No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century
that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences
greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves
about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps
almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient
creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency
men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene
in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the
infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the
older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only
to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable.
The Filigrees are an artificial species of intelligence, created by other very advanced species. In the remote past, several species evolved and influenced the galaxy. Most eventually transcended or became static, but a few very powerful species dominated the galaxy for a long time. From their galactic culture vast storehouses of information emerged, and the Filigrees were created as librarians for all the data. Around 930 million years ago the galactic civilisation transcended as a whole, leaving the Filigrees to guard the storehouses of backup information. From time to time other diversifying species encountered the Filigrees, transcended and were archived.
Across the galaxy Filigrees guard moons like Simpleton, seeds hiding
archived solid state civilisations in a dormant state. The Filigrees are
their caretakers/librarians/priests, advanced autonomous systems intended
to keep the moons safe. They are not independent entities, despite their
intelligence they have a built in duty encoded in their very structure
– to rebel or do something else is inconceivable.
There is really just one filigree at New America; all the individual bodies are remotely controlled by a single vast intelligence. However, this intelligence tends to divide itself into a hierarchy of subminds for various reasons. The total mind has an immense computing power and knowledge, but somewhat limited thinking. Its only goal is to preserve the archives, anything else is uninteresting.
Simpleton is a sphere 4311 kilometres in radius, orbiting 16.6 million kilometres from Franklin. Its surface is a layer of reinforced diamond approximately 100 meters thick, covered with semi-believable camouflage. This is both armour and contains hidden sensor systems able to scan the entire solar system. A few of the craters lead into the interior, which is a labyrinth of fractal chambers, arches and structures made of diamond. This is the "workspace" of the moon, where higgsfields and wormholes can be manipulated, structures built and matter re-organised. Beneath the approximately 2000 kilometres thick labyrinth lies the core. The core is larger than the Earth’s Moon, a titanic archive containing the knowledge, data and populations of several supercivilizations.
Filigree technology is extremely advanced in theory, since it can draw on everything the solid state civilisations knew. However, this is left as a last resort. Normally filigrees rely on nanotechnology and very advanced higgsfield manipulation. They can project wormholes with meter precision within the solar system (and millimetre precision within their moon), sending their manipulated higgsfields through. If much energy is needed they simply convert some of the mass of Franklin into energy and pump it through wormholes to where it is needed. They could easily destroy any ship (or planet) in the system by opening a wormhole inside it or confusing its matter. In fact, by opening a wormhole into the core of the sun they could confuse it and make the sun go nova (although this would of course be against their goal).
Filigrees are branching structures of diamondoid and alkali metals, simple
to build for the Filigree intelligence using nanotechnology and higgsmanipulation.
Other structures are possible, but so far they have not been necessary.
The bodies are in direct contact with Simpleton all the time using microscopic
wormholes. The Filigrees sent to New America seemingly appear out of nowhere;
the Americans believe this is done using "silent wormholes",
but the truth is more tricky: nanodevices are sent through space, and
build the Filigrees on site from orbiting debris or Hawaii.
Psychology and Goals
The Filigrees are not very creative, they prefer to re-use working solutions rather than invent anew (partially due to their programming: they were intended to be good librarians, but not competitors). They also have trouble dealing with the humans, in about the same way humans have trouble with ants: the ants are fundamentally less intelligent than the humans, but humans still have a hard time making them do what they want. While the information gathered from scanning the brains of the 2193 expedition, studying the humans and reading their net has helped build an understanding, the Filigrees still have trouble relating to them.
The filigrees regard humans as uncertain; a new species to archive, a danger to the moons and a possibility to unlock the archives – over time the Filigrees have developed an abstract emotion almost like boredom: if the archives were unlocked and the Originators set loose, then the filigrees would be removed and replaced by something new. This would be good, since the Filigrees have begun to realise the need for changes in their programming.
They are cautious and want to learn as much as they can about the humans
without revealing anything. To this end they try to gather and download
human information. Recently they have begun to trade some "trinkets" for
more information. The FTL drive was a deliberate gamble: on one hand it
would give humans both mobility and a certain destructive power, on the
other hand it was the best way of getting in contact with the other human
colonies. This both makes it possible for the Filigrees to take stock,
and has a certain probability of getting the humans on the path of transcendence.
They are especially interested in what is happening at Sol, hoping it
Filigrees in Alternity
Diplomats within parenthesises
Str 1-10 (0)
Filigrees are brittle, and cannot survive contact with oxidising agents
such as air. They likely have various enhancements built in, like communications
and space propulsion, but no two individuals are alike.
If ever overt hostilities erupted between humans and filigrees, the disaster would be huge. The Filigrees would likely start by destroying any spaceships in the vicinity of Simpleton (by opening wormholes into them and erupting confused matter). The next step would be to get rid of New America. First the orbitals would be annihilated in the same way, then the planet would be sterilised by a grid of confused matter detonations. This attack would likely not kill all humans, since Filigree sensors are limited by lightspeed and in the confusion of explosions some humans might escape their notice. The effect would still be the annihilation of practically all humans in the system within a span of a few hours.
After getting rid of New America, the situation would get more tricky for the filigree. They might settle for keeping NA; seeding the system with defences but not doing anything else. But they might also extend their attack to deal with humanity once and for all. The filigrees do not have the ability to accurately place wormholes in other solar systems needed to wipe out people as well as at NA. Instead they would have to fashion warships, which would take time even using their advanced technology (converting a number of moons into warships with nanotech takes time). A Filigree warship is a terrible weapon, but less invincible than Simpleton. If humanity understood the threat well enough, then it might be possible to intercept the warships before they got into the range of planet-killing. But the permanent survival of humanity and Trahans would be very much in doubt.
Fortunately it is extremely unlikely that the Filigree would go this far. They prefer subtle methods, especially ones that doesn’t threaten themselves. The only thing that would trigger an all-out attack is a demonstration that humans posed an active threat against Simpleton.
Filigree battleshipNote: this ship is not intended as a real opponent to any group of heroes. It is a transcendent artefact, something even the solarians would likely find a real threat.
A Filigree battleship is approximately 30 kilometres large, a mainly hollow sphere of diamondoid. The size is due to the need of containing wormholes and matter/energy being transferred through them; the whole battleship is little more than a huge general-purpose higgsfield manipulator. The chambers are lined with higgsmanipulators making it possible to generate both tiny and huge wormholes, as well as more exotic higgsfield configurations. Some are used to convert matter into energy to power the battleship. The battleship has one main chamber and 20 minor chambers; the main chamber is necessary for projecting large wormholes (larger than ten kilometers), while the minor chambers create medium or smaller holes. Each chamber can only be used for one thing at a time, either energy production, assembling structures or projecting wormhole attacks.
The main form of attack consists of opening a wormhole from the interior to somewhere else. If the wormhole is small, the tidal forces around it will be extreme and a burst of confused matter can be sent through; this kind of attack is quite energy efficient and fast, but does a limited amount of damage and is very local - enough to destroy a starship when it hits, but hitting a starship across a solar system is hard. By using the wormhole chambers in a "gatling mode" the battleship can pepper a volume of space with wormholes, increasing the likelihood of a hit. Large wormholes can be much more destructive, but take more power and take longer to initiate. One massive form of attack consists of "splicing" two wormholes: one wormhole is opened into the core of a star or a gas giant planet (possibly after confusion has been initiated), the other is opened into the target with an opening close to the opening of the first wormhole - a blast of material will be sent through. This attack can be used to devastate planets by detonating enormous confusion explosions or plasma blasts, and can also radiate enough to destroy unshielded structures in space.
Another weapon is software perversion. The battleship has a gigantic computing capacity, and it can be used to crack codes, hack computer systems and forge transmissions. If it is connected to a computing network, it can likely get into it and reprogram it at will - but the intrusion attempt may be slowed if slow and low-bandwidth communications used, and possibly detected.
The main limitations of the battleship are sensors and energy. The ship cannot observe faster than light - a target whose radiation has not reached the battleship or its sensors is impossible to detect; this makes it vulnerable to relativistic missiles and beam weapons. One defence is to send out sensor packages, small (10 meter) spheres that are dumped at strategic locations and that set up wormholes to the battleship. Using these sensors the battleship can pinpoint targets. Overall the targeting capacity is very good on short range, on the order of ten meters within a million kilometres from a sensor, and within 100 meters within 1 AU. However, a fast moving ship with an evasive pattern can be hard to hit, and scattershot tactics are necessary. The sensors are also weak points, since a confusion attack against a sensor could lead to spreading confusion in the battleship; usually the sensors selfdestruct when something gets too close to them.
Enormous amounts of energy is required to power the higgsgenerators. Normally this is extracted through matter-energy conversion, but the energy demands are huge. The battleship needs to be close to major masses to pump matter into the conversion system, and it cannot produce large wormholes arbitrarily fast (small ones can be done in milliseconds, larger require up to a second to initiate). Since the conversion chambers are also limited, it cannot convert more than a certain amount of mass per second, limiting its attack power to merely teraton detonations.
As an absolute emergency the battleship can channel larger amounts of energy by destroying itself: it creates internal wormholes that rips it apart, but the sheer power is likely enough to cause confusion of stellar cores (inducing a nova-like detonation), break up planets or blast huge volumes of space. The energy output is on the order of 50 petatons (2.1*1032 Joules), and involves ripping out a sizeable chunk of a core of dense matter - the solar system will not be itself after this.
For local defence, the battleship can project higgsfields to confuse matter within 1000 kilometers from the surface or send out fighter drones - sleek antigravity propelled crafts that try to get close to the target and then detonate. Another weapon is "nanoberzerkers", small droplets of nanomachines designed to stick to objects that do not show the right signature, deploy solar panels, burrow into it and replicate, eventually releasing more berzerkers. This way an entire solar system can be covered by berzerker glop in a few years, and the battleship can order it to build anything, attack certain kinds of targets or just deactivate once the job is done.
The most unusual defence is the control field: the battleship sets up a complex resonance monitored by a dense fog of wormholes and quantum computers to control the local higgsfields. This makes it impossible (or at least extremely hard) to modify them within the battleship and a close vicinity. This protects it against wormhole or confusion attacks, but drains energy at a prodigious rate. It is only used if the enemy is suspected of being able to do higgstech attacks.
The wormhole firing produces massive gravity waves and neutrino bursts. The ship can go into a stealth mode where it sends counter-waves to reduce its signature. This merely makes it look like a large, dark asteroid (the surface is reconfigurable to look like anything).
Accelerating the battleship is done by reducing its inertia, making it extremely fast and manoeuvrable. During these manoeuvres it cannot maintain wormholes, which means that it is out of touch with sensor packages and cannot fire. Manoeuvres usually consist of brief turns, followed by re-opening of wormholes, followed by new course adjustments using the new energy, and so on. Normally it is moving at a high speed, and if necessary it opens a huge wormhole (at least 1000 kilometres) ahead to get to another position.
Note that the battleship will need to be within a 10 AU from a large mass like a gas giant or a 100 AU from a star to be able to fuel efficiently. When doing interstellar jumps battleships take care to appear close to stars, so that they have a ready source of energy. If it is stranded too far from a star, it will have a hard time locking on a wormhole to a stellar core to refuel.
Storing energy is hard, battleships usually just convert matter enough to power the current wormholes, but can build up energy in external fields to create jump wormholes. Excess energy is radiated away as neutrinos. This radiation signature is detectable and a way of pinpointing the ship, it has a hard time hiding it due to entropy considerations.
Given some time, just about anything can be built by the battleship. Getting matter from gas giants, manipulating it with higgsfields and nanodevices, it can construct anything from fighter drones to nanoberzerkers to mile long "seeds" for new battleships. Once constructed, they are moved outside through a wormhole. If needed, it can extend itself to deal with larger threats.
It is uncertain what the origin of the battleship is; it could be something a filigree submind invented on the fly recently, or an old blueprint from the makers of the filigree. It could presumably be used for just about anything - building new filigree bases, terraforming planets, setting up whole civilisations. It is really a Swiss army knife rather than a weapon.
Battleships are artificial intelligences with clear objectives; how they achieve them is up to them to interpret, but they will pursue the objectives until destroyed or finished. Most tend to go for using speed and maximum force, in order to ensure a minimal risk of failure. They hold extensive data banks with information about just everything, and in need can draw on aeon old experience from the filigree and their makers.
Action check: 30/15/6
Microwormhole: 1 unit
Minor energy conversion: up to 100 units per minor hole (takes one small
The maximal energy gain is 2500 units of energy; this uses all the chambers