The New Humanity
The New Humanity epoch was the period in which the radical libertarian/communitarian government known as the Autarchy controlled Eternity Station. The leader of the Autarchy, known as the New Human, maintained total anonymity as a semi-symbolic policy; it did not wish to be seen as representing the interests or worldview of any particular gender, race, or species on the Station. The Autarchy guaranteed citizens' rights to live by the code of laws and morality that they choose, and refused to interfere or intervene in any other way. This was a wild period in the Station's history, simultaneously cruel and bloody and highly productive. Millions of heretics, rebels, mutants, monsters, idealists, dreamers, atavists and outcasts flocked to the Station, drawn to the possibility of living by their own laws. Some created peaceful utopian communes, some carved out militaristic fiefdoms for themselves, some founded strange cults in the lowest reaches of the Station. The only thing maintaining any semblance of order was the sheriff corps; ideologically neutral lawmen existing to enforce each township's self-chosen laws, and the enigmatic, unseen presence of the New Human itself, known to wander through Eternity Station incognito.
The Autarchy values freedom, individuality and diversity above all else. It holds that no such things as universal truth or morality exist. Everyone should be guaranteed one single right: to live by the laws, traditions, ethical codes and religious beliefs they choose. After that, they're on their own for better or worse.
The Autarchy also believes that conflict, whether military or economic, is an inherent part of human nature. They believe that if conflict and danger were removed from the Station, humanity would soon lose its drive and vitality (part of the New Human's early work consisted of deliberately undoing a lot of the sensible and rational things that the Network had done to make the Station safer). A community that is not self-sufficient and that cannot guarantee its own security and liberty (whether through strength of arms or by being able to provide its neighbours with indispensable services) has no place in the New Humanity.
The Autarchy offers freedom but not security to Station citizens. In practise, this entails walking a precarious tightrope. Many of the Station's more violent communities place high status on strength and courage in battle, and launch raids on their neighbours and rob or kill travellers in their territory. The Autarchy tolerates this. The effect of this is generally that areas of the Station are taken up entirely with warlike, feuding communities, since more peaceful communities in these areas will quickly either be wiped out or disband and move elsewhere.
Sometimes, however, a warlike community goes beyond raids and invades a neighbouring town, subjugating its citizens. This is a violation of the New Humanity's charter, but the Autarchy will generally observe rather than act at this point. What generally happens is that the aggressor's neighbours will percieve the threat to themselves and unite against it, restoring the balance of power.
This does not always happen (sometimes because the aggressor has gained access to ancient technology or has powerful psychics to aid it). When a power has conquered three or more rivals, the Autarchy will step in. A roving sheriff or the New Human itself will ride into town and execute the leader or leaders of the nascent empire, and generally the sheriff who permitted things to go this far as well.
The sheriffs are recruited as children or teenagers, and then spend a decade in intensive training in one of the several fortified academies dotted around the Station. They are genetically modified and trained in advanced combat techniques as well as given intensive courses in arts subjects, particularly philosophy. The ideology that they grew up with is stripped from them in a series of brutal psychophilosophical classes. It is emphasised from their first day to their graduation that they are servants of the law, not justice ('There ain't no justice' is, in fact, the unofficial motto of the sheriff corps). A sheriff may end up enforcing the law of a community of racial supremacist slave-owners; a misandrist matriarchy in which males are castrated or a radical vegetarian society in which meat-eaters are flayed alive. In all cases, the sheriff must act as a neutral and non-partisan enforcer of the community's laws. They have the power to swear in any number of deputies -members of their community whom they consider competent and trustworthy, but ultimately the sheriff must stand alone.
The very best sheriffs are not given a commission at all. These are the roving sheriffs, sometimes known as solos. Many solos have become living legends. A solo goes where she wills and uses her powers as she sees fit. She is not bound to the laws of any particular community and answers to no one but the New Human itself. Some solos drift through the wartorn areas of the station, finding and assasinating would-be emperors and those who, in the solo's judgement, abuse their freedom beyond even the Autarchy's lenient standards (genocide and mind control are two of very few crimes that merit this punishment). Others explore the unknown reaches of the station, exploring its secrets and claiming its forgotten technologies so that they cannot be exploited by the enemies of freedom and the New Humanity. Solos vary a great deal in approach; some are enthusiastically interventionist while others almost never take action against a community unless no other alternative exists. In keeping with the New Humanity philosophy, no official doctrine exists on when or how a solo should act and the New Human makes no effort to establish a single standard for them.
Sheriffs are sometimes corrupted by power and set themselves as local warlords, or find themselves too weak to enforce the law in their community. In these cases, a solo will generally appear sooner or later and execute them, and act as sheriff until a replacement is appointed.
The Autarchy does have the power to raise militias in situations of emergency (generally if the Station is threatened by an outside power or if an unusually strong internal alliance or empire threatens the New Humanity's liberty). Pacifist communities are permitted to send medics, engineers or support staff rather than fighters but every community must support the war effort in some way. This is a mismatched fighting force riven with internal feuds that cannot hold together for long but the militias will fight fiercely in defence of their homes and liberty. No standing army exists and the militias cannot be used as a force for invasion outside the Station.
Not all communities of the New Humanity are violent. Some, most often located in the upper levels of the Station spire, are peaceful and technologically advanced societies. These are still in competition with each other, but economically and technologically rather than militarily. Migration between these communities is much more common than it is in the lower reaches, since the societies constantly try and lure away each other's talent.
As a result, science, philosophy and art flourishes on the Station. The exuberant spirit of the New Humanity means that even the most eccentric theorists are likely to be given a grant somewhere (often by some ambitious township gambling on discovering the next revolutionary genius) and the most avante garde artists find their work appreciated somewhere. On the lower levels, local strongmen often patronise artists and thinkers to glorify their reign with new discoveries and works of art. The 'anything goes' philosophy leads to many quacks and charlatans profiting but also high levels of innovation.
Society is also remarkably flexible. Anyone with enough charisma to attract followers can break away and form their own commune or township. Once they've demonstrated self-sufficency, they'll be permitted to draw up their own charter of laws and be assigned a sheriff by the Autarchy. Revolutions within established communities are not uncommon and, if successful, their leaders may alter or entirely rewrite their community's laws.
In this time in its history, Eternity Station is seen as the epicentre of a galactic Renaissance. Many struggling young artists and thinkers immigrate there by the thousands every year, each hoping to study there or make their own mark.
The waves of immigrants bring a hugely year influx of labour into the Station. The flexibility and basic ruthlessness of society allows those with ambition and vision to become very wealthy; through business on the upper levels, through raiding and looting down below. Although politically isolationist, the Station does a vast amount of trading with the outside world.
On the other hand, no community pays any taxes to the Autarchy (maintenance of a territory is entirely in the hands of its individual controllers). The New Human has a portfolio of investments and enterprises handled like that of any other citizen, with which it meets the cost of the Autarchy's primary expense: the training and maintenance of the sheriff corps.
The New Human and its solos drift across the Station, from the glittering spires of the upper reaches to the dark underbelly. They listen to rumours and tall tales in the way-stations and bars, they take reports from local sheriffs and they exchange news when they encounter each other. There is no body dedicated to gathering and sorting all of this information and there are no officially organised meetings (although often a pair or trio of solos patrolling overlapping territories will fall into the habit of informal meetings every year). As a result, information regarding internal affairs moves very slowly.
The New Human does have a habit of turning up in places where dramatic events are taking place, due to its own intuition and perhaps a subconscious precognitive ability. Notwithstanding, sometimes years can pass before news of a new threat to the Station reaches it. Due to the mystique of the New Human and the solos, this is often taken as an example of ominous, enigmatic forbearance rather than the reality: simple lack of resources and information.
The Station is officially neutral in all external conflicts and intrigues. In fact, it does not even maintain foreign embassies, since the Autarchy does not see itself as a representative of the Station's citizens in foreign affairs. However, it does have some knowledge of outside affairs, since numerous Station citizens own or invest in businesses elsewhere in the galaxy and so many immigrants come into the Station every year.
Eternity Station is regarded with hostility by many other galactic powers, since its standing offer to host all who wish sanctuary means that many foreign political dissidents and revolutionaries have taken shelter there. It has also been repeatedly infiltrated by foreign spies, posing as asylum-seekers themselves. The New Human is not blind to the dangers of the Autarchy's foreign policy, but it feels that to compromise either its neutrality or its offer of political sanctuary would be a betrayal of New Humanity ideals.
Despite its anonymity, the New Human is the subject of a thousand legends. It is held to be an unmatched gunslinger and martial artist, a genius-level scientist, a brilliant tactician and a ruthless corporate mogul. By no means all of this is true, but the New Human permits and encourages such stories to flourish. It wishes to set itself as an example of all that liberated humanity can be. Its solos and sheriffs are likewise paragons of the New Humanity. Some earn their respect through deadly combat skills, some through unrivalled knowledge of human psychology, some through the alien technology that they can call upon. Regardless, the sheriff of even the smallest lower level hamlet has to be able to demonstrate his authority and strength of character on a daily basis or he will quickly lose his life.