Reclaimers – A concise proposal of background

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Eunusha
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Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2012 4:41 am

Reclaimers – A concise proposal of background

Post by Eunusha » Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:36 am

Initialising cogitative process, maintain patience as the device reaches threshold activity level

Like.

What was the question.

Like a surgically extracted organ wasn't meant by nature to live outside of a body, the man was not meant to live outside of an ecosystem he might blend into. Yet, just like it is possible to maintain functions of an organ in vitro, the man may uphold his existence, when ripped out of a living planet. And he may be kept indeterminately in the provisional, intermediate state. But this goes against his nature, and she, unforgiving as she is, will have her get back.

Like, what was the question?

The part of the human population that was not born on the surface of some human-inhabited planet is currently, in the 42nd century, about 1mln lives strong, over a half of that number being residents of the Solar System. The facilities that contain them couldn't have supported more. The reasons behind this limit are much revealing about the fate of those concerned. Having lost nothing of their ancestors’ technical lore, indeed having elaborated upon it, they do not suffer energy shortages, and are not going to be suffering it any time soon. It's the law of conservation of mass that best defines their problem. The earth has been seen as too dangerous to set foot upon for many centuries. The mining stations scattered around the Solar System needed logistics that only an Earth-based enterprise could provide. The surface of the Moon is relatively poor in elements vital for both human life and human technology, and the cost of any mineral resources increases proportionally to the distance it has to pass. Space stations were built for convenience as research centres, as docking ports for interplanetary liners, and the like, they were never intended as a home for many-generational population. Yet, that's what they became, and their denizens had to learn to live their lives as sparingly as humanly possible.
The problem of air supply was solved in the past as ancient as 22nd century. The air can be regenerated chemically or biologically in a closed circuit. The losses are even smaller, when all of the wastes are also running in a closed circuit. A man is born and nurtured out of the matter that is, for the most part, already present at the space station, and it doesn't leave the place as he dies. Other humans shall in turn build their bodies out of it, right after the exquisitely engineered bacteria finish doing the same. Every item, from robots to personal underwear is fabricated as durable as it can get and is expected to serve generations of users. But even though the recycling procedures may be near perfect, but they are never completely lossless. The migration of people between space stations is restricted – if anyone should move in, somebody has to move out, because the dearest and the most deficient of resources on a station is space. It has always been, from the ancient times, as life supporting systems can only be expanded to a certain point, beyond which they would loose functionality. To extend them further would mean nothing less than to build another autonomous segment. Therefore, if on a space station you have twice as much room for yourself as your body covers when you lay down, you have enough. If two people can pass each other in a corridor without having to slow down, then it is vast, and you won’t see many of these in your life; especially that you wouldn’t need more than a month to investigate every inch of Traldragdub, the biggest orbital station ever to have existed. And your chances to visit places other than your home station are scarce. And mind you that there are no windows.

Structures of Society


The institutions of society of the space-station-denizens originated from the manifold limitations they had to face soon after they lost contact with Earth. It soon became obvious that the growing population composed of the descendants of about a thousand of the initial stations’ personnel is about to hit the limits of what the available facilities can subsist.

The solution to be implemented but everywhere came from the Moon, where it was practiced for a period of time already. In fact some may say that the elements of it date back to before the Hundred Years War, as the research facilities located on the globe were the only ones to experience population growth that was not exclusively due to migration. In fact the establishment of the complex of the Moon’s major bases had as much to do with scientific pursuits, as with a utopian project of a society ruled in accordance with fully rational rules, and some of the staff chose to settle and even to rear their offspring there rather than in any of the Earth's countries. And it was clear right at that point, that the decision whether to conceive a child is not to be made by its parents-to-be independently. It had to require consent of the stations logistic administrator, known by the name of warden, as inherited from scholarly tradition. When an increasing number of couples applied for a commission to have a child, it became a custom that the warden must oneself be single and that those, who carelessly conceive without obtaining due permission, must be relegated from the station.

Upon contact with Earth being lost, those customs got more strict and elaborated. To maintain null level of population growth it was essential to overcome human instincts in that respect, thus to promote childlessness. It wasn’t sufficient for the warden to be single anymore; the warden and every individual striving for a position of some power must have undergone castration, so that one would not reserve privileges for one's heirs. As feeble as this justification must seem, it serves to support a solution that excludes a portion of population from competing over the commission to have children. This has led to a situation, where the highest ranking authorities on Earth’s orbit and all of the Moon’s ruling class of the learned men and women are eunuchs. Another elaboration of the said custom is that a couple of people may receive a single cabin only if the man gets his vasa deferentia blocked in a procedure that is reversed only after the couple obtains appropriate commission. The illegitimate pregnancies, which intermittently do occur despite those precautions, are aborted.

The system of authority of the various executive ranks is quite simple really. Except for Warden (whose function by this time became restrained mainly to opinion commissions for a child in accordance to the current statistics and assessment of the merits of the applicants, presented him by his Provosts) a space station society has also other officials. Of those the most important is the station’s Counter Admiral (or Master Praeses, as the function is called in most moonland bases) – who has a decisive voice in every matter not concerning demographics. Both this and the Wardens’ function are periodical, but the length of their terms varies between different stations, often amounting to de facto life-long service. The Warden nominates his successor from among his Provosts, the Counter Admiral nominates Provosts and his own Lieutenants, himself being nominated by the Chancellor of the metropolis – the major station under which jurisdiction he or she is – from among those metropolis Captains (those that are eunuchs), and the Chancellor is in turn nominated by the Venerable Grand Hairdresser of Traldragdub.

Hairdressers and the Cultural Heritage

Although much of the Earth’s cultural legacy exists – preserved in a digitalised form – in the archives of the moonbase Lagado, the pursuit of more traditional fine arts became infeasible. The materials needed are either nigh unavailable or too dear to spend on unnecessary items (that would then have to be stored in some of an even more precious space). Only the digital music and visual arts are known and practiced. As for gastronomy, it is actually a good thing to make the food completely tasteless, given its unspeakable origins. By the time a child reaches six years of age, she knows all of the artificial flavours that are added to it. By the time she reaches eight, she stops noticing them at all. The only handicraft that to some extent still exists is jewellery making – as it involves working with small amounts of recyclable materials – and hairdressing. For the hair hasn’t stopped growing, despite it would probably be more economical if it has, and so it became the only material commonly available for creative activity. That is – as long as it remains attached to a head; once it’s off, it is to be utilised along with the rest of the bio-waste and therefore becomes a subject of gastronomy.

Therefore, despite the fact that digital arts are easier to pursuit and are more widely practiced – or perhaps for this very reason – they do not enjoy the same renown as hairdressing and jewellery making (which have merged into one domain). Maybe some kind of longing after the lost material aspect of higher culture plays a part here, or maybe it is more about providing the only trace of variance and aesthetics in a visually dull and impoverished environment of a space station, but the persons especially adept at hairdressing have become perceived as charismatic figures. It isn’t clear, how they won the role they play nowadays, as it was never formally recognised nor did it involve any real power. It was just that at some point the metropolis station’s Grand Hairdresser – a head of a local hairdresser’s guild – became addressed to as a man of confidence and an arbiter in disputes between authority figures. And even though he possessed no formal authority, his (or her, as close to none regard is made to the sex in this society) voice was unlikely to be ignored.

The Hairdressers for their part went to all lengths to live up to the regard they so commonly enjoyed. In effect, their career path, as well as their work, became highly ritualised and more than a little prim and rigid. Gone are the times of the bombast and flamboyant coiffures from the 38th century portraits; nowadays the sanctioned and much more modest haircuts demarcate individual’s rank and function in the society. There is a strict order of skills that a Hairdresser adept has to master in order to ascend to a higher degree of initiation, and moral integrity is of no less importance than one's abilities. Only a Master Hairdresser is entitled to, for example, dress the hair of a Warden or of a Counter Admiral, even though the Warden’s haircut is one of the simplest, as it consists mainly of four topknots arranged so to pave the angles of an imaginary square positioned diagonally to the line between the Warden’s ears. Only the Venerable Grand Hairdresser of Traldragdub knows all the secrets of the art.

The Hairdressers came to be even more than that – they became the guardians of tradition. They keep the records of fame, wherein the glorious deeds of past heroes and benefactors are noted, and they adorn the ears of the most deserving with the station’s unique emblems – small artefacts of the past imbedded into earrings. If a Grand Hairdresser does a mention to a Warden about someone applying for a commission to have a child, the request may be considered granted (as soon as a room for another child vacates, that is). And so, if anyone is entitled to evaluate the merits of a man or a woman worthy to perform the duties of a metropolis' Chancellor (mainly an honorary function, but also the one crucial for the matter already mentioned), it is the head of all Hairdressers.

On a space station there’s so much time, so little to do and nowhere to go.

Stations and their Diversity


No one can tell at present, which of the existing space station is the oldest, as the parts they consist of are not simply discarded once a station becomes fatigued and obsolete. They are incorporated in new constructions, for you cannot obtain some composite materials on an orbit, and their transportation from a globe’s surface is expensive and troublesome. Therefore it wouldn't be a little surprising to find pieces of an ancient 21st century NASA junk embedded deep into the walls of some little backward station inhabited by a single multi-branched family and a steward robot. When it comes to the whole complexes of stations founded by specific identifiable entities, things get much more simple and surveyed, as there were only a bunch of those, and, in one way or another, they all still exist.

The Moon


The oldest and most influential of them was undisputedly the moonbase complex founded somewhere around the mid-22nd century by Donna Balnibarbi, the sole heiress of a fortune of electric motor tycoons. The lady chose not to marry and instead devoted herself to promote and subsidise science and especially space settlement – in times, when the wormholes were still undiscovered, mind you, and when a jaunt to Mars involved years of preparations. An image of a whimsical titan of optimism that this evokes in today’s man’s imagination is consistent with the historical remarks about the enterprises of “the crazy spinster of Turin”. Yet, her endeavour proved worthwhile, though perhaps not for the exact reasons she herself found important. Namely: the Moon was situated beyond jurisdiction of any of the political forces of that time. By the end of the 22nd century the interweaved muddle of various local and international law became so complex, that it involved a powerful haussman class juridical computer to delineate all of the difficulties and limitations of most of the planned research projects on such fields as bio-technology, medicine, agropoetics, cognitive and personoformative studies and the like. This led to a situation, when major research centres were only implementing those age-old procedures, which were unambiguously legal – a practice that slowed down progress on those fields almost to a halt. On the other hand, this situation led to greater interest in the more abstract fields, such as astrophysics, particle physics, information theory, or nanotechnology – all of which contributed to discoveries of graviton technology and the phenomenon of wormholes. And this in turn gave way to interstellar travel and settlement, which gave rise to space companies, and those have eventually reduced political institutions of old to little more than their own extensions, rendering them incapable of hampering scientific progress, or any of the companies’ affairs. But I digress.

To cut the story short, the Moon didn’t go bankrupt, as many contemporaries prophesised, but came off rather well selling technologies, development of which would on Earth be illegal. Yet, the moonbase complex was not only a scientific facility; it had a well-prospering faculty of liberal arts, stationed in the larger of the bases – Lagado. It was the forge of all the social theory that came to organize the life of Selenites (for that’s what the inhabitants of the moon are called to this day).

Nowadays there are five major moonbases, and in addition to them – two orbital stations over the Moon. I’ll allow myself to give a short description of each of them.

The most ancient and also the largest of all is of course Lagado, which to this day is a research centre; it also houses the Library of Pagas - a repository of almost all of the human knowledge and memory. Yet, in terms of what it contributes to the rest of the world, some would say that it mainly houses a large population (about 100,000), among others the all-too-numerous officials of its metropolis and most of the metropolis’s learned eunuchs. Let’s leave it like this.

Lindalino
is the second biggest moonbase and it produces all of those goods, that Lagado doesn’t produce; it relies merely on recycling materials and quarrying the little resources the Moon surface has to offer, the most important of which being water. Regarding the historical personages, Lindalino is fondest of the 34th century scientist Ninobango Yahakawa, inventor of a method of obtaining ingestible substance from the spaceship’s bio-waste, thus creating an almost perfect closed circuit. Although the method itself was not implemented until three hundred years after its inventor had passed away, it was refined by the scientists of Lagado and is practised with great success in Lindalino. In effect the base became especially vital as the main facility to produce edible substances and the only one to distil the little bio-waste that cannot be recycled on an ordinary station. Inhabitants of Lindalino don’t seem to understand the notion of “stench”.

The first station to hover over the surface of the Moon, the one as old as the aforementioned moonbases, is the docking port of Maldonada. It is a place, where the ships from earth were moored, and a terminal for the ferries from Clumegnig – a port among the orbital stations over Earth.

These are what prevail to this day from the complex of moonbases founded by the famed Donna Balnibarbi, but not the only ones to be found over the globe. There are also more recent edifices, of more military character, from more troubled times.

At the break of the hundred years war two more bases were built upon the Moon, on the dark side of it, due to the globe’s reduced gravity and lack of atmosphere – which made landing and taking off so much easier and cheaper, as compared to any of the inhabited planets – and its vast plains that made it much more convenient than any space station. Interstellar arms manufacturing company known by the acronym GNAG raised the two moonbases in order to employ them in the ongoing war, were it to spread into the solar system. First of these was a gargantuan factory, only a small section of which was fitted with life support system. It was dedicated to creating ever more advanced weapons against the technically superior enemy, and ever greater and more fearsome warmachines that would intimidate the foe with their very appearance. The chief and most fertile of the base’s engineers was apparently some Rodyon Brobdin; many of the steel hulks, now half-buried in the moondust, fit the blueprints signed by him, which were found in the facility’s database. Later of the constructions even bear his personal logotype next to the company name. Other designs, never to have been brought into reality, give a glimpse of the state of mind of the engineers, as it was becoming clear to them, little by little, that once the war starts in the solar system, there will be no time to tug those monsters to the theatres of war. These were no longer warmachines, but veritable monsters of steel, and would they ever be build, they would be more suitable to stride among cinders and ruins and contemplate the death in the likeness of some strange idols of destruction, than to perform any meaningful military action. About this time the second moonbase must have been created, in design a great hospital for war causalities. It remained unfinished as the company staff have apparently abandoned the Moon, for reasons that will probably forever remain obscure.

After the first shock of loosing contact with the Earth have passed, and the ways of survival onboard of space stations has been established – that is about the eave of the 38th century – a Selenite expedition led by Captain Bertalan LorBrulGrud and Dean Heliodor FlanFlafNic has discovered the long abandoned facilities on the dark side of the moon. These were the first pieces of human heritage to be reclaimed and their recovering was the founding event for the ideology of Reconqest. The moonbases were repaired, part of their lounges adapted for residential use, and so emerged the new stations, ready to welcome the surplus residents of the existing ones, by then already crowded. The factory base, renamed after the Captain – as its original name was forgone – with time became metropolis, and the hospital base, named after the Dean, became its only governorate.

Lorbrulgrud is now the most important (and in some areas – the only) factory of some macro-scale devices, such as space station modules, exo-suits (which were invented there), and of course engines, weapons and battle robots, of which some amount had been already stocked there by the original owners, along with complete production lines. As for the hulking warmachines buried in the dust, there were always those who wanted them deconstructed in order to obtain the precious materials. However, reasonable as such a proposition must sound, none of the successive Admirals of Lorbrulgrud (for they, in remembrance of their founder, decided to name their office in accordance with the interstellar navy tradition) has ever permitted this. The argument in question is that once the machines would be deployed on Earth, the Reconquest would not meet an essential resistance. A questionable argument indeed, because, even if transporting those behemoths to the Earth’s orbit would be feasible, if not cost-effective, taking them to the surface would require a cargo sheep even bigger than each of them and capable of multiple atmospheric flights. There is neither a where to build the sub-assemblies needed – as not even Lorbrulgrud itself would suffice, still being partially inoperative – nor there is a what to build it of. As it is, the sleeping giants remain an expensive trophy of the rulers’ vanity and a symbol of unreachable ambitions, unwarranted pretence that is too cherished to be let go of; this is also what the name of their constructor came to mean for the Selenites.

Image
A 2nd class technician from Lorbrulgrud. Notice the working style of his boots and forearm protectors, as well as his inornate scapulary and an apprentice haircut.

Flanflafnic has started as an infirmary and to some extent it still serves that purpose, curing those, whose injuries (as there aren’t many germs in a sterile environment of a space station) are too serious to be properly treated at home, by some jack-of-all-trades robot. Yet, even though a large portion of the base was converted into housing cabins, and an even greater part has simply never been finished, the part that still remains dedicated to medicine is more than enough for the small population of space-based people. Therefore it is in that place, rather than in Lagado, where the researches for improvement of public health are carried out. One of those resulted in creation of genetically engineered creatures known as splacknucks. In vicinity of the 39th century, when it became apparent, that the Earth might be habitable again somewhere in near future, the medical scientists of Flanflafnic, supervised by Dean Asenath GlumDalClitch, started to show concern about the acquired lack of immunity and the absence of antibodies in the inhabitants of space stations. To amend this they decided to create an organism that would produce pollution similar in molecular structure to the germs known from Earth, but innocuous, a one that would in addition feed on particles of bio-waste so small that they pass through air-filters, but would itself be too large to pass through them, thus improving robustness of the bio-mass circuit. The engineered creature, oblong and small enough to fit under a fingernail, was soon distributed among the space stations on the Moon as well as on the Earth orbit. And indeed it have improved, to some extent, their inhabitants’ immunity – enough so, to make an attempt of a longer reconnaissance mission to Earth thinkable. The procedure has had some adverse effects, however: a variety of splacknucks has emerged, which have taken a liking for warm and moist cavities of human body, irritating the mucosa with their droppings and inducing an itching rash. This became unfortunate for the Flanflafnic fair sex, because an association has fixed in the minds of young men all over the space bases: “Flanflafnic-splacknucks-pass”. Which is rather silly, actually, because the specific variety of splacknucks has developed somewhere completely else, and the Flanflafnic population’s gene-pool is considered one of the soundest, despite the endogamy.

Laputa, the latest of the Moon’s stations, the metropolis of Lagado, Lindalino and Maldonada, is technically not a space station at all. Instead it is – along with Lamignotta, Dienute and Baita – a representational interstellar cruise ship once owned by an interstellar transport company (the name of which is of no importance at the moment). As the Hundred Years War spread across one system after another, the luxury ships were staying moored on the Earth orbit, up until the fatal virus was released and the Earth as we knew it was no more. A couple of decades later, when the population of space stations have swollen dangerously, and the Selenite methods of population control haven't got to be fully enforced yet, the ships started being adapted for inhabitancy. The first to become inhabited was the largest of all – Laputa, and because it hasn’t been – at the time – converted to employ the Yahakawa method, it soon came to need some outer source of supplies. At that point the only available one was Lindalino, so the ship was navigated to the orbit of the Moon and then was passed under the rule of the authorities of Lagado, the Moon’s sole metropolis at the time.

Before long the Yahakawa method was implemented and the vessel became all but self-sufficient. It also soon became clear that the ship’s marvellous power-generator, created with interstellar travels in mind, grants it an almost inexhaustible energy source and enables it to sail across the Moon’s orbit indefinitely. Upon realising this, the highest authorities of Lagado have moved the metropolis there and started cruising between the moonbases, at first between the two, and later between all the four of them, thus providing them with a convenient connection. For most of the time Laputa hovers over one of its governorates, but about once a month it travels for a couple of days to the more removed and sovereign Lorbrulgrud and Flanflafnic. As for the rest of the cruise ships, at the height of Reconquest they were sent on a mission through the wormholes, to the places from which smaller vessels had returned, and there they provided foundation for the orbital stations Lailonia, Gorgola and Belina. The message probes from Lailonia reach the solar system regularly if infrequently, from Belina – only occasionally, Gorgola is now considered lost.

Earth

The biggest of all space stations and at the same time one of the latest is a conglomerate now known as Traldragdub, from the name of the 39th century Admiral Loredana TralDragDub. She commanded to locate, haul to one place and connect all of the space stations too small to be self-sufficient, as well as all the orbital junk that could still be utilised. It was done in order to create some additional portion of inhabitable space and to more effectively spare resources, which were wasted on stations too small to employ efficient recycling methods, and to save the energy that was blown away on travelling from one of them to another. There were multitude of stations not manned at the time of the war and epidemic, and some of those that were populated at first have with time became moribund. The work lasted for many years and the inhabitants of the emerging station had to get used to the constant clamour transmitted by its decks, but when the job was finally accomplished, a chaotic three-dimensional labyrinth of corridors and cabins cobbled together came to be, and was named after its sterile mother.

Before all these events took place, Admiral TralDragDub had been managing a couple of stations once belonging to one of the biggest, if not the very biggest of interstellar companies – the LuGNAG-G. In the beginning the enterprise was merely a lunar (for tax reasons only) division of the arms manufacturer GNAG, and as soon as in 22nd century it became producing its first deep-space ships, for the NASA as well as for its Chinese equivalent. Later they provided fleet for the mining companies of the solar system, which exploited the resources found in asteroid belt and elsewhere for the brief period when it was affordable, but soon the GNAG's division started to produce the ships dedicated to interstellar travel. Despite the division’s name, its shipyard was placed on the Earth orbit and it was the first space station owned by the future interstellar company.

As the age of space colonisation broke out, LuGNAG has moved its main factories to the orbit of Gliese 581 G, and started to operate independently from its parent company under the name LuGNAG-G. By the 24th century the Earth orbit’s shipyard became grossly obsolete and smallish, but the company has by then become even greater than GNAG, providing not only means of transportation, but also about everything needed to establish a well prospering colony in the middle of a primeval landscape. And as soon as the colonies were able to participate in trade manufacturing, LuGNAG-G did everything to take over or at least to mediate in all of it. This way LuGNAG-G became the first interstellar company truly independent of global economy and politics, as its influence spread across many globes, and also the first one to subdue state organisms, first on Gliese 581 G, and later, about the 30th century, also on Earth. Moreover, it was the first enterprise that was, according to the law couched by Osama Fukuyama, a laureate the G-Nobel prise in economics, too vast to fall.

Somewhere in the 30th century, the 58th Hereditary Galactic President of LuGNAG-G, His Illustriousness Crazy Horse Riffkin, decided to turn the now-defunct shipyard on the Earth orbit into a conference centre and a memorial of his company. The station became expanded and extravagantly equipped; apart from a vast lecture hall, a g-gravity swimming pool, a zero-gravity swimming pool, a casino and a harem, it was provided with a complete Galactic President’s cabinet, complete with a private ficus conservatory, a mahogany desk with glass top, three videophones, a haussman class personal computer, a church triptych, antic tapestries and carpets, a chair with upholstery of artificially cultured human leather and a one way mirror with a view on the zero-gravity pool. The cabinet was never used by this or any of the subsequent Galactic Presidents of LuGNAG-G, but the base itself served the company’s highest hereditary management to arrange costly annually orgies, during which they exchanged between one another puddings of 24-carat gold. It was also a place where the Great Council of the Ten Absent, the company’s factual rulers, allegedly presided.

Now the stations once owned by the company form a core and the most part of Traldragdub, the President’s cabinet being a place of residence of Venerable Grand Hairdresser and his acolytes, of course after it was divided with screens into cubicles.

There is yet one thing that has to be said about the home of over 100,000 of Nephelibates (for that’s what the inhabitants of the Earth’s orbit are called). One of the structure’s many wings houses a place, where every eunuch of significant knowledge or tactical skill moves, once he or she reaches an age too advanced to be able to keep on fulfilling one's current function. In the cloistered sector of the station’s clinic such an individual is induced into a sleep, from which the one will never wake up. The computer stimulates the patient's brain, while 2nd generation nano-machines, injected into the one's skull, locate the brain’s synaptic connections and place themselves alongside them. Other nano-machines form a filigree network over each neuron. Then the computer registers patterns of the brain's activity and brings the patient into a state of a near-conscious trance, during which a connection between specific stimulus (such as a word) and the brain’s activity is established. The long and complex process invented by Porphyry StruldGrub leads to creation of a quasi-computer that is a copy (if ever there was one) of the individual’s brain, which may be subsequently plugged to artificial senses and effectors in order to communicate with interlocutors, long after the body has perished. Such a makreon is not as efficient as an actual brain, not the least so because it’s unable to internalize any new information. Yet is able to share his original’s knowledge, as well as solve problems, as long as they are expressed it terms familiar to it.

But for the most part Traldragdub is just a crowded, smelly hive inhabited by hapless wastrels.

As a metropolis Traldragdub has two major governorates, both of them ports once owned by LuGNAG-G. The one already mentioned is Clumegnig, named so after the famous virtual reality artist, Praxedis CluMegNig, who was born there. It was intended as an interstellar port for cargo ships and now it serves mainly as a transfer station for travellers from Maldonada, its twin station on the Moon orbit, which is greater of the two. The second, Glanguenstald, is where almost all the expeditions to Earth leave from. It was intended as a starport for passenger ships and was later renamed after a Counter Admiral Korbinian GlanGuenStald, who opposed the plans of Admiral Loredana TralDragDub to incorporate the port into her station. Deservedly so. Not much to say about either of these.

Apart of those there is also an archipelago of smaller stations – with the units' only Captains passing as their Counter Admirals – which were large enough to manage some level of self-sufficiency, and thus avoid being incorporated into Traldragdub. They have, however, really small populations, none of them reaching 500 people, and are deeply dependent on their metropolis in the fields of education, specialist equipment, clothing and so on.

Another Nephelibate metropolis is Mildendo, a factory station founded in the 28th century by the father of modern nano-technology, Stelian Blefuscu, the inventor of the 2nd generation nano-machines, nicknamed by his contemporaries as "the Alchemist". 1st generation nano-machines is a term, which encompasses all those nano-machines that were either manufactured directly by man or by human-scaled automatons. Such nano-machines were first produced at the turn of 20th and 21st centuries and have been perfected ever since. It took all the necessarily painstaking process of development to overcome the technical difficulties, so that over seven hundred years later all that was needed to achieve the (already speculated) 2nd generation of nano-machines was a conceptual step. It was Stelian Blefuscu, an engineer working for GNAG, who has made the step. And he was wise enough not to share the discovery with anybody. Instead he quitted his job and started a small computer component manufacture, where he created, after hours, the first simple nano-machine of the 2nd generation. And again he was smart enough not to tell anybody. Instead he found a way to assemble, with the help of 2nd generation nano-machines, such computer components that could not be obtained only by means of the more traditional nano-machines, as those would lack the points of access. And by selling those he made a fortune that would otherwise fall to his employers or to the company that he would sell his invention to. Later in life he unveiled secrets of his workshop, of course, and even received a Nobel Prize in medicine, but by then it was all patented, and the patents themselves were guarded by a powerful enterprise. And even though his company has never reached the magnitude of an interstellar company (as there was no place for new players in that field), it remained independent of any of them.

To cast some light upon the importance of 2nd generation nano-machines one could notice, that a nano-robot is actually nothing less than a 2nd generation nano-machine the size of a 1st generation nano-machine, but of incomparable complexity. As for 3rd generation nano-machines, they are still yet to be invented, as the technological solutions applied in 2nd generation nano-machines wouldn't be possible to employ in such a scale.

The space-base Mildendo was an experimental project by one of the subsequent head executive of Blefuscu Technologies, because some procedures required 1st generation nano-machine production lines to work in zero-gravity, or in vacuum, or both. Over time the station expanded until it became what it is now. Every Selenite and Nephelibate computer is assembled in Mildendo, and so are all medical nano-machines (which, as a side-note, aren't counted in units but in milligrams). Human scale Robots in the production of which nano-technologies are employed, are constructed in the metropolis station's only governorate, Belfaborac – the name of which by the 35th century became synonymous with lightweight multifunctional humanoid robots, to be found on nearly all passenger spaceships.

Last of the Nephelibate sovereign stations cannot really be called a metropolis, as it has no governorates. It is also the smallest, not in terms of cubature, that is, but in terms of population. But the peculiarities of Glubdubdrib don't end there. Before anything more can be said about the station, a small historical excursion is necessary to understand the sudden boom in development of space stations on the Earth orbit in the 35th century. It was then, when the 127th Hereditary Galactic President of LuGNAG-G, the Illustrious Kublai Khan Prohazka, instituted construction project of the first (and only) orbital lift. An edifice, that has excited imaginations of people (and especially the company's hereditary management) of late, but was thought unprofitable, if not a pipe-dream. The vicious (and the world knows no shortage of those) used to say that apparently the galaxy have had enough of private islands, platinum alloy spaceships with coating of diamond and tombs the size of man-made mountains, edified by the previous Galactic Presidents, that a yet greater monument of megalomania is now needed to be remembered. But these voices have never risen as high as to reach the ears of the Illustrious, so the project BABEL soon took off. And in the course of a year it collapsed, just to be immediately reiterated. And then reiterated again.

But some 40 years, 5 G-Nobel prizes and about 160 fatal accidents later it was near finished, along with an orbital station to keep the shaft's end in place. And by that time it was all but obvious, of how little use the thing was going to be. It wasn't suitable for people, for sure, because the shaft turned out too narrow to contain a cabin equipped with a life support system necessary to get through the cold layers of the atmosphere, and even regardless of this it was too unstable to be entrusted with human life. Elevating of large-size cargo was also out of question. The only use the most expensive edifice in the whole of human history was actually good for was transport of foldable and lightweight components of space stations and spaceships, as well as of the supplies for the crew. And so the final years before the Hundred Years War, before human kind had to deal with more urgent needs, were marked by the most intensive development of the space stations on the Earth orbit. Most of those are now incorporated into Traldragdub.

Yet, by the time of the construction of Traldragdub, Glubdubdrib has already earned such an undisputed position, that the question of it being subjugated was never set. To understand the fact, one has to go back to the end of the 35th century, when GNAG (that by then had became a division of LuGNAG-G) launched an experimental project in order to search the true boundaries of the hausman gene's capabilities. The three computer scientists, Maurice Dribbe, Max Dubovsky and Mordecai Glubin were to construct a super-computer that would hit the limits of what was technically possible. They decided to move the project to an orbit, as sterility and reduced gravity would eliminate some of the trivial problems, which would have to be dealt with on the planet's surface. Now that there was an orbital lift, the approach became affordable. And so an orbital station was constructed, for the first time in history a one actually much bigger than necessary, as the workers occupied it rotationally, a third part of them abiding always in reserve on Earth. Also the three supervising scientist were living onboard only for two non-consecutive quarters of a year. Such has been a general rule of occupational health and safety on space stations for over a thousand years, however strange this must sound today.

Anyway, the computer still wasn't operational when the war broke out. In the consequent imbroglio no one has even remembered to abort the project; it run by its own momentum with little supervision. And it was about then, when the reports of the aliens' extraordinary way of communication inspired the constructors to create buses that would mimic the aliens' communications organ's functionality. And they finally succeeded, although their eventual solution's similarity to the way the aliens actually intercommunicated came out to be a purely structural, not a technical one. Specifics aside, it resulted in a computer with a four- rather than three-dimensional structure. But by the time the machine was finished and about to be programmed nobody cared anymore. The constructors' successors, who have taken over the project along the way, decided, in the face of an upcoming invasion, to flee the Earth together with their families, and to settle on the space station permanently. That decision has proven to be wise.

The station's current name, Glubdubdrib, comes from the first person to bear the name and function of its CAD, the reverent Hanoch GlubDubDrib, a straight-line descendant of the computer's architects. He was the first to communicate with the machine (now known as Metatronon) with nothing but his thoughts, transmitted by a magnetoencephalograph, and, what's more important, to receive feedback through a brain probe. This method, applicable also to the ordinary hausman-class computers to some extent, allows the CAD to all but merge his personality and will with the computer's superior but impersonal intelligence. It requires, however, a great deal of time and self-discipline to complete the training, during which, in course of many years, an adept learns to influence the computer with his brain impulses, and the computer learns to interpret them, as no two human brains are quite the same. Therefore the whole of the male population of Glubdubdrib, from the moment they stop being kids, are implanted with a brain probe and trained in the difficult art. Only the most skilled of every generation may one day perform CADic functions, and consider issues that have proven too complex even for the learned of Lagado. But the less skilled aren't worse off, because their services are of utmost usefulness to all the greater stations, as – being nothing less than thinking terminals – they interact with artificial intelligence and databases in a much less erratic way than anybody else. And so the Glubdubdrib men form the most mobile part of the joined Selenite and Nephelibate society.

As for the women, they perform all the rest of functions, the wife of the current CAD (as they never conformed to the common methods of population control) being an equivalent to both an Admiral and a Warden. Glubdubdrib is also the only station that doesn't have its Hairdresser, not even in a person (so to speak) of multi-functional robot that at the same time would be the station's physician, mechanic and whatever else. Glubdubdrib's robots simply aren't programmed for this end; the station's personnel have a custom of shaving their heads bald (although the men often wear some kind of facial hair; unlike most of Nephelibates and especially Selenites they can even grow moustache). In the case of men the reason behind this is simple – magnetoencephalograph adheres better to a shaved head. In case of women it's more of a tradition; after all they have many other things on their heads than cultivating hair. Instead they wear wigs, arranged in accordance with an old, 38th century fashion, because that's when the things were made. Splacknucks love those wigs.

One more thing requires a mention about Glubdubdrib and its CADs. The Metatronon has been programmed to preserve the CAD's personality and wisdom in a digital similitude. Such a code, being fruit of a lifelong familiarity between a man and a computer, may be executed by an ordinary hausman-class machine, but it will only show full of its powers when run on (or rather by) the Metatronon itself. The code is so perfect, that even the closest acquaintances of the deceased CAD can tell no difference between it and the actual person, in a sharp contrast to a makreon, which bears only a superficial similarity to the one of whom it was created, but appears as a greatly degraded copy, devoid of what would be called soul. However, when a macreon is an actual mechanically generated copy of the brain, created mainly to preserve all the information contained therein, a code compiled by the Metatronon is a mimic, a brilliant computer's interpretation of human personality performance, and it only possesses the knowledge that was disclosed to the machine by the CAD, while he was still alive.

Much more could be said about each of those stations and the endless quirks and mannerisms of their inhabitants, but it would require a CADic patience to get through it all.

Living on a Space Station and the Reconquest

After drawing out the differences in character and history between various stations it is possible to concentrate again on the similarities, or rather on everything that makes living on one of space station so stupendously, overwhelmingly different than living on a, say, planet surface. The life support system and the bio-recycling system work by themselves, and if they start failing, they need a specialist help best provided by the station's robots. The clothes and household items are nigh-indestructible by human means, so they don't need repair, except some patching maybe, once a lifetime. Just for example: it is impossible to pierce a single durajeans or synsilk sheet with energy of 1 kilojoule. The personnel necessary, or rather recommended just in case, to supervise a station consists of a couple of technicians and pilots. To manage the internal affairs of a station, if it is large enough to need somebody to manage them, another couple of individuals will suffice. All the rest just have to kill time somehow. One shares one's living space with so many relatives (by the 42nd century almost everyone is related), with minor chance to ever move out, that it's necessary to detach oneself from them somehow for a couple of hours. There is a training room, but one has to take numbers to get there, as there are so many interested. One doesn't make a living, as there is no money and possession – everything one uses is a property of generations to come. No wonder then, that most of everybody's daily activity passes in front of a computer terminal. After all, that's how people gain education, that's how they create arts and visuals, and eventually that's how they get addicted from games. For the games became the most popular form of leisure activity, in the absence of other possibilities. The addiction begins, when one loses interest in other aspects of life. And then of course there are the mind-altering virtual presentations, with the help of which one may depersonalise oneself almost completely. For most, living on a space station is waiting that seems eternal. While people on Earth were struggling to survive, people in space stations were struggling to remain sane.

And that's an itch that the ideology of Reconquest came to scratch. It brought a tale of the future to wait for, of the times when one will be able to have all the children one wishes, all the room one wants, of everybody being needed and useful. It impregnated imaginations of eunuchs with plans and tactics to employ in reclaiming the world their ancestors had been forced to leave behind. It inspired the learned of Lorbrulgrud to start developing exo-suits to help future Reconqestators deal with the gravity they weren't accustomed to. It caused the navigators of Glanguenstald to start sorting out the logistics of Earth-landing. It provoked the Lieutenants of Traldragdub to start to fantasise about missions to Earth. It pushed the scholars of Lagado to take up a query for every piece of information that might prove useful on the planet. It made the physicians of Flanflafnic start to work on the best ways to protect people from the virus and other threats of a living ecosystem. The CAD of Glubdubdrib became so pinned down with questions that he had no time for meditation. Glory dogs and unrealized parents everywhere were dying to volunteer for an Earth expedition. Idlers had at least something to rave about. All of the sudden everybody was busy.

Alas, the new perspective made some of the old problems all the more jarring, the main of them being of course health and fitness. A space-station-dweller, who has never set foot on a decent planet (the Moon does not suffice), is healthy only in a sense of not being sick. And the one is not fit in any recognisable sense. People of the Moon, that constituted the majority of the out-of-Earth population of the solar system when the epidemics stroke, have influenced the ones living on Earth's orbit in many ways; unfortunately they also influenced artificial gravity settings, so that now every space station enjoys moonlike gravity, the older bases achieving it by centrifugal force, the later ones, like Traldragdub, by graviton technology (which is more convenient, because it enables different gravity settings in different sectors). The medications that prevent the loss of bone and muscle mass (incidentally being the same ones that eliminate most of the health issues resulting from castration) work only as much as they can, when mobility is restricted by the living conditions. It also has to be stated, that the very patterns of locomotion in one tenth of the Earth's gravity are quite different. For example – a customary scold for peeping behind the so-called "privacy veil" (a kind of curtain one covers one's bunk with, customarily treated as opaque and soundproof) is being kicked in the face. Earth-raised people upon hearing this don't realise that in the moonlike gravity it amounts to nothing. This causes a cascade of orthopaedic problems, dealt with by means of girdles and the trademark carber collars, which prevent arm-raising, involuntary when they aren't pulled down by their own weight. But the habitual swayback, resulting from sedentary lifestyle and necessity of interacting with others in rooms too narrow to preserve personal space, cannot be remedied easily. It poses no drawback in reduced gravity, where one could well spend life jumping on one leg, but once the gravity increases it becomes an issue. All the chemicals one has to intake throughout one's lifetime, when residing in an artificial environment, are slowly, but gradually devastating one's health. Thus the life expectancy on a space station isn't terribly high and totals up to 80 years at most.

Inbreeding doesn't help either. Although the initial population of space stations was fairly diverse, endogamy soon led to a situation when a mother, who was the last of certain name on the whole station, started to add its first syllable at the end of the name her child received from its father (as to where did that custom come from, as well as the one of contracting one's name to a single syllable is not certain, but one may safely assume, that it came from the Moon). The plenitude of triple names says it all, especially in face of the fact that quadruple names weren't allowed (by the Selenite standards, no doubt). With the (Selenite) population control methods being commonly administered, the effective population shrunk even more. This led to a situation, where the Intranasal Cleft Syndrome, a disorder caused by a recessive mutation, became so prevalent that Flanflafnic may be the only place where no carriers were noted so far. When two carriers conceive, they have one chance of four to give birth to an affected child. Such a child is born with deformed forehead and nose, underdeveloped eyelids, part of the midline-situated facial bones and corpus callosum missing; it also lacks hair and grows up to be infertile. Due to cognitive impairment such children experience some learning and motor difficulties and develop certain autistic traits, but usually aren't otherwise mentally retarded and they have their assigned place in the society. Because their brain hemispheres work for the most part independently, both parts of the brain are less likely to become distracted at the same time, and therefore the ICS people perform the tasks involving long span of attention relatively better than others. Alarming is, however, the amount of largely unaffected carriers of the syndrome that can be seen among both Nephelibates and Selenites, their characteristic traits being wide bridge of a nose and inner corners of the eyes positioned close to the irises, giving them an odd, cross-eyed, or lion-gaze look. The problem only indicates the extent of inbreeding that must have taken place over the 500 years, because the mutated gene must have came from a single individual.

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From top left: a Selenite Dean, a Nephelibate Captain, a Flanflafnic Reconquestator Lieutenant and an ICS sufferer.

In face of all this it becomes clear, why any journey to earth demands so many preparations and so much effort on the part of the future Reconquestators. They not only have to undergo excessive training that will improve their reflexes, give them the ability to operate exo-suits in conditions of the Earth gravity, and even enable them to move on their own, to an extent. They will also have to give evidence of mental strength necessary to withstand the state of constant cognitive overload, once they leave the environment, which has hitherto enclosed them, and the monotony of which they have learned not to recognise.

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A crude prototype of an exo-suit being tested.

There's no point in recounting all the campaigns, missions, reconnaissance journeys and vanity cruises to Earth, which has been undertaken so far in the name of the Reconquest. It's enough to say, that their effects proved meagre. The reclaimed goods hardly cover the losses in people and equipment. There are many reasons for this, all of which make up a disenchanting picture.

Firstly, the attempts at establishing sustainable local contacts among the natives have failed. Various tactics, from trade contracts and exchange of services to brute subjugation have all turned out efficacious as often as not, with no consistent pattern to be drawn. In a long run each tactics led either to conflict with some overwhelming enemy, and in consequence – to retreat, or to gradual bleeding out, while sustaining recurrent resistance. One might say that there are objective obstacles to Reconquest, such as inability to field sufficient contingent, and that such inability is to be overcame by slowly gathering the necessary resources. This is true, but not the whole of it. The thing is the Reconquestators don't really understand neither the savages ("slimeballs" and "septic tanks", as referred to by simpletons) nor the surrounding environment, which, let's face it, is no longer quite the one described in the archives of Pagas. The only thing they do genuinely understand about the homeworld of their ancestors is alien survivors. They understand them well enough to avoid them.

Secondly, the job of setting up of an outpost has unearthed some even deeper problems. For many a Reconquestator the main intent behind volunteering to a mission is to eventually be assigned to an outpost on the surface. From the orbit's perspective those places seem to ooze with certain magic and romanticism of a wilderness. During a teleconversation it is easy to tell an outpost Lieutenant or Sergeant, not only from the braids, so proudly displayed by veteran Reconquestators when they get back home. There is also some recognisable manner in them, a kind of haughtiness, but also a noticeable joy of life that the inhabitants of the stations are lacking. Even though the blows of the Earth's air may be irritating to the eyes, hardly anybody who has set a foot on the surface detested the feel of it on the face. An opportunity of having unlicensed offspring is also compelling to many, despite the fact that it excludes both them and the children from evacuation schedule in case the outpost was endangered. Not least of what the surface has to offer is the food. Eating for the pleasure of it is a concept unknown to the station-bound population. The outpost crew, even if they are no longer capable of digesting unprocessed foodstuffs, are still much better off than those, who have to eat their own toe-clippings, to name but the least dreadful of ingredients. And then there are the infinite, ever-changing landscapes. On a space station your eyes will meet nothing further than 10 meters ahead that would not be a digitally generated phantom. Some natives met an untimely demise trying to sneak to an outpost guarded by a Reconquestator that appeared dead, as he was gazing motionlessly at the horizon for hours. No wonder there circulate the rumours among the space-station-dwellers about "an Earth craze", and the ones that come back are often looked upon conspicuously.

That's how things appear from the perspective of a space station, but what are the facts? Why are the outpost always situated in the most desolate and inhospitable locations? Why are they equipped with such elaborate life support systems, that they become nothing short of space stations on land? Why do the Reconquestators manning them keep relying on exo-suits long after they got accustomed to the Earth's gravity? Why, no matter how long a time they have spent on Earth, none of them will ever touch living matter with an unprotected hand? I know there are reasons behind all of those practices that cannot be simply dismissed as excuses. But they all secretly imply one thing: for the Reconquestators Earth is no longer home.

That's about all I had to say, you can unplug me now.

Short term memory buffer capacity reached; reboot required.
Last edited by Eunusha on Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:19 am, edited 4 times in total.

Eunusha
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Re: Reclaimers – A concise proposal of background

Post by Eunusha » Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:41 am

Hello all, I'm a new person here, but have been watching this space for about a month. It wasn't my intention to annoy anybody, but it's not easy to get it straight, which things about the background are established, and which are merely ideas. So, here is my idea.

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