Friday, January 28, 2011

The Present Will Be Documented

"Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication."

At the bitter edge of Prehistory we are left with the legacy of our ancestors that has come to be regarded as the Toxic Age. Before the Deep Infrastructure made Civilization possible and the gates brought about liberty as a very real thing and not just the buzzword of some tyrant being ironic or moronic, there was a time when Humanity was something only dreamed about and petty nations, states and kingdoms were scattered across the world like so many blood-encrusted gems carelessly cast upon the poisoned earth as though so much glittery litter. Lives were saved or lost on the basis of money, not merit or inherent value as a human being. Life was cheap to the rich and excruciatingly expensive to the poor, the sick or the elderly and vulnerable. To look back upon these times is to look back in shame upon the rampant ignorance, intolerance, hatred, fear and confusion that once ruled the one world our ancestors could never really share.

But that is the nature of Prehistory. Our records are by the very nature of things incomplete and inadequate. We only have fragments and a partial record that is woefully incomplete and hopelessly tangled with interpretations, opinions, and the accumulated impressions of all that have come afterwards and who have looked and had their say about what once was.

That it was a Toxic Age is by no means in any doubt.

That it serves as a collective landmark of what was, and what might have been, and what is right now...that is its true function. To lend us all some perspective. To give a context for how we got to where we are and why it matters and what we stand to lose should we abandon our collective Inheritance. In an age of endless self-determination, it would be all too easy to turn our collective backs upon the tragic past, to abandon our own humanity, but to do so must remain a choice left to the individual. An act of conscience as much as one of consciousness. Many go onwards, outwards, becoming other than human. Such is their legacy and their right--for what legitimate parent would deny their child the opportunity to grow up or to find themself and their unique place in the scheme of things?

The past is not something to forget, any more than a plant's roots should shrug off the fertile soil because it is composed of the remnants of those plants that preceded it. It is the rich matrix from which the present arises like a tender green shoot. It is something to be honored, even if it horrifies us, especially if it terrifies us--we can no longer afford the false luxury of ignorance.
"The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium - that is, of any extension of ourselves - result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology."
Marshall McLuhan
While some contrarian poets bemoaned the loss of ignorance as a loss of innocence, for the most part the transition to an Open Society built upon a history rooted in facts and quantifiable records divorced from emotionally colored accounts by unreliable witnesses, biased scholars or political revisionists has fostered a level of self awareness, introspection and authentic feedback that has reshaped every human institution, social convention and relationship in ways previously undreamed of or deemed impossible by those who lived in far more opaque, murky and confabulatory times.

The present is continually monitored and recorded and analyzed by anyone who asserts their responsibility as a student of history, humanity or culture. Privacy is a priviledge of a most personal sort and has clearly demarcated bounds that are observed by all members of Polite Society. Everything is recorded, stored and available for play-back to those who know how to access the appropriate codes, who gain the permissions of those involved, and who have a legitimate interest in those records. If someone has not turned over their personal life-records to the Public Domain, those records are off-limits unless one is mandated by appropriate authority, permitted by special charter, or acting on behalf of Civilization...which is no small thing in itself.

It is customary for one to compile some sort of summary or biographical statement every one hundred years, to serve as a capstone of sorts, a clarification, or even a rebuttal if so desired, for the centuries' worth of personal records that are then turned over to the Public Domain. Some individuals make elaborate speeches, throw extravagant parties or issue proclamations. Others might append a small cartoon, a cryptic glyph, a thumbprint or small koan or poem. It is an intensely personal matter and left entirely to the pesonal whims, wishes or desires of those directly involved.

The sheer wealth of ever-increasing information is stored within hyper-folded metamemory cores that are integrated into the very roots of the Deep Infrastructure. The primary nodes of this network are thought to form extropic engines of sorts, pouring forth vast amounts of so-called negentropy according to certain cults, clades and cybrist factions. Rumors abound that this is why the Amortals have withdrawn to their radically-discontinuous necrotats and other orbital sepulchre-structures or why so many of them have abandoned the lush worlds of the living for the dead moons of empty systems where they operate below the threshold of contemporary history. Many believe that they are too obsessed with the various pasts they strive to sort out and disentangle from one another in their isolated redoubts and closed tombs. A great deal of firsthand historical fiction has come into the Public Domain via the efforts of various Amortals and their attempts to recover something that no living being can quite grasp, let alone appreciate or fully understand.

The present is a known and measured, observed and structured reality, unlike the speculative and projective future or the muddled and malleable past. It is the bedrock of what is Known and the foundation for all the conventional aspects of Civilization. Everyone has their own memories of the past, their own unique trajectory into the future, it is the present that we all have in common.

Gene Banks

Gene Banks are the ancient and accepted licensed, bonded, chartered, and duly established Repositories of Record for all forms of genomic refinements, biological templates, and all related and subsequent research, experimentation and development based upon the Inherited Human Genome. From the earliest records of Prehistory to the very latest mods, inserts, snippets and sequences being released into the Public Domain each month, the Gene Banks are the custodians, caretaker-keepers and executor-dispensers of all this accumulated wealth and biodiversity. The legacies of every genomist, genartist and biopolitan is in the care and keeping of the Gene Banks. They preserve the registrations, records, documentation, accumulated data, private and public datacaches, infonodes, and repliscripts for everything that any of them ever attempted, tried or implemented, both in terms of models, virts, compo-simulacrae or full releases.

Matters of Legacy, Inheritance & Civilization
The Gene Banks are based upon the enduring legacy of the Life Vaults established deep within the major moons of every solar system where the Deep Infrastructure has opened up human-compatible environments. They maintain the Registry for all the works of legitimate genartists and their ilk, and they preserve and disseminate the ongoing legacies of those who have voluntarily shared their research and efforts with the Public, or whose estates are now facing the imminent lapse in their private status and will shortly have their legacies made Publicly accessible.

A few rare individuals have been able to win extensions to forestall such conversion into the Public Domain, but the reaction to this has often been so negative as to wipe-out any gains preserved by the attempt. It has become standard practice to split-off as much fresh research from anything proprietary that anyone has on-hand as quickly and thoroughly as possible so that when the core materials do go Public, this is not a disruption in the process, and those who have had privileged access can then monitor any subsequent Public developments in comparison with their own private efforts.

No one invented the core genomes, thus no one owns 'humanity,' or any of the other biolineages descended from the root genomes of Old Earth. It is all part of the common legacy, the shared Inheritance of all descendents of those who have come before. No one really owns this information. It is free and open access to everyone in the spirit of fostering Free Inquiry.

It is a fundamental assertion of Civilization that no one can own the human genome--that it belongs to us all and is held in trust for the future heirs who have every bit as legitimate a claim on it as we do. One cannot stake any realistic claim on the work that has preceded all other efforts by millennia, whether it be the result of random chance, nature or god. They have only an interest in the actual, personal work that they have invested in analyzing and understanding the implications of the Human Inheritance—and thus they gain the benefit of the 100 years of Privatization, before it is rolled-out to the Public. Such efforts are rooted in the overall Inheritance of us all, thus it is only right and proper that it becomes the property of us all, held in common for all who come after. The one hundred years of limited monopoly over whatever discoveries one can make is a legacy of the bloody wars fought over so-called soft property during the Terror, when corporate-states fought to place their selfish interests over individuals or the collective simultaneously by pursuing prejudicial policies that pursued abstract profits based upon logistically orchestrated shortages, dishonest denial of access, and untold suffering instead of making legitimate, responsible efforts on behalf of us all. This was before Stewardship was implemented as something other than a catchword or some vaguely defined pseudo-religious concept. The gates ended the Terror just as Stewardship set into motion the Enlightenment that has led to Civilization.

Regarding Those Who Won't Play Well With Others
Non-registered efforts have no protection, and are seen as hack-work—potentially dangerous, legally gray and often unethical or wastes of time as they go in circles re-inventing and re-covering established ground in ignorance of what has already been done by others. Very rarely does anything useful come from this sort of effort. Most individuals who pursue this form of clandestine privacy are typically considered to be suffering from a form of mental/emotional illness and once diagnosed-sentenced are remanded to the care of an Asylum-Chateau, such as at Diodatti, where it is highy unlikely that they will pose any sort of threat to anyone and they might have every opportunity to recover from their affliction or derangement. If some inmate within an institution does manage to create or discover something unique or of import, they gain full credit and can have their case re-appraised by local authorities who sometimes release them from the Asylum-Chateaus, but only if they are willing to personally take responsibility for the former inmate. Most such inmate-innovators end up signing over their discoveries to the Public Domain in order not to fall under the thumb of opportunisitc civil servants.

Wheeling and Dealing
Gene Banks also engage in a wide range of financial dealings based upon what is in Public Domain, what is about to go Public, and what is in negotiations to go Public sooner than the 100 year mark. Early releases can be especially lucrative in terms of social impacts, influence, fashion, etc. There are numerous speculative bodies engaged in this sort of trade and they mean major business amongst the Abstracts, virts, softborn and those digital communities that are most immediately affected by such developments. The management of the entire ongoing process of disseminating new information, profiles, templates and datasets into the mainstream is a very demanding and important task. Sudden developments, such as a genartist deciding to make their work available fifty years earlier than expected can send shockwaves throughout the system. Reactions ripple outwards and soon all sorts of other repercussions and consequences are taking place in realtime.

The Markets surrounding the Gene Banks and the Collective Legacy of us all are a volatile, ever-changing, always morphing tangled mass of personalities, policies, data and speculation where fortunes, fame, reputations and attributions rise, fall, shift and get re-negotiated endlessly. New techniques, new approaches, fresh templates, disruptive technologies, startling discoveries, unique modalities all come pouring and surging through the Markets on their way into the Public Domain and ubiquitous adoption or access. It is within the Markets that things not yet released are traded and bartered, things that are decades out from adoption are sought after, either legitimately or otherwise. Diseases and cures for these diseases are debated and exploited before they are even known outside the Markets. Plagues are bought and sold and unleashed or averted daily within the Markets as though they were seething centers of pestilence. New species of animals, plants or microbes are brought onto the Market all the time, as are revisions, reconfigurations, and cheap knock-offs. Designers compete with one another to develop unique Organisms or brand-new species, creating bizarre new genoforms, or even attempting to establish entirely new genocultures. Exotic sequences and rare genetic-relics are hot commodities. Entire lineages are traded and exchanged. What was merely speculative becomes material reality daily as the discoveries, designs and wealth of development invested in the Gene Banks inexorably rolls forwards and onwards--but don't worry--there are always plenty of new and pending releases on the horizon.

The Gene Banks record, store and act as a clearinghouse for all the biodiversity and genartistry that takes place within the Known Worlds. They are the Public Domain interface for the Life Vaults and the custodians of all biological forms of Inheritance as coded into the Golden Sequence of all recognized descendents.

Neologism of the Week: Extropy

Extropy is the opposite of Entropy. It is a measure of the overall diversity, energy, experience, growth, information, intelligence, life, and opportunity within any system. The term was coined by T. O. Morrow in 1988. Three Quick Links: Encyclopedia of Human Thermodynamics, Wordiq, and an older Wired Article that is kind of fun and even relevant.

Two Musical Instruments

Two musical instruments that are very popular/commonly encountered in Riskail that aren't necessarily so common hereabouts are the Theremin and the Diddey Bow.



Or check out Carolina Eyck's website for more Theremin goodness.  It's not just for Trekkies.

A wide array of different variations of Theremin are very popular amongst the Jarpha who use entire dissonantly-contrasynchronized orchestras of the things in the production of their notorious operas. They also make use of a combination bagpipe-theremin instrument on the field of battle as a means of striking terror into their opponents. Unless you've faced them in mortal combat, the noise generated by these instruments is simply indescribable and best left to the imagination as that would be far less damaging than actually hearing one of the things being played. Veterans who've gone up against Jarpha units often opt for memory-editing to remove all traces of the experience, and the persistent nightmares caused thereby, once they've had their ears replaced or rebuilt. 

Diddey Bow
These things are just plain cool as all get out and totally a DIY sort of instrument that is absolutely unique to the musician. The Siluroi and Lutrin Blues-bands feature a lot of Diddey Bows and homebrew variations on the basic idea. Johnny and Edgar Autumn are considered to be two of the best there is at playing a Diddey Bow, but opinion svary and they've only just gone on the road, so they have yet to make a name for themselves outside of the Estuarial Regions.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Exocultures: Seimgress System-State

Seimgress is the central city-state of the planet Lajedda and the primary sociopolitical nexus of the Uydro system. It was terraformed by a clonadic faction registered only as 'The Founders.' All registered outsystem gates are located within the political boundaries of the Seimgress HyperTower on Lajedda. Immigration is strictly limited to short-term visitors or those applying to join one of the clonadic lineages. Unlike most clone-based cladistic societies, the lineages of Seimgress encourage and welcome outsiders to join their society in the hopes that they might bring along fresh insights, new ideas, novel approaches, and diverse genomic sequences that will then enrich the overall Collective. Many outcaste, urchin-born, and de-claded individuals come to Seimgress in the hopes that they will be accepted into one of the clonade lineages. Competition is fierce and the lineages only select the very best of the best.

It is Seimgress that holds the Gates to this system, and it is Lajedda that holds the major population centers of this socioseparatist system-nation. The Greenbelt and Coldbelt regions are primarily orbital wilderness areas consisting of gate-connected bubbles, shells, spindles and other structures that have been allowed to develop freefall forests, savannaspheres, or other more exotic and oftentimes random biomes. The gates of the two belt-systems are only tangentially connected to the platforms located around the lower circumference of the Seimgress HyperTower as part of the overall system-level biome support established by The Founders.

There are several other quasi-planets orbiting the K-sequence star Uydro as well as a pair of well-developed and sparsely populated debris belts which have spawned a thriving habitat-wilderness made up of mostly solo-colonies of isolated individuals, as well as a few scattered isosocieties of separtist groups that have voluntarily withdrawn from formal participation in Polite Society. Quite a few individuals who have not been selected to join one of the lineages, for whatever reason, often go onwards to either of the debris-belt regions to take up a reclusive, withdrawn existence or to await a summons that they just know will come, someday.

Seimgress HyperTower
Crystalline and sleek, the HyperTower rises like a colossal art nouveau flower from the midst of the sprawling megapolis that has grown-up around its base. All features and aspects of life within Seimgress are under the scrutiny and approval of the Aesthetithority, a dedicated metaorganism devoted entirely to the ongoing development and maintenance of the aesthetics established by The Founders. There is an entire clonadic lineage devoted to serving the aesthetic directions of the Aesthetithority. They have sublimated their own individual creativity and assimilated themselves into a greater collective-form that explores collaborative creativity on a larger-scale than any singleton could ever hope to attempt.

A Center of Learning and Fashion
Seimgress is a thriving and very lively artistic, intellectual and scientific community, though one is encouraged to forego such limiting, faux-reductionist terms within this society as they prefer to see Art and Science as a conjoined whole that the clonadic lineages are dedicated to integrating into everything they do, say, or create.

The Universities and Academic Campuses of Seimgress are extremely elitist and it is extraordinarily difficult to gain entrance to them without the direct patronage of a specific clonadic lineage. Officially, one need not be a member of a particular lineage, but it certainly helps. The various lineages do sponsor a small number of exchange students, but the level of non-disclosure and non-compete contractual arrangements often stymie and rankle most outside scholars who harbor personal ambitions beyond serving the clonadic collectives.

That said, Seimgress remains at the very cutting edge of materials design and macroscale engineering. Student groups from the Seimgress Academies have been involved in numerous major building projects and experiments such as various Niven Rings, establishing Cirruspheric Wildernesses and Extended Communities (often modeled on the Greenbelt and Coldbelt habitat-systems), designing entire gas giant archipelagoes (such as Talibarr...), creating macrocologies and developing or refining some aspects of the Aquaducts of Xembor.

The Designers of Seimgress, on the other hand, are forever attempting to outdo one another as they develop new materials, new processes, new templates, new approaches that revolutionize any and every field of human endeavor or expression that they can latch onto or sink their metaphorical teeth into. They are always looking for some new area to explore, or to develop, or to exploit. The top designers often employ myriads of agents whom they task with going out unto the Core Worlds and other cultures, societies and polities to seek out bold new ideas, strange concepts, fresh interpretations and any least smidgen of novelty or newness possible.

Each Season the entire community of designers introduce their latest and greatest offerings that clients come from all over the Known Worlds of the Connected Territories to bid upon, argue over and attempt to acquire for their various patrons, sub-clients, and masters who are often amongst the highest levels of the Nobility, Celebrity, or other Hierarchies. Needless to say, corporate-level semantic, visual and imaginal espionage are rife in this place. Every form of security, counter-intelligence and discretionary operations are integral aspects of day-to-day existence in Seimgress, which may well be one of the most heavily monitored and recorded societies in history.

In Seimgress, it is said, even the paparazzi have paparazzi following them around.

A famous comedian once remarked that only in Seimgress could one be Recovered before they were born. For some reason the comedian was stricken from the public record within this system...and just whispering their name is enough to have the Aesthetithority initiate the expulsion/deportation process.

The Seimgress Solar System in Brief
Uydro is a fairly unremarkable K-type star. A diffuse sphere of University-Sanctioned experimental platforms surrounds it at various depths, each one set up to test new materials under development by various scholars, designers and student-groups. Each of these platforms is directly connected to the University gate plazas and are under strict security.

Yllmitir is a hot, rocky Mercury-esque body with only a handful of University-Sanctioned mobile aerodomes picking their way across the blasted and melted landscape, each one exploring the geology and the potential industrial applications of this novel environment. The gates connected to each of these vessels are located in the Kaufman-Kasparov Cosmodrome, a large-scale structure on the University campus noted for retaining its own independent security forces.

The Greenbelt is the heavily overgrown debris belt left over from the planetary accretion disk. Vast stands of vaccoaks and other space-adapted plants and other organisms are scattered hither and yon across this region that has become more of a green-tinted shell than a strict belt formation. Thousands of unclaimed and undirected habitats are part of the overall gate-connected macrocology. The Greenbelt has been designated an Orbital Wilderness Region and as such it is held in trust by the Deep Infrastructure outside of the whims and regulations of the polities of Seimgress or other bodies in-system. Quite a number of student-organized Anarcho-Tribal Affinity-Kinships have attempted to establish a presence within the Greenbelt, but few have managed to last very long. There are many, many recluses, hermits and socially-withdrawn individuals who have set-up homesteads within the Greenbelt. Trespassing is strongly discouraged. Often by force.

Leivule is a rogue dwarf-planet that has been captured by Lajedda and maintained in an artificial orbit forty-five degrees off of the ecliptic. This microworld is encapsulated in overlapping layers of polymeric compounds allowing it to be used as a massive laboratory for the development of exotic substances, materials and compounds both biologically derived and chemically synthesized. Access to Leivule is limited to elite graduate students and tenured faculty. Securing a permit for non-University personnel to visit Leivule is extremely difficult and has only happened three times in recorded history. Alumni, it is worth noting, have a far easier time getting access to Leivule. The gate to this world is heavily warded, guarded and sealed within the Carver-Pasteur Arcospherium.

The Seimgress HyperTower is the very heart and soul of this solar system and houses hundreds of thousands of registered individuals including a sizeable community of virts and softborn. At the height of each Season the population can triple for weeks at a time. The clonadic lineages are very careful and conscientious to limit offworlder tourism, trade and mediocity to levels that the Aesthetithority can manage.

Lajedda is a verdant, lushly overgrown world known for its baroque hovering gardens and sculpted arbors where designers hold formal lawn parties, hedge-dances, pre-release shows for the extra-privileged, and other such high society events. Access to Lajedda is only available via the gates at the base of the Seimgress HyperTower and if anything is even more restrictive and exclusive than any other part of the system-state.

The Orbital Freestates are a staggered series of micro-systems and lagrangist structures that have been left in-place over the centuries by various student-groups, faculty and designers. The records for each structure are often encrypted, buried within obscure archives, and left behind as a combination prank and parting statement by honorable, established academic tradition. Various fraternal orders sponsor the development of legacy Freestates to be designed according to annual criteria as part of an ongoing academic scholarship and recognition program. Those Freestates that are not part of such a recognized program outnumber the sanctioned ones by at least ten to one in any given year. The access-gate(s) to these clandestine student-project Freestates can be located anywhere, indeed some competitors take great pains to devise unique and highly secret points of access...while others go to great pains to seek them out and report them to passworded infosites in the local datasphere. Sometimes the two groups run afoul of one another and the matte black telecops have had to intervene on occasion. This is rarely a good thing.

The Coldbelt is a much sparser Orbital Wilderness Region than the Greenbelt, being a networked series of gate-connected orbital habitats that are anchored on various sorts of debris, more often forms of ice than rocky cores, but there are rocky bits out there as well. A gate-linked sub-network of icy-cold fresh water cascades through the deep-fjords carved into the core of thousands of icier Coldbelt bodies.

In Relation to Riskail
Seimgress is one of the Exocultures that maintains an active embassy and a direct gate-connection to Riskail within the Twelfth Tier's Zero District, with a more formal Academic Access gate within the Grand Central Terminal on the Academy's Campus. One can also take the Pararail to Seimgress, if you don't mind taking a few weeks or months to get there, depending on the route and seasonal timetable. No known River Network connects to Seimgress, nor does any Sea Gate. Access is limited and can be withdrawn at any moment, should the Aesthetithority determine that further contact is socially contaminating, culturally degrading or distasteful. So far, Riskail is in good standing with Seimgress, but there have been various Old Regimes in Riskail's history that endangered the continued connection with Seimgress...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Greenstreet Canal

During the civic unrest following the heavily-armed vote of no confidence in the highly unpopular Retroclastic Regime an unidentified party detonated a Eutrophication Bomb within one of the lesser canals of the Twelfth Tier. What was once a thriving waterway leading from the Left Bank of the River Senube to the Reflecting Pool of the Looking Glass Saint was quickly transformed into a riotous swamp that the Canal Authority eventually was able to contain and stabilize as a densely forested parkland with only minimal casualties.

The original bioscripts and nanocodes have been eradicated and the entire area is constantly monitored by a series of moss-encrusted monitorliths that are stationed every twenty feet around the entire perimeter of the affected area. The monitorliths ensure that should the unthinkable ever happen, those areas that show the slightest sign of reawakening into the least bit of questionably Eutrophic activity will be summarily dropped through a one-way dump-gate to some unclaimed hellworld or industrial platform well beyond the bounds of Civilization.

The Greenstreet Canal Memorial Parkland Museum
There is a small museum located at the Westernmost tip of the Greenstreet Canal Memorial Parkland that holds relics left over from the bombing, including samples of the antiquated malware that was used in the bomb itself, all safely pithed, blocked and sealed outside of casual access. The timelapse holodisplay of the bomb's runaway nanonutrification and cellular derangement of the common canal-plants such as hyacinths, lilies, micromangroves, driftferns, or floating kudzu is impressive and very detailed in its coverage from every angle. The display of sixteen shoes lost by fleeing tourists and others in the wake of the bomb's detonation is one of the more curious items that many tour groups note in their vidlets or recount as they pass the place by on walking tours. It is a small, much overlooked museum and the custode in residence is obviously quite lonely.

Duelling Hotels
The Hotels Alexandria and Belvedere face each other across the park, both of the venerable institutions maintain ornate fountains that they hope will obscure their competitor from their patrons. The rivalry between these two establishments is fierce, absolutely discrete, but very intense. There are rumors that urchin-gangs have been enlisted by management to act as informal parasecurity operatives for the two Hotels, but nothing has been confirmed. Both are in good standing with the Unionists and maintain their own claded, but non-slave, staff-clans within the bounds of their charters.

There is a wonderful comparative retrospective detailing the histories of both the Hotel Alexandria and the Hotel Belvedere, considered singly and jointly, over at the Greenstreet Canal Museum. There's a discount on your admission if you are registered with either Hotel.

Blue Birds of Crappiness
Flocks of distinctly blue-gray budgies are a common, even expected sight within the wooded parkland. The budgies have learned how to maximize their effectiveness in dive-pooping visitors who do not offer them seed-treat bribes which can be purchased readily enough all along the edges of the park from a variety of vendors. The budgies were initially released into the place by a foreign exchange student from Bazra who was summarily fined and deported by the then much less customer-friendly Park Police. These days the parkland Special Sub-District is patrolled by a pack of very friendly watchdogs and a small extrusible-cadre of state-of-the-art waspcops that can be sent to any trouble-spot within minutes. So far they have not been required, as the watchdogs have done an excellent job of keeping the peace and enforcing the few special regulations that apply to this area.

There is an exhibit detailing the older, now deprecated and discontinued Park Police at the Greenstreet Canal Museum mentioned above. It is quite educational. The custode would love to see you.

Gin Joints, Galleries and a Very Special Urinal
There are a few dozen different nomadic tent-bars and pavilion-lounges that set-up in various portions of the Greenstreet Canal Parkland, usually right off of specially maintained trails that wind back to discrete sub-entrances to either of the major Hotels. Some of these non-establishments are licensed, most are not. The assortment of entertainment, liquor, appetizers or clientele is wildly varied and nearly random. Visitors come to these places for safe episodes of pseudo-naughtiness and to carry out faux-risque encounters with resident actors who are often performing from pre-arranged scripts. Everyone has a role to play amongst the mobile awnings and self-arranging lawn furniture, everything is planned and nothing is left to chance.

Celebrity simulacra often come to the Greenstreet Canal Park in order to forget their counterfeit identities or to cozen up to unsuspecting dupes whom they can either get a fame-fix from or may, just maybe find that one thing they most desperately seek over all else--a chance to establish their own reputations and to become rivals to their root-selves.

The various storefronts on either side of the two Hotels are taken up by ultra-specialist boutiques, appointment-only studios, and a number of galleries featuring the works of various competing artists who haven't yet acquired enough fame to get into the more fashionable galleries, but who deem themselves too good for the Waterfront or Low Districts. Critics haunt the alleys in order to keep an eye out for impromptu basement parties and clandestine garret-shows, most of which are carefully orchestrated by marketing experts on holiday from Corazune, various would-be Patrons from amongst the lesser Nobility, or pretenders with delusions of grandeur who seem to attract an audience far more effectively than many of the artists they represent can handle. Success and failure dance arm in arm across the patios and balconies of this place, while ambitions and opinions clash in a sultry Tango that visits every bar, cafe, and kiosk surrounding the Park. Artists vie for attention and their works compete in the galleries for recognition, acceptance, acclaim or notoriety while critics stalk each show and observe each artist looking for subtle clues to their inner motivations, waiting for the opportunity to either dash hopes or reward what they see as real accomplishments. Paid shills wander about the place, raving about one artist's work whilst running down others. Solorphans will vomit in the doorway of a particular gallery for a small fee. Other such services are also available as well.

Musicians wander about within the strict limits of their sponsoring venue. Freelance wait-staff jostle and vie for the best spots, always looking for the most tip-worthy guests and going to great lengths to claim their service territory from one another. Street-chefs prepare tapas, snacks and exotic tid-bits collected and downloaded from hundreds of cultures or subcultures. Mimes are said to lair within the darker regions of the wooded sections of the Park, but few are ever seen except during the annual hunting season when expert sharpshooters are sent in to maintain the population.

And then there is the Urinal. Valush Mardu's infamous Wandering Urinal. A simple, polysealed antique porcelain urinal, this peculiar object d'art randomly teleports from location to location throughout the Greenstreet Canal Park sometimes transporting unsuspecting would-be users of the thing along with it.

There is a rather humorous exhibit detailing some of the more amusing anecdotes concerning the Wandering Urinal at the Greenstreet Canal Memorial Park Museum. The custode would be very happy to recount his own experience with the thing, if you're at all interested.

Moreau-Vingian Kings

The Moreau-Vingian Kings are dashing figures of regal splendour about whom numberless vidramas and holotales have been spun. They are that most engaging blend of mystery, tragedy and magnanimity that borders on the sublime and serves to only inflame the imaginations and fervor of the tabloids, gossips, mediots, and their ilk. But who are they really? And what is their actual story? A curious proletariat desires to know and the mediacology is rife with rumor, speculation, manufactured innuendo and assorted historical trivia, so take your pick...

A Brief Bit of History Both Relevant and Dramatic
Since the very earliest days of the Elder Genartists, before there were Genelords in Cathelia and long after the Randomist Plague swept through the Fertile Crescents of Sumjazza, there have been those who have withdrawn from Polite Society to work on private projects in isolated areas, windswept skylands, lonely islands, or similar such locales out past the Perimeter.

One such Elder Genartist was Nicosian.

The name still carries a tinge of disgust and the whiff of unwholesome deviancy, even after all these years since his expulsion and dissolution (both in terms of his estate and his person through legal anathematization and viruxive deliquessants). Those who work with hybrids or who deal in the mingling of animal and human genomic materials are judged always by the unsanctioned, unpardonable excesses of Nicosian. It is a bitter legacy that reminds everyone of the wrongs perpetrated by one lonely old man out on some nondescript island in the middle of nowhere.

Nicosian's databases, journals and registered samples have been remanded to the care of the archivists and few have accessed them in several centuries. His contribution to the Life Vaults remains modestly buried and obscured by discretionary veils and the accumulation of many other people's hard work. Polite Society would prefer for Nicosian to be smothered in obscurity, his reputation used only when merited as a moral injunction against heinously inappropriate behavior or dangerously immoral research into things deemed unsuitable and unfit for Civilization. The Azure Wrath still declares Nicosian as a War Criminal and carries out a ritualized vendetta against any trace of his genomic lineage, for whatever that is worth.

But what did he actually do?

Nicosian was one of the first vivisculptors. He was not satisfied in only comingling human and animal genetic material to fashion urfolk, hybrids, or animal descended parahumans, demihumans or subhumans--Nicosian became obsessed with unlocking the inherent human-ness latent within all so-called lesser species. In the course of his work Nicosian produced some of the most heartbreakingly tragic specimens of pointless amalgamation and chimaeric curiosities to have ever been displayed in galleries, salons or invitation-only showings. It was at just such an event that Lorshal himself lambasted and decried Nicosian's work as being "...monstrously wasteful and a painful conglomeration of surgical excesses that was both shameful and pointless..." The critics took their cue from Lorshal's scathing public rebuke and Nicosian was thoroughly discredited and ruined within a week.

Leaving Devukarsha behind, Nicosian booked passage on a one-way disposable minidirigible and left the world of Riskail in search of some place as far removed as he could find in order to set up shop away from jealous rivals, haters, enemies and fanatics who began to seek him out as a target ever since the collapse of his reputation in the wake of his last showing and the furor that it had stirred up. He had been Red Marked by the Censors and banned from nearly every respectable gallery. The Salons were closed to him and no longer would receive his queries or any further communications from him directly. In the alleys, watchdogs eyed him suspiciously. His inbox was spammed with offers for legal representation by hacks, frauds and charlatans of the lowest order. It was surely only a matter of time before he would have been declared a non-person. So he took matters into his own hands and left before a sentence could be pronounced. He went into self-exile.

It was on an island on the far-side of Sherlassa just past the first Sea Gate that Nicosian's aerovessel crashed during a hurricane. He might have been a skilled surgeon and artist, but he was no pilot and the automatic systems failed in the midst of the dangerous storm. He was very fortunate to have survived. Even moreso in light of all his insurance policies having been rendered null and void and Municipal and Metropolitan Recovery Services were denied to Nicosian in absentia due to the efforts of his many detractors. They never did get him banned from the Extension Services, but by the time that option rolled around, they had pretty much vented their collective spleens and the overall effort had run out of steam. Nicosian was oblivious to all this. He was more concerned with survival and with resuming his work.

Within months of his arrival, Nicosian had a workable faux-Georgian manorhouse under construction, using his personal stores of nanoplasm to develop extruders and fabricators. He also had a small entourage of vivisculpted things that he enslaved and set to work as laborers. Most of the vivisculpted slaves were far less viable or useful than Nicosian had expected. Many died painful, shuddering deaths trying vainly to carry out the increasingly stern and irrational demands of their lord and master.

Something had to be done.

Nicosian ordered his Operating Parlor to be finished immediately, forcing his slaves to work on it day and night, until it was done or they were dead. He was beyond caring.

Once the Parlor was finished, Nicosian set about refabricating the tools of his art, readjusting and recustomizing everything from the templates upwards. Then he set about capturing subjects and decanting his stored germplasm and biosamples.

Carpigs were one of the first new hybrid forms that Nicosian developed in his new Operating Parlor. Tweeters, Sulkers and Jabrats soon followed. He was inspired. The new designs were far from pointless, they fulfilled very specific niches in the island's ecology and had the ability to adapt to circumstances, to explore new biomes or to take on new roles. But these were still urfolk. Protohominids with far more animal than anything truly, recognizably human to them. Nicosian brooded over his new generation of creatures. He became sour and dour, wrathful and hateful. Many attempted to flee. Some found their way to surrounding islands and colonies of these creatures can still be found throughout the sloughlands, sargassic atolls or Southern Archipelagoes of Sherlassa to this day. Nearly all of them carry on a tradition of ritually propitiating a terrible tutelary demon they call Nik-osh-Yan in their broken and pidjin dialects.

The fish-scaled pigthings stayed with their master through it all. They were not loyal, not at all. They were dull things, emotionally inert and lazy, for the most part, but something about the way their master carried on stirred a peculiar hunger within them, so they waited.

Nicosian is believed to have broken down, perhaps even lapsing into a period of depression, but no one is quite sure as all relevant records have been blurred into gibberish by the efforts of several competing animal rights groups. Whatever happened back then on that island, eventually Nicosian recovered, after a fashion and with the help of his increasingly modified carpigs and other servitor things, he began work on his bioart magnum opus.

Several hybrid genocultures can be traced back to this last, golden moment of creative fervor and inspired artistry of a rare talent that all too soon went all too far. Most of the lineages that can be traced back to Nicosian from this point in his career have taken great pains to separate themselves and distance themselves from their legacy both out of shame and from an abiding horror at being connected in any way to such a monstrous progenitor. After the settlement of Nicosian's liquidated estate, most of his heirs and offspring have opted to be officially re-registered as orphan lineages. Except the carpigs. They proudly, if vulgarly proclaim their connection to Nicosian with great relish for how it unsettles everyone around them.

But they are carpigs and one cannot expect much from them. They were designed to be completely devoid of empathy.

The one other lineage to come from out of this now quarantined and cordoned-off island of horrors are the so-called Moreau-Vingian Kings.

Delivered From a Womb of Horror
Graceful, elegant, noble and highly attractive, the Moreau-Vingian Kings are possessed of an incredible sense of presence, making them truly Kings amongst the proles. They have a wide array of animalistic traits sublimated into and just beneath their very, very human beings. Pheromonally fluent and sub-vocally gifted, the Kings are consummate seducers, social manipulators and charismatic demogogues who instill trust, lust or loyalty as easy as taking the next breath. But there is always something vaguely feral about them, just at the very edge of becoming visible or known and this lends a peculiarly alluring quality to them that has made them the heart-throbs and objects of romantic obsession that they have become ever since their discovery on Nicosian's Island.

Originally there were twelve Moreau-Vingian Kings recovered from the island. Three died tragic deaths before they were brought home to Devukarsha. The circumstances surrounding these deaths have been suppressed and closed to most inquiries at the request of the remaining Kings. Another two were slain by jealous suitors while three more were murdered in their sleep by jilted paramours. Two others committed suicide. Tragedy seemed to cling to the Moreau-Vingian Kings, making them all the more terribly attractive to the media and gossip-mongers.

Rising Stars in a Firmament of Nobles
The two surviving Moreau-Vingian Kings have since withdrawn to a recently vacated garden-palais along the Domed-over banks of the Zonges River on Yekkara, where they have been able to achieve recognition as Nobles and sanctioned progenitors of their own lineages. The Investment Rite whereby the Emperor of Saldris-Dome pronounced both of the surviving Moreau-Vingian siblings as Kings in their own right was one of the most highly viewed and commented videvent of its day. The gossips and paparazzi had a field-day and stories, rumors and photos of all kinds and sorts, most of them time-stamped and authenticated, still circulate amongst collectors, well-wishers, and fans across the Connected Territories.

It has become a Tradition amongst the twin Moreau-Vingian Kings of Yekkara that they each take control of the throne for six months while the other travels to the various Core Worlds, visiting the Principalities and Baronies of Aegron, journeying to the high estates of Krauz or even visiting some of the Exocultures such as Seimgress or Imperial Sorrinon and traveling by way of the Moon River to the Cirruspheric Communities of the G-sequence stars. The Moreau-Vingian Kings travel far and wide, leaving swooning fans and dazzled would-be brides everywhere they go. It is now firmly entrenched in the incipient folklore that the two Moreau-Vingian Kings single-handedly drive more than half the gossip that filters across the Known Worlds just by being themselves and moving about their business.

Faery Tales, Rumors and Dark Secrets
They may have arrived destitute paupers rescued from horrors no one can fully appreciate any more, but the Moreau-Vingian Kings have arisen to become princes and powerful, actual Kings in their own right. It is said that they are on the verge of consolidating the rival, feuding petty empires of Yekkara under their own sable and ermine banner. If they manage that feat of diplomacy after all the decades of fighting that have held the world back from fully developing, they will have proven themselves to the populace, to the Nobility, and to themselves. Perhaps.

But not everyone is swayed by these ultra-charismatic smooth-talking Kings from nowhere. There are those who recall all too vividly the true roots of their micro-lineage and where they really come from...and the horrors from which they were derived, designed and developed by a mad man not once given the slightest acknowledgement or recognition by either sibling-King. Those who dig into this matter too deeply run afoul of the gossips, the dilletantes, the paparazzi and others. Corazune-registered public relations agents are known to work on behalf of the Moreau-Vingian Kings, as if they didn't already have enough of a stranglehold on the medicology.

It is interesting to note that the bodies of the slain Moreau-Vingian Kings have been sealed and placed under a total media blackout order as part of Noble Privilege...but the so-called Kings were anything but Noble at the time the deaths took place. One is also tempted to wonder why it was that the negotiations between the twin Kings and the Emperor of Saldris-Dome on Yekkara included discretely obscured provisions for the Moreau-Vingian Kings to gain access to regio blanco nanological transfusions, something rarely done outside of last-ditch attempts to rehabilitate Nobles afflicted with various deepscale forms of war trauma...of course such tranfusions might grant a non-Noble the means to convert their blood into the distinctive blue nanological haemosolution reserved unto the Noble classes. Of course the clause has been censored under war-time privilege and the Emperor of Saldris-Dome does not grant interviews, so this is just one of those lingering little mysteries that swirl about in the gossip-filled wake of the Moreau-Vingian Kings.

What are their aims, their plans, their ambitions? No one really knows, but everyone has ideas or speculations. It seems as though the Moreau-Vingian Kings were almost designed to court, generate and manipulate rumor, gossip and innuendo. There's just something about them, some indefinable animalistic something that hovers on the very brink of absolute fascination and abject revulsion that makes them simply irresistible.

Irresistible they may be, but not to everyone. There are a few stalwart and curmudgeonly inquisitors such as Machen Zenda of Ludengarde who continually raise uncomfortable questions regarding various aspects of the Moreau-Vingian Kings background, dealings, current efforts and so on. There is also the not so small matter of the reknowned Warlord Urslingen who, for some as yet undisclosed reason, has taken a distinctly personal disliking to the Moreau-Vingian Kings. There are rumors that Urslingen may well get involved in matters on Yekkara, possibly ruining the consolidatory schemes of the Moreau-Vingian Kings. Perhaps the oh so blessed golden children of Nicosian have finally met their match. Perhaps...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Persona non Grata

One of the more interesting and highly effective forms of punishment for certain crimes against Polite Society that has grown in popularity as an alternative to the Spheres is to render the convicted a non-person or to simply shun or banish them. In effect, what is done is the DNA contained within the convicted person's Gold Sequence is encapsulated in a translucent shell that is then tuned to become darker and less accessible to the Deep Infrastructure. The more severe the sentence, the darker the attunement and the less access the convicted has to Local, Municipal or Metropolitan services such as mass transit, communications, or even some aspects of emergency services. They can no longer take most of these sorts of things for granted. They also cannot cross various gate thresholds without express permission, and many of their fundamental rights are proscribed, forfeit or held in abeyance until they satisfy various conditions or make restitution for their crimes.

The assimilation-fever involved in implementing this form of deepscale punishment is difficult, and needs to be monitored within a medical facility such as at the Jolille Facility. This is not something that is meant to be handed-out willy-nilly. It is for those individuals who pose a clear and present threat to Polite Society, those rare personalities that cannot be simply exiled or dropped into a nondescript hellworld or lost in the barren wastes of the Blasted Outback. These are the sorts of criminals who need to be excised from Civilization with no chance of return.  Of course, that is the Doctrinal Ideal, and there have been several instances where Rescue-Extraction Teams have been covertly sent out to Recover certain non-persons for various discrete reasons, most of which are still classified as Official Secrets and thus not immediately available to the Public.

There are several popular vidramas that use the non-person trope within their various storylines, usually as a cautionary moral lesson, but a few have been wildly successful with fictionalized returned or restored non-persons turned avengers or members of the so-called Identity Underground, which Simply Does Not Exist.

Those rendered fully non-persons cannot access anything beyond the most basic Public Access systems, and then only by simple proximity, with no recognition or acknowledgement whatsoever. These non-persons no longer can access their previous personal property as it is registered to a definite identity that they can no longer access or claim. Every door quickly closes and very few open for them. They only register as ambient biological masses to most of the subsystems and every form of law enforcement, regulatory body, immune-response-service, and so forth are the only ones who know where they are every moment of every day that they remain within the bounds of Polite Society. Should they linger overlong, as in more than twenty-four hours, most non-persons are considered fair-game for snuffers, slavers, or worse...especially since they no longer have any rights, not even those accorded to property. Some few do not receive this period of grace, but such a sentence is very, very rare and quite extreme and is sure to attact the attentions of various paparazzi, journalists or watchdogs. It is an abuse of the system that has brought down more than a few corrupt officials in past regimes.

As a courtesy, every means of egress is made immediately available to these non-persons just by coming into close proximity to an empty cab, deserted raft, skiffblimp or whatever. They can freely enter the Pararail terminal and ride the trains for as long as they wish so long as they keep moving outwards and away from the locus of their sentence.

It is considered Traditional to provide the non-person with a slingable bundle containing a knife, salt, fire-making supplies and a datatablet with Public Domain access so as to give them a chance of survival.

Getting Sent to Coventry
If the sentence is some form of Involuntary Absentia or being sent to Coventry, then the individual is expected to leave the bounds of Civilization and never return. Those who invoke the Benediction of Saint Heinlein gain access to a full panoply of tools, weapons, and so forth that they are freely given in order to go off and start a new life elsewhere. These individuals are also promptly escorted to an Obelisk Gate for permanent Exile, remanded to the custody of a one-way banishment-blimp, or criosealed into a freight-pod scheduled for delivery out past the Perimeter where competing agents bid for the opportunity to transport it as far out and away from all settled areas as possible. A transponder in the pod ensures that once the pod is at its final destination, the local gates are all polarized and detuned, stranding the convict as outside as is possible. During the Retroclastic Regime that seized office during a war-time scare, some non-persons were actually fitted into solarsails and sent off into the yawning void of space. This was deemed both an extravagant waste of resources and a terrible abuse of power and at their own trial under their successors, the primary officers of the Retroclastics were themselves sealed into solarsails and sent off into the void.

Moon River

Beneath the crust of the rockier, more stable moons of every solar system within the Connected Territories there is a buried watercourse that flows ever onwards like a concealed, secret river. This Moon River crosses over into nearly every settled system of the Known Worlds and forms a unique and very specialized sub-network amongst the populated regions of the Macrogalactic Diversity. People have been coming to the Landings and Mansions of the Moon River for thousands of years, some to give back, others to take away, all have their reasons and the silent custodes of the Lunar Precincts respect privacy more than most other security systems. It is Tradition amongst the Lunar Precincts that one may wear a mask, assume any name, adopt any identity. Such distinctions are not considered important in these places.

Inner Basin
The innermost lunar body within a particular system is referred to as the Inner Basin and it is a place of many shrines where the Public are free to come and go as they please and the Life Vaults ensconced deep below the waters are likewise freely open and made available to Public Access. Transparent shellboats, sleek vaporetto rivercabs, steam-spurting jellyboats, elegantly enclosed Hargon-crewed gondolas (highly regarded for their discretion), crabsails, krillkayaks, shrimpboats, icthyform biocabs, and other forms of transportation crowd the Landings and the Piers that jut into the waters of the Moon River. Some take passengers to the Vaults as a religious observance, others do it for profit or just to keep tabs on who is getting what from where and for whom. The Landings are colorful, softly luminous spaces strung with cultic propaganda, revolutionary placards, pithed memetic debris, orchids, dataclouds, solorphans, urchin-gangs and castoffs who make their way as street-performers, tourpredators, fleshpurveyors, or sources of contraband infections. These are hustling, bustling regions of intensely concentrated human activity and they attract actors, poets, suicides and worse. Genethieves are as thick as fleas on a bloatbeast--each one skimming the ambient residues and traces for some hint of a big score--some unique sequence or unreleased private stock that undercautious messengers or compromised couriers might spill from time to time.

Fraud, illusion and deception are expected within the Lunar Precincts, as are wandering masses of phantasmagoria, spontaneous downloads, mindsets, lingering wisps of tropic contaminants, low memes, illicit dreams, teleporn, psychomotive artforms, pygmalionisques, mirror-faced odalisques, lunaraiads, nymphs, freesprites, and more. Emotions run riot within the Lunar Precincts the way that colors cascade across the spectrum during the gaudiest festivals of the lowest canals during Mardi Gras or Carnalval combined, and only the Courtyard of Daldrume's Portico-District can rival, let alone out-do the Lunar Districts in terms of the emotional toll they can take on the unprepared, undefended and non-inoculated.

Lunar Precincts
Each lunar body hosting a section of the Moon River is divided into a number of Lunar Precincts, each of which in turn is divided into Eight Phases. Each moon can be divided into as many Lunar Precincts as the size and development of the particular lunar body and its resident culture warrants or requires. Most often it is somewhere between one to eight or even twelve such districts, though a few particularly large and heavily settled moons have as many as 28 Lunar Precincts. The sub-sections of each Lunar Precinct, the Phases, are a named after a convention adopted from the assassinated Romatique Javrinay who first proposed the scheme in a poetilemic memescript that has since been mostly deleted or excised. The Phases are as follows: New, Waxing, First Quarter, Selenic (orWaxing-Gibbous), Full, Hekatic (or Waning-Gibbous), Third Quarter, Balsamic. There are some variations from solar system to solar system, of course, especially in terms of accepted mythological correspondences and so forth, but the over-all scheme has endured for several millennia and is firmly entrenched as a Tradition amongst the Established Worlds and Polite Society.

Mansions, Repositories and Parlors
The niche-communities of the Moon River, the so-called Mansions, are bubbled-out of the surrounding polybonded rock and ultragenative biosheath. No two Mansions are allowed to be the same, so no new ones are allowed to form unless and until they can prove that they have developed and stabilized a unique subculture. Sociatrists, demogogues, prophets and activists from across all the Known Worlds journey to the Moon River, often at great expense or through difficult trials (according to their press releases usually) in order to compete to establish their own petty utopias and promised lands within the pocket-realms of the Mansions. There is a lot of gambling involved, and most of the sharper operators host lotteries to help finance their efforts.

All throughout the Moon River, Repositories and Depositories are scattered randomly like pimply-nodes of accessionflesh or cullpods. These are completely deregulated access points for anyone to donate genomic material of any type, kind or sort whatsoever into the Public Domain. These sites analyze, sort and forward on the samples to the deeper authorities within the Life Vaults and the overall process can take upwards of several seconds to run its course. Once donated, there is no way to retract or withdraw the genomic sequence. If the donation conflicts with a Registered Lineage or Template, or runs afoul of a previous claim, it is placed into stasis and legal proceedings commence. Immediately. The Custodes of the Lunar Precincts will secure the donor and their case will be taken before a Magistrate as quickly as possible, even in the midst of a major festival. Genethievery or sequence-poaching is a serious crime and a conviction can lead to being Sphered in some particularly egregious cases.

The Transfiguration Parlors of the Lunar Precincts are notorious havens for every sort of hackwork genartistry, deliberate disfigurement, cybrist implantation aesthetics, retrocladic tweakers and worse. These are places where the bored, destitute and desperate come to rewrite their pasts, revise their memories, transform their bodies and remodel their personal genome. One can truly begin a new life by overwriting their past, but for all the romantic notions promulgated in vidramas and download tracts, the cold hard truth that follows in the wake of having sacrificed one's previous identity and existence can lead to depression, melancholia, and identity-shock that is far worse than the original motivations for making the change in the first place. It is perhaps no big surprise that there tend to be a vast array of cultists, indenturists, and blank-heads clustered around the stimbars and less reputable dives of the purple light districts, just past the safe zones favored by the tourist-groups and under-paid guides.

The Parlors are required to flush-out their Steganographic Psychefilters after every customer or face censure, delicensing or worse. Identispectors prowl the purple light districts, keeping tabs on the Parlors and making sure that things are on the up and up. But from time to time someone gets an idea of how they can game the system, create unlicensed duplicates, illegal knockoff-clones or just distilled extracts of supposedly erased personas. Others have been caught attempting to steal the surrendered and supposedly erased identities of their former clients, most of those convicted of this sort of trafficking have been rendered non-persons.

A Living Sub-Lunar Wonderland
It is a peculiar environment, this massive, circulatory system of water flowing in microgravity. Aeration vents, fluctuating valves, irrigation capillaries, mechanocilia, and colonies of specialized organisms all play their part in maintaining the ecology and the eternal flow of this networked river that flows outwards beneath the cratered crusts of the major moons of each inhabited (and some that are allegedly barren) solar system.

Bioluminous corals, sponges and vast skeins of kelp, bacterial strands, and other exotic aquatic lifeforms proliferate throughout the various depths of the Moon River. The waters flow faster towards the surface, and tend to be more sluggish and dark the closer to the core one goes. The shafts, mirrors and other sources of light only penetrate so far into the deep, murksome gloom of the deeper lunar waters and the boats and divers that travel these depths tend to bring their own lightsources, often relying on intrinsic modifications to their own or their vessels' physiologies and structures. The Hargon are particularly well-adapted to these sorts of environments and they are amongst the most likely to be encountered genocultures inhabiting the various Lunar Precincts of the Moon River.

The Gene Banks maintain offices within each of the moons of every system, but their primary offices are usually located in orbit around the most heavily settled and developed worlds, especially Core Worlds like Riskail. Each lunar body connected into the Moon River is a direct extension of the Life Vaults established during the latter days of Prehistory and acts as an independent repository for the accumulated genetic heritage of all who come after, regardless of distinction, nomenclature or designation. Technically and legally, anyone can come unto the Life Vaults and avail themselves of the Public Domain information, records, genomic profiles, registrations, raw plasm, seed-stocks, open templates, open designs and other resources completely regardless of creed, consicence or social status. They do not require a Gold Sequence, nor do they need to prove their Inheritance to access the Public Domain sectors of the Life Vaults. They just need to find the way to the Moon River, perhaps with the assistance of a Guide or one of the various Tourist Groups. Of course the actual reality of how this plays out can be a bit well, let us just say complicated...

Moon Gates
At regularly spaced intervals within the great sloping rings of the equatorial sub-lunar waterways there are river gates that lead onwards to the precincts of the next lunar body in the system. It is by way of these Lunar Gates that one might take passage from the innermost moon to the outermost moon, remaining entirely within this particular network.

Outer Basin
The Outer Basin of each system is located upon the outermost moon within the solar system. This location is likewise heavily encrusted with shrines and depositories, but unlike the Inner Basin, these areas feature gates that lead outwards to the Outer Basins of other moons in other solar systems. It is by way of the Outer Basin gates that one might travel across various Orbital or Spectal Zones and gain access to gates that open into solar systems around very different sorts of orbital regions or stars than where one originated. This is a time-honored and traditional means for making the transition from the predominently K-sequence stars of the Connected Territories to the older, G-sequence stars of the Cirruspheric Communities or the Deep Domes of the F-sequence and hotter stars, such as the Monarchist Enclaves that settled beneath the harsh surface of Yillon. It can take a long time to get somewhere in particular, but it is far more discrete and pleasurable than taking the much more Paparazzi-monitored and underclass-crowded Pararail, let alone the far more dangerous Gate Roads or the even less direct Aquaducts.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Johnny and Edgar: The Boilermakers

A few years back old man Autumn came back from his stint in one of the amphibious assault units that had rolled through the worst part of Bruxemlough. He had served under Warlord Urslingen himself and carried some pride in having been part of a bunch of real fire-breathers and death-dealers. But his time in the service wasn't particularly kind to First Sergeant Autumn. Of course, you can say that about anyone coming back from the weirdzones out along the Eastern Front these days. The things that those kids are forced to face out past the bombed-out ruins of Noblenz and Pashturrim are well beyond the realm of simple nightmares. The weapons employed in the War are masterpieces of horror and destruction developed by true masters of their infernal crafts. The glittering trails of incoming antimatter flies, the misty haze of a zembler swarm rolling in like night fog or the seductively misleading glimmer of polychrome lazflashers that patiently wait until they can detect the schlera of a soldier's eye and then let them have a fast-hellfire dose of gamma particles, are truly bad, bad things. Then there's the psychic ordnance. The less said about that, the better. No one comes back from the fighting without horrifying stories to tell, terrifying secrets to hide, and long-lingering scars of one sort or another.

Those that do come back.

Old man Autumn didn't bring back any scars when he came back from the Front. He brought back something worse. He'd been hit with a virux that had infected him, got deep into his bones and blood and dreams and changed him, twisted his cells and caused his body to grow strange mechanisms that took over his entire left arm before the field medics had been able to temporarily stop the spread of the virux. Strange, anachronistic mechanisms grew out of his very flesh, each one derived from schematics and templates scanned from deprecrated and dis-used databases so obscure that the medics couldn't stop the downloading fever until it had run its course. He'd been steampunked.

The Battlefield Recovery Unit gatelifted First Sergeant Autumn out of the area once the fighting had moved on and the Sanitizers had defuzed or neutralized the remaining unexploded improvised viruxive devices. He woke up, briefly, in the off-pink bowels of a hospital-ship. The biosurgeons did what they could, but the fractalized imprint of the virux was too deeply embedded to be removed and it had already compromised his cellular matrix so that even if he was to get Recovered, the virux would still be there, lurking in his flesh like a cat waiting to pounce. Sarge's days in the service were over. They cut his orders of separation, downloaded his records to his tags, transferred over his back-pay and combat bonuses and had him on a podbus back to the Perimeter in less than seventy-two hours. The Medical Corps do not fool around.

It wasn't much of a homecoming for Sarge Autumn. The seeping mess of gears, cables and other mechanical parts slowly extruding from her husband's tormented and infected flesh absolutely horrified Euphelia. It revolted her. Disturbed her. Made her go funny in the head. His missus broke down and wouldn't stop crying once she saw what had happened to her husband. A siluroi's tears tend to be slightly toxic. They can sometimes burn unprotected flesh. Euphelia's tears pretty much ruined what was left of her looks. Another casualty of the War.

Sarge did everything that he could to make a go of it, but the war-wounds were difficult to manage and people tended to avoid him rather than risk infection, despite the promises and assurances of the military medics and Deconscription Social Services personnel who dropped-in on the family to monitor the reassimilation and recivilianing process. The medical benefits really helped them out during the tough first few months of Sarge getting back into the flow of non-militarized life.

He took a job tending bar for a rundown old hootch-shack out along the Talechenosky Backflow, on the island of green egrets--a real dive not three squirts from the Tributary Gate to the Red Marshes. It wasn't much, but it made a difference for Sarge's self esteem and his war wounds lent the place a kind of notoriety and drew in a few other grizzled old veterans who became regulars. Unfortunately Euphelia also become something of a regular. Sarge couldn't cut her off, wouldn't begrudge her whatever relief the hootch might hold for her as she tried to cope with his grotesque disfigurement. Things settled into a sour, bitter downward spiral that even the birth of their two sons couldn't stop.

The field medics and military biosurgeons had said that Sarge Autumn would never be able to have kids. They had given him every assurance and he was being compensated for the loss of his reproductive rights as part of the medical benefits package.

The biosurgeons, medics and all their fancy AI-systems and such were wrong. Maybe it was the virux. Maybe it was something else. The Autumns had had some hoodooers among them, back afore the War, but most of them had been forcibly conscipted a decade ago. Folks suspected that there might have been some sort of lingering hoodoo going on. Who knows for sure?

Whatever the cause or however it happened, Sarge and Euphelia had a pair of twins that first summer out on the island of green egrets. Sarge was surprised and then proud, at first, and Euphelia broke down and had to be sedated and spent the better part of six months in observational custody after she first saw what she had delivered into the world. Euphelia weren't a strong girl, not even when she was still kind of pretty, back before the War. She hadn't coped too terribly well with Sarge's return as a crippled-up wreck of the man she thought that she remembered. The boys were just too much for her. Something in her head snapped and she was never the same.

Sarge took care of his boys. He hired a deaf, dumb, blind wetnurse and saw to it that they were well taken care of by the empathic fungimom. Those six months were quiet, peaceful, a blessing to both the boys and their daddy. Then Euphelia came home. She was drunk within the first hour.

They fought a great deal more often, once Euphelia returned from the asylum-chateau.

She got it into her head that the thing that had come back was some sort of drone or machine, that her man had died in the war. Or at least he ought to have had the consideration to have done so, if not for her sake, for that of his two sons.

Both boys, Johnny and Edgar, were born blind and albino and a bit weird. Euphelia blamed it all on Sarge. She claimed it was all the damage he'd suffered in the War, and that the virux had somehow infiltrated her womb, violated her and tainted the boys. They were always 'the' boys to Euphelia, never 'her' boys.

She left him. Left the boys as well. As soon as she was able, Euphelia Autumn slipped out, bought a ticket for the Pararail and was never heard from again. Most folks were relieved to see the shrieking old haglet leave. Most said goodriddance, but never in front of old Sarge.

Old man Autumn didn't shed a tear. Most men in his place would have. Not him. He got real quiet. Withdrawn. Spooky. It weren't a particularly happy life, not for any of them. But the boys seemed to adjust just fine. If anything, they loved growing up around the tumble-down bar and having the run of the little island and all the waterways, marshes, atolls, sandbars and fishing holes in the near vicinity.

The boys grew up and Sarge grew old and the dilapidated shack they lived in stayed pretty much the same, only there was far fewer fights and a stagnant sort of quiet that just sort of settled over everything. What with the way their ma ran off and that weird fractal-metal arm of their daddy's, people felt pity for the two boys and treated them like mascots around the bar. Eventually people came to appreciate that those two boys didn't need anyone's pity, though they'd surely take advantage of it if given half a chance. They were eleven years old before anyone realized that the two boys saw just fine, only not with their eyes. The locals stopped playing cards with them promptly.

They grew up in that dingy backwater place, those two boys did odd jobs here and there and finally took over as the house band once they were old enough to play instruments that they downloaded and modified from the Public Domain Archives. The boys learned how to use mouth harps, zithers, banjos, dulcimers and then they got ambitious and built a set of powered and amplified Diddey Bows, a theramin and a peculiar type of glass armonica that was based off of a dream they both had had one night.

Johnny and Edgar had a gift for music and for tinkering with mechanical stuff. They built all of their own instruments from scrounged-up scrap they recovered or salvaged from around the Tributaries, always being careful to avoid the notice of the River Marshalls.

Eventually the two boys gained quite a following. People came from all around to hear them play and various Blues players started to drop by to catch the boys at their music. Some sat in with them, others swapped liquor, lies and songs, and still others exchanged tricks of the trade or commissioned instruments to be custom-made by them.

Their daddy was real proud of those two boys. Real proud.

But the virux wasn't completely dormant and finally, for whatever reason, it kicked-in and finished the job it had started all those years ago in a bombed-out apple orchard in Bruxemlough. Old man Autumn went down into the basement for another case of beer and he never came back up again.

The boys went looking for him in-between sets.

They found what was left of the old man, huddled-up in the dim light of a dusty hoverbulb, more machine than living thing, pieces and parts, gears and pipes and all manner of things jumbled one after another onto a growing pile of mechanical junk. They stood there and watched, in that weird way that they have of seeing without eyes, as their daddy was finally consumed by the virux and converted into a mass of peculiar mechanical parts. It was a horrific scene, but these boys were raised amidst the endless recountings of battlefield nightmares by the veterans who were regulars at the bar all their life. It was horrible, it was sad, it was tragic, but they did not get mad. They got busy.

Being the sons of a soldier and natural born musical mechanics, the boys gathered up the remains of their daddy and carried it all upstairs. It took a few weeks of trial and error, but finally they were able to assemble all the pieces that had once been their father into a steampowered organ-boat that they outfitted with all their customized musical instruments and they took the show on the road, or out on the riverways in any case.

If you listen, you can almost hear them now.

(This story is dedicated to Trey.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Courtyard of Daldrume and Subsidiary Solar Systems

Towards the Western edge of the Second Quarter of the Fourth Arrondissement of the Third Tier of Devukarsha there is a well-known walled garden surrounding a large rectangular courtyard in the classical Morvai style, completely enclosed by arched walkways and paved with softly worn red cobblestones imported from the impounded ancestral estates of convicted schizmolatrists. The walls are inset with dozens of tasteful red and green mosaics that would not have looked too much out of place in Pre-Diaspora Herculaneum. The mosaics are all the more notable for how they stand in contradistinction to the fountains that splash playfully in the sunlight and are said to have been modeled upon designs that the cloneheirs of Anton Gaudi himself have declared cluttered and overly baroque in the extreme.

Daldrume is one of the smallest Autonomous Regions within the Upper Tiers of Devukarsha. It is older than all of the so-called Lesser Houses and has managed to remain independent of the Ascendant Houses for so long that it is now considered a tradition amongst the Houses to allow the Deep Infrastructure to maintain this place as a neutral, unclaimed and unspoiled site that they can all share.

It has much historical significance, though only about a tenth of the actual dealings and events that have ever taken place within the Courtyard have been recorded or made available to the Public Domain. The Courtyard is a place of privacy and introspection, of quiet contemplation and discretion. Much takes place here away from prying eyes or eager ears. A great deal of subterfuge, behind-the-scenes dealings, hostage negotiations, treaty discussions, recognition pacts, financial settlements, assassinations, and other such business is carried out within the Courtyard of Daldrume and even more such things are dealt with in the immediate vicinity, though much of that is for the sake of misdirection...or is it?

The Courtyard of Daldrume is far too important, both politically and otherwise, to Polite Society to allow it to be over-run by the Paparazzi. Thus the Paparazzi, who are banned from these grounds, used to prowl the outer walls and hound after every visitor in the hopes of sniffing out some hint of scandal or juicy gossip, or at least they used to, until after the end of the Second War and Twenty-Seven Mandates were enacted. That's when the region surrounding Daldrume was legally declared an Irrevocably Permanent Autonomous Zone.

Within minutes of the formal delcaration nearly every intelligence operative, spy, and foreign diplomat in Devukarsha or in the nearby vicinity who monitored the Courtyard on a perpetual watch for their various interested parties started to set up and maintain the forest-like array of foilers, bafflers, and other covert security and privacy systems that constantly confuse, disorient and scramble the Paparazzi's cameras, links and informants. Shortly thereafter the entire area became a non-stop partyzone that serves as a buffering mass of parades, performances, gatherings, and all manner of special events that allow anyone and everyone to come and go at all different times of the day, week or month. That has made it all the easier for all manner of skullduggery and illicit espionage to take place freely all around the walls of Daldrume. It has also made it much easier to sneak into the Courtyard unobserved for all manner of sneaky dealings and those traditionally delicate or sensitive sorts of arrangements that have always taken place beside the softly burbling fountains of the Courtyard of Daldrume.

Getting to (and from) the Courtyard is More Than Half the Fun
Outside the Courtyard of Daldrume, the majority of the Second Quarter of the Fourth Arrondissement of the Third Tier is taken up by the Portico which is the collective name for the entire amalgamation and extremely convoluted circuit of formal, informal, and clandestine parties, balls, soirees, and other events that wrap the entire outer circumference of the Courtyard of Daldrume with a rich agglomeration of ever-changing, always transforming party locales that shift and morph into and out of one another like movie sets that behave like schools of fish. Holography and extrusive frameworks merge into a perpetual playground of faux-favelas, holiday-huts, mistwalled palais, shadow manors and more, creating an intoxicating and bewildering phantasmal fete-scape that is only rivalled by the festivals of Dalarika, Mardi Gras in Nulussiene, and Carnalval in Old Kedellim.

Dignitaries both legitimate and spurious meet and mingle with aristocrats who might be frauds, replicas or spies. Simulacrae and costume-clones, surrogates, duplicates and doubles are everywhere and it is their task to make sure that no one ever knows who was or was not present, nor whom they were with or what they did. Prevaricators, glossoliacs, and mesmerists stalk through the place making sure that no one can recall things quite the same as anyone else.  Distraction is the main stock in trade of the clonecastes and entertainment is the passion of the Solmiri who compete to serve every whim and satisfy every need of the various guests in their own manner and interpretation like a hundred masked Scheherazades always just out of reach.

The entire circumference of the stately old Courtyard is ringed about with gaudy masquerades, elegant masks, and every imaginable sort of mood lighting, sound system, wandering entertainers, street thespians, retrobards, poets, jugglers, and clowncurity. A vast staff of psychomalleable chameleonics, vaguedroids, mirrobots and the like continually circulate through the majority of the entire Second Quarter. The result is a vastly entertaining, never-ending party that delivers timely episodes of spontaneous outbursts, easily deciphered opulence, chic decadence, and such coordinated social chaos that no one can track who is whom, who they've been with, or where they've gone until they leave the grounds.

Each party contracts out its own security staff, so that no two parties ever have the exact same mix of bouncers, clowns, ranters, coolers, or provocateurs. There is also a ferocious competition amongst the various established party-going cliques, clades and dilletantes to differentiate their events from all the other, obviously lesser events. Ass-Clowns are banned from this area. It takes a very high-level diplomatic permit to allow them past the Portico.

The sheer number of available taxis, rickshaws, hovergondolas, skiffblimps, and other means of private transportation immediately and directly available on the periphery of the Portico is staggering. There are literally hundreds of extrusion-nodes just at the very edge of the Portico where self-disposable autocabs are fabricated on demand to compete with the other, already operant systems. There is a separate police force of harlequin-wasps that are tasked with maintaining the free flow of traffic into and out of the immediate area surrounding the Portico.

Any members of the mediocracy who can provide proper identification and who have an invitation can enter the Portico, but their datarecovery systems are muzzled and filtered to the point that few ever bother. Those that do attend the parties surrounding Daldrume are either posers or after something too big to play subtle, which attracts attention in and of itself.

Getting into and out of the Courtyard of Daldrume itself isn't nearly so difficult as trying to navigate the partyzones and revel-areas that have grown up around the Courtyard. Unless you care to make use of the Low Street entrance.

A Public Access Historical Location: Take the Low Street
The Courtyard of Daldrume remains one of the most venerable public access locations in all of Devukarsha. It is required by venerable law and established tradition that the Courtyard is to be made accessible so that even the lowest of the underclasses can have unimpeded access, should they have the means to find their way through the Portico and the non-stop party-zones. The Low Street was established during the Third Regime. It has been kept open, free and clear for centuries by an intrinsic detachment of waspcops that are extruded on demand as guides and guards for anyone who steps onto the surface of the Low Street. While it was originally established that the Low Street was for anyone, not just the lower rungs of society, it has become an entrenched notion amongst the party-goers and debutantes that no one of any status, class or Inheritance would ever soil themselves by stooping so low as to demean themselves by making use of the Low Street. To do so would be tantamount to publicly declaring that you could not secure an invitation to one of the parties that are always circulating about the place. It would be a social disgrace.

Thus there is a thriving market for discrete guides who are suitably conversant with current Dregs-slang and who can assist a patron to travel the Low Street without anyone knowing they were anything other than what they appeared to be at the time, usually a small group of squalid throwbacks or shanty-dwellers. Of course these guides more often than not work for more than one master and as with any secret worth knowing, it is known, sooner or later, by those who make every effort to be in the know.

Take The Tour
The Courtyard of Daldrume is on the itinerary of most tour groups and has been featured in countless paintings, holosculpts, postcards and the occasional netnovela or vidream. There is a small gift shop just inside the main entrance that has been in business off and on since the days of Maxellus the Almost Emperor who declared himself to be the Great Unifier. There is also a large gamma-scalded iridium-shell statue of the mighty Maxellus just a few steps past the gift shop.  It is a striking and surprisingly non-sarcastic depiction of the man who would have been emperor, standing in a classic business-warrior's pose next to a toppled throne.  Few can believe that it is the work of Dandavris, especially anyone familiar with Dandarvis' sarcastomorphs and his extremely vulgar (even lewd) revisional depictions of various sacred heroes, questionable saints and certain of the less-virtuous Madonnas, such as Kuchimbra. Dandavris was responsible for the infamous Immaculate Indiscretion of the Madonna formerly installed in the Great Octangle of Renoy on Killian's World, before it was vandalized and removed to a more secure and undisclosed location, presumably within the deeper catacombs beneath the island-city of Renoy.

At the center of this courtyard, past the central fountain and its luxurious catch-basin, there is a circular gate that hangs in the air just half a step off from the pavement. The gate turns slowly upon its vertical axis marking a thirty-degree arc every hour on the hour. At the completion of each thirty-degree segment of the circle set into the pavement, the destination of the gate switches over to the next location in its sequence. There are twelve destinations available to this gate and each is available for two different hours of every day. Various high-level Directors, Cabinet-Members, Executives, and even certain high-ranking Parliament members have estates or villas located on one of the exclusive worlds only legitimately accessed via this one very secure gate. If there are better security or privacy systems available within the Known Worlds, they would be installed in the Courtyard of Daldrume before you ever heard of them. But still, there are those who try to sneak past; larkers, thrill-seekers, drunken dilletantes, and others. Most are found, eventually, little worse for wear, often sealed away for a few decades in a criotube or stasispod with no memory of what happened.

It is said in the markets of Devukarsha that it is never the getting into a place that is the issue, but rather the getting out of it once you've done what you've gone there to do.

Assassins freely enter and wander the Courtyard of Daldrume all the time. Only one has ever made it out of the Courtyard after administering a socially-lethal nanocyte into the extended wetware of a visiting dignitary from Mulshire. That assassin was believed to have been the notorious so-called 'Nathaniel9' who may or may not be from Jezeal. How they escaped is still a source of conjecture and a topic for folklore and vidramas.

The Almost Emperor
Maxellus was the would-be Emperor who almost brought all of the Great Rift under his dominion. Almost but not quite. He died in a freak accident from which only his favorite concubine survived. She was an Oodkan who later dropped-out and has been untraceable ever since.

The Civil War that exploded in the wake of Maxellus' death very nearly destroyed Devukarsha until the Ascendant Houses were able to settle on the current Constitution and established the so-called Peace even though there are currently three great wars being fought, one of which is approaching the city a little closer each day from the weirdzones of the East. But those are things best discussed another time.

Maxellus really did become something of a Great Unifier, after the fact and far more from what came about despite him more than anything that he actually did directly. The Lesser Houses finally stopped their petty squabbles long enough to ratify the Constitution once and for all, enabling all subsequent revolutions to be both televised and to be brought directly into the ongoing political process. This was the moment in history when the Twelve Ascendant Houses and the Twelve Descendant Houses reached an accord that has stood to this day. The Lesser Houses have never recovered from the loss of their relevancy brought about by the Constitution and every revolution that comes and goes now works within the overall political ecology established by the Constitution, overseen by the Parliament of Hours, the Ministers, Directors, High Cabinet and Council of Executive Chiefs.

There has never been another almost-Emperor since Maxellus and it is considered highly unlikely that there ever will be again. But, of course, stranger things have come to pass, and there is serious unrest amongst the underclasses of the grotto-districts...

The Twelve Destinations of Daldrume's Gate will be detailed in another post, or at least those that are not blocked by Parliamentary Edict or granted the Right to Privacy.
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