Song of the Earth
Sons of Ether
The Sons of Ether is one of the Nine Traditions. Their focus Sphere is Matter. America Anders and formerly Davey Darkefell are representatives of this Tradition in the Avengers. Other members include Dylan Harrison and Marc Hudson of the Radical Dreamers.
Not all science needs be the banal and regimental process trumpeted by the Technocracy. So say the Sons of Ether, and they practiced what they preach. From the mad, inspirational science of Victorian wonder-workers to the fringes of cutting-edge alternative scientific theory, the Sons of Ether use it all. While other Technomancers pioneer new worlds, the Sons of Ether take the discarded cast-offs of technology and turn them into creations of the imagination. No invention is too strange, no theory is too obscure, for them to tweak it and find a way to use it. Contradictions? Impossibilities? Nonsense — there are only doors that haven’t yet been opened by Science.
With roots dating as far back as the Middle Ages and a series of changes through the modern day, the Sons of Ether have quite a convoluted background. The most basic foundations lay in the document known as the Kitab al Alacir, the Book of Ether, from which early philosophers propounded a science based not on observation, but on belief. Presumably based on the works of early philosophers and translated through several secret forms, the document eventually surfaced in 12th-century Spain, where a pair of enterprising mystics (one a Hermetic craftsman, the other a Templar) took its teachings to heart. They formed a Natural Philosopher’s Guild, one dedicated to the study of metaphysics and mysticism. Side by side with the more reasoned workers of the Renaissance, these guildsmen went on to pioneer new creations and inventions. Where the Order of Reason propounded a rational and discernable state to the universe, though, the guild held that creation functioned due to the spark of genius in the individual that the universe had no limits as long as one didn’t recognize any.
The natural Philosopher’s Guild survived in muted form among various groups of imaginative pioneers, never really united after its founders’ time. However, the end of the Renaissance ushered in a technological age with possibilities heretofore undreamed of by mankind. Those who opened their eyes to these possibilities, who strove to make something meaningful instead of denying opportunities, still carried the flag of the guild until its formation as a recognizable part of the Order of reason. The spark literally came with the development of electricity, as these scientists formed the Electrodyne Engineers.
For the better part of a century, the Engineers advocated the wonders of electricity, the value of perception in experimentation, and the power of the questing spirit. Their methods flew in the face of the new Technocracy’s more reasoned pursuits. Willing to stride off into the unknown on the backs of wild theories and discredited sciences, the Engineers imperiled the Technocracy’s idea of a safe, stable, methodical scientific world. Decrying the Engineers’ methods, the Technocracy levied sanctions against them, up to and including publicly denouncing their favored theories. The Technocracy proclamation of the ether as fiction was the final stone. The Convention took upon itself the new moniker “Sons of Ether,” and turned to the Traditions for succor.
Over the next several decades, the Etherites alternately advanced cutting-edge theoretical sciences and renewed old ones. From jet packs to quantum mechanics, chaos math to etherships, they proved their commitment to truly inspired science in numerous ingenious devices. Their adventurers strode the globe as heroes whose exploits, too unbelievable to digest as fact, instead entered popular fiction. And they continued to dream, and to build.
Today, the Sons of Ether occupy a prominent place in the Tradition Council. Although many consider them deranged or just plain unstable, their devices and inventions sometimes work when other magic would fail, and their familiarity with technology gives them an edge in conflict with the Technocracy. As science travels into infinitely more detailed realms, the Sons of Ether find more cracks to exploit. Quantum theory accepts a subjective view of the universe. Dark matter theory posits the existence of an unseen yet massive matter all around — the ether. The Sons of Ether have always renewed the old, and their Tradition’s vitality seems to show more of the same.
Given the fractious and chaotic nature of most Etherites, it’s not surprising that their Tradition follows suit. Initiates are brought in from science classes and philosophical discussions, often after propounding on the nature of the Kitab al Alacir (once a true Scientist has circumspectly dropped a copy in the student’s care). A student who manages to break through the barriers of conventional logic and realize his own theories on the contradictions inherent in the universe can be guided into a mentorship as a true Son of Ether.
Once inducted, a student’s advancement proceeds along academic lines. Etherites correspond and publish journals or papers to propound their theories. Publication in Paradigma, the Etherite journal of universal science, is the most prestigious of these works, but other papers and these can carry weight as well. Those who build useful and interesting theories consistently — especially those who build functioning devices based on them — earn acclaim. The more advanced the student and his theories, the greater his accolades. Sons of Ether eventually acquire titles like Doctor and Master Scientist.
Where once the Great Hall that leads the Tradition was a Horizon Chantry based just outside Paris, the Scientists now meet in more mundane buildings to discuss their Tradition’s advancement. Typically, Master Scientists and Doctors staff the Great Hall, which acts as part parliament and part academic circle. However, although a student may serve in the capacity of “gruntwork,” every true Scientist remembers that inspiration is an intensely personal path and gives merit to the ideas of any Etherite. In theory.
Despite their wildly divergent theories, Etherites do tend to clump together. Often, several scientific specialists will share their knowledge of their respective fields to work in concert on a large project required all of their knowledge. Etherite factions generally form from such gatherings. Some sub-societies are stable enough to bring in new blood and remain homogenous.
Pioneers of space, the Ethernauts explore the reaches of the cosmos, and of other dimensions, in search of new wonders to bring back to Earth. They visit other worlds in their powerful etherships, sabotage the Void Engineers, and bring back samples of the strange. With their incredible mastery of Matter, a few of these pioneers have made some theories about shielding their ships from the storm winds lashing the wall between dimensions, and their once-ridiculed craft may become a potent tool in exploration of the Umbra.
The well organized Utopianswish to build a better tomorrow on Earth through Science. These Scientists spread not only potent devices to improve the quality of life, but also potent ideas — expressions of wonder, hope, and unity. Their social conscience leads them to help others and to make their unusual theories open to everyone.
The few remaining Cybernauts cruise the Digital Web and turn it to their whims. These Etherites fervently believe that the Web itself is the next battleground of the enlightened, that the minds of Sleepers will be decided there. Of course, most Scientists have more important business on Earth these days, so the Cybernaut faction wanes in popularity. Still, the Web is a perfect place to try out theories in virtual space, where they’re less likely to wreck any real-world surroundings.
Politically, the Progressivists want to modernize the Tradition, starting with internal politics and structure and working up to theory and practice. The largely female faction argues that the Tradition as a whole does a poor job of keeping up with the social developments of the years, and that Etheric tendencies to rely on outmoded social constructs as well as outmoded technologies is too limiting to the Tradition and instituting a more democratic leadership.
The term Mad Scientist refers to those Etherites with a decided tendency toward the creation of dangerous devices with questionable goals. It’s been a sad but true state that the Etherites’ genius often comes hand-in-hand with some instability, or with a drive to see the “big picture” in a fashion that misses the point of the exercise. From the Etherites hail such legends as Doctor Frankenstein, whose laudable advances were twisted to unfortunate ends. They aren’t so much a part of a united faction as examples of a recognized phenomenon within the Tradition.
Lastly, the Adventurers are Scientists who rely not only on their command of Science, but their physical acumen, wits, and daring to explore new parts of the world, fight “villains,” and perform heroic deeds. While many would scoff at them as simplistic, the four-color inheritors of Doc Savage and John Carter do have a certain nostalgic appeal. Modern Adventurers take on a more pragmatic approach, using their fabulous Science to build fantastic (but often concealed) armor and weaponry with which to pursue their crusades against criminals, hypocrites, and madmen. Again, they don’t make up a real force within the Tradition (there’s no “Legion of Super-Heroes”) so much as a new breed of scientist.
While Technocrats codify the universe into a static mold explainable by convoluted science, the Sons of Ether reject such a notion as foolish. The universe is far too vast, and its permutations too varied, for any single equation to hold sway over it. Indeed, the very act of observation changes the outcome, as the Technocracy has discovered in its own acceptance of quantum science. Thus, discovery and invention are personal processes, driven by the wonder and inspiration of the individual. Nothing is “impossible” or a “dead end” — it’s merely an avenue that someone else decided not to explore. From the “disproven” theories of yesterday, the Sons of Ether create the wonders of tomorrow.
Given their incredible diversity of theories, it’s a wonder that Sons of Ether manage to communicate at all. By definition, their concept of science is highly individualized, more so even then the magic of other Traditions. Every single Etherite has his own spin on — well, just about everything. As a result, it can be very difficult for Etherites to find any common ground to discuss their practices, especially when two Etherites practice mutually contradictory theories (and both are right, of course, as demonstrated by the fact that both of their inventions work). Given that the Etherites can barely reach a consensus internally, it’s nearly impossible to imagine them as comprehensible to other Traditions. Any three Etherites discussing a topic of magic will come up with five or six different theories on the fly, all equally implausible. This individuality makes it very hard for the Etherites to spread around their more complex notions and impressive theories, and even more difficult for them to adapt to the other Traditions.
Theories And Practices:
With the Sons of Ether, magic all comes down to Science. Perception defines the universe and so each scientist builds his own model of reality. From there, the individual can posit theories about the functioning of reality as he sees it, and those theories lend themselves to creations. With intuitive insight, the scientist builds inventions, gives them a spark of power, and understands them on a level that no other person can comprehend.
Etheric inventions are, of course, highly personalized. Some are extremely fanciful, while others are more practical or based on “real” science, like a phased-energy point defense system. Each scientist’s particular bent on creation influences his style. Thus, some Etherites use large, bulky creations made from 1950’s or earlier technology, while others invent new spins on modern technology and make wonderfully compact and convenient devices. A few Etherites also experiment with mental powers, psychic phenomena, and pseudo-mysticism, especially the Adventurer types.
When an Etherite derives a new theory and builds an invention for it, it’s common practice to publicize the event through one of the papers or periodicals of the society. That way, every Etherite can examine it, determine its personal validity, and use or change it as desired. For this reason, a great many simple inventions are common among the Etherites. Where other Traditions might rely on rotes to generate repeatable Effects, the Etherites have common gizmos and formulas that have been shared, refined, and tested with time.
The use of specialized materials varies with the individual scientist. Some base their works heavily on the use of a unique material — ether being the most common example — while others are more pragmatic. Scientists have been known to use everything from carefully custom-crafted filaments and parts made of plutonium, silver, biomatter, or stranger stuff, to devices that simply rely on outdated technology rewired to perform some new function (say, a robot built from common kitchen appliances).