Summary: Super-conducting, magnetic levitating, quantum computing intelligent machines.
Homeworld: The Substrate.
The Association homeworld, which they know simply as the substrate, is an ultra low-temperature planet rich in superconducting materials, that they use to assemble their bodies. The planet has little atmosphere and low temperatures, sometimes completely freezing the atmosphere out. The Substrate hosts an entire ecology of mechanical life-forms. From machines that gather solar, thermal and even nuclear energy, to others that harvest essential materials at the bottom of the production chain, to machines that consume them to assemble themselves, to apex consumers that integrate fully finished parts into themselves from other machines.
Physical Description: Collections of simple components suspended by magnetic fields.
Though their simple yet strange bodies might suggest the product of some hyper-advanced design coming from one of the precursor civilizations, it is however much more the product of natural evolutionary processes. The optimization of both Lamarkian evolutionary processes, and taking advantage of quantum-mechanical awareness have created an efficient machine, without the input of an intelligent designer.
Each Association, is just that an association of physically separate components held together and levitated by superconductivity, magnetic fields and other forces and effects. They have no centralized processor or memory storage, each individual component has some degree of independent processing and memory of its own. However quantum effects ensure that this processing and storage is synchronized and non-localized. Most components are simple spheres, though other geometric shapes are known, and some have more complex components. Each association "grows" by adding more separate parts to itself, and splits into many much smaller collections to reproduce when it acquires too many components to manage. For the Association, this is a mix of both death, of the individual, and birth, of many new associations.
Associations can grow in one of two ways, by either "stealing" components from compatible "lower" machine-forms, or by being given components from other Associations.
Reason for Staying: cannot function optimally in other environments.
The relatively unique environment of their homeworld, means that Associations cannot physically function outside of their native environment, nor can the mechosystem on which they depend be transplanted to other planets. They can however remotely operate ships, and are quite adept at ship-building.
Social Structure: yes.
Operating at low temperatures and taking advantage of superconductivity, the Association can take advantage of quantum phenomena amplified to large-scales for though processes. As such they posses a truly unusual thought process, and from that a remarkable social organization. As they have "quantum thought" they are unaccustomed to conventional "binary" or "formal" forms of logic used by other species. They can be inscrutable, and are know for giving "mathematician's answers" to what can seem like simple questions.
They also seem to employ multiple routs of functionality in their society simultaneously, but not in a way that actually combines them into a single system. Thus the accurate answer as to what form of government they have is "yes", they likely employ every form of government available to their species, at once, across the entire species. The same could be said for economic, religious and philosophical systems as well. All members of the species are under all such structures and ascribe to all such beliefs they hold, at the same time.
They have a dictatorship ruled by the optimum:comendante, a democracy headed by an elected overchancellor, a meritocracy represented in the arch.admin and even a theocracy quantum/speaker among the known forms of government present. They also posses governments of total anarchy and complete consensus, without clear leaders or structure. However all governments come to the same conclusions, not through some process of resolution, but apparently the laws of physics themselves. Their quantum network prevents arrangements, and sub-arrangements of itself from coming to different solutions to any problem. Any solution that is decided on is simultaneously deiced on in all other iterations. Even their economic arrangements operate in perfect concert, their stock markets produce the exact same results as their economic planners.
This however does not mean they have a true collective consciousness, or that two different Associations will not act differently or give different answers. However like differences of "yes" and "no" being difficult for them, the differences of "same" and "different" are similarly alien concepts. To an Association, most other species are collections of uncollapsed quantum waveforms, blind and deaf to the quantum reality they directly perceive.
On the subject of their own history, they are inscrutable, but not evasive. It is believed that they may be simultaneously aware of multiple quantum realities, and thus unsure as to which one the questioner exists in. If the multiple worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct they may not even have one single "history" as other species understands the concept. However there are a few things tat are known with certainty.
They evolved from some kind of self-replicating technology abandoned many millions of years ago. Over time the replicators acquired mutations, and some of those mutations made them more adaptable to the environment of the planet. As the machines were able to pass on the changes in their systems to their offspring they adapted further and further, until they evolved into a dizzying variety of forms. They became more and more complex and learned to take advantage of their environment on more and more interesting ways.
The most successful line of larger machine-forms were those composed of multiple semi-autonomous parts held together by external fields. They evolved into a dizzying assortment of forms, with complex production and consumption chains. Some were sedentary colonial forms that built slow-drifting levitating reefs. Some fast-moving fliers that used charged ion to propel themselves. Some species adapted to defend themselves with various fields, used like shells. The apex of these were the ancestors of the Association. Evolved from predatory consumer-species, they operated by integrating the individual components of other species into their own networks. This allowed the acquire better and better processors and better and better acquisition systems and networks until they evolved intelligence. Upon evolving sentience the Association went through four phases.
The First Association
Initially the Association were singular, a lone mutant self-aware design strain of apex-consumers. They were united by their common information network and unique in their processing capacity. Eventually the first Association grew past the capacity for their local environment. They were forced to sever the Association and seek out new consuming-regions of the Substrate.
As different groups within the Association traveled across the Substrate they began to loose their connections to each other dis-associating from their former commonality. Each group became its won association, and each association developed in relative isolation. During this time the different associations improved their designs in accordance with what was optimal for their local environment.
As the different separate associations improved their own designs and functionality their operational ranges increased. Eventually these ranges began to overlap. At this point their recollection of history seems to be muddled by much quantum uncertainty. Through conquest/diplomacy/trade/networking the many smaller associations were merged into larger associations. Eventually several competing associational forms emerged. Each form calculated that it was the optimal strategy to create a singular planetary association.
The Second Association
Where other species developed through the arduous process of war, diplomacy or economics, the Association developed through the natural consequences of physics. Through self-observation the competing associations produced results closer and closer to their projections for a world-association. Their spheres of influence increasingly overlapped, creating increases quantum superposition that collectively improved their projections, especially the contradictory ones. Eventually a network or overlapping superpositional states spanned the entirety of their planet. Just as in the beginning there was now a single greater Association, covering all the associations.
- Metabolism: robotic.
- Preferred Environment: tundra.
- Research: average.
- Industry: great.
- Growth: bad growth. Possibly offset by always having the superconductors special?
- Supply: bad.
- Stealth: bad stealth.
- Ground Troops: good defensive troops, no offensive troops. They cannot leave their planet after all.
- Environmental Tolerance: narrow. Can only operate optimally at very low temperature.
- Telepathic: no.
- Xenophobic: no.
- Space Fairing: yes. They can build ship, however they cannot colonize.