Project CINDER

This article exists in the context of the Astral Era, after Sphaeran civilization's ascendancy to the interstellar level. Before approximately 3000 SR, Sphaeran civilization would not have known this information.
The Convergent Intelligence Directed Evolution Research Project, or simply Project CINDER, was an extremely long-duration experimental superprogram which shaped the early biodiversity of the planet Sphaera until its unscheduled, premature termination by the Collapse in Sphaeran Geohistorical Year Zero. Orchestrated by an interstellar scientific consortium of harpies and karura, it was proposed during the terraformation of Sphaera as a "master plan" of sorts for the planet's future biological history. To call CINDER "ambitious" would be a criminal understatement; the project's scope and scale were unprecedented for a biological experiment at the time, with detailed plans to steadily steer over 20 separate evolutionary paths toward recognizable sapience over the course of roughly two million Sphaeran years. When the inhabitants of Sphaera made contact with Sol millennia later, proponents of CINDER argued that the experiment had served its purpose after all, albeit differently than its creators had envisioned, and was invaluable to sophontology.


For millions of years prior, the academic side of Venusian civilization had struggled to understand the driving forces behind the evolution of sapience in organic life. Project CINDER was intended to provide revolutionary insights into this biological mystery by subtly manipulating the environments of certain candidate species to theoretically guide each to the eventual capacity to realize and understand their own origins. Sparked by the discovery of ancestral humans (Homo erectus) on the ancient harpiian homeworld of Earth, these primitive hominids were used as the control species on Sphaera, allowed to more or less freely roam the planet without interference.

Candidate Series

Series One


Series Two


Series Three


Series Four

The Collapse interrupted the guided development of Series Four, leading to delays in technocultural development.
* denotes closely related offshoot species which are nonsapient, but highly intelligent otherwise.

Project History



The first half-million years of the project proceeded as planned, and the preliminary results were slowly obtained but already foreshadowed a paradigm shift in Venusian civilization's understanding of sapience and its drivers. The control, humans, developed in uncanny parallel to their counterparts on Earth. The first series of candidate species --the ancestors of merfolk, tengu, gryndulos, kobolds, and umibozu-- evolved more or less as expected, but the following series took on a number of unusual adaptations and unexpected evolutionary pathways. In the millennia leading up to the Reverent Conquest, CINDER began to support a limited number of genetic engineering offshoots. These included an attempt to create a biological terror weapon; the descendants of which are chupacabras.


After the angels' destruction of Venusian civilization on Sphaera, the survivors were unable to maintain the grand infrastructure of Project CINDER and were forced to let the once meticulously controlled environmental conditions on the planet to fall into natural patterns. While the harpies and karura technoculturally regressed into a sort of Bronze Age, the former subjects of CINDER's unfathomable experiment began to interact with one another at last, adapting to both changing climate and new neighbors in an unsupervised parody of the program they had ancestrally been confined by. However, the products of CINDER's engineering offshoots were also allowed to run wild, violently upsetting Sphaera's tenuous biodiversity and ecological balance before settling into new niches unique to this planet alone.


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