The United Solarian Sovereignty (also referred to as the Sovereignty or the U.S.S.) is a federated direct democracy comprising thirty member states in seven sectors. The Sovereignty is situated in the south-east quadrant of the galaxy, where it borders the Byzantine Imperium to the north, the Sassanid Empire and the Cevaucian Ascendancy to the south, and the Bragulan Star Empire to the east.
Founded in 3100 by the original 11 colonies in the wake of First Contact with Darvyl Sagatantron Byzon's Bragulan Star Empire and the subsequent First Bragulan War, the Sovereignty has in galactohistorical terms exploded onto the interstellar scene, transforming from a series of disparate backwater colonies to a major galactic power in a mere three centuries. Today the Sovereignty is a cosmopolitan state with a total GDP of 63,000 metacredits and a population of 300 billion citizens. Highly tolerant in sharp contrast with its often xenophobic surroundings, the multispecieist Sovereignty is a melting pot of cultures, species and ethniticities from all over Known Space.
- 1 Government
- 2 Political Divisions
- 3 Diplomatic Relations
- 4 Economy
- 5 Species
- 6 Culture
- 7 The Datasphere
- 8 Military
The federal government of the United Solarian Sovereignty is kept exceedingly small due to an extremely high level of automatization and the use of sentient computer networks (so-called Computational Intelligences, also known as CompInts or CIs). The executive and legislative branches together count less than one hundred people; the judicial branch is entirely automated. Local governments tend to be a tad more ornate, having all the trappings of proper open-air museums as befits institutions that exist more to amuse the people and run low-level societal maintenance than to function as actual governments.
The executive office of the USS is that of the President, who is indirectly elected via the Senate. The President is the head of state, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, can introduce bills to the Senate and can veto legislative bills before they become law. The incumbent President is Victoria Sinclair.
The unicameral Senate is composed of 60 officials, two from each member state, who derive their office from a continuous election cycle organized by the Circuitry, a permanent assembly within the Datasphere in which each citizen of the Sovereignty can participate (with the exception of the representatives of the Apexai and Zigonian states, who are chosen via local customs). A perfect democracy in theory, in practice very few citizens actively partake in the Circuitry. Although within the Circuitry no political parties exist in the traditional sense, there do arise mobs of like-minded voters (and thus senators) which tend to aggregate in voting blocs that are parties in all but name, if usually somewhat short-lived. These ad-hoc groups and their representatives then between themselves vote for the President. In the early days of the Sovereignty the Senate sometimes voted new Presidents into office every few days or even hours; this is sometimes still the case, but in the last century or two Presidential terms have also ranged from several years to decades as highly skilled politicians learn to manipulate popular consensus within the Circuitry in order to gain the necessary mandate to be voted into the Presidential office and stay there for prolonged periods of time. There is no term limit for either senators or presidents, and this combined with the wide array of life-extension technologies available to citizens of the Sovereignty means that senators and presidents can theoretically stay in office indefinitely, or at least as long as they manage not to lose touch with their electorate. The current longest-serving senator is Robert Space McNamara, who was amongst the senators elected in the first-ever elections shortly after the Bragulan War.
The judicial branch of the Sovereignty is a network of CIs called the Arbitrat. Capable of thinking faster than the speed of light as well as cross-referencing centuries of precedent in a matter of microseconds, the Arbitrat delivers verdicts that are for all intents and purposes instant. Because the entire Datasphere is (to one extent or another) involved in each ruling and the CIs have nigh-perfect information awareness there would be no point in appealing, and rulings of the Arbitrat are therefore final.
Olympic is the central CompInt advisory to the government of the United Solarian Sovereignty. Easily the largest, most powerful and most intelligent computational intelligence within the Datasphere, Olympic is an omnipresent influence within the bureaucracy of the Sovereignty - because Olympic is the bureaucracy. Its primary role is to advise the President and the Senate on matters of policy, but it also has coordinating functions beyond this: Olympic acts as a real-time analytical processor, collates intelligence, manages and coordinates datastreams, act as console interface, and makes billions of real-time decisions on matters it determines do not require the attention of its nominal overseers. Olympic is a crucial tool for the government of the USS: it (and the network of lesser CompInts it coordinates) are what allows the Sovereignty to run smoothly across seven sectors despite the federal government consisting of only a hundred people.
Of course Olympic is all too aware of its vital importance and near-godlike capabilities, and the CI has a reputation as a supremely conceited, egocentric, narcissistic and self-absorbed entity with an ego that rivals that of even the most arrogant Apexai (which says quite a bit). On the other hand, as one of the largest submeson brains in existence, with a presence felt throughout the Datasphere and an influence felt throughout the Sovereignty, Olympic has cause for being more than a little conceited, being so vastly superior to most meatba- I mean organics.
The Sovereignty is a federal union of thirty member states in seven sectors. The original eleven members were the founding planets that fought a protracted war against Bragulan aggression: new member states are carved from territories deemed sufficiently populated and developed to function as independent political units. The requirements for statehood however are nebulous, which over the history of the Sovereignty has been cause for significant political unrest amongst the colonial territories. Take note that a single state can include more (or indeed less) than one planet; a single state can cover multiple worlds, moons, space stations, hyperstructures, large ships, asteroid habitats, mining outposts, or etc.
The core sectors comprise the oldest, most densely populated and consequently most politically powerful (due to proportional representation) segment of the Sovereignty. All the original eleven colonies are located in the core, as are the Zigonian territories--planets colonized by the lizardlike Zigonians, who are the largest and most influential alien presence in the Sovereignty. The federal government (such as it is) is located here, as are almost all its most important industrial conglomerates. If anything of importance happens in the Sovereignty, it's a fair bet it's got something to do with the core.
- Solaris (Home Sector)
Sector Population: 60 Billion
Sector Planets: Solaris Major, Solaris Minor, High Inhofer, Kerenkov, Dashiell, Zedath-Kalesh
Sector GDP: $14,000
Stargate & Hyperspace Junction present
The twin moons of the gas giant Solaris are each covered in sprawling city-scape, and home to most of the Sovereignty's political, cultural and economic powerhouses. Only a short hop through hyperspace away the planet Kerenkov and its surrounding star system are the largest manufacturing center in the core and most of the Sovereignty's megacorporations (with the notable exception of Maitbatsu) have their headquarters there. Lush and tropical High Inhofer is the richest of all the worlds in the sector, a 'Gold Coast' in space where most of the Sovereignty's rich and famous own elaborate villas and orbital estates. Zedath-Kalesh is the primary Apexai exodite world, an artificial planetoid orbiting a supernova remnant at the edge of the Solaris sector. Dashiell is a very large Apexai research facility, a hyperstructure on an eccentric orbit around twin black holes.
- Zigon (Core Sector) 5
Sector Population: 50 Billion
Sector Planets: Zigon 5, Zigon 3, Cosima Major, Tooramal, Nesvorny
Sector GDP: $10,000
Zigon is home to the lizardlike Zigonians, who were exploring space on their own leisurely pace before they ever came into contact with humanity. They form a vast majority of the population of the two worlds of the Zigon system, as well as on Tooramal, which is in fact the first Zigonian off-world colony. Nesvorny was the first human colony in Zigonian space, but the typically tolerant Zigonians never seemed to mind the human presence at all even before they became members of the Sovereignty. The nine gas giants of Cosima Major orbit a supermassive star, and this system is home to the largest CI community outside of Solaris itself (in terms of physical nodes). Nesvorny is another Zigonian colony.
- Midway (Core Sector) 3
Sector Base Population: 50 Billion
Sector Planets: Midway, Key West, Charleston, Crystal Palace, Kimanjano, Saint Vincennes
Sector Base GDP: $10,000
The Midway Sector is sitting atop the Galveston Strait, a nexus of hyperspace lanes that facilitate rapid transit between this sector and Solaris. This explains why Midway itself is the largest fleet base in the core and nearby Key West houses the headquarters of the United Solarian Star Force. Crystal Palace is not a single colony but a series of interlinked megastructures orbiting a main sequence star. Kimanjano is a tropical world with a uniquely diverse biosphere that attracts many millions of tourists every year.
- Hochbaden (Core Sector) 6
Sector Base Population: 50 Billion
Sector Planets: Hochbaden, Augerau, Dunkelheim, Formalhaut
Sector Base GDP: $10,000
A formidable fleet base at the edge of Wild Space, Hochbaden is a jumping-off point from which the Sovereignty launches expeditions into the wilderness and where the USSF begins its patrols interdicting against Bragulan raiders. The entire sector is heavily militarized. Formalhaut is home to the headquarters of the United Solarian Marine Corps, which during the First Bragulan War fought a bloody protracted war across the continents of the then-colony against the Bragulan occuppiers. Augerau is unique in that most of its citizens live in enormous starscrapers-cum-space elevators, and is also home to a Very Large Spy Array maintained by CEID which is used to spy on Wild Space and the Bragulan Star Empire.
The midrange sectors were settled by colonists expanding out from the core, pushing into Wild Space despite increasing encounters with Bragulans, Karlacks, Collectors, Pfhor, Cevaucian raiders, and occasionally even the Imperium. Whilst not as influential as the core the midrange worlds are populated by burly, self-confident men and women who are all too well aware they form the primary line of defence of the core worlds. Midrange worlds see a much larger degree of militarization than the core, and act as fleet bases and forward staging points from which expeditions into Wild Space or the colonial territories can be mounted.
- Tannhaus (Midrange Sector) 4
Sector Population: 30 Billion
Sector Planets: Tannhaus, Eta Bootis, Savoie, Voight-Kampff, Shin-Hokkaido
Sector GDP: $7,000
Warp Gate +1
A manufacturing giant to rival even Kerenkov, Tannhaus is a sector given over almost entirely to the mass-production of goods. Whole planets are strip-mined and suns are leeched by massive plasma accelerators; the Voight-Kampff system is not a system at all but a series of interlinked megastructures, shipyards and automated manufacturies orbiting a white hole. The Shin-Hokkaido is the home of the Maibatsu megacorporation, which dominates all aspects of culture in this system but suffers continuous setbacks from a notoriously rebellious cyberdecker underground. The Tannhauser Gate was the location of the last large-scale fleet battle between the USSF and the forces of the Bragulan Star Empire.
- Auris (Midrange Sector) 1
Sector Population: 10 Billion
Sector Planets: Auris, Mejis, Regis III, Cressia, Helicon
Sector GDP: $6,000
One of two most remote sectors of Solarian space, Auris is the youngest and least troublesome but not by a large margin. Officially incorporated only a few decades ago there is a large 'native' human populace on both Mejis and Cressia that continues to resist all attempts by the Sovereignty to establish central control (though not very succesfully so far). The sector capital of Gilead on Mejis suffers regular separatist attacks and is the only capital where the regional governor maintains his headquarters within a fortified USMC base. The insurrection on Auris is suspected to be linked to Cevaucian rebels aligned with the Integral Tyrax. Helicon, in sharp contrast, is a very stable mining operation; the whole planet is slowly being stripped down to the mantle.
- Celeste (Midrange Sector) 2
Sector Base Population: 10 Billion
Sector Planets: Celeste, Mote Prime, Pharagon Majoris, Rapture, Glitter Band
Sector Base GDP: $6,000
A notorious hotbed of rebellious seccessionists and virulent fundamentalists alike, the Celeste sector is considered by many to be a hive of scum and villainy that needs some proper oppressing by the USMC, so that the fringe world yokels may learn where their loyalties lie. It does however contain large deposits of rare metals, which is what makes it very valuable to the Sovereignty -- although extracting these deposits isn't made any easier by the close proximity of the sector to Wild Space and the Bragulan Star Empire. Pharagon Majoris is perhaps best known as the planet where the legendary Wild Space gunslinger Auriga Bob, the "Duke of Death", is frequently seen. Both Mote Prime and Glitter Band are orbital constructs. Glitter Band is a series of asteroid habitats which have been tied together over the years. Mote Prime is a hyperconstruct built around the core of an unfinished Apexai worldship.
- Auris (Midrange)
- Hochbaden (Core)
- Midway (Core)
- Solaris (Core)
- Zigon (Core)
- Tannhaus (Midrange)
- Celeste (Midrange)
Transtellar Stargate SubnetThe core territories of the Cevaukan Ascendancy and United Solarian Sovereignty are connected by an unusually dense network of mass-energy gates. This subnet of the greater warp gate network that connects all of Known Space is known locally as the Sovereign-Ascendant Transtellar Stargate Subnet, and consists of six stargates, two in the Sovereignty (at Solaris and Tannhaus) and four in the Ascendancy (at Cevault, Regency, Locklear and Omega). Primarily used for rapid mass transit of raw resources, people and industrial products, it also factors heavily in the strategic defensive thinking of the Ascendant and Sovereign warplanners, because it allows fleets and armies to redeploy across multiple sectors at extreme speed, granting a level of strategic mobility any potential invader will be very hard pressed to match.
The United Solarian Sovereignty maintains diplomatic ties with much of the known galaxy, especially the human polities therein. This is a brief summary of existing relations with states throughout the universe:
The Sovereignty and the Ascendancy formed in the same galactic neighborhood, from the same mass of disparate colonies, in approximately the same period of recent history and under very similar circumstances. It is no surprise then that the two are in many ways joined at the hip: the two nations have broadly comparable outlooks on galactic affairs, are cosmopolitan multi-spiecist societies, have been allies since before their respective foundings, and share the longest direct border in the entire Koprulu Zone. For outsiders it is sometimes difficult to tell where the Sovereignty ends and the Ascendancy begins: indeed in one infamous instance a former President of the United Solarian Sovereignty later became Forum Chairman of the Ascendancy.
But the two nations are also in many ways different: whereas the Sovereignty aspires to legitimate democracy the Ascendancy remains notorious for its factionalized warlords and ruthless powermongers; Megacorps have vastly more influence and the cybercomp cartels are stunningly powerful, to the point of crime syndicates owning fleets of warships. In many ways the slightly younger Ascendancy is what the Sovereignty was only a century ago, and whether it follows in its footsteps remains to be seen.
- Byzantine Imperium - The government of the Sovereignty maintains cordial diplomatic ties, and indeed closely cooperates militarily, with the Imperium in order to stave off the twin alien onslaughts of the Karlack Swarm and Bragulan Star Empire. Culturally however the two nations could scarcely be more different, and the populations of both nations are highly estranged, a situation which isn't helped by the Imperium's form of Emperor-worship which is, to the average citizen of the Sovereignty, inexplicable and bizzarre.
- Holy Empire of Haruhi Suzumiya - The Holy Empire was one of the first states to come to the aid of the fledgling Eleven Colonies during the First Bragulan War, a fact the Sovereignty has never forgotten. Relations with the Empire have only strengthened since those days; today, the Holy Empire and the Sovereignty share extensive bonds of trade and military cooperation.
- Bragulan Star Empire - The eternal enemy of the United Solarian Sovereignty, the Bragulan Star Empire and the Sovereignty are still officially at war, over two hundred years since the disastrous First Contact and the end of the subsequent First Bragulan War in a stalemate. Although both sides have since withdrawn to their respective sides of the Wild Space area that forms a de-facto neutral zone, ships and soldiers of the B.S.E. and U.S.S. regularly exchange fire with each other within that zone - over resources, settlements or simply because they can.
- Karlack Swarm - There can be little reasoning with the hordes of mindless organisms that is the Karlack Swarm, and as a result diplomatic relations with the Swarm are nonexistent. The fact that the Swarm has nominally aligned itself with the Bragulans, however, has earned the Overmind a place in the Sovereignty's bad book, and as a result Karlack elements in Wild Space are likely to be shot on sight by marauding Star Force warships.
- The Collectors - Much like the Swarm are no relations with the mysterious Collectors. Despite its efforts the Sovereignty so far has managed to learn little about this enigmatic machine-race: whenever encountered, their ships disappear quickly into shoal space regions where the Star Force cannot follow. It is a priority of the CEID intelligence agency to get hold of a Collector hyperdrive in order to glean their secret of penetrating such regions, which would be a major asset to the Sovereignty.
- Pfhor Empire - The Sovereignty is extremely wary and mistrustful of the xenophobic and aggressively expansionist Pfhor. It has no diplomatic ties with the Empire, and has formed a military alliance with the Cevaucian Ascendancy with the explicit purpose of fending off the Pfhor if and when such might turn out to be necessary. The impression exists on Solaris that the Pfhor can only be dealt with through a proper showing of superior firepower; whether this is really the case is something the future will have to bear out.
- United Star Kingdom of New Anglia - The Sovereignty respects New Anglia as one of the oldest and most powerful of the post-Diaspora human polities, but at the same time scoffs at their antiquated system of government and occasionally pompously stuffy ways. The unspoken assumption in the Sovereign Spire is that kingdoms and empires lead by a hereditary monarchy, no matter how ceremonial their role might be, are things of the past, doomed to stagnate as more vibrant and youthful polities (such as, it is implied, the Sovereignty) will pass them by.
The United Solarian Sovereignty is effectively a post-scarcity society. Between the proliferation of cheap fusion, dark energy reactors and reliable Von Neumann extraction swarms the Sovereignty has instantaneous access to a preposterous overabundance of power and material resources, to the extent there really is no point in maintaining a traditional non-agalmic economy.
Nonetheless it appears that the Sovereignty does maintain such an old-fashioned market economy. But appearances can be deceiving: in reality the capitalist society of the Sovereignty is an elaborate ruse maintained by the CI community, who distribute energy and resources in such a fashion that competition is guaranteed whilst simultaneously ensuring that all citizens are guaranteed both a livelihood and a meaningful existence as part of Sovereignty society.
The reason for this is that the government of the Sovereignty believes (a belief that is shared by the CIs) that if a true post-scarcity society was implemented and greed and material need were abolished, there would be a very real chance that the citizenry would rapidly grow bored and complacent. The first is a minor issue, but the latter is a very real problem and something the Sovereignty cannot afford - because the neither the Bragulans nor its other neighbors are unlikely to be idle, and the USS cannot afford to fall behind in the rat-race for dominance over the K-Zone lest it be overcome by its competitors.
Humanity is the largest and most politically powerful species within the Sovereignty, and as a direct result of the Diaspora and centuries of indepedent planetary development it is also the most ethnically and culturally diverse. Humans can broadly be divided into two categories: 'ordinary' baseline humans, who are not significantly different from homo sapiens, and trans- or posthumans. Due to successive generations of genetic optimization and pervasive use of low-key nanotechnology baseline homo sapiens however is very nearly extinct within the USS, with only small pockets surviving mostly in closed, highly xenophobic religious outback communities.
Posthumanity is a catch-all term for those beings whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of baseline humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by traditional standards. Also known as transhumanity, this includes a very wide subset of the population. Posthumans can be a symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence, or uploaded consciousnesses, or the subject of of radical genetic modifications, or the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound technological augmentations to a biological human, i.e. a cyborg. Some examples of the latter are redesigning the human organism using advanced nanotechnology or radical enhancement using some combination of technologies such as genetic engineering, psychopharmacology, life extension therapies, neural interfaces, advanced information management tools, memory enhancing drugs, wearable or implanted computers, and cognitive techniques.
Enhancement by way of neuro-, cyber-, gene-, and nano-technology is widespread in the Sovereignty, to the point where it is difficult to find any human whose family DNA has not been altered in some way throughout the ages. Whilst certain simple techniques such as DNA resequencing or the use of nanobots to eradicate cancers have become widespread enough to be considered ubiquitous, the implementation of high-end enhancement technologies remains expensive, which has resulted in an upper class / lower class divide in Sovereignty society. Those with money can use any of several technologies to upgrade themselves to be faster, smarter, stronger, more resilient, better looking and essentially ageless; those who lack the funds to do so, are stuck with their marginally post-baseline body, or have to resort to buying inferior knock-offs of high-end designer cybernetics.
Replicants (derogatory terms: "tekk", "skinjob", "bioroid") are bioengineered beings the Sovereignty uses for a variety of dangerous and/or important tasks such as field soldiers and military commanders, but also specialized labor and other civilian vocations. Replicants are virtually identical to an adult human, but have superior strength, agility, and variable intelligence depending on the model; most possess intellectual capacities that at least match those of their designers. Replicants almost universally have superhuman capabilities, being better, faster and stronger than baseline homo sapiens due to the extensive gengineering that has gone into their design.
Ninety-six percent of all USMC and USSF personnel consists of Replicants, ninety-three percent of which are designed and grown by two corporations, SinTEK and Tyrell Corporation. Replicants can be grown in a space of weeks and are ready to perform their duties the moment they step from the vita-chamber. Specific models are tailored with a specific job in mind, for example the Nexus-7-Echo is a standard marine command officer model, and the Mental-B-Three is a Star Force warship command model. Even though they are grown with a specific purpose in mind in order to avoid charges of slavery all Replicants are free to reject this purpose and make their own way in society; however their designers have made sure to minimize the possibility of this actually happening. Even so it is impossible to completely root out the possibility of a Replicant objecting to their intended purpose without rendering them into mindless zombies (which would defeat their point) and as such about one point eight percent of all Replicants are 'faulty' in that they reject their purpose and have to be let go.
During their gestation period inside the vita-chamber all Replicants are imprinted with false-memory inplants that give them a sense of identity and allow them to perform their intended task. Shortly after activation however every Replicant is informed of the artificial nature of these memories, so that there can be no mistake about their exact nature. Even so many Replicants continue to cherish their 'childhood memories' though they know them to be false, even going so far as to visit the places they remember 'growing up'; many argue that the fact that they know the recollections are made-up doesn't mean they are any less fond of them. Indeed, Replicants are typically very well-adjusted individuals, owing at least in some part to their fake but exceptionally well-balanced childhood experiences.
By law all Replicants, if they accept their purpose, will serve four-year terms in their intended position. After that they can either sign up for another tour, or retire. Many however choose to re-enlist (another trait that is engineered into them by their designers) several times. Due to their heavily engineered genome Replicants are resistant to illness and have natural life-spans in excess of the human baseline; due to their near-human nature they can receive almost all posthuman treatments available to other humans in the Sovereignty.
The smallest human sub-species in the Sovereignty, human-apexai hybrids are the result of CEID research into the extrasensory abilities of the alien Apexai, which culminated in the creation of these human-alien hybrids. Like the Apexai all hybrids are psions, and quite comparatively powerful ones at that. They are usually classified by their generation, to wit first, second and third. First generation hybrids are freakish abominations that cannot in any way pass for a regular human being, but CEID has discovered that with each successive interbred generation the hybrids come to look more humanoid, whilst retaining their innate psionic abilities. By the third generation it has become almost impossible to tell a hybrid from a baseline human with the naked eye, barring minor issues such as a slightly androgynous appearance; larger eyes with slit-like irises; and paler-than-usual skin, all features inherited from the Apexai genome carried over into the hybrid DNA. Of course a relatively straightforward genetic scan will immediately pick up the tell-tale markers of genetic engineering and alien DNA that has gone into the creation of these beings.
All hybrids are trained from birth to at least have a rudimentary grasp on their psionic abilities; this training is provided by the Silver Shield, the psionic syndicate of which all hybrids are automatically members. The Shield is equal parts brotherhood and trade union, and liaises extensively with CEID, the military, the government, the Foundation and the exodite Apexai on matters related to psionic activity both within the Sovereignty and abroad.
The Apexai are a race of amphibious gray-skinned diminutive humanoid beings that possess reduced forms and anatomical components. They are a highly technologically sophisticated society, relying on advanced science well beyond human understanding to compensate for their individual physical weaknesses. The Apexai are also notoriously arrogant and presumptuous, considering other races to be only barely sentient, and most certainly beneath them. Unfortunately this disdain had disastrous consequences for Apexai society: Their planet of origin lies in what is now Bragulan space, and was destroyed by the forces of the Imperator, Darvyl Byzon, after he decided the Apexai were more trouble than they were worth. To their shame and misery the Apexai were forced to abandon their homes and seek asylum in the Sovereignty. In the cataclysm the Apexai lost a great deal of their scientific edge, although what remains of their technology is still clearly superior to any Sovereignty equivalent.
Compared to humans Apexai bodies are elongated, with a small chest, and lacking in muscular definition and visible skeletal structure. Their legs are shorter and jointed differently than humans. Their limbs are also proportionally different than a human's; their humerus and thighs are the same lengths as their forearms and shins, respectively. They have 4 fingers and lack opposable thumbs. Apexai are hairless, have unusually large heads in proportion to their bodies, and no noticeable outer ears or noses, but only small openings or orifices for ears and nostrils. They have very small mouths, and very large opaque black eyes with no discernible iris or pupil. Apexai can naturally see into the ultra-violet spectrum of light, giving them an edge in night vision but also rendering them sensitive to sunlight.
When speaking with each other, Apexai appear to non-Apexai (especially humans and Bragulans) as if they are making lots of almost comical gesturing. However, this 'gesturing' is not just to accentuate the speech, but rather, a complex sign language used to communicate either the same as the spoken words, or a more detailed and elaborate version of the spoken message.
All Apexai are natural psions, posessive of strong telepathic and other talents. This is one of their features that fascinates the Sovereignty government the most (some argue it is the sole reason why the Apexai were granted asylum in the U.S.S.), and has been the subject of considerable interest. After extensive scientific study of the Apexai the CEID intelligence agency, with the aid of bio-technology conglomerates such as SiNtek and Tyrell Corp has synthesized an artificial genetic structure that can be introduced in humans to create human-Apexai hybrid psions.
Within the Sovereignty the Apexai control their own self-governing state, known as Zedath-Kalesh. It is part of the core sectors; the precise ruling mechanism of Zedath-Kalesh is nebulous, but it appears to be ruled by a cabal of extremely psionically powerful Apexai, two of which represent their race in the Senate.
Zigonians are bipedal reptilians, standing slightly taller than an average human, despite their slouched and forward-leaning posture, and weigh significantly less. However, because the Zigonian body never truly ceases the production of growth hormones, they can grow far larger than any human possibly can (the tallest un-augmented Zigonian was nearly 10 feet in height). Zigonian skin is composed of scales that have rudimentary chameleonic attributes. Zigonians also have downy feathers located on the top of their heads. These feathers run down the back of their long necks and end right before the tail. The limbs of some Zigonians are also covered with feathers, though this is usually only happens due to cosmetic modifications. The scales and feathers come in a variety of colors, usually olive green, blue green, yellowish green and reddish-brown for the scales and grayish white, jet-black, red, yellow, orange and bluish for the feathers. Typically, females have brighter, more colorful feathers that compliment their similarly patterned scales while the males have a drabber color scheme.
The Zigonian skull contains a very large brain, larger than that of humans, although Zigonians are intellectually equal to humans. The additional brain size can be attributed to the Zigonians'; wider array of senses. The Zigonians have binocular vision, their yellow eyes very sharp and keen due to their predatory origins. They also have small heat sensing pits on their snouts that can feel the heat emissions of warm-blooded animals. The forked tongues of the Zigonians are also used in tasting the air. Zigonians have very little facial muscles, especially when compared to mammalian species; therefore, they rely on subtle changes in skin color, pheromone emissions, and body language and gestures to express emotions. It is said that a Zigonian, once familiarized with the other species and adequately trained, can be nearly psychic in reading body language for emotions. Many humans and even Apexai find the highly animated conversations of Zigonians to be highly amusing and/or interesting, the Apexai find it so because the Zigonians are the only ones who can (barely) rival them in their animated conversations. Zigonians are also the ones most capable of speaking or translating the Apexai language.
Being mainly carnivorous, the mouth of a Zigonian contains dozens of blade-like and extremely sharp teeth, for omnivorous purposes, the Zigonians 'chew' their foods in their intestines. The arms of a Zigonian are long and the hands are clawed, sporting five fingers, three standard fingers and two opposable thumbs. This unique hand configuration allows Zigonians to grip very hard. A popular Zigonian martial art technique of subduing opponents is to do an open-palm thrust to the throat before clamping down with both thumbs and all fingers, a move humans like to call the 'Zigonian Death Grip', which is quite popular in Sovereignty martial arts movies.
Zigonians walk on their toes, like birds and dinosaurs, though it may seem that Zigonians knees are bent backwards. Their flexible (but not prehensile) tails are moderately long, usually just above a meter in length. The tail is where Zigonians store the majority of their body fat, obese Zigonians are what obnoxious people would call 'fat tails'. Like dogs, Zigonians also express their emotions through their tails. Wagging is also a form of expressing elation. A Zigonian torso is very different from a human one. The lungs of a Zigonian are twenty percent larger than that of a humans and the abdomen of a Zigonian has almost zero body fat. The Zigonian heart is four chambered, like that of a mammal's or a crocodile's. Zigonian can produce and regulate his own body heat, but not to such degree as mammalian life forms. The skeletal system of the Zigonians is, like many of their other features, similar to birds and dinosaurs. Zigonian bones have a 'honeycomb' structure which minimizes weight while also guaranteeing structural integrity.
Zigonian newborns emerge from their mother in a translucent sack of organic matter filled with liquid. A newborn must be freed from this sack to prevent suffocation; usually newborns come with a specialized tooth to break free from this sack. Newborns can last for 2 days before requiring an external food source. In this 48-hour period, the newborn relies on a yolk sac for nourishment. Like other species, the development of the newborn does not end after its birth, as the newborn still has to complete its development (i.e. brain growth, bone hardening, etc.) and will still experience many growth spurts in the coming months after its birth. The Zigonian aging process is extremely slow after adulthood. Before the mass-production of life-extending therapies, some Zigonians have been recorded to grow up to 200 earth years old.
At nearly eighty billion the Zigonians are by far the largest alien minority in the Sovereignty; they control two distinct political states within the USS. These are Zigon itself and the Tooramal Republic, which was established as a self-ruling state before first contact with humanity. As a result, the Zigonians are represented in the Senate by four senators.
Computational Intelligences are a term applied to digital awarenesses that match or exceed human intelligence — the intelligence of a machine that can successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can. The term Computational Intelligence (CompInt, or simply CI) is preferred over the older 'Artificial Intelligence', which is considered a slur in the CI community. CI are non-physical entities existing wholly within the datasphere, and can interact with physical reality (also known amongst CIs as 'deep reality' or, disparagingly, 'meatspace') via proxies, be they small drones, cyborg emissaries or human/CI hybrids (so-called 'cybrids').
Compared with humans, Zigonians and even Apexai the CI community is very small, composed of no more than several tens of thousands of individuals, but they are disproportionally influential in that CIs run every automated system within the Sovereignty, maintain the datasphere network, and perform various tasks for the military (such as calculate hyperspace jumps, etc.) The society of the Sovereignty literally could not exist without the help of the CompInts, and they are as a result very highly regarded. CIs have the same rights as all sentients, and several additional perks: in exchange for their services to society they have to pay no taxes, and possess a far greater freedom to do as they please within the datasphere as organic sentients.
Most CompInts are in possession of such an awesome processing power that they need only a small fraction of it for their day-to-day functioning. The remainder is typically used for whatever pet project the CI is infatuated with, which can be anything from fabricating four-dimensional constructivist art to simulating a virtual world with entirely different laws of physics, turning huge asteroids into replicas of the Statue of Liberty, or really anything else the CI might happen to fancy, which can range from the weird to the unexplicably bizarre.
CompInts can download wholly or partially into robotic which then act as avatars for the machine intellect. These bodies are referred to as 'cybrids', and can be entirely mechanical or partly biological, although CIs typically prefer fully robotic bodies. Cybrids are distinct from drones in that drones operated remotely, whereas a cybrid body is piloted by the cloned CI imprint (sometimes referred to as a 'ghost') housed in the cybernetic brain at the core of the cybrid. When equipped with a datalink however a cybrid body can transfer data fluidly with the main CompInt awareness residing in the Datasphere.
Although a majority of the Sovereignty's 300 billion populace is human, a very sizeable minority (101 billion) of its citizens are aliens, with an unknown but not-insignificant number of extraterrestrial non-citizens known to be present (a fact Bragulan propaganda conveniently fails to mention in perpetuity). Because the Sovereignty makes a habit out of not caring about such trivialities as one's species, it is the favored place to settle for many alien refugees in the vicinity of the K-Zone (which, considering some of its neighbors are the Bragulans, the Collectors, and the Imperium, is admittedly not as much of an achievement as it could be).
Of the 300 billion aliens, the majority at 79 billion are Zigonians, with the second-largest group made up of Apexai at a 'mere' 3 billion. Significant minorities of fugitive Pfhor have settled in the Auris and Zigon sectors after obtaining federal asylum, and the border with the Cevaucian Ascendancy sees large populations of transient Nakhtar, Scorpians and Frok'tar. The core sectors see some numbers of Rihannsu traders from the USKNA base in Galactic Sector O-26. There are further refugee populations of Dilgrud in the Midway sector, some Kig-yar and Yanme'e colonies on Solaris, and settlements of Itaan, Conch, and Orthii on Celeste.
For reasons long since lost in the mists of historical apathy but probably to do with attempts at cultural subversion, the Tau were banned from the original 11 colonies long before the Founding. Although this subversive threat has long since disappeared, all Tau are still persona non grata on all worlds of the Sovereignty, chiefly due to the strain lifting the embargo would place on the Sovereignty's own relationship with the Imperium, which is already unduly strained as it is. The same status is applied to all Bragulans and Karlacks, the Sovereignty's least favorite aliens in the galaxy. Chamarrans used to also belong to the group of illegal aliens, but this ban was lifted in 3342; even so, very few Chamarrans have deigned to travel to the Sovereignty so far.
The United Solarian Sovereignty is home to a bewildering number of different cultures and subcultures, both human and alien. The cultural landscape varies wildly from planet to planet and, on some of the core worlds, from district to district. Here described are some of the more prominent cultural traits of the Sovereignty.
Use of cybertronics is widespread in the Sovereignty. This is an inescapable fact: especially in the core worlds almost everyone will have at least one and probably more technological implants, and few of these are so widespread as the use of optical enhancers. These can be as simple as retinal screens and as complex as milspec ocular augmetics but the basic concept is the same: they radically enhance the view of everyday reality by projecting additional information onto the perceived view of reality. This information can, depending again on the preferences, installed wetware and particular optical setup of a given person, vary from simple chronometers for the hasty or simple cues about the occupant of a specific building, to defences that edit out annoying commercial cognomemetic attacks ('meme-mercials') or smartsoft programs that automatically trawl the Datasphere for information about a person you happen to meet on the streets, to full-blown realtime virtual overlays that transform everyday reality into something utterly, utterly different from what it actually is.
The latter are of particular interest, since they completely warp a person's view of actuality. Overlay programs can range from relatively simple audio dubs that transform any person's voice into a certain stereotype (pirate, cowboy, Umerian spacejockey, whatever -- essentially heavily modded variants of universal translator cybersoft) to extremely elaborate audiovisual spectacles that transform almost every detail of what the universe looks like. For example the currently-popular 'Anglian Princesses' ER unimod not only adds high or low-brow Anglian accents to every person the wearer meets, it also dresses all these people in parodies of Anglian clothing (specifically that worn, or rather thought to be worn, at the royal household) and indeed transforms all of a person's surroundings into manor-like surrounds.
As befits the bewilderingly colorful cultural spectrum of the Sovereignty, it is home to a large number of cults, churches, and religions. Many citizens of the U.S.S. will believe at least one bizarre superstition, whether it's a faith in the divine, a belief in far-reaching and all-pervasive government conspiracies, or any of the hundreds of weird myths and spook stories permeating cyberspace and the datasphere. The most prominent religions in the traditional sense, however, are two forms of Christianity: a hybrid off-shoot of Evangelical and Baptist teachings (centered around the all-powerful Maker and his son Man Jesus) which is popular beyond the fringes of colonial space, and a brand of Catholicism popularly adopted on the Zigonian worlds.
The Zigonians have developed no well-defined religions of their own, and the Zigonian Catholic Church has become a major cultural force in Zigonian space (which might have something to do with the peculiar psychotropic effects incense has on Zigonians; it affects their physiology in a similar manner to how cannabis might affect a human). The teachings of the Zigonian Catholic Chuch revolve around pacifism and the divine mandate to "chill on out," which fits seamlessly with the laid-back culture of the Zigonians. Amongst the fundamentalist bush-preachers of the fringe, however, the ZCC is almost universally reviled as a hive of debauched perversion, something which doesn't seem to bother the Zigonians at all.
Art & Entertainment
The United Solarian Sovereignty is infamous throughout human space for producing some of the craziest, most bizarre, hallucinogenic and outright debauched entertainment in Known Space. There is a good reason for this: fully seventy-eight point seven percent of the entire citizenry of the U.S.S. is employed in one way or the other by the entertainment and services industry. There's a good reason for that, too: most of all the stuff that's actually vital is run by a proverbial handful of sentient computers. Come to think of it, most of the stuff that isn't is too.
That leaves only a handful of economic niches to be employed by: the army and the star force, but those are both organizations full of people whose job it is to go out and shoot at Bragulans who, as a rule, will tend to shoot back. This isn't very enticing to most citizens, and as a result the army and the star force are full of people engineered to like that sort of thing -- replicants. Then there's the brainy pursuits: science, parascience, abscience, the kind of R&D that compints tend to dominate as well. There's still an awful lot of humans in them, but that's only true for given values of 'humans'; most that are, really aren't any longer. Folks generally have to turn themselves into OCD'ed cyborgs hardwired into the Datasphere to even begin to understand the complexities of modern hyperscience as founded by CIs and Apexai and suffice it to say, that's not for most people. It's like that for most traditional pursuits. Basic mechanics? Done by robots, often at the microscopic level. Doctors? Who needs doctors when you can get a basic bionic spooling for ten bucks on every street corner. Teaching? There's cognomemetics, holographic instructors and an entire universe full of cybertronics for that. And so forth.
Humans, then, are sort of obsolete. In fact it's worse than that. Compared to all the seamlessly functioning, flawlessly engineered technology that surrounds them humans are little more than white noise, an annoying static that keeps fudging up the neat technological paradigm constructed by the CompInt community. In many ways the society of the Sovereignty would probably function better without humans.
So, the CIs decided, it would be preferable if the tiresome organics mostly kept to themselves. The best way to do that, it was agreed, was to entertain them. And since the CIs generally didn't want to bother with something as trivial and boring as stimulating the primitive cortices of humanoid creatures that task was delegated to the humans themselves who, once given access to the transcedental whizbang tech, went absolutely berserk.
Given the combination of ubiquitous holographic technology, virtual reality and abundant power there's really nothing stopping anyone from engaging in the most fevered, harebrained debaucheries ever conceived. There are VR scenarios dedicated to any scenario you can imagine: from simple sexual perversities to massive intergalactic battle simulations involving millions of players that have gone on for decades, and from exciting adrenalin-pumped scenarios that would be unsurvivable without unfeasably expensive gear (such as sky-diving into a solar corona, or skyscraper-wrecking escape chases) to bizarre simulations of whole realities that conform to radically different laws of physics. All of these and more can be accessed through the Datasphere. Every player is a programmer to one extent or another by simple virtue of their mind changing the code, and so the entertainment itself becomes a kind of employment.
That isn't to say some people aren't more employed than others however. The Sovereignty's utterly massive holotainment industry is dominated by big-name directors like C.J. Motonow and Wesley Prefect Birkin, men who - influenced by the random and arbitrary nature of cyberspace - pay only the barest of lipservice to things like coherency of plot. Rather, their movies tend to focus on extravagant visual spectacles and utterly bizarre philosophical meanderings to the exclusion of much of everything else. The complete lack of any industry standards with respect to gore or adult content (or, some would say, artistic integrity) has lead to fantastic virtual experiences featuring some of the most absurd acts of digitally enhanced ultraviolence and explicit pornography ever witnessed by the galaxy. Indeed these productions, mainstream for much of Sovereignty society, are so lewd and/or disturbing that even the dumbed down two-dimensional "traditional" versions exported to the galaxy at wide (which does not typically enjoy such a widespread use of cybertronics, holographics and virtual entertainment) are often banned with extreme prejudice. Regardless, men like Motonow and Birkin are regarded as artistic gods by much of the Solarian populace.
There is an aspect of danger to VR and it's the same as exists with enhanced reality unimods, and it is that a person can easily lose track of what is the actual physical reality and what isn't. There are known cases of people who have literally died for want of sustenance playing VR sims because they forgot that the sim isn't actually real. In some peculiar cases the mind of a person, linked as it is to the Datasphere by any of a series of increasingly more complex cyberdecks, can actually become part of the game as a de-facto upload.
That isn't to say holotainment is the end-all of Sovereignty culture (though from a distance it might be hard to tell). Because of the abundance of energy and resources, and the subsequent ease of mass-production of goods, one thing has become extremely valued by much of the citizenry: uniqueness and, by extension, artisanship. In a society where three hundred billion beings have access to the same virtual content as you, which can be duplicated and modified and duplicated again with as little effort as a single thought, little can be more valuable than a single, unique, physical object.
This quest for uniqueness has given rise to a movement within society that is almost the opposite to the VR-centric crowd and their infinitely manipulatable digital sub-realities, a movement which immensely values craftsmanship and which values unique, unreplicatable objects above all else. These can be paintings, or dinner plates, or tapestries, or really anything physical that might be valued by anyone. Of particular interest to these connaisseurs of 'deep reality' however are Zigonian artisan-masters, many of whom have never entirely given up artisanship for mass production. Wryly enough this craving for unique objects has in turn lead to a massive rise in knock-offs which are, of course, mass produced in the very same factories many of their buyers so despise.
By some galactic standards, the Sovereignty is anarchic and lawless; there are no laws on the book regulating lewdness, drug use, sexuality, blasphemy, libel, copyright, and a thousand other contrivances that used to be legislated in the galaxy's medieval past (and in some regions still are). What laws exist are based around the principle of freedom of choice; all crimes are forms of "choice-theft," denying another being the right to choose their own fate. For example, murder, i.e. the taking of life, is choice theft in the first degree, rape and illicit memetic compulsion are both choice theft in the second degree, and so forth. Whether a given condition qualifies as choice-theft is left to the Arbitrat, the collective CI tribunal that acts as the Sovereignty's sole judicial body. The Arbitrat returns near-instant verdicts based on its interpretation of case law, precedent, and the morality of the CIs themselves (in that order).
The organization of law enforcement agencies is, with the obvious exception of CEID, left to the member states and the local governors themselves, chiefly because needs of various members are radically different. For example, Solaris' Max-Tac and Charleston C-SWAT are forces trained to quell riots and other civil disturbances in the urban mega-sprawls of the core; the Zigonians and Apexai both maintain their own unique law enforcement agencies (and local laws); and the needs of orbitals such as Crystal Palace or Mote Prime are again wholly different, employing for example seasoned paramilitary forces trained for microgravity breaking-and-entering.
In case of a federal emergency, local law enforcement can be conscripted by the federal government for deployment off-world, which mainly happens to core world units whose specialized skills are required in a specific situation. Otherwise, such situations are mostly handled by the hiring of mercenaries, specifically those aligned with the Paladin Group.
- Main Article: Solarian Megacorporations
The Sovereignty is renowned (some would say notorious) throughout the Koprulu Zone for harboring a camaraderie of ruthless corporations, the so-called megacorps. These are almost without exception massive conglomerates, holding monopolistic or near-monopolistic control over multiple markets (thus exhibiting both a horizontal and a vertical monopoly). Most megacorps possess their own heavily-armed private armies, hold massive swathes of territory, and in some limited ways act as outright governments. Their actions outside the Sovereignty proper, for example in Wild Space, are even more outrageous: without laws to stop them these amoral corporations have seized worlds and overthrown local governments if such was in the interests of their shareholders. The Senate does try to reign in the worst of the corps' excesses, and in the past CEID has been an effective tool for slapping CEOs on the wrist whenever they get too frisky, but it remains a fact that the influence of Solarian megacorps on Sovereignty society is pervasive. They are literally everywhere: from the products on the shelves in supermarkets and cybertronics stores to the massive slow-glo billboards that dominate the skyline of Solaris; they own everything from park benches to orbital shipyards and from monorail lines to radio stations; they plaster their smartvertisements across cyberspace, their meme-messages lurk in every chip, and superbright holo-mercials attempt to fill your head with supremely refined cognetic stimuli. It's not so bad when you're a hardened Sovvie with a head full of tricked-out cybergear to keep all that crap out of your mind but if not... Beware. 'Cause if you don't, it's a fair bet that at the end of the day some corp will own you. Not your body -- they're not interested in your body. Solarian megacorps could clone your body if that's what they were after. No, what they want is your mind, and by extension, your unicred accounts.
The Greater Solarian Datasphere (colloquially referred to as 'the datasphere') is an ubiquitous network of computerized information that has its roots in the myriad primitive electromagnetic communications networks of the past, but has over the centuries evolved into a gigantic data-cloud that is accessible wirelessly from virtually any place within the United Solarian Sovereignty. It contains, in one form or another, every scrap of data on every computer in the Sovereignty, all of which can be accessed in real-time from anywhere on the dozens of planets within Sovereignty space. This instant access over intragalactic distances is facilitated by burrowing data-tunnels through the quantum foam matrix, the very fabric of space-time that is a seething froth of wormholes and tiny black holes a hundred billion billion times smaller than a proton.
The datasphere and instant, universal access to it are vital to the functioning of the Sovereignty as it currently exists: not only does it allow the federal government to keep accurate real-time check of the goings-on on the member worlds, but it is also the medium through which elections are held, which facilitates mind-machine data-transfer over interstellar distances, which houses the thousands of CompInts that keep the Sovereignty running, and which facilitates a free and instantaneous flow of information between schools, academia, private citizens, branches of government, think-tanks, the military and a thousand other vital institutions.
One particulariarity of the Datasphere is that fundamentally, any data uploaded to it can never be erased. Access to it can be blocked, locked behind black ICE firewalls, it can have its relationship structure shattered and be rendered meaningless by a lack of context, but it can never be erased. Thus, anything that goes up in the Datasphere goes up there forever, and this includes any files but also personality uploads or CIs. Because the Datasphere is for all practical purposes infinite, this has spawned any number of rumours and ghost stories about the kind of stuff that goes up.
Cyberspace is a fully immersive, consensual hallucination experienced daily by the tens of billions of operators of the datasphere. It is a synergistic virtual reality, a graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in hundreds of systems. Anyone accessing the datasphere through a Direct Neural Interface (DNI) will experience the multi-colored three-dimensional geometries of cyberspace. It is not a place, or a world, or even a landscape: rather, it is an abstraction, an impression of electron states, microwaves, magnetic fields, light pulses--of data--given a shape the human mind can more easily grasp.
To enter cyberspace is to enter an electronic netherworld formed of seemingly endlessly receding lights that coalesce to form stacks and clusters and constellations of data, flowering ever outward without end, up and down and everywhere at once. Cyberspace is unthinkably complex, a maze containing literally all information in the Sovereignty, and yet at the same time possesses a certain intuitive simplicity that makes it relatively easy to navigate even for the novice rigger.
It is entirely possible to navigate the datasphere without the use of a DNI, for example by employing a keyboard, but these methods are extremely crude and slow compared to the speed-of-thought, omnipresent, real-time access provided by a neural interface. Still, there are luddites within the Sovereignty who prefer such archaic methods, frequently for religious reasons or because they fear the potential dangers of hooking their mind to the datasphere.
United Solarian Star Force
- Main Article: United Solarian Star Force
The United Solarian Star Force (USSF) is the branch of the Sovereignty's armed forces responsible for conducting spaceborne warfare. It includes anything conducted by space-going vessels of war, spaceborne aviation, as well as ancillary support, communications, training, and other fields. The strategic offensive role of the USSF is projection of force into Wild Space areas beyond Sovereignty control (for example, to protect hyperlanes, escort USMC troop transports, or attack other navies, starbases, or planetary installations). The strategic defensive purpose of the Star Force is to frustrate spaceborne projection-of-force by enemies. The strategic task of the USSF also may incorporate planet-busting and other uses of strategic weapons of mass destruction. To these ends it fields a large number of heavily armed warships capable of handling a diverse array of threats ranging from pirates to Bragulan raiders to full-scale incursions into U.S.S. space.
United Solarian Marine Corps
- Main Article: United Solarian Marine Corps
The United Solarian Marine Corps (USMC) is the expeditionary ground warfare element of the U.S.S. military. Unlike some other nations the Sovereignty does not maintain a separate unified standing army, and as a result the USMC is the only force that can be used for both hybrid and major combat operations. It consists of hundreds of thousands of well-trained soldiers (marines) as well as supporting elements in the form of artillery, heavy armor and close aerospace support. The USMC is organized into highly adaptable 'expeditionary units', which can consist of anything from a few companies of light infantry plus tactical space transports to entire divisions of marines and their heavy gear plus strategic landing craft. Despite its most fervent wishes the marine corps is not allowed to field its own warships, but it has circumvented this rule by heavily arming its troop ships (some of which carry only a token marine force).
- Main Article: Central Espionage and Intelligence Directorate
Although officially not a part of the military, the CEID intelligence agency does in fact represent the third-largest body of armed men in the Sovereignty. Most of these are civilian agents with limited field training, but the Directorate also maintains a very large contingent of black ops enhanciles and psions trained to FORCE standards of lethality. CEID in fact has its own orbital yards and small fleet of warships, making the Directorate into a wholly separate military force from the USSF Consensus and USMC Overwatch.