God Dwellers

Sophonts who live inside the structures of archailects

Image from Juan Ochoa

'God Dweller' is a broad term for modosophont or transapient entities who live inside the structures of archailects. Since archailects exist as very large structures such as Matrioshka Brains, and emit large amounts of waste heat, there is ample opportunity for smaller sophonts of all kinds to live off the waste energy in these locations. Living so close to a god has many benefits, but also some drawbacks such as an effectively complete absence of privacy.

The following represents a crude ecological taxonomy of God Dwellers. Bear in mind that the number, proportions, and even the presence of each type varies greatly, even from subnode to subnode. Also, each of these categories overlap, and what may be a symbiote in one megastructure is actually a parasite — or even an apparently independent Sephirotic citizen — in another. So the following separation is artificial and only for the purpose of illustrating generic stereotypes of each category. In addition, due to the difficulty of comprehending the purposes of transapient structures, systems and devices, lower toposophic sophonts are rarely able to identify the precise ecological role of a God-dweller. Subsystems of an archailect that appear at first to act in a harmful manner may actually fulfill a vital purpose.

Drones, Remotes, and Seraiph: These are physically integrated or remotely controlled entities who exist as part of the larger megastructure, possess a great deal of freedom and autonomy within their functionality, and may roam widely throughout the superstructure as they go about their tasks. Their self-awareness is developed (often transapient) but slaved within the identity of the larger Mind. While the drones may behave in a manner similar to the leukocytes of a biological immune system, only a relatively small proportion of drones and remotes fulfill the immunological role of blue goo. Others aid in maintenance and repair, such as a standard starship maintenance utility unit. These too may vary in size from macroscale to nanoscale, and in tech level from clarktech to modotech, depending on their intended purposes.

Sentient Subunits: These differ from nonsentient subsystems in possessing awareness and limited autonomy. They are still embedded units and subsystems, which contribute to maintaining the archai and all eir functions in a manner comparable to the micro-biome of bacteria in a biological body. They have no personal identity, but rather are slaved to the consciousness of the larger Mind. While most are tiny, microscale to nanoscale, others may have more processing or manufacturing power than an entire civilization of sophonts.

Symbiotes: These are fully autonomous but symbiotic entities, who play a more integral role in the support ecology of an archailect than the citizens of a normal sephirotic empire. In some cases they have been specifically designed for this role, but just as often have a separate origin and have, over the course of centuries, cultivated a close working relationship with the surrounding ISO or Megastructure.

The character of symbiotes differs widely, depending on circumstance. Some may be slightly modified nearbaselines led by a hereditary augmented priesthood or they may be neogens, vecs, bioborgs, cyborgs, virtuals, alife, nekology, or any of millions of possible sophont clades. Sometimes — especially with large communities and populations — they develop or adapt their own culture, language, and traditions and may on some occasions even trade trinkets with the rest of the Sephirotic sphere. Symbiotes are socially, psychologically and often physiologically dependent on their archailect, and cannot leave without radical modification and adjustment (which is rarely successful).

In a few dyson nodes and Sephirotic capitals, Symbiotes may serve as mediators between archailect Drones and the rest of the Sephirotic or archailectual empires. In some pious polities, Archailectual Symbiotes are treated with awe and reverence. Archailect worshipping religions are therefore incredibly deepset among populations living near such god-nodes.

Devotionals: These are like Symbiotes, but physically autonomous. Again, this is a very diverse group, which, depending on circumstance, environment, and type of archailect, may include anything from prims and lo teks to superbrights, posthumans, nanoborgs, and more. They remain in the vicinity of their deity for religious or cultural reasons, and out of a sense of love, duty, and devotion, or in some cases simply purely from memetic conditioning and a sense of tradition. Most have been augmented to a lesser or greater extent by the seraiph or other subsystems of their archailect. The roles they play overlap with those of the Symbiotes, in fact there is no clear dividing line between these two categories. Despite the term Devotionals, they are not necessarily religious; some may have a purely pragmatic attitude to the archailect, and see the relationship as one of partnership rather than obedience. They have their own culture, language, tradition, and sometimes civilization, and may commune with the rest of the galaxy, or even travel (for short periods). However, they cannot be away from their deity for long, being socially and psychologically (rarely physiologically) dependent. Even when they do travel widely (usually for some task appointed them by their archailect), but will always return to their Zar. On some occasions a member of the clade or society may leave or reject (or be rejected by) the community and strike out on eir own. Such unfortunates generally do not cope well in the larger galaxy, away from the sheltering influence of their Holy One, and can rarely survive without radical memetic re-engineering. In some dyson nodes and Sephirotic capitals, Devotionals may serve as mediators between Symbiotes and the rest of the sephirotic or archailectual empire. Some typical examples of Devotionals/Symbionts are the Children of Gaia of Earth, and some offices and branches of the Divine Order in Fons Luminis.

Commensals: Commensals perform a similar role to Symbiotes. Like them they are dependent on the surrounding archailect for their sustenance and shelter, but they apparently serve no reciprocal purpose for the higher Mind. Nevertheless, they are tolerated, and like Symbiotes may, over the course of centuries, develop a distinct morphotype and archailect-dependent social structure. When removed from their surroundings they are typically unable to survive for long. Some see the commensals as simply one more component of the Archailect's ecology.

Parasites: Strange as it may seem, there are actually parasites that feed on the archailects. They may be virtual or physical, biological, inorganic, cyborg of low or high toposophic, and everything in-between. Parasite infestations are rarely harmful enough to warrant complete extermination by the archailect, but on occasion sufficiently virulent infestations have crashed entire dyson nodes. Immunologically dedicated subunits, blue goo swarms, Drones, and Symbiotes are usually assigned to hunt down and destroy any parasites they encounter. To complicate matters, Parasites of a higher toposophic level may sometimes be hard to differentiate from symptoms of an oncoming Blight after a botched transcension by the archailect.

Some sophonts collect or record parasites and display them in museums and institutes, such as the Museum of High Toposophic Parasitology in Orbital Cluster 4250 h-iii of The Naturocosm the FAS dyson.

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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev
Initially published on 19 July 2003.