How It All Came To BeIn a very-near-future version of Earth, a means was discovered of sending a signal to an alternate dimension, and "folding" that signal into real matter on the other side. While the practical returns on doing so are virtually negligible, since the fold can only effect any given dimension once and after that they can only observe the results with no return communication, enthusiasts began to craft a signal which would create great colonies in a dimension which had physical laws suitable for human habitation (such dimensions were surprisingly difficult to locate amongst the infinite backdrop of others with less cooperative physical laws).
The signal was sent into the recipient universe which was now being called the Foldscape. Given the one-shot nature of sending the signal, all of the objects that they wished to conjure on the other side had to be sent in a single Big Fush (Often called The Second Genesis by the more biblical-minded). At once, vast quantities of matter in the Foldscape were relocated and re-arranged into precise patterns to create structures, vehicles, people,flora, and fauna on habitable worlds. In many cases, worlds close to habitability were nudged towards Earth's likeness by large influxes of water or oxygen with appropriate plants and microbes to complete the process of rapid terraforming. It was something of an irony that while we could not manufacture a space elevator for earth, we could conjure carbon tubes thousands of kilometres long with ease in the Foldscape, so nearly all of the starting colonies were equipped with space elevators to give them a tremendous boost in spreading further in their new home.
In an unexpected turn, the transmission of simulated consciousnesses into the bodies being fabricated in the Foldscape met unexpected resistance in the liminal plane between the Universe and the Foldscape. Eddies of consciousness spun out and coalesced in this phase between layers of reality. Collective concepts of myths and fictions and symbols coalesced into new entities, far greater in scope and power than any of the individual souls which contributed to it. Many of the new entities, born into the liminal ether and possessed of the capriciousness of human spirit, in turn altered the coalescing objects and people to better reflect themselves. The symbolism of the cat, for example, may have mingled with such popular constructs as Bast, Felix, and Cheezburger Cat; and the resultant Cat-themed entity was able to reflect itself by tweaking the details of the creation of the colony on a world where its presence was strongest. The degree and type of changes and influences exerted by these Patrons varies enormously from world to world, and some worlds even have several resident Patrons. Some wicked patrons twisted their flock into power-hungry monsters, others simply promote a certain aesthetic resulting in many animal-modified humans generally simply called Mods, while other Patrons created from political symbols such as Uncle Sam left physical aspects alone and promoted distilled versions of ideologies.
In another curiosity, electrical transistors were not able to function in the new world. Mechanical computation and analog data storage were unaffected, but every integrated circuit that had been created by the Big Fold was rendered useless. For the first years of colonization, engineers and mechanics tirelessly tackled the daunting task of creating workarounds for vehicles and systems that had been designed for computerized function. Retrieving data from hard disks turned out to be a monumental challenge, as reading the data onto magnetic tape and then decoding it byte by byte with vacuum tubes and cryotrons was a very time-consuming process. Deciphering all of the data into usable formats would be a project that would last for centuries, providing a constant drip-feed of Terran schematics, culture, and history to the colonies. In some cases, but not all, this data was altered during the Big Fold by the newly created Patrons, and reflect their symbolism accordingly, which can cause some confusion, particularly when some cultures insist that their data accurately reflects Pre-Fold Earth and the truth of the matter has been lost to history.
The third unexpected development was the isolation and harnessing of a second type of matter. This new periodic table of “stratified matter” has only 15 known elements, usually called simply “Strat-one”, “strat-two”, etcetera. All 15 of the elements resemble tinted chemically-inert metals. But when strat matter is electrically stimulated, it decays and produces fields of space in which physical laws are altered. This allows for localized exotic effects such as artificial gravity, acceleration/deceleration of chemical reactions, slowed thermal transfer, reduced friction, and so on. Harnessing this technology and exploring its many permutations quickly unlocked FTL travel and allowed the civilized worlds to connect with one another. Meanwhile, Patrons also had the capacity to perform many of the same tricks of physical law from 'behind the scenes' in their parallel plane, and began granting access to these effects to their flocks, resulting in minor practical powers. These are sometimes called 'cantrips' or 'gifts', but are more commonly known as FTTP in official parliance. Generally, FTTP abilities are stronger when an individual's connection to their Patron is well-developed, and they are more precise when they have practiced and received training. The citizens and descendants of a particular world or region generally have the same FTTP ability as one another.
Over the centuries since the Big Fold, the colonized worlds have expanded to inhabit many more systems than had originally been settled, and numerous applications for reality-altering fields have been developed and expanded, such as artificial gravity technologies, shielding for space-going vessels, containment for high-energy thrusters, and softening of solid materials for cold-casting (a rather useful FTP for industrial purposes). Many worlds have been ravaged by inter-factional conflict, and raids by powerful armies of savage Patrons over the years. Consequently, the construction and operation of space-faring fleets is an eminent concern for nearly every civilized world. To this end, all of the civilized empires compete for the acquisition of strategic materials and new living space to expand populations and industrial capacity. It is in the midst of this struggle that the narrative present (Genesis Plus 426 years) brings us to a frontier world with important resources, of dubious ownership and bearing a peculiar relationship with the liminal overworld.
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