Aminfarances Institute of Science and Technomancy
The Aminfarances Institute of Science and Technomancy has been variously described as a religious cult, a force for discovery, a pyramid scheme, an asylum, and an establishment of higher learning. For the most part, the Institute has no official campus or permanent facilities-- although certain senior faculty members who've managed to amass enough donations and aspiring lower-rung research assistants in tow have managed to form village-sized gatherings of varying duration.
Members of the Institute assert an ancient heritage, often hinting at origins long before written history for their assorted guarded handshakes and cryptic intoned greetings and slogans in languages few scholars would admit to being worth real study. What little is known about the organizational structure of the Institute is that it is arranged in a series of nested circles, each more secretive than the last. (However, some scholars, present author included, have put forth the notion that all this secrecy is just a way of covering for the fact that they're just making splak up as they go along.)
At any rate, the Institute works by recruiting easily excited and overly intelligent young men and women as initiates to engage in projects of scientific and technomantic research, under the direction of a more senior chaplain/advisor. This work is undertaken by the initiate with the hope that one day, he or she will sufficiently help advance that superior's own research projects enough to prompt a recommendation for induction into the next most inner circle of study (and in turn, direct his or her own group of under-initiates). There are many written and unwritten standards and practices concerning when and how such recommendations and promotions may be made, but most of it rests on the whim of the superior.
However, something about the Institute's succession of circles with their hinted mysteries, and the occasional dramatic new discovery or invention released to (or unleashed upon) the world at large, appeals greatly to a certain kind of maladjusted student in ample supply. The initiate's progression through the rising levels of circles, with reportedly real and imaginary benefits, entices an enormous number to gladly fund their own studies from their own purses (and their friends and families' purses) as well as donate to their superior's work.
- He was transformed into some god-like being in an experiment that all initiates may one day discover.
- She swapped places with a mere initiate one day to enjoy the simple life.
- He or she never existed, and was just the invention of a cabal of tinkerers bent on getting free research help.
- He blew himself up in a shed one morning.
- She is currently exploring the vast reaches of utterly strange regions of the world.
As you can see, even Aminfarances' gender is up for debate.
--Tamlin Moon 01:07 20040901 EDT