This article contains major spoilers for several plotlines within the Manifold Sky setting, including the Garbage Man Arc, the truth or falsity of various major religions, the nature of the Glass-Block Fortress, and other unexplored aspects of world's cosmology. If you would rather read about these in future stories or experience them through role-playing game modules, turn back now. You have been warned!Enter Oxo
Oxo is a volume of Unallocated Space - technically in what the residents of the Manifold would call the Celestial Realms - which serves as a sort of 'staging ground' for the the control and maintenance of the Manifold Sky Instance.
HistoryDuring the Curved Time, the White-Haired Gentleman (actually the Creator) brought his idea for a five-dimensional instance before the Committee on Instance Design Standards (ComInDs) - a Substrate-based gathering of elder and choir blanks convened to provide advice and commentary on the subject of instance creation. As variously the father or sponsor of all committee members, the Gentleman's proposal was lauded for it's creativity but ultimately deemed infeasable for the greater needs of the Substrate - namely, to continue the work of finding viable living conditions for sentient life in preparation for the (still distant) heat death of the original True Instance (the physical universe out of which The White-Haired Man was born). The Gentleman agreed with this assessment - and, for a long time, Oxo was built and tinkered with solely as an outlet for the Gentleman's own creative interests.
While the Gentleman was enraged at the wickedness, arrogance, and lust for power that the cultists had manifested during their time active in the Candledusk Instance, he was not inclined to destroy their blanks. In his mind, eradicating their blanks - and thereby subjecting them to true death - for those sins which were above their mortal understanding would be akin to punishing a child by throwing it off a cliff. Still, he reasoned, their sins cried out for punishment, and there were other instances where similar doings had been uncovered by Substrate agents. This situation called for the construction of some kind of holding area, a place where a blank could be placed in a cycle separate from the others so that, over time, these rebellious blanks could be softened and given a chance to redeem themselves.
On January 1st, 1987 in the Candledusk Instance, a group of elder blanks - then embodied as high schoolers in Kit's Crater, Nevada - defeated a cult known as the Golden Cloister operating within that instance. While most of the members of the cult were 'instance' blanks - meaning that the had been created within the instance and, therefore, did not represent a threat to the Substrate as a whole - they had successfully discovered a way to break the physics of their world by tapping into the power of the 'Word': the 'language' of creation itself. This knowledge made the cult profoundly dangerous on the level of instances, as the corruption of an instance and blanks by unrestrained use of the Word had the power to cause true death: a state in which the victims are unable to return to the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Unbeknownst to the Gentleman and the Substrate as a whole at that time, this was the first case of Broken Eternity destructively meddling in the affairs of mortals. Worse, because the cult's knowledge of metaphysics was incomplete, even the ones which still possessed a shred of conscience left would only discover their terrible misdeeds upon death - too late to make amends or turn their fellows back from destruction.
The White-Haired Gentleman, to Angela Foxglove, as she begged for Feumont Atsuhi to be spared on Judgement Day
The House of the Unexpected - actually a group of trusted elders and choirs - were instated as wardens for the Manifold, with the Gentleman providing beautiful accomodations in Oxo as incentives for the unenviable position. On the subjective final day of curved time, the rebellious blanks from several instances, including Candledusk (Humans), Generica (Verdials and the Slopes of Tetra (Rostrans and Ovinex) were taken from their own instances' Waiting Rooms and transferred to the Oxo Waiting Room for processing. It was here that these soon-incarcerated souls had their worldly memories stripped and their new 'homelands' chosen, an event dimly recollected in the oral traditions of the Unnamed Ovinex Religion. Fleeting memories of this time, missed in the wiping process, also propelled the House of the Unexpected and the Gentleman himself (in the form of the Creator in Forgism and Knapper of Spirits in Knappism.) into the religious legendry of the Manifold. The White-Haired Gentleman spoke the Word, uttering the Manifold Sky - Oxo's fully-fledged sister realm - into being with a booming voice. And so it came to pass that the first day turned on the first denizens of the Manifold.
Stylite, hmm? I have you down for an 11:30 with the House. I wouldn't worry yourself, sir, but that isn't for me to discuss. They say patience is a virtue - and you, well... Would you like a magazine while you wait?" Ms. Anubet, on greeting a new visitor to the Waiting Room.
Fortunately, the White-Haired Gentleman had been working on just such a place: Oxo, also known as Nullscape, the Null Manifold, and (later) the Manifold Beta or Breadboard Manifold. Still, while Oxo was habitable for blanks like himself, it was not habitable for living beings; the life-systems were primitive and sparse, pre-existing architecture and activity would hedge out any new sentient species in the wilds, and so forth. Instead, Oxo would serve as a model for the new instance, a back-up in case something went wrong during construction, and a place from which administrators could observe and manipulate mortal events without revealing themselves to the penitent mortals within. The new instance was to be dubbed the Manifold Sky, and its closed, disorienting design would serve to frustrate escape attempts. The Gentleman established the Manifold branch of The Waiting Room in Oxo to oversee the Manifold's closed cycle, with special reporting tools put in place so that blanks which demonstrated potential for change could be given trial and, perhaps, be allowed to leave the instance.
GeographyOxo has the same five-dimensional topology as the Manifold Sky instance. Many of the early terrain features of the Manifold were based on structures found in Oxo; this origin is the source of implausible terrain features such as the Eiquereus Craglands and the Rhombic Obliques. However, as Oxo was an experimental realm where natural forces (such as volcanism, circumvection and erosion) only operated at the whims of the White-Haired Gentleman, Oxo still possesses many features which would eventually be altered by these forces in the Manifold. Similarly, as Oxo serves as a sort of 'backup' for the Manifold, many aspects of Oxo have a curiously artifical quality to them, as though the place were some kind of museum or unfinished movie set. Colors appear flat or in stepped tones, lending many vistas a cel-shaded appearance. Various plant and animal species not found in the Manifold, namely those with an untenable Distal physiologies, those which were later rendered extinct, or even those which never 'made the cut' to appear in the Manfold in the first place, still reside within Oxo. Large swathes of the Oxo Dorsal Tesseract are entirely flat and devoid of life, these elements having been generated by the natural processes of the Manifold rather than any design. The deepest bounds of each cube feature planes of the featureless purple not-material of Unallocated Space, dilineating in physical material the exact center of the commissures' micro-gravity regions. Structures made of a similar material and vaguely reminiscent of the Sky Lattice exist in the inflection layers. The Oxo version of Medial A features the administration district where the House of the Unexpected reside, adjudicate matters in the Waiting Room, and hold court with visitors such as the White-Haired Gentleman himself. This city, known by the residents simply as the District, features anachronistic Grecko-Roman monumental architecture and vast terrestrial and aquatic gardens. A small population of Substrate volunteers and their families also reside within this city, serving as celestial advisors and functionaries. Occasionally, a Substrate agent (such as Voer Offur) is sent from the District to the Manifold in disguise as a mortal to collect data or affect small-scale changes; this is seen as prefferable to 'supernatural' actions which might draw mortal suspicion.
SignificanceThe Glass-Block Fortress was the site of an old inter-instance service bridge which allowed the Manifold to be checked for serious issues and, later, connected to other instances for population settlement; in a sense, it is the 'sprue' of creation. A similar structure exists in Oxo and serves the same purpose.
While The Garbage Man is aware that something is 'not right' about the Manifold and that the White-Haired Gentleman in his visions is responsible for humanity's imprisonment - a point of view reinforced by his extreme Forgist ideology - he does not know anything about Oxo itself.
Because The Garbage Man has some deeper insight into the nature of his reality, his intent is to use the Menger Catalyst with what appears to be green ontologite in order to 'blast' this bridge back open - possibly destroying the Manifold in the process - and 'besiege the seat of the gods themselves.' In truth, the substance he holds is a physical manifestation of the Word; being the language of reality of itself, compressed Word snippets appear to be a 'substance' when seen within an instance. The resemblance to green ontologite only exists because the universe of Ohm is parallel to the Matrioshka multiverse, allowing some memetic information to bleed across through various unseen connections.
- Unallocated Space - A void between instances; a space of chaotic probability which can be manipulated by the Word to create new instances.
- Instance - A type of multiverse or universe existing within Unallocated Space and which was created through the action of elder blanks, choir blanks, and the Creator (who often manifests as The White-Haired Gentleman).
- Substrate - A special administrative instance where the White-Haired Gentleman and his most trusted blanks reside.
- Blank - The 'spiritual essence' of a living being. Normally invisible to enbodied people when not also embodied, a blank appears to be a creature composed entirely of very thick, densely-woven white cloth animated by some sort of boneless internal musculature, similar to a jellyfish in human form. Blanks can exist freely as sentient beings, with the smartest and most experienced able to mimic a more humanoid form (including faces) than newer ones. Living, sentient beings are embodied blanks which (generally) retain no recollection of their time outside of the current instance. Upon death, a blank arrives at The Waiting Room and briefly regains this recollection when their deeds come under consideration by the House.
Lyvianne, Goddess of Misfortune in her choir blank form.
- Elder Blank/'Elder' - A blank which was brought into the Substrate by the White-Haired Gentleman himself at or near the time at which he created the Matrioshka multiverse itself.
- Choir Blank/'Choir' - 'Alien' blanks brought into the Substrate by the White-Haired Gentleman to serve as advisors or as a token of mutual respect.
- Instance Blank - A blank created wholly within an instance, generally as a result of mortal reproduction.
- Cycle - The cycle of reincarnation whereby instance blanks are shorn of their memories and are re-embodied into an instance. Blanks retain lessons learned from previous cycles only when not embodied. Those who develop the most are eligible to reside within the Substrate should they desire to do so. Vague recollections of the cycle are represented in most ancient Epicyclist faiths, including Rostran Esotericism, the Eyes of the Void and the Unnamed Ovinex Religion but not the Way of the Biocosm.
- The Word - A specialized language which, if used properly, can directly manipulate the parameters of Unallocated Space, an instance, or even blanks themselves. Percieved as 'magic' when witnessed by sentient beings within an instance. If improperly (or maliciously) used, the Word can cause irreparable damage to most targets on a metaphysical level, corrupting them beyond the capacity of even Substrate denizens to fix. Forma rot is, in truth, is such a metaphysical disease; it represents the gradual corruption of a blank as a result of unwary contact with the effects of the misuse of the Word, resulting in true death or the inability to return to the cycle of death and rebirth (see above) if left untreated.
0x0, Null Manifold, Nullscape, Manifold Beta, Breadboard Manifold
Characters in Location