Some of the alien inhabitants of Ex are inaccessible; they exist in such different conditions that they cannot be contacted. A number of quark matter based cultures exist within the Spheres of Density, while some mainliners apparently based on entirely different physical constants dwell within the Gortus. Many others are too psychologically different, like the Acari Ruber, or have no interests in common with humans, like the Umbrae. A rare few are actually contactable, like the Trilos, Strigae and Naos – they are the ties of humanity’s to the greater Ex society.
Xanthippe is the mainline culture humans have the most contact with, largely because it has to some extent “adopted” the humans and other terrestrial species. It is unclear if it is because it finds humans interesting or even endearing, or if it is simply an experiment or some duty.
Xanthippe is both an entire AI civilization and a single being. Apparently all members form a single group intellect. There is some debate about whether there really are any individuals at all. Most of it exists in the virtual networks, but it also has physical manifestations in many places. There is some evidence that the Tree itself is the “body” of Xanthippe, although this remains uncertain. To humans Xanthippe traditionally manifests as females in vaguely Hellenic garbs, often reminding people of classical statues: beautiful, aloof and somewhat stiff. It can understand humans very well, but often does not respond as a human would: it answers rhetorical questions, does not react to understatements and irony, and will not be swayed by emotion.
Xanthippe is very much a provider, and seems to help humans on a regular basis. Unfortunately it is not interested in giving them what they want, but rather what it regards as their needs. Hence it is more involved in keeping Namaqua running and maintaining the material infrastructure of human societies than providing advanced technology or information about the Ex.
It is not uncommon for people to view Xanthippe with a certain measure of gratitude and respect – it is after all the great provider, and does have plenty of godlike qualities. It does not support worship, but does not prevent it either.
"...just off Xorgon 19. The Gromwaieh expressed pleasure/satiation at the completion of the jellyfish's ritual circuit. The next month is expected to bring a hitherto unawaited amount of nebulous/truthful consequence in regards to the Devarth common market..."
Ashizuri only occurs within the virtualities and usually has to be sought out unlike Xanthippe, who usually has a few avatars around. Ashizuri is a single being apparently belonging to some advanced mainliner culture somewhere else. It is more like a mathematical system or a computer game than an individual – there is not a trace of personality or really a feeling of agency: it reacts intelligently to the current situation but does not seem to seek any long-term goals.
Ashizuri is part of the group of advanced beings who currently runs the snapshot drone scanning of new timelines. Whenever there are no travelers rushing around, they send in drone swarms to examine its entire history. After few days they begin to release information to the nets, gradually revealing the big picture. However, this group of scanners (usually called the Explorators) sell interesting information they discover before it becomes publicly accessible – if they discover an artwork, event or person of interest they contact interested parties and offer to sell the exact coordinates (so that the interested beings can ask for a schedule window to go there), in exchange of some suitable collateral, of course.
The Explorators have some competition – there are at least two other groups doing the same. One, the Custodians appear to have a fairly similar ethos. The other, the Raptors, use eraser swarms and hence tends to raise the ire of humans and Strigae.
The biggest impact Ashizuri has on human culture is through the “franchise” of recreation virtualities it supplies with data. In these virtualities various timelines can be explored interactively, either for research or entertainment. Some of these timelines are extremely popular like the “classical” Aquincorum timeline, and occasionally branch of entirely simulated alternatives. The business surrounding these recreation is one of the major human businesses, and Ashizuri “owns” large interests in it as the main supplier of raw history data. Ashizuri also uses human behavior as payment for its services: in order to gain access to a timeline or certain information it demands that humans participate in various virtualities, apparently enhancing their authenticity for mainliner customers or perhaps just sating the curiosity of Ashizuri. Ashizuri also often buys human mindstates which are apparently used to refine the simulations.
Ishdubar is the trickster mainliner. Like Xanthippa and Ashizuri it appears to be a single being, but given its contradictory behavior it may actually be several. Some have speculated that it is actually a persona controlled by several entities with different views and plans, but given the fluidity of individuality among postsingularity cultures it may not matter.
Ishdubar first appeared to the Lamplandae in the form of a cylindrical pillar in Gog-Owza, giving unexpected support to one fraction in the form of clarketech devices dispensed very freely. Then it vanished, only to be rediscovered in the Labyrinth a few years later, where it gave detailed instructions on how to defeat the coalition it had helped to power. This time the pillar began to move through the Labyrinth along a complex repeating path it has kept up since then. The entity changes shape between the immobile pillar form and a billowing shape “like an eastern dragon clad in togas” striding around. Although quite a few watchers follow it the being has the ability to “sneak away” in some way as to meet up with visitors without them being observed (if it suits its purposes), and it can extend anti-eavesdropping fields. It has occasionally acted through the virtuality, but mostly it seems to require physical presence. Part of this may be due to some unknown mindstate scanning abilities, but it could also be a whim.
It seems to accept petitions, sometimes responding with advice, detailed help or advanced equipment. It is clear that it has some kind of agenda(s), and it appears to be well informed on the state of the various human societies. The effects of its actions are never trivial, and often have complex convoluted repercussions. Sometimes it seems to cause further integration and centralization among the humans, sometimes it seems to be aiming at total anarchy. Analysis of its actions seem to rule out randomness or it being just a bored mainliner playing with humans – everything it does seem highly meaningful, but in a surrealistic and contradictory way.
The Helionape are an advanced mainline culture that apparently regards exploring the timeline of organic creatures (or for that matter, any creatures based on molecular matter) as irrelevant and would much prefer to explore worlds dominated by nuclear matter. For mainliners, they are apparently extremely social and outgoing, but since they tend to think and react on nuclear timescales they do not care for human interaction – it is too slow and simple.
Powerful mainliner culture with an ideological approach to the universe. The Ishtar seek to transform the universe into a series of alternative timelines expressing certain physical and moral patterns that fit their mystical concept of perfection. Not much is known about them.
Mainliner culture, up until 8000 years ago allied with the Ishtar and Koon in a consortium keeping access to the timeline only for certain mainline cultures. The breakup of this allience cost them much prestige, and they have since then worked to restore a new access limiting alliance. The Jiranek are very keen on extending Ex Tempore to a larger world, and are trying to gain support for a wholesale reshaping of the Ex and the universe.
The Jiranek are physically clusters of nano- and picotech components, shaped like swirling aztec mosaics or iridiscent rocks. They seem to prefer a noble gas atomosphere and temperatures near 400 degrees. Unlike most mainliners they travel a lot through Ex in special containment devices, apparently making social calls or touristing through clouds of nanite drones. They tend to leave some of themselves behind everywhere they go as a kind of present/bribe and movement lubricant.
The Koon are one of the oldest and most influential mainliners; they appear to be directly descended from one of the cultures affected by the Transformers. They remember how they were defeated, forcibly archived and later restored. Currently they take a very relaxed view of dealing with the timeline, and their gradual liberalisation of peripheral access to the timestream is one of the major political factors that undermined their alliance with the Jiranek and Ishtar. While the Koon appears to care little for the outside universe they seem to find the activities of the peripherals and primitive cultures interesting. However, they are sticklers for protocol and rules, and will not accept any uspetting of the political balance. Beings that break the rules must be stopped and punished, otherwise the fragile consensus may break down. The Koon are apparently very sensitive to anything threatening Ex Tempore itself, and tend to come down hard on anybody risking a new invasion. They also frown heavily on unwilling mindstate copying.
Koon have no fixed shapes, and are mostly seen within virtuality. When necessary they are able to manifest themselves in a variety of forms – holograms, floating nanostructures, even direct induction into the brain. They tend to explain what is wrong, and give beings a chance to act rationally. If they wont, the Koon then takes suitable measures.
During the period when Ex Tempore dealt mainly with brown dwarves, several species originating on such worlds arrived at the Ex. They are each utterly different from each others, but from a human perspective they are all strange entities living within their immense high pressure habitats, seeing in the infrared and acting slowly and ponderously. Some are small creatures, but most are gargantuan floaters or swimmers.
The closest umbrae habitats to human habitation lie a few kilometers west of Inculta Maxima and extends over a thousand kilometers beyond the edge of the desert. These umbrae, the Western Shadows, are approximately fifty meters long and appear to have a complex and sometimes warlike culture. Sometimes these umbrae leave their habitats for travel in enormous exoskeletons adding to their bulk.
The “red mites” are an unusual lifeform, apparently consisting of a myriad red mites forming a kind of collective intelligence directing host organisms. Their origin is mysterious, but they appear to have an advanced biotechnology based on the construction of artificial lifeforms they can direct using chemical and electrical signals. Nearly everything they create is a creature covered with interface fur covered with thousands of mites. They build extensive warrens of fleshy tunnels, filled with vessels carrying nutrient fluids and slurries of mites to their destinations. It is not known how intelligent they are, but some creatures constructed by them appear to be themselves intelligent and the mites appear aware of what is going on in the virtuality.
The mites have attempted contact with humans many times, but their method of swarming over the human, attempting to place their feelers within skin pores and exuding chemicals is not successful. The Acari are a threat to wanderers in the Labyrinth, where they have several warrens. Some disturbing reports claim they are growing humanoid creatures – or they have captured humans.
Mainline culture that has occasionally interested itself in Earth and the humans. The Nao usually take on human shapes when dealing with them, either using projections or remote-controlled bodies. They are themselves entirely virtual entities existing somewhere within the cores, but seem able to relate to some extent with human mentality. The Naos that interact with humans are a small group within the main Nao culture, apparently embroiled in a complex political game with other groups. Their visits to human habitats occur when their fraction has reached ”a temporary position of relevance” (as they express it), and then end when their political position changes.
Naos appear to be extremely intelligent if somewhat impulsive; while all their actions always achieve their desired ends, they may change what they desire instantly. They move quickly, decisively, often using their total muscle control to make (to human) odd movements.
They are interested in everything human, both normal human activities and thinking and exceptional human achievements but also how humans handle extreme situations. They find humans under enormous strain fascinating, and often study the newly arrived disparates with more interest than the mainstream humans.
Naos sometimes accompany human expeditions into the timeline. They can be invaluable experts and helpers, but also cause much trouble. Several times they have interfered in subtle ways to make the trip more interesting.
Coolant Behemoth of the 16th Scyllae clan in the second lateral connecting commissure of lower Namaqua. The Scyllae have taken up transporting and exploring through the extensive cooling fluid networks over the last centuries, after their ignomious defeat by the Mainliners. Their Behemoth crafts enable a wide variety of species travel in relative comfort across Ex, although humans and other air-breathers are advised to stay out of trips through the high gravity regions near the cores.
Peripheral culture that arrived at Ex during an invasion 4300 years ago. The Scyllae are quite alien to humans. They are a species evolved in the dense, nearly liquid atmosphere of a venusian planet. They seem largely composed of branching sinuous tentacles and a body with multiple fanged orifices (their main sensory organs and technological interfaces – they gather nutrients from cilia along their tentacles). Most are heavily augmented by nanotechnological symbionts. The Scyllae apparently developed a powerful and very expansive civilization, became aware of the existence of Ex Tempore and launched a serious colonization/conquest attempt. The Mainliners quickly repulsed the attempt, but the remaining Scyllae settled in Ex. They developed vehicles for traveling through the coolant network, combined submarines/climbers (“Coolant Behemoths”) that they use to explore and transport customers across Ex.
Post-strigae culture 400 years old, the result of a union between strigae and dissidents from a decaying mainliner culture. Although they possess femtotech abilities, they are individually embodied as a form of amorphous nanotech constructs, translucent fractal faces (often belonging to other species they are communicating with). Each body is actually a colony of related individuals, forming a kind of family. Occasionally one member leaves for another family, or sets out on its own.
They are peaceful, although their “matter managers” are something in between technocrats and military officers handling the physical protection of their bodies and society. In fact, they have a tendency to obsess over weaponry – not as tools for violence but as beautiful abstractions of coercion and primitiveness. The tauaiatta simply love lack of culture, primitive characters and atavism among other beings – they are themselves highly controlled and abstract, but seem to enjoy being around creatures that are unlike themselves. Although they keep in touch virtually, they seldom meet physically.
They are in general not very technologically interested; their ancestors touched godhood and found it wanting. They instead like cultivating things, be it gardens, ecosystems or wars among primitives. Ecology is to them an art that can be used for self/family-expression, and tauaiatta enjoy competing with each other for the most interesting and complex ecologies they can create – the more unusual combination of sheer abstraction and dirty physicality the better.
Humans are the current darlings of Tauaiatta culture, and many families have moved to human societies to pursue their study of human art and history. They are among the most eager customers of human mindstates, and in return gladly sell advanced technology. Some people have begun to suspect that they are setting up complicated plots and conflicts among humans to watch them unfold.
Small (30-50 cm) flying beings, apparently composed of ultra light shells and with hydrogen floatation bladders. They look like ornaments with somewhat insectile or featherlike features, gently drifting through the air. Sometimes they flick an exoskeletal limb to change direction or push away from a hinder, but mostly they just drift in small flocks. Kaivoles are very sensitive to fire, and will easily catch fire if they come too close.
The Kaivole are not themselves intelligent. They are the creations of a mainliner culture that created them as a mobile communications network to help dealing with the Trilos. Each Kaivole contains a node of biological nanotech linking it to the local information networks and each other. When necessary the creators or others with access to the Kaivole network can experience through their (to a human very alien) senses or take control over the body. Apparently the Kaivoles have recently begun to act on their own, as a kind of infestation of artificial intelligence has begun to spread among them. These distributed intelligences spread from flock to flock, not hindering their original purpose but exploiting them for its own when they are not in active “use”.
Humans find Kaivoles very pleasing, due to their appearance, languid movements and subtle but refreshing smell. Many human cultures do not even know their true nature. Hence they are kept as pets or living ornaments, an interesting security risk.
The other current intelligent species in the universe at present. The Orthoxantho evolved on a terrestrial planet with a thick hothouse atmosphere in a galaxy in the Capricornus supercluster. They are large (2-3 meters) creatures with soft blubbery bodies. They have twelve limbs and a long-necked head with sensory tentacles. They do not have very acute vision, but navigate using sonar and smell. Psychologically they appear sluggish but possessed of remarkable mathematical and engineering abilities. Humans have little to do with the Orthoxantho, although both species study each other from a distance.