Freeing the Will

It used to be, by my predecessors’ memoirs, that you could almost feel good about taking a slave ship.  Kill the slavers, free the prisoners from the slave-holds and explosive collars, ferry them back to their homes, and chase down the next one; a good month.

Those were more innocent times.  Few slavers use such simple methods today – not when mind-states can be hacked, consciences redacted, loyalties imposed, and brains washed, and not when semislave minds can be built with no thoughts in their head but to obey their masters.

When we took a slave ship, it meant that the slaves were on the front lines, desperate to save their owners.  We’d count ourselves lucky not to lose a few burning our way into the slaver.  Then, the worst of all possible hostile boarding actions: where those our legionaries were fighting had full-power weapons, but the legionaries had to try to preserve their lives if they could – and where the commanders at their back wouldn’t hesitate to blow out a lock or flood a compartment to kill us.  Their men could never lose their programmed loyalty, and what are the lives of merchandise worth?

The worst part, though, came after the battle’s done, when you could extend no trust to the slaves you took off, because they’d do anything to get back to their owners – if they hadn’t been imprinted with some sort of emergency sabotage or self-destruction programming – and when you had to have a half-dozen legionaries drag them in and hold them down, as they screamed and fought and begged to be allowed to go back, to serve, to stay with the people who they firmly believed were the center of their universe, while the redactors ripped the control compulsions out of their minds.

It’s still good work, restoring volition to those who’ve had it taken away or impaired from their birth.  I know that.  But be damned to me, I’d rather fight a dozen fleet actions or a half-dozen antipiracy patrols than take one more tour of the slave routes.  It’s enough to rip a soph’s heart right out.

– Cdre. Rakhaz Neraxinax, Imperial Navy
interview for IBC drama-documentary, ‘Senior Service’

Trope-a-Day: Landfill Beyond The Stars

Landfill Beyond The Stars: No, just no.  It’s hard to imagine the economics that would make it possible to haul junk across space for dumping.  And that would make it worthwhile to waste an entire planet to store the stuff.  But…

…there are a couple of locations that specialize in recycling of exotic materials in, ah, ways that you wouldn’t want to live next door to, or even on the same planet as, or disposal of really awkward components that can’t just be dumped – like, say, singularities – and which occasionally store piles of things waiting to be recycled.  So, “junkyard beyond the stars”, that we can do you.

Snark of the Day

“Yes, the Ley Accords do consider using ecocidal weapons on garden worlds a more serious issue than the self-genocidal use of strategic nucleonic weapons.  That’s because, in the big picture, the sort of chumps who nuke themselves to death are rather less valuable to the galaxy than the ecosystem that might, one day, give rise to a second species blessed with less epic fail.”

Trope-a-Day: Deployable Cover

Deployable Cover: For this purpose – and assuming that people are firing material objects at you, which is, in fairness, most of the time – they do make portable kinetic barriers.  (Don’t try and use them while you’re still carrying them, though.  All that kinetic energy has to go somewhere, so you either need to spike it to the ground (if it stays as KE) or plug it in to a giant heatsink (if it doesn’t), neither of which are available to you during transport.

Well, unless you’re wearing a combat exoskeleton, but those come with their own kinetic barriers, so you don’t need another set.

Any You Can Walk Away From

“Drop shuttle (n.): An armored crate flown by a maniac.”
– The Unofficial Guide To The IN

Flying a drop shuttle is a unique sort of piloting. You’re always deploying under combat conditions, and often before you’ve established orbital superiority, so people are shooting at you from the moment you undock from the mama bird until the moment you hit ground, which means you want to come in as fast as possible. And flying re-entry at speed makes you a big, hot, glowing target, so you want to come in even faster than that, right on the hairy edge of burning up, and stay that fast until you’re too low for their flak to train on you, and that means damn near treetop height.

How do you decelerate at that height? We call it “lithobraking”. Anyone who doesn’t fly drop shuttles calls it “crashing”. Ever seen the ablative armor they pile on the nose of those things? That’s not for re-entry, and it’s not for flak – that, and the outsize inertial dampers, and the concussion gel that fills the cabin’re all there ’cause you and the ground are planning to get real friendly later. That’s also why they’re single-use. A good landing in a dropper is one that doesn’t crack the egg and smear your ass all over the landscape. Keeping the rest of the ship in one piece is optional, and I’ve never seen anyone opt for it yet.

Still the best ride there is, though. Besides, when you’ve been shooting these runs for a while, it’s hard to get a contract doing any kind of civvie piloting once they get a look at your flight records…

Trope-a-Day: Democracy Is Bad

Democracy Is Bad: This is the Imperial consensus view.  Partly for the fairly obvious reason that in democracies like ours, where just about everything or everything minus a small list is up for grabs by vote, it’s just a tyranny with more tyrants.  (See, thus, the Drowning of the People.)

Even for what they consider the legitimate purposes of government, they’d claim that democracy is an idiot’s way to run things.  If you’re building a bridge, or operating a power grid, or developing software, or performing orbital maneuvers, or whatever, you use experts to solve problems.  You don’t leave the decisions in the hands of a straw poll of whatever unqualified randoms are around at the time, unless your plan actually is to waste untold amounts of money and kill a whole bunch of people.

And it doesn’t magically become a better plan when you apply it to, say, managing the commons, administering the infrastructure, or controlling the currency.  Sorry, no.

These are technical problems with technical solutions, and that means they’re the province of technicians.  Or technarchs, rather.

A Long Chase (2)

One week earlier, somewhere in the Gal-kiderax System, Theomachy of Galia.

“I’d kill a soph in a fair fight.” The black-cloaked figure paced in circles, long stride carrying him from wall to wall.  “Hells, even before I left my dear stuffy cousins behind, I’d kill a soph in an unfair fight, or better yet in no fight, ’cause Taliní Sarathos didn’t raise her favorite grandson to be stupid.  I’ll haggle at blast-point, make free with what’s not mine, and even work with appallingly tasteless people like you.”

The person he addressed, sprawled on the floor in the room’s center, made no reply.

“But I won’t kill one for no reason, I won’t torture, and I won’t deal with slavers.  I may be a renegade, but I do have standards.”  He shook his head, slowly.  “What did you imagine would happen when you picked those degenerates to team me with?  Or are they just growing them stupid on Gal-kiderax these days?”

The sprawled figure appeared to sigh, slumped, and deliquesced into a spreading puddle of goo.

“At last.  Well, farewell, dear Misent.  I trust your accounts will recompense me adequately for the inconvenience of the hunters this little fracas has called down upon me.”  He flourished his hat, and faded into the darkness.

“But first, I have a naval dance to attend.”

Trope-a-Day: Defictionalization

Defictionalization: My terrific taste for metafiction aside, this also happens in-world, quite a bit.  Most notable, perhaps, is the incident (see: Stranger Than Fiction) in which the protagonist species from the virtuality game (novel, InVid, watchvid, and slinky) An Ending Not In Fire, the temísi, arthál, and zal!en were created as real, self-perpetuating species, given homeworlds, and thus acquired existence, but that’s just the far end of a long curve.  Meris Vinithos-ith-Vinithinios went farther than most, but the galaxy’s full of very wealthy people with plenty of money and time to spend on making their fantasies real, and no particular reason not to.

Keeping the Free in Markets

“It is ridiculous, and near-slanderous, to suggest that ‘free trader’ is synonymous with ‘smuggler’!  Why, I can guarantee that over fifty percent of voyages made by our members involve no illicit or even borderline-illicit cargoes at all.”

“You’re counting the inward legs separately, aren’t you?”

“That’s beside the point!”

– an exchange with Ethly min Rathill, Starfall Arc Free Merchant Confraternity

Trope-a-Day: Defcon Five

Defcon Five: Three of these systems, actually.  The Admiralty has its “strategic condition” levels, in both global and theater senses, ranging from Six (“all is peaceful, quiet, tranquil, and frankly boring”) to One (“full-blown war, or, if this is the global level, galactic armageddon”).

Likewise, the Emergency Management Authority has its “civil emergency states” on a matching scale, where Six is “everything’s working just like it should, no trouble”, and One is “did anyone get the number of that asteroid?”; and the Imperial Security Executive has its “exceptional security alertness” scale, colloquially known as the “recommended paranoia level”, which runs Blue, White, Amber, Red, Violet, Black, where Blue is “nothing to see here” and Black is “total shitstorm, kill anything vaguely suspicious on sight, apologize later”.

Trope-a-Day: Deface of the Moon

Deface of the Moon: Monuments are by far the commonest type of this; with small moons, even, sometimes, although far more common are things like carved mountains.  (The minor range to the “east” of Calmirie is the classic example, slowly being carved one mountain at a time into likenesses of particularly notable Imperial Couples, starting with Alphas I and Seledíë III and working on down.)

But it’s not like people with big guns and attitude problems haven’t played this one pretty straight, too…

Trope-a-Day: Decorative Apostrophe

Decorative Apostrophe: They’re not decorative.  Nor are the other accents.  The acute indicates a long vowel; the diaeresis indicates, as it does in other languages, that two vowels are pronounced separately, and an apostrophe, found trailing a vowel with a diaeresis, indicates that that vowel is both long and pronounced separately, except that my current software doesn’t let me put both an acute and a diaeresis on the same letter.  (Also, “!” is pronounced <click>.)

Something which I need to solve before I get to publishing anything that uses one of those words, belike.

Trope-a-Day: Decade Dissonance

Decade Dissonance: Played fully straight.  The gaps in the Associated Worlds are full of backward “Forgotten Worlds” and “Unemerged”, who either are undeveloped enough to not have anything anyone wants, or who managed – after reaching non-worldbound status – to squander whatever cultural capital they had without bootstrapping themselves to meaningful star nation status.

Some of them hope fervently that one of the Great Powers will find some reason to take an interest in them one of these days, and thereby kick-start some sort of progress in their vicinity.  Others spend their days hoping that none of the Great Powers ever do, because it’s uncomfortable to be on the field when the giants dance.


Well, I was going to write something about the nature of evil and all that for today, seeing as this is post number 666, but honestly, I couldn’t think of anything suitable. Which may or may not have something to do with my plague of the day, which I suppose is quite evil.

Anyway – see Little Darknesses.

At Least It’s Not A Bar?

“Five scientist-explorers were exploring an abandoned outpost in the Expansion Regions one day when they came across a freshly-excavated artifact, still humming with power and covered in unknown controls.

“The first, a galari, said ‘We should transport this back to our laboratory, so that we can investigate it properly, and spread the word of our discoveries.  Think of what we could learn from it!’

“The second, a kalatri, said ‘Take it to our laboratory, yes, but we must keep this quiet.  It could be dangerous, or disruptive, or corrupting.  It is best that people do not know of it until we can be sure they will not be harmed, and use it well.’

“The third, a codramaju, said ‘We should keep it quiet, but so that we can master it before others know of it.  We could build a hundred new technologies with what we learn, and be wealthy beyond our dreams.’

“The fourth, a linobir, said ‘We should master it for its power.  The elder races built machines powerful beyond imagining.  If this is one of these, the galaxy would be ours for the taking.’

“But the fifth, an eldrae, said nothing – for with the press of a keyswitch, both he and the artifact had vanished away.”

– anonymously-posted extranet joke

Trope-a-Day: Death World

Death World: In one very real sense, most of them, since most worlds that aren’t your own come complete with an atmohydrosphere that you can’t breathe, a temperature that will probably kill you, and quite possibly a very unhelpful gravity, to boot.  Many of the Apocalypse How worlds also qualify, from things like residual radiation and leftover ecophages.

There’re a decent number of dangerous garden worlds, too, but most of them – leaving aside things like the above, or related syndromes like heavy metal poisoning, biochemistries that interact in a bad way with other people’s, etc. – most of them aren’t all that much worse than, say, randomly selected bits of Earth.  (In-universe, it turns out superhostility isn’t all that viable an evolutionary strategy vis-à-vis the advantages of being sufficiently non-rabid to cooperate.)

J is for Junklight

J is for Junklight,
the glow in the sky.
Thousands of stations
shine as they pass by.

K is for Kinesis,
to move with the will.
A thought made a deed
while the body is still.

L is for Lighthugger
the fastest of ships.
For beyond the Worlds’ edge,
the longest of trips!

Missing, Presumed Eaten

CATHCHAL (Principalities) – A prominent codramaju businesssoph and head of the Surameru Trading Coalition, Surameru Kenth, was reported killed today at the Starcradle Xenodochium in Cémálles, Cathchal, after falling into a waste-disposal conduit. In an apparent oversight, the safety parameters of the Xenodochium recycling system had not been updated to include the unusual biological characteristics of the codramaju species, relatively infrequent visitors to the Principalities, resulting in its disassembly by the waste-processing nanogoo.

Surameru Kenth died without backup, and is survived by its two contracted-merge-partners, seven dividends, and commensal digisapiences. Condolences may be sent via the codramaju embassy or the local offices of the Trading Coalition.

The Watch Constabulary are treating the death as suspicious.

Trope-a-Day: Death Is Not Permanent

Death Is Not Permanent: The entire purpose of the noetic backup and reinstantiation technology.  And given that people can keep redundant backups spread out across multiple star systems (a standard feature of your incarnation insurance), actually inflicting permadeath on someone is really damn hardDeath Is Less Expensive, too, since while keeping a clone-body of yourself on standby is a premium service, walking around in an off-the-rack body – or just living as an infomorph – while they grow you a new custom job is less so.

(It’s got a lot cheaper since the first people did it for, oh, a few billion esteyn.)