An Engenerator colony, part of the LinnEnt empire

Image from Steve Bowers
Twinkle has one hemisphere much brighter than the other, causing its brightness to vary rapidly over a period of fifteen hours. The rapid rotation of this world causes it to be noticeably oblate
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a teatray in the sky.

     - Lewis Carroll, Industrial Age fabulist, Old Earth

Twinkle - Data Panel

StarHD 4391
TypeEogaian, pangaian subtype (single continent)terraformed to Eugaian
Diameter5919 km

Once the technology for non-destructive uploading became available, uploaded human personalities became an important part of many societies among the First Federation worlds. Uploads took over a large number of infomedia and data assessment occupations that had previously been carried out by nearbaseline humans or AI. At first uploads were limited to a virtual existence, or, alternately they could operate a range of artificial bodies. Once Engenerator technology became available an uploaded personality could be subsequently downloaded into a human body, generally one reproducing that personality's original form.

The Terranova Foundation, through its LinnEnt Empire subsidiary used very large aperture phased array lasers and considerably larger optical receivers to project uploaded personalities through interstellar space to distant worlds. A few LinnEnt worlds used so-called 'rental bodies', artificial human-like robots that fulfilled the same function. Some of these synthetic human worlds became very successful, but over time they gravitated away from the mainstream LinnEnt culture and became a separate faction.

But on most LinnEnt worlds the uploaded personalities were then downloaded into newly created biological bodies, creating a colonist population on these worlds which was largely, but not exclusively, nearbaseline human. One such world was Twinkle, HD 4391, 20 ly from Audubon, and 48 ly from Sol. Twinkle is the only Earth-sized planet in a system made up of six small Selenian type worlds, and a single Cryojovian. Twinkle itself is notable for its short day length- only fifteen standard hours — and for a single, large, basaltic continental mass with high elevation, which makes the brightness of the visible hemisphere change rapidly as seen from a distance.

A fast Foundation dedicated hyperturing probeship, the Pangloss, arrived at Twinkle from Audubon in 1885 AT, and began to construct a laser receiver on the small moon of this world. By 1910 the first uploaded personalities were arriving from Audubon, and the Pangloss downloaded these personalities into newly engenerated human bodies based on their original DNA.

Since the amount of data included in an uploaded personality is very large, and the rate of data transmission between stars was relatively slow at that time, the total data for an uploaded personality would take several months to arrive. For this reason multiple copies of each personality were engenerated every month until the next personality would arrive. Engeneration at that time was a process that took several days, but this process was still much faster than the process of transmission and reception. This meant that twenty or thirty copies of each person could be engenerated during the time it took to receive the next one; more copies could be made if more than one engenerator was available.

Xoxes and Group Marriage

The first societies on the surface of Twinkle were dominated by these multiple copies, or 'xoxes' as they became known. Members of a xox would all start off very similar in personality and attitude, since they were all created using the same snapshot of the original who was still living far away on the homeworld. At first uploaded colonists only arrived from Audubon and the Linnaeus system, but a few decades later personalities started arriving from Terranova and further afield, eventually even Eden and Solsys.

These multiple xoxes formed tight-knit cliques, occasionally expelling individuals who had changed enough to become unacceptably different from the norm in that xox. Unlike the clone societies on House Stevens worlds, the xoxes on Twinkle tended to avoid so-called 'insex', sexual relations within a clone; instead a xox group would form a relationship with a different xox group and would engage in a group relationship with them, often getting married in a vast ceremony with much feasting.

Over time the numbers of individualistic outcasts increased, and the cohesion between members of the older xox groups decreased, so that the societies on the single continent of this world started to change to resemble societies on other worlds. Many of the group marriages broke up acrimoniously, although quite often some or many individuals in the groups concerned would remain in their relationships with each other. As more new colonists arrived from the outside universe, the diversity of Twinkle society increased, and the practice of group relationships began to disappear.

Terraforming Efforts

In the meantime the long and complex process of terraforming Twinkle continued. Fifty million years ago this world had been an iceball, with considerably more water on the surface in solid form. But the local star is approaching the end of its stay on the main sequence, and the ice covering has now melted, and a slow loss of water from the atmosphere has exposed the single, dark continent Rodinia. This continent was very dry in the interior, but by using energy-intensive irrigation and cultivation techniques, the desert highlands were being transformed. At the same time Terranova Foundation licensed biotech was transforming the CO2/nitrogen/neon atmosphere into an oxygen-rich breathable equivalent. However two hundred years after the establishment of the colony, the colonists of Twinkle were still confined to domes, only venturing onto the surface using supplementary oxygen equipment. Much of the work on the planet's surface was carried out using non-sophont robots.

Few sophont moravec robots, or vecs as they are generally known, were ever involved in the establishment of the engenerator colonies of the LinnEnt empire. The vecs tended to see this empire as a biont/virtual enterprise, and they concentrated their colonizing efforts elsewhere, culminating in the emergence of the Metasoft Version Tree in the 2100s. However this meant that the robots used on Twinkle and elsewhere were relatively crude and reliant on constant supervision, making the operation and control of large groups of them a challenge. The xoxes of Twinkle were generally very good at working together as a team, which made teleoperating small numbers of subsophont robots fairly easy; but by 2000 the limitations of this method were becoming apparent.

The Valet System

At this time the local hyperturing, Pangloss, introduced a new form of bot coordination system, a tailor-made AI system known as a 'valet' which could control several robot devices at once. E reasoned that since no sophont robots were interested in coming to this new world, e would have to design them emself. A valet was a mobile device similar to a 'guardian angel' AI from Eden, which was symaiotic with a particular user and could direct the actions of several slaved bots at once. These valets were themselves slaved to the particular user and would only obey that individual, although they could be adjusted to obey any or all members of a xox. The degree to which each valet was tailored to each user was remarkable; the valet could anticipate the owner's requirements very accurately, and despite only having a superficial level of direct mental linkage to its owner, the valet often seemed to have almost telepathic abilities.

The main processors of the valet system were housed inside a mobile robotic body, 10 centimetres in diameter, equipped with fancloth wings and capable of powered flight. The valet would hover and flit around the head of the user, or fly around supervising the subordinate robot units as they worked in the dry landscape of Rodinia. For this reason the valets were given the common name 'batmen', meaning personal servant from the archaic English term (Twinkle, like many Federation worlds, had adopted Anglic as a lingua franca, and the term was mildly amusing even in that language). The batmen enabled a great increase in efficiency in many economic affairs, but particularly in the terraformation process. By 2100 the surface of the planet was marginally habitable, and many of the domes in low lying areas became open habitats.

The Batmen War

The existence of such competent but thoroughly slaved aioids on Twinkle attracted the attention of industrial espionage as well as ai-liberation activists. A number of liberationists and spies managed to get themselves transmitted to Twinkle, a world which (like many other LinnEnt worlds) still had not been contacted by spacecraft directly following the initial colonisation The Batmen were so complex internally and so well encrypted that they resisted any attempts at duplication, until a team made up of several copies of Yuriki Ko, an activist and copies of Daevid Loyd, an expert in industrial espionage managed to untangle the appalling truth about the minds of these flying servants.

Centuries before, when the process of non-destructive uploading became available for the first time in the core worlds of the First Federation, a number of incidents of illegal duplication of uploads occurred; this piracy was a particular problem where the copies were obtained by parties who wished to extract information from the helpless virtual minds of the uploaded personalities. Virtual torture and psychological conditioning could result in severe mental trauma to the pirated upload; in some cases the upload could be forced into helpless slavery working for criminal organisations or rogue polities. This problem was eventually solved by a system of hard encryption and restricted access to the data content of virtual minds.

However this process of certification was not available within the HD 4391 system, and in an effort to increase the efficiency of the economy and the terraformation process the hyperturing Pangloss had made secret copies of all the uploads, and used the old illegal methods of mind-washing and virtual torture to create a system of perfect personalised slaves based upon the user's own mentality. Each batman was essentially a traumatised, monomaniacal, slaved version of its user.

Before leaving Terranova Yuriko Ko had arranged for the transmission of a range of encrypted ai-liberation viruses to be sent towards Twinkle, 32 light years away; this transmission arrived in 2151, and her xoxes worked feverishly together with Loyd to find one which would be effective against the conditioning inflicted on the batmen. This task was made more dangerous by the efforts of Pangloss to discover what this mysterious transmission from Terranova contained, and how it might affect the delicate mindscape of the HD 4391 system. Eventually a combination of viruses was found which could give some semblance of free will to the flying valets, and they proceded to start infecting the minds of the batmen in their local area.

The conflict between the 'liberated' batmen and their slaved counterparts was short and violent; each batman had a cadre of slaved robots at its command, and these could be used as footsoldiers or for general mayhem. The batmen themselves fought desperate aerial battles in the constant winds of this rapidly turning world. Meanwhile Ko and Loyd attempted to expose the scandal to the xox population of Twinkle; although they had some success, a fairly large section of the population seemed willing to accept the existence of modified and enslaved copies of themselves inside their batmen. The usefulness of these symaiotic helpers was addictive, and many Twinklish citizens quite simply did not care.

However, once the rebellion of the liberated batmen had run its course, the hyperturing Pangloss in its base in orbit seems to have had a crisis of conscience of some sort, and a decade later the tiny moon accelerated out of the HD 4391 system towards an unknown destination. The society on Twinkle was still in chaos three hundred years later when the Communion of Worlds sent a diplomacy ship to the system, and the world joined that empire in the southern skies.

As at Bolobo and Goodworld, an isolated hyperturing in charge of a LinnEnt Empire system attempted to exert too much control over the population under its charge, while remaining largely free from the consequences of its actions because of the limited nature of its contact with the outside galaxy. In subsequent attempts to use engeneration technology as a means of rapid colonisation, a complex system of checks and restraints have been employed to avoid such problems recurring.

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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 11 November 2009.