The first to travel widely between the stars were known as the Endless. Much is told of the Endless--of their technologies, of their societies, and especially of the uncountable splinters into which their nation eventually shattered itself. Their history is glorious but above all tragic; though they unlocked the secrets of time-space, the stars, and life itself they were unable to master their own internal conflicts. But we must remember this: though their explorations covered millions of stars across endless light-years of space, even they are barely a drop in the vast sea that is the universe.
What remains now of the Endless are strange, disjointed traces in the forms of seeds, of observatories, of experiments, of cities and worlds and perhaps – though not all of this is clear or verifiable – in the forms of other peoples.
The Endless society developed on a large, cool planet that they called Tor. It was the second largest body orbiting a star now known simply as Prime. Their history is similar to many other peoples who would eventually solve the mysterious physical and mathematical puzzles of space flight: A tale of creation, evolution, growth and prosperity, interlinked with famine, war, disease, and danger.
In fact, the race that we now refer to as the "Endless" started as separate and distinct groups on the planet. For the first several millennia of their existence these peoples were only peripherally aware of each other's existence, as they established themselves with difficulty on a planet whose long winters made development slow and arduous. The early Endless history is therefore marked by gradual change among a gradually expanding and inter-related series of tribes. In their early ages before modernization and industrialization, these peoples were:
- Tandu - Farmers and builders who practiced high-intensity cultivation of wet crops as soon as the rivers unfroze. They lived on the equatorial strip of Tor, largely sedentary with a life that revolved around their villages and farms.
- Haduns - Nomadic hunter/gatherers and herdsmen who split off from their brethren, the Tandu, in the distant past. Crossing a land bridge that was briefly accessible during a period of warmth, the Haduns ended up in the coldest, most northerly latitudes of the planet. However, in the vast deserts of ice and snow they discovered numerous volcanic vents. These formed oases amid the frigid surroundings, becoming villages, centers of religious observances, and major trading posts.
- Eaür - Different from the Tandu and Haduns were the Eaür, who evolved from ocean life in the saline seas. Sedentary hunter/gatherers, these ocean dwellers evolved from many-armed sea creatures, growing and tending the great purple coral reefs that provided both food and shelter.
Ancestors of the Endless Edit
As civilization developed, the Tandu—like many other sentient beings—followed the path from town to city, then to city-state, and finally to nation. They were of average height, stocky, fair-skinned, and tended to be silent and serious. Bringing forth food from the tundra-like ground was a difficult task, and communities banded together for the long hours of arduous work during the planting and harvesting of their brief season. It was among the Tandu that writing and education first developed, and in particular physical sciences and construction. Their long winters were dedicated to study, thought, prayer, and philosophical debate.
And to war. Of the many species of animal on Tor that sought to find food and shelter during the long nights, the yellow snakes and the horde spiders were the worst. The snakes fed on simple organisms that lived in the snows, curving slowly through the frigid fields under the bright sun as they sifted snowy powder through their great maws and strained out whatever was edible. Their bodies and especially their mouths became imprinted with yellow stains from the pigments of the millions of tiny organisms they ate. Behind them they left great icy trails and tunnels in the snow dunes, evidence of their passage and danger for the unwary traveler.
The horde spiders, on the other hand, were hive creatures. They hunted en masse, sending out scouts who called for assistance when they found food by rubbing their hind legs together to make a chirping sound. Reinforcements would arrive, tumbling and scrambling over the snows, joining together to bring down even beasts the size of the yellow snake. The Tandu learned how to imitate the call of the horde spider, and in times of dangerous infestations scouts went out to track the spiders, making the chirping noise when midway between several nests so the spiders would arise and exterminate each other.
The nations formed from the Haduns were of a very different nature. The search for food was a year-round effort, for even in winter game could be had when it came out to feed—occasionally on the herds that the Haduns kept near the warm volcanic feeding grounds. Dark-skinned, dark-haired, sky-gazers, and philosophers after their own fashion, they spent the coldest nights living on stores of dried meat and frozen soups, telling stories of the constellations and the things that moved just beyond their sight in the darkness. Hunting remained the primary activity and was an important indicator of adulthood, making the Haduns resourceful, resilient, and tough.
Toughness was needed, as Haduns families and towns were constantly at risk from several dangerous species. There were the White Ones, great predatory beasts that ran on four legs or two, covered with white hair and noiseless as the wind when hunting. Out in the great windswept reaches of the North were also the packs of silver wolves, nearly invisible in the windswept grayness of the arctic plains.
Unfortunately for the Haduns there were also the Borers. These were omnivorous tunneling larvae many times larger than a person, with a circle of chitinous beaks around a central maw, a rigid crest behind, and a much smaller body that followed. Thriving in the warmer, softer earths near the volcanic vents, they exploded from the ground in search of food. It is for this reason that the Haduns never built on the earth unless necessary, and also why an important role for the village youths was to lie alert, ear to the ground, concentrating and listening for that sound like grinding seeds.
Alien and far removed from their terrestrial neighbors, the Eaür evolved in the deeps as stewards of the seas and explorers. Colored in the blues and browns of the sea, as their brains grew and bodies developed they developed first vestigial, then fully functioning limbs. Eaür society, though sedentary and communal, was ever at risk from the large numbers of predators that stalked the oceans.
For this reason the Eaür were the first to aggressively adopt and integrate other species into their society. Using them as scouts, as builders, as mounts, and as sources of food and clothing, they went to great lengths to tame and harvest the wide range of beasts living in the oceans. There were some, however, who were beyond their control. The scythefish were pests of the worst sort. Like swimming blades with a long, razor-sharp crest of accreted ceramics, schools of these were capable of swimming through a town and leaving nothing but bloody ribbons behind them. Complex defenses occasionally worked, but the Eaür relied primarily on the assistance of the great cloudfish. These were great spheres of gastric juices that floated slowly through the oceans, digesting anything that came within reach of their trailing tentacles. The problem was that it took centuries to train, educate, and control the cloudfish to the point where they understood friend from foe.
The greatest risk, however, aside from the occasional carnivorous dinosaur, was the great leviathans. Larger than the field of view, they announced their arrival hours ahead through the hooting and wailing of their slow, mournful song. Scythefist would swim through one, feeding, and move on; cloudfish would tag a ride for days, feeding on the slowly moving mountain of flesh. But the leviathans were too vast and too scarred to be troubled by this. Nudging along the floors and ridges of the sea, their great trawler of a mouth would take in everything, scraping down to rock and ice whatever lay in their path. The first Eaür strategies involved small villages in crevices or valleys, or larger ones with bolt-holes into cliff faces. Over the ages the leviathan grew to have a mythical status, and in fact they were unsure if there were more than one, or where they (or it) came from, or whether there was something—may the waters preserve us—even greater and more fearsome that drove them (or it) up from the hadopelagic depths.
These were the three main peoples, then, from whom sub-tribes and offshoots spread and developed over the centuries. While stress and struggle was inevitable, the great, world-changing events only began when these three civilizations began to meet.
Discovery of Space Flight Edit
Due to a series of laws regulating the speed of industrialization called the teyun, the discovery of space travel technologies was followed very slowly by the exploitation of space itself. As resources were tight and investment limited, an effort as vast as creating life-supporting spacecraft that could travel interstellar voids was necessarily slow to develop. By the fifth century M.E., however, local space mining of nearby objects and asteroid belts had supplied enough precious materials for the various Torians to finally build crafts that were on the scale of their ambitions.
Some of the notable early efforts were:
- Muiril Soault, captain of the ship "The Bright Things Beckon", that first established a viable mining colony on a near-Tor object;
- Blyoskel Kyoich, Reverend Father of a small religious community based on Haduns shamanism, who set up a biosphere on Erat, the small planetoid closer than Tor to Prime;
- Hubel Keer, admiral of the "Ask and Answer" flotilla that departed Tor to set up a permanent scientific observatory base and resource harvesting factory called "One Great Step" at Kuiper-belt radius from Prime;
- Dauoing Foieq, captain of the ship "So Must We All One Day", which departed on a one-way (and ultimately suicidal) mission to orbit the nearest star.
There is one other name that should be mentioned at this point in Endless history: Rheuaril Beih. Beih was one of a group of miners who had grown up on "One Great Step", and thus was the first of many more Torian generations who would become increasingly distant from their home world and culture. Prospecting for rare elements needed for the construction of robot factories that would one day build the "So Must We All One Day", she came across a form of mineral that was at that time unknown to the Torians. A series of tests turned up a most unexpected result when the mineral reacted to stimuli, consumed energy, and altered its shape. It was in this way that Beih went down in history as being the first to discover an alien life form. That species, known as the Harmony, had apparently been sentient since the dawn of time in the known universe. A fundamental creature born of the energies of the Big Bang, the living rocks of the Harmony were capable of manipulating quantum energies and gravitation. The Harmony spread itself at widely varying speeds across the stars using space-time anomalies, gravitons or even interplanetary transport networks. Little direct knowledge was gained due to the near impossibility of communication, but study of the Harmony led to leaps in the Torians' ability to manipulate gravity and time-space.
The Diaspora Edit
While one would typically expect Beih's encounter to lead to an explosion in manned space flight and intergalactic development, the truth of the matter is that building and manning a craft to cover those distances is an enormous undertaking even at a highly advanced level of technology. For this reason, it took decades and even centuries for the Torians to begin to explore their arm of the galaxy. Spread out across numerous systems and planets, generations away from the planet where the race was birthed, it is at this point that the term "Torian" started to become meaningless, and the people known as the "Endless" were born.
The Death of Tor Edit
Due to the complexity of their natural biology and the relative difficulty in building space-going vessels that contained water atmospheres, the Eaür were much slower to leave tor and move into space. Instead, they turned their energy and sciences into more intensive exploration of the planet, digging ever deeper into the crust and settling in the abysses of the oceans.
While the Eaür learned much of high-pressure environments and the extraction of minerals under extremes of pressure, a time came when the drills and explosives of their industry disturbed the crust of the planet itself. It happened in a mine far below the bottom of the deepest sea trench, known as Beneath-the-Belly-of-the-Leviathan, in a mining operation run by a corporation called To-Share-the-Bounty. Using fission devices to shift and fraction large rock plates in order to break them into exploitable chunks, a fracture was caused that broke open a path to the lava at the planet’s core. Exploding out under pressure, the magma followed the path of the mine—obliterating the entire operation and a large undersea city in seconds—and began to fill Beneath-the-Belly-of-the-Leviathan.
In a matter of days, the instability spread to several other deep sea trenches in the same region, and notable increases in water temperatures were recorded. Leviathans went mad, first in the affected area and then sympathetically across the entire planet. As entire regions were rendered uninhabitable and entire populations of sea life were wiped out, the clock began ticking. It would only be a matter of months before much of the Eaür homeworld would no longer be habitable.
Emergency messages came and went. Full-scale evacuations to land and to space were triggered in a panic; asteroids were hollowed out, filled with ice that was melted and purified, and thousands of Eaür were driven inside in desperate bids to save the species. But time was short and resources were not infinite. As the seas died over a period of months, millions of Eaür died with them. Ecological havoc was visited upon the land and sea as storms ranged, currents changed, and seasons became indistinguishable. When the last rocket lifted to raise a few thousand more Eaür into a desperately under-prepared orbital, it left behind millions of dying and dead on a planet that was a geological catastrophe. The survivors watched from space as fire and water met, turning their home into a ball of boiling vapor.
The impact of these events on the Endless conscious was enormous. While the loss of a million lives was a misfortune, the destruction of a homeworld was a catastrophe that resonated through the soul of the species. Songs and tales rapidly spread concerning the last months of the planet. Across the reach of the Endless discoveries the message was left everywhere: Spun into perpetual machine-driven vibrations that would echo forever across the void, memorized as nursery rhymes to indoctrinate the children, even carved into the faces of planets in letters as tall as mountains.
The Wars of Alteration Edit
The Eaür took the adaptation to space with great difficulty. Water-breathing creatures have heavy and expensive life support systems, and they find the atmosphere in space colonies to be painfully dry and hard on their epidermis. A number of major, radical changes to their own biochemistry would be necessary in order to survive this; and with the help of allies among the Torian spacefarers they began the arduous process. Augmentations, grafts, and artificially grown organs helped many survive who may have died, but more was needed. Decisions were taken by some scientists to adapt the genetic code of the Eaür to become an entirely new species, no longer dependent on water.
Many of the survivors viewed this as an abomination; the thought of altering one’s body so fundamentally was an unthinkable and unforgivable act, beyond treason or apostasy. Arguments became demonstrations, demonstrations became riots, and riots became wars. But space habitats were still small and fragile, and the risk of mass suicide or genocide was enormous. Still, it happened: Alterists on A-Second-Hope attacked a police barracks where a pro-alteration doctor was imprisoned. The resultant fires consumed the oxygen supply of the station in a matter of minutes, crippled life support machinery, and caused the death of over 6,000 displaced Eaür as well as their Hradun hosts; an anti-Alterist on the hollowed-out asteroid Thanks-for-Small-Things used mining charges to crack a hole in the part of the asteroid where the Alterists where living, venting them into space and causing a ripple effect that destabilized the asteroid crust. The resultant loss of atmosphere killed most of the population.
For those who survived the wars and went ahead with alterations, it only required a few decades for the accelerated evolution of the Eaür to change them radically from the people that they had been. An era was passing that would be looked at and referred to by many names: The Changing, The Perversion, or the End of Youth.
The Tragedy of Kyros Edit
By the middle years of the seventh century ME, several hundred exoplanets had been explored and Endless orbitals circled several dozen that could potentially be habitable. Many were settled, notably Kyros.
Kyros was a planet whose environment was so welcoming that it became viewed by many Torian religions as their promised paradise. They flocked to it in great numbers, set up communities and nations of competing religions, and heatedly disputed its purpose, use, and ownership. While fear for the planet’s ecosystem kept these different groups in check, the rise of a strong and manipulative leader from within one of the parties spun the society into self-destruction.
A brilliant charismatic preacher, Koil, founded a Kyros-is-paradise religion but with a twist; as he had discovered this Truth he was the Chosen Leader, and those who Followed would be blessed. It is a well-known fact that once a leader begins to speak in capital letters things are going to get ugly; and this was no exception.
Koil nevertheless had two saving graces: A real, honest belief that Kyros must be protected and preserved, and a loving mate, Hoce, who believed deeply in him and his cause. Several times, when Koil's fanaticisms or political maneuvers brought the factions to the brink of war, it was Hoce’s diplomacy and purity who reconciled the leaders of armies.
This was unfortunately a common occurrence, as Koil's belief in the Rightness of his Cause was unwavering, and his ability to charm, hoodwink, and seduce neutrals and enemies was enormous. But a time came, of course, when the growing power of Koil, Lord of Kyros became a threat to the other divisive factions, and a conflict began that no amount of pleading by Hoce could resolve.
So war came, and Kyros burned, and in his ego and his madness Koil unleashed the ultimate weapon – Dust that existed only to create Dust, infinitely, until there was nothing left. The face of the planet turned alive as earth, buildings, water, and beings were broken down into their elemental parts and rebuilt as nano-machines.
The last to die was Hoce, still believing, still hoping for the gods themselves to appear, end the horror, and bless them all. She criss-crossed the world in an airship built of balloons and solar motors, seeking him, seeking peace, crying out for her love. It is said that craft that later visited the planet – without touching down – could hear her voice on the wind, still calling his name.
Like the loss of Tor itself, this loss of the greatest treasure that they had yet discovered drove the Endless into adopting an extreme "hands-off" policy in exploring and exploiting planets and planetary bodies. Already a species whose population was over 80% off-planet, the Torians moved even further in the direction of non-intrusive exploration, observation, and non-intervention. Teyuns became the one and only religion, and their violation was met with immediate punishment.
The Recusion Edit
As a result of the Tragedy of Kyros, their process of discovery began to revolve around a set of rules called "They Must Be Remembered", an extension of the teyuns, which was based on development of moon-based observation posts, passive probes, and long term analysis. Planets were only marked as targets for colonization after decades of research, and in fact most Endless explorers moved on to discover the wonders of other stars and planets rather than put up with the ages-long wait until it was determined that one was declared exploitable.
Three centuries of the Endless therefore grew up more in ships, mined asteroids, and constructed orbitals than on planetary surfaces. Their physiology began to evolve, as the lack of gravity made fundamental changes in their bodies.
As these changes began to alter the fundamental philosophy and morphology of the Endless peoples, a third thing came along that would be equally disruptive – a substance known as Dust.
The Birth of Dust Edit
This strange substance that came to dominate the Endless culture had relatively mundane origins; scientists driven by the problems of the Eaür developed increasingly miniaturized machines in order to handle the biophysics of adaptation. What started as micro-machines to assist under-oxygenated gills or as tiny dermato-prophylactic swarms began to evolve. They became ever smaller, ever more mobile, ever more adapted to pulling energy from ambient radiation. Ultimately, they learned to self-network and self-organize, which had the unexpected side effect of creating near-infinite networks of intelligent mechanical nodes.
Therefore, what is now commonly known as "Dust" was a mix of different miniaturized elements that could replicate themselves, self-assemble, and network. Based on technologies of quantum computing and atomic-level miniaturization, Dust was capable of simple physical tasks as well as feats of advanced computing. As large numbers of elements communicated, combined, and interacted, it could even form sophisticated AI systems that were able to achieve advanced levels of reasoning and analysis. Its utility and flexibility became such that Dust was created in enormous volumes and became an integral component of everyday life.
At the time of the Endless Space game, Dust is only known as a rare and priceless resource created by the Endless that appears to give almost god-like incomprehensible powers to its users. For, as the Endless technology to handle it was lost, new races will have to discover the secrets within Dust through experimentation.
Some people will gain powers that appear to be supernatural due to the effects of the Dust; they became known as "Heroes" due to their innate capacity to absorb Dust and exploit its many capacities.
However, as it can vary from a highly sophisticated physical tool to an advanced AI and could even contain a sleeping "consciousness", as more and more Dust is gathered together, strange things might happen and strange effects occur without any control from those Heroes…
One of the great mysteries of any sentient race is the understanding of consciousness. As Endless technology increased in sophistication, they turned more and more to questions about this oldest of mysteries. It was one thing to develop artificial intelligence; they had many of these that were highly advanced and helped them to run their ships, societies, and habitats. However, there is a great difference between creating an artificial mind inside a machine, and actually placing an already living mind inside an electronic container.
An AI appears to think, and with advanced neural networks and learning systems the Endless achieved great advances in this area. They still sought the ultimate prize in this area of study, however: Creating systems and processes that would allow a being to "upload" its mind and personality into a computer.
The Endless were, if nothing else, a patient and dedicated race; in time they found the mechanisms by which a mind transferred to a machine was indistinguishable from the copy of that mind housed in the original body. In a burst of activity, they began to upload and download their very souls, able to spend time indifferently either traveling through networks or on vehicles. New forms of sensing organs evolved as the Endless learned to master these different forms, for communication between virtual entities and sensations received when in electronic form were radically different from what their corporeal selves were used to experiencing.
This achievement is credited to numerous different scientists and entities depending on what Endless group's history one reads. The most reliable and seemingly accurate attribute the discovery of practical virtualization to one of three sources:
- A professor named Sluaym and his research team, working in the Department of Discovering the Next Way Forward (DINWARD or Advanced Psychology Research) at the University of the Lee Shore of the North Heeur Ice Sheet on Memories-of-That-We-Lost;
- A small team of scientists with an openly professed alternative lifestyle, living in a large orbital complex off a gas giant circling the star named Tetomeus Minor. Their commune called itself One-Sex-One-Way-Many-Procedures (Osowmap), and the key team members were Cleeoinal, Clieobur, Cloeeyech, and Cloeyina.
- A cyber-warfare team funded by the Ministry of Maintaining Our Chosen Lifestyle (Mocholi a.k.a. Defense), run by a small cabal of extreme right-wing officers who were part of the orbital mission that protected the remains of Kyros as a neutral site.
- However, the most likely candidate was a scientist named Ortaam…
Ascension to Godhood Edit
Once the process of the Diaspora began, aided by improved exploitation of far-flung asteroid belts and greater sophistication in deep-space construction facilities, the evolution of the Endless began to accelerate at an almost exponential pace. In several locations they were studying the most advanced physical and biological sciences imaginable, pushing the boundaries of life, consciousness, and reality.
Circling a red dwarf known as Bilgeli were three research stations run by three of the greatest scientists ever produced by the Endless. They were geniuses, striving to pierce the unknown, whose efforts were fueled by all the technology available at the height of the Endless’s power. One station, Aevum, led by Nona Woerae, studied biology and the sciences of creation and evolution. The second one, Fatum, was more technical, studying the branches of mathematics and computational systems and opening up great precision in planning, forecasting and statistics. The third one, Letum, studied psychology, neurobiology, and the sciences of the conscious. It was led by an Alterationist named Spotora Ortaam.
To this system came a ragged fleet of dilapidated ships led by a visionary known as Icarael, who had through sheer force of will and character saved an enormous population of Eaür from death. He had chided, cajoled, raged, and begged them all the way across a hostile universe, hoping for a kinder fate. While the sciences of the Bilgeli stations brought solace to many of the wanderers, Icarael himself was lost to the most ancient of magics; he was struck by the wisdom and the passion of Spotora, and within a week of their arrival in the system he had abdicated his post, left the fleet, and sworn to follow her to the end of time.
Spotora was less than enchanted by this. She needed no passions other than her work, and the constant flow of refugees entreating Icarael to return to his position did not improve things. Rejection followed rejection until Icarael could no longer contain himself; he committed suicide in her laboratory one day by ordering the Dust to reconfigure her medical equipment, remove his heart, and place it in stasis. There she saw it when she returned to her studies after the next sleep cycle, spinning slowly in the gravity-less environment, paused between beats for all eternity. Curious at last to learn more of this madman, she analyzed the DNA that had created such a mind and such a spirit. It turned out to be the final link in her studies, the last element she required to unlink the conscious from the mortal form.
The effects of this discovery, in the decades that followed its dissimulation across Endless space, were enormous. For practical, economic, and social reasons it caused a major upheaval in the fundamental structure of the society and a completely new interpretation of the needs of Endless civilization. Who needed to worry about complexities like food, clothing, and shelter? As long as there was a sufficiently advanced infrastructure in place, the needs of all individuals could be met by an adequate supply of power and good maintenance robots.
The Death of Death Edit
Virtualization was explosive in its impact on the scattered Endless society. Death itself, the ultimate foe, had been vanquished by their science. What to do? Where to go when the possibilities are suddenly as limitless as time?
Sadly, much of the society simply "disconnected" and fell into thrill-seeking, tourism, extreme experiences… Once nothing could kill you, why should life have limits? Indulgence and excess rocketed off the scale as vast swathes of the society experimented with lust, gluttony, and sadomasochism. Dust could rebuild bodies, Dust could house minds; a society of bodiless minds with no physical needs became a society totally unhinged from its roots. Boredom turned them to bizarre and exotic pursuits: the creation of mutants, living toys, extreme self-alteration... In their wealth and power they begin to regard anything not wealthy and powerful with contempt.
The Great Schism Edit
Numerous cracks and a great deal of fragmentation had already begun to occur in this society that was stretching itself thin across the universe. Estimates state that given the number of exploratory vessels (which often developed their own sub-governments and social structures), habitats, research stations, mining operations, colonized planets, flotillas, and communes, by 1200 M.E. there were over one thousand discrete societies within the umbrella that we simply refer to as the Endless.
As happened at Kyros, for many reasons--religious, scientific, cultural, and psychological--the different peoples and groups of Endless drifted apart, and sometimes into open conflict. However, the advent of virtualization intensified the process of polarization and differentiation as all of the various sub-elements of the society came face to face with unexpectedly simple answers to difficult questions about life, the future, and immortality. The responses to this event were as numerous as the society was splintered.
It was simple for Osowmap, who immediately uploaded themselves, had robots give their bodies a fine funeral, and disappeared into the databanks of their habitat. As their computer systems were already geared to the creation of multiple worlds and consciousnesses, they had found their virtual eternity. More puritan groupings took a middle road, using the virtual phase of existence for communication and research, but guarding the corporeal form for socializing, intimacy, and celebration. Examples of this were the Technologists who intensively developed all the orbital bodies they could find around the star Tau Cetarum, the Shared Mind Shared Responsibilities Shared Land (Shamsharshal) nation based in the Oort-cloud distance asteroids around the inhospitably hot blue-white sun of Chremus, and many of the remaining inhabitants of the original world, Tor, who felt a certain obligation of stewardship for the planet.
However, many groups were opposed to the idea of virtualization, and for a number of reasons worked either casually or aggressively to discourage the spread of so-called "Freeminds" or "Virtuals" among their citizens. Some, like the Mocholi conservatives that preserved the ruins of Kyros in atonement for the actions of the Endless there, were dedicated to acts that required physical effort and the use of a body. Groups like this might have had reasons based on ethical principles, mistrust of new technology, fears for individual or group security, or simply a preference for the physical world. In any case, they were adamantly opposed to the idea of moving to a virtual existence. There were also fringe groups like the Sensualists of the All-is-Permissible-Evil-Exists-Only-Where-It-Is-Invited alternative lifestyle habitat who simply found the body too much fun to give up.
Regardless of their various reasons, the advent of virtualization accelerated the trend to dissociation and disagreement which had already become a challenge for the larger society.
Schisms in the society developed between the "Virtuals", who sought electronic immortality, and the "Concretes", who viewed that idea as undesirable or repugnant. For several decades both sides sought to prove the superiority of their ideals, while problems grew over decisions of how and where to invest and develop science. While one side saw no need to invest in biology research and terraforming as the body was no longer necessary, the other clearly sought further breakthroughs in these areas. Splits of budgeting became movements of secession, and the movements of secession eventually broke into open conflict with each other.
The Dust Wars Edit
When conflict broke out, both sides took advantage of the mechanical and computational capabilities of Dust to try to destroy the other. The Virtuals created hybrid living machines to hunt and destroy Concretes, who in turn created viruses and deathware to eradicate the consciences of the Virtuals.
The "Concretes" tried to purge databases of virtual consciences, and the Virtuals did what they could to make existing space installations uninhabitable. Running, chasing, escaping, fleeing, the Dust Wars caused a second major diaspora of the Endless, leaving them spread ever more distantly from each other and encouraging them to continue moving onward.
In time, on a system-by-system and cluster-by-cluster basis, one or the other groups of Endless gained the upper hand and eradicated the other. It was most difficult for the reasonable ones who were caught in the middle; viewed as enemy by both Virtuals and Concretes they fared poorly. Only on the homeworld of Tor did the two groups find a balance, and even there they devolved into mutually suspicious and hostile fortified city-states.
Some of the major warfare tactics of the Dust Wars were:
- Isolation - Virtuals kill the satellite system in order to isolate a planet, then drop the dead satellites on to the major industrial centers of a colony. The Concretes are forced to rebuild their civilization from Renaissance-level technology.
- EMPicide - Concretes detonate an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) device near a Virtual habitat in deep space. The Virtuals are instantly wiped out, but the equipment is generally salvageable.
- To Breathe Dust - The Virtuals drop Dust into the air handling system of an orbital, giving it orders to pierce holes and disable microchips. The Concretes slowly choke to death.
- Grounded - Concretes bring all the electrical systems of a planet inhabited by Virtuals to ground, i.e. zero charge, destroying the Virtuals.
- Fratricide - Networked Dust is released in a Concrete armada, infecting the C3 (command, control, communication) systems. The ships end up turning their guns against each other.
The Splintering Edit
Following the internecine Dust Wars, much of the fabric of Endless civilization was either destroyed, cut off into non-communicating islands, or scattered too thinly across the stars to re-form a critical mass and move ahead as a single entity. As communication lapsed the different elements that once made up the society grew apart, eventually to the point of radically different evolutions.
The Dust encountered in the game comes from the remnants of these civilizations.
Both the Concrete and the Virtual elements of the civilization further subdivided themselves depending on where they found themselves in the galaxy, what their leadership wanted, and what resources were on hand. A sample of some of the splinters that broke off and sought their own destinies is included below.
It should be emphasized that elements of many of these groups could often be found living together, or tendencies to more than one of these preferences could be found within any group of either Concretes or Virtuals. In some cases, however, groups sought to isolate and "purify" themselves, taking over terrain or habitat space in order to live on their own.
Endless Subcultures Edit
- Trade and Finance - There remained, nevertheless, some Torians who still loved trade, commerce, investment, and development for the sake of projects and competition.
- Objectivists - Lovers of beautiful things and hoarders of the same, they were nicknamed this not for their objectivity or socio-economic philosophy, but because they loved to collect things.
- Analytics - More mathematicians and planners than salespeople, the Analytics were often sought after for their knowledge of the effects of space-time on interest rates and investments.
- Warriors - While both Virtuals and Concretes had militarily-minded groups, the warrior groups within the Concretes carried on the ancient traditions of Tor and its colonies.
- Monks - One of the larger movements, many forms of monks, martial artists, and military ascetics formed to study self-perfection through their discipline. As advanced technology provided for basic needs, Monks spent enormous amounts of time in training and developed superhuman capacities in their martial arts.
- Strategists - Game theorists, statisticians, generals, and players, the Strategists studied the arts of time, placement, logistics, and force.
- War Machines - The creation of machines of war—from personal weaponry to space-based stations—meant that this particular splinter of Endless society was in contact with many of the Concretes. Their skills and products were often in demand.
- Experientialists - These groups took advantage of a post-scarcity society of plenty to plunge themselves into the physical world and its pleasures.
- Dudes - Primarily driven by curiosity with mind- and body-altering chemicals, they lived in peaceful and largely useless communes.
- Pure Body Movement - A surprisingly strong and important movement, they believed that the Virtual world was one of temptation, and the best way to remain pure and strong was to reject the seductions of advanced technology by keeping the mind and body as untouched as possible.
- Esthetes - Lovers of art, beauty, and nature, this group spent its time seeking beauty and joy in natural or created works. Sub-groups tended to prefer one or the other.
- Scientists and Researchers - Many concretes stayed with the sciences, pushing forward the frontiers of astronomy, biology, and physics.
- Explorers - Concretes continued to explore the galaxy in ships, led by those among them who were seduced by the beauty or isolation of space and controlled by their wanderlust.
- Radical Rebirth - This offshoot of the Concretes emphasized a need to move away from all forms of biotechnology, re-launching the race itself from a new base in order to start over again.
- Life Scientists - A large part of the research was done in furthering biosciences, particularly in areas like cloning, terraforming, and longevity.
- Technologists - Engineers were numerous in the Concrete society, and many different branches and schools flourished:
- Small Worlders - This branch was dedicated to perfecting biospheres and small habitats, doing what they could in order to allow a stable society to continue while living on a minimum of resources.
- Good Shepherds - These Technologists focused on ecology, sustainability, and repairing the damage done by previous generations.
- Intellectuals - For many of the Virtuals, the possibility of existing in a state with no physical needs, a being of pure thought, was exceedingly tempting.
- Rebootists - This group believed that the capacity to become a disembodied being was an opportunity to rethink and restart the Torians as a race. They felt that this new form permitted them to ignore all previously held beliefs and constraints, and redefine the notions of existence, life, and desire.
- Cabal of Pure Thought - The Cabal was a small, defined group of intelligences who became obsessed with questions of philosophy, natural science, and thought experiments.
- The Infinite Contemplation - This is a group of star-gazers, in the purest sense of the term. Astronomy and observation are their preferences, as they watch the universe evolve.
- Strategists - These were the closest thing that the Virtuals had to a military order along with the hackers; when war broke out with the Concretes they used their capacity to view the universe and plan the war as a single, enormous entity.
- Technologists - Pleased with the technical advance of virtualization, the Technologists sought, as electronic beings, ways to further improve the infrastructure and processes of their new society.
- Logic and math systems - A powerful sub-branch of the Technologists, these Virtuals attacked historical and theoretical questions of math and logic. While they were in some ways similar to the Intellectuals, they were more focused on problem-solving than pure philosophy.
- Explorers - These Virtuals were explorers in the physical sense of the term. With no further limits on planets that were or were not habitable, they sought to seek and visit all physical bodies in the universe.
- Hackers - Presented with the ability to seek, discover, and build technology systems from the inside, this group of Hackers found virtualization to be the ultimate game and challenge.
- Esthetes - This minor but highly distinctive group of Virtuals sought to use their new form to find and understand new experiences and cultural meanings.
- Pure Mind Movement - A counterpart to the Pure Body movement, they used the new virtual identities to expand the abilities and scope of thought and intellect that was obtainable by a single conscious entity.
- Appreciators - Focused on understanding both the physical and immaterial realms, the Appreciators sought to discover all new forms of art and expression, being particularly interested in a susceptible to any experience that came in wave forms.
- Tremblors (Sound/Music) - Interested in any signal or message that came as a wave form in the old aural spectrum, the Tremblors continued these studies virtually in studying and sensing any wave form that had an acoustic / vibrational effect on physical things.
- Invisible Spectrum - With their minds unburdened with the needs of the physical body to "see" and "feel" wavelengths limited to visible light, the adepts of the Invisible Spectrum sought out ways and systems to see and feel waves that travel through gravity and even time, composed of any sort of energy or particle.
List of remaining Endless Edit
Although their society is no more, a few of the Endless have survived their race's destruction.