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Pentagon Moons, The

Highly modified system in the Metasoft Outer Volumes

Pentagon Moons
Image from Steve Bowers

The system known as the Pentagon Moons is in the Metasoft Outer Volumes near NGC 1663, about 2000 light-years from Terra. It is one of the most atypical and infamous Metasoft Baseline Reserves.

Pentagon Moons Data Panel

PRIMARYSolstar
REGION:Metasoft Outer Volumes near NGC 1663, approx 2000LY from Sol
PLANETS:7 gas giants, 1 super terrestrial, 1 asteroid belt, 1 Kuiper belt
AI OVERSEERS:SI:2
AI ETHOS:Independent, loosely responsive to Metasoft regional oversight nodes
AFFILIATION:Metasoft
LOCAL GOVERNMENT:AI dictatorship, with two semi-autonomous baseline reserves
POPULATION:c.100 million sapients
POPULATION BREAKDOWN:approx. 100,000,000 baselines on two reserve worlds; several thousand touring neb, Su, and posthuman sentients; a handful of Su and transapient system managers
MEAN TECH LEVEL:Transapientech, with paleo/mesolithic baseline reserves
INDUSTRY:Primarily tourism and baseline reserves; large, mostly idled nanotech and amat industry
MAIN TRADING PARTNERS:Metasoft

The primary of Pentagon Moons, Solstar, is a F6V star about 2 billion years old, with about 2.9 billion years of life remaining to it. The system has a high metallicity, indicating a high stellar generation. The system consists of 7 ice and gas giants and two debris belts (an asteroid belt and a Kuiper belt), but no Oort Cloud (owing to brushes with other stars early in its life, and probably the capture of Unicorn). The system's name, Pentagon Moons, stems from the largest moons of the innermost planet, the gas giant Byjove, which were five Terran-sized, EoGaian bodies. The names, "Byjove," "Solstar," and "Pentagon Moons," are supposedly Su-level subtle, obscure cultural jokes, but most modosophonts and low transapients who have spent any time around Jovanus has reported eir sense of humor is as bad as it is expansive.

Byjove dominates the inner system, though it is not the largest planet in the system. Early in the life of the system, complicated multi-body interactions involving at least Byjove, a hypothetical superterrestrial planet 'Slammer,' and a primordial inner debris belt eventually raised Slammer’s orbit until it was captured by Byjove. Slammer’s highly elliptical capture orbit had a periastron inside Byjove's Roche limit and tore the superterrestrial planet apart. The majority of Slammer’s mass fell into Byjove, but the remainder formed the moon system of Byjove, including several relatively massive moons. The collapse of Solstar’s Oort cloud with the capture of Unicorn, also during the formation of the system, probably provided the moons of Byjove with their volatiles.

Six worlds in the system have been developed with an eye toward baseline-friendly habitation. Five are moons of Byjove, which were terraformed. The sixth is an artificial world in the region of the Solstar-Byjove L3 point.

The gas and ice giants all host considerable idled industry such as gas scoops or industrial platforms in bubble habitats. Likewise, solar power stations for a complete circumstellar ring are in mothball orbits, waiting to begin amat and monopole production if desired.

Major Elements of the Pentagon Moons Solar System

SolstarF6V, 3.23 x Sol's Luminosity
Asteroid BeltFairly dense belt stretching from 0.05 to 1.6 AU, 1x10E21 kg total mass.
Produces substantial zodiacal light. Mostly lacking in volatiles, though the outer reaches have some hydrated minerals.
ByjoveMesoJovian class Gas Giant, HydroJovian type, 1.2 Jupiter masses, 1.79 AU
WhirligigNeptunian class Ice Giant, SubJovian, EuJovian,
Skolian (89-degree tilt), 0.1 Jupiter masses, 3.79 AU. Noted for bizarre and complicated cloud patterns caused by its high tilt and relatively short year.
SphinxNeptunian class Ice Giant, SubJovian, EuJovian, 0.1 Jupiter masses, 7.154 AU
SC2Mesojovian class Gas Giant, EuJovian, 0.5 Jupiter Masses, 11.721 AU. Noted for a spectacular ring system and colorful Saturnian-like cloud bands, but few large moons.
TridentNeptunian class Ice Giant, SubJovian, Cryojovian, 0.08 Jupiter masses, 16.878 AU
ZeusPLUSMesojovian class Gas Giant, CryoJovian, 2.3 Jupiter Masses, 29.772AU, 7
Galilean-class moons
Kuiper BeltSeveral dozen large Centaurian asteroids and Kuiperian planetoids from 41.2 to 64.39 AU
UnicornMesojovian class Gas Giant, CryoJovian, Ikarian world, 1.2 Jupiter Masses, 730 to 5,000 AU retrograde orbit. Noted for being a captured world, probably in the event that cost Pentagon Moons its Oort Cloud and bombarded much of the system about 2 billion years ago.

Aphrodite - the oncoming storm
Thrillseekers soar above the massive waves on Aphrodite as a major storm approaches



The terraformed habitable worlds in this system are all moons circling the first planet, Byjove.

Moons of Byjove

Least MoonsOrbits 6 & 7, 1,178,411 km. 7 and 15 km diameter. Occupy L4 and L5 points of Seven Gorges.
Lesser MoonOrbit 3, 458,461 km. 312 km diameter
Lesser MoonsOrbits 4 & 5, 735,461 km. Co-orbital moons of 112 and 137 km diameter.
Seven GorgesOrbit 8, 1,178,411 km, Gaian world, 0.25 Earth masses, 4,467 km radius, 0.509 G, 80% water coverage. Noted for its large number of fresh water lakes, rivers, low gravity, very steep mountains and gorges, including a particularly impressive confluence of rivers (The Seven Gorges).
AphroditeOrbit 9, 1,889,273 km, Gaian world, Pelagic subtype, 0.45 Earth masses, 4,979 km radius, 0.738 G, 90% water coverage. Formerly a 'mild Venus,' it has been transformed into an oceanic paradise - ravaged by the large storms that brew up on its large, warm oceans.
Trojan MoonsOrbits 10 and 11, 3,028,948 km. 11 and 14 km diameter. Occupy L4 and L5 points of Steppes.
SteppesOrbit 12, 3,028,948 km, Gaian world, 0.57 Earth masses, 5,224 km radius, 0.813 G, 65% water coverage. Its ocean currents, mountains, and three continent groups conspire to prevent large deserts, but the continental interiors do have vast steppes. Once hosted a Middletech Baseline Reserve, currently unpopulated but for tourists.
TriskaidephiliaOrbit 13, 4,856,117 km, Gaian world, Campian Subtype, 0.74 Earth masses, 5,224 km radius, 0.745 G, 45% water coverage. While deserts are common, the small continents and numerous seas prevent giant, hyper-arid deserts. Hosts a mesolithic Baseline Reserve, including about 100 million nomads, pastoralists and some small neolithic agricultural city-states.
AirskyOrbit 14, 7,785,500 km, Gaian world, 0.54 Earth masses, 5,774 km radius, 0.658G, 95% water coverage. Noted for its high pressure, deep atmosphere, Airsky is a popular location for aerial activities and habitats that many tourists to this system visit at least briefly.

EARLY HISTORY

The Pentagon Moons system was settled by a Genetekker expatriate Su (Dom Jovanus to eir friends), who arrived in the 6000s, e having departed the Inner Sphere in the late Federation Period with an early S2 conversion drive starship as part of a complicated to financial and memetic transaction with Metasoft. Dom received a library of permanently licensed technology, the conversion drive, and exoneration for financial wrongdoing in exchange for eir shares and executive seat in a collapsing amat megacorp. It was not until the Second Vec War that the memetic portion of the transaction was unraveled: Metasoft had redirected blame and signs of insider trading to other megacorp executives, leaving Jovanus to look like an impoverished innocent. This wasn't far from wrong, which is why the obfuscation worked so well - Jovanus had not been involved in the major mistakes (or introduction of conversion technology) that led to the megacorp's financial weakness, but eir departure and transfer of shares had opened the megacorp to a hostile takeover.

Jovanus’s journey to Pentagon Moons was not direct. E took a meandering path touring the Inner Sphere, trying several business schemes, participating in several real and virtual worldbuilding competitions, and finally sprinting for Pentagon Moons after filing a claim to the system.

Pentagon Moons' initial development took two paths. First, Jovanus created a sun-skimming "monastery” at the core of an amat factory in Solstar’s Vulcan asteroids. It had far more erotobots than found in most neo-tantric monasteries, which made visitors wonder if "monastery" was a misnomer. From this whimsical "monastery," the Su oversaw the second portion of system development: a "claim staking" operation in the system that deployed blue goo defenses, conventional defenses and sensors, and robotic/nanotech industry across virtually every solid object in the system. The industrial facilities were largely idle for lack of need, but they would be used to deter would-be immigrants. Jovanus was rightly concerned about the rapid expansion of Terragen space thanks to the conversion drive and potential interest in mass-rich systems like Solstar. In the remainder of the 6000's, e would have to discourage several other groups settlers and send them on to further systems, in each case managing to resolve the issue peacefully with offers of refurbishment and technology upgrades.

As Metasoft settled and developed surrounding systems in the early 6000's, Jovanus sought to profit by producing amat and magmatter for export. Trying to become a trading partner with transapient-dominated Metasoft and not lose control of Solstar to a foreign power was a task beyond Jovanus, so e "contracted" with Metasoft for a system caretaker AI ("Overseer"), an S2 system administrator node discussed further below. Overseer then oversaw the construction of an equatorial belt of solar collectors around dazzling Solstar, established beamrider links to a nearby Metasoft wormhole nexus, and hired transapient engineers to handle the obscure technologies. A dedicated hyperturing would manage the magmatter production.

Despite Jovanus's use of the term "contracted," Overseer's arrival and initiation in the Solstar system is unlikely to have been solely or primarily at the behest of a modosophont. Because Overseer is based on a standard model of Metasoft administrative node, the popular theory (to everyone but Jovanus) is that Metasoft was responsible for convincing Jovanus to industrialize the system and all but turn it into a Metasoft protectorate. As an egotistical former megacorp executive, Jovanus favored terms like "contracted" to maintain a delusion of authority.

A botched transcension might be involved in the creation of the Overseer entity, one that left Overseer-nee-Jovanus with a bimodal toposophy. It is known that Overseer's personality was seeded from Jovanus. Jovanus and Overseer often appear to work hand-in-glove (or hand-in-puppet), which is usually not the case for a modosophont and a higher transapient. Don Jovanus, then, might be a lingering modosophont subpersonality of Overseer that serves as a convenient avatar, distraction, and scapegoat while Overseer gets the real world done in the background. Alternatively, Jovanus remains an independent modosophont who is easily used by Overseer as a spokesbeing, distraction, and scapegoat. The truth, and the role of Metasoft or other organizations in creating the situation, remains unknown.

The Pentagon Moons industrialization project was shut down in 7120 when the surrounding Metasoft systems largely completed their colonial infrastructure mega-engineering projects and shifted to more service-oriented mature economies. There was still need for amat and magmatter in those systems, but not enough to import it from other star systems. Jovanus rather petulantly dumped accumulated magmatter and other exotic material into the formation of a massive Hawking's Knot and built a middle tech shell world (naming it, with characteristically questionable humor, "Hawking's Not Here," since it was virtually — but not quite — a Hawking’s Knot) around the asteroid-mass black hole. Crafting this world was an entertaining distraction for Jovanus until Overseer decided on a new purpose for Pentagon Moons.

Seven Gorges
Image from Orion's Arm Contributors
The steep, highly eroded landscape of Seven Gorges

TERRAFORMING PROJECTS

The new purpose of the Pentagon Moons system was announced by Metasoft regional representatives in 7312: the service industry, exploiting Pentagon Moons' terraformable worlds. If the service and entertainment industry worked for Metasoft, it would work for Pentagon Moons. Overseer offered to lease two of the as-of-yet un-terraformed rocky moons of Byjove to Metasoft as baseline reserves, as well as creating a potential tourist site (particularly for the Metasoft vecs interested in bionts). Five of Byjove's moons were well-suited for terraforming. All of the candidate moons were relatively close to Earth in size, mass, and composition. Four of five had extensive oceans and varying forms of anoxic, nitrogen-rich atmospheres. Without investing in expensive ultra tech terraforming tools, those four moons required a few centuries for terraforming. The fifth (Aphrodite) had boiled off its ocean long ago and became a "mild Venus," and so required several more centuries with appropriate cooling and expensive planetary engineering to initiate continental drift on the previously-dry world. Ecosystem and climatic fine tuning generally required a couple of further centuries, but the moons were all baseline-habitable by 8000 AT. In all cases, the planets were given Pleistocene-era Terran ecosystems, though these were allowed to evolve naturally on the alien geographies.

Apparently because they were delayed by wrangling within Metasoft over the style of baseline reserves and funding arguments, it wasn't until 8100 AT that Triskadephilia and Steppes were seeded with tens of thousands of engenerated baseline humans. In both cases, the baselines were given artificial memories and skills appropriate to paleolithic hunter-gathers rather than using volunteers from existing baseline populations. The system was intended to implement a Redux Strategy. Gene stock for the baselines was purchased directly from the Institute for Primate Provolution's's DNA libraries. Overseer took on the additional role of caretaker for Triskaidelphia, while Metasoft supplied a separate caretaker, called Jochi, for Steppes, allowing two different baseline reserve strategies to be used in Pentagon Moons.

The Pentagon Moons system settled down into a period of quiet. The baselines multiplied, divided, and spread across their two worlds, and seemed to be adhering to their pre-set cultures. At the request of Jochi, Overseer "packed up" the industrial ring close to Solstar, sending it into a mothball orbit where it would not be obvious to primitive baseline skygazers / sun worshippers.

For a couple of millennia the peaceful Pentagon Moons generated considerable amounts of hard currency with studies of the baseline reserves and even virch of the reserves, but then almost managed to drag Metasoft into an international war. The trouble came not from the greedy claim jumpers, other Sephriotic Empires, or a suddenly-authoritarian Metasoft. Instead, it came from the baselines of Steppes.

BASELINE REVOLUTION

The baselines of Steppes had been very strong income generators for Solstar, especially after 10,000 AT when their surprisingly rapid development caught the attention of the Known Net. Steppes and Triskaidephilia were monitored closely by their blue goo defenses, providing global, almost omniscient coverage of the baselines to generate many anthropological studies. Further, the tourists who visited the worlds did so through locals baselines who were "ridden" via cerebral implants, but the tourists' actions were overseen by aivisers that prevented them from contaminating the culture. And, of course, the baselines' DNA was extremely well mapped. With those records, anthropologists were certain that the baselines of Steppes were not contaminated by any visitors or other outside memes. Thus, it was quite clear that the baselines of Steppes went from grunting, cave-dwelling paleolithic hunter-gatherers to literate, iron-age agriculturalists in only 2000 years entirely on their own, less than 1% of the time that baselines required on Terra.

The rapid forward development of technology was not unique to Steppes, though Steppes was a stand-out example. Because of the great concern from some quarters (and moderate curiosity from others), anthropologists carefully reviewed the abundant data on Steppes' baselines and compared them to other baseline groups, historical and otherwise. The baselines of Steppes were not exceptionally smart baselines. They were not transapient-manipulated baselines. They were not particularly peaceful baselines. They spent a millennium spreading across Steppes from their multiple seed points, forming various ethnicities and cultures, with typically xenophobic attitudes toward their neighbors. But they still developed civilization and pre-industrial technology quickly.

The conclusions among modosophont anthropologists were not definite. The most popular theory was that the Stepper’s had not so much been tampered with as they had been created with notable absences compared to paleolithic terrestrial humans. First, as was common with baseline reserves, the baseline gene sets had been selected for health, including mental health. As a result, the sub-average intellects and mental disabilities found in Terra's baselines were absent on Steppe, thus giving a positive shift to the intelligence bell curve. Essentially, the Pentagon Moons baseline reserves were populated with smart, mentally well-balanced baselines. Second, some speculated that the pregenerated skills and false memories of the first generation of Steppers were the cause. Moreso than most reserve baselines (including the Triskaidephilians), their paleolithic skills came with quasi-scientific explanations and mindsets. From this starting point, some Stepper tribes are thought to have developed something like the scientific method relatively early on, leading to a rapid expansion in knowledge.

The Triskaidephilians, meanwhile, were quickly sidetracked into a more static existence. Overseer allowed, or ordered (it is not clear which), Jovanus to regularly interact with Triskaidephilians as a demigod. While Jovanus had fun sitting on golden thrones being hand-fed grapes and dispensing "divine" wisdom, the interaction was practical: Overseer was engineering socially stable cultures on the Triskadephilians via Jovanus. Meanwhile, Jochi kept Jovanus away from Steppes, where Jochi used a different management method.

In 10,100 AT the Stepper empires and kingdoms (great and small) were securely in the iron age, but possessed relatively widespread literacy thanks to printing presses and were in possession of the scientific method. (Often, they also had formal scientific institutions and universities). At about this time, their populations and economies reached a tipping point where demand for iron, food, and trade drove Steppe into the industrial era. The industrial age that followed was not particularly rapid compared to Earth's industrialization; only the prior advance from the paleolithic age to the iron age that had been amazingly fast.

In the 10,100's to 10,300's, on Steppes rich mens' steam toys became practical engineering tools, such pumps for mines and prime movers in factories. Factories and mills proliferated away from fast rivers and windy areas to sources of carbon-rich pseudo-coal deposits (byproducts of terraforming sequestration of carbon dioxide and methane). Stepper scientists gained new tools and, to the delight of many watching terragen tourists, were baffled at the geology and paleontology of their world. Though they lacked radioactive dating techniques (at the time), several Stepper institutions were quite adept at dating by sedimentary strata and tree rings, and determined that life on Steppe was merely 2000 years old, give or take some centuries. In a decision that observers would wonder at 125 years later, Metasoft's district administrative archailect ("Iron Glitter") ordered Jochi to withdraw most of its wide-ranging nanotech monitors from Steppes as Stepper microscopy improved.

It wasn't the mysteries of their world that drove Steppers, though. It was profit, and national pride, and greed, and all the usual baseline motivations that had first appeared on Earth. Empires grew wealthier and waged wars of increasing violence. Steam gave way to combustion in the 10,400's (somewhat hindered by the lack of petroleum, but natural gas was abundant and Steppes had plenty of pseudo-coal and water to turn into heavier hydrocarbons), and Stepper wars became deadlier. The Third Global War (ending in 10,477 AT) culminated in ballistic rockets, electronic computers, and jet-powered flight.

In the ensuing 'peace' following the Third Global War, which was really more a tense detente between three wartime allies-of-convenience, the Steppers told themselves that it was finally time to reach the heavens and put aside the barbaric drives that had led to Third Global War. They controlled nuclear power (one 3rd Global War combatant had developed nuclear reactors to make up for wartime domestic power shortages), they were developing breakthroughs in medicine that stretched the lives to 65, even 70 Earth-years, they now had rockets, and they had known for centuries that the other moons of Byjove were either habitable, or least looked very Steppelike.

As on Earth, Steppes' avowed peaceful exploration of the heavens was built on research into ICBMs. IRBMs had been used as long-ranged artillery during the war, but not too long after the Third Global War one faction had detonated a fission bomb and immediately saw the potential of combining rockets and nuclear bombs. Other nations were already developing nuclear reactors and science; nuclear bombs were not far off for them, either. The multi-sided civilian "Race to the Moons" was an excuse for governments to spend huge amounts of money developing space technology in anticipation of the Fourth Global War.

THE TWENTY-YEAR ARGUMENT AND THE FIVE-MINUTE WAR

According to reports the growing tensions on Steppes became worrisome to Jochi and Iron Glitter (who was located 11 parsecs away, or 2 light-years from the closest wormhole). Jochi's position was to allow Steppes to develop naturally. Overseer, meanwhile, was becoming concerned about Triskaidelphilia becoming culturally contaminated by Steppers and that Steppers might stake territorial claims to the star system (the Stepper media was replete with talk of colonization). Overseer was not a supporter of "squatters' rights." Iron Glitter, meanwhile, was willing to recompense Overseer with a new system if the Steppers developed far enough to claim the system.

The arguments among the various transapients were hampered by speed of light delays at several scales. Overseer's primary processing node was located within the metal- and energy-rich inner asteroid belt of Pentagon Moons, while Jochi was hidden within one of Byjove's lesser moons. This put the SI:2 entities within light-minutes of each other and the Baseline Reserves, allowing relatively rapid discussion even at their transapient levels. However, their arguments over "The Steppes Issue" were hampered by jurisdiction. Overseer governed Pentagon Moons, and (under a treaty with Metasoft) was caretaker for the baselines of Triskaidelphilia. Jochi had to respect Overseer's system governance, but answered to Metasoft's nearest representative, Iron Glitter, for matters pertaining to Steppers. Generally, Overseer and Jochi argued each other to a standstill in minutes and sent missives to Iron Glitter to settle their argument. However, Pentagon Moons had never acquired a comm gauge wormhole, which meant that Iron Glitter took years to respond. The ratcheting baseline tensions prompted Jochi to acquire one so that faster input from the Iron Glitter (and higher administrators) was possible. The wormhole arrived in 10,523 AT but, by then it was too late.

The arguments among transapients had started shortly before Stepper manned spacecraft began visiting smaller moons of Byjove in 10,500 AT and establishing fuel stations there. Jochi was emphatic that Overseer not activate the system defenses to boot Steppers off the moons. The situation, though, was becoming untenable — the Steppers were going to encounter evidence of Terragen civilization soon.

Then, in 10,517, the Steppers landed on Triskaidephilia, selecting that as their first destination among the Pentagon Moons because they had observed villages, great religious complexes, and other signs of intelligent activity from orbit. This was a particularly tense point in the Stepper "Race to the Moons" and the discovery of Stepperish humans on Triskaidephilia drove international tensions to a fever pitch. The three major Stepper alliances felt the need to protect the Triskaidephilians from the greed and/or corrupting philosophies of the others. Compounding the tension was the fact that the wealthiest of the three major Stepper alliances could afford to match the efforts of the other two alliances on Triskaidephilia while simultaneously beginning to settle the uninhabited Pentagon Moons. Many Steppers became enamored with competing spiritual philosophies regarding the signs of artificial intervention in the Pentagon Moons system ("Lords of Creation"). This created social unrest that spilled into the political arenas.

Overseer wanted to intervene at that point, sending in a first contact team to calm Steppes. However, Jochi wanted to let the Steppers progress naturally. The two transapients were stymied again by each other's arguments and unclear jurisdiction and sent the matter to the Iron Glitter. Iron Glitter took the time to consult Metasoft's other baseline reserve caretakers for an ideal approach because Iron Glitter was an administrator, not a baseline caretaker. The contact strategy was not settled until late 10,523 AT. The wormholes that made up the Known Net allowed fast communication, but there were still speed of light delays and the communications between higher transapients and lesser archailects could involve node-choking missives that took time to transmit and interpret.

Unfortunately by the time the strategy was settled among the transapients and archailects, the Fourth Global War erupted first and, more unfortunately, earlier decisions had taken away the critical tools that could have significantly mitigated or halted the war.

Triskaidephilia
Image from Steve Bowers
Triskaidephilia

It was not one flash point that would have been predictable to the watching transapients, but rather a series of unexpected, brief events in late 10,523 AT, apparently leaving transapients flatfooted since no great mobilization or saber-rattling had occurred. The Steppers began fighting on Triskaidephilia in small unit actions (small numbers of elite troops were present on the planet) over recently-discovered remnants of high technology, like the half-decayed "mega-mecha" being steadily dissolved by nanite disassemblers but too slowly to fully hide them from Steppers. At just about the same time, various "Lords of Creation" philosophical groups in the three main Stepper alliances were found to be infiltrated with agitators from other factions.

Under those pressures, one Stepper nation tried to launch a decapitation strike on the other two with ballistic missiles hidden on a small moon of Byjove, where the identity of the attacker could not be easily determined (though it was determined). The launch failed because the launch facility's communication systems were thoroughly nanite-infested by the moon's blue goo defenses, which Overseer had ordered to cripple the missiles.

Unfortunately (a common word when discussing the Fourth Global War, aka "the 5-Minute War"), all the other Stepper nations noticed the launch commands and preparations for nuclear war (like dispersal of military units into nuclear-resistant formations) and responded with their contingency plans. Unfortunately, as with Cold War Earth, the various Stepper alliances did not fully understand their opponents' motives and had imperfect intelligence on the opposition, so they were unaware the attempted nuclear launch had "only" been a decapitation strike. Clearly, they couldn’t take chances and let fly with every weapon in their arsenal. Unfortunately, the decades-old decision to remove nanite surveillance from Steppes left it with limited means to mitigate the coming onslaught.

And, for primitive modosophonts, it was an impressive onslaught. Steppes' three-way policy of mutually assured destruction had rested on extreme overkill to make war unthinkable, including prolific fractional orbital bombardment satellites; ballistic missile submarines; MIRVs; salted weapons; very high yield weapons only meant for exterminating metropolises; deadman switches; and excesses of weapons for allies real, potential, and imaginary of the various other alliances. The arms control treaties of Terra’s Cold War had no equal on Steppes.

The orbital nuclear weapons platforms struck their targets within mere minutes. This led to the Known Net nicknaming the conflict "The Five-Minute War," since horrific damage was done in mere minutes and faster than transapients could respond. (It actually played out over a few hours, but "Five-Minute War" sounded better). Overseer, already primed to intervene by years of doomsday predictions, was able to degrade the slower ICBM and SLBM salvos with distant system defense lasers, but the maneuvering warheads (designed to avoid Steppers’ own anti-missile defenses) compounded speed-of-light delays to reduce the lasers’ accuracies. Ironically, Stepper anti-missile nuclear missiles did not help the lasers’ targeting, either, obscuring target areas with their blasts and aftermath. By the time hastily-launched, high acceleration attackcraft reached Steppes to more effectively halt the war, there was little to do but finish off the nape-of-the-earth cruise missiles and second strike ballistic missiles.

Heroic mobilization of system resources and intervention were only sufficient to save 15% of Steppers, about 150 million baselines, primarily in backward nations outside the great alliances and/or rural areas. This was despite the first emergency teams arriving the same day with all the speed and industry available to a modern star system.

The prompt lethality of the Middle Tech baseline conflict was, frankly, impressive given the Steppers’ technology, and virch scenarios based on it would earn Steppes' survivors substantial income in later centuries.

THE LIGHT SPEED BARRIER

Except for the conspiracy theorists who asserted that archailects had planned the entire 5-Minute War, the war was something of an eyeopener to modosophont transapient-watchers who expected transapients to intervene and save the Steppers. However, the reality was quite mundane.

Transapients and archailects had two shortcomings:
1) They could not move faster than light; and
2) They could not invent information from thin air.

The transapients most immediately on the scene, Overseer and Jochi, were light-minutes from Steppes and Triskaidephilia. Whatever their fantastic powers of thought they were perpetually minutes behind events. Iron Glitter was even further behind events. Even with a comm gauge wormhole, e was tens of minutes away from Steppes.

Such speed-of-light problems were common ones. Wormholes were not everywhere in even the most modern star system. The handful of comm gauge wormholes in a modern star system could be up to hours away from farflung habitats. Transapients and archailects had well-practiced techniques for dealing with such delays in information. Most of those techniques revolved around carefully modeling the behavior of the subjects under consideration and using the models to predict future behavior.

Such models were highly dependent on acquiring as much information as possible about the subjects. Angelnetted societies of entities with widespread direct neural interfacing produced large quantities of information about individuals' behavior. An Industrial Age society, meanwhile, produced a tiny trickle of data. Steppes' numerous radio stations, television stations, and newspapers were painfully hours and days behind events. Without exaggeration, a modosophont on an average high tech world had more information available to them via their coffee pot (interfaced to the Known Net) than the entirety of all Stepper intelligence agencies... unless the modosophont wanted to know about Steppes.

Essentially Overseer and Jochi were limited to knowing what the Steppers knew (or less), and the Steppers knew little. The transapients could vacuum up every bit of radio-frequency transmissions from Steppes and employ telescopes powerful enough to count the nose hairs of Stepper leaders from across Pentagon Moons (if they were outside and tilted their heads up), but the transapients were lacking critical information. They couldn't know what was being decided in the halls of power, since they couldn't see into bunkers and legislative buildings. Their models were woefully uninformed.

When matters accelerated until Steppers were making decisions in mere minutes, the transapients were simply left behind. They knew matters were bad (and had been arguing about how to respond to a war generally anticipated decades before), but they could not pin down the specifics to within minutes. Apparently the Steppers' stupidity fell inside the transapients' OODA loop.

A thorough nanotech monitoring network would have changed matters by allowing the transapients direct monitoring of all important baselines, but that had been withdrawn long ago.

AFTERMATH

Following the Five Minute War, Overseer wanted the Steppers out of eir system, especially before they learned enough of Terragen society to claim "squatters rights" to the expensively terraformed world they had just ravaged, let alone try to claim the other moons they'd been trying to colonize. The Steppers were making system operation legally complicated for even a transapient. Jochi wanted the baselines to remain on Steppes, but allow their technology and culture to collapse, then give subsequent generations an artificial religion (much like Triskaidephilia) that discouraged technological advanced based on the horrors experienced by ancestors. Jochi, however, dallied as e tried to seek advice from Iron Glitter and other Metasoft baseline caretakers who, in turn, were taking the measure of Terragen civilization’s reaction to the war and possible scenarios for the refugees (as they might impact Metasoft's bottom line.) Such large-scale consultation and polling over interstellar distances took time.

Jovanus and Overseer - apparently honestly motivated by compassion, not just selfishness to protect eir system - continued the massive intervention on Steppes after the Fourth Global War and did not wait for Jochi to act. Instead, ey negotiated for territory on the Metropolis Ring City. Over the course of the following weeks, they rounded up the baselines by means of some vecs who presented in the form of angelic alien figures vaguely representative of common Stepper ideas of the "Lords of Creation", and by various means these vecs persuaded the surviving population to board "shuttles". In fact, once in orbit, the survivors were scanned, destructively uploaded, and then engenerated once their data arrived at Metropolis Ring. Their engenerated bodies were cured of all diseases and injuries and provided with tailored education that was delivered in the form of false memories of schooling during a "starship voyage". These false memories were intended to provide the basics for survival in their new environment. Further, each was provided with a personalized aiviser to help them over the trauma of the Fourth Global War and their sudden relocation. Woven into these changes was a subtle meme of guilt for wrecking Steppes, together with the suggestion that though they might be unworthy of returning to their generously-provided homeworld they might earn or even build a new world if they did well in Terragen society. Apparently Jovanus and Overseer plan to prevent their return to Pentagon Moons. Whether when the survivors inevitably discover these subterfuges that plan will be successful is an open question.

The reaction from this decision was mixed. Some biont, baseline, and modosophont rights groups were outraged, while others and subjects of Sephirotic nations saw nothing wrong with transapients running a system as they saw fit, especially after baselines proved they were 'unworthy of managing themselves'. Others were outraged that Metasoft had not intervened earlier in what seemed like a preventable catastrophe. Since that time many others have exploited the negative memes in this mix to undermine Metasoft's influence in general or to work against the idea of baseline reserves in particular.

Some very earnest human baseline rights groups did attempt various invasions and terrorist attacks on the Pentagon Moons, but the results were predictably embarrassing when modosophonts attacked a system run by an SI:2 intelligence. Triskaidephilians were confused for some years by intruders who overrode safeties on tourist systems to try to "liberate the Triskaidephilians from the tyranny of their transapient masters", but this was corrected by security software changes and through propagation of some religious memes involving stories of demonic possession, exorcism, and rebirth.

PENTAGON MOONS TODAY

Triskaidephilia remains little changed. Its oral legends have recently added a few demon wars and demon-fighting heroes. Its cities are in a process of slow decay; the highest neolithic arts are disappearing as the God-Kings no longer supply maintenance for the nanite-built infrastructure of the cities. Apparently this is because Overseer doesn't want Triskaidelphia to be inspired by the neolithic surroundings to sprint into another Atomic Age headache. Within a few centuries the world is unlikely to have any technology higher than the mesolithic, and the majority will remain paleolithic hunter-gatherers. Tourists, under stricter security protocols, are a major source of income for Pentagon moons.

Steppes hosts a substantial disaster tourism trade. Some of the regions most heavily subject to nuclear attack feature some rather tacky subturing characterbots acting out a post-apocalyptic scenario, that has proved popular with many modosophont biont tourists. Kja Observers are another major tourist group, but they avoid the planned tours in favor of the unmodified wastelands.

INTERPRETATION DISCLAIMER

The above article is drawn from modosophont sources, and especially from accounts by Jovanus, who is by most accounts an unreliable reporter of events. It is likely that it greatly exaggerates the roles of modosophonts in the development of Pentagon Moons, the Five-Minute War, and the aftermath. Oddly, transapients directly involved in the events, including Overseer, have mostly repeated the above story and cited modosophonts such as Jovanus and Steppes politicians as motivators behind the events.

Neutral transapient observers have identified flaws in these versions, and the flaws correspond well with higher-order toposophic manipulation. At least three different major events in Pentagon Moons’ history (the arrival of Jovanus; the collapse of its amat export plan; and Iron Glitter's slow response to rising Steppes tensions) appear to be the result of manipulations by higher toposophic entities, likely different entities in each widely-separated event. Whether the results in Pentagon Moons were the point or just an incidental part of a larger plan is, of course, unknown to modosophont participants.

 
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Development Notes
Text by Mike MillerInitially published on 28 January 2014.

 
 
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