The Empire of Friends is a nomadic state, an empire on the move. The five sacred space stations that form the core of the empire are on an ancient pilgrimage, making a slow sweeping circuit of the galaxy. This is because the way of friendship, the philosophy that rules the empire. By forcing the empire to keep moving, it is pushed into constant conflict which is supposed to hone the social ties that bind society together.
The Friendly Emperor is, by ancient tradition, the scariest psychic in the Empire. While in most endeavors the way of Friendship prizes collective effort, the Emperor must fight alone to keep the title. Those that best the Emperor's chamberlain, even non-citizens earn the right to challenge the Emperor for the throne.
The Empire does not have a formal military. This is not the same as having no military. In their post scarcity, post capitalism society the upper class are those skilled enough to survive in the wider universe. These adventurers form an ad-hoc armed force, responding to crises according to their whims and availability. There is a reputation economy here, with more dire crises rewarding more notoriety. The most famous adventurers can waltz into any imperial holding and be treated like royalty. The less famous can be expected to be treated like dirt.
The Empire can be divided into three regions, the core worlds, the frontier and the waning Empire. The frontier is a wild place, home to the empire's outcasts. This means the first envoys from the empire are heretics, pirates and down on their luck adventurers.
The core worlds are where the bulk of the Imperialism happens. The space around the path of the scared stations and needs to be safe, stable and prosperous. Any instability or poverty in independent systems is therefore a matter of state security, and the system will soon find its independence compromised.
The waning empire are those planets left behind by the pilgrimage, and its home to the scum too cowardly to be pirates. The Imperials here are a loose coalition of colonialists and carpet baggers. This region sees more than its fair share of revolt and rebellion, which suits the core empire just fine.
Neon Punks were originally servitors of the Obelisk Dreamers, and as such they have a built in desire to be servile. The Way of Friendship acts as a hack on their submissive programing; the higher power they serve being their group of friends and the society they are a part of. Neon Punks live in vast social groups, linked together by their empathic sense. They have individual personalities but in times of stress those are subsumed into the groupmind.
They vary widely in phenotype; they all have humanoid body plans an black skin, but have different builds. Some have wings, tails or horns. Each has vivid markings in a particular color, like hot pink, lime green or safety orange. A select few, known as Alpha Punks are born with strong psychic powers and reduced servile instincts. Their markings are ultraviolet, making them appear black to human eyes.
Power Fetuses were created by the Obelisk Dreamers to be psychic weapons. They have overdeveloped heads and neonatal bodies. They are born with strong psychic powers, which only strengthen with use, the cost of their powers, in addition to their physical underdevelopment, is a sort of progressive monomania. Each Power Fetus develops a psychic specialty, which begins to consume all their mental bandwidth. Old power Fetuses have all their mental faculties atrophy except for their obsession.
They can no reproduce on their own, having to rely on biokinetic specialists to grow new Power Fetuses. Fine molecular control is required to release the epigenetic locks on their genome .
"Worm Pile" is the name of one of the core races and an apt description of them. An "individual" Worm Pile is a colony of several hundred small worms that move together as a single unit. Psychic linkages between the component creatures make it so that the whole pile functions like one big brain. Worm Pile personalities aren't fixed, rather they travel freely from colony to colony. Worm Piles can have a variety of powerful psychic abilities, including invasive telepathy and biokinesis
Synth Heads are machine Sapients first conceived of by the Obelisk Dreamers. They are geometric shapes made of a translucent glass like material. They can float with telekinesis, or they can control mechanical bodies with techno-kinesis, the ability to psychically manipulate electronic and mechanical systems. It is believed that they were intended to be a counter to the machine ecologies of the Gnomics. They are not manufactured in this dimension, rather they are harvested from a plane known as the Liquid Machine.
Ular station is the homeland of the Neon Punks. It is the most improvised of the five sacred stations. This is because there are so many Neon Punks. It is a flotilla of scavenged and ad-hoc habits, with many sections open to the vacuum, as the Punks can survive in space. In the Center of the swarm there is the original* cloning machine that makes new Neon Punks. Defending and maintaining this machine is Ular's primary industry, as it is irreplaceable. The center of the city is also where the bubble engine is located. This device generates a massive warp field, allowing the city to move as a single unit. The middle region is home to the station's one tourist attraction; a district of dojos and arenas known as the Whet Stone. Here, visitors can take classes in psychic combat, spectate a wide variety of contests and get their asses kicked in a constructive fashion.
Akraton Station was originally some sort of giant living starship. Long ago, it died and was colonized by Worm Piles. Now it is a floating hunk of Rot and Fungus; its interior a dark, dank maze. The station is home to the Worm Pile afterlives, three gargantuan Worm Piles that host the emulated minds of dead aliens in a simulated reality. "Life" inside these squirming bardos is pleasant enough; the tenants see it as a sort of retirement as their personalities are slowly digested**. The resulting psychic flotsam then congeals into new Worm Pile personalities.
There is an afterlife for celebrities and adventurers, one for normal citizens and one for criminals and enemies of the state. This last one is the most unpleasant, entirely because of the attitude of the inmates. The "geography" of the dreamscape consists of several villages of cooperative prisoners surrounded by outlands haunted by the antisocial.
Lekitar Station is actually an ice covered moon with an internal ocean. This is the home world of the Power Fetuses. Deep in the ocean there is the gestation chamber, where unborn Power Fetuses are grown by ancient biokinetic specialists. The planet is home to many old and powerful Fetuses, silent guardians totally focused on their tasks. It is also home to the Eggs Recursive, an alternate dimension young Power Fetuses are sent to minimize the damage they could cause.
Getarch Station is the smallest of the five stations. It consists of a chamber containing the Liquid Obelisk and a shrine city around it. The Obelisk is the source of the Liquid Machine, the dimension the Synth Heads are from. Most inhabitants make their living harvesting new Synth Heads. Ironically, Synth Heads are ill equipped to explore their home dimension.
The Liquid Machine is accessible from a bubble twenty four light-minutes across, centered on the obelisk. Various psychic powers and dimensional technology can transport people and objects inside. Being in the machine is like being in an infinite sunset sky; vast pastel clouds whorl and scud in fractal patterns. The clouds are not water, but a strange self-willed fluid. Where the currents meet there are chaotic confluxes, nodes that are sort of like factories and sort of like storms. It is here new Synth Heads are formed. Harvesters need to beware as these places crackle with energy and have no recognizable safety standards. The Liquid Machine is also haunted by the Crystal Signal, a continuous transmission that causes machines to go berserk and "mutate" into bizarre crystal entities. Synth Heads are vulnerable to this virus, meaning newborn Synth Heads must be hustled out of the Machine before they wake up for the first time.
The current Emperor is Glarion of the Unpredicted Force, a heavily built Alpha Punk with a muscular tail. His throne room is in the fifth station, Telgravt and it doubles as a combat arena. This is where he defends his title and adjudicates high level disputes. He does little actual governing, as he prefers to spend his time honing his telekinetic abilities. The other member of the Unpredictable Force make up his cabinet, and handle much of the running of the empire. He only becomes personally involved in the most dire of conflicts. In war and single combat he prefers decapitation strikes.
Reddish Blue Three*** is the Emperor's Chamberlain. It is their job to screen all challengers to the Emperor, a chore they prosecute with great cruelty as a preemptive measure to discourage the riffraff. They pilot a four armed humanoid combat mech with 2 automatic slug throwers and a built in shield generator. They also has the ability to project decoy images into her opponents mind. When they are not playing with fools they are handling the Emperors personal affairs, which include handing out imperial commissions, special high priority tasks vital to Imperial security.
Rantz looks like one of the many indignant hordes of Neon Punks that crowd Ular station. She spends her time loitering in back alleys, watching from the shadows. If she sees a fight, she joins in on whatever side catches her interest. She is not the useless bag woman she appears to be. Her orange markings are just paint; below them are ultraviolet lines and swirls. She is an alpha punk, the Emperors old mentor, and this is her retirement. Her hobby is well known, giving the local ne'er-do-wells a phobia of daft old women.
Abbot Ilt Is the leader of the Perdition Monks, a Worm Pile order that keeps order in the criminal afterlife. They protect the villages from the outlanders, but egos can only spend so much time in an afterlife before they suffer degradation. This places a hard limit on how much force the Monks can project. To make up the short fall Ilt hires outsiders for bounty hunting and patrol missions in the outlands. He runs a semisecret deadpool where the monks bet on the life spans of both the inmates and the hired mercenaries.
*For certain philosophical values of "original" There isn't a single part that hasn't been replaced at least once.
**this is less painful than it sounds.
*** They are named after the colors of the factory storm they were harvested from. The numeral means they were the third such Synth Head found in that batch