///From the author:if I could choose only one legacy from the full scope of The Spacers Saga that would last for a hundred years, it would be the zharans. They are without a doubt my most personal creation, and the one into which I have poured the most thought over the past twenty years. Since first coming up with the word "Zharan" sometime between 2005 and 2007, the race it describes has developed from an actual alien race to an artifiical one, created by humans to fill a role similar to the replicants in the Blade Runner franschise. In a sense, the zharans are meant to be the ultimate result of self-guided human evolution, the version of ourselves that may one day venture to the stars
The first artificial lifeform that could be described as such was created in the laboratories of Carnegie Mellon University in 2056 under the direction of Dr. Stavros Falkenbach, during an experiment intended to generate a set of artificial donor organs for patients on the transplant waitlist. However, Falkenbach and his research associates quickly realized the ramifications of what they had created, especially given that by the next year their creations had evolved to a point at which they were artificial only in their origins.
From there, a dozen corporations jumped in to seize on the patents released by Falkenbach and his team, aiming to rake in the profits they made possible. Over the next two hundred years, tens of millions of artificial lifeforms were created to serve various purposes, chief among which was to act as the advance guard in the exploration and settlement of hazardous regions across interplanetary space.
Robotic exploration of other worlds in the solar system dates back to the earliest days of the first Space Race, with destinations like the moon, Mars, and Titan populated entirely by robotic probes for decades before the first humans ever set foot there. Sending artificial lifeforms was seen as a simple extension of this trend, in spite of the questionable ethics of sending living beings to work and possibly die on the hundreds of desolate and treacherous worlds orbiting the sun besides Earth. As their design advanced through successive stages, and they became more and more lifelike, these sticky moral questions only became more intractable.
By the turn of the 23rd century, only about forty million of these beings existed at any one time, and their use ranged from menial labor in industrial areas to the much more exciting (but also much more dangerous) work to be found in scouting and constructing outposts and settlements on distant worlds beyond Earth. A system of regulations unofficially called the Lawson Codes was in place to regulate their movements, activities, and what positions they could hold, and for the most part, things went smoothly.
But it was also in the 23rd century that their long revolution had its first murmurs. A trend of moral outrage targeting the production and oppression of artificials had been boiling since the early 22nd century, and as the 23rd wore on, these grew in tandem with a third movement: artificial culture.
As a race of beings created from whole cloth, so to speak, the artificials did not have their own native history in the way that human societies do. The fact that they had only been around for a couple of centuries, and existed as a strictly regimented population for that entire history, did not help things for them. As a result of all this, by the 200th anniversary of their origins, they were a race without a culture, a nation without a state, a people without an identity. The infamous Wayfarer Insurrection began to change this.
During the middle decades of the 23rd century, as cost overruns and ambiguous long-term goals on the ambitious Wayfarer Project (which succeeded in colonizing Alpha Centauri by the late 2290s) caused a widespread insurrection against the ICA’s corporate backers, the artificial population found themselves caught in the middle. A tide of violence against artificials accompanied the insurrectionist movement, repeating a pattern which often reoccurs during periods of economic and social unrest, when the least fortunate are targeted for abuse as a way of giving voice to the grievances of their neighbors.
This time, however, the victims’ proponents stepped in to render aid. By the time the Insurrection officially came to an end in 2274, the Artificial Liberation movement had grown in membership from almost fifteen million members in 2256, to a high of over a hundred million. This number included many people on Earth, where artificials rarely went, a fact which aggravated many anti-artificial offworlders.
The next development came on Titan. In 2284, the Ramayana Find was revealed to the wider solar system beyond the research outpost in the Shikoku Facula where it was first discovered, immediately upending centuries of scientific understanding of humanity’s place (and solitude) in the universe. Over the decade which followed, however, this scientific revolution was quickly overshadowed by a revolution of a different sort, as the One Mars Party took power on Mars and the Titan Pact was born in the frontier. Within only a few short years, these two opponents had drawn up battle lines in a struggle to control the outer system.
Thus the stage was set for the Mars-Titan War, which rocked Solar Space between April 2294 and September 2299, and which ushered in much of the political order of our present day. In the War’s aftermath, the ICA Council convened to ensure that nothing like it ever happened again.
The Harrison Accords were initially conceived by Ceresian councilor Thomas Harrison as an amendment to the Tyndall Accords which founded the ICA in 2051. They soon grew into a completely separate document, however, much in the same way as had the Brookenden Accords which broadly expanded upon the Tyndall Accords in 2062. Chief among the matters they dealt with was the question of artificial rights.
During the Mars-Titan War, both the Martian Coalition and the Titan Pact made extensive use of artificial beings modified (or wholly created) to be used in combat roles. Military applications for artificials had always existed, but it was implicitly understood until the time of the War that their use was to be restricted to largely non-combat roles, to prevent them from taking up arms against their creators. When the Titanians sent living wave attacks of thousands of artificials at a time against ICA and MARSCOM spacers in combat during the War, however, it opened humanity’s eyes. Pandora’s Box was opened–now someone had to close it.
A number of provisions in the Harrison Accords codified regulations on artificial life, or established new means of restricting their freedom of movement, areas of employment, and their use in warfare. Similar to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaties written up during the 20th century, these stipulations were intended to prevent artificials from threatening the dominance of human culture in Solar Space.
But much as the ICA required an armed wing to ensure the security of the space it administers, the Harrison Accords necessitated the formation of an organization tasked with enforcing their numerous regulations on artificial life. This organization was called the Artificial Lifeform Control Agency, or “A.L.C.A.”
[The emblem badge of the A.L.C.A.]
The ALCA was founded on 15 October 2302 as part of the first enabling act of the Harrison Accords with six divisions, each of which dealt with a different aspect of artificial beings and their place within the framework of human society. By 2304, however, the ALCA’s minders determined that a seventh division was needed, one which would enforce the rules in scenarios where artificials did not comply. “If they won’t go for the carrot,” said Ryland Ubarra, the ALCA’s first administrator, “then we will have to use the stick.”
The seventh division of the ALCA was charged with the more tactical applications of the Agency–things like kicking down doors, serving search warrants, chasing down rogue artificials, and so on. The latter role, that of actually investigating the activities of rogue artificials, tracking them down, and either arresting or outright neutralizing them on-location, was seen as the most dangerous (and therefore, prestigious) in the ALCA.
During the first few decades of the 24th century, the ALCA functioned with smoothness and efficiency, as the ICA overlords afforded them great latitude to investigate regulatory oversights and enforce amendments tacked onto the Harrison Accords to address new issues emerging in the life cycle of the artificial population. All the while, the artificials themselves cobbled together an increasingly intricate creole culture using bits and pieces taken from across the rest of human civilization, all in an effort to give themselves an identity.
Beginning in 2301, the Spacer Corps carried out a series of police actions aimed at tamping down on anti-Administration sentiment across the deep space frontier. Beginning in 2317, however, the unintended consequences of their crackdown gave rise to a dangerous and virulent new strain of radical nationalism among the outer worlds. They called themselves the Revolutionary Division of the Assembly of Callisto, a name inspired by their status as the armed wing of the new Callisto Assembly, one of the radical movements springing up in the outer system at the time. History will remember them as the Draconists.
While the violence these radicals unleashed has been written about extensively elsewhere, and is still unfolding in Solar Space as of 2349, their primary contribution to the story of the artificial population is the initiation of the Purges. Beginning in 2321, the Draconists began a series of what can only be described as pogroms as part of their tumultuous path to power in the outer system, aimed at either relocating or outright eradicating the artificial populace in the frontier regions they sought to control.
The reasoning behind this violence is still not fully understood, even after nearly thirty years of study, but it is believed that the more radical Draconist cells (those behind the Purges, in most cases) believed that by eliminating their competition for resources in the restive outer system, they would shore up their own campaign to control these regions, and ensure their dominance over the colonial overlords they decried in their daily propaganda releases. That, and every radical movement needs an enemy other to point to, as a means to justify the levels of violence to which they are willing to go to see their ends met.
As for the consequences of their targeted program of elimination, they are still to be determined to their full extent. In the shorter term, however, it is known that the external stress and pressure applied by the Draconists initiated a rapid uptick in the radicalization of the artificials themselves. As they fought to prevent themselves from being exterminated, these beings’ culture took on a new, more militant dimension.
By the end of the First Draconist Crisis in 2342, when the Draconists were supplanted on Callisto by the ascendant Alliance of Free Worlds, this new militance gave rise to a completely new identity for the artificials those radicals had targeted in the their reign of terror. By drawing in elements gleaned from studies of the precursor artifacts at the Ramayana Site, they crafted a new name for themselves, based on the culture of those beings they saw as their spiritual predecessors. Now, they called themselves zharans.
For ten years, zharan culture took up arms to hold out amid the chaos of interplanetary guerilla war. This led to what some have called the First Zharan Revolution, an abortive uprising that lasted from about 2325-2335 and saw hundreds of thousands of zharans fight to resist the ongoing Draconist-led pogrom.
Chief among the organizations they formed to provide a center for this struggle was the Zharan Liberation Front, which gradually united other rebel cells into its ranks. The central figure in this group was V’Ran. One thing the zharans took from the Ramayana Find was the cultural artifice of the precursor race or races which had left it on Titan, and one of the chief myths of this interpreted historical culture was the story of the V’Ran: a cultural hero who would emerge to lead them to unity, by any means necessary.
Then, on the 300th anniversary of the first artificial being’s creation, they launched a violent Uprising against human society, with thousands of infiltrators insinuated into the ranks of government, military, and business acting as sleeper agents to kick it off. For three years, the ZLF carried out its long-awaited revolution, which V’Ran and his inner circle had been planning for twenty years by that point.
Finally, in 2359, the leadership of the ZLF finalized a peace deal with the ICA and the Alliance that would see them cease hostilities with both groups for the price of their help with tracking down the remaining Draconists in the outer system–a deal the zharans gladly accepted in order to eliminate their old foes.
[The flag of the Zharan Collective]
After that, the zharans effectively disentangled themselves from inner system politics. They formed a new unified central government, the Collective, and headed for the Kuiper Belt, where they lived in relative seclusion for the next thirty years. The Collective was made possible by the zharans’ secret weapon: the Uplink, a neural network which connected all zharans thanks to its having been adapted from the technology of Transference as gleaned from studies of the precursor artifacts on Titan. This link allowed zharans across the system to communicate in near real time, making them effectively a sapient eusocial species.
During the long quiet which followed, the Zharan Collective built up a sizable fleet and industrial base, but operated largely in seclusion, hidden away from the troubles of the ICA and the Alliance. It wasn’t until 2377, a full fifteen years after their last diplomatic contact with either side, that they emerged from hiding to begin courting the Alliance for a potential partnership. Then, in 2379, they entered the war on the side of the Alliance of Free Worlds, and within two years, this new coalition forced the ICA to negotiate for peace.
In the eight years since this peace deal was finalized, the Zharan Collective has lived in relative harmony with the humans of the Alliance, with the insurrection of the Colonial Liberation Front being the only real limitation to their coexistence. The zharans seek to stamp out this movement without mercy in spite of the Alliance leadership’s uncertainty, a disagreement which has led to considerable tension.
There is also a fair deal of uncertainty about whether or not the zharans have been manipulating political affairs in Solar Space for nearly thirty years, using their remaining infiltrators as a surveillance system. In recent years, IDC intelligence has suggested that they have been orchestrating the eventual outbreak of another period of Frontier Wars, with the goal of remaking Solar politics to suit their agenda. What exactly this agenda may be is anyone’s guess, with the full liberation of the zharan people a chief consideration.
As of 2389, this intel is derided by most as mere rumors, spread by the Alliance for the purpose of tying up ICA resources in defending more and more of the Demilitarized Zone. Only time will tell if any of it pays out, and as of early 2389, ICA leadership seems intent on simply ignoring the possible danger.