The Vyomachaarinah (Sanskrit, "the people who wander over the sky"), started like the Spacers - as a colony ship – an entire O’Neill colony, the Ramanujan. Launched by an alliance of Indian derived organizations, their motivations were complex, but partially a desire to safeguard what they considered the unique Indian way of life in the face of accelerating changes in the solar system, partially a gamble for interstellar resources. The idea was to colonise the protoplanetary disk around Vega, a huge dust belt with enormous easily accessible material and energy resources but no habitable planets. The plan was to establish a colony in the disk, awaiting further arrivals from the Solar System. The founders had gambled that mankind would soon begin a true diaspora towards the stars, and Vega could become a major way station, with shipyards and abundant volatiles to use for reaction mass.
The Ramanujan took almost a hundred years to reach Vega. During this time most of the crew was frozen, while a small society of awake individuals maintained the ecosystem and ship. All colonists took at least one waking shift of a few years, keeping a constant active population. As intended, they adapted to living completely isolated in a space habitat, and a very unique culture developed. The rotation of crew also made sure the goals were not forgotten due to cultural drift or new generations.
On arrival to Vega the colonists began building back up habitats to make sure the entire project was not wiped out by a single disaster. The first habitats were small, hurried constructions intended to make sure the entire project was not wiped out by a single disaster. Later constructions became more extravagant, as self-replicating robots made construction mainly a matter of finding a suitable asteroid and directing the systems. The habitats became known as the Viha-ga, the Realm of the Sky.
At this point, the colonists waited for additional slower-than-light colonists and expeditions to arrive. This did not happen, and the Viha-ga was left alone. The drop off of broadcast communications from Earth made them wonder what had happened - they began to think civilization had collapsed in the Solar System. The reality was the increased use of wormhole communications for security and ease of use.
An internal struggle developed between the "Upakramah fraction" (the project fraction), which wanted to follow the original plans and at least set up the laser contact with the other colonies, and the "Gupta fraction" (the secret fraction) who wanted to turn the Vega system into their true home and keep it secret. They centered around a classicist revival that had emerged during the later part of the journey, where some influential people saw their isolation as a new chance to both rediscover ancient truths and to combine them with the future without being limited by other cultures; the goal was to create something truly unique and uncontaminated. They revived Sanskrit and began developing new forms of societies.
In the end the project fraction went ahead, but their communications array was wrecked by meteors or sabotage (the truth was never discovered). They began constructing a second array, but in the end the project was abandoned as most of the colonists began to direct their energy towards colonizing the Disk instead of uncertain and not very practical long-term communications.
Life in the Disk is somewhat dangerous; even if most of it is near vacuum and meteors are rare, over time micrometeors and occasional lucky shots destroy installations. Repair systems can manage most problems, but habitats can be lost if they are very unlucky. Most habitats have extensive anti-meteor railguns and lasers, and the colonies have a philosophy of dispersal – better not put all the eggs in the same basket.
The habitats have an extremely high and comfortable standard of living, being run by non-sentient AI and robots. Most are nearly paradisaical worlds, tended by ever-watchful drones and symbiotic animals connected to the computer systems.
It is a thoroughly aesthetic society, where the beauty of anything, any act is judged against many aesthetic scales. When the implementation is fairly easy to do (which is the rule with replicating robots and powerful support systems), the aesthetics becomes the deciding factor. Daily life is somewhat hedonistic, a relaxed leisurely routine that is not taken very seriously. In principle everything could be automated, but most habitats have deliberately set up some tasks that have to be done by humans in order to keep them active and aware. However, the Chesterton cluster and descended habitats have deliberately done away with all work – they think that it would be an imposition to force any human to work when it can be done with automation. Instead people will find their own useful things to do.
The inhabitants of one habitat usually regard each other as part of the same extended family; in small or young habitats this is literally true. Ties of marriage unite different habitats and groups within the same habitat. Some habitats are strictly hierarchical, while others are extremely informal democracies or near-anarchies. However, as a rule there exists a class of Brahmans with high prestige; they are the technocrats, experts, priests, scholars and leaders organizing things. The Weg Brahmans are not necessarily descendants of the original Brahmans of India, although there exist some ties.
The Brahman Assembly coordinates activities among the habitats and is responsible for facilitating communications among them. Representatives are chosen by each habitat, by their own methods, among those that are eligible. Theoretically this is open to anyone, but the years of study required tend to narrow it to a few families on each habitat.
The culture at Vega takes the long view. They intend to continue colonizing the Disk at a leisurely pace, developing a truly unique culture. Many of them definitely think the Vyomachaarinah will be around to watch the planets form in a few hundred million years.
At the same time the ever present risks from meteors make people aware of the transience of everything. There is no true security or stability anywhere: only by constantly moving, taking backups and dispersing can survival be achieved.
The concept "lilah" describes the situation: humans are the playthings of the capricious Gods, but (and here they diverge from many traditional views), humans are not passive game pieces but active co-players. By playing the cosmic game well (and being lucky), one can achieve just about anything. Overall, games have emerged as a major part of the culture, ranging from the traditional atthapada and dasapada chess games, to abstract akasa games, role-playing games, strategic simulations and personal combat games played in virtual reality. Game masters tour the Disk, challenging each other for supremacy in different games or modes of playing.
The society is not static, but changes slowly. Over time groups of people move out from their parent habitats and set up their own, repeating the process that occurred in the solar system but much more slowly and less drastically. It is somewhere between runaway diversification and stagnation, never quite moving into one of the areas. Most likely it will change greatly over the next few centuries but the direction is hard to tell.
Since anybody disagreeing with the society in a habitat can leave, and it is relatively cheap to build new habitats, disagreements tend to be relatively few and low key. Instead there is a gradual spawning of new and diverse habitats, ranging in their origins from orthodox religious to iconoclastic theoretical physics. Inter habitat communications are however important, and even if habitats cannot force each other to do anything they can influence each other. The Net is the mutual meeting place, a system-wide net of radio transmissions and laser links that routes information to all linked habitats.
While there are few true disagreements, that does not mean Vega is an utopia. Social interactions can become elaborate games of one-up-manship, and there are several habitats that spend much time politicking with and against each other. The same problems also occur inside habitats, sometimes producing serious quarrels between the inhabitants. Betting prestige on various gaming tournaments is a common way of resolving the conflicts.
The habitats are usually just a kilometer or two across, spherical constructions housing a self-contained biosphere lit up by artificial lighting. Some are built inside asteroids; while the asteroids are too loose and fragile to bear any loads they provide excellent protection against meteors. Those that aren't inside asteroids are covered with a thick layer of gravel, held in place by netting. They extend long cables holding instruments, antennas or specialized industries that take advantage of high gravity. Inside, the gravity is low with lush vegetation, rivers and fanciful landscapes dominating the view and taking advantage of the low gravity; most habitats are huge gardens that express the local aesthetic. People live in small villages in the valleys, connected by virtual communications and commuter trains.
Some habitats have specialized themselves, like the high inclination and eccentricity Taaraka group that acts as communications relays above and below the Disk, Vikram Sarabhai which produce designs for defensive robots or the Sona Ath habitats that extract Helium 3 from the solar wind or clouds around Kruura-graha. Others like Ganga and Lanka mainly export culture.
Some habitats have very unusual ecologies. Some, like the Pancatantra, are inhabited by an approximation of the animals and plants of old fables (it was created as a deliberate exercise in genetic and mythical design). Other habitats like Polaris and Lanka are attempts to recreate terrestrial conditions; Polaris is an arctic world while Lanka is a tropical sea.
Hinduism remains the major religion, although the forms vary. While the original colonists were rather secular, religiosity developed both due to the influence of the Gupta fraction and the grandeur of Weg. The view that the divine should be revered in every manifestation is common and influences culture to a high degree. Small shrines are common in the habitats and spacecraft. Practically every habitat and person has an istadevata, "favourite god" to which they are dedicated. Many regard Vega itself as a divinity, sometimes identifying it with the trimurti (the trinity Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva). Small shrines to Rudra are especially common: Rudra was originally a minor Vedic deity known as the divine archer, who shoots arrows of death and disease and who has to be implored not to slay or injure in his wrath, but has become identified as the god of meteor strikes; the shrines are to avert dangerous strikes.
Technologically the Vega system is quite advanced in robotics and automation, even if it they deliberately avoided creating volitional AI. The habitat construction techniques, anti-meteor systems and inter-habitat crafts are far beyond anything found among the colonies.
Genetic modifications of plants and sometimes animals in order to create new species and ecosystems are in use and well developed. Human genetic modifications are not widely spread outside of those to make the Vyomachaarinah more comfortable in space, free-fall and resistant to radiation.
Another area of strength for the Vyomachaarinah is the use of advanced knowledge networks and intelligence amplification techniques. Not in order to increase productivity (which is already far beyond what is needed) but to increase understanding. The reasons range from pure pleasure to the ideological goal of truly understanding the processes of history.
The Vyomachaarinah are an easy going culture and get along decently with other civilizations. In fact, there are many Vyomachaarinah habitats that are tourist destinations. The Spacers look down on them, seeing them as decadent and having lost the discipline of being Spacers. The Vyomachaarinah see the Spacers as needing to relax. The Tao, Stardwellers, Roamers, Independents and Masqueraders are all welcome and thought of as friends. Mechanicans, Replicants, Stored and less human looking Stardwellers are welcomed with some reservations, though there is no overt hostility. The Logicians have pleasant, if cool, relations though they do wonder about the artistic efforts and religiosity of their distant relatives. The Independents are courting them as allies, seeing them as closer to themselves than the other civilizations (though they can be forgiven for the error).
Among the societies, the Artisans, High Society, Hospitallers and Organized Crime can be found there. The Transcendental Worshippers are there and persecuted socially. Social Engineers, Cognitechnicians, Survivalists and the Mushashi Flex may be found among the Vyomachaarinah.
Common Name: Vyos or Weg
Benefits: Neural mesh, regardless of Cognitech score, Spacer and Artist professions at level 4. A specialty must be chosen for the Artist profession.
Inspector Status: Adivsors to the Brahman Assembly and acting as local police.
Core Values: Stability and Hedonism
Stability means that the Vyos abhor sudden change, especially change for changes sake. This means the CV can be used to resistance Metatech attempts to force them to change, especially without a good reason.
Hedonism means that the Vyos hold that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically beneficial. Thus, they try to advance that for themselves and others. This means they work towards good government, pleasant conditions, human rights, as well as the ability to have a really good time. This means the CV can be used to help Vyos advance a good cause, as well as a party or other pleasant experience. It can also be used to avoid unpleasant experiences.