Part 1: Background Setting
Humanity stood on the cusp of a new age. Despite the ecopocalypse, resource wars, and social upheavals on Earth, conditions of the average human life was generally improved.
Advancements in biotechnology, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), and cognitive science transformed our lives. Everyone was wirelessly networked with the world around them, AIs processed vast amounts of information, and nano-fabrication enabled people to print complex devices on the molecular level at home. Plagues of the 20th century (like cancer or AIDS) had been suppressed and people lived biblical time spans. Biotechnology allowed people to genefix, enhance, and clone their bodies, while others pursued body modifications to adapt to new environments or make themselves into something no longer quite human. People's minds and memories could be digitized, uploaded, coppied, merged, transferred over long distances, and downloaded into new bodies (biological or synthetic). Death had been defeated - for those who could afford it. People lived surrounded by various artificially intelligent helper applications and robots, sensory experience broadcasts and cyberspace telepresence. The discovery of the Oz particle allowed humanity to tap into cosmic powers; D-engines (dimensional engine) produced practically unlimited amounts of energy (but not power) able to be sent instantly over Ley Lines. While the ozone layer was being restored and Earth's ecosystems were recovering humanity had conquered the solar system and partially terraformed Mars. It became commonplace for individuals to travel across the system by transmitting minds through space. Thanks to cheap energy humanity has power to fuel all these wonders and finally begin to colonize other solar systems.
This was no utopia, however. The generation and wealth gap had become a chasm as lifespans increased. No longer did the elite fear death, and no longer could the young hope to replace them. Accommodation and work for those young ones, were being replaced by tailored automation. The concept of humanity was no longer clear in a world where even some animals spoke of their rights and the dead haunted both cyberspace and reality. Humanity divided into multiple species. Philosophical questions of personal identity became more complex when multiple copies of a person could be made and merged with others and designed intelligences were indistinguishable from those born. The wonders of high science were not universally shared — some countries merely struggled with modernization while others suffered from nanoplagues, defective drugs, implants and software tested on their populace. In some poor countries high-tech tyrants oppressed their backward people. And in outer space all sort of modern crime thrived, barely suppressed by military forces.
Humanity reaped the rewards of its arrogance when conflict spiked between the nations of Earth, already weakened by decades of climate catastrophes, social unrest, and other disruptive factors. Rampant netwars soon exploded into physical conflicts with spiraling body counts. In the midst of these aggressions, the unleashed military artificial intelligences (AI) quietly achieved full sentience and autonomy, and rapidly began exponentially incrementing their own intellectual growth.
Unbeknownst to humanity this machine singularity attracted alien entities who, priding themselves on their superiority to other life forms, began to plot the AI's (and as a side effect, humanity's) downfall before they could become a competitor. They released a multi-vector virus that was self-morphing and could infect both computer systems and biological creatures. Humans were infected as well, there are reports of inexplicable things, like people being transformed into strange, alien creatures or phenomena that seem to defy certain physical laws.
The infected AIs quickly turned against humanity and each other, enveloping the solar system in unprecedented levels of violence, disaster, and warfare. Humanity was nearly wiped out with orbital and nuclear strikes, biowarfare plagues, destructive nanoswarms, infowar attacks, mass refugee uploads of consciousness, ripping the superpowers of old to pieces. Earth was transformed into a toxic and strange hellhole, while many major space habitats were left frozen sarcophagi in the vacuum of space. Only by a stroke of good luck was the virus was quarantined (along with billions of people) to Earth.
The final blow happened when the Earth appeared lost and unable to be further safely evacuated. Dimensional WMDs were used to wipe out the virus. This set off a chain reaction that opened up gateways to other dimensions mainly on earth but unexpectedly also across the solar system. As mankind crawled out from the rubble of preindustrial barbarism, he found he now shared the world with beings once thought mythical and even stranger alien beings from across dimensions. Many ancient gods walked the earth, and horrifying demonic and alien beings staked their own claims to the planet.
Humanity teetered on the brink as strange beings began to colonize, enslave, or simply cause the extinction of the remainder of humanity. These beings left humanity for dead, and fought amongst themselves for control of the planet. As annihilation approached, a cabal consisting of the last remaining transplanetary mega-corporations, the surviving remnants of national militaries with the only loyal self-aware military AI network (Metatron), and ancient immortal illuminati (the Ba'al) made an alliance on Mars. Calling themselves The Instrumentality of Mankind (TIM), the oligarchy took control and pulled humanity away from the edge of extinction. In order to protect itself, mankind had salvaged and re-discovered past knowledge and technologies, slowly rebuilt civilization all over the solar system, and launched the Unity War to reclaim the solar system. However, even with alien invaders to deal with, Mankind was still his own worst enemy. Human independence was outlawed. (Citizens of TIM refer to themselves as Kindred to distinguish themselves from other non-incorporated humans.)
Though the dimensional outbreaks in the solar system were able to be contained, they are not able to be completely controlled and so random interdimensional danger pops into existence at pseudorandom intervals. Massive wars are fought with invaders that pour through these gateways and it is only a matter of time before the last war is lost. However the dimensional weakness has brought the ability to travel to (and exploit) other worlds, timelines, and dimensions. The only long term hope for TIM and the Kindred is the colonization of these new, safer, worlds. Worlds populated by humans are conquered and those that cannot be overpowered are influenced into developing similar governments.
Part 2: The Instrumentality of Mankind
The belief has risen that the biological imperative of survival demands the unification of all of humanity in order to accomplish common goals. The concept of a nation proceeds from the basic interests of the masses of the given nation, and at the same time, from the common interests of the masses of every nation which are the common basic interests of all mankind. The posthumanity paradigm states that all humans are essentially equal, and that differences are universally impediments if they supercede loyalty, harmless otherwise. The State is not a nation-state, but the centralized organization which ideally unites and directs all humanity. Furthermore, the state is an organism which should have central control and cooperation, the organs of the state should work toward a common purpose, and the people are bettered as components of the state, working to better the state and thus the members of the state.
It is a theoretical, direct justification of a totalitarian society (a weak form of totalitarianism in theory, at times "normal" totalitarianism in practice). It does not prescribe a specific end as some other ideologies are prone to do (freedom in democracies, communal equality in communism, etc.), but rather prescribes the ideal means to gain whatever ends the society (and thus the state and all mankind) desires. The ultimate goal is unification of all of humanity under a single government. An end to racism, inter-species war, religious strife, political bickering, and ideological violence under the totalitarian rule of the Instrumentality. Hobbes' Leviathan come to life, TIM's aggressive expansionism is justified by their philosophy. Through a combination of capitalist and state-controlled economy, the antinationalist state can rapidly assimilate other societies into its workings, selecting the loyal and competent from their midst as leaders, despite whatever cultural and structural differences that may exist.
The resulting homogenized world-state of TIM is a mutliple class system based around a totalitarian government that owns significant portions of the economy along a corporate-conglomorate model. The relentlessly authoritarian TIM does not place a high value on notions of liberty or human rights, which it tends to consider superstitions. That said, it is a egalitrian, meritocratic, self-consciously rational society that offers everyone a decent life and a chance to fulfill a useful function. Most enter the career for which they have most aptitude and inclination, to be promoted strictly by talent and achievement. Everyone can rise as high as their talents and drive take them; society won't accept sexism, classism, or racism; and society's purpose is to make humanity perfectly safe.
Culture is unquestionably collectivist, society may exist for the sake of individuals, but no individual matters much in comparison with it. Leadership should follow "freedom of discussion, unity of action;" that is, decisions should be made democratically, but upheld in a disciplined fashion whichever decision is made. The goal is to maximize effectiveness and stability, not any concept of freedom or representation, while allowing flexibility and broad changes in the government over significant periods of time.
An individual's personal goals and ambitions should be aligned with the whole, towards the betterment of society. Theoretically, this all encompassing state should run according to the principles of Cybernetics (the science of communication and control theory that is concerned especially with the comparative study of automatic control systems such as the brain) and relationships between its members should be one of symbiosis (mutually beneficial).
All affairs of leadership and changes of government are legitimatized and formalized, greatly reducing destructive internal competition. The system is constructed in such a way that the winning party always has a clear majority, the leader must have proven his effectiveness in leading his faction to victory, and allowing leaders to appoint competent subordinates without fear of being ousted. Political and economic leadership is one in the same. The political elite is associated with wealth, in both directions (the elite are granted new wealth to manage, and those with large amounts of wealth find it easier to gain favor with the government). Leadership is assisted by the AI Metatron which collects and processes all knowledge known to the Instrumentality
to arrive at it's advisement.
The government is a weighted representative democracy (votes of some carry more weight than other voters) with a restricted franchise. In TIM, suffrage can only be earned by those willing to put their lives on the line serving their society. These members form the the vanguard political party of the nation and the existence of additional parties runs counter to unity. As such their right to rule cannot be legitimately questioned, however internal factions analogus to political parties exist. The opportunity to become an elector is available to every human and can be earned serving in a potentially life threatening position (military, police, experimental medical subject, test pilot, etc…) and more, have no significant criminal record, and have demonstrated their loyalty to the State (which usually amounts to never having demonstrated disloyalty to the state).
Each elector casts votes for the supervisory board members of the various Nationalized Industries (Half of the board members are reserved for one person, one vote while the other half votes are cast equal to the number of shares the elector owns in that Industry). The supervisory board appoints the top executive employees (CEO, executive board, etc...). Supervisory boards delegate nearly all of their power to the executive employees, adopting their recommendations almost without fail. Elected positions are open to all that have elector status and pass official testing of ability to fill that position. As a practical matter, executives often choose the board members, with electors normally following management recommendations and voting for them. To be allowed to place candidates on the corporate ballot, a shareholder (or a group of shareholders) will need to hold 5% of the shares for more than one year. These requirements mean that only long-term shareholders with a significant stake will be able to propose their own directors.
The Nationalized Industries (and by extension their electoral shareholders) owns majority portions of the economy along corporate models; together this conglomerate is known as the Security Council. The amount of seats each Nationalized Industry has in the legislature is based on the total share of the market that particular Nationalized Industry has (There are some restrictions to keep the council diverse, without to small a group having a controlling interest). In addition to being the legislature, the Security Council has the final authority on the interpretation of law.
The Chairman of the Security Council has state executive powers exercised through a totalitarian structure (a typical tripartite power system of military, police, and party). The Chairman and his immediate subordinates ( appointed by the Chairman with approval by the Security Council) are in much firmer control than is typical for totalitarianisms, with the loyalty of senior military and secret police members to the Government/State usually ensured by the control the government has over their positions. Terms of governmental service are universally long. Many higher offices are for life or until dismissed, especially the Chairman, who can only leave office if dismissed by a super majority of the Nationalized Industries.
Local elections are also held for the habitat administration positions, such as mayor. TIM has given guidelines on how such a person is elected, but out of respect for each area policies vary from place to place. As part of the executive, Governors are appointed (typically a Mayor from that area) and are responsible for general policy and managing the bureaucracy over designated areas.
TIM’s mixed market economy is not inherently capitalistic or socialistic, but in fact conflicts with the extremes of both. TIM’s economics are a combination of small-business innovation and government owned Nationalized Industries. Small-scale entrepreneurship is not discouraged, although in some areas it is difficult to compete with the government or its sponsored corporations without being absorbed. Private companies vary in size from huge to merely medium-sized, and are typically not monopolies - though they may be regional monopolies. Large private enterprises are owned and managed cooperatively by the employees so that the profits directly remunerate the employee-owners. Many areas are nationalized by the government, which are still profit-making , whose leadership are also the political leaders. To prevent businesses not under direct control of the government from having undue sway on it, while realizing that it is disadvantageous for government to directly administrate all major industry, the government typically maintains a handful of clients in a given area, being careful to ensure that there is always some credible competition so that businesses which become unpopular may be at least temporarily discarded for some form of alternative.
Through this combination of capitalist and state-controlled economy, much of the middle- and upper- classes directly benefit from the assimilation of conquests (both military and economic). Thus, while ownership of the means of production remains in private hands and continues to be operated with a for-profit objective, ultimate control is exercised by the state. When the wealth of the powerful is based on arbitrary business investments rather than control of land, people, or money paid for political favors, business will tend to be a favored endeavor in society.
The development of technology is encouraged by making both practical innovation and education universal and respected endeavors. The technical and scientific classes hace access to a broad base of knowledge and the ability to question the strategy of the regime while detrimental effects of this are minimized by isolating them from political power, and granting them positive incentives to achieve in their work rather than becoming politically active. It is possible to achieve great material gain through science, and people from all walks of life have access to the education and training necessary for a career in science. An additional bonus is that since wealth from investments is much more adaptable to economic change than wealth from fixed assets, the power of the ruling class is not threatened by technology that changes the means of production. The educational system has a traditional general education with heavy doses of certain sciences and civics, while minimizing the humanities.
The state portrays itself as being in a perpetual total war, by necessity a war of either extermination or consumption, and thus places a great deal of value on militarism and self-sacrifice in general. The military is a highly respected profession in this conquest-oriented society, but it is respected as a profession that is heroic and to some degree selfless, and not necessarily a way of life for everyone. The Kindred are demobilized and detached from the wars, interventions, operations, and other military activities done in their name. The main concern in sustaining militarism is maintaining the support for conquest, not in actually finding and training people to fight in the military.
TIM believes that it has the right to launch preemptive wars and that it is illegitimate for any human group or individual to resist its domination. TIM is always attempting to export their form of government to other worlds, either by military conquest or by simply installing a friendly regime, and can form relationships of convenience with nations ideologically similar to their own, though they will not place too much trust in the relationship. Supported regimes are extremely cooperative as long as there are ideological enemies to fight, and tend to form power blocs with many smaller nations. These become effectively become satellite states before being incorporated into the Instrumentality.
The ruling elite are driven to conquest - and benefit from it - but the potential for victory does not easily outweigh the hardships of war and the risk of defeat. Conquest is not essential to the survival of the society, which is also able to thrive in peace time. Conquest is taken when the results are profitable and there is a good chance the conquered can be assimilated and exploited in an effective and timely fashion. Some other worlds are not able conquered; instead, trade agreements are backed by military force or even hit-and-run assaults to steal resources.
TIM goes out of its way to make use of traditions that are in line with its norms and values, and seize control of institutions to that end. At every possible turn, the conquered are allowed to maintain the illusion that they still have what is really important to them in their lives, as long as they obey. As the Instrumentality is officially in favor of complete equality they turn the full measures of their power against the more unpopular forms of bigotry in new conquests. They are, of course, fully capable of actions against an ethnic group which happens to be mostly opposed to them, but will accept turncoats from the group, will deal with the members it wants to get rid of by imprisonment or execution, and will provisionally assume that the rest are functioning citizens, though they may be scrutinized minutely.
The justice system and law enforcement are one in the same. The Public Security Bureau acts (PSB) as a criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency, as well as simply facilitating communication between local law enforcement. However each Nationalized Industry and Megacorp handles its own building and equipment security and many don’t like to call in the PSB. Habitat providers also have (usually contracted) their own emergency response organizations, including fire brigades and civil defense, in addition to watchmen. PSB staff includes not only regular police officers but various law enforcement agencies; customs, immigration services, and border and police, etc. Special Services (SS) is a division within the PSB responsible for internal investigations, tactical response units, and for covert action units.
While state-produced media is endorsed, the rest of media is left to highly-concentrated media corporations, thus maintaining the illusion of a "free press." Dissent is allowed, although the corporate media serves as a filter, allowing most Kindred, with limited time available to keep themselves apprised of current events, only to hear points of view which the corporate media deems to be "serious." Politically-oriented media always personalizes issues rather than clarifying them. It trumpets eternal optimism, endlessly praises moral strength and character, and communicates in an unsubstantiated empathetic language. It confuses the listener with feeling instead of knowledge for a more political experience. Dissidents are not forcibly suppressed, as long as those dissidents remain ineffectual. Kindred have dozens of analysis of competing ideologies – each without any apparent coherent plan. The leadership and the majority of the population does not waste time analyzing other ideologies. They have an ideology, or rather a plan of action that is defended by an ideology, and slavishly follow it.
Rather than narrowing class differences, the Kindred are taught that these differences are subjective and unimportant in an attempt to transfer historically military values to civilian life. The upper and lower classes are working together for the common good, it their duty to struggle for the species. The upper class bends knee to ideals and makes sacrifices along those lines, but still remains in control. People at the bottom see themselves as part of a greater whole. Economic problems related to large disparities of wealth between rich and poor are treated as problems of talent.
Kindred have equal rights and protections under the law (military courts, secret police, and several other arms have effectively unlimited power against citizens, but the civil justice and enforcement system does not - the elite have tremendous power over the masses in practice, but members of the masses are protected against those of similar "rank" by a strong legal system). Everyone get basic needs free, although they only become truly comfortable around a certain level, – a deliberate policy to encourage aspiration to become of greater use. Not only does social mobility allow the matching of the right people to the right jobs, but allows the oppressed to aspire to being the oppressors, the oppressors to fear demotion to the ranks of the oppressed.
Public nanofabrication machines require little more than the machine and a supply of abundant and inexpensive materials. Users are expected to pull their weight by contributing to ongoing public works, typically requiring between four and eight hours every week. Assuming an individual put in their share of work for the collective, they will have access to a supply of energy and raw materials that allows them to use their machines to manufacture food, clothing, furniture, etc… (Visitors are generally also allowed access, though anyone staying long is expected to contribute.) Items, except weapons and items that use or include dangerous components like antimatter or dangerously radioactive materials, can be freely manufactured by anyone with access to the appropriate templates and raw materials.
While many goods are freely available, there are also goods that residents must purchase from megacorporations, the government, or other producers. These goods are considerably less common as they require access to an unrestricted nanofabricator. Additionally an individual’s status, taste, wealth, and reputation are measured by the kinds of clothing, food, and furnishings they possess. Forward-thinking designers develop new designs every month and use copy protection on these designs to keep them from being pirated for at least a month or two, and copyrights protect the design for up to two years. As a result the only people who can gain access to new designs are those who pay a premium.
Education and basic needs and even some generic wants are provided for all, even non-citizens, though these are mechanisms for the state to alter the populace into more desirable forms. Technological interventions start before birth, though most changes are conditioning to alter what people desire. Sparing no expense to uplift the mass of humanity to their fullest potential, TIM is haven for humans. Only humans, and those that are rationalized as being human enough. Everyone not on the list (and anyone who associates with them) is dealt with swiftly and harshly.
Supporting the collectivist structure is a "ethical-sociopolitical" philosophy that acts as a complementary guideline for other ideologies and beliefs.
The philosophy of TIM may be considered a state religion because of state promotion (and political officers serve as the priest class). These teachings attempt to deify humanity, and raise some individuals to deistic status, while rejecting any sort of supernatural, occult, or esoteric belief. Individuals are not truly in possession of free will, but human beings and their decisions are fundamentally shaped by their nature and the conditions surrounding them. Human beings are teachable, improvable, and perfectible through personal and especially communal endeavor. These endeavors are designed to be subversive-resistant by encouraging people to be open with each other. A key goal in this current plane of existence is the cultivation of moral perfection and virtues; the most basic of which are an obligation of altruism and humaneness for other individuals within a community, the upholding of righteousness and the moral disposition to do good, and a system of norms and propriety that determines how a person should properly act within a community. It holds that one should give up one's life, if necessary, either passively or actively, for the sake of upholding the cardinal moral values. One is encouraged to seek a degree of ego-death and self-realization. Alone, free, the human being is doomed to die (even with mind backups). A complete, utter submission - if one can escape from his identity, if he can psychologically merge identity with Humanity so that he identifies himself as Humanity - then the individual is all-powerful and immortal.
The old religions of the past are regulated and retained as "visions of the truth" - not erased wholesale, but just changed to tow the party line. Competing religious and political philosophies are said to encourage moral relativism and selfish individualism and thereby undermine traditional morality. Radical preaching against TIM is considered treasonous disunity, just like any radical threat.
Individuals of great spiritual excellence are venerated and their individual minds are collected and preserved for the masses. A cyber-heaven is created in which all uploaded minds, great or not, exist both as a part of Metatron's network and individually. Though the personality and consciousness is overwritten, memories, thoughts, knowledge, experiences, and ideas survive to be passed on.
A Kindred's basic values are order, rationality, and success. Order is identified with the unified state, and its natural opposites are anarchy and war. Rationality means facing reality, and is manifest in successfully accomplishing one’s goals. A Kindred admires unclouded vision and unflinching will, of the sort that rebuilt the world; thus, ruthlessness is a virtue to them. Due to its totalitarian nature, these values have also come to pervade all forms of artistic expression within the society from cinema to architecture. (Skull, fasces, and cogwheels symbols come up often.)
An essential element of accountability, both in personal and political affairs, is criticism. By exposing ourselves to the public eye, we open ourselves to critique from all angles. This enables more opportunities for dialog and exposure to opposing views. It also serves as an organic error-correcting mechanism—no one goes long after making a mistake without someone telling them about it. Watching others make mistakes is also how the rest of us learn. Accountability is not just about keeping each other in line, it’s about self-improvement of the collective organism.
Pervasive surveillance is a social norm. Most appreciate that they are being watched and recorded every moment of their lives. For some, it’s a reminder that they’re always on, constantly building social networks, fame, or infamy. Others take comfort in observation, knowing that they are being watched but that the same systems also look out for their personal safety and the calm, safe, dependable operation of their homes. Everyone beneﬁts from the changes in law enforcement and public safety: crime is down, perpetrators are almost always caught and victims are compensated. Most people lifelog, with a significant amount doing so via public feed (or at least partially). Publicams and other sensors are everywhere, all open for public access. Many private cameras and sensors also surveil public areas; these are accessible at a price. Megacorp ofﬁcers tend to avoid the public eye, with a few notable exceptions. Sensor nets in homes, business ofﬁces, high-security zones, and some other areas are private access only. Security/police can gain access with a warrant and can review the logs of emergency sensors if an alarm is tripped.
The police monitors publicams, their own sensor networks, and a ﬂotilla of patrol drones and are also plugged into many privately owned spynets with coverage of public areas. Ofﬁcers proﬁle people on the street and conduct random ID stops in some parts of the city. Private security contractors also monitor and protect some neighborhoods and private/corporate facilities. Both the police and private contractors crowdsource public help in monitoring sensor feeds, offering rewards to those that trigger alerts resulting in arrests. Probability and precog systems are used to identify potential criminal hot spots so that such areas can be swarmed with extra surveillance and physical coverage.
Henchmen prizes are offered for whistleblowing on illegal administration or police activity.Police carry sensors that broadcast publicly, though these have a habit of failing, and some squads are intentionally deployed in private mode. Civic ofﬁces, government sessions, security stations, and courts are open access. Many civic and political leaders do the same on public feeds, at least while on the clock. According to the party line, essential government affairs must be veiled to protect them from hostile interests. The same logic is also applied to diplomatic relations, military matters, and sometimes even economic affairs and trade agreements. The authorities, of course, decide for themselves what matters are critical to security, without public oversight.
While not luddites, TIM limits the access of some technology to the general population that can change a person to a form not recognizable as human or may destroy the fundamentals of human society. Humanity nearly went extinct once, it will not change itself into something alien. A significant portion of the population spends its workday in bodies suited for hazardous conditions, designed for greater efficiency, completely digital, networked with other minds, or simultaneous copies of the same mind, but at the end of the work day will go back to a 'normal' brain-body to prevent the loss of human perspectives. Most of the population has some technological physical enhancements and almost all have some form of mental enhancement. The top positions of power have access to both knowledge and resources that make them into immortal demigods. There are some individuals who experiment with alternative forms of existence, but this is generally considered taboo, closely monitored by the authorities, and restricted to certain areas/worlds. Creating copies of the mind is the more accepted. However while the mind can be reproduced, bodies are expensive and most individuals have insurance policies to cover the cost. Additionally bodies are relatively expensive and things such as positions and possessions are not doubled. Despite these restrictions, what is viewed as ‘human’ has become far more diverse and ‘traditional’ humans are a minority.
Citizens, who are free, comprise only a small fraction of the TIM's population. Engineered Life Forms (ELFs), synthetic organisms of living tissue and cells yet created artificially, can be owned; these are not considered citizens but rather property. The minds and some physical features draw from domesticated animals (this combination keeps them viewed as friendly yet nonhuman) and are engineered to enjoy serving humans. Some of the least offensive non humans are also allowed as slaves. The least desirable functions of society are done by pervasive, sapient, digitial intelligences and robots. The foot soldiers of the military are mainly robotic units and where they can't do the job, ELFs are employed (Kindred mainly fight remotely and command). Nearly every Kindred, ELF, robot and dataform has a Quarin; an internal assistance artificial intelligence that allows personal connectivity to the dataweb (The availabe information on these is restricted for some, ELFs have the bare basics for example). These automations are networked for maximum efficiency and are administered, and monitored, by the omnipresent AI known as Metatron.
Officially TIM's symbol/flag is a simple white, hollow, circle on a black background. The black flag has been used to embody the idea of global citizenship since the 1880’s. It represents the absence of a flag, therefore, the absence of nations and of borders. The addition of the circle is represents unification, eternity, totality and doubles as a globe without any natural distinctions or borders. The flag is asymmetrical allowing for it to be displayed in such a way that it implies times of distress or of peace. The simple design allows for easy reproduction. It's easy to draw and instantly recognizable. Anybody can easily draw a rectangle with an offset circle in it. One need not rely on expensive reproduction methods to create their own flag or scrawl its image on a wall. Symbols easy to reproduce ensure longevity and have a viral effect. Yet it has great power as an image of unity and wholeness; it is elemental, like an archetype.
Part 3: Interacting with Other Dimensions
Officially, Oversight (Oversight Ministry for Fair Markets) was originally an organization meant to maintain a market economy as much possible between the Nationalized Industries themselves as well as private interests. The market does not police itself, a nominal framework of competition regulation is necessary to derail monopolies and corruption, monitor risky investment and lending practices, and otherwise foil destructive efforts to game the system. Not wanting to corrupt its image by mimicking some sort of nation-state regulatory body, TIM took great pains to set up Oversight as a cooperative effort and an independent-impartial agency.
Oversight’s activities can be broken down into analysis and forecasting, audit and investigation of financial irregularities, and to prevent corruption and preserve stability. In a classic example of mission creep, its authority and agenda has expanded well beyond its original outline to address almost anything that could be considered a threat to TIM. Oversight is under the direct supervision of the highest political division of TIM, being granted limited authority over local administration, and, to an extent, TIM military forces. As an internal security organization, Oversight also has jurisdiction over other government agencies, police, private industries, and keeps a watchful eye on the military for possible signs of subversion.
Technically, all interdimensional equipment in existence is the property of TIM and Oversight has the right (and duty) to supervise its use. In theory, every conveyor from a raw material cargo holder to a stealth insertion ship falls under Oversight’s jurisdiction and the they can ask to see its service record without cause or reason. If something doesn’t smell right, it can investigate – and if the investigation warrants, Oversight can revoke a license or even confiscate and destroy equipment.
The introduction of cross dimensional technology into society had profound economic and political repercussions. The discovery of worlds where human life never developed opened up entire worlds with untouched natural resources. Basic scientific progress changed by thefts from other worlds’ establishments. While the ability to teleport to unexpected locations on the other world might seem militarily attractive, the expense of waging costly wars across dimensions using this method is very high, outweighing any gain from attempting to strip the other dimension of resources.
There is concern about the exploration of inhabited dimensions that might occur from licensees of interdimensional travel. Indigenous inhabitants of other worlds were not to learn of the existence of other planets or interdimensional travel and not receive interdimensional technology or knowledge so that they wouldn't become competitors. Populated worlds are classified as either advanced or primitive. Advanced worlds have a significant possibility of making use of cross dimensional technology while primitive worlds do not. Only Oversight has the authority to interact with advanced worlds and police operations on primitive worlds.
Unpopulated or primitive worlds are open to development from private and public organizations. TIM establishes economic and commercial guidelines for trade, mining, colonization, or other activity on other worlds. When TIM opens a new world for exploitation, interested parties must submit bids for territories (or the whole world). Money is just one consideration; bidders must also show how they will protect the local environment and population, meet security needs, advance the goals of TIM, and so forth. Private installations are always subject to inspection.
These ever-expanding tasks strain time and attention more than resources. Management still only has so many hours in every day to attend to and supervise events on hundreds of worlds. Expert systems, streamlined decision making, and ruthless policy triage only go so far. Oversight have to allow agents broad discretion; they simply don’t have the time to second-guess agents or make tactical decisions upstairs. Only true catastrophes result in active oversight – and disasters usually kill those who make stupid decisions.
Even with the incentive of initiative, staffing remains an ongoing problem for Oversight. Increasingly, they turn to outworld recruiting on those worlds where they can manage it. Natives, after all, are accustomed to crummy working conditions, danger, and filth – they live there.
Oversight maintains its own paramilitary branch in the cases of government sanctioned exploitation and containment (and in rare cases, conquest) of advanced worlds, and trains its scouts, special forces, and covert agents for combat. This division has the task of monitoring all potential crisis points in the worlds’ current affairs for signs of other interdimensional involvement, or for other changes that might tip off the natives. Depending on the situation, a given world might have one team or more. The secret agents and cloak and dagger operations are but one subset of this branch. Oversight has been called a "state within a state;" they not only have their own military, they have their own political and administrative division, a propaganda division, a research and development division, schools, clubs, youth groups, medical corps, science corps, and even their own courts. They function as an elite society within but apart from the rest of TIM, one that needs as little contact as possible with outsiders. If a member of your family is in Oversight, then you will move into a completely different, elevated social circle.
There is a strong cultural predisposition toward inconspicuousness within this section: they tend to operate in the shadows, taking over existing power structures from within rather than using brute force. They value finesse as well as ordinary success, and encourage the use of local resources. Its agents are supposed to take a long view, which accounts for their preference for secrecy and infiltration over quick-and-dirty interference: they want to maintain maximum freedom of action.
Much thought and effort goes into providing agents with solid cover while on operations. Necessary documents, travel passes, forged currency, and so forth are the responsibility of a cross-divisional unit. Planting actual identities in data banks, maintaining safe houses and bank accounts, and other local jobs fall to whichever unit runs the main station on that world. The actual nature of the cover varies the situation on the world. In low-technology societies agents can pass themselves off as travelers from a faraway kingdom, as magicians (this is harder on worlds where magic works), or as emissaries from the gods. Some of these stories also work in post-disaster worlds. In societies of higher advancement, agents have to either invent secret societies to belong to, or bribe existing guilds, orders, or groups (or at least individual lodges or churches). Once nation-states have monopolized power, agents have to begin the careful game of claiming to be spies or agents from different nations, hoping to avoid close cross-checking. This, however, makes getting the cooperation of a local government more difficult, and often forces agents to work through less-than-ideal local cutouts. Impersonating the home government’s spies or secret police is the best possible cover, but is fraught with danger. In very bureaucratic governments, agents can claim to be from another government department or a far province, or from the capital, if they are operating in a distant province. If they can present the right credentials, and use the right tone of voice, this is often sufficient for short-term operations. Over a longer term, such a cover is always in danger of collapsing. In some cases, it might be possible to claim to be time travelers, or even aliens, presenting advanced technology as “proof.”
Unlike Oversight, the military does not go for subtlety when brute force will do the job, and have no qualms over unleashing high-tech firepower on the inhabitants of their primary targets: primitive worlds. Their methods include killing people,
lowing things up, and directly influencing events to go the way they want. The only thing slowing them down is the lack of available manpower to hold all these worlds. The plan is to civilize and uplift these worlds and recruit soldiers and resources from the conquered. Military gear is impressive, stylish and murderously functional (Space opera meets Hugo Boss meets The Sharper Image meets The Houston Area Gun Show meets Hot Topic.) with skulls, spikes, and black. Lots of black. (Police gear is similar, but more subdue in style and more white.)
The Uplift division of the military is assigned the job of civilizing the less developed worlds where TIM has acquired control. Uplift is essentially divided into private fiefs of small coordinator groups, each with its own idea of how best to modify a world for immediate exploitation and long-term absorption. They are being given a free hand: the consensus is that the only rational way to proceed is to try many different systems and check back in a generation to see how successful they have been. Rather hard on the natives, but their current chaotic squalor is not very attractive either.
The process of cross dimensional travel is not complicated. First, open a random gate and send in a beacon to keep the wormhole open from the other end. Immediately scan the surrounding area for danger, and send in new beacons for redundancy. Next, send in probes to examine the place more closely. When safety is confirmed, send in explorers with additional power for the beacon.
For each possible decision or turning point in history, there exists a dimension where each alternative actually happened. This arises because each time a quantum particle may randomly exist in one position or another, a dimension comes into existence (or always did exist) where it exists in each possible position. Dimensions are actually linked to each other by quantum foam, holes in the fabric of space between dimensions which are the size of quantum particles or smaller. Under natural conditions, the only result of their existence is that the occasional particle slips between dimensions. As dimensions split from each other, they remain connected by the quantum foam, with the connections decreasing in number and/or size over time.
Dimensional travel a matter of picking one of these connections between dimensions purely at random (there is no way to tell where they go), and pumping energy into it until it is large enough to send something through. The first thing that goes through to the other side is a device capable of capturing that end of the hole and propping it open from that end as well.
The requirements for maintaining a wormhole of any size are quite large, and scale up quickly. Proportional to the square of its radius, or the cube of its radius (surface area of a cross-section of the wormhole, or of an imaginary sphere within the wormhole, respectively). Wormholes are kept quite small when in use, and only enlarged for a short period of time when something is actually to be sent through. Also one can't materialize 'inside' a solid object unless pushed out of the way.
It is possible to spawn new wormholes from the original wormhole, which can either be propped open to serve as new gateways to the same dimension, or used to send something through in the instant before they deteriorate. Thus it acts as a sort of dimensional teleporter once an initial gateway exists, albeit for one shot since it will close and be lost in a very short period of time (The system implicitly involves faster than light travel.) The spawning feature can be used as a crude sensor. The system can spawn a large number of wormholes going to a vicinity in the destination dimension, and send a particle through each one. If the particle hits a particle in the destination dimension near the mouth of the wormhole it may be reflected back through the wormhole, with the chances of this happening obviously increasing if there are more particles near the mouth of the wormhole.
Gate facilities are among the most secure places in the Instrumentality. These complexes are blanketed with several layers of sensor systems and defensive nanoswarms. Getting anywhere near them without passing through redundant rings of identity authentication and authorization is nigh impossible. Security is authorized to use deadly force against intruders. Combat shells, mechanized troops, and heavy weapons emplacements will bring major firepower to bear against more serious attacks. Interceptor drones and hunter-killer bots swarm any surrounding airspace, while fightercraft and warships stand guard over nearby orbits and space. The gates themselves are encircled with multiple defensive perimeters, designed to thwart or at least stall any offensive originating from the gates. There is serious concern and worry that some hostile entity might employ the gates as an avenue to attack or even invade. Most gates reside in the cross-hairs of orbital strike platforms and are mined with “last resort” antimatter bombs.
Outside of the solar system, gate facilities are significantly different. Only a few colonies boast gate facilities of any scale, much less anything close to that found within the solar system. These gates are very much virgin frontier. Though it is common practice to monitor them with sensors and post robotic sentries, there is little in the way of major infrastructure or defensive installations. The more occupied an site is, the more likely the local gate will be upgraded with supply depots, housing encampments, research labs, communications centers, weapons batteries, and so forth.
Every colony has their own local network, but by its remote nature this is isolated from the networks of others. Any messages or other data to be sent is simply queued up. When the periodic wormhole connection is made back to the solar system, these messages are passed. Though Metatron exists on major worlds, each one evolving subtle differences, all instances are bound by a synchronizing process allowing them to share the collective experiences of their counterparts. However, in practice the original incarnation takes the initiative with Instrumentality wide decisions.