As the buzz grows around the Association of Ishtar people are asking me what the 'Rules' are for submitting Case Files. To get across my intention, I've included the history of the series up to this point.
The first story added by an author other than myself is Mark Brandon's Plane 2: the Dark Rift. And here is too many more :)
The idea for AoI came from various sources. Since I started with Steampunk I wanted to do something with case files. The fun thing about such stories is that, not only do they explore the universe, they are items that actually exist in the setting. They can be used as actual props in your Roleplays or stories.
Then I created the Steampunk Beginners Guide and people started to ask me questions about writing characters and world-building. Yet, at this point, I had not made any serious attempt at writing. Then I discovered the SCP Foundation, and things started to fall into place. I Multiverse that consisted of various Steampunk-inspired worlds that were to be explored by a group of explorers named, The Association of Ishtar.
The Call Girl is Calling
Finally, I started my first serious story. S-36: The Call Girl.
I was considering writing stories about an organization discovering all manners of anomalies and technologies that could be connected to the themes of Steampunk and Cosmic Horror. Like Starfleet away teams doing Indiana jones and X-files. I also wanted to pay tribute to the genre that got me into Steampunk in the first place. Cyberpunk.
Still, I had no idea what this organization was like.
How they operated, communicated, the levels of technology. Ect. All of this I needed to work out.
Then, I had an idea inspired by number stations, like the now-defunct 'Lincoln Poacher', from my time that I and a friend were operating a HAM radio system. Now, I was going to bring these ideas together in a story about an antagonist that would contact its victims by radio and recite numbers. But why? I also wanted to place my world in 1870 during which wireless telegraphy was in its infancy, such that technology needed to be advanced as well.
That is how I go through the world-building process. Start with a central question and while working out the solutions I formulate sub-questions.
So, this needed to be a world that had more advanced communications. That already made it Steampunk by my definition.
Then the numbers recited across the ether. Those would become the designations of the Associates in question. Ergo you get Associates 8, Associate 54, etc... To get that point across she decorated herself with number-tattoos to cross off like a notch on a gun handle whenever she mauled another Associate. I thought it would also make a neat Cosplay concept. It also indicated she had it out for the Associates in particular. There was a mystery there.
The Exploration Begins
One of my main disappointments in Steampunk is the overuse of fantasy tropes in what was originally science fiction. What I liked about science fiction was its humanity. Normal humans being trapped in unlikely scenarios. After all, nothing would stand out to POV characters if the fantastical is mundane. If dragon sightings are as common as trains, why bother to describe these in a journal.
Therefore the home dimension of the Association needed to be 'as mundane as possible. And because I think history is an important subject, and want those details to be correct and the deviations in the timeline explainable.
This setting's Earth, code-named Atlas or 'Plane 0', is set in the second half of the 19th century. Since the 1810's strange anomalies have started to manifest; anomalies called Rifts. These are mysterious anomalies that allow travelers to parallel worlds or realities.
But travel is not without risks. One major issue is a phenomenon designated P-05, aka Traveler's Decease (along with other names). This strange affliction destroys everything that is absent from its Plane of Origin within 40 days.
Originally, it was intended to prevent various shenanigans like, why don't people just start conquering or prospecting other worlds. But in the Lore, this phenomenon has become a motor focus of a lot of research, protocols, and even biology.
This of course also prevents anyone from any devices from one world to another. However, due to the knowledge and ideas that flooded into this 1870's world, consumer technology on Atlas has advanced to about the 1920s. This progress has mainly been guided by a company with a headquarters in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, called Utter-Krapp. A company that revolutionized radio, news broadcasting, and entertainment. Using its monopoly it quickly moved into other industrial sectors.
The Association quickly discovered U-K used the RIfts to acquire outside knowledge and reverse-engineered technology.
The same Rift allowed various factions to acquire far more advanced technologies. These, however, are regulated, and it's one of the jobs of the Association to identify any individuals dealing or carrying such items. So, who knows these Rifts and technologies exist? That brings us to ...
Rifts are one of those facts in life. You know these exist, just like vault lines. You know it could go wrong. But bad things happen. Going into traffic each morning is still more likely to kill you. What's so special about those Rifts anyway? Just don't go near them.
That would some up some of the attitudes towards Rifts. Just one of those discoveries of the 19th century like the Rosetta Stone. Of course, the authorities and media are rather tight-lipped about it.
Those eccentrics who are mindful of the rifts and their implications... Well, their eccentrics for a reason. If anything they are a deterrent for anyone thinking of starting an academic carrier studying the phenomenon. They have all manner of fancy stories on how the Rifts were once the center of forgotten civilizations or the cause of their downfall. But there are no certainties. Not to mention all the New Age societies and other cults trying to link their claims with beings from other Planes. And then there are groups like Invictus or The Lions of Juda who believe the Other Worlds are an existential threat. They are not wrong, but so are vulcanos.
The point is the public is only aware of the headline version of Rifts. As long they are not living near them it's another person's problem.
When one asks around in the seedy bars of Hong Kong or New York underworld, another picture emerges. Every triad or gangster probably knows somebody who once obtained an item from another world and, if you accept the high stakes, there is a lot of money to be made. Hell, you might be rewarded with a vacation to another world. But the more cautious of them will also warn you not the get involved. Your employer might actually be an Outsider.
Finally, the governments. Most leaders treat the true nature of the Rifts as a public secret. The information is treated as need to know, and some governments created special intervention units to deal with any Outsiders who are often supported by an Associate of Ishtar serving as advisers. However, everyone dealing with an Associate should know that the Association has its own prerogatives. It's not unheard of that Associates turn against their 'clients when they consider their actions to go against the Association's objectives. The best example is probably the conflict between The Association and The Committee of Rift Related Activity concerning case P-25.
Yes, the Committee of Rift Related Activity. Better known, as RA. In the creation of the international organization involved a lot of politics, but they have a few principle functions. To monitor the growing problem of Rifts, and to ensure no nation is trying to use Outsider technology without permission. RA put a break on weapons technology for one, ensuring the fragile balance of power in the world to be maintained.
RA's regulators also monitor the Associates and judge their actions accordingly. However, the Association accepts the authority of RA only because it was agreed by treaty between the two organizations.
Outsider is the general designation in correspondence of any being, self-ware or otherwise, from other Planes. These are subdivided for practical purposes in P-10, a case file that stipulates the dreaded Campari Protocol. This classification was originally created by Special Committee Entomologists.
Type-I: Mundane creatures in all ways, but appearance. Their behavior is generally typical of animals, mostly omnivores.
Type-II: Non-sentient creatures that show extraordinary, poorly understood, abilities unknown to early flora and fauna. This includes abilities such as near invisibility, limited teleportation, unusual methods of flight, mental abilities meant to stun or confuse other creatures including humans, and most concerning of all, shapeshifting.
Type-III: Sentient creatures capable of advanced problem solving and sometimes the ability to communicate with humans. It is one of the Entomologists' secondary objectives to obtain a life Type-III for interrogation or study.
Type-IV refers to creatures or manifestations that pose an extraordinary threat due to their abilities or size. In case a Type-IV appears, protocol dictates that all other objectives become secondary to the neutralization of this threat. In case all conventional methods fail, The Campari-Bitter protocol dictates to engage with whatever means are available at that time."
How the Association interacts with Outsiders depends on the Associate and situation. But if possible they will try to interrogate if possible to learn their motives.
Case File Designations
Here is a short descriptor of what the file designations mean
Construct: Designated with 'C' are machines or other (man-made) objects. When it comes to
machines with free will and intelligence, there is an ongoing debate about what makes such an 'individual a subject or a Construct.
Subject: Designated with 'S' are individuals, people, or beings of a biological nature, and/or intelligence, that interact with the multiverse. Not every outsider or alien being gets classified in this way. Many Outsiders emerge on Atlas by accident, either by wandering into a Rift or due to P-10 events. But there are creatures that evolved in the Multiverse itself. Then there are humans and other intelligent beings actively seeking out the rifts to meddle with or terrorize the population of Atlas.
Phenomenon: Designated with "P" are any events, anomalies, or occurrences that do not fit any of the other designations.
Plane: Designated as Plane refers to other (parallel) worlds or realities, that have been observed behind the Rifts.
Visiting other Planes
From a creative perspective, when Associates are visiting 'other worlds' they are akin to the away-teams from Star Trek visiting pre-warp civilizations. Most people are not aware of the multiverse and, from their perspective, the Associates are pretty much Inter-dimensional beings. Creatures for urban legends, like the Man in Black or Roswell aliens.
Sometimes Associates refer to other Plane using the following classification scale. This usually refers to the technological achievements of the most dominant culture they encountered during their explorations. It doesn't mean that all societies or social groups are as technologically developed or less so.
Tier 1: Hunter-gatherer Societies Tier II: Pre-industrial agricultural societies (Pre-1750) Tier III: Industrial societies akin to that of Atlas (1750-1950) Tier IV: Post-Industrial or Futuristic societies with satellites (1950-to our present) Tier V: Space Age Tier VI: Mostly hypothetical classification.
This should cover the basics. Of course, there is more lore, like history, factions, characters. And the more authors start to participate, things might contradict each other. But humans are flawed creatures and the record of events and their interpretations will differ. So, we don't mind people taking some liberties.
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