Universe Background: The Cycles of Life

Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by ChrisNuttall, Aug 24, 2011.

  1. ChrisNuttall

    ChrisNuttall Monkey+++

    Just an idea that has been going through my head. Comments would be welcome...

    The Cycles of Life Universe<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" />

    The universe that humanity emerged into is dominated by the Cycles of Life, a semi-religious belief shared by many of the races known to be active within the universe. The Cycles refer to a race’s level of development within the universe, ranging through Primitive, Industrial, Stellar, Galactic and finally Transcendent. Each of the stages poses its own challenges that have to be surmounted before the race can progress. A Primitive race can stagnate, a Stellar race can be destroyed by its own technology, a Galactic race may be destroyed in war against a comparable race and a Transcendent race may be destroyed, or become corrupted, by an unsuccessful attempt at Transcendence. While races on the same state of the Cycles can interact without major disruption (although culture shock, as seen when the Aztecs met the Spanish, can be devastating), contact between races at different stages can be disastrous. Races have been obliterated, or lost their will to exist, through accidental contact with higher races.

    Underpinning the universe is the Quantum Foam. Put simply, the Quantum Foam is the bedrock of existence, defining both the natural laws of the universe and describing the position of everything within the universe. A being capable of reading and manipulating the Quantum Foam on a large scale would be effectively omniscient and omnipotent; God, in other words. Through description theory, they could alter almost anything without regard for the mundane laws of physics; for example, transforming a man into a frog would be impossible using normal science (as the man has far more mass than a frog, and that mass has to go somewhere) but by altering the Quantum Foam, the part of the man’s description that said ‘man’ could be simply changed to ‘frog’ and the change would take place. It is even theorised that a sufficiently capable manipulator would be able to alter reality to the point that the man would always have been a frog and the universe would alter itself to adjust to the new reality.

    The mortal telepaths gain their powers through a very limited ability to interact with the Quantum Foam. Telepathy isn't precisely reading thoughts; it is reading the impression of those thoughts embedded in the Quantum Foam. Telekinetics and Teleporters alter the position of an item within the Quantum Foam. It is generally believed that the inherent limits on any form of psychic ability are caused more by mental limitations rather than any limits within psychic powers themselves. Precognition is known to exist, for example, but has hardly any actual practical use, as users are rarely capable of relating what they see to the rest of the material universe.

    At the time humanity flourished into the universe, the Milky Way Galaxy was slowly producing new intelligent races after the last flourishing period (roughly 2-3 million years ago). This saw the departure of most of the known intelligent races for the realms of the Transcendents – if there is a level beyond Transcendents, the Transcendents aren’t talking – and the abandonment of countless worlds, which were allowed to lie fallow and, perhaps, develop new forms of life. (Rumours continue to persist that Earth was once settled by a race that existed prior to humanity, although this has never been proven.) Rather more significantly for the universe, there were also thousands of artefacts left behind by the departing races, including the Galactic Singularity Network. The discovery of comprehensible artefacts has been known to alter history for thousands of races; the discovery of incomprehensible, or self-aware, artefacts has been known to cause endless frustration. A race that successfully cracked the secrets behind an artefact and used it to bootstrap their own technology could be assured of an advantage over its rivals.

    One of the most enduring mysteries surrounding the ruins of long-gone civilisations are the Ancient Worlds. Unlike most of the worlds left to lie fallow, the Ancient Worlds are dead, with every last trace of life sucked out of them by an unknown force. Indeed, although the Ancient Worlds possess strange attributes that made studying them difficult, it is apparent that they are over seven billion years old. Given that the universe itself is roughly eleven billion years old, the mystery of what happened to the Ancients – and the meaning of the glyphs written in their dead cities – is a perplexing one. The most commonly accepted theory is that they attempted to transcend and the process went horrifyingly wrong, but it is impossible to say for sure. Nor can their technology be understood; so far, no Ancient starships have been discovered and how they moved from world to world remains a mystery. Generations of scientists have speculated widely – and wildly – but there is no proof of any theories.

    The human race was lucky enough to emerge in a comparatively uninhabited region of the galaxy, surviving its own technology long enough to develop the warp drive and reach Galactic status. Encountering a hostile alien race two hundred years after beginning its expansion into interstellar space, the human race united to form the Confederation, a society that defeated a multitude of hostile aliens and grew to dominate roughly two-thirds of the galaxy. Indeed, the most serious threat to the Confederation’s existence came from the Thule, a rogue offshoot of humanity that believed that it was possible to develop the superman from the seeds of wild humanity. The Thule War saw the devastation of large parts of the galaxy, including Earth, before the Thule were finally destroyed in the Battle of the Six Supernovas. By this point, the Confederation was so powerful – both politically and militarily – that it was effectively all-powerful, controlling the lives of most of the other races in the Milky Way Galaxy and launching exploration missions to the Clouds and even further afield. It wouldn't be much longer before the human race got a lesson in what true power actually was.

    Researchers into hyperspace theory had developed what they believed to be a working time travel theory, allowing them to rotate a starship into the time vortex and re-emerge in a different era. This drew the attention of the Transcendent Races, who believed – not unreasonably – that meddling in time and space might lead to the end of everything. Demonstrating their power to the Confederation Senate, they issued a simple ultimatition; abandon the time travel experiments or the human race would simply crease to exist. There was no doubting their power, or their ability to carry out their threat; reluctantly, the Confederation ordered a ban on further experiments. This humiliation, however, galvanised a burning desire to match, even to exceed, the Transcendents.

    Working in secrecy (itself odd, for the Confederation believed in openness) the Confederation Senate ordered the creation of the Prometheus Project. Prometheus’s core goal was simple; to develop a defence against attacks from the Transcendent Races and, ultimately, to allow the human race to transcend. Prometheus started to operate research missions to catalogue and study every known artefact in the universe, including the Ancient Worlds. Prodded by the war against the mysterious Unseen, Prometheus eventually developed the Implosion Core, a technology that should allow the human race to manipulate the quantum foam directly. Or so they believed...

    The Confederation is a post-scarcity society, shaped and formed by humans in the years following the Thule War. Possessing vast resources and technology, it is capable of providing every one of its citizens with a lifestyle beyond the dream of their Earth-bound forbearers. The Confederation is governed by a form of direct democracy, with all mature citizens granted the right to vote on any issues raised by the Confederation Senate. Indeed, the Senate itself is sometimes regarded as little more than a talking shop, with emergency powers vested in the Cabinet and more leisurely powers vested in the citizens. The President of the Confederation is elected for a single five-year term, with the dual roles of dealing with outside races and handling emergencies. There have been very few of the latter in the years since the Unseen War.

    Practically speaking, the Confederation can be divided into three sections; the Core, the WorldShips and the Society Worlds. The Core consists mainly of space habitats, both free-floating and orbiting a planetary body, that provide inhabitation for over half of the Confederation’s population. Where there are a handful of planets within the Core, the general trend is to leave them unsettled and merely use them for visits and vacations. The WorldShips are giant starships (ranging from over 100km to planetary dimensions) that roam the galaxy constantly, serving as living space for billions of humans. The Society Worlds allow humans to live in whatever kind of society pleases them, from worlds created and governed by strict religious principles to free-thinking colonies. The Confederation insists that all citizens on the Society Worlds are allowed to leave, should they find the lifestyles not to their liking, but otherwise refuses to intervene.

    The Confederation does not, as a general rule, accept non-human intelligences as citizens. There is one main exception – the AIs of Calculus – and a number of aliens who have been granted asylum within the Confederation, but most would-be immigrants are politely, but firmly discouraged. The Confederation justifies this to itself by noting that most immigrants want the benefits of Confederation citizenship without making the effort to convert or change their own societies for the better. Outside races have grown to detest the Confederation’s arrogance, and its willingness to intervene to prevent acts it finds repulsive (such as invading primitive worlds, or wars that would result in massive casualties and the destruction of life-bearing worlds), but they have no way to deter the Confederation from intervening as it sees fit. A multitude of races have quietly started their own projects in the hope of locating and reverse-engineering an artefact that will shift the balance of power.

    Confederation citizens tend to spend the first few decades of their existence in a search for hedonistic pleasure that would make the Romans and Libertines blush. The Confederation forbids nothing, providing that non-consenting individuals are not involved. After they grow out of that period (some never do), they tend to take up a trade, start exploring the universe or expanding the frontiers of human knowledge. The extended lifespans of Confederation citizens allow them centuries to become proficient at any given art, or to study a hundred different scientific disciplines. It is noted that personal achievement is one of the few ways in which a Confederation citizen can become known amongst his peers, with famous artists, writers and entertainers enjoying cult status. Those who add something genuinely original to the Confederation’s understanding of science are regarded as heroes.

    Another way to gain status within the Confederation is through service in the Peacekeepers, once known as the Confederation Navy. The Peacekeepers are the Confederation’s combined defence, exploration and intelligence arm, charged with defending the Confederation from all threats. A single Peacekeeper cruiser, a heavily-automated 600m starship, is a formidable combatant in its own right, capable of destroying the entire Thule Fleet from the Thule War without breaking a metaphorical sweat. The cruisers are usually able to handle whatever threats aliens might present to the Confederation. Backing them up are the planetoids, planet-sized starships that serve as heavy battleships, deploying small fleets of cruisers in their support. Each planetoid represents an almost unimaginable level of firepower, capable of smashing almost any non-human civilisation within the galaxy. Indeed, voices within the Confederation have been known to query the effort involved in building a fleet of planetoids, although the Confederation could easily afford to quintuple the fleet without seriously impacting its ability to keep its citizens in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

    Despite the prestige involved in serving with the Peacekeepers, the Peacekeepers have a permanent problem recruiting enough crew for their starships. As they are (generally) unwilling to countenance developing AI-controlled starships (the AIs have their own fleet, which is not considered part of the Peacekeepers) the Confederation is forced to deploy more automaton into its fleet than it would prefer.

    Over the years since the development of genetic and cybernetic engineering, the human race has divided itself into a number of subcategories. Baseline humans are humans with only limited genetic improvements (all Confederation citizens have genetic modifications that provide them with perfect immune systems, along with a number of other benefits). Evolved humans are humans who have pushed the limits of genetic engineering and cyber interfacing as far as they can go, often claiming to be superior to ‘mere’ baseline humans. Altered humans have had themselves physically altered by body-shaping technology, creating races of mermen, centaurs and other legendary creatures from the past. Spacers have blended with cybernetics to the point where they can exist in open space without external protection. Electronic humans exist within the datanet as independent personalities, often heading out of the Confederation’s internal datanet to explore the Galactic Singularity Net and the millions of alien achieves linked into the ancient network.

    It is far from unknown for humans to leave the Confederation as a whole and head out to alien worlds and habitats outside the Confederation’s jurisdiction, either through a desire for adventure or in the hopes of finding a society that fits them better (and isn’t met by the Confederation’s Society Worlds). Once a person has renounced his citizenship, the Confederation rarely takes any interest in his activities, unless he breaks the fundamental law of non-intervention on primitive worlds.

    Crime is rare within the Confederation, as most of the old motives for crime simply don’t exist. Generally, there are acts of passion, acts of boredom and outright sociopathic behaviour. The Confederation generally isolates anyone who commits an act of passion, with more stringent measures held in reserve for criminals who refuse to accept their new status of social pariah. People who attempt to commit crimes simply because they’re bored with life in the Confederation tend to develop a reputation as ‘Gentleman Criminals,’ although few of them last long without having their identities revealed publically.

    Sociopaths, however, are incredibly dangerous. Many of them possess vast intellects combined with a complete lack of regard for anyone else. (Confederation psychologists have speculated that the absence of value within the Confederation helps create humans who lack any sense of value, let alone any respect for others.) Some of them carry out random murders within their home habitats, others seek to break the non-intervention edict and play games with the lives of aliens on primitive societies; the worst attempt to take over a Society World and play games with the lives of the people living there. Given enough time, they require direct military intervention to remove them, something that always results in serious casualties. A diagnosed sociopath, if captured, is either confined within a secure habitat or deposited on an empty colony world. A handful are occasionally pressed into service as covert intelligence operatives for the Peacekeepers. They are always regarded as expendable.

    The Confederation does not attempt to uplift Earth’s other creatures to intelligence, despite a campaign that frequently attempts to convince the population to remove the ban. After the Thule War, where augmented animals were deployed as shock troops, the Confederation as a whole developed a taboo against ‘uplift’ engineering. Apart from the original AIs of Calculus, the Confederation does not attempt to develop AIs and all Confederation-designed computers are programmed to specifically prevent the development of self-awareness.

    By 4000AD, the human race stands at the pinnacle of material achievement. Many fields of technology have reached their limits, with only incremental advances every century. The Confederation is supreme among physical societies, with the most advanced technology in the Milky Way Galaxy. And yet, the Transcendents are far more powerful than humanity – so far. As the human race prepares to celebrate the Confederation’s anniversary, that may be about to change...
    ssonb likes this.
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