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The 'Starborn', huh? You made them up, right? I've never heard of them.

Oh, but you have. The Starborn are the hard core of truth behind mankind's legends of fire beings - fire elementals, dragons, demons and the like.

Ok, so what does a Starborn look like?

If human eyes were able to see into the higher ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum and if human minds could grasp the possibility of a gossamer sphere 900km or so in diameter, then you could see the Starborn as a translucent bubble with smoky interior structures of varying size. The 900km diameter is only an approximation since a Starborn will change its size at will and depending on external stimuli.

The Starborn just tell you what to do and you do it?

The Starborn have been manipulating human genes since before Homo sapiens walked the Earth. Among other qualities, they have been attempting to breed humans that can hear them as individuals. At the time of MindGames, approximately a third of the human race is still minddeaf to the Starborn. Another third might get a 'feeling' or a 'hunch' if a Starborn were concentrating on sending the individual a thought. The last third might get a strong feeling - the kind that might prevent someone from taking (or not taking) a particular action. Less than 1% of humanity can 'hear' the Starborn. These Sensitives, for the most part, might get fiery dreams or visions. There are also a few individuals in a generation that can actually receive the voices of the Starborn. If they follow the Starborn's directives, these people usually wind up in positions of power. The Sensitives are the Starborn's pieces for the Great Game.

You're saying that every villain, every hero, every looney that hears "voices", are the Starborn's Sensitives?

Not at all. There's plenty of villainy, heroism and home-grown insanity in the human race. There are certain well-known humans who do owe their fame to heeding the call of the Starborn. We'll let you guess who is who

What's the Great Game?

First and foremost, The Great Game is NOT like an athletic contest where two sides try to score a goal.

It's more a symphony of violence where the conductor builds to a crescendo. The whole symphony is part of the Great Game, not just the big bang at the end. 'Points' are judged on how well the violence has been orchestrated, its strength, its 'beauty'. 'Points' go to the Starborn's reputation among its peers.

When more than one Starborn is playing, they're not opponents but rather friendly rivals. Picture two brothers on safari, each trying to outdo the other in spectacular kills - until one kills the last living white rhino. Or, the same two brothers in college, each trying to bed a more beautiful blond - until one of them beds the Homecoming Queen. Occasionally, a Starborn might make his rival's play a little more "challenging" - like telling the Homecoming Queen that his brother has gonorrhea right before their Big Date - but it's all in good fun.

The Starborn want to see ever-larger battles all over the Solar System. Each battle is a movement in the symphony, building to the eventual crescendo - the destruction of all space-traveling life. Once mankind has again been confined to his ancient homeworld, the round will be considered over.

The Starborn manipulated human genes? When?

Around 165,000 years ago the Starborn called Morningstar visited the Solar System. While all Starborn are intensely interested in the Great Game, they do have specialties. Morningstar considered itself a toymaker. In other words, it was a genetic engineer. On Earth, Morningstar found many species of humans. Two in particular interested it. In the glaciated north, there was a furred, fierce predator with just the rudiments of society - what we now call Homo neanderthalis. In the still-warm equatorial regions were small populations of a cooperative, peaceful, hunter-gatherer people, Homo erectus. Morningstar wanted to combine the fieceness and intelligence of the Neanderthals with the close knit tribal mentality and year-round fertility of the southerners. It knew that those characteristics (ferocity, intelligence, tribalism and population pressure) are the basic building blocks of world war. Unfortunately, the offspring were infertile when the two species were bred together.

Morningstar called for help and a small team of Starborn gathered under its leadership. They determined that the cold-adapted species would be a better starting point and started to overlay individual Neanderthal genes with their Erectus equivalents. Approximately 70,000 years later, the first individual that could be considered a member of new species was born (a species that would one day, and without the least touch of humility, name itself 'Thinking Man'). The team shepherded the new species during its infancy, protecting it from the rival Neanderthals and remaining populations of Erectus. Once Homo sapiens was well on its way to world domination, the Starborn left for other projects. During the next 53,000 years the Starborn made occassional visits to be sure that the project was continuing on course. 17,000 years ago, the youngest member of the team, Lightbearer, returned and started to introduce the changes that would allow the humans to hear the Starborn.

Why do you keep calling them 'it'. Isn't that very rude?

The Starborn don't have gender. The correct term for them is therefore 'it'. And I'm never rude, buttface.

So how do they 'do it' (nudge, nudge,wink, wink)?

The Starborn are very different creatures than anything that might evolve on a planet. They’re not even made of the same kind of matter we are – their ‘bodies’ are huge bubbles of fiery plasma (ions and smaller particles) and are held together by electromagnetism and quantum mechanics. So English words don’t really carry the correct meanings, but here goes…

The Starborn body structure has much in common with a crystal or a hologram, in that each part is a small image of the whole. Data is stored throughout the structure, albeit unevenly. If you were to break the corner off of a hologram, you wouldn’t see the image missing a piece but instead a complete image with less detail. Likewise, if a Starborn were to somehow lose a piece of itself, it would still be complete but its memory might be a little less accurate. Unlike a hologram, but like a crystal, a Starborn can grow, adding new structures to its body as time goes on. So a hypothetical missing piece would easily be replaced.

Like other life, the Starborn do have a drive to reproduce. Over the millennia, they have become expert geneticists (an inexact word since it implies having genes) and they apply this knowledge to themselves. Unlike humans, however, they feel no need for their offspring to be better than they are. Their offspring will soon become partners/rivals in the Great Game and they see no reason to give them an advantage. Actual reproduction consists of many Starborn contributing a small part of their bodies to the construct that will become their offspring. This is done deliberately and with care. Unlike a human child that might be raised by the village, the young Starborn is created by a 'village'. This is not a straight forward process because of the holograph-like basics in Starborn anatomy. To use the human equivalents, for a Starborn to contribute blue eyes to the offspring, it is also must be contribute the smell of roses and the memory of nausea and a hundred other characteristics. The offspring’s first centuries of life consist mainly of creating a unified adult from the pieces it received at 'birth'.

When an individual Starborn losses cohesion and dies (they’re not actually immortal, just damn close to it), it is possible for it to be re-created by the Starborn who originally contributed to its creation, assuming, of course, that they’re all available and willing. The new offspring will start off exactly as its first avatar did and will almost always follow the same path (the easiest, most obvious one) to unified adulthood.

Which leads to another point: the Starborn want to live. Naturally, they are aware of the possibility of being reconstructed in case of death but they realize that their new selves won’t share their adult experiences, merely sharing their ‘starting place’. So the Starborn have evolved/created an ‘organ’ that can be used to store the essence of another Starborn, keeping it separate from the host. An adult Starborn will pass a small piece of itself to any other Starborn that is willing to hold it, for exactly the same reason you might back up your hard drive. If the Starborn is reconstructed, these memory dumps will be added to the mix, giving the recreated Starborn many of the memories and experiences of its former self.

What's up with the Starborn and jumpnodes?

Imagine a stand of old-growth forest. Under the trees, very little light reaches the ground, so there is almost no underbrush. At the edges of the forest, where sunlight does reach the ground, there is a heavy growth of bushes and shrubs that acts as a barrier to the woods. If a traveler wanted to cross the forest, he’d first have to force his way through these bushes, so he’d search for a nearby thin spot. Once through the bushes it would be a fairly easy walk through the trees. At the far side of the forest, he’d again look for a thin spot in the bushes and force his way out. If he kept using the same route, the bushes would eventually stop re-growing, leaving a permanent hole in the barrier. There would also be a noticeable path in the forest.

The Starborn are the travelers. The forest is subspace and the holes in the bushes are the jumpnodes. While the Starborn can push into subspace whenever and wherever they want to, it does take a certain amount of energy, so they tend to use the existing jumpnodes – which also helps to keep the jumpnode open. For a jumpnode to become “permanent” might take regular travelling over thousands of years – not a lot of time to the Starborn. If the Starborn stop using the jumpnode, eventually it will disappear.


Why didn't the starborn stop the collapsing of the Gamma Draconis - Capella jump node. They did want it to remain open, didn't they? (from Stunaep)

The shivans have other ways into GTVA space and the Starborn were too surprised by the shivans blowing up Capella to do anything much about the GD-Capella node.


The collapse of a jumpnode is a minor inconvenience to the Starborn. It merely means that a Starborn has to use a little more energy to get to (or from) subspace. Any jumpnode was originally just a weak spot in the energy ‘wall’ between subspace and normal space. It became what we recognize as a jumpnode by the Starborn using it as the easiest path in their travels. The Starborn will simply find another nearby weak spot and start to use it. After thousands of passages, the new spot may show up on the Shivan Groupmind’s sensors as a jumpnode. After hundreds of thousands of passages, GTVA sensors will also register it.

As far as the Starborn ‘preventing’ anything, keep in mind that the Starborn have very little physical presence in the universe. They are best thought of as energy beings. While their ability to manipulate energy is vast, their ability to manipulate solid matter is almost non-existent. The best they’ve been able to do with solid matter is to shift a few molecules at a time. (The molecules they shift are usually in the genes of the races that they’re changing for the Great Game.) The only way they could prevent something physical from happening is through the use of their ‘game pieces’ – those individual members of Coldlife races that can hear Starborn thoughts and act on their suggestions.


Where does the Knossos come in? Do the starborn mind? (from Ypoknons)

The knossos would "spread the bush" so to speak from what they say, at least that's how I take it.

KT's got it right. Remember that the jumpnodes are no more than a convenience to the Starborn. It probably wouldn't matter one way or another to them if they encountered an artificial one.

To pound the 'Walking in the Woods' metaphor to death, the traveler wouldn't care very much if he noticed that the neighborhood dogs had made their own small hole in the bushes. Of course, that opinion would change if he kept stepping in piles of yesterday's dog food. But that's what the Shivan Dog Extermination Team is for.


Can they attack other living beings or be killed? (from Woolie Wool)

It's hard for a Starborn to interact with solid matter. The best they can do is push around a few molecules at a time. What they can do is manipulate energy. So it's easy for them to short circuit a human brain or overwhelm the magnetic containment fields around a fission engine.

So, yes, they can kill. And they can turn off a missile's engines or blow it up - but they can't push it aside. For more subtle outcomes, they let their Coldlife 'game pieces' do the work.

They can be killed but not by any weapon we know of - they're not immortal. What effect would a hydrogen bomb have on a being that evolved in the hydrogen fires of a star? The Shivan Groupmind did find a way to kill some the Starborn - those that were living in the photosphere of Capella


I think that the GTVA, once/if it discovers the Starborn, should purge the human race of "sensitives". (from Woolie Wool)

Yeah, but easier said than done. (The Starborn love witch trials .) There might be a bit of problem figuring out who the Sensitives are. You really can’t go up to the Prime Minister and ask him if he has especially vivid dreams or hears voices. And Sensitives that the Starborn haven’t contacted would be totally below the radar.

If you managed to discover the combination of genes that created the Sensitivity, every human - all 6 or 8 or 10 billion of us - would have to be screened. To remove all traces of the Starborn influence, you'd have to eliminate everyone with any part of the genes - which would mean about 2/3 of the human race. That might be a bit of a hard sell. And, even if you managed that, the Starborn would probably just ask Lightbearer to start re-introducing the genes in the survivors.


What if they used a subspace weapon to destroy the Lightbearer and perhaps the other Starborn? I assume they won't have to blow up whole stars to do this. (from Woolie Wool)

I suppose such a weapon would be possible - whether for subspace or normal space (unlike ships, the SB aren't any more vulnerable in subspace than they are in normal space). But I wouldn't think that pissing off the SB by killing one of them is a Good Idea. The last time there were annoyed, they blew up all the stars in the First Empire and designed the Shivan Groupmind to keep from being bothered again.

The Shivans got away with the destruction of Capella because the Starborn aren't 100% certain that the attack was aimed at them. If they ever did suspect that was the reason the Groupmind would be in a lot of trouble.

Can the humans, once they discover the Starborn, just say "no" to the Starborn's influence? Sure, playing along with the Starborn gets you rewards, but c'mon, only the most selfish people imaginable would further the destruction of their own race!
(from Woolie Wool)

But the Starborn are far more subtle than that. They’re not going to tell one of their ‘game pieces’ what the ultimate point of the Great Game is. (It’s not annihilation of the race, BTW, merely destroying human civilization. Although annihilation could easily happen. The SB don’t want to waste all those years of manipulation if they don’t have to. They know that human civilization will re-emerge from a new Stone Age and that they’ll eventually be able to play another round of the Great Game – after all, it’s happened before.

It might work more like this: The SB find a Sensitive born to a powerful Earth family (powerful because of the works of previous generations of Sensitives). They start influencing him when he’s a boy, telling him how beautiful the Earth is. The Sensitive becomes a Mother Earth activist. With continuing ‘help’ and his family’s fortune, he starts to gain political power. He becomes the advisor of Kings and Prime Ministers on the subject of the environment. He might even become a Prime Minister himself. Along the way, he’s accumulated followers – some are lesser Sensitives who ‘know’ he’s right about everything, others are Normals who like what he’s saying. Some of them consider themselves “men of action”.

Naturally, the SB don’t stop helping him there. Now that he has real power, they change the tone, telling him that the people living in the Martian colonies are somehow wrong. It’s wrong to live under domes when beautiful Mother Earth is available to all. Slowly, he begins to feel that the Martians are actually evil and his advice starts to put the Martians in a poorer and poorer light. Over time, he comes to hate the Martians and, directly and indirectly, he influences a sizable portion of the Earthers to agree with him, including his ‘men of action’.

At some point, a situation arises where one of his ‘men of action’, maybe a Capship captain, is in a position to either help or hurt some Martians. He hurts them. Tensions build. Rhetoric, especially the Sensitives’s, gets louder. Someone pulls the trigger and humanity finds itself in civil war. The SB sit back, share a bowl of metaphorical popcorn, and enjoy.

Well still, I wonder what the Shivans did with Bosch when they abducted him. After all, loose lips (or mandibles in this case) sink ships. (from Woolie Wool)

I don't know if you can call it an 'abduction'. Bosch was aiding and abetting the enemy. That’s not what he thought he was doing, of course. He thought he was creating an alliance that would end the war with the Shivans.

Bosch was a Sensitive, misled by the Starborn and used to deliver damaging information to the Shivan Groupmind - a duped collaborator in the long tradition of duped collaborators. Throughout the history of the Groupmind, the Starborn would watch its wars. When the Starborn thought that the Groupmind could use some help, they would prime one of their Sensitives in the enemy camp and send him to the Groupmind with critical information. It was simply Bosch’s turn in the barrel.

As to what the Shivans finally did with him, we can only speculate.




All material here is copyright Geezer except where pure FS, copyright Interplay.