MAchine Intelligence. Originating from nearly the beginning of human civilization in space, there has been a long and often violent history between mai and humans. Most mai reject the term 'robot,' with its origins in the term 'worker' and connotations of slavery.
Mai brains are created by Mothers, special mai with an ability to design and construct the advanced technology required. The technology to create mai brains may exceed the normal baseline in an area. Mothers are revered by the mai.
There are deep divisions between mai concerning how much they should emulate humans or find their own path.
Mai are roughly grouped as hard frames, androids, and xenos.
Hard frames have one of a number of robot-like bodies, with designs that go back ages. Many are prodominantly metal and use servomotors.
Androids are designed to look more human. Plastics and more exotic materials, hydraulic tubing, and other items are common. In the most advanced civilizations, androids may even be semi-organic, and have all the senses and capabilities of humans, and possibly more.
Xenos embrace the wairen (alien) mindset, and find new, very different bodies and designs that suit them. By their nature, there isn't a distinct look one can describe about xenos, other than 'not human.'
Beings of pure data, shen find the stories and history of humanity fascinating, and see in themselves the realization of faeries, spirits, and gods. Shen operate computer systems, control drones in the 'outside,' and otherwise perform advanced data functions.
Irish word meaning 'skins.' In the United Callahan Republics, a derogatory term used by mai about humans.
A region of space roughly 20 AU across, consisting of a half dozen or so territories, each of which is perhaps a half AU in diameter. Other clusters are about 200 Au away. Distances tend to be shorter close to the inner system, greater as one moves further out into interstellar space.
A Cluster is a concentration of resources, and forms a discrete civilization. While there is a steady flow of trade throughout the Far Shoals, the trade is unreliable and isn't a solid part of the local infrastructure.
Territories are nations within the cluster, and their technology and character can vary a bit from that of the other territories.
Territories are linked, ideally, with hypergates. Travel between Clusters requires a hyperspeed-capable ship, and a number of civilizations maintain tradeships for the many clusters which can't manufacture them.
Jia (family type)
Traditionalists have one or more parents, who provide the patterns and genetics to create or birth a child, which is then raised by the parent(s). More common with humans, but all species engage in traditionalism.
Manufacturists design and assemble new people. Common among the mai and shen, rare amongst humans except given extremely advanced technology.
Clonecrèche create new people from patterns or genetics set ahead of time. Clonecrèche humans are born in artificial wombs, 'vatborn.' Originally this was common to groups which would clone one or a small number of individuals countless times, but at present it's more common for governments to generate genetic patterns from a small 'family pool' and then a wild card genetic sample.
Crèche-born are raised in large groups, taught together, and think of themselves as a family. They have mentors and caregivers, but not overt parents, and are considered wards of the state.
May refer to shen of great importance, who often style themselves as gods.
More commonly, it refers to the advanced beings that sometimes result from Eruption/Bloom. These vast intelligences are most common in the inner system, particularly on Earth and Jupiter. Mars is currently a refuge for root humanity, overseen by the goddess Admi.
Advanced technology offers various ways a civilization can interconnect, advance to a transition point. This is variously called an Eruption or Bloom, depending on how favorably one views it.
Ideally, a civilization comes together and combines into a god-like being, of vast power and intelligence.
In the vast majority of cases, it is a nightmare, one which sets groups of mutating beings against one another until everyone is consumed and the civilization dies, leaving an infectious wasteland.
There are lists of prohibited technologies, of varying severity, to avoid the danger of eruption. Sanction can be severe.
For their part, when civilizations veer too closely to eruption, the OCAL will leave the cluster.
When there has been even a partial eruption, the OCAL and Far Shoal civilizations generally place a quarantine status of 1000 kilodays (or roughly 2700 years).
Manipulation of zero-point energy to essentially create various fields out of sustained/cycling virtual particles. Commonly used to provide acceleration, though many civilizations find it necessary to rely on moderated reaction mass for high accelerations, such as combat vehicles. Virtual engines allow ships to travel immense distances without carrying massive amounts of reaction mass.
More advanced technologies allow use of virtual fields as weapons, artificial gravity, tractor beams, forcefields, and similar.
A manipulation of spacetime that allows a ship to travel at significant real speeds with very little energy. The ship is particually decoupled from spacetime; in a sense, it's mass is lowered, as far as the universe is concerned, and that lower mass is accelerated.
However, this effect can be easily disrupted by energy and collisions, causing the hyperfield to break down.
Hyperspeed requires a ship with a hyper collar to sustain and maintain it, and to exit the effect 'cleanly.'
Hypergates can generate hyperfields around ships with hypercollars.
Sufficiently advanced civilizations have hyperspeed engines, allowing ships to generate their own fields.
Oort Cloud Alien Lifeform, a variety of squid/spider-like aliens who have lived in the Far Shoals for millions of years. They are extreme pacificists, willing to simply leave an area in the face of hostility. Many clusters operate defense pickets to ensure that no groups offend the OCAL.
OCAL operate at extremely low temperatures, and cannot survive in the inner system. They provide a service creating and maintaining hypergates for clusters unable to manufacture them.
Quaoar ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50000_Quaoar ) is home to one of the oldest stable civilizations in the inner Far Shoals. They maintain a database of technologies that are rented out to clusters, which helps protect against Eruption and also helps struggling civilizations advance quickly when needed.
The Cobalt Imperium defaulted on agreements with the Quaoar bank, which cost them dearly; their bankrupt status kept them from crucial maintenance, kept other territories from trading freely with them, and so forth. They collapsed, eventually replaced with the Cobalt Vanguard (where the comic starts out).