If you read the Author’s Note for Subsumption, also available in blog form, you know that technology is one of the main columns supporting the story (the other is social institutions). So today, we’ll focus on five of the most salient examples of Federation technology that made it into humanity’s hands. However, there are still many more to cover, and there’s an equally rich set of tech used by the Confederation (both topics for upcoming blogs).
Brad’s Lab on Campus
As Brad would say, his Lab is where the magic happens. As one of the main settings of the story, here are the key technologies that have a home in the alien researcher’s immediate sphere of influence (and beyond in the world).
The Stargate is a portal that allows members of the Cohort to traverse between different areas of the Lab. It’s made of two parts: a pliable, arched frame of tiny honeycombs and a pitch-black material that obstructs the entryway until it’s activated. To Marcus’s disappointment, using the Stargate feels like crossing any ordinary threshold; there are no stars zipping by and no dizzying wormhole effects.
Marcus and crew use a Stargate to move from Brad’s academic office to the Cohort’s locker room; it’s made of the same honeycomb material, but 10x the size. The room’s silver hue acts as a backdrop for projections, transforming into any desired environment based on the occupants’ thoughts. This trick also allows the furniture to move and change shape to conform to a user’s body on demand. Finally, the room contains a row of inscribed doors leading to each member’s locker.
Like moving from Brad’s office into the locker room, a Statgate leads to the bronze-colored confines of each locker. The sparse space has hooks and shelves that morph back into a wall when not in use. But privacy isn’t guaranteed since Hi!-D and Brad are known to make an occasional appearance. But once the Cohort member is in their birthday suit, they’re summoned to the Octagon where an EXO, the suit worn during Subsumption, is painted onto their entire body.
Another Stargate takes the Cohort members from the Octagon to their final destination, the Experimental Chamber, also known as the Liberty Bell. Here, the iron-colored honeycombs are the largest in Brad’s Lab, which cover every inch of the massive elliptical inner sanctum. By reacting to the EXO’s material, the walls of the Chamber suspend each Cohort member in the air during a Sequence, which are the social experiments known as Subsumption.
The lines between technology and social institutions blur when it comes to this digital Federation emissary. Still, she may be the most advanced piece of technology in the Subsumption Series. Hi!-D’s name is an acronym for Human Intelligence Designed, but under the hood, she’s a subsumption architecture artificial intelligence. The data (provided mostly by the Cohort through Sequences) is used to create the layers of Hi!-D’s social cortex. This means that Hi!-D’s a work in progress, searching for her own identity. But in the interim, she has an essential job to fulfill as the face of the Federation.
The Public Service Announcement (PSA) Screens
At least once a day, Hi!-D’s hologram appears in the sky to deliver a Public Service Announcement to the world. Her enormous projection stretches from the horizon to the looming PSA Screen, an omnipresent object visible anywhere in the world, in any weather, high in the sky.
When the PSA Screen isn’t providing closed captions for Hi!-D’s inspirational announcements, it displays data like time, date, temperature, and “this day in history” facts. It also offers real-time alerts for the increasingly chaotic weather (which Jordan blames on the Federation and their orbiting planet, Hecate).
The PSA Screen also displays Project Noble milestone updates. And following the Labor Day announcement of the Confederation’s launch from Proxima Centauri, the Screen fuels the public’s newest obsession: watching the “doomsday data” count down until the Confederation’s invasion force arrives.
Finally, one of the more interesting aspects of the PSA Screen is that its data is customized for each individual receiving it (this is also true of Hi!-D’s communication). This means that a single PSA Screen and a sole digital emissary can effectively connect with all 8+ billion people simultaneously.
While the other technologies are important to the New Era, none have come close to approximating Tek’s impact. This Federation technology is a one-way version of the cloaking tech the “Shadows” use to hide their true form. Worn like a honeycomb-shaped nicotine patch anywhere on the body, Tek never has to be charged and is as light and pliable as paper (but indestructible).
The Federation produces Tek and distributes it exclusively to members of Brad’s Cohort as payment for participating in Subsumption. While each Cohort member can set their own “quota” (the amount of Tek needed as compensation for their time), they only sell their units to Tek-Mart, a reseller owned by Benedict Darrow based out of the Federation’s Black Market.
The primary features, or uses, of Tek can be broken down into two “buckets.” The first is SIMs, micro-worlds the user explores in the same level of detail as real life. These can be created by Netting, real-time experience capturing that includes live-streaming a person’s perspective. SIMs can also be created by mining the user’s brain for memories, a process called Derivative Ghosting.
The second “bucket” of Tek’s features allows the user to manipulate their perceptions of reality by affecting the five human senses. This process, known as Complementing, can’t change physical realities, but it can change how a human experiences them. A simple example of this is Babbling, language translation in real-time. But more generally, anything a person can see, taste, touch, hear, or smell can be Complemented to the Tek user’s preferences.
Tek’s files live on an ephemeral cloud, allowing users to retrieve their files from multiple units. Files are also shareable, something that has given rise to xTek—SIMs and Complements tailored to the darker impulses of humanity, including sex and violence (often at the same time). Together, all of these “out-of-body experiences in the brain” have made Tek the most desired product in history and turned Tek-Mart’s owner, Benedict, into the world’s first trillionaire.
The Black Market
The last technology we’ll cover in this blog is actually a destination. Built on the footprint of the Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Black Market is sovereign Federation territory. However, this alien-owned bazaar parceled all its units to human proprietors via a lottery system and quickly became the most popular mall on the planet with its own currency, a crypto credit system.
Another daily lottery system offers the general public a chance to visit the Market, though anyone with ownership in a Black Market business can visit anytime they like with their Fast Pass. Although the Market has an efficient valet, most visitors use temporary Stargates to travel to the mall from the safety of their own living room due to the constant threats of Coalition protesters beyond the mall’s protective boundary (its Pomerium—a topic for a future blog).
Through voluntary association, businesses in the Black Market consolidated into four sectors based on the types of customers they serve. Terra, the first sector of the mall, is home to Tek-Mart and features many family planning businesses like Twin Flame and Build-or-Buy Baby. While Pontus, the second sector in the Black Market, is home (among other things) to Immutable, an extreme tattoo shop that uses radioactive ink to create glowing skin art.
The third sector, and the last located in the former Gateway Mall, is Ignus. In addition to offering Federation citizenship through its vending machines (they’re free, BTW), this sector is nefarious for hosting Indulgence—a bistro specializing in meals made of endangered species. A Stargate in the corner of Ignus transports the brave traveler a mile away and 400+ feet above the valley floor to the roof of the Wells Fargo Center, and the final Black Market sector.
As the market’s “adult swim,” Nerio features a bare-knuckle fighting circuit at the heart of the Black Market’s dance club. For the wallflower types, Nerio also offers a discreet way for strangers to exchange xTek through a network of Voyeur Pods. For the risk takers, the Betting House allows for gambling on any conceivable outcome, including the sector’s fights, while Crystalline dealers abound to push the Federation’s favorite psychedelic drug.
Now that your adrenaline is pumping from the technological Tour de Force, you can see Tek in action by reading the first five chapters of Subsumption for free. Or, start familiarizing yourself with the technology of the Confederation by reading Coverted (also free). Here are some other lesser-known facts about the technology in the Subsumption Series …
Some Interesting Specs About Subsumption’s Tech
- Hi!-D’s first epoch (her Genesis Moment) happened on December 31, 2020
- Jordan is convinced the PSAs are part of the Federation’s propaganda machine and work by manipulating a human’s endogenous chemicals, a strategy the Project Blue Beam conspiracy predicted before Arrival
- There are unsubstantiated rumors that Tek stands for “Telekinetic Electromagnetic Kapture”
- An urban myth about how to magnify Tek’s effectiveness has led some users to wear their unit in the middle of their forehead like a third eye
- Like the rest of the Cohort who sell their units to Tek-Mart, Monica has a fast pass for the Black Market and she uses it nearly everyday
- Dianna works with many of the Coalition protesters at the clinic where she’s conducting her dissertation research
- Businesses in the Black Market have access to Federation advisors through the Federation Technology Accelerator Program (FTAP), which allows them to create cutting-edge products and services
- Antony is a part-owner in a 3-D printed gun shop in the Pontus sector
- A subset of businesses at the Black Market are called “Tek-stacks” since they’re totally dependent on Tek for their product or service. Vicarious Adventures is one example since it uses Tek to create its “vacation during your lunch break” experience
- Crystalline is the drug Hi!-D used to keep people calm during their individual Disclosure Moment (when the Federation announced their arrival)
- The gossip circulating about Bill’s one-time ownership in a strip club incorrectly placed the business at the former Gateway Mall. However, the real location was downtown in the shadow of the Wells Fargo Center