Star*Drive: Visions of the Verge
Insight is the youngest stellar nation, born only 40 years ago. On the surface, it barely deserves mention. It boasts the fewest star systems and the weakest military. But as the saying goes, knowledge is power.
Insight’s history is inextricably entwined with VoidCorp and the Grid. Although systems for electronic data transfer existed in the 1960s, the first true Grid came into use in 2032. The Earth-Grid linked all of the planet in a sophisticated virtual environment, and the computer-focused corporation that eventually became VoidCorp had its hand in the Grid from the beginning.
While claiming massive areas of space in its early days, VoidCorp made technological leaps. In 2193, the first drivespace communication relay
commonly known as a drivesat was designed. Initially limited to simple data exchanges, in only seven years VoidCorp Employees integrated Grid technology with the drivesats. While real-time interstellar Grid exchanges remained impossible, gridpilots developed the use of shadows to cross drivespace and interact in the interstellar Grid.
Profits and fortunes could be made from this medium, and VoidCorp hastened to realize that goal. Most stellar nations licensed creation and even maintenance of Grid systems to VoidCorp Employees. No independent corporation could compete with the stellar nation. After two decades of VoidCorp dominance, competitors sensed the opportunity for profit, and VoidCorp saw the need to maintain a division devoted to advanced Grid design and shadow programming.
Insight was incorporated as a VoidCorp division in 2198. From its inception, Insight produced success after success. VoidCorp technology and implementation became the standard for the interstellar Grid. With a near monopoly, sale of VoidCorp computers skyrocketed as the corporation integrated proprietary hardware and software systems. Insight’s achievements gave its vice president unprecedented influence, and Insight was granted unheard-of independence.
Insight was the closest thing that VoidCorp had to an institutionalized forum for artists. As hefty profits continued to roll in, the Inseers, as they came to be known, got whatever they wanted. No Inseer held lower than N rank, and top designers were Qs or higher -the equivalent of a subdivision manager (see the VoidCorp text). The unique environment became an accepted part of Insight’s organization. Free intellectual exchange blossomed in one small division of VoidCorp.
The Second Galactic War
A year before GW1, Insight marked is centennial as an incorporated division. Generations of Insight Employees had been born, educated, and even died as members of the division. The top-notch computer professionals had unrestricted access to the Grid and all the information it could provide. Insight employees enjoy not only the liberty to exchange ideas internally, but also channels that connected them to all of humanity Insight’s intellectual freedom manifested itself in a multitude of ways. Their freedom led to revolution and betrayal.
Insight’s revolt started with small things. Often difficult to manage, the Inseers were allowed to choose one of their own as their division’s new vice president in 2314. The practice of promoting gridpilots from inside the division to leadership soon became an Insight tradition. Under their own leaders, Insight gridpilots popularized radical systems of thought. The Grid, Inseers posited, is not an artificial reality, or even a secondary reality. The Grid was, waiting for us to find it. The Grid is, more real than real, the haven of conscious minds embracing one another. The Grid will be humanity’s ascension.
Information born free became the Insight motto. To this day, the Inseers still believe that data has a natural inclination to disseminate, and no government, religion, or corporation has the right to restrict the flow of information. Given this difference in attitude, the break with VoidCorp was foreordained. Aware of how VoidCorp executives would react to any statement of Insight’s principles, the Insight revolution stayed underground.
The gridpilots expanded the audience for their messages but found the typical VoidCorp Employee uninterested. Most non-Insight Employees were consumed by corporate ambition and unfamiliar with free thought. The Inseers realized their lonely situation, and kept looking for the proper means to achieve independence.
While Insight Employees kept up the image of loyal, productive servants, Vice President ZV237 82WBR (Stalker) met with representatives of the FreeSpace Alliance in 2394. The clandestine gathering set in motion a plan for the next 50 years. In those 50 years, Insight was the most valuable intelligence asset in human history. Insight gridpilots uncovered key elements of the Expansion Pentad’s strategy, plans, and military placements. Unaware of the source of their intelligence reports, the Orion and Orlamu militaries were remarkably well prepared for the Pentad’s offensives. Time after time, FreeSpace attacks found VoidCorp weaknesses-without significant damage to Insight assets.
Insight’s treachery can account for many of the FreeSpace Alliance’s successes. Still trapped in the corporation’s grasp, the Inseers anxiously awaited the opportunity to leave VoidCorp behind. Their philosophy abhorred the secrets they found themselves keeping. In 2454, the Inseers met face to face with President Hale of the Orion League. Knowing the value of Insight’s inside information, Hale advised patience.
Long tired of this message from the Orions, the Inseers made their final preparations. On February 5, 2460, independence was declared. Insight positioned its strength in what was formerly Dreth Commonwealth space, and seven defecting VoidCorp fortress ships gave the new stellar nation a fierce bite.
VoidCorp was stunned. Insight’s treachery was the best kept secret of the century. Ignoring Insight warnings, VoidCorp massed their fleet to crush the upstart state. On May 10, 2460, the VoidCorp Grid crashed. Entire datacores were erased, and star systems found their networks unresponsive. Many VoidCorp drivesats simply vanished. The damage to the VoidCorp economy and infrastructure couldn’t be measured; VoidCorp is still recovering today. The invasion of sight was aborted; buttressed by FreeSpace assistance, Insight; survived until the wars end.
With their freedom established, the Inseers shed most relics of the VoidCorp organization. Inseers Were declared private citizens, no longer held accountable by management and the board of directors. No formal government has emerged to replace the old system. Governors exert nominal control over Insight planets and systems, but the only term to describe the current situation is institutionalized anarchy. To outsiders, no order can be discerned. Inseers admit the administration is unconventional, but point to a clear pecking order set by reputation and gridpiloting ability.
Insight leads much of the computer industry, specializing in Grid hardware, software, and interfaces. While VoidCorp Grid systems remain universal and fixed – boring, say the Inseers – Insight Grid systems are beautiful, unpredictable works of art. Despite their complexity, the Insight environments allow greater individuality and creativity. When used by a skilled gridpilot, Insight systems provide the best performance known. Insight’s relentless advances into VoidCorp’s markets has fueled the hatred VoidCorp feels for its rebellious child.
VoidCorp has refused to recognize Insight’s independence except to the extent required by the Treaty of Concord. VoidCorp often refuses to attend diplomatic conferences where Inseers are expected, and VoidCorp Employees are taught that Insight is composed of deviants and traitors. For their part, most Inseers believe that VoidCorp represents a step in mankind’s evolution that they have transcended. In the Grid, the war quietly rages on, as VoidCorp uses its greater resources to test Insight skill. The guerrilla warfare remains largely invisible to all save its players, and the Galactic Concord is powerless to stop the giants of the industry from tearing at one another’s throats.
Most Inseers have adopted the doctrine of the Insightful. The Grid represents the first environment in Which minds can exchange information uncluttered by hindrances. Free information is a natural state to which the Inseers believe all sentients will ascend. Of course, the demands of a successful economy mean that Insight endorses free information but markets technology to receive, manipulate, and send information. Like all stellar nations, Insight is invested in a range’ of industries from agriculture to weapons manufacture; in all of these, though, the Insight bent toward advanced’ technology is visible.
Nowhere is Insight’s technophilia more apparent than on its capital planet, Vision. The Insight homeworld boasts a systemwide Grid network with a complexity rivaling the ancient Grid of Sol. Implemented using only the best equipment, the Vision Grid has both the fastest carrier rate and the highest carrier load. Even those unfamiliar with gridpiloting admit its frenzied splendor; gridpilots, hackers, and reality entertainment junkies come from around the galaxy to behold Vision’s wonders.
The Insight military remains one of the smallest in the galaxy. It lost one of its fortress ships in the war and has not rebuilt it, but six fortress ships still bear the Insight banner. Plans call for only a modest increase in the Insight defense forces; the fledgling stellar nation continues to rely on its ability to successfully wage an information war against any foe.
Playing An Inseer
Inseers describe themselves as poets, explorers, and artists of electronic dreams. Usually, the denizens of the youngest nation of the 26th century aren’t given a chance to describe themselves except within the Grid; reputation and the madness that passes for style and fashion speak for them. As the smallest stellar nation, Inseers are also the most radical. Inseer space has given birth to notions that would have boggled the minds of pre-space Terrans. And that’s just how the Inseers like it.
No one understands the true nature of the Grid, not even the Inseers. It’s the ultimate in virtual environments, providing a haven for the soul’s free expression unlike any other. For the Inseer, it is the reason for being. Fully interactive along all human sensory inputs, every Inseer becomes a painter, a sculptor, a musician, and more – all at once.
Many Inseers avoid real life altogether, leaving machines and programs to regulate the frail flesh, yet even veteran gridpilots cannot quantify or hope to define the Grid, infinitely complex and infinitely large. No wonder it gave birth to the Insightful religion, the latest technology to force the question of what it means to be human. The Insightful believe the Grid to be the final expression of intelligence. Free exchange- no secrets, no misunderstandings.
Most Inseers seem just as colorful outside their virtual realities as within them. Although today Insight includes people of all ages and backgrounds, as a nation Inseers are young to the stars. This makes them almost desperate to find new experiences, to do that which no one has done before. Inseers have something to prove, to themselves and to other stellar nations.
Over the years, Inseer speech has become a dialect of its own, only loosed related to Galactic Standard. Just as Insight’s leaders are defined by their reputation as gridpilots, so the patois spoken among the Inseers serves as a means of recognition. The Inseers spice their language with jargon and inside terminology; indeed, when on the Grid, their language is often flavored with sounds and graphics meant to speed communication. This leads to an inward-looking, impenetrable jumble of tech-talk whenever two Inseers meet.