Fund Molten Aether

I am never one to enjoy the act of asking others for money so I will keep this short and to the point. Running this server and its associated parts costs me time and in some cases money. The web server along costs the bulk of my out-of-pocket expenses but I do think it has become an essential part of what we do. A place to keep all of our content is very important to me.

I would like to ask that anyone who feels they can consider becoming a patron via our Patreon Page. Even a small regular donation would do wonders for us and my ability to keep everything running. As things pick up I hope to be able to invest more time and energy into making content here. I also would like to start making short videos on YouTube about writing and role playing. Some of these may become content only for patrons but that has yet to be decided.

In the end, I would like to clear about $40 a month or so which would cover my web server costs for the forum, wiki, and wordpress. We have specialized patron roles, which is not much of a thank you but it is a start. Should we get enough patrons I will look into what else those people would like me to do to add value to their generosity.

To everyone, thank you.

URL Update

In the long process that has been moving to the moltenaether.com domain name, the URL’s for all blazingumbra.com will now automatically redirect to the corresponding page on the new domain. All BU links will work exactly as are for a good long while. Eventually we will be moving entirely to the moltenaether.com domain but probably not until 2021 at the earliest. Users may need to log in again to the Wiki or WordPress as the cookies are no longer valid with the new domain.

If anyone gets any redirect errors (most common is likely to be too many redirects) I encourage users to wipe their cache and refresh. If the error still occurs, let me know what page was being accessed so I can do testing and resolve the issue.

Starlight No More & Sudden Storm

Late on Wednesday night the infamous Starlight Motel caught fire after a reportedly fake 911 call brought police there before the fire took place. Law enforcement officials believe that this is related to the series of killings taking place around Chicago for some time now. In a press conference the spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department had this to say:

We understand that in today’s world often times first responders are targeted and we must remain vigilant. Two police officers were killed in the fire that occurred late Wednesday, we mourn their loss not only as a department but as a community. Their killers will be brought to justice.

CPD Spokesperson

There are few eyewitnesses to the event, some time at around 8pm a 911 call came in requesting help. The recording of the call allows us to hear a wide variety of sounds which police say were faked, but sound very real to many. Our independent analysis shows the sounds were very real identifying several independent voices screaming, breaking of class, and other assorted noises. From that point a bulletin went out and the two deceased officers were the first on the scene, they went into the hotel first. Other officers showed up after but then reported that the call was a false alarm.

We attempted to reach the CDP officers who responded to the call but the police has not released their names. Over the next hour a fire broke out in two locations, the CFD arson unit responded and believes the blazes were intentional but have not released their report to the public. One Firefighter we spoke to on condition of anonymity told us the site was the strangest fire location he’d ever seen. He reported that there were dead snakes everywhere, as if every snake in the city had slithered there and just up and died. Blood stains on the remaining walls showed strange symbols that have stuck in his mind after the fact. With so the bodies of some 22 people found, it is no wonder the site has stuck to him.

Other than these scant details City Hall is quiet and no witnesses have come forward. We know from traffic cameras that others did show up, a woman, a rather large van style vehicle with the letters “P S Y C H O T R O N I C S” painted on the side. We have not been able to find a company with this logo or name as yet, leaving the serious question – are they responsible?

During the blaze a freak weather phenomena occur across the entirety of the Chicago area, a sudden storm perhaps saved nearby properties from burning. The storm pushed rain down upon the area that for a while resembled a monsoon. As the storm raged on the temperature dropped suddenly, but briefly, below freezing causing large hailstones. This storm front, which meteorologists say came out of nowhere, lasted for almost a full week of constant rain. Scattered reports say that some people actually found frozen snakes falling from the sky late on Wednesday night, even some filing insurance claims for damage to homes and cars. One homeowner had this to say about the freak weather:

I’m not going to tell the insurance company a snake dented the roof of my car, that is crazy. I wouldn’t believe me! It happened though, a snake about a foot long. Can you believe it? A frozen snake a foot long dented my car!

Chicago Resident Joseph

Joseph requested we not print his last name or address for fear the insurance company would deny his claim upon hearing he is blaming it on a snake. It is highly this night is going to leave our memory any time soon.

The remains of the Starlight Motel have been condemned and the insurance company has erect chain-link fencing to keep people out. The owner of the property has not responded to our requests for comment. It is very likely that without the freak weather phenomena which dumped several inches of rain on the city in such a short time span the fire would have spread to neighboring lots.

Discord Reunification

As many people know, we took a poll on what people think should be done to better revive our role play. Play has diminished significantly over the last few months and that is in the face of many people being stuck at home, which should increase participation. The pole revealed that while there is a certain amount of support for killing off the Angelic Sins and Embers of Soteria settings there was far more people who (thankfully) also think everything was fine. The top two things that people think should be done were to reset everything and start over and to consolidate the servers back into one.

My choice to split the settings up into their own servers was controversial and intended to increase role play. Unfortunately it appeared to do the opposite. From the server having right around 100 people (though most were inactive) the membership has been cut in half. Also role play in AS and EoS are both at an all-time low. Since I am not very keen on resetting everything back to scratch, though that might have some advantages, I decided to reunify all the settings into a single server.

As part of this I cleared out the server invites list and generated a new invite, cleared out the old servers, sent out invites to players who were not still a member of the Molten Aether server, and moved all of the channels back. All the channels are blank of course, but my hope is that under this new (old) configuration we can once again start getting all the settings moving again.

Since roles were changing, everyone should check and make sure they have the proper permissions on Discord.

Efforts in Renewals

This is a last-ditch effort to attempt to revive the settings and generate some stories. My biggest concern is that I cannot carry this place alone, I simply don’t have the ability to do so. I need people to participate in making plots that support the main overarching plot.

I have been trying to get things rolling to revive our role play settings. We have some excellent role players and really good minds here. My efforts have shown a greatly underwhelming response. It appears that my attempts are akin to shouting into the wind. So far a grand total of 4 people have responded to my attempts to revive old story lines. I am becoming convinced that the vast majority of our players have muted the servers and forgotten about them. This is not entirely unreasonable, my work schedule combined with school and a lot of other things has created a situation where for a very long time I just didn’t have it in me to keep things up. People are fickle and bore easily, so it should be no surprised that I entirely failed to maintain this group with any cohesion. I understand this is my fault, I have made people angry, I have promised to continue stories that get dropped, and frankly any game just has a low priority.

This is a last-ditch effort to attempt to revive the settings and generate some stories. My biggest concern is that I cannot carry this place alone, I simply don’t have the ability to do so. I need people to participate in making plots that support the main overarching plot. I have loosened nearly all the restrictions on what I allow people to run but after introducing characters it appears that people just wander off, no longer interested. I don’t have a solution for this.

To help with this, I’ve created a poll. In the past we would have gotten 10-20 responses to a poll, lately I’ve gotten maybe 3 or 4.

Importing of Magic

There is already enough incredible work done on magic and psionic abilities elsewhere. As such, players wishing to use magic can import magic spells for characters much in the same way we’ve done with abilities, skills, and technology. Since magic systems are very different, players should attempt to find comparable spells via the D20 SRD (System Reference Document) first. Preference would be for d20 3.5 or Pathfinder but 5th Edition is also acceptable. Spells from the SRD can simply be linked to their SRD pages from the wiki. Spells with conflicts to the magic system or which need additional balancing with have codified canon version for the Molten Aether family of settings.

Since all 3 settings take place within the same largely continuity, any spell imported for a single setting can be used in the others. This may require some fudging to determine how something reacts with high technology areas. Also in Blazing Umbra it should be noted that almost all knowledge of magic has been lost over time and thus spells are very hard to come by. Players should be aware of this fact when designing character for Blazing Umbra that use magic.

Finally it is also acceptable to use areas of specialty and pull spells from the SRD that don’t need, strictly, to go on a character sheet. This grants a considerable amount of power to some characters which should be limited by common sense given the characters skill level and ability category. Any spells imported from outside the SRD will require some approval in their details to make sure they don’t break the magic system or throw off the balance of the game in other ways.

If you have any questions, please contact Cyclops.

Military Use of AI Sparks Controversy

This controversy has brought several deep philosophical questions to light, one of the most potent of which is the idea about programming. If an AI is programmed to do a job, do they really have a choice to do anything else?

While generally considered by many to be the most permissive and equal culture for artificial intelligence in the galaxy, the Serenity Concord has come under fire recently from the Icarus League, an AI rights advocacy group based out of Nimbus Station. The passage of the Artificial Life Form Rights and Enforcement Act in 2384 has been promoted by the group as a “good start” toward truly equal rights between AI and biological life. The organization has recently began protesting how the Concord and in particular Solas Tempus make use of AI. In particular the group accuses Solas Tempus of forcing AI’s into militarized roles and as subservient to biological leadership. Recently the Icarus League has found an unlikely ally in a gender equality organization (Equality Alliance) primarily based out of the United Federation of Planets which fights for intervention in other cultures which show a clear gender bias in either enacting or executing laws.

The Icarus League has lodged a formal protest for what they claim is “an unfair militarization of AI programs”. The practice began with the advent of Multinodal Core and the Mark I Android Body. With the ability for an AI program to transfer safely to and from an android body, Solas Tempus has begun placing the Multinodal Core technology in new vessels giving ships as “Master Systems AI”. This AI program is responsible for not only running ships systems but may be called upon to complete missions in their entirety should the crew become incapacitated or killed. Such an AI is usually also a member of the command crew of the ship, most often 1st or 2nd officer.

The formal protest also notes that very few of the AI programs are granted true command positions, relegated to secondary positions such as “Operations Officer” or “Executive Officer” making them still subservient to biological masters. The League claims this is not only unfair but a violation of the 2384 rights act passed by the Concord. They have demanded the Solas Tempus release some proof that they are not exploiting AI programs and put a stop to the practice at once.

The Equality Alliance has lodged its own, separate, formal protest against Solas Tempus itself stating that the group has unfairly targeted female AI programs for placing as executive roles on new starships. Since the AI programs are predominantly identified as feminine the Equality Alliance has accused Solas Tempus and the Concord of “setting gender rights back at least two hundred years with short-sighted decisions based on ancient biases”.

We were able to reach Sal D’Amico for his comments on accusations of forcing AI programs to join the military.

Due to the passage of the AI rights act of 2384, the Concord has seen a major increase in the number of AI entity that have petitioned to become citizens of the Concord. It should be noted that no AI entity has been turned away in their request. Such entities are afforded the same rights as any other group, though many were created in military settings of other races, governments, and even companies. These entities wish to put those skills to use and a great many have applied to join Solas Tempus. Again no AI entity has been turned away from doing this. The program of giving a specialized role to AI programs wishing to serve in our space force as a “Master Systems AI” is not forced, positions are offered and very often asked for by AI programs. No AI has been forced or coerced into a position as a Master Systems AI and no AI has been denied an android body which has requested one.

Fleet Admiral Sal D’Amico of Solas Tempus

Admiral D’Amico is correct, there has been a definite surge in applicants to the Concord and to Solas Tempus of AI programs of various types since the AI rights act as passed two years ago. Many of these entities were in hiding for fear of being forced into servitude again. Even with these facts, the Admiral’s statement has fallen on deaf ears for both the League and Alliance. While Solas Tempus refuses to comment on the accusations of gender bias within its ranks, the Concord representative for the Schatten System Murrika was available for comment.

We are grateful for the passionate press for equal rights for all life. Recently we have been accused of the unconscionable practice of forcing an AI program to be feminine and serve at the behest of biological masculine people. This is quite simply not true, we value the sanctity of all life of all kinds and of all genders. We do not, nor will we ever, force a particular gender identity onto a sentient entity of any kind. Such actions would be illegal under the law, should any person or group have proof of such accusations, I challenge them to bring such proof to my doorstep or to our courts!

Senator Murrika, Representative for the Schatten Star System

Our own survey of recent AI additions to the Concord and to Solas Tempus itself has seen that there is, in fact, an abundance of feminine AI entities from the XIA’s being created to AI programs which have moved to the Concord. We were able to speak to one of the very first prototypes of the XIA’s, Camila Xia.

You asked me if I was ever forced to do anything. I wasn’t, I have a job though. A lot of people have jobs and for most humans and other biological life they are left alone to figure that out on their own. I was programmed to do my job, I enjoy my job. I provide information to the person I’m assigned to. Sometimes that means I make notes on meetings, record events, do deep-dives into a particular research topic, or collect information. Most of the time what it means is that I study important topics and use my processing power to make connections that may or may not be difficult for many biological people to make in a short amount of time. I’m kind of an expert at whatever I need to be an expert on.

No one here has ever forced me to be a girl or join the military or anything else. I’m really upset that people think that just because I chose to be a girl means I was forced. Or just because I chose work for Solas Tempus, I was forced. It’s completely absurd and insulting.

Lt. Commander Camila Xia of Solas Tempus

This controversy has brought several deep philosophical questions to light, one of the most potent of which is the idea about programming. If an AI is programmed to do a job, do they really have a choice to do anything else? This is a much deeper question and gets into the nature of choice. Advocates for AI rights say that it may not be true choice. Admiral D’Amico had a final comment on this issue when we spoke.

Most adults remember a time when they had to decide to keep doing what their parents wanted them to do or stop and make their own way. Some choose to go into a family business or follow a religion because it was what they were raised on, it is what they know. Others choose to break away and follow their own path. There are an infinite array of choices in between those extremes. How is that different from programming? We don’t like the word. No one likes to think of themselves as programmed but we are. Programmed with cultural beliefs, behaviors, rules, and so much more. All of our learned behavior are programs.

Fleet Admiral Sal D’Amico of Solas Tempus

Certainly there are a lot of questions to ask. Questions that are as difficult to understand as they are to answer. As with any controversy based on such questions, it is clear that there isn’t going to be a resolution anytime soon. Solas Tempus is committed to its continued use of AI programs on its vessels throughout the controversy. In fact a recent policy shift within the organization has created a military review board to determine proper ranks befitting the skills and positions of AI programs which have not previously been afforded ranks within the organization. Sources within Solas Tempus indicate this has been on the table for the last two years while they worked out exactly how to proceed. Moving forward the organization has committed to providing ranks and options to those AI programs which have previously not been explicitly provided with such.

While initially this new policy was to be overseen by the (mostly) biological leadership, the Icarus League has taken broad credit for pushing Solas Tempus into having a review process that involves AI programs. While the policy will not be entirely enacted by AI, Solas Tempus has agreed that there will be equal AI and biological representation. Officials declined to name names of who would be overseeing this process or who would participate.

Several advanced programmers and experts in the field of AI have also noted during the controversy on gender that most AI development uses adaptive neural networking to “grow” a consciousness out of base directives. Cited most often is the QUINN Type AI, whose framework has become the centerpiece of modern AI development. While there is some disagreement on the details it is widely considered that the AI personality, gender, and even sexuality are developed in an organic way. The AI neural network responds best with a very small set of directives and adding a gender and its facets to ensure the production of a feminine (or masculine) gender would be difficult, though not impossible. From our own research the current state of the art in AI growth state an AI personality begins to develop first as the neural network becomes more complex, in theory the gender of an AI develops at that time before an AI network becomes self aware or even conscious for the first time.

The details of how an AI neural network grows into a fully sentient, living, being are unclear. Perhaps as research moves forward more answers to these philosophical questions will be forthcoming.

Death Moves Unchecked – Police Afraid to Investigate?

I’ve never seen anything like this, they say it’s gangs but it’s not. It’s been a bloodbath in the gang controlled areas, they are setting up roadblocks to keep people out we’re not even going in. I don’t know what they are going to do, but things are not under control, those people living there need to get out. They need to get out now.

Several areas around Chicago have been plunged into chaos. While the official response from police is that they are working several unrelated cases which have been misconstrued by the press to be related incidents and that things are under control. The police chief has chastised the press in recent public statements accusing organizations of purposefully misrepresenting facts. Even in the midst of these public statements reporting that surrounding areas are under control and there is no public danger, reports are that the Mayor is close to declaring a state of national emergency.

On condition of anonymity one officer, which we will call Mr. Smith, has described a much different situation developing.

I’ve worked for the Chicago Police Department for the last 7 or so years, maybe 8 now. I’ve never seen anything like this, they say it’s gangs but it’s not. It’s been a bloodbath in the gang controlled areas, they are setting up roadblocks to keep people out we’re not even going in. I don’t know what they are going to do, but things are not under control, those people living there need to get out. They need to get out now.

Mr. Smith

Several other members of the department also agreed to speak with us on condition that we protect their identities. Most are afraid of not only losing their jobs but being sent into places they won’t come back out of. Photos provided by a pair of detectives show strange symbols drawn in blood. One of the defectives also said looking at them “felt wrong” somehow but couldn’t explain it, both detectives said they were considering leaving the force stating “we aren’t trained to handle this, no one is”.

Alderman Duante Smithers spoke to us about the issues plaguing many residents on the outskirts of Chicago.

We all know the police have a tendency to disappear when Blacks are getting hurt, but this is ridiculous and they should be ashamed of themselves. I don’t even know how many are dead but my own people say there could be as many as a hundred people dead and no one is being allowed to speak of it. Several massacres have gone untouched by the cops. No one is even trying to help these people and they need help. It’s disgusting, goes to show how little anyone cares when you’ve got the wrong color skin.

Alderman Duante Smithers

The Alderman is not alone, reports from quite a few people speak of crime scenes that haven’t even been taped up even though weeks have passed. One thing is abundantly clear, whatever is happening, the police are just as in the dark about it as everyone else.

The Council

We contacted the Vampire Council for the city who are equally appalled at the recent action among human officers. While the council swears they are looking into the matter they have been rather tight lipped, as have other supernatural organizations which usually work with police and the public to solve delicate situations for which the police and general public are unaware.

While it is not unusual for the council to be tight lipped when they feel it suits their interests it is unusual for the other groups to be equally so. There are some unconfirmed reports that the council is investigating what could be happening, with a particular bend toward a possible link to demons or one of the lower planes. Several who have been paid to study the symbols state that they stick in the mind in an otherworldly way and make a person uneasy to gaze at with a lasting effect.

Several individuals of particular gifts such as psionics and students of the mystic arts have also left the area without a word. Some have left profitable jobs and spent considerable resources to prematurely end contracts though none could be reached for comment.

OOC Notes

This storyline is not just mine to do. I would like all players to try to integrate this new information into their role plays. This is something everyone in the city would have heard something about. Those within supernatural circles would have heard more. Notes on this storyline can be found on the forum under this tag or this tag here on the wordpress. This is also linked to the current plot at the Starlight Motel on Discord as well as other posts there. Please contact me with any questions but also feel free to improvise if you don’t know you can guess and we’ll make it work.