Posthuman Spiral

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Premise

Posthuman Spiral is a setting where millenia ago, the displaced working class of a thousand worlds fled the central power of the Sol Imperium to escape the oppression of the genetically-enhanced elites.

The Posthuman Spiral, the main area of the setting, is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way's and one of the most powerful of these breakaways, a place where oppressed transgenes and synthetics fled to control their own destiny by ascending to a perfect posthuman state. However, the denizens of the Spiral are a fractious lot, as there no consensus over what is a perfect posthuman, and some individuals have already moved too far away from humanity to be understood.

More worrying is the returning Sol Imperium, which has set its eyes upon the many polities which broke away from it with dreams of reclamation.

Introduction

The society that the exodus left behind was actually rather idyllic and utopian, with ubiquitous network technology, advanced medical science and increasing industrial automation that was slowly erasing poverty and misery. Humanity held dominion over thousands of planets and three times as many stars, connected by a vast network of space folding gates that made travel easy and instantaneous. It was this automation and utopian push, however, that created the underclass that made up most of the Spiral colonists.

New advances in gene therapy made the newer generation of transgenics increasingly more adept at all aspects of life than the human baseline, obsoleting those who could not afford the treatments, while increasing automation of industry displaced those who were forced into menial duties into increasingly dangerous or undesirable careers. In order to keep up and retain a place in society, much of the working class was forced to specialize and budget whatever template upgrades they could afford, filling the gaps in their abilities with cybernetics and taking on the most dangerous trades where they could not be replaced by machines. As time went on, these things ceased to be stopgap measures to climb out of poverty, and became facts of life for the whole of the working class in the Sol Imperium.

Reacting only to the increasing misery without properly addressing the causes or attempting to elevate the worker to their ranks, the elites of the Imperium resolved to abolish the working class entirely. Their initial solution to make use of artificial humans such a bioroids only swelled their numbers and worsened conditions by reducing the availability of labor in other sectors such as the traditionally baseline service industry. Eventually, the problem was entirely rectified by the development of true AI, which allowed for widespread automation of all industrial sectors.

By the time of these innovations however, the working masses of the Imperium had suffered many centuries of social stasis and economic decay. Community leaders of hundreds and even thousands used the Netsphere to connect, plan and coordinate a permanent departure from Sol's sphere of influence. This Secessio plebis was recorded in Imperial history in great infamy was the December Exodus, a sudden revolution where a trillion people of a thousand nationalities and backgrounds left the Imperium and scattered themselves to the space surrounding, completely disappearing from core human civilization in the span of a month. By the new year, the Imperium found itself gutted and drastically changed by the experience.

Billions lost their lives in the ensuing chaos, as the Imperial Navy blockaded major ports to prevent fleeing separatists and some worlds were accidentally starved in the ensuing quarantines. Those wounds like, those inflicted in any particularly violent and chaotic time, were cauterized by historical revisionism and the passing of hundreds of generations. After the rebellion ended, the Imperium resolved to prevent this tragedy from ever occurring again, and finalized the automation plan and became humanity's first truly post-scarcity economic system. Those disgruntled few who were stranded or could not flee were accorded special rights and elevated to the level of lowest of the elites in order to secure their loyalty.

Still, there remained the issue of dozens, if not over a hundred fledgling nations sprouting up around the periphery. But the Imperim was economically and socially ravaged by the revolution, and unable to stage an all-out war so shortly after what was an effective economic collapse. Unwilling to risk incident and planning for the far future, it waited, intending to return those breakaways into the prosperous and unified human sphere... some day.

The Posthuman Spiral

Millennium ago, the Posthuman Spiral was settled by a great exodus of people fleeing the oppression of the Sol Imperium. Formed of disparate transgenes, cyborgs and bioroid menial workers pushed to the edges of the society for centuries, the denizens of the Spiral set it as their goal to overcome all inequality and advance the human condition to a perfected posthuman state.

The Posthuman Spiral is perhaps the largest and most powerful realms on the periphery of the Milky Way, having advanced well beyond the technological prowess of the Imperium by its total embrace of radical transhumanist technologies and ideologies. It does not feature the same massive level of industrial automation as the Sol Imperium, but features far more ubiquitous fabrication and 'homegrown' manufacture network that allows it a great degree of economic flexibility. Having inherited the basic technological framework as the Imperium, it operates its own netsphere and gate network.

Still, the Spiral is not nearly as unified as some might imagine, and rather than a monolithic society of radical exhumans as the Imperium might paint them, is rather a large and prosperous confederation of city-states and republics inhabited mostly by high-level transgenes. While enclaves of radical exhumans and some posthuman singularity intelligences exist, the majority of the Spiral is a little more than a few generations removed from baseline humanity on a physiological basis.

The most prominent members of their society do perhaps lend credence to the stereotype of maddened exhumans, however. The strange and somewhat aloof Egan, who upload their consciousnesses to machines and operate terminal bodies to interact with their fellow colonists of the Spiral for example, are heavily responsible for interstellar trade and exploration. Other clades, like the Shaka, who use special netsphere permissions to surf between mindstates and bodies, are actually responsible for much of the Spiral's communications network.

Setting Information

Politics

Founded by dissidents of over a hundred worlds and cultures, the Spiral is politically and socially fractious to its core, with numerous styles of government. While most societies would fall under the loose umbrella of cyberdemocratic or liberal democratic governments, oligarchic enclaves and anarchist communes are a large and visible majority of the Spiral's body politic.

Apsis Gate Union

The Apsis Gate Union is the first and most powerful government in the Spiral. Their power derives from their monopolization of the fold gate technology that connected the many stars of the Spiral, which until very recently, gave economic hegemony over the region. Protected by the powerful Apsis Gate Union Navy (AGUN) and backed by the largest economy in the Spiral, the AGU is a powerful political player even with their initial power base toppled. While theoretically an alliance of democratic states, the Union's national government is de-facto ruled by the leaders of the various corporations who built, maintain and operate the gate network.

The AGU's territories are currently divided into administrative trade lines, consisting of distinct colonization branches cutting through the galaxy. Although their territory is extremely spread out, AGU systems are among the most secure owing to the incredible speed with which AGUN fleets can react to invasions by rival nations or berserker probes.

The past century has been rough for the Gate Union, and their sheer economic power has waned somewhat. With their total control over colonization and trade shattered by the release of open-source drive technology, the AGU has had to resort to conquering unaffiliated colonies to bolster its reconstruction efforts. Although accusations of imperialism have been levied against the AGU, it has neither declared war on another faction nor violated any wartime ethical codes, meaning that it has managed to continue its border skirmishes without censure.

Aphelion

Widely believed to be the linchpin of the Spiral's military capacity, Aphelion was the first system settled in the Spiral, and stands on the whisps of the larger spiral arm in a sector of space known as the Arrival Cluster. It is the strategic point in a protracted war with the Sol Imperium, as the Arrival Cluster is the only region in the Posthuman Spiral with the traits to make it a viable avenue for easy invasion from the core: a density of gravity wells favorable for inter-galactic travel while being with sensors range from a number of major naval ports in the Milky Way for accurate flight mapping.

The leading member of the AGU is cosmopolitan and progressive, but also strangely static about opinions of the Imperium and the other breakaways. A vast terraformed moon in the orbit of a Neptune-like gas giant that came to become the home of a vast ecumenopolis. Their culture is effectively the oldest in the Spiral, and despite the apparent vehemence towards the Sol Imperium, is also the closest to that of core human civilization. Colonists on Aphelion came from every world and ethnicity, and somehow managed to assimilate with minimal cultural mosaicism. While ethnic boroughs are still somewhat common, most citizens consider themselves wholly Aphelian.

Politically, Aphelion is something of a strange collision of a direct democracy with jingoism and militaristic patriotism. The streets and terraces of an otherwise classical and mature ecumenopolis are littered with patriotic bunting, iconic banners and propaganda posters. Nearly every citizen has a full military skillsoft set implanted in their teens and qualifies as a reservist. Exhumanism in service to the state and Spiral are seen as virtuous, and the Aphelion keeps the largest population of military Egans in the entire Spiral.

Widely recognized for their hardtech engineering and cybernetics, Aphelion also hosts major shipbuilding facilities and is one of the leading arms manufacturers in the Spiral.

Apsis Gate Union Navy [AGUN]

AGUN is the AGU's military, primarily tasked with border patrol, exploration and commerce protection. They are a military built around around flexible and fast-moving corvettes and cruisers, although their real strength lies in their capital ships, which are among the most powerful in the Spiral. Their ships are heavily armed and well-armored, having little need for cutting edge systems, although their adaptation to current-generation fold drives has been somewhat lackluster.

The AGUN is spread out over the breadth of the Union's territories, but is one of the most flexible and logistically sound militaries by virtue of its usage of the gate network. With minimal network rerouting, a whole regional patrol force can drop into a compromised system within the hour and crush the opposition from all sides.

Kepler Network

The Kepler Network are coalition of thousands of scientific enclaves and ecumenopoli modeled after the AGU breakaway Apogee, founded under the principles of free information, open source technology and continuing human progress, both moral and technological. Each Kepler Network system is by definition the site of a Jupiter Brain structure, which functions as a netsphere server hub and manufacture zone for the creation of quantum blueboxes. They are the effective proprietors of the Spiral's netsphere, operating it for free and offering their services to the entire galaxy.

Their government is functionally a direct democracy based on digital distribution, with member systems (those that operate a netsphere server) appointing a administrator who mediates for his or her electorate and presents their concerns to the council. Appropriately, the majority of the citizenry in the Network actually do not have permanent bodies and interact mostly though the netsphere, where they have a vast and functional digital democracy that manages to string together a population one eighth the size of the League into a functional government.

The only group with the military and political power to complete check the AGU's influence, the Network is staunchly independant of any any corporate or national interest other than its own. They maintain their own standing military, known as the Safeguard, and the elite anti-cyberterror organization Ghost Line. Although their fleet is somewhat weaker than the Union's, their ability to hijack rival networks and insert agents directly into the heart of enemy facilities makes them a dangerous opponent in direct and asymmetrical warfare.

Apogee

Apogee was once the sister system to Aphelion, an outlying colony on the edge of the Arrival cluster that entered maturity during the founding decades of the AGU. The developers of the original Jupiter Server design, their basic improvements over the Sol Imperium's netsphere architecture were sufficient to encourage other enclaves to begin construction of similar structures. The pace quickened, and the sprawling netsphere connected billions of scientists, engineers and philosophers, who began working towards a humanity unified by a common goal of moral and technological process, as had been the original goal of the December Exodus.

Apogee is the founding member of the Kepler Network, and subsequently laid the groundwork for the eventual overthrow of the Union's de-facto regere economica. Originally, the AGU had banned fold drive research to prevent the recurrent disasters that had wracked its own development stations, and also as a means of maintaining hegemony. Worlds that violated the ban faced economic censures, ranging from increased tithes to full gate lockdown. Eventually tired of the abuses, the leading figures of the Network agreed to begin devoting spare bandwidth to the effort of producing a viable drive in order to free the Spiral from the threat of oppression by the AGU. It was at Apogee that Sol Imperium fold drives were successfully reverse engineered and open sourced over the netsphere, permanently ending the Gate Union's monopoly over faster than light travel.

Safeguard

The Safeguard are the Network's standing military, and the fourth largest in the Spiral. The Safeguard are distinctive for abandoning traditional bodies and sleeving into pure combat units, as well as their unique insertion method. Most Safeguard assaults have them hijacking a local fabricator and deploying a body directly into the field because sending a consciousness to it. They make extensive use of combat-optimized templates and drone weapons, although the Safeguard fleet itself is somewhat unimpressive by the standards of most nations.

Ghost Line

Ghost Line is an anti-terror task force established by the Enclave to protect their interests and stop subtle existential threats to the netsphere. Rogue hyper-hackers, intelligent memetic plagues and maddened singularity intelligences pose serious risks to the continued function of the network and the Posthuman Spiral at large. With official jurisdiction in the entire galaxy, they act to protect both nation and network... at any cost.

Ispano League

The Spiral's largest democracy and often considered the heart of its political and cultural scene, Ispano is a multiparty representative democracy consisting hundreds of worlds in a region sandwiched between the primary Network and AGU territorial branches near the core of the galaxy. The majority of these states operate as digital or representative democracies on the planetary level and convene on the federal level at the League capital of Iberis.

The League is heavily centralized economically and politically, with most of its resources going into construction efforts in the main systems of Sol Dios, Asturia and Milesia. Because of this, tensions tend to run a little hot with outlying and newly-joined colonies, that often do not begin to reap the benefits of membership until decades after joining.

The unfortunate political situation could be considered a consequence of 90% of the Ispano's population dwelling in a handful of systems, despite holding hundreds. Outlying states and new colonies suffer extensive a sort of tyranny of the masses as the electoral power of their representatives is measured by population and seniority in membership. Some systems have considered breaking away, while some rising stars have pulled themselves from the lowly minority houses and have closed the gap with extensive cloning and bioroids, often using randomized versions of extremely standard or cookie cutter personality templates. As a consequence, the society that prides itself on culture has a disturbing trend of uniformity towards its fringes.

The Ispano nonetheless have numerous achievements, particularly in the fields of megastructure building and shipbuilding. Because most of their colonies are in non-viable systems with 'old stars' and few planets in the Goldilocks zone that would allow for easy terraforming, they've resorting to building their own environments. So common are space habitats in League space that the Bishop Ring is the primary component of the Ispano flag, as well as that of several component states.

If any faction were to openly challenge the authority of the AGU and sovereignity of the Kepler Network, the Ispano would have the best chance. Their industrial capacity and materials science is easily greater than both, although they lag significantly in nearly all other fields related to warfare. In a war of sheer attritional warfare, however, the Ispano would secure a clear but costly victory over its rivals. This may soon become of import, as several of the stars in its core systems are nearing the phase where they might enter supernova. The League as it is now has a measured lifespan, and it may need to colonize or conquer the regions surrounding its territories to keep the banner of true democracy flying.

Ispano League United Military [ILUM]

The Ispano League United Military, or ILUM, is the military of the Ispano League, including state militias, border patrol and civil protection agencies under its control. ILUM is a fleet-oriented military that makes extensive usage of heavily armored missile boats and minelayers that are able to deliver overwhelming amounts of firepower. Their drive technology is somewhat unsophisticated by comparison to the Kepler or AGU, although they've successfully managed to develop the capacity for repeated tactical FTL (via redundant reactors and FTL drives), allowing ILUM formations to perform critical flanking attacks and suicide strikes on superior opponents.

ILUM's general strategy in a protracted war is based around their strengths. Although less trained and physically enhanced than an AGUN Ranger or Network Safeguard, the ILUM soldier is motivated and outfitted with gear that is reliable and nearly impossible to destroy: stories abound of platoons of Ispano powersuits like the Scherazade holding the line for days against hordes Network drone pods.

While likely just another piece of propaganda, there is likely an element of truth in it. Having long considered the prospect of a protracted and bloody war against its larger neighbors, nearly every aspect of their military technology has been designed with eventual defensive warfare in mind. Were the war to go as ILUM expects (rather than how it intends), very inch of territory taken from them will be soaked in blood.

Archetypes

Just as it is divided politically, there are also major philosophical lines and groups in the Spiral as the colonists continue to experiment with increasingly exotic and strange expressions of their transhumanity. The vast majority of the population prefers the original human form, and give it only minor cosmetic or performance enhancement to suit their tastes. Some clear extrapolation of the natural human being is the norm, although there are still plenty of outliers who prefer robotic or otherwise inhuman body styles.

Posthumans are still integrated into society, as most wholly non-human intelligences are still close enough to humanity to communicate with with as peers. National militaries make extensive usage of posthuman auxiliaries in their special forces, especially the Network and AGU, to the degree where widespread acceptance for the radically altered is the norm rather than the exception. Discrimination from baselines, while not unheard of, is generally considered a social faux-pas outside of bioconservative holdouts. Major groups like the Egan and Shaka are extremely well known, although the many more radically exhuman archetypes such as the Neurode and Transients are rare enough that most people spend entire lifetimes without encountering one.

Transhumans

Posthumans

Egan

Also nicknamed uploads, originals and (pejoratively as) spacecases, the Egan are the posthuman clade that is closest to baseline humanity psychologically, while being one of the most separated physiologically. The Egan are humans and AI patterned after human minds that have been installed into large machines such spacecraft or certain kinds of aircraft, acting as the core operating protocol for the vehicle's wider functions. While there is always a certain bias against those who abandon their flesh, being an Egan is considered a noble profession in the Spiral, and they are widely considered one of the better examples of posthumanity.

Egan are often considered socially withdrawn and eccentric, although this is generally a consequence of the effects of the cognitive rewiring they receive when transferring from a baseline mental type. Their five senses are for all intents and purposes simplified to those of touch, sound and sight. Enhanced by sensors and skillsofts too sophisticated to run on normal implants, the remaining three senses of an Egan in their main body become feasts of highly nuanced and detailed data that is often overwhelming at times.

For many, the simple ability to experience such a wealth of data mitigates the losses they incurred by transferring. Those who do not often make use of terminal bodies like the other posthuman clades, although some hardline Egans consider these individuals to be inferior for not relinquishing their flesh completely. For everyone else, it's often simply a relief to have a face of flesh and blood to interact with.

Shaka

The Shaka are network-based posthumans who distinguish themselves from transhuman infomorphs and AI constructs by the manner that they interpret data. While others simply interact with the netsphere, the Shaka are self-contained pieces of the netsphere who function as server administrators and data surveyors. Their consciousnesses stretch across whole networks and hundreds of terminals, affording them a sort of immortality that few enjoy, while giving them a greater degree of resilience to mindstate hacking due to the distributed awareness on which they operate.

Most Shaka have never been biologicals, largely because most transhumans outside of the Kepler Network are loath to upgrade to this particular clade. Hackers in the frontier are generally more willing to undergo the extensive psychosurgery and mental fragmentation more frequently due to the benefits to their abilities, even if it drives them away from baselines. Although primarily seen in civilian life, the Shaka are an integral part of the Network's military, where they use their talents in hacking, programming and memetics to provide crucial cyberwarfare capacity.

Unlike Neurodes, the Shaka are not actually hiveminds or groups of synchronized mindstates acting in unison, but rather similar to a network-based superorganism. They treat the various networks they dwell in as extensions of a massive digital body, their consciousness potentially spread over vast lightyears. A Shaka hacker would be aware of an attempt at hacking their sovereign territory in the same fashion that a biological might realize someone is trying to strike their limbs with a club.

Like Egans, most Shaka operate terminal bodies to interact with baseline humans, although they generally have less of a problem communicating and acclimating to new bodies. They rarely have hangups about losing or changing bodies, leading some military units, such as the Safeguard to actually incorporate tactical bodyhopping to insert troops behind enemy lines,. Because of their networked identities, many are far more comfortable 'swimming' in the heads of their allies or using regular digital communications.

Technology