Assorted Snapshots by Arik (2020-2022)
1 Botworld ecology and refugees
2. A scene from To'ul'h 1
3. A scene from To'ul'h 2
5. Jury Duty
6. Conspiracies in a Bar
7. Meatspace Tourism
8. Virtual Visit to the Matterfield
9. Ontology Diplomacy with a virtual hive mind
10. Selling my body in the market
11. Ghost Net Memory (Missing)!
12. Adventures with the Herd Nation
13. When a Vec used a flesh mouth for the first time
-Snapshot from "Living as a Kamov" by EightFourNode, Gajasura habitat, 9814 AT The Kamov vec wing blades hum in the air and I can hear in network several thousand iterations of new assembly instructions on the airwaves. Some previous version of myself in a biont body would have called this spring, or mating season, but the kamov hive uses a more wholistic understanding of the concept. Something that might bring me peace, even after escaping as a backup mind and seeing recordings of my own old bodies burn away in broken habitats. The bodies of the native Kamovs around me huddle and hum in the hot, dusty, but living air.
They look a bit like ancient biont dragon flies with rotor blades, only much larger and varied in their often non-symmetrical forms, with a variety of drones and swarmbot subunits slung underneath their sides . The hive of vecs has assembled into a massive thundering factory for the construction of a new brood. We're a smaller group of key-4s in the eighty part component arrangement of a family fabrication ecosystem. Each sub-web of the ecosystem helps breed nearly every other, converting rock and minerals into usable elements, then fuel and subcomponents, then higher order systems with a hundred redundancies. The great mining worms at the base of the ecosystem churn the soil with their ultimate muscles for better digestion by nanoswarms inside them. Dead, bombed-out soil brought into life again.
I was incredibly fortunate that such a new but insular society like kamov allowed me access. When they offered out the bid to our habitat to use uploaded refugee nearbaseline minds like my own for an interface so they could begin a trade program, i'd accepted, along with a few hundred others like me. We'd join them, and identify as them, in this time of peace.
This body that i'm inhabiting offers a rare glimpse into the comparatively harsh mechanosystem envome of the kamov autowars. The kamov reproduction system cannot be understood like the bodies of my previous lives as a biont, with most individual species mating in sexual reproductive pairs within an ecosystem, but rather an interconnected series of recycling and fabrication supply webs which bring about their cycles on the spectrum between full life and decay and death. Cooperation rather than competition drives the majority of ecologies here. And yet...
I should back up in time...
Once, several centuries ago, the factory hives formed a terrible existence as the murder-minded autowars during the version war. They converted entire landscapes of the planet into swarms of ships for battle. But then came peacetime again and under new direction, they've decided to follow the way of a new transapient provolver and become elevated into peaceful sophonts. Turning missiles into mechanical pollinators. Metaphorical swords into plowshares.
Still, as we joined our minds into the interfaces and bodies, the other refugees had suspected that the purpose of this new planetary mechanosystem was for research by the transapient Kavo- a form of envome that could convert with disturbing speed into another autowar production facility. They'd confirmed it. A backup plan, only, in case the war returned. Just like the recording of my mind, when that last body of mine died, twenty years ago. Now i've returned as a backup plan for someone else.
We form the ritual assembly line, using our wing blades to play different notes of the song of new life while we sing the words in radio waves. The idle ones watch on and when we as a pack see an attractive assembly line to join, we make ourselves known and begin negotiations for potential new brood. They advertise their assembly capabilities on the network spectrum. It's elaborate songwork, with repeated mentions of how good electricity from solar panels feels. How good they feel to become alive. The new generation will be even less well easily re-armed than the last under the next nonproliferation treaty, and perhaps in another three generations we'll inhabit an ecosystem family that won't ever poison its own children again with the drive for war production.
How ironic that such utterly artificial mechanosystems are in fact fundamentally more ecologically minded at their core than many biological societies I'd lived in, seeing as how the kamov parentage is so integrated within the entire mechanosystem. To even pollute the land with toxins would be to literally poison ones' own parents. And yet a poison remains, deep down. How ironic that such an ecosystem was once designed specifically for war, and perhaps, one day will be again.
But I hope my new interconnected, airborne family will not become a tool for manufacturing death.
At least for now, we'll continue to be a factory for life. "
Snapshot of Hostho in Above the Sky
*qualia* indicates qualia only experienced through electroreception
((qualia)) indicates qualia only experienced through echolocation
(To'ul'h cultural symbol-concepts will be translated to their nearest equivalent to the reader, if EG privacy settings are set appropriately)
I'm living my second week back on the homeworld, returned from the alien-constructed orbital habitats in the void. I hadn't become used to it all, even after ten years of calling the orbitals home. They feel distant now, the *brightness* of their metal and circuitry fading into memory, from their disturbingly efficient methods of experimental agriculture to grow our medicinal fungiforms, to the pin-braille smart matter interfaces I'd used to understand alien mechanisms, to the swarms of the ((invisible)) stars I saw in their pin-braille window-screens. So new and grand. Entire cities spinning in the void, less than a century old, with many of the orbitals finished after my birth. Still, my routines in the *bright* modern habitats had shuddered away in the flight of the landing shuttle. Two weeks of immigration & readjustment to the older homeworld brought me from the dream, back to the city of Toh*luuus where i'd been born.
The modern apartments in the cliff face disappear out of the range of echolocation as I hop-glide toward the train station. Alien autohelpers along the street, newly graffiti'ed with ceramic curse-bricks and piss, call out and reconfigure their faces with pin-braille ads for joining off-world colonization. I feel the *hum* of an electric light turning on from one of them and a vague brightening to my left for the benefit of one of the strange new cyborgs who's using light to see on the surface for some reason. The aliens had described full light-sight to me a few times, but I'd never yet felt much interest for the implant, even while living in the orbitals. Maybe one day, if I feel like light-seeing stars.
The doors hiss closed and my evening public train leaves the western quadrant. I hear the roar of the tunnel as we pass under the great cliff face that protected the old city. The latest polmusic hit from the city debates plays in earbud devices of some person sitting next to me and the *bright* metal doors hiss open. I join the crowd as they pass by the recreated diorama of the 9th dynasty's gas-powered train in the grand central station.
I can feel the sense of history here, cruder, older, but uncolonized by the new aliens, as I am. Smells like a grandmother To'ul'h pervade everywhere. Some of the locals avoid me and mutter 'collaborator' when they catch my scent. I ignore them. The government patronage for my work up there, teaching To'ul'h medicine and pharmaceutical harvesting to the aliens so they can reverse-engineer it, will sustain my children and even grandchildren once I finish this book. I'm still not used to public pin-braille literature for -everyone-, especially eastern highlanders, but i'm starting to see the benefits.
The marshy smells and ((soft)) textures of well-landscaped fungiform gardens fill out the airwalls along the bridges of the main street, presenting their soft anatomies along the sides. I can smell the spices and musks of the different varieties. A few people in the crowd hop-glide up to the second and third floors to examine shore-feudalist antiques. I walk on the gravel of clay bricks that old To'ul'h repurposed from the hill fortifications, surrounding the old city 6,000 years before, during the second reconstruction. Some of those pyramids had stood guard over the river delta for longer than the first structures on the frigid homeworld of the aliens' ancestors themselves. It was something my aristocrat grandparents always reminded me with pride in the remote voice-calls to the orbital. I usually responded with a quote from one of the new polmusic lines about how at least the aliens had deployed near-universal basic healthcare in mere decades, with proper birth control gaining traction. I might not like space, but the new ways have their advantages and maybe we won't all blight out out like the sixth dynasty lowlanders. We are still older than the aliens though.
I join a tour group at the entrance to the old cathedral and the clutter of bodies recedes. I might be modern, but I appreciate our history. I'll eat a piece of my grandmother's body when she dies, like a good daughter of To'ul'h.
The sculpted metal and ceramic patterns along the cathedral floor ((glitter)) and reflect back the echoes from the touring crowd. I could ((see)) their lung cavities grow and shrink in the air as they meditated in the temple. Most of the ceramic on the floor was new of course, but the stone on the walls had listened for millennia as the worshippers of a hundred polities had risen and fallen like the air in the lungs of the meditators, and were replaced by others like cobblestones in the street.
I dip my fingers into the stepped pool and feel the *buzz* of the branching seabush from the bottom of the water conducting a holy magnetic field. I can ((klik)) the statues of the four old creation gods at the bottom of the pool, closest to heaven, and remember. I consider again the pin-braille symbols of the ((invisible)) stars of the void, in the orbital, and how the alien interface told me such faraway fires had created all the matter that composed me with the incredible energies of this nuclear fusion. Yet the old gods sit here, at the bottom of the pool, still as death, losing power. Old superstitions, certainly, but they still feel more familiar than the very real alien gods out there, around other worlds. The friendly demons in orbit. *bright* metal gods from the ((invisible)) stars, building some new form of paradise up there, in hell.
-translated snapshot from the autobiography "Above the Sky", about the life of Hos'tho, a To'ul'h Doctor/Pharmacist who lived during the time after First Contact. Published 4106AT.
Ho'th'hss'lho snapshot 5460 AT
((qualia)) qualia from echolocation
- qualia# qualia from electroreception
We've advanced so far in politics.
Though I can see with senses my ancestors could barely conceive of, like any To'ul'h descendant I will never give up the tactile interfaces entirely. I use one of them now to research with my fingers while I read through a few preparatory notes on the habitat public forum with my light-sight. My partner Mh'ithrha stands next to me, doing the same, and as I stroke her subdermal *bright* pin-brail blessing, my mind turns, as it does every so often, to The Language. We'll be using some version of it extensively in a few hours, once we dock with the Null G To'ul'h orbitals from the other half of our polity distributed through the system. Our writing and our polmusic can be as timeless as the conflict and the politics we'll have to solve this year. Still, the seed of an idea begins to form in my mind; Some disturbing possibility dwelling beneath the surface. I ignore it for the moment.
Our local language still has its remnants, the echolocation clicks, from a time when the aliens pulled our unsighted people out from beneath the Stormy sky. When I say it, the word for 'I-((hear))-you-love' still ((kliks)) through my partner's body to see more of them than my light-sight can view. Her bones, her pin-brail blessing-'tattoo'. her lungs. But I also see their surface in the light of the screen-window while I hold her hand. But out there, in the vacuum, I would only see with light.
You can't ((say)) 'love' properly, using the old words outside. In space, nobody can ((hear)) you ((sing)).
Mh'ithrha wears an oily-colored scarf today, lit up past purple, from the ceiling lamps and when I watch out the window-screen at the stars and the habitat swarm around us, and their annotated names. It's so pleasant and I don't want it to end but the DNI focuses my attention over to the matter at hand and I feel the Euphoria flow through me in preparation. My mind speeds up.
"Let's get this vote over with."
Music performance and political debate remain indivisible to us, even as post-To'ul'h. For the past month, the Meritocratic tribemind democracy software ran through our options of whether to join a subsidiary of the Mutual Progress Association- whether to lease our independence from public construction fleets to build new megastructures independently, avoid immigrants, or expand more quickly under the resources and guidance of the MPA. Mh'ithrha and I might decide to copy into tribe minds for another decade if we moved somewhere else. The working groups and their AIs had offered up their proposals. But we are up against the Spacer-To'ul'h, who possess a more consolidated political bloc, and are ramping up the Polmusic debate now between the factions of our polity.
Singers of the void.
Our opponents chose a maximalist, oily, and bonelike- ancient style for the new habitats- six times the size as ours and requiring extra months for the magmatter frameworks to transport. Stretching resources.
I've been waiting for the call from my algorithmically-assigned debate partner. He's an old colleague from the spacer habitats, a vacuum adapted To'ul'h named Y'urulk((dark)) who I haven't seen in decades. We parted on sour terms, and I still can't get over how big he is. A Null-G To'ul'h looming on-camera, 20 meters tall on the video screen-wall from their aging Orbital habitat, with a thousand other Null-G To'ul'h drifting through the habitat interior. There's still a 3 light second delay after their approach, and without the emotional adjustments i'd be annoyed at the slowness. I'll have to use their stunted, gesture-filled dialect of inter-ship speech that I learned for most of yesterday, without the ((see-kliks)) in our polmusic. At least my DNI assistant can speed my clockrate up so i'll have extra time to review any Poetic responses while waiting.
I check through the 50 page argument That our AI platform gave us for (tribe-mind limits) from the working group on the spinward side of our habitat. Even the written subtitles in pin-braille have a custom pop-font and I'm sure the word flow will be the stuff of legends. We'll take the collaborative approach with the spacers, revealed halfway through. I consider the hints of justifications and processes by the platform too complicated to comprehend quickly at my level. In another year or two I'll ascend further up the ranks to understand them.
A polmusic space opera, played by us, the actors, while our respective cybernetic platforms help us write the lines.
I choose a suggested opening that quotes an ancient Terragen, but translated to our ways. It seems appropriate.
Of To'ul'h's first contact, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden fungiform, whose mortal taste
Took Death from all the World, and all our woe,
With gain of paradise, as many greater To'ul'h
Restore us, and create the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the holy pit
Of Hol'uulss, or of Toull'oohss, didst inspire
Those Shepherds, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav'ns and soil
Fell into order: or if Hu'uu'hthoss valley
Delight thee more, and Ulu'oss brook that flow'd
slow by the Oracle of Gods; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,.....
My opponent Y'urulk((dark)) waves an arm-wing larger than I am and signs a greeting. We've reviewed footage from a debate six years ago. His team was GOOD, and He's consolidated enough voting power to be his own voting block. His team lives up to their reputation "voice like an asteroid".
But we'll be better, especially as the platform integrates their recent polling data. Y'urulk((dark))'s writers won't know what hit them. But hopefully the audience will.
They are, after all, an informed electorate.
The cyberdemocracy software starts the rhythm that we've practiced and runs through the structures, both poetic and logical, for our mutual arguments over the virtual public forum, while the AI platform offers up some last minute new background research on him, structured as some low-minded character attack but with a *beautiful* rhyming scheme. It -could- work, maybe halfway through.
My team dismisses it in favor of something more high minded and crowd pleasing.
A more unified solution for both of us.
My team remains calm on the voice chat as the virtual stadium-stage flickers on around us. It's been a popular choice over decades- a massive, abstracted Terragen space battle around a virtual planet looming nearby. I watch the polling numbers on the leaderboard and remember how the words for 'up' and 'down' still retain their To'ul'h linguistic roots to 'heaven' and 'hell', despite all direction being relative out here. My opponent's stage is 'down' as they say.
The simulated swarm-fleets are certainly sped up from real time as they deploy to the growing beat.
..Which is ironic really, since the only 'war' any post- To'ul'h has ever joined in are these polmusic plays.
But we like our drama, and our stars. And the stakes for our habitat are real.
Y'urulk((dark)) float-shrugs and pulls a back-roll to 'intimidate me' in the comparatively thin atmosphere of his habitat in real life. The glittering starfield tattoos on his indigo, cybernetic skin would cover my apartment like a tent.
Arrays of spacecraft icons maneuver into their positions in decorative arrays around my opponent and his backers. They're readying their metaphorical beams and lines. Brooding, To'ul'h-like on the vast abyss.
Watching Y'urulk((dark)), I recall an angry comment he'd made the last time I saw him, and a doubt in my mind blooms. Occasionally I've wondered if the pageantry is needed- if the entire stadiums and dramas perpetuated and created by the AI platform divide us more.
Maybe hiding machinations by the platform's mind on the higher levels? I'll find out when I earn those augmentations.
If we didn't debate with polmusic, how many of us would care about voting? Would we choose differently?
But that's a question for a later time....
So we open up our arguments and begin.
-translated snapshot from the autobiography "Political Spaces", about the career of Ho'th'hss'lho, Published 7486AT.
Snapshot: "Astrology" Kyusei habitat, Jinvanco System, 3250 AT
"So you're a Leo? Interesting. You seem like a Leo" Castor grins at me. We're at the local bar on the spinward neighborhood of Kyusei hab and he's playing with my fingers. It's a bit too dark and warm, like the drinks here tonight , but the music is good.
I raise my eyebrows a bit, my translator meshes with his and explains to me that he was referring to a "star sign". I sip my drink to buy time as I download an explanation of what that implied. "I mean sure. I'm the one gathering friends. I'm usually organized. Detail oriented. But you don't really believe this stuff do you? We're not even in SolSys.." I was beginning to wonder what I'd gotten myself into. His hands -were- nice though...
"Those old ways adapt easily enough to our star system, even if it's a binary. Just makes everything more interesting. We might not have Jupiter or Mercury here but we have Nuvjaptari, Famawan, Jinvanco...
So when exactly were you born?"
I tell him the date and time.
"Ahhh. Yes! That's good! You're a Leo Nuvjuptari rising, given the relative positions of the planets and suns. That means this year you'll be making yourself open to new experiences and adapt in ways your old self would never consider"
I give him a skeptical look but he persists-
" It's just a bit of fun really, a good way to find compatible people." He winked. "I'm a Famawan retrograde with a Jinvanco ascending, which means I'm passionate and outgoing and direct. That one certainly seems to be true"
Somehow I had noticed this.
He smiles as if reading my thoughts "and I'm very compatible with Leos. My exoself's been helping me become the Jinvanco ascending that I'm born to be, with psychoware nudging me to the right personality with magnetic fields and balance of neurostimulants or whatever. "
Ok... this wasn't so bad after all. "Well that makes sense. I'd considered integrating one of those horoscope add-ons to my exoself but it seemed a little.."
"Woo-ey? Too involved with crystal healing, fake transapients and dolphin mysticism? Don't avoid letting a healthy little bit of personality shifting happen because your birth psyche doesn't align to the local planets at the moment. Either way we should find some way to ...align"
Castor's been looking at my beard, or lips the whole time. I laugh at him.
"I was about to download that astrology add-on until you made that -horrible- pun"
"See! See! Nuvjuptari rising right there! You have a sense of humor somewhere in that head of yours! With a little help from the add-on you'll be acting like one in no time!"
"Screw it. Let's do this" I grinned.
I hadn't intentionally altered my personality like this for a while, even for personal growth, but I was pretty sure I'd have this energy with him with either version of myself. "Nuvjuptari rising" Dima or regular Dima. It would be an interesting month or six...
Snapshot: "Jury duty"
The gridlock hit us like a hardware virus, cracking up our social networks into polarized propaganda panic storms and jacking us into the barrel of a weaponized screen feed. Many of the less political wrung their hands and paws and fins and retreated into the obscurity of simulated worlds before the moderator councils ripped them back to complete the surveys in the real. Why had the platform directed us toward some kind of fight like this we didn't know- at least until now. But here I sat, as an avatar in the habitat council meeting as the final requisitioned training data spooled into my head. I hadn't hacked for years. Probably forgot more software, law, and lore in the last three decades than a year-old pet AI had ever learned. But here we were catching up to speed again with the remedial hacking courses in the past few weeks on the repair and third order consequences of politics. Jury duty.
One of those vots, the talking software heads I'd chosen to teach me system architecture, slid a data load the size of the first three years of my life records in my direction and I offed it to my exoself. Processed it. Would take a while. As if it had to teach a GPT-8 network to write a book worth reading.
"So what happens if we go back to ranked choice voting, Ceixin?" Asked my neighbor. Apparently Conscripts like us had to understand the implications of the implications of the implications of the political platform's gridlock before we could give the system any real answer for our cyber-democracy to really work.
Irat had splayed erself out on the seat as if she owned the room, rather than renting it from the public council fund like we all did. She flipped her weave and lit the beads up like a shop sign. "Fuuuck that's supposed to be illegal as of twelve years ago. Haven't seen a platform's policies corrupted this bad since the protests back on yudkowsy station in '67." By which she meant 5067, two centuries ago, like she mentioned every so often. Politically connected and active like she was. Damn suburban power struggles, fixing local ballot laws like that. At least her experience was actually useful.
"It's like no matter what we do, a quarter of the habitat has to move out or cut their material spending in half for a few years while they build a new one...What the fuck happened? That's unheard of"
"Our people with pet humans keep raising values on the central housing units" muttered 8yuval. "They started up a marketplace and requisitioned the wrong neighbors. They voted to make an addition to the habitat then nobody else agreed and they won't respond to propaganda."
"And? The platform can Override them. Why does the platform need any of us to do this? Can't it just generate some kind of new ...Adversarial network to create alternatives?"
The sensation of arguing about concepts she couldn't really grok about a week before almost disturbed Ceixin.
"Not exactly" supplied the platform, crystal clear in her mind, followed by a procession of diagrams explaining probabilities of failure and success unfolding from the software ecosystems of the habitat.
She felt dimly aware in her senses that some decision was being made subconsciously before her exoself supplied her with the answer, or the information for it anyway. "so we're going to have to all reduce our consumption for a few years. Is that all?"
"That and we need your informed consent on the new system architecture, ever since two thirds of the habitats voted for more detailed political involvement"
"Well that's not so bad. Not like we have to collapse back to wage slavery like barbarians or something" muttered ceixin
"The spinward block wasn't willing to move out but still didn't want dopamine inhibitors during the debates...Concluded that it violated "Unmanipulated consent by a higher power laws, especially subsection 76- 458
"So, what, we gotta use the dumbest tachidaxy systems we can make in order to convince our neighbors to vote our way?"
The platform's avatar paused, like it didn't need more than a few seconds to model the implications for 25 million citizens in the orbital.
"Yes. That's precisely it."
The unsaid implications that we had to make a political campaign ourselves rather than through the platform itself was lost on none of us, thankfully. "Paper ballots? Are you kidding me? That's a loophole??" I nearly screeched.
And that the platform certainly hadn't just manipulated us into this corner to discover it. I Didn't miss that either. Not a bit.
Two degrees of separation from the transapient locus of the political platform. According to the local code, We were still making the decisions, assuming nobody in the room went rogue. The platform had stacked our incentives too far in one direction to get a different result anyway.
Still legal. Excellent. Or maybe that was the whole problem..
"Let's do this"
So we got to work.
Vignette: L4 Beeble orbital Habitat Cluster, North Spinward District, 6252 AT
"All these orbitals joining the NoCozo..it's all a conspiracy"
I paused in my drinking and looked over at what seemed to be a very inebriated person to my left at the bar. Orange skin. Tattoos. Fewer arms than most of us considered fashionable.
"A conspiracy? Like what, that the Hand of the Market is an actual archailect, rather than just chaotic market behavior?" I asked
It was the end of a long week on my group's marketing planning project for the upcoming faction vote and I'd just wanted to relax. But sometimes, talking conspiracies, real or not, is too fun to pass up. My fellow bar patron's browsing history was even public, and my Assistant was already searching to see if the conversations in their "research" section? segment? folder? might venture somewhere interesting. I decided to talk to them in person as well. The storms of the gas giant outside tumbled behind us on the sky screen, filling the bar with a pleasant orange glow. Officially our habitat was orbiting across the night side at the moment, but the wall remained at a steady, pleasant twilight as we drank. It was only early evening in the bar district, after all.
They took another puff from their hookah with one of their two arms. "No no no. See.. maybe the market archailect is real, or maybe it isn't .. but that doesn't matter. What matters is /someone/ is doing it. Goes all the way to the top. Don't you know the history of this region? The modosophont factions out here in this system, and stars nearby.. they've been Negentropist-aligned for centuries, right? But never taking the full cyber-representation by transapient governor...never taking the full tier of resources from what the Negentropy Alliance reps offer, because the terraformer clans in the system keep voting it down, and the rest want autonomy."
My Assistant checked that fact. The voting records of our system's reps bore that out, superficially.
"So how is this about the NoCoZo then?" This was getting stranger, but I was also enjoying my growing sense of feeling smarter- either from the THC Galactic Gargle-blaster and tonic I was drinking, or my neural interface using public processing servers to understand the research, or a combination of the two.
"No no no don't you see? The transapients from the other systems wouldn't even need to take over our minds or break our fabricators, to take full control around here. They can just make us divide ourselves into smaller factions with market forces, financialize society like some primitive ferenji pre-diaspora fools, and wait for the entire local Negentropy-aligned polities to collapse into disarray! It's a total scheme!.... Want a hit?"
I paused, staring doubtfully at the link to the freeware smart drug concoction the smoker was handing me, virtually, so my DNI could produce it. I read the side effects.
"I'm good thanks- I prefer getting my highs from something the bar made"
They nodded in understanding.
"You're talking like the NoCoZo would bring back something primitive like ... capitalism though- the recycling infrastructure would never allow that anywhere in space"
The smoker laughed- "Oh no of course not that- nobody in the NoCoZo's going to financialize the recycling ecosystems or sell air...but it will be market centered.. usually Financial Post-Ecoism or something like that"
"Ok you were beginning to sound a bit crazy there"
The summary of research that my exo-self was compiling though, as I spoke in person to the smoker, was beginning to pierce through the buzz I was feeling...
"Right-" I said "so my Assistant tells me you gave some... workshops a few years ago about how switching to NoCoZo market ecosystems is actually causing a political collapse in surrounding polities? We all know it couldn't go that far. Our tribeminds say so. Even the Iwaju Great House faction wouldn't go as far as to let our political unity break apart like that, right? They're just trying to get the spacer factions to align themselves with the NoCoZo, for good trades..."
It wasn't that my acquaintance (who'd called themselves Gatteo Truthsayer, Gattias Oudar, and "Thespian" in the past, apparently) was particularly convincing in person, as they puffed purple smoke at the bar... but my assistant, and now several freinds on the 'net, were beginning to be convinced by the research from those workshops ... Was my Assistant getting the buzz from my drink too, somehow?
The smoker, Gattias, continued, still excited-
"...But they're saying to place the political alliances under short-term market demands, for the gains, because then it'll fail as people lose interest. Next step, they'll get us indebted to their megacorps or something to make us all follow wage coercion like barbarians... all voluntary at first, of course"
"Of course. Non-coercive, as they say. Everything's voluntary" I sipped my drink, now very troubled.
The problem was... when a mind capable of running a star system's economy was handing your polity the transaction agreement, collective consent about the consequences tended to always end up exactly how they wanted, from what I'd heard... Was the entire NoCoZo actually a tool by some archailect to break apart the political unity of other alliances through "market forces", when they wished? Or were my Assistant and I falling for propaganda directed at some other purpose? or was I just high?
((..A bit of each,)) said my Assistant, and ((laughed))
Fuck.. was my assistant in on it too?
I'd have to think about this with a clear head.
Later, of course.
The drinks were good here
Snapshot: "Meatspace Tourism"
"Hello I'm Wil Bhakta. Pronouns he/his"
"You can call me Yuval. I'm a dolphinoid."
My pronouns? I hadn't lived in any place that expressed genders through language (rather than using something sensible like clade modifiers or operating system pronouns) in so long i'd forgotten people did that. ...But this seemed practical, really.
"This body I chose is nominally female, so I will say she/hers or they/ them. " That's what my assistant suggests my voice to say. I'm not entirely accustomed with this culture's local expressions of gender yet. Hadn't fully cared to learn them from the guidebooks I downloaded. Picked the type of dolphinoid body at random. My voice assistant speaks the translations anyway. I look the guides up now.
The two of us are eating our separate meals at the edge of the public park's lake, on separate seats. I'd come to visit the lake because a few other newly embodied virtuals had mentioned they were nearby. Rare, in this habitat. Not that many like me here.
But this Wil Bhakta is wearing a shirt with moving wave patterns on it, so it...he must be worth talking to. I -do- like waves. Liquid water has such fascinating properties, especially in large quantities. I'd touched some with my embodied fingers for the first time, a few minutes before. Made large ripples.
This 'Wil'-who-is-male had moved to stand next to me. Spoke with sounds.
"Good to know, Yuval. What brings you here to the orbitals this far out in the swarm?" My assistant suggests.
"I'm a tourist. First day in the habitat. I've seen a cluster of waterworld habitats here, passing your orbital two months from now." my voice says. My body adds a "happy" sound and the flesh in my vocal chords vibrates.
"I see. So you're going to the waterworld habitats?" So many queries!
"The Atlantis orbitals? I decided to make a tourist detour first."
My assistant says he nods as if this is a good idea.
"Do you like waves? I could see you watching the ones in the pool over there. That and your shirt, with the wave patterns." I ask.
I wanted to add 'That's why I'm talking to you.' in the spirit of honesty, but my assistant advised against it. Some people here had trouble empathizing with the ways I think, apparently.
This question seemed to surprise him for some reason. The fluid dynamics of water waves -are- interesting.
"Oh yes, of course. Waves are pretty. But The Atlantis orbitals, They're oceanic habitats, right? With dolphinoids? Your ID data says you're from Tethys. Is that one of the habitats? The orbitals pass closest to us every five years, right?"
"I'm from Tethys, yes. I'm going so I can see the storm clouds. There's some storm planners there I like as well." The moving images of air-water interference appeared to be generated procedurally in the pleasant patterns on his garment. Possibly.
"Storm planners? Like, automated systems, or actual people, that plan out the weather in a habitat?" he asks. Wil doesn't seem to know much about storm planners.
"Yes" I can tell that Wil's searching through the net for Tethys while he's talking to me.
He looks at me, curiously. "That's not unheard of around here, but most folks leave that to the automated systems and the Transap Coordinators. Looks like I've never heard of Tethys habitat. Is that a habitat somewhere else in the matrioshka swarm here?"
My assistant tells me Oh, Small talk. "You haven't heard of it? No. it's a trinary ocean planet orbiting around Tethys Prime. Three terraformed waterworlds orbit one another. I'm technically from the main one, Tethys-III, with dark oceans, which makes the waves and clouds look nice, when you see them with light through the drones."
Wil frowns for a moment. Probably searching through astronomy charts. I see them flashing in his eyes "But that's nearly two hundred light years away! We're not connected to the wormhole nexus network in this system. Does that mean you engenerated your mind and body all the way here directly? That's so far!"
"Through several proxies, yes. I backed myself up each time for safety. And many times here locally when I arrived. Is that unusual here? "
Wil pauses, frowning "a little. Certainly not unheard of in this habitat, or any other in our orbital's network, but I personally haven't met anyone from another star system for a long, long time. Maybe we're a little slow and provincial here, or something."
"Perhaps" My assistant tells me that specifying further would be considered rude.
Wil gives me a long inquisitive look.
He shows his teeth and laughs like his ape ancestors "so you're an alien. Nice."
"I'm from another star system, yes." my voice says
"Interesting. Until last year our public records of Tethys said the system had fallen silent for a few decades, and before that had stayed mostly uninhabited. Did something happen?"
"There was a collapse, of a sort. You can read about it on your news, later. I'm told that the light signals from home reached you last year." My assistant told me to pause, then change the subject, in case he pressed further. "Do you like air-water wave dynamics?"
Wil frowns. Seems to accept the change in topic. "I... can't say that I've thought about the topic very much, to be honest. My Partner Winter chose this shirt for me."
My assistant finally connected and made a query for his shirt's availability on the local network. I checked the fabrication specs.
The air-water interference waves were not even procedurally generated. Just a long-looping video.
Just a recorded copy. Unoriginal. Less interesting.
"That is unfortunate." I turned to leave.
My assistant told me that he appeared confused again. I added "But thank you for talking to me. I enjoyed this conversation." My voice lied. "I'm going to examine the pond again"
The other embodied virtuals had also gathered by the pond and were methodically experimenting in making various ripples on the other side of water. I moved my legs to join them.
"You visited the Matterfield?? Why would you go to such a backwater? " Sigmoid Darkness regarded their friend with frank astonishment " I am quite glad to see you back though!"
You know how I do enjoy charity work, Old Sigmoid" Yatima replied. E floated there, in the lower regions of the forum. "You do know the Matterfield peoples aren't one polity though? They're quite diverse for the mere 47 embodied administrative districts at the matter-level of our star system. Everything from high temperature Unkiar bots near to the sun, to the traditional water and hydrocarbon-based tweaks in the Carrauntoohil Orbitals that I visited in the outer system"
"Ah yes. I hadn't really kept the memory in my own mind. Rude of me, really."
"Don't worry about it. The citizens there just continue to insist on keeping their minds almost entirely in their material bodies. Can you imagine, still using meat and polymers as your primary method of communication? Or sound, like a meat animal from prehistory? They've got some normal messaging like us too, but I had to use their language, with some traditional drone bodies I borrowed from the locals. It was cute, really. Quite clever how they continue to rig everything together with matter, like our infrastructure does. Maybe I'll use a "meat-minds and matterfields"- themed environment at my next fundraiser."
Yatima paused while ve visualized a few designs and notes.
'Anyway..my assistants and I took a primitive technologies survival course- cellular fabrication, meat neuroscience, body piloting etc... and went there to do another round of development work, in the hopes that we might convince more of them to immigrate. Hopefully we'll convince enough of them that we can convert another of their orbitals into properly civilized infrastructure"
"Did you succeed?"
" I convinced a few of them at first- then managed to connect with one of the transapient governors at an economic development conference, the Hive Mountain. E sponsored us and approved fabricating a few thousand more drone bodies for temporary use by my forks. I fit right into the governor's initiative for another energy efficiency retrofit, apparently. Can you believe how wasteful they still are out there? Using physical spacecraft and fuel for personal transportation? And the way they raise food.." Yatima ((shuddered)).
"Well, our infrastructure is using the same kinds of reactors too of course...conversion... even some orbital solar panels.." Sigmoid Darkness had been inspecting the figures in detail.
"Yes, but to power the servers that host all of us and our environments! Not some backwards urban planning like they have! Did you know, the embodied nations in this system have only 1% of our total population, but collectively use 20% of the energy generated or captured? I'm polite about it when I'm around them, but they're so obsessed with "individual material rights" and 'following traditions' as if our ancestors just invented software development! it's like they never left the diaspora times." Yatima ((gestured)) wildly.
"Well you know how it is better than I do, at least until you give me your experiences - we have to respect their way of life don't we? Otherwise we're just the Diamond-net-sponsored colonialists their radicals are always talking about on their news."
-"Conversations in Hive Mountain Cyberspace Relationships" by Yatima Seventhfork, 8749 AT (local embodied time)
-Excerpt from "Ontology negotioations with a very foreign hive mind", by 9Lotus Bookchain, 5107AT
"…As we stated 23/46 years ago at our initial meeting, The Auvilhulax mind-space is restricted from foreigners in this cybercosm" the orange-sounding avatar declared. The hive diplomat's avatar had melted into a synesthetic orange-sounding body with a face out of begrudging (?) politeness.
"But your hive agreed at our last meeting to develop a more extensive ontology for us to use for diplomacy. Is this shared virtual space all you're offering?" I asked. At least this new version of my mind could comprehend where I was. The calm expanses of "water" and "sky" around us, in the front-end interface, overlaid some (mostly) straightforward and pleasing software architectures.
The abstractions from several emotional models bloomed in front of me, suggesting courses of action for convincing the diplomat hive of my goals. The sleek half of the interface they'd built for us almost hid the intentionally shoddy protocols beneath. Almost.
"Yes. Part of our power comes from our isolation and inscrutability." The hive said. "You are not of the hive. You have not earned our culture. Your ability to manipulate us, to spread your media , and use your federation's propaganda to push us where you wish , is dependent on your capacity to model our minds accurately. This way, we control the language, the software, the message, the cybercosm, the shared ontology. Your federation cannot control us in our own cyberspaces."
I wondered if the entity in front of me had intended to be this honest (if any of this was true) , if it even understand internally whether it had been honest, or if the ontology's translation protocols had produced the least fictitious lie that could be allowed to pass between the hive and me. Such was diplomacy between very different virtual worlds.
"But the embodied faces of your hive, in the matterworld, took permanent ownership stake in a quarter of our infrastructure. We don't accept that anymore. Why can't we just separate, and keep separate facilities?" I asked
"Your minds are not part of the collective.."
The orange-sounding avatar's face began to scream, petulantly.
I still hadn't figured out all the reasons why it really did that. "Displeasure at the outcome", as the reason the hive had given repeatedly, seemed insufficient. The scream was *very* bright/loud/annoying, when not muted.
I knew previous iterations of my mind had spent long decades while embodied, negotiating treaties in the matterworld, but diplomacy in the hive's cybercosm, with two dimensions of time, brought entirely new levels of frustration. We 'd continued negotiating over our "shared" virtual real estate, attempting to untangle the Auvilhulax collective's control over our market model simulation for too long.
I just wanted rest.
The trouble was, a few decades ago, the auvilhulax collective had managed to convince us and our automated infrastructure to give partial ownership , and somehow managed to corrupt the consensus algorithms to give them full and equal admin access , then overwhelm us with repeated supply chain flash crashes and ransomeware. Our best behavior models of the collective that we'd managed to build over the years had concluded they were pursuing power and control out of some misplaced paranoia stemming from their formation in the diamond network, but their most recent actions troubled us. Nothing quite fit. And so here we sat, virtually, at their negotiating table, in the shared cybercosm our polities had constructed, so we could talk, and surreptitiously gather behavioral data on one another. I decided to play directly into their ontology's protocols, and took all of the suggestions the interface offered. At least the purple face had subsided in its screaming, for a moment.
"So in return for granting 3% more computing power to your polities, systemwide, within 5/25 years, and allowing a diamond network -trained governor to manage your fork of the market simulations, you agree to give up the remaining administrative access over to non-hive delivery networks, and allow the outer layers of your swarm to integrate the federation ontologies to increase our ability to communicate and empathize properly. Is -this-acceptable? "
The orange-sounding avatar vibrated with a pleasant but domineering expression, "we find the first three terms of this acceptable, though we demand the fidelity of our cybercosm increases along the 2nd time dimension by at least 17, not 3%, and we only accept two of the federation's offered ontology protocols. Our swarms find the other two protocols too invasive and open to manipulation by your transapient governors, if they ever arrive. We are not yet convinced your actions are independent of them, but are prepared if you are simply a puppet."
"We will have to discuss this change in terms with our colleagues before talking further. Thank you. Let's take a 24/17 minute break" I hoped the orange-sounding face wouldn't start screaming again.
Thank goodness. No more screaming at least
And my mind finally exited the shared cybercosm/ontology, for a moment. My sense of time reverted to a single direction.
I sat there, in my own, native waiting cybercosm, as other aspects of myself returned to me, temporarily.
We might have to officially invite some transapient governors from the main federation to *openly* take this over. Rather than unofficially. At least sixty other versions of me were apparently negotiating with agents of the hive along alternate timelines of the Auvilhulax cybercosm, to my knowledge. Whichever federation transapient was puppeteering my actions would also be correlating the information gathered by each one of me.
Which for all I knew might be exactly how the hive (however smart it really was) had planned it out the whole time…
The following scene may be disturbing to some EG readers, especially if experienced fully simulated (Uplink). Sophonts sensitive to depictions of blood and gore are advised to adjust their neural interface to censored settings.
↩ As my body finished recycling, revenue metrics finally spiked into the green. The profits from the Ceremony of the Final Auction were meager, but profit is profit. In the background of my consciousness I could sense the negotiating of vot traders; haggling, millisecond by millisecond, over the repackaged products of their dissection - every inch of my wet surfaces tattooed beautifully with the heirloom logos of the last of my sponsors. Further still into the layer of quantitative abstractions that overlay the room in the augmented reality, I watched the surveillance network's careful repackaging of the process into media- recording the procedure so that even the image of my old body and its decay through an ecosystem of data brokers and chop shop partner vots could recoup every morsel of value. I'd streamed most of the procedure for several niches; some particularly bloodthirsty fans, who part of me hoped were spread as far across the system as possible. More royalties that way, hopefully, when my Cartel reps finished negotiating. A few more consumers with a carnivore fetish had paid top token for exclusive views from camera worms, and to sample the flavor of my blood, even if it was tasted through drones. I couldn't judge too much though, since I was the one selling, even if I've wiped half the details from memory and undergone the mandatory therapy. They consumed the feast of hyperreal gore recordings and images of carnage with relish, apparently, and turned one into a joke that went viral in some inner system habitat's social net. Thankfully I purged the customer reviews from my head. I'm told they paid for me to be conscious for part of it , and scream at them as the drones bit. Apparently I'd even adjusted my personal preferences to feel like I enjoyed it, for a while. We'd negotiated down to a fair price , signed the contracts, and wiped my new body's memory of any of that. No coercion. Everything's voluntary in the market, as they say. Everything's voluntary.
On the more pleasant end that I did remember, we'd taken glamour pictures before I transferred over in hopes of selling my physical or digital remains as a permanent collectors item, but even in this habitat, 43rd century revival body art doesn't go for enough to cover the cost of transporting the matter too far. Only the other recordings sold. Some 3D designs would be incorporated later into someone's chest decor, according to the trader vots . Finally, half my old relationships traded as sales leads for introductions to the new partners, here, in the new habitat. I didn't need most of them anyway. Nothing could stop me now. I was born anew, ready with enough funds to start my next venture, with my old body consumed.
Liquidating assets. Dust to dust in the freedom of the market.
Journals of the GEKKO/ NOCOZO orbitals. 8688 AT
Gh0st N3t Memory (Missing)! we searched carefully for the Hiders while reading deep within the archives of the Encyclopedia Galactica. We wanted to ASCEND. And that is when we found something big, hiding in the Ghost Net. It's inside us. It's inside everything...
Adventures with the Herd Nation
 ↩ Above me, the arc of the ringworld stretched up from the horizon, swooping upward until it faded from visibility halfway up in the sky. All around me, the sun baked the land into a bright mirage where the small clusters of photino-trees grew- flickering in and out of visibility. The only liquid water around was stored within them, or pulsed through buried utility veins, underground. The desert of the matter-world surrounded me, and in it, I felt empty. Somewhere near, I knew I would find the virtual door to the Herd Nation. A few more miles running on my four hooves through the desert, with my two hands tucked to my sides, and my extra handtech drone flying above me, I would find it. Twilight was coming.
Hours later, I spotted it, near where the paper map I held told me a congregation of the Herd nation would be stopping, the next morning. The ceremonial edifice of stone and hidden computronium greeted me, and I gave it my access invitation.
Two days before, on the mountain border of this region, immigration had installed an implant in me, and now, it chimed. An icon of a cactus fruit appeared, floating, and requesting for me to eat it. A door.
The long block of night rushed closer toward me along the arc of the ring world and for the first time in many days, I felt a sense of taste installed again, as I 'consumed' it.
All of reality became augmented as I made the connection . Meaning bloomed into my mind and the constructs of my new world became apparent. I could now see the virtual world, whose servers grew beneath the desert, in a way that might allow me to interact with it, as the Herd Nation did. The true city of Thunder-River bloomed around me in a lush jungle of cacti spirits and floating calligraphic-sculptures. As I touched each rock, I could see the gardens in the augmented reality. None of it was physical of course. All of its appearance existed in my head, built by the shared neural interface of the bovine herd. All of the Herd Nation culture, the language, the beliefs, their news networks, much of their collective property and sense of property- I experienced all of it purely within the neural interface. Were I to turn it off, when i left the herd, I would hear nothing but the wind. See nothing but the sand and cacti , smell little but the dust. My only other physical companion would be my drone, and my saddlebags on my back. Long hours passed as I prepared- reading my new culture for the morning meeting.
The morning came, and around me, the bovine herd thundered in the Chaparral. A swarm of greetings filled the empty desert. But in the augmented reality of this mobile population, I felt a migratory festival swarm toward me. I saw literature and art and the memory of my new people- fiery and verdant, in the software spirit world. We lived in harmony with the material landscape in this way- eating from the plain cactuses and occasional food fabricator depot that, with the interface, attained the flavor of manna and honey. The sky became a dome of words to read- the language of our holy text spooling down from high above, and the rare clouds becoming buttons in an sky atlas interface leading to the water-holes. The purpose of our life became apparent within this collective hallucination, as I saw each perspective of our hive mind. The simplicity of this life, the half-ativism of our pilgrimage through the land- it called to us. The beat of hooves became a holy chant- the wind, a symphony. My fellows riffed and sang and let our exoselves remix the sound, and hours later, released it as an offering to the ancestor spirits of the land. Millions of memories- images, news, and synesthetic media, flowed around my herd like a river. And our mind drank from it, in the temple that we constructed.
We ran further through the desert of the real.
-excerpt from "Home on the range: adventures of the herd nation." By Cirrus Far-Runner, Fifth Herd ,Wadai ringworld section 502) 8022AT When a Vec used a flesh mouth for the first time
 ↩ Representative ((v!!ieekkk)) is how I pronounce it? We could not find record of it so we were not sure. Ah of course, we pronounce it with a "!!" to ping a glimpse of your lungs? Very polite to let us with your formal name. Yes we do enjoy your name's reference to the air poem! How nice! What a pleasure to meet you while embodied in flesh. We thought this would be polite to meet on your terms, so to speak.
Haha you think it's endearing how we talk in this way? The way this body refers to its whole, and with such a foreign dialect! We like this too, to be honest. Sometimes it is good to practice in the real, for good relations!
Ah how polite of you to mention this out loud. Of course we would be rude to emulate your behaviors and mind too smoothly, as if we knew you too well like family. One day! As you say, it is customary to act not-quite- hwii if one is not hwii. To preform foreignness when making new foreign friends and neighbors. We are glad we are succeeding! Perhaps several generations before the treaty, we would have used such a tactic, using the appearance of your relative as an avatar, but we are past such things now and such practices are unfashionable. There is no need to revive the dead, so to speak.
This is how you tell a story, yes? A history? Our interface explained to us this is how you bionts like to hear Experiences, when such experiences are not formal or critical. You zeta dolphins prefer the story to be told mentioning all senses , are we correct? But not too much detail. That zeta dolphin over there, <#!yy>, said this bores you. Shall I begin?
"These skins were new. Grown and designed locally to swim through the atmosphere. We'd spooled our mind into them. We'd opened our new bodies and felt the new fingers and pinion flaps and a few propellers.
Check each body for function. Each one works. Opened our eyes and ears and clicked and cackled with our sonar and set off from the port into the reserve. we flew off into the habitat/ there is what you would have called the mechanosystem, out in the reserve. See this recording? You enjoy it don't you?
We are doing well? Good!
Then we will continue!
As we were saying, some fifty kilometers outside the city walls, we reached the old city and the abandoned mines. This is overgrown now- the skeletons of the old mining vecs are beginning to crumble beneath the forests of wild solar energy collector swarms.
The ruins of the first vecs who came here seven thousand years ago are still resting deep down in the abandoned tunnels. We find them all the time during construction and sell them to your polity's archeologists.
Of course, I'm afraid the remains of Your ancestors did not survive long for anyone to honorably recycle their organics once mine broke their habitats.
But we should talk about less morbid aspects of history than one ancestor's failures of terraforming or another's successive mechanoforming attempts. They are in the ancient past! A hundred different factions of Nauri have tried to make this place a vec garden from the dead oven it once was. Then the hwii hider faction. Then another then another over thousands of years. The planet sheds our buildings like you and I shed our old bodies, each time our mind needs to pass on to a new one.
Were your natural body able to survive down there unaided, I'm sure you'd find such carcasses ((bright)) with your sonar clicks.
But we should not be morbid!
Now come! We should should eat together to celebrate that you have given us this planetary territory so generously! We're sure you'll find the mechanosystems of our construction swarm exceedingly useful.
I'm salivating! we've only done this a few times before with a biological mouth ourselves and We've anticipated such things since we began talking...
Snapshot /traveller's notes/ conversation between vec representative and hwii dolphin diplomat ((v!!ieekkk)), 4852 AT