Higher Tech Species: Lots of them, arguably. The Imperial member species are this for most, if not all, of the Associated Worlds. The elder races – which, despite the technical definition based on the information entropy of their communications, in practice means “significantly older than the oldest of the current galactic mainstream” – are this to everybody, although nearly all of them aren’t particularly active any more, and have, for example, retreated into a virtual civilization in their own “Happy Fun Ball” (for which read, the matrioshka brain about eighty light-years to nadir of the Cordai Gap). And finally, of course, the Precursors, who would be this to everyone except that they’re simply Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
I saw a link today to this article, concerning the prospect of engineering predation out of the ecology in the interest of eliminating suffering (see also the Hedonistic Imperative), and was reminded of this particularly marvelous quotation from Terry Pratchett (Vetinari speaking):
“I have told this to few people, gentlemen, and I suspect never will again, but one day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I’m sure you will agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log.
“As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature’s wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining upon mother and children.
“And that’s when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.”
This, of course, is peculiarly applicable to the Eldraeverse in explaining both their identification of entropy and evil, and in quite why so many people and organizations in the Empire are quite so comfortable “playing God”. Someone has to, they might very well say, on the grounds that if anyone does hold that post already, the prevalence of this sort of thing in the universe demonstrates clearly – even before we bring up minor issues like the inescapable cosmic force of decay, belike – that the present incumbent is incompetent, insane, or quite simply monstrous.
High Class Call Girl: Absolutely all of them (see: Platonic Prostitution – but this applies even outside that market segment, say with the Eldinimieuthunimis offworld – Band of Brothels, and Unproblematic Prostitution). Given the local cultural attitudes, no-one is interested in servicing the hypothetical low end (at least in the Empire, those same cultural attitudes kill the demand side down here, too) of the market.
Unproblematic Prostitution: Played absolutely straight in the Empire for all seven of the listed common elements – and mostly straight in those offworld locations the Eldinimieuthunimis is operating in the negotiable affection business and enforcing their cultural prejudices with a will – but it is to be noted that this is very much a product of local cultural prejudices, including but not limited to the lack of our wacky hangups about sex in either direction, intense respect for the perquisites of one’s fellow sophs, that pure/direct sex sales represent a small market segment (see: Platonic Prostitution), great respect for professionalism (see: High Class Call Girl), and the local nonexistence of our creepy primate dominance kink.
Elsewhere, your mileage varies greatly, from places that are prepared to be just as self-consciously civilized about it, to places where it is as problematic as it is on Earth (including the really unpleasant bits, like drug addiction as a control technique and sophont trafficking), to places where it is considerably more problematic. As ever, the Cultural Clash abounds.
DROPSHIPS: EMPIRE OF THE STAR
The final entry in this section, affectionately known to the Imperial Legions as the “Big Ugly Breakfast 1” – and less affectionately known to almost everyone else as “Good gods, what is that thing?” – is the Flapjack-class cavalry dropship (Eye-in-the-Flame Arms/Artifice Armaments). Uniquely among Imperial starship designs, the Flapjack has adopted the rare “disk” or “saucer” hull form. It does this because the Flapjack-class is equipped with not merely a single, but a pair of nuclear-pulse drives, using the relatively environmentally friendly laser-fusion or (in the Flapjack II) antimatter options, the descent and deceleration drives; the dorsal and ventral hulls of these ships are in effect simply the pusher plates for these drives. The main body of the vessel, suspended between these on hydraulic dampers, is a short, wide cylinder, heavily structurally reinforced and itself surrounded by “sidewall” armor as thick and refractory as the pusher plates.
The intended usage of the Flapjack is orbital insertion of armored vehicles, en masse, into hot zones. To enable this, after being decoupled from a carrier in the high orbitals of a planet under attack, the Flapjack uses its descent drive to accelerate downwards through the atmosphere, minimizing dwell time within range of orbital and anti-air defenses. In addition, while the descent of a Flapjack obviously has far too bright a sensor signature to be concealed, the combination of the radiation hash from the descent drive’s thrust bombs and the plasma sheath formed by its hypersonic atmospheric transit together render it extremely difficult for weapons systems to attain successful guidance lock, and terminal guidance (especially to the fine degree necessary to insert a weapon into the narrow window of vulnerability between the pusher plates and the sidewall armor, even if the weapon is capable of surviving and maneuvering in the immediate environment of an active nuclear-pulse drive) virtually impossible.
At the end of its descent trajectory, the Flapjack uses the more powerful thrust bombs of its deceleration drive to perform a “suicide burn”; i.e., maximal deceleration at minimum altitude, compatible with lithobraking in a manner which preserves the integrity of the ventral pusher plate. This deceleration burn serves the additional functions of preparing the drop zone for the arrival of the dropship by flattening any structures or prepared defenses, and eliminating any but the most heavily armored, secured, and radiation-proofed resistance in the immediate area. Once the ground is reached, multiple armored cargo access doors with integral ramps and excavation drones permit the Flapjack to be actively discharging combat vehicles within minutes of a successful landing.
A proposal for an infantry dropship along the lines of the Flapjack, tentatively designated the Pancake-class, has been advanced by Eye-in-the-Flame Arms, but at the present time the high-radiation aftermath of such a vessel’s landing is not considered viable for personnel wearing M-70 Havoc combat exoskeletons or N45 Garrex field combat armor, the current legionary standards. While this would not be a problem for troops equipped with the specialized N45r Callérás high-rad field combat armor, its associated disadvantages and the expense of refit ensure that, for the foreseeable future, infantry will continue to be landed via drop shuttle (q.v.)
– Naval Starships of the Associated Worlds, INI Press, Palaxias, 421st ed.
1. A statistically improbable number of combat drops take place at planet dawn.
Village Planet: There are a decent number of these – people who have seen the greater Galaxy and decided that they’d prefer not to have anything to do with it – and they’re often appropriately hard to get to, since most of them exist in systems that don’t have stargates, meaning you have to go on a very long relativistic journey to meet the people who would prefer you stayed away. And further, as you might expect, most of them have a fairly lousy reputation, due to the only people from them the greater Galaxy sees being the exiles and renegades.
By and large, said greater Galaxy is happy to leave them to rot til’ they decide they want to play well with others.
Hidden Depths: Demographically, in immortalist civilizations, the average person you meet has centuries of personal history behind them. A lack of hidden depths is really more unusual in those parts, and requires some considerable effort to live out the same decade again and again and again and again…