The Seal of Quality

Thunimidár,

I have completed the investigation of the quality control incident of last month with regard to various varietals of our pleasure fruit on sale in the Chonsey Provinces.

It would appear that one of the local suppliers chosen to produce these varietals took it upon themselves (in direct defiance of our Better Product mandate) to dope the pleasure fruit produced with anticompetitive sequesterands targeted at the hedonic products of competing organizations. This led to various customers becoming unable to consume said products, in many cases without suffering severe side effects.

These customers have been informed of the reason for these events, and compensated accordingly for past harms done. Discounted access to our products has also been offered in the interests of goodwill.

Internally, OP1 in this constellation was deemed to be guilty of only minor negligence, and has been informed of a cut in his percentages. A formal reprimand has been placed in his file.

As per standard procedure for handling supply of known-contaminated goods, our contract, and the supplier, have been terminated.

Awaiting further instructions,

SOP Bluesteel

– archived from the Chonsey Provinces Eldinimieuthunimis darknet

Wakey, Wakey

navigational awareness system: The most dangerous part of space flight, interface vehicles excepted, is close-orbit maneuvering, or rendezvous, in which one craft must maneuver near to, or even to touch, another safely. Since neither starships nor habitats are small, it only takes a minor accident to involve a lot of momentum. For this reason, it is at these times that the soph conning a space vehicle, be they sailing master or pilot, must be most attentive.

The navigational awareness system is an adaptation of older technologies to the space environment, which while not mandated by the Imperial Navigation Act, is often required by celestime insurers. Essentially, when the equipped vessel is in close proximity to another craft or station and operating under manual control, it periodically and randomly prompts the soph at the conn with a high or low chime, to which they must respond promptly by left-depressing or right-depressing an acknowledgement pedal appropriately. (Some systems attempted to monitor the attention state of the helmsman directly using neural sensors, but this technique had the disadvantage of being unable to distinguish between concentration on the conn, and concentration on this month’s issue of Xenophilia Unveiled.)

Failure to do so causes automatic safety systems tied into the NAS to disable the conn controls, to bring the craft (using cold-gas thrusters or other low-power drive systems) to rest with respect to the local reference body in such a manner as to avoid possibly causing a collision, and to pip the transponder to indicate that the craft is not under command. These measures cannot be reverted without removing the current helm key and inserting it, or another, anew. This ensures that an inattentive helmsman, or one who suffers a medical emergency during such maneuvers, should not be able to steer their craft unknowingly into danger.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

As She Is Spoke

Some more words and phrases, since I’m feeling linguistic this morning:

esélmór: remembrance; memory-token (from esél “remember” + mórés “token, representation”); an object kept to stimulate the memory.

ethé: soft, yielding, comfortable

feäl qalasír: necessity (internal; an irrefusable demand of the soul); from feäl – abstraction operator – + qalasír “driving energies of the individual”.

galráësél: to recall with the body, as in trained reflexes or physical skills (from galrás “flesh” and esél “remember”)

galshín: to carve (cut meat), a meat-carving knife

galshíndar: one who uses a meat-carving knife; butcher

hatheän: ephemeral, brief (from hath “time” + eän “flicker (of flame)”).

húëll: animal (originally, anything which is living and moves by its own will)

kalat: plant, sessile lifeform (originally, anything which is living and does not move itself)

kithémór: heart-token (from kithel “to feel, to emote” + mórés “token, representation”); an object kept to express its owner’s passions.

layés: longing, yearning, to long /yearn for

misan: a day-night cycle; specifically, one calendar “day” composed of an arísú “day” and a múrna “night”, although not necessarily in that order. See also -mis, suffix for day names.

(Traditionally, the cycle was accounted from dawn to following dawn in the Old Empires region, which became the basis of the Harmonious Calendar; however, when contact with the Underside was made, the cycle there was accounted from dusk to following dusk, thus preserving identity of date, i.e., the 9th day of the month would consist of the same hours on both Upperside and Underside, save with the day and night reversed to night and day.)

mithseir: mathematician (from mithá “number(s)” + idaseir “seer, scryer”).

nistrazik: ore (from nistraöth “metal” + azik “rock”)

shín: to cut, a cutter (including knives and all other objects which cut)

“súnavár an-arídamaen”: “brightening sunsets” (from súnar “bright” + arídan “sun” and maen “to fall, one which falls”); a euphemism for “dead”, referring to cremation and the scattering of ashes into the wind.

“traäman cadair”: the Dragon Throne (from aman “dragon” + cadair “throne”).

“traülestxí ithal”: mathom, purposeless object (potentially with function, but without purpose); from estxí “function”, diminutive form of estxíjir “wyrd/destiny/dharma” + ithal “object”.

velcál: bread; technically any product made from a dough of ground grains (desh). Seen often in the compounds el velcál ap aesaer (bread and salt) and el velcál ap galrás (bread and meat; a common type of sandwich).

velmahav: baker, to bake (from velcál “bread” + mahav “make”)

Steenkin’ Badges

One of the better known traditions in the Legions is the collection of fort badges. When you successfully pass training at one of the Legions’ many specialized facilities, you are awarded a small ceramic badge to display with that fort’s crest. Officially, this is so that legionaries with particular skill-sets under their belts are readily identifiable; unofficially, it lets veterans of particular courses make those who haven’t attended them pay for the next round of drinks.

The one everyone’s familiar with, of course, is the falcon-over-anvil badge of Fort Petrae, where every new legionary-apprentice goes for basic training.

Stay in and get assigned to interesting jobs, and there are plenty more to collect. Fort Snowbound, for ice moon, high-radiation and dark-ocean training. Fort Cascade, for survival and deep-field operations. Fort Inferno, for high-pressure, toxic-environment, and volcanic-world training. Fort Labyrinth, a blacked-out maze in a barren rock where you learn stealth, sniping, breaking stealth, and not being sniped. Fort Efreet, for those chosen few who might need to fight inside a sun.

And perhaps most memorable, there’s Fort Surreal, where the challenge is a simple combined obstacle, live-fire, and social-combat course, just like you were run through back at Fort Petrae.

It’s just that at Fort Petrae, they don’t shoot you up with the most gods-cursed witch’s brew of narcotics, stimulants, and hallucinogens they can devise first.

– The Emperor’s Little Finger: A Double Dodectave of Special Ops

Eldraeic Word of the Day: cagshálvéth

cagshálvéth: (lit. “sewer-food”; from cagshálla “sewer” + evéth “food”; the former itself from cagál “shit” + shálla “pipe”) a derogatory term applied to yeast-based and (especially) mycogenic foodstuffs, typically by outworld dirtsiders who haven’t figured out yet that a larger circle of life doesn’t mean that they aren’t eating as much shit as they’re talking.

(Actually a much more common word in Trade than regular Eldraeic.)

Safety First

The difficult part of constructing extremely tall buildings and other large structures is not, despite initial appearances, the use of dynamic compressive members, electromagnetic coupling, paragravitation, and other such tricks to make the entire structure hang together. That part is child’s play.

The difficult part is arranging that, should all your clever dynamic trickery fail, along with its auxiliaries and backups, the building will come apart in a safe manner that both doesn’t result in any casualties, and preferably permits the building to be easily reassembled afterwards.

And if you aren’t clear on why this is considered difficult, consider well the design issues of a long-term-stable, instant-use-no-fail, one-shot rocket motor capable of pushing a twelve-storey slice from the stratosphere into a stable recovery orbit, while being safe to use around all the other building segments doing the same thing.

– Cessír Claves-ith-Estenv,
Octarthius Professor of Megastructural Engineering

Continuity

Hearken, ye citizen-shareholders of the Empire of the Star, great and glorious beyond all greatness and glory, to this Harmonious Proclamation of Deliberate Wisdom and Thoughtful Contemplation, the seventeenth of this current session.

Know that your Emperor, Calan Amanyr, First of His Name, by Right of Coronargyr and Chartered Mandate Emperor of the Eldrae, Chief Executive Officer of the Imperium Incorporate, First of the Free, Defender of the Star’s Flame, Heart of the Realm, Sovereign Lord of the Heights and Depths, Diarch of the Infinite, has been afflicted by the plague of Gray Wasting that currently troubles Our Realm.

Know further that in accordance with His wishes and those of the Empress, to assure the continuance of governance, the Senate has performed the necessary rituals and declared the proper successors to the Imperial right and authority to be Grand Prince Corin Amanyr, First of His Name, and Grand Princess Linariel Varavelen, First of Her Name; and furthermore, have affirmed that by Order-in-Council, the successors shall act as Regents until such time as the Emperor may have recovered or until the succession is mandated.

Be calm, and know that even in these troubled times, our rightful and meritorious sovereigns sit upon the Dragon Throne.

Published under my hand and seal this day 1104 Gradakhmath 11,

Haydith Septimiel-ith-Septimiel
by appointment of the President of the Senate
Incorruptible Secretary

Lactic Revolutionary Front

BROADCAST //  PHÓLARAE LABSWARM & ADJUNCTS // INFRA UNCLASS
ALL ECS STATIONS ANNOUNCE
IMMEDIATE PREEMPT
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY // ALERT 6981/11/04

This is an EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY alert for all residents of the Phólarae labswarm and adjuncts. Related travel advisories have been dispatched to regions proximal.

An enhanced lactobacillus culture having escaped from a bactry system within Tokóver Hot Labs module 3/A in the early hours of this morning – a culture which is now displaying signs of internal self-organization, intentionality, and device manipulation – the Office of the Sane Man advises that all areas aboard Tokóver Hot Labs module 3/A should be considered off-limits to all non-essential personnel without special authorization until negotiations are complete and a contrabroadcast is formally made.

The Office of the Sane Man requests that all personnel and/or visitors with experience in linguistics or in the chemical communication of the biological components of yoghurt please identify themselves to the Unexpected Cognition Task Force and hold themselves ready for deployment.

It has been three (3) days since our last unanticipated intelligence excursion.

All citizen-shareholders are thanked for their cooperation.

Ends.

For Gold, Bright Gold, Is Master of Sophs All…

In answer to your questions, gentlesophs, and in view of both the composition and the promise of confidentiality promised by this committee, the Directorate have authorized me to make the following statement:

It is true that loans authorized by our polity banking department underwrote much of the recent Naxklak-Tlafotl Conflict. It is further true that in keeping with our standard policy on sovereign liabilities, we have no intention of forgiving those debts despite our willingness to offer deferral of payments, and will enforce any defaults with our customary vigor.

What is also true, but not commonly known, is that the current state of affairs was entirely intentional. This latest chapter in the Naxklak-Tlafotl Conflict, with particular note to both parties commerce raiding and free exercise of the right of angary, has seriously impaired traffic along a major spur of the Golden Band – which is to say, the Circumferential – and perturbed markets across the entire constellation. If you will consult the figures we have made available, we estimate that over the six-year course of the Conflict, we have seen a 20.4% drop in Gross Regional Product, even allowing for the war economy offset, and a 38.2% diminution in regional trade volume.

As such it is the policy of Gilea & Company to take these belligerents firmly by the budget and – shall we say – discourage future ventures into military adventurism. The wealth, good sophs, must flow…

– Innis Cheraelar,
Vice-President of Polity Banking, Gilea & Company, ICC
testifying before the Conclave Commission on Trade and Industry

Less Than Nothing

nilgularity: One less, meaning more, than a singularity.

If a singularity is a point at which a physical function takes on an infinite value and reality nearby thus becomes unreliable, a nilgularity is a point at which that physical function becomes transfinite and reality rejects it entirely.

A hole in the universe which doesn’t exist, because it fell through the hole.

A mathematical construct in certain theories of physical ontology (see primarily Undiscovered Zeroes in Self-Computational Creatia, Sjarra, Telithos, and Citrine Aria in C#, Proceedings of the Incomprehensible College, Vol. 246) that is too bloody weird to adequately sum up in words.

– A Dictionary of the New Physics, Imperial University Press

The Law of the Market

So, disclaimer up front: this isn’t actually mine, for a large part. It was inspired by a couple of verses posted on Twitter by Eliezer Yudkowsky back in March, it stuck in my head, and I kept thinking that I should do something with it.

So what I ended up doing with it, given that it obviously fits the ‘verse very strongly, is take the best parts of the resulting thread, polish ’em together, and behold!

Obviously originally based on Kipling’s Law of the Jungle. Verse contents pre my hackery taken from posts by Eliezer Yudkowsky (@ESYudkowsky), Andrew Flicker (@aflicker), You Suffer, But Why? (@plasmatron7), ConceptPointer (@ConceptPointer) and Adrià Garriga (@AdriGarriga). No claim of ownership is made or implied.

Now this is the Law of the Market
As bright and as stark as the Sun
And the party that keeps it may prosper
But the party that breaks it is done

As the caravan circles the trade road,
The Law runneth round and again;
For the good of the realm is its trade,
And the good of each trade is the realm.

Learn daily the wants of the market,
Deal sharply, but never defraud.
And remember that wealth is for working
And never should lie in your hoard.

The trader may follow the business,
But, Apt, when thy plans are well-thought,
Remember that all should earn value –
Go forth and deliver what’s sought!

When buyer meets seller at market,
And neither spreads harm, smog, or schemes
List well while the offers are spoken
It may be as good as it seems.

Ev’ry trade must be good for all parties
So that each’d rather do it than not
You may threaten to trade with another
But not say, “Price it so or be shot!”

Each sale must be paired with a purchase,
thus the balance: Demand and Supply.
If demand falls, prices will follow,
if supply drops, prices will fly.

Now oft you may find yourself tempted
To conceal trades from watcher or foe
But never forget — I say, never! —
That Trust underwrites the whole show!

When ye deal with another against you,
You must keep to the Peace and the Law,
Lest others be harmed by your passions,
And our wealth be diminished by War.

Trades numb’ring as stars in the heavens
Form an intricate web of effect
While the factors perusing their ledgers,
Hope to scry out their profit and debt.

In the depths of the networks of trading
Sleeps a god that is hidden and blind
His the credit when credit is given
And all that do business – his mind!

Amphisbaena

Amphisbaena-class battleship

“Half ahe… that way.”

– Capt. Olavi Corel, first captain of Amphisbaena

Displacement: 125,000 long tons

Length: 330 m (at waterline: 316 m)
Beam: 84 m (at waterline: 48 m)
Draft: 12.1 m

Propulsion:

4 x Empire Nucleonics, ICC 64 MW “Fat Salamander” fission reactors
8 x Blackstone Industries, ICC steam turbines and reduction plant
In-house magnetohydrodynamic “inchworm” drive system

Speed: 42 knots (non-sustainable emergency power: 48 knots)
Range: Unlimited; 12 year refueling interval

Complement:

1,672 officers and men
Thinking Machines, ICC “Admiral Aliniv” Command Optimization Thinker

Sensors:

Artifice Armaments, ICC, ASR-24/3 air search radar
Artifice Armaments, ICC, SSR-36 surface search radar
Artifice Shadow Works X-449 imaging lidar
Hydrodyne Technologies, ICC, “Long Ear” sonar suite
Tactical interweave uplink

Armament (Primary):

6 x Artifice Armaments, ICC 22″ “Big Howlin’ Bitch” railgun
6 x triple Artifice Armaments, ICC, 16″ “Little Sister” railgun

Armament (Secondary):

24 x Artifice Armaments, ICC 9″ “Poniard” conventional gun
36 x Firefly Aerospace, ICC “Waterline” anti-ship seeking missile
36 x Firefly Aerospace, ICC “Gentle Touch” target-finding missile
8 x Eye-in-the-Flame Arms, ICC “Pesticide” automated threat protection system

Armor:

Citadel: 24″ layered C-allotrope/alloy composite; equiv. 53″ steel
Main turrets: 18″ layered C-allotrope/alloy composite; equiv. 39″ steel
Elsewhere: 12″ layered C-allotrope/alloy composite; equiv. 26″ steel

Aircraft carried:

16 x Stonesmight Automata, ICC “Tattletale” scout drones
16 x Stonesmight Automata, ICC “Fleshharrower” attack drones

The four Amphisbaena-class battleships were the last fast battleships laid down by the Imperial Navy (note: the “wet” navy of the era, not its space successor), and participated in a number of military actions including the last battles of the Consolidation to take place on Eliéra proper. They are widely considered to represent the pinnacle of the naval architect’s art, and the furthest development of the “wet” battleship as a class.

The design of the Amphisbaena-class, in keeping with the mandate the IN inherited from the Alatian Navy’s Weapons Development Board, was to produce a vessel that would utterly outclass any opponent against which it was set. Thus, the class carries six 22″ railguns – of a model designed to be scaled down for naval use, rather than used as is – in addition to its six triple 16″ railgun turrets and conventional armaments. This same approach led to the inclusion of the eight “Pesticide” automated threat protection systems, capable, once activated, of automatically reducing anything not tagged as friendly approaching within a mile of Amphisbaena, above or below the water, into chaff and charnel.

The final development of this approach was Amphisbaena‘s magnetohydrodynamic “inchworm” drive. While the primary characteristic of this type of drive is its quietness, and thus lower sonar profile, in the case of Amphisbaena, it was selected because its lack of the issues associated with high-performance propellers, coupled with an otherwise oversized power plant, enables Amphisbaena to reach the otherwise unprecedented – for a ship of its displacement – cruising speed of 42 knots.

It also has the advantage of functioning equally well in either direction, and this – combined with the ability to divert water to side outlets at both bow and stern – gave Amphisbaena unparalleled abilities not only to change heading 180° without turning at all, but also to decelerate, to turn in its own length, and to keep station – making it an incredibly stable gun platform.

It is also to this drive that Amphisbaena owes its entirely symmetrical hull profile and superstructure, since the designers felt no need to inflict the notion of a preferred direction on a ship which otherwise would have lacked one. Despite the quotation above, officers and men serving on Amphisbaena-class ships rarely had difficulty telling the bow of the moment from the stern when the ship was under way, but it is nonetheless true that a red-blue color gradient was added to the bridge paintwork after Amphisbaena‘s sea trials to make end from end clear when moored or hove to.

Eq*y

“A computational system has reached the threshold of making ethical judgements when it no longer parses the equity operator as the semantic equivalent of the equality operator.”

– Introduction to Polymorphic Software (3rd ed.),
Sarval Estantel

Sniffers

Yes, putting guardian dogs on police department logos is a cliché.

But what’s important in this case is the kind of dog. Look at it. Big, broad-chested mastiff. Pure black fur. Black eyes. Disappears into shadows despite being near big enough to ride. That’s a Selenarian nighthound, the kind they used to guard the moon-temples back before history. Best known for three things: they’re silent when they hunt, never letting you know they’re there until they’re on you; once they have their teeth in your throat, they never let you go; and they never stop coming.

So when you see this kindly gent on the arms of the Office of Investigation and Pursuit, Division of Chattelry, you should not need the motto beneath to tell you the nature of the jurisdiction you are within.

It does, however, tell you why. “He who guards a thing, guarants a thing.” This is one of the few places in the galaxy where not only is the Constabulary mandated to protect you and yours, but also to make you good for any occasion on which they fail.

The costs aren’t the real reason, though. It’s the promise – like everyone else in these parts, they hate it when someone presumes to break their word for them, and so cost-effective or not, they’ll hunt you to the ends of the Worlds over a trifle just to keep it unbroken.

So before you commit to this and drag me along with you, convince me that the game is worth the candle?

– recorded via laser microphone 6145/03/02,
Ashe’s Place, Socket City, Opteros (Iesa Drifts),
Office of Investigation and Pursuit, case #6145/729

O, What a Tangled Web

There are those who accuse us of being shamelessly manipulative. Of always subtly and secretly weaving our webs of contract and obligation, favor and xicé, ideas and influence to make the world come out just exactly the way we want it.

To these people I say: you are absolutely correct, of course. How else would anything get done in a mature and civilized society? A few words here, a quiet whisper there, which together with some mutually advantageous deals done yonder move the world towards betterment – this is surely the very height of civilization.

At its best, the Great Game turns what might otherwise breed conflict and resentment into a series of elegant positive-sum intrigues which all can be proud of their association with, and the architects of whom may be admired for the accomplishments of their cunning, not loathed for their violations of the Contract. At its worst, it is still not the use of force.

There are those, too, who claim that we apply our manipulatory arts to every other race in the known galaxy, subjecting them to our intrigues will they, nil they. This claim, in its former part, is accurate. We have yet to meet any part of the galaxy – including our own – that does not brook some improvement.

As for the latter? It is true that we offer access to tools, ideas, and contracts without troubling ourselves overmuch whether the recipient would have sought them out on their own, but nonetheless, we offer. We do not compel. It is true that to decline may not be to the recipients’ ultimate advantage, but opportunity cost is implicit in time’s arrow, not in the opportunities to which it is attached.

To complain that we are harming them by offering them greater possibility is assuredly mere squallery even by the lax standards of the Periphery.

(And it’s even less fun being a pronoid conspiracy theorist.)

Apologia pro Imperium Meum, published anonymously

It’s The Thoughts That Count

“We should not hate our enemies. Hatred is a poison which, like acid, eats away at the integrity of the spirit, to the destruction of those who indulge it. Rather, we should seek to understand our enemies, such that we may encompass the regrettable necessity of their annihilation with a clear and cold mind.

“…or, should this be too much to achieve, engage the services of an assassin. Professional detachment isn’t a perfect substitute for personal cold-mindedness, but it will do in a pinch.”

– the Gentlesoph’s Little Book of Vendetta,
published anonymously, 341

Twelve Random Definitions

bloodshits: A slangy, less polite name for the bloody flux, a rather unpleasant form of severe gastroenteritis.

di-clad: Coated in diamondoid or diamondoid-family materials.

electron plumbing: the thermionic valve equivalent of integrated circuits, intended for use in high-power and EMP-resistant applications.

“Empress’s word”: An implication of conspiracy or secrecy that must be maintained at all costs. The implication (referring back to Valentia I Amanyr), is that to break the Empress’s word is to condemn yourself to death.

glowful: An informal term meaning “good”, “pleasant”, etc. Has a greater overtone of specifically “pleasant”, or “emotionally/hedonically appealing” than shiny, which compare.

hedge-parking: In autonomous vehicle design, the practice of securing arrival time by overbooking a number of physical parking spaces based on the users’ urgency, preferences of timing, location, flexibility, and willingness to pay, then offloading the unused spaces (if possible) on the parking spot market at the last minute.

matter-shop: Slang; a neighborhood autofac/JITPOS center, especially one with JITINV capabilities.

orbital level: For the purposes of space traffic control, the space from immediately above the atmospheric height (rounded off) to geosynchronous orbit is divided into so-called orbital levels, altitude bands 10 miles apart, numbered from the bottom up.

perfect moron: The theoretical worst computer possible; one which performs one bit-transformation using the entire mass of the universe over its entire lifespan.

space scurvy: Nutritional deficiencies or toxicities caused by consuming food sourced from worlds and/or habitats incompletely compatible or incompatible with one’s own nutritional requirements and/or limitations. See biocode.

sparkhead: A direct brain-stimulation addict, especially a wire-point addict.

weak superintelligence: A superintelligence which is merely lower intelligence run at vastly higher clock speeds, without qualitative cognitive advantage.

I Appear To Have A Problem With My Brain Being Missing

While that would probably make a decent story title, sad to say, this isn’t one.

As you may have noticed, my output has been down in recent months, and really down this last month in particular.

Why, you ask? Well, because so am I. Which is to say, in despite of medication, my depression is kicking my ass right now. On some days, to the ol’ “been staring at nothing for six hours trying to find motivation to do anything useful” degree. This is, as I hope you can appreciate, somewhat problematic where writing is concerned, inasmuch as my muse appears to have declared this Altogether Too Much Trouble To Deal With and buggered off until the local climate improves.

Why, then, you also ask, am I whining about it to you?

Well, for my loyal Patreon and Liberapay patrons, so you can be aware that this is the situation, that I don’t know when it’s going to improve, and that you may wish to, and should feel entirely free to, suspend or cancel your payments. After all, the deal is money in exchange for value, and since I can’t provide the value right now, I do not wish to take your money. Not until I get my mojo back, anyway.

For the rest of you, because I can. Suck it up.

Truth in Nomenclature (2)

justonce breaker / justonce bar / justonce stop / etc.: Engineering jargon. A justonce in any of its forms – be it the hardline switch or insertable bus-bar that bypasses circuit overload protection, the stop valve that seals off pressure-relief valves, or the disabling of thermal trips is the manual override which permits equipment to continue operating even when doing so will result in damage to equipment, personnel, or the surrounding area – even, in its most common military applications, to the entire containing vessel.

The justonce, naturally, is intended to be used only in situations where the risks and consequences of having a given piece of equipment out of action are outweigh the risks and consequences of it failing catastrophically.

The unusual name for these devices refers to a cynical saying common in the Imperial Military Service: “Doesn’t matter what they’ve got; you can’t explode twice.”

See also: damnfool switch.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

Fittly Business

“Othalbar SysCon, this is IS Star of Miragrann preparing to initiate fittle-flight per filed intentions. Please reconfirm entry vector.”

Star of Miragrann, SysCon. We show you initiating fittle-flight at 8201-06-09:2+11-54. We confirm your entry vector as computed and valid for twelve-pulse window. You are clear for entry at your discretion; squawk null. Good hunting! Over.”

“SysCon, squawking all zeroes. We’ll bring you back a present. Star of Miragrann, clear.”

Captain Sarizar looked out over his bridge, and smiled slightly. “By the book, people. Run the clock.” Punching the button for a direct line to the maneuvering room, he added, “Ninety percent power, please.”

“Extending frameslip ring.”

The flight geometry display over his Exec’s head showed the struts which mounted the segments of the frameslip ring slipping out from their sub-light positions alongside the ship, moving the fittler’s nodes to their optimal position for the envelope, when the maneuvering watch came over the intercom.

“Reactors ramping. You have sixty percent power.”

The sailing master had the next set of checks.

“Auxiliary drives show shutdown and are safed for transit. Vector-control core switching to frameslip mode.”

“You have seventy percent power.”

Back to the Exec, and then over to Relativistics. The flight geometry display was now, indeed, indicating full extension and all segments locked in place.

“Frameslip ring is extended and locked. All external sensors show zone clear.”

“Preferential-frame buffers integrated and synchronized. Frame trap executed. Geodesic trajectory successfully mapped to empire-time manifold.”

“You have eighty percent power.”

It was all in the sailing master’s hands now. Well, the sailing master’s programming’s hands…

“All stations report secure for transit. Vector-control manager confirms frameslip mode active. Board reads blue across. We are ready for entry commit.”

“You have eighty-five percent power.”

“We are now entering the entry window. Timer abort set.”

“You have ninety percent power, and holding.”

A last glance around at his repeater displays, and Captain Sarizar performed his primary, and indeed only required, action in the fittle entry checklist: “Commit.”

“Entry is go on autosequencer. Envelope forming. Fittle in three, two, one –“

The sensations of a normal entry surrounded him, the rising hum of the drive coupled with the creaking of the hull and the peculiar and familiar twitch in the guts as the forming drive envelope’s side lobes tickled the starship’s interior —

And then —

A thunderclap from astern, the sound of an inconveniently inconceivable amount of energy being dumped into whatever buffers and sinks were available.

The sickening sensation of an uncontrolled envelope collapse, as the space-time stress that had been pumped into the drive envelope relapsed, converting itself to gravity waves – fortunately, almost entirely directed outward.

The hissing roar of untold gallons of thermal goo vaporizing and pouring unimpeded into space.

And, in contrast to those, the sound of his crew taking all the correct actions when all those things happened.

“Null engage. We have a null engage. Autosequencer reports successful entry abort, core spindown in progress –“

“– running flash-accumulator bleed-down, preparing to vent secondary heatsinks –“

“– transmitting splash advisory on guard channel –“

He punched for external communications.

“Othalbar SysCon, Star of Miragrann. We have experienced a null engage. We’re holding orbit and running an interference manifold computation” – he glanced over at Astrogation, unnecessarily confirming that his astrogator was already on it – “up here, and we’d appreciate it if you could do the same on the big brass. Data follows. Our intentions are to recompute entry and execute as soon as we have reliable data.

“Also, if the interference manifold matches available flight records, we’d appreciate the address of record for whatever chesdinye durchevi didn’t bother to file a flight plan.”