Torth are all mind readers (high level telepaths). Due to their innate ability to ascend into a collective realm of shared minds known as the Mind Language, they have never invented telegraphs, radio, telephones, television, or the internet. They regard communications technology as worthless junk, since the Mind Language is free, unlimited, unrestricted, and instantaneous. Torth spend their entire waking lives networked with other Torth. They only descend from the Mind Language to sleep--or for rare moments of privacy, which is regarded as suspicious behavior.
Torth share all of their perceptions and life experiences with a constantly shifting background audience, which may include peers on another planet, thousands of light years away. The average Torth is networked with 10 to 30 other minds at any given moment. Prominent or high-ranked Torth gain a much larger audience, and when a Torth does something noteworthy, their audience swells to include billions of attentive minds. Most Torth aim for fame, since impressing the Torth Majority leads to a higher rank and better benefits. Distraught Torth get shunned and lose all of their audience (this is associated with suicide, exile, execution, or sudden death). No one wants to share a painful experience.
The Mind Language is integral to Torth society, and affects everything from politics to daily life. Torth historians are unsure when it first arose, because the most ancient preserved memories are faded and sketchy from age. However, most historians agree that the Mind Language requires a critical mass of cooperative mind readers in order to function. The exact number is debatable.
FTL (faster than light) travel is vital to the maintenance and growth of the galaxy-spanning Torth Empire. The Torth continue to explore their distant frontiers and seek new worlds to conquer and colonize.
The local galaxy is crisscrossed with temporal streams, multi-dimensional jump points that only exist at fixed locations in deep space. These points warp time and space. Travel from one temporal stream to another is instantaneous. Not only is it FTL, it is effectively teleportation ... but since the streams only exist in deep space, a journey must begin and end in 'slow travel.' The fastest streamship travels at 1.5 billion miles per hour, or less than half of light speed. It may take a week to travel from a temporal stream to a planet, or vice versa.
Temporal streams were mapped--or perhaps created--by a prior galactic civilization, which has since been conquered and destroyed by the Torth Empire. The Torth cannot figure out how to create new temporal streams, if such a feat is possible, and they have been unable to map any new ones. They rely on the existing maps. For this reason, FTL travel is limited to the Milky Way Galaxy and the Magellanic Cloud Galaxies. The Torth have sent colony ships to the Andromeda Galaxy, but they must travel at less than half of light speed, and require millenniums to make the journey.
Since local radiation and other factors affect temporal streams, their use requires dynamic and precise calculations, including the mass and velocity of the spaceship. A miscalculation can destroy a spaceship.
Streamships are the only class of vessel capable of FTL travel. Since the Torth gain most of their technology from conquered civilizations, assimiliating prior designs, streamships come in a wide variety of sizes and designs.
Cargo streamships can hold enough volume to fill a lake. They dock at orbital stations to transfer their freight. Military streamships are out of fashion, and are mostly retired from use, or refurbished as high-volume passenger transportation. Luxury streamships are like personal yachts, owned by Torth of high rank.
Colony ships are enormous, the size of a continent in a spherical or cylindrical capsule. Some approach the size of a planet. Their mass makes it impossible for them to utilize temporal streams. The trade-off is that they can carry enormous amounts of freight, or cities full of passengers. Colony ships may be docked in synchronous orbit around planets, but they have an effect on tides and weather. Most colony ships are never docked, but travel in continuous use for millenniums. Meticulous navigation is required, along with propulsion technicians and other engineers. All colony ships are designed for long-term life support, and include simulated gravity. The Torth Empire currently uses one hundred and twenty-one colony ships.
These shuttles range in size from hardy, one-person 'rough commuters' to high capacity passenger commuters. They're used soley to transfer passengers or cargo between space vessels, stations, orbital satellites, or planetary surfaces. Some commuter shuttles lack gravity simulation. Top speed is approximately 115,000,000 miles per hour. At that speed, one could travel from Earth's surface to the sun in under an hour, and to Pluto in 32 hours, but it would take years to reach the nearest star. Most Commuters can accelerate from 0 to 50,000 mph in ten minutes. To reach full speed takes about 7 minutes beyond a planet's atmosphere.
It's worth noting that streamships and high capacity commuter shuttles cannot steer during launch from a planetary surface, but 'rough commuters' can. These small shuttles were originally designed for military use, and retain that flexibility and firepower. They may 'skim' a planet's surface in order to reach escape velocity.
The thrusters of a ship are unprotected by its ionic polymer hull, and therefore vulnerable to damage. Without thrusters, a ship may be stranded, or the damage will cause miscalculations that result in destruction or crash-landing.
Most space vessels are fueled by a combination of harnessed laser light, nucleosynthesis, and antimatter. The average streamship only needs to refuel every century or so, but fuel is critical. Fuel stations are placed strategically throughout the galaxy. They do not support life (no supplies), but they manufacture antimatter.
With the exception of rough commuter shuttles, spaceships require a launch pad to boost them into orbital space. Launchpads only exist in spaceports, which are generally inside or near major cities. Most spaceports are designed with layered tiers, with each streamship or commuter shuttle docked on its own assigned launchpad. Launchpads glow when active, drawing power from the city's power grid. They build a charge of electromagnetic force, flinging the ship high upon launch, and slowing its descent and guiding it during landing.
Most Torth prefer to travel in frictionless silence. Hovercarts and hoverchairs glide like boats (although they require a solid surface to travel upon). They are localized to the magnetic field of their planet, and utilize a spinning disk that enhances that field and creates an equal-and-opposing force, pushing the platform up to three feet off the ground.
Hovercarts are the ubiquitous mode of public transportation for the Torth Empire. Their design is simple: an open platform equipped with a railing. Hovercarts can speed along at over 100 miles per hour, but they eventually need to rest and recharge. All hovercarts have a control panel, and many include bench seats.
Hoverchairs (and hovercrutches, etc.) are for personal use, favored by physically handicapped or elderly Torth. They are limited in speed for safety reasons, but they recharge very quickly.
Transports combine hover technology with fuel cell propulsion and intake engines. They can do loops and tight turns, travel at 900 miles per hour, fly to an altitude of 10,000 feet, and they're relatively silent. Most transports lack windows. Their hulls are coated with adaptive skin sensors that reconstruct the exterior view to the interior.
Torth cities have aerial freeways and traffic laws. Although aerial traffic may be thick and fast, it is tightly controlled, and accidents are rare.
Like transports, submersibles are fast and manueverable. They may travel at 200 miles per hour underwater, depending on currents. Hybrid submersible transports exist, although these high performance vehicles are reserved for high rank Torth.
Adaptive cells transmit physical light and a wide range of electromagnetic energy. A few layers of adaptive cells form 'adaptive skin,' which can simulate light and depth, creating convincing perceptual illusions. Torth coat ceilings and walls with adaptive skin, simulating anything from a mirrored surface to a foggy dawn to a starlit night.
Adaptive skin sensors absorb data and transfer it to 'mirrored' cells, thereby recreating a view. Torth consider glass panes to be primitive; they use adaptive skin instead of windows. An object coated in adaptive skin can transmit the light from its opposite side, thereby appearing to be invisible. When moving, a transport or streamship coated in adaptive skin will appear to ripple. Coated in adaptive skin, a wall may appear to be solid on one side and invisible on the other side.
Torth make extensive use of adaptive skin. They coat nearly everything with it, simulating scenic views and natural daylight where none exists. They even coat their irises with a thin layer of adaptive cells, programmed to display a certain color (such as yellow) to signify their rank.
Torth holographs are so high-definition, they look real, except for the absence of shadows (which can be remedied by the careful application of adaptive skin). Holographs are used for navigation, city planning, and three-dimension design or blueprints. Holographs are also used extensively for cosmetic purposes, covering up doorways, garbage shafts, air vents, etc.
Holographs are projected onto a gaseous field of charged air molecules, designed to reflect and refract light. A wall can appear to melt away or fly apart ... when in reality, a hidden door opened, and the holographic illusion simply switched off.
By shaping various types of fluoropolymers, the Torth create ultra-strong walls as flexible as plastic. These are used in high pressure stress areas, such as underwater. They're also used in colony ships, and cities on gaseous planets.
Ionic polymers and ionic polymer tungsten-carbide can only be manufactured in special laboratories, and these polymers are used almost exclusively to build the hulls of spaceships and space stations, with the exception of a few ancient fortressed cities--relics from a time when the Torth Empire was at war. This super-strong material is nearly indestructible. It can absorb nuclear impacts and meteor strikes. Repeated strikes will dent or pit it, and a battered hull must be replaced every few centuries.
These deliver shocks to prod a slave awake and to remind a slave to eat, thereby keeping the slave in working condition. Slave collars can only be removed by using a multi-purpose glove tool, which only Torth are permitted to own or wear.
Torth have engineered all sorts of folding mechanisms, allowing them to toss an egg-sized object which can sense a living target and unfurl into a jointed net in less than 3 seconds, capturing the target.
All Torth are issued a fingerless glove that serves as a multi-purpose tool as well as an antimatter weapon for self-defense. The glove includes a display screen and several buttons. The trigger is within easy reach of the thumb. High rank Torth get additional features, and their gloves are PIN-protected.
Sometimes, microdarts and antimatter aren't enough to vanquish an enemy. The Torth are experts at nuclear fission and fusion technology.
The only individuals capable of challenging the might of the Torth Empire are Yeresunsa, or people with powers that go beyond telepathy. Some Yeresunsa are powerful enough to shield themselves from microdarts, antimatter blasts, and nuclear bombs. The Torth routinely kill any Yeresunsa fetuses conceived on their baby farms, so they rarely encounter adult Yeresunsa ... but when they do, trouble ensues.
One small drop of the inhibitor serum renders a Yeresunsa powerless for roughly 20 to 40 hours (a strong Yeresunsa will recover more quickly than a weak or unhealthy Yeresunsa). When Torth are battling a Yeresunsa, they stock their glove weapons with microdarts of the inhibitor and try to catch their opponent off-guard. When they capture a Yeresunsa, the first thing they do is affix a patch of inhibitor that the prisoner cannot remove from his or her skin, usually in the form of a slave collar.
The Torth excel at avoiding pain and inventing luxury, and they've invented a way to deliver injections painlessly. Microdarts are so tiny, they can penetrate living tissue without pain. It feels like a minor itch. Microdarts are programmed to seek a blood vessel, penetrate the membrane, and then biodegrade, delivering tiny globules of medicine (or poison, or explosives) directly into the bloodstream.
As mind readers, the Torth have no need for virtual reality or other simulations. However, they can enhance a mental adventure by wearing a mesh over their head, which alters their brainwaves. Some meshes bring on a dream-like trance. Tranquility meshes are commonly used by nearly all the Torth in the Empire, although overuse can slow down mental processing speed and dull thoughts. Other meshes are used on prisoners to induce unease, fear, or anger. The effect of a mood mesh is heightened when the user is in REM sleep, inducing vivid dreams.
Torth live an average of 120 human years, with some rare individuals living as old as 190. They've invented a medicine to inhibit the shortening of telomere chains, preserving most bodily cells in an eternally youthful state.
Since the Torth have outlawed sex, they don't get pregnant or raise children. Instead, genetically healthy Torth are required to donate their sperm or eggs to the nearest local baby farm. Crimson Ranks have authority to select and mix the genetic material, with an aim to prevent inbreeding and other factors that may cause genetic mutations. Fetuses are grown in amniotic sacs, and the babies are tended by slaves. Each Torth baby endures rigorous tests, designed to weed out undesirable traits such as emotions, mental retardation, severe handicaps, insanity, lack of telepathy, and Yeresunsa powers. As the babies grow, they are given lessons via the Mind Language by designated adults. Torth children never know who their genetic relatives are, and they're taught not to care. At puberty, each child goes through a final Testing, and if s/he passes, s/he becomes an adult citizen of the Torth Empire.
Over 60% of Torth babies and children fail the tests and are killed. But since every healthy Torth adult produces at least fifty offspring, the population of the Torth Empire continues to blast upward.
Torth use robotics for artificial limbs and organs, and other small aids. They've never developed advanced robots because slaves are easier to breed and train. If a robot were given artifical intelligence equivalent to that of a slave, it would learn faster than a slave, and be harder to discipline or destroy. Advanced A.I. might develop ways around slavery. For this reason, the Torth Empire has forbidden A.I. research.
The Torth Empire has outlawed bioengineering due to past mistakes. Despite this law, the Torth are expert geneticists, pathologists, and virologists. Cloning is permissible, to a limited extent, and Torth grow replacement organs in cloning vats.
And what would a Servant of All be without biological enhancements? Part of the attraction of attaining a high rank is to be granted faster reflexes, acute and infrared vision, and an enhanced sense of hearing and smell.
The Torth rely on the Mind Language to store personal memories, scientific research, historical events, and all things valued by the Torth Majority. Mutant Torth known as 'super-geniuses' are considered to be the pillars supporting the Mind Language, since they have infallible memories, and can store much more data than everyone else. Although super-geniuses die before they finish going through puberty, they absorb hundreds of thousands of lifetimes of personal experiences and knowledge. Without those 'backup systems,' the Mind Language might lose knowledge at a much greater rate.
But some data is too complex even for a super-genius. They've invented data tablets to store gigantic equations, calculations, and blueprints. Since the Torth Empire lacks an internet, files must be transferred manually, which makes certain data tablets unique or valuable. A valuable data tablet might be kept in an important place, such as a lounge for engineers. Or it might be owned by a high rank Torth.
Satellite drones orbit every colonized planet and moon, and most of the uncolonized ones. They monitor weather patterns and collect data for scientific purposes. Populated planets use orbital stations for cargo transfer.
The Torth are not quite as advanced in the field of surveillance as they are in other fields, due to their reliance on the Mind Language. They lack the ability to record long periods of footage. Instead, they rely on slaves or animals to observe an area under surveillance, and then probe the minds of those slaves or animals to discover what happened.
Torth use surveillance cameras, which can be microscopic in size. Some cameras are mobile, designed to look like local bugs or plants. But surveillance cameras can only record 20 minutes of footage or so, and since the Torth lack an internet, their cameras can't be viewed from a remote location.
The Torth excel at writing small programs designed for visual stimulation or logic puzzles. Morph sculptures are based on a simple 3-dimensional base shape (a sphere, cube, cylinder, or torus) which is programmatically animated to form a sequence of complex sculptures. Aside from their use as ornamentation, these are often used to create pleasant waterfalls, or even bridges or ramps.
The Torth don't have much use for large quantities of recorded footage. However, some Torth personalize their domain with a holographic bust or full-body simulation, looped to appear to breathe and blink.
Recorded loops are also used in programmed adaptive cells, 'skinning' a ceiling or wall so that it appears to display a real-time sky or environment.