Nabla Biowars

Rogue but civilised clade of biowars derived from vitriolic biochemistry

Nabla biowar icon
Image from Worldtree
A nearbaseline-recognizable visual icon of the Nabla, used by one of the many factions


Nabla-Class Biowars were first deployed in 6300 by the Ono Sanguinity, during a brief conflict with the nearby Chioatl Civilisation. The Consanguinity, a modosophont bioist/aestheticist civilisation, arose around a vitriolic world with a primitive Thiogen biosphere, and used the local biochemistry extensively as a basis for its biotechnology, including the Nabla Class Biowars.

The Nabla Class Biowars were designed with a common safety feature: The most dangerous systems, such as conversion and antimatter weapons, and the most aggressive instincts, were hard-coded and isolated from standard autoevolutionary processes.

This feature worked as intended. When the Communion of Worlds brokered peace, the Consanguinity released a collection of shutdown commands. While the Nabla Biowars remained active, they lost their most powerful weaponry.

After this, the Nabla Biowars retreated to several nearby brown dwarfs, reproducing slowly. While territorial, they posed little threat.

A group of Nabla Biowars colonised Caerwactod in 7100. Their unpredictably aggressive actions and difficulty communicating led to the further intervention by the Communion. After mediation by Communion bridge minds, the Nabla consented to having their aggressive instincts softened, allowing them to safely pursue their other values. However, they voluntarily retained an aversion to working with antimatter and conversion technology, seeing this as an essential aspect of their identity.

Since this modification, the Nabla have spread across Terragen Space. They are most common in the Communion of Worlds, where they are considered an efferent clade, but there are significant populations elsewhere. In the Zoeific Biopolity and Red Star 'M'Pire, they are involved in vitriolic ecosystem design. Some groups associated with the Caretaker Gods have been active in the protection of vitriolic worlds. Clade emulations are popular in some TRHN systems. In the Outer Volumes, an expanding Nabla polity has been creating unique vacuum-adapted vitriolic ecosystems around brown and red dwarfs.

Nabla Biowar
Image from Steve Bowers and Worldtree
One form of Nabla Biowar, shown here in transit, and latching onto an asteroid


Nabla biowars use vitriolic biochemistry, with silicone polymers in a sulphuric acid solution. At the most basic level, they consist of a diverse community of bacteria-like organisms in symbiosis with a more complex eukaryote-like orchestrator organism. All of these are heavily derived neogens, and bear little resemblance to anything in the native biosphere of their ancestral home.

The orchestrator organism has traits of amoebae, slime moulds, fungi, and algae. Depending on the context, it can operate as a single shape-changing cell, a multinucleate plasmodium slime, or a network mycelium. It can extract energy from light, ionising radiation, magnetic fields, mechanical agitation and a variety of chemical reactions.

The orchestrator co-ordinates the activity of its symbiotic bacteria and generates new types through a cultivation, conjugation, and direct genetic modification. It can test new combinations to examine emergent behaviours, then encourage or suppress these depending on how they fit current goals.

The combined orchestrator-bacteria system operates as an amorphous fabricator. It extracts minerals and energy from the environment, builds useful inorganic structures through bacterial secretions, and re-digests or re-engineers these as necessary.

Initially, the system had a third drytech component: microscropic Neumanns, responsible for holding containing monopoles or antimatter and growing superconductors for particle accelerators. While these devices could be used by the system, their internal functioning was hard-coded and immune to autoevolution. When the Consanguinity issued its shutdown command, they separated from the rest of the Nabla system, surrendered their monopoles to the nearest recognised authority, and shut down. They are no longer part of the Nablas.

On a macroscopic scale, Nabla take on two broad forms:

On resource bases, such as asteroids, comets or planetoids, the system grows into biofilm covering the surface and a mycelium network extending through the interior to extract energy and materials. Over time it builds an internal circulatory system, specialised fabricator organs, and useful external structures such as phased array transceivers and boostbeam emitters. (Originally, resource bases would build particle accelerators to breed monopoles or create antimatter, but they lost this ability after the shutdown command.)

Resource bases grow a variety of independent components. Each component has some useful function, whether specialist or generalist, and most are capable of some independent movement. Most are equilateral triangles ranging in size from a few centimetres to several metres across, with a colonial biofilm covering an inorganic structure. Some other specialised types, such as superconducting cables, take other shapes. The components can combine into mobile forms.

Because the mobile forms are made of independent components, they can quickly and efficiently reconfigure themselves to suit different contexts. They can also combine into larger forms or fragment into swarms. It is also possible for the organic systems to re-digest components, of course, but this is more energy intensive and takes longer. Mobile forms can in turn seed new resource bases.

Where possible, the resource bases and mobile forms operate as a single system, sharing information, energy, momentum, and matter through EM radiation and mass streams.


Nabla Biowars become more intelligent as they grow. When the orchestrator organism becomes large enough, it generates specialised regions of silicone-protein processors. Larger systems construct solid phonon processor crystals from silica, which communicate optically through transparent silica fibres. However, they usually remain modosophont. The largest systems are more like complex societies than S1 minds.

The system has a fluid intelligence. Mobile forms and resource bases may be individually sapient, but their minds can easily merge into large constructs or fragment into subsapient elements. Groups of bases and mobile forms operating together tend to behave as a single coherent entity, but the coherence diminishes over longer distances due to communication lag.

While most of their aggressive instincts have been removed, Nabla are usually territorial. They react poorly to any uninvited presence close to their main resource bases. This doesn't mean, however, that they are isolationist or xenophobic. Indeed, many Nabla now engage successfully in positive cross-clade interactions.

Their residual combat behaviours have morphed into a form of strategic play. Nabla frequently engage in complex strategic games, whether competitive or co-operative. Many also have an appreciation for ecosystem design, which seems to be a side-effect of certain autoevolution instincts.

Most modern Nabla still retain an aversion to conversion and antimatter technology, and instead prefer to use stellar radiation and fusion reactors as energy sources, though they are willing to use external multi-clade infrastructure powered by conversion.

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Development Notes
Text by Liam Jones
Initially published on 09 December 2023.