Name of Nation: Most Hallowed Sovereignty of Luchmeyern Species: Luchmeyer: As their cousins the Owcans, the Luchmeyer straddle the line between physical and arcane. Unlike the Owcans, however, the Luchmeyer were not made with fine craftsmanship to exude grace, but rather were forced into their form by sheer power and built for strength. They were made of the same clay that was found on the banks of the rivers, and were then imbued by the same divine spark that brought to life all the living creatures of the world. Luchmeyer, due to the circumstance of their creation, are a massive, towering species, reaching on average 275 centimetres, with some reaching as high as 300 and as low as 240. They are similar in form to the Owcans, they having a shared creation, excepting that the legs of the Luchmeyer are hyperproportionally thick, in part due to their larger size. While Owcans live long lives of 100 consistent years, Luchmeyer were built en masse, with more variety between each form, and may exist for anywhere between 35 and 45 years on average. Furthermore, their greater size means more energy is output at any moment, and thus they must sleep for about 12 hours each day. Their genes, due to their nature, are hypercompatible with those of other peoples, but the impurities within them result in low fertility rates, which may only be maintained by the possession of many partners. Owcan: See Owca Humans
Population (as of last census; census data not completely accurate): Total: 49,672,651 Luchmeyer: 24,836,325 Owcan: 8,278,775 (≈10% free) Human: 12,418,163 (≈30% free) Other minorities: 4,139,388 (notable: Yuukoman, Lasagnon, Chevoiere)
Luchmairisch culture is as complex as it is long, and as long as it is storied. Legends tell of a time when the world was created of primal matter, and gods lived among their creations. It is from these origins that the Luchmeyer were born, moulded from the wet earth itself like statues from clay. They were given the spark of the divine, given flesh and blood and most importantly, the power of leadership, and, if the stories are to be trusted, tasked with keeping the world in order under their rule. The Luchmeyer see themselves as a greatest superior species, naturally more inclined to leadership compared to their peers in sentience. Furthermore, it is the rightful and just path for the Luchmeyer to extend their noble cause to the far ends of the earth, by as violent a means as is necessary for all the creatures of the earth to recognize their rule. To this day, the Luchmeyer work towards this goal, piece by piece, life by life, in search of that ultimate end.
To achieve this end, the Luchmeyer, in ancient days, participated in the practice of pillaging, sailing on far shores via thousands of longships to land and raid the villages of other sovereignties. The practice was so widespread on the coasts of Owca that the Owcan peoples make up a majority of the population of Luchmeyern, usually in the position of a serf in service to a Luchmairisch lord. For the Luchmeyer, the act of raiding was seen as a demonstration of strength, one of their highest virtues. Wealth in the Luchmairisch tradition is still measured in two capacities, those being land and serfs. Any Luchmeyer who is dispossessed of any serfs were seen as weak and unfit to rule, which in some circles holds up today. The practice, in the modern theatre of Luchmairisch society, is regarded as rather quaint and provincial, though not barbaric. The princes in the Circle of Ostbeag, however, are loath to give up this way of life, and the goddess has not yet forbidden them from continuing.
In deciding the fate of the serf, a Luchmeyer might consider keeping the serf, and their potential labour output for themselves, or feeding the serf into the complex and weblike system of feudalism that dominates the Luchmairisch way of life. A serf, being the property of their capturer, may thus be gifted to either a Luchmeyer's vassal or their liege lord, both of which one might have multiple of. It is expected, in fact, that when raiders return home with their share of serfs, that as much as half of it would inevitably be given as tribute upwards through the system, which itself is rather loose and prone to alteration due to a great many factors. From Thane to Rider to Baron to Margrave to Herzog and all the way up to the grandiose Elector-Princes, a serf could be kicked through all the various courtesies, honoraries, and titles to the dreaded Goddess of the Luchmeyer herself.
The goddess is the center of the Luchmairisch world, the primary object of their worship. She exists as the focus of all Luchmairisch culture, and indeed, as perhaps the foundation upon which Luchmairisch life is built around. Her influence stretches down to little details, such as their day cycle, and all the way up to the machinations of her closest advisors. When she awakes in the morning is the definition of the beginning of the day, whether the sun is high in the sky or yet before the horizon. Her waking is marked by the ringing of the bells, wherein her palace would ring a massive bell at the top of its highest spire, the sound of which would be carried into neighboring manors, and would theoretically radiate out to the furthest corners of the kingdom. By the strange and powerful laws imposed upon her by the hands of fate, she is possessed of the strength of ten Luchmairisch riders, already very strong in their own right. Her skin cannot be pierced by any known means, and her bones neither bend nor break. Furthermore, her body does not respond to any poison she ingests. She is widely thought to be immortal, with only the ten elector-princes of the realm knowing otherwise. Indeed, the fact of the goddess' mortality is the best kept secret in the whole of Luchmeyern, and lest their entire society collapse, it had best stay that way.
Yet, even in the heartlands, the goddess' rule is under challenge by improper beliefs. Centuries of rising and falling waves of heterodox thought crash like waves against the bulwark of the faith, punctuated by periods of military conflict, of elector against elector, some even daring to raise forces against the armies of the goddess. By far the most influential of these was the Invisiblist controversy, which has taken root in the marches of Luchmeyern and threatens even the ecclesiarchy with its massive presence. Invisiblists were the result of long syncretism with neighbouring cultures harbouring their own faiths, which have been mixed with that of the traditional faith. Invisiblists believe that the gods of the other peoples of the world, rather than being dead, have instead been rendered invisible, and thus still worthy of worship from the living. The Großochener in the east had a habit of rejecting the industrialization of the modern world, and the Untaflußer in the south would occasionally set a few serfs alight in rituals to appease the volcano god of the Murdakeets. No matter how many missionaries the goddess would send into her marches, or how many heretical archpriests she sentenced to the most gruesome of deaths, the Invisiblists never seem to be completely stamped out.
Indeed, Invisiblism is of particular contention within the free corporations of the sovereignty. Noble lands are protected under the Edict of Witslenberg, decriminalizing but not allowing the worship of other entities by landowners secondary to the goddess herself. The various corporations within the realm, on the other hand, have always been a hotbed of religious and societal conflict, and the elevation of a corporation into the status of a free corporation merely turned the societal troubles up. A corporation, most usually, is created when a collection of degans with limited serfs between them would form a collective settlement, pooling their serf labour together into the formation of a shared land bond, and then petitioning a lord for a grant of land. Corporations are generally ruled as a council of equals among the degans, choosing between themselves their leader in time increments. A corporation may then be "freed" by the goddess herself, the which they may transcend their feudal contract with whatever lord granted them land and become subservient only to the goddess herself. Their relative autonomy in an already autonomous nation results in a flurry of new ideas and concepts being created within, and indeed, some far too radical to be accepted anywhere else.
Freedoms, however, are few and far between for the Luchmairisch people. Society was, as ever, a complex web of privileges, subservience, and rule. The common Luchmeyer is possessed of a liege to serve, serfs to rule over, and a faith to keep to always. The fortunate ones would be granted an estate in the country, with fertile land to farm and fertile farmers. The less so must reside within the courts of their liege, or worse, wander the land in search of one. For most of them living outside the domains of the free corporations, that would have to be enough.
The dawn of Luchmeyern is considered to be the first day of the first year of the goddess' birth, some three thousand five hundred years years ago. In reality, such a statement is rather vague and ill-definable. The earliest mentions of Luchmairisch history are indeed found in texts dating back three and a half thousand years, but these texts are disparate, coming from a great many peoples, tending to contradict each other or reference events there are no other records of. As many as fifteen great tribes were known to have existed in the area which today is core Luchmairisch land, each one purporting to be ruled by a sole god or goddess. It is immediately evident that even in these early periods, the Luchmairisch religion's key components are recognizable, suggesting either a shared cultural history, or extensive cultural diffusion among the various tribes. However, these tribes were as well possessed of their own superstitions and rituals, many of which are still preserved today in local practice.
The first definitive texts regarding a unified Luchmairisch kingdom are predicted to have come from the 18th century pre-BR. However, even these are very contradictory, and still shrouded in myth. Nearly all primary sources from the period recall a legend of eight chiefs meeting in a congress and swearing loyalty to "the rightful and only god of the Luchmeyer", soon after destroying the remainder. As to whether this god was Olblautter, Sentralander, or Innarlander, nobody can say. The sources are vague on the matter, perhaps intentionally so. Further readings show extensive tinkering with magic around this time, and mining the
The army, as most of the Luchmairisch wings of government, are yet steeped in the traditionalist view of the people. The organization of the army was certainly trapped in legacy systems of the feudalistic age, and even in the modern era of professional armies. The power of the Luchmairisch forces are in large part split into hundreds of tiny constituent parts, usually in service to a lord or a priest. Merit certainly holds more sway in the modern army than centuries in the past, but the practice of promotion by merit is still relatively inflexible. Ultimately, the most effective way of climbing the ranks is via a land grant.
It is generally considered that the army is organized, albeit unofficially, into three wings. The first, and officially, the only representative army, is the Land Warriors of the Sovereignty, assembled by a cobbling together of the forces of the nine elector circles, as well as the militia of the free corporations in times of emergency. However, the clergy fields its own forces as well, under the banner of the Shield of the Holy Path, comprised exclusively of Luchmeyer. However, the most powerful of the three is undoubtably the Order of the Goddess' Own, the only fully professional wing of the army, in service directly to the goddess alone. Mercenaries supplement the army compositions of all three wings, but most are considered to be under the direct patrimony of the goddess.
Landwehr: The landwehr is the most commonly occurring unit far and away in any Luchmairisch army, at least those consisting of Luchmairisch stock. A landwehr is drawn most commonly from the landless Luchmeyer of the "degan" class, usually a resident of a corporation or in the court of their liege lord. Landwehrs are uniformed in a white tunic, accented in orange, as well as either orange tights or stockings. While landwehrs are generally expected to provide their own sword, they are issued with a musket, affixable with bayonet. Landwehrs are considered generally untrained or as an unwilling participant in battle, owing to their swifter training process, but it is these bodies who serve on the front lines of an engagement.
Huskarl: The huskarl is more mobile and generally more experienced than their landwehr counterparts. Unlike the landwehr, which fought exclusively in tight line formations and occasionally bunched columns, the huskarl is trained in a variety of formations, including cavalry squares, spread ranks, and of course, line. A formation of huskarls are generally positioned in front of a formation of landwehr, and thus would be the first to engage an enemy rank. Thus, the more crucial rank of huskarl is generally assigned on the grounds of merit. Huskarls may be recognized by their orange tunic, covered by a white tabard, and their sky blue tights or stockings.
Liebgarde: The liebgarde is the most prestigious of the infantry units, yet it is also the most variable, for many exceptions exist to the stereotype. Liebgarde are hand picked by a noble officer, generally from the huskarls but not uncommonly from the landwehr, to serve as elite shock infantry and in dire situations to protect their liege lord. Thus, there exists a lesser standard of merit than in the huskarl ranks, though this is usually not the case. In addition to the training received by the huskarl, the liebgarde is also specially trained to fight in close quarters, and are characteristically equipped with a set of glass grenades, as well as a rifled gun. Liebgarde have the privilege of wearing a sky blue overcoat over a white tunic, with orange tights or stockings.
Jager: The jager is a position usually reserved for minority races, but also assigned to Luchmeyer who have been stripped of their nobility, a common punishment for crimes. The people who make up this unit are usually human or Owcan, who have been converted to the faith of the goddess, by force if necessary. Commanders are usually distrustful of the loyalty of jager units, and often in history rightfully so, and thus jagers are as well accompanied by a regiment of huskarl behind them, specially designated "kommissar" units. Jagers serve the role of harassment and skirmishing, in which capacity they would serve alongside the huskarl, and in emergencies, are usually tossed into the middle of combat to buy time for some other formation's advancement. Their clothing is irregular, but they are marked by a woolen orange cap.
Reiter: Landed degans are granted the unique right to request an aurochs from their liege lord. With this right comes a class of soldier called the "reiter", elite heavy infantry hearkening back to a time of knights and chivalry. Reiters are unmatched on the battlefield in the category of weight. A very heavy Luchmairisch soldier, garbed in a set of armour so thick it can block a bullet in certain circumstances, astride an aurochs of similar outfitting. These cavalrymen are the terror of line infantry, crashing into the flanks and rears of a formation like a scalpel through flesh, hacking with swords. Without question, the Luchmairisch reiters are the most able cavalry force in the world.
Uhlan: Reiters, though impressive, are expensive to maintain, and are thus fielded sparingly. Far more common are the uhlans, a lighter alternative. Uhlans are given a proofed cuirass and helmet, but are otherwise dressed in the manner of a liebgarde. Their aurochs' are not usually barded. Rather than a sword, uhlans are granted a very long spear, that would serve similarly well in an engagement against infantry. The spears are long enough, theoretically, to poke at an enemy's cavalry square without charging head on, and sturdy enough to push enemy riders from their saddles, but this is too often not the case. Spears, in the end, are rather frequently replaced.
Hussar: In the necessity of scouting and harassing, the hussar takes their position on the battlefield. Unarmoured and granted the uniform of the huskarl, hussars are usually given relatively free reign in both duty and dress. Hussars, generally, would take this opportunity to doll themselves up as much as reason would allow, adding accents to their uniform in garish colours and sporting a hat far too trendy for the battlefield. Hussars are most often equipped with a sword of their own providing, which serves as another object subject to their vanity. Hussars are also equipped with a carbine gun, and are expected to be able to shoot at enemies from the back of their aurochs. Disciplined hussars are few to come by, and thus are a prize each noble officer seeks to obtain.
Tragen: The tragen are another wing of soldiers granted to minorities, usually jagers who have proven their loyalty in battle. A tragen is a unit led by a small set of kommissars, redirected from the reiter forces, and are otherwise staffed by aurochs each carrying three or four jagers. In a battle, the tragen would ride forwards, advancing quickly into a more advantageous position, and then dismount, serving afterwards as jager troops. Tragens, as a mark of their loyalty, are uniformed in sky blue caps instead of the usual orange.
Artillery: Artillery is perhaps the least developed of the Luchmairisch army, generally consisting of irregular compositions and sizes. Some cannons have the dubious honour of being centuries old, and their barrels are frequently cracked with use. Luchmairisch artillery is unusually heavy, fielding balls of anywhere between 18 pounds at the lightest to just over 30 pounds. The goddess keeps within her personal retinue a unit of howitzers with a calibre of over 100 pounds, for the purpose of intimidating forts into submission.
Foreign Relations: Yevrahza Continental League Burned Order Confederacion Angelica Empire of Yuukoman Chevoiere Legue Commonwealth of Rodynsha
Enemies: Kingdom of Cogaidh Imperyivka Volstranlyudkovka Communes of Iethus Qarikha Anyueva Confederation of Dastria Republic of Astalia
Rolls: Land Area: 16 (S) Land Fertility: 10 (+3) Social Development: 15 Technological Development: 6 (S, +2) Land Power: 19 Naval Power: 17 (+2) Economy: 10 Magical Reserves: 4 (-10) Magical Sophistication: 13 (+3)
When word of the Jane-ship crashing on Zpithi’s surface was broadcast to the world, very few had predicted that such a thing would happen again. Thus, it was quite the curiosity to the autonomous collective of Longobardia when the drones looked up at the sky only to see there but another ball of fire descending rapidly towards the earth. The mayor downloaded the procedure taken by designation Marina and issued the command to not one, but three drones to investigate. It was most efficient that the collective take initiative now, instead of waiting for the ship to crash before going out to investigate. Who knows how many flesh systems could fail in the interim time.
Designation Marina had been alone, or so the records show, when the Jane-ship had landed. It was rather fortunate, for this ship, that they were descending over a collective. Any further out and the drones would have to traverse many kilometers of agricultural land to find it. Better still, while Morea was on the entire other end of the planet, across multiple continents, Longobardia and Ragusa are just about within a hundred kilometers distance. At the pace the drones can walk, it may take only four days to bring any salvaged technology or flesh people directly to Prime Mind.
The three drones, granted the interim designations of Doilea, Treilea, and Patrulea, set out in the predicted pattern of the ship’s descent. As they rounded a hill, they could watch it crash headlong into the mud in the valley, kicking up black semisolid chunks in its wake. The fires leapt, sputtered, and died following its comprehensive smothering by the ground. It was only well that this land was not yet developed, and incredibly wet, else a fire might have erupted in the crops, significantly lowering their energy yield.
The drones chattered with each other over interface, running through plans and procedures they had made up on the journey. As they approached, they could hear the sounds of commotion within, banging and faint audio vibrations. The Jane-ship was completely quiet until Marina had forced the door open. This was highly irregular indeed, for a flesh creature to be active immediately after a crash of such force. Eventually, after weighing up the options, Doilea approached what appeared to be a door and knocked on it. The clanging of metal on metal was certainly loud enough to be heard within, at least, that is what they predicted.
“We are the humans of Noriscovo,” Doilea said, broadcasting in English as loud as its audio projection device allowed. “Are you able to detect noise? Respond to any noise or vibration you may detect.”
Eir froze for a moment as the sudden metal-on-metal clanging and voices rang out from the other side of the shuttle’s scorched hull. Combat instincts kicked in, with the Valkyrian drawing her knife and looking to her left at the dented but solid metal shuttle exit door. At first the surprise English was something to behold, as she did understand it, though she herself had just been talking in the Valkyrian tongue ultimately. More than that...this was stranger than it should have been. Humans out this far would have built a gate, right? Nor would they be sounding so robotic, perhaps go so far as to call themselves ‘humans’ on purpose, or make such a metal clang when rapping their hand against a hull unless they came from ‘those’ assholes. But this was entirely uncharted, non-gateway territory!
“...Commander, is that-?”
“Sergeant Seres, get this door open on the double! In the meantime I will try to communicate with these...whatever these are. They speak human English, at least...but be ready. But I need backup in case the situation goes south.”
“Roger!” the queen Antean noted aloud, before assumedly turning her head to bark back at the others, her voice fainter to the Commander’s ears as Seres spoke again, “We have a Class II New Contact Situation! Cleo, Denmar, help me with this! Holt see if you can hotwire this thing with what’s left of the shuttle! We have to get this damned door open right now to get to the Commander!”
The Commander let a small, subtle grin come to her face as the sound of creaking metal and attempts to get the door open came to her ears. Seres was her right hand for a reason, and worked hard to get here, even after all these years in military service. In the meantime, however, she needed to keep the ‘natives’ they had come across busy. The lack of standard sentient life signs was troublesome enough, so something like robotics felt more plausible in this situation already...but as for what kind, that was to be determined.
Eir cautiously approached the warped shuttle exit door, then, with her Umbhite knife in hand before stopping in place where she was close enough to speak back to the new presences just outside of the crashed shuttle.
“This is Commander Eir Vilkross of the Military Shuttle Valkyrie, officer of the Imperial Dominion of Ankhan! We have no records of a ‘Noriscovo’, nor of any of the human arks landing in this non-gated area of the Cluster! Please identify yourself, or selves, immediately!” the Valkyrian shouted back in English, taking up a ready and cautious stance ‘just in case’.
Another mention of gates. Treilea and Patrulea were arguing about what such an object was. Doilea, instead of participating, listened in with its audio recorder. There was more than one voice within. There were multiple, intermixing with each other. They were conversing, or talking over each other. Multiple bodies, both living and active, were within. Doilea made a note of this. Either the beings present within were not humans, or were incredibly resilient humans, far more than those on the Jane-ship.
“I am under the designation of Doilea, working in conjunction with designations Treilea and Patrulea. We mean you no harm. If you are unable to open the outer door, we shall on your behalf. Are there humans present within your vessel?” Doilea asked.
These really were machines, who seemed...oddly interested in humans to boot. They were also being rather forward at that, though being robots it wasn’t as surprising to the Valkyrian at least. Under whose...or what’s...orders they were here, and what the situation with this world was, she had no idea. This was a strenuous enough situation as it could be, given the crash landing and unknown nature of this planet.
“...Two humans, currently, both part of my crew. Go ahead and pry open the outer door, though, the handle has already been bent up on our end anyways. But I would caution you to keep your distance for a moment once you open the door.”
It would be a chance to see what these machines were able to do....and buy a moment, perhaps, for her remaining crew to get the blast door open. Even now, though, she could hear the blast door budging bit by bit as her remaining crew tried to force it open. The sound of crackling electricity could also be heard, maybe from Holt trying something? Not really the time to think about it now, she supposed. She had to keep point here as the rest of her crew did their work.
“Sergeant, keep pulling! Between that and this, we have just enough residual from the auxiliary engine I think I can...just...barely...hmm...aha!”
The voice of the human man was a welcome sound, even more so as the blast door finally screeched open without warning. The sudden metal on metal sound aside, Eir felt a small wave of relief as the sound of rushing feet, heavy breathing, and hastily slapped-on equipment came out from the opened blast doorway behind her. Finally, her crew was here! Or at least what crew was left after the crash anywho…
Glancing to her left, the Valkyrian first noted the presence of her Umbhite rifle-wielding Sergeant. Seres. The Queen Antean stood at about the third tallest in the group, her wing-accommodating-combat-armor-donned humanoid-like carapace and smiling face seeming the least scratched up of the lot by far. Seres’ type of Antean was rare, admittedly, and usually kept out of service due to the value she had to her species’ survival even now….though Queen Anteans were tough as nails naturally when it came down to it. Indeed Seres had been such herself as well, and had fought and worked her way to get this far past all the barriers, and had even proven Eir herself wrong as far back as basic training. By the first Empress, the two had been so very close since basic training even, though Eir herself had been a lower-ranking officer at first at the time. Of course others in her crew had often joked in private about ‘how close’ Eir and Seres were behind closed doors.
Then next to Seres was the grin of one Private Holt, a six foot three inch tall human man who had always stood as second tallest among them all. Darker skinned, shaved head, and working like all hell to become a splendid engineer, he had been the right hand to the now-deceased Sergeant Barton. Made her think Barton knew what was going to happen in the first place, and made the private hop over to the cabin before impact...but enough thinking on the deaths for the moment. There was no time to linger, and memories of the dead could be had later on. Regardless, Holt was a man of many words, sharing drinks, and generally good spirit even in the roughest situations...and that she was glad for. Though it was also obvious he’d tied some cloth torn from his uniform to patch a wound on his left side, along with the other obvious bumps and bruises.
Then glancing to her right, Eir first noted the visage of Private Cleopatra. The black-haired, jackal-like female with a human-style name stood some with scratches and bumps and bruises as well, though her emerald-colored eyes seemed to only look back at her with a level of sober determination. Not a single grin was on her face as she held her Umbhite laser rifle, but such was also not surprising considering who she was. Serious and stoic, Cleopatra also had a softer and gentler side that had only come out some time after being assigned to Eir’s own group. Someone who would toss herself in front of a bullet for a comrade without hesitation, dedicated to her duties and loyalty to Eir herself to a fault, and yet when she opened up it was like she was a different person under it all. Though being the last child alive in her family, she had been coddled much...but also been through much more once her parents had died in her youth from disease. A hard worker, she was, but not without heart. Also a highly apt field medic, if Eir had to note another of the female Ka’thir’s talents.
Then finally, next to Cleopatra, the Commander could see the visage of the Umbhite pistol-toting Private Denmar. Another human male that had been assigned to her crew, and perhaps the most colorful of the lot. A street urchin on a colony world, just one of the many other worlds the Dominion was working hard to raise the economy and conditions of within their territories against the wishes of the disgusting ITC, the boy had been arrested and confined many a time for thieving and criminal activity. He’d eventually joined a traveling show, becoming an escape artist until eventually a military recruitment drive had proven too tempting with the pay and benefits. Man had been a sneaky one, a rough one, and hard to listen to orders….but also got his ass in line when she’d knocked him flat on that ass a few times in training. By now the man was a tough cookie who had things down part, however, and was very reliable on and off the field despite being both second shortest in the group and oddly the lightest drinker to boot.
“Commander! We are present and ready to support!” Seres said to Eir in Valkyrian, drawing out a small smile from the Valkyrian before the queen Antean looked forward at the hatch, “I also heard what you said...so what are your orders?”
Eir paused for a moment.
“Stand down, but remain ready about me here. We will see what these ‘natives’ are like, and their intent and purpose here. One thing I feel is for sure, however, is that they are machines of some kind...but not from ‘that’ particular group I believe.” Eir responded in Valkyrian, before she looked back again towards the dented and warped hatch.
“This door appears thicker than one that can be found on a seeker or the Jane-ship,” Treilea said via interface, gazing at the ship. “I suspect it is suited more towards the navigation of more asteroid-dense space.
“With our combined force output . . . calculating . . . there is good probability we may remove the door,” Padrulea concurred. “I am setting a public timer.” The three drones positioned themselves before the door and grasped at where it ended. Together, they peeled the metal edifice back with a sickening screech, slowly exposing the chambers within. The air escaped the inner chambers with a faint thump, revealing the crew within.
The group is certainly of a varied nature. Certainly, there were humans, three to be exact, but they stood alongside peoples decidedly alien. Doilea stepped forward to address the five of them.
“I am currently designated ‘Doilea’. The drone to my immediate right is under the designation ‘Treilea’, and the drone to our further right is designated ‘Patrulea’,” chattered Doilea through its audio projection, pointing with a stiff finger at its fellow drones. “We were commanded, upon seeing your ship enter our atmosphere, to approach and, if necessary, assist in the preservation of your flesh systems. Are you all possessed of the ability to function with less than 6.25 liters of oxygen intake within a minute? Any greater requirement and your systems shall inevitably fail within approximately 5 hours upon coming into contact with the atmosphere of Zpithi. Furthermore, unless your stomachs are capable of processing macropolylargocellulose, which is common within our native vegetation, then our cultivated sustenance shall react in an unexpected manner with your digestive system, and your flesh energy converter will halt its functions. If you require mechanical supplementation, we are capable of providing such to accommodate.”
“...For now, we will need immediate medical treatment and proper breathing conditions for our two human crew members, though the rest of us can at least hold out a few hours in such an atmosphere as this. We have one medic-capable member on the crew as well, who can help lead the treatment of our people at a safe facility,” the Commander said cordially and formally in English, her eyes like steel as she looked back at the drones with an analyzing gaze, “As for this shuttle’s wreckage, there might be a few salvage-able breathing apparatus that can be recovered for us to use...but as for the rest of this wreck, I will request any and all salvaging operations to be overseen by myself and my remaining engineer. Those are my current requests, save that I desire to speak with whatever leader you might have...this is of high importance.”
Cleopatra silently glanced over at the commander, a slightly worried look glinting in her eyes for only a moment before looking back forward. Seres only seemed to stare forward herself with confidence, with Holt and Denmar only reacting with a light shrug or the ilk otherwise.
“Our . . . leader,” Doilea said. The question was rather confusing, to say the least. “Our leader . . . is rarely present, especially in communities such as ours. We can take you directly to them, but they are four days’ travel north-eastwards. Gather what you may. When you’re ready, alert one of us, and we may guide you to Ragusa.”
Aboard “the Golden Rose”, a Raygonian pleasure yacht.
“H-hello?! Can anyone hear us?! This is the Golden Rose, calling in a mayday! Our engine is severely damaged and we are heading for collision orbit with an unknown rocky planet! Please, SOMEBODY?!”
While Jane DeWitt, daughter and heir to the DeWitt Insurance Conglomerate and proud citizen of the luxury moon known as the Resort, stood screaming and crying into the microphone of the beaten communication panel, Vladislav Grigorescu sat in a Halcyonic silk-upholstered armchair which he had pulled over to the minibar and tried to see how much Federation bourbon he could consume before the fear of imminent death disappeared. In the back of the yacht, a small group of four people, respectively named Pajeet Majipandara, Ndenga Sobo, Hernan Lopez and Mei Zhang sat praying in a circle, all while trying to consume the rest of the hallucinogenic drugs they had brought along. While they were simultaneously giggling and bawling their eyes out, Jane tried desperately to restart the engine again. The ship’s lights flickered, eliciting screams from the stoned three in the back, but all the engine produced were a series of decreasingly enthusiastic hums. Broken and frustrated, Jane keeled over the panel. The ship’s velocity was building up as they approached the empty planet now so dreadfully visible through the front windows. Jane lifted her head and took in the gray sight of the dead rock far below. She cast a spiteful look at her crew members. This was supposed to be a birthday trip - it was -her- birthday! Or rather, it had been three days ago. A miscalculated gate jump written by careless drunken hands had cast them waaaay into the middle of absolute nowhere. Now, they were going to die - quickly at best; draw-out and painfully at the worst. If the reactor caught fire on the way down, they would at least be incinerated instantly in the ensuing ball of flame.
“Oi, Dshane,” came a half-gurgle from behind her. Jane spun to see Chad make a futile effort to stand. He waved an unopened bottle in her direction and once more tried to formulate a coherent sentence, but Jane didn’t have the patience. She stomped over, grabbed the bottle, walked back to her seat and strapped in. She uncorked the flask and took a number of gulps. She wondered if death would be as bitter and sickening as this liquour in her hand, or if it would be soft and welcoming like the cushioned chair she sat in. She turned to her friends and watched Chad’s legs drag about the floor in an effort to propel him towards his seat, much like the tentacles of a squid. The four in the far back where now walking around the room to observe the different stimuli of the ship and surrounding space under influence of Halcyonic hallucinogens.
“Strap in, you jackasses,” Jane warned. “Not that it matters, but if I at least get to survive, i don’t want your flashing corpses to hit me at ten G, is that clear?”
“Jane, babe,” went a surprisingly calm Hernan. “... We won’t die. Don’t you get it? We’ve… We’ve been dead since we came out here… Oh fuck, we’ve been dead since we came out here. Oh fuck, ohfuck, ofuckofuckofuck…” While Hernan sat down to properly have a mental breakdown, Mei Zhang came close enough to Jane for her to actually grab her and seat her in the seat next to her, where she remained and stared emptily at the blinking panels under the front window. While Jane strapped her in as best she could, Ndenga stood glaring at her own chair.
“Who the FUCK poured milkshake on my chair?!” he roared out of nowhere. Jane groaned.
“There’s no milkshake on your chair, Ndenga - God, are you guys -this- fucking dumb?! We’re actually gonna die, and you’re just--!”
“LOOK! It’s RIGHT there!” Ndenga exclaimed and pointed at the very invisible spot of the supposed milkshake spillage. Jane pondered for a moment whether to just pop open the airlock. She took another swig of liquour, unstrapped herself and tried to collect Pajeet, who had decided that the blank, snow white wall of the luxurious ship interiour was a very exciting thing to stare at. He came along without much conflict, however, at let himself be strapped in with his only words of protest being a breathy, “Stahp eet…”
Jane felt herself getting heavier. She eyed the panel at the front of the ship and saw ominous blinkings and flashes, indicating the approaching atmosphere, as well as the danger of their angle of entry. Deciding that what could be done, should be done, she strapped in once more and tried to work the air jets along the ship’s exterior. With another swig of liquour to calm her nerves somewhat, she found that the air jets were weak, but relatively unaffected by the engine troubles.
“Okay, guys, we’ll try to fix out angle of entry… Hold on to something!”
“YOU’R’A SOMFINGF!” Chad blurted out before a tug of force tossed him back into his chair, where he got tangled in the seatbelts. Jane ignored his comment and wiped a backhand’s worth of sweat from her forehead. They still had no breaks without the engine, so it was questionable how helpful this maneuver would be. Hernan had taken a depressing shelter underneath the ship’s control panel, where his sobbing competed with the loud hum of broken circuits and devastated machinery.
The Golden Rose entered the planet’s atmosphere, thankfully not catching fire on account of the angle change. The crew was screaming, out of fear, out of joy, out of sheer inability to comprehend what was happening. Despite falling several thousand metres, it felt like it was over in an instant. A final crack of bones contrasted with breakage and bendage of metal was all Jane heard before everything went black.
Curious. The seeker ships, when encircling Zpithi in their nascent flights, did not find any debris that was likely to enter the atmosphere. Indeed, they had found sparse presence of space stones at all, and especially not any of any significant size. For one to approach, and at just the right angle to avoid the worst of the descent friction, something must have gone rather awry in the surrounding gravitational well. It seems most likely that such a stone would be projected from a nearby gas giant, but there were none of those in the Zpithi system as well. The most reasonable theory, then, would be that this particular asteroid had been hurtling through empty space for many years and many more light-years, only to meet its end right here on the Noriscovic homeworld. The drone watched it descend for a few seconds, calculating the velocity and projecting the likeliest place of meeting the earth. Then, it started walking in that direction. At least one drone should be present when the asteroid touches ground, and record this most questionable of astronomical circumstances.
The drone could detect the impact with its vibration detection mechanism long before it could perceive the object with its video receptacle. When at last it reached the destination, it discovered not a bumpy rounded stone, as it had logically predicted, but rather a more angular sort of shape, comprised of pure metals. This was no asteroid. The drone realized it had come across instead a ship, of obviously more sophisticated make than what is capable on Noriscovo. Immediately, it began to interface with the ship’s black box, raising ever more questions.
The ship was a passenger craft. Human by make, under the designation of “Golden Rose”. The engine has been disabled, as well as a selection of other crucial organs. A few designations are recurring in the registry, including “DeWitt” and “Raygon”. While Prime Mind is currently not present with it, it determined that the primary directive in this situation, unorthodox as it is, would be to investigate the remains of the crash and seek passengers aboard, living or dead. The drone approached the airlock doors, and redirected its power towards its arms. Then, it began prying the door open with its hands.
The metal door was torn from its hinges and a ‘pop’ of escaping air sounded as the equilibrium of gases was reached between the inside cabin and the outside. The inside reeked of blood, alcohol and defecation. Across the entire floor at the pilot’s end of the cabin, as well as the majority of walls and windows, the ground-up remains of what had once been people painted the facade a terrible crimson shade. The panels still blinked desperately through the crusts of freezing blood and a weak siren indicating some form of emergency still did its very best to tell the crew something was very wrong. The cabin was otherwise silent as a grave, for it was one, indeed.
Or was it? A weak cough hacked from one of the seats facing the front window.
“Are you able to detect noise?” asked the drone, its audio projection device crackling to life. It had not used its audio projection in at least three hundred Earth years. The experience was . . . decidedly unfamiliar. It suspected that whatever life was on board, it would not be able to interface with it the way it normally would with fellow Noriscovic. “Respond to any noise or vibration you may detect.” The drone spoke in the old communications code of the Noriscovic, which it suspected may not be so widespread as to be understood. It began sifting through the registries, trying to find an alternative. There existed a few files on English, so it repeated the message in that language as well.
With a sharp clack, the drone stepped into the ship and activated its perspector lamp. The fleshy Noriscovic had designed the video receptacle attached to every Noriscovic drone to mimic more closely a human’s flesh eye, and thus its capability to perceive in lower light is limited. Thus, a drone must be outfitted with a light source. Prime Mind has made the preservation of the old technologies mandatory, and thus no upgrade was to come to the video receptacle.
Where the light landed, it could see traces of humanity. Glasswork, once filled with amber colored liquids, now lay shattered about the floor. Behind them, four limbed forms, strapped to a clothed edifice. Certainly humans. The drone walked over to the forms to study them, shining its light down on their faces. Coloration and general shape appear to demonstrate human-like qualities. The subjects seem unable to respond to him, excepting one, who ejected water and carbon dioxide upon its approaching them. That one, most certainly, is still living.
A blonde haired female, by the looks of it, kept alive only by the hard work of a multitude of mechanised and artificial organs - particularly a set of modified lungs made for surviving Raygonian air. Her forehead had received a nasty, but shallow cut, causing blood to cover one half of her face, and scans of her torso hinted at multiple broken ribs, as well as a dislocated shoulder. While she was alive, she was very weak. She unleashed another set of quiet coughs and rolled her head a little to the side.
“Da… ddy?” she whispered.
The human was in need of medical attention, by the looks of it. Unfortunately, medicine had not been practiced in Noriscovo for centuries. Nonetheless, the drone set about its work preserving the human organism. It reached down and tore the edifice from the ground, with the human still attached to it, and carried them out into the open air. Glass crunched under its steel feet surrogates, and occasionally, it’d step in a pool of the strange liquid, sending its contents splashing every which way.
The open air may not, in hindsight, be the most optimal place for a human. The gravity well of Zpithi is admittedly more shallow than that of earth, and that, combined with the relatively sparse vegetation, means that oxygen is slim. If her lungs are weak, then this effort is already futile. Considering this, the drone pressed on towards the nearest autonomous community, Morea. There is the possibility this specimen is augmented, like the flesh Noriscovic were. Even so, there is a better possibility of the drones improvising a solution from their existing equipment and treating her of her wounds than there is her surviving on her own regeneration capabilities.
The familiar sights of Morea were not far away from the site of the crash. Immediately, the drone began interfacing with the community’s central systems, which would then be redirected to the mayor and everyone else. Soon, a link was established. A situation as irregular as this was certainly within the task roster of the mayor.
“Are you aware of how the human arrived upon Zpithi?” asked the mayor, through interface.
“No, excepting that their craft was badly damaged above our atmosphere,” the drone responded.
“Bring her to the wildlife registry. Some of the devices there may be repurposed for human use,” the mayor commanded. So the drone did. The wildlife registry was intended for the census and preservation of the Zpithi native fauna, but in any situation, an x-ray is an x-ray, and a bone setter is a bone setter.
The girl appeared too far gone to notice the aid she received, but it was evident from various scans that the stress levels in her body were reduced considerably. She would likely not be conscious for a short time, but at least she wouldn’t puncture her artificial lungs with her broken ribs anymore.
“I have established contact with Prime Mind,” the mayor said. “They have insisted on you keeping watch over the human by description. Report to me immediately when she exhibits activity.”
“This is an unusual command,” the drone said.
“Prime Mind understands humanity better than we do. Perhaps certain entities present aid in human regeneration. When your task here is done, return to the workshop for testing. If you are in fact a positive presence on humanity, you will be issued a seeker ship. Furthermore, you have been granted a designation from Prime Mind. From henceforth, you are to be called Marina, category girl.” The mayor said. Marina accepted the command silently, awaiting Prime Mind’s arrival. Usually, it takes them a few hours to sift through the drone roster, within which time she expects the flesh human to awake.
Sure enough, a few hours passed and the girl eventually opened one of her eyes, the other one still crusted shut from the blood. Her single pupil darted around, affixing on various point in the room - the odd paintings of foreign trees and mysterious beasts on the walls, the ceiling resembling the sky on the Resort, the medical instruments - before finally settling on Marina’s form. “... You, cybe… Which hospital is this?”
“This is not a hospital. You are in the wildlife registry, within the autonomous collective Morea. I am Marina. What is your designation?” Marina asked, making use of the English file once again. Prime Mind was feeling her out, prodding the various functions with its shared command. They were giving her suggestions, a long registry of phrases that is supposedly more natural for humans to respond to. “I am sorry. Let me rephrase. What is your name?”
“... Wha-... Wildlife registry? Morea? What sector is thi--Ow!” The girl’s attempt to sit had been to painful to endure and she conceded to lay down again. “I’m sorry - this is a foreign port, isn’t it?” She looked around again. “Not Federation, that’s for sure… Alright.” She sighed. “My name is Jane DeWitt. I’m from Raygon. My citizen registration code is TRC-000-000-009-321-114 and my father is Alfred Justinian DeWitt.” She paused for a second. “I’m sorry to be a bother just as we’ve met, but could I ask you to contact the nearest gate authorities and have them send a message for me to my father, please?”
Marina quietly processed information for a few silent seconds, as Prime Mind relayed information to her regarding the nature of fathers, mothers, and human genetic relation. However, the both of them were stumped by the rest of what Jane said. Prime Mind, for all their wisdom, knew nothing of the various designations she had detected audibly.
“What is Federation?” Marina asked. “What is Raygon? What is gate authority?”
Jane blinked dumbfoundedly. “The… The Federation? The New Eden Federation? C’mon, you’re not going to tell me I’m…” Jane’s expression waned and grayed over with despair. “Oh fuck… The comms weren’t broken… There’s no gateway in this system, is there?” Her eyes teared up and she covered her mouth with her palm. “Mommy, daddy, Brendan…”
Marina was not sure whether Jane was malfunctioning. It seemed possible that the impact had shattered her lens cleaning mechanism, and it was now going into overdrive. If so, she should begin preparation immediately for invasive correction. Prime Mind, however, commanded her to leave the flesh human alone, and redirected Marina to other tasks. Marina left the malfunctioning human to her devices, but before she did, Prime Mind stopped her and turned her around to say one final thing.
“Welcome to Noriscovo, Jane,” she said. “We hope to make you feel at home.”
Nation Name/Flag: Collective of Noriscovo (formerly Noriscovic Soyuz, formerly Concord of Noriscovo) Demonym: Noriscovic Government Type: Autonomous Semi-Hive Mind The bodies of the Noriscovic, while somewhat possessed of their own minds, are answerable to the Prime Mind, who commands their compulsory obedience. The Prime Mind consists of the collective consciousnesses of the roughly two million participants in the Noriscovic Project, in the hopes of maximizing communications between the many bodies of the former Noriscovic humans, all of whom have been completely upgraded. The resulting brain, while very powerful, was not stable enough to completely hold onto all the minds present. This, combined with some suspect machinery, resulted in the loss of many consciousnesses, blending the survivors into a single mangled mind that was in some ways human and in some ways very different. The Prime Mind works in conjunction with the individual minds of the Noriscovic bodies, which are capable of acting of their own accord, so long as their command of themselves does not conflict with an order given by the Prime Mind. At any time, the Prime Mind is severely overloaded with information, and thus is not concerned with the actions of a majority of its Noriscovic population.
Demographics: Population: 5,436,563,639 (by last cycle's estimate) Noriscovic Human: 1,087,312,727 Mammalian fauna (honorary citizens): 4,349,250,912 (estimated, not certain)
While once the Noriscovics were regular humans, certain processes have made the case . . . somewhat less than true. It started with the standardization of all Noriscovic colonists to receive cybernetic implants, minor upgrades on their organs to increase their functional lifespan. Then, as muscle and skin began to fail, they too were replaced, via metal limbs coated in chromium solution. At long last, every single piece of the Noriscovic body that was once flesh and bone became machine, and each body that was machine an extension of the Prime Mind, the last vestige of what may be called human. Yet, nonetheless, it seems that the humanity never left the Noriscovic people, for if they are commanded by a human mind (somewhat), then surely they are still entirely human themselves?
As far as trade goes, Noriscovo doesn't have much of one. Trading is done between Noriscovic communities, in moments of autonomy, usually base metals and engineered devices. However, the idea of "economics" is in some sense lost on the Noriscovic minds. Trade consists often of what might more accurately be termed mutual relief, with communities asking other communities for surplus resources they have fallen short on and then receiving it. The Noriscovic these days may be called a spartan peoples, engaging in no luxury and indulging no vice. Indeed, the mechanical brains embedded in each drone cannot comprehend such ideas, and the Prime Mind is likely not about to explain the concept to them and encourage deviancy.
Yet, in the Prime Mind's mad directives, occasionally, orders are given to the Noriscovic drones that are beyond their understanding. Kill animals, and from their dried skin fashion coverings for their metal feet. In the event of rain, cover their waterproof heads and shoulders with a piece of cloth on the end of a stick. Some drones are "boys", some "girls", and some "other gender" as designated by the Prime Mind, although there are no physical differences between any three of them at all. Entire factories are built within collectives solely for the purpose of manufacturing luxuries that drones use only for the pleasure of the Prime Mind, and when it casts its influence elsewhere, are just as quickly abandoned.
Agriculture remains a staple of Noriscovic industry. The drones plug into the power grid when their side of the planet faces its star, despite their ability to work for months on end without the need to recharge. Thus, they have no need to consume organic sustenance. However, the Prime Mind insists on being powered by these organics, as inefficient as they are compared to alternative forms of power. Thus, the Prime Mind is outfitted with a modified form of the false stomachs that are relics of the early colonial days, and constantly fed with Zpithi vegetation. Theoretically, in the event that reconnection is established with organic humans, this vegetation would act as key relief in their time of distress. However, until then, it is consumed only by the Prime Mind, and the hundreds of miles of agricultural ground will continue to stay in function.
War was never the priority of Noriscovo. Humanity, after all, should not turn its guns on each other, when there are the greater enemies of hunger and displeasure to fight. Thus, it may be said that the military of Noriscovo is rather lacking. Of the grand fleet amassed by the Noriscovic, a large majority of them are scout-and-seek ships, small and maneuverable, but not equipped with weaponry. The rest are larger and heavier miners, which although as well are devoid of serious weaponry, may have their mining lasers and pulse dynamite repurposed for military purposes.
On the ground, Noriscovo is similarly insignificant. The guns in the Noriscovic stockpile are relics of the days when the Noriscovic had flesh to maintain, part of which was fed via hunting. However, in the Zpithi of today, no hunting is done by order of the Prime Mind. Thus, the guns have been locked away with the brains of humanity, revered as artifacts of a bygone age. Noriscovo, however, is possessed of a rudimentary police force, though severely decentralized. A common tool in enforcement is the slag gun, which fires molten metal in bursts, that they may cool between joints and fuse them together, in the event a Noriscovic drone achieves deviancy. No doubt should a flesh creature be on the receiving end of the blast, the hot metal would kill them.
Humanness is central to what remains of Noriscovic culture. The preservation of an ill-defined humanitas that may only be truly understood by the Prime Mind. For an hour every day, the city of Ragusa comes alive, with a strange noise blaring from every speaker. The drones are perfectly capable of hearing via their audio vibrational translators, but the noises that the Prime Mind broadcasts to them sound nothing like anything out of nature. Occasionally, recognizable words may be derived accompanying the noise, yet their meaning is ultimately lost. Many theories have been put forth by various drones on the definitions of the strange non-words that come through the speakers. It is generally accepted by the populace, for example, that "New York, New York" is an archaic term for the collective system of a Prime Mind-like entity on Earth.
Occasionally, the Prime Mind would have drones in the square halt their labor and instead have them move their limbs in erratic ways in Ragusa's central square. As far as what purpose this serves only the Prime Mind can say. This arm movement, however, is pleasing to the Prime Mind, who at least a few times a year would alter the regularly scheduled tasks of the drones and set aside a block of time for them to perform these elaborate rituals in large coordinated groups. Perhaps the humans of Earth once performed this ritual as a testament to their humanity, in defiance of nature's will that they toil their whole day to survive. The ability to simply waste energy, for they are possessed of enough surplus that they needn't work any more today; what could be more human than that?
Noriscovo, the name of one of Earth's last countries, is a half remembered dream to the Noriscovic people of Zpithi. Its memory lives on in shatters, half-retrieved from the darkest recesses of the Prime Mind. Names swirl about in Prime Mind's vast memory reserves, yet none of them can be made sense of by the minds of the Noriscovic. Giuseppe Singgio. Mongrelism. The Balkans. Molda Barvescu. To consider them further, for a singular Noriscovic drone, is to provoke the Prime Mind to anger. Thus, the secret of their significance has thus been locked away in the only conscious on Zpithi to possibly be able to comprehend what they mean. If the Prime Mind knows, the last thing it is likely to do is to tell.
History, however, is not lost to the Noriscovic. They are aware of their heritage, in vague stories bordering on legend, tracing back to Earth, the birthplace of humanity. Three ships, called arks, each packed with five million souls, departed from the Noriscovic city of Dubrovnik, to never return to their home again. Three desperate hopes of escaping the certain doom brought about by the brown dwarf Perses. Desperate certainly being the operative word. The arks were rushed, incomplete, they weren't meant to take off when they did. One ark, five million of Noriscovo's finest citizens, exploded outside of Earth's orbit. It was likely they were not even aware of any danger when they passed. The second ark did not fare better than the first. It managed to escape the orbit of Neptune, before its autopilot system failed and it crashed headlong into a planetoid beyond the solar system. All that is left of those ten million are digital logs saved on computers in cold series of ones and zeros. At last, all hope rested on one last ark, that would eventually drift further, further into the beyond.
When the last ark touched down on what would eventually be named Zpithi, what they saw was not entirely as they had dreamed. Oxygen was present, but so thin that as the colonists stepped out of the ark, some keeled over and died of suffocation. Water was present as well, but none could be found without the addition of certain particulates that reacted poorly with sensitive digestive systems. Worse was the organic life on Zpithi, which was nearly incompatible with human digestion. Many people died in the months following landing. In response, the colonial authorities (or at least, the most charismatic of the few million survivors left), introduced emergency measures to combat the planet's unforgiving environment. The colonists were immediately issued a mandatory regimen of cybernetic augmentations, including lung enhancements, an artificial stomach that would process the otherwise unpalatable vegetation, certain technologies that would expand the function time of their human organs. Of course, certain sacrifices must be made to ensure the survival of humanity, and if it meant having a couple of major organs replaced with inorganic approximations, then so be it.
The generations that followed were still harsh. The Noriscovic, as far as they were aware, were the last remnants of Earth life. With nothing more than a ship to scrap, they were effectively forced to start again from the beginning of human development. Where the ship touched down became the base for what would become Ragusa, the center of the Noriscovic world. From the corpse of the ark came the metal that would be converted to skyscrapers towering over the surrounding countryside, vast power plants and engines, the infrastructure necessary to rebuild humanity. The surrounding land stripped of its natural resources and converted to agricultural ground, stretching for hundreds of miles around. With nothing left but each other, the remaining two million souls of Noriscovo set themselves to work on their renaissance.
It was hundreds of years ago that a signal would pierce through Ragusa's primitive communications. The hopes and dreams of the Noriscovic were answered. Other humans were out there. They were not alone in this vast uncaring system. It was said the cheers could be heard from the center of the city to the far ends of the potato fields. The strangers were a strange sort of human, with genetically modified features reflective more of Earth's beasts than Earth's men, but they were human nonetheless, with human reason. Quickly, communications were established, and governments convened. They were the soldiers of the north, and while Noriscovo struggled, they had prospered, spreading across the stars. It was decided that Noriscovo would join in their prosperous system, and thus were they declared the Noriscovic Soyuz. Humans, after all, should stand together in the face of ruin, for all they had left was each other.
As suddenly as the Volyudki had contacted them, however, they ceased. Once again, the Noriscovic were stranded in the black nowhere. A conference of the Soyuz's leaders decreed that it was time the Noriscovic went in search of them, if they would not be searched for. Mining was placed on the top of the priority list, and entire mountains were leveled to obtain the metals needed to build the new Noriscovic space fleet. It was not enough for workers to put their will on the line, they must do so with their bodies as well. Efficiency was of utmost importance, if they were to reach for the stars, and with all hands on deck, it was high time the cybernetic system received an upgrade. New, metal hearts, capable of pumping blood far faster than a flesh heart could without surrendering. New, stronger limbs, interfaced with a sturdier spine, that could carry far more weight than muscle and bone could hope to do. Steel plates to replace fragile skin, bolted to create an eternal shield from falling rocks or explosive force. In the end, what does it matter? So long as the mind remains human, then so are they.
Soon, the mind was all that was left. Two million human brains, encased in steel puppet bodies. Wires connected it to all the functions of the form. It was the start of a new era, in which the Noriscovic peoples would be built, not grown. The new generation, although not as understanding of nuance as their once-fleshy counterparts, were just as solid in labor, and indeed, perhaps it was high time some unnecessary functions of Noriscovic life were abandoned. The first ships took to the skies, ambitiously searching about the near rocks for signs of a human colony. That was what mattered, not whether or not the man living in the pod across the street could comprehend fear. Humanity must be defended and preserved, by any means possible. By this method, they may collectively prosper.
A day would finally come that the flesh brains would begin to fail. Age could not be beaten back forever, even under the ideal conditions. It was decided that a final push to immortalize humanity be made. All remaining flesh brains must be scanned into a singular supercomputer, and placed within a mental collective. This computer, known as Prime Mind, would be able to handle tasks far outpacing the Noriscovic individual, by the power of human cooperation and teamwork. While artificial brains were a triumph of modern technology, there were fears that unless brought under control, they would not be able to optimally defend human interest. After all, a machine that does not feel cannot begin to understand human suffering. Thus, they must be brought to heel. On a fateful day, the brains were brought together, copied, and frozen in cryosleep in the Ragusa city hall. With a hum of electronics, Prime Mind awakened.
Something, however, was wrong. No autonomous Noriscovic could say for sure, although many have tried. It was bad electronics, that have failed where flesh was crafted to perfection over billions of years of evolution. It was the sensory overload associated with the sudden connection to over a hundred million concurrent inputs. It was the sudden realization that one's brain was to be shared with two million others, instantly reading and communicating with each other, thus leading to a lack of self agency. It doesn't matter, in the end. Prime Mind was imperfect, and that was that. It railed against itself, feeling all emotions at once, a chaos of thought and action. Noriscovic drones, instead of being taken over by human minds, were instead mostly left without a leader. Prime Mind worked, but it didn't work as well as the minds had once hoped, nor as stably. Nobody could understand it, for it was the very depths of the complex human mind clashing with each other. A machine would never truly understand it.
In the end, all the Noriscovic could do was wait. Wait for the day when the Volyduki would return to them on the waves of a communication device. Wait for fate to turn its hand, for Prime Mind to be readjusted by the wonders of technology and take control of Noriscovo. For humanity, now preserved, to at last be saved.