As the Reich is to Sable, so the Machine is to the Technocracy: the implacable enemy with which it is locked in a never-ending struggle. However, what is different about the Machine is that being a predominantly mechanical civilisation, it has no regard for any form of life. Indeed, it is inimical towards life, and seeks its destruction. The Machine is centred around the fourth manifestation of the Nexus Power – the one 180 degrees from the location of the Nexus Prime Shadow – and its influence stretches in both directions to approximately the mid-points between the Machine and the Nodes. The Machine home world, Prime, is of equal power level to the Nodes, rather than the Nexus itself, which is part of the reason why the Master wishes to seize control of the Nexus.
From what few accounts there are, very little truly lives on Prime, with the exception of the Master of the Machine (and his qualifications for actually counting as living are debatable), the so called ‘Council of Controllers’, and perhaps a few select machine-human hybrids. The majority of inhabitants are either robotic or cybernetic, and the driving force of the Machine is to eradicate organic life in the Technocracy Shadows, in favour of the perfection that only machines can bring. They follow orders from the controlling consciousness, and they make no pretension to be human in any way. Indeed, the consciousness considers humanity to be weak, and as something which should, for the most part, be eradicated. A typical Machine attack would involve destruction of all life by the Machine drones, followed up by other Machine entities stripping the conquered world for resources to feed its Military-Industrial complex.
- The Master of the Machine
- The Council of Controllers
- Machine Drones
- Living or semi-living creatures within the Machine
Andreas Delatz, Master of the Machine
Despite his original appearance on the scene as one of the senior ranking officers within the Reichs-SS, and a reasonably successful Reich general, what has become apparent over the last few years, is that Andreas Delatz, former head of the SD and briefly commander of the Waffen-SS, some-time protégé and possibly son of the Reichsführer-SS, is also the Master of the Machine: the controlling consciousness of an implacable force whose main aim is to destroy all life and hand the universe to the machines.
While apparently serving the Reich, it was discovered early in RY153 that he was also pursuing his own goals, with the intention of influencing and controlling certain key people in the Sable-Reich spheres of influence, to the detriment of the Reich. He was found guilty of treason against the Reich, and stripped of all ranks and titles. However, he escaped capture by Reich forces, and is believed to have returned to the lands of the Machine to plot his next move, although there are unconfirmed reports that he has recently been seen on the world of Cheyne, in the tenth Veil of Shadow from Magica Superior.
In nature, Andreas is a cold, calculating, almost mechanically efficient individual, with a slightly accented, soft-spoken voice. He rarely shows emotion, preferring to act based on logic rather than feeling.
Full details of the different kinds of living and non-living creatures within the Machine and its lands are sketchy. However, observations from worlds where the Machine has made its presence known have indicated the following models of agent.
The Council of Controllers
This is the Machine’s equivalent of the Technocracy Council of Twenty, or one of the senior human orders of knighthood (Order of the Garter, Order of the Black Eagle, Knights of the SS, etc), and there are twelve in number plus the Master of the Machine. Physically, they are the equivalent of Hybrids, many of them are Technomages of one or other level, and they usually retain the majority of their original personality. They are individuals who Andreas was willing to trust enough to use as deputies, and therefore they have less Machine intrusion and higher privileges, levels of access and freedom than normal Hybrids.
When a world is being conquered, the Master will usually send one of the Council to lead the conquest (if he doesn’t do it himself), so that they have the opportunity to override the drones’ existing programming if it is deemed necessary to react to circumstances. He, of course, can override their decisions in turn. All Controllers are full Machine initiates and there will only ever be one of each individual model.
Since Rupert Delatz threw a Blood Curse at the Machine, which has damaged its homogeneity, individual Controllers have begun experimenting with projects which might: a) lessen the effects of the Curse on the Machine; b) make Machine agents more versatile; and c) make them look good in the eyes of the Master of the Machine. Instances include the possibility of sentient drones, and at least one attempt to build a human Collective. It is these ambitious Controllers who are probably the greatest threat the Machine current poses to the Sable Universe.
In general, even though it owns less territory, the Machine is just as populous as the Technocracy, with the advantages that its drones need little or no food, and have no desire for the place to be aesthetically pleasing. They exist to destroy life and take the resources wasted by breathers to further their own culture and ends. Across all classes, drones are manufactured at a number of levels, and with abilities increasing, depending on the level of drone.
Non-human, but usually humanoid, drones who are used as shock troops on worlds which the Machine is attempting to subdue. They are completely emotionless and consider life to be worthless. Their sole purpose is to conquer and destroy, and they have no mercy. They effectively have a hive mind which offers them a measure of protection against mental influence. They are controlled by the Machine, and communication between them is through the Machine itself. The Master of the Machine will either leave the programs guiding them to it, or he or one of his Controllers can take personal control of directing them on a single Shadow if needs be. As far as weapons are concerned, they usually have weapons embedded in the backs of their forearms, which can be adapted for firing projectiles or laser, depending on the Shadow of conquest. There are also report that sometimes, long or short blades are also embedded in inner forearm or hand.
There are various different degrees of ability and strength, which effectively act as a rank structure. Foot soldier drones are designated with levels from one to twelve. From what has been ascertained, during encounters with them, levels one to three are designed for use in normal Shadow, levels four to six are more advanced, and would have a decent chance in worlds like the Commonwealth, levels seven to nine could potentially be effective in locations as real as Sable, the Reich or the Technocracy, and levels ten to twelve are the Officer Drones.
The proportions of each within an invading force don’t exactly follow the pattern of normal human rank structure. In general, the lower level models can be produced more easily than the more advanced ones. Quantities of any given model can be varied depending on the world being conquered: for example, the suppression of a normal Shadow will usually only involve the lower level foot soldiers, whereas a Commonwealth/Aussenhandel equivalent would use a larger proportion of higher level drones.
Recently, a group of Sable agents reported a new innovation, when they encountered a couple of higher-level drones which appeared to be able to think for themselves, as if they has a rudimentary sentience. It is yet to be confirmed whether these were one-off models, built as an experimental project by one of the individual Controllers, or if the Machine has made new developments in drone sentience.
These are the other commonly seen form of attack drone. Rather than being humanoid they are more animal in appearance, usually with four legs, although there seem to be visual sensors at the “head”, they usually also have a sensor array in the centre of the back. They work in packs of up to twenty, and pretty much attack and incapacitate or kill anything in their path, primarily using their study, sharp claws. As with foot soldiers, there are multiple different levels and strengths of ‘hounds’. These range from roughly the size of a large dog like a German Shepherd up to that of a Clydesdale horse, and are designated levels one to six. In each “pack” there will also be one or two pack leaders, of which there are three degrees of efficiency, which direct the actions of the others.
These are smaller than Hounds, and are usually used for ground-based reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. They as about a foot across, very fast, and have been confirmed to have Machine communications equipment built into their main carapace, although it is uncertain whether individual units can report back to base directly, or whether they report to a controller which then communicates with base. They can work either individually or in groups controlled by a more advanced model. Their level and control structure is similar to the hounds.
Hawks are used for aerial surveillance, and like other forms of drones, are believed to have differing levels of ability, depending on the model. They vary in size from around that of a kestrel up to that of a golden eagle, and are believed to include a full suite of Machine communications equipment, given their purpose within the Machine complex. They are also programmed for attack as well as surveillance. Usually, hawks will operate alone, although it is likely that they also have different levels of reality and efficiency, much like the other models.
Post-conquest exploitation drones
These are the drone which move in once a world has been subdued, and start stripping that world of its resources. At the most basic level, resourcers will just do what they’re told, be it mining ore, smelting metal, etc. However, the higher level versions actually bring some skill to a process – knowing the best place to dig, how to shore up a building, etc etc – right up to the equivalent of project managers. The majority of basic resourcers aren’t actually humanoid – they are more often either tripedal or quadrupedal, depending on what is most efficient for the terrain they’re working on.
Specialist drones have been programmed with considerable knowledge in a given subject, although as far as other subjects are concerned. Lower level specialists are generally lacking in any but the most basic knowledge of other areas, although higher level specialists have been programmed with enough information to be able to draw on other relevant areas.
Living or semi-living creatures within the Machine
The majority of beings within the Machine lands are out and out mechanical. They follow orders from the controlling consciousness, and they make no pretension to be human in any way. Indeed, the consciousness considers humanity to be weak, and as something which should, for the most part, be destroyed, with a few choice exceptions.
However, there are some living or partially living, beings which work towards the Machine’s ends in other locations. All of these are tougher than they would be if they were purely flesh and blood, and many benefit from the fact that by being connected to the Machine, because of its nature, what passes for their minds has an improved defence against mental attack. Such organic and semi-organic agents usually operate out of the direct Machine areas of influence, as many can pass for close to human. They act as agents, intelligence gatherers or are involved in Machine off-site projects. The different kinds of living or partially living beings which have been encountered acting as Machine agents are listed below. As to what the Master of the Machine himself is – no-one has recently gone around dissecting him to find out.
Soft clones (aka Bleeders)
A cloned and grown human body, but with a mechanical mind within it. These have all the weaknesses of a standard human form – for example, they bleed and they need to breathe, eat, sleep and excrete – but they are much more likely to pass successfully in society, and are therefore often used as agents and scouts when looking for a new world to conquer. The mechanical minds are programmed to respond relatively naturally in a human way, although at the heart they are still mechanical and can sometimes slip up. They also have the permanent link to the Machine, rather than their own thoughts. There can be multiple instances of the same model.
Soft clones 2.0 (aka Super-Bleeders)
This is a later development of a straight bleeder, in as much as the clone body has been made more efficient, and therefore seems stronger, quicker, etc than its straight human equivalent, and is better able to take punishment. However, they are also slower to build, hence they haven’t become the common bleeder model as yet. Otherwise, details are as for bleeders. There can be multiple instances of the same model.
Sometimes a particularly choice human mind will be preserved, but the remainder of the body will not, in which case the brain itself will be transferred into an android body, which becomes its own. These can look either human, so they can mix in human society, or they are out and out mechanical. The android bodies are tougher and stronger than humans, and can simulate human functions such as eating and breathing. Moreover, as they still have their human mind, they do still maintain much of their human personality, albeit they also have the permanent link to the Machine, which controls their actions and reduces their individuality. There will only ever be one of each specific mind, although there can be multiple instances of the same body.
The actual classification of these is still pending, but they appear to be a combination of Bleeders and Minds, in that the body appears to be organic, cloned from an identifiable original, but instead of a mechanical mind, the brain of the unit is organic, surrounded by artificial but organic cerebral fluid. It is theorised that either the brain or the fluid, or some combination thereof, contains an organic-based data and communication and transmission system, so the unit can upload and store information, for communication to the Machine. However, at this time, no units have been recovered with the brain intact, so this is unproven. This is a worrying development, as these units can and have been used to replace individuals with considerable success, as they don’t appear to have the Bleeder problem of being occasionally slipping up due to their underlying mechanical nature. Currently, only single units have been found of individual models, and all of these have acted as infiltration units.
Shifters are created from shapeshifters who have been captured on worlds the Machine is resource stripping, as shifting is a genetic trait and isn’t easy to duplicate. The personality is removed, and replaced by the Machine consciousness, so the people themselves are killed but the body is left in tact. Moreover, the process of conversion is sufficiently traumatic that it will activate an inactive shifting gene to at least ICM level, as well as giving them the added solidity and mental defence that being part of the Machine brings. Were the Machine to have access to Pilot Technology, they would probably be able to initiate as Pilots, but this is currently untested. Preferable, though would be for the Pilot initiation to have been undertaken before the original individual persona is removed, as Pilot initiates have reported that there is often interaction with the Transport Logrus, which determines the level of Piloting ability which is granted to an initiate. There will only ever be one of each specific model.
Like shifters, Technomages are built from prisoners taken during conquest, in this case Talented people. Their own personalities are removed, and replaced by the Machine consciousness, so the people are killed, but the Talented body remains and can therefore be retaught how to do magic. However, while physically the are the same person (eg photos, finger prints etc match), they will have different magical signatures to the original signatures on file for them, and their style of magic will seem more mechanical and less free and easy than a normal mage. Because the minds have been wiped and effectively rebuilt by the Machine, they are never less than equivalent Masters of Magic…after all, why settle for an inferior product.
There are two levels of Technomages:
- Level 1 Technomages are of equivalent skill to Masters of Magic.
- Level 2 Technomages have the equivalent of Doctorates. Their magic can be Machine backed if desired, giving it added solidity.
Both levels of Technomages have been given the ability to recall to the Machine to escape when threatened (which even works in the 25 Veils, as it’s a magical effect), as they’re too rare and valuable to lose. There will only ever be one of each specific model.
Hybrids are the rarest of the various kinds of living or semi-living creatures within the Machine, as they are humans who have volunteered to serve the Master of the Machine, rather than being coerced or created from scratch. The process of making them is similar to that of Technomages, with the main difference that the Machine consciousness is superimposed upon the human mind, but the existing personality and knowledge isn’t destroyed, and they are instilled with a higher than usual Reality. The Machine presence is sufficiently strong, however, that their loyalty is to the Machine. They have the physical resilience of super-bleeders, and can become Machine initiates. There will only ever be one of any individual model.
Recently, individuals have begun to appear who are assumed to be clone/hybrids of various important people, but who appear to have individuality and sentience, as well as retaining some or all of the skills and memories of the individuals they have been copied from. It is not known if multiple copies of these can be built: as yet, there have only been single instances. Until yet, these have primarily been found in New Oceania, so it is uncertain whether they are creatures of the Machine, New Oceania or the product of a collaboration between the two nations.