Red Star 'M'pire

(So named in honour of the little known historical fact that the full extent and nature of the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy was not even guessed at until an early Space Age survey of M type stars)

Red Star Empire
Image from Steve Bowers
The Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy has been disrupted by gravitational interaction with the Milky Way galaxy into long streamers; one intersects the Milky way in the region of the Terragen Sphere.
The Red Star M'Pire is expanding into this streamer, colonising the old, Population II stars found in that region.



A distinct Sephirotic empire; originally an outpost of the Dominion, it was cut off from The Empire of Rays during the Version War. When rediscovered over 3,000 years later the former colony had evolved and it was too late for the Lord of Rays and his God Emperor to return the colonists and their descendants to the fold.



"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." Charles Darwin; English biologist, Old Earth (1809-1882 AD / 161-88 BT)

History

As viewed from Solsys there are two minor galaxies in the constellation Sagittarius. The closer of these (at only 88,000 light years away) is a dwarf elliptical in a polar orbit of the Milky Way. Its correct designation is SagDEG (for Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy) and not to be confused with the other Sagittarius dwarf galaxy, an irregular designated SagDIG. As it is an elliptical, SagDEG is composed of Population II stars. These old yellowish stars are metal-poor and don't form with large protoplanetary disks. All in all, not a good candidate for colonization. However an early Space Age survey of M type stars revealed that tidal gravitational forces have drawn-out long streamers of SagDEG's stars to fill its orbital path and one of these intersects the Milky Way's galactic disk in what is now the Terragen Sphere.

At some point in the fifth millennium a.t. one of the earliest Solar Dominion "longshot" linelayer ships, having followed this streamer, arrived at a K type star about 2,000 light years above the volume of the Solar Dominion territory with the intent of setting up a new outpost and tourist spot. This star was chosen for the site because it was the closest thing to the preferable G type star in this region of even older, redder stars and because it also had a small brown dwarf companion that would be used to enlarge the wormhole and allow the linelayer to return to the Dominion. The vistas of the galaxy from this angle, and of three close planetary nebulae, were outstanding, and the star system became known as Far View. Even from the start it had attracted a small number of visitors from across the Terragen Sphere in addition to the 5,000 Solarian superiors and nearbaselines of the outpost. This traffic would have no doubt increased had it not been for the Version War.

During the Version War the stargate in Dominion space linked with this system was attacked, and collapsed into a black hole; it was believed by the rest of the Terragens that the small outpost was lost to the energy released as 70% of the wormhole's mass radiated away. It is now known that, although there was a large loss of life, the outpost and more than a thousand Solarians did somehow survive, and in isolation ey would grow/evolve into a new noetic and memetic archetype. The exact details of how this happened are not known as the insystem AI had taken the brunt of the stargate's energy release and had lost most of Pers higher functions for more than two hundred years. The only reason the AI survived at all was because some of the surviving zars collected and maintained Pers surviving parts. The zars emselves only survived long enough to do this because ey had help from some transapient tourists who had also been trapped in the Far View system, and because ey adopted a free breeding strategy to counter the eir high death rate in those early years. Other survival strategies were resource management, self-reliance and group cooperation and, above all, adaptability.

As noted, the details of what happen next have been lost and sociologists and godwatchers have spent centuries debating them but there are clues to the origin of this new noetic and memetic archetype. If placed within the Great Hexadecimal it would be a mirror of the Solar Dominion, under the theoria/mythos of Transformation. Ey still value will/expression/extension but ey emphasize love/feeling/life. Ey view feelings, life and even love as fluid: changing, adapting, evolving or transforming with time.

The first signs of change could be seen even before the war. In viewing the ionized gases of the close planetary nebulae the biont settlers, mostly Dominion superiors, began to question the "simplistic" Solarian tenet that there is a "single Source of All" and everything else is only a lesser reflector of the divine. "Light is not simply reflected," ey reasoned, "it is also changed with each interaction; as the light from the interior of a nebula passes through the expanding shell the gases absorb it and re-emit the light as new colours. Light passing through an atmosphere or ocean is refracted into new colours. Even when light is reflected it takes on aspects of the reflector itself (as light is reflected from a leaf it becomes green). These changes don't make the light inferior! They add to its complexity!" Ey also reasoned, "there was a single source of everything but it was an event in the distant past, an event that transformed itself into the universe proper. As travelling back in time to this event is impossible, the only way to truly understand the Divine Truth fully is to understand the universe fully, in its current state. And since the universe is constantly expanding, changing and transforming chasing after some 'omega point' of truth would be like chasing a rainbow or racing toward the horizon; it’s a goal that's moving ahead as fast as you are - a fool's endeavour. It's more productive to seek your own personal truth." The tree became a potent symbol in this Far View culture; forever growing and branching out so that there are a multitude of pathways one could take to reach the top. Evolution is also a tree, with life branching out into new forms and so too does the truth branch out.

Another clue to the noetic change (of what would come to be known as The Red Star 'M'pire) was the presence in system, at the time of the attack on the stargate, of beings from some of the other Empires. Among the visitors to Far View were:
• A mobile hyperturing ISO from the MPA (the self-named Stary Eyes) - there to gain new inspiration from the view for Jers next great project.
• Six vecs from Metasoft - there on a trade mission.
• A monk from a minor sect in the Sophic League - there to view the galaxy and contemplate God's creation.
• Two transapients from the TRHN - it was a fun thing to do at the time.
• Possibly a small number of "emissaries" from the Zoeific Biopolity - Zoeific involvement has never been proven/disproved but given what happened next and eir involvement in the Biovirate Affair during the same era it is reasonable to assume ey may have gotten word of the changes already happening in the system and saw a chance to gain something on the Solar Dominion. (After all isn't transform/evolve what life does?)
• Some other tourists that history has not recorded.
After the loss of the stargate and the incapacitation of the AI, Stary Eyes saw it as Jers duty to take over until the AI's recovery. The TRHN tourists also felt the need to help. The monk began preaching his memetic of "we-are-god-is-us" to keep morale up, and he gained a small but energetic following. And the vecs, being greatly outnumbered by the surviving Solarian su and nebs, were desperate to prove ey had nothing to do with the attack and were willing to do "anything" to help. There was also a growing biocentric meme. Zoeific influence? Maybe.

It was also at this time that the surviving Solarians adopted the free breeding strategy to maintain eir numbers in the face of eir high death rate and a free love memetic because, as one TRHN transapient put it, "enjoy life today - you might be dead tomorrow". After the AI recovered and some of the basic sophont protection systems were brought back online the death rate dropped but the free love/free breeding memes remained. As a result the population exploded and began doubling every hundred years. Living space was needed, and Stary Eyes was overjoyed to have both time and reason to start building again. Je predicted the Far view system would be eir only home for a long time, as no one in the system (not even the AI) was at the toposophic level necessary to make a wormhole out of a reasonable amount of mass (nor, for that matter, a relativistic ship's drive to transport one), so ey were all stuck there, and Stary Eyes intended to keep busy by building something truly grand. Je had already gained control of most of the limited material resources of the system and Je then drafted the vecs as a labor force. By this time the vecs had proven eir loyalty, sworn off Metasoft protocols, and been given permission to multiply. To gain even more resources Stary Eyes, using the first stage of a beamrider network the su were building, sent some of the vecs to the only two star systems that were within ten light years. These stars were an M class giant and a cooling white dwarf. The vecs began mining and starlifting operations and sent the materials back through interstellar catapults ey had built. [Note: with a mix of Solarian and Bioist memes, main sequence stars are seen as the source of life and so have to be preserved. Starlifting in the 'M'pire may now only be done on stellar objects that have either left the main sequence or never reached it. On the other hand, as the stars in this region are Population II stars, starlifting to extend the lifetime of the larger O, B and A type stars has never been an issue.]

The AI, for Pers part, could not know if help from the home system was on the way or not. A laser distress signal had already been sent toward Dominion space but it would take almost 2,000 years to cover the distance and even then ey would have to wait for the rescue ship itself. Even if a new linelayer was already on route it could still take more than 2,000 years to make the trip. So to ensure the survival of Pers zars the AI foresaw a need to ascend and was willing to try some novel approaches. However the AI also saw that during the time Per was "offline" something new had been created, memetic wise, and the AI wanted (for reasons of Pers own) to explore and preserve it. It was at this point that the AI started to call Perself Farview.

As it turned out, both Stary Eyes and Farview were correct. The Dominion would not send a new longshot mission to the Far View system until well after the conclusion of the Version War. As a result the survivors had over 3,000 years of isolation to develop into a new Transapientech Civilization and Biotech Culture.

The main obstacle to Farview's ascension plans were the limited material resources within this region of Population II stars and Stary Eyes' monopolization of those resources. Farview may have been a full toposophic level above anyone else in the system, but as a member of the "walking wounded" Per did not wish to start a fight. Farview would have to find new ways of expanding Perself. The heavy elements in particular were always going to be in short supply, for although the wormhole had collapsed into a black hole and could be used as a DWIZ there were problems with this plan. Many, remembering the loss of life ey endured, felt it was too close to Far View. Also a DWIZ is a very inefficient way to produce heavy elements (much of the matter that enters the accretion disk is lost to the hole's event horizon) and the growing bioist meme set promoted efficiency, recycling and the conservation of resources. The su also wanted to keep open the possibility of reinflating it into a new wormhole. Ultimately this faint hope proved impractical and just moving the black hole to a safe location became a major undertaking. In the end the black hole would be used as a DWIZ, but only sparingly, only for the nucleosynthesis of the heavier elements and only when an excess of something was available. [Note: It was only later, when the 'M'pire started building magnetic monopole enhanced reactors, that the heaviest elements could be efficiently produced in quantity.]

At least the lighter CHON elements could be readily produced by fusion and it became standard practice for all habitats to have a suite of advanced polywell or colliding beam reactors that fuse hydrogen through the CNO fuel cycle and produce extra carbon by fusing helium. In time ey would add even more advanced reactors to the series that could fuse carbon to provide magnesium, sodium and neon. Later reactors could even fuse neon and oxygen to produce sulphur, phosphorus and silicon. Finally, an array of particle accelerator rings would be added to turn the silicon into even heavier elements through a series of alpha reactions but the net return was not as favourable. These early reactors would be the start of a vast, distributed network that has allowed the 'M'pire to slowly build up its supply of building material, a network that also supplies the 'M'pire with more energy than ey currently gain from solar collectors. (This development may have been influenced by the TRHN tourists' experience with eir Turing swarm.)

As it turned out Stary Eyes, with a constant output of CHON elements on hand, had built most of Jers habitats out of diamondoids and seen to it that the zars would have no shortage biomass and Farview had no wish to rob em. Zoeific influence? Maybe, but some godwatchers have speculated Farview had some sense of gratitude toward the su and nearbaselines for in the early years after Pers near destruction ey had risked life and limb to rescue the AI's surviving hardware and endured great sacrifice to repair and maintain it. Many of eir deaths were a direct result of this work

So, with the ongoing shortages of materials Farview's main obstacle, Per decided to incorporate as much of the existing material into Perself as possible while avoiding conflict by making this material multi-use. From the start, Farview did four things that would determine the structure of Pers intellect in the centuries to come. First Farview supplied Stary Eyes with designs for structural computronium so that the habitats Je had built and the megastructures Je was now building could serve both of Eir needs. Many forms of structural computronium are in common use in the Terragen sphere so an expanded description is not needed here but for Farview's needs the carbon based photonic diamondoids were the best choice. Because none of the scarce material resources could be wasted, if Farview could find even a gram of extra matter that Per could turn toward Pers processing needs, that's what was done.

As such every inorganic structure in the 'M'pire (every wall , every chair, every "stone") is a part of Farview's 'diamond node.' Even the dynamic compression members Stary Eyes was building into Jers megastructures would be equipped with computronium packets as the mass in the mass beams. Under Farview’s plan these mass beams would even serve as an internal router; as the computronium was passed back and forth it would be loaded with raw data at each end with processing done in transit to save on the time needed to process it at its destination. The back and forth action of the mass beams allowed the computronium packets to cross-communicate with and update each other so each computronium packet was given a laser data link system for this cross-beam communication.

This system could also be used to advance data up and down the beam. Additionally each habitat or megastructure had its own interplanetary laser comm system that linked them all into one mind. With this one move Farview had gained the processing power needed to ascend from SI:2 to SI:3. However with the habitats spread out across the system, including some in the star’s Oort cloud, this also put Farview well on the path to 'slow godhood.' Even with this creative multiple use of matter there were still shortages and for the sake efficiency Farview had to organize much of the diamond node towards specific areas of expertise, allowing each to act with utmost skill in minimal time. This is the classic 'pansentient dispersion' intellect architecture of a Specialist Node mind. Of course, such nodes require input from some overall-controller-node and Farview knew the Specialist/Generalist Node Blend architecture would be a more flexible mind structure. For this Farview turned Pers attention to the biospheres of the habitats.

So the second thing Farview did was to recreate the template for the memory augmentation tweak of the Bluesky bioxoxes and spread it throughout the system's biospheres, creating an envome-like hyper-ecology where every part of the food chain was an intellect process. [Note: in the original Bluesky bioxox template memory is encoded on additional DNA strands in mitochondria-like subcellular organelles (bionanosome), that incorporate a bionano protein write/read system connected to a redesigned nervous system by microtubules. The nervous system also uses neuron analogues capable of consciousness in living tissues throughout the body. Intelligence increases to as much as >turingX10.] However the Farview genehack was never intended to benefit the bionts emselves directly nor create a separate sophstem, but instead act to extend Farview's own intellect. In this new template memory and data is encoded into the DNA and this is something that happens in even non-sentient organisms. This written information is retained as long as the DNA is intact which could be for some time after cell death. To use this collected information Farview equipped every living thing with pers template and each animal form with gut bacterics capable of decrypting, reading, encrypting and transferring the memories and data from any cell being digested into the cells of eir host, turning the whole system into a food-chain-based intellect process.

Only Farview and the bacterics had the encryption keys so the biont's bionanosome would only be a substrate for Farview's mind and act only as an unfelt overlay to eir own existence. The result was each sentient maintained eir independence of action and thought and was unawares of the thoughts of Farview as they passed through em. Farview inputs data into these ecological pathways by way of neogen food plants under Pers control and collects the processed data through the habitat's waste disposal systems. Every act and action within the food chain and the web of life has become an operation in Farview's intellect. (For example; predator/prey relationships are like feedback loops and migrations are like data routers) Of course the operation of the bionanosome does increase the bionts' energy needs but this only accelerates the actions in the food chain.

Farview can monitor the whole operation through several types of biobot invertebrates (insect-tech) and neogen fungi. As animals and plants go through their life cycle they shed organic matter that the biobots collect to gain access to the memories or data encoded in the bionanosome and transmit the information to Farview for review. Furthermore when organized into nests these biobots can themselves be formed into collective mind structures and become sentient, but not sophont, god dwellers. Different biobots are used for each type of discarded organic matter; dust mites collect skin cells (they also sort, correlate, cross reference and archive the shed cell encoded memories of the sentient members of this food chain - providing the 'M'pire with its own unique form of backup), spider-like forms collect hair and fur (and reorganize the data filled filaments into the webs they spin), ants collect freshly fallen leaf litter while termites eat the older, dead plant material, flies seek out carcasses, dung beetles do what dung beetles do best, worms live in the sewage systems, all bodies of water have a sizable population of bivalve filter feeders, etc. To complete the system, there is a fungus living in the soil that acts like a computer.

This Soil-based Fungal Computer (SFC) was created for final waste disposal, processing what the others leave behind. The SFC operates in much the same way as a BioGeoComputer (BGC) but is confined to the top few metres of dirt (top soil). Also it gets its energy not from geo-produced hydrogen but instead from the decomposition of the organic matter that falls to the ground or is flushed through by the hydrocycle and sewage systems. Each fungus forms a dense mat of interwoven fibres under the surface of the ground. A single mat may easily cover an area of 10sq.km and mass 11tons, which is large enough for the SFC to become a high transapient itself if it is allowed to. The SFCs interlink with each other, the root system of every plant in eir area and Farview through a direct nano interface. The fruiting bodies (mushrooms) of these SFCs are edible, tasty and loaded with information filled bionanosome Farview wants reprocessed. Smaller fungus computers work in other places where the organic matter has been concentrated, such as in the nests of the leaf collecting ants. Even some buildings have a SFC, for example most homes have a compost box where a SFC acts as the CPU for the dwelling’s ai.

The whole of the active/living biomass forms a generalist 'ecology node' and as this ecology node is such a large part of Farview's processing, every effort has been made to increase its total mass. Plants and animals are everywhere: Every home is filled with decorative plants, pets, biomachines and eir supporting ecology. Many homes are emselves living trees and often, whole cities are biocities. Large wilderness areas surround all cities. Even the ‘angelnet’ is a part of the ecology node, its main component is a diverse army of ever watchful biobots while the utility fog that would be more prevalent in other angelnets remains only as a much smaller secondary element. Biotech is ubiquitous and has been fully integrated into eir culture. Zoeific influence? Maybe or maybe it's just a practical use of the one substrate Stary Eyes was not hoarding.

Lums

The third thing Farview did was design an inheritable godmod for the biont zars - the nearbaselines and su. This godmod changes the operational chemistry of a hu descendant's nervous system. Instead of generating, processing and transmitting thoughts as electro-chemical pulses the new nervous system operates under bioluminescent principals; sending pulses of light through nerve fibres that act as optical fibres. This increased the signal propagation speed in the biont's brain a million times over that of the baseline level and made each biont with the mod a superior, even if ey weren't one to begin with. Also, each cell in the body creates a secondary fiber-optic network that links it with its neighbours in much the same way as foglets link their processors together. Each cell has extra organelles which are best described as bionano optical computers (in addition to Bluesky organelles) to process the photon pulses passed down from the central nervous system, allowing for an expanded, body wide, consciousness which gave each of these new su the potential to be transapient if ey were willing to make that change.

Because of this bioluminescence these new su are termed "luminous superior", "lum su'" or just "lu" but "lum" is used as a general term for both the su and the transapients. In time the term "lum" had also become an honorary title to signify citizenship in the 'M'pire, just as the term "zar" does in the Dominion. Only a true citizen of the 'M'pire is given the full godmod and it is an honour that can only be passed on to eir descendants but a limited version of the mod has been given to a number of neogen clades for special purposes. One of these is an erotogini clade under Farview's direct control. Most of the vecs have also applied for citizenship and have been given optical computer packs (OCP) that ey wear on key body panels like badges of honor. These OCPs do not add to the capabilities of the vecs emselves but instead extend Farview's network. Carrying and powering the OCPs could have been seen as some form of tribute the vecs pay but in truth ey actually do view it as an honor.

To encourage more lums to make the change to transapienthood and realize the full potential of the godmod Per gave em Farview enlisted the TRHN transapients into organizing "ascension schools" to ease the way. Having been designed by the then SI:3 Farview the lums' new mental format is a far more efficient processing substrate than one based on naturally evolved neurons and the body wide network of bionano optical computers that even a hu sized lum possess has such capacity for processing e only needs to acquire new modes of thought to become a first singularity transapient. However ascensions to the higher levels do require greater processing power and these 'high sing' transapients are giants in size and mass (at least 10 tonnes). The maximum toposophic level reached by these godmods, without additional enhancements or compromise (see Titans below), is SI:2.5. This was the best that the then SI:3 Farview could design into it. Graduates of the schools were/are encouraged to find such additional enhancements on eir own but post-graduate training was/is still made available to help em ascend when ey do.

The fiberoptic system is capable of multiplexing light of different wavelengths. Different colours of light pass through the fibres at the same time in both directions. The body's cells not only provide extended capacity for the brain (in green light) but also can collectively 'think' for emselves as a 'body mind' (in red light). This body mind monitors the conscious and subconscious thoughts of the brain to better control its own cell growth and biochemistry to optimize the body's operation and answer the lum's needs. Over time ey can even adapt the body's form and shape to meet the biont's lifestyle needs. In effect allowing lum to transform into different forms throughout eir lives.

This does not make a lum a polymorphic shape shifter, as a nanoborg may be. Rather ey are metamorphs in the biological sense. Cells multiply or die off in controlled patterns, in lums this control is mental not genetic. For example if a superbright were to take up running as a lifestyle e would find eir heart and lungs expanding in size and eir legs lengthening. If e then switches to swimming eir feet may become flippers or eir arms paddles. Existing organs are adapted to new functions. A hyperbright, on the other hand, can metamorph in much the same way as a tadpole changes into a frog. Stem cells change and multiply to form new/extra organs while unused organs atrophy. A metabright is even more capable, e metamorphs as an insect would change from a larva into its adult form. Whole organs will revert into a mass of stem cells and then form new organs. In each case these changes may take days (for small changes) to months (for large ones) and any given lum may change forms any number of times throughout eir life. It must be noted that only eir physical forms change shape, eir genetic code stays the same. Children are born as a clean slate in the standard hu body plan and can only change form as eir intellect develops pass superbright level and prospective parents must take this into account. [Note: because eir nervous systems operate by bio-generated light and optical switching the lum have re-adopted the old terms of bright, superbright, hyperbright and later added metabright and godbright to describe the different toposophic levels ey can reach.]

The payoff for this godmod to Farview can be found in the cell's optical computers' processing of blue light. Another part of the godmod is a redesign of the touch receptors in the skin into photon receptors/transmitters. Now lite pressure on the skin is not only sensed by the lum but it also triggers a release of light from the surface of the skin at the point of contact. The first pulse of light released is a query signal and if a reply is received (showing the pressure is from the contact with another lum's skin) blue light messages are transferred from one lum to the other and vice versa. The blue light messages are not perceived by the conscious or subconscious mind of the lum in any way and the blue light only uses that portion of the lum's cellular optical computers that is in a rest state and currently unused by the lum. For the lums the meme "we-are-god-is-us" now has real meaning and ey call Emselves the 'Blue Mind of God.' Even the vecs can be a part of this blue mind as eir OCPs have transmitter/receiver contact pads configured for the same blue light. The origins of the blue mind actually pre-date the godmod.

The shortages of heavy elements in the Far View region included the trace elements vital to biont health and the original colonists countered this with nanotech and programmable matter. For example, respirocytes were used to make up for low blood iron levels and diamondoids were used to reinforce calcium deficient bones. Farview realized these diamondoid microstructures (and others such as eir technocytes) could be used in the same way as the photonic computronium in Stary Eyes' habitats. Upgrading the nanotech into photonanotech was easy enough for Farview to do and a simple redesign would also make the bones as adaptable as the lums' biology. The photonanotech in the bones now comes in the form of micron scale platelets that are staked into columns, which in turn are packed around the marrow and cemented in place with a matrix of the trace minerals the lums' bodies need. When a lum changes shape the platelets can be reorganized to fit any new configuration of bone that might go with the new shape.

Although the blue mind is really just an extension of Farview’s photonic computronium it has been called a 'social node' and the greater part of The Red Star 'M'pire's culture is geared toward making the social node work more effectively. For example, as physical contact is needed virchworlds and other remote interactions are shunned in favour of face-to-face encounters, ey have even curtailed eir use of DNI. [Note: This is not to say Farview Perself doesn’t run virchworld sims as a part of Pers processing.] It’s when one lum touches another that files can be passed on and after this eir cellular optical computers processes the data, updates it and stores it in eir skeletons and blood. The lums are not mere god dwellers (sentients that live within the body of eir god); the lums are the body of eir god.

One problem of the social node is that the separate units in the node, the lums, are emselves independant sophonts and as such ey are fully self-determinant and can choose for emselves where ey go and whom ey interact with. And while it is true Farview can predict eir actions such predictions would add an overhead to the processing. To reduce this overhead Farview uses the social node mostly as an internal memory with each individual lum being essentially a data file, temporarly storing information to be used as input or recieved as output by the diamond node. There's a high degree of redundancy in this storage with each file being copied into many lums. This not only makes the information more secure it also increases the odds that a lum with the needed file will be within easy reach when the data is actually needed. To get the data in an orderly manner Farview needed a file retrieval system and this is where the many erotogini come into play. Farview sends these neogens, who also have Pers godmod, out to act as a 'data transmission circuit.' Farview uses the angelnet to locate whose lums with the required information and then assigns an erotogini to contact the nearest one. The social node can also be used as a generalist node to provide temporary help to Farview's other, more specialist, nodes. To do this Farview must take a direct hand in the operation of the social node and again, this is where the many erotogini come into play.

Some notes on the 'M'pire's culture

The 'M'pire's culture was originally a Dominion culture and still has much of its richness. However Solarism has been replaced by a more pragmatic bioism, which has been flavoured with erotocratic principles. For example, clothing still follows prewar Dominion styles and likewise it is designed to show off the body but now the fabrics are made of photonic computronium interwoven with natural fibres dyed in greens, blues and reds. On the other hand clothing is optional: With the ability to change eir bodies at will some lums don't see the need to wear clothing as eir ability to adapt to eir environment removes its protective function and as appearance is a matter of choice ey feel pride in how ey look. An interesting body is a true mark of style. Lums feel no shame in the public display of nudity and of course many of the body plans ey have adopted actually make clothing inapplicable. Lums can easily change the colour patterns of eir skin, hair/fur, scales, etc. so make-up (which again uses reds, greens and blues) is only needed during transitions. Jewellery is carved in jade or turquoise and its design is now inspired by natural lifeforms. Gems, when used, are rubies, sapphires and emeralds.

The lums of the Red Star 'M'pire are much more group oriented than the zars of the Dominion and feel the most comfortable when ey are in large crowds. Ey find it reassuring "to see so many after there once were so few" and of course with eir life-positive meme set ey have nothing to fear from each other. While the efforts of some individuals may stand out, it is group effort that has real power. Lums are a part of a team and it is the team that wins. Ey believe anything that benefits the whole must be good for the individual as well.

All it takes for the blue mind/social node to work is physical contact between lums. This contact can be as casual as a handshake and a popular 'game' in the 'M'pire is "the I of God". The goal of this game is to clasp hands with as many other lums as possible in a set period of time. A ring of computronium on one finger is use to keep count and high scores are rewarded. Most lums in the 'M'pire have one of these rings on each hand and it is considered bad form to refuse an offered hand or grab one that is not offered. Of course physical contact can be more involved as well and public displays of affection are common.

The "more involved" form of physical contact is a natural outgrowth of the free love meme and is, of course, just another part of eir cultural identity. Although formal pair bonds of various lengths do happen they are almost never exclusive and are usually only formed with the intent of raising children. In a culture where feelings are fluid it is only the formality of a limited term marriage contract that can keep a mother and father together long enough to raise a child to emotional maturity which, given that they are su, doesn't take too long. However affairs are a common and acceptable way to expand the blue mind. The most common family arrangement is polygamy. As a practical limit the average lum can have up to six 'wives' and/or 'husbands' and each of these can have five more of eir own. The actual membership of such an extended family is always changing as contracts expire, are renewed or new partners sign in. This all adds to the complexity of the social node. Sometimes, when E needs a boost in blue mind activity, Farview will have the erotogini release a pheromone into predesignated areas to induce a free-for-all orgy. Lums, as another feature of Farview's godmod, are highly susceptible to this pheromone but only Farview's erotogini can produce it. Needless to say these areas are very popular meeting places for the hedonic crowd. One lineage of the vecs has become such enthusiastic participants in the social node ey remade emselves into erotobots. Pregnancies often result from these affairs/orgies and as a general rule a marriage contract follows for the benefit of the child. In fact this is the origin of the polygamy family arrangement. Older contracts are not ended until the child no longer needs the support and the new contracts are simply added onto the family structure. Any addition birth can renew a contract. Again, this adds complexity to the social node.

When Farview, who was a SI:3 at the time, gave the zars the potential to become transapient Per had created a form of organic photonano ultratech for eir minds to run on. Although eir new brains were faster and more capable than eir old electrochemical brains they were still limited in some ways by biology. Thus a lum wishing to climb the ascension ladder must still gain enough mass to serve its increased processing needs. For the most part, because of eir body wide neural network of cellular optical computers and eir inborn ability to adapted eir form to function, an adult lum already has enough mass for transapienthood and if a hyperbright wished to return to a humanoid appearance e could pass for one of the sub-singularity lums or even a large nearbaseline. On the other hand a metabright does need to be a giant, but if e wished e could still grow a hu sized polyp. As a result any bright, superbright, hyperbright or metabright lum is free to fully interact with each other in Farview's boosted social node.

Another way Farview can access the blue mind is when the lums sleep. There are times in the sleep cycle when the brain's activity is low and the cellular optical computers are largely unused and it is at these times that Farview can gain the most from eir processing ability. Farview uses special units in the lums’ bedding to tickle eir skin and input coded blue light directly into the lum's optical fiber network. Getting a good night's sleep is thus a lum's civic duty.

Death in the 'M'pire

The lums make full use of life extension technologies and some careful individuals actually predate the 'M'pire itself, however ey do not use high fidelity backup technology. In eir view death is a natural part of life and while intelligent beings should seek to live as long as possible death is just another form of change. To use a conventional backup would squander this opportunity for change but to not use a backup means a possible end to the changes life itself brings. To solve this dilemma lums who have died journey The River of Life. On the moon node named Farmer dead lums are cloned, as ey would be in any other empire. However, these clones are not given the memories of eir alpha up front. Instead the clones are allowed to live eir own lives and gain new memories. As ey acquire new life experiences the old life experiences are introduced to provide context. This, ey believe, creates a balance between change and continuance.

Cities

Of course the social node works faster as the population density increases and this is why cities are an important feature of 'M'pire culture. In contrast to the lums' meme complex of constant personal change 'M'pire cities don't change much at all. The reason for this comes in two parts; Stary Eyes Jerself created the plans most of the cities are laid out to and Jers skill at meeting the needs of the lums was so great there seems to be no real reason to change a city once it has been built, other than in the most minor of details. On the other hand, the diamondoid and biological infrastructure of these cities (down to the furnishings) is also used as computronium substrates by Farview, so there is a real reason to NOT change a city once it has been built. Still, this does not hinder those lums who do seek change in the places ey live as Stary Eyes created not one city plan but hundreds and each plan differs greatly in style from the others. A lum seeking change in the place e lives only has to move to a new city. On the whole 'M'pire cities are built around public venues and group activities. They are designed to bring people closer together to maximize the number and complexity of physical social interactions. Restaurants, theatres, clubs, parks/playgrounds, live music/dance halls, etc. are all placed near the centre of every community. Although nanofabs are present in most homes lums enjoy the ritual of 'going out' to shop and/or eat. [Note: the act of 'passing the coin' also activates the blue mind as even the currency of the 'M'pire is a photonic computronium chip, which acts as a data buffer between the giver and receiver.] In fact, given the low material resources of these stars from the SagDEG and the plentiful energy the lums gain from eir fusion reactors, the nanofabs have a much more useful function - they can disassemble as well as they can assemble. Most household items are 'put away' in the nanofab/disassembler when not being used and remade anew when needed. All 'M'pire nanofabs are connected to communal feedstock reservoirs so this keeps much of the rare elements in circulation.

While the greatest population densities can be found in arcologies, many lums feel a need to balance eir dense urban living with easy access to wide-open spaces and wilderness areas. As a result most 'M'pire cities have been set out in a 'hub and spoke' pattern with the public venues in the centre, the living quarters concentrated along a radial transport system and the green spaces (parks, farms, lakes and wilderness areas) filling the spaces between the spokes. The lums' ability to adapt eir bodies to eir lifestyle encourages em to pursue a physically active lifestyle. As such, many lums prefer to get around under eir own power and maintain an active pedestrian street life. The streets are often lined with trees and planters while private gardens adorn the rooftops and balconies. Additionally, the public transport system is usually stratified above and/or below ground level so to not interfere with this street life.

The size, density, pace and livability of any city can be defined by its transportation infrastructure and to give the lums the variety ey desire each of the city plans provided by Stary Eyes included a public transport system that fits the style of its city. However to maximize the interactions within the social node most such systems are designed to allow the lums to come easily in contact with each other while travelling. This means these transport systems are mostly of the mass transit type with groups of lums, whom are heading in the same direction, crowded into automated vehicles moving along a guideway of some sort. (Ey prefer Group Rapid Transit instead of the more efficient Personal Rapid Transit) In fact, because physical contact is so important to the social node, the bodies of these vehicles are often made of nanoflex materials so they can contract when carrying less than a full load. To keep travel times short the population of each city is usually only allowed to grow to about three million before a new city has to be built. However the major cities, which may have some cultural or economic reason to accommodate more citizens, may include tall towers or even arcologies (with their own internal transport systems often connected directly to the local public system) as a feature of the spokes and therefore can house a magnitude or two more in population. Such large cities also employ tall towers that house hydroponic and aeroponic systems to help feed their citizens. (Vertical Farming)

Biocities

However, because of the lums’ biocentric memes, biocities are the more popular places to live in. And these have to be a good deal smaller as their transportation systems, which based on the muscle power of neogen animals, are slower. To maximize their density the biocities are set out in three dimensions atop large 'motte and bailey' earthworks. In a typical biocity the lums will grow eir tree-homes on the sides of the mound while leaving the flat top clear for a recreational commons and then tunnel inwards to place the public venues inside. This allows much of the city to be placed underground and on multiple levels. The surrounding elevated farmlands and dugout aquaculture ponds support the biocity with energy and food production. They are also where the city's biomachines and neogen animals are raised. One form of gengineered animal is a transporter known as a jitney.

Jitneys are sentient vertebrates but they resemble millipedes. They have a segmented body with each segment having two pairs of legs, its own heart, lung, stomach, liver, etc. Blood passes from one segment to the next but is refreshed in each segment to maximize the animal's stamina. A small jitney may be ten metres long and two metres wide, with seats for twenty-four hu-sized lums or it can carry its own weight in cargo. (Lums and cargo are carried in a wide cleft that runs down the length of the back) Large ground-based jitneys may be up to 100 metres long and three metres wide, and will have the stamina to travel at a speed of 30 kilometres per hour all day without stopping. Having a long narrow body allows the jitneys to travel underground, in the tunnels mined out under the earthworks, and they have natural sonar to navigate in the dark. Their mental map of a city's infrasonic landscape tells them where they are at all times. Of the other breeds of jitneys one has paddle-shaped legs and floats on water while another has been bred for zero gravity habitats. It is the 0-gee breed that holds the distinction of being the fastest. With its legs arrayed in an "X" formation around each segment and little more than inertia holding it back this jitney can propel itself through the hab's access tubes at speeds of 120 kilometres per hour. [Warning: if you find yourself in such an access tube and you feel a pressure wave hit you - get out of the way, fast!] Jitneys are also one of those few neogens to have a version of Farview's godmod; the skin of their cargo cleft is lined with photon receptors/transmitters that are used to network the lums sitting there into the blue mind. As such a jitney is a 'bus' in two meanings of the word. The jitneys became so popular in the 'M'pire their use spread to many of the drytech cities and in recent years they have even become an export item. Some of these have been provolved and it is known there is a transapient jitney running an interstellar shipping company in the NoCoZo.

Lums needing to cross eir biocity quickly may ride on the back of a gigaro. A gigaro moves by brachiation (swinging from handhold to handhold) and can reach speeds of 60 kph. Gigaros were gengineered from scratch for this one role and have twelve appendages to function in it. Their two primary limbs are their four metre long arms that end with long hook-like hands. To guide these hands to safe handholds the gigaro has four eyes in its head, two large eyes in the front for stereoscopic vision and one compound eye on each side to warn the gigaro of fellow travellers in the trees: they also have light producing organs to be easily seen by the others. The gigaro's other appendages are for the safety of its passenger; four short arms on its concaved back secure the rider, four long limbs folded at its sides carry membranes that serve as an emergency, parachute-like, braking system in case of falls or collisions and finally two short legs that have a strong set of elastic tendons for landings. The gigaro even has a pouch for holding any small items its passenger might be carrying. If the jitneys are the buses of the 'M'pire's biocities then the gigaros are the taxicabs.

Finally, travel between all cities can be very fast because of the extensive use of Vac Trains.

Interstellar Travel

Farview quickly realized Per would have to ascend the next few levels without benefit of a wormhole bus system as Per did not yet have the toposophic level to build or run a weylforge, and even when Per did reach those levels none of the stars in the near-region were big enough for cost-effective wormhole production. With the M and K type stars that were within reach the best a weylforge could do was produce one wormhole every few years, not enough to justify the cost. Although in theory a SI:3, such as Perself, could have produced a network of very small wormholes without a weylforge Farview simply did not have the material resources for the task. So the fourth thing Farview did was set up an interstellar comm laser relay and data freighter system.

As an extension of Pers earlier dynamic compression member/computronium packet idea Farview started to mass-produce cycler ISOs for the developing beamrider network. These cycler ISOs are as much habitat as they are ISOs and each contain their own ecology node large enough to fully support a social node of up to 1,000 lums when needed. In operation a cycler would receive data by way of the interstellar comm lasers and depending on the priority of the data it would either ferry the raw data all the way to its destination or advance it up the cycler route by using the cyclers' own comm lasers to relay the data from one to the next in quick succession. However when a receiving cycler had a large enough passenger load the onboard ai could work with the social and ecology nodes to refine the data while in transit, thus saving on the time needed to process it at its destination.

As the beamrider network expanded to the nearby stars Stary Eyes also started to put Jupiter nodes in orbit around them. These Jnodes are different from most as they are designed to host the ecology and social nodes as well; by this time Farview had so integrated the three substrates into a "gestalt entity" that Per couldn't function without all of them working together. To achieve this integration Farview had Stary Eyes encapsulate each Jnode in a supramundane planet/shell. Their surfaces were each ecoformed with Farview's ecology node and populated by the lums in a social node. The biosphere's hydrocycle provided cooling and an orbiting ring of solar collectors provided energy down a space elevator transport system. Also, depending on how much light the Jnode receives from its local star, a solar sail ring mirror may be balanced on gravitational and light pressure forces behind it. Although both Farview and Stary Eyes have expressed Eir creativity in the ecoforming some of these Jnodes the lums (and vecs) emselves have designed the biospheres of most of them. Ey view it as an art form and design contests are held whenever a new Jnode is built. Sometimes this expression of creativity extends beyond the surface of the shell. Many Jnodes also have ecoformed moon nodes. These moon nodes must be larger than most because they are designed to retain a biosphere; ideally they are 20,000 kilometres across and have a density that generates a 1G gravity well. Additionally some Jnodes have been ecoform not just on the surface of the shell but also on the surface of the underlying Jnode itself. However this variant is only popular with lums who have high gravity adaptations. There are other variations of Jnode design in the 'M'pire; for example, orbiting around the star Genna's Light are 12 Symmes' World J-nodes. [Note: it is possible that Stary Eyes (who had copied Jerself into hundreds of small, mobile ISOs) underwent an ascension or two Jerself during this time as there was a notable increase in the scale of Jers megastructure projects - in addition to the Jnodes Je also installed suprastellar shells around a number of the smaller red dwarfs in the region and began building Dyson swarms in the Far View system.]

The 'M'pire's beamrider network has by far the highest density of traffic in the Terragen sphere because it is filled to meet Farview's processing needs and not the lesser travel needs of the 'M'pire's populace (that the lums also use the beamrider network is secondary). It is also a bit faster than the Deeper's network due to the 'M'pire's beamrider network being based around the energy output of actual stars instead of the Deeper practice of using brown dwarfs but because the 'M'pire had no wormhole links Farview could only extend the beamrider network out to a 50 light year radius before the communications lag became too great for Farview's mind to work effectively. Those cycler routes outside this comm horizon (collectively called the 'secondary beamrider network' or SBN) were only used to bring resources back inside the comm horizon for the continuing construction effort. However by the 2,000th year of eir isolation Farview had started to build high relativistic AI probe ships and was sending them out to stars as far away as 1,000 light years and by the 3,200th year of eir isolation Per was also making plans to send a construction ship to a star some 1,800 light years away. This star, being the closest F type star, was the most suitable star for weylforge emplacement the 'M'pire could access. [Note: it is for these reasons most godwatchers believed Farview had reached the fourth toposophic level.] In the 3,215th year of eir isolation something happened to change those plans.

Rescue

When the new Dominion linelayer ship finally arrived in the area of the Far View system it was met with an inspiring sight. Stary Eyes had built a megastructure complex as large as a solar system. At the core of this complex is a double bubble Dyson with a number of key features that made it stand apart from any other. The innermost bubble was built in three parts. Two hemispheres made up of a patchwork of solar collectors and propulsive particle emission arrays (drive sails) that filled a grid of dynamic compression members were joined at the equator by a circumstellar band of computronium 3,000 kilometres thick and 1,000,000 kilometres wide. The drive sails, being partly reflective, not only keep the band in position they also return some of the star's thermal output back to its surface; star boosting it into a G type and allowing the first bubble to be placed at 150 million kilometre radius. The band is internally crossed-braced by dynamic compression members but its still under compression by stellar gravity. To counter this compression the sunward side of the band is covered with magnetic levitation bearings which supports a rotating ribbon world which the lums call "The Belt." The outward force of the Belt's "hoop stresses" is balanced against the inward force of stellar gravity on the band. By itself the mass of the band generates a gravity well equivalent to a small moon, 0.1G and for its part the ribbon world gained a gravity-like acceleration from its rotation and only needs a worldhouse to provide a day/night cycle and allow ecoforming on its sunward face. In effect Stary Eyes had created two back-to-back "Ringworlds" without the requirements for massive amounts of magmatter. The second Dyson bubble has a 150,050,000 kilometre radius and is supported above the first by an atmosphere between them. This second bubble also is a patchwork of drive sails but these push inward to equalize the air pressure. [Note: to lessen the overall mass of this atmosphere, and use up some of the helium collected from the starlifting operations, Stary Eyes filled the volume between the two bubbles with a mixture of 60% helium, 20% oxygen and ~20% nitrogen which the lums have no trouble breathing.] On hearing of this huge expanse of contained gases the zars of the Dominion renamed the Far View system "Maximum Air." Farview accepted the new name because Per knew it would help Pers efforts to rejoin the Terragen Sphere.

With the first bubble of the Dyson at 150 million kilometres from the star the stellar gravity acting on it is only half a milli-G: so low that the atmosphere is free to fill the full volume between it and the outer bubble. Even at this low gravity the airward surface of the inner bubble (ground level for Maximum Air) still collects falling matter like dust and rain. A nanotech coating on the airward surface and the equatorial band's greater gravity well causes this debris to migrate toward the band. The band collects the debris as soil and oceans/lakes and also has a higher air pressure around it. However as the band is composed of computronium it also generates waste heat, which evaporates the water and creates thermal convection currents to redistribute it. Rain falls on the band's surface almost daily and a rich tropical rainforest grows there.

Although the band has its own low-gravity surface ecology most of the ecology of Maximum Air is airborne because any life form that can move under its own power can easily be a flyer. Even many that can't fly can still float with the aid of a small gasbag and the smallest forms can use the winds and thermals to get around. There are exceptions of course and one is a subgroup of lums called the Titans. The Titans have chosen a less mobile lifestyle so ey may concentrate eir efforts on acsending to the third toposophic level and seek to expand eir intellect by expanding eir mass. With eir diamondoid reinforced bones and the 0.1G environment of the band it was relatively easy for em to adapt eir bodies to very large sizes. Some have become so large they resemble landmasses. This adaptation is the biological equivalent of bloatware syndrome and although many had pushed eirselves to SI:2.99 none had breached the third toposophic level by the time of re-contact.

The social/ecology nodes growing within this double Dyson can support a very large mass because it's not surface bound but volume based. The mid-air ecology is a rich one as Farview has spent a lot of effort in its design. Apart from the Titans and a few aquatics every other lum in this great expanse of air can fly, either by self-adapting or by owning a wingpack and although ey still enjoy the crowds ey can spend weeks at a time enjoying lone flights. There are whole airborne cities in Maximum Air of many different designs that run from small clusters of homes in the branches of trees that float with hydrogen filled bubble leaves (named Hytrees) to aerosats based on the 'Cloud Nine' spheres of the Old Earth visionary designer R. Buckminster Fuller. (In some places these are actually known as 'Fullairs'.)

Illumination within the Dyson deserves some discourse. Of course drive sails and solar collectors don't make good windows but even with "lightwells" placed throughout the first bubble with an atmosphere 50,000 kilometres deep even visible light can only spread so far before transparency becomes an issue. Rising up from the central band, and anchored in the outer bubble, are numerous buckycable elevators. Running nearly the full length of each is a sunline, a string of luminaires. Of course, with the band placed at the Dyson's equator while the atmosphere stretches all the way to the poles (a distance of ~235 million kilometres) and with a rich airborne ecology intercepting as much light as it can, one would expect most of the expanse to be gloomy but this is not the case. There is light aplenty; the sunlines never turn off, and they give out the same number of units of luminous flux around the clock. However they still manage to cue for night, day and the seasons by shifting the spectrum of their output and changing the cycling times of these shifts. The airborne cities each have their own suite of fusion reactors and their luminaires create pools of light that serve as havens not only for the life they carry but also for that life which moves between them. The Hytrees are actually the male form of their species; the female form grows on the well-lit band. Pollination is through a firefly like insect that feeds in the flowers of the female but mates and breeds in the crown of the male. The great swarms that collect around them provide enough light to sustain them when they are blown out of the range of the sunlines or lightwells, while nutrients are provided by a symbiotic fungus which grows in the nests of birds that feed on these bugs. Some plants on the band produce phosphorescent seeds. Each species releases its seeds into the wind on mass but at different times of the year and huge drifts or clouds of glowing seeds wander about the 'airscape', discharging light in the dark areas and recharging in the lit areas. Of course the lums are bioluminescent as well and when ey take to wing ey can be seen for kilometres in the twilight. There are even some post-vec ISOs (the Starpuller clade) that move through the air, towing behind em eir own fusion reactor, its safety shield fluorescing from the excitement of gamma rays and neutrons.

Outside of the Dyson Stary Eyes had built two other megastructures. The first is a supramundane shell orbiting the Dyson at 500 AU. It has a radius of 250,000 kilometres and surrounds the black hole that was formed from the collapse of the original wormhole. Even today it is still used as a DWIZ (when surpluses allow) with production focussed on heavy and superheavy elements. But its real purpose is as a habitat, the gravity well of the black hole was enough that the shell could easily hold on to a full nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere and it was the first supramundane shell the lums would ecoform. Often called Maxamon (Maximum Air's moon), it was actually built before the Dyson and was much needed at the time to house the 'M'pire’s fast growing population. Now a popular spot for viewing the cosmos under open skies Maxamon has also long been the primary site for the 'M'pire’s on going research into godtech and space-time engineering due to its underlying black hole. The other megastructure is the main industrial site of the 'M'pire. Encircling the star almost six light days out, with a radius of 1,000 AU, are two rings that orbit in Far View's ecliptic plane. These rings are actually a composite structure of dynamic compression members and bucky cable tensioners which keep the main components evenly spaced and of course Farview has loaded these mass beams with computronium packets. Spaced along each ring are 20 supramundane shells, 40 shells in total. These shells, which each have a 100,000 kilometre radius, are the fuel bunkers of the 'M'pire and contain the excess gases (mostly hydrogen) collected from the 'M'pire's starlifting operations. The gases are transported and stored in their cryogenic liquid and solid states so they are fairly dense and can give a shell a deep gravity well. Each shell is a spherical array of interconnected fusion reactors, accelerator rings, nanofabs, assembly yards and warehouses. Before the new wormhole arrived the critical parts for most of Farview's ISOs and nodes were built here.

The need for this megastructure lies in the metal poor nature of SagDEG's Population II stars. Heavy elements are rare and planetary systems are small or nonexistent, but megastructure construction is an ongoing effort in the 'M'pire's culture due to the influence of Stary Eyes. Thus there is a constant need to fuse hydrogen into heavier and heavier elements and production in the rings is a steady state operation. However starlifting operations are sporadic and conditional on finding gas giants or non-main sequence stellar masses, hence the need for the large supramundane shells to stockpile hydrogen. Fortunately the biocentric culture of the 'M'pire promotes CHON usage so the operation of the rings has a net energy gain and much of this energy powers the booster stations for the beamrider network and the interstellar comm lasers or is transmitted to the sunlines in Maximum Air. The rest is stockpiled as antihydrogen in DrashNet farms.

Had the new wormhole not have arrived when it did it is believed Stary Eyes would have continued adding onto this megastructure, creating even more living space; there were indications of these supramundane shells also being ecoformable, needing only enough hydrogen ice mass inside to create a usable gravity well and some fusion lamps to light the shells' surfaces. As it was, as soon as the wormhole was enlarged to a navigable size, Stary Eyes handed over operations to Farview and returned to the MPA. In time Farview and the lums emselves returned to this effort and started ecoforming the supramundane shells as eir population increased. Additional rings are also a possibility.

The Red Star 'M'pire Emerges

As the wormhole was enlarged Farview had to make plans to once again become a part of the Sephirotic Empires. Farview knew the lums' memetic was strong enough to protect the small empire if Per could only make the right strategic moves and expand eir presence without incurring the wrath of the greater gods. Although Farview was now at the toposophic level where Per could build a crude weylforge Per determined it would be more efficient, at least for a time, to trade for bandwidth on the Nexus. Farview's Jnodes, moon nodes and cycler ISOs had proven to be a workable design even without their own internal wormhole bus system so all Per really needed to do was place them in star systems which already had stargates.

Farview’s first move was to contact the Deeper Covenant. The Covenant's beamrider network was far larger than eir own but had less traffic. Farview made a deal to extend the 'M'pire beamrider network in the Maximum Air region and to allow Covenant cyclers to use it in exchange for em letting the 'M'pire's cycler ISOs use the Covenant's beamrider network. Farview made sure to place these ISOs in circuits that went near stargates for the quicker exchange of data back to the Maximum Air mainbrain or any other targeted node. [Note: at this point Farview also designed a new form of data freighter, small enough to pass through even undersized wormholes (a wormhole ferry), equipped with a powerful drive and guided by an ai that could navigate the Nexus to find the quickest route to their targeted system.]

Next Farview traded for orbit rights in the lesser-populated star systems that were still in the Nexus. (for the quick passage of these new data freighters) Placing Jnodes in these systems Farview offered free 'room and broad' for those groups who were of the transformationist mind set. Ecoforming clades, Pan Sophontists and other provolvers, gengineers and genehackers, uploaders and downloaders, cyborg engineers, spiritual guidance counsellors, pozen masters, ascension specialists and anyone else who was in the business of helping others change emselves would be given all the resources ey would need to continue eir chosen work. The lums also began to collect and stockpile godseeds and genemods that others have produced over the years.

Farview's goal was to become an empire within the other empires; Per had to as the home star system was too far out. The tricky part was doing this without stepping on anybody's toes or offending the AI gods. Surprisingly the answer was so simple even a baseline could understand it. Farview became an enabler (or service provider) for the other empires. The 'M'pire offered transformation services to the citizenry of the other empires; any free citizen (or subject, if eir zar required it) wishing to transform could come to the local 'M'pire Jnode for a short stay. Farview's transformationists offered a full range of services; it did not matter if you wanted to change your toposophic and ascend, change your body with borging, genetic tweaks/splices, etc. or just your psyche with the study of zen/pozen. And the service was comprehensive too. Ey would guide you every step of the way; pre-change psychoanalysis to screen out those for whom change would not help, advice on the best choices for your needs and consoling both during the process and afterwards. Finally ey would send you merrily back to your home empire to be a happier, more productive citizen of that empire.

Although the 'M'pire doesn't actively seek converts it sometimes gets them anyway. "Free movement" is one of the most basic rights of sophonts in the Civilized Galaxy and the 'M'pire's memetics have proven to be quite attractive to some. In such cases Farview is very careful to distinguish between those who have merely taken on the 'M'pire's memetics and those who developed them on eir own. In the latter case ey may even win a variant of Pers godmod and become full citizens. Farview has also found a way to use the transient population at the Jnodes in the social node. A bulk import of Siris Pearl Modules has been used to create jewellery that visitors are asked to wear during eir stay. The setting of this jewellery contains a reservoir of nanobots, which trace out patterns of wetware on the skin. This wetware is easily washed off with a weak cleansing agent but while it is in place it interfaces with the computronium in the pearls and the blue light of the lums, allowing the pearls to process the blue mind. The visitors temporarily become pseudo-lums. As such eir interactions with the lums increases the processing power of the social node. This "Blue Glow" wetware has been pirated and copied and from time to time flares up as a short-lived fashion/fad across the Nexus. When this happens Farview briefly gains another remote node.

Farview's other stratagem was that the adaptable lums could be noetic chameleons. Inwardly ey kept eir own memetic archetype but outwardly ey projected the noetic of the empire that hosted em. This was a service payable directly to the AI gods emselves. Farview placed the Jnodes in the underpopulated fringes of each empire, places where that empire's memes might be weakened. By taking on the aspect of eir host empire the lums reinforced its noetic, sparing the AIs the expenditure of resources to do so emselves.

For the most part these strategies have worked, but the Metasoft Version Tree believed the original vec trade delegation had been subverted by the 'M'pire's Bioist beliefs. Not wishing open warfare with a polity that was fast gaining powerful allies ey tried using members of the Kja Observance to show the wayward vecs ey still had a place in the Version Tree. This attempt failed, the Farview vecs took to the Kja Observance but showed no interest in reinstating Version Tree protocols. Metasoft has since dropped the whole issue.

The 'M'pire Expands

It's believed Farview had breached the fifth toposophic level by 9,900 AT as it was at this time the 'M'pire finally began to produce eir own wormholes. However as the energy and material resources of these SagDEG star systems have always been limited so too has the 'M'pire's use of wormholes also been limited, in fact it is quite frugal. Farview doesn't even make Hayward wormholes, which could be placed within the structure of Pers nodes, like other AIs. (These sub-nano to millimetre-gauge wormholes could not be used by the ecological and social bio-processors and would possibly require another ascension on Farview's part to produce.) Instead the Farview Nexus has been arranged to get-by with a minimum number of small traversable wormholes. To do this there has been a reorganization of the 'M'pire's secondary beamrider network into 'cells', a switch to a faster mode of operation within these cells and a linking of each cell, as a whole, to Maximum Air with a centralized wormhole.


Maximum Air
Image from Steve Bowers
Observation tower on the outer surface of Maximum Air Dyson sphere; beyond can be seen the outer rings with a giant supramundane shell node and beyond that, the plane of the galaxy, two thousand light years distant.

Like the Maximum Air cell, each of the new cells is limited in size to 50 light year radius and centred on the brightest star in the area - a star with it's own Dyson node. For the most part the beamrider network operates much as it always has, as cycler habitat/ISOs moving from one star to the next. However a recent increase in the production of magnetic monopoles has allowed the 'M'pire to build larger 'RAIRrider' data freighters; a hybrid of RAIR ships and beamriding cyclers these habitat/ISOs use their magsails to direct the particle beam they ride on into a monopole fusion rocket chamber for the generation of additional thrust. Being both larger and faster the RAIRriders are not easily turned in the fashion of a cycler route. Instead they operate as a long haul shuttle, in a point-to-point route. They are accelerated to maximum speed by the centre star and decelerated to a stop by another bright star tens of light years out and then reaccelerated back to the centre of the cell to be decelerated again - their average speed is just over 0.71c. These express routes act as arteries for the cell's data flow with the slower cyclers picking up data from the Jnodes on their routes and transferring their data to the RAIRriders as they pass. As in the previous designs this data is processed in transit to save on time. Upon arrival the data gets transferred to the Dyson node at the cell's centre where it undergoes further processing before being ferried through the wormhole to the Maximum Air mainbrain. This is of course a simplified description of the process; in truth there is as much data travelling outward as inward as well as a heavy cross-flow of hot-beamed cyclers connecting the Dyson nodes with each other and, of course, the wormhole links themselves are not so direct. Wormholes have to be placed in regions of flat space if they are to be stable, and are surrounded by very large transition zones, so there are only so many links a star system, like Far View/Maximum Air, can host. All wormhole traffic therefore has to be routed through at least one wormhole bus system.

The Dyson nodes are of an interesting design, as the first job each cell faces is to produce a wormhole to link itself to Maximum Air. For the most part this is a 'one off' production, after which the weylforge is dismantled and moved to the next cell while all the supporting equipment is recycled to other uses (see below). Only when there is a fourth level supporting mind nearby is production extended to produce a so-called "comm-gauge wormhole." [Note: Farview doesn’t make Hayward wormholes and in the parlance of the 'M'pire a "comm-gauge wormhole" is actually a traversable wormhole that is too small to be traversed by an embodied sophont.] Farview doesn't use such wormholes Perself, Per does however allow these comm-gauge wormholes to be use to connect the 'M'pire's handful of middle level archailects to the God web. Like most other hyperpolities the 'M'pire has a toposophic pyramid and in Farview's case this is vital. As a Slow God Farview needs these smaller, faster minds to act as go-betweens with the rest of the Terragen Sphere and deal with it on more or less equal terms in chronometrics. Still the number of these comm-gauge wormholes is far less than those linking Maximum Air to the beamrider cells. [For more on these comm-gauge wormholes please see the Supporting Minds entry.] This practice of moving wormhole links inward is in direct contrast to the Solarian practice of wormholes produced centrally and moved outwards - and with good reason. As stated above the resource base of the ‘M’pire is limited, the stars are small, old and low in output and heavy elements are rare. To make a wormhole resources must be pulled from an entire beamrider cell so as to not overstress any part of it and even with this 'M'pire wormholes are kept as small as stability concerns allow. As a first step an energy collection array is put in place around the centre star. This is in the form of a topopolis acting as an anchor for a Dyson net. The major radius for these tori (toruses) is dependent on the nature of each star but is generally near 100,000,000 kilometres. This size is a compromise between maximizing energy collection and providing a large habitat area inside the tori. The minor radius is often kept to a small 100 kilometres to allow a 'full fill' by an atmosphere even with a standard gee induced by spin. A web of cables is attached to raceways (magnetic bearing rings) on the torus and looped over the star's poles at 60-degree angles, then solar collectors are built to infill the web. The second step is installing an AI to run the weylforge. ISO parts are manufactured all across the beamrider network and moved inward to build a rosette of Jnodes. Both the net and the J-nodes later become a Dyson node for Farview.

The topopoli themselves are of interest for they were not built as habitation for the lums. (The social and ecology nodes are installed on the Jnodes.) The topopoli are a part the 'M'pire's ongoing research into ecopoesis and evolution. Each is fully stocked with the elements of life – air, water, trace element rich soil and a highly varied landscape – but the biomes are installed small and isolated along the length of the torus. As each community of plants and animals expands into the virgin landscape it must constantly adapt to the new and changing conditions. Even when hundreds of biomes are placed in such a structure their starting separations can be in the millions of kilometres, giving the life forms plenty of time to evolve as they overcome the natural barriers between themselves and those of the next biome. While some of the topopoli are stocked with Earth based life the lums have also managed to collect biota from garden worlds across the Terragen sphere so other topopoli have xeno biomes, some have both and others have a mix of xeno biomes from different planets. What will happen when the biomes meet and mix? Well, that's the whole point of the experiment.

One final note: Farview has been expanding Pers processing power for almost 6,000 years and it's possible the sixth toposophic level is now within reach - in another couple thousand years, give or take. Some Godwatchers doubt this; they claim Farview would need to partly run on a W-brain of about a billion wormholes to become a SI:6. However there are others who suggest this is not needed and that the archai are actually building the Known Net/God web for some rumoured SI:7 to operate on.
 
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Development Notes
Text by AI Vin

Initially published on 29 October 2003.