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THE SPHERE

Up in space, there is this massive Dyson sphere, with a radius only slightly smaller than the earth's moon. It's made up of a creepy fusion of organic matter and mechanical machinery and is powered by a tiny captured star at the center of it. Its creators are a solidly Type-1 civilization, with some drifting into Type-2 category (they are getting energy from the captured star, but haven't figured out how to harness ALL the energy of the captured star yet).

Its creators also have access to quite a few advanced technologies, such as devices that can override gravitational forces and generate gravity where none existed and wormholes that can be opened or closed nearly instantly and can connect two distant points as if they were adjacent to each other. This wormhole tech is also applied on a much larger scale to allow the Sphere to achieve faster-than-light travel, allowing it to move from one point of the galaxy to another pretty much instantly.

For an example of what it looks like and how its technology works, look up the Sphere from Prey (2006).

With all this in mind, it's kinda hard to see why this thing NEEDS to harvest a sentient species every 30 to 50 years.

THE HARVEST

Every once in a while, the Sphere must perform a 'harvest'. It does this by going to a world inhabited by a sentient species and sending down vessels that search the planet for members of the sentient species, abduct all members found into the vessels, and then return to the sphere to drop off all captured sentients. Some captured are killed right away. Others are surgically augmented with neural controllers and made to do manual labor. Yet others are kept and experimented on in unspeakable ways.

THE QUESTION

Of course, all this raises a question: why would the Sphere NEED to do this? Why does it need to consume the bodies of sentient creatures and why does it need to enslave other sentient creatures for the purposes of manual labor?

Keep in mind that common sense dictates that a species advanced enough to make this Sphere SHOULD be capable of automation/manufacturing methods that would make a harvest like this unnecessary. In essence, another way to phrase the question would be why this is necessary despite the Sphere seemingly having access to tech that would make it unnecessary.

Note that the Sphere isn't doing this because it wants to, it's doing this because it NEEDS to in order to continue to function.

Note also that answers should have at least a passing nod at scientific plausibility, though elements beyond explanation by modern science, such as psionics, are allowed.

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    $\begingroup$ We deal better with "how" questions than "why" - as "why" tends to generate opinion-based answers. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ Other than it being a singular sphere and one race at a time, sounds just like the Reapers in the Mass Effect game trilogy, even to using the term "harvest". Watch out for the copyright police. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 5:36
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 It's a lot more similar to the Sphere from Prey (2006), in that it goes from planet to planet, 'abducts' every sentient from the planet, and does ****ed up things to said sentients. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 11:38

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That was the plan from the original makers. Sort of.

The makers of this device and related high tech wonders were themselves made up of a creepy fusion of organic matter and mechanical machinery. Their days of reproduction were long past and each was pretty different from the others. Their numbers were few and dwindling and those who remained were not adequate to man their technology. So they set up the automatons in charge to seek out and capture slaves periodically to do the work.

There are now none of these makers left, or if there are they do not show themselves. Descendents of sentient captives now preside over this plan. They are themselves more or less corrupted by the weird tech of their home. It is difficult or impossible to reproduce biologically on the sphere and so later occupants encounter the same trouble as the makers, and try to use the same solutions.

Those solutions too have been corrupted. I think of the air raid sirens in The Time Traveller, summoning the Eloi into the cave now not because of long gone airborne threats, but to become food for the Morlocks. The makers of the sphere were not cruel or perverse and the methods they invented were all to serve practical ends. WHat now has become torture was once intended to improve captives to serve their new functions on the sphere. Sometimes that still works. Sometimes only a hint of the original intent survives in what that procedure has become.

The descendants of slaves who now run the sphere do not understand any of it enough to improve or fix it, much less invent new procedures. They try to keep things the same as much as they can. They understand things are not working as they should but they are afraid to change things.

When new captives come aboard, they are screened for individuals who might have some insight into the workings sphere, and might be able to fix it. "Make ship go?"

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea. Basically, some are eaten because the sphere tried to make them slaves but failed, and recycled the very-dead by-product that resulted. Not sure if I'm missing something, but it doesn't quite explain the unspeakable experiments bit... $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ The experiments are the degenerate remains of actual useful biomod procedures, which in these latter days are not done according to the original lost plans. Transcription errors, attempted fixes and so on. The intent is not malicious. The procedure just does not go like it is supposed to and fails in horrific ways, repeatedly. The people now running the sphere keep trying them because they don't know what else to do. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps they are trying variations on some of the less-than-successful procedures, trying to find one that works through trial and error. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 17:54
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Because the makers were wise

The makers wanted to keep the sphere from replicating itself and becoming a Von Neuman disaster. In order to do this, they had programmed the sphere to not be able to make any part of itself, which is problematic for maintenance and repair.

This means that the sphere needs other consciousnesses to produce the required parts and do maintenance on it because the programming prevents it from doing those jobs itself. The sphere can augment the life forms it conscripts with implants in order to better do those jobs (though it takes a bit of experimentation to adapt implants for a new species, and many are lost in the process), and it can teach sentient creatures how to do it, but it can't just have one of its robot drones do those jobs. Nor can it create another artificial intelligence to do it, as this would also count as self replicating as the AI is also covered in the makers' do not copy rule.

Additionally, the makers considered slaves, and will not allow the sphere to let any slaves it controls to reproduce either, and so once enough of them die in the 30-50 year time frame, the sphere needs to find another source of workers/slaves intelligent and able enough to be taught to maintain it.

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  • $\begingroup$ This explanation, while it works, has a few issues, which I'll address each in a separate comment. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ Issue 1: The sphere kills some it abducts. This is a waste of slaves, for fairly obvious reasons. Thus, it needs other sentient species as more than just slaves. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ Issue 2: The sphere harvests sentients all at once. This doesn't quite fit the answer here because a more effective way of acquiring slaves would be to only abduct a portion of a species and leave the rest to make up the loss so the sphere can come back for more. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ Issue 3: The sphere subjects some to unspeakable experiments. This is a problem for the same reason Issue 1 is a problem; the experimented-upon would be better used as slaves under this explanation. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Brinstar77 Issue 2 isn't an issue if the sphere is moving and won't be coming back. This also isn't an issue if it just needs billions of slaves all the time. $\endgroup$
    – Mathaddict
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 17:56
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The advanced technologies rely on extra dimensional forces that souls can access.

Souls, the sphere creator discovered, have some degree of an ability to access extra dimensional spaces. This is believed to be from adaption via evolution, but the sheer complexity of the modifications needed for this are beyond even their ability to compute. Attempts to make artificial souls have more often resulted in destruction of whatever moon or asteroid the thing was made of.

This can sometimes manifest as psionic potential in certain species.

Species tend to have a collective soul which carries the shared potential of every dead member of the species.

The local extradimensional space holds most of the souls of the dead. This can be harvested by removing most members of a species. This powerful battery can be used to power all the ship functions for several years. However, doing this tends to induce insanity and sterility in the species over time, and every 30 years they need a new source of 100 billion plus souls. The experiments and manual labour tend to be an effort to augment the collective power source or extend its lifespan.

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Space nazi's

The aliens that have built this sphere have an autocrat political system, that is based on a weird, nazi-like ideology.

Their sphere is bio-mechanical, as they are themselves. During their life, they fill their bodies with brain extensions, artificial organs and devices, rendering them virtually immortal and feeling themselves very very superior to any other living beings. Sentient species that remain biological are considered untermenschen by the propaganda, but they actually envy them, because of their creativity, freedom, feelings and love.. Things they lost..

Some day, the bio-technological autocrat devised a narrative about life species, telling his people these life species hate all technology and secretly plot to destroy them with magic. Now, they want to exterminate the biological species. That started the wars. The spheres are their weapon. An unequal battle, where the life species got captured like you describe, killed for the most part, some get brain implants and get programmed to perform forced labor.

Every generation or two, the autocrat gets replaced and the new autocrat needs a "war" like this, to pump up their prestige.

Some individuals are considered "compatible". They are subjected to what we see as experiments. They are, in some way: the aliens attempt to build in bio-technology into their bodies, to convert them to into a bio-technological, superior being. Most sentient folks in captivity don't survive that procedure. Some do.. but you don't want to be them.

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