Image from Steve Bowers
A Gelbot Pet Home and a Totem on an airless world at the edge of the Terragen Federation

Snapshot: Home Improvements

:Tentatively Kayla tiptoed over the narrow bridge in the entrance of the house. Carved into the side of a cliff it resembled a cave more than any dwelling she'd lived in. A waterfall had been constructed to flow from some hidden source deeper into the structure, ultimately falling over the edge of a balcony. Suspended above the water were dozens of platforms connected by bridges large and small. They zigzagged chaotically deeper into the fissure, each platform featuring a different arrangement of furniture or other items to distant to identify.
(:Data pattern detected:)
Kayla started as the concept of a 'data pattern being detected' forced its way into her mind, like a powerful memory drawn by a smell. Her exoself was usually a lot more subtle. However this time it had determined the need to be blunt, possibly out of concern that it had taken so long to pick up on whatever this data was.
(Show me.)
Nothing in her vision changed, she despised the intrusion of AR, but her exoself stimulated areas of her visual cortex to highlight certain aspects of the bridges. It was like a shifting between two options in an optical illusion, except much more complex. Each bridge had dozens of different variables: length, width, curve, angle between platforms. Viewing all of them it could be seen that the greatest difference between any two variables was by a factor of 21 and only progressed in integer increments.

Sensing her curiosity her exoself offered further analysis.
(:The base 21 pattern is consistent with the Lima-YELLOW code language, popular to the indigenous peoples of this world's first colony two millennia ago, approximately the same age as this cavern:)
That gave her pause. She hadn't inquired as to how old the place was, she'd simply come on a rumour that a historic maker site could be found in the hills. She wondered what had kept it in good condition. At the very least some subtle material or smart matter must have been woven into the rocks to stop the water cutting through it all.
(If it's code, she asked eagerly, what data is it encoding?)

A few seconds went by while her exoself applied a forensic module to the data. Here in the hinterregions you could never be too careful with what you let into your mind.
(:98.7% confidence code is a combined aesthetic/narcogram mod, to be used in conjunction with exploring the environment.:)
A digital psychedelic hidden in the very architecture?
(How safe is it?)
(:Sandboxed simulations suggest 8% chance mild side effects, <1% chance moderate side effects, <0.01% severe. Confidence 98%:)
Kayla smiled. Of course it would be safe, what kind of maker would leave something behind to harm those who come next?

She walked back to the balcony, to the start of the home and the source of a fantastic view over the jungle below. After taking it all in for a few minutes she turned to face back into the cave.

(Execute maker program.


The Petholmers are a subculture of sophonts who use specialized personal bot companions in order to live a nomadic lifestyle across a wide range of environments. These bots, often known as Pet Homes, serve as mobile deployable dwellings and advisers. Petholmers are a diverse group, and this novel and self-sufficient lifestyle attracts loners, Semperists, and meditative monks as much as it attracts the highly eccentric vagabonds who are the stereotype for Petholmers within the Terragen Sphere. However the lion's share of Petholmers are simply citizens of the Civilised Galaxy looking for the exotic thrill of living away from the angelnets and ultratech infrastructure that have become integral to life in the Modern Era, without completely resorting to techno-primitivism.

This lifestyle is often transient in nature, in that most Petholmers identified as another clade or sub-culture before becoming involved in it and many abandon it when they have had their fill. But at the center of the culture is core of lifers who are usually born into it or have chosen stay petholmers permanently. The majority of petholmers are bionts of some kind: nebs, su, tweaks, and rianths are common. Some may also have multiple bodies that they are able to carry with them on their pet home. Morphological freedom and creativity are an important aspects for many petholmers, the greatest expression of which manifests itself in the form the totems Roving Makers.

Petholmers inhabit a variety of locations depending on the intensions of the sophont. Some may roam the sparsely developed wildlands of large rotating habitats; others might establish themselves on the outskirts of larger population centers. Isolationists and semperists might seek out areas that are as far away from possible, often in policies with low levels of technological surveillance and AI oversight. So long as the petholmer is able to acquire enough feedstock materials they could live anywhere if their pet home has the right capabilities. Petholmers tend to live alone or with a small number of companions, however petholmers do often create families with other petholmers.

Pet Home

A pet home is a type of highly customizable bot that serves as the center for petholmer culture. The most common form of pet home is a large mobile robotic construct or vehicle that provides the petholmer with a wide array of services out in the field. No two pet homes are the same as they are usually customized by their owners according to their own needs and preferences. All pet homes are able to deploy or quickly build some kind of shelter for the petholmer to live in. From an airy and spartan semi-transparent dome, to a miniature condo with deployable foldable matter furniture filled with every conceivable amity, to a subterranean bunker that Pet Home sets into the local surface substrate. The pet home can of course alter what kind of home it deploys according to the needs of the user.

Pet Homes contain a general purpose fabricator and is capable of absorbing new feedstock in the field. This activity is commonly referred to "grazing" the pet home in order to provide enough matter for fabricator. In some more controlled environments such as in smaller orbital habitats this activity may be regulated by authorities, in free zones this is rarely a problem. Pet homes can create any piece of technology up to its own level of sophistication and are also able to replicate themselves either by fabricating a new version of itself in its entirety or by creating a seed tech pod, although this is rarely done unless a petholmer's pet home has been lost or somehow destroyed. These pods are able to grow a new pet home if provided with enough raw materials manually by the petholmer, but the pods are also able to grow and expand their own capabilities using synsect cache scavengers or nanotech feedstock collection tendrils.

Pet Homes are programmed to in order achieve the ends of their owners. Most Pet Homes are non-sophont AI agents, but with extensive personality simulation in order to connect with its Petholmer. A Sophic league pilgrim's pet home will become just as focused on mysticism and self-realization, a hedonistic thrill seeker's pet home will be just as flamboyant and adventurous, and a semperist's will have a pet home that is naturally paranoid and protective of its owner; romantic relationships between sophont pet homes and their owners are not unheard of. Pet homes rarely interact with other pet homes as they usually focus on their petholmer, but if another petholmer interacts with its owner the two pet homes may interact or interact as their two pet holmers interact. If they develop a partnership so will the pet homes of the petholmers. Not all petholmers are loners and bands of petholmer friends and families are quite common, but rarely in the large numbers seen in other nomadic sub-cultures or clades.

The Roving Makers

The Roving Makers are a major subgroup of Petholmers who are characterized by their avid interest in pushing the limits of gelbot, augmetics, engeneration, seed tech, and homegrown nanofabrication technology. The Makers are neophiles and are constantly redesigning their pet homes and often their own bodies. The Makers have a large numbers of vecs and tweaks and splices within their ranks. The Makers are typically highly competitive individuals and are constantly are trying to outdo each other with ever more complicated designs of petholmes, bodies, and creations known as totems. For this reason many Makers often make a living off of selling their designs on The Known Net, typically marketed both for their practical uses and for the artistic spin common in many Maker designs.

Makers create large and diverse constructions known as Totems as the ultimate expression of their creativity and technical skill. A Roving Maker Totem can be anything from a large ornate sculpture dozens of meters high made out of local minerals, to a complicated construction designed to act as an interactive logic puzzle for any visitors. Totems will usually be constructed once a Maker has grown his or her pet home large enough for building extensive external objects and equipment.

As a result of Totem building the pet homes of Roving Makers tend to be some of the largest in common use among the petholmers and usually include additional space for larger fabrication equipment such as high volume nanofabricators, auxiliary construction bot caches, and omtitool or effector frames. It is also not unusual for Makers to have multiple pet homes, something that is looked on with mild disdain by other members of the Petholmer community.

The Makers never stay in one locale for a very long, even by the standards of a nomadic culture. When a Roving Maker decides to travel at interstellar distances they almost always travel by The Lightway or if the chosen destination is not connected by The Lightway, by an interstellar dataship. During which time the Maker will dismantle his pet home permanently in hopes of making a new one once he or she arrives at the destination. A Maker rarely leaves a location without constructing a Totem first, unless something has forced them to leave early. The ritual of starting over is central to the lifestyle of the Roving Makers.

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Development Notes
Text by Rhea 47
Snapshot by Ryan B (Rynn)
Initially published on 12 May 2018.