Elcondris Incident, The

Image from Steve Bowers
Elcondris was a cold, icy superterrestrial world, but has been artificially warmed by a ring of mirrors to become a panthalassic world

The Elcondris system was one that broke away from the Solar Dominion during the Version War but was recovered by Spacefarer Union mercenaries. Some questions arising from those events remain unanswered to this day.

After the outbreak of the Version War, its effects began to spread through Terragen Space like a ripple. The first to experience this ripple were systems connected to the Nexus. The results of this ripple were highly varied. One of the results was increasing fears about attack and wide-scale destruction. With wormhole links being destroyed, a number of AIs cut themselves off from the Nexus to remain safe. Most became closed systems, havens for their inhabitants and shelter from the ongoing War. But in one case the result was much different.

The Solar Dominion was suffering substantial losses, mostly from external attack and less so from internal dissolution. AI controllers of a tiny number of Dominion outposts began to cut emselves off from the Nexus. One such AI known as Sunbrain disconnected emself from the Nexus in 4487 (though Solarians still claim it was due to Standardizationist AI viruses). According to the only surviving records, Sunbrain ordered all the non-Dominion inhabitants in the area to join him in defense of the Elcondris system (apparently Sunbrain considered the Dominion citizens to be part of the defense already). The number of non-Dominion inhabitants in the system was rather small since Elcondris was new to the Nexus and was rather moderate in resources. However notable non-Dominion inhabitants included a number of TRHN transapients, a small independent Neumann clade and a large Spacefarer Union trade fleet. Of the above, the TRHN transapients agreed to join Sunbrain, though very reluctantly. The Neumann clade was very eager to join Sunbrain, possibly in the hopes of gaining resources for population increase and a safe home. But the Union fleet refused to join em, claiming that they reserved the right to choose their employer. Subsequently the fleet, composed of relativistic ships, decided to begin a journey back to the core of the Solar Dominion. However Sunbrain refused to accept the fleet's decision to leave. As they were leaving they were ambushed by a number of (former) Dominion warships, now under Sunbrain's control. Though not without defensive capability, the Union fleet was taken by surprise and so was quickly destroyed. Only a few ships, with light to moderate damage, escaped at high relativistic velocities. After an 80-year journey the remaining four ships joined a larger Spacefarer Union mercenary fleet, working for the Dominion.

The incident was quickly forgotten in the course of the Version War. However the reports quickly spread throughout the Spacefarer Union. Resentment against Sunbrain soon spread and cries for revenge were heard. After the end of the War, the Dominion began the long and expensive process of rebuilding. A large part of this consisted of re-acquiring numerous systems and setting up new wormhole links. In 4809 a Dominion fleet recaptured the rogue system of Falden and set up a new wormhole link. Falden became the closest wormhole to Elcondris, about 200 light-years away. A year later a Spacefarer Union fleet consisting of almost 500 ships and led by two SI:3 entities assembled on the borders of the Solar Dominion. They approached the Lord Of Rays with an offer. The fleet, on behalf of the Spacefarer Union proposed to recapture Elcondris for the Dominion on condition that they lead a fleet there and take whatever measures necessary to overcome the rogue AI Sunbrain. With the Dominion still trying to rebuild, this was a welcome opportunity. The Lord Of Rays gave the Spacefarer Union vice-regal powers over the Elcondris system and the right to declare war on Sunbrain if necessary. He also allowed the gathering of more Union ships at Falden. All E wanted in return was an unconditional handover of the system ten years after the fleet gained control and that the fleet escort a Dominion linelayer to the system. The fleet was placed under the command of the two Union SI:3 entities, Artulus and Haladen, who had their consciousness spread over roughly 15 ships each. The linelayer AI, Moonbeam was given partial command authority as per the agreement with the Lord of Rays. 483 Union ships came to Falden in 4810. Out of them, 107 relativistic ships including the linelayer and a few Shipwright construction ships went into interstellar space towards Elcondris. The rest, mostly sub-relativistic ships warships either stayed at Falden or left to gather more Union ships, with instructions to return to Falden by 5210.

For the Union fleet the 400 years between Falden and Elcondris passed quickly in their virches where, over the years, they developed rather strange new battle strategies, which were basically hybrids of the various strategies that they had already encountered or devised. In 5212 the fleet came near to the edges of the Elcondris system. On reaching the system they saw that things had changed in the 800 years since Sunbrain became independent. The system had originally consisted of three planets, two gas giants about 2.7 and 1.5 times Jupiter mass and a frozen GaianTundral world about thrice the size of Earth, but inside the star's biozone. The smaller gas giant originally had six moons. But out of these, two had been dismantled. Instead there was a 1000km ISO orbiting the gas giant. Of the four others all had mining operations going on. As for the other planet, a huge array of orbital mirrors had melted the surface ice, turning the planet into a small Panthalassic world. The larger gas giant with its family of three moons was completely gone having been turned into a large structure of exotic matter and computronium. This structure was still partially incomplete but resembled a Jupiter Brain with an inbuilt wormhole anchor. Apparently, Sunbrain was on the verge of achieving a toposophic high enough to create a wormhole.

As the first few ships entered the system, they were immediately intercepted by a larger group of ships which later turned out to be autowars. They announced that the fleet was trespassing on the "Protectorate of the Free Ruler Firemind". They also ordered the ships to leave or join the Protectorate. In reply the ships, commanded by Haladen announced that they were viceroys of the Lord of Rays and claimed the Protectorate as part of the Solar Dominion. For hours there was no more communication and then suddenly the autowars opened fire on the ships. The ships retaliated. While Haladen was distracting the autowars, the rest of the fleet led by Artulus and including Moonbeam had been moving to the gas giant and the ISO, which obviously housed Sunbrain, now calling emself Firemind. Autowars hiding near the moons attacked as the fleet approached. But the Union fleet had two advantages over the autowars. The Union weaponry was from all parts of Terragen space whereas the autowars had weapons derived from Version War era Dominion warships. Secondly, a number of fleet members had worked with the Standardizationists during the Version War. As a result they knew the weaknesses of Dominion technology. Still the autowars were not complete failures. They had been modified sufficiently to cause trouble. (It was later found out that were descendants of the Neumann clade, altered heavily with Dominion technology.) But in a few days the autowars were being subverted by transapient Union hackers and bombarded by relativistic projectiles. It took the fleet a week to get close to the ISO. But as they neared the ISO Firemind released a huge nanoswarm from multiple angles, which destroyed a large number of Dominion ships before a shipmind called Alstare attacked the swarm with a Displacement Cannon.

The resulting explosion destroyed most of the nanoswarm as well as about a dozen Union ships. The rest was dealt with by the fleet's own nano-defenses. Ultimately the fleet got close enough to the ISO to release a number of powerful high transapientech based weapons. As the remaining autowars were destroyed and the ISO came under attack, Firemind began a virtual onslaught, which was met by the fleet leader, Artulus. After 73 tense seconds of virtual combat, Firemind suddenly ordered the autowars to stand down and then began systematically decompiling emself. Under attack from advanced weaponry and self-decompilation, Firemind was finally destroyed, leaving behind a useless wreck of eir ISO.

With Firemind's demise the rest of the system fell into disarray. The vecs and cyborg societies on the moons (who were partially hive-minded to and kept in fragile memetic equilibrium by Firemind) broke down into multi-way civil wars and the remaining groups of patrolling autowars began hit and run attacks on the remaining Union ships. But soon the wormhole was expanded to a 150-meter gate using the matter from the structure and over 1500 Union ships poured into the system within a matter of days. The rogue autowars were systematically destroyed and the civil wars were finally stopped with a combination of threats of lethal force and diplomacy.

When the Union ships finally got to the Panthalassic world, they were surprised to see that a thriving nanotech based aquatic society was operating both on and under the surface. Apparently all the bionts in the system had been modified to become either fully aquatic or amphibian and moved to this world. The TRHN transapients had helped to create a society where the bionts worked to create technology that was essentially mining machinery of various scales. Through several centuries of memetic engineering the bionts regarded Firemind as their god and the transapients as prophets. With Firemind gone the transapients told them that now the Lord Of Rays was their god. After a few months of instability, things on the world settled down and the transapients returned to the TRHN.

Finally after ten years of control, the Spacefarer Union handed over Elcondris to the Dominion unconditionally. The fleet then broke up and went their separate ways, ending what became known as the Elcondris Incident. For the Union the entire Incident had been rather costly. Of the original trade fleet only four had survived. Though the actual numbers have been lost, it is estimated to have consisted of about 50 ships, each with an average of almost 4000 sophonts. Of the 98 ships that originally went to Elcondris, only 47 remained. Haladen's group and the autowars that attacked them had fought to mutual annihilation. But the Incident sent out a powerful memetic message across Terragen space. The Spacefarer Union was a force to be reckoned with and one that was fully capable of defending its own. Also the Incident led to the largest gathering of Union ships ever and the only amendment to the Basic Union Operations Protocol.

For the Dominion, they had regained one of their own systems, at almost no cost to themselves. The Shipwright's Commune set up a huge orbital station and dominated much of the later megascale construction in the area. The contact with Moonbeam also helped them to eventually begin their own wormhole production. They also finished the Jupiter brain into which Moonbeam later relocated and which contained the original wormhole.

But even after all was done, a number of questions remained unanswered. Firstly why did Sunbrain turn rogue? Secondly what was eir singularity level? Thirdly what did e intend to do with the Jupiter-sized superstructure e was making, considering that it seemed to be a weird cross of a Jupiter brain and a wormhole support structure (especially since e was apparently unable to create wormholes)? Finally why did e choose to destroy emself, when e was so close to actually destroying the Union fleet? Though the first two have created numerous rumors, the last two have created much more controversy, including suggestions that Sunbrain had found a way to create wormholes much more cheaply and at a lower toposophic. The reasons given for eir decompilation are, of course, beyond the understanding of any baseline, but even the higher toposophics disagree with each other. Artulus, however, has kept silent on the reasons.

Firemind's former ISO was left in its wrecked state as a memorial to the Elcondris Incident and the Union ships.

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Development Notes
Text by Basu
Initially published on 01 June 2005.