The Vriij Ascendant

Most of the Vriij keep to themselves and remain on their makeshift homeworld of Okean, mourning their star cluster and the long-lost civilisations they once called their brethren. Interactions between the remaining Vriij populations and human scientists are few and far between. However, a few Vriij have decided to break their mournful isolation and embark on human vessels. They are known as the Vriij Ascendant -- quite litteraly, as they ascend from their waterworld and into the stars.

The Vriij Ascendant are bound to humanity the same way barnacles are bound to a ocean-going vessels. While the Vriij are perfectly capable of manufacturing advanced pieces of technology -- and indeed, did so in the past, to the point they could rival the Sequence in a bitter war for their home cluster -- they have consciously chosen not to, for reasons that remain unclear, but have to do with the ultimate fate of their cluster and the hundreds of billions of sophonts it once contained. In truth, there is little doubt that the Vriij could manufacture their own spaceships and leave Okean behind to rebuild their lost empire somewhere else in the galaxy -- or even, if they fancied it, upon the ashes of their glorious past. The Vriij Ascendant do not resort to human technology because they have to, but because they wish to. 

To become a Vriij Ascendant is to leave the homeworld behind, never to return. The Vriij live in tightly knit communities, where the constant renewal and reaffirmation of personal links is paramount to maintaining one's place in society. To leave the planet, even for a year, is to doom oneself to social death. A Vriij Ascendant becomes an outcast the moment they leave Okean's atmosphere -- but it is exceedingly rare for Vriij Ascendant to be unwilling exiles. The vast majority of them chose to remove themselves from their brethren, leaving friends, lovers and families behind in quest of something grander. In total, there are almost one thousand Vriij Ascendant in human space.

The Vriij Ascendant do not consider themselves to be part of the Vriij, to the point they refer to themselves as "strangers-in-waiting", identities that need to be confronted to the radical alterity of another sapient species to fully realize themselves. However, they do not adopt human names or identities either. They remain in-between, with their own cultures and experiences. Free from the rigorous bounds of a society dedicated to enforcing pre-spaceflight traditions and forgetting the rest, they adopt new physical shapes, relinquishing the heavy, powerful frames of underwater Vriij to grow thin, slender bodies better accustomed to low and microgravity. It is rare to see a Vriij Ascendant without a colorful sleeve suit, protecting their skin beneath a layer of salty water and allowing them to interact with humans through integrated translator systems that convert their sonar clicks into audible sound. With their tentacles and pressure-resistant frames, the Vriij Ascendant are very well-suited to life aboard a spaceship and this is where most of them decide to spend their time beyond Okean.

The Vriij Ascendant are organized as a loose community of individuals, sharing advice, stories and ideas on human networks -- while they form as many emotional bonds as Okean Vriij, they tend to do so with human sophonts rather than with other Vriij Ascendant. They are particularily good friends with AIs, for social and cultural reasons -- decentralized artificial intelligences are the closest they can find in human space to the coral-based sapients Okean Vriij share their adult lives with. While the Vriij Ascendant travel and live alone, they tend to follow self-identified paths that cover a wealth of religious and cultural significance. These paths, as far as we know, are unique to the Vriij Ascendant: they are not present in water-bound Vriij culture.

The Wanderer, in Stars Awake is the most common path and leads the Vriij Ascendant to seek the company of human explorers, often hailing from the Starmoth Initiative. These Vriij aim to steer away from their dead cluster, to fill their minds and eyes with the wonders of the universe, following in the trail of faster-than-light human expeditions. The Watcher, in Dust Shrouded is the path that leads a Vriij Ascendant to explore the ancient ruins of the Vriij empire, trying to elucidate the mysteries of their own kind. It is an exhilarating but dangerous path: it is not rare to see Watchers fall victim to targeted assassinations, that we can only speculate emanate from their Okean Vriij brethren, through human underworld networks. The Seeker, in Embers Clad is the third major path and leads the Vriij Ascendant on a bitter trail of war and violence against the Sequence, which they hold as the main culprit for the dereliction of the cluster. They often work with Algorab, outside of official human networks.

llustrations by Mark Molnar for Eclipse Phase, distributed by Posthuman Studios under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-alike 3.0 Unported License.

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