A somewhat new fashion, this device consists of a U-bot hive and sufficient U-bots to suffuse the area desired, be it a house, a field, a ship, or a temple. When called upon the U-bots may move objects, clean or repair, or project images. After installation the Anima requires only power and periodic supplements of elements (mostly aluminum) it can’t scavenge from the environment. The Field is usually operated by an AI, sometimes multiple AIs for larger Fields, and some Houses have been known to load their founder’s sim-personas into the Anima Field. It is also possible for a BCI to operate an Anima Field directly, though the subconscious access option is not recommended for troubled minds.
The idea of “utility fog” dates back to an Old Terran idea for replacing vehicular safety restraints with a cloud of floating micro-machines that could interlock into an impromptu harness when needed. Later thinkers imagined using such machines to form tools or even perform open-air nanofabrication. As it turned out though, the vacuum chamber proved impossible to do without, but the potential for using microswarms as manipulatory tools was still worth exploration and the present-day Federation developed four broad classes of “utility bots” that are still in common use.
U-Fog: The “classic” form of U-Bot, these microbots are fine enough to be carried by a small breeze or lock together temporarily into microscopic propellers or sails for guided motion. These micro-motors cannot propel an object of any significant density in gravity, but they can form grapples, cushions, or momentary barriers capable of arresting motion. In a pressurized microgravity environment they can move dense objects or adhere a person’s feet to a surface, simulating gravity to an extent. In vacuum they are, of course, next to useless without air to carry them.
U-Water: Microbots suspended in liquid, this variety of U-Bot exhibits less mobility but more “strength” than fog. These bots can also exploit the surface tension of the liquid they’re suspended in to extend their area of effect much further than an equivalent volume of U-Fog. Usually the bots are concentrated in a relatively small volume of liquid for storage and then poured into a local source of fluid, even a natural pond or lake. While U-Water can’t perform nanofabrication without a vacuum chamber it is popular for repair work and macro-assembly, it can even seal injuries in first aid. In gravity the pool of U-Water must remain in contact with the ground or floor, but it can “reach up” or “climb” vertical surfaces to some extent. In microgravity U-Water tends to resemble a giant amoeba, reaching out pseudopods.
U-Sand: The largest variety of U-Bot, U-Sand components are on the scale of grains of sand and usually packed so densely that their swarms are visible to the naked eye. Small amounts may be used to form metamorphic tools that change shape at a moment’s notice, large amounts may even form temporary buildings. However, they are primarily used for excavation and construction, a swarm of U-Sand can grind away particles from sheer bedrock and reform the grains into concrete blocks. This process is slower than conventional construction but many spacers find it more practical to transport a few cubic meters of U-Sand than excavators and mixers. Some versions of U-Sand contain specialized bots with molecular assembly attachments and others that can lock together tightly enough to form a vacuum chamber, creating a field nanofabricator.
Energetic Bots: The original conception of Utility Fog imagined that the bots would be constructed from synthetic diamond. However, some critics of the idea pointed out that even crystalized, a cloud of what amounted to carbon dust would be extremely flammable. The concept was quickly revised to employ non-flammable corundum instead, but the original idea lived on in “Energetic” U-Bots or “E-Bots”. E-Bots can be patterned after any form of U-Bot and perform the same functions, provided an atmosphere deprived of oxygen, and carbon is cheaper than aluminum, but they are most famously weaponized. While any form of U-Bot can be used as a weapon in some manner, the spectacle from the combustion of E-Bots has lead many planetary governments to restrict them more heavily than corundum U-Bots.
Technomages: All but the most basic U-Bot configurations require a BCI to control. With mental commands U-Bots can rearrange themselves into any shape the user can imagine, within physical limits. Given that implants were already required to make the most effective use out of them, it was no surprise when somebody had the idea of installing U-Bot reservoirs in their own bodies. People with such reservoir implants often imagine themselves recreating the feats of wizards from fantasy novels, hence the moniker of “techno-mage”.
Cytoran, the Outworld of monsters and augmented heroes, has a fair number of Technomage Venturists who believe they are working real magic.
Technomage implants are typically installed in a limb, replacing most of the soft tissue between the bones of a forearm or lower leg and substituting the muscles with more compact synthetics. There are two general varieties of implant, reservoirs simply hold a quantity of U-Bots produced by an external device while fabbers contain a miniaturized nanofabricator specialized to produce one variety of U-Bot. Technomages with fabber implants will usually refer to themselves using one of the four elements of Ancient European proto-chemistry, “air mages” have U-Fog fabbers, “fire mages” will produce E-Bots, etc.
Cytoran’s Emissary distributes U-Bots through the temples dedicated to them and their Bureau Directors. Most of their priests have UBIs that can call upon the U-Bots stored in the temple whenever they’re on the grounds while Venturist priests get reservoir implants to use them in the field. Fabber implants are allowed, grudgingly, on the condition that the natives cannot understand how they work. However, technomages with fabbers, or “sorcerers”, are widely distrusted by the priesthood and the general public.
Kitne, Huli-jin, shifters, cubi, whatever they’re called, this semi-secret society strikes fear in the hearts of overbearing Emissaries and cruel heads of house. Most of the public, however, see them as folk heroes of a sort, visiting punishment on those too well-connected for the legal system to touch. Given all they’ve done it’s a wonder that the Kitsune order hasn’t been rooted out and exiled yet.
The reasoning, like so many other things in the Federation, goes back to the Silver Houses. In the century following the Gene Wars, when the silver fox phenotype was re-emerging from the survivors of genus Argentum, one young vixen discovered that her parents had secretly altered her genes in-vitro to turn her fur black and white. The exact details of the genetic fraud vary from telling to telling, as the case files were sealed after dismissal from lack of evidence, even the vixen’s true name is unknown. What the stories do agree on is that her disgust with her family led her to assume a new name dredged up from the archives on Terran mythology, Kumiho.
As the years went on, Kumiho was attributed to the public relations downfalls of dozens, if not hundreds of corrupt politicians. She learned their dirty secrets through hacking, networking, and outright seduction, wearing a different face each time. Civil forces raided bodysculpting boutiques to find her, but none of them had any record of servicing any parahumans with the looks she’d been recorded with. The obvious conclusion was that she had assistants, the secrets posted by “Kumiho” must have been actually from a number of different people. But even then facial recognition drew a blank.
It wasn’t until two hundred years later that one of her followers revealed the truth. On a live stream from a dozen different cameras a doe transformed into a male weasel with four tails in a matter of minutes. As their fur changed color and their flesh and bones warped and popped they explained to the astonished press that they were a member of a secret society of cyborgs founded by Kumiho.
Their body had been laced with motile micromachinery that could reconfigure to alter their appearance with a signal from their BCI. When they had first joined the society their natural skin was replaced with an artificial substitute that could extend or withdraw fur with variable pigmentation at will. As they accomplished assignments their connective tissues were replaced with micromachines that could detach or attach on command and extra tails were granted to them to show their progression up the society’s hierarchy and store spare protoplasm. Kumiho, according to them, had ten tails and had progressed to the point where, it was rumored, her neurons had been replaced by microbots.
For reasons unclear, the civil guard were ordered not to move until this explanation was complete. At that point the speaker made their escape, disappearing into the crowd effortlessly. Shortly after, a group of senators introduced legislation specifically licensing the existence of the society, which they named the “Kitsune” order on the advice of Terran scholars, so long as they refrained from committing capital crimes and policed their own, which they seem to have agreed to. The few times a Kitsune was indicated to be involved in a murder or act of terror a shredded body stripped of all micromachinery was discovered in a ditch shortly after. There are even a few cases where mercantile houses have specifically sought out Kitsune as representatives, though there is the possibility that they’re merely copycats using knock-offs of the Kitsune cybernetics.
A couple items of common spacer gear:
The ForgePlate: A flat device usually 30 cm long by 6 wide and 3 cm thick. It’s essentially a portable nanofabber, the user pours raw materials on the “feed” side and the internal mechanisms disassemble it to reassemble into the requested item, which is extruded through the “fab” side. To idiot-proof there’s arrows indicating the direction material is supposed to go. Both working sides of the ForgePlate are covered with a nanomotile membrane that selectively lets materials through while maintaining a vacuum state within the device. The ForgePlate is operated by an external device, usually the user’s BCI or a tablet computer, and comes pre-loaded with several designs though it can produce anything that a normal nanofab can so long as two of its dimensions fit within the length and width of the fabbing side, it can even self-replicate or produce a scaled-up version of itself. Given time and materials a single ForgePlate could potentially rebuild an entire civilization, for that reason spacers traveling to Outworlds are advised to integrate self-destruct mechanisms into their ForgePlates that activate when an unauthorized user attempts access.
Frontiersbeing Blaster: One of the most common plasma arc weapons on the market, the Frontiersbeing blaster remains popular for its reliability and versatility. The size of a large handgun, with a capacitor under the laser and quadruple ionization prongs. The laser ionizes air in a straight path from the prongs to the target, turning it into a conductive plasma capable of carrying a charge. The intensity of the laser and charge are determined by a slider on the side of the capacitor, at the “practice” setting the prongs aren’t active and the laser is little more than a pointer to mark targets, while at its lower “powered” settings (usually marked in green) the beam carries a charge similar to that of a 20th century taser, this range of settings is colloquially known as “stun” and usually leaves no lasting damage worse than a first- or second degree burn. In the yellow-marked middle-range or “kill” settings it leaves a third-degree burn at the point of contact and carries a charge strong enough to kill most parahumans, though they can usually be revivified with quick application of microbots (although their internal bots might be shorted out). The settings marked in red, however, produce a plasma bolt hot enough to flash-boil subcutaneous tissue in a small area, producing a small and messy explosion. While these highest power levels might be considered overkill on an unarmored parahuman target it is quite useful when hunting larger fauna that can weather the shock from a yellow setting and it can even punch a hole in light Non-Newtonian armor, and while not advertised a headshot at full power can reliably prevent revivification. It’s completely useless against non-conductive solid armor like kevlar of course. The standard capacitor holds enough power for 30 seconds of prolonged fire on the lowest green setting, 15 seconds on yellow, or 3 at max power; the original battery can fully charge the capacitor five times before needing a recharge itself, but that requires several minutes of downtime.
Due to the prevalence of automation and nanotechnology there are very few jobs in Federation space in the fields of mining, agriculture, or manufacturing, and the ones that exist are primarily supervision and programming of robots. Almost all manual labor is performed by machines, and with nanotechnology one can have a factory and recycling complex on their desk.
When automation all but eliminated manual labor in the Republic of New Pallas the government was faced with the prospect of hundreds of thousands of unemployed citizens, the obvious solution was to instate a guaranteed basic income that was enough to keep everyone fed and healthy, half the population was still living in state-owned arcology apartments anyway. For a couple centuries population expansion was carefully regulated to keep pace with the resources available and the progress of the terraforming operation and most seemed happy. Some of the permanently unemployed spent their time just soaking up entertainment, yes, but many others became artists, amateur scientists, or full-time parents.
Then there was the Plague War. The Republic was not hurt as badly as the SPPS but death spread throughout the arcologies regardless. While automated infrastructure remained intact its minders did not, breakdowns became increasingly commonplace leading to starvation. In addition, many parahumans became wary of packing so many people together in the immense but still confined city-buildings and fled to the largely unused countryside in droves. Desktop nanofabbers had become a luxury consumer product in the years before the plague, and some groups had (illegally) hacked them to self-replicate, now the starving masses were shoveling random plants and raw dirt into bootleg fabbers simply to eat.
Some in government tried to brand them as criminals, but they didn’t have the resources left to enforce those laws and the politicians in question didn’t last the next election cycle. Once able to operate in the open nanofab homesteads cropped up all over the continent, many of them nearly self-sufficient. But nanotechnology cannot turn lead into gold, raw elements still needed to be found and mined, often only after a significant investment of time and resources.
Joint-stock companies or corporations were never accepted as a legal entity in New Pallas, the corporations who created and enslaved their ancestors were too thoroughly demonized in their culture. Rather most businesses operate as independent contractors or at most partnerships with employees. However, a system of profit-sharing and crowdfunding has emerged that fulfills most of the functions of a corporation.
Profit-sharing is a system in which an individual citizen sets up a program to automatically distribute the profits from their work, after expenses of course, to specified people. Usually those people are friends or close relatives, but if some of them were people who gave them a significant amount of money when they were just starting their business then so be it. Each of New Pallas’ founding genera has a profit-share in which each member contributes a small portion of their income, generally a small fraction of a percentage given the populations of every founding genus, which is distributed equally to every member of the genus. Smaller families also tend to have their own profit-shares, most notably Psi-Comm for the high families of genus Argentum.
Crowdfunding can generally be sorted into three categories: pre-orders, subscriptions, or loans. Pre-orders are for specific projects with a discrete start and end, backers receive a reward at the completion of the project that they specified at funding (like Kickstarter). Subscriptions give the backers exclusive access, or at least early access, to the creator’s content (i.e. Patreon). Loans are just what they sound like, backers expect to be paid back with interest at some point.
In practice, most citizens have a steady income from a combination of profit-shares and crowdfunding. The net result is that everyone eats, anyone can afford luxuries with some degree of saving, and artisans, inventors, and primary producers are the most affluent members of society.Interstellar merchants are a bit of an exeption to this rule, but they’re an extremely small minority.
Nano-Fabrication: The real driver of the exodus, nanofabrication in its most common form takes the principle of a 3-D printer and adds the ability to extrude individual atoms. As the nozzle passes over the object being fabricated millions of microscopic machines on the head of the nozzle adhere atoms to the item in successive layers. Unfortunately this process is so delicate that it requires a sealed compartment with no free-floating particles, preferably hard vacuum though items that can’t handle vacuum may be fabricated in a neutral gas or distilled water. Still, most dwellings in the Federation have at least one nanofabricator that is approximately the size of a microwave for making food or appliances, the better off get one the size of a refrigerator. As they can make one hundred percent of their own parts and can extract most of the needed resources from dirt or waste products, hunger and homelessness, even ill health, are considered “not to happen” in the Core worlds. A major breakthrough in manufacturing was the advent of modular swarms, small buglike robots that cooperated to nanofabricate large objects. Small bots in a swarm had nanofab heads, others gathered raw materials from the environment, and yet another category, the vast majority of any swarm, interlocked with one another to enclose the entire operation in a nano-friendly enviroment. And they were self-replicating. A small “starter swarm” of one gatherer, one fabber, and two dozen or so containers could become thousands given time and resources. Unfortunately swarms are much slower than conventional nanofabricators, so they are generally only used if the owner cannot afford an enclosed device in the necessary size. A shipyard with industrial-scale nanofabricators can produce a starship in a matter of months, a swarm takes years if not decades, but many wannabe tramp traders are willing to wait. Starships often have nanofabricators that can be bootstrapped into portable factories, capable of generating a showroom full of trade goods, a fleet of drones, or enough pre-fab structures to house a colony.