The Planetary Consortium
Hypercorp Council Members:
Cognite, Direct Action, Experia, Fa Jing, Olympus Infrastructure Authority, Pathfinder, Prosperity Group, Solaris, Stellar Intelligence, plus a dozen others
Memes: Cyberdemocracy, Hypercapitalism, Eugenics, Security, Expansion
Main Stations: Progress (Mars orbit)
Evolved from an alliance of hypercorporate interests into transhumanity’s most powerful body politic, the Planetary Consortium today controls several habitat clusters throughout the inner system, primarily in and around Mars, Luna, and Earth orbit. The impressive space station Progress is the official seat of government and has become the symbol of the Consortium’s influence and power, even though few congress or council meets take place in the flesh.
The Consortium applies basic democratic principles supported by a real time voting system for all registered citizens. The congress and executive bodies feature a rotating cast of hyperelite politicos, gerontocrats, socialites, and even media icons. It’s a known fact that despite this political façade of a democratic republic, the members of the hypercorporate council are the true powers behind the Consortium. These hypercorps are major proponents of the transitional economy, the interdiction of Earth, and expansion beyond the gates.
Aside from economic interests, the Consortium advocates the imperative of eugenics as social responsibility and for transhumanity to reclaim its former strength and prosperity—a campaign sometimes accused of euphemizing discrimination against unmodified humans, indentured infomorphs, and the clanking masses.



The Consortium has a visible and noticeable presence in Earth orbit, substantially more so than on Luna. In addition to various habitats and hypercorp assets, the Consortium maintains an ongoing military presence here, under the pretense of defending the system from any sort of TITAN resurgence. The Consortium pays especially close attention to the interdiction barricade, though to this day they do not take credit for putting it in place. Should it fail or need reinforcements, Consortium forces stand poised to step in. This ongoing encampment is occasionally a point of contention with the LLA, though many Lunars and Orbitals are re-assured by their presence.
Though both are dedicated to their transitional economies, keeping the inner system secure, and seeing transhumanity prosper, the Consortium and LLA differ politically and economically on several key points, meaning that they periodically butt heads. Though both sides engage in friendly espionage and monitoring, they also share resources when it comes to the outer system autonomists and Factors, and sometimes the Venusians as well. Though the potential of an open military conflict between the two seems unlikely, it is certainly possible that a series of unfortunate or orchestrated events could raise hostilities and put these two uneasy allies at each other’s throats.
Randall Vox
Randall Vox is the Planetary Consortium’s senior representative in Earth orbit, and the official Planetary Consortium Liaison to the Lunar-Lagrange Alliance. Favoring slender morphs with elegant features and subtle mods to enhance his already considerable charisma, Vox is extremely smooth, exceptionally polite, and utterly engaging. He is also a diabolical, ruthless snake who will do anything to satisfy his masters back at the Consortium. A former executive for Omnicorp, Vox takes a particular hard-line stance with the LLA when it comes to policy matters regarding Earth and the interdiction. He consistently places pressure on Avra Don’s regime to clamp down on the growing reclaimer movement, and has gone so far as to enact economic sanctions against the LLA when they refused to restrict reclaimer observation operations on several orbital stations.
Firewall suspects Vox and the Consortium have taken further, more clandestine steps to inhibit the reclaimer movement, including active infiltration and ongoing smear campaigns.



REMINDER! TODAY IS YOUR LAST DAY TO VOTE!
Greetings citizen! Remember, today is your last day to vote for your congressional representative. Alice Hak needs your vote! Our records indicate that currently you are a resident of Harmony’s Embrace in circumlunar orbit. If this is incorrect, please contact the local security directorate of your new habitat to make sure your records are kept up-to-date.
As you know, voting is one of the vital elements that empowers you, a citizen of the Consortium, to play a role in your government. Our cyberdemocracy and freedom is what makes the Consortium great and separates us from the lawlessness and anarchy that prowls the fringes of the civilized system and seeks to draw us back to the dark days of the Fall. As a citizen, you have a civic duty to elect representatives to the Planetary Congress, to ensure that you exercise your franchise and affirm our strong democratic principles in the face of chaos and terrorism. As a voter, you exercise rights and privileges that the anarchists and non-humans squawk for, without earning—rights and privileges that are a standard in the fine tradition of progress that stretches back to the great civilizations of Earth.
Ours is a tradition that draws upon the finest intellectual traditions of law handed down from ancient China, the principles of governance and scientific progress of Greece and Rome, and the cultural richness of the Vedic peoples of India. Your freedoms come from your constant vigilance in maintaining a secure habitat and harmonious community. In exchange, your elected representatives pass the laws that ensure your efforts are rewarded with a system that recognizes merit and raises up those who are willing to work hard to get ahead!
To this end, Ms. Hak promises to protect your rights and your freedoms to choose for your children what tracking path they are placed into during their primary mesh schooling. Additionally she strongly supports the recent Congressional proposal that would place a quarantine period of at least three weeks on any new arrival to Harmony’s Embrace who has a record of ever inhabiting a morph affiliated with uplifted creatures or which is part of the Mercurial agenda. With regards to the Pathfinder Colonization Initiative, Ms. Hak is in full support of extending the terms for indentures in order to more efficiently secure our future expansion and survival for all. Ms. Hak would also like to remind voters that Yang Jing, who is currently running more than six points behind her in a recent Go-nin Advanced Studies Institute poll, has recently admitted to making trade agreements with the renegade socialists of Titan during his time as trade representative. These sorts of conflicted loyalties, especially with polities that are known to finance terrorist activities, are not the kind of leadership we need to continue our tradition of excellence.
Take the time now to look over Ms. Hak’s candidate profile in your entoptic voting interface. Remember, Alice Hak will provide for your children and your safety and carry the torch of progress and advancement in the Planetary Congress!



Let’s turn that off for a moment shall we? Please, take a seat; we have a lot to discuss. If you are going to infiltrate Oversight, we need to make sure you understand the Planetary Consortium from every conceiv-able angle. You’re not a corp brat, you’re an outsider, and an anarchist to boot, and the only reason we’re using you is because your social infiltration skills are without peer. The psychosurgery and the skillsofts will cover a lot of angles, but we’re going to cover all of the basics face-to-face, to make sure the groundwork for your new identity is solid.
It’ll probably come as no surprise when Ms. Hak wins the election handily. The illusion of choice is wonderful, but for anyone who is a resident of Harmony’s Embrace the choice between Ms. Hak and her half-dozen opponents is the choice between sanity and the creeping madness of the outer system.
Bread and circuses with the threat of howling barbarism at the gate. This is what the Consortium offers its citizens. Visit any habitat that’s part of the Consortium and you’ll quickly be assaulted with images of the “depraved and debased outer system” and the threat it poses to the Consortium way of life.
You know what? They’re right. You do pose a threat. Your way of life would upset the security and sense of purpose that most Consortium citizens have spent decades internalizing and becoming dependent upon. This is the pivotal mistake many Firewall agents from the outer system make the first time they come to the Consortium on a mission. They assume that the people here want their way of life, that they want unfettered choice and the ability to live next door to a polymorphously-perverse orangutan with a background in biowarfare agents. But if you’ve spend your entire life secure in your identity as a “good worker,” if the only morph you’ve ever known is the one genetically similar to the one you were born in, if all your friends and neighbors are good people who look and act just like you, if you’ve spent your entire life letting elected leaders make your decisions for you, then you are likely to find visitors from the outer system and their strange ways of doing things rather disturbing.
The key, for agents of Firewall, is to find a way to understand your hosts without completely alienating them. Don’t judge, don’t push, and don’t try to start a revolution all on your own. If you’re dealing with the Consortium, it’s because there’s something important you need out of them. Drawing the attention of the local security directorate for making statements that might be seditious is not a wise thing to do. Here in the following data dump is the information you need to stay alive and well and get what you need and get back without having to resort to a backup.
You may think Oversight is a bunch of overpaid, self-important accountants. In fact, they are the heart of the Consortium’s black operations and monitor the balance of power between the member hypercorps. We don’t often find a way into Oversight so we need to move fast, and that means you’re going to have to pay attention. I must warn you, though, these people are good, and our opening could be a trap to acquire one of our agents. So you’ll be flying solo on your initial infiltration for at least a year, without any contact with Firewall, until we can be sure you are securely in place. We’ll go over the contact protocols beyond the one-year point before you leave.

Business or Government?

Let’s start with what you already know. The Planetary Consortium is literally a business consortium—an economic alliance maintained by a dozen or so prominent hypercorps. On a more abstract level, however, the consortium is a central node in a vast network of allied hypercorps. These hypercorps provide products and services to millions across the system and help each other break into new markets and expand their consumer base. In traditional hypercorp fashion, most specialize in particular fields and share their resources and work on joint projects to reduce costs. This web of corporate allegiances sustained by the Consortium is huge; you can find their outposts scattered across the solar system, though their real power lies in the inner system and especially Mars. Tacked on to this business network is a civic infrastructure, sustained by the Consortium to coordinate civil affairs, manage public interest, and promote a healthy economic environment. In effect, it is a government run by corporations, with a democratic facade. Remember, governing transhumanity is a byproduct, not the purpose of the Consortium. It’s all about the money, that’s something you should never forget. The Consortium is a business. If it isn’t profitable, it isn’t worth doing.

The Formation of the Consortium

The Consortium existed under a different name before the Fall, but like so many other things it rose from the ashes transformed. Exactly how it traversed from a simple business arrangement to the most influential economic bloc in the solar system is, of course, no accident, and it could easily be said that the ashes it rose from were from fires it set.
The hypercorps have always been good at working together and forming temporary alliances. Their specialized and adaptable nature makes it convenient and profitable to employ each other to assist on mutually beneficial projects and then move on. The one thing they don’t get on with, though, is governments. Governments impose taxes and regulate trade for fair play and to avoid monopolies. Always on the forefront of new technologies and new business models, the hypercorps also pursued expansion into space as a means of escaping governmental oversight and control. Taking advantage of defunct and privatized nation-state space programs to seize the lead in space exploration, colonization, and exploitation, the hypercorps continuously shrugged off attempts by Earth-bound governments to keep them grounded. In fact, conflicts between the hypercorps and nations of Earth—as well as the bioconservative and religious opponents of hypercorp activities—were one of the many crises that fed directly into the wars that became the Fall.
During this period, several leading hypercorps entered into an arrangement they dubbed the Offworld Consortium (OC). Initially the OC was a trade and lobbying group that acted on behalf of its members to negotiate good terms with earthbound governments and interests that held key beanstalk or spaceport accesses. These gatekeepers could extort individual hypercorps but were at a disadvantage when Consortium members applied their leverage as a larger group. Like so many other hypercorp alliances, the OC also facilitated pacts between different corps, both large and small. It is notable primarily by its membership—though fluid, some of the key corps involved are now players in the Planetary Consortium—and by virtue of being the largest and most influential of such contractual affairs.
During the Fall, several factors conspired to create a leadership vacuum among the joint forces scrambling to evacuate transhumanity off-world. First and foremost was the seemingly deliberate effort by the TITANs to decapitate the political and military authorities of various governments and powers, striking their hideouts and transports, subverting them from within, and even intercepting their egocasts to prevent their escape. The United Nations, nominally in charge of coordinating the evacuation, was effectively paralyzed by selective strikes and disruptions. Interference and deception on communication channels kept many groups effectively isolated from, or distrustful of, their leadership. Add to this that many forces were still using the situation as cover to snipe and attack each other, or at least maneuver for advantage, and the situation was a chaotic free-for-all.
As a result, many social and military groups found themselves casting about for direction. Entire habitats suddenly realized that the earthbound governments and administrations they once relied on no longer existed, and they were on their own. Populations of infugees clamored for representation while held in the servers of unsympathetic former allies and rivals, or were mashed together into polyglot communities with no discernible cultural identity. Even the Lunar-Lagrange Alliance was scattered and ineffective, reeling from the aftershocks of TITAN attacks on its own habitats.
The hypercorps, already entrenched off-Earth, fared better than most of their Earth-based cousins, though even these suffered. Among them, however, the Offworld Consortium remained one of few resourceful and well-organized entities still standing. Even before the Fall and evacuation were complete, in fact, it could be said that the OC was maneuvering itself into position. Casting off its old identity, the OC reformed as the Planetary Consortium, bringing several strategic new allies into their fold. Chief among these were Solaris, which gave the new entity the economic backbone necessary to instill a new set of economic standards and markets, and Direct Action, the newly-inaugurated milcorp that brought a sizable military presence and thus a sense of security and power to the Consortium. Tackled with the media domination of Experia and the intelligence assets of Stellar Intelligence, the Consortium had developed into a well-rounded heavyweight at a crucial period, when many of its rivals were in tatters.
Before the dust had even settled, Consortium representatives were contacting numerous habitats far and wide that had found themselves cut off, without leadership, or otherwise on their own. Approaching them with offers of support and protection, the Consortium helped these colonies establish new supply chains, repair infrastructure, and establish defenses … via contracts with Consortium members, of course. Solaris provided needed loans, then pressured the indebted to follow their directives. What the Consortium provided in these cases was often vital to the station’s survival, but it came with a cost. In return for aid, these habitats were asked (some might say pressured, or even coerced, at least in some cases) first to guarantee monopolistic market shares of key hypercorp members, and then to join the Consortium’s infrastructure and accept their authority.
Many colonies had no choice. Others did so willingly, finding it advantageous to ally with a newly developing power bloc, if only on a temporary basis. As transhumanity recovered and other political and economic entities restored their horizontal orientation, the situation remained tenuous. While the Jovians and Titanians established their own polities in the outer system, the Lunar-Lagrange Alliance and Consortium began to square off for control of the inner system. The Consortium scored two major victories early on, however. First, they absorbed the remnants of the Martian colonization infrastructure, which had been stumbling in the wake of the disappearance and presumed deaths of major Chinese officials, as well as the effective absence of other governments and agencies involved in the effort. Second, they acquired the remnants of the United Nations, which struggled tattered and divided, with no means of asserting its own authority. Together these strokes counted as an effective coup against the LLA's potential for dominance, bringing a number of new habitats and resources under the Consortium’s directives.
The deal-closer on the Consortium’s climb to prominence, however, can be said to fall on two measures. First, the Consortium established a framework for a civil society to work in conjunction with its economic affairs, offering the diverse populations of the habits it worked with a chance to engage in a democratic process and establishment of a new government—all under the Consortium’s benevolent direction, of course. Seizing upon the emotions of the moment, the Consortium also played on the meme of unifying transhumanity in this time of danger and uncertainty, solidifying itself as a bulwark against outside threats. In contrast to the LLA, the Consortium also oriented itself towards establishing a bright and progressive new future for transhumanity, rather than wallowing in the mistakes and tragedies of the past. The Experia meme-machines worked overtime to reinforce this discarding of the psychic burden that lay heavy on the minds of transhumanity, so fresh after the Fall. These combined new outlooks caught on famously, paving the way towards Consortium popularity and success. Simultaneously, the Consortium recruited the other hypercorps by giving them an active stake in the Consortium’s development. With the establishment of the Hypercorp Council, the hypercorps were given a chance to buy in on what promised to be a lucrative period of growth and rebuilding and given a democratic voice in the process. Seeing the opportunities and necessities for establishing stable and equitable markets, the hypercorps signed up in droves. The Fall had left most markets with an undesirable amount of uncertainty and instability that needed to be quashed immediately. The Consortium also promised the establishment of a common currency that all member habitats could use to conduct easy and equitable commerce, as well as strict controls over the use of nanofabrication technologies.
These developments, as well as the judicious uses of military force to contain questionable “TITAN outbreaks” on several habitats, ensured the Consortium’s rise to becoming the most influential political and economic power in the inner system. Despite the propaganda (both pro and con), life under the Consortium can actually be said to be favorable, and certainly improved in comparison to the Fall. The Consortium leadership employs the carrot far more than the stick, and guarantees a certain degree of mutual prosperity. Over time, however, they increase their control over habitats with more restrictive trade agreements, recruiting the best and brightest to corporate training centers, and a monopoly of military forces. Member colonies have universally been pressured to cut off relationships with autonomist habitats. Over time, each Consortium station’s local policies have become just a cosmetic overlay for a nearly universal core of economic regulations, security protocols, and political systems that were modular and controlled from a central power base.

The Consortium Agenda

The Consortium’s agenda is open and transparent, part of the Four-Point Plan instituted shortly after its formation. For the most part these goals speak for themselves, but the best lies are hidden in the truth.

Establish a New Homeworld

The Fall despoiled the cradle of transhumanity. Mars is our new homeworld and we must terraform it and make it our own if we are to survive. Earth needs her rest, it is from Mars we will launch our people into the stars.
Earth is dead, that’s a fact. So what else can transhumanity do but look to Mars as the solution? To many, this part of the agenda is a no-brainer, but the question to always ask of any position is: who profits? Who gains? Whose interests does this serve? The Consortium gains, of course, because many of their core economic interests are invested in transforming the red planet into a bountiful new economic paradise. Their goal is not so much to make Mars the new cradle of transhumanity as to become the landlord for the whole damn species.
Once they’re done with Mars, they’ll get to work on Venus. I don’t want to be between Morningstar and the Consortium when they do.
Some people also point to this agenda item as a core component of the Consortium’s memetic spin control. As in: the past no longer matters, forget about the mistakes that led to the Fall. Cast aside the old nationalism and cultural identities, and embrace the new. Forget about Luna or Venus or Titan, Mars is the new capital. These stances are key to the Consortium’s policies of supporting the interdiction of Earth and suppressing the reclaimer movement.

Improve the Human Condition

Transhumanity must continue to evolve and embrace new technologies to meet the challenges of the future. Perhaps not surprising, given how many hypercorps embraced early transhuman technologies and ideologies, but the Consortium strongly endorses human enhancements through genetic engineering, cognitive mods, biotech, and nanotechnology. Again, this seems appropriate given the desire to prepare transhumanity for any future threats, but it also once again plays into Consortium member self-interests. Enhancements cost money, and it’s a never-ending race to get the latest enhancements to keep up with pack, all the while lining corporate coffers.
The first thing mercurials notice with this agenda point, of course, is the distinct “human” part. Though the Consortium pays lip service to uplifts being part of transhumanity, in truth their status remains a contested political issue. AGIs have it even harder, being heavily restricted and monitored to a point few can tolerate for long, and many Consortium habitats ban them entirely. Within certain hypercorp circles, attitudes are much more lax, but the Consortium population at large still views AGIs as potential time bombs.

Sidebar: Playing Nice?

Posted on: Cryptomix Open Forums
Posted by: Anonymous
If you really think the Planetary Consortium just happened to be in the right place at the right time, I suggest taking a look at some of those old records from during and just after the Fall—if you can find them, that is. Oversight has done a terrific job of scrubbing the mesh for anything that might make the Consortium members complicit in their crimes. If you dig hard enough, though, you’ll find something.
Need some pointers? Start with the roles certain hypercorps played in the evacuation process. Agencies supplying off-world transport had an unprecedented amount of authority in deciding who got to live and who was left to have their brain sucked out by the TITANs. Hell, just the order of who was evacuated first and who last made an important difference. Just because you were a prominent leader or businessperson didn't mean you were guaranteed a ride or egocast out—you had to make a deal, promise them something. Entire nation states were left to feed the machines when they were unable to offer anything the Consortium wanted in return. Even if you bought your way off the planet, you were mostly likely at the Consortium’s mercy. If you happened to be part of a government that might be problematic for the Consortium’s plans for solar system dominance, well, sucks to be you. There are probably entire old-Earth government administrations locked in dead storage, kept carefully packed away by the hypercorps who prefer to keep them out of the picture for now. How else do you explain how so many world leaders simply went missing?

Safeguard Humanity

The universe is full of threats. We face danger not only from unknown entities out in the void, but from our own carelessness and recklessness. Strong security measures are essential for transhumanity's future. On the surface this point refers to the TITANs and how close transhumanity came to extinction during the Fall. Upon closer inspection, it reveals several nuanced elements of the Consortium agenda. First it paints the other factions, especially the autonomists, as dangerous, out of control, a threat to civilization itself. Without law and order, and strong government, transhumanity is doomed. Thus the outer system is regularly painted in Consortium media as a wild and dangerous frontier, crawling with degenerates and terrorists and—gasp!—software pirates! More to the point, it provides the ideological underpinnings for Consortium restrictions and controls of key technologies, particularly nanofabrication. According to Consortium dogma, fabbers are controlled technology not just to milk consumers, but to protect Consortium citizens from the inevitable murder and mayhem that would accompany open access.

Grow and Prosper

Expansion into new markets and opportunities is vital for transhumanity's shared prosperity. Simply put, the Consortium wants economic growth and new markets. It wants to exploit and leverage new opportunities into investments and high-yield returns. It wants to create new wealth and new dividends. No surprises here, but this is notable as being a major component of the Consortium’s extrasolar colonization and resource exploitation initiatives. It is also worth noting that such new riches are unlikely to be evenly distributed among the population at large, despite naive assumptions to the contrary.
You may think it would be a mistake for the Consortium to be so bold, but let’s face it, when everyone knows what you are you’d be a fool to try and hide it. By making profit sound like a virtue they appear more transparent and bolster people’s assumptions. In this way most people assume they know and understand the Consortium and what it is trying to do, so they stop digging too deeply.

Consortium Organization and Power

On the surface, the Consortium presents itself almost as a new type of nation-state, composed of many habitats united under a sort of federal structure with a cyberdemocratic process. The truth is far more complicated and unusual. There are few historical precedents for the Consortium’s unique set-up, with the most similar possibly being the old-Earth European Union. Unlike all such previous arrangements, however, the key component of the Consortium is that it is, at heart, a commercial alliance and enterprise, with civic trappings.
The Consortium’s organization can be broken down into three entities: the Planetary Congress, the Ministry, and the Hypercorp Council.

The Planetary Congress

One of the first challenges the Consortium faced when dealing with myriad diverse habitats was figuring out how to incorporate them into an infrastructure that gave each an equal voice. The Planetary Congress was their answer, drawing representatives from each and every settlement that holds full membership in the Consortium. Habitat representation is based on population, with each receiving at least 1 representative, and representatives serving 3-year terms. Every habitat is counted, and even stations wholly-owned and operated by hypercorps are given representation unless they specifically waive the right.
Voting and citizen participation are emphasized and encouraged in Consortium colonies, and the political process itself is a major media spectacle. Candidates come from a wide range of backgrounds and political parties (starting a new one is easy), with a high percentage of politicos coming from hyperelite backgrounds, particularly younger members of hypercorp dynasties. A number of glitterati and media icons have ridden their popularity into office as well, relying on their charisma and star power—not to mention a staff of memeticists and culture hackers—rather than political stances. In fact, several mesh feeds, sometimes dramatized, relate their ongoing day-to-day activities. Representatives are very accessible to their constituents, with forks periodically making appearances at virtual rallies and town hall meetings. The election process itself is very interactive, with candidate profiles and lifelog highlights easily accessed via the mesh and tagged with comments from peers in your social network. Reputation plays a major role, but is not always the deciding factor.
Despite the pomp and sometimes shallowness of the representatives, actual political issues are often relevant to the proceedings. Hot-button issues like uplift rights, AGI restrictions, indentures, security, terrorism, crime, the Factors, forking, and extrasolar colonization initiatives are major talking points. Representatives often poll their constituents via the mesh, and public referendums are also a significant part of the political process. Nevertheless, outsiders to the Consortium such as yourself are likely to notice that most such issues are debated in the context of a very narrow ideological tunnel, with few outside-the-box options ever seeing real consideration. Don’t expect many of the issues that autonomists take for granted—open-access nanofab, AGI equality, the creative commons—to be greeted with anything other than alarm at best, histrionics at worst.

The Ministry

What the Planetary Congress did for the public, the Ministry does for the hypercorps. Every hypercorp that is a full-fledged member of the Consortium is granted one minister to appoint. These ministers legislate everything of importance to the Consortium, particularly commerce, biotechnology, civil defense, immigration, security, terraforming, relations with the Factors, and colonization. For decision-making purposes, each minister’s vote is weighted based on their hypercorp's current public shares price. Privately held corps are assessed a rating by Oversight each quarter, based on the assets they make known. The Ministry makes substantial use of in-house prediction markets as a method for guiding some discussions, forecasting likely outcomes, and gauging group consensus.
In contrast to the Congress, the Ministry is where the bulk of the Consortium’s legalities and day-to-day affairs are decided and implemented. Where individual habitats, hypercorps, and citizens are often free to ignore Congressional rules and edicts with little sanction, the Ministry’s laws are considered binding and will be enforced. Unlike the veneer of cyberdemocracy the Congress puts forth, the real power lies in the hands of the unelected corporate officials.

The Assembly

The Assembly is a collection of judicial officials that are usually elected from the Ministry’s ranks, though in a few cases non-Ministry delegates have been appointed as well. The Assembly is the Consortium’s judicial branch, making judgments when necessary in legal affairs and disputes, as well as criminal cases. Most Assembly decisions are in fact handled by expert legal AIs, though live judges can be requested and are brought in for important decisions. Assembly decisions are overridden by, and may be appealed to, Oversight and the Hypercorp Council.

The Hypercorp Council

Though thousands of hypercorps are full members of the Planetary Consortium—the business entity, that is—the vast majority have no actual voting power (outside of the Ministry) and hold no shares. That privilege is set aside for the Consortium’s founding members, who have changed little since its beginning a decade ago.
In practice, the Hypercorp Council is the ultimate authority within the Consortium. It holds de facto executive power, has veto power over all legislation, and is the final answer on judicial cases and appeals. Despite its dominance, the Council is careful to not oppose public opinion—or rather, hypercorp opinion—too drastically, especially in cases of near consensus. They are well aware that they rely on the good will and support of the populace and other hypercorps for continued smooth operations, and they employ armies of social engineers to ensure such compliance. The last thing the Council wants to do is to come off as some sort of dictatorial regime, and they take pains to avoid this. This does not mean that they don’t throw their weight around when necessary, as the smoldering ruins of a few uppity corps and colonies can attest to, but such matters are always handled with subtlety and finesse, even when conveying a sincere message. For the most part, however, the Council is content to screen its affairs and keep them from public view, concealing them behind the spectacle provided by the Planetary Congress. It is rare to see mention of the Council in Consortium media feeds.
In typical networked hypercorp fashion, some Consortium members are consortiums, conglomerates, or similar business alliances in their own right. Though it is estimated that there are approximately twenty members on the Hypercorp Council, no one outside the Council knows for sure, and the Council is under no obligation to reveal that information to anyone. Each of those twenty or so corps holds a percentage of shares, an investment in the Consortium itself. This stake in the Consortium determines their voting power for decisions made by the Council. No single hypercorp owns a majority (the Consortium bylaws actually forbid this), though 10 of the corps own 80% of the shares combined. In practice, this means that plenty of deals are made between hypercorps about how each will vote and what reciprocal favor such a vote might earn. The major share-holding hypercorps (Experia, Fa Jing, Prosperity, and Solaris) can overrule the others if they are united, with 52% of the vote. The minor hypercorps, however, can often hold the balance of power with their more modest percentages when the major hypercorps can’t agree.

Cognite (6%)

If the Consortium is a family, Cognite is the prodigal son. Still reeling from the PR disaster of the Lost project, they have become one of the most secretive of the hypercorps, an approach that makes them few friends in the Consortium. However, they mollify this suspicion by often voting with the majority and staying to one side of most political issues. The only issue Cognite really seems to care about is increased media control and the importance of upholding the reputations of Hypercorp Council members. On several occasions Cognite has proposed implementing mandatory nootropic, psychosurgery, or cognitive filter regimens for habitat populations, as a means toward ensuring public compliance with Consortium goals. It says something about the hypercorp mentality that these proposals have actually been considered, though so far not implemented outside from a few test case programs.

Direct Action (6%)

Direct Action’s inclusion solidified the military backing the Consortium needed after the Fall. Though Direct Action continues to play a prominent role in military and security matters, the other Council members are careful not to seed the milcorp too much in the way of resources or authority, lest they need worry about a coup. Nevertheless, Direct Action subsidiaries can be found protecting assets throughout the Consortium, and the rest of the system as well. On several occasions, rumors have arisen regarding the connections between Direct Action and Fa Jing.
It is known that Fa Jing played a pivotal role in Direct Action’s early beginnings, providing the loans and financial support needed to keep the milcorp's military units in action. It is unclear if there were any strings attached to those resources, or whether Fa Jing is still owed any favors.

Experia (10%)

Experia is the driving force behind the Consortium’s publicity and public relations, and it is very good at it. Experia culture jammers are a thing to be feared. Though Experia does not monopolize media feeds within the Consortium, it certainly dominates and controls major trends, with a diverse assortment of programming, news, and entertainment options. It is a mark of distinction for a Planetary Congress-critter to be backed by Experia.

Fa Jing (15%)

Aggressive and arrogant, Fa Jing execs know they hold a position of power within the Consortium and they are unafraid to use it. One of the few corps that’s been able to switch nimbly between the reputation metrics of the new economy and the market intricacies of the old, Fa Jing is able to get what few other corps can out of the outer system and bring it in the form of raw materials into the inner system. Despite their relations with various outer system concerns, Fa Jing is one of the strongest proponents of taking aggressive action against the autonomist menace, considering their ways to be the premier threat to the Consortium’s existence.

Fujizo (3%)

This consortium is a major competitor to Starware in the field of spacecraft propulsion and design, but its primary market is robotics, including a number of synthetic morph designs. It is not uncommon to see the clanking masses in a case stamped with a Fujizo logo. They are a large supporter of the idea of built-in obsolescence for indentured morphs.

Invatch (2%)

This conglomerate of smaller hypercorps is the largest combined manufacturer and employer of pods in the solar system. While some of the firms involved strictly deal with pod design and creation, or AI programming, other corps operate in the service sector, making pods available for a wide range of labor and social purposes.

Lucky Star Group (2%)

Another conglomerate of hypercorp interests, the Lucky Star Group is dedicated to electronics design and minifacturing. Aside from providing key design elements for mesh inserts and common-use ectos, Lucky Star electronics see widespread use in numerous habitat mesh networks. On the software side, several Lucky Star firms specialize in mesh cloud systems and data security products. Interestingly, the latter industry sometimes puts them at odds with Stellar Intelligence, and there have been occasional clashes in Council discussions over legislation that mandates the application and use of embedded surveillance and data collection systems in Consortium mesh networks.

Nanosys (4%)

This consortium of nanotech hypercorps plays a pivotal role in the Consortium’s policies towards nanofabrication, providing strict guidelines for fabricator designs, vetting other manufacturers, and setting the standard for nanofab blueprint licensing and DRM. In effect, they are an enforcement association for the proprietary nanotech industry. If someone hacks a maker, pirates a blueprint, or sets loose a new nanobot design, Nanosys will be the ones called in to investigate, prosecute, or set policy.

Olympus Infrastructure Authority (2%)

Bringing the OIA into the Consortium fold was a major coup at a critical point in history. The OIA controls the Martian space elevator, a crucial pipeline for the terraforming and development of Mars. Along with other elements of the Martian colonization infrastructure, this solidified the Consortium’s control over Mars. Though it is not yet public knowledge, signs point to the fact that the OIA is laying the groundwork to establish a second space elevator on Mars, allowing the Consortium to double the flow of goods and resources.

Prosperity Group (10%)

While there is little glamor to the Prosperity Group, it is nevertheless a vital part of the Consortium. The hypercorps recognize that controlling the food supply, and what goes into it, is one of the keys to controlling transhumanity. Unlike many of the other hypercorps, who prefer an image of flash and sass, Prosperity prefers to propagate their idea as simple, prosperous, and fundamentally necessary. This has allowed them to neatly bypass several scandals that could have been damaging to their reputation, particularly their connections to certain criminal enterprises known to distribute a variety of drugs and sometimes dangerous narcotics—the byproducts of their primary research.

Solaris (17%)

Solaris is the economic backbone of the Consortium, the financial giant that provides the funding for Council initiatives and the stability to keep the Consortium’s markets attractive and bountiful. Though the Progress Bank now plays the role of central bank for the Consortium, Solaris remains both larger and more influential, and is the primary banking institution for Council hypercorps specifically. The minds behind Solaris are respected and revered for their financial wizardry; the corp has an uncanny ability to stay one step ahead of potential economic pitfalls.

Stellar Intelligence (6%)

Stellar Intelligence is a small but potent presence in Consortium affairs. Their data collection and espionage capabilities give the Consortium a distinct edge when dealing with outside rivals, but their activities don’t stop there. Stellar makes it their business to know not just everything about everyone, but also anything that can give them leverage over anyone who’s likely to be important. This means they make a tidy profit selling secrets about non-Council hypercorps to Council hypercorps. As a rule, however, they avoid dealing with any intelligence on their fellow Council members, so as not to dirty the pool they all play in or instigate other conflicts of interest. Nevertheless, their Council partners are often quite careful about what information they share with Stellar, and keep them close but not too unleashed, much as they do Direct Action.
Within the Consortium, Stellar Intelligence has an ongoing rivalry with Oversight, which has so far been restricted to hammering each other’s rep and occasionally outing each other’s operations. Part of the rivalry may stem from the fact that certain top Oversight personnel were originally ranking chiefs at Stellar, parting ways over some undisclosed but apparently bitter disagreement.

Other Council Members

There are at least half a dozen other corps on the Council, though most of these are minor shareholders, owning about 1% each (or possibly less). Analysis of Council documentation strongly implies that there is at least one other hypercorp with a significant holding of shares, possibly as much as 10%. The identity and nature of this entity remains carefully concealed, however.
It is worth noting that Pathfinder, a subsidiary of the Consortium, is given the extraordinary privilege of having a representative sit in on Council affairs, despite having no voting rights. The reason for this is simply because exoplanet colonization, exploration, and resource exploitation play a vital role in Hypercorp Council plans. As the Consortium’s lead on this project, Pathfinder has been granted a special place at the master’s table.

Hidden Power

In many circles, it is a common belief that the Hypercorp Council itself is not the ultimate power in the Consortium. According to this line of thought, the real strings are pulled by an influential group of gerontocrats and their undying, ever-growing dynasties. Raving conspiracy theories aside, there is merit to the belief that the old and ultra-rich have amassed considerable power and influence, and that they travel in social circles of elites with similar interests, with whom they make plans for their own personal and mutual benefit. Many of these modern aristocrats serve on the boards of multiple hypercorps, allowing for a number of cross-fertilization opportunities. Just as often, however, they are likely to have conflicting business interests or even personal outlooks and ideologies with their peers, leading to an atmosphere of intrigue and competition. The benefits of age and wealth are that these oligarchs have the savvy to hide their goals and maneuvering, the patience to craft long-term plots and see them through, and the resources to acquire just about whatever they need: whether that be a priceless art relic from Earth, control over an entire industry, the death and erasure of a rival’s backups, or a series of platinum-gilded double-ended slitheroids studded with whips and sex toys for their personal dungeons. You laugh, but if there’s one thing that comes with wealth, it’s eccentricity. When you have the power to make everything and everyone around you conform to your wishes, some interesting aspects of your personality start to bleed out.
But I digress. Many of these gerontocrats and hypercorp moguls are public figures, often in the media spotlight. A few are even icons, like the irreverent Morgan Sterling, a name synonymous with ExoTech, not to mention other exotic interests. Some are effectively masters of their own domains, such as the Oaxaca-Maartens, and their control over Elysium on Mars. Many others prefer to stay out of the public eye, and a few seem to hide all evidence of their existence and activities whatsoever. Along with their riches and longevity often comes a large extended family. These dynasties are case studies in nepotism, with younger family members or those related by marriage contract often holding key positions in a hypercorp's upper ranks. Given the wealth at their disposal, however, younger members with no personal ambitions embrace the dilettante lifestyle, joining the ranks of the socialites and glitterati. Though often nothing more than a drain on a family’s resources and reputation, some of these manage to make a name for themselves in the media. Inevitably, however, they are a source of inter-dynasty intrigues and power plays, which often seem instigated out of boredom and a desire for drama more than any need to actually compete with their peers.

Private Clubs

If there’s one thing that feeds conspiracy theorist paranoia, it is the existence of secretive organizations with members pulled from the ranks of the hyperelite. Though invariably dedicated to social activities, they offer an opportunity for the masters of the inner system to fraternize and share their ideas for building a galactic empire over wine and a game of mah-jongg, or Martian beers and a drum circle, depending on your affiliations. Though there are doubtless an array of small, exclusive, clandestine clubhouses of this sort, two of the more well-known are worth mentioning.
Helm & Spear: Named for the accouterments of the god Mars, this secret society is a gathering place for those hyperelites heavily invested in the transformation and exploitation of the red planet. This includes board members, ministers, and backers of various mining, terraforming, railroad, and infrastructure development corps. For their retreats, on which all business and political negotiation is allegedly barred, these people of wealth and privilege like to revel in the Martian wilderness, often sleeving in customized ruster morphs and going on a nomadic jaunt.
X Club: The X Club originally evolved from the entrepreneurs behind and involved in the old-Earth X-Prize competitions for “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.” Initiated to spur competition and development in spaceflight, genomics, nanotech, and similar fields, these awards helped catapult the hypercorps into space. Decades before the Fall, the visionaries and venture capitalists behind these technologies and industries adopted the group as a social club and networking tool. As the hypercorps expanded off-world, the elite X Club followed, transforming into a fraternity of hyperelites in critical orbital/space infrastructure sectors such as ship manufacturing, robotics, habitat engineering, banking, indenture brokerage, and so on. Today the X Club meets on Progress, and their ranks include a number of prominent Consortium ministers and board members from the likes of Solaris, Fujizo, and Prosperity

Sidebar: Oligarchs and Hypercorp Dynasties

So who are the oligarchs and major dynasties? There are many, ranking in several tiers of wealth and influence. Here’s a small sampling of those with a large stake in Consortium affairs. There are many others who operate outside the Consortium, of course, including those tied to Lunar, Morningstar, Extropian, or independent interests.
The Al Kabir Family: Descended from the younger sons of a Middle Eastern royal family who established their own personal and profitable ventures in and around Luna and Earth prior to the Fall, this dynasty maintains multiple private habitats and holds significant investments in a range of major hypercorps. The current patriarch, Nassim Ibn Wasid Al Kabir, is known as a man to go to for funding if you have a project that tickles his fancy for extrasolar exploration or for something unusual that has not been tried yet.
Biao Qian: This quiet but ruthless businessman made his fortune as a venture capitalist in the Chinese technological growth sector before investing in the Martian colonization program. He profited greatly from the exploitation of Third-World workers as off-world indentured labor. Aside from a private dome near the southern Martian pole, Biao is rumored to have another personal habitat in the outer system. Though he has served on the boards of both Nanosys and Invatch, in recent years he has diminished his public profile. According to unverified socialite gossip, the reason for his retreat had something to do with catching a disfiguring alien disease. Biao has fathered an excessive number of children, all of them sons.
Rael Duvalier: The former CEO of Somatek helped to fund many of the breakthroughs in biological uplifts. Despite his public persona as a grandfatherly figure devoted to the welfare of his “children,” Duvalier’s primary interest in uplifts seems to be exploitation. In private, he has been known to express rage at being forced “into retirement” by a hostile board and “fucking zoophile activists.” He is considered an enemy by many uplift mercurial groups, not in the least for proposing that uplifts should be consigned to indentured servitude in repayment for having been raised to sentience. Duvalier is, of course, far from retirement, and continues to meddle in the biotech and genetics industries. He has been known to bankroll political groups that oppose mercurial efforts and uplift rights.
The Marathi: The identity of this figure is unknown even in hyperelite circles, but their reputation is growing. According to gossip, the Marathi has been very actively interfering with the affairs of several Lunar-based dynasties since the Fall, sometimes with exquisite effectiveness. The Marathi is reputed to hold interests in Consortium biotech projects, particularly genomics, and one tale circulating in socialite gossip suggests a particular interest in old-Earth cryptids, even suggesting the Marathi has a private zoo of myth-based neogenetic creatures.
Orson Pournelle: Like most of his peers, Pournelle was born into a wealthy family. Prior to the Fall, he invested heavily in space elevator plans, becoming a key player in the beanstalk logistics sector. He made a killing by developing more efficient algorithms for taking cargo off-planet. When the TITANs struck, Pournelle leveraged himself into position where the UN placed him in charge of evacuation operations for the Panamanian elevator. Numerous accounts suggest that Pournelle and his staff ruthlessly abused their authority, auctioning evacuation slots to the highest bidders, taking now-priceless Earth relics as bribes, and often prioritizing hypercorp cargo over refugees, presumably earning favors and markers from hyperelite peers. More damning reports claim that Pournelle instituted policies that de-prioritized uplift evacuees in favor of humans, and that similar decisions were clouded by his personal racist and religious beliefs. Any factual evidence to support such indictments is, of course, well hidden or was lost during the Fall. Pournelle's business interests now include military technologies, simulspace programming, and exoplanet resource exploitation.
Rook: This oligarch has crossed paths with Firewall on several occasions, though their actual identity and motivations remain unclear. Using the moniker “Rook” when dealing with hired agents, this entity has more than a passing interest in the TITANs and has been known to communicate with at least one group of singularity seekers. There is also evidence that Rook has requested and been granted personal audiences with the Factors on more than one occasion. It seems likely that Rook has some sort of interconnection with Stellar Intelligence, though the exact relationship is muddied. Sentinels interacting with Rook or their minions are advised to stay alert until we can ascertain whether their agenda is at cross-purposes to Firewall.
The Yamafuku Clan: This extended family is the legacy of Kassi Yamafuku, perhaps one of the oldest living humans and among the first to undergo uploading. An offshoot of a former Japanese keiretsu dynasty, Yamafuku and her descendants have been major players in biotechnology and life sciences. The clan also took an early interest in Venus, and Yamafuku herself is said to have helped orchestrate the creation of the Planetary Congress and the Ministry. The clan has been strongly opposed to Venusian independence.
Ayn Zamyatin: Zamyatin is noteworthy as being opposed to the hypercorp agenda before the Fall. The daughter of a Russian energy and oil magnate with links to organized crime who built a fortune after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Zamyatin expanded this empire in the resource and water conflicts before the Fall. She fostered the idea of relocating climate refugees to carefully structured and highly surveilled “productive labor” camps, a program condemned as slavery by Amnesty International. When the TITANs struck, however, Zamyatin was quick to liquidate her assets and transfer her wealth to the Lunar Banks, taking exile herself in orbit shortly after. Purchasing a spacecraft, the Integral, as her personal nomadic retreat, Zamyatin has since involved herself in Consortium affairs, buying into both Experia and Cognite. Labeled the “Siberian Queen” by some media feeds after a string of controversial appearances, she is infamous as one of the lone Consortium voices that opposes major efforts towards extrasolar colonization as potentially dangerous and fracturing to Consortium interests. She has, however, advocated cautious exploration and the establishment of a few select colonies with strict social controls. Persistent rumors link her to certain Night Cartel leaders.

Consortium Economoics

Economics is the central purpose of the Consortium.
The current economic philosophy upheld by Consortium interests has been labeled hyperliberalism by some (or also hypercapitalism). It goes beyond the precepts of classical liberalism—opposing government intervention, promoting privatization and free markets—by suborning government (in this case, individual habitats) to the edicts of a trade bloc (the Consortium). Hyperliberalism, however, does not feature the same embrace of the free market as Extropianism, which eliminates states entirely. Instead, subject governments are still counted
on to administer public needs like shelter, power, and food—all managed via privatized services, of course. Additionally (and to Extropian types, more importantly), hypercapitalism incorporates a bit of Keynesian economics in believing that some sort of watchdog apparatus and regulatory authority is needed to to ensure stability, in order to prevent the sort of economic bubbles and crises that were so damaging to market economies before the Fall. The Consortium does not rely on a state to provide this overwatch, instead ensuring it through a cooperative self-regulating agreement of major hypercorps. The primary attraction of the Consortium to the vast majority of hypercorps was the creation of a large single market and common currency in the immediate wake of the Fall. Like many trade blocs of the past, the Consortium enables the free passage of money, people, and goods between Consortium habitats, with a standardized set of light economic regulations. Hypercorps who are not members may still do business in Consortium space, but they are restricted by tariffs, import/export controls, and sometimes trade agreements between the Consortium and other entities.
The Consortium’s economic approach has so far been highly successful, growing to dominate the inner system. The Lunar-Lagrange Alliance, though a rival and more protectionist in outlook, has equalized its currency to mesh with the Consortium, at the behest of the Lunar banks who saw it as a necessary measure to stay competitive. Even the Morningstar Constellation, though politically and economically separate, still links its currency to Consortium rates.

Institutions

Two economic structures have been central to the Consortium’s success. The first is the Planetary Stock Exchange (PEX), the largest exchange within the inner system. While the Lunar exchanges reeled and remained on lockdown in the aftermath of the Fall, the Consortium scored a victory by absorbing a nascent Mars exchange, converting it, and using it to catalyze the growth of a new economy. Though many other exchanges exist, PEX remains the most significant. To counter the lag problem with intrasolar communications, which limits most exchanges to trading within their local spatial “neighborhood,” PEX offers an expensive option for trading via QE communication channels. Though PEX trades primarily in stocks, a dozen other Consortium-backed exchanges trade in commodities, futures, and other securities throughout the solar system. Morningstar, the LLA, Impian, the Jovians, and Extropia also have their own competing exchanges.
The second critical structure is the Progress Bank (PB). Established by the Consortium in its first year, PB was specifically set up to help build the Consortium while remaining free from its political affairs. Though a subsidiary of the Consortium, PB has its own budget and member corps, including those on the Hypercorp Council, are legally barred from seeking to influence its decisions. Bank officials also have lengthy tenures, to limit intrigues over appointees. As the Consortium’s central bank, PB sets monetary policy and interest rates, stabilizes prices to keep inflation low, issues currency, stimulates the economy, and manages foreign exchange transactions. It is also the prime lender for the Pathfinder Colonization Initiative and the Red Eden Terraforming Project.

Oversight

According to top Consortium economists at least, while a free market and deregulation are ideal goals, the market does not police itself, and so a guiding hand ensures smooth operation and stability. As a business enterprise with thousands of hypercorp members, these financial experts argue that a nominal framework of competition regulation is necessary to derail monopolies and corruption, approve mergers, monitor risky investment and lending practices, and otherwise foil destructive efforts to game the system. The tool for this task is Oversight.
First formed under the initial charter that established the Planetary Congress and Ministry, the Oversight Directorate for Fair and Free Markets, more commonly known as just Oversight, is meant to maintain as fair and free a market economy as possible in the Consortium. Not wanting to corrupt its image by mimicking some sort of nation-state regulatory body, the Consortium initially took great pains to set up Oversight as a cooperative effort, a burden and responsibility shared by the members of the Hypercorp Council. Nevertheless, submitting to Oversight’s authority and allowing this agency to check their books is the price any corporate entity pays if it wants to be a full-fledged member of the Consortium with representation in the Ministry. In the decade since, however, in a classic example of mission creep, Oversight’s authority and agenda has expanded well beyond its original outline. Oversight’s purview falls under the Hypercorp Council’s executive powers, meaning that the agency acts with the Council’s authority. Early on, this led to accusations that Oversight was acting preferentially towards the Council members’ specific interests. To counter this and develop more of an air of impartiality, the Council has adopted a hands-off policy towards most Oversight activities, aside from hand-picking the directorate’s General Secretary. As a result, Oversight has grown and expanded with little oversight of its own affairs. It is worth noting, too, that Council members are also subject to Oversight scrutiny, though there is undoubtedly some institutional bias at play.
Oversight’s activities can be broken down into several realms. The first is analysis and forecasting, handled by squadrons of internal bureaucrats who specialize in conducting market analyses on emerging economic trends and conditions. Given their privileged access to some internal hypercorp records and the trading records from PEX and other exchanges, this enables some impressive forecasting capabilities. If any anomalies are detected or irregularities noticed in the data flow from the hypercorps, an investigative team is dispatched. What is interesting to note about these oracle operations is that Oversight does not only analyze economic factors—they measure a range of real-world developments as well, taking note of how they can impact financial matters. By Consortium law, Oversight forecasts are released to all hypercorp members after 90 days. The second realm of Oversight is ongoing investigation of personal and hypercorp financial irregularities. Oversight auditors may be tasked to uncover tax evasion, insider trading, pyramid schemes, cartels, corruption, and much more. Agents have significant powers to subpoena records and investigate internal files. It should not be assumed that auditors are just accountants with attitude: a specially tasked branch of Oversight auditors practices more direct methods of investigation, including surveillance, physical infiltration, digital intrusion, social engineering, psychosurgery, and occasionally other, less savory tactics. In an arena of cutthroat capitalism, where greed and power go hand-in-hand, extreme tactics are sometimes necessary. It is this familiarity with black ops that has developed into Oversight’s third area of operations, thanks to the directorate’s over-extending mission. In alignment with their mission to preserve stability, Oversight has expanded their operations to address almost anything that could be considered a threat to the Consortium. Anarchist agitators, bioconservative terrorists, reclaimers, criminal operations, espionage from rival power blocs—all of these and more are now handled by Oversight’s efficient auditors, the new Men in Black. Oversight has even maneuvered itself into a sort of immigration control, authorizing suspension of incoming egocasts until they've had time to interrogate a fork in simulspace. Oversight’s operating budget has doubled every year for the past half a decade, indicating a bureaucracy that is simply out of control. Though few of the influential personages within the Consortium care to challenge this development, as it serves their own interests, it is a matter of time before Oversight oversteps its bounds and the Council is forced to leash their guard dogs.
Oversight is one of the few places in the Consortium where infomorphs can find advancement. Aside from utilizing a number of indentures for low-level tasks, it possesses a large percentage of infomorph auditors on staff. Oversight agents are assigned for their individual skill sets; those who like numbers make good analysts, those with “people skills” become field agents. Rarely, if ever, is one promoted to the other. Salary is based on experience and seniority, so loyalty and service are rewarded.

General Secretary Gia Norne

Appointed head of Oversight in AF 5, Norne has single-handedly reworked the scope of Oversight’s operations, transforming the regulatory agency into an enforcement arm of the Consortium. There are some who think that Norne has exceeded her bounds so efficiently by virtue of the intelligence she has access to as head of Oversight. Certainly even the most powerful figures in the Consortium think twice before crossing swords with Norne’s agenda. Others point to a few select scandals and exposed corruption schemes as proof that Norne has exercised her threats against those she is blackmailing.
Norne's personal agenda seems to focus on countering the autonomist threat. Under her leadership, Oversight has ruthlessly hunted down anarchist, technosocialist, and other radical elements within the Consortium’s sphere. Oversight has played a large role in persecuting Barsoomian troublemakers, and the directorate has also harassed numerous Extropian corps that operate within the inner system. Norne's agenda has also extended towards opening investigations into hypercorps that deal with outer system interests. Despite Norne's increasing abuses of power, few within the Consortium would argue with the fact that she steers Oversight capably, fulfilling its mission and keeping, if not a level playing field, at least a stable one.

Sidebar: Æther Jabber

# Start Æther Jabber #
# Active Members: 2 #
> From your description, it sounds like Oversight has the Consortium dancing to its tune.
< That’s a polite way of putting it. A more accurate way might be to say that not only do they know where the cortical stacks are buried, but they've wrapped some tentacles around some key gonads, squeezing just hard enough to convey a message.
> Well, the real question then is this: Is Norne operating on her own, or is she a puppet? And if so, who’s pulling the strings?
< That’s a very good question. And I don’t have any answers. The puppet show may be a more extravagant affair than is immediately obvious.
> Let me ask you this, then. What’s the practical difference between Oversight and Ozma. How do they overlap? Which supersedes the other?
< My take is this: Oversight are the secret police, the MiBs, the enforcers. They’re the ones called in to do the Consortium’s dirty work. There may be puppeteers at work, but ultimately they work within the bounds of the Consortium, if not always legally. Ozma, on the other hand, is the shadow government, the power behind the throne. As far as I can tell, Ozma acts with authority that exceeds all others.
> Even the Hypercorp Council?
< I haven’t seen them pitted against each other directly, but I would suspect so. Whomever Ozma works for, it’s not the Council, it’s someone behind the curtain, using the Consortium as a front.
> Do they compete? Does Oversight step on Ozma's toes?
< In my years as a proxy, I've actually seen Oversight clean up after Ozma's messes more than once. Whether they knew they were doing that is questionable—they may have simply thought they were correcting some hypercorp's mistake. I've also seen Oversight and other Consortium interests impede Ozma more than once, a situation that usually leaves the backups wondering which TITAN ate their brain. I wouldn't be surprised if Ozma occasionally recruits auditors, but who knows. Ultimately, I think Ozma's interests are on a much larger scale than Oversight even usually considers.
> Well, those gerontocrats know how to look at the big picture.
< Gerontocrats? Who’s to say Ozma's masters are even human?

Consortium Subsidiaries

It is not unheard of for the Consortium to hold subsidiaries of its own. In some situations, when the Consortium needs something accomplished, it is often easier to buy a smaller hypercorp outright and task them to do the job. This has occurred many times, and in several cases the takeovers have been hostile, with help provided by Oversight. Few could successfully refuse, of course, but it is interesting to note that the Consortium has also discarded some of these subsidiaries when their usefulness ended—even sometimes taking a loss in the process. Two current subsidiaries deserve notice, one being PEX, the Planetary Exchange. The other is Pathfinder.

Pathfinder

Pathfinder’s remit is to exploit the worlds beyond the Pandora Gates. This is a significant element of the Planetary Consortium’s long-term plans, making this one of the most important Consortium projects since its inception. One of the Consortium’s promises to the other hypercorps was an expansion into new markets, and the gates allow this in spades. Exactly how these new markets develop—and what populations are used to seed them—is turning out to be a contested issue, however, as various corps scramble for opportunities to loot new worlds, construct new societies, and otherwise establish a beachhead in the galaxy at large. Along with its many other duties, of which simple logistics and security are gargantuan efforts, Pathfinder has been delegated the responsibility of coordinating the Pathfinder Colonization
Initiative (PCI)—putting them squarely in front of what is practically a hypercorp stampede. Given these responsibilities and the importance of the task at hand for the Consortium’s future interests, Pathfinder’s CEO, Ravji Gada, has been granted an honorary non-voting seat on the Hypercorp Council, so as to better integrate Pathfinder’s mission with Council objectives. This exceptional act has been viewed by some of Gada's critics as a ploy to leverage Pathfinder into a position where it can buy itself free from the Consortium and possibly even onto the Council.
Pathfinder’s recent relations with Oversight have been strained as Gada has sought to loosen certain restrictions binding hypercorps involved in the PCI. He has all but asked Oversight to back off and look the other way when it comes to extrasolar affairs, citing this as a crucial time for Consortium corps to aggressively carve out what niches they can. Oversight’s Norne has not only refused, but concentrated some of the directorate’s investigations there, leading to a potential future showdown.

Life In The Consortium

A lot of wet-behind-the-ears autonomist types view the residents of the Consortium as exploited workers and slaves, blinded by their XP feeds and limited educations into believing that their lousy lives are the best they can do. Those naive anarchists think that if only these poor Consortium dupes knew better, if they could just escape and see the glories of the outer system, then they would abandon their ways, rise up against their masters, and topple the parasitic gerontocrats and hyperelites. The truth isn’t so black-and-white. While there is a sizable segment of the Consortium population with a class consciousness, or at least a recognition of indentured labor as slavery, the vast majority of Consortium citizens are content and favor their lifestyle over an outer system one. This is because the social control of the Consortium is more nuanced and fine-tuned than the outright repression of the Jovians. Life in the Consortium is by no means a harsh experience, and is for the most part privileged and secure. Most citizens can expect to have all of their basic needs met for minimal fees as long as they stay gainfully employed. The standard of living, even among the poor, is significantly more prosperous than life was on Earth under the old pre-Fall regimes. There is little in the way of a social safety net, of course. It is rare for transhumans to get sick, age, or suffer health (or mechanical) problems. Accidents happen, however; people abuse their bodies or they suffer from mental health issues. Aside from a few habitats with social programs, anyone suffering from this fate may be forced to resort to status as an infomorph, with few options but indentured servitude.
For the majority, this is just proof that the system works and that the lazy will reap the fruits of their indolence while industrious hard-working citizens will be rewarded with promotions and top of the line XP caster units.
All of this wealth and privilege could not be sustained, of course, without an underclass to shoulder the burden. The use of indentured and robotic labor has gone a long way towards helping hypercorps maximize profits. Though there is a growing sentiment against the use of indentures, there is an even stronger base of support, grounded in the benefits the hypercorps reap from exploiting such a vast cheap labor resource. Still, the economy requires a standard rate of unemployment to keep job demand in place, so there is always a percentage of the population that is forced into poverty. This all assumes, of course, that the citizen in question is from original baseline human stock and survived the Fall with at least enough resources to purchase entry into on of the Consortium habitats. If this isn't the case, then the Consortium is a much less pleasant place. Uplifts suffer from a persistent social and institutional bias, often relegating them to the ghettos and fringe areas of habitats. Infugees are pitied but rarely helped; they are expected to make their own way via indentured service. The clanking masses, most of whom are embodied indentures (or former indentures), suffer similar discrimination and social isolation. Many Consortium habitats are home to synthetic ghettos where the clanking masses scratch out a living, often finding just enough work to keep their shoddy shells maintained. These areas are breeding grounds for crime, which only serves to reinforce the less than wholesome reputation their inhabitants enjoy among the majority of the Consortium’s citizens.

The Daily Grind

Automated labor (bots and pods) and indentures account for a significant amount of manual, repetitive, or distasteful work, and are common throughout the Consortium. Most citizens are employees of hypercorps, meaning their work may be as diverse as information management, biotech lab staff, programming, or media production. Habitat maintenance and the service sector are both large and common avenues for the lower classes. Extensive use of technology and AI serves to increase productivity and efficiency, but has done little to decrease the amount of work most people do. Forty-hour work weeks are still common, and some industries expect far more. Many citizens, however, have the luxury of working from their home or a shared workspace, given the decentralized and mesh-based nature of most business operations.

A Night Out

The citizens of the Consortium may not party with the abandon of the scum, but they do have a thriving entertainment industry. XP entertainment is cranked out at an impressive rate, eaten up by Consortium consumers, providing that distraction for the masses the hypercorps desire, before it is pirated by the rest of the solar system. The most popular diversions by far, however, are AR and VR games. The current popular trend embraced by massive numbers of Consortium citizens is to subscribe to at least one “coterie” in a massively-multiplayer interactive alternate-reality AR roleplaying game (MARGs). The plots of these games are experienced through skinned AR environments as they go about their day-to-day lives, with options for fuller simulspace immersion scenarios as well.
For those less interested in social gaming, there are still plenty of fine dining and drinking establishments across the Consortium. Clubs with live music and dancing are major attractions, also accessible via live feeds on the mesh. Most clubs in fact offer AR “channels” that skin your environment according to your choice from a selection of DJs and digital artists famous across the system. The omnipresent glitterati and celebrity socialite scene ties in effortlessly here, and playing citizen paparazzi is a common diversion for Consortium citizens on the lookout for the icon du jour engaging in scandalous behavior. In fact, the major sponsored celebrities are usually contractually required to visit some of the smaller out-of-the-way habitats and engage in the kind of tabloid-friendly behavior that their reputations are often built on, as a way of driving sales of their associated brand.

Sidebar: MARGs

These are but a few of the most popular massively-multiplayer alternate-reality roleplaying games:
Cloak and Dagger allows players to act as sleeper agents sent on secret missions by a hidden conspiracy. Its success is partially due to persistent rumors that players are sometimes used to pull off actual espionage activities, though Consortium media sources claim this is just part of a viral marketing campaign.
War of Wizards is the largest MARG with mil-lions of subscribers to a high-fantasy world that features a mishmash of old Earth cultural myths and legends.
Wyrmwood is the main rival to War of Wizards and is a grittier, more historically influenced high-fantasy setting that offers what its adherents call a true grimdark fantasy experience.
Footy is a football (soccer) team-based game that replicates the feel of old terrestrial football leagues by allowing members of different neighborhoods and habitats to face off against each other and engage in acts of hooliganism against their rivals.
Innsmouth Nights is the latest in a series of re-imaginings of the works of HP Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos.
Thousand Heavens features Buddhist-inspired overlays that place the user in any of a number of heavens or hells where they must help out saints or demons to progress further along their spiritual journey.
Starfleet Command allows subscribers to assume the role of officers on extrasolar exploration missions in a setting that incorporates a variety of near-human alien races.
MechaMash! is a popular giant robot fighting MARG where players take the side of either noble transhuman clansmen or a decadent Star League and fight against each other in great gladiatorial mecha combats.

Upward Mobility

If there is one myth the Consortium has excelled at perpetuating, it is the dream of upward mobility. According to this commonly held fable, anyone can work their way up from the bottom and break into the hyperelites with enough hard work and effort. In this fable, even the lowliest indenture from a backward region on Earth has the capability and, most importantly, the opportunity, to work their way up through the ranks with diligence, and may eventually travel the socialite circuit and own their successful hypercorp one day. It is this fantasy that keep Consortium citizens working diligently for their hypercorp masters, in hopes of one day being a master themselves. Hard data showing the actual infeasible nature and unlikelihood of these ideas is conveniently waved away.
One way this cognitive bias plays out is the manner in which high-scarcity goods are pursued, even by the poor. While even the clanking masses have the means to license the maker blueprints they need for basic sustenance and survival, living this way is an indicator of lower status. Instead, Consortium citizens spend their wealth purchasing goods that are more scarce and “designer” licensed nanofab prints that are essentially more expensive versions of basic goods slapped with a name brand logo. In particular, the glitterati and hyperelites place a premium on hand-made goods and items that are so elaborate that they are labor- or resource-intensive even when made with a fabber. As a result, these expensive and extravagant designs are growing in demand among the less affluent.
As autonomists are well aware, licensing and DRM play an important role in restricting open access to nanofabrication in the inner system. Though piracy is certainly an option for the poor—and there is indeed a thriving underground in black market prints and even jail-broken fabbers—the production of non-approved and non-licensed substances is a crime that carries a substantial penalty in the Consortium. Possession of hacked fabbers is even more illegal, most likely invoking the seizure of your morph and a minimum amount of indentured labor as punishment. This regime of restrictive usage rights means that only the privileged few get the newest and hottest gadgets and gear; the rest have to make do with regressively older versions of whatever it is they want.

Sidebar: The Lotus Club

The brainchild of Experia and Fa Jing, the Lotus Club is one of the most talked about organizations among the glitterati. It is a network of exclusive and private areas spread across the inner system. Only the most glamorous hyper-elites and metacelebrities are allowed to join, and by invitation only. The attraction of the club is simple: not only is it the most exclusive club in the system, but it caters to any taste. Anything you want, no matter how decadent or perverse, will be provided for you. Individual club locations are extremely well-guarded secret areas within habitats, sometimes hidden within other private clubs, each dedicated to providing certain entertainments. They are recognized by markings only known by members and visible only via AR with the proper codes. Celebrity hunters who have heard of the club search relentlessly to discover these secret hideaways and learn the secret signs and codes, even if they stand no chance of getting in. Needless to say, the potential for blackmail on what activities take place in these clubs is enormous, but the Lotus Club is extremely diligent in upholding its reputation for privacy. In fact, it is known that Oversight has been called in by Lotus on at least three occasions to help protect secrets that might otherwise be damaging to prominent members of the Consortium.

Gulag Archipelago

While not quite the police state that the Jovians enjoy, the Consortium wields a much less overtly restrictive hand when it comes to social control, though it is no stranger to exercising iron-fisted control when the situation calls for it. Most security in the Consortium is handled by private hypercorp forces. Direct Action and Gorgon—and their numerous subsidiaries—are both prominent here, but are far from the only ones. All security forces are answerable both to Oversight and the Hypercorp Council, though most matters are handled according to local habitat legalities. Consortium habitats are also held under the military protection of Direct Action and other Council-hired private military contractors.
The egocasting and body bank facilities on Consortium habitats are also typically operated by contracted service providers, though all such groups are subject to Oversight scrutiny and are required to share specific data. Visitors who legally egocast in are scanned and approved by security forces before transfer to the body bank facility or being released as an infomorph. If necessary, inbound egos are copied into a simulspace interrogation loop before their access is approved.
Persons caught violating any of the myriad of laws in the Consortium are usually stripped of their morphs and placed in accelerated-time simulspace or dead storage for the duration of their sentence. Once they've paid their debt to society in simulspace they are usually consigned to indentured bondage in order to build up the credit to pay off any fines (often severe) and reacquire a morph. In the Consortium, convicted criminals are sometimes denied biomorph resleeving privileges and must settle for living in a synth or a case. This has the happy (to the Consortium) benefit of inspiring most criminals to try and leave the Consortium or at least seek out less controlled areas such as Mars

Relations with Other Organizations

The Consortium is not the only big fish in the pond; knowing their allies and enemies will help you under-stand how to deal with everybody in the playground.

Firewall

While it often seems that the most vocal Firewall agents hail from the outer system, Firewall agents are drawn from every faction of transhumanity. Firewall’s ranks include a number of people originating from or embedded in the Consortium, each sharing the common goal of protecting the shattered remnants of transhumanity.
Officially, the Consortium denies that Firewall exists. Unofficially, an agent who is captured and identified can expect harsh treatment at the hands of Oversight and may possibly be turned over to Project Ozma and effectively disappeared. Though Firewall and the Consortium may share the same tactical goals in a given situation, our strategic goals are very often conflicting. Firewall has at times been able to use the competing agendas of different hypercorps and agencies within the Consortium to its advantage.

Autonomist Alliance

The ideologies and culture of the outer system autonomists represent a direct challenge—some might say a threat—to the core of hypercapitalism. The Consortium is well aware of this, and thus considers the future outcome of this conflict a critical affair. For now, their primary focus is on limiting the spread of the autonomists while expanding the Consortium’s presence into the autonomist sphere of influence. While Oversight works hard to ensure that no autonomist cancers take root within the inner system, the Council pursues a plan of military buildup in the outer system, targeted probing and destabilization of autonomist strongholds and networks, and heavy-handed economic sanctions imposed on supposedly neutral third parties that have yet to come down hard on the Consortium’s side.

Anarchists and Scum

The Consortium doesn't care much for the anarchist autonomist factions. They at best tolerate the groups of scum that travel between their habitats, but many in the Consortium take petty delight in causing the scum minor inconveniences, though the scum often find ways of turning the Consortium’s interference and tricks against them. Ultimately the Consortium finds the anarchist ideology so at odds with its own beliefs, that it seems unable to believe their system of organization will survive long without collapsing. In the meantime, they do what they can to push them closer to that edge, awaiting the day they will swoop in and take over. Without law and order there is no marketplace and trade, without trade there is no civilization, without civilization transhumanity may as well give up on the future. The Consortium is most concerned, however, with the anarchists who promote direct action and resistance to hypercapitalism, and who actively organize to sabotage Consortium projects and foster rebellion. In response, the Consortium decries anarchists in general for supporting terrorism, listing several outer system anarchist groups on their terrorism watch list.

Extropians

The relationship between the Consortium and the Extropians is especially interesting. Many hyperelites and Extropians share core beliefs when it comes to ideas about free markets and opposing regulation and government interference, and some hypercorp leaders are not unsympathetic to anarcho-capitalist positions. The majority, however, think the Extropians are naive and will learn to toe the line one day. Though Extropian corps are allowed to operate in the Consortium just like any other, they are wary about Extropian ties to other autonomists. They are particularly opposed to the smaller anti-capitalist mutualist Extropian positions.

Titanian Commonwealth

Publicly, the Consortium portrays itself as the pre-eminent power in the system, magnanimously collaborating with other blocs—including the Commonwealth—for the betterment of transhumanity. Privately, Consortium military and political analysts cite Titan as the main impediment to Consortium expansion in the outer system. Titanian intervention in the Locus conflict was widely seen as the decisive factor in Locus remaining independent—ironic, given the anarchists put up a stiff resistance all on their own. The Consortium mentality, however, has an easier time identifying a large, unified force such as Titan as an enemy than a seemingly fractious movement like the anarchists.
Titan’s successful democratization of the flow of capital and the zealous commitment of its citizens to this model, combined with its military strength, make it both an ideological and a strategic threat. The Consortium’s approach so far has been to attempt containment and isolation. Experia and other media hypercorps wage memetic warfare, distributing media that portrays the Commonwealth as an expansionist entity seeking hegemony in the Saturnian system and beyond. Oversight employs agents provocateur outsystem, tasked with sowing ill will between the anarchists and their technosocialist neighbors. On the diplomatic front, overtures toward the Jovians are in part intended to pave the way for future joint military action against Titan. For their part, the Titanians have not taken this lying down, bolstering their physical defenses, extending offers of mutual defense to major anarchist habs (and even in some cases influential individuals), and engaging in some memetic warfare of their own by promoting technosocialist memes within the Barsoomian movement.

Jovian Republic

Every playground has a bully, and the Jovian Republic is ours. Ideologically the Republic and Consortium are often at odds, though they both consider the Autonomist Alliance the larger threat. Currently a sort of détente exists between the two blocs, with a limited amount of trade and interaction occurring between them. The Republic is very strict about visitors from the Consortium, heavily censors transmissions and mesh traffic, and has outright banned certain hypercorps. Most of the ongoing trade involves military hardware and mining resources.

Lunar-Lagrange Alliance

The Consortium considers this old alliance to be a fading dinosaur, but it is still a major thorn in their side. They await the day it will collapse under its own internal contradictions and they can sweep up the useful pieces. Already dozens of LLA habitats have switched allegiance to the Consortium since the Fall. The LLA has proved remarkably tenacious, and Consortium attempts to undermine public nostalgia for Earth have met with greater opposition than expected. Memetic conflict over the new Martian homeworld and the reclaimer ideology continues unabated. One significant advantage the LLA lacks, however, is direct access to any Pandora Gates.

Morningstar Constellation

How much of a threat the Morningstar Constellation is depends very much on your point of view. Many of the powers within the Consortium believe that Morningstar will eventually see the error of their ways and seek permission to rejoin the Consortium, especially as the Consortium increases its dominance of inner system markets. Others view this as a terrible mistake, recognizing that with each day the Constellation grows more stable and slips further from Consortium influence. Though the Consortium is quite displeased with losing control of the Venusian terraforming plans, a vocal minority in the Consortium have proposed letting Morningstar do most of the hard work and laying the foundation to topple them when the time is ripe.
Morningstar's program of recruiting indentures away from the Consortium has also ruffled many feathers, inspiring some gerontocrats to push for more aggressive sanctions against the upstart bloc. Perhaps most dangerous to the Consortium agenda is the “free thinkers” reputation Morningstar is acquiring, a meme that provides the Venusians a good moral platform to oppose the Consortium agenda and destroy customer confidence in the future they are trying to sell. Recent attempts to undercut Morningstar's stability by flooding nearby markets with cheaper and higher-quality goods, made possible by the the Consortium’s superior economies of scale, have been showing some positive results.

Tharsis League

The Consortium and Tharsis League seem to be perpetually quibbling, though most of the difficulties can be summed up in the form of management/worker relationships. To the majority of the Consortium, the League is a collection of hicks, Barsoomians, autonomist sympathizers, and assorted annoyances that just need to be appeased so they can get on with the job of terraforming the planet. The Consortium tries to restrain itself from invoking any measures that might be too repressive, not wanting to further seed rebellion and knowing that any atrocities might bring recent tensions to a boil. On the League’s side, many are critical of the body for being too supportive of Consortium interests and prioritizing the hypercorps over the people of Mars. On the other hand, there are more and more people who see the League as “the voice of the people” and there is a growing movement within the League that is against Consortium governance and hypercorp interests altogether. The hydra-headed nature of the League makes it hard for the Consortium to apply definitive control, as there are so many voices and no clear leader. So while the League is not a specific threat, it ties up a disproportionate amount of resources to get a definite effect. However, several leaders do control large enough groups of the people that they can be useful tools to keep the populace in line if handled correctly. Adding fuel to the fire are Oversight reports that place Titanian arms and cornucopia machines at the sites of several recent raids.

The Factors

The alien nature of the Factors seems to make even the Consortium uncertain of how to proceed. “Caution” seems to be the buzzword in all Factor affairs, at least until the Consortium can get more of a grip on whether to consider them friend or foe. In the meantime, Oversight and various hypercorp concerns do everything they can to compile data on the Factors and suss out what they can about their technologies, capabilities, and motivations. Most importantly, the Consortium is interested in what the Factors know— about the TITANs, the exsurgent virus, the Pandora Gates, the Iktomi, other alien species, and any other threats or surprises that await us. The Factors are very good at avoiding questions, however, most likely because they are also still evaluating transhumanity and determining what they can charge us for sharing their secrets. Though the Consortium has had the most direct contact with the Factors of any power bloc, they are increasingly dismayed by the Factors’ willingness to dismiss their assumed authority and deal with others directly (including individual hypercorps). Of particular concern are the repeated lectures the Consortium receives for making use of the Martian Gate and an indication that the Factors are favoring relations with the LLA more strongly as a result.

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