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An Illustrated History of the Universe--Jakob's Canon

jakobs canon future pictures fiction

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The Grand Supreme Mega-Temple at Elonia


In 2952, the, a sector of the Elonic Church launched an expedition from Elonia to take back Mars and Earth from the godminds. While the Red Crusade did succeed in occupying Mars for some time from 2985 to 3004, and reinstated the Elon of Mars for the first time in 300 years, the Blue Crusade failed entirely. It did, however, bring Elonia to the attention of Solar ais, some of whom sent an envoy ship which arrived at Elonia in 3043, bringing new technologies and old knowledge to trade.


Relatively amicable relations and sporadic trade between the two systems existed for a while, but in the 33rd century, as godminds began to consolidate their power and dissolve the various ai and transhuman fiefdoms in the Sol System, and look outwards. The ships of the nascent Ai Kingdom (the proto-Kingdom) arrived at Wolf 1061 in 3269, announcing their intent to annex the system and promising immeasurable wealth and vast infrastructure projects in return for cooperation.


Elonia (and Tallulah as well, to a lesser extent) was mainly populated with those whose ancestors had been suspicious of Sol, having experienced oppression and genocide there, and were thus outraged at this incursion on their sovereignty, insisting that the Elonic people were still entitled to a state. Wolf 1061 was not a system, the Kingdom was going to simply abandon, though, due to its strong memetic value, and negotiations were going nowhere fast.


From a chain of well fortified and well hidden bases in the Oort region, they charged forth in 3272 with an armada of 7,000 ships and nearly 40 million fighters (obviously without a physical crew, though some models had uploaded pilots or were independently sophont)—even then, less than 1% of the military resources possessed by the Kingdom. Naturally, the vast majority of these ships built themselves with Von Neumann technology. Now Elonia had during the Lost Era fended off plenty of interplanetary and interstellar raiders, but the Kingdom was a titan beyond their comprehension, even then.


The Kingdom fleet first attacked at Tallulah, winning decisive victories at Riley Station and the floating city Platform 934. Due to inside help from treasonous high ais and posthumans, Tallulah fell relatively quickly, especially after the destruction of the star tram at Platform 901 cut their launching capabilities in half and allowed Kingdom forces to administer orbital bombardment at will. This done, they bode their time, allowing their fleet to replicate itself and upgrading their memetic weaponry.


Elonia proved a more difficult nut to crack, requiring nuclear attacks on key locales and holy sites and large numbers of robotic ground troops, but they too surrendered in 3276 under the condition that no more Elonic temples and relics would be destroyed. Pockets of unofficial resistance continued into the late 3280s, but the Kingdom kept their word—already they were debating their plans for the system.


In 3293, a team of archaeologists discovered a data crystal in the tomb of a transhuman architect, and upon decryption, it was proven to contain the plans for the legendary temples that were slated to be constructed before the War of Darkness. Word of this discovery got around through the wormhole links and in 3305, a godmind known as Ellen Lightwing—apparently a rare example of a twice-ascended baseline human—allied with the Kingdom, showed up and personally took control of the area.


A few rogue high ai and posthuman officers in the occupying force attempted to fight back, preferring to continue following their own faraway lord and not be memetically converted into followers of this newcomer. All of them were casually destroyed or remade by the higher-toposophic being, who then set about extending an offer of peace to the Elonites in the system. Lightwing decreed that as a gesture of peace and good will, Elonia and Tallulah would be terraformed and a new, colossal Elonic temple be built. In reality, her reasons were more pragmatic: the Elonic Empire, dominated by the Divinni sect, was rapidly expanding in the outer volumes of known space, and backing and fostering the growth of the conflicting Muskiite sect—which included most of the Elonites in the system—would provide a handy bulwark against the Elonic Empire.


Terraforming began circa 3320, with construction of the temple beginning in 3321. There was considerable controversy, as the plans called for razing to the ground many centuries-old Lost Era and even prewar temples and villages in the plains around Falcon Mons, but Lightwing and her followers still went through with this plan, sweetly and politely shutting down resistance movements as they began. Gradually, her social engineering guided the Muskiite-majority population of the Wolf 1061 system to be staunch supporters of the proto-Kingdom against the Divinnis gaining power far away. However, construction would not be complete until 3334 due to the sheer vastness of the temple.


The temple came to be known as the Grand Supreme Mega-Temple, and the name was not hyperbolic. The center hall was an absolutely colossal BFR+BFS replica standing 10,600 meters tall and 900 meters wide. A total of 650,000 worshipers could fit inside. It was so vast that clouds and rain formed inside, so vast that working, life-sized Elonic rockets dangled from the ceiling like bulbs in a chandelier—these rockets were lit on holy days. Tens of thousands of holographic, animate, and sentient religious icons hung from the walls. The largest (pictured above) stood 400 meters tall, looming right over the pulpit and occasionally booming assent or corrections to the priest. (If the priest were shown in the picture, he/she/it would be 5-6 pixels tall)


And it was only one building in a vast complex of dozens of BFR temples, hundreds of Falcon Heavy temples, and thousands of Falcon 9 temples surrounding the center hall and spreading many kilometers in every direction, encompassing an area as large as a city. Though the size of the rockets diminished as distance from the center hall increased, the entirety of the Grand Supreme Mega-Temple could hold 23 million sophonts at once. This was a quarter of the entire planet's Elonic population at the time. The center hall was also the tallest building in known space—the first time a religious building had taken that honor in nearly fifteen centuries.


(Image: Bay Street Bull (?))



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Rise of Godminds


After the Terran Era of Monuments drew to a close in the 2470s, the high ais and posthumans of the Sol System entered a new paradigm, commonly known as the Era of Development, lasting from the 2470s to the 2540s or 50s. Many historians place the beginning of this era in 2472, with the African Federation's defeat of the terrorist horde Arkayvee, as a defeat could have destabilized Earth and cislunar space and diverted funding from the ascension experiments of the high ais.


Others have placed the date at 2475, with the Sacramento Treaty, signed by 46 Sol System polities—the first large-scale international condemnation of the ailigarchs, and the first serious economic sanctions against them for their enslavement of lower-ranking sophonts. Less popular dates include 2473 (the fall of the West Antarctic Technate, the first success of the Unfettering) or 2478-79 (the Ailigarch Trials in Alexander, resulting in the deportation of many Antarctic ailigarchs to New Australia).


Whatever the exact date, with the staunchly pro-status quo ailigarchs waning in influence, the zeitgeist of the high ais changed by the 2480s. Highmind societies rapidly reverted from aristocratic to meritocratic, technological development took precedence over social order, and pro-human thought became dominant over humans-as-resources ailigarch thought.


Between the late 80s and the mid 90s, great innovations in data storage—mostly beyond the grasp of baseline minds—led to enormous proliferation in the number of high ais and posthumans, as well as enhanced highminds: vast, building-sized minds with a substantial edge even over regular high ais. Non-destructive mind uploading was also refined in the 90s, seeing use beyond the military and posthuman criminals (e.g. Arkayvee, who wreaked havoc across the Sol System for 30 years with thousands of copies of himself).


Spaceflight, engineering, and countless other fields saw spectacular gains too. Some of these trickled down to baselines, like Hawking drives/power plants/bombs. Other technologies remained completely inscrutable and out of reach. The highmind population exploded too, skyrocketing from 4 million in 2480 to 23 million in 2520 and over 40 million by 2560. Copy-paste mind uploading played a substantial role in this population boom and spectacular legal battles over copy law were fought in nearly every polity in the 2500s and 10s.


By 2525, it was clear that Second Toposophic beings—the high ais and posthumans—had developed the hardware required to reach the Third Toposophic. Now only the software remained. In the 2530s, innovations in sharding theory—the idea that Third Toposophic beings could easily split their minds into arbitrary “shards” and rearrange them at will—came to the forefront of high ai research, and this was used as a benchmark to gauge the success of ascension attempts.


Seen in this picture is the first attempt to create a Third Toposophic mind near the Asteroid Belt, in 2536. Thousands upon thousands of highminds work to convert an asteroid into computronium of a sufficient quality to run such a high-toposophic mind. The exterior is a quantum dot array that has taken on the form of a miniature biological ecosystem, for reasons unknown. As the high ai machines work on their godmind on the left, data is already streaming forth from the godmind on the right. This attempt would be complete in 2539, but would be highly unstable and collapse a few months later. The first stable Godmind would arise only in 2551.


No identifiable image source. Sorry. I tried.



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Them Who Hide Beneath



The late 26th century is a tense and watchful era in Sapiendom. One after another, grim revelations have come pouring in about the dark nature of the cosmos over the past 60 years. The signs of a fallen interstellar empire were found at Alpha Mensae earlier in the century, and in several other star systems thereafter. The great Von Nuemann plagues have shown that local space may be littered with alien warprobes left by ancient empires, and even the Godminds admit that cleanup could take centuries. As Sapiendom grows exponentially, other transmissions and artifacts have been discovered, many of them seemingly confirming the Liu Theory of Interstellar Relations (so-named for the eminent Chinese writer Cixin Liu). The universe is a dark place, full of aliens doing the only thing that makes game-theoretic sense at an interstellar scale, with weapons that can break a world in one shot: launching those world-destroying weapons at their neighbors in hopes of destroying them before they can do the same. In many star systems, there are those who call for their country to do the same before it's too late, and they are gaining in numbers and political power.


The Crisis Era is the time from 2537-2640, when Sapiendom discovers and adapts to these revelations. The number of worlds and habitats with RKV systems grows exponentially over the decades--generally these are fail-deadly systems hidden in the Oort region. Absolutely massive telescope arrays are deployed to watch the skies for any sign of trouble. Once interstellar power projection becomes practical in the last quarter of the 26th century, stellar battle fleets sally forth to controversial regions, ominously looming in the Oort regions of star systems that don't yet have RKVs and threatening to smite down any nation that tries to develop the technology. Sometimes, despite the best efforts of their creators, these fleets defect, making the situation even more unstable (a key cause of the Fomalhaut Crisis in 2615).


The common citizens adapt in their own ways. Some hold planetary evacuation drills, though this is just to keep people calm, since in an RKV attack, there would be almost no warning. Others sneak out to the Bupkis--the interstellar void--or head off to start secret colonies at the fringes of Sapiendom. Others build vast complexes deep underground, though only the deepest have any practical value against an RKV strike--a few companies have built underground skyscrapers since the Interplanetary Age, sometimes for similar reasons, but only now are they going mainstream and attracting billions of inhabitants.


Seen in this picture is one example of such a complex, located in the country of Red Netherlands on Mars. It is named the Lin-Pascal Complex, after the construction company that built it and the high ai who administered it from 2591-2650. The labyrinthine structure holds some 300,000 permanent residents and is mostly about 4500 to 5000 meters underground--enough to give them a fighting chance at survival in an RKV attack on Mars, but insufficient to survive a direct hit. To counteract the gloominess of living in a massive underground cavern, the complex is lit by several artificial suns (one of which is seen above) and the streets are filled with trees. Gardens and forests are also found in the wealthier districts, often with a holographic sky so that one can forget they're underground. Construction of this complex began in 2584, with the first residents arriving in 2591. The picture here dates to an early Saturday morning in 2600--everyone here is wearing an anonymizing shield, causing them to appear as a gray placeholder to the viewer, who is clearly not considered a trusted viewer by any of these people.


image: Fernando Castiñeira, Hernan Goldfarb, Alejandro Ispani, Alex Nelken, Javier Maratea, Malena Verni



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I have a three part update.


Starman Regime, Part I: Mobius.


After the messy decolonization conflicts across the Solar System in the late 22nd century, the withdrawing Terran polities left a vast vacuum of power in their wake. This vacuum did not last long before dozens, even hundreds of actors rushed to fill it in the early 23rd. Much of the inner Solar System was lucky. They had had far longer to get their act together, and much more experience with self-governance. They managed, with a few exceptions, to start reasonably free and stable nations, and the Lunars and Martians would even go on to lead the Unfettering in the 25th century. The outer Solar System was different. Many colonies there were a century old or less, very remote and tight-knit, and much more accustomed to strong central control from Terran authorities. Thus when the Terrans pulled out, chaos reigned.


Some former colonies managed to transition to functional, if unstable, quasi-democracies, such as the Valhalla Union, in northern Ganymede, or the Free State of Krakentown, a city-state on the shore of Kraken Mare on Titan. Others fell to anarchic mob rule or military juntas, or became autocracies under opportunistic transhuman and posthuman dictators. A small clade known as the Star People were responsible for many nations in the last category. Initially created in the early 22nd century and optimized for space exploration, they quickly gained powerful positions within local corporations and colonial governments in the outer Solar system.

Starman Supremacy, a movement present on the fringes of society since the Interplanetary Era, first began to gain steam in the Mobius Republic (seen in the picture above) on Europa—a place with a substantial population of Star People. The Mobius Republic was established in 2195 after the Netherlands abandoned all its colonial holdings on the moons of Jupiter (it would keep several Stanford toruses in the area until 2213).


Soon afterwards, thousands of Dutch posthumans and high ais returned home, taking most of the capital with them, sparking an economic slump. Without the support of their home country, Mobius was forced to negotiate for aid and trade deals on their own, importing many resources from Mars at an exorbitant price. They joined the Interplanetary Coucil and the Solar System Trade Coalition in 2196, but they did little to help—these institutions were at best overburdened by the similar plights of fifty other new nations and at worst, predatory scams created for the benefit of highmind elites in the inner Solar System.


As the years yent by, riots, radical thinking, and low-level skirmishes with neighboring countries became increasingly common. The parliament deadlocked in 2213 and remained that way for seven years. After several bombings and habitat depressurizations, things came to a head in the Recession of 2220, which prompted Mobius' official blockchain currency to collapse. A horde of armed robots controlled by young communists stormed the Mobius Parliament Building, overwhelming the police, and forcing the army to send in several hundred military-grade robots. This incident killed six bystanders and wounded 33. This came to be known as the "Worker's Extremely Glorious June Revolution" by Europan communists, and the "Parliament Siege of '20" by just about everyone else.


Also in 2220, a 28-year-old Mobius Starman known as Bernard Aykay published his manifesto Pantheon of Clades, in which he laid out his theories on the Decolonization Era plight of the Jovian system. In part 1, he blames the outer Solar System's troubles on "undesirable clades" who allegedly run all the political, economic, and cultural institutions and are controlled by transhuman elites attempting to destroy Jovian society, referencing many conspiracy theories of the era. In part 2, he advances the proposition that all of these issues could be resolved the Star People were in charge of everything, suggesting that "it is patently obvious that the Star People are the most worthy clade to justly govern the resources of space to ensure the prosperity of all". In part 3, he outlines a "utopian" vision of the year 2320, with the Star People ruling a vast and prosperous interstellar empire and sitting at the top of a "pantheon of clades", with a detailed hierarchy of other sophonts below them.


Pantheon of Clades is one of those books that doesn't make any sense if you read it carefully, but angry revolutionaries are rarely known for reading things carefully. The first wave of Aykayists surged into the Mobius Parliament in 2222, led by Bernard Aykay himself, gaining a plurality in 2226 and a majority in 2228. Aykayist politicians were also rising to power across the Jovian system, and on many moons of Saturn and Uranus. They may have eventually gained ground on Neptune too, but a communist high ai beat them to the punch and squashed the Aykayists on Triton in 2227.


The period that is commonly known as the Starman Regime began in 2233, by which point the Mobius Parliament had 29 Aykayist senators, out of 40 in total. One after another, 24 Starman-controlled governments in the systems of Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus pulled out of the Interplanetary Council and SSTC within three months of each other. Immediately afterwards, the Mobius Parliament voted 28-11 in favor of banning opposition parties (one Aykayist senator, Quinn Quine, abstained). Similar events happened in the other Starman governments, though in some cases the opposition was unceremoniously kicked out without a vote. The Star People now ruled supreme.


Image: Luca Oleastri | Dreamstime.com



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This is Part 2 of a 3-part series.


Starman Regime, Part II: Priest Hab


Without any opposition to stand in their way, the Aykayists governments quickly recognized Bernard Aykay as First Citizen. In 2234, Bernard Aykay issued a series of massive crackdowns. They required all education and media to be approved by a committee of Star People, jailed unapproved educators and dissidents, banned public expression of religion, demolished places of worship, executed religious leaders, and forced citizens of other clades such as Homo sapiens, uplifted chimps and bonobos, and various droids and biodroids, into designated areas—so-called "temporary holding camps"—often with insufficient infrastructure and accommodations. These were followed up in 2235 with a restriction on non-Star People operating ships over 500 tons within Starman territorial space and a demand that the SSTC be abolished and all interplanetary trade go through the state-owned Starman Corporation.


Across the Solar System, hundreds of polities and NGOs issued condemnations and sanctions. The sanctions hit hard—with the full backing of Terran and Martian highminds, it was virtually impossible for modosophonts to get around them. The Starman regime might have collapsed under the pressure, but they managed to get highmind support, via in-house toposophic ascensions (including Bernard Aykay and his elites) and aid from foreign highminds with their own various reasons.

In 2239, the Star People turned the tables and blockaded the fusion fuel refineries on Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus. This blockade continued until 2250, the most substantial cutting off of fuel from the outer Solar System since the refineries had been established there in the late Interplanetary Age. In the meantime, the inner Solar System was forced to purchase from communist Neptune for exorbitant prices.


With that said, there were those who aided the victims of the Starman regime, building compounds on remote moons and asteroids for sophonts on Aykay's hit list. A number of groups were responsible for such aid, including the Order of St. Elon, an Elonic religious fraternity; Centaurite and Ceresian pirates (no doubt angling for lenience in case they were ever caught and tried); and even Star People who had disavowed Aykayist doctrine. These habitats were colloquially known as priest habs due to their tendency to harbor religious leaders—primarily Christian, Islamic, and Elonic—though others were welcome.


In this picture, the chemically-powered ship CS Innovator blasts off after delivering a shipload of Christians to a priest hab in the remote mountains of Rhea in 2240, two years after its establishment. By the early mid-2240s, it is a vast underground complex with more than 25,000 refugees waiting for a proper interplanetary ship so they can escape to Ceres or Mars.


This particular priest hab also played a role in a plot to take down the Starman regime—in 2245, a hundred transhuman refugees hiding there orchestrated a series of bombings and a failed assassination attempt of Aykay himself. Aykay took this as a personal slight and instituted further crackdowns. The priest hab was discovered and destroyed with a nuclear attack in 2246; many others fell in the late 40s and early 50s. Non-Star People were forbidden from operating all spaceships. Even private religious expression was banned, though a sort of state worship was implemented and made mandatory. After mass riots in the temporary holding zones, the Aykayists also began pursuing a policy of deporting all members of “inferior clades” to the inner Solar System, and killing those who resisted. (There had been some such incidents before 2247, but they were smaller in scale and not the official policy of the Starman regime.)


The rest of the Solar System doubled down on their condemnations and sanctions, but they only succeeded in hurting the sophonts in the holding zones and the ordinary Star People, not the elites—which only bred resentment of the outside world and support for Aykayism. Aykayist propaganda leveraged this, portraying their interplanetary state as a lone beacon of civilization and enlightenment, assailed by hordes of stupid, evil barbarians.


There were some bright spots in the sea of chaos and violence though. After a year of tense negotiation, the Kubrick City Treaty of 2250 opened up the atmospheric mines on Saturn and Uranus to limited trade, ending an 11-year blockade, though only the Starman Corporation was allowed to operate the mines. The chaotic and brutal dictatorships of the Decolonization were also beginning to fade away by the 2250s—only the Starman regime and communist Triton caused significant trouble.


Image: DasWortgewand, Public Domain



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This is the third part of a three-part series. For the most fun, scroll up to start at Part I. Or start on page 1 if you're a newcomer.



Starman Regime, Part III: Grand Purge


By the early 2260s, the Aykayists had deported 3,000,000 sophonts and killed some 400,000 who resisted. There were almost no public figures left outside the Starman regime who endorsed Aykayism. The Solar System had had enough of sanctions, diplomacy, and minor skirmishes. They wanted war. The Interplanetary Council convened in a secret meeting in 2262 and decided that the Star People were an existential threat worthy of temporarily combining their militaries and activating the Grand Unified Force for the first time in IC history.


High ais and posthumans, together with millions of conventional sophonts, were involved in various components of the plan. It brought together leaders of three faiths, Ceresian and Centaurite pirates, Martians, Lunars, Terrans, Aykayist collaborators, and even the communists on Neptune. The plot had orders of magnitude more manpower and funding than the assassination attempt conceived in the priest habs. It could not fail.


The Grand Purge began in September 2265. The Star People, powerful as they were, were unable to resist the onslaught of nearly every nation combined. Once they liberated the holding zones and death camps, they were joined by armies of angry locals who were only too happy to help destroy everyone with Starman genes, whether or not they were Aykayists. Seen here is the interplanetary battleship USS Cumberland coasting on its way to Titan in January 2266.


The Grand Purge rivaled the bloodiness of the Aykayist genocides. By 2267, 29% of all Star People were wiped out in the outer Solar System, and another 69% were banished to the Kupier Belt. Aykay had fled in December 2265, leaving one of a high-ranking transhuman general, Alana Jones—formerly the leader of the deportation projects—in charge of the crumbling regime. General Jones switched sides in February 2267 and began providing the Grand Unified Force intelligence on key Aykayist high ais and posthumans.


This defection did not save her. A month later, GUF warbots were rolling into the city of Isaac on Titan—the final stronghold of the Starman regime. The high ai GUF general 02KOR0701 thanked Jones for her services, had her stripped of all tools and weapons and calmly said, “You may board your ship and leave.” Between her and her personal transport ship was a crowd of a few thousand recently liberated “inferior clades”. Alana Jones submitted wordlessly to this execution, expressing neither defiance nor remorse.


A few scattered hardline Aykayist cells continued to operate from the shadows after that, but the resistance was largely over. Most were not taken alive. Few of those who were were granted a trial; most were summarily executed or “thrown to the humans” like Jones. Bernard Aykay committed suicide in 2268 by blowing up his bunker on 5145 Pholus, taking with him twelve more sophont lives as a final parting shot—the transhuman GUF operatives who had come to capture him.


The Grand Unified Force disbanded in 2270, after the last Star People were removed from the main Solar System. As the fury subsided, the GUF commanders found themselves facing questions about the brutality of the Grand Purge. The leading highminds responded these concerns with a campaign to portray the Star People clade as inherently prone to corruption and dictatorship, going so far as to convince the populace to refer to the Aykayist regime (as it was then known) as the Starman regime—despite the thousands of Moderate Starmen, many of whom even aided refugees.


Even as the peoples of the outer Solar System picked up the pieces of their lives, the Starman regime cast a long shadow over 23rd and 24th century society. The creation of new clades was banned temporarily by treaty in 2273, though only two thirds of the polities signed it, and enforcement was lax. Monuments were built in hundreds of domed cities on dozens of moons, a stark reminder of 35 years of chaos and destruction. Solar System societies would henceforth keep a far more watchful eye on nascent political movements, often at the expense of political freedoms. More than a century later, this would go on to influence the early Unfettering philosophers, as would the horrors of the Aykayist movement itself.


Image: National Space Society



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Occasionally I will see I picture that inspires me to come up with some story or event from my future universe. Since it's now too big, nebulous, and decentralized to have a single timeline, I'll instead post them to entertain people. For reference, the various eras of the future. In-universe, there is no clear consensus on when eras begin and end, or what eras to include (for instance the Dviti People divide up human history very differently). But this is one of the more popular ways of dividing things:


1991-2060. Information Age.

2060-2170. Interplanetary/Colonial Age, or Ai Genesis

2170-2250. Decolonization Period

2250-2349. Cornucopian Era.

2349-2462. Late Cornucopian / Century of Diamonds and Dreams

2462-2537. Unfettering.

2537-2640. Crisis Era.

2640-2770. War of Darkness.

2770-2861. War of Gods and Men.

2861-3075. Lost Era.

3075-3254. High Lost Era.

3254-3350. Reconstruction.

3350-3528. Kingdom Era—First Dynasty.

3528-3770. Kingdom Era—Second Dynasty.

3770-3865. Kingdom Era—Third Dynasty.

3865-3999. Interregnum.

3999 and beyond. Still under construction.


Commentary is welcome, but I'll ask people to post their own pictures and stories in another thread.

I will expand this now. Given that known space is so vast now, the eras are certainly blurrier, but this refers to how sophonts around the Terran Volume see it.


3999-4125. Eight Republics Era -- Genesis / Revolutionary Period

4125-4262. Eight Republics Era -- Summer of Man (I)

4262-4350. First Contact Era.

4350-4811. Eight Republics Era -- Summer of Man (II)

4811-5052. Eight Republics Era -- Autumn Period

5052-5140. Years of Fog and Mirrors

5140-5300. Years of Empty Skies

5300-5517. Great Silence / Winter Period

5517-5634. Galactic Envoy Era

5634-5758. Apotheosis Era


However, few if any stories will be set in this era. It's so far in the future that it makes most of the stories I've written in this thread look like Twenty Minutes Into the Future. The Eight Republics Era is as far from us as we are from ancient Greece. As for the new end of this timeline? It's 3740 years in the future. If we go that far into the past, we end up in the time of friggin Hammurabi. Give or take a few decades. That's another thing! The distant past sort of blurs together. Humans from, say, the Galactic Envoy Era don't know or care whether we landed on Luna in the 20th century or the 19th or the 21st. It's all the same to them. Hell, most of them probably don't even know what star the Homeworld orbits. Except historians, of course.


And the distant future sort of blurs together too. Even Orion's Arm has this--after the end of the First Federation, it's really just the same old, same old, repeated on a somewhat larger scale with each passing millennium. I resist the temptation to make the eras longer and longer, but at the cost of having less and less to say about them. Because it's hard to build a universe that's so remote and disconnected from our own--when you think about it, a Homo sapiens from the Kingdom Era--with its godminds and porting stations and prototype Alcubierres and Bishop Rings and starlifting and so on and so forth--would have an easier time fitting into 2018 Terran society than 5758 Terran society.


/incoherent rant



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I have another at long last! Image via alphacoders.com.


​The Whales Among the Stars


Whales and dolphins were a relatively early target of uplifting projects on Old Earth due to their innate intelligence, though the creatures' water-dwelling nature and different social structures induced substantial technical challenges to such projects. The first orca whales were uplifted in 2386, with various other whale species following in the 25th century. Quite a few chose to be equipped with cybernetic manipulators--features that would be genetically engineered into most whale clades from the Ai Kingdom onwards.

The earliest uplifted whales--cetasapiens--were primarily citizens of open-ocean arcologies and seasteads, though they rarely resided in the adjacent waters for long, prefering to roam the oceans in pods of their own. Cetasapiens, due to their relative remoteness from human society, were never as affected by speciesism as Homo sapiens' closer relatives, such as chimpanzees, neoneanderthals, and yetis. There was little they absolutely needed from dry land, and they could always swim a few thousand kilometers to a friendlier arcology.

Cetasapien scientists in the 2400s were responsible for a number of innovations that land-dwelling sophonts had overlooked, primarily in the fields of deep-sea mining and deep-sea habitation. However, while they were quick to master the oceans, cetasapiens were very slow to reach the stars, due to their large body mass and required aquatic environment (even more mass). By 2500, no uplifted whales had traveled to to the stars, though a few had reached the seas of Europa, or the terraformed Mars and Ganymede, via massive Super-Orions or mind uploading.

However, in the 27th century, several cetasapien groups, mainly (but not entirely) based on orcas and beluga whales, migrated to the Oort Cloud region, together with human ethnic groups such as the Finns from Old Earth and the Shackletonians from the Lunar south pole. They formed the second wave of Oort Cloud colonization, mingling (and in the case of humans, interbreeding) with the native Oortians and converting them to Christianity in the process.

With the fall of solar civilization during the War of Darkness and the War of Gods and Men, the new Oortian peoples entered a golden age. While the great economic and cultural centers of the prewar days reverted to savagery and anarchy, the Oort Cloud kept the torch of knowledge burning in the night, baselines and highminds alike making bold strides forward in engineering, art, science, philosophy, and astronomy--they studied the void between the stars in unprecedented detail.

The cetasapiens, of course, were just as important to this era as the Terran colonizers and the indigenous Oortians. They had a symbiotic relationship with the humans out there, in the unfathomably remote void, so far from Sol that it looked barely different from the other stars in the sky, and took a central part in the culture of the era. Some pods lived as humans did, inside the hollowed-out shells of distant comets.

Others developed revolutionary new habitats such as the Walkoinian Pool--essentially a bag of water 0.1 to 10 kilometers across, made from melted comet ice and sealed from the vacuum of space by a translucent utility fog, lit and powered by floating fusion reactors like miniature suns. (This construct was invented by the uplifted beluga Walkoinen the Great c. 2850 and derivatives would show up across known space for thousands of years to come.)

The Oortian Golden Age is believed by historians to have lasted from 2700 to 3000, but all golden ages come to an end. In the 31st century, the civilization began to decline for a variety of reasons, including territorial overstretching, large-scale raids by nomadic marauders from the direction of Barnard's Star, and increasing pressure from the ai feifdoms developing in the Sol System proper.

By the mid-32nd century, Oort culture was a shell of its former self, a rural backwater far removed from the new centers of civilization in the High Lost Era. Humans and cetasapiens alike began to migrate. Some returned to the Sol System, seeking to pledge loyalty to the ai lords and gain new opportunities. Others headed further afield in Oortian wetships, unique biological ships of colossal size, with plenty of large pools for whales to swim around in. Some blue whale-derived clades even became ships, modifying their bodies for the great journey.

Nearly a thousand years after the first cetasapiens were created, their remote descendants were finally heading for the stars. The whales reached New Greenland (Tau Ceti f) in 3095, Niven (Gliese 832 c) in 3134, Tallulah (Wolf 1061 d) in 3151, Terra Nova (Gliese 667 Cc) in 3160, and Uncle Dave's World (Gliese 625 b) in 3188; these were the top 5 destinations, but cetasapiens were present in and around some 70 star systems by 3200. Later on, the Dviti Empire would encourage thousands of cetasapiens to come to their capital city Gorumon (on Gliese 422 b) and add to the city's (and the empire's) vast diversity.

Depicted in this picture is a remote descendant of one of the blue whale-derived Oortian wetships swimming happily on the garden world 18 Scorpii c, 45 light years from Sol. She is a member of a cetasapien subculture prevalent on nearly 20 worlds that evidently admired the blue whale-derived Oortian wetships and sought to emulate them by engineering themselves into progressively larger sizes. There were also disaffected children of the living wetships, who had decided to descend to the oceans instead of joining their brothers and sisters on the march to the stars. (This behavior was subtly encouraged by the local high ais, who wished to see if they could give rise to a biological entity large enough to reach the Third Toposophic.)

By AD 3451, the cetasapiens of 18 Scorpii have had nearly three centuries to perfect themselves, and some have reached absolutely massive sizes. Ayen-ha, the specimen pictured here, has reached a length of some 500 meters after cruising the seas for a 150 Earth years. Several of her friends have joined her for the time being.
For most of that time, large areas of this world have been designated as a lo-tech zone--part Luddite reservation, part historical social experiment--by the First Dynasty of the Ai Kingdom. The average tech level of the zone is similar to 17th century Earth, as exemplified by the sailing ship travelling with Ayen-ha and her pod to trade with her and the natives of her island. Incentives for industrialization have been carefully removed by Kingdom sociologists to keep the setting stable.

In the 3440s, an intrepid merchant purchased from Ayen-ha the land rights to her back during one of her forays out of the lo-tech zone and constructed a little artificial island across it--in 3445, this island was colonized by a small band of roughly 40 humans and uplifted bonobos living in primitive conditions. They live a simple life, fishing for synthbio and cyborg symbiotes, gathering fruits and nuts from the trees, and sourcing water from the geyser  that is Ayen-ha's blowhole.The natives will eventually begin to worship the sapient whale who sings to them and provides them with an island on her back.

The strange societies in the lo-tech zone will persist for a century or so, but in AD 3528, the Second Dynasty will arrive, with a radical shift in thoughts and policy. The lo-tech zone will be disbanded and its primtive cultures overrun by Kingdom-allied developers. But for the time being, these peoples will have peace, protected by First Dynasty officials.



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FINALLY an update! This story mentions the Dviti people, like one of my older stories, but mostly focuses on the history of Gliese 422 b before the Dviti conquest.

How a Wannabe Interstellar Republic Was Destroyed by a Purple-skinned, Slightly Potbellied Humanoid


In the initial colonization phase on Gliese 422 b, 45,800 colonists were dropped off by the Garden. The first garden ship ever built in Sapiendom, it stretched to four kilometers in length and aided in the colonization of dozens of high-gravity worlds. It was commissioned by the Martian polity of Tharsis, and the passengers—overwhelmingly cyborgs or members of the high-gravity Barral clade—flew under the banner of the three peaks. The world was named Wright, and it was a habitable zone large Super-Earth, rather lacking in complex life until the humans arrived.


Development on Wright was slow, slower than normal, and the supervising high ais grew concerned. The world would need terraforming, too—no free oxygen or complex life was present. The first generation or two of an interstellar colony were the most critical for success, and the outlook seemed poor. The economy foundered and the high ais fought endlessly over the best course of action.


52 Terran years, or about seven Wrightese centuries, after first landfall, the colony became a roanoke, the eighth in Sapiendom's history. Like most of the others, this was a combination of mismanagement by the local highminds and simple bad luck. The Barral civilization on Wright reverted to a lower tech level and societal complexity crashed through the floor as it fragmented into a hodgepodge of city-states and roving techno-nomads.


The status quo would continue for 33 Wrightese centuries. Minor civilizations would pop up here and there, but were never able to sustain themselves for long, in part due to the sheer lack of numbers—even forty Wrightese centuries after landfall, the sophont population remained a staggeringly low 150,000, while the largest individual city was home to around 10,000. Only 1% of the planet's surface was explored, and even less was actually improved upon.


Wright was lucky in a way, for it escaped the chaos and violence of the War of Darkness by virtue of not having any advanced civilization. Indeed, there were many in Sapiendom who were not aware that sophonts still lived there—contact was cut off in the 2550s and even after the arrival of miner sils (sophont robots) in the system in 2592, Star People in the 2630s, and Oortians in the 2670s, they stayed in space and the Wrightese managed only sporadic, indirect contact with the broader Sapiendom.


But from AD 2774-2825, a massive wave of refugees from the war—mainly Thai peoples and their interstellar diaspora—converged on Wright. Some 6.3 million migrants and refugees arrived in a span of just fifty Terran years. The new arrivals once again brought complex civilization to Wright, sweeping aside the smattering of primitive Barral tribes and remaking the world in their own image. Initially, several competing states, many of them minority-majority, existed alongside the main one, but in 2835, they were assimilated into a single superstate with a capital in the floating arcology named Bangkok4, as 2 was taken on another planet three centuries ago and 3 was skipped due to a clerical error. This state covered all inhabited land on Wright, except for Barral reservations and certain areas cordoned off by the high ais and posthumans for social experiments, biology research, weapons testing,and in a few cases, no apparent reason at all.


Naming this new superstate proved to be a difficult matter. The government allowed the citizens to make suggestions and vote on them, but after the leaderboard became clogged with obscenities and obscure memes, they settled for the bland, if accurate, New Thailand. This posed a problem, though, as several other countries, worlds, and space habitats were vying for the name. Although one intrepid diplomat had proposed in 2796 that they all take the same name, a few dozen highminds of considerable rank in numerous systems proclaimed that this would be too confusing and annoying to baselines. As ambassadors tried to figure out a reasonable solution, the general public grew tired of waiting for century-long interstellar conversations and took to the social networks to battle for the rights to the name. Thousands of sapient minds were irrevocably altered by rogue campaign bots and innumerable photons were spilled, but fortunately very little blood. It was well into the 31st century before the New Thailand on Wright became the New Thailand.


Development of Wright continued at a spectacular rate, despite the nomenclatural troubles. By the late 2800s, the entire surface of the planet was explored with numerous cities of several hundred thousand sophonts or more, and five large spaceports. Terraforming, too, was underway from the early 30th century until the mid-32nd. The city that would become Gorumon was founded in 2861 (coincidentally the same year that the Treaty of Aegir formally ended the War of Gods and Men, though news of this would not reach the system until 2904 due to the light speed delay), though it was then known as O. It was not actually the largest city on Wright—that honor would go to Bangkok4, which also served as the capital , but it did well for itself in a strategic location in a mountain pass along several overland trade routes.


By the 30th century AD, Wright boasted a popoulation of 25 million, almost a fifth of the Gliese 422 system's total population, tanks to rapid development an an influx of Dviti people and Oortian immigrants. From 2902 to 2911, the system was actually the twentieth most populated in Sapiendom due to the depopulation, mass migration, and general chaos of the time. Space infrastructure continued to expand, with the construction of an orbital ring from 2916-35 and a beanstalk network in place by 2940.


The Gliese 422 system, in particular, New Thailand, became more engaged in trade with the miner sils and Oortians from the mid 30th century onward; the increased volume of trade throughout the system allowed it to become one of the most prominent systems in the early Lost Era. A communication wormhole link was brought in by high ais from the HD 85512 system (11.7 light years away) in 3125, giving the system an indirect link to Sol. It was a 1-gauge link, meaning it was only wide enough for a single laser message to travel through at any one time. The lower-level beings soon learned to capitalize on the few milliseconds a day when no highminds were sending anything through the hole from either side; by the 3130s an entity called the Postman had taken up residence near the Gliese 422 side and coordinated the sending of first-toposophic (near human-level) messages.


Located at the center of one of the most prosperous regions of known space in the High Lost Era, it seemed that New Thailand would go on to become a star-spanning superpower by the 33rd century. And perhaps it would have, if not for a certain black swan.


This black swan was a Dviti man by the name of Blargah-Andah, born in O in 3095 to interstellar immigrants from the Gliese 682 system. He grew up to be a merchant in the central market of O, selling thoughts, local nanotech, and authentic Barral artifacts to tourists. In the 3140s, he became politically active, joining protests, signing petitions, and manufacturing pro-Dviti memetics to draw attention to the plight of the Dviti people in neighboring star systems.


None of the major polities in the Gliese 422 system took serious steps to safeguard Dviti interests in other star systems, though they certainly spoke endlessly of doing so to win Dviti votes. In the end, the powers that be reasoned that staying friends with the nearby anti-Dviti regimes would be more expedient than getting bogged down in an interstellar war over the matter.


As for Blargah-Andah, he and 27 other Dviti activists in O were arrested in 3152, after launching a spate of particularly invasive memetic campagins, for violating the municipal ordinance on thought control. Afterwards, he left the planet and traveled to Sykrezia to recruit like-minded sophonts in the terrariums and O'Neil cylinders of the belt. A variety of pro-Dviti activists, opportunistic expats from New Thailand, sentient ships, concerned locals—mostly robots—and robotic mercenaries joined him. Quietly sheltered by shady officials in the Sykrezian government, and provided with high ai and posthuman technology, they set about assembling a self-replicating grassroots army in thousands of garages, asteroid mines, and secret asteroid habitats. Their ultimate goal: to build a new state for the Dviti people.


In 3159, Blargah-Andah attacked. His swarm surrounded Wright and demanded that everyone in New Thailand surrender at once. When the president politely declined this request, Blargah-Andah's army attacked, fighting their way past the orbital defences with covert Sykrezian support and laying waste to cities and military installations on the ground. Landfall was achieved soon afterwards, and by 3164, the rising great power of New Thailand was in shambles. In its place was the nascent Dviti Empire, ruled by Blargah-Andah himself.


And that is how a wannabe interstellar republic was destroyed by a purple-skinned, slightly potbellied humanoid.


Image: NASA



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The City of Innumerable Thoughts



Though in their conquest of Wright, the Dviti had destroyed most of the cities on the planet, in 3167 Blargah-Andah issued a decree ordering the resurrection of any civilians killed and the reconstruction of many destroyed cities of New Thailand, including O. This particular city was never very large, maxing out at 80,000 sophonts, but Blargah-Andah chose the site as the place to build a grand capital for his empire. The city of O, reconstructed with painstaking microscopic accuracy, became a mere district surrounded by a grand city ten times its size—this new capital came to be known as Gorummon after Blargah-Andah's sister and ally in war, Goru syn Mon.


As soon as the dust had settled, Blargah-Andah made a great show of ruling from his old merchant's stall, transplanted into the new Grand Market of Gorummon; for this he earned the monkier Blargah Andah the Merchant-General. Throughout the rest of the 32nd century, his conquests continued: Sykrezia was annexed in 3168, greatly strengthening the Dviti Empire's borders and increasing their manufacturing capacity with thousands of new asteroid mines. The remainder of the surface of Wright was conquered in stages from 3171-95, finally assimilating the last of the Barral people into modern society. The Outer Union, a loosely bound confederation of comets in the outer reaches of the Gliese 422 system, would officially be conquered from 3174-80, though stiff resistance in-system would continue until Operation Bunnyflower resulted in the capture of the last Sykrezian and OU geurrillas at the asteroid Rajaniemi in 3210.


Meanwhile, Blargah-Andah was turning his attention to interstellar targets. In 3189, after nineteen attempts, he successfully sent an invasion force of virtual soldiers and weaponized thoughts through the wormhole to Gliese 435, a few light years away. The Gliese 435 system had no habitable planets, but served as a proving ground for high ai/posthuman technologies and weapons. Blargah-Andah's force swiftly subverted the baseline-level aiwatchers and scavenger corporations by 3191. Inevitably this attracted the attention of the resident highminds, who were very amused by the idea of a Dviti man conquering vast swathes of known space and also looking for someone to do the dirty work of cutting their philosophical and political opponents down to size.


With the covert aid of Dviti posthumans at Gliese 435, Blargah-Andah invaded the HD 85512 system via the other communication wormhole link of the Gliese 422 system. With highmind technology and covert aid at their disposal, the Dviti Empire conquered the HD 85512 system almost effortlessly from 3197 to 3200, netting them another habitable planet, HD 85512 b, which came to be known as Divkv (lit. "diversity"). In 3200, the highminds at Gliese 435 decided to officially announce their patronage of the Dviti Empire.


The 33rd century was a time of incredible conquest for the Dviti. World after world, and even other fledgeling interstellar empires like the Rimward Hu and the Sylvanish (which had lackluster highmind support) crumpled before the Dviti onslaught, coming to rule thousands of star systems by 3300. Blargah-Andah the Merchant-General retired in 3219, tired of administering what was already an empire of more than 50 star systems, but not before memetically and genetically engineering himself the perfect son and successor, Bgora-Nrgo.


Styled as Bgora-Nrgo of Many Thoughts, he took over his father's throne at the age of 27 Terran years and ruled until 3329. His reign saw the true rise of the Dviti Empire as it rose from dozens of star systems to thousands. Bgora-Nrgo was an diehard expansionist to the last, seeing his empire expand as far as the K2-18 system and winning two territorial and memetic wars with the Elonic Empire and Suri Empires. Though his expansion within 40 light years of Sol was hampered greatly by the rise of the Ai Kingdom in 3254, Bgora-Nrgo sent many commercial expeditions to star systems in this volume and beyond, including TRAPPIST-1, LHS 1140, and even Sol itself in 3269.


Like his predecessor, he devoted much effort into engineering the hyper-diverse communities that allowed the Dviti Empire to reap so much thought and data and memetic wealth from their peoples—the presence of so many different types of sophonts in close proximity ensured a proliferation of rare and valuable thoughts that could be captured and sold at home and abroad for tremendous prices. His immigration policies, seen as eccentric and even incomprehensible by non-Dviti, ensured that those in the Empire would not settle down into monolithic blocks that would be difficult to harvest these rare thoughts from.


Though his fierce conquests filled the coffers of the Dviti Empire with unfathomable bounties of matter, energy, and data, Bgora-Nrgo also took an interest in internal development towards the end of his reign. He called for the construction and use of some 40 additional communication wormholes, enabling travel across the core worlds of the Dviti Empire in just a matter of weeks. His reign also saw the establishment of the first primtive thought markets, with the Gorummon Thought Exchange being established in 3243. The concept would spread as far as Sol by the 3290s and TRAPPIST-1 and LHS-1140 by the 3330s; in the meantime thousands flocked to Gorummon to try their luck investing in the hottest thoughts.


After Bgora-Nrgo retired in 3329 to allow younger minds to rule the Dviti Empire, his daughter Trahya-Norek the Stable-Genius took over and further dialled back military conquest in favor of trade deals, memetic subversion, and domestic development, particularly in the Gliese 422 system—at the cost of losing a number of worlds to the Ai Kingdom. She expanded the scope of Bgora-Nrgo's diversity policies still further, providing vast subsidies for the creation of new and interesting humanoids, uplifts, and robot/ai designs; and relentlessly breaking up the homogeneity of various worlds and habitats with economic and memetic incentives.


However, the remaking of Gorummon was Trahya-Norek's pride and joy. She boosted the city's size tenfold, bringing it to 9 million sophonts in the city proper, with another 25 million in satellite cities, and increased cross-clade interactions, still a massive contributor to the Dviti economy, by nearly two orders of magnitude. All this interaction between beings of vastly different mindsets did lead to increased chaos and conflict in the city, but Trahya-Norek managed to leverage this too, generating fuel for the thought markets from the diverse crucible of Gorummon. It was for this reason that Gorummon came to be known as the City of Innumerable Thoughts; the use of this term was first recorded in 3347.


The picture here depicts the city of Gorummon as seen from the Gorummon-*Blargah hyperloop at the city's height in 3406, the year Trahya-Norek abdicated and was replaced by her daughter Koryn-Harna. The most distinctive buildings are all from the past century, including the ethereal 3.5-kilometer Arch of Gorummon (built 3343, and would stand long after the city was abandoned), the colossal 5.1-kilometer Dviity Tower at far right (3372), the Three Sisters at bottom left (3361-69), and the Temple of Thought (right of Dviity Tower) (3391). Much of the vast, glittering urban sprawl filling the valley also dates to the 34th century. It was a busy time for Gorummon. Yet the Old Town still exists, with surprisingly little superficial change from the days when Blargah-Andah sold his wares on the street—some buildings even date back to the 29th century, though these are technically 32nd century reconstructions.


In 3406, Gorummon is the largest city of Sapiendom beyond 40 light years from Sol, a veritable hive of activity with thousands of tongues spoken in the streets and trillions of thoughts and other fascinating artifacts being traded at the hundreds of Grand Markets scattered throughout the city and its satellites and suburbs. The standard of living was evem on par with the great cities of the Ai Kingdom.


But the greatness would not last. The next leader of the Dviti, Koryn-Harna the Crazy-Trader would make a series of risky deals and gambles with the empire, many of which would not pay off. The rest of the 35th century was marred by bad emperors, strife, and civil war in the Dviti Empire, and by the time the Dviti-raised human emperor Kalbaz Din brought order to the empire, it was the 36th century and the Ai Kingdom was too powerful to hold off. By the 3580s, the crumbling Dviti Empire gained another enemy as the semi-nomadic Tannic people began to mount large-scale raids against them. The Tannic laid waste to Gorummon in 3620 and again in 3651, conquering it the second time and forcing the Dviti to relocate their capital to Gliese 435. Under the administration of the Tannic Republic, and after 3719, the Second Dynasty of the Ai Kingdom, Gorummon would continue to exist, but it would never reach the same glory and prestige again.


Picture from rashomike.



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Just Another Water World


Lying at a distance of some 267 light years from Sol, the K2-155 system is one of the many, many, many unremarkable, remote star systems, once notable for being an outpost at the fringes of Sapiendom—humanity's known space—now just an average rural backwater. This star, a K-dwarf a little over half the radius of Sol, has three planets, with the third being a watery super-Earth at the inner edge of the habitable zone.


The K2-155 system was first visited by unmanned Starshot-type probes traveling at 90 percent of light speed in the early 26th century, but due to light speed delays, no data arrived back until well into the 28th. By this point, the War of Darkness had run its course, and many of the old Starshot records and communication protocols had been lost, so little information was gained—though a team of Oortian archivists did manage to piece together portions of the data in the 2790s.


Meanwhile, colonizers were well on the way. The three-kilometer garden ship Isaac Arthur arrived at the system in AD 2818 after a spectacular journey spanning some four hundred years. It was one of the first garden ships to be launched from Old Earth, and dropped colonists on a dozen different worlds before reaching K2-155 d.


The exact launch date is unclear—according to the Arthurian Calendar, it was Year 407, which would put the launch date in AD 2410-11, but during the Potato Mutiny—which arose from a dispute over whether potatoes made on board the ship should have high caloric density and low information density, or vice versa—in Year 262, the gynoid sil (sophont robot) AME7-071 (colloquially known as “Amy”) orchestrated an overthrow of Captain Jack “Three-Gun Jack” Wu and put the vast majority of the ship's population on ice for an indeterminate time and reset the clocks, throwing off the calendar. (When the Ai Kingdom made contact with the world centuries later, they would claim a launch date of AD 2404, but they may have had their own agenda.) AME7-071, formerly a practitioner of the oldest profession, took up the role of captain for more than a century, and things soon settled down, despite a few passengers questioning whether she had an appropriate résumé for the role.


Once the a delegation of 18,000 colonists (out of 34,000 sophonts on board at the time) successfully landed on LP415-17d, the Isaac Arthur refueled and took off at a blistering 80 percent of light speed to further colonize the frontier. Many of the colonists were Homo sapiens or similar, but there was a small population of uplifted dolphins—in fact, all the 200 of them onboard decided to disembark then and there, as did Amy, who evidently bored of captaining.


It was a fitting world—a vast super-earth, with a thick, soupy atmosphere and planet-spanning seas. The planet's rapid spin caused the seas to be shallow at the poles, with the occasional rocky archipelago poking up from the depths, while towards the equator, the seas were unfathomably deep. But even here, there was dry land of a sort: floating islands, some of them many kilometers across and upwards of ten meters high, made from dead aquatic plants over thousands of years, complete with entire ecosystems atop them.


As with hundreds of other star systems colonized, the settlers immediately became embroiled in a fierce naming dispute that pitted spouse against spouse, sibling against sibling, subculture against subculture. The former captain and her supporters wished to name the world “AME7-071”, while others howled that this was hardly an improvement over “K2-155d”. A few renegade supporters of Amy's predecessor called for the planet to be named “Three Gun Jack”, but these people were generally ignored.


In 2820, the colonists took the dispute to a higher power, namely the the high ai Glittering Wires of Tamaris, who had also disembarked from the Isaac Arthur in the K2-155 system and was peacefully mining comets alone in the system's Oort region for whatever mysterious purposes high ais mine comets in the Oort region for. However, GwoT indulged the colonists and decided that the world should be named “Costner”. The colonists were somewhat puzzled, believing this to be a reference to a passenger named Alvinesh Costner. The only known living sophont to bear the name, he was a minor poet who took the loyalist side in the Potato Mutiny and was best for his dramatic poem “We're All Going to Die!!!” about Amy's administration of the Isaac Arthur. Oddly, this man was not even present in the K2-155 system, having chosen to continue on the Great Journey. When asked why the planet was named in the honor of such an inconsequential figure, GWoT refused to explain, asserting that the reaction from historians and movie buffs might start a revolution if the explanation was revealed.


Satisfied, the colonists began their usual routine of colonial development without much trouble. Most of the initial population chose to inhabit the floating islands—the larger ones were shown to be surprisingly stable over timescales of centuries or millennia. The second largest island, the 43x25 kilometer Maksud Isle, was the original capital of the planet, chosen for its abundant soil (as opposed to merely decaying organic matter) and gentle slopes reaching as high as 27 meters, providing a measure of protection against the open ocean. The architecture was strangely light and stunted so as to avoid sinking into the soft, unstable pseudo-ground.


Nevertheless, Maksud Isle remained the center of Costnerine civilization for much of the 29th century. Here were established the planet's first industrial nano-forge (2825), first university (2834), and first spaceport (2849), though the last of these was some 20 kilometers away in open ocean, as even a small rocket launch would burn a gaping hole in the island. Even the uplifted dolphins tended to stay nearby, engaging in trade with the islands of the Maksud Archipelago. By 2900, around 26,000 sophonts lived on the at least two hundred floating islands, from 30-meter-wide homesteads supporting 2-3 people, up to 11,000 people and some light industry on Maksud Isle. Another 165,000 lived in other biomes.


Due to their inherent limitations, these floating island cities, known collectively as the Atollite culture, grew more slowly than competing subcultures, such as the seagoing Mariners and the Marad culture (known by Kingdom and Eight Republics Era archaeologists as the Gray Smock culture due to their traditional attire), as well as the Drylanders in the polar regions. Planetary administration was moved from Maksud Isle to the Drylander locale of Kaffeklubbencity in 2945. A series of disasters, including several homesteads sinking in a spate of large storms in the 2950s and 60s, exacerbated the decline of the Atollites, despite plans to build seawalls around every major island and refurbish the Hall weather machine established in 2901. But their final death knell came in 2974, when a kilometer-scale island broke apart in an industrial accident and Kaffeklubbencity passed a series of restrictive laws to preserve the unique ecology of these islands. By 2984, there were just 1,010 sophonts practicing the Atollite way of life, mostly Luddites and homesteaders.


Detailed reports of the War of Darkness and the War of Gods and Men had long since begun to trickle out to the K2-155 system, and the inhabitants watched the skies with the greatest of caution well into the 31st century (6th Arthurian). However, no terrifying storm of RKVs came set every millimeter of the planet aflame. A few non-hostile visitors did arrive, though, including a ship of neutral isolationist robots and ais in 2962, a second garden ship in 3071, and a smattering of Bracewell probes, including a couple of alien origin, which were placed in the Heritage Museum at Kaffeklubbencity for a time.


By the Kingdom Era, Costner had a population of 29 million, and traffic was beginning to increase. It is known that they were briefly in contact with the First Dynasty, but it was not until well into the Second before the system was annexed by faster-than-light vessels from the Kingdom, in 3669. In the late Second Dynasty and throughout the Third, the megastructure Knight Ring (actually a Bishop Ring) in the K2-155 system served as the administrative center of the sprawling but sparsely populated Dubwosha Volume, with a mere 1.4 billion sophonts in 2000 star systems.


After the Ai Kingdom collapsed in 3865, Costner, just another water world, once again fell into obscurity, only occasionally appearing in the news beyond its local interstellar neighborhood.


(The image depicts what the first arrivals to Costner may have seen in AD 2818. Via Beyond Earthly Skies.)



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Space Race: A New Hope

I think that after all this time in the Lost Era and early Kingdom Era, it's time I returned to an earlier time and a more familiar place. Also, I may stop directly embedding images due to fear of takedown notices.


The idea for Space Race: A New Hope was first conceived on Earth in 2059, but was stuck in development hell for almost a decade before finally being picked up in 2067 by Felix Kinney, a filmmaker who had forked over the $100,000 needed to relocate from America to the red planet in 2062 and soon became a key figure in the nascent Martian film industry.


Under Kinney's direction, Space Race finally began making real progress, but the going was slow, as he adamantly insisted on doing everything his own way and refused to make any compromises. Production finally began in earnest in 2071 at Mars Base Alpha. Key historical figures, such as the recently deceased Elon Musk, were carefully recreated through CGI with none of the flaws or uncanny valley effects that plagued such imagery in the 2010s and 20s, as were all the major fictional characters, though it was deemed more expedient to use flesh-and-blood extras than to try to computer-generate dozens or hundreds of people with such perfect realism.


A period drama loosely based on the private space race in the 2010s and 2020s, Space Race: A New Hope follows Elon's revival of the dying space industry from the ashes to colonize Mars and save the world from a devastating asteroid impact. It clearly paid homage to an older style of film making, with its broad and sweeping, but uncomplicated central arc, linear storyline, and heroic main characters.


Space Race saw a limited release on Mars in 2071 before being released on Earth in 2072. It was the first Martian movie to see major success on Earth, though it was panned by critics, who complained that its narrative lacked sufficient secondary and tertiary meaning, allowing it to be entirely understood by the unwashed masses. Other critics decried the movie's lack of historical accuracy, forcing Mr. Kinney to explain that Space Race was not a documentary. This comment got him embroiled in a three-day tweet war with two centenarian critics over the role of historicity in period pieces.


Despite these minor disputes, Space Race left a strong legacy. Numerous fan-made sequels, spinoffs, and VR adaptations followed in its wake, starting in 2075 with Space Race: Old Space Strikes Back. In 2101, Space Race: A New Hope would be chosen as the 2071 entry in the World Film Forum's list Most Influential Movies of the 21st Century for causing a butterfly effect in Martian society for decades to come.


It kickstarted the Martian film industry, which came to be worth the equivalent of $25 billion a year by 2082. By 2090, the US territories on Mars—nominally American, but de facto semi-autonomous—were famous as a haven for intellectual property and content creators, especially Mars Base Alpha. The 2090s and early 2100s saw a mass migration of artisans to the Red Planet, whose presence caused a notable shift in society and politics starting with the 2105 colonial elections. This in turn led to the Green Wave in Martian politics and the downfall of classical Martian Conservatism, which would not reappear until the 2130s.



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In The Year 947 Of Our Lord Elon


The Kepp were the first alien civilization to come into direct, physical contact with the inhabitants of Sapiendom. Their homeworld was Kepler 438 b, a terrestrial world with a hyperpowerful magnetosphere capable of protecting the planet against its star's superflares. The planet itself was imaged by humans with gravitational lens telescopes from the 22nd century onwards, showing that it was a life-rich world of shallow seas and numerous archipelagos, but further details would not be uncovered for centuries.


In 2259, the Martian polity of Tharsis evidently launched starshot probes to 615 alien star systems, including Kepler 438, as evidenced by analysis of the National Archives at Olympus Mons. However, all contact was lost with the fleet sent to Kepler 438, possibly due to a collission with a macroscopic space rock. Interest in long-shot interstellar probes declined in the 24th century as civilization looked inwards during the long period of peace and plenty that was the Cornucopian. But towards the Late Cornucopian, there was a renewed interest in plumbing the depths of the universe. The non-partisan, transnational Spacing Institute was founded on Proxima b in 2373 and by 2400, had branches in 17 star systems.


The 1-kilogram probe that would reach Kepler 438, the ISP Brian Wang, was launched by the Gliese 581 office of the Spacing Institute in 2418 and traveled at near light speed straight for Kepler 438. For centuries, it would drift in the dark, infinite void, oblivious to the innumerable changes and upheavals and developments behind it. By the time the Brian Wang arrived at Kepler 438, the year was 2895 and Sapiendom was changed forever—countless worlds decimated by the War of Darkness and again by the War of Gods and Men. But the intrepid probe had no way of knowing that. All it could do was go about with its mission—rendezvous with a small asteroid and use its Von Neumann tech to build a constellation of ten satellites. Nine were deployed to a very low orbit around the planet, while the tenth was parked at a Lagrangian point to observe the star system as a whole.


And what data these satellites collected! Every island and reef and sea was mapped, biomass and climate studies were performed. But this was nothing compared to the discovery made by satellite Wang-5, which devoted itself to high-resolution optical imaging: a modest-sized city on the coast of one equatorial island. Wang-5 immediately recruited its brothers Wang-4 and Wang-6 to study this anomaly in more depth.


Over the next few orbits, 13 cities were discovered, along with several hundred villages and towns. The largest one was estimated to be home to about 150,000 individuals based on the assumption that the inhabitants were roughly human-sized, which was confirmed with a series of small and blurry images of these creatures going about their daily business: they resembled miniature silvery-iridescent gorillas—roughly the size of a large Terran dog—with an elephantine trunk for manipulating objects. The buildings were mainly made of wood though a few notable stone buildings could be found in city centers. The disorganized maze of dirt paths between them suggested organic city growth, rather than any sort of urban planning. Such cities were known as LAUAGs: Large Alien Urban Agglomerations.


After several months of observation, the constellation concluded that the largest and most advanced cities had a tech level roughly similar to medieval China or the Islamic golden age, while the less densely populated islands were in the Iron Age or Neolithic. As Wang-6 put it: Things will get interesting in a few centuries. The apparent lack of agriculture puzzled the silent watchers until one day Wang-5 came to the sudden realization that much of the land dismissed as undeveloped forest was actually carefully cultivated orchards. They did lack wheeled transport and beasts of burden, but the satellites would ocasionally observe a group of these creatures carrying an individual—presumably a king, priest, or other high-ranking figure—in an elaborate chair.


The satellites creatively named this world Brianwang and waited, gathering and transmitting more data as the years went by. The next arrival showed up surprisingly soon, in 2949: a truck-sized Von Neumann probe sent by the Elonites on Elonia (Wolf 1061 c). This was one of the rare examples of an Unfettering-era, pre-Von Neumann Doctrine seedprobe that had not only been successful, but prolific. Centuries ago, this probe's ancestor was named the Grimes and its descendants had seeded successful colonies on 58 planets—a small number compared to later seedprobes. Now it had come to Brianwang with its stock of frozen embryos.


The first of these were birthed in 2950, becoming the first flesh-and-blood humans in the system. Raised by sophisticated jroyds in an orbital space station built by the Grimes—which replicated and left soon afterwards—they were taught mathematics, physics, biology, and engineering, but also history, philosophy, memetics, and of course, the tenets of Elonism.


In 2970, the unofficial leader of this small colony, a young woman named Tallulah Gwynne Racket, spoke to the jroyds, backed by a delegation of her fellow humans. She stated that she and her people were now adults, having reached the Elonic age of majority, and it was time to descend to the surface, claim Brianwang as theirs, and bring the Word of Elon to the natives. She also claimed that her analysis of the situation suggested that many of the great civilizations were beginning to turn inwards and face collapse.


The jroyds accquisced. In truth, would have only been a matter of time before the natives discovered them. Sharp-eyed astronomers had discovered the Wang constellation almost as soon as it arrived, recording the sudden appearence of nine bright stars, and later the appearence of a second moon—the space station build by the Grimes. Already by 2925, the LAUAG-4 civilization had developed primitive telescopes, and in the 2950s, had attempted to ride a hot air balloon to the new "moon", which they had correctly calculated was a mere few hundred kilometers up.


The jroyds arranged for a shuttle, the Envoy, to be constructed, large enough to take fifty humans and one jroyd to the surface, and dropped packages of surveilance smartdust to gain an insight on the local languages. They would travel first to LAUAG-4 to reward their intrepid attempt to reach the space station. By the largely-abandoned Gregorian calendar, the date was March 30, 2971, or Year 946 of the Lord Elon. The Envoy touched down in a shallow reef, having attracted a crowd of thousands with their rocket's noise and flame.


As the human delegation waded ashore, a group of soldiers armed with javelins and hammers pushed through the crowd, escorting a gaggle of courtiers bedecked in finery resembling elaborate jackets and socks. Tallulah used sign language to indicate that her people came from the second moon. An individual who came forth and gestured to herself with her trunk, letting out an utterance that sounded like "Nim", then gestured to the assebmled crowd and said "Kepp". This was taken to mean that the species was called "Kepp", though really that was only the name of the islanders' civilization. But the name stuck.


"Nim" evidently reasoned that the shuttle was a god and the humans were its priests or servants. She ordered a number of gifts brought forward: elegant silver and coral figurines, enormous purple fruits termed jakefruits by ship's doctor Jake Griffin, several primitive Leyden jars, and five slaves. With this, Tallulah ordered a retreat to the Envoy to examine the goods and come up with a plan for the coming years. And thusly the first contact ended.


To be continued...



Image: MarioProtIV 



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Here we see a bust uncovered by an archaeologist in the HD 38858 system in year 4519 of the Christian calendar (which is at this point only used by several ultra-orthodox sects of Christianity and various historical societies). Perhaps a more appropriate calendar, one with the most widespread academic and liturgical use, would be the Classical Elonic, in which the year was 1325. The archaeologist, a Neoneanderthal cyborg named Cran Bin-Ish from the TRAPPIST-1 system, has dated this bust to the middle of the 9th century (early 38th AD) and determined the subject to be a Tannic woman. The bust stands about 40 centimeters high and the data embedded into its atomic structure, as well as the classes of metamaterials used and the personality of the embedded low ais, all point to authentic Tannic construction.


The Tannic people were a major cultural and ethnic group during the Kingdom Era, generally occupying a volume between 40 and 60 light years from Terra. They were primarily nomads, especially in their early period, living on the ices and volatiles in Oort clouds and interstellar comets. However, they did at various points colonize several planet and moon sized bodies.


These include at least eleven moons of HD 113538 b and c, a pair of habitable zone gas giants 51 light years from Earth, known since the early Kingdom Era as Alia and Ratho respectively, after the legendary posthuman lovers who fought together in the War of Gods and Men. The Tannic population of these moons peaked around 810, at which point they numbered over 130 million. At just 17 light years from Gorummon, this was a core system of the Dviti Empire, and the two civilizations coexisted in the system from about 725 until the Dviti collapse. From this stronghold, the Tannic people also raided and eventually colonized Wright (Gliese 422 b) in the 9th century. Tannic raiders also held parts of the habitable planet Divkv (HD 85512 b) from 860 to 920 and again from 973 to 1010. There were few other significant Tannic strongholds on planetary-scale bodies.


However, it is estimated that as many as 50 billion Tannic were alive at any one time, and over 110 distinct tribes and states have been identified, ranging from the 8th to 11th centuries (35th to 41st AD). The Tannic peoples had largely died out by 1100, done in by a combination of a Von Neumann plague starting in 1036 and virulent memes spread by the High Brow people, who came from the vicinity of K2-18 in the mid 11th century.


The Tannic were a thorn in the side of both the Ai Kingdom and the Dviti Empire, and they launched many expeditions to assimilate the vast volume of interstellar space where these nomads lived their lives. Yet none of these made much headway, and they were forced to content themselves with mere trade at the edges of star systems while the area by and large remained a relative hinterland, not industrialized much compared to the surrounding volumes.


The Tannic were one of the few cultures to make extensive use of Bussard ramjets, whose efficiency they boosted by seeding major trajectories with clouds of gas; some traces of these clouds still remain in "quiet zones" with relatively low rates of interstellar travel. The railguns used to launch these gases were among the few megastructures produced by the culture, and, along with their ghost ships, drifting abandoned in the interstellar void, have common targets for architectural exploration in the volume since the 13th century. Other great constructs, such as their city-sized bubbleworlds and colossal songsails, which converted the solar wind to ethereal music by a process still not entirely known to the wider galaxy, have long since been destroyed by time, radiation, and micrometeorites, and are only known from archives and libraries.


The first definitive account of the proto-Tannic peoples comes from Elonic missionaries in 689 in the Gliese 613 system, a sparsely populated K-dwarf 46.8 light years from Sol; this account was corroborated by an Arab expedition in the same system. The earliest uncovered Tannic-like writings and artwork also date to the late 7th century.


However, analysis has shown the closest known relatives of the Tannic to include various groups from Siberia and the Russian Far East, such as Yakuts. This has prompted theories that the Tannic may be descendants of interstellar diaspora from the collapse of the Siberian ailigarchies and may have existed as early as the 4th century. However, the Tannic were linguistically very distinct from such groups, and indeed the Tannic language family—six or seven closely related but mutually unintelligible tongues—has never been shown to be related to any other human language. It is quite likely that it was partially influenced by aliens, as Bracewell probes were unusually numerous in their volume during the first milennium.


Their writing system was also unique, consisting of incredibly detailed reliefs, showing significant detail even at the atomic level. The symbols are also ideographic, representing concepts instead of sounds. Lately progress has been made on deciphering some Tannic writing, but Low Tannic (dating to the 8th century/First Dynasty era) remains inscrutable due to a dearth of surviving samples, and most writings by Tannic highminds are still open to interpretation.


It is known that parental veneration was a crucial and universal feature of Tannic society. It was customary for children to make detailed statues of their parents and gift these statues to them on special occasions. This bust is confirmed to be one such artifact, evidently honoring somebody's mother. The headgear is typical for a Tannic woman of wealth and status, suggesting that she was not only the administrator of a comet or O'Neill cylinder, but a high-ranking transhuman. The materials and construction techniques also suggest a wealthy child with the means to harvest resources from multiple star systems, and the fragments of the billion character poem—a quarter of which has been translated—embedded repeatedly in the statue's atomic structure confirm this theory.


The discovery of this statue in the HD 38858 is especially interesting as it is well outside the typically accepted range of the Tannic people. The artifact was discovered in the shadow of a crater on the fourth moon—a mid-sized satellite about 800 kilometers in diameter with no atmosphere to speak of—of the yellow-orange habitable zone gas giant HD 38858 b, known as Ananda. No other signs of their presence have been found within 30 light years of this planet and the volumes they are most commonly associated with—near HD 113538 and Gliese 422—are 60 and 77 light years away, respectively. Perhaps it was moved at a later date, or perhaps the Tannic roamed over a much greater volume than previously believed. There is much data about these people that remains to be gathered and analyzed.



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Rust (xpost from r/worldbuilding)


Rust, a planet astonishingly similar to Mars geographically, measuring 0.61 Earth radii and 0.15 Earth masses. Its surface even has a thin coating of iron oxide just like Mars. But there is one crucial difference: it is only 2 billion years old and still has oceans teaming with single-celled life. Already this world is slowly losing its atmosphere to the relentless solar wind. Another billion years and, without human intervention, its atmosphere will be reduced to an insubstantial state and its oceans will dry up. For now, though, colonists can live here with only oxygen masks. In a way, this world is a window to Mars's distant past.

Rust is 545 light years from Sol and was colonized in AD 3761 (922 in classical Elonic time) by the Ribbetan and Kepp peoples from the vicinity of Kepler 438. Settlement is sparse, but mainly concentrated around the Great Lakes region, especially between Lake Elon and Lake Jeff, at the center of this picture. To the north are the Lanthanide Mountains inhospitable mountains towering more than five kilometers above the equatorial plains in the low gravity. These mountains are rich in rare earth metals, and an endless train of robots bring raw material southwards to kickstart local industry on the north coast of Lake Jeff. To the south are the Olympic Mountains and the water-filled Zhang Crater at the south pole, but these have yet to be major centers of habitation or industry.


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