Trope-a-Day: Mecha Mooks

Mecha Mooks: Oh, indeed.  These are the actual AI fighting robots (“autonomous mechagrunts”) which occupy the spot in the military food chain between the Attack Drones and the actual people in the command chain.  They also do the majority of the fighting, the eldrae with their long lives and slow population growth having a very good idea as to the place of their precious, irreplaceable, valuable selves in mass warfare: namely at the back, cheating.

In their case, however, neither fragile nor graduates of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy.  They’ve learned how to cheat really well.

But How Many Divisions Has He Got?

“My dear ephemerals, in observing your broadcasts (while I appreciate your martial enthusiasm) I really must question some of your underlying assumptions, both practical and theological.  Over the course of my fifteen hundred years, I’ve killed more gods than you chaps claim to have.  If yours really is on your side, then tell Him to trot along out here and get on with it; it’s nearly ship’s lunchtime.”

“But if He doesn’t feel like fighting today, we’ll still accept your unconditional surrender.  Otherwise, my fleet attacks at planet dawn, capital time.”

– High Admiral Lucian Antarianus-ith-Avaranaith, public broadcast before the Bombardment of Firital

Steganography (1/2)

Mind-state transmission received; 3.263564 exp 16 octets validated.
Body reconstruction data [archive pointer].
Accoutrement construction data [catalog pointer], [catalog pointer], [archive pointer].
Augmented reality object code received; 2.465542 exp 10 octets validated.

Scan for hostile code complete; none found.
Identity confirmed: Acté Cyprium-ith-Réyne [UCID and mindprint match].


With a gurgle of suspension fluids and a blast of drying air, the body pod finished draining down, split, and opened.  The young woman stepped out of the pod, and stretched satisfyingly, curling long toes into the carpet.  A rainbow of color rippled under her skin, chromatophores rippling through their wake-up sequence.

Moving over to the shelf, her hair already whispering around her shoulders, coiling itself into complex curls, she unscrewed the leftmost container’s cap, poured the thick nanopaste within out onto the floor, and dipped a toe into the puddle.  She shivered slightly as the nanites made their ascent, the silvery fluid spinning itself into a shimmering gown around her.  A flip of her now fully self-styled hair out of the garment’s way, and a little shimmy to settle the fabric, and she was dressed.

“Dress: a little bit more provocative, if you please. I am one of those decadent Imperials, and I’d hate to disappoint all those expectations.”

While the dress busied itself adjusting its lines in all the right places, she slipped the copper-jade necklace-replica she’d brought around her neck.  Then, reaching into her personal thought-space, she produced, reified, and settled atop her head the augmentality illusion of a halo of fire, flames dancing and throwing off sparks among her blonde curls.

Well, she subvocalized, how do I look?

You are the very epitome, my lady, her muse wryly replied, of the young, rich, and lovely fluff that attend all of Saven Jerrad’s best parties.  I believe you will not-blend-in quite splendidly.

Trope-a-Day: Attack Drone

Attack Drone: Hell, yes!  From personal protection drones, through the combat drones that make up the larger part of pretty much any fireteam (half-a-dozen slaved to each mechagrunt), through the wingdrones accompanying aerospace fighters, to the Imperial Navy’s AKV-drones, the Imperial military (and mercenaries, and law enforcement, and private security) does love its drones.

Now, some might say that being AI controlled, these aren’t drones, these are Mecha Mooks.  Well, no, those are one step up the chain.  Those are the autonomous mechagrunts and AKVs that the drones are slaved to, and which in turn answer to the actual people in the command chain.  This isn’t mere force multiplication, this is force raising-to-the-power-of!

And that has been the name of the game ever since they were big, lumbering, steam-powered things with Stannic cogitator brains.

Trope-a-Day: Asteroid Thicket

Asteroid Thicket: Averted.  Space does not work that way.  Any time you see asteroids that close together, it’s because someone’s moved them there for a purpose – which means, if you try flying through them, your biggest concern is not hitting them, it’s local traffic control wanting to know what the hell you think you’re doing and ordering you back into the raicve lane.

Brand Maintenance

TANEV (QUAVE REPUBLIC) – The government today refused the extradition of Ferlyn Kazesh, the Crescent Bioproducts executive responsible for the Taniris chemical disaster, to the Empire.

[The disaster at Taniris earlier this year was the result of a faulty control computer in the Crescent Bioproducts factory outside Taniris City misrouting chemical flows in a manner leading to an explosion, which subsequently led to the venting into the local atmosphere of 300 tons of toxic intermediate products, including nanomotile catalysts.  Despite a rapid response from both local emergency services and specialist hazmat teams provided by Biolith Chemical Products, ICC, the owner of Crescent Bioproducts, this venting led to over 4,000 direct fatalities, and over 100,000 injuries with potential long-term consequences.]

In giving his judgment against extradition, Enforcer Parlaq of the Republic Court denied both the validity of the application, since the offences committed by Kazesh were committed entirely within the Quave Republic and therefore were subject to its sole jurisdiction, and cited the Quave Republic’s long-standing opposition to the death penalty.  Kazesh’s sentence of 85 years imprisonment under the Quave law of willful negligence therefore stands.

The Imperial ambassador to Quave, Sir Valeth Anandonos-ith-Anaxios, commenting, said “We regret the decision of the Republic government today to refuse the extradition of Citizen Kazesh.  While we respect the sovereign right of the Republic to exercise its jurisdiction in this matter, we believe that in this specific case we may have been able to better able to address the wider interests at stake while still ensuring that justice is done for the dead and injured citizens of the Republic.”

Anonymous sources close to the ambassador offered the following clarifying statement: “The records are clear, both those of your government’s investigation and those of Biolith when they got through investigating what the raicvef their subsidiary had been up to.  Kazesh killed those thousands of people just as surely as if he’d murdered them himself, by ignoring maintenance procedures, bypassing safety measures, and falsifying the plant records to let him embezzle the difference.  While we respect your legal system, that’s not willful negligence under Imperial law.  That’s something much worse.”

“Set aside the justice of it for a moment, although 85 years is a penny-ante punishment for anyone with either immortality.  We have to protect our brand.  The Empire’s thought of as a premium citizenship because we always clean up our own mess.  And we’ve got five trillion citizen-shareholders with investments all over – many of whom are themselves all over – the Associated Worlds.  None of them deserve to be – and none of them ought to be – associated with that shit-fucker.”

“So if you guys don’t want to do it, let me assure you that my government will take it as a personal favor if you can find a political way to send him back to us and let us shoot the bastard for you.”

No Fate But What We Built

Thread 47.1008.183647.221 did not have a narrative thread of consciousness. It was a mere expediter, unconsciously sapient, originating from the point within the Transcend’s functional soup where certain collected data matched a template laid down by higher level routines – familiar to its constituents as aspects of the eikones Laryssan and Éléia-Líëran, fate and love. But while it lacked consciousness, it did have purpose, and began to run.

The first thing it did, after reviewing its source data, was to plant a request in the local weather control system…

She paused, coming up the escalator from the Sky Valley mag-lev station and out from beneath the rainbow light of its vaulted ceiling, caught by the beauty of the sunset beyond the Quinjano dome; high cirrus illuminated red and yellow from the light of the setting sun below and a few faint stars, the stark shadowed landscape with wind whipping red dust from off the cliffs and rising river mists into fractal patterns.

Raising a hand to halt her luggage at the landing, she reached into her pocket for her camera.

Observing the success of its first gambit, 47.1007.183647.221 reached out to a nearby soul-shard, and inserted an impulse.

He paused, leaving the western locks. Esklav. Yes, a good hot cup of esklav would be just the thing.  Turning, he strode into the mag-lev station tunnel and down the stairs, almost running over the woman paused on the landing, looking at the sky.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Expry Calaris-ith-Calir, and I’ll just get out of your way…”

“Octë Muetry-ith-Galry, and it’s – wait, have I not seen you before? On Baranithil Station, perhaps? About six months ago?”

“I was there then, yes, a contract for Prosperity Nexus.  Hm – ith-Galry? We spoke a few times on the Helix Exchange, I think.”

“A few times, yes.” She smiled. “I used to enjoy our conversations. Would you have time for another one – over esklav, perhaps?”

“I had the same thought myself.” He grinned back. “And was already heading that way.  Would you care to join me?”

Turning, they walked off together down the mezzanine, her luggage trundling after them.

The initial conditions of its creation satisfied, 47.1008.183647.221 dropped back into dormancy.  Had it a consciousness, it would undoubtedly have felt a sense of satisfaction at the missed connection repaired; as it was, it merely updated the higher routines on its success, and saved state against it being needed again.

Meanwhile, another tuple matched in the Transcendent soup, and thread 47. 1008.183647.222 began to run…

Not Quite a Trope-a-Day: Values Dissonance

Posting this one out of order, too, because it may be useful to have it up here in future, and – well, because having fictional people and real people call each other names just seemed fun to me when I was writing it up.  So.

Values Dissonance: In-world, plenty of it, discussed and handled – as mentioned under Culture Clash – fairly often, because there’s really not much of an alternative in a polyspecific universe, and there are polyspecific and multicultural polities and colonies in which people essentially have to work it out.

Out-world, which is to say, between them and us, plenty of it too.  Look at all the values dissonance evident just from Blue and Orange Morality, for a start, starting with the section on propertarianism and working down.  Or, to put it the way that two people unwilling to take anything but the hardest line on values issues would put it:

They’re grasping and materialistic; we’re envious thieves and whinging martyrs.  They’re cold and uncaring; we’re testosterone-poisoned, bleeding-heart hysterics.  They’re self-centered bohemian insubordinate eccentrics; we’re conformist power-worshipping submissive drones.  They’re legalistic and rigid; we’re treacherous and unreliable.  They’re obsessive perfectionists; we’re sloppy incompetents.  They’re impossibly demanding; we just don’t care enough.  They’re mad scientists; we’re afraid to ask the hard questions.  They’re childishly enthusiastic; we’re boringly cynical.  They’re stultifyingly polite, formal and baroque; we’re as subtle as a brick to the face.  They’re stuck-up judgmental aesthetes; we’re appalling cacophiles who seem to think shock value is an adequate substitute for artistic merit.  Their sense of humor is overly intellectualized; ours is maliciously cruel.  They won’t even try to implement reasonable, effective, broad-based solutions; we’re discipline addicts pathologically incapable of leaving folks alone to work things out.

They’re environmental criminals for wanting to turn the universe into a garden; we’re environmental criminals for refusing to fix what nature got wrong.  They are morally outraged about our treatment of the prosapient species of our world, starting with the dog, dolphin and octopus and working down the list; we… can’t see what all the fuss is about, evidently.  At war, they’re ruthless killers who don’t “follow the rules” and embrace civis Romanus sum; at war, we’re soft-hearted idiots who can’t remember which side we’re on.  They’re gun-crazy madmen who even arm their children; we’re incredible hypocrites for pretending people have a right to defend themselves and then denying them any practical means to do so.

They hate the poor because they don’t give them everything they need and sneer at the downtrodden; we hate the poor because we choke off their opportunities, ignore their rights, and coddle even deserved failure.  They hate the disabled because they insist on fixing everything; we hate the disabled because we keep making more of them.  They’re cruel and inhumane because they execute violent criminals and brainwash the rest; we’re cruel and inhumane because we lock criminals up in prisons for years of pointless torture.  They are so permissive they can’t have any meaningful moral standards (and, yes, this is contradictory, but read moral standards as something like the modern US sense of “family values…in re sexuality, marriage, public modesty, guns, drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc., etc., etc.”); we are so restrictive we can’t have any meaningful notion of personal freedom (again… yes, but it’s a stereotype).

They’re outspoken and judgmental about (which they would call actually believing in) their sense of ethics and morality and intolerant when it comes to the people that offend their effete sensibilities; we’re so morally flexible (for which they would read lacking) we’ll skip lightly past any amount of suffering, oppression and rot as long as it’s happening somewhere we don’t have to look at it.

Oh, and for different reasons (they refuse to treat anyone differently for the sake of individual fairness, or give the notion of group identity any ethical weight; we think two wrongs can make a right and never generalize to the big picture), each party thinks the other is a bunch of howling (sexist | racist | everythingelseist) bigots.

All of which is not to say that individuals necessarily think all or even any of this, and indeed, as between any two societies people could often find each other pleasant, upstanding chaps, and indeed good friends, especially once individual variation is taken into account.  But there are certainly plenty of places to find said dissonance if you care to go looking…

(For more possible examples, well, look at the Ethnographical Questionnaire series on this blog, which has plenty of them already, and will have yet more.)

Forking Etiquette

FORKING.  While under most circumstances – and where full dividuals are concerned – it is always correct to treat each and every fork of a given person as that person, as indeed will be the case after their remergence, there are certain special rules of etiquette that apply to the forks in particular times and places.

Where derivative forks are concerned, one should always bear in mind that their consciousness is modified to fulfill the particular purpose of their creation, and their ability to interact outside of the parameters of that purpose is necessarily limited. It is therefore considered polite to treat each fork as an instance of its original when they choose to interact with you, but not to initiate interactions with them outside simple courtesies.

One particular rule to be noted is that while it is permissible to attend multiple simultaneous social occasions through the use of forks, one should not – even if one is embracing the cikrieth lifestyle – attend the same social occasion in multiple forks. This rule does not apply to Self-Fusions, for whom all knowledge is instantly shared, but since forks do not share knowledge in real-time, the potential for awkward situations to arise is such that the practice is best avoided.

In some newer social sets a practice has arisen in which parties are attended by individuals utilizing multiple forks specialized and garbed appropriately to represent different aspects of their valessef, with the convention that each should be addressed only on matters pertaining to their particular aspect. While this may represent a worthy innovation, it should not be assumed to be permissible unless invited specifically; the general practice should always be as above.

– Madame Allatrian’s Guide to Exquisitely Correct Etiquette

You Can’t Save The Worlds

“If you’ve come here to save the Galaxy, my innocents,” I said, “if you’ve come here with the illusion that you can save the Galaxy, or even so much as one single world, leave here right now. Cross the road, find the recruiting office, and join the Navy. They get to save the Galaxy from the kind of easy threats it’s possible to save it from.”

“Yes, the easy threats.  We all know what to do with pirates and slavers and tyrants and wanna-be conquistadors and misbegotten seed AI demon-gods. Give ’em a taste of the railgun, dust ’em lightly with relativistic antiprotons, and the problem is solved. So if you want to be a hero, head over there – or go see those maniacs at the Sanguinary Enforcers of the Liberty Ethic – sign up, and shoot some bastards. Then you can go home and feel good about yourself.”

“That’s not what we do here.  We have to wrestle with rather less tangible problems. And we are the absolute worst people in the entirety of known space to try and fix them, because we, gentlesophs, have our shit together.  We have fixed our problems. We think poverty is defined by insufficient bandwidth.  We can’t empathize with poverty and disease and oppression because the rawest immigrants aside, we’ve never seen it and can’t imagine it.  Disabuse yourself of the notion that you can right now, if you please.”

“And even more so, you are used to how things work. In a civilized environment in which you have millennia of institutions backing you up, in which discussing things in a calm and rational manner virtually always works, and in which no-one would dream of treading on anyone else’s prerogatives, never mind anything else.”

“If you come to work for us, you are going to spend your career wrestling with every kind of shit the backwaters of the Worlds have to offer.  You will hear so much insanity that you’ll wonder if there’s any reason left in the universe.”

“You’re going to see worlds in which they think they can become rich by robbing the rich.  Hell, you’re going to see worlds in which they think they can become rich by robbing the poor.  You’re going to see worlds where they look at cornucopia machines, self-replicating machines that can make anything from micros-worth of feedstock and power, and demand that they be banned because they’ll cause mass poverty!”

“You’ll come to know species whose xenophobia makes them hate all offworlders. Whose xenophobia makes them hate their own species if their scales are a shade off-color, or whose bones are a little differently shaped, or who are the disfavored sex or clade or caste. And you’re going to meet some of those who hate some of their own but love offworlders, and if you’re anything like me, spend weeks wondering how the hell that makes sense.”

“The back-Worlds have it all. A million different kinds of perversion commanded in the name of a thousand gods.  Ephemeralists for naturalism, or social stability, or inheritance.  Democrats who think justice is defined by headcount. Baseline supremacists demanding the right to be inferior. Egalitarians who think free will is a small thing to give away for equality. Major political movements fighting over who people can have sex with.  People who, in an age of pervasive automation and roboticization, keep it out of their worlds because it pleases them to lord it over their fellows.”

“And even the ones who want what we have hate the ways that we acquired it, for not fitting into their notions of how the universe ought to work – and of their exalted planning position in it.”

“In short, you are going to spend your life pointing at the one big shining example of how things can work, and have people tell you, to your face, that they’re impossible!

“And unlike the Imperialists of old, you can’t make that change!”

“You won’t save the Galaxy. You’ll work, the way the rest of us have worked, for decades on end and probably not even save one single world.  But you might nudge their path a little, and you might help a few people along the way.”

“If that doesn’t scare you – and if that’s enough for you, because it will have to be – come back tomorrow and get to work.”

 – Valëa Andreth, introductory lecture at Golden Suns Benevolent Association

Trope-a-Day: Ass In Ambassador

Ass In Ambassador: Sometimes – rarely – but usually intentionally.  Which is to say, usually when dealing with those states who keep insisting that the Empire should, y’know, punish people for exercising their freedom of speech, or extradite people for committing something that no-one there would recognize as a crime, or make them respect them, or some such, with a degree of repetition which makes it clear that they’re not going to take “We don’t – and can’t, moreover – do that sort of thing” as an answer.

Granted, sometimes it’s intentional in a different sense; to steal an example’s example from the Discworld section of the trope page, the Ministry of State and Outlands would find sending the equivalent of a Mossad agent and a transvestite as attachés to the Ambassador to Iran – a country which hits a truly remarkable number of the notes guaranteed to make them detest it absolutely – utterly hilarious.  And other necessary qualifications aside, if they could find a female candidate with multiple doctorates, a taste for neat whiskey and fast cars, and the ability to kill a man with her pinkie in eighty-seven separate ways to post to the embassy in Saudi Arabia, they’d do that, too, and enjoy watching the host nation struggle to be polite.  (After all, given the kind of society they are, they don’t think it’s possible to have healthy relations with people like that, so what the hell.)

Trope-a-Day: Ascetic Aesthetic

Ascetic Aesthetic: Used in a few types of places:

Unprogrammed virtual reality, as a baseline to build on.

Areas principally given over to industry or other automation, where simple, polished geometric shapes, curves, and suchlike (see: Alien Geometries) work well for the local AI; they don’t care about the lack of decoration, and it can still be kept adequately, for which read exceptionally, clean and shiny-bright.

In some areas, like the Conclave Mall – the central area of the habitat that houses the Conclave of Galactic Polities – intended for heavily polyspecific use, as a reasonable compromise to avoid having to try to satisfy everyone’s differing aesthetic tastes simultaneously.  An equally sparse minimalism is about what can be managed by way of fairness.

The Imperials generally don’t go much for it at home, except maybe in pre-customization prefabs.  They prefer their elegant-baroque art deco style and its offshoots.

And Stay Out

Public Exclusions Citizen Oversight Group to Melqar Riffym, greetings.

Citizen-Shareholder Riffym,

We at the Public Exclusions COG have been monitoring your reputation and meta-reputation scores (underlying data provided by the Exuberance Monitor COG [link]) for some time now.  Are you aware, citizen-shareholder, that your amalgamated meta-reputation score is one of the lowest on current active record, at -10.337 on the normalized-logarithmic rating scale?

Chief contributors to this low amalgamated meta-rep score are your reputation scores with the Anteion Benevolent Circle (-10.412), with the Mer Dinévál Righteous Enforcers of Social Propriety (-10.543), with the Merchane Ethics Commission (-10.346), with Gallantry’s Garden (-10.912), and our analysts were particularly unimpressed by your score with the Dataweave Vituperation Index (-11.901).

To paraphrase, sir, you are a crooked, obnoxious, vituperative blight upon Imperial society and the Worlds in general, and under our commission from the Plurality, we would like to cordially invite you to be so elsewhere.

The sum of 125,000 esteyn has been placed in contractual sequester for you with the Seranth Merchancy Bank, these funds to be released on presentation of:

(a) formal documentation indicating that you have renounced your Imperial citizen-shareholdership;

(b) an operative smart-contract in which you agree to depart the Imperial territorial volume henceforth and agree not to re-enter the Imperial territorial volume for a period not less than 864 years;

(c) a transportation ticket valid for departure from the Imperial territorial volume.

As is our customary practice, details of our offer and the reasoning behind it has been posted to our public notification channel, which is made freely available for hortatory purposes.

Signed and authenticated,

Rienne Lyris-ith-Larynath Vévelestréy for and on behalf of

Public Exclusions COG

A is for Antimatter

A is for Antimatter,
the Sun in a Jar.
It powers the ships
that carry us far.

B is for Bactry
where little makers live.
All the world’s built
on the feedstock they give.

C is for Cornucopia
the Creation Machine.
Assembling atoms to plan
making real every dream…

Trope-a-Day: Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence

Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Not generally considered to be a result of uploading, even though by many standards becoming an infomorph might qualify.  On the other hand, it arguably is what happens slowly over many people’s lifespans as they adopt more and more cognitive enhancements, take up the cikrieth lifestyle of living multiple independent lives with a single synchronized self, and possibly end up as Self-Fusion group minds.  And it’s quite definitely what happens upon eventual, voluntary death when one uploads into and merges with the metamind of the Transcend.

Easy Admissions

SO-0004: Imperial Admission Procedures

SO-0004 Rev. 4611.2.5 — UNCLASSIFIED


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Ambiguities may have been introduced into this document in the process of translation; in case of doubt, reference should be made to the authentic Eldraeic text.

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Trope-a-Day: Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence: Well, while the term in-universe is rather more all-encompassing, the fictional trope is defined as meaning those systems which are sentient (gah, damn you badly written science fiction!), self-aware, and capable of independent thought and reason.  Those ones, they call digisapiences.

And there are a heck of a lot of them, yes, enough that you aren’t going to be able to walk down the street (or stick your nose out onto the network) without running into a few.  Certainly far too many to name on any sort of individual basis.  And for the most part, they’re pretty much “just folks”, if very smart, fast-running folks.

Which is not so much to talk about recursively self-improving seed AI, who are pretty much just weakly godlike superintelligences, with all that that implies.

Also of note is the Photonic Network, an entire Great Power-level civilization of advanced artificial intelligences, and the Silicate Tree, a loose alliance in the Galith Waste of renegade digisapiences from assorted slaver civilizations.  Having given them ample reason to be hostile in the past, meat intelligences travel off the main routes through the Waste at their own risk.

Trope-a-Day: Artificial Human

Artificial Human: Lots of them (well, not humans), historically – for a while in the historical period in which biotech was moving faster than digital sophotech, there was quite the fad for constructing “bioroids” – vat-grown (not generally being equipped to be self-replicating) “meat robots”, without volition/threshold autosentience and therefore without personhood, but sapient enough to be useful.  Which is to say, functionally, they’re golems.

In the modern era, of course, the distinction between a bioroid (which is now more properly a term for a type of bioshell) and a bioshell running a non-sophont AI is purely nominal.

(Clones, uplifts, and other sophont artificial people are mentioned elsewhere, and so will not be here.)