|Roleplaying Guide:||Roleplaying Guide|
|Planet:||Home, Core system.|
The Ascent is an ancient, isolationist stellar power located rimward of the Skrellian territories. It is composed of three distinct groups:
- The Kharmaani, a cepholapodean-mantid species with striking sexual dimorphism, who form lineages of thousands descending from a single mother and revere the nest and the queen as one entity.
- The monarch serpentids, or monarchs, close cousins to the giant armoured serpentids, saved from their crippled homeworld hundreds of years ago and now allies and peers within the Ascent.
- The control minds, a loose category of machine intelligences and infomorphs responsible for running much of the day to day industry and services within the Ascent.
While the Kharmaani are the oldest of the member-cultures, and built a significant number of the original control minds, all three contribute to keeping the Ascent running, and the lack of any one group would cripple the others.
The monarchs are nearly identical to the giant Armoured serpentids in most respects. Their most striking differences are the result of never having needed to adapt to the drastically lowered oxygen levels of their homeworld; they never lost their queens, and never developed the complex internal chemistry of the GAS. Practically speaking, they are smarter, less flammable, and have more meaningful social structures, a complex well-developed culture, and a form of representative government.
Monarch Serpentid Queens are quite a lot smaller than their Workers, and have significantly more developed intellects.
The Kharmaani are strange creatures; they are crystalline, with a thin brittle skin over a gelatinous, translucent interior. Throughout their lifecycle, they undergo numerous molts, shedding their old carapace for a fresher, larger, more developed version. They begin life as as one of thousands of tiny larvae, which burrow into the crust of their homeworld (or some artificial substitute for station-born) and pupate. They emerge a few feet long as 'male' alates, and will swarm mindlessly, fighting, killing and eating each other in their hundreds before the population levels stabilize. Alates who survive long enough to gain some measure of intellect and enter sexual maturity will participate in swarming breeding behavior, where a handful of older alates will spontaneously alter into the much larger, vastly more intelligent, 'female' stage, the gyne. Each gyne will breed with, and permanently incorporate into her own body, numerous alates over her life, and their genetic material is used to produce more larvae at will, which will form the nest-lineage of the mother-gyne.
A few Skrell who questioned their chosen nomenclature (alate and gyne referring to the developmental stages of winged insects and being literal translations of the Ascent terminology) were told brusquely that the Kharmaani had wings once, but tore them off. Only the gynes seem to have any knowledge of what this actually means and none of them care enough to talk about it.
The Kharmaani and the Monarch Serpentids are both eusocial, with a tiered cultural structure. The gynes are the least numerous and hold the most power in a social sense. They constantly lobby against each other for social capital, influence, recognition and power over other lineages.
This is enabled by the Monarch Serpentid Queens, who were saved from a dying world by the Kharmaani and eventually promoted from 'entertaining pets' to the middle men that keep Ascent society functioning smoothly. Gynes have tremendous difficulties in communicating with each other politely, so the queens act as intermediaries, smoothing over the fractious and unproductive squabbling.
Their Workers perform physical duties around the Ascent territories, working as bodyguards, soldiers and labourers, among other roles. They are less fragile and significantly stronger than the alates, who are better suited to work with a higher level of complexity, like engineering, piloting and skilled craftsmanship. These roles are not clear-cut, however, and there are many Monarch Serpentid craftsmen and Kharmaani soldiers.
Finally, the control minds carry the majority of the burden of keeping the Ascent running. They see to the supply, fabrication and distribution processes, as well as participating in whatever other arena they desire: machine intelligence is an accepted part of life in the Ascent, and AIs are accorded the same citizen rights as anyone else, including the right to participate in the complex social games favoured by the gynes and Monarch Serpentid Queens. Machine intelligence forms something of a large subculture within the Ascent, and there is a lively virtual society available to anyone with the means to connect to it.
- Kharmaan gynes have names following the format <position within the current set of gynes> <the landform where they claim territory>, which normally looks something like 26 Atonal Waterfall, indicating the current 26th-tier gyne of the Atonal Waterfall nest. A smaller number means correspondingly more power and influence; the eldest living gyne is 1 Core.
- Alates use the territory-name of their ruling gyne, and a similar numerical position, but due to the sheer numbers of alates this will always be much, much higher than a gyne. For example, a child of the gyne used previously would be 10244 Atonal Waterfall.
- Monarch Serpentids are TBD.
- Control minds use a bewildering variety of names, often selecting jokes, puns, clever references to scientific constants, or some other whimsy. Drones allocated to gynes or MSQ will usually be designated as a partial term from the leader's name followed by a sequence number. For example, WATERFALL-7.
Kharmaani are hostile, violent creatures from a human perspective. A single fortress-nest will house tens of thousands of alates, born from a single lineage of gynes, and they will live quite happily in very high population densities - so long as they are from the same lineage. Alates from different lineages will fight at the drop of the hat, often to the death, and the gynes are far worse. It is physiologically impossible for a gyne to refrain from attacking and killing any other gyne that they come into contact with, including those of the same lineage. They get on quite well with the Monarch Serpentids, however, and every fortress-nest has one or more serpentid mezzanines where the queens build their courts.
For creatures outside of the Ascent, Kharmaani are insular and arrogant in the extreme. Gynes will refuse to so much as look at 'primitives', seeing them as far beneath their notice, while alates will deal with them only as much as necessary. Both alates and gynes will kill quickly and without mercy if a threat is offered. Only the Skrell are afforded a certain amount of chilly respect due to the shared cultural history, and even that is easily strained.
Monarch Serpentids are substantially less hostile, but have their own fair share of hubris and arrogance, coming as they do from a highly developed culture.
The Ascent has many languages. Individual fortress-nests and mezzanines will develop their own dialects and cants, as much out of a sense of cultural independence as out of any practical concerns. For the most part, these can be grouped under three categories:
- Ascent-Glow, a communication system based on complex patterns of bioluminescence. Unmodified Monarch Serpentids cannot speak this language due to the obvious lack of bioluminescence, but it is common for queens and highly placed workers to be fluent, simply for ease of communication with alates.
- Ascent-Voc, a hissing, chirping conlang maintained by the control minds. It was originally designed for use in darkness or over long-distance comms, but is now the Lingua Franca of the Ascent, as all members can speak it equally well.
- Serpentid, the native tongue of the Monarch Serpentids, unchanged from the language spoken by the Giant Armoured Serpentids.
Relationships with other species
The Ascent have chilly but cordial contact with the Skrell; this peace is built on the back of centuries of violence, but both cultures have reached an understanding, and things are unlikely to degenerate to the extent of open warfare.
The monarch serpentids have had some contact with the remnants of their old culture, and feel pity and shame for what the GAS have become.
The Ascent has had no formal contact with humanity or any of the other known cultures of the galaxy; this is a state of affairs the Skrell would like to maintain.
- All Ascent encountered outside of their ships or nests will be equipped with a personal exosuit, which provides numerous support functions and equipment modules.
- Ascent weapon technology favours directed particle weapons for personal defense. Gynes also tend to be equipped with powerful shoulder-mounted ballistic weapons like flechette rifles, which would be too powerful for alates to fire safely.
- Ascent power generation is generally fusion-based, and they have developed miniaturized fusion systems that would have been thought impossible by human engineers.
- The Ascent make limited use of bluespace, for the most part as a component in their FTL slingshot systems.
- The Ascent does not use positronic AI, instead employing significantly larger but equally powerful supercomputing clusters built into the bedrock of their fortress-nests and spacecraft. Machines equivalent to human utility robots or drones tend to be run remotely for this reason, often from low orbit. Independent drones are often less intelligent and autonomous than human machines as a result.