Sun Wu K'ung

Sun Wu K'ung
Image from Scott Dellinger

The transapient who is the present Primus of the Institute for Primate Provolution. Like his fictional namesake, he is charismatic, talented, unconventional, and audacious. Again like his namesake it is said he is regarded by the greater Powers with amusement and a touch of apprehension.

Sun Wu-K'ung has concealed or forgotten his precise origins, but he is generally believed to have once been one of the Snow Monkey (Macaca fuscata) provolves from Fortitude, one of the IPP's planetary preserves at Ao Lai (Gamma Leporis). If so, he was likely a member of that clade's first generation of Superbright upgrades from the late 3400's. The Snow Superiors sparked a cultural renaissance from their centre at Flower Fruit Mountain that is still fondly remembered on Fortitude, especially in the habitats of the northern hemisphere, though most of that generation's members have since died or ascended to higher toposophic levels.

Sun Wu-K'ung's first appearance in historical records dates back to a minor skirmish in the Version War in the Waterby system, then a small colonial outpost on the periphery of the Terragen expanse. Having destroyed all low level transapients in the system, the SI:>1 commander of Metasoft's invading relativist fleet (perhaps on the orders of superiors irritated at the IPP's attempt to shelter the "revisionist" Institute for Vec Progress refugees) decided to treat the IPP's installations and habs, and all of their citizens, as enemy combatants. In the brutal fashion of the times, e proceeded to reduce these structures to rubble and to eradicate all of their personnel, along with the millions of Solarist colonists who were Metasoft's primary target in the system. This apparently prompted the transapient progenitor of Sun Wu-K'ung to attempt a long-delayed and long prepared ascension to the next toposophic. In his new form he rallied not only the tiny IPP defence/security force, but the surviving Solarist military as well and destroyed the Metasoft invasion fleet in a brilliant series of counter-offensives. The aggressive, daring, and innovative leaders of this effort were uncounted modosophont avatars of Sun Wu-K'ung himself. "There is Nothing", declared the victorious Sun Wu-K'ung "that cannot be accomplished in time by a million monkeys."[1] Sun Wu-K'ung was a vital force in the system's reconstruction. When local beamrider service was restored IPP headquarters in Solsys sent a commendation, and immediately posted him to a series threatened IPP installations. There, depending on the situation, he either drove off hostile forces, or co-ordinated evacuation efforts. Somehow over the course of the conflict he found the time to ascend yet another level, to SI:2, and may well have achieved SI:3 or more in military skill, and acquired some potent combat technologies and memetic warfare techniques. He proved to be extremely popular both with IPP personnel and with non-IPP civilian populations, and a terror both to Metasoft military personnel and to the opportunistic "pirate" clades that appeared in large numbers during the chaotic height of the conflict. By the closing decades of the war his mere arrival in a threatened system was often enough to cause a cessation of any hostilities towards IPP personnel, and sometimes sufficient to evoke a system-wide armistice. "Talk loudly, and carry a big stick" was then, and remains, one of Sun Wu-K'ung's avowed policies.

At the conclusion of hostilities, Sun Wu-K'ung was conveyed to IPP headquarters, then still in Solsys, where he received high honours. After a brief sojourn in the system (during which he was reprimanded for his avatars' raucous behaviour at the IPP's Shrine of the Original Cache, and was refused a tour of Old Earth by Gaia's watchful guardians), he returned to Ao Lai. There he apparently spent several decades in retirement on Fortitude before leaving for the New Beneficence's installations on Grace. It is rumoured that he experienced the virtual worlds in the system's massive computronium networks, and studied with the Beneficence masters there, but did not undergo conversion.

Sun Wu K'ung's activities thereafter are difficult to trace. He is believed to have spent quite some time wandering the Inner Sphere worlds, and lived for a time at Penglai. He very definitely entered the Sophic League, and dwelt there for some time, but his associations there are shadowy. He returned to IPP headquarters, and became a Director, with residences at Ao Lai. He gained notoriety and infuriated the other Directors by having avatars arguing on both sides of the debates preceding the IPP's Second Great Divide, and in fact some of his avatars actually accompanied dissidents to the Zoeific Biopolity and worked with them there. He was also well known for his work on the IPP's Natural Longevity project (upgrades to all primate lines to promote long life without the need for rejuvenation treatments), and for his advocacy for strong action against memetic or military aggression, or against other offenders against the IPP. Wu K'ung's avatars, then and since, have been known for their "common touch". They are as likely to be found having a drink in the bar with the locals, or ferrying supplies to some obscure outpost, as carrying out research or engaged in the IPP's high counsels. Over time this has made Wu K'ung extremely popular with the organization's ordinary members. His avatars were rumoured to be influential in the Rhesus Cyborg incident, both in tipping off the abuses to the Negentropist authorities, and in the subsequent rehabilitation efforts on Karitas at Ao Lai. The resulting Metal Monkey clade has a particular bond of personal loyalty to him on that account.

In 9340 Wu K'ung was selected as Primus, and to date he is one of the longest reigning and most popular in that line. In over a thousand years he has not tired of the office, and the IPP has not chosen another leader. Observers note that there has been an acceleration of development work at Gamma Leporis over the last millennium in everything from provolution work to world construction to expansion of computronium devices, and that the IPP's profile across the Terragen sphere has risen slowly but significantly. What this means in the long term is unknown. Wu K'ung, like his predecessors in the office of Primus, has not published his toposophic level, but he is commonly believed to be at least SI:3, and is rumoured to be contemplating ascension of one or even two levels, using godseed templates that he supposedly found in an old Beneficence habitat. He is known to have sent avatars to the front in several areas where Terragen civilization appears to be threatened: the Verifex region, the Amalgamation, and the Chaos have all been visited. What this peculiar set of interests and the continuing build-up of IPP influence portends is unknown. Rumours and stories concerning Monkey continue to grow and change [2]. Some godwatchers believe that, like his namesake, he intends somehow to challenge some of the greater Powers.


[1] This was not only a pun on Sun Wu-Kung's name, which means "Aware of Nothingness" in Old Earth Chinese, also but a joking reference to an obscure Old Earth mathematical conjecture regarding the production of coherent results from random action.

[2] Millions of stories have grown up concerning Sun Wu-K'ung and his exploits. Some see his hand (or his Monkey's Paw) behind every prank, or mishap that befalls the great polities and powers: the plague of happyfaces on Solarian government symbols, the ridiculous "dancing vec" plague that recently afflicted Metasoft's last upgrade, the rise, fall, and disappearance of Eternal Widgets on NoCoZo markets, the donkey's bray that preceded every official pronouncement in the Zoeific Biopolity for over two weeks.

Supposedly he literally teased Verifex until he exploded, and then had to cover for his mistake by giving the Empledokcetics their famous shield tech. Or he made the Judge laugh. Or he is at every TRHN party. Or he has been slipping extras into Cyberian pranks, things even they didn't expect.

Rumours are rife concerning the place, meaning, and purpose of the Monkey King. Some think that he is a pretentious buffoon, who will be tolerated only so far by the real Powers, and that his time will soon run out: eventually he will be used, destroyed or changed. Or, that he already has been, and is but a hollow shell of his former personality. Some believe that he (or possibly many a being claiming to be one of his avatars) is a Judas Goat: anyone in the Sephirotic sphere (and perhaps beyond) who follows them, or even shows interest in him, is marked for destruction, or personality revision. Yet others believe that the Monkey King and his million avatars are somehow vital to shoring up Terragen civilization, or to protecting it against some great coming threat. Conversely, some think that they are harbingers of the final chaos that will overtake the Terragens and make them yet another set of civilizations to puzzle future xenosapient archaeologists. It is said by some that Monkey has lost control of his avatars, and that they have become even more erratic and unpredictable than the original. Some say that he sows confusion and dissension among the Powers of the Inner Sphere wherever he goes, and that they have tried to slap him down — and somehow have missed! Some who believe this wonder who or what hidden Power is backing him to make this possible. Last but not least, some think that Monkey has been tolerated because the Powers foresee that they will soon need him for some future task. One puzzling and observable fact: wherever an avatar of Monkey goes, everything from the local nano to society in general seems to work better in a thousand major and minor ways, individual sophonts are happier, and those in authority feel obscurely uneasy.
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Text by Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 02 June 2005.