Fair and Foul Crew, The
"Welcome to Guizen Habitat, in the Principality of Dera. Your arrival brings us joy of the —"

"Your intended war with Innisfork is unlikely to be successful." The cyborg had spoken, teeth flashing in what my exoself's gestural program assured me was definitely a smile.

Three of them were waiting in the engenerator chamber. I had been told that there were many more members. Perhaps they simply saw no need for personal involvement. An ovoid vec gently hovering on wings of fancloth, supplemented by occasional air jets emitted from equidistantly-spaced ports in a vermillion outer shell. The cyborg whose form could best be described as that of a humanoid biped stretched and distorted imperfectly back into a semi-quadrepedal body, rows of glittering sensory cilia of various types extending from eir back. In front of these other two lay a gelvec who spread eir body out into a wide sheet like a cobra's hood, as if to shield the other two if any treachery were intended.

I did the best I could to recompose myself, while sending a message to the Citizen's Council requesting that the leadership should make contact, rather than waiting for the presumed diplomatic dance.

"I can only speak of the matter I was assigned to negotiate by the Citizen's Council, that of regaining programming control of errant Neumann reactors operating in Dera's atmosphere, which have begun replication activities unprompted and thus disrupts our plans for illumination of the Principality's habitats."

"We are aware of this, and also aware that the original request by the Citizen's Council was a bluff. You would like us to give you a plan to defeat your enemies." The hovering red vec's communications were punctuated by sporadic puffs from eir maneuvering jets. "We cannot do this. The planetary bodies under Innisfork's control provide them with equal or greater stores of mass than your own. The toposophic level of belligerents being equal, logistics will tend to carry the day, see Tremozand's dissertation on national warfare."

Senior members of the Council were making their appearance, many of them forming remotes via the habitat's utility fog and observing us the same way. I could tell by their disapproving voices beginning to be raised that I would be blamed for the capriciousness of these transavants. However, the third member spoke, colors flickering across the gelbot's surface to accentuate its words.

"We settled on a plan before we arrived or agreed to come," interjected the gelvec. "Open conflict would be… stimulating to observe, but would not be in your interests. However, the bureaucracy of Innisfork is ossified and currently enforces certain inequalities among the population. The Principality will allow us six years for completion of services. By the end of that time, we can give you a high certainty that the Primogen of Innisfork will have been impaled on the upper pinnacles of his own palace."

The Fair and Foul Crew were a tightly-knit organization of transavants who acted as consultants and advisors for hire to various polities and nongovernmental bodies. They operated primarily in the rapidly-reorganizing regions formerly controlled by Cygexpa, following the sell-off and dissolution of the empire by Lohengrin. The uncertainty caused by the selloff triggered a number of second-order political crises, revolutions, and even genuine wars throughout the Cygexpa Volume. Exacerbating this effect, Lohengrin's pruning appears to have extended above the modosophont level. A number of transapients that formerly identified themselves as affiliates or servants or the corporate archai became uncommunicative, changed allegiance to one of the other major empires, or even left the region. In this environment, many polities and social groups desired the assistance of transapient level problem solving or guidance, but either were unable to access said guidance, or were distrustful of transaps in the wake of the sell-off.

This was the environment that facilitated the Fair and Foul Crew. The earliest records of the Crew show it to have originated as a kind of mutual support organization for transavants. Despite the obvious benefits it can confer, many beings who attain transavantism experience stress and difficulty. Possessed of insights that they cannot fully integrate with the rest of consciousness, transavants are caught between the social spheres of modosophonts and transapients.

While the original Fair Winds League was a loose association, with membership extending across physical and political boundaries, in 7252 AT, a subset of 73 transavants living in the vicinity of Pardes (or who had made arrangements to travel there) officially formed the Fair and Foul Crew. Marketing themselves as "independent sociophysical dilemma consultants", the Crew began a peripatetic lifestyle moving back and forth through the Cygexpa volume. They generally used a combination of the Lightways and wormhole transit in order to reach sites of upheaval as quickly as possible.

The Fair and Foul Crew had no permanent headquarters, generally asking any client to provide a quantity of computronium and livable space where the Crew would set up a temporary base of operations. Based on self-reports of the Crew (which should be considered with some skepticism, as several of them had transapient-level capabilities in manipulation and dissembling), the members participated in a very loose tribemind, though they resisted deeper mental integration out of fear that it would cause damage to their idiosyncratic transavant mindstates.

The Fair and Foul Crew was known for their strict adherence to contract and unwillingness to overpromise. In conditions where their jobs might affect the fate of entire polities or civilizations (and consequently attract the ire of powerful sophonts or even transapient sponsors), they considered a fully upright reputation to be the best guarantee of safety.

Known activities of the Fair and Foul Crew included:

· Destabilizing the belligerent stratocratic government of Innisfork, which eventually fell to a popular revolution.
· Careful disarmament of a transapientech restriction swarm, a leftover from its creators transcension and departure, that had been attacking colonists attempting to mine the lifeless planet R636-X. After months spent in translation of the swarm's idiosyncratic programming syntax, the Crew was able to convince it that its creator no longer required protection, and R636-X was developed.
· Bidding for (and eventually successfully acquiring) a Blue Mazarin clarkekent seed from an auction on habitat in the Terragen Federation's Unon-Duuz system. One member, Resetter Rahm, became the beneficiary of the seed's metric manipulation abilities, though eir reasons for doing so are unknown, as remote manipulation of objects is possible for ordinary sophonts without godtech via use of utility fog.

After several hundred years, the situation in the post-Cygexpa Volume stabilized. Some polities dissolved, while others settled into peaceful associations, the largest being the Cygexban Commonwealth. The Crew's services were less frequently in demand, and their celebrity status faded simply via loss of novelty. Eventually in 7611, the organization quietly dissolved and the remaining 41 members went their own ways. Notably, 20 of the transavants chose to merge with Fextron-at-Dusk, an S1 of the Mutual Progress Association.

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Text by Madine
Initially published on 12 August 2023.