The Assembling Song was a lengthy melody that every Nanori schoolchild learned. It started with the chemical elements, formulated the Inorganic Bases, and worked its way up through the construction of the Core Tools. To sing the whole thing aloud would take days. It was part Alphabet Song, part Illiad and Odyssey, part knee-bone-connected-to-the-leg-bone. Each culture of Nanori (that was the technical term: a culture of Nanori, like a flock of sheep or a pod of whales) had its own version for its own Core Tools.
Hendo sang the Assembling Song while he worked.
Here on Aorta, trade hub of the Nanori civilization, he could walk about unconstrained. Last month's business trip to Gaia had left him trapped in a containment suit for the whole time. Some Gaians could withstand his natural mycora, but there were unenhanced children wandering about and it would be poor form (to say the least) to have some poor tot accidentally burst open in self-replicating bounty. No, the suit was a necessity. The trip brought him new ideas and new methodologies to try out, but what he really needed was personal space. All this buzzing and activity distracted him. While the rest of Nanori space was still twittering about their contact with some new planet or other, Hendo focused inward, working new and subtle tricks with with methods long ago thought worthless. He appreciated the opportunity to see new approaches and new viewpoints in nanotechnology, but he also liked being able to feel the grass crawling beneath his feet.
Before him a Refulgence Plain began to take shape. His will and his mesh directed the microassemblers he had released, and they methodically scavenged the elements they needed from the failed experiment that spread out over ten square kilometers before him. Each "leaf" on the field would become a tiny mirror, tracking the suns and the moon and sending their light to a conversion station high overhead. Compared to the total conversion generators he had seen last month this was like a hamster turning a wheel, but it would provide enough for his experiments.
Some immense creature blundered into the edge of Hendo's awareness. It crushed a swath of the mirror-leaves and deposited a visitor - Rin of the Desoil Culture, a diplomat Hendo had met at a boring party some fifty years back. Rin looked down and saw where he was, waving the beast away in as if directing an overenthusiastic puppy. He himself walked out carefully. He sent a call through the infosphere before he was in range to talk in person.
"Good day, Hendo. I have a proposition."
"I'm really not interested."
"It'll be worthwhile."
"It'll be a distraction."
"It's going to be the jumpstart you need."
Hendo set the assemblers about their work and turned to face Rin. He'd be coming into view over the hill in a few seconds. "Look, I don't mean to be rude, but I'm doing just fine here and I'd appreciate if you took that huge thing you've been constructing and headed back home. I need to concentrate."
Rin walked over the hill with a smile and yelled, eschewing the infosphere for the moment. "You need to relax!"
Hendo kept to the infosphere. "If I relax, my rivals gain an edge and the next thing you know I'm back to mining asteroids for rare elements. Please-"
Hendo's plea kept coming, but Rin spoke over it. "Hendo, look. No, come here. Talk to me."
"I am talking to you."
"No, you're thinking to me. Your mouth is still singing the Assembling Song."
Hendo shut up.
"Your rivals are gone. They left the planet."
Hendo stammered slightly as his mouth sought the proper question. Behind him a lunar prominence stretched and yawned slowly as some distant wonder-worker altered it to suit his needs.
"You've been a good designer, Hendo. One of the best. I've always admired your work and that of your culture. I'm not asking you to leave that behind - I'm asking you to come with me for the opportunity of a lifetime." Rin's eyes and tone were serious. Some of the more self-aware nanoassemblers listened in surreptitiously as they went about their work.
"I'm going to be on the diplomatic mission to the new civilizations. Plural. Hundreds of planets, maybe thousands. Everyone you know is trying to get there first, but I've got the inside route. I need someone who understands nanotech. Are you coming?"
"Yes, now. We leave tomorrow."
Indecision hung briefly in the air, then fled.
The young master knelt at the feet of the old masters.
Nguyet wore the reflective black robes that were the tradition of her people. Hers were accented with dark green, the color of harmony, which she hoped would bring her luck today. Masters Yen and Thi wore the white flowing robes of retired builders, or at least their images did. Nguyet knew that, in truth, they had neither body nor clothing to wear upon it. This appearance was a courtesy and an honor to her that she must respect. Yen's white robes had ribbons of royal yellow twined through them, while Thi's were red for prosperity. Nguyet was relieved - the masters were in good humor. It would make the job easier.
Five thousand long years had the old masters toiled to accrue their wisdom. They had passed beyond the veil of death and could be harmed no more by the living world. Nguyet was reverent in their presence. Masters Yen and Thi had always given her guidance when she needed it, and now she felt that need most keenly.
"Blessings for those who are above them," she said, repeating the ancient words.
"And for those who are not," they replied. "What brings you to the Great Beyond today?"
"A message has been given to me by Those Who Walk Time Backward. I thought I should bring it to you."
Yen and Thi slowly closed their eyes to show that they were communing. It was a polite gesture - something they had no need to do, but which showed their respect for Nguyet. They opened them and Thi spoke. "You must find this message of great significance."
"You are afraid," said Yen. The old masters were sometimes too perceptive for Nguyet's taste. She tried to control a nervous tic.
"I hardly believe that the words are true. It could mean the end of our world."
Thi smiled. "Your world changes, Nguyet. It began, but it will never end. Live in that world without fear of an end and you will learn wisdom that will serve you well in ours."
Nguyet bowed respectfully and kept her head bent, saying, "My apologies, enlightened Thi. I meant to say the world of all, both the Builders and those who have gone before."
The old masters looked curious, but wore expressions of bemusement with the worry their young charge showed. Nguyet was not yet three hundred years old, and had hardly walked in the world enough to have the proper perspective for such things.
"Tell us the message."
"Honored ancestors, Those Who Walk Time Backward tell us that there are others in the universe we have not met. Other humans."
Yen looked eager. "There is another civilization?"
"No, Master Yen. There fourteen others."
The old masters ceased smiling.
This version includes most of the rules and even most of the civilizations. It is intended as a handy rules reference, or a chopped-down version for those who can't afford the whole thing. It does not include any of the flavor text or anything about Story Triggers. It leaves out the Roamers, Spacers, Logicians, Independents, and Disciples. The interiors are black and white.
You can find it at Lulu.
Not Very Fun Fact: Lulu charges the same amount of money for the same binding, coloration, and number of pages, regardless of the size of those pages.
Relatively new around here.
I've been reading a little bit of the demo version that I have downloaded of the Sufficiently Advanced roleplaying game, and am highly impressed with this game...so much so that I have managed to order a copy of the game (but still want to get a hardcover colour copy of the game as well, but that's another story).
That said, I have decided to launch a mailing list for the game over on Yahoo Groups.
SA Mailing List
The mailing list for Sufficiently Advanced is meant to be an additional forum and resource for those interested in the game, and is not intended to be a replacement for the official forums found in the Wikidot site. Think of the mailing list as an alternate resource devoted to SA that doesn't require one to spend time reading and replying to posts on-line (although one can do that if one chooses). This mailing list requires moderator approval to join, but the archives of messages are accessible to the public.
Hope to see some of the folks from around here there! Now, if you'll excuse me, I've a wormhole to catch right after I nanocleanse myself and replicate some travelling clothes... :)
I'm working on the first supplement: a collection of societies and civilizations. More info is available at the SA Wiki forums. Here's my first shot at a cover.
As Sufficiently Advanced begins and ends with quotations from Clarke, I thought it appropriate to at least mention this here. Arthur C. Clarke passed away yesterday at the age of 90. For those who never read his work very much, CNN has a nice article about his life. The Rama series was always one of my favorites, and Light of Other Days has some very cool time-bending stuff. I think I might go re-read that now.
"Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case the idea is quite staggering." --Arthur C. Clarke, 16 December 1917 – 18 March 2008
There's a thread over at the RPG.net forums asking about peoples' experiences with Sufficiently Advanced. If you have a few minutes, please go spread the word. :)
Sufficiently Advanced is now available for purchase.
Both of the physical copies above are in full color. Greyscale should be available later this week.
In other news, I'm working on a situation generator, NPC generator, and mission briefing generator over at the wiki. Feel free to help out!
I am pleased to report that the softcover full-color SA books are in and will be for sale at Genericon. We only have 12, so get them fast. Look for Colin or (since I have the books right now) me - I'll be the guy with 1001 badges from past Genericons.