FreeRIDErs (background material)
|FreeRIDErs story universe|
The following is a posting of various in-universe-style reference material created for the FreeRIDErs story setting. For a setting overview, list of stories, and suggested reading order, see FreeRIDErs (setting).
- 1 Zharus: Vital Statistics
- 2 Setting Timeline
- 3 The Trigger Effect
- 4 Monetary Units
- 5 Zharus: Ecology and Wildlife
- 6 Crossriders: A Survey
- 7 Mysterious Minerals and the Menace from Earth
- 8 The Dry Ocean
- 9 A Wolf in the Fold
- 10 Integration: A NEW YOU Guide for Noobs
- 11 Lifter Vehicle Designations and Licensing
- 12 User Interface Technology
- 13 Nextus Military RIDE Designations (122-160 AL)
- 14 WLF-CSA-01A (Sturmhaven Heavy RIDE Foundries, GMBH))
- Mean Radius: 12,322km (2x Earth)
- Circumference: 75,398 km
- Surface Area: 1,907,973,212 sq km. (4x Earth)
- Day: 30 hours
- Year: 300.5 days.
- Surface Gravity: .9 Earth.
- Alpha (slightly larger than Earth's moon, orbiting a little more closely.)
- Beta-4 & Gamma-2
- Not moons per se. Very resource-rich asteroids brought in from the outer system at the LaGrange points. Metals mined from then are brought down the Space Elevators.
- 10 months of 30 days each.
- 6-day weeks. 4 working days with a 2-day weekend.
- No Mondays.
- Typically a 4/40 workweek.
- The development of RIDEs is discussed.
Source: Reynolds, Nathan. (149 AL) Zharus: A Socio-Economic Primer (Uplift: Uplift Press)
There is a frequently-repeated but probably apocryphal story that posits, when the newly-formed Nexus Consortium in Laurasia was drawing up plans to establish a colony on the continent of Gondwana, it forgot to provide the contractor with its preferred names for things, such as the units of currency the colony would use. So the contractor simply used “monetary units” (or the abbreviation “mu”) as a placeholder, assuming Nextus could change it later.
However, the name had not been changed by the time the colony was actually founded, at which point the colonists—impressed with its straightforwardness and simple Greek-letter abbreviation—adopted the placeholder as its actual currency title. Thanks to Nextus’s rapid economic explosion due to its advances in science, technology, and industry, its “mu,” “moo,” or “moonits” soon displaced other colonies’ own government-backed money (such as Nuevo San Antonio’s neo-peso or Uplift’s cumulo) as the de facto currency of trade among people and businesses.
By this point, the passage of time makes it unlikely the story will ever be either proven or disproven—but whether true or not, the story has been incessantly repeated by other colonists (and even Nextusians themselves) for the same reason as most ethnic humor—it plays so well to the Nextusian stereotype as a bunch of unimaginative pragmatists. (See also, “How many Nextusians does it take to charge a hardlight projector?”) Unimaginative or not, however, Nextus boasts a GDP 50% larger than its nearest Gondwanan competitor—so perhaps pragmatism may not be all bad.
Source: Banner, R.J.. (122 AL) Zharus: A Guide for Immigrants. New Boston: Suffolk E-Press
Introduction: A Far Away Home
Zharus was discovered by a sublight survey probe in the year 72BL (Before Landing, 2278 AD). It took twenty years for the data to travel back to Earth at mere lightspeed. At the time habitable planets were starting to appear more frequently as probes were sent to nearby stars. That Zharus was a habitable super-Earth came as a surprise in the astrobiology, astronomy, and xenogeology fields. Underwritten by the philanthropic Zharus Diaspora Group and Steader Colonization Consortium, a fleet of twenty colonization ships were built and sent into the stars, with hundreds more to follow. The journey took thirty-five years and is an adventure tale by itself.
The advent of superluminal propulsion a century ago changed the whole colonization landscape. Even the first superluminal starships shaved twenty years off the travel time. Since then, as speeds through subspace steadily increase, we are now within a year's travel from the Core Colonies of Proxima and Centauri. We have the space, no natives to displace. Come join us!
Our world is dominated by three truly massive continents to match its impressive girth, rightly named for Old Earth's long-vanished supercontinents. Despite this, our surface gravity is less than Old Earth's. While this leaves planetary resources deficient in most useful heavy metals, asteroid mining more than makes up for it. Our world provides ample resources, including so-called "rare earths" in vast amounts necessary to run modern civilization.
We are proudly the largest jewel in the Earth-sphere's crown. Independent of Earth-sphere politics, yet proud of our heritage.
Laurasia: A Temperate Eden
The smallest continent, Laurasia's growing population of two billion is still uncrowded. As large as North America and Asia combined, by itself it has nearly half of Old Earth's habitable surface area. The continent has been extensively terraformed and the process continues. 90% of food production is centered here, with vast areas devoted to Terran crops and livestock. Yes, we still raise food the old-fashioned way.
Visit the capital city of Zharustead.
Rodinia: A Native Refuge
The second-largest continent. Slightly larger than Laurasia, it dominates the Southern Hemisphere. The Zharus Colonial Authority designated this continent as a native refuge—a Planetary Park—declaring it off limits to any development aside from a few special tourist and scientific installations.
Zharusian life is primitive by Earth standards, with no native vertebrates. The continent is dominated by life similar to Earth's Carboniferous Period, three hundred million years ago, with the addition of grassoids, flowering plants, and well-developed soils. Verdant and lush, there are many safari options for the willing. Will you dare?
Gondwana: A Billion Year Drought
Since its discovery from the very first survey probe, geologists and climatologists from Earth and beyond have marveled at the conditions that have produced the Dry Ocean. A combination of geographical features, tectonic stasis, and the most stable climate ever discovered, have left an area larger than the North Atlantic on Earth drier than the Atacama Desert in South America. At the deepest point, 1,800 meters below sea level, temperatures can reach 80C on high summer days and a chilly -20C on low winter nights. The Dry Ocean contains wonders unseen on other worlds, even the low-gravity spindle-arches on Proxima. Desert tours are available for a nominal fee, ranging from personal tours from locals to commercial liners carrying hundreds of guests in climate-controlled comfort on leisurely week-long cruises. Human and native life exists around the edges. The Polis of Uplift is the only one that exists away from the life-giving rains of the continent's Coastal Ring. These hardy, friendly folk will be happy to welcome newcomers from Earth, Proxima, Wednesday, and the other human colonies.
What life exists in the Deep Desert lives on a different plane of time. See the columnar "plants" that contain numerous channels to trap any hint of moisture in the air, some estimated to be millions of years old.
There is great wealth here, buried in the rock, in vast deposits of evaporates bombarded by millions of years of solar radiation, changed somehow. It's all here, unclaimed riches. Will you get yours?*
* This is not a guarantee. Suffolk E-Press LLC is not liable for mu spent, death, dismemberment, accidental species/gender reassignment, or potential bankruptcy.
Presentation Speech to Terran Psychological Association Symposium on Gender Issues, Sydney Australia, Earth, 1 May, 2500 AD (150 AL)
If there is any one place that is most renowned for falling farthest outside psychological gender norms in the present day, that place is probably the colony of Zharus. Our global media net has for years been flooded with rumors and tabloid stories about the mores of the place, and the planet's very distance has made determining the truth of these matters…problematic, to say the least. Very few of us have felt we could spare the years necessary to go and investigate for ourselves!
However, we at the North American Psychological Journal have been carrying on an extensive long-distance correspondence with our colleagues on Zharus over the last few years, and at this time we are ready to present a peer-reviewed paper originally published in one of their premier sociological journals. Based on this paper we will present tonight, it is safe to say that the truth about Zharus and its "RIDEs" may be even more startling, with more profound implications for the future of gender theory, than even the most outrageous tabloid stories could have predicted. Indeed, if the information about the effect RIDEs have on the body are even half true, there are whole new areas of species-related body disorders and potential treatments emerging.
Consider that, although we have had nanite-assisted gender reassignment for over fifty years, at no other place in the galaxy can the decision to change gender be so heavily influenced by economic factors—and at no other place is it possible to have one's own gender changed entirely by accident.
As I think you will agree, Zharus could be the site of the next great breakthrough in the field of gender psychology. In months to come, we will be organizing a sponsored expedition to Zharus for more detailed study of these factors. We will have more information available at our booth.
(Source: Laurasia University Sociological Letters, 4 June, 148 AL)
By: Dr. Freya Tournquist, Ph.D.
The ongoing revolution in nanotechnology, enabled in large part by the minerals in the Dry Ocean, has only just started to cause social upheaval in human societies on our massive world. There are many aspects to this phenomenon, but rather than writing about them in general terms (including Integration, Reticulated Intelligences, and the like) this research will deal exclusively with what are colloquially called "crossriders".
Who are crossriders? They are people—typically Gondwanan prospectors—who for one reason or another have chosen to purchase and Fuse with a RIDE who is not their birth gender, thus making a very fundamental change to their bodies upon first use. The long term effects on their social status and psychology is the subject of my next publication. This one is simply a survey of five questions. Unfortunately sample size was not as large as I had hoped, therefore the margins of error are wider. (+/- 2.3%)
1. Why did you choose a female RIDE when you were not a woman yourself?
- Financial (price): 48%
- Curiosity: 8%
- Availability: 32%
- Feature set: 5%
- Other (specify): 7%
These results make clear that the majority of crossriders had mainly financial influences, with female surplus unit availability a distant but still very significant second. Most of the RIDEs purchased by prospectors are retired military units from Nextus. That Polis is notable for having a slight majority of females in its armed forces, while the opposite is true of Dry Ocean prospectors. It becomes a matter of supply and demand. Though the availability disparity is at times very small, most buyers are not willing to crossride for any reason.
Surplus male RIDEs are typically significantly more expensive on the open market (frequently due to bidding wars between natural-born male riders). This gives a financial advantage to female prospectors and those men willing to crossride due to lower capital outlays. Of course, brand new units made specifically for prospecting are also available from several manufacturers, but even decade-old Nextus surplus units are superior in terms of power, durability, and versatility (DeTomaso, L. 147 AL).
Since female units are less expensive and more often available, natural-born female buyers can usually find a gender-matched RIDE much more easily than males.
Notable answers to "Other" include (See Appendix A for full text).
- "It was cheaper than the gender reassignment nanosurgery I needed, and I got a new friend in the bargain."
- "Personal wager. I'll be a man again next year. It's made my marriage a lot more exciting! I have a lot more empathy for my wife now."
- "It wasn't by choice. That's all I'll say."
- "I… um… I was fresh off the orbital shuttle and needed equipment. Literally had no idea what I was getting into. I just bought the cheapest one I could."
- "My girlfriend said she'd realized she was a lesbian, so what else could I do? I thought the joke was on me when she said she'd actually just wanted to break up without hurting my feelings…but then she spent the night with me and we realized she really was a lesbian—and technically so was I. We've been together ever since. I won't say I've had an easy time adapting, but I'm a pretty happy girl."
- "I just needed a replacement right away. Didn't care. Been six years. Still don't."
2. Had you given any thought to such a radical change to yourself prior to purchasing your RIDE?
a) Yes: 3%
b) No: 95%
c) No Answer: 2%
Note that the "Fuser" process does make significant physiological changes to the rider. The addition of animal ears and a tail are de rigueur. This is due to the technological necessity to match sensory and motor inputs on a 1:1 basis (Gatt, G., 130 AL).
Unmodified humans have no tail under normal circumstances. This can cause disorientation in operating a unit with a tail, unless the human's nervous system is wired to control one at all times (ibid). Similarly, the different acoustic and balance effects from human to animal ear shapes would leave the RIDE off-balance as the human attempted to apply its human reflexes.
The same principles apply to the nanosurgical sex change, though of course on a much deeper level. Although men and women do have some analogous structures (such as breasts, penis for clitoris, etc.) the 1:1 rule still applies. Some RIDE engineers insist that it's psychologically necessary for the RIs themselves as well, but I leave that kind of analysis to them. It is possible to bypass this requirement by using something called "passive" mode that puts the RI to "sleep", with significant loss of advanced function. (Gatt, G., 135 AL)
3. Having experienced both genders, I prefer being:
M -> F changers
* Sample size for female-to-male crossriders is very small with consequently larger margins of error. Too large to report in this letter. In large part due to the same issues of price and availability addressed in question 1, male-to-female crossriders outnumber female-to-male by 4:1.
Within the margin of error, the preferences reported above are a statistical tie.
4. When will/did you return to your original gender?
a) Sooner than recommended safe minimum (<3 years*): 7%
b) Recommended safe minimum (3+ years): 27%
c) 3-6 years after original change: 16%
d) 7-10 years after original change: 10%
e) 10+ years after original change: 9%
f) Never: 31%
* Nanosurgery too soon has significant risks of permanent disfigurement and even death due to interactions with sex-change nanobots that linger in the rider's body for several years to assist in establishing and maintaining the body's new homeostasis. The actual minimum safe period is usually between 2.25 and 2.75 years, depending on a number of individual factors that cannot be determined without detailed homeostatic analysis and costly genome sequencing; 3 years represents a 5-sigma "fudge factor" sufficient to avoid danger in 99.999% of all cases. (Xian, Z.)
5. Overall, has your "crossing" been beneficial or detrimental to your life and career?
(This was an open-ended question. Respondents were encouraged to put their experience into their own words. The full text of responses are in Appendix B. Here are some notable ones.)
- "Everybody should do this at least once. Just a few years of your life out of what, almost 120 years now? It's pure enlightenment. I switch every five years. Life would get stale otherwise."
- "My construction crew was all male, and we used to like to share around all the crude male sexist humor we could find—until the day I found out why the new forklift had been so cheap. Nobody knew quite what to think for the first week or so—then I got fed up with the pussy-footing and started forwarding around "dumb guy" jokes. And then two of the other guys worked up the nerve to trade in their male RIDEs for better equipment from "˜the other team' so we could take on bigger jobs! I guess we'll stay how we are for now—it's cheaper than buying new equipment or training natural-born women to work what we have. (And a couple of us have even started dating our co-workers.)"
- "I got tired of being the 'office chick'. I was a petite little thing. I would've quit, but the money was just too good. Well, they're not laughing now."
- "I hate every minute of it. Worst decision I ever made. And my zoot's not too fond of me either. Bitch."
- "How can I put this? I feel like Alice in Wonderland. I'm not trying to be all mystical or anything, but… women just don't know what they have. I'm all… ripe and womanly. Never going back. My friends have been very supportive. I've already gone native."
- "I try not to let anyone know my history, but I don't hide it very well either. I get sneers from 'real' women and men just shun me. My business has suffered greatly, and I live in one of the more progressive polities. I think I'm going to have to start fresh somewhere else. Maybe after I learn to blend in better. Don't get me wrong, though, no regrets here."
- "I was a man for three years and I look back on the experience with mixed feelings. It was worth doing once… only once."
- "I dunno, maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but…c'mon, what's the difference? We both eat, we both breathe, we both [urinate] and [defecate]. So we have different plumbing, big deal. (I do spend most of my time alone out in the desert, though. Maybe I'd feel different if I had to put up with other people.)"
We are only at the early stages of a vast social change driven by technological advance. It's happening rather more slowly than the old "Singularity" predictions of centuries ago, but it's finally here, courtesy of our wondrous home Zharus. Not only for the physical effects on humanity, but on the new Reticulated Intelligences that are our new partners and essentially humanity's children. Eventually I hope to study the results firsthand, but the Integrated* are reluctant to participate. Despite this doubt, the word "transhumanism" is no longer something to chuckle at.
* Indeed, I'm not entirely certain they actually exist.
DeTomaso, Laura (147 AL). Get more whoosh for your mu: ten year old Nextus mil-spec surplus vs. everyone else brand new! FreeRIDER Magazine. July.
Gatt, Gerhard. (130 AL). Sensory and motor synchronization between organic and inorganic systems in Reticulated Intelligence Drive Extenders. Journal of Nanosurgical Engineering. 2(2).
Gatt, Gerhard. (135 AL). Prevention of deep physiological changes utilizing a new operational mode in RIDEs. Journal of Transhuman Nanosurgical Engineering. 5(3).
Xian, Zarla (132 AL). Restoration of original physical sex in "crossriders". Procedures and best practices. Journal of Nanosurgical Engineering. 3(1).
Source: Stoner, Dr. Moses. (143 AL) The Miracle Minerals. Nextus: Publishing House E-Press.
We are so comfortable with qubitite, the amazing mineral with such peculiar properties that underpins so much of Zharus's modern technology, that we tend to forget its actual origins are shrouded in mystery. Where these deposits came from is unknown, though most appear to agree they seem to have been deposited with the evaporation of an ancient ocean in the "Billion Year Drought" that created the immense desert in Gondwanaland where they can be found.
How they got into that ocean is still unclear. Only the merest traces have been found in the planet's current seas. Core samples from other areas of the planet have similarly failed to turn up anything unusual. Miners have ardently sought qubitite deposits in the system's asteroid belts, but have had to content themselves with the ordinary nickel-iron and carbonaceous chondrite finds that are nonetheless vital to traditional nano-manufacturing (though they are still hopeful; they have to date examined less than 1% of the total volume of these belts).
The most we now understand about qubitite is that it is a naturally-occurring metamaterial with quantum properties that defy conventional analysis and knock on the door of the Standard Model like an unwanted guest, raising the specter of the long-discredited M-theory (also known as "String Theory") or even something more outlandish. Some have even suggested that it could have been deposited by a wormhole event that spewed matter from another galaxy or even another universe, developed under different physical laws.
Regardless of its origin, the mineral was regarded as a simple curiosity (much as Old Earth's petroleum up until the late 19th century AD) until 112 AL, when Sarium batteries first appeared on the market. This sparked a new "Q Rush" that continues to this day, and the planet's first resource-based war.
During the Nextus-Sturmhaven War (118-123 AL) in 122 AL, Nextus Polity labs discovered that it could be used in the manufacture of intelligent robotic animals ("Reticulated Intelligences", although they are broadly similar to the AI we've had for centuries), and subsequently nanotechnological vehicles and armor based on those animals. The knowledge and technology soon leaked, provoking a prospecting boom that shows no signs of slowing down even thirty years on; the Dry Ocean has so much surface area that even all of Gondwana's colonists have barely made a dent.
Although reports of this technology and mineralogy have made their way back to Old Earth and humanity's core worlds, the Old Earth establishment has largely reacted with a profound disbelief that any major advances could have been found anywhere other than there.* The extended travel time necessary to come from and return to Earth or its nearer colonies has provided additional disincentive for anyone to come investigate.**
This may be quite fortunate. If Earth or the older colonies understood exactly what kind of advance qubitite and its attendant RIDEs truly represented, they could overwhelm Zharus's colonies militarily and occupy the planet indefinitely, confiscating its qubitite to feed their own war machines. Every year the Zharusian colonies are able to convince Earth that stories about qubitite's properties are rampant exaggeration is another year they have to prepare for their own defense against an external attack that might be inevitable. *** Also, the supply of qubitite is vast, but it is not limitless. Unless another, larger source is found, the current mines could support the needs of a single planet for some time but it is doubtful they could sustain the needs of an entire galaxy crazy about RIDEs.
* This is commonly referred to by the quaint old term "Not Invented Here syndrome".
** Most of those who did come to investigate have been so entranced by what they found that they have chosen to remain here. Also, many of Earth's and Proxima's younger disaffected have either been more willing to believe the rumors or simply bored enough to seek adventure and their fortune mining qubitite, and have traveled by the tens of thousands to swell Zharus's numbers.
*** There are severe interstellar export controls on qubitite, RIDEs, and RIDE/Zharusian IDE technology for this reason—one of the few things every polity agrees on and zealously enforces.
Source: Martinez, R. (101 AL). A Geological History of the Dry Ocean. 2nd ed. Zharus-Steader City: Blackrock E-Press.
(Although this text is somewhat dated, newer editions published by humorless Nextus geologists aren't as interesting. Dr. Roberto Martinez spent thirty years creating this definitive work about our planet's most mysterious geological feature. This isn't text so much as transcript, as Martinez preferred the conversational interactive lecture style that had then-recently fallen out of favor with the Zharus University academic establishment and is now once again in vogue. Think of yourself, the 'reader', as his personal student. And you'll know something about one of our Polis's accidental founders. Enjoy! —ed. (Uplift University Press, 148AL))
The So-Called "Billion Year Drought"
This is, simply put, romantic hogwash.
The human mind can barely conceive of a thousand years' time, let alone a million or a billion. "Deep Time" as it's sometimes called is vaster than any ocean. Not quite as vast as space, perhaps. But that's out of my league. I deal with finite things like rocks and dirt.
Fortunately Earth-years and Zharus-years are close enough. I'll just start here by saying, over the course of the last billion years the "Gondwana Central Basin" (or GCB, as I call it) has been either partly or fully flooded roughly fifteen percent of that time—which is 150 million years. As long as the dinosaurs on Earth in their prime ever lived. Longer than multicellular life has existed on this planet.
<images of flooded Gondwana, 3 of the most significant events, plus others>
There are three breaching points that by themselves are fifty times larger than Gibraltar Falls at the end of the last Messinian Salinity Crisis on Earth six million years ago that dried out the Mediterranean Sea. The basin has only been completely full on three occasions, with a number of partial flooding events at intervals when rifting or rising sea levels allowed the ocean to flood in over the relatively flat northwestern Coastal Ring. But the flooding has never lasted more than a few million years at most. Once cut off, the GBC evaporates in as little as a hundred thousand years.
<interactive video of simulated event, comparison to Gibraltar>
There are three identified on-again, off-again rift systems. There are two stuck subduction zones complete with naked "island" arcs and "seamounts", and a dozen active volcanoes. There are truly massive deep magmatic structures under Gondwana that lifts and sinks the entire continent. Think about that. We've barely scratched the surface—pun intended—of the geology of this super-Earth. This massive, life-bearing world. Amazing, isn't it?
<interactive map with video, cutaway of the planet>
The Towers, the deepest part of the GCB, have seen the most flooding and thus have the deepest evaporite deposits. The last event was twenty million years ago.
One of the things I will admit to my colleagues, and to you of course, is that the continent has been remarkably tectonically stable for those billion years. The other continents and microcontinents have split up and reformed twice, but never once after its initial formation has Gondwana done the same deep time song and dance. Oh, the shape of the land itself has changed, just look at the Western Wall Orogene and its 11,000 meter peaks (made possible by our lower gravity). But Gondwana has been a cohesive whole for the entire time.
<animation of the last 1.5 billion years of tectonic drift, showing Gondwana's formation and evolution>
Think about that. Volcanoes have spewed, crust split, oceans formed and obliterated, earthquakes that dwarf anything Old Earth can produce. Gondwana endures.
Mysterious Mineral Deposits, Harsh Climate, Hardy Colonists, and Unreliable Equipment
Doing proper field work in the GCB is… pretty damned impossible right now. It isn't just the continent's negligible magnetic field, the constant ionization making radio a foolish piece of equipment at best. It isn't just the hellfire 70C temperatures, or the dense atmosphere.
No. It's none of those things. It's those evaporite deposits. There's all the regular stuff. Halite, calcite, gypsum, a lot of lithium. The vast majority of our samples come from windblown dust on the eastern side of the Basin, at a little dustbowl of a town called Uplift. Why they chose that godawful spot for a settlement I have no idea.* I was there when it was founded—I think I inadvertently might've played a role. I convinced the University to loan us the hardlight climate control dome our sister Colony on Wednesday gave us as part of a technology exchange. The engineers wanted to study how well it worked in field conditions anyway. Makes the outpost quite pleasant. They claim they could even make it rain if they wanted to. Anyway, I digress.
The dust also contains traces of heretofore unseen naturally-occurring metamaterials that defy ordinary chemical classification. We've already found several large deposits of them out in the portions of the desert we can reach, so it's no mystery how they ended up in the dust. The mystery is the strange quantum properties these metamaterials have.
Furthermore, as nearly as we can figure, these minerals are responsible for a prodigious rate of electronic and mechanical failure in our expeditions into the wasteland. There's something about them that "traditional" technology just doesn't seem to like. Harden our gear as we might, even under constant maintenance its lifespan frequently measures only in days or weeks—and as you can imagine, when your air conditioning breaks down in 75-degree heat, you're in trouble.
After several tragedies, all future expeditions have been severely curtailed until someone figures out a way to protect our technology against contamination. (And given the way this dust seems to burrow through even micron-fine filters as if they aren't there, something tells me this could take a while.)
I've examined these minerals down to the quantum level and I still can't figure out how or why they do what they do. I've handed all my data over to the High Energy Physics Department. They've published several papers on the topic, so give 'em a look for further discussion.
*Professor Martinez was a great geologist, but a poor climatologist. He just happened to find the one spot on the "shore" of the Dry Ocean that is the coolest year-round, where moist wind collects. Uplift is one of the few sites away from the Ring where rainclouds form. See y'all at the Rainy Days Festival! —ed.
[NOTE: This section will likely need to be rewritten when we can get around to it. Due to changes in our conception of AlphaWolf and his fate over the course of writing "Integration," it is highly likely that his "disappearance" no longer happens.]
Source: Grey, A.W. (AL 165). A Wolf in the Fold: AlphaWolf's Wild RIDEs. Uplift: Uplift Press
Even years after his mysterious disappearance during the raid that shattered his enclave of "feral" emancipated RIDEs, AlphaWolf remains one of Gondwana's most colorful and controversial figures. Fond of comparing himself to the 20th-century Civil Rights activist Malcolm X, his critics nonetheless suggested a more apt comparison would be "one of those whiny 1970s hippies who were always going on about starting a commune and getting "˜back to nature' but then found that real life didn't live up to their idealistic expectations" (Tocsin, 47).
His campaign for RIDE independence and equality was fraught with ironies and contradiction. Much has already been made of his "Amontillado" rider psyche segmentation software containing a trojan that forced unwary RIDEs who installed it to conform to his anti-humanist ideals. But that barely scratches the surface. For example, despite originally insisting RIDEs didn't truly need humans, he nonetheless was responsible for seeing to the well-being of as many as several dozen humans at a time. It turned out that a number of tasks involved with setting up and maintaining a hidden RIDE colony required the use of opposable thumbs.
Some of AlphaWolf's human camp followers came from the Liberator movement, with whom AlphaWolf had a sometimes contentious alliance. The Liberators and AlphaWolf's Free RIDEs would frequently meet to allow Liberated RIDEs to join AlphaWolf's enclave, or allow RIDEs that had gotten bored with enclave life to partner with Liberators. If there was a numerical imbalance in the Liberators' favor, AlphaWolf would often insist some human Liberators stay behind to make up the balance.
Other times, humans came from AlphaWolf's practice of raiding small human mines or outlying settlements and bodyjacking any humans they came across. Despite popular conceptions, AlphaWolf would but rarely consent to these raids, perhaps not wanting to sour his reputation among the polities' more RIDE-sympathetic humans and human-sympathetic RIDEs.
Humans who came willingly were treated slightly better than kidnap victims, but all were made well aware that they were first and foremost the "pets and property" (Tocsin, 89) of their RIDEs, and they lived at the sufferance of their partners. These RIDEs would frequently keep their humans in Fuser form for weeks at a time. (Despite this practice, very few of AlphaWolf's RIDE/human pairs ever Integrated, at least while they were living within the enclave, suggesting that the willingness of the pairing might play a role in its eventual fate.) It was not unheard of for humans to have their genders reassigned without consultation to meet the needs of unpaired RIDEs seeking a human.
For all of that, AlphaWolf never insisted on harsh treatment of "his" humans, nor did he try to prevent any friendships that might arise naturally out of their close proximity. Some of the RIDEs and their "pets" grew very close over time, and many "rescued" humans would simply bide their time until they could escape to be reunited once more with their beloved RIDE masters (McClaren, 113).
Stockholm Syndrome could account for some of these relationships, as could the bonds of shared experience—since RIDEs and their humans shared literally every experience unless the RIDE used the Amontillado psyche-suppression software. The Liberators came to appreciate this aspect of the partnership, and frequently took to trading members whose allegiances were starting to seem doubtful—after a few months as one of AlphaWolf's pet humans, most would return almost certainly more extremely pro-RIDE than many of the Liberators' unaltered membership.
In some cases, once humans accepted their role as their RIDE's pet, the RIDE and human were allowed to infiltrate undercover into one of the polities, serving as AlphaWolf's eyes and ears within human communities (Tocsin, 91). Undoubtedly many of these human pet/RIDE master duos still live unremarkable lives within their polities to this day.
It should be noted that, despite Nextus propaganda to the contrary, AlphaWolf and his RIDEs actually took very good care of the humans they kept—even tracking dates of gender changes so that no one could be inadvertently rechanged prior to the three-year safety mark (Tocsin, 103). This was not done out of any sense of altruism, however, so much as the appreciation that their humans were a rare and valuable resource that could not be easily replaced.
It will probably never become clear precisely to what extent AlphaWolf was or was not collaborating with the Nextus military. Some have put forth the argument that he was secretly a Nextus agent provocateur all along (Forsythe, 7). Certainly his claim to have escaped from a Nextus Special Forces unit seems suspect, especially in light of his often juvenile antics. As with his flamboyant choice of name, it could be a complete fabrication.
But if AlphaWolf truly ever was a part of the Nextus military, it seems extremely unlikely he could have "escaped" without being permitted to leave. It seems equally unlikely he could have made his many trips back into Nextus to "preach his message" without having been captured if Nextus had truly wished to capture him.
What we do know, thanks to recently declassified Nextus military documents, is that despite all of AlphaWolf's precautions, including a hardlight dome designed to camouflage the settlement from satellite eyes, the Nextus authorities had always known exactly where his "secret" enclave was located (NIA, 37). They chose to allow it to persist because it served two extremely useful purposes.
First, it served to pull disaffected emancipated RIDEs out of Nextus, like iron filings to a magnet. The RIDEs most likely to go on violent rampages were instead isolated in the desert without much interaction with civilians beyond the occasional bodyjack raid (NIA, 39).
Second, Nextus considered the enclave to be, effectively, a self-assembled strategic reserve. One long-held Nextus contingency plan, in the event of war breaking out between polities or external invasion, called for a lightning raid on the enclave utilizing military-grade ECM and hardware override tools to capture and refetter hundreds of RIDEs with potential military applications (NIA, 63). This plan hews fairly close to what is known about the (still-mostly-classified) Nextus raid that finally dismantled AlphaWolf's enclave and coincided with AlphaWolf's disappearance (Tocsin, 153).
AlphaWolf might have thought of himself as "the big bad wolf," but the events leading up to the fall of his enclave showed that he was actually more of a babe in the woods when it came to his relationship to humanity. He and his RIDEs might have been the greatest devices mankind had ever built—but it was still man who wielded the tools.
Forsythe, Antonio. (162 AL). AlphaWolf: tyrant wolf or just bad dog? Zharus World News. 7(42)
McClaren, Josephine. (153 AL). Stockholm comes to Zharus. Laurasia Psychological Journal. 37(1)
Nextus Intelligence Agency. (162 AL). Declassified Documents Pertaining to AlphaWolf Feral RIDE Containment Enclave. Nextus: Government Printing Office.
Tocsin. (161 AL). Maneater: Confessions of an Unrepentant Bodyjacker. Uplift: Free RIDE Press
Okay. I'm sure you're in half a panic right now. You're not sure if you should think of yourself as a "we" or a "me". You feel blind, deaf, and dumb. Your family and friends think you're a freak, you have to use a freaking keyboard to do anything with computers, and all your clothes are too big because you were Fused for so long. Well, tough break. No worries, though. You're in good company.
The first step is to get yourself a DIN. Go see GlennGary, Darla, or a couple others who have the knack. They're really good at figuring out how your new brain processes data now. You're "Individuated" as some nob calls it. Every single one of us has a different data format. In ancient tech terms it's like getting a pre-Internet PC to talk to a Mac. You need something to translate your data into something the other machine can understand. That'a DIN, baby. A Data Interface Normalizer. Don't leave home without it.
Really, don't. I'm serious. Carry spares! They're cheap. In fact, they're free from your home fabber.
You're thinking about it right now. I can tell. Really, once you have it on don't take it off for any reason.
You remember being Fused, right? How easy it got to do anything you wanted with the tech around you and your buddy? You merely had to think, and your quantum companion took care of all the nuts and bolts? Well, you can still do that. But you need something to translate the data in your head into something standard systems can use. We don't know why, but the Integration process fucks that shit up. Some of us are worse off than others. I know a girl who doesn't even have a dataport. She's stuck with using interface specs and keyboards. Fastest typist I've ever seen, though.
Get DIN or stay in.
Okay, so… what else can you do with that new furry-techy bod of yours? Good question. Like I said, we're Individuated, so I can't tell you everything you can do. But there's a lot in common. I'll start with those hardlight lenses in your skin. Or those glowy tron-lines. Or fiber-optic fur. Whatever you have. They all share the same function.
Tools, weapons, disguises, cloaking, image and video projection, playing music for others' ears, and a ton of other stuff. It's our one shared superpower. If you really, really wanted you could create an image of the old human-you over yourself. Or a couple meters in front of yourself and cloak your body, running it like a puppet. Or that hot chick you saw down the street. Or your furry (feathery, or scaley) other half.
Drawback is that there's a pretty hefty power cost. Yes, you still eat, but you've got batteries too and need both to function at full power. Some of us recharge from a power cable, others via induction. Usually it's part of our intestines. Efficient if you ask me. You'll find that energy from various sources can have a "taste". I prefer natural fusion—you know, solar—over that artificial stuff. Yech. Bad taste. Like brocolli. Or yogurt. I hate yogurt!
How durable are you? The Dry Ocean's still no problem. 80 degrees outside? Feels more like 80F on the old scale. Pretty comfy. Go sunbathe. You've got more control over your own body than you ever did before. You can access individual body systems—if you really wanted to. Remember Passive mode? You can hibernate a lot like that. You can lose entire limbs and regenerate them within hours, though I don't recommend experimenting with that. Womenfolk—crossriders or natural—can keep their periods if they really want to, or just shut it off. You still eat, you still excrete, though you're a lot more efficient at getting energy out of food. It's not really that gross compared to humans. Fart rainbows and pee pancake syrup if you really want.
There's also the little problem that we're utterly infertile. But… whatever. We'll fix it someday.
Generally we have some limited ability to shapeshift. It's not instantaneous, so forget about roaring dramatically, shifting to a regular huge lion, then pouncing on your prey. Some of us can also change genders, mostly crossriders who've done a lot of flip-flopping. Again, forget poofing between dude and chick at will. Amazingly the change takes days or weeks. Don't ask me why, when the first time you got ka-girled (or ka-guyed) in a few minutes. It is what it is.
You'll also find a few locked in "animal" form. Again, we don't know why. The Integration process is like chasing Mandelbrot butterflies. If they flap their wings wrong you end up on all fours, saying "moo" instead of intelligent conversation.
In fact, "I don't know" is often said around here. We don't know why or how Integration happens. There are maybe a few thousand of us at most, scattered in small Enclaves all over Gondwana. A few hundred went to Rodinia somewhere, and I think there's another group in Zharustead. They're the best at appearing human. All in all we're pretty spread out, no real organization except very locally. We keep to ourselves.
So noob, welcome to your new home! Glad to meet you. It'll be fun.
BTW: You may not be familiar with how we've named our Enclaves. If not, you have some reading to do! Folks took to using names of fantastical places from myth and fiction for their own homes. Avalon, Middle-Earth, Narnia, FourEcks, Wonkaville, Oz, Ankh-Morpork, Darkover, Valdemar, Pern, Cybertron, Olympus, FurryMUCK, Norrath, Aiur, Gallifrey, Equestria, Alderaan, Mechanicsburg, Prester John, Tyria, Andoria, Westeros, Shambhala, Xanadu, Xanth, Vulcan, Chakona… on and on and on. Stuff like that. Even a few things newer than the early 21st century. If you find an unoccupied cave bubble that needs some fixing up, feel free to come up with your own. Nano's cheap around here.
- Limited to altitudes of 100 m
- Emergency altitude up to 1000 m.
- 750 kph
- Emergency speed 1000 kph.
- No size limitations in this document.
- Polities may apply additional rules.
- Light-duty inertial dampeners
- Include RIDEs and AIDES with alternate modes.
- Operator Licensing: Determined by Polity.
Note: Skimmers come in all shapes and sizes. From single-occupant wheeled scooters, commercial intercity skybusses carrying a few hundred passengers, sports skimmers that routinely hit 1000 kph, "emergency" or not, and family vehicles for going to Grandma's for Landing Day dinner.
Although the term "skimmer" seemingly implies a primarily hovering vehicle, some wheeled and tracked vehicles remain in use in specialized situations (for example, balloon-tired "quad-runner" vehicles are used for traversing uneven or sloped terrain in mountain rescue operations or off-road hobbies), including as the vehicular mode of some RIDEs. Rather than create a separate classification for a relative few vehicles, these ground-runners are usually lumped in with their floating and flying brethren for licensing purposes. (And even these vehicles often still contain anti-grav or vectored-thrust elements as secondary or emergency mobility modes.)
Licensing requirements vary from polity to polity, ranging from almost none (Nuevo San Antonio, Libertad on Laurasia) to a carefully graduated system that defines various types of skimmer and private vs commercial use (Nextus, Zarustead).
- Limited to altitudes of 30km.
- Emergency altitude 60km
- Speed limited to Mach 3.1.
- Mach 5 emergency.
- No size limitations in this document.
- Polities may apply additional rules.
- Medium-duty inertial dampers.
Note: Although this class can include vehicles of any size, the intercity busses in the aforementioned skimmer class are more common. Compared to suborbitals, these craft represent the "low and slow" transport option. Cargo fliers can be very large indeed. The largest is the CF Flying Enterprise, owned by Steader Enterprises, a subsonic container vessel 200 meters in length. On the passenger side, the Princess of the Erg operated by Dry Ocean Cruises is the largest, carrying 4,000 passengers.
Though the flier class includes many modern designs, the use of antigravity and invisible hardlight airfoils to provide flight power can sometimes lead to more whimsical constructions. It is common among the rich to commission fliers built to resemble obsolete aircraft from man's centuries of flight. There was also a short-lived fad for flying sailing ships in the 130s, and some of those craft are still in operation today.
On Gondwana, flight paths are normally restricted to the Coastal Ring due to safety and reliability reasons, and fliers are completely forbidden from entering Rodinian airspace. Fliers with special equipment and frequent checks for qubitite contamination are allowed to enter the Dry Ocean on limited-duration flights, most commonly for carrying supplies or passengers to or from commercial or scientific outposts within the area. These restrictions do not usually apply to suborbitals, whose higher flight paths can keep them out of qubitite danger.
Most modern fliers are not appreciably more difficult to operate than the average skimmer, and there are many smaller craft available like the single-propellor aircraft of old--the market segment is still called General Aviation out of nostalgia. A licensed skimmer driver with five years experience plus fifty hours of instructor-led flier time may receive an additional such endorsement on their license.
- Limited to altitudes of 120 km.
- Emergency: Low Zharus Orbit
- Speed limited to Mach 12
- Emergency: May reach orbit
- No size limitations in this document.
- Polities may apply additional rules.
- Heavy-duty inertial dampers.
Note: Some observers have wondered at the rationale behind designing a class of vehicle capable of achieving full orbit "only in emergencies." The level of engineering and expense necessary to produce a vehicle capable of safely achieving orbit goes well beyond the level necessary to attain a mere 120 kilometers in altitude. It makes seemingly little sense to add that extra capability only to keep it in reserve for "emergencies".
However, all becomes clear with the understanding that most "suborbitals" are effectively the same vehicles as commonly-used surface-to-orbit shuttles, but fitted with smaller engines or engine output governors. Such "crippled" shuttles can be sold to a much broader market base than that for orbital shuttles, without being subject to orbital shuttles' stringent safety inspections and licensing regulations.
(Orbital craft are tightly regulated because an object that reaches orbit tends to stay there, and having unknown/untracked objects in orbit significantly increases the chance of orbital collisions. Part of the point of orbital licensing requirements is to let space traffic commands be fully aware of where all man-made objects are at all times to help avoid this. At the extreme, unlicensed orbiting could lead to a similar situation to that Earth experienced during the so-called "Dark Age" from 2048-2152, when orbit was too dangerous for manned launches due to a hundred years of accumulated debris.)
In fact, the original generation of "suborbitals" were genuine military surplus combat drop shuttles, sold disarmed and restricted to suborbital flight after reaching their 25-year service cap. Since there were many more surplus shuttles than there were eligible orbital shuttle buyers, but plenty of individuals and companies seeking to buy atmospheric vehicles with better speed and range than ordinary fliers, this enabled the canny surplus seller to earn considerably more from selling the obsolete shuttles than they would have fetched in scrap value at the breakers. (These shuttles are considered extremely collectible, but due to their sturdy construction many are still used as working vehicles even 40 years later.)
Since then, manufacturers of civilian and military shuttles have followed this example to create an entirely new market segment of vehicles. 83% of all suborbital vehicle models sold in 154 AL were nearly identical to commercial orbital shuttles produced by the same company whose only major differences are slightly larger engines and more bureaucracy. (This has had the side-effect of considerably lowering prices on the orbital shuttles as well, since they gain economy of scale by using most of the same parts as their much-more-numerous suborbital brethren.)
A thriving underground community exists to "mod" suborbitals into full-fledged orbital vehicles, which is in some cases as simple as removing or replacing a few engine parts, applying patches to the inertial guidance computers, and sometimes retrofitting or enabling stealth systems to reduce their sensor profile and avoid unwanted eyes. Though this is severely frowned upon by civil and military flight authorities, there is ample incentive for smugglers and thrill-seekers to continue to flaunt the law, and about a dozen unauthorized orbiters are apprehended every year.
(A class of suborbitals that is genuinely incapable of achieving orbit does exist, but tends to be frowned upon by enthusiasts who refer derisively to them as "subsubs," "kiddie carts", "overbuilt fliers", or even "redstones". They are priced somewhere between fliers and "true" suborbitals, and though they are technically licensed as "suborbitals", they tend to be bought more by the flier-buying than the suborbital-buying market segment, or by neophytes who think all suborbitals are equally capable (and who also come in for derision from the more-experienced enthusiasts). Many polities allow these "sub-suborbitals" to be operated with an intermediate endorsement on a flier license rather than the advanced endorsement necessary for full-fledged suborbitals.)
The keyboard has been in use for centuries, through many iterations. The QWERTY layout, developed all the way back in the 1890s with the express intention of slowing typists down(to prevent mechanical jams in primitive typewriting mechanisms), still accounts for an estimated 24% of text-input use even today, for no reason other than sheer inertia: the people who grew up typing QWERTY see that their children learn to type QWERTY. Other layouts, such as the less-popular Dvorak and other speed-typing variants, account for another 14%. (They have been slowly growing in popularity since their introduction in the 20th century; however, QWERTY still seems to have too much of a foothold for them to overtake, even after five hundred years.)
However, the tablet and portable device explosion of the 21st century brought to the fore a need for more portable methods of entering data, which could be operated with just one hand or no hands at all. While not all of these methods survived that century, those that are still with us have demonstrated their usefulness through years that followed.
One such method is chording, in which a user holds a device with five buttons—one for each finger—and enters letters by pressing specific combinations, or chords, of these buttons. While not as fast as typing, a proficient chorder can attain a respectable 40 words per minute with one hand, leaving the other free to operate other controls (or devices, weapons, etc.). Chording controls are often built into skimmer vehicles (or Skimmer-mode RIDEs), fliers, and IDEs, serving dual duty as function buttons for the vehicle itself.
Another method is interface glasses or specs. Drawing on technology as diverse as crippled 20th-21st century genius Stephen Hawking’s eye-guided speech synthesis tools and Google’s “Project Glass,” these glasses incorporate the virtual/augmented reality projection modes common to most modern display technology. However, they add an array of eye-tracking cameras that analyze which portions of a display their user is scrutinizing, and how much attention he is paying to them. By focusing on specific icons and blinking or winking to indicate selections, users who have learned the interface can attain remarkable speed in communicating their ideas while leaving both hands free for other things.
(The twitchy-eyed process can appear rather strange to onlookers, however. Hence, many interface specs have extremely dark or mirror-shaded lenses. They may even be completely opaque with no “lenses” at all, but instead forward-facing fiber-optic cameras that supply a feed to the displays inside.)
Cortical implants are the next level, a direct brain-computer interface. This fueled the advent of true cyborgs about 112 AL (though Earth had them about 100 AL).
Of course, the fastest user-interface of all is the direct neural nano-linking made possible through the technology incorporated within RIDEs and later IDEs. In Fuser form, the RI processor is able to connect directly to the operator’s mind, allowing him to communicate ideas literally with a thought. This speed is not without cost, however, as the physical side-effects of RIDE Fusion demonstrate.
First part shall comprise of a three letter designation based on the colloquial name of the animal the RIDE is based on.
- LNX – Lynx
- RCN – Raccoon
- DER – Deer
- HSE – Horse
- TGR – Tiger
- LEO – Lion
- FOX – (yeah)
- WLF – Wolf
- GDE – Golden Eagle
- RVN – Raven
- DPN – Dolphin
- VLR – Velociraptor
- DGN – Dragon
- GFN – Gryphon
- HPG – Hippogryph
The advent of hardlight enviro shielding and aerodynamic enhancements have made distinctive land/sea/air divisions effectively moot but remain operationally necessary. As the military are not subject to civilian regulations, "skimmers" and "fliers" are effectively the same and are also submersible to the bottom of the Thalassic Ocean.
However, while this versatility exists, RIDEs are still designed to take full advantage of the medium of their base animal. Birds will always make the best fliers, with enclosed vehicle modes. Cetaceans will always make the best aquatics though they can "swim" through the air and enclosed cockpits.
The parenthetical of the first part indicates RI gender. The second, center part shall comprise a three-letter designation indicating combat role. Current designations include:
- LMA – Light Mobility Armor
- LSA – Light Scout Armor
- LCA – Light Communications Armor
- LAA – Light Assault Armor
- MMA – Medium Mobility Armor
- MSA – Medium Support Armor
- MAA – Medium Assault Armor
- MCA – Medium Communications Armor
- HAA – Heavy Assault Armor
- HSA – Heavy Support Armor
- HCA – Heavy Communications Armor
Specialist Armors (No Light/Medium/Heavy designation)
- ASA – Artillery Support Armor
- CSA – Command Support Armor
- IMA – Intelligence Mobility Armor
- RMR – Rapid Medical Response
- PSA – Pleasure Support Armor*
*Not a true military designation.
- Mobility Armors, the most common type, have an emphasis on multi-role versatility depending on the "RIDEpak" or backpack and greaves equipped. These parts are not part of the RIDE's chassis and may be jettisoned for increased mobility, hence the designation. RIDEpaks may also add additional armor, weapons, lifters, and batteries.
- Scout Armor, of which there are only Light, has an emphasis on speed, maneuverability, and stealth. Consequently these RIDEs are light on everything but what they absolutely need.
- Communications Armors have high-powered lasers (1, 2, or 4 depending on type, plus numerous smaller emitters) for reaching comsats and mediating comms between platoon units. These lasers are equally useful for offense and defense. Hardlight shielding is on par with Support Armor.
- Intelligence Armors have stealth capabilities and an emphasis on hacking. They can also alter the physical form of their riders depending on need, in a limited fashion. Some (especially “Q” variants) can support alternate Fuser or Walker body forms which can be used in conjunction with special hardlight projector programs for fair sight-impersonation of alternate models’ shapes (though this usually requires taking a number of secondary systems offline for power or cooling efficiency).
- Assault Armors have built-in particle pulse cannons (PPCs), improved targeting sensors and high-powered hardlight shields. Paks containing 8-16 micro missiles are common equipment for MAA and HAA units, mounted on shoulder or leg hardpoints.
- Support Armors have the best shields and nanolathe fabbing capabilities for field repairs. Weaponry is limited to hand-carried.
- Rapid Medical Response units have skimmer modes with medical-grade hardlight equipment simulators built for evac of wounded soldiers, and can apply the latest in nanotech medicine in the field to stabilize the patient for transport.
- Command Armors combine Assault and Communications capabilities. These are not common units as they are easily spotted in the field via the hardlight epaulets. They are often derisively called "Ace Customs" by experienced field commanders because they make themselves such obvious targets and have mostly been withdrawn from service since 157 AL. (And those which remain have generally been hacked or patched to get rid of the epaulets. )
- So-called “Pleasure Support Armor” is actually not a Nextus military designation, but military-style naming conventions have been adopted by many civilian factories (even outside of Nextus) for ease of comparison between new civilian and widely-available military surplus units. Although the military largely considers this particular class name an embarrassment, “Pleasure Support Armor” nonetheless bears mentioning as one of the more popular civilian-only variations in certain circles. However, the “special equipment” that comes with these models is probably best left to the imagination.
Non-mobility armors have their combat role built into their chassis. This armor-mode equipment is typically hidden under their metal shells in Walker mode. However, this is not always the case, depending on equipment bulk the gear may appear as "saddlebags" in this mode with weapons mounted on hardpoints. There are additional types not listed here, since the scope of this document is limited to official military designations. Civilian markets have many idiosyncratic designations that were made up to fit the military-style name scheme, such as “SVG” for units that specialize in salvage work.
The third part shall comprise the current chassis revision number with a letter designation for hardware/avionics version.
- 000 – Designation for all prototypes
- 001 – First limited-run production series comprising units intended for intense field testing. Chassis are generally more modular than following series to determine optimum equipment configurations. Subsequent redesigns of the same animal and class using a new experimental chassis use the X designator: e.g. -014X
- 002 – Main production series.
- XXX – Other chassis revision numbers added as necessary.
- 007 – Restricted to Intelligence-gathering models. *
Under normal military use, letter designations at the end of production series shall indicate hardware revision series. (As mentioned above, "X" denotes a new experimental chassis redesign. And as with “007”, the letter Q is reserved for certain Intelligence-gathering models that carry specialized or non-standard equipment. **)
Civilian RIDEs have evolved their own idiosyncratic set of letter designation conventions–indeed, there are far too many to go into here–but one of relevance is the “Ah” or “Ahn” type. When a certain model or class of military RIDE catches a rich person’s imagination, he may commission a luxury RIDE maker to craft a unit (or strip down and rebuild a chassis from an actual such unit) to the physical specifications of and cosmetically resembling that RIDE–but using luxury- or sports-quality parts costing 10 to 100x as much. For reasons lost to history, such a higher-quality knock-off is called an “Ahnuld” type. (It is believed the term originally had derogatory intent, but was then cheerfully adopted by the owners of such RIDEs. )
Such a RIDE’s model number usually uses an “Ah” or “Ahn” letter designation to denote this, though a RIDE need not have it to be considered an “Ahnuld. ” Some “Ahnulds” forego the military model designator altogether, but that does not make them any less copies of that other model.
As with most organically-spawned terms, there is some debate over what constitutes an “Ahnuld” as opposed to a mere civvy-tech copycat, but most definitions tend to agree that any such RIDE costing at least 100,000 mu qualifies.
- LNX(f)-LMA-001 (Lynx, female. Light Mobility Armor. Series 1, base hardware)
- LNX(f)-LMA-002Ah (Lynx, female. Light Mobility Armor. Series 2, “Ahnuld” rebuild)
- GDE(m)-MAA-003D (Golden Eagle, male. Medium Assault Armor. Series 3, Revision D)
- TGR(m)-MCA-005C (Tiger, male. Medium Communications Armor. Series 5, Revision C)
- ELK(f)-HCA-002B (Elk, female. Heavy Communications Armor. Series 2, Revision B)
- FOX(f)-IMA-007Q (Fox, female, Intelligence Mobility Armor. Series 7, Special Equipment version)
- HSE(m)-HAA-012B (Horse, male. Heavy Assault Armor. Series 12, Revision B. )
*Yes, this department is well aware of the cultural significance of this number. This is why we used it. Stop thinking you're clever for pointing this out to us.
**And this, too, smart guy.
Civilian RIDEs may or may not use these conventions. Many factories, especially those which produce RIDEs built for private security or law-enforcement use, often do, since they form an almost universally-recognized shorthand. Most RIDEs that bear military-style designations (especially security or police units) are very similar to the military versions save for having slightly lower-quality components at equivalent pricing. Others may simply make up meaningless collections of letters and numbers, especially for one-off custom-crafted RIDEs in which the RI core has already been assigned a name (for example, a snow leopard named “Uncia” might be designated “UNC-1A”).
Some manufacturers walk a line in-between, using non-standard abbreviations within the standard format. For example, the popular BBV-PSA-XXX line of “Pleasure Support Armor” takes its prefix from an ancient slang term referring to female foxes of a certain body type.
The WLF-CSA-01A was one of those bright ideas whose time had not, and might never, come, developed in 146 by a team of free-thinkers who almost got it right. The RIDE might properly have been described as a VSA, or “Very Heavy Support Armor,” save that no “Very Heavy” military classification existed at the time and it was deemed premature to invent one for one type of unit. (They weren’t some civvy RIDE factory, after all.) If the team had stuck with trying to do a heavy armored support or assault role well, the RIDE might have proven out its design philosophy. Instead, command capabilities were added, which was an overreach that essentially sunk the project.
The unit had a very distinctive appearance, consisting of a metallic wolf scaled up to the approximate size of a small skimmer bus, with a dual-barrel heavy particle beam cannon mounted along its back (or disassembled and stored inside its body for rapid transport mode). The skimmer form was a hovertank with the cannons mounted in a cupola to the rear and a command-and-control station forward. Fuser form was a 6-meter-tall wolf with a particle-cannon “backpack”. One unique feature is that the wolf Walker and Fuser forms were polycaudal--they had twin wolf tails (metallic in the original form, but hardlight refits rendered them as realistic flesh and fur). This feature was also reflected in the appearance of the pilot after Fuse. (As with many outsized or unusually-configured RIDEs, pilots frequently experienced a greater-than-usual degree of physical alteration after Fusing, including animalistic ears, cold and wet nose, bifurcated tail, and greater than usual body furring.)
The WLF was one of the first attempts at creating a very heavy armored, Fuse-capable RIDE unit, of the sort later exemplified by the DGN-HAA-001 series. Midway through the project, it was suggested that the unit’s sheer weight of armor might provide countervailing protection to the extra fire drawn by so-called “Ace Custom” command and control units. However, adding this excess capacity came with a price--it reached the point where the unit’s RI core was unable to keep up with the needs of operating all systems simultaneously, even with the assistance of as many secondary AIDE cores as SHRF could pack into it. To use an ancient metaphor, it was unable to walk and chew gum at the same time.
The original plan for getting around this limitation was nothing if not ambitious, and if it had the benefit of the research begun by HISTORIC 15 years later might very well have succeeded. The designers wanted to give the RIDE the capability to use a co-pilot in Fuser-mode Light or Scout RIDE armor as essentially a tail-gunner and secondary processor for the WLF RIDE itself. The co-pilot would usually see to operation of the weapons and defenses, allowing the RIDE to see to its own movements, battlefield command, repair and support, and other tasks. (Though these responsibilities could be shuffled at need, with the co-pilot driving while the RIDE fired its weapons, for example.)
The co-pilot would be stationed in the particle beam cupola in Skimmer mode, from which he would both drive the vehicle and operate its weapons while the WLF’s partner oversaw battlefield operations from a command and control and secondary piloting station in the vehicle’s front. In the wolf’s 6-meter-tall Fuser form, the cupola would be mounted as a “backpack”, capable of traversing the 180 degrees to the unit’s rear or rotating (and flipping the barrels over) to fire over the wolf’s shoulders forward. It could also retract for stowage, the barrels and cupola assembly providing additional rear armor protection to the gunner, who would then be enclosed upright inside the RIDE behind the pilot. The RIDE even had a sealed compartment in Walker form at the top of the wolf’s back in which the co-pilot RIDE could be carried in Walker or Fuser form, providing additional protection and concealment on the battlefield, as well as the extra command processing power if the WLF RIDE needed it.
However, RIs were still poorly understood at that point, and the SHRF designers made the mistake of assuming they could communicate with each other the way they could communicate with AIDEs. As a result, the control linkages never worked properly. Subsequently, the first prototypes of WLF-CSA-001 units relied exclusively on AIDE cores as “dog brains” to operate the systems to which the RI could not spare the attention. Though AIDEs had improved since their use in the 110s and 120s, they were still not adequate to the task, and the -001A production run simply did without them entirely. The pilot operated the entire vehicle from either the forward station or the turret, often devoting the other space to carrying extra nanolathe supplies and RIDE Paks.
As a result, a unit that was intended as a fast, smart, and tough battlefield commander was relegated to a slow, lumbering support or secondary assault role, at which it was adequate but too expensive for the benefit it provided. As a size class that never really caught on, replacement parts for the DE were excessively expensive to buy or fabricate, and as a result the unit sold poorly on the civilian surplus market. By 152, it had been almost entirely scrapped and recycled, with its RI cores mostly repurposed to drive smaller, more conventional wolf-based units.
However, later research from HISTORIC into the way Integrates communicate among themselves provided the necessary breakthroughs, and a salvaged WLF-CSA-01A was used as the prototype for the dual-crew heavy RIDEs and IDEs that became popular in the late 160s and 170s during the war with Earth.