Houses and Patronage

The clan-based economic system implied by the Federation’s profit-sharing schemes  bears further elaboration.


Imagine if your great-aunt or great-great-grandfather signed the lease on your home and could revoke it if you refused to join the rest of the family on a colony mission or didn’t want to mate with a member of a family they wanted to form an alliance with? And upon refusal you not only find yourself homeless, but nobody else will rent to your Houseless ass? Now imagine that you manage to find an employer who will vouch for you, but your contract with them requires you to do whatever they request, up to and including enlisting in the military or committing crimes? That’s what it means to live in a clan-based society like the Federation.

Back when Secland was newly colonized, both New Pallas and the SPPS established centralized socialist economies with fully nationalized industries. The main difference was that the SPPS purpose-bred its cloned workforce. Whereas Pallene citizens (with the appropriate licenses) were allowed to reproduce and raise their kids to fulfill whatever job they wanted (and was available) and theoretically there was a degree of socio-economic mobility. In practice, however, people with existing rank and power, from senators to labor managers, appointed their friends and relatives to positions of power. This blatant cronyism and nepotism formed the first step towards the modern Patronage system.


The next stage came with the completion of terraforming on Secland. Once oxygen levels rose high enough that Parahumans didn’t need to live in sealed arcologies the population slowly spread out into the countryside. First agricultural and mining colonies were established to support a growing population, the Pallene colonies staffed primarily by lower-class volunteers attracted by the potential for higher wages and couples or polycules seeking fewer restrictions on breeding licenses. These volunteers often recommended their friends and extended family as well.


Later on, it became fashionable for senators and other high-ranking individuals to pull strings to establish their own personal villas far from the rest of civilization. Initially used for entertaining guests and forming connections, these villas slowly accumulated permanent populations of the owner’s family, security staff, personal doctors, even chefs and other artisans.


In the arcology days most people lived in centrally assigned apartments with their parents or mate and offspring in small nuclear families, though they maintained contact with more distant relations. As the population slowly dispersed extended families accumulated in the colonies and villas. This more frequent contact led to both stronger bonds between kin and more frequent conflicts between them.


Then the Gene Wars started and plagues descended on the arcologies. Panic seized the population and the migration away from high population density accelerated. The Pallene government quickly adopted an official policy of quarantine to both limit the spread of the plagues and keep the infected in easy access of the hospitals that could treat them. However, people still sought to escape the plagues and turned to organized crime and bribable administrators to seek shelter with their kin already outside the arcologies. However, this brought them under the influence of their “patrons”, for fear of being turned in for violating quarantine. But, as the central government became more preoccupied with maintaining order in the cities, a number of “incidents” made it clear that those patrons held less power over their “clients” then it seemed. Before the bodycount got too high groups started to form “gepatrono-kliento” contracts that spelled out mutual obligations and protections for both parties. The gepatrono agrees to provide legal protection for their klientoi, while klientoi performed services or contributed income to their gepatronoi.


Meanwhile, the arcology economy was breaking down due to the plagues and mass migrations, leading to an uptick in crime rates. Civil defense was overwhelmed, and many disaffected citizens turned to organized crime to settle their grievances and protect them from disorganized crime. Gangs with connections in politics or the administration were particularly popular as they could use their pull to assign those under their protection to more readily defensible apartment blocs.


All these factors coincided to bring larger kin groups into closer contact. Conflicts between kin could be mitigated by common ancestors and other family elders intervening, as these conflicts became more common many families established a formal leader known by different titles such as “alpha” or “primus”. However, when conflicts between people from different kin groups arose things increasingly began to spiral outwards into large-scale feuds as their clans sided with one party or another.


Unable to adequately police these conflicts, the Republic government, influenced by senators who’d named themselves primii, formalized these extended families and gangs (which crossed over more often than not) as Houses. Houses had the legal power to police their own, but any armed conflict between Houses would invite the government’s wrath, encouraging primii to try and defuse feuds early on. Gepatronoi would adopt their klientoi as a sort of second-tier members to their Houses, providing protection to those without a House of their own.


The SPPS survivors added another layer, the Pallas-made plagues specifically targeted their ruler and soldier castes, leaving the workers helpless and barely able to fend for themselves. Their specialized training made them dependent on external support and organization that was now absent, they couldn’t even reproduce without the cloning printers. A few groups attempted raiding one another or the weakened Republic for the resources they lacked, further diverting the Republic’s attention from its internal problems. After a couple decades of attempting to keep raiders from the SPPS continent out of the Republic territories, the Pallene government decided to conquer them outright. The newly enfranchised Houses saw an opportunity to dramatically increase their numbers and solidify their power by adopting the SPPS worker clones as klientoi.


A House is more than just a large family though, in the anti-corporate culture of New Pallas and economic decentralization following the Gene Wars, they form the primary economic units of Federation society. During the societal collapse of the Gene Wars people who could jailbreak public nanofabricators could attain self-sufficiency for themselves and their family or gang, and most Houses still maintain their own fabricators for their own use. Many Houses specialize in a specific economic field; agriculture and mining remain popular fields, research into new products that can be licensed for nanofabrication is intermittently lucrative, artisanal Houses with generations and individual centuries of experience can produce incredible works, transportation depends on the infrastructure required. Different Houses apply different amounts of pressure on members to enter their specialized field, in fact many end up diversifying into new fields when a group of members decide to try something new and convince their primus to endorse their effort. Since the income brought in by individuals is distributed through the House profit-share system the main incentive to succeed is social pressure or prestige, with a slim possibility of succeeding the primus or establishing one’s own branch House as the ultimate carrot to dangle.


The mercantile House is an emerging phenomenon. Data traders are rare and individually tend to be fantastically wealthy, typically acting as gepatrono to their crews and planetside factors. A few are affiliated with an established House, others break off ties with their former family after a century or two out of contact. However, it’s not uncommon for children to be born on starships during their multi-decade voyages, sometimes they remain with their parents on board, other times they decide to settle on a planet, but typically they maintain some form of contact with their scattered family. It was inevitable that some trader tried to found a dispersed House from his numerous descendants.


Houses and Genera: Modern Pallene names have three main parts (see Naming Conventions), the praenomen or personal name, cognomen which is usually the House an individual belongs to, and one or two genus names that are hard-coded to their y chromosome or mitochondria. The genera descended from the initial New Pallas colonists largely served as a means of identifying people in the pre-Plague years, even as the numbers of every given genus grew to the millions. When the Houses coalesced, being largely composed of relatives, many were composed almost entirely of one m- or y-genus. As they expanded and adopted or mated in more members the correlations weakened, however. In the Federation era most Houses have half or fewer of their membership sharing a genus, though still a majority. Some Houses have attempted to maintain their lineages via strict matrilineal or patrilineal inheritance laws, though that has limited their potential for making alliances via procreation contracts.


Other cultures: Cetan culture developed from outright feudalism with a species-based caste system. Their noble Houses developed independently from the Pallene version but in the centuries since annexation the differences have been blurred. Eridani’s governmental corporation, on the other hand, spins off subsidiary companies that range in size from a dozen to several thousand employees.


The Houseless: It takes a great deal of financial resources, but it is possible to function in Federation society without a House or gepatrono. Citizens of Pallene descent are entitled to a small income from their m-genus and/or y-genus profit-share, most Cetan clans have set up their own versions, and the Eridani Corporation has spread out most of its shares, but it’s rarely enough for more than the most basic of subsistence. Immigrants from Outworlds lack this ground-level income but are rarely even admitted to Federation space in the first place without a gepatrono, typically the captain of the data trader or mercenary company that picked them up.


Fortunately, not all gepatronoi abuse their power over their klientoi, it’s not uncommon for a merchant to bring in an immigrant kliento and only call on them to act as an on-world factor or gather information once every few decades. Many of the very few Houseless who achieve the level of wealth required to live independently act as gepatrono to many of the less fortunate out of altruism. As do many House elders, particularly those running for election.


Silver House: The most famous House of the Federation is also the most closely associated with a specific genus. The plagues devastated genus Argentum, killing off an estimated 70% of all maternal-line descendants of the Republic’s legendary founder. With the genus’s disproportionate number of politicians this left the Republic even more unstable and contributed to its decentralization. However, a generation after the Gene Wars decimated and scattered the New Pallas Republic the genus experienced a sudden boom of black-and-white cubs. Skeptics believe that a conspiracy of Argentum’s descendants got together to genetically modify their cubs in-vitro to evoke their ancestor’s fame, as Kumiho (The Kitsune) allegedly discovered, but the Noospherist movement latched onto this phenomenon as a sign. The Noospherists, until then a tolerated but not organized ideology, claimed that this expression of rare phenotypes was a call for renewed unity among the newly established Houses.


The parents of the Silver-furred cubs publicly threw their support behind the Noospherists and formed the House of Silver. The Noospherists sent missionaries to the distant Houses to re-establish ties with them, built temples, provided guidance and social services that the government wasn’t equipped to grant.


Over the following centuries the House of Silver bred so many silver vulpine administrators, politicians, priests, and praetors that they formed several sub-Houses. Fairhold, Terraformer, Selene, Starbinder…

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