Inscrit le: 19 Sep 2009
Mer 30 Sep - 21:47 (2009)
Finally, there are three broad categories into which a myriad of smaller cultures and peoples fall: the Old-Worlders, the Spacers, and a large number of Cargo Cults. Each sub-unit of these civilizations is distinct and often without connection to the others.
When the fringes of Earth culture left through the wormholes, and the mainstream “world powers” slowly strangled each other to death in the aftermath, Earth was left a very quiet and empty place. As it turns out, some people had been quietly hoping for this for years, and didn’t mind putting down a little extra farmland where high-tech structures had once been built.
Most Old-Worlders inhabit Earth in much the same way they always have, leading simple, honest, and hard-working lives. They don’t have to worry about paying taxes to support a government that doesn’t do much for them, tourists frightening the horses with their automobiles, or any other such “nonsense” from the “modern world.” As far as these people are concerned, they’re living the good life, and every year they get a few converts from the outside world to whom that appeals.
The Old-Worlders are often forgotten. When you’re dealing with five or six highly technological civilizations all at once, trying to understand the way they and their people interact, it’s easy to lose sight of such a small group. They seem like, and in many ways they are, an anachronism, a piece of the past accidentally brought into the future. The error in that thinking is really just a single word: the persistence of old-worlder beliefs is no accident.
Many people from other civilizations see Old-Worlders as not just simple, but stupid. They don’t wear meshes, they don’t have dermal ‘bots, they haven’t had any memetic training at all, and they have trouble operating nearly everything in a hightech civilization. What’s worse, the reverse is not true — those with meshes will survive just fine in an Old-Worlder culture, as long as they have the right programs running. Many people who interact briefly with an Old-Worlder come away with a feeling of superiority, or of pity for the “backwards” people who have chosen technological isolation.
Those who spend a few months with them start feeling differently. The strength of Old-Worlder civilization is in its values, in the strength of its convictions and the pure, uncomplicated lives the people lead. They know they could have whatever technology they like, but it’s not what they want. They trade a little with the outside world — usually handcrafted furniture or the like, in exchange for some political considerations — but it’s not a vital part of their lives. What’s important to them is peace and a simple life. When outsiders come by, it’s not easy to see the benefits of those things right away.
Contrary to popular belief, not all Old-Worlder cultures are on Earth, and not all of them are really that old. The Amish are the stereotypical Old-Worlder culture, and they do still live on Earth, but some groups traveled to other planets to live their lives in rustic peace. Others went to new worlds with all the technology they could get their hands on, and failed in the attempt. Rather than an accidental and messy decline into a cargo cult, these groups specifically chose an Old-Worlder route, seeing it as a better option. Some of these groups would be glad to return to a technological lifestyle; others have come to see it as unnecessary and overly complicated. There are about ten Old-Worlder cultures left on Earth, in the areas that haven’t been quietly turned into museums or monuments by other civilizations. There may be dozens more on other planets.
Since there is no central Old-Worlder government, they have no real allies, and since they’re not a threat to anyone, they have no real enemies. Their government is primarily on a town level, and often consists of an elected council or circle of elders.
Common Name: Old-Worlders
Emblem: The Old-Worlders have no general emblems, as they rarely have need for them.
Inspector Status: Advisor in most cases.
Benefit: Old-Worlders may pick an additional core value of their choice (giving them a total of five). It may be an ideal, a person, a place, or a cause. “Worship” or a similar religious belief are common choices. In addition, they suffer no low-tech penalties when using their skills.
Core Values: Tradition, Simplicity, and one other of the player’s choice (see below). Old-Worlders tend to hold onto their beliefs more strongly than most other cultures.
They share Tradition with the Tao, in a similar interpretation, though most old-worlders tend to think that their traditions are better, or at least healthier for the soul, than those of outsiders.
Simplicity is what keeps their technology low, but it also helps them cut through lies and nonsense and refuse to be manipulated by complex schemes.
A Tale from Earth
Mornin’ comes the same time it always does this time of year. I’ve been up an hour before the sun, feeding and milking, checking in on my girls. I stop a minute to appreciate the rainbows in the sunrise — we live west of some old city, and the glass towers make the sunrise look even prettier in the early morning.
By the time the sun’s across the first ring Pa’s got breakfast ready. Grits and sausage today, and some of the blueberries from McCulloch’s patch down the street. Pa sure can cook — good and simple, fills you up. Then it’s back out and he joins me in the field, tilling and seeding. The hats keep the sun off us, and the spokes between the rings tell us the hours, not that you couldn’t tell without ‘em.
Come noontime we have a bite to eat, and then hitch up the mules and head into town for a bit. The Womack’s kids are going out into the stars, and we’re all around to see ‘em leave. Shirley says they’ll be back some day, and I reckon they will. They’re good kids. I just don’t know what they’ll be like next time we see ‘em. ‘Course I don’t tell her that; she don’t need to hear that right now.
Our kids are, oh, about ten years gone now. They come visit once in a while. Older son’s married and lives in the city, mining the old buildings for metal and glass. Younger one went off towards Europe; we get a letter every month or so. Tara started a farm of her own out west, has six or seven young folks working to put it together. She thought about going to space like these young boys, but couldn’t go through with it after talking to the Rationalists. I don’t blame her; I don’t take much liking to them. Not much to like. They stay out of our business, and they say they keep others out too, and there you have it.
I give the Womack kids a hug and send them on their way. Pa shakes their hands and slips them a bit of old-world money — not worth anything but curiosity these days, but sometimes people do pay to see curiosity. The wormhole opens when and where they said, to the minute, wind blowing and all. After some extra goodbyes and some tears they finally walk through it, and it closes with a little slam, like someone dropped a book.
We were all sort of hoping that someone else would be coming through this time, I guess, but not today.
We spend the afternoon in town, getting replacement parts for what we need at home and listening to the radio from the city. Smitty’s has a radio runs on sunlight — and fairy dust, Pa says — and sometimes you can hear ‘em talking all over the world if you use it right. We pick up some more grain and seed, plus a few pounds of sawdust for the barn, trading on what we brought in last year. I stop in the library while Pa signs up for the softball game this weekend. I think the younger folks might put him in the outfield, but he won’t mind. He just likes to be in the game.
The seventh spoke goes by and it’s time for us to head home. Tomorrow we’ll be up early again. The post has the new almanac in it, and so we stay up reading for an hour or so, me with my mysteries and Pa with the almanac. Before laying down we take a few minutes to look at the stars, and it feels good to look out there and know that there’s folk out there, even if they ain’t quite like us.
“Busy day,” says Pa, and I nod. Busy day.
The original Spacers inhabited a group of a dozen ships, launched from Earth shortly before the Nanotech Wars. Each ship was aimed at a hopefully inhabitable planet, chosen more for its similarity to Earth than for its proximity.
The inhabitants of these large spinning vessels were chosen for their toughness, their caution, and their bravery. Their ships were carefully designed with multiple backup systems to aid them in their millennia-long trek across the stars. Through tenacity, diligence, and more than a little luck, every single ship survived to hear the final transmissions from Earth, as the old superpowers fell into ashes. They spoke to each other across dozens of light-years, a few words at a time as transmissions weakened across the void, and believed that they were the only hope for human life in the universe.
In the excitement of the Transcendentals’ creation and the advent of wormhole travel, the Spacers were by and large forgotten. It was only after the Diaspora, when new civilizations were settled, that someone remembered these ships. Probable courses were plotted, and contingents were wormholed to their likely present locations. Imagine the Spacers’ surprise when they were greeted by someone who had been to their final destination ahead of them — sometimes for a hundred years or more. Imagine their indignation!
The Spacers realized then that reaching their destination would be, frankly, a waste of their time. Wormhole travel made their voyages entirely superfluous. Every planet they were originally aiming for had been surveyed, usually by the Logicians, and was either colonized or declared uninhabitable. Their ships were seen by outsiders as floating museums, relics of a bygone and somewhat irrelevant era. A wave of clinical depression swept through Spacer civilization, with some ships turning to their cousins the Stardwellers and others sinking into disrepair and, eventually, ruin. Spacer life seemed utterly pointless to many. Fogged determination only carries one so far. It was imperative that the crew of the remaining ships — just five out of the dozen — find purpose in their lives again, or see their small and sparse civilization fall forever.
Today, the Spacers have just such a purpose. Their original intention of keeping human life alive in the universe had been overshadowed, they realized, by the goal of reaching a single planet. Those on the ground were too interconnected, too vulnerable to biotech or metatech assault. The Disciples were too dependent on the Stardwellers, and the Stardwellers too frivolous and experimental, too trusting of the Transcendentals. No, there was only one group capable of making sure there would always be human beings in the universe.
The five surviving ships have since built dozens of new vessels, sending them off at greater speeds towards more distant worlds, or even other galaxies. The dream of the Spacers is not merely to have humanity on inhabitable worlds, but sown like seeds through interstellar space.
Spacers are a serious lot. Everyone has a job on board, and those who think they can get by without working are a waste of oxygen. Some mistake spacer fearlessness for suicidal tendencies or a lack of caution, but they are simply confident and unafraid. Nothing can rattle their nerves.
The typical spacer outfit is a jumpsuit with pockets, patches, tether rings, microboosters, built-in computer and sensors, inflatable helmet, toilet facilities and more. Most wear more comfortable clothing while walking around their ships.
Spacers often form alliances between each other’s ships, which is made easier if both sides have accepted wormhole communications. They have no other permanent allies. They scorn Stardwellers for their freewheeling ways, but prefer them to most planet-bound folk. Most Spacer ships are run in a military fashion, occasionally with a “civilian” governor in addition to the ship’s captain.
Common Name: Spacers
Emblem: The first generation-ship leaving Earth, with Sol visible in the background.
Inspector Status: Equivalent to a local police officer in most cases.
Benefit: Spacers are able to conquer any fear whatsoever, and act normally in the face of terror. They have no phobias. They also receive the Spacer profession at level 4.
Core Values: Independence and Diligence
Independence keeps the Spacers from ever truly uniting, and also keeps them out from under other people’s thumbs. They may make alliances, even owe favors or take orders from outsiders, but they never give up their ability to act on their own. Alliance is acceptable; reliance is not. Spacers use this CV to avoid attempts to take away their self-reliance.
Diligence is what kept Spacer ships functioning for so long in the depths of space, and they prize this quality above all others. It gives a bonus to all actions performed very carefully and without haste, triple-checked and tested for certainty. This takes about twice as long as usual. Spacers can also use this to prevent people from convincing them to do a half-assed job.
(a Spacer nightmare)
I’m on Exterior Hull Check today. I have a puncture ID program loaded into my mesh, and a halfdozen tools strapped to my suit. Everything’s ready to go. The airlock cycles and lets me out into the dark.
The ship’s hull radiates in infrared; my eyes can see that on their own, but sometimes it pays to have a full spectrum coming in. I release a few tethered lights to float around me and illuminate the patch I’m working on. The ringship stretches over a kilometer in circumference, and I have all shift to cover the outer edge of it meter by meter. The thrusters slow my rotation minutely and I start scanning.
There are sensors for this, of course. Inside and out, the hull is coated with nanowire and superconductor. The slightest change in resistance and we know something’s happened, though we need other sensors to tell us what. But sensors aren’t completely reliable. Nanotech self-repair systems sometimes develop mutations. Code sometimes fails. So you double-check the whole skin of the ship, by hand, by eye. Because losing even one kilogram of air to a speck — a micrometeorite — is something we can’t afford in the long run.
I place portable power sources as I go, for my dermal ‘bots. I have five times the normal load today, so they can stay behind as I move. They’ll doublecheck my work, as well as acting as a third line of communication in case my mesh and the comm channel in the tether both fail. Last resort, I find a window and start waving.
Five hours go by. My mind wants to drift as I watch meter after meter of the hull pass beneath me. I turn on some music — old concert hall operas — to help me stay alert.
I’m nearing the halfway point when it happens: I find a hole.
It’s tiny, of course. I’m right above the launch bay, one of the depressurized zones on the ship. Therefore, it’s not leaking air. The hole passes through a seam in the hull where the main door would close. Therefore, it didn’t show up on electrics. None of the hallway seams are showing a breach, so either it holed an airlock seam on the inside, or the micrometeorite is still lodged in the launch bay. I pull up schematics on my mesh — the way the hole’s pointed, the speck wouldn’t hit a door.
I inform our duty officer, Arkadiy, who initiates a search of the hallway and opens the launch bay’s secondary doors a few feet for me. I slip in —
What the hell?
Radiation sensors are screaming about shuttle #3, which is right in the speck’s path. It must have chewed right into the shut-down reactor and lodged there. I run to the other side — it’s knocked a control rod straight out through the back of the reactor. Then it ricocheted. The last of its kinetic energy was spent ruining the bay’s radiation sensor array. The bay doors slowly close behind me. I yell for Arkadiy, but the gamma radiation’s killed my bots already, and the neutrons are seeping their way through the walls right now. I grab the control rod off the floor and head for the reactor when I notice my external pressure gauge rising — they’re trying to pressurize the bay and get others in! Now I yell at Arkadiy, “No, no, no!” but he can’t hear me. I push the control rod towards the reactor core, trying to keep it down as much as possible, but it’s melting through the shuttle and down towards the bottom of the bay, and it burns through the outer hull as the interior bay door opens and our air and uranium spill into the void...
I wake up.
Huh, so that’s what fear is.
Now I know how the rest of the world thinks. I’ll need that for the Stardwellers’ arrival... but I’ll need my sleep too. I set my mesh not to do that again tomorrow night.