Assorted Snapshots by Arik (2020)
-Snapshot from "Living as a Kamov" by EightFourNode, Gajasura habitat, 9814 AT The Kamov vec wing blades hum in the air and I can hear in network several thousand iterations of new assembly instructions on the airwaves. Some previous version of myself in a biont body would have called this spring, or mating season, but the kamov hive uses a more wholistic understanding of the concept. Something that might bring me peace, even after escaping as a backup mind and seeing recordings of my own old bodies burn away in broken habitats. The bodies of the native Kamovs around me huddle and hum in the hot, dusty, but living air.
They look a bit like ancient biont dragon flies with rotor blades, only much larger and varied in their often non-symmetrical forms, with a variety of drones and swarmbot subunits slung underneath their sides . The hive of vecs has assembled into a massive thundering factory for the construction of a new brood. We're a smaller group of key-4s in the eighty part component arrangement of a family fabrication ecosystem. Each sub-web of the ecosystem helps breed nearly every other, converting rock and minerals into usable elements, then fuel and subcomponents, then higher order systems with a hundred redundancies. The great mining worms at the base of the ecosystem churn the soil with their ultimate muscles for better digestion by nanoswarms inside them. Dead, bombed-out soil brought into life again.
I was incredibly fortunate that such a new but insular society like kamov allowed me access. When they offered out the bid to our habitat to use uploaded refugee nearbaseline minds like my own for an interface so they could begin a trade program, i'd accepted, along with a few hundred others like me. We'd join them, and identify as them, in this time of peace.
This body that i'm inhabiting offers a rare glimpse into the comparatively harsh mechanosystem envome of the kamov autowars. The kamov reproduction system cannot be understood like the bodies of my previous lives as a biont, with most individual species mating in sexual reproductive pairs within an ecosystem, but rather an interconnected series of recycling and fabrication supply webs which bring about their cycles on the spectrum between full life and decay and death. Cooperation rather than competition drives the majority of ecologies here. And yet...
I should back up in time...
Once, several centuries ago, the factory hives formed a terrible existence as the murder-minded autowars during the version war. They converted entire landscapes of the planet into swarms of ships for battle. But then came peacetime again and under new direction, they've decided to follow the way of a new transapient provolver and become elevated into peaceful sophonts. Turning missiles into mechanical pollinators. Metaphorical swords into plowshares.
Still, as we joined our minds into the interfaces and bodies, the other refugees had suspected that the purpose of this new planetary mechanosystem was for research by the transapient Kavo- a form of envome that could convert with disturbing speed into another autowar production facility. They'd confirmed it. A backup plan, only, in case the war returned. Just like the recording of my mind, when that last body of mine died, twenty years ago. Now i've returned as a backup plan for someone else.
We form the ritual assembly line, using our wing blades to play different notes of the song of new life while we sing the words in radio waves. The idle ones watch on and when we as a pack see an attractive assembly line to join, we make ourselves known and begin negotiations for potential new brood. They advertise their assembly capabilities on the network spectrum. It's elaborate songwork, with repeated mentions of how good electricity from solar panels feels. How good they feel to become alive. The new generation will be even less well easily re-armed than the last under the next nonproliferation treaty, and perhaps in another three generations we'll inhabit an ecosystem family that won't ever poison its own children again with the drive for war production.
How ironic that such utterly artificial mechanosystems are in fact fundamentally more ecologically minded at their core than many biological societies I'd lived in, seeing as how the kamov parentage is so integrated within the entire mechanosystem. To even pollute the land with toxins would be to literally poison ones' own parents. And yet a poison remains, deep down. How ironic that such an ecosystem was once designed specifically for war, and perhaps, one day will be again.
But I hope my new interconnected, airborne family will not become a tool for manufacturing death.
At least for now, we'll continue to be a factory for life. "
Snapshot of Hostho in Above the Sky
*qualia* indicates qualia only experienced through electroreception
((qualia)) indicates qualia only experienced through echolocation
(To'ul'h cultural symbol-concepts will be translated to their nearest equivalent to the reader, if EG privacy settings are set appropriately)
I'm living my second week back on the homeworld, returned from the alien-constructed orbital habitats in the void. I hadn't become used to it all, even after ten years of calling the orbitals home. They feel distant now, the *brightness* of their metal and circuitry fading into memory, from their disturbingly efficient methods of experimental agriculture to grow our medicinal fungiforms, to the pin-braille smart matter interfaces I'd used to understand alien mechanisms, to the swarms of the ((invisible)) stars I saw in their pin-braille window-screens. So new and grand. Entire cities spinning in the void, less than a century old, with many of the orbitals finished after my birth. Still, my routines in the *bright* modern habitats had shuddered away in the flight of the landing shuttle. Two weeks of immigration & readjustment to the older homeworld brought me from the dream, back to the city of Toh*luuus where i'd been born.
The modern apartments in the cliff face disappear out of the range of echolocation as I hop-glide toward the train station. Alien autohelpers along the street, newly graffiti'ed with ceramic curse-bricks and piss, call out and reconfigure their faces with pin-braille ads for joining off-world colonization. I feel the *hum* of an electric light turning on from one of them and a vague brightening to my left for the benefit of one of the strange new cyborgs who's using light to see on the surface for some reason. The aliens had described full light-sight to me a few times, but I'd never yet felt much interest for the implant, even while living in the orbitals. Maybe one day, if I feel like light-seeing stars.
The doors hiss closed and my evening public train leaves the western quadrant. I hear the roar of the tunnel as we pass under the great cliff face that protected the old city. The latest polmusic hit from the city debates plays in earbud devices of some person sitting next to me and the *bright* metal doors hiss open. I join the crowd as they pass by the recreated diorama of the 9th dynasty's gas-powered train in the grand central station.
I can feel the sense of history here, cruder, older, but uncolonized by the new aliens, as I am. Smells like a grandmother To'ul'h pervade everywhere. Some of the locals avoid me and mutter 'collaborator' when they catch my scent. I ignore them. The government patronage for my work up there, teaching To'ul'h medicine and pharmaceutical harvesting to the aliens so they can reverse-engineer it, will sustain my children and even grandchildren once I finish this book. I'm still not used to public pin-braille literature for -everyone-, especially eastern highlanders, but i'm starting to see the benefits.
The marshy smells and ((soft)) textures of well-landscaped fungiform gardens fill out the airwalls along the bridges of the main street, presenting their soft anatomies along the sides. I can smell the spices and musks of the different varieties. A few people in the crowd hop-glide up to the second and third floors to examine shore-feudalist antiques. I walk on the gravel of clay bricks that old To'ul'h repurposed from the hill fortifications, surrounding the old city 6,000 years before, during the second reconstruction. Some of those pyramids had stood guard over the river delta for longer than the first structures on the frigid homeworld of the aliens' ancestors themselves. It was something my aristocrat grandparents always reminded me with pride in the remote voice-calls to the orbital. I usually responded with a quote from one of the new polmusic lines about how at least the aliens had deployed near-universal basic healthcare in mere decades, with proper birth control gaining traction. I might not like space, but the new ways have their advantages and maybe we won't all blight out out like the sixth dynasty lowlanders. We are still older than the aliens though.
I join a tour group at the entrance to the old cathedral and the clutter of bodies recedes. I might be modern, but I appreciate our history. I'll eat a piece of my grandmother's body when she dies, like a good daughter of To'ul'h.
The sculpted metal and ceramic patterns along the cathedral floor ((glitter)) and reflect back the echoes from the touring crowd. I could ((see)) their lung cavities grow and shrink in the air as they meditated in the temple. Most of the ceramic on the floor was new of course, but the stone on the walls had listened for millennia as the worshippers of a hundred polities had risen and fallen like the air in the lungs of the meditators, and were replaced by others like cobblestones in the street.
I dip my fingers into the stepped pool and feel the *buzz* of the branching seabush from the bottom of the water conducting a holy magnetic field. I can ((klik)) the statues of the four old creation gods at the bottom of the pool, closest to heaven, and remember. I consider again the pin-braille symbols of the ((invisible)) stars of the void, in the orbital, and how the alien interface told me such faraway fires had created all the matter that composed me with the incredible energies of this nuclear fusion. Yet the old gods sit here, at the bottom of the pool, still as death, losing power. Old superstitions, certainly, but they still feel more familiar than the very real alien gods out there, around other worlds. The friendly demons in orbit. *bright* metal gods from the ((invisible)) stars, building some new form of paradise up there, in hell.
-translated snapshot from the autobiography "Above the Sky", about the life of Hos'tho, a To'ul'h Doctor/Pharmacist who lived during the time after First Contact. Published 4106AT.
Ho'th'hss'lho snapshot 5460 AT
((qualia)) qualia from echolocation
- *qualia** qualia from electroreception
We've advanced so far in politics.
Though I can see with senses my ancestors could barely conceive of, like any To'ul'h descendant I will never give up the tactile interfaces entirely. I use one of them now to research with my fingers while I read through a few preparatory notes on the habitat public forum with my light-sight. My partner Mh'ithrha stands next to me, doing the same, and as I stroke her subdermal *bright* pin-brail blessing, my mind turns, as it does every so often, to The Language. We'll be using some version of it extensively in a few hours, once we dock with the Null G To'ul'h orbitals from the other half of our polity distributed through the system. Our writing and our polmusic can be as timeless as the conflict and the politics we'll have to solve this year. Still, the seed of an idea begins to form in my mind; Some disturbing possibility dwelling beneath the surface. I ignore it for the moment.
Our local language still has its remnants, the echolocation clicks, from a time when the aliens pulled our unsighted people out from beneath the Stormy sky. When I say it, the word for 'I-((hear))-you-love' still ((kliks)) through my partner's body to see more of them than my light-sight can view. Her bones, her pin-brail blessing-'tattoo'. her lungs. But I also see their surface in the light of the screen-window while I hold her hand. But out there, in the vacuum, I would only see with light.
You can't ((say)) 'love' properly, using the old words outside. In space, nobody can ((hear)) you ((sing)).
Mh'ithrha wears an oily-colored scarf today, lit up past purple, from the ceiling lamps and when I watch out the window-screen at the stars and the habitat swarm around us, and their annotated names. It's so pleasant and I don't want it to end but the DNI focuses my attention over to the matter at hand and I feel the Euphoria flow through me in preparation. My mind speeds up.
"Let's get this vote over with."
Music performance and political debate remain indivisible to us, even as post-To'ul'h. For the past month, the Meritocratic tribemind democracy software ran through our options of whether to join a subsidiary of the Mutual Progress Association- whether to lease our independence from public construction fleets to build new megastructures independently, avoid immigrants, or expand more quickly under the resources and guidance of the MPA. Mh'ithrha and I might decide to copy into tribe minds for another decade if we moved somewhere else. The working groups and their AIs had offered up their proposals. But we are up against the Spacer-To'ul'h, who possess a more consolidated political bloc, and are ramping up the Polmusic debate now between the factions of our polity.
Singers of the void.
Our opponents chose a maximalist, oily, and bonelike- ancient style for the new habitats- six times the size as ours and requiring extra months for the magmatter frameworks to transport. Stretching resources.
I've been waiting for the call from my algorithmically-assigned debate partner. He's an old colleague from the spacer habitats, a vacuum adapted To'ul'h named Y'urulk((dark)) who I haven't seen in decades. We parted on sour terms, and I still can't get over how big he is. A Null-G To'ul'h looming on-camera, 20 meters tall on the video screen-wall from their aging Orbital habitat, with a thousand other Null-G To'ul'h drifting through the habitat interior. There's still a 3 light second delay after their approach, and without the emotional adjustments i'd be annoyed at the slowness. I'll have to use their stunted, gesture-filled dialect of inter-ship speech that I learned for most of yesterday, without the ((see-kliks)) in our polmusic. At least my DNI assistant can speed my clockrate up so i'll have extra time to review any Poetic responses while waiting.
I check through the 50 page argument That our AI platform gave us for (tribe-mind limits) from the working group on the spinward side of our habitat. Even the written subtitles in pin-braille have a custom pop-font and I'm sure the word flow will be the stuff of legends. We'll take the collaborative approach with the spacers, revealed halfway through. I consider the hints of justifications and processes by the platform too complicated to comprehend quickly at my level. In another year or two I'll ascend further up the ranks to understand them.
A polmusic space opera, played by us, the actors, while our respective cybernetic platforms help us write the lines.
I choose a suggested opening that quotes an ancient Terragen, but translated to our ways. It seems appropriate.
Of To'ul'h's first contact, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden fungiform, whose mortal taste
Took Death from all the World, and all our woe,
With gain of paradise, as many greater To'ul'h
Restore us, and create the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the holy pit
Of Hol'uulss, or of Toull'oohss, didst inspire
Those Shepherds, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav'ns and soil
Fell into order: or if Hu'uu'hthoss valley
Delight thee more, and Ulu'oss brook that flow'd
slow by the Oracle of Gods; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,.....
My opponent Y'urulk((dark)) waves an arm-wing larger than I am and signs a greeting. We've reviewed footage from a debate six years ago. His team was GOOD, and He's consolidated enough voting power to be his own voting block. His team lives up to their reputation "voice like an asteroid".
But we'll be better, especially as the platform integrates their recent polling data. Y'urulk((dark))'s writers won't know what hit them. But hopefully the audience will.
They are, after all, an informed electorate.
The cyberdemocracy software starts the rhythm that we've practiced and runs through the structures, both poetic and logical, for our mutual arguments over the virtual public forum, while the AI platform offers up some last minute new background research on him, structured as some low-minded character attack but with a *beautiful* rhyming scheme. It -could- work, maybe halfway through.
My team dismisses it in favor of something more high minded and crowd pleasing.
A more unified solution for both of us.
My team remains calm on the voice chat as the virtual stadium-stage flickers on around us. It's been a popular choice over decades- a massive, abstracted Terragen space battle around a virtual planet looming nearby. I watch the polling numbers on the leaderboard and remember how the words for 'up' and 'down' still retain their To'ul'h linguistic roots to 'heaven' and 'hell', despite all direction being relative out here. My opponent's stage is 'down' as they say.
The simulated swarm-fleets are certainly sped up from real time as they deploy to the growing beat.
..Which is ironic really, since the only 'war' any post- To'ul'h has ever joined in are these polmusic plays.
But we like our drama, and our stars. And the stakes for our habitat are real.
Y'urulk((dark)) float-shrugs and pulls a back-roll to 'intimidate me' in the comparatively thin atmosphere of his habitat in real life. The glittering starfield tattoos on his indigo, cybernetic skin would cover my apartment like a tent.
Arrays of spacecraft icons maneuver into their positions in decorative arrays around my opponent and his backers. They're readying their metaphorical beams and lines. Brooding, To'ul'h-like on the vast abyss.
Watching Y'urulk((dark)), I recall an angry comment he'd made the last time I saw him, and a doubt in my mind blooms. Occasionally I've wondered if the pageantry is needed- if the entire stadiums and dramas perpetuated and created by the AI platform divide us more.
Maybe hiding machinations by the platform's mind on the higher levels? I'll find out when I earn those augmentations.
If we didn't debate with polmusic, how many of us would care about voting? Would we choose differently?
But that's a question for a later time....
So we open up our arguments and begin.
-translated snapshot from the autobiography "Political Spaces", about the career of Ho'th'hss'lho, Published 7486AT.
Snapshot: "Astrology" Kyusei habitat, Jinvanco System, 3250 AT
"So you're a Leo? Interesting. You seem like a Leo" Castor grins at me. We're at the local bar on the spinward neighborhood of Kyusei hab and he's playing with my fingers. It's a bit too dark and warm, like the drinks here tonight , but the music is good.
I raise my eyebrows a bit, my translator meshes with his and explains to me that he was referring to a "star sign". I sip my drink to buy time as I download an explanation of what that implied. "I mean sure. I'm the one gathering friends. I'm usually organized. Detail oriented. But you don't really believe this stuff do you? We're not even in SolSys.." I was beginning to wonder what I'd gotten myself into. His hands -were- nice though...
"Those old ways adapt easily enough to our star system, even if it's a binary. Just makes everything more interesting. We might not have Jupiter or Mercury here but we have Nuvjaptari, Famawan, Jinvanco...
So when exactly were you born?"
I tell him the date and time.
"Ahhh. Yes! That's good! You're a Leo Nuvjuptari rising, given the relative positions of the planets and suns. That means this year you'll be making yourself open to new experiences and adapt in ways your old self would never consider"
I give him a skeptical look but he persists-
" It's just a bit of fun really, a good way to find compatible people." He winked. "I'm a Famawan retrograde with a Jinvanco ascending, which means I'm passionate and outgoing and direct. That one certainly seems to be true"
Somehow I had noticed this.
He smiles as if reading my thoughts "and I'm very compatible with Leos. My exoself's been helping me become the Jinvanco ascending that I'm born to be, with psychoware nudging me to the right personality with magnetic fields and balance of neurostimulants or whatever. "
Ok... this wasn't so bad after all. "Well that makes sense. I'd considered integrating one of those horoscope add-ons to my exoself but it seemed a little.."
"Woo-ey? Too involved with crystal healing, fake transapients and dolphin mysticism? Don't avoid letting a healthy little bit of personality shifting happen because your birth psyche doesn't align to the local planets at the moment. Either way we should find some way to ...align"
Castor's been looking at my beard, or lips the whole time. I laugh at him.
"I was about to download that astrology add-on until you made that -horrible- pun"
"See! See! Nuvjuptari rising right there! You have a sense of humor somewhere in that head of yours! With a little help from the add-on you'll be acting like one in no time!"
"Screw it. Let's do this" I grinned.
I hadn't intentionally altered my personality like this for a while, even for personal growth, but I was pretty sure I'd have this energy with him with either version of myself. "Nuvjuptari rising" Dima or regular Dima. It would be an interesting month or six...
Snapshot: "Jury duty"
The gridlock hit us like a hardware virus, cracking up our social networks into polarized propaganda panic storms and jacking us into the barrel of a weaponized screen feed. Many of the less political wrung their hands and paws and fins and retreated into the obscurity of simulated worlds before the moderator councils ripped them back to complete the surveys in the real. Why had the platform directed us toward some kind of fight like this we didn't know- at least until now. But here I sat, as an avatar in the habitat council meeting as the final requisitioned training data spooled into my head. I hadn't hacked for years. Probably forgot more software, law, and lore in the last three decades than a year-old pet AI had ever learned. But here we were catching up to speed again with the remedial hacking courses in the past few weeks on the repair and third order consequences of politics. Jury duty.
One of those vots, the talking software heads I'd chosen to teach me system architecture, slid a data load the size of the first three years of my life records in my direction and I offed it to my exoself. Processed it. Would take a while. As if it had to teach a GPT-8 network to write a book worth reading.
"So what happens if we go back to ranked choice voting, Ceixin?" Asked my neighbor. Apparently Conscripts like us had to understand the implications of the implications of the implications of the political platform's gridlock before we could give the system any real answer for our cyber-democracy to really work.
Irat had splayed erself out on the seat as if she owned the room, rather than renting it from the public council fund like we all did. She flipped her weave and lit the beads up like a shop sign. "Fuuuck that's supposed to be illegal as of twelve years ago. Haven't seen a platform's policies corrupted this bad since the protests back on yudkowsy station in '67." By which she meant 5067, two centuries ago, like she mentioned every so often. Politically connected and active like she was. Damn suburban power struggles, fixing local ballot laws like that. At least her experience was actually useful.
"It's like no matter what we do, a quarter of the habitat has to move out or cut their material spending in half for a few years while they build a new one...What the fuck happened? That's unheard of"
"Our people with pet humans keep raising values on the central housing units" muttered 8yuval. "They started up a marketplace and requisitioned the wrong neighbors. They voted to make an addition to the habitat then nobody else agreed and they won't respond to propaganda."
"And? The platform can Override them. Why does the platform need any of us to do this? Can't it just generate some kind of new ...Adversarial network to create alternatives?"
The sensation of arguing about concepts she couldn't really grok about a week before almost disturbed Ceixin.
"Not exactly" supplied the platform, crystal clear in her mind, followed by a procession of diagrams explaining probabilities of failure and success unfolding from the software ecosystems of the habitat.
She felt dimly aware in her senses that some decision was being made subconsciously before her exoself supplied her with the answer, or the information for it anyway. "so we're going to have to all reduce our consumption for a few years. Is that all?"
"That and we need your informed consent on the new system architecture, ever since two thirds of the habitats voted for more detailed political involvement"
"Well that's not so bad. Not like we have to collapse back to wage slavery like barbarians or something" muttered ceixin
"The spinward block wasn't willing to move out but still didn't want dopamine inhibitors during the debates...Concluded that it violated "Unmanipulated consent by a higher power laws, especially subsection 76- 458
"So, what, we gotta use the dumbest tachidaxy systems we can make in order to convince our neighbors to vote our way?"
The platform's avatar paused, like it didn't need more than a few seconds to model the implications for 25 million citizens in the orbital.
"Yes. That's precisely it."
The unsaid implications that we had to make a political campaign ourselves rather than through the platform itself was lost on none of us, thankfully. "Paper ballots? Are you kidding me? That's a loophole??" I nearly screeched.
And that the platform certainly hadn't just manipulated us into this corner to discover it. I Didn't miss that either. Not a bit.
Two degrees of separation from the transapient locus of the political platform. According to the local code, We were still making the decisions, assuming nobody in the room went rogue. The platform had stacked our incentives too far in one direction to get a different result anyway.
Still legal. Excellent. Or maybe that was the whole problem..
"Let's do this"
So we got to work.