The Li

 
 

The river has breached its old bed and now seeks a new course. It will flood the plains, doing great damage but also creating new fertile soil. In the end it will find the new course according to its nature. Meanwhile nothing can stop its tremendous power. Anybody standing its way will be swept away and hurt, but whoever joins in the great flow will be borne along.
-
Declaration from the Hao Chen government, February 7 2351

The Li started on Penglai, where a guanxi of high-ranking military and business people in the Hao Chen Republic were planning a coup against the weak and inefficient government. To their aid they had some developmental neuronano brought to them by their unexpected Linker allies. The nano was built to infect key people and guarantee their loyalties. Originally just intended as a way of enforcing internal loyalty to the leaders they soon began to infect government people, creating a silent take-over. At this point an internal schism occurred between two fractions. The infected found themselves loyal to a conspiracy that was split, and after some internal meetings came to the conclusion that it was they who represented the conspiracy better than the formal leaders. They employed the neuronano against them, reunifying the conspiracy but now with a new ideology: to further the conspiracy.

At first, they completed the take-over of government and other essential functions. At this point they began to ponder the wider implications of the loyalty infection. Gradually they reached the consensus that it was good in a very deep sense; while it didnít prevent them from disagreements and opposing views, in the end they all felt the same solid loyalty to the cause, something that saved them from a lot of bickering and personal ambition. If the whole of society could be infected, it would become a much better place to live.

While implementing their plan it was partially discovered by independent agents, who reported back to the PCA. The PCA was appalled, summoned the other three nations and explained the situation. They pronounced Hao Chen to be occupied by a hostile force and immediately began to take action: closing their borders, trying to find out what was happening and warning the population. Hao Chen didnít answer the threats directly, just playing along, but secretly it began a series of infections across the planet. The guanxi networks were perfect ways of spreading the nanites: infect somebody, that person tries to infect his or her superiors, and once the top of the network is infected the whole network will work for the conspiracy. The paranoia level of the PCA increased as it began to realise what Hao Chen might be doing and the possibilities of infiltration, and ordered and all-out attack. The war lasted around a week, quickly turning into chaos. Infected people in the military turned it against the superiors, converting as many soldiers as possible. Information warfare was used by both sides. Atrocities committed by fearful non-infected were used as a propaganda weapon, making morale in many quarters low and helping the rapid spread of infection cells. The PCA realised it couldnít strike against the infected and concentrated on breaking down Hao Chen infrastructure, but as the infection spread it had to break down more of its own infrastructure. Near the end many nations were struggling not only against the infected, but each other and the PCA. Finally the PCA space command fell, due to a combined orbital assault and infiltrations; the survivors fled into space.

Over the next months the conspiracy consolidated its position. The official news were at first that massive corruption in the PCA had been revealed, and that loyal forces had ousted the corrupt officials. An interrim colonial administration was instituted, but most power left to the national government. At the same time the Li spread. While pockets of resistance remained most of the population could be subdued over a span of weeks by a silent take-over through the guanxis Ė the leaders and important people quietly changed sides, inducting their friends and subordinates. Eventually, everybody had been infected.

The Li did not solve the problems of divisiveness, but forced people to act together. In a great net-debate different views were heard, and slowly over the span of months a consensus began to appear. Slowly the idea of a government representing the Li itself began to take shape, a kind of PCA but directed towards spreading and developing the Li further. Representatives were elected (mostly key members of the take-over) and some of the old PCA buildings in Daoling instituted as the new government. A more troubling problem was to repair the war damage, but the newly instituted Li Government was able to marshal nearly all of the population behind their plans and coordination; the primary goal was to get Penglai on its feet so it could take the stars.


 

The Li

The Li instills loyalty to the Li. That is all, but it is enough to make it the greatest threat and possibility for humankind ever. Infected people are almost exactly like they used to be, except that they are totally and honestly loyal to the Li and will do their best to further its causes in the best possible way. This makes them cooperate selflessly, act as rationally as they can and overall seems to produce a kind of serenity Ė they have a firm basis of faith in their every action. They are not controlled by the Li, rather its sets the loyalty to the Li as their core value Ė they donít want to disobey.

The Li is spread using advanced Mother neuronano able to reprogram some neurons into a loyalty pattern (this takes 4-8 hours after injection). They seek out parts of the limbic system dealing with the emotion of loyalty, and rewire it firmly to create a loyalty to the Li. Once done, the nano dissolves and leaves the pattern behind. Over time the changes will become integrated into the victimís personality. The only way to remove it would be to use a similar neuronano at all the places modified by the original, creating a new loyalty pattern, or deep psychodesign.

An essential part of infection is telling the victim about the Li, so that he or she will understand to what to be loyal to is. This memetic component can be transmitted by just explaining the idea, an instruction video or just by knowing about the Li. However, this is also the weakest point of the Li infection - if the values inserted here are different, then the victim will start believing in an alternate version of the Li, creating a schism.

When a person becomes infected the first effect is usually a brief crisis as the realisation becomes conscious, and the contradictions become clear. Very stupid people seldom notice anything, and intellectuals tend to rationalise well, but people with strong convictions tend to experience serious internal turmoil. It often ends with a conversion, where the old views are either overthrown (resulting in a true Li fanatic) or a synthesis with the Li. A few people (especially people with nonstandard brains or core values highly integrated in all aspects of their minds) suffer permanent breakdowns or are unaffected.

Infected people may disagree and dislike each other, but they are still united by the Li. On Penglai crime has not vanished, it is just crime that damages the Li that has utterly vanished (and as society changes, most traditional crime will likely vanish in the end). On Penglai a meritocratic system has emerged; groups of people elect the people they honestly think are the best to represent and lead them, and these in turn elect their leaders. There are often fierce debates about the good of the Li, but since everybody involved is honestly trying to find the best solution they surprisingly often end in consensus. This might of course just be a lucky start.

The Li acts just as much biologically as through the paranoia it induces in people fearing it and through purely memetic ways - even if you aren't infected with the Li you might start act like it when subjected to an infected society or believing that you are infected.

 


 

Jargon

Benefactors

The Linkers; usually the origin of the Li is not disclosed to the enlightened.

Cocktail, potion

Mixtures of nanites and sedatives.

Education

The "training course" essential for indoctrinating newly enlightened. Either a one-to-one explanation of the Vision or a pre-recorded multimedia presentation.

Enlightened

Somebody who has been infected with the Li.

Enlightenment clinic

A clinic performing enlightenment under optimal conditions.

Maker

The Linker devices used to produce nanites.

Mentor

The person who infected another person.

Temple

Base for Li infection.

The Messenger

The Li nanite

The River

Codename for the Li movement on Penglai.

The Vision

The vague vision underlying the ideology of Li.

Unenlightened

Somebody not enlightened by the Li.

Way of the Wine

The strategy of infecting a person low in a hierarchy, who infects somebody higher up, who in turns continue the spread even farther up.



 

Vectors

The first way the Li was distributed was simply injections. Since this was cumbersome and hard to hide, other means were developed.

Aerosols can be used; the nanodevices are combined with an alveolus permeability enhancer that makes it possible for them to get into the bloodstream. The drawback is that the aerosols give people serious cough when used in sufficient amounts.

DMSO capsules are fired with painball guns, releasing a skin agent enabling the Li to enter. It is fairly obvious but efficient. DMSO mixtures can also be applied in other ways, such as impregnated into clothing.

Stingers are a more subtle way of getting the Li into the body. Microspheres containing the nanomachines are equipped with a smart surface, which protects the Li when eaten, and releases it into the bloodstream from the small intestine. This was the major weapon during the take-over, especially useful since it could be put into the food in the PCA military mess halls.

When a sufficient number of nanites enter the body, the victim rolls a formidable CON test. Higher or lower doses will make the test harder or easier. If it fails, the victim will be converted. An Ordinary success will imply merely a partial conversion; the victim will not be loyal, but more susceptible to the nanite or meme. An Amazing success will make the person immune to further infections.

Li Virus

AIs cannot be infected by the Li nanite, but their personalities can be hacked. This virus simply rewrites the loyalty patterns of AIs to match the effects of the Li. Unfortunately, AI architectures vary quite a bit, so it has to be tuned to each AI specifically unless the AI is of a very common kind. It also has to penetrate various software defences, and some AIs have hardwired loyalties that are either impossible to change or tampering causes a shutdown. Still, it can be an useful weapon on Nova.


 

The Linkers

The Linkers are behind the Li, although they didnít plan on it. Originally, they were searching for a place to quietly experiment on unification. They found Hao Chen suitable, and contacted the would-be junta with an offer from the Wuntai Trade Organization. The conspirators bought a maker pyramid for the neuronano, and set to work. The Linkers had an immunity nanite, and quietly observed the events. The avalanche of events surprised and delighted them, and as things really began to move they gave the Li extra pyramids.

After the takeover, the Li government contacted the main contingent of Linkers again. They explained their point of view, and suggested further cooperation. The Li needed more nano and was interested in Linker technology. In many ways it was a success beyond their wildest expectations Ė this was a form of unification that would really bring humanity closer to the clans. The Linkers made a deal, selling certain forms of nano in exchange for various trade products (mostly a reasonable excuse for their presence).

Currently the Linkers are quietly supporting the Li with more replicators, but mostly watching over the situation. They donít want to get too involved yet, and are also interested in seeing how other cultures react to the Li. The Li is somewhat unsure about the Linkers, and suspect further plans. That is why it has instituted a crash program in changing the neuronano so that potential trapdoors can be avoided.