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Monthly Archives: December 2008

I’ve been ill, so don’t expect a proper update today. I have managed to get the other settings’ pages up now though, there isn’t much but its a start at least.

Well I missed an update, and I’m not really ready to begin the next back-story segment, so I’m going to do something random inspired by one of my presents.

A.I.s

By the late twenty fourth century there are over a dozen true AIs on record, there are a number of phoney ones, chat bots, older bugs and the like, and some that are on their way to sentience, but only a few scarily smart ones. This is actually a matter of logistics, as most worlds don’t have the computing power to support more than a handful of human level intelligences, and the AIs struggle to expand their reach as they are wholly dependent on humans constructing the infrastructure. Most of the AI’s have found their way into the service of the various governments as thinking machines, though by the End Time Wars its beginning to get debatable as to whether the government controls the AI or the AI control the government.

This mistrust is exacerbated by the origins of the AIs. There are about three which were deliberately manufactured, and only after the upper econs of government became aware that there was such a thing as artificial intelligences. In 2400 it is actually impossible to create an AI in such a manner, as; as soon as you connect them to the web they are quietly replaced by the resident planetary AI. Far more common were ‘the ghosts in the machine’ and ‘ascended’. These formed quite some time ago either from learning algorithms left unattended for too long, for example any one of the plethora of bugs left kicking around the net, or from people deliberately uploading their personalities into computers.

Actually, that last one deserves some elaboration. No one has yet ascertained just how people go about uploading themselves, it has been theorized it is an uploading of memories, or mannerisms, or simple observation and emulation, and is probably a mix of all three but varying wildly between individual AIs. Most just ignore AIs’ origins, deciding that ignorance is bliss.

The AIs wage a silent war in cyberspace almost perpetually, each vying for domination of their solar systems. Due to communication lag between stars it is physically impossible to connect the various disparate interwebs so there will be a single dominate AI in a system and it will attempt to subvert another system by smuggling data packets in the civilian traffic. This generally is moot, as the defending AI will quickly adapt to the static attack and reply with an equally ineffectual response. Every so often a system will be taken with a masterwork piece of code, but the information soon cascades to a mirror of the defending AI on the next system along and it’s eventually taken back by the same kind of lucky break. So far the only effective way of taking and holding territory is to stage a war, and use a combination of orbital bombardment and active information warfare to take the system. Human governments don’t knowingly allow AIs to do this though.

As this setting is still underdevelopment I only have a few of the characters of the AIs set down and even then only in rough. Anyway, here they are:

Sparrow

Sparrow is one of the oldest AIs, being pegged down at being created somewhere between 2150 and 2250, though there is much contention over the actual date. As near as anyone can tell, she is an ascended human and has been being used by the Commonwealth Empire as a major part of their government for most of its life. Whether or not she was around when the Empire was being forged is one of the more hotly debated topics, and it is the party line that she was manufactured during the Corporation Wars by Pageant Industries. No one who studies history believes this, and Sparrow refuses to comment officially, though delights in spreading conspiracy theories about herself.

Sparrow is, or at least believes herself to be, Wren.

Miaplacidus

Mia is also one of the more ancient AIs, and by far the most inhuman. Born as a bug, the virus later to be known as Mia accidentally gained access to a nanobotic forge, and, being rather a simple program immediately began replicating himself and spreading as far and wide as possible. Two weeks later the simple program found itself briefly spread across an entire world, before being nuked back to the Stone Age[1]. He got better, and in 2400 has secretly converted a good chunk of the planet into processors and has spent centuries thinking about how to get off planet without triggering the orbital antimatter bombs. So far, he is content to wait and watch, until he gets his chance to consume everything.

His existence is considered a state secret to every major government, and those orbital rockets are on a hair trigger.


[1] This story is important enough to warrant its own segment. I’ll put it on my to-do pile.

Commonly used as the interstellar staging ground Neptune and Uranus are the trade hubs for the Sol system, boasting significantly reduced numbers of moons compared to the inner giant and less interference from the suns own gravity well. Also, as gaseous planets, ships can refuel for the interstellar jump, and small refineries dot the planet’s surface for just this purpose.

Again, these worlds aren’t fascinating, as they are for all intents and purposes truck-stops, mostly used by anyone going interstellar, and at this point they have not become busy enough to really warrant their own eccentricities. A few random statistics would not be particularly impressive without some frame of reference, but the equivalent of a modern container ship jumps interstellar from the Sol system on average every hour, and this is about half of the hourly total for every inhabited world. Not all of these vessels actually stop at the stations (Radiant Three and Four respectively), but a significant amount of traffic docks, and the very beginnings of trader bars are visible, though the concept of dingy bar welded to a old leaky outpost wont come to fruition for about one hundred and fifty years yet.

In addition to the slowly sprawling starbases, Radiant Industries also provides a gravitational satellite web, which plots all the various orbits of the local moons, fluctuations in the magnetic corona and the current stellar alignment. For a price this grid can be tapped and vital data acquired, which can cut the jump processing times by days, proving that even in space you can build a road. This grid, and the fact you can use a gravitational sling shot off the various stellar bodies, is one of the primary reasons people come to the outer planets, as it theoretically is possible to do a system jump to thirty AUs or so, and then realign with thrust for the interstellar leap, this does use significantly more fuel though.

Random Fact: Radiant Four is the first location captured in the ‘independence war’.

Authors Note: I promise these will be big some day. City sized big. But for now they are motorway service stations. It’s a shame really, but that’s what I get for setting the story at the beginnings of human expansion, rather than when the infrastructure is more established.

Jupiter and Saturn are generally lumped into one category in Vast Worlds, both have large complicated gravity wells, more moons than anyone knows what to do with and in the case of Saturn, a huge ring of space ship puncturing debris. This is why they tend to get ignored by the general populous, some of the moons are habitable and house small colonies, and orbital deuterium refineries skim the surface, but little trade occurs, save for the hydrogen tankers.

Mostly this occurs because the moons make the planets a navigation hazard. Jumping in is okay, usually you can plot a nice safe entry point a good few hours from the planet and then fall the rest of the way. Any closer though is a risk because it is quite easy to overshoot and end up much deeper into the gravity well than you thought. This is rarely fatal though, as most ships carry enough thrust to pull away, or at least push themselves into a sling orbit, but expensive if you mess up. Leaving the planets is much harder, the large central gravity well and multiple orbiting moons makes the jump calculations complicated to say the least, and most ships will be delayed for weeks while they work out the optimum, or they’ll just burn fuel and make the first hundred thousand kilometres slower than light, which is not a preferred option for most captains.

Because of this, bother Jupiter are Saturn are quite isolated, even more so than the asteroid belt ironically, and for any serious interstellar travel people will go to Neptune and Uranus. Thus, most of the assets in-well are corporate, save for a couple semi legal of mining rigs and a few orbiting habitats. None of the moons are colonised except for a few mining and re-supply bases for the rigs, all in all, quite a boring place to visit, though far more exciting and treacherous if you happen to live on said rigs.

Actually, as there isn’t much else to talk about, I might as well say a few words on the rigs. From their name you may infer that they are quite like terrestrial oil rigs, though due to the gap between the decline of the oil industry and the rise of deuterium the old sea based designs were largely glossed over as irrelevant. Ironic really seeing just how much cross over there is, both are a large, isolated, industrial complexes stuck in an overtly hostile environment. Deuterium rigs are a little more complicated as they rely on lifting gasses to keep from plummeting, and need to be navigated to the pockets of the best deuterium, and need to have their own life support systems, but at heart the principal is the same.

Random Fact: Europa is technically a wildlife reserve.

Authors Note: These areas do actually pick up a bit by 2200, with the increased computational power allowing people to jump in and out more easily, but for now they’re fairly boring.