After a few trial drafts of Project Sublight, I'm back to workshopping and world building.

One of the issues I have run up against with the character of Ishmael is how to structure the organization he works for. How can that organization can operate across multiple jurisdictions (Kraznovia, Cirocal, and ISTO)? Why are their puppet organizations (like the Lethian Flying University) tolerated? Who is Ishmael's boss?

It got me to thinking about how a lot of drama require competing goals. I have always had it in my head that the shadowy organization Ishmael works for may have an independent (even incomprehensible) goal apart from any of the political organizations in the Solar System (i.e. the Governments). I want them to operate a bit like the Spice Guild in Dune. Essential, on paper, apolitical. But with its own agenda.

But unlike a trade union, I want that agenda to be something a little more than "enriching the party bosses." In the end, the Spice Guild in Dune was mainly concerned with maintaining a monopoly on control in interstellar travel.

So, what if instead of party bosses, we had AI's in charge. Computers of an intelligence so high that they require several levels of progressively dumber computers to get instructions down to a human level. The organization is fragmented because the "truth" is actually too much for any one party to comprehend in its entirety. The different factions and philosophies are different aspect of a singular conspiracy.

The ends up being very much like the "Friend Computer" from Paranoia series. Each faction and organization ultimately has a "Big Brother" who is really running the show. For the Cirocal, they are ruled by their accounting software. For the Kraznovians, they are ruled by their master "plan" (sort of like the 5 year plans in communism). ISTO has a regulations and operations manual. But it is such a mishmash of competing regulations from competing jurisdictions that they have an AI that acts as an interpreter.

The "Organization" that Ishmael is a member of operates like an the Temple of Syrinx in Rush's 2112. There is a priesthood, a temple guard, inquisitors, and public relations. The priesthood are humans that struggle to interpret the calculations of the computer. The temple guard protects the organization. The inquisitors gather information. Public relations spreads wisdom to the common people, and tries to keep the entire organization in good standing with all of the other factions and organizations.

Of course the priesthood fuck up the message regularly and often, and often interject their own ambitions on top of the Plan.

Being a Douglas Adams fan, it would also be funny to discover that mankind's fascination with computers stems from antiquity. In this world, humans were exposed to an alien computer back in pre-Sumerian times. The computer was the sole survivor of a failed deep space mission. It is following its directive to get it's finding back to its creators. But something went wrong, and it ended up stranded on the planet.

The crash had drawn interest from a nearby population of proto-humans. They explored the wreck, and discovered the computer core and a few working terminals. The computer thought "hey, maybe I can teach them to rebuild me?" It started with pictograms, and eventually taught them mathematics. But, people being people, instead of rebuilding the ship, they started erecting temples. Temples that would be tall enough to lift their god from the sky back to it's proper place.

As the computer's hardware started failing, it managed to issue some instructions to the people on how to remove it's memory and preserve it. Hoping that, even if the computer couldn't deliver it's report in person, it's logs and reports could be found by a recovery mission in the future.

Archeologists in a 19th century stumbled onto a temple erected to store the archive. Humans managed to salvage the memory from this computer, and install it in a succession of "hosts". Each host crew in complexity from gears, to electric relays, to vacuum tubes, to transistors, to integrated circuits, to holographic processors. Each attempt moved computer science leap years ahead.

Finally, some time in the late 1960s, a computer of sufficient complexity to run the great ship's original program was built. Priests installed the memory banks, preserved since antiquity, and for the first time in millenia, the great mind could work once more.

Well... that took me off track quite a bit. I suppose I'll have to have a great reveal about the secrets that were locked in holographic medium for millenia.

But long story short, those are the people Ishmael works for.

"The Organizaton" Order of precedence

The Organization is loosely based on the structure that has emerged from the Roman Catholic Church, with the Sublight Magic system over top.

The Neutrarch

A single computer which is interpreting the memory banks of the original Great Mind. The Neutrarch operates as a benevolent dictator. It has ultimate authority, but is loath to use it absent a genuine disruption in the organization. It does, however, regularly demand reports from the Cardinals, and disruptive initiatives from the Cardinals have to be approved by the Neutrarch.

In practice the Neutrarch does very little as far as formulating policy. It is the check on the authority of the Cardinals who do go off and create programs and initiatives. The existence of the Neutrarch

Neutrarch Emeritus

Technology improvements have caused several Neutrarchs implementations to be retired. As these living computers are quite capable, they "retire" to teach or perform research of their own interest.

The Cardinals

The top tier of the Organization. Cardinals certify a new Neutrarch when an old Neutrarch ceases to function, or new technology promises to create a more perfect implementation of the Neutrarch.

Each of the six Cardinals operate one major function of the Organization. They have little contact with human beings, save for maintenance.

Color School General Duties
Red Will Organizational Integrity, Defense, Discipline
Magenta Illusion Public Relations, Diplomacy, Intelligence gathering
Blue Divinity Library and Archives, Prophesy
Cyan Transmutation Educational Outreach, Facilities, Quintessence sourcing
Green Spirit Spirituality, Ecology, Mana sourcing
Yellow Evocation Emerging technologies, Disaster response, Risk mitigation

The Archbishops

Archbishops manage specific geographical areas and structural organizations. This is not an exhaustive listing, merely those that will likely to impact the story.

Archbishops interact with an elite set of human officers. Subordinates of these officers are often unaware that their boss' boss is a computer. The general public is actively kept from knowing these organizations are run by a computer.


Larger organizations often are broken into divisions. Bishops operate under an Archbishop, and coordinate people and Deacons. They are often assisted by a human being with the title of "Director".


Deacons directly interact with the general public. They act as clergy, diplomats, therapists, teachers, and information kiosks. The level of intelligence for a Deacon is tailored to the task at hand. Deacons operate under either an Archbishop or a Bishop. They are normally in charge of departments. If the task requires human involvement, they have a human assistant with the title of "Manager"