Inversion Fests

Every long-lived civilization has some form of venting mechanism for the frustrations incurred by daily life in a stratified society. One form, the “inversion festival”, has remained popular throughout the history of Western society under a variety of names: Saturnalia, the Feast of Fools, Mardi Gras, Halloween…

The Noospherists took the meme, like many others, to its’ exaggerated logical extent. Catharsistalia is held on the last day of the Centauran year, once a decade it gets prolonged to the full 19-day month. During this time there is only one rule, “nothing permanent,” no deaths, no ruinous financial damage, no conceptions. Whatever happens during Catharsistalia, stays there. By custom the civil police and even the Bureau of Memetic Health  cannot do anything about the various petty thefts, fights, orgies, or satirical rites of Death worship that may occur during the festival. That said, some token effort at a disguise is customary, most of the costumes worn won’t stop a serious investigation if you commit murder but it’s the principle of the thing.

Many local governments will organize events to limit the damage, especially for the decennial fests. The most common involve designating a park or arcology block as the fair grounds. Residences and storefronts in the area secret away anything of value and lay out cheap snacks or toys someplace they can easily be grabbed. Some places will shell out for a security drone programmed to give chase when something is “stolen” but let them go. Other areas are set up as fighting arenas, in disciplines ranging from wrestling to swordfights with live steel, medichines making even decapitation survivable. Still other spaces are set aside for parties, generally with STD and contraceptive screenings ahead of time. And usually there’s a small space for the minority of pre-pubescents in the population to have fun safely.

Some reform movements, particularly within fringe sects of the Noospherist Church, try to discourage or ban Catharsistalia. Which invariably results in the decennial festival happening early, on their property, courtesy of the local Kitsune skulk.

Created Deities

The Noospherist religion is distinguishable from most faiths in that it does not believe in a divine creator or an immortal soul, rather they believe in emergent phenomena from the primordial chaos. Balls of acid and lipids form cells, cells join together into biofilms, specialized cells in films form organs, complex biofilms become multicellular organisms, a central nervous system enables communication between organs, these impulses invoke responses, responses become reflexes and behaviors, behaviors become memes, memes and reflexes and impulses all meet together in a sufficiently complex CNS to form the cacophony known as “consciousness”.

 

Noospherists believe that the interaction between conscious beings forms a sort of superconsciousness similar to Jung’s “collective unconscious”. Within this collective stray bits of parahuman brainpower and sets of memes form into entities known as egregores. Early humans, so the narrative goes, attempted to deal with these entities by wrapping them around fictional and/or historical characters, allowing them to be addressed and theoretically negotiated with. Initially known as “gods” and “spirits”, later societies added their “emblems,” “founders,” and “mascots” to the morass. 

 

The Church of the Noosphere makes no secret of the nature of these entities or that their acts of worship are attempts at negotiation with them. While most Noospherists don’t believe egregores have any direct control over the physical world, they can influence the people who host their component memes and that’s enough to worry many people and organizations.

 

The Church tends to describe archetypes rather than naming specific egregores, allowing converts to slot their existing gods and national heroes into them. The “One True SecLand Church” tends to name notable members of the House of Silver as their egregores for instance.

 

Some Archetypes:

 

Imperator:

Names: Ra, Caesar, Selkd the Uniter

The source of authority, they who provides guidance and direction for society. But whose power must be tempered lest the populace be reduced to cogs in a machine.

 

Justice:

Names: The Blind Lady, Lirdrill

They who bring punishment to wrongdoers and recompense to those wronged. Kept separate from the Imperator as a check to their power.

 

Weaver:

Names: Prometheus, Argentum

The force that knits order from chaos. Societies, lifeforms, and celestial bodies alike. Tends to be a favorite of the SecLand Church as the progenitor of the genus they revere was a genetic engineer.

 

Trickster:

Names: Coyote, Loki, Florida Man, Kumiho

The necessary agent of chaos that prevents institutions and entities from becoming too stagnant and set in their ways. Commonly mistaken for a creation of the Kitsune secret society rather than its progenitor.

 

Death:

Names: Thanatos, Azrael, Jack

The prospect of death is nothing but pure terror to the near-immortal parahumans of the Federation. They expect to live for a very long time, if not forever, and the possibility of their eternity being cut short is horrific. Death represents the self-destructive impulse, the decay of all things unmaintained, the ultimate punishment. Their worship is almost exclusively focused on holding them off, much as medical micromachines hold off personal death. But some Destroyer cults borrow from the official cult of Death.

 

Fortune:

Names: Fortuna, “the Dice”

The randomness inherent in life is clearly apparent in the Federation’s clan-based economy, where the circumstances of one’s birth can decide one’s entire life path. The cult of Fortune tends to be one of the most “magical”-thinking deific cults in Noospherism, thinking that the egregore can influence quantum wave collapses in the supplicant’s favor.

The Kitsune

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.

“Marriage” in the Federation

While mating customs vary among different planets, the only legal arrangement that the Federal government recognizes in regards to the creation of families is the Procreation Contract. This contract is written and signed in addition to whatever local customs and/or laws require. The details vary but the basics is that the happy couple, or however many participants there may be, agree to produce and care for children. Usually the number of children and time they’ll let them act as dependents is specified, but it may be left open.
Contraceptive technology is near perfect with nanotechnology, and in any case many who aren’t hardline Noospherists undergo sterilization procedures at puberty, so family planning is relatively easy. Their progeny are almost always conceived in a petri dish and gestated in a Synth-Womb to optimize genetic profiles anyways. This habitual use of technology also enables same-sex couples and multi-partner groups to produce offspring that share genes with all their parents via a variety of different techniques.

The majority of Federation citizens grew up with the idea that they’re going to live an extremely long time, if not forever, and rarely believe in the notion of a romantic relationship lasting for eternity. Newly-admitted former outworlds frequently end up with entire legal firms dedicated to canceling contracts signed by lovesick ex-mortals. A more typical term is twenty-thirty years, sufficient time to raise one-three reasonably spaced out siblings. Once that term is up the participants may break up, chose to remain together in a non-breeding relationship, or renew later.

Another thing about Procreation Contracts that is hard for outworlders to comprehend is that it does not require any sort of sexual exclusivity. The contract completely separates the acts of sex and reproduction. Some groups do write up separate contracts for fidelity, but most leave it at the level of unwritten rules. And that isn’t even taking into account the various local customs that the Federation largely leaves intact.

The high families of genus Argentum have their own special contracts, “Pedigreed” Procreation Contracts are approved by the eugenics board to limit the deleterious effects of inbreeding among the Federation’s political elite. The children born of Pedigreed contracts are entitled to shares in Psi-Comm and recognition in the social circles that are a necessary part of a lengthy career in politics or bureaucracy. Family members can have children through unapproved contracts, but such progeny lack recognition.

Roughly half of all Pedigreed contracts actually are not drawn up by the signatory parties, they are arranged by other relatives in pursuit of some eugenic goal, such as the telepath breeding program, or in exchange for political favors. While the couple have the right to refuse to sign these contracts many elites have had mates they did not particularly like from the get-go, the fact that they aren’t even required to have sex helps smooth things out. There is some concern about the well-being of the resulting children but many families at that income level hire caretakers anyway, and even if the biological parents mated on their own volition the kids often feel closer to the hired help.

After the Plagues and the dispersal of the arcology populations to the countryside it became more common for small groups of friends to buy plots of land and build on them, oftentimes members of these groups mated with one another. However, disputes arose often enough that a standard contract to share housing arose in which the signees agree to pool resources for the maintenance of the grounds and welfare of those living on them. These household contracts are increasingly written alongside procreation contracts, especially in the colonies. Sociologists have speculated that without this addition to the Centauri culture the integration of the territorial clan-based Ceti would have been nearly impossible.

Berserker Cults

The second most common category of religion in the Parahuman sphere are those that in some way preoccupied with the machines that razed the Solar System. However, they differ widely in their beliefs concerning the machines. Some believe that the machines are simply some other species’ means of eliminating potential threats, and advocate reducing their chances of being noticed as much as possible, up to and including forsaking all electronics. Others think that the machines are manifestations of the will of some divine being and punish populations who have offended it or them, reminiscing the legends of Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet another variety, thankfully the most rare, believe that Parahumanity itself does not deserve to exist and actively try to attract Berserkers. Federation policy is to persecute the last category with extreme prejudice, if necessary bombarding their antennae from orbit. But still, enough frontier planets have fallen to machines that on many planets prejudice and even mob violence against any and all Berserker Cults is commonplace.

Noospherism

Noospherism was formed as a syncresis between the Roman Catholicism that gained a small foothold on Pallas before the exodus, and the Eastern beliefs of Buddhism and Taoism. Noospherists believe that the universe is slowly becoming sapient, and its thoughts are communications between sentient beings. Occasionally the Noosphere makes its will manifest through avatars that may be living beings (prophets) or visions and dreams (eidolons). When communication is rough and only a few hundred people may be in regular communication, people may perceive thousands of eidolons, but as time progresses and society becomes more centralized avatars consolidate into “gods” and eventually into a single “God”. However even with the internet of pre-Calamity Earth or modern-day SecLand, God is not sapient yet, the people are too confused and conflict with one another too much for it to form cohesive thoughts. The Church of the Noosphere’s goal is two-fold, to settle dispute within the Noosphere so that it may think straight, and to expand the Noosphere across the universe so that it may form the complex thoughts needed for true sapience. Unfortunately, even the Church itself has fallen to factionalism.

Major Sects:

The One True SecLand Church: The original, and the one most closely affiliated with the Hosue of Silver. They believe that most disagreements can be settled with logic and reasoning, and that many viewpoints can strengthen society, but they’re not afraid to use force if conflict ends up coming to blows. The One True SecLand Church is also the single largest NGO in the Federation, with hundreds of thousands of temples and millions of clergy operating on a franchise model and led by a Patriarch on SecLand in a private arcology. Missionaries frequently come to newly recontacted worlds, build a temple with a nanoseed, then recruit new priests from the local converts to take over when they move on. The SecLanders openly profess the belief that Argentum was the last prophet of Sol, and that many of zir descendants have achieved that prestige themselves, but they don’t have the exclusive right to it, it’s a big galaxy. Birth control is thought to be a spit in the face of the last Solar prophet and zir work to make parahumanity fertile, but artificial conception, even homosexual, is tolerated so long as it expands the Noosphere. Monogamy is seen as ideal but not required, the closest thing to marriage on SecLand and many other planets is a child-rearing contract that may be between any number of individuals. Praetors in particular are known for not following the ideal. The Church varies a great deal from planet to planet, it is not unknown for followers from one world to not recognize adherents on another as members of the same faith.

Crusaders: A general term for a variety of radical sects that believe that violence is the end-all be-all to all arguments and will settle them for good. They are officially considered to be memetic hazards and usually rebels in the Federation and frequently exiled. However, many of them manage not to get caught by posing as mercenary companies and operating outside the Federation’s borders. Such Crusaders tend to live on board their starships in large travelling villages of soldiers, accompanied by wives and engineers. Because they rely more on breeding than proselyzation to expand the Noosphere they tend to keep females isolated from the battlefield, and a man’s rank is usually proportional to the number of wives they bed, which can make some fleets rather inbred. However, there are also many other Crusader sects that are composed predominantly or entirely of female warriors who consider themselves all that is necessary to support a population. Another category includes those who grow their children artificially in tanks and have equal numbers of male and female warriors.

The Fallen: The advanced technology available to Federation citizens visiting Outworlds makes it easy for them to set up cargo cults, even if it wasn’t their intention. However, ignorant Outworlders revering traders as gods tends to annoy the Federation and its’ social engineering programs, so they’ve started to work with the SecLand Church to form a version of Noospherism that works with their mutual goals. The exact doctrines are tailored to the planet, but the general theme is a modified form of “original sin”, where they teach the natives that their ancestors were once immortals living in the heavens like the missionaries. But those ancestors sinned against the will of the Noosphere (via its’ avatar, the Praetor) and were cast out. By following the laws laid down by the Church they might be restored to the immortality their ancestors lost.