Let There Be Light

Lucifer VI-class Starwisp Tender

With the ongoing spread of the stargate plexus, it became rapidly apparent to the Imperial Exploratory Service that it would rapidly become impracticable to continue to launch trans-horizon probes from its existing fixed facilities, and indeed that to construct new launch facilities at the current edge of the stargate plexus would, in the long term, be economically foolish as growth continued to render them obsolete in turn.

To resolve this problem, they commissioned the design of the Lucifer-class starwisp tender, now in its sixth design iteration. The tender is essentially a complete phased-array laser capable of accelerating a starwisp (probe or otherwise) to not only normal relativistic velocities, but to the high-relativistic range (0.95 to 0.99 lights), coupled to a deployable solar swarm capable of generating sufficient power, when in close solar orbit, to power the laser array, all mounted upon a fusion torch drive sufficient to move the tender between systems, albeit slowly and with low maneuverability at best. A hangar and maintenance facility suitable for housing and readying for deployment the starwisps themselves awkwardly perched on the side of the core ship completes the design. No quarters for biosapient crew are provided on the Lucifer-class; it is intended for long-term deployment under full automation, with only the occasional presence of infomorph crew required for optimal operation.

29 Lucifer-class vessels are in commission at the present date, of which 24 are attached to the Exploratory Service in its joint program (with Ring Dynamics, ICC) of probing highly-rated prospect systems in the Outback to plan future plexus expansion. The remaining five vessels are registered to various private relativistic-trade consortia. Of these, 20 are of the Lucifer VI-class, seven of the preceding Lucifer V-class, and two, the oldest, of the Lucifer IV-class. Lucifer itself, class prototype for the first design iteration, is permanently stationed at Almeä L4 as a museum ship. All other Lucifer-class starships are believed to have been decommissioned.

It is also worth noting that reading the class specifications, which are precisely correct in stating the Lucifer-class’s lack of formal weaponry and civilian classification, appears to generate in some few pirates and hijackers (those, for instance, responsible for the attacks on Photophoros, Luminary, and Radiance) the incautious ambition necessary to pick a fight with an 864 terawatt highly-collimated laser intended for use over interstellar distances – thus clearly demonstrating, perhaps, the distinction between knowledge and wisdom.

– Fíerí’s Starships of the Associated Worlds, 421st ed.;
Vol. IX: Esoterica

Trope-a-Day: Form-Fitting Wardrobe

Form-Fitting Wardrobe: While it’s not all tight-fitting – many clothing styles are perfectly loose and flowing – just about all clothing in the Empire and other advanced civilizations fits perfectly.  That’s because it’s made to incorporate a whole passel of tiny MEMS, micromachines which ensure that it loosens and tightens and shortens and lengthens in all the right places to fit its wearer just that perfectly, no matter who they are or what they’re doing, as long as the size was approximately reasonable in the first place.  It also never gets caught on things or trails in mud, remains stable in wind and weather, and brushes dirt off itself.  It’s hard to avoid being stylish, really.

(This even applies to hardshell armor, but it tends to be modified to fit perfectly on manufacture, or on-the-fly with a handy nanolathe, rather than being self-adjusting.)

Trope-a-Day: Food Pills

Food Pills: Well, actual food pills don’t exist, because of all those inconvenient mass-and-volume constraints, the more so with high-energy metabolisms that need to support all that symbiotic nanotech, and suchlike.

In terms of other things listed under this trope, though, there’s everything from traditional waybread (not a light and sweet bread; more like a heavy, syrupy, boozy fruitcake with extra fruit – again, to support fast metabolisms with lots of sugars) to everyone’s non-tasty delight, the utterly bland yet nutritious algiprote/mycoprotein/nutriyeast ration bars.

I’ll also throw in a quick mention of the ubiquitous tins of species-specific nutritional supplement pills, because even when you’re visiting the occasional planets where you can eat the local food, the chances are you’re just begging for some interesting nutritional deficiencies in places if you don’t watch this sort of thing carefully.

Trope-a-Day: The Fog of Ages

The Fog of Ages: This didn’t so much happen to the natural immortals of the setting, but then, the natural immortals weren’t all that natural, having been designed into immortality by one particular group of Precursors, and it is generally believed that a few memory upgrades came with the deal.  While it probably would have eventually – well, these days, they’re using offloading extra memory and cognitive processing to the cloud and its ultratech nanocomputronium cores, so it’s unlikely to ever come up in the future.

It can, which is relevant where immortalist proselytizing comes into play, affect people who’ve just taken an immortagen and nothing else, but, well, if it bothers you, they also have this nice catalog full of brain upgrades, memory-management techniques and advertisements for memory-redaction and psychedesign services right here, and they’d be happy to sell you some.

Trope-a-Day: Flying Saucer

Flying Saucer: Mostly averted.  While most people do like to build their starships with a certain degree of unnecessary style (and thus, a bit less like an explosion in a girder factory than one might think), the saucer shape is actually not one of the ones that matches up terribly well to convenient arrangements of parts; so there really aren’t all that many saucer-shaped ships around.  When there are, it’s usually because the ship in question has a gravity wheel, which in turn means that the thrust axis is usually parallel to the axis of the saucer, not perpendicular to it, so they don’t move like them, even if they look like them.

Civilized Warfare

From Storm-General Galen Claves-ith-Lelad, Warmain of the Dawn, Strategos of the 33rd Imperial Legion, the Fists of Lightning, to Ironlord Qorran Cieng, commanding the Third Army of Ochale, greeting.

I have the honor to command the forces of my Empress, which even now approach the strongpoint you have made of the city of Echiran from the south, as your scouting parties will doubtless have confirmed for you. I regret that I must further inform you that we have successfully secured the outlying villages to the south, and our five-furnace dragons have taken up position along the Chiran Ridge, from which they are able to successfully range upon your position.

Despite the regrettable necessities of war, I wish to assure you that neither I nor Her Divine Majesty have any desire for the devastation of cities, the deaths of your people, or any unnecessary effusion of blood.

To that end, it is my wish to offer to you an alternative to bombardment, house-to-house fighting, and other such barbarities. If you will vacate the city, we will meet you in the valley to its west. In deference to your current superior defensive position, I give you my personal assurance that we will permit you one day beforehand to establish your positions in the valley, and will refrain from engaging you there with our five-furnace dragons.

In the event of our victory, we would require that you withdraw from the city of Echiran, without sabotage, pillage, or further engagement, a minimum of three days’ march; likewise, in the event of your victory, we will undertake that neither we nor the 55th Imperial Legion, the Doom Hammers, currently approaching from the west, will attempt further engagement nor pass north beyond the city of Echiran for the three days following the battle.

In surety of our good faith, I pledge you my personal word, my word as Warmain of the Dawn, and in the voice of my Empress. May I have your response before daybreak?

Given under my hand and seal this day, 11 Cálith,

Galen Claves-ith-Lelad

Trope-a-Day: Floating Continent

Floating Continent: Actually, there are quite a lot of these, whether you call them skyhomes, sky cities, or sky islands (in roughly increasing order of size).  They are divided into the ones which hover over terrestrial worlds (which exist mostly because people think they’re cool, and why not?), the ones which float at a more people-friendly level in the atmospheres of planets of more Venerian temperament, and the ones which float around in the atmospheres of actual gas giants.  (The distinction there between “hover” and “float” is whether they’re actively powered and maintained by vector control, or whether good old aerostat principles are good enough to keep them up there.)

Not to be confused with orbital cities, which don’t float, but rather fall in endless circles.

Trope-a-Day: Fling a Light Into the Future

Fling a Light Into the Future: A number of independent efforts, as well as cooperative efforts between the Imperial Emergency Management Authority and various bits of the Ministry of Progress & Prosperity are engaged in this – well, not quite this, since it’s still the present and doom hasn’t shown up yet, but in activities that will become this when and if it does arrive, from building local jumpstarter caches to help civilization rebuild in the event of a disaster, to archiving secure data (libraries, technologies, and mind-states) against the possibility that it might be lost, whether to be found by them or by another society or species in the future, to building entire civilization-backup ships whose job is to flee into the unknown Beyond in the event of an existential threat and reboot civilization entire.

Trope-a-Day: Flaunting Your Fleets

Flaunting Your Fleets: Even more than routine commerce protection and anti-piracy operations, this is why the Imperial Navy bothers to run patrols from the Core out to Fleet Bases Coreward, Rimward, Spinward, Trailing, Acme, and Nadir – and, not coincidentally, why every other Great Power, with the exception of the Photonic Network, has their own set of similar patrol routes.  A little bit of showing the flag and making the presence felt provides discouragement altogether disproportionate to its size to all the crazy people/organizations/polities who might otherwise get ideas.

As a side note, this is also why the Empire invests money into making all its ships look that sleek and shiny and covered in lovely polished brightwork.  A little bit of “we are wealthy enough to afford to be able to do this, and moreover, we can do it without impairing combat performance” also goes a long way.

Trope-a-Day: Fixed Forward Facing Weapon

Fixed Forward Facing Weapon: Ah, yes, spinal mounts.  Mostly common on smaller ships as the primary weapon (railguns and other mass drivers, generally – a big advantage because you can run the rail the full length of the ship, for the maximum possible slug acceleration), but some larger classes have them as well as turreted and bay-mounted weapons.  And they’re not quite as limited, aiming-wise, as the trope suggests – varying the relative strengths of the magnetic domains at the end of the railgun, where the rails flare outward, can let them fire, oh, up to 30-40 degrees off-bore, with some loss of terminal acceleration.

Trope-a-Day: Five Races

Five Races: Not terribly true for the Eldraeverse; for one thing, there’s a lot more than five species out there.  A lot more.  But let’s look at some archetypes, here:

Stout (Dwarf): One of the few that does have an obvious candidate, the pseudosaurian kaeth, whose physical strength and resilience, militaristic philosophies, and rather, um, kinesthetic way of life fit the bill to a T.  (The deeply spiritual and artistic aspects of their culture don’t, so much, but never mind those.)  They also wear the Proud Warrior Race hat, or one of them – it’s not like there’s a galactic shortage of Proud Warrior Races, after all.

Fairy (The Fair Folk): The most likely candidates for this hat are the various elder races (i.e., the Precursors that are still, to some degree, around), which by and large are alien and incomprehensible and to be kept out of the way of at all times.

It could also be argued that the Imperials wear this hat, but honestly, I think they’re more High Men.  But if not, the galari (ancient – even by the standards of the Empire – and immortal sophont rocks) are actually a much better fit than the eldrae in terms of being ancient, wise and benevolent, and – as Imperials – Sufficiently Advanced by many standards.

Mundane (Human): Everyone wears this hat, or, at least, something within delta of everyone. After all, even if it doesn’t look that way from the news, or the plots, the majority of species within the Associated Worlds are, by and large, regular folks just trying to get along, earn a living, make a little difference and have a little fun.  The ones actively engaging in war (or other, ahem, dynamic ideological praxis), galactopolitics, galaxy-spanning plots and schemes, uplifting programs, radical transsophontism, even madder science, personal apotheosis, computational theogeny, or applied theological engineering are the distinct minority, even if they do get more press.

High Men (Taller Elf or Human): This is where I would put the eldrae on the grounds of (a) transsophontism, and (b) literary inevitability.

Cute: Possible candidates here include the myneni – silicate-based shapechanging blobs, who can invent new organs on the fly, directly interface with computers, and construct all manner of useful things with their own secretions.

The esseli, who despite an extensive history of bioengineering themselves to the point that no-one, even themselves, actually remembers what they originally looked like (they’re currently brain-filled fleshy ovoids with short manipulating tentacles – for the most part) nonetheless manage to appear as cute.  Treating them as just cute would be a really bad idea, given that they’re an entire species of mad biologists, who are even as you speak contemplating how to better engineer your organs, but hey, it’s a mistake you’re only likely to make once.

And the dar-bandal, who are canine uplifts, who inherit this just because we’re prone to think of the furry as the cute, right?  Some people find out the hard way that condescending to someone descended from wolves by way of bred-for-brains dog-pluses is a good way to get said condescension bitten right off.  The rest have found one who’s more than willing to give you a big goofy grin and the winsome puppy eyes while taking you for everything you’ve got. Truly, their social-fu is strong.

Trope-a-Day: Sufficiently Advanced Alien

Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The Precursors and other elder races were, in their time.  Whether or not they still are, or would be if they somehow came back again, is… debatable, and depends heavily on exactly how much physics lies between the current state of the most advanced known technology and the remaining “inexplicable” Precursor artifacts.

On the other hand, by far the majority of Precursor artifacts are now pretty well understood (see: Older is Better), so it’s likely that galactic civilization could give ’em a run for their money if they did somehow turn up.