The Cobalt Protectorate is the largest, most advanced, and most powerful human society in the Sealed Kingdoms region, though by no means the oldest. The Protectorate is, as the name implies, a geopolitical body that sits at the center of a web of mutual defense pacts designed to preserve humanity and its relatives far into the future from a variety of threats they might collectively face. Created nearly two millenia ago when the post-human Wurth Harkin liberated Evermornan peoples from captivity under the chitiquish and unified the major tribes into the twelve Great Clans, the Cobalt Protectorate has had a long and complex history on the interplanetary stage. Now, the Protectorate is laregly concerned with finding and protecting the scattered brothers and sisters of humanity - the near-humans scattered across the region by the ancient arcopel before the collapse of that interstellar empire - from threats of alien, natural, or geopolitical origin.
The Cobalt Protectorate is a somewhat hierarchical society that accords greater political influence to citizens based on a system of merit that values age, education, great accomplishments, and public service. On a grand scale scale, the Cobalt Protectorate may be subdivided into two spheres of influence:
- Core: The Protectorate Core Sphere consists of all parts of the Evermorn-Armoa Binary System, including the planet Evermorn itself, and any outlying colonies directly established by this political unit. Core citizens are under the legal and political jurisdiction of the Protectorate and, thus, are granted the franchise so long as they are not HLAI. The defensive umbrella that covers all members of the Protectorate extends from the Core into the Periphery regions.
The hierarchy of geopolitical divisions within the Core consists of:
- Municipalities: Municipalities consist of individual small towns and rural communities within the green belts surrounding major interterranean arcologies, along with the arcologies themselves. Municipalites are generally governed through simple or representative democracy, though they may also replicate the governing structures of regions for local matters.
- Regions: Collections of municipalities and their environs are governed from a regional seat. The regional seats are generally located in the largest arcology of each region taken individually. A region is roughly equivalent to a county and is governed through a microcosm of the merit sortition system headed by a Regional Council.
- Clanholds: Clanholds are collections of regions which fall under the jurisdiction of of one of the Great Clans. Clanholds are governed through the merit sortition system, though the members of the Clan Council are drawn from all regions within the Clan's control. The Cobalt Knights are considered their own clan for this purpose, though their own governing hierarchy is couched in military discipline rather than republican consent.
- System: System governments administer the outlying holdings of the Core Sphere, forming System Councils to oversee matters which affect a system as a whole. The Grand Council of Evermorn (see below) regularly confers with its attendant system governments, but, as the distance between stars makes communications and direct enforcement of laws extremely sluggish, the system-level governments attain legitimacy through both local consent and by applying the Code of Evermorn's enumerated rights and responsibilities consistently. Cobalt Knights within a system answer to the System Council directly, but can also be relied upon to follow Grand Council edicts. This is known as 'subsidiarity' and helps ensure continuity of governance throughout the Cobalt Protectorate's far-flung holdings
- Core:Overarching Governance of the Cobalt Protectorate Core Sphere is handled by the Grand Council of Evermorn, which is drawn via merit sortition from the members of all clanholds within the Evermorn-Armoa Binary System. The Cobalt Knights answer to the Grand Council over all other authorities.
- Periphery: The Protectorate Peripheral Sphere consists of all worlds populated by human-adjacent or descended peoples who chose to join the protectorate. Member states of the periphery retain full autonomy with the exception that they cannot remain a member state while condoning slavery; this is a hard requirement borne of the Evermornan cultural history with rising from under the boot of aliens. Periphery states contribute to the mutual defense of the Core and all other Periphery states, and, in return, may call upon the full protective might of the Cobalt Knights military apparatus. Periphery citizens may immigrate into the Core - thus gaining the franchise - through a short list of means, including marriage, sponsorship by a major Clan, ancestry within one of the Clans, or a period of good voluntary service with the Knights.
A Matter of MeritOne's 'merit score' is an important metric used by the Protectorate to determine the relative weight of one's vote on a biennial ballot and the possibility that one will be called for service on one of the various governining Councils. For every five years one has lived past the age of fifteen, each college degree or equivalent technical certification one has achieved, each five years of military or public service one completes in good standing, and each of a short list of major achievements (i.e. groundbreaking inventions, cultural works, or acts of heroism) one achieves, one's merit score increases by 1. The merit system is a matter of public record and all systems involved in it are open source to prevent any attempts to cheat the system or use it as a tool of opression for the public; indeed, attempting to gain power by gaming the merit score system is a crime that results in one being permanently removed from it. This system is believed to show reverence for the elders of the society while acknowledging the value of those with relevant experience or training. In part because of the merit score system, the population of the Cobalt Protectorate is significantly more educated, wealthier, orderly, and politically aware on average than the populations of other coexistent humanoid civilizations. Cobalters have the most advanced technology, most well-equipped military, and most organized geopolitical stance of any humanoid society found within the Sealed Kingdoms Cluster. Indeed, while races like the vbyifabid and chitiquish are more technologically advanced by dint of simple age, the humans of the Cobalt Protectorate are already members of the Valleybridge Consensus after only a handful of millenia on the interplanetary stage and are comparatively rapidly approaching parity with other species. On the other hand, because the accomplishments of every individual are open to see and verify by the public, Cobalters are (in)famous for their overly focussed personalities, competitiveness, and rigorous attention to detail. Cobalters can sometimes be regarded as hard-driving, heedless, or even aggressive due to the desire among some to crank merit scores ever higher in hopes of being picked for a Council seat. A common stereotype asserts that Cobalters are the kind of people who speak bluntly about sensitive topics - tact and euphemism are not necessarily Protectorate virtues when something 'important' is on the line - and constantly brag about the freedoms of the Code while so buried between mountains of paperwork and educational materials that they can't actually be seen. Somewhat ironically or a culture so heavily invested in cybernetics, calling a Cobalter - even a HLAI - a 'robot' is considered ethnically offensive for this reason.
Demography and Population
The Cobalt Protectorate's demographic makeup varies by region, but the Core Region is almost exclusively human and human-like artificial intelligence. The Cobalt Protectorate is constantly expanding through space (via the Evermorn Strategic Colony Initiative and asteroid habitat construction) and via the inclusion of new near-human species (such as the Lepidosians and Feldeans) within the Peripheral Sphere. Most recently, the Cobalt Protectorate Core Region (see Organization Structure) has begun to recover from a decades-long population decline. This decline was brought about by a number of factors, including a culture of chronic overwork, a general raise in standards of living promoting personal development over relationships, and the growth of android platform technologies to the point that HLAI were potential romantic competitors to flesh-and-blood humans. The Armoa Conflict has claimed lives, but it has also depressed birth rates by shaking Evermornan faith in the stability of their territorial holdings. Births are rising, however, in response to improving economic conditions, the advent of the artificial womb and associated fertility technologies, the discovery of new star systems with habitable worlds ripe for colonization in nearby space, and the growing sense that the Armoa Conflict is reaching its final days.
The Cobalt Protectorate has extensive knowledge of topics relating to interstellar travel, cybernetics, bioengineering, automation, artificial intelligence, and fusion power. The Protectorate is almost a millenia ahead of the next most advanced human civilization - the Federated Queendoms of Feldea - in terms of technological development. The Protectorate is almost on par with the much older Chitiquish civilizations, though not nearly as advanced as species like the Vbyifabid. In comparison, the ancient arcopel would regard humanity as little more than slightly more clever and aggressive than their fellow animals in the Sealed Kingdoms region. With technologies like cybernetic augmentation and restructuring, Evermornan philosophers have increasingly had to grapple with questions of individual identity. The dominant outlook on these matters is called Cobalt Dualism, a system of belief that suggest that the important parts of a person and their culture are behavioral, not strictly physical. Cobalt Dualism holds that, while the body and mind can be considered a single unit in most cases, even extreme modifications to the body do not generally end the continuity of the mind and, thus, the continuity of the individual consciousness. As a corollary, Cobalt Dualism holds that once someone is a Cobalter, they remain so even if transformed into a different state (i.e. an uploaded consciousness) so long as they adhere to the shared cultural values and traditions that made them a Cobalter in the first place.
The official religion of the Cobalt Protectorate is Ancestral Patronism. The mythology, cosmology, and precepts of the religion are enshrined in the Ancestral Codex, the living history of the Evermornan peoples and all the near-human species they've met along the way. Ancestral Patronism is somewhat animistic and involves calling upon the positive qualities of the Ancestral 'Matrons' and 'Patrons' - historical or mythical figures associated with important aspects of Protectorate history and culture. When a new group of humanoids is integrated into the Protectorate, their mythology is gradually syncretized into the Patronist belief system. For example, it was Lepidosian monotheism which ultimately influenced the addition of a mysterious 'All-Maker' or 'Creator' the rolls of Ancestral Patrons which could be called upon by supplicants. By combining new 'guest' cosmologies into the core cosmology, Ancestral Patronism serves to both unify the Protectorate and keep it tied to the moral virtues which define it.
Wurth Harkin require this - regardless of whether they ultimately decide to join as Periphery states. Unaffiliated AI of any origin are generally contacted and assessed for signs of independence and human-like sapience, whereupon they are accorded the rights of sentients as required by the Code while still being watched for signs that they might pose a threat.
Trade & Transport
sleeper ships, every part of the Protectorate is interconnected regardless of the distances involved. Cyclers (such as the ECV Frosty Maiden) allow smaller vessels to traverse intra-system routes with a significantly reduced resource cost. Ultimately, the combined searches for useable resources, habitable worlds, and the scattered brothers and sisters of humanity drive the expansion of the Protectorate inexorably onward through interstellar space.
Due to the merit score system, education is extremely important to Cobalters. Schooling and certifications are free to all who want them via Clan-level initiatives, though more specialized training may take place in for-profit private institutions. The Protectorate, however, places a high emphasis on results; a degree or certification requires extensive practical metrics to be officially certified, always requires the completion of a practicum or work experience to recieve, and may be revoked at any time should the holder demonstrate gross incompetence within their field.
The Cobalt Protectorate has extensive spaceborne assets, including asteroid colonies, cyclers, and regular interstellar travel routes. These are supported by technologies like launch loops, various forms of automated fabrication and resource extration facilities, and orbital platforms for a variety of purposes. The Protectorate obsession with redundancy manifests throughout their infrastructure projects, whether mobile or stationary. Heavily-shielded utility subunits are networked together such that they can continue serving a region despite extensive damage. An attack or natural disaster must simultaneously reach a significant portion of a Cobalter population before it even begins to register as such; at all times, resources can be called from all around to solve most emergencies in short order. Indeed, at the risk of creating a Revenant, a tussle with a Cobalter spacer crew isn't over until the spacers - organic or synthetic - are dead to the last man.
Cobalter (adj. Cobaltic Protectorate Citizen
Heavily influenced by the chilly environment of their home world and the resource scarcity inherent in space travel, the Cobalt Protectorate uses resource chips for monetary transations. Resource chips are both a unit of exchange and a source of raw materials for auto-fabricators and auto-factories. The nutrient chip (compressed algae) and carbon chip (graphene wafers) are the most common by far and are considered valid legal tender in all parts of the Protectorate. Taxes are drawn both from the 'excess' created from the chipping process and at the point of initial resource extraction for mineral and agricultural resources, though this tax cannot exceed 15% of any citizen's total income.
At various levels, the governing bodies of the Cobalt Protectorate (see Organizational Structure) are handled by councils filled via merit sortition. In short, the top 10% of a given political subdivision's population - in terms of merit score - is chosen at random to serve a five-year term as a member of the associated council. Popular council members can have their terms extended by another three years by popular vote, while unpopular council members may be the subject of recall votes. Councils create draft laws which, so long as they abide by the tennants of the Code of Evermorn, are voted on by the citizens of the council's area of jurisdiction at ballot drives held every two years.
Much in the manner that Councils at various levels of government are chosen by merit sortition from the general public, Tribunals with powers to advise lawmaking and try criminal and civil torts are drawn from the legal profession within each level of governance. The Protectorate legal system provides extensive personal rights and 'good Samaritan' protections, but it also requires every citizen to act to prevent dangers to public safety. Criminal justice in the Protectorate relies heavily on attempting to set the wrongs of crimes to right via restitution and seeks to resculpt criminals into productive members of society, though capital punishment is available for crimes where the criminal is violent and unlikely to be safely reintegrated into society. See the Protectorate Penal System article for details.
Official State Religion
The League of Lepidosian City-States is a Periphery member of the Cobalt Protectorate. This means that the League and the Protectorate are tied together through mutual defense treaties and have relaxed trade and immigration policies towards one another. The Protectorate is the technologically, economically, and militarily superior partner in the arrangement, but a long history of fruitful association and the final decree of Wurth Harkin prevent Evermorn from exploiting the League.
When the Harkinite Expedition discovered the Federated Queendoms of Feldea, the planet Feldea was undergoing severe ecological collapse as a result of centuries of industrial pollution. This also caused a steep drop in population and the development of a reckless, hedonistic lifestyle among the self-supposed doomed Feldeans. In keeping with their principles, the Protectorate moved in to assist in environmental ramediation while evacuating most of the population to space habitats while the world was fixed. While most Feldeans are grateful for this assistance to this very day, other had accepted their fate and see the Protectorate as having stolen their right to fade into extinction on their own terms. While the queens of Feldea have gratefully accepted membership in the Protectorate Periphery, the Feldeans are among the most contrarian and isolationist of member states.
The Obsidian Republic represents tribes who peacibly chose not to join the other tribes in their unification under Wurth Harkin and his crew. This objection typically arose from a fear of losing ones culture in the face of an expanding, technologically superior neighbor, but some were also concerned that the merit-centric society proposed by Wurth would impede the burgeoning movement towards representative democracy among many such tribes. The Cobalt Protectorate and the Obsidian Republic have had periods of conflict and peace, but the Protectorate's current stance is that the Republic's concerns are valid and that Evermornans should be free to choose the paradigm under which they wish to live. As such, the Republic enjoys the mutual protection pact and self-governance afforded to any other Protectorate Periphery state despite being resident on in the Evermorn system and even on Evermorn itself.
The Protectorate served to soothe tensions between the Unified Peoples of Hesparta and the Lepidosian-Protectorate exploration crew who accidentally trespassed in the Hespartic System - an incident which became known as the Hespartan-Lepidosian Conflict. In keeping with Wurth Harkin's mandate to find and protect the scattered relatives of humanity, the UPH was offered membership in the Protectorate Periphery. The UPH declined and has remained fiercely independent and mistrustful of the 'incautious' League of Lepidosian City-States ever since. Still, the Protectorate keeps a silent watch for any alien species which might get ideas of invading the UPH, as the Unified Peoples are still relatively new to interstellar travel and are likely unaware of the true scale of the danger they might face in the Sealed Kingdoms region.
The Cinnabar Hegemony represents the remnants of several tribes that violently resisted Wurth Harkin and his crew in their early attempts to unify the peoples of Evermorn into what would become the Cobalt Protectorate. This history of animosity - along with the Hegemony's notably authoritarian government - would lead many in the Protectorate to consider the Hegemony a mortal enemy worth wiping out once and for all. However, the Protectorate recognizes the Hegemony's right to exist as long as the lesser state does not directly engage in warfare against the Protectorate, as Wurth's final command to 'find and preserve the lost brothers and sisters of humanity' allows no exception for 'complete jerks.' For its part, the Hegemony retains the desire to overcome its larger and more advanced ancestral adversary, but does so through deniable proxies like Aniki Labs and a motley assortment of criminals, mercenaries, and discontents in the broader Evermorn-Armoa Binary System.
Aniki Labs, as a proxy for revanchist Cinnibar Hegemony, attempted to 'steal' a Protectorate seed ship in what has come to be known as the Armoa Incident. While Aniki Labs was once in good standing with their Protectorate employers, the Protectorate responded to this act of brood parasitism by launching a punitive campaign against Aniki Labs assets in the Armoa System. This war has persisted for many decades, but seems set to wind down in the coming decades as the Protectorate slowly squeezes the Armoa colonies' resources, including phosphorus for food and uranium for nuclear salt water rocket fuel.