Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades

The Nurbal Series

In the near future, the Nurbal colony ships settle on the old Ehrban colony world on the other side of the portal. They are lead by Amouch, the clone of Meij Endaren who negotiated the truce with the Ancients that allowed this expedition to proceed. As a clone from the Meij lineage, he is the only magic-user among the colonists, who otherwise consist of the bulk of the Nurbal nation, plus many peoples from around Niarba who preferred to brave the Nurbal's interstellar expedition than to be ruled by the Ancients on Niarba for all time. Still, many of these other peoples do not fall easily in line with the Nurbal's way of life, especially their cybernetic connection to the Machine, the central artificial intelligence that coordinates the Nurbal's social structure. As the de facto leader of this entire colony, Amouch must help establish social norms that will accomodate the various ways of life of the different peoples, and resist the Nurbal's inclination to force assimilation into their way of life — or further, into their semi-collective consciousness under the Machine. This task is not made easy by the fact that the Nurbal and the mundane colonists alike distrust magic for its association with connection to the Ancient's old god Geiana, who many worry is secretly controlling Amouch. In light of those suspicions, Amouch keeps quiet the fact that he is still in telepathic contact, through his nanites' ansible links, with Daria, Endaren's natural twin, now de facto ruler of the Ancients and all of Niarba. Through that link, Daria coaches Amouch in the underdeveloped use of his magic, and in introspective meditation to commune with the ancient spirit of the Meij lineage that they share, including the memories of Keius Meij, once leader of the entire galaxy of Quelouva, which would be of immense help to Amouch and the Nurbal colonists. Together, amidst these conflicts, the colonists struggle to rebuild in the ruins of this ancient colony world, which thankfully is not nearly as devastated as old Ehrba itself was. But still there are no survivors, and little else of any use. Of greatest benefit among the technology the Nurbal brought with them are various general-purpose robots capable of assisting in many mundane chores. Thus far, erring on the side of caution, the Nurbal have used the Machine as a central advisory system devising and coordinating plans to be carried out by the Nurbal, with their willing cooperation; and likewise they have limited the artificial intelligence of the robots to carrying out natural-language instructions given them by the Nurbal, with little autonomy; always with organic minds in the middle between the superintelligence and the automatons. But with so much work needing to be done so quickly, and comparatively so few people capable of doing it even with the Machine's intelligence and the robots' labor to assist, the colonists soon decide that it is worth the risk to give the Machine broad instructions to see to the wellbeing of all the Ehrban, and allow it direct control of the robots to do so. The result is a rapidly accelerating progress of improvements that soon have not only the old colony rebuilt into a luxurious paradise for the colonists, but also a fleet of spacecraft ready to begin exploration of the rest of the galaxy. (More details).

After establishing themselves on their first world, the colonists begin to explore the galaxy through the old portal network, shut down long ago from their side in a failed attempt to protect old Ehrba, and so reopenable only from their side now. Lead by their fleet of roboting ships coordinated by the Machine, they expand and explore through their people's lost legacy, eventually discovering worlds where other Ehrban have survived the ancient galactic war that ruined their once-great spacefaring civilization. None of that diaspora are nearly as advanced as the ancient Ehrban once were; though some few compare to the Nurbal, most are still in various stages of more primitive development. Reconnecting these disparate peoples through their reactivation of the portal network, and building their mostly-primitive and struggling worlds into luxurious post-singularity utopias thanks to the Machine and its automatons, the colonists begin to rekindle something of the ancient Ehrban empire again, something perhaps even more glorious, building a burgeoning coalition of worlds that comes to call itself the Quelouvan Alliance. None of these other survivors of the ancient Ehrban empire descend from the handful of mages who were all that survived of the destruction of old Ehrba, and few of even their distant ancestors ever directly witnessed the magic of Keius Meij, that first mage remembered as though a mythological figure by many of these peoples. However, unlike the mundane Ehrban of Niarba or the Nurbal who arose from them, they have still all been connected in the semi-collective consciousness of Geiana for all these millennia, and the influences of distant Niraba's mages on Geiana have been perceived as religious events by this Ehrban diaspora. Namely, they have perceived the voice of their god as diminishing within their minds, as the magical society of Niarba fell apart and the mundane Ehrban there, even more disconnected from Geiana than the diaspora ever were, retook the homeworld. But Amouch, as a mage and a descendent of Keius — and in a somewhat literal way, thanks to the Ehrban's peculiar biopsychology, a reincarnation of him — is perceived by many of the diaspora as Keius himself returned, which some of their religions have prophecized. The virtual paradise ushered in by the arrival of the colonists's automatons, like angels sent by their god, does nothing to lessen that impression. How to treat that perception, whether to deny it or exploit it, becomes a contentious political issue among the colonists, now de facto leaders of the Alliance, and Amouch eventually settles on a policy of allowing and not denouncing people's religious beliefs about him, but without even confirming them, much less exploiting that belief to his advantage. A policy which becomes problematic when some worlds turn out to remember Keius as a demonic figure from their mythology, the one who through his foolish hubris brought about the end of their mythic golden age; worlds who then likewise demonize Amouch as Keius' descendent or reincarnation, and by proxy reject the whole of the Alliance he leads. Still other worlds strenuously object not to Amouch personally, but to the Alliance's use of autonomous artificial intelligence, which was highly taboo in the ancient Ehrban empire. Before these conflicts can be resolved, Amouch and the colonists soon learn why. (More details).

As the Alliance's robotic fleet continues to reactivate the portal network, worlds are discovered where not only Ehrban but Asiron have survived. The Asiron are themselves something like robots, created long ago by Keius in contravention of the taboo against autonomous artificial intelligence, nearly causing a galactic disaster until Keius quickly got their programming in check and assured they would be more considerate of matters Ehrban considered important. Even then, he did not trust them with much autonomy until desperate times of galactic war required he send them out to defeat the Berol and save the Ehrban. For millenia the Asiron have done just that, and on worlds where they remain, the Ehrban have lived in utopias for all that time. But the Alliance's robots were not so carefully instructed, being told to protect all Ehrban, and knowing that an existential alien threat to the Ehrban may exist. They immediately attack the Asiron, who retaliate in turn. The resultant war is nearly incomprehensibly fast to the meager organic minds of the Ehrban. The Machine's automatons and the Asiron make quick and total war on each other, while both sides are careful to protect the Ehrban in their care from collateral damage. In the end, the Machine is destroyed, along with most of its space fleet, and the vast majority of the Asiron's forces as well. Basic infrastructure planetside remains intact, the Machine's automatons continuing in their well-established routines even without further instructions. But nearly all defensive capabilities and mass space travel is lost in a virtual flash. That proves even more devastating when one of the most recently reopened portals reveals a world where the Ehrban's ancient enemy, the Berol, have survived as well. That world is connected in turn to a network of other worlds not so distant from where once stood Berona before the Asiron destroyed it, between them all filled with Berol numbering great enough to rival the resurgent Quelouvan Alliance in its now-weakened state. The old war that brought down the ancient Ehrban empire, merely paused for millennia thanks to speed-of-light limitations, is reborn anew through the connections of the portal network. Despite their ongoing conflicts of opinion, about the fault of the colonists for the recent robotic catastrophe and the religious significance of Amouch, the entirety of the Ehrban diaspora immediately rally together in the face of the enemy that once brought down their entire civilization. The Alliance are the strongest and most central force to rally around, with Amouch their leader and now de facto head of this whole newly united Quelouva. In the midst of the ensuing war, contact is reestablished with Earth as well, finding humanity now far more advanced than when Keius last left them, some of them on par with or even perhaps in advance of the Nurbal. A misunderstanding leads to brief war with humanity, but that is quickly cleared up just in time for the humans to join in the fight against the Berol. Though that contact spells apparent doom for Earth, the few survivors of it, a mere handful of apparently invulnerable immortals likened to Keius himself, turn out to be the key to defeating the Berol at last, by hybridizing their nanites and those of Amouch using the combined technological knowledge of those humans and the Nurbal. But those few surviving humans betray the Ehrban, horde the new power for themselves, and after driving the Berol into submission, threaten to become the new overlords of the galaxy themselves. (More details).