This is a W.I.P. that expands upon the criteria for AoI stories.
Welcome to another primer, summary, or overview on the Association of Ishtar multiverse. In this blog, we'll be discussing topics on Rifts, protocols, responsible organizations, and what role the Association has to play in formulating strategies. It's not what many people think.
A Rift is a portal, or gateway, to another Plane located in an interconnected network of alternate worlds known as the Multiverse. Most discovered worlds might have one or two such Rifts. Atlas, however, is unique as it has hundreds of Rifts. Why or how Rifts are created is a mystery. Regardless, new ones appear every year on Atlas. And so far, there is nothing the Association, or anyone else, can do about it. The only option, like with any other force of nature, is to accept things will eventually go horribly, horribly wrong. Therefore Rift containment procedures are focusing on mitigating as much damage as possible.
Contrary to common belief, the Association does not have an armed fighting force... On paper at least. Rifts are contained by the local authorities, such as police, militia, or army, that fall under the portfolio of their respective ministers. In other words, every empire, country, region, or town has its own way of doing things.
The Association advises in the formulation of containment procedures and checks to see if these are upheld. These measures can range from barbed wire and a Go-Away sign to full military installations.
In case of the suspicion of foul play, the Associate is at liberty to start an investigation and intervene accordingly. This can result in an angry letter to the Regulatory Board of Rift Related Activity, commonly known as RA, to a cart full of body bags.
RA, The Regulatory Board of Rift Related Activity
RA is an international board responsible for overseeing all parties involved in Rift Related Activity. The definition of what is Rift Related Activity is ambiguous, but usually, it refers to any events and business related to Rifts. This includes containment, crime, and exploration.
They are also the only organization that holds some level of authority over the Association.
The board is the first place where organizations can inquire about any information on Rift Related Activity. If the board's regulators don't have it on record, the board turns to the Association for information and potentially requests an Associate to be dispatched to the troubled area. The Associate will then assist in formulating a containment plan, by performing an investigation into the Rift and related anomalies. This investigation might take days but could take years. In the latter case, the Association might assign a coordinator who, well... Coordinates the investigation.
In priority Containment-cases, RA might take responsibility on behave of the local government. For example, when the local authorities can't deliver the number of resources required, or when special technology is required that can't be entrusted to third parties.
Before formulating any procedures, the Associates investigate the Rift. This often means locating and traversing the Rift in question. Once on the 'other side' they assess the local environment and identify potential threats if any. The majority of Rifts are rather innocent. Either these worlds lack intelligent lifeforms- if any life at all - or are in such remote places the chance for anything to enter is close to nill.
More often the issue isn't the prevailing fauna. There are biological considerations, such as disease and other biological hazards, bad atmosphere, or anomalies. Then there is another, unseen threat. Ideas. Due to a phenomenon designated P-05, or travelers disease, any non-native objects or lifeforms to Atlas are destroyed within a period of 40 days. For the security of Atlas, this is a good thing. But ideas. You can't kill an idea.
In case of an inhabited world is discovered, The Association tries to ascertain if any innovations or ideologies could form a threat to Atlas. You have to understand that the Association doesn't go out there to "Boldly go where no man has gone before and explore new worlds". If anything, their job is to secure Atlas' prevailing status quo as it is fragile enough as is.
Time for a history lesson...
You see, the reason why the international community if you can call it that, allows to be lectured by the Association is self-interest. Napoleon taught the great powers what could happen if one empire acquired more technology through Rift Travel than others. Rifts aren't just gateways to other worlds, they are the keys to power. Controlling the Rifts didn't just mean you had a wellspring of knowledge. You denied access to all foreign powers.
When the Napoleonic Wars were over, empires became paranoid that their rivals were exploring other Rifts. Expeditions were organized. Land grabs were considered. It was a whole new perception on the world stage in which nations didn't seek access to fertile land and resources, but to anomalies that could fit in a person's front yard.
To put an end to the paranoia it was decided no one should be allowed access. An acceptable solution. A committee would be set up to oversee these agreements. But this plan might have had a carrot, it lacked a stick.
Enter the Association...
It's unclear how the Association became involved. Some believe they are a rouge spy organization created by the allies during the Napoleonic Wars. Others believe this secret society has always existed, waiting for the Rifts to reappear after millennia of absence.
What is certain some strangers started wasting officials involved in clandestine activities, commonly known as Sliding. In some cases, officials accused of being involved with Sliding would be assassinated publicly with unidentified weaponry. Diplomats opposing the formation of RA also received threats from individuals singing the letters with a single number.
What led to the Associates revealing themselves is unknown. Some say the Association was forced to cooperate with RA to counter some undisclosed threat. Others assume that RA simply formalized the prevailing system of Associates of wasting Sliders, collaborators, and corrupt officials.
Nowadays, RA simply keeps them in check and acts as a mediator between the Association and other organizations such as the Airborne Dragoons and the International Penal Legion. Speaking of which...
Most regular police and army organizations can deal with physical threats and typical Sliders. In some cases, however, they need special assistance to counter Outsiders.
The most respected of these are the Dragoons. An international formation of the world's best soldiers, equipped with state of the art weapons illegal to other regular armies at this time. They use classified airships knowns as Nimrods for rapid deployment force during small-scale operations or to intervene in emergencies. A force to be reckoned with but limited in scale. They are often used to assist Associates when taking on Slider Gangs or cult-like groups. In rare cases, they join Associates as they traverse the Rifts to take out high-priority targets on the other side.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the International Penal Legions. Prisoners send out to the American colonies get on the opportunity to join these formations for a suspension of their sentence and some wages so they can integrate into society. Unlike the Dragoons, these guys are cannon fodder, used to ascertain a large Outsiders' abilities or the scout anomalous areas ahead of the regular troops. Alternatively, they have deployed to execute the so-called Campary Protocol. A quarantine procedure that is enacted in severe cases to ensure nothing escapes an anomalous area such as a Void Breach. And with nothing, I mean nothing... Essentially, the penal troops are asked to commit war crimes so the regular troops don't have to stain their hands.
Supporting these poorly equipped penal troops are the CB's. Chassis d'Bataille or Battle Frame. These quadrupedal machines carry a variety of heavy weapons that can make short work of swarms or larger Outsiders.
They are not as mobile however and are moved around on trains that also serve as their prisons. To ensure discipline and discourage armed prisoners from getting any ideas, all these troops are fitted with bomb collars, lovingly called Dry Guillotines.
Apart from the official organizations, there are private contracts of questionable legalities, such as the Knight of Avalon. Yeah, that's what they call themselves. Knights who use self-propelled armored suits to destroy Outsiders in dangerous environments. They recently made their debut. And with the help of Ütter-Krapp's PR department, they became something of a hit with the public... Oh, dear. We have to discuss U-K, don't we?
Many entrepreneurs have tried making a fortune using Outside knowledge to create unique products. But Ü-K invented it. They actually own several Rifts. Yes. Own. They purchased the ground on which the anomalies have formed, and because nobody was aware of their existence this was perfectly legal. By the time Ü-K's business model was uncovered, it was already too late. Despite this, Ü-K is now held accountable for any trouble these Rifts might cause. That is why they helped the Knights of Avalon during their founding, but that is a whole other story.
suffice to say the Association regularly comes by Ü-K's property to check if the company is sticking to the rules.
And we leave it at that for this entry. More to come at a later date. So, please leave your questions and comments below so we can add this to our Q&A.
Want a proper introduction to the Association to check out The Wrench in the Machine on Amazon. our first published novel in the series that serves as an introduction to the multiverse of AoI. Or order the e-book or signed copies through our store.
(please leave your questions in the comments)