelligence.

Reproduction

This clade of vecs is renowned for some aspects of its reproductive system, namely how personality and memories are passed on from parent to offspring.

Each of the first Dusty Scuttlers, when they were created on Mars, was given a nanoforge. They carried this with them, for reproductive purposes. So later, one in every few Scuttlers carried a nanoforge around with them, usually attached to their underside. When a Dusty Scuttler, or a group of Dusty Scuttlers, wants to reproduce, the nanoforge is deposited, at which point it spreads roots into the ground, and lays out photovoltaic arrays in its immediate area. It then constructs a small memory bank and radio wave transmitter/reciever, with which it can be manipulated, to program the young to be produced. The nanoforge grows, until it is slightly larger than a Dusty Scuttler. Then, it begins to produce the Dusty Scuttler, until it is complete, at which point e is decanted from the nanoforge and activated, complete with the specified programming.

When creating a new vec, all the Dusty Scuttlers involved download their memories and personality files into the nanoforge's hard drive. Dusty Scuttler code is arranged so that distinct personality traits, specific memories, and distinct skill-sets, are each stored as a different file, on the basic operating system. So when a new vec is created, these files can be mixed up at will, and even files downloaded from the Net from other Scuttlers, or even other sophonts, usually vecs, can be included. Any Dusty Scuttler can tap into the transmitter/reciever in a Scuttler nanoforge, but it was, and remains in the lazurogened clade, a deep taboo to instruct a nanoforge without permission or consensus. In the present day, sporetech and other more advanced systems are integrated into this reproductive method.

It is this fairly simple approach which allowed the Dusty Scuttlers such success, as they could choose whichever traits they wanted, by using the radio transmitter/reciever on the nanoforge to go through its files, and select a final set, before setting the nanorobots to construct the vec from surrounding materials.

Using this approach many different methods are possible. When in a safe, stable environment, Scuttlers would usually give the new vecs a few basic skill-sets, and some basic personality traits, such as morality and a sense of loyalty, and then let them grow into a new person. Sometimes it would be necessary to combine certain traits to take advantage of a situation, to create an entrepreneur, or a miner, or a starship traveller, and often these vecs would need memories pertaining to their jobs to make sense of their situation and reduce any learning curve as they caught up. In emergencies, or when a large area opened up, Dusty Scuttler might simply copy files wholesale from one vec to the next, creating hundreds, if not thousands, of copies.

This reproductive system proved very appealing to many vec clades, and vec clade designers, and has never died out, unlike its origins. The Faber clade uses a descendant of the system now. Other clades have taken the system a step further, and use entirely customizable reproductive systems. Many do not think these can be called clades.

Society

In their initial incarnation, the Dusty Scuttlers were known to be extremely clannish. They would swear allegiance to all descendants of their ancestral Scuttler Originator, and program the same trait into every one of their offspring. Eventually hackers did create a few Dusty Scuttlers without this trait, but these did not go very far before the Nanoswarms wiped the clade out.

In the present day, lazurogened Dusty Scuttlers no longer have this trait, which is seen as an improvement by most who meet them, and by the Scuttlers themselves, for the most part. Many have family bonds with those who contributed files to their nanoforge, and those who came from the same nanoforge, but this is by no means universal.

The variability of Dusty Scuttlers means that there are no opinions held in common by the entire clade. The only rooted trait within Dusty Scuttlers is a self- and race-preseravtion instinct, which is in their basic programming, and not influenced by the reproduction process. Beyond this, most are given the code to be friendly, and ambitious, and adaptable, but they are also given different clusters of code to cope with different situations. Nevertheless, almost all possible kinds of society have been created by Dusty Scuttlers at some point.

Most religions have written segments of code that make the Scuttler running them believe in their respective religion, which is a controversial issue, especially as they are starting to spread through some segments of Scuttler society. Some Scuttlers even convert to a religion of their own choice, and then pass on this belief to their descendants.

Similarly, certain segments of code encourage Scuttlers on a path towards Transapience, but are worked against by natural selection as msot of the Scuttlers with these aspirations ascend, and no longer return their memories and personalities into the Dusty Scuttler 'gene pool'.

Dusty Scuttlers are also connected through the Known Net to the Vec Memory Bank, a vast repository of personality traits, memories, skill-sets, beliefs and personality flaws which are open for use by all vecs using a system of this kind.

History

A few years after the Martian War of Independence, a group of superturing ai based in one of the Hellas megacities embarked on this project with the goal of creating the ultimate 'native Martian', after the departure of the tweaks.

An underground factory and research facility was created in Arabia Terra for the creation of the vecs. Over time, the ai acquired more processing power, and recruited the aid of more ai, and a few vecs, to help them assemble the basic code system, and then the physical design for the vec clade. At this point Nirvohi Haraham, a twelve-year old superbright from Bangladesh, decided to lend a hand to the project, and in two days designed the reproductive system, and quickly after this wrote out substantial portions of the coding system. The ai brought in code from other vec designs, many of them by now open source, and the vecs were completed in 260, with the production of the Twenty Scuttler Originators. The ai had initially planned to manufacture hundreds of the vecs, but the twenty vecs vehemently rejected this, deciding that reproduction was the natural way for them to continue, rejecting the mass production favoured by some vec clades, and indeed many biont clades. The factory was converted into a terraforming robot construction facility for some time, before being mothballed for a while, and then reclaimed by the Dusty Scuttlers as they started to diversify, and required new designs.

The twenty Dusty Scuttlers scattered across the wastelands of Arabia Terra, keeping in contact with their ai creators and, in a limited sense, with planetary authorities. One traded in the Martian Orbit Stock Exchange remotely, and built up substantial capital, becoming the ancestor of one of the more `intellectual' tribes. All twenty of the Scuttler Originators had several children, after which they spread more widely, across Mars. Some families moved into cities, while others joined Martian tweak or vec communities, or nomadic groups, or simply remained in the back country. Over the next few decades their numbers grew rapidly, and for the first time a few members of the clade travelled beyond Martian orbit, some to Belt and Jovian colonies, and some to Earth. Basic modifications optimized a few for living on Ganymede and Callisto, while one Scuttler paid hackers to attach drills and protective systems to its body, after which it travelled to Antarctica and began to reproduce in chambers beneath the ice cap. A few joint settlements were created between the Antarctic Scuttlers, feral Siberoo and the Silicon Ocean clade, which remained hidden for many years. The Dusty Scuttlers and their descendants were simply one clade among many by the time of the Nanoswarms, albeit one that was rather concentrated on planets. None had travelled to other star systems, more by accident than anything.

So all the Dusty Scuttlers were killed off either during the nanoswarms or the Dark Ages, although a few did transfer their personalities to space-going vec designs, and escape in this way. But in every meaningful way the clade was dead. It is rumoured that GAIA preserved a small population of Antarctic Scuttlers, but this cannot be proved either way. However much of their code had become open source in the years of their existence, and so their reproductive system in particular was used in the creation of new vec clades later on, meaning the clade left an important legacy.

Eventually the clade was lazurogened in 8463 from scattered code and ancient designs, in the Metasoft Version Tree. They are much less tribal in the present day, perhaps due to changed sequences of code. The clade has since spread from the Version Tree into the Sephirotics and the Outer Volumes, and many have also travelled to New Mars, and spread into other regions of the NoCoZo from there.
 
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Development Notes
Text by KLS

Initially published on 20 June 2012.