Tuesday, March 31, 2015

90. The Agōgē

"A normal soldier would not sacrifice a limb like Aquinas just had; seven decades of the knowledge that limbs were irreplaceable, and that the loss of one could lead to death, worked against it. This wasn't a problem with Special Forces soldiers, who never could not have a limb grown back, and who knew their body's tolerance for damage was so much higher than a normal soldier could appreciate."
Old Man's War

Direct Action has the war, the Ultimates have the agōgē.

Named for the educational system of ancient Sparta, the agōgē is a simulspace project in which the Ultimates raise their children. Children are generated by algorithms remixing and improving the genes of proven Ultimates. They are raised by a single, unrelated parent.

The simulspace environment consists of a small, frozen moon in an elliptical orbit around a Uranus-like gas giant. The elliptical orbit of the moon brings it periodically within the powerful radiation belts of the giant, and so life is divided into two seasons, each approximately eight months long.  In the "hot" season, heavy radiation forbids surface life, and family pairs spend all their time in bunkers. This is when formal, historical, scientific and ideological education takes place. In the "cold" season, the parent and child pairs mine ore and ice, trying to scavenge enough feedstock to last through the hot season. Raiding takes place regularly. Killing is neither encouraged nor discouraged; it is expected that half or less of the children will survive the agōgē.

The tough conditions breed tough Ultimates. They have hands-on experience with all the realities of out system life: they learn to wear and repair vaccsuits, mine, program fabbers, fight, steal and above all else, survive. They are accustomed to cold, poorly-mixed air, and injury. They have little material expectations. Their parents teach them to strive for the virtues of the Ultimate's philosophy.

The children are born into their remade biomorphs. Baselines tend not to fully trust the greater tolerances of a remade morph:  their expectations are based on the body they were born in. The children do not need to become accustomed to the capabilities and tolerances of their heavily engineered bodies. To them drinking salt water and sleeping two hours a day are only natural.

Experimentation has concluded that it is actually best if the children are at least partially aware of the simulated nature of their lives. Throughout their education they are told that they are being tested, and that if they succeed they will be brought to the others of their kind. Once a child has been deemed sufficient to graduate into reality (usually between 14 and 18 years of age), they undergo a coming-of-age ceremony, testing their willpower by requiring them to drown themselves. If they succeed, they awaken in Xiphas, the Ultimate's home station, that which they have been striving for. Because of the small poulation of the simulation, the Ultimates can run it at 10x real speed, and thus can raise a generation every 1.6 - 1.8 years.

Plot Hooks: One child has proven more capable than the Ultimate's could have hoped for. She has deduced the precise nature of the simulspace and been testing its limitations. This has caused an internal rift among the Ultimates. Some believe she is dangerous and troublesome, and will inevitably fight Ultimate authority. Others believe she is the agōgē's greatest success; what better strength than to break from a trap? Firewall would be extremely happy if she were extracted and recruited.

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