Newlife II
Image from Steve Bowers
NewlifeII, a terraformed terrestrial world with a large tilt; home to many unusual clades created by Deorvyn

Most of the Clade Darwin transapients are unremarkable residents of one of the Sephirotic polities, or wandering explorers and researchers along the periphery of the Terragen sphere. Their common interest in sophont and subsophont level beings generally and bionts in particular has always been benign. The actions of Deorvyn and eir various copies are a particularly striking example of the fact that every rule has its exceptions, especially where the behaviour of transapients is concerned. Though explanations that come directly from transapient sources are contradictory, most sophont-level "godwatchers" believe that Deorvyn is one of the proofs that transapients, even such extraordinarily stable transapients as the Darwins, are as vulnerable to insanity as any other entity.

Deorvyn was originally a member of the Zoeific Biopolity, and appears to have had an unremarkable origin at Ecotopia in the late 35th century AT. There were reportedly Caretakerist, TRHN, and MPA transapients involved in eir genesis, but such collaborative involvement in the creation of new individuals is quite common in Clade Darwin. For several hundred years Deorvyn was engaged in various projects at Ecotopia. Later e migrated to Ao Lai, where e seems to have been resident as an observer or worker of some kind (transapients from the IPP have given this description, but have declared it to be incomplete). E showed great interest in the Burning Library Project, and acquired data from the old Genen records in Solsys during eir residency at Ao Lai. E then departed for NoCoZo space, and seems to have been an agent for some aspect of the Argus Array there, but also to have acquired considerable resources of eir own, using methods that were particularly ruthless even according to local standards. During this period Deorvyn became increasingly reclusive outside of eir business dealings. Some time during the events leading up to the Version War e took the name "Deorwyn," which is simply a more ancient form of the name Darwin, and according to experts may be translated as "friend of animals," or possibly simply "good friend" in the Old Earth language ancestral to Anglish. Not long afterward e changed eir name again to Deorvyn (no sophont has divined the meaning of this subtle change) and departed for an undisclosed location along the NoCoZo frontier. Eir actions thereafter are a matter of conjecture, since neither Deorwyn nor any of eir descendants survived subsequent events.

According to those who have reconstructed events, "Deorvyn" arrived in the NewLife system in the late 4500's and began extensive development: power generation in the inner system, mining of the moons and gas giants in the outer system, and rapid terraforming of NewLife II and III. NewLife II was altered to produce a full Terragen style biosphere, though Deorvyn chose not to alter the planet's 42 degree tilt and the extreme seasonality of the resulting climates. NewLife III was altered from its original dry airless rockball state to an intermediate Gaean/Arean world, similar to terraformed versions of the various "Martian" worlds. E then "unpacked" a very large library of biological information, created more than 400,000 copies of eirself, and began what might be regarded as some form of transapient game or experiment, one that grew increasingly bizarre over the centuries and eventually ended in what can only be called the transapient equivalent of madness and suicide.

Each copy of Deorvyn lay claim to an area on the surface of one of the two habitable planets, and created a unique sophont clade. These varied from slight variants on human nearbaselines (apparently a favourite theme among the Deorvyns) to some extraordinary and bizarre inventions such as the Kanumae or the Seedfolk (both of NewLife II) or the Red Masters who eventually came to dominate NewLife III. Most of these sophont clades had unusual features and some were especially ingenious or original in their design but many were not particularly viable outside of their original habitat. In fact most of the Deorvyn copies seem to have purposely created clades with significant flaws, disabilities, or shortcomings. All of the clades were originally created to live in primitive environments, with little or no technology. A few achieved some measure of higher technology, comparable to Old Earth Agricultural Age or at most early Industrial Age levels. The notable exception was that of the Red Masters. These, perhaps due to aspects of their unique predatory/parasitic habits and to their Superior level intelligence in certain key areas, eventually achieved an interplanetary level technology. However, the vast majority of the Deorvyns' creations remained in primitive squalor, with short natural lives, for the entirety of their clade's short existence. Each Deorvyn remained as a sort of "god" of eir own clade's territory. Eir level of intervention in eir creations' societies varied from none at all (the most common strategy) to that a sort of primitive deity who might or might not require worship or sacrifice and might or might not serve an oracular function. Perhaps of their own accord or perhaps due to memetic nudging by the Deorvyns, the clades tended to come into conflict. Over the next millennium or so, this mad patchwork was kept in continual ferment on both planets. On occasion one clade managed to exterminate another. On such occasions the "winning" copy of Deorvyn subsumed the loser. On rarer occasions, according to some pattern discernible only to the Deorvyns, another Deorvyn copy would arise, together with an associated clade, and occupy a vacant region.

By the early 5300's there were still more than 500 clades extant in the fertile seas and forests of NewLife II, though most occupied marginal territories and were apparently destined for extinction. On NewLife III the Red Masters had achieved dominion, and ruled 20 or so subsapient clades; these were descendants of former sapient groups that existed only in highly modified forms as servants to the Red Masters. This single overarching civilization had achieved Early Information Age level technology, including crude interplanetary travel and genetic engineering. This was based on primarily on eir own discoveries and inventions, though also in part on those of the extinct NewLife II clades they had conquered and some scavenged technology abandoned by the Deorvyns. At some point the Deorvyns had ceased to maintain the terraforming on NewLife III, and so the global climate began to deteriorate. As a result the Red Masters began a movement to colonize the habitats of NewLife II. None of the other Deorvyns opposed this activity, and it is believed that the Deorvyn attached to the Red Masters actively encouraged it.

Cliological simulations indicate that without interference the Red Masters would have eventually subjugated both of the system's planets, and exterminated or enslaved the remaining clades, leaving a single remaining copy of Deorvyn. However, this did not occur. The cause of this was the action of a minority clade on NewLife II that came eventually to be known as the Kanumae. The full tale of the Kanumae and their long struggle is perhaps best told in their own sagas, but Kanuma art forms are rather inaccessible to most other sophonts. The most popular adaptation of those stories is "The Serpentstooth Rebellion," a cooperative work by the human translator and historian Elias Zamiatin and the vec fabulist Iridium Seeker.

The Kanumae, due to their unique form of mentality, included some extremely long lived personalities, capable of equally long range planning. Moreover, they managed to achieve brief flashes of transapient insight as a composite mind in some of their larger populations. They had long been aware of the Deorvyns, and when the Red Masters arrived they organized a resistance. By themselves the Kanumae would have been unable to carry out such a task, given their small size, weak manipulative appendages, aquatic habitat, and low technological level. However they managed to engineer a surreptitious alliance that included some of the Seedfolk and one of Deorvyns' less damaged human nearbaseline tribes. After some initial successes, the invasion and colonization of NewLife II stalled, due to memetic sabotage and biological warfare by the insurgents. This by itself would not have been sufficient, but the Kanumae were able to use their land-borne allies to infiltrate the primitive information networks of the Red Masters. They were able to monitor and interpret signals the Red Masters had received from nearby systems, which had recently been settled by some early Terragen colonist clades (mostly human nearbaselines, Tavi, and Fabers).

Using a combination of stolen and hijacked equipment, the resistors managed to send coded signals that were received and decoded at Nova Anantarivoa, an orbital arcology in the Thorin system. Neither the Anantirivoans nor any of the other settlements in the system took any action, but a transcript of the decoded broadcast was published on the Known Net by a Francisclaran missionary who was active in the area. Eventually this information attracted the attention of an S2 entity known as Amida19, who gained the support of some Zoeific and Negentropist backers to intervene. This was a contravention of the Tragadi Accords according to some experts, though others state that provisions of the Sentient Rights agreements allow such action by sophonts who are signatory to those provisions.

Image from Steve Bowers
The planet NewlifeIII, showing the dominant biome associated with the Red Masters which once covered most of its surface

The relativistic rescue mission did not arrive until 5603. By that time the Red Masters had subjugated nearly all of NewLife II, and those who had planned the broadcasts were long dead of old age (in the case of the Humans and Seedfolk) or were enslaved or in hiding (in the case of the Kanumae). The Deorvyns one and all quietly committed mass suicide and erased all of their subsidiary records some time in the years preceding the invasion/rescue, presumably when they detected the arriving rescue fleet. Their last avatars perished only a few months before the first members of Amida19's mission were entering the system.

The discoveries in the NewLife system were a several years wonder on the Known Net, and a major embarrassment for any person or polity with connections to the Deorvyn transapients. The Biopolity claims to have discovered a "vulnerability to memetic hacking" in the original Darwin design, one involving the "sensory systems and memeplex seeds." They and most members of Clade Darwin claim to have made changes that will "reduce the frequency" of any future incidents. However there has been no consistent explanation as to who might have been the author of the alleged "tampering." Conspiracy theorists have suggested any of a number of possible culprits behind the events in the NewLife system. Just a few of these supposed sources are the Cyberian Network (a prank gone badly wrong), the NoCoZo (an outgrowth of their "competition" meta-ethic), Metasoft (an attempt to embarrass the Biopolity), unknown xenosophonts sending signals through the Argus Array (to disrupt Terragen civilization) or the Institute for Primate Provolution (because of the disproportionate number of human clades in Deorvyn's experiments, and Deorvyn's connection with the IPP). The most frequent accusation is that the entire event was a Biopolity experiment that got out of hand. Sceptical independent sophontologists on the other hand point out that transapients, just like any other beings, sometimes lose their sanity through a combination of innate weaknesses and unique personal circumstances.

Various organizations have made much of the Deorvyn incident (or, as some describe it, the Deorvyn Atrocities, or the Deorvyn Rebellion). Anti-transapient groups hailed the "destruction" of Deorvyn by the Kanumae and their allies, Francisclarans have pointed out their key role in freeing the NewLife clades, and many within the Sephirotic regions have advocated an expansion of Sephirotic control into the less settled regions of the Terragen sphere for the protection of all concerned.

The surviving clades in the NewLife system provided a considerable challenge for the various aid agencies involved. Biopolity experts from centres such as Ecotopia, as well as members of independent specialist organizations such as the Institute for Primate Provolution were active in the NewLife system for several centuries after Deorvyn abdicated ownership. Deorvyn's creations were extraordinarily diverse, and showed extraordinary inventiveness, but many were not viable in Terragen civilization. Some of the least functional are now extinct by one means or another. These either chose, when they fully understood their situation, to end their clade by failing to reproduce, or modified themselves or their descendants and are essentially a new clade, or have chosen to blend with a compatible existing clade (this last was the fate many of the human-derived clades, who have vanished into the human nearbaseline population). Of the remainder, most are now in protected enclaves, under Utopia Sphere auspices. The Red Masters themselves were consigned to their own quarantined system, and remain there under the care of their transapient keepers.

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Development Notes
Text by Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 29 March 2006.