Despite its attempts in recent times to project the image of a network of high-class academic establishments for New Eden's elite, the Society of Conscious Thought remains first and foremost a research institute with a vigorous interest in the technical advancement of society. This is no secret; after all, the Jove are an inquisitive lot, and in the protective isolation of the Society's enclaves, called kitzes, there's no telling what new developments may be brewing.
That's not to say the Society has had free rein in their choice of projects. A checkered past, which includes political machinations and some rather dubious human experimentation, nearly spelled the Society's end. A turning point came when an internal investigation brought to light their association with Sansha's Nation. It was common knowledge that Sansha Kuvakei combined Jovian capsule technology with illegally modified brain implants in order to start off his notorious army of sycophants, but Empire attempts to replicate his research have always been unsuccessful, and it had long been postulated that the Jovians may have been one of the shadowy forces who secretly supported Kuvakei, supplying him with clandestine technologies in order to see what he could make of it. This was part and parcel with the Society's brash approach to technological advancement, and after an investigation revealed discrepancies in the research logs of certain kitzes that seemed to implicate them as having worked with the Sansha, the Society's funding, power and autonomy were severely curtailed, and the kitzes themselves vanished without a trace. It is, of course, not known whether the retributive actions against the kitzes truly were imparted for their corroboration with the Sansha or merely for their inability to properly hide it.
While information on the development of any part of Jovian society remains scarce, it is at any rate clear that the other sections of the Society took this development to heart and greatly shifted their focus, eventually even opening their gates to non-Jovians in an attempt to dispel at least some of the dark mystique that had begun to envelop their organization. Aside from this paradigm change from investigation to instruction, the Society also made a subtler shift in their research focus. Jovian inspectors found that while the Society dutifully abstained from resuming its prior level of hard-science technological research, the kitz governors, along with Societal scholars, simply started looking into soft-sciences instead. They focused extensively on the humanities, in particular sociology, education, theology and psychology.
This development received tacit approval from the inspectors and was allowed to continue uninterrupted for quite some time. In their wisdom, the inspectors recognized that the Jovian nature of endless tinkering could not be suppressed, lest it move out of the inspectors' reach and back into darker channels, and while there remained some technological hard-science aspects to the Society's new research methods, they were considered to be harmless. In particular, scholars had been tinkering with electronic mood enhancers - alpha wave transmitters and suchlike - but as the Jovians are very much in favor of anything that might help combat depression and ennui, the experiments were given a blind eye.
Many of these research projects started out as unofficial experiments among Society scholars, who kept them secret for about as long as any scholar will keep secret the results of his tests. They soon developed into an organization of work among various kitzes, and thanks to the excellent communication the Society kept up among its enclaves, some interesting projects soon saw the light of day. One of those was the fabled Hyperconsciousness agenda.
Certain scholars had noticed an emergence of new patterns in the relation between the training they gave their students and the results those students showed. As had been long established, while one could set down a baseline for a proper lower-level education - a focus on maths, languages and social studies would always be necessary - any higher degree of education would always depend as much on the individual student as it did on the curriculum. Members of the Society found that it was, in fact, possible to identify certain patterns in the early academic development of each individual student and then use those patterns to tailor the education to the student rather than the other way around. The exact nature of these patterns remains jealously guarded by the Society, but from the results it has produced in the last few decades, the method clearly works.
And if it had stopped there, the Society would still be on its merry way to being considered a slightly unorthodox but very much an ivy-league educational establishment.
The pattern detection they used for analyzing student abilities got better and better, to the point where they found they could map out various other aspects of a student's abilities and tendencies. And somewhere along the line, some enterprising scholar decided that training the students to be better persons wasn't enough. They should also have some of their detrimental tendencies curbed.
In itself, this aim was nothing new. Part of the raison d'étre for any educational establishment is to even out the rougher edges of its students, not merely setting them on the right path but keeping them from straying. Society scholars argued that the old, established ways to do this were outdated and generic, and likely to backfire. Instead, they advocated a student-tailored approach, whereby one individual might be given physical tasks to resolve, another might have his academic liberties curtailed, and yet another might be given a stern talking to on certain specific points likely to hit home. Nothing harmful, and nothing excessive.
The trouble started when they began combining this pattern work with advances in their mood enhancers. Certain scholars argued that instead of dealing with the outcome of negative, hostile and aggressive behavior, it would be easier and more effective to eradicate the problem at its source. Not only that, but in using these mood enhancers they might actually help their students reach heretofore unscaled heights, complementing their already natural abilities with more positive attitudes.
This kind of project would have been seen as brainwashing in any other circles, and reportedly made even certain Society scholars uncomfortable, but Jovian inquisitiveness prevailed. Nonetheless, the Society was careful to keep its true agenda secret, weaving its patterns into the tapestry of its curricula and thus keeping them hidden from casual onlookers. The codeword for this agenda was Hyperconsciousness.
Hyperconsciousness, or HyCon as it became known among insiders, produced a great many students whose academic careers were imbued with excellence. It also produced further improvement in the HyCon's theoretical basis, as the Society constantly improved its methods and technology based not only on the results of its living experiment, but on additional technology supplied by Jovian benefactors who were impressed with the Society's academic achievements while remaining entirely in the dark about the truth of the Hyperconsciousness agenda. A major windfall came when some mysterious benefactor bestowed on a select Society kitz the responsibility of destroying the Book of Emptiness.
The Book was well-known among the Jove. It was yet another failed attempt to curtail the Jovian Disease, that scourge of humanity which still reduces many of their number to broken, darkened shells and eventually drives them to death. The Book, named after a fabled Amarrian holy text that supposedly brought its readers to a higher plane of consciousness and serenity, was a small, unobtrusive machine that, when activated, would remove negative thoughts and emotions from anyone in the vicinity. The Jovians had hoped the Book would at the very least cure them of melancholy, and in a way it did, but not before it turned its subjects into drooling idiots. At lower levels the effect was not permanent but did have the effect of strongly affecting the subject's personality to the point where they lost their ability for purely logical thought; at higher levels the subject would be rendered permanently catatonic. Needless to say, the Book was deactivated, dismantled and consigned to the dustbin of scientific history.
Or so the Jovians thought. Under the auspices that only the Society, with its experience in behavioral patterns, could be trusted to handle and destroy such a device, one of the Book's caretakers gave its parts to them upon their request, with the intention that a few be put on display or under examination, and the rest destroyed. It is a measure of the immense trust the Society had rebuilt at that time, and probably of their image as slightly doddering but well-meaning and intelligent people, that they were given this chance, and nobody seemed to realize it was like throwing meat to a Slaver. The person who supplied the Society with the Book's collective parts undoubtedly did so knowing that they would first inspect it for its secrets, but it's doubtful even he realized that they had the ability and the theoretical knowledge to reassemble it.
The Society took its time, and even put a few duplicate parts on display to reassure its trustees that the rest had been destroyed. It never quite managed to recreate an original, fully functioning unit, but its experiments were successful enough that a simulacrum of sorts eventually emerged. This new Book, whose existence was kept a closely guarded secret, had the same basic abilities as the old unit but mainly affected non-Jovians, and of those it couldn't even be made to work properly on the worst (or, in one regrettable mistake during an illicit test run by very frustrated researchers, the best) students of HyCon.
Some valuable bits of technology did emerge from studies. One was the Oblivion Cocktail, a group of nanobots whose ingestion made the subject highly vulnerable to effects of both the Book and, as it turned out, some of HyCon's own corrective measures. Another was an amnesiac agent that, while completely ineffective as far as a subject's mood went, would completely remove their memories over a specified length of time and force their brains to compensate by inventing a hazy and completely inconspicuous gap in their memories, although anything more than a couple days' worth of amnesia would likely require hospitalization and some degree of rehabilitation. The amnesiac agent proved extremely helpful under circumstances where people had suffered great mental trauma or stress, and was later put to use by various psychological institutions, but there have also been rumors that it has been used for darker means, up to and including assassinations in the midst of crowds.
Despite these gains the project was considered a failure, and the Book was put in deep storage pending further secret study. There it sat, supposedly untouched and gathering dust, and would have been resigned to forgotten academia and pernicious rust had its caretakers not begun to hear that the Book had been sighted elsewhere in space. Lo and behold, they found that their own unit had disappeared.
They kept out probes for the Book, but to no avail. Thankfully, while the Empires had long since heard the stories of the Book's existence and potential power, word of its availability did not get out. As a result, the Society had time to recruit and train special task forces, staffing them with individuals who had a natural immunity to the Book's effects, and keeping them on standby while hunting down clues as to the Book's location. It was a tough task, as it had to be kept secret, but the kitzes' isolation came to good use. Several offered their services as training grounds and ended up breeding some very effective and quite intimidating groups of HyCon ops, many of whom never knew who they were working for.
Their progress is documented elsewhere. The Society continues to operate, and its HyCon agenda is still very much a part of their methodology, though in a form far removed from its original version. Society scholars have gone on record stating that while they feel the Book's prolonged storage in Society kitzes certainly was a mistake, this little misstep should not reflect badly on HyCon nor on the Society's contributions to education in New Eden. It is certain that in specific circles the Book debacle has reawoken suspicion that the Society may be hatching new plans of political dominance, but the enormity of its efforts to retrieve the Book has gone a great way towards assuaging those doubts.
It is, of course, entirely possible that the Book's disappearance was no accident. Cynics might claim that the Society was beginning to worry that its Hyperconsciousness agenda, and the careful manner in which it had educated and molded its wealthy and powerful non-Jovian students, might be seen as the starting moves in a new political game of strategy, and that the hunt for the Book was meant to serve only as a decoy. If so, it was an incredibly dangerous move, and likely made with the arrogance of superiority. It could very well be that the Society never expected that any other force in Eve might find out so quickly about the Book's existence and start its own hunt for the item.
Black Mountain Chronicles
- On This Earth
- The Room
- The First Half
- Of a Sentence
- A Man of Peace
- Some Dying Angel
- Pushing Towards Bliss
- The Canvas
- A Pleasant Surprise
- The Sanctuary
- Black Mountain
- Sounding the Horns of the Hunt