( ⇪ Technology )
Binary tones wash over a mountainside, so briefly that untrained ears hear only static. Pulses of red light paint arcane symbols across the cliff face. The insect drone grows stronger, but the source remains unseen.
With infinite Prime Planes and the means to traverse them before the creation of the Great Planar Seal, elements of one Plane sometimes infected another. On many Planes, clockwork lore advanced well beyond iron springs and gears. Constructs that unlock energy from matter and sunlight were developed as tools on some Planes. The lore of the machine builders is vast, and some of their mechanisms serve as remote servants for mighty exploratory vessels.
Some of these vessels foundered in the tide pools of the universe, “sinking” on planes where technology is subservient to magic. In some cases, the living crew and their machine servants survived the catastrophe; in others, only the machines survived. A few damaged but functioning machines — without the guidance of their living masters — bypassed safeguards and mimicked life, replicating themselves to ensure survival.
In recent decades, the “Sheen” menace has become more intrusive and brazen, seeding their cyst-like settlements on more already-inhabited worlds than has been witnessed for centuries, invading Hyperion territories, abducting civilians, and ravaging the countryside. Only a few have ventured into the metal-plated tunnels of the machine cysts and survived. In every case of unsupervised machine cyst formation, self-replicating machines are inimical to the ecosystem because their single goal is their own expansion — at the expense of local resources. Machine life regards living creatures as dispensable and easily eradicated competitors.
Even more frightening is a truncated report describing biological masters of the machines. Apparently, they are wizards who long ago embraced both magic and technology. The goals of these “sheenmasters” are a source of much debate, but they remain enigmas.
Through fighting this uncaring menace, new technological advances have been inspired or reverse-engineered, especially in the fields of prosthetics and cyberization. While prosthetic arms are common, the most extensive medical breakthrough mimics the sheen’s ability to merge man and machine into a manikin.
An Abridged Apparatiary
To catalogue the reported incidents of machine life, Hyperion scientists have created a machine bestiary — or as they call it — the Apparatiary. The Apparatiary is updated as Hyperion Sheenchasers discover new cysts from different origins.
Although many machine cysts have been found since on numerous worlds, many more remain undiscovered. Each of the confirmed sites includes several different types of free-roaming machines. Worse, it’s not uncommon for each machine type to modify itself and its “progeny” to become better equipped to deal with their environment.
There are currently over one hundred entries in the Apparatiary, but this record relates only the few most common forms of machine life encountered by Hyperion Sheenchasers. These are the forms that most often leave the cyst to probe for new resources. Over the centuries, only a few dozen Sheenchasers have found and entered a machine cyst and returned to tell the tale.
Sheen, Power Tree