Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant
Consider Faderan Time scales.
You can clearly see a suited Faderan teaching history, holding a stylus that casually disregards the laws of physics. They're pointing to a map of the galaxy where a huge empire occupies nearly half the space, and a single marked star stands apart. To the left is text.
If you look very closely, you'll find that the text is in English. It reads as follows:
30 MYA: (millions of years ago)
- DAWN AGE
- AGE OF COOPERATION
- AGE OF STRIFE
- THE INFANTICIDE
- AGE OF RECOVERY
- GOLDEN AGE
- THE FALL
30 MYA - PRESENT
- THE FADING
- 28 MYA THE CIRCLE
- 19 MYA AGE OF STAR AND EMPIRE
Let's do a quick whirlwind tour through those ages.
Dawn Age, Age of Cooperation, Age of Strife
The new civilization reaches to the stars, gets along with folk, and then a galaxy-spanning war starts. The Faderan have almost no records from these early periods, and what little they have is distorted by propaganda from later ages. Notably, there's no record of first contact with aliens at all, suggesting that it was intentionally expunged by some Faderan civilization, who themselves have been forgotten in time.
The Faderan believe that they were a minor power in the Age of Strife, at least at first. Eventually, the major powers died, and their prominence rose by default.
This part of history was also subject to propaganda and historical revisionism, but this is the best current reconstruction:
At this point, the Faderan and their allies represented one side of the war, and an array of civilizations that specialized in uplifting sub-sapient life to full sapience were the other side. The opponents engaged in guerrilla warfare from within Faderan held territory by uplifting and arming every species they could find. In response, the early Faderan went to every world in turn and wiped out all species that were near-sapience, to deny the uplifters the resources they needed to continue. Such destruction was done in haste, but those Faderan sought to destroy only what they needed. Still, if they had found Earth as it is today, they would probably have wiped out all chordates.
In the end, the Faderan were sole rulers of a ruined galaxy.
Age of Recovery
A thousand year period followed where the early Faderan came to terms with what they did and refocused their society as far from war as they could manage.
The galaxy was colonized by Faderan, and they began crafting the first wonders. Ringworlds were made to house ever more people, and hyperspace was rearranged to their tastes. This wasn't even remotely the heights of Faderan technology, but it would be the last time the entire galaxy was controlled by them simultaneously. Relics from this period are incredibly highly valued, but are never functional. The Faderan of the Golden Age didn't build to last, and ultimately their grand monuments all unraveled.
The end of the Golden Age. Faderan civilization slowly collapsed downward until nothing was left but small isolated colonies. A surprisingly non-violent period, as the Faderan had no interest in fighting themselves, given their ugly history.
Everything the Faderan have ever created crumbled and turned to dust. No civilizations lasted. No monuments lasted. The hopelessness of ever leaving a lasting impact on a galaxy they had themselves ruined left its mark on all future Faderan civilizations.
The Fading continues. Throughout history, Faderan enclaves would rise into full civilizations, screaming for relevancy and striking against the Fading for a brief time.
The history of the Fading is a jumbled mess, as different civilizations had their own calendars and could exist simultaneously in different parts of the galaxy without ever meeting. Still, two ages stand out: The Circle, and the Age of Star and Empire.
Two million years later (twenty-eight million years ago), the Circle was a powerful civilization that held the galactic core. They created huge self-maintaining megastructures: ringworlds and Dyson spheres, not as places to live but as museums and monuments to their glory. In the end, most of their megastructures were destroyed by nearby supernovae, and many were simply never finished. One is much more likely to find the shattered remnants of part of a ringworld drifting between stars than to ever find an intact megastructure.
Age of Star and Empire
Sometimes referred to as the second golden age. By this point, the Faderan had lived in the Fading for five million years. The Age of Star and Empire was by far the most successful strike against the Fading, both in its longevity, and in its lasting impact on the galaxy.
In the Faderan picture, the map is a map of Star and Empire. Star was a single star system (or possibly a small alliance of systems) that stood against a huge Empire during this period. The details of this relationship are long lost, but the apparent antagonism was unusually stable. That said, the original names of Star and Empire are long lost (hence the name of the age).
The first huge impact of Empire was the release of their AIs, allowing them to explore the galaxy and build civilizations of their own. (The origin of those AIs isn't known, but they were probably a mix of created minds and uploaded Faderan). The AIs spent the better part of a million years expanding and exploring, long outlasting Star and Empire. During this period a world orbiting a stable red dwarf was computerized to house the more creative AIs who played as gods over simulated universes. To distinguish that planet from the panoply of the galaxy, it was named “One”, or “Singular”. Over time, more and more AIs settled there, until there were almost no free AIs elsewhere in the galaxy. Unity
The second impact of Empire was, if anything, far greater. To strike their greatest blow against the Fading, they created a new species whole cloth. They gifted them with the genetic understanding of technology so they would never fall below space travel, and the ability to thrive in microgravity so the ground-dwelling civilizations would never compete with them. Their society was forged at a genetic level to make them a perfect match to any Faderan civilization -- complementing each other and ensuring that those civilizations could stand the test of time. Finally, the Faderan granted the Im'dril what they saw as the greatest gift of all: the ability to forget. The Im'dril were made to lose their history, so would not be crushed by the weight of the horrors of the past, or the depthless eternity of the future.
It is unfortunate that the Age of Star and Empire came to a bloody end, as the Im'dril were left traveling the stars without ever realizing that half their economy had died long ago.
The Faderan Conclave is merely one of many surviving enclaves. Indeed, there may currently be another Faderan civilization in some other part of the galaxy. Enclaves are, in principle, civilization seeds. They survive for many thousands of years as individual worlds, before briefly blooming into a civilization, which in turn drops more seeds. The most recent civilization was some tens of thousands of years ago and was created for the sole purpose of having sufficient industry to manufacture the suits the Faderan now wear, which make them nearly invincible.
The world itself is obviously terraformed and modified by some past civilization. Life there shares no common ancestor and is clearly modified to be as beautiful as possible. The forests glow iridescent blues and violets at night. The few cities are built into the landforms seamlessly.
Faderan culture is comprised of organizations that focus on various topics for entertainment, essentially clubs, some more exclusive than others. They have a fully post-shortage economy, as their self-maintaining infrastructure supports them. While they are arguably masters of their technology, the Faderan do not understand it. They certainly know that it is not magic, but even the simplest tool would take lifetimes to research and understand, so they do not bother to understand it. If the last one of a kind breaks, they will build a new civilization to make more.
The Faderan are not technically one species. Thirty million years of on-and-off genetic modification has left them all genetically unique and incapable of natural reproduction with each other. That said, they still have three working baby machines, and those interested in raising a family more naturally can always opt for an artisanal baby.
They don't call themselves “Faderan”. They made up that name for the other species specifically to sound like “Federation Builder”.
A stylized phoenix rising from fire. Except, if you look closely, you'll notice that the “fire” disk is physically behind the golden “phoenix” disk, representing the Faderan's hidden depths. The red is not so much fire red, as blood-red.
Archaic Automated Support Network
The Faderan are supported by a slew of self-maintaining machines that mine their solar system for resources and, frequently, follow their commands using a long dead language. The upper-right depicts a map of the Faderan solar system and the resource transfer routes. Along the bottom is various robotic elements of the network. With the advent of Singularity Control or Hyperspace Mining, the Faderan will know enough to be able to fully master the network, domesticating it.
The unnaturally diverse life of the Faderan world can be a valuable source of materials, and an even greater source of biotechnology. Top-right is a picture of a lizard-tapir. Bottom-right is a snake-bird. Bottom-left a three-legged Hercules beetle. The animals are as different as possible to showcase their lack of a common ancestor.
With access to the tools of the past (Genetic Engineering or Clinical Immortality), the Faderan are able to reshape their natural world once again.
Despite being designed to last forever, and thus having no user serviceable parts, Faderan relics do break. Rebuilding them to perform some task, even if it's not the original intent, makes up a good chunk of the Faderan economy; outside of what their support network handles, which is most of it. Lower-left is a picture of a relic creating a microsingularity. At the upper-right, the control system has been removed and replaced with a bundle of wires, and the previously hand-held device now supports of singularity reactor.
With the advent of Achronal Analysis or Antimatter Power, the Faderan gain the ability to build their own small relics without needing to first construct a hundred-world civilization.
The Faderan have tried every possible government, and seen every possible outcome of any decision they could conceivably face. Their “government” is a “book” that contains the answers to any question of policy. Indeed, even if you find something the “book” doesn't cover, it will tell you how to form a committee or government to solve the problem, and even how to keep them motivated and effective. That said, the “book” fails to explain how to build the Confluence. As such, its keepers spend much of their time interpreting it, and sometimes editing it as they learn more of the consequences of their choices.
The picture at the top is the building that houses the “book”. The lower-left is a flow chart, representing a tiny piece of the “book”.
With the invention of Cross Species Ethical Equality or Interspecies Medical Exchange, the Faderan can replace their old system of government with a new Interspecies Capital suitable for the Confluence as a whole. Given their role as gatekeepers of the capital, this gives the Faderan quite a bit of power when it comes to deciding who gets a voice.
Faderan search for signs of relics on ice worlds because they are relatively good at preserving the deep past. That said, sometimes the found relics destroy the world, and other times they are the world.
Relic worlds cost culture to uncover and understand, as trying to fathom their technology is largely hopeless.
About a third of a broken ringworld, discovered frozen between stars. The name, “Thil”, comes from the stele that was discovered that gave directions to the demiring. Whether “Thil” is the name of its discoverer, or an acronym for the organization that found it, is unknown.
The ringworld dates back to the Circle, and as such is mostly a frozen museum. With effort (mostly electricity to heat it, and information to understand it), relics from the ancient past can be recovered.
The ruins of Star (from the era of Star and Empire), finally found. This represents an incredible boon to the Faderan and their history. While it's an amazing archeological site, none of the surviving relics continue to function.
The picture is of some of the ruins, standing precariously after having mostly crumbled away.
Contextual Integrator Cache
A giant underground computer and memory complex dedicated to streamlining the process of developing new discoveries.
The Grand Armilla
A huge armillary sphere containing an extremely accurate map of the galaxy. The map takes a great deal of time to search through, but is an amazing boon when it comes to discovering cognizable worlds, and relics that can be used as seed ideas for new research. This is represented by it creating ships, although they're better thought of as “metaphors for ships”, since it's all of the exploration without actually going anywhere.
Exactly what it says on the tin. The picture is of a world with relic caches pointed out.
A machine for quickly terraforming worlds into their ideal state. Unfortunately, it leaves the world temporarily uninhabitable while it operates. Still, making the most important worlds of the growing Confluence has significant long-term social impact.
The line art on this card is missing, but it was supposed to be a crater field turning into a forest.
Barian Trade Armada
A broken fleet of trade ships cluttering a star system from the Faderan civilization named “Baria”, created less than a million years ago. An incredible windfall for anyone lucky enough to find it, but not worth much once it's been thoroughly plundered.
A huge library of knowledge built by some long dead Faderan civilization that sought to ensure that the great would bring up the weak. The library somehow knows its “owner” and refuses to be of any use to them, instead demanding to be opened to other peoples.
A massive “wheel” that grinds up whole planets, producing a swift windfall of resources (at a horribly inefficient rate). When activated, it teleports to the nearest habitable, but uninhabited, world and consumes it. The grindstone was probably created by a civilization as an intentional temptation, either to teach future generations to avoid such temptations, or in an attempt to slowly destroy the galaxy in a way that would be remembered for all time. Regardless, activating it doesn't exactly result in good relations with the other aliens.
Automated Transport Network
A network of worlds linked by gates on the surface. The picture is one such gate, standing in a dune field. A city can be seen through it.
Gift of the Duruntai
Another relic created to make some statement or teach some lesson to future peoples. The Gift is a surprisingly small box that grants great fortune on anyone who freely gives it away to another. How it manages to do this is entirely unknown.
A huge orbital installation that takes high-value finished goods, generally starships, and dismantles them into their constituent parts. Improbably, it manages to produce substantially more material, and of higher value, than went into the ships.
An atomic nucleus with a single additional nucleon being moved into position.
Faderan DNA on the left (with protected telomeres). On the right is cell division: the nucleus dissolves its wall, then the genetic material is split between the two cells. Finally, each cell creates a new nucleus.
Faderan (in a suit) on the left, DNA on the right, and chromosomes at the top.
A nanomachine at the top of the card, and two nanomachines working together to build something at the bottom. The marked big thing at the back of the nanomachines is the battery.
An image of such a computer, with the bottom is a row of bits (zeroes and ones) where some of the bits are in a superposition of zero and one.
Ubiquitous Cultural Repository
A picture of the Faderan world. The land is clearly untouched by continental drift, and the poles are heavily cratered (scars from terraforming). The network links the few cities of the world.
Is the same art for all versions of the card, mixing the written languages of all nine species.
The top is a picture of two computers linked by an achronal device (or the same computer linked to itself). The bottom depicts a string of ones and zeroes where a later block was transposed over an early one, moving the information back in time.
The upper-right side of the card has a picture of a methane atom where two of the hydrogens have been replaced with positronium.
Cross Species Ethical Equality
Top depicts Faderan history in a nutshell: first a column (representing civilization), then the column develops a crack (dying), then it crumbles (leaving remnants). Next is a pile of rubble (as the remnants themselves decay). Finally, a dash, representing nothing.
Below is how the Faderan see themselves. Two Faderan hold up a pillar (again, civilization, this time the Confluence). Below they come from a broken thing that represents the sins of their past.
An industrial space folding device which is pulling resources out of hyperspace.
Interspecies Medical Exchange
Three Faderan. Left most depicts their neural network. It's centered on the brain and spinal column, but there's localized dendrites supporting each hand. Middle is the digestive tract: an esophagus leading to a chain of three stomachs, links to a small intestine and then a large intestine that loops around. Right is the respiratory system: nasal and mouth airways that lead to two separate trachea, each with its own lung. The lungs are then cross linked (so a blockage in a single trachea won't interfere with breathing).
An organic Faderan building, with the left side as cross-section of an organic wall.
Depicts a singularity in a containment system, being powered (and spun up) by a stream of matter.
Galactic Telecomm Control
Top is a diagram of that network linking stars, bottom is a picture of a transmission array.
Top right is a waveform generator, top left some sort of gizmo, and at the bottom a device beaming matter into existence.
An orbital structure.
Poly Species Corporations
A corporate structure diagram. Kjasjavikalimm and Paths are in the position of leadership due to their organizational skills; Faderan and Words take on an advisory role due to their emotional and ethical understanding; Caylion, Zeth, and Unity are in middle management due to their ability to coordinate many things (and people) at once; Kt'Zr'Kt'Rtl and Words make up the research and development teams, while Im'dril, Faderan, and Mules make up the bulk of the rest of the work force.
Lower left is the Faderan world. Lower-right is a colony ship. (Actually, this is the old ship design from 'Trade Empires', before I redesigned their ships as a set of floating components around a ball of plasma.)
Various temporal manipulation devices, designed to evoke snowflakes “freezing time”.
Xeno Cultural Exchange
Various artifacts from the many clubs (and interests) of the Faderan. Top left is a paintbrush, top middle a telescope supported on a ball of light. Bottom-left is a book, and bottom-right a pair of drums.