Than’yidre stood in perfect 3D resolution, having just disarmed her target in front of an audience of hundreds of millions, ready to deliver the fatal blow if needed. She was trained from girlhood as part MMA fighter, part bounty-hunter, part performance artist, and all media-darling.
She had been hunting her target for weeks; a clue here, another there, until finally assembling the whole tapestry and zeroing in on her quarry in this week’s episode.
The object of her hunt this time a serial killer responsible for the deaths of some very important people; to seek, locate, and put him down before he killed anybody else more worthy than he.
Than’yidre’s ruby irises would mark her as a Kai’Siri, as would her perfect fangs — slightly longer, sharper, canine teeth characteristic of the humans of Sirug.
But for some ineffable reason, she had always felt that something was amiss about her past.
There was the fact that her memories went back only to the age of seven – and then there were the dreams – strange dreams with shadowy giants, bizarre nightly vistas of alien worlds.
Her ability as a fighter distinguished her early on, and so she was sent to train in the Academy as a null-dancer; a ritual combatant who hunted primarily the most dangerous of criminals, for fame, glory, and the adulation of the masses.
Her target stood before her, having just lost his hand after pulling out a weapon. The votes were just coming in from the audience: thumbs up, let him live and arrest him, thumbs down, off with his head. In seconds, the online poll had been fully counted.
Thumbs down. So be it. The audience must hate this guy, she thought.
She acted in a single, swift motion as her Midukk-Yogg nanoblade parted head from shoulders. The corpse fell with a dull squishy thud to the floor of the squalid room.
She flicked her blade clean of blood before sheathing it. As the credits rolled for this week’s episode, she headed to her temporary quarters to rest, exercise, mingle with the camera crew and ready for the next recording session.
She would be given another dossier on her next target.
It was already on her reading desk as she opened the door to her sleeping quarters.
She looked it over. Hmmm. A cyberkine this time. Really dangerous, this one. Convicted of brainlink-induced mass-homicide, escaped from an asteroid prison facility just this month. Suspected of several other crimes, including trafficking of indigo market cybershards and suicidal emotive tampering with minors.
Her wetware drive would protect her mind, but this one would have brain-jacked puppets surrounding him for protection. And they would be armed as well, not just the usual mooks and stooges.
She threw the dossier to the floor. This was getting to be too much for her. It was one fight after another, and she always won. The audience loved it, loved her, but she knew that it was only for the action, the thrill of the chase, and the confrontation at the end of each episode.
The audience loved her for her moves, for her blade. She needed a change from this, something that didn’t involve arrests and executions each week.
She resolved to see the producer before the next cycle about the ideas that had been floating about in her head for that vacation she’d been promised in her contract – and she had just the thing in mind for that!
The Shutter was a catastrophic event that closed all access to M-level hyperspace, halting all interstellar travel, settlement, commerce, and warfare, and resulting in the collapse of Local Galaxy civilizations for centuries. The previous installment in this series ended at the onset of the Shutter, and this one opens at its end, leading to the timeline in my planned novelette, The Null Dance, and the adventures of the Meera:
190 BPE: Development of S-drive by emerging Local Galaxy civilizations, replacing the now-useless M-drive. Resumption of interstellar trade, exploration, and warfare.
130 BPE: The Broogh Flow meanders into Tellusine space. Intermittent warfare between Broogh and Kai’Siri Koorgraada fleets. Bombardment of Terra by Broogh Giyagh6 fleet. Destruction of Giyagh6 fleet in two stages by Tellusine at the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Jupiter’s moon Europa is destroyed in the conflict. Phobos is fragmented, knocked from orbit, and crashes into Mars. Rebuilding of Terra begins.
100 BPE: Founding of the Second Great Tellusine Civilization, centered on Terra. Sirug becomes an imperial ally, as Kai’Siri enlist in the Tellusine military along with Mentite-, Sensorian-, Brute-, Bomb-, Cannon-, and Dreadnought-class wavetouched as special forces troops, but no Planet Killers (Officially).
45 BPE: Creation of Indigo Sigma by Tellusine, as an elite intelligence and paramilitary organization. Personnel makeup is highly classified but suspected to involve at least one Planet Killer-class wavetouched. Maybe.
0 PE: Reconstruction of Terra is complete. The Indian subcontinent, Africa, and South America took the least of the Giyagh6 fleet bombardment of Terra. Much of Africa, South America, and everything south of the Himalayas is once again fit for human habitation. Lagos, Khartoum, Rio de Janeiro, New Kolkata, Colombo, and Chennai become major economic and space transport hubs.
115 PE: First contact between humanity and the alien Tathladi. Alliance between human and Tathladi against their ancient enemies, the Dinathog-Trulg.
336 PE: The Meera is given the now-regenerated hypershard once belonging to the Mirus, becoming for a short while the second Magna. She wakes up, quits the role, and goes into hiding while those who tried turning her into a superweapon seek to re-enslave her and recover “their property.”
50 Billion PE: The far-future descendants of humanity loop back in time to ensure the evolution of humans, and thus themselves. These beings will be known to xeno-archaeologists as the Strangers, and known only by the fruits of their biological engineering and meddling with early Homo sapiens and its relatives on Terra. This generates a predestination paradox in which humanity brings about its own existence, a causal chain with neither beginning nor end.
Vanakkam. I’ve provided the following timeline for Gods of Terra, ending at the onset of the Shutter and the collapse of Local Galaxy civilizations. Part 2 of this history will resume on the resumption of interstellar travel in the setting, post-Shutter. Enjoy.
9 billion BPE (Before Present Era): abiogenesis and evolution of first life in the universe.
4 billion BPE: earliest known intelligent life. Primitive artifacts date from this period, eventually leading to traces of the first technical civilizations.
3.5 billion BPE: the King of Shards ascends as a hyperdimensional being. In the next 30 million years BPE, several other alien entities will arise as godlike beings, and join the King of Shards as the Nine Who are One.
3.47 billion BPE: the Nine Who are One formally join forces, ruling the Grand Civilization of the Local Group until three billion BPE.
3 billion BPE: fall of the Grand Civilization in a bloody civil war as relations among the Nine break down into chaos. The King of Shards splits into Its avatars across all spacetime to survive, others of the Nine go into hiding or face destruction at the hands of their fellows.
Creation of the Prime hypershards.
1 billion BPE: Evolution of early multicellular life on Terra. First known Stranger artifacts date from this period on many worlds, and in increments over time lasting several million years. The longevity, nature, and sophistication of Stranger civilization remains a mystery.
300000 BPE: earliest anatomically modern humans, visit of Terra by the Strangers. Human samples, not live individual humans, are taken from Terra, genetically altered, gestated, and seeded to hundreds of worlds in and beyond the Local Galaxy.
30000 BPE: Kai’Siri civilizations begin. Early organized religions, primitive political systems. Science as an institution would rise, fall, and rise again in successive dark ages.
15000 BPE: Kai’Siri develop early M-drive, and begin settlements across their region of the galaxy. First contact with Mokthraga of Tokmolos, upon which war breaks out.
6000 BPE: Founding of the First Exarchate of Sirug by the Kai’Siri.
5260 BPE: Collapse of first Exarchate, Last Great Sirugian Dark Age begins.
2000 BPE: End of Last Great Sirugian Dark Age. Founding of Second Exarchate.
900 BPE: First contact with the Tellusine of Terra. First interstellar conflict between the two branches of humanity. Founding of the Tellusine Federated Worlds.
850 BPE: The Galactic Ripple washes across Terra, empowering a new species of humanity, the wavetouched. Four of these would a century later host the original Prime hypershards and become the four Gods of Terra.
750 BPE: Discovery by the Kai’Siri of three Prime hypershards, first use of hypershard warfare using weaponized humans. Origin of the Fractus, the Mirus, and the Magna. The Tempest receives her hypershard from Sarusammog of the Gates, AKA, It Who Scratches at the Gate. The Broogh Flow enters this region of the galaxy, threatening local civilizations.
400 BPE: Death of the Mirus by natural causes. His funeral pod is intercepted and his hypershard is stolen. The regenerating hypershard, now without a host, triggers a cosmological accident as it self-repairs, rendering all use of the interstellar M-drive impossible. Collapse of Local Galaxy civilizations as interstellar travel is halted by this event, later to be known as the Shutter.
A nondescript-looking young woman made her way down the poorly lit street. It was quiet, too quiet this night, and her senses were alert to the slightest disturbance to her peace of mind at this late hour. She was in no mood for threats, so she smiled when she saw the ludicrous — ahem — gentleman — step out of a side alley with shiv in hand, evidently eager to try his hand at gutting her and taking her stuff. Never mind that the only apparent goods on her person were her mirror-shades and her scavenged work uniform. She saw the idiot in augmented reality overlay in her field of vision, thinking he was hiding before he even stepped out into the street. This would be quick.
“All dressed for Halloween, are we, girly? Why the shades at this hour of night? They look good enough to take! Hand ‘em over, and your money, too, or I slit your mongrel face!” She quickly downgraded her estimation of his intelligence by several standard deviations below the mean. He waved his blade “menacingly” just half a meter in front of her, trying pathetically to look impressive and scary. Scary? To a girl who’s killed planets all by herself?
The farce was quickly ended when she casually grabbed him at the waist by his belt, and with a strength and ease seemingly impossible for someone of her size and build, lifted him over her head and tossed him headfirst into a nearby waste bin with a muted “thud,” and what sounded like the “crunch” of a likely skull fracture. Oops.
Hmm. Moron dropped his knife when he took a dive, she thought. She picked up the blade, balancing the tip on her finger. It’s dull. Badly balanced. Crappy workmanship. Meh.
She tossed it aside, and silently giggled inside at the thought of anyone trying to threaten her with such a shoddy excuse for a weapon.
Not worth the effort of writing, “I got punked by a girl,” on his face with his own blade, she thought.
Fictitious gods. You’ve one hell of a mean streak, said the silent voice within, heard only in her mind’s ear, the constant companion riding around in her skull. She knew who it once was. A digital consciousness deep in her hypershard’s fractal-like q-bits had kept her company since she first regained control of her own mind on a dead planet. A planet that she had just killed as the resurrected Magna.
I make my own rules, Mirus. She responded. Understood. Still, you’re a wanted woman, and you don’t want to draw attention to
yourself. Even during my life, I had to travel with an assumed name and identity to avoid bringing the local military down on my
head. Thinking with your powers will only get you killed. Really? She asked. You had an assumed name? What was it? That was
Murugan Sanchez. My real parents were of Tamil and Filipino descent, and it showed in me, so the name worked. You’ll need one
too, at least for the mundane things like forging documents and such. I can teach you how to do that, and to do it well. So, what’ll
The girl thought for a moment. Murugan. That was the name of an old god of war wasn’t it. So I’ll go as Korravi – and I’m stealing your surname, Mirus – Korravi Sanchez, it’ll be. There are few ethnicities I can’t easily pass as with a little touching up, and several hundred years after your time no one will notice.
For those who find out the hard way, my life as the second Magna is officially over, she thought to herself.
I’m the Meera, once the destroyer of worlds. But one day, I’ll be able to walk in the open without terrifying every planet I set foot on.
Vanakkam. As the founders of the early SETI program (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) have pointed out, there are certain basic prerequisites for interstellar communication, the first and most obvious being high powered radio technology.
So too, in Gods of Terra, are there certain basic technologies needed to permit interstellar travel on ordinary human timescales, and those would be:
Helium-3 fusion power:
For power generation of the minimum level and most economically viable reactor size needed to power a useful stardrive, thermonuclear power generation by fusing heavy helium nuclei has both a reasonable level of safety. On many gas giant planets, there’s a plentiful supply of fuel for visiting starships with good aerodynamics, fuel scoops, and purifiers. It’s safer, more efficient, and generates more power and fewer fast neutrons than deuterium-tritium fusion, but requires higher starting energies to achieve.
That’s the bare minimum, and for large spacecraft it’s a prerequisite for the next item, which would be…
The Kurtz-Dunar Effect:
Most famously co-discovered by Ouilette Kurtz of Terra and Ranan Dunar of Sirug, this is a means of generating and manipulating dark energy to expand, twist, fold, contract, and warp the fabric of space-time in useful ways. It allows at the basic level such things as riding a planet’s gravity-well like a bird riding updrafts, or achieving orbit for spacecraft without using large amounts of reaction mass as fuel. This applies for the gravity-well of a stellar system as well, allowing rapid, low reaction-mass interplanetary travel. Carried to the next level in advancement, it also leads to…
Starfold-M and Starfold-S drives:
With these two methods of interstellar flight, the first pre-Shutter, the second post-Shutter, the way to the stars is open to beings with ordinary lifespans who can now settle worlds across the galaxy on reasonable and economically feasible timescales. Both drives use the same principle, the Kurtz-Dunar Effect, but in slightly differing applications during their respective eras of use. It was the cosmological event known as the Shutter that caused the need for Starfold-M to evolve into the more efficient and powerful Starfold-S once the former was rendered ineffective.
Interstellar travel without these technologies is possible, but restricted to sublight-velocity craft, and not the sort allowing human timescale economic or military activity. Some species, like the Broogh, to be dealt with later in this series, are limited to sublight craft, but most of these are sleeper, or in the case of Broogh, generation ships or entire fleets of them.
Rapidly traversing the Local Galaxy requires a very specific set of technologies, those listed above. So for those with short lifespans, or little patience, there’s really no other option.
Vanakkam. Gods of Terra is science fiction, more akin to space opera than hard SF, and includes a few elements borrowed from the super-heroics of comic books as well as the nameless horrors of weird tale fiction. There are some elements that seem supernatural, like beings such as the Nine Who are One, and I’ll distinguish that from rubber science paranormal elements like psionic powers and abilities.
Major assumption: Conventional and cutting edge real-world physics and biology generally apply to but do not dictate the possibilities of the setting. There is no supernatural world as anything existing outside, apart from, or above the natural world, beyond simply more nature to be found “out there” beyond the boundaries of the observable universe.
There are a couple of plot devices that make use of this: namely the Kurtz-Dunar effect, and the bizarre science of Axiomatic physics, which studies the meta-laws underlying all of the physical laws of the universe, both known and currently unknown, the “whys” as well as the “hows” of the rules of reality.
Psionics is a biological, brain-based means of exploiting Axiomatic tweaks in local physical laws, altering, bending them, yet without violating or suspending them outright. It is possible to exploit such abilities by chemical means, like psi-drugs, as well as mental practices and techniques.
Psionics is generally limited to certain effects, primarily in that the mind is what the brain does. As a family of non-dualistic capacities, there are no astral travel abilities, nor anything involving spiritual or extra-physical travel. There are beings that might appear to be made of stabilized energy, or seemingly incorporeal, but they are still purely physical as physicists understand the term, even if not tangible.
Another major exception is the existence of hyperdimensional beings, those physical entities whose existence extends into higher dimensions of space-time, as suggested in certain versions of superstring theory or concepts of possible multiverses involving many dimensions orthogonal to each other. Such beings can seem to those existing only in conventional four-dimensional space-time to be akin to gods. Gods of Terra postulates that our four-dimensional universe is embedded in a vast multiverse of eleven space-time dimensions and infinite universes.
Major assumption: Supernormal powers exist, and can be quite formidable, but have their limits. It is possible to weaponize humans and other beings to possess the powers of demigods, and some have inborn powers.
But even superhumans have the limits of mortal beings in their biological needs and the fact that anything, and I mean anything, can be killed, even hyperdimensional beings and so-called space-gods.
I limit supernormal abilities to the following:
Biological psionics (Bio-Psi): this includes such powers as teleportation, telepathy, biokinesis, quantakinesis, psychokinesis, and clairsapience
Hypershards (Techno-Psi) (self-replicating alien relics that can make stronger or more varied use of Axiomatic physics than Bio-Psi)
Conventional technology: This includes robotics, cybernetic implants, nanotech, femto-tech, genetic engineering, and biotech organ grafts, and may involve some overlap between any of these. It is possible to use nanotech or femto-tech to alter a being biologically, or to build bionic implants or organ grafts into the body that will not be rejected by the body or require immunosuppressant drugs.
Major assumption: Humanity in all its forms is special.
Humanity is the main thread binding everything together, and the driving force behind most of what goes on in the Local Galaxy of it and its neighbors. Though not individually powerful, or even the most advanced species, humans are many, and spread across the stars, virtually extinction-proof by any one event save something like the death of the universe itself. Humans are nearly ubiquitous.
Humans, with the drive to explore and the curiosity to question, drive the politics and economies of the Local Galaxy. Humans in this setting are, at least in this part of the universe, perhaps the greatest force for both good and evil, for both justice and injustice, for both astonishing kindness and terrible cruelty.
These humans of the future are not us, not exactly, but have more of our strengths and fewer of the weaknesses of present-day humans. Humanity by this time, even without utopian aspirations, has grown up. Humanity exists in many species and hails from equally many adopted homeworlds. Humans are the driving force for change in the universe, anticipated even billions of years before multicellular life evolved on Terra, the home of the Tellusine, our own far future descendants.
Minor assumption: aliens and alien worlds must make logical, physical, cultural, and biological sense, or at least must be given a nod to these.
Alien species exist, and simply put, biological evolution on physically possible worlds in a universe dominated by natural laws applies. Alien species are what they are, and evolve as they do, on worlds that they are uniquely adapted to survive and propagate on.
While not holding to any naive hyper-adaptationist view of evolution, any biological, psychological, cultural, and chemical makeup of an alien must at least be plausible on first face if not strictly realistic, and aliens, unless given good reasons otherwise, must be the products of their worlds in both their world’s chemical composition and environments.
Gods of Terra got its start as a role-playing universe, so some sensibility in the creatures within it was necessary for use in any reasonably well-designed set of tabletop RPG rules, at least to make the numbers and game-mechanics mesh with some play-balance.
Minor assumption: Time-travel is possible, but generally limited by predestination paradoxes. Not recommended for most RPG use.
This is a minor assumption because it’s so rare and limited in its role in the setting. It requires superscience technology, usually Relic-level artifacts like one of the original four Prime hypershards, which I’ll post on later in this series. It’s also a minor assumption because it’s mostly useful in the context of written fiction where compatibilist notions of free will square well with a deterministic universe and doesn’t conflict with the writer’s narrative.
Time travel here uses the block-universe model of General Relativity, in which all of space-time, past, present, and future, and all spatial points of the universe from the Big Bang to the ultimate end of the universe exist simultaneously, with the flow of time from past to future being mainly an illusion perceived by three-dimensional entities embedded within space-time.
All of it is predestined, with the past and future being fixed, with journeys to the past and future, and any events resulting being already embedded within the fabric of history. Its implied set history makes inconsistency paradoxes impossible, thus preserving the past and future.
The only possible exception to this is something I’ll write more on at some point in this series, the Paradox engine, an alien relic that can alter the logical structure of reality, scramble the rules of cause and effect, and rewrite the fabric of history.
So it’s not so useful in the context of a role-playing game where events unforeseen by the participants and game master are not only possible but typical. For role-playing purposes, I recommend disallowing time travel as an element of the setting altogether.
These are the setting’s fundamental assumptions. In future installments, I’ll write on the technologies of Gods of Terra, the species, particular worlds, empires, and many other aspects of the setting. Next up, I’ll write on the prerequisites of any starfaring civilization, the minimal technology needed by any species to get out into the Local Galaxy and make its mark.
Vanakkam. After recently rebooting the setting, I’m beginning a new series of primers on my Gods of Terra SF universe, mostly but not entirely focused on a small region of space known as the Local Galaxy.
The universe is vast, both wondrous and dangerous, and filled with alien beings and forces ranging from benign to dangerously indifferent to the human condition. Here, great interstellar empires vie for power and the wavetouched, Children of the Shard, struggle for survival and acceptance, while forces beyond human sanity gnaw at reality in the dark between the stars. Here there are worlds with cities made of scents, people with the powers of demigods, and ancient, monstrous beings with hearts of gold. Yet here, even those with mundane limits, skills, and talents can make their mark and change the universe forever. Here, even gods can die.
In this series as a whole, I’ll offer a detailed picture of what GoT is all about, and in future, posts detailing the basic precepts on which everything runs, aliens and space-gods, creatures, superhuman abilities, exotic locations, and others.
A list of topics includes:
Setting precepts; what assumptions, laws, and logics operate, and what do they entail?
Supernormal abilities and powers, and the limits therein.
Aliens and other species, such as wavetouched, the Kai’Siri, the Rj’lt’ar, and their effect on everyone else.
Empires, worlds, and the cultures that dwell within and on them.
History and momentous events, including the Galactic Ripple, the Great Fear, and the Shutter, and these as influences on the setting.
Iconic characters and monstrous beings, including the Nine Who are One, the four Gods of Terra, their foes, and those who followed after them in the wake of the Shutter.
This post is a reminder for me to blog more often, and I’m asking you all for a favor: to hold my Troythuluness to his frickin’ word, to labor in the word mines more than I have! That, I think, will be a good thing.