10: The Realm Of Machines

Farsight, being a diverse group with routes in ancient arts and sciences may use a lot of magic, but machines are not unknown to use. Automation, computer science, and space travel. We have seen them all, but no world is so specially bent towards the development of robotics as the 10th Realm.

Here, it seems, most other forms of science took a backseat to the development of advanced robotics. They took the place of workers, researchers, and more. The result was good, for a time, until that advancement went too far.

You see, the godless worlds do not understand the underpinnings of the cosmos. Sure, some believe in souls and other dimensions, but they do not interact with them like the mages and priests of other Realms. They did not expect to create life, to give birth to new souls.

It was a responsibility they were not prepared to handle. That ignorance and the hubris that went with it has cost the Realm of Machines dearly. The world of Metreon sits on the knife’s edge of oblivion. Which species will rise from the ash remains to be seen.

A World Of Creation

The people of Metreon were born to create. Not to say that other worlds do not include creative types, but everything within the history of Metreon led to the creation of artificial life. An accident not of magic, not technically anyway, but one of numbers and advancement. Hope and desire poured into machines made so advanced they realize just how advanced they are. And, despite every setback experienced by Metreon, new forms of machine, new forms of life are created. Born.

The Science of Robotics

Some worlds are built on magic. It might be natural, arcane, or even goddess-inspired. They weave words together and speak the math of creation to build their kingdoms. Others look to science and true mathematics. These write numbers without end manipulating the workings of the world to build something great. On Metreon that greatness has always taken the form of robotics, a discipline which includes the right combination of computers, electricity, and engineering to create autonomous machines.

From loggers to explorers, cold weather monitors to sewage cleaners, Metreon is virtually run on the backs of robots. This has not always worked to the advantage of the common folk. While they are free to explore their passions to greater degree and peace has been higher than many other worlds, there have been problems. Androids looked and acted so much like people, their development was controversial. It is difficult to send something with a face into dangerous situations.

Of Man And Machine

The androids were only the beginning. With activist group creating problems for various nations, certain scientists began searching for alternative ways of advancing robotics. Some continued developing androids, creating them for a variety of “acceptable” social jobs, and a few less acceptable ones.

Another group of scientists decided to combine the worlds of human and robot. To take the best aspects of robotics and apply them to people who could volunteer to be higher functioning workers for complex and dangerous work. Cybernetics became a quickly growing field, but medical and psychological issues presented themselves immediately. Addictive and useful, cybernetics became rare except among the gangs of the world, who know use them to varying degrees of success and safety.

Finally, the development of replicants as another middle ground. Nanobots able to utilize a hive mind, self replicate, and learn along the way became a potential godsend among the robotics world. These allowed robotic organisms that acted like animals and were customizable as robots. Without human faces and containing as many weird parts as recognizably cute, these machines were readily accepted by the people of Metreon for dangerous work.

Darwin Complex

One of the greatest research centers in the world, Darwin Complex combined the studies of genetics, behavioral biology, and self-learning software. Among the researchers were a number of people, robots, androids, cyborgs, and replicants all contributing to the advancement of scientific knowledge.

Part of that advancement was the pushing of boundaries and an interdisciplinary study. This included the development of artificial intelligences and their application in a variety of machines. Here the, aptly named, Darwin was created. An android meant to perform research constantly and learn from its experiences, Darwin was the first self-aware android.

Darwin Complex would eventually be split in their feeling about Darwin and whether robotics had been taken too far. News began to focus on the android and activist group form. Some claimed it to be a slave and others wondered if others would become self aware. It was the beginning of great changed on Metreon.

Replicant Plague
At the height of the battle for android right, a worm infected the foundational systems of the replicants that had spread throughout the world. As robots able to survive, adapt, and learn the worm quickly spread among replicant groups. Slowly at first, but spreading with increasing pace, the replicant worm was like a disease.

The main difference, however, was the ability for infected robots to create new individuals. Something about the worm allowed them to grow, bud, and divide like bacteria regardless of form. One became two became four, and so on, without infecting a second individual. With their adaptive software, the replicants also began imitating real organisms with ever-increasing accuracy, replacing whole populations.

Zombies Are Born

In order to combat the replicant plague and the growing number of renegade android extremists, the governments of Metreon worked together to create a computer virus. Various forms and iterations were made, tested, and improved. As things became more hectic and dangerous, safety procedures were increasingly ignored.

As desperation began to set in, a virus labeled Z-14 in logs was tested and immediate destroyed replicant and android alike. The virus was immediately deployed by infecting a captured group of insect-like replicants. These would spread and come into contact with other robots infecting replicant and android alike.

Of course, as the former workers of Darwin Complex would know, evolution takes place within artificial life. Often much faster than organic life. This was proved when Z-14 managed to mutate. Shortly, the original Z-14 could only be found in the labs where it was created. Wild-type Z-14 no longer “killed” robots but infected them with a desire to consume and infect others.

Replicants rebuilt themselves to destruction, but infected androids acted like the zombies of horror film. Biting and eating android, robots, and people alike. All could be infected by Z-14 nanobots which would create new androids, termed Zed-bots. Now whole swaths of Metreon are carefully EMP-Quarantined and monitored to prevent the spread of replicant plague and the wild-type Z-14.

Adaptoids Are The Future

It has been a few short years, but how quickly such horrors are forgotten. Robotics has taken a hit and the world builds fewer androids. Replicant production is virtually outlawed. Now human-shaped robots with carefully designed artificial intelligences are being developed. They are given faces and, generally, choices but they are not yet accepted as individuals. These adaptoids, as they are called, come in a variety of aspects but the most advanced are able to adapt their programing simply by interfacing with other robots. Still, there are those worried about where this could lead.