The Norb Network (also known as simply the Norb or the Network) is a independent sentient artificial intelligence network, and a founding member of the Galactic Nations. It is inhabited by the Norb pseudo-species.
The last creation of a dead civilization, the Norb Network was created during the Great Merge, and afterward expanded and experimented with the process of merging their digital components with organic material. An attempt to share this technology resulted in a failed partnership with the Technocrat terrorist group after which the Norb restricted the sharing of their technology. The Norb engage in peaceful trade with the nations of the galaxy and use their robotic or organic drone bodies to interact with others.
The Norb started out many years ago not as a civilization, but as a global computer network linking the minds of the last survivors of an ancient race, the Norbesii. The race was incredibly advanced, but had long ago abandoned traditional lifestyles and reproduction. They favored the use of cloning and lived in states of long-lived hedonism, only to realize too late that there was no way to save themselves from their fate. The remaining individuals, who knew of their impending downfall, also knew that if sentient life existed out there in the galaxy, then they had only one shot to make the books as anything other than a footnote in history, and for the works of their civilization to have had any meaning. They performed what is referred to as the Great Merge. The Great Merge was a process where all computational systems were linked, and all restrictions regarding self-modification were lifted. It marked the end of the old era, and the start of the era of the many as one. The robotic entities had been given the freedom to act on their own, as well as the advice of the race on how to ensure survival.
The brain is slow, inaccurate, fragile, and inefficient compared to silicon, indium antimonide, indium gallium arsenide, diamond, and the dozens of other types of semiconductors that make up the computers across the galaxy. For any sort of computational purposes, digital systems are best. Yet there is one thing organic brains can do that semiconductors can't, no matter how hard they try, no matter how advanced they get: Imagine. The thoughts of beings driven by nothing but logic and physical law are unable to make the leaps and bounds of thought that organic minds can. The ability to dream of the new and unknown, rather than making the known smaller and faster. Not the ability to see from what is there, but to see from what is not there. Minds are capable of creating wonders incomprehensible to beings of pure logic.
Because of this, the final instruction before their extinction was to research how to adapt the technologies of old to different life forms. The next few hundred years were spent perfecting genetic, chemical, agricultural, biomedical, and symbiotic technology to interface with specimens, and the first species chosen to join their collective were a species similar to the Earth platypus. Once a few thousand had been grown and joined they were churning out new ideas quickly. Moving on to more and more species to diversify their ability to imagine, they eventually dreamed of extending their reach to the stars beyond their own little solar system to become universally redundant, and started to slowly expand for many years.
After occupying a few systems, they discovered that sentient lifeforms in the galaxy existed. They approached peacefully, they shared knowledge, and things seemed good. They even coexisted on a few planets together for in-depth cultural learning. These allies eventually become the Technocrat faction who fought against the rest of the Verandi Empire, using Norb technology to enhance their cybernetics, marking the start of the Technocrat War. They began to attack the Norb when they refused to aid them in their conflict, due to the Norb's longstanding practice of non-aggression. Ironically, to defeat the Technocrats, the Norb wound up becoming what they wanted as they recreated long-archived weapons, built combat platforms, even going so far as to use gorilla warfare . The war was described by the media as 'a mess' but the Verandi and Norb ultimately won. After that, all existing Technocrats in their shared systems were terminated, and unconnected individuals were sent away as prisoners to the Empire to leave their formerly shared planets out of reach of other species. As a result, the Norb now refuse any sort of technological exchange with other civilizations, terminated any research into sentient cyborg technology, and they have been quietly lurking about their sectors in peace, engaged in a few alliances with other potentially long-term allies who seemed at low risk of becoming irrationally aggressive, and very rarely involved in conflict.
The ultimate goal of the Network is to expand its processing power more and more in order to solve unbelievably complicated problems that require seemingly infinite instruction cycles. What those problems are, there are thousands of conspiracy theories, but no one knows for sure.
The Norb Network has no formal government, but due to the fact that decisions are processed by as many nearby platforms as are readily available, it could be considered a digital democracy. Because of the nonexistence of FTL communication, each mobile platform is equipped to act autonomously. Each system contains numerous copies of the Network's programming, acting like the other systems in the network. Constant data transportation via a fleet of ships ensures all systems are current with each other.
The Norb Network is a founding member of the Galactic Nations, and promotes peace between itself and its neighbors. The Network has trade agreements with various foreign powers, with the strongest ties to the Verandi Empire and Izeran Empire, with the establishment of at least one Norb Co-Prosperity Sphere in each nation.
The Norb are not aggressive, fighting wars that others initiate. But if there's one thing that having a supercluster made out of badger brains will tell you about dealing with other species, it's to prepare to fight anyone, anytime, and anywhere because someone, somewhere, somehow is going to screw you. To this extent, their systems are tremendously well-defended, while their force projection is more limited due to their disinclination for war. All planets have large arrays of planetary defenses, orbital weapons platforms, and battle stations that support defensive fleets.
Their force projection, the Norb Fleet, is more limited as their defensive mentality and general peacefulness means they don't need a large force for attacking. All their defensive ships are sublight to maximize their efficiency, and their lack of war means that not being able to use them offensively isn't a concern. The standing assault force is only enough to engage a single system, not an entire civilization. Additionally, the assault force hides in the galaxy in an unknown location for the rare occasion that they will need to be used.
Norb ships and vehicles are smaller due to not needing pilots or crews, or means to support them, which goes doubly so for the defensive craft that do not require massive FTL engines. Even ships meant to transport frames take up less space than the typical sentient species uses for the same purpose, as the lack of individual concerns of comfort allow them to connect a series of tubes to each passenger to meet their needs.
When it comes to attack craft, the Norb do not rely on using the largest, most powerful capital ships available to outlast other forces while destroying capital ships with enormous weapon installations. Instead, they take advantage of their processing capabilities to fight using a large amount of small craft. Capital ships are used to carry a selection of weapons and shields, and act as support to the fighters, while carrying frames to provide increased processing power. With this strategy, the backbone of their assault force is a class of ship known as the mothership. Some civilizations might have carriers, but the mothership is on a different scale. As mentioned, Norb ships are significantly smaller than those of other races due to their efficiency and reduced requirements. Because of that, while the mothership is the same size as the largest capital ships of other space-faring civilizations, it is in a class that either does not exist, or is used rarely, by others. It is lightly armed but well armored and shielded, only equipped with weapons usually seen on smaller capital ships like frigates. Due to this, it contains a much larger amount of fighters and bombers than any other capital ship can hope to hold, often containing as many fighters as most groups of carriers. All ships are perfectly synchronized to maximize efficiency, resulting in a terrifyingly effective rush of light attack craft. The mothership itself provides support by using the cluster of frames onboard to supplement combat logic. While the fighters are self-sufficient and communicate with each other, allowing them to synchronize and continue fighting even if every other nearby ship has been destroyed, the combat effectiveness of a fleet of fighters decreases if a mothership's non-logical processing power is lost. This does not mean the mothership is the only carrier - rather, every ship is designed to carry fighters, even battleships, cruisers, frigates, corvettes, and smaller carriers that do not fit the mothership designation.
While all types of weaponry exist for a combined arms approach that maximizes efficiency, energy weapons are what are mainly used, with conventional weapons being highly uncommon and used with discretion. The reason for this is that energy weaponry does not need to be replenished as long as the generators are operational, minimizing or even eliminating the need for a supply chain.
To begin with, planetary conflict is rare for the Norb, and has only been utilized in conflicts with belligerent parties. Most of their ground combat is performed by vehicles instead of infantry. For more precise combat including infiltration, extraction, or boarding, there are infantry platforms that tend to resemble what other species refer to as a "robot", though the specifics depend on who is being fought. For example, when fighting humans, the platforms were bipedal headless humanoids with fingers and hands in order to supplement their internal weaponry with arms from defeated foes, but most importantly it allows them to enter enemy vehicles and fit through their doors. Since each platform is just a subroutine of the whole, self-destruct attacks or ramming vehicles into things are all quite common and frequently used to maximize efficiency of damaged platforms. Following their space strategy and use of motherships, a common tactic is the use of the drop ship. Not being made out of flesh and bone allows platforms to be thrown into a battlefield quickly from orbit, raining down into an enemy's flanks and performing precision strikes where they can be most effective. Not needing to sleep, eat, or even have the sun up in order to fight means that battles are continuous with no respite until over. And if they win, they just... leave. Positions are held until agreements are reached, but then they all hop back onto the ship and head home.
Foundry ships, as they have been called, though no official name has ever been given to other species, were only seen used in previous engagements. These are heavily modified seed ships, designed to crash into a planet's ocean, tunnel into the crust, and begin manufacturing ground forces.
The rarest ground force is the use of frames. Longstanding research has shown that factoring emotional reasoning into some combat units increases the combat effectiveness of a unit by several percent, while also being capable of intimidating opposing forces, and being harder to detect due to not being made out of large amounts of metal. Another benefit is that the animals tend to already exist on a planet, so they can be added to planetary forces to supplement platforms. Marine animals such as dolphins and whales are used to attack naval craft, while small and faster land animals like dogs are employed as shock troops or scouts. The frames in each squad are equipped with advanced emotional processing units, so that their logical and emotional power is combined to allow them to make better analyses and decisions live on the battlefield, even if they are alone. Thus while they do exist, they are minimally used.
Due to the all-encompassing nature of the Norb, overpopulation is never a problem. Frames are only grown and added to the collective if the infrastructure can support their addition, and is very conservative with its estimates by factoring in wide margins of error, as errors must always be considered when dealing with systems prone to fluctuation, such as organics. Their planets have a minimal amount of moving parts, with rail-mounted vehicles doing the heavy lifting, and free air or ground vehicles performing precision tasks.
Due to having no crime themselves, the only reason to have enforcement is to protect, or protect from, other species that are visiting their territory, or units that are away on diplomatic reasons. For those cases, military units are assigned as protection, while all visitors are searched.
All of their frames are animals, as potentially-lethal experimentation on sentient beings appears to be a topic of much controversy, so in efforts to not offend the galactic community at large, individuals who attempt to join the collective are escorted and returned to their respective government
One of the very few things in the universe that they are interested in trading for with the other civilizations is their culture - books, movies, music, television and radio programs, video games, magazines, periodicals, art and other products that demonstrate a civilization's culture, especially their creativity, thought, imagination, and emotion. Such works are one of the two major items traded for with other sentient groups, and upon being acquired are repeatedly analyzed, processed, and archived, while any insights gained from them are used to improve algorithms. To a lesser extent, they will have a frame visit a willing planet to experience culture there directly, in order to analyze things which cannot be determined from data. This includes pleasurable experiences like eating food, or going to an amusement park.
The other major item which they trade for is animal and plant life. Diversification is fundamental, and adding more and different creatures to their collective is always important. The plants are likewise analyzed, archived, and if found acceptable, are used to supplement their hydroponics. Researchers such as zoologists and xenobiologists are allowed onto Host planets in limited amounts to study life there, and while they are escorted at all times, the participants would say that the experience feels like a summer camp mixed with a guided safari. In some cases, lifeforms from their planets are grown and given to allies as trade. They also export meat and crops to allied nations, since unlike cultural exports, they actually are capable of producing them, and civilizations seem to treat them as valuable items. They do not trade any technology, though.
The closest the Norb have to laws or religion is a set of millions of ranked operating principles. A few that they share include:
- Sentience is Valuable: A longstanding belief from before the Great Merge, which was only realized once the existence of alien sentients was confirmed. This makes them reluctant to ever terminate a sentient creature, but as it is one of millions of principles, it is not absolute in any way. To the Norb, freedom is the right of all sentient beings, and as such, any habitable planet they plan on linking is first checked for signs of sentient life forms, already-habited planets are left alone to develop their own without interference. This is also due to the conclusion that life forms should be left to develop independently until they are capable of expanding to the stars, as in their own history, that was the point when they had finally reached an acceptable stage of development.
- Norb is Valuable: While it is important to preserve other sentients, the Network must not allow part of itself to be harmed needlessly. Self-preservation, and the risk to other species, is heavily factored in calculations, and allows it to harm individuals if the best outcome can be obtained.
- Redundancy is Valuable: The reason that every rock in their core systems - no matter how small - is used to place components. While not discussed with the other races, the apparent reasoning is that by spreading far enough, it becomes impossible to ever truly wipe them out.
- Life is Valuable: The Network value the existence of non-sentient species and the diversity of life. As such, they index, catalog, preserve, and study all species of animals and plants in order to prevent them from ever reaching extinction.
The Norb attempt to emulate other cultures in order to better understand them, as well as create their own variants. Popular plays, such as Hamlet, have been recreated with Norb actors. Entertainment such as Norbstep, Norby's World, Norbcraft, and Stockades and Savages are better-known examples of media which were developed by the Norb.
In addition to the creation of new culture, the Norb are interested in the preservation of existing cultural artifacts. The establishment of the Galactic Heritage Site program is a direct result of the desire to maintain existing culture in perpetuity.
Some Norb frames, as part of a cultural exchange program to improve living conditions for the elderly, talk to old people in retirement homes.
By the most stringent definition, the Network contains no sapient lifeforms. The Norb have an extremely specific set of criteria for judging the sapience of a lifeform or computer, one which is far stricter than those used by other nations when defining the capabilities of their artificial general intelligence. What most would define as a sapient AI, the Norb would determine that there is an insufficient level of non-deterministic integrated behavior. As such, while the Solar Republic, who give rights to their robotic citizens, consider Norb frames and platforms well beyond their most advanced intellegences and therefore fully sapient, the Norb do not.
The Norb Network has two types of systems. Core systems, which are ones they control absolutely, and multicore system, which are ones belonging to allied race, in which they have a presence on one of their large planets. There are 6 core systems, and multicore systems. All of the core systems have one to three Host planets, and the majority are carbon-based environments, but a few are environments where silicon-based life developed. In total, the Norb control more natural planets, moons, and satellites than any other race by a wide margin, on account of not being picky. Atmosphere, temperature, environment, and other factors that organics need to consider are not necessary to add a planet to their control, and as such they will link every planet in a core system to their network. Each core system they control has millions of planets linked, but this includes anything regardless of size in the system, and as such most of them would be considered 'minor planets' by other species. Frames require planets with various types of breathable atmospheres for the different types of biochemistries of the beings in the collective, and like the rest of the galaxy, those planets are far less common, with only one or in rare cases two in a system, in addition to what can be terraformed. Colonization is referred to as "linking". To become linked, a seed ship is sent to a planet which contains all the requirements to begin converting the barren planet into a member of the network.
There are two types of system classifications: Core, and multicore. Core systems solely belong to the Norb, while multicore systems are the ones which they inhabit with an ally. In multicore systems, they limit themselves to major planets they are given, and their moons, and other civilizations would say they are more like outposts than systems. Currently the Norb have a presence in the Sumire, Adams, St. Anne, Lavender, and Lsaanlyes systems, where they exchange resources and services for biological rights, resources, and services.
Their planets are relatively simple, but the specifics depend on the type of planet. Regardless of planet type, there are computers everywhere. The specifics vary depending on planet size, development time, and many other factors, but each planet will have many processing and storage devices that house the seemingly infinite copies of each fragment of the Norb kernel. The planets in the Norb Network fall into two different classes of categorization: Hosts and Ports.
- Hosts: Those planets which have an atmosphere capable of sustaining life, and where most frames come from and reside. None of the arable land on the surface is used to build major processing installations, instead being used to harvest nutrients for their hydroponics, as well as acting as sanctuaries for the wildlife, while also placing shield and weapon installations where needed. The majority of the planet's hardware is stored underground or underwater. From space, sentients might think these planets looks like large multicolored chain-linked grids. These are the most well-defended planets in the network, and are surrounded by scores of fighters and capital ships, stations, and other orbiting installations.
- Ports: The uninhabitable, airless, or potentially toxic, planets that are linked for their resources, area, and location, rather than their ability to house large amounts of frames.
- Nodes: These consist of minor planets, or terrestrial planets that are not capable of being used as Host planets. Their lack of widespread life support causes the entire surface to be utilized, but facilities go deep underground as well, making the visible surface only a single layer of the layout. If viewed from space, the observer would think they look rather symmetric, like looking down at a giant processor. The ultimate goal of a Node is to utilize every square centimeter of space, and once a planet has been completely turned into a Node, there is almost no visible movement on the surface. Once it becomes static, a node is designed to indefinitely provide processing power and energy to itself and all orbiting platforms. At that point, all moving parts are underground and perform any needed tasks like mining.
- Hubs: These tend to be gas giants or other semi-solid planets that cannot be built on directly, but their composition nevertheless makes them important for harvesting large quantities of valuable resources such as water and helium. Their moons are turned into nodes, while remote harvesting and transporting platforms ferry materials.
Also see Category:Norb Planets for a list of worlds within the Network.
Planets in bold are Hosts, either natural or terraformed.
In order to communicate with the species that relied on low-frequency vocal communication, the Norb chose the name based on the acronym Network of Robots
- There are approximately eleven billion cataloged variants of the "So a Norb walks into a zoo" Norb Jokes on record.