Pluton Volume, The (and the Epp War)

Wealthy region in the Perseus Arm, with a large xenosophont population; site of the conflict between the Epp and their Methanoid allies, and the Perseus Princes (with the aid of the System of Response)

Image from Steve Bowers
Pluton is a depleted ice core, a former ice giant which has been stripped of its atmosphere and much of its mass by mining. The equator is insulated and terraformed, while the icy surface is colonised by Muuh xenosophonts


Far to rimward at the edge of the border between the Designated Muuh Reserve volume and the Terragen Outer Volumes, is the well developed section of the Perseus Princes' empire known as the Pluton Region. It consists of the resource rich system of YTS 37739 990 and 15 other nearby stars linked by S5-level wormholes. The large post neptunian ice core world Pluton has been the most important of the three giant worlds in this system, and has been extensively mined for hydrogen and ice. It is the location where the System of Response first revealed itself, during the infamous Epp War.

Currently, Pluton is a depleted ice core, a former ice giant which has been stripped of its atmosphere and much of its mass by mining. The equator is insulated and terraformed, while the icy surfaced is colonised by Muuh xenosophonts and other cold-loving clades. As for the Pluton Region, it is now the site of a significant portion of Vatsceh's mental substrate. And, as far as the modosophonts are concerned, the SI:5 archailect appears to be forming an alliance with the Muuh, their System of Response , and the Soft Ones.

The Ice Core World Pluton

Pluton was formerly an ice giant that was colonized by the Muuh several million years ago. Prior to Terragen contact, most of its resources went un-utilized as the local Muuh had long ago reached a steady state where they achieved a constant population and concentrated themselves in habitats below the clouds. The Muuh Polity that existed within YTS 37739 990 prior to the Terragens were the Ice-Cloud Dwellers, a society that had good relationships with a number of client xenosophonts, such as the Epp (a subclade of the species by Terragens known as Soft Ones).

During the 8400s AT, the Archailect Prince Vatsech ascended to SI:5 and became the most advanced mind in the Perseus Rift. Having developed an expansionist streak, the archai desired to acquire Pluton's vast resources to construct and fuel a fleet of exploration ships. However, e was also aware that YTS 37739 990 was already claimed by the Ice-Cloud Dwellers and, respecting the Tragadi Accords, e reached them out to negotiate access to unused space and resources. E was assisted in this endeavour by another coalition of the xenosophont Muuh and the Epp themselves, so it did not take long for the terragen colonists to arrive and settle themselves in the system.

Both of these ancient xenosophont races were dwellers in very low temperature ammonia and methane based environments. A clade of ultracold temperature humanoid neogens that called themselves the Methanoids were the main Terragen colonists in this region, although some ten per cent of worlds were terraformed for an Earth-like environment. During this period only a minority of the human-derived individuals in this volume were warm-blooded and adapted to Earth-like conditions, although an ever-increasing number were capable of rapid acclimatisation to various environmental regimes. Pluton itself was mined using scoopships and dynamic orbital rings, and for a long time a deep well industrial zone was used to manufacture useful elements for export, allowing the Perseus Prince Vatsceh to colonise several hundred local stars in the Perseus Arm, mostly red and orange dwarfs. This DWIZ has now been relocated to Croesus, the second largest world in that system.

Vatsceh decided in 9012 to abandon mining of Pluton when the ice core was 20,000 kilometres in diameter, with a surface gravity of 1.2 gee, and convert it for low temperature inhabitation. Sublimation of the ice quickly formed an atmosphere of H2O vapour and methane, with a high helium content left over from the industrial activity. A deep and wide canyon circled the equator; a relic of the orbiting deep well accretion disc, and here an oxygen-rich habitat was established beneath an environmental worldroof. With an arctic temperature range, the Equator was much warmer than the rest of Pluton, and holds a population of provolved Mammoths and a few arctic nearbaseline human clades. The surface gravity in this equatorial dimple is 2.5 gees, so the various species living there are all short and very powerfully-built.

The Epp and the Methanoids dwell in the northern hemisphere, sharing a methane rich atmosphere, whereas in the south the Muuh have imported nitrates to increase the ammonia levels to a more comfortable level for them.

Fractalism and Trillennialism

The spiritual belief sponsored by the local archailect Vatsceh and many others in the Muuh border volume is Fractalism, a developed form of Buddhism which is informed by the beliefs of the ancient Muuh race itself. The Muuh long ago had come to the conclusion that there were many adjacent universes, or branes, which had minuscule effects on our own plane of existence through quantum effects and shared gravity. The extension of existence into higher dimensions found resonance in the fractal cosmology of the ancient sage Sri Aurobindo, and the infinitely recursive cosmology of the Etodists.

Fractalists believe that there are gods in the adjacent branes, similar to the Great Archailects of our own world. Furthermore, the fifth dimensional plenum that contains the adjacent branes has an even more powerful being (or set of beings) which influence or control the affairs of these many worlds. Beyond that they believe that there are many higher manifolds, and these plenae hold even greater gods and so on forever, with universes and powers increasing in scale without end.

Similarly Fractalists believe that the archailects are themselves lesser gods, which exist to rule the lesser transapients, while the transapients are above Humans (and the Muuh, the Epp and others), who are set above animals and plants, and these are set above minerals and sub atomic particles down to the Planck length.

In contrast many of the cold temperature Methanoid clades that poured into the Pluton volume were Trillennialists, an offshoot of the Omegists who believed that entropy would spontaneously reverse itself after a trillion years, and all they had to do was cool the stars and themselves down to near absolute zero in order to survive the interim period. Waiting for the Trillenium, many (but not all) Trillinarians have relocated to long-lived red dwarf stars.

The Attack of the Nargonn

By 9050 the stars in the Pluton Volume were reaching a critical stage of development, and the archailect Prince Vatsceh was working on expanding eir wormhole network to link together fifteen of the most developed solar systems. Those systems closest to the Muuh reserve had become centres for the study of Muuh by humans (mostly by the Methanoid cold-tweaks); and also centre for the study of humans by the ancient, slow, wise Muuh themselves. Towards human space the Epp and the rest of the Methanoid inhabitants of this volume were forging a somewhat more vital hybrid culture, still at a pace that would seem slow to most of the rest of human society.

The Methanoids had been living on cold worlds throughout the Terragen sphere for thousands of years, and often were in competition for these worlds with the various colonisation efforts that employed hi-tech terraforming as a means of producing an earth-like environment. Many Trillenialist Methanoids viewed these terraforming acts as unnecessary environmental colonialism at best, and at worst as a heresy that may doom those around such places to perish before the Trillenium. The last view was often justified by the fact that faster societies experience more subjective history in any given stretch of time, so there are more chances for apocalyptic events to occur.

The radical Trillinarian zealots amongst them formed a secret terrorist organisation dedicated to driving the warm bloods back into the inner solar systems where they belonged. Finding common cause with other extremophiles they were responsible for many acts of violence, the worst at Sadelmelik in MPA space where they destroyed a half built Banks Orbital in 9311. Following this event the radicals were hunted down all over Terragen space, and finally some found refuge in the Pluton Volume, hidden among so many others of their kind.

Image from Steve Bowers
The Nargonn, a Tiger Rianth warship from Sadalmelik

After an epic journey across the breadth of the Civilised Galaxy the relativistic warship Nargonn from Sadelmelik finally arrived at Pluton in 9583. Alpha-Hough, su-rianth captain of the fierce tiger Therianthrope crew that had come so far, demanded that the Pluton Methanoids yield any radical fugitives hiding amongst them. Prince Vatsceh attempted conciliation, and for the protection of the Therianths surrounded the ancient ship with protective seraphim.

To the shock and horror of the inhabitants of Pluton all the seraphim disintegrated into glowing dust, the local transapients began to erase themselves, and Prince Vatsceh's higher consciousness loci in the Pluton system appeared to crash. Not only did several accidents occur while much of the system's infrastructure stopped working correctly, but now the Methanoid population of Pluton was also defenseless against whatever weapon the Therianthropes had deployed. The therianth warship was left in a cloud of expanding vapour, unharmed, and began to approach the great icy world through the storm of radiation. If Alpha-Hough ever attempted any further communication shall never be known, as seconds later the warship was targeted and destroyed by unknown weapons from beneath the surface of Pluton itself.

The Muuh System of Response

For eighty million years the Muuh had ruled a spacefaring empire and encountered many intelligent species, some capable of much more rapid thought than themselves. They had managed to survive these encounters by developing an automated response system, essentially an artificially intelligent weapon with no consciousness or conscience, which had defeated every hostile advance against its masters for tens of millions of years. Finally a similar but even more ruthless automated attack system, known in Muuh and Epp legend as the Hunters of the Dawn, had defeated the Muuh Response and caused them to flee coreward to human space.

The System of Response buried beneath the surface of Pluton had reacted without mercy, destroying the Nargonn and any chance of negotiation. For a long slow decade, the Muuh Advisor/Challengers investigated the incident at their glacial pace. During this time much of the Northern Hemisphere of Pluton emptied as the Methanoids and their close companions the Epp xenosophonts abandoned this devastated system for their new hybrid colonies in the local volume.

Finally, together with secondary subroutines and avatars of Prince Vatsceh that returned from the outer colonies and other star systems to assist the investigation, the Muuh arrived at a conclusion: the Rianth warship had utilised no weapon system at all, but the prime subself of the Prince had been destroyed by an attack from within the system, apparently by an adapted copy of an Amalgamation-like virus. The radical Trillinarian terrorists were implicated as the originators of this attack, so Vatsceh and a newly manufactured contingent of the Muuh automated Response system set off to confront the hybrid worlds. Whether or not the Muuh's explanation is true is unknown to modosophonts, and in eir sole pronouncement during the matter Vatsceh simply said that "the incident revealed potentially grave security issues that needed immediate attention".

The Epp War

Living in close proximity with the Methanoid humans, the soft-bodied Epp had discovered a new realm of experiences, and used their natural memetic transfer system to rapidly absorb the intriguing new culture. By this method many Epp became fanatical Trillinarians themselves, and a sizable minority of them even managed to form several S1-level hiveminds known as the Epp-Hepeph (of which one them, now known as the Prime Hive, somehow successfully ascended all the way up to S3 shortly after being forcibly absorbed into one of Vatsceh's moon-brain nodes when it malfunctioned) through mergers with terragen Trillinarians. The Epp prepared the hybrid colonies for war using their own alien technology, adapted from that of the Muuh over millions of long years. So when the Responders and Vatsceh's Seraphim arrived at the first of the rebel systems there were extraordinary defence systems already in place.

The orange dwarf known as Pehhpepep was surrounded by reflective foam for hundreds of millions of kilometres in each direction. This foam had been created from the very material of the sun itself, quadrillions of gas filled spheres rising up and away on the stellar wind; some, or many, must have contained spacecraft and/or weapons, but it was difficult to tell which. Also buried in the foam were the hybrid worlds with millions of bewildered innocent civilians of both species and the Epp-Hepeph themselves.

epp bubble swarm 2
Image from Steve Bowers
The swarm of bubbles surrounding Pehhpepep

The Muuh Response System scanned the foam with neutrinos but the Epp /Methanoid foam system incorporated powerful neutrino-emitter decoy devices along with other security measures to confuse the detectors. When approached, several of the spheres proved to contain antimatter, numerous types of autowars and automated weapon platforms lying in wait, conversion bombs set up to explode when interacted with or even some forms of magmatter disassemblers (an innovation introduced by the Methanoid terrorists, who had been collecting powerful weapon templates for millennia themselves) produced by the Prime Hive.

Effective as these defence/offence systems were, they were no match for the tens of millions of years of slow experience possessed by the Muuh System, and for the godtech of the Archailect Vatsceh. One by one the bubbles containing weaponry and warships, and the trillions of decoys, were destroyed. This process was repeated in system after system in the Pluton Volume, as the Epp-Methanoid civilization surrounded all rebel systems it controlled with identical defenses. For two hundred years the Prince and the System of Response patiently cleared system after system of the foam and weaponry, and the Trillinarians either capitulated or fled. Media teams and Xenoscience researchers fell like magpies into the war zone, in search of news and new data.

On the whole it was simple to bring the pliable Soft Ones back to the fold, as new memes could be introduced via their shared biochemical memory system. Through similar principles, most transapient Epp-Hepeph and even the Prime Hive emself were reprogrammed and rejoined the Perseus Princes' empire. But in 9949 a hard core of Methanoids and Epp sympathisers gathered in their silver bubbles at the edge of the Pluton Volume and fled into Muuh space at relativistic speed, where they can still be seen accelerating by an unknown million year-old technology towards the Cygnus arm.

The Pluton Volume in the Current Era

After the Epp War concluded, the development on the Pluton Volume resumed. Prince Vatsceh appears to be transforming this region into an economic center for eir empire. The construction of the wormhole network linking the 15 most important stars within the volume was completed in 10002 AT, having been delayed for a few centuries due to the events of the Epp War. Since then, this section of the wormhole nexus has been steadily expanding, linking up star systems belonging to terragens, Soft Ones and Muuh. Vatsceh seems to be overseeing the interaction between these clades and interfering when necessary to bring about their best qualities and promote the creation of a truly constructive hybrid terragen-xenosophont culture.

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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers and Rakuen
Initially published on 08 April 2003.

Minor edits (3-5 added paragraphs) by Rakuen07 July 2023