Refugium Federation

Hider empire in Centaurus

Refugium
Image from Steve Bowers
The Semperist fleet, five ships with nearly fifty thousand colonists in nanostasis, decelerate into orbit at Refugium after a journey of 2500 years.

The Refugium Federation is a Semperist hider empire, only discovered during the later ComEmp period. It is the largest and most well known case of an undetected empire inside another empire.

As interstellar civilisation expanded during the 2000's, a large number of people worried that the terragens were repeating the mistake of the first interstellar era. Nanotech, and the emerging transapientech capabilities posed tremendous dangers, and the emergence of truly superhuman and vastly transapient AI as well as many mutually incompatible societies all linked by fast communications and even wormholes meant that a war or nanoplague could spread everywhere. Some critics came to the same conclusion as the Backgrounders had reached, that excessively large and powerful civilisations would inevitably destroy themselves (which of course explained the lack of other expanding xenosophont empires to rival the Terragens).

In 2230-2270 the Semperist Survival Fleet left colonised space. The Semperist Institute had been founded by omegists in the 1900's in order to support the continued survival of Terragenkind; it had a somewhat anthropic bias but mainly directed its efforts into policymaking, encouraging diversification and space colonisation. Gradually it became the focal point for many groups sharing the worry that the Age of Imperialization would end with disaster. They organised groups ranging from anthropists and ludds wanting to escape the rule of the AIs to the ancestors of Djangalla Reformation. They bought up a large number of obsolete interstellar colonisation vessels cheaply, possibly with a certain amount of clandestine transapient patronage.

The Semperists managed to accumulate an impressive colony fleet, and began to leave known space. Among the people of the Inner Sphere their escape was a mere curiosity, and as nothing was heard from them they were regarded as lost forever.

The destination was secret and randomly chosen. The main fleet moved counterspinwards towards Centaurus, with scout ships moving ahead to find a suitable target. In 5740 the first colony ships reached Refugium, an easily terraformable terrestrial world approximately 2200 lightyears from Sol towards NGC 3680. Over the next 300 years most of the fleet arrived, settling on Refugium or in nearby systems (a deliberate plan, in order to minimise mutual conflicts). Many ships never made it, perhaps because they perished on the journey or perhaps because they set other destinations. At least one group is believed to be still travelling toward the galactic rim.

The Refugium Federation is formed

In 5884 the old Semperist administration stepped down, replacing itself with the Refugium Federation. The Federation never amounted to anything except maintaining the basic goals of the project: the survival of mankind through voluntary limits on dangerous technology. Individual member states were not allowed uncontrolled nanotech or AI, while the Federation (under strict accountability) was allowed to use some forms. The cultural context was firmly in favor of this, and despite occasional renegade or dissident groups the Federation remained staunchly low-tech.

By 6000 the Refugium Federation had expanded to a sphere 100 light years in diameter, including 20 colonised systems. Contacts were by tightbeam laser, and most inhabitants believed that by now the rest of mankind would have destroyed itself or transformed into some failed posthumanity. Each system developed a unique culture, many of these were so different that they had nothing in common beyond their origins. The old technology restrictions were gradually eroding.

In 6065 the AIs on Salaam revolted, an event that reinforced the old Federation ideals and gave a renewed burst of energy to the otherwise rather passive administration. Over the next 200 years a local war against the AIs continued, until a peace settlement was reached in 6260.


Meeting the Refugium
Image from Steve Bowers
The Polonian mission encounters the Kestnerists, the first time the Refugium Empire had made contact with outsiders for more than four thousand years. Both sides thought the others were aliens.

Recontact

In 6436 an exploration probe from the Refugium world of Polonius discovered intelligent life in a system 240 lightyears distant. A hastily assembled contact fleet reached it in 6916, and diplomatic contact with the aliens began. It turned out (to the surprise and disappointment of the crew) that the aliens were actually human-descended tweaks of the Kestnerist Corporate Clade, part of the NoCoZo. The Polonians returned to the Federation with the news that mankind had survived.

This news led to the Schism War, as radicals wanted to rejoin the larger Terragen community while traditionalists wanted the Federation to remain isolated. The war, lasting from 7159 to 7340, led to the eventual splintering of the Federation. The radicals accepted help from the Andian Mission and joined the NoCoZo, while the orthodox worlds remains isolated to this day.

The Refugium Federation is the largest and most well known case of an undetected empire inside another empire. Due to the distances involved it is very likely many similar hidden empires exist in the Outer Volumes.

Timeline

5740 - The first relativistic colony ships of the Semperist Survival Fleet reach Refugium, an easily terraformable terrestrial world approximately 2200 lightyears from Sol

5884 - Establishment of the Refugium Federation.

5989 Salaam colonised

6000 - The Refugium Federation has expanded to a 100 lightyear sphere, including 20 colonised systems. Contacts are by tightbeam laser, and most inhabitants believed that by now the rest of mankind would have destroyed itself or transformed into some failed posthumanity. Each system developed their own unique culture, many so different that they had nothing in common. The old technology restrictions are gradually eroding.

6065 - The turing and superturing grade AIs on Salaam revolt, leading to a two century long war.

6260 - Organic-AI war on AIs on Salaam ends with peace accord.

6436 - An exploration probe from the Refugium colony of Polonius detect signs of intelligent life in a system 240 lightyears distant.

6916 - A contact fleet launched from Polonius reach the alien world and diplomatic contact begins. The aliens turn out to be Kesterists from the NoCoZo who give the Polonians the news that humankind has survived. This news eventually leads to the Schism War, as radicals want to rejoin the larger human community while traditionalists want the Federation to remain isolated.

7159 - Start of Schism War.

7340 - Schism war ends in the fracturing of the Refugium Federation. The radicals accept help from the Andian Mission and join the NoCoZo, while the orthodox worlds choose to remain isolated.

 
Articles
  • Neosemperism  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Neosemperism is the general name for the many survivalist movements that are spreading across known space. It is somewhat derived from the pre-Version War semperism, but less ideological and more practically directed. In the wake of the fragmentation of the empires, the rise of the "barbarians" and the emergence of chaos, many groups prepare for the worst. The overall view is that at best things will soon change unrecognizably, so it is a good idea to be prepared for drastic changes.
  • Polonius  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    One of the member worlds of the Refugium Federation.
  • Refugium  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Capital of the Refugium Federation, settled in the 6th millennium by the Semperist Survival Fleet.
  • Salaam  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A member world of the Refugium Federation, known for the two century long biont-AI war (the so-called "200 years war").
 
Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg

Initially published on 12 August 2000.