Trope-a-Day: Improbable Piloting Skills

Improbable Piloting Skills: While mostly averted, “If it flies…” is partially played straight thanks to Powers as Programs.  Note that this still doesn’t mean that anyone can fly well – but once you’ve learned all the kinesthetic skills, reflexes, etc., etc., that a pilot needs, it sure makes adapting to new types easier.

(And “the eyes of an eagle” are sometimes provided by regular old Super Senses.)

Gods of the Void

The Ice Bitch, the Spawner of Calamities, the Father of Error, That Whose Laughter Rings In The Ears Of The Dying

A near-ubiquitous spacer belief – even among the eldrae, who do not make a habit of placing masks upon the force of Entropy – is that of the many-angled god-goddess who deals out impartial death and calamity towards all whose efforts to ward his-her-its attentions off have been insufficiently fervent and effective. The Spawner of Calamities holds dominion over all ways to suffer and die in space: over void, dark, and vacuum; over fire, radiation, and flare; over leak, suit-rupture, and micrometeoroid; over hypoxia, toxin, and life-system collapse; over power-exhaustion, equipment-failure, and defect; and over stupidity, incompetence, and ill-luck most of all.

The Father of Error has little consistent depiction; mythography attributes him-her-it with, in combination, a gnarled and nauseating mass of virtually every body part and organ known to biology anywhere. The exception is that all of his-her-its forms are depicted as eyeless, befitting the blind idiot deity of error and mischance. The shadow of the Ice Bitch scars the world with radiation and poison as he-she-it passes. Symbolically, he-she-it is aptly represented by a red star in flare, bringing death to those left without shelter.

Throughout the majority of the Worlds, the cult of the Laugher is at best semi-serious – it is comforting, amidst disaster, to have someone to blame, to swear by, and indeed to swear at – although a few genuine cults do exist in less developed areas of the Expansion Regions. Unusually by comparison to similar cults, their theology does not support sacrifice or reverence; their deity’s indifference renders him-her-it indifferent to any worship. The offerings of bitter wine poured out on his-her-its altars are mere acknowledgement of the truth of things. Nonetheless, enough people seek the propitiation of their fears that his-her-its cults can sustain themselves and grow.

(Sadly, these cults do nothing to encourage wise caution and due attention to maintenance procedures.)

– Mythographies of the Worlds, 53rd ed., Third League Publishing & c.

Trope-a-Day: Powers As Programs

Powers As Programs: With the availability of mnemonesis to download knowledge and skillsets into your brain, gnostic overlays to do the same thing for professional personalities, and the ability to download recipes for your portable nanolathe or desktop nanoforge to build you the tools to use them…

…yeah, this is pretty much the way it works.  Although those powers which require genetic changes, large tools, exotic materials, or significant ‘shell modification are somewhat more difficult to achieve.

But see also Skilled, but Naïve, when we get there.

Trope-a-Day: Skilled, but Naïve

Skilled, but Naïve: The consequence of relying too much on mnemonesis and gnostic overlays to download distilled knowledge and skillsets.  They can, and will, grant you extraordinary, even superhuman, technical skill.  Excellence is guaranteed.  You will outperform any mediocrity, even any average professional you ever meet on raw talent alone, because you have been given a magnificent instrument.

But it’s the integration of the downloaded knowledge with your core self that lets you play it like a virtuoso, and there’s no artificial substitute for that.  Just experience and practice.

Sleep Well and Wake

outside storage (n.): Also cold storage; vacuum storage. Among the things space has in plentiful supply are volume and insulation. The former affords a bounty of available space for various usages; the latter ensures that items occupying it require relatively little protection to be safe from environmental influences. Many habitats throughout the Worlds make use of this for storage. Once chilled down, a package can simply be wrapped in a K-blanket (for micrometeoroid protection, if the storage volume itself is not shielded as a whole) and reflective foil, tethered to a convenient truss, and airlocked. The space environment will protect it near-indefinitely, at minimal if any cost.

NOTE: On many habitats, the prevalence of this technique is such that the phrase “thrown out” now typically implies storage rather than disposal.

Ice Bitch’s Hell, the (n., slang): Also Frozen Death, the; Slow Death, the; long, cold wait, a; suspended internment; cryostatic indigent holding. As previously mentioned, one endemic problem faced by many drifts is the build-up, over time, of indigent floaters. Due to the cost of interstellar travel, individuals travelling without guaranteed-passage tickets or reflux bonds may find themselves stranded on a distant habitat without means to depart, and with depleting funds.

This naturally poses a problem for drifts in Second Tier and Emerging markets, which can afford neither the cost of deportation nor the life-support overhead of maintaining an indigent population that isn’t paying hab fees, yet which would prefer on ethical grounds not to simply march them out the airlock, and which cannot rely on the limited resources of distressed spacefarer’s organizations. One widely used solution, of uncertain provenance, is to place indigent floaters in cryostasis, remove them from the cryostasis capsule, then package the corpsicle for and place it in outside storage – thus eliminating the associated life support costs, et. al. Many drifts have thousands – even tens of thousands, in the case of major transit points – of frozen floaters in long-term outside storage awaiting someone willing to pay for their cryorevival and transportation.

Rumors of long-term storees being sold off to slavers or organleggers by certain unscrupulous storage authorities or station management remain largely unconfirmed at the time of writing.

– A Star Traveller’s Dictionary

Trope-a-Day: Improbable Aiming Skills

Improbable Aiming Skills: Training for the various sentinel occupations, including the Imperial Legions and, yes, also the Watch Constabulary tries its best to achieve these, or at least to avert Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy really hard.  In these modern days in which you can have a top-flight ballistics software package running in your head and arbitrary amounts of computer power, locally networked sensors, etc., etc., in your gun – well, let’s just say that the standards for improbable have been raised a tad.

In The Details

“Accurate description of a subject society is vitally important to our work, and thus it is important to be aware of our descriptors as tightly-defined terms of art. For example, ‘primitive’ and ‘barbaric’ are not cognates: a society whose implicit economic scarcity requires people to labor in exchange for subsistence goods is primitive, but need not be barbaric. Contrariwise, the practice of taxation is in and of itself barbaric, but not necessarily limited to primitives.”

– An Introduction to Cultural Sophontology

Trope-a-Day: Improbable Age

Improbable Age: Happens both ways, in the Empire.  On the one hand, you sometimes get improbably young people doing various jobs, partly because of those very population dynamics we mentioned back under Immortal Procreation Clause making it very useful to get new brains into the useful-production fields as soon as they were competent to do so (and, note, the Imperial concept of “majority” is based entirely on demonstrated competence, not age, so prodigies really can leap ahead); usually in ‘prentice-level positions along with continued education (because those same demographic factors and the production models they favor make grunt labor very much less than useful), and quite possibly still with limitations on their tort-insurance-covered-rights-of-contract, it is true, but nonetheless, out there doing stuff.

Happens at the other end, too, though – given the social requirements of mobility and the personal requirements to keep fresh, there is a longstanding tradition of recurving; namely, for people who’ve stayed for a long time in a single career to retire, take a sabbatical, and then start afresh in some different field (often a very different field) that might interest them.  So finding old and highly experienced people doing relatively low-level jobs way outside their field is also hardly unusual, although the generalizable part of their experience does mean they tend to advance relatively fast.  (Also, the benefits of intentional or serendipitous cross-pollination between different fields don’t hurt, either.)

And, of course, the immortals do tend to look quite young… so long as you don’t look them in the eyes.  Or watch them in action.

Trope-a-Day: Immortal Procreation Clause

Immortal Procreation Clause: Somewhat played straight, but only somewhat.  Eldraeic native fertility is considerably, about an order of magnitude, lower than human as a baseline, yes, but that’s not so much lower that they weren’t running a nice healthy population growth curve before discovering technology, space, etc. (and started on a large and very sparsely populated world), and even post-that with the normally-ensuing technical-society decline, the trend is still upwards on net.  Fortunately, there’s any amount of space in space, and simply oodles of unused resources, too.

(Demographically, it’s low enough to make non-adults very much the minority in the population – certainly enough that an attempt at, say, mass schooling on our model, were that particular form of collective madness to set in, would require very large catchment areas indeed – and to, economically, put a healthy premium on the cost of labor and encourage capital-intensive models right from the start, but certainly not low enough to produce dwindling-elvish-dying-race effects, even with non-natural deaths included, or anything like that.)

In a more general case, immortagens typically do not affect fertility one way or the other.  Sensible species are expected to learn how to manage their own birthrate.  Insensible species needn’t come complaining when they have an overpopulation crash because this bit of data is right there on the tin, look.  (Insensible and warlike species may discover that having your population managed for you is also an option.  If not a good one.)

Elsewhere in Kythera System

Kythera System, near Lunar Transshipment One
OTV Mucker’s Bucket
Líse Varavelen, captain-owner.

“…object appears to be a fragment of nucleonic battery casing, damaged by internal explosion. Remaining piece bears serial code gilek-two-four-eleven-nine-one-illegible-corse. Further identity not confirmed. Object stowed aboard for return. Entry ends, mission elapsed time six, twenty-one, fourteen, mark. What’s up next?”

“Unknown metallic debris fragment, smallest size class by radar return. Range two-six-niner, through controlled space. Maneuver on your glass now.” The computer voice paused for a moment, then added, “Quandry Versine.”

“Leaves today on a shardcruiser, won’t be back in these orbits for more’n a year. Hm. Far side of the lane.” The commander of the tiny vessel reached up and flipped a switch. “Lunar Transshipment One, Station Ops, this is OTV Mucker’s Bucket on contract to Lunar Dejunkers, operating free-flight. Request clearance to cross outbound lane lirek tarse at downrange two-five-zero-zero, course zero-three-four desc one five station prograde relative, estimated dwell two point one five. Over.”

Mucker’s Bucket, Station Ops. We need you to hold or divert, estimated wait one niner one, we have an outbound freighter wishing to make transit. Specify intentions. Over.”

“Station Ops, Mucker’s Bucket. Check your debris feed, guys, our target will be into the lane in one six three. It’s under k-min for the lane, but we’d rather not have it stirred up, read? Over.”

“Wait one, BucketMucker’s Bucket, Station Ops, you are cleared to transit lane lirek tarse outbound one at downrange two-five-zero-zero, clearance valid from mark plus four to mark plus seven, at which clear lane for approaching traffic. Station Ops, clear.”

“On your glass now,” the computer said quietly. “Warming up the main drive. Tessil Lirendocius?”

That mudhog? If you’re that far off the axis, I should fly this on full manual.”

“Twelve pulses, running the count.  I thought he bought you lunch last week?”

“Yeah. And then,” her finger flipped up the shield over the burn key, and punched it as the count flipped to zero, raising her voice over the clatter and hiss of the main jet, “he dropped me at the airlock ‘cause he didn’t want to go outside. Who lives on a space station and can’t take a walk in space?”

“Coming up on skew-flip.”

“Cut.” Expert hands released the burn key, gripped the reaction controllers, flipped the OTV end for end, and punched the key again. “And burn. Why’re you working so hard to set me up, anyway?”

“I’m your friend, Líse.” The ship paused for a moment. “And our efficiency’s been down almost a whole percentage point this last month.”

“And for that, you’re trying to get me laid? Station Ops, Mucker’s Bucket, we’re clear of the lane. Returning to free-flight. Over.”

Mucker’s Bucket, Station Ops. Clear of the lane, back on free-flight, acknowledged. Good hunting. Clear.”

“There may not be causation, but there is correlation. Target on the glass, range one four at oh-nine-eleven asc three.”

“Spare me the graphs, and give me manual translation control.”

“Done and done.”

A clatter of reaction jets. “Go to station-keeping, and fire up the arm.” The trigraphic representation of the OTV’s manipulator arm wrapped itself around Líse’s hand. “Let’s see, now. Give me a point-five plus-X and hold.”

“Executed. Rotation?”

“No, I can match it with the grappler at this angle. And… got it.” With a twist of the arm, she brought it up before the pilot’s viewport. “And log retrieval: object is a bolt key with an IN stock label, reading corse-lirek-four-one-three-ten-six. Object stowed for return. Entry ends, mission elapsed time six, thirty-two, eight, mark. Next up?”

“Kirill Meliane’s just arrived back on-station.”

“She and I were pretty good friends last time our orbits crossed, but there’s a bit of an interface problem there, ship.”

The computer emitted an electronic chuckle. “Picky, picky. Always with the little details. Besides, the lifelog I’m looking at says she’s been a he for six months now.”

“Oh, fine. Then invite him for lunch next time we’re both off-shift, and give me the next item off the feed. This junk won’t clear itself.”

Trope-a-Day: Immortality Immorality

Immortality Immorality: Averted, inverted, mocked, beaten soundly, and left to expire if it wants to so damned much, in much of the Galaxy.  The Imperials (and many other transsophont civilizations) are of the opinion that anyone who can’t tell that death is an eo ipso Bad Thing, meaningless, pointless, useless, unjust, unforgivably wasteful, personally destructive, and so on and so forth is an idiot, and the ephemeralist factions that propose that it is good for society and even the individual are substantially worse than that.

Of course, said ephemeralists play it entirely straight, but, well, the trouble with being ideologically committed to death is that given enough time, you will lose the greater argument with people who trend the other way.  Demographics are a bitch. Such is… life.

Trope-a-Not-Quite-Day: Incredibly Obvious Bomb

Incredibly Obvious Bomb: In the Empire, this is the essential difference between a nuclear weapon – which is a specifically military purchase, and using which under most circumstances will have you up on capital Use of Instruments of Regrettable Necessity Without Appropriate Authority charges, and a nuclear device, which you can buy at a good hardware store and is used routinely for digging canals and reservoirs, moving asteroids, dispersing unwanted mountains, and other types of civil engineering.

Namely, that apart from being bright, high-visibility orange, the nuclear device has a ubiquitously networked and geolocative computerized arming system that will refuse to arm itself if you’re inside someone’s city limits or other off-limits property (or part of the affected radius is); that will give the appropriate countdown before detonating to let even pretty leisurely people clear the blast area, and broadcast said countdown (and where it is, what it is, and what its range is likely to be) over the local public caution/warning channel.  If anyone’s still inside the blast area, per their geolocation information, when the countdown hits the low numbers, it’ll quietly shut itself down.  And it’ll accept a detonation veto command from absolutely anyone within that area, no questions asked. (And, yes, comes with copious anti-tamper devices to prevent anyone from turning it into a nuclear weapon unless they could have built their own nuclear weapon just as easily, if not more so.)

A nuclear weapon, on the other hand, will specifically avoid doing any of that.


Biocode: O-LDL-D11

The kalatri, best known as the dominant sophont species of the Voniensa Republic, are a warm-blooded oxygen-breathing species, originating from a protein-lipid biochemistry with nucleic-acid based genetic information storage. In terms of standard interspecies morphology, they are upright bipedal lacertians, possessing a squamous integument in shades of blue or green, with a crest of short, stiff white pseudo-fur along the line of the spine from skull to mid-back; this actually serves as a chemosensor. Having evolved from hexapedal ancestors on their homeworld of Vonis Prime, they possess a double pair of arms, the mid-arm of which has migrated towards the head creating a complex double-shoulder joint; the outer arms, referred to as the major arms, possess three-fingered hands and are used for tasks requiring strength and grip; they are also used as secondary transportation limbs for brachiation. The inner arms, the minor arms, have developed six-fingered hands used for fine manipulation. The tail common in lacertomorphs is largely vestigial in kalatri, and when occasionally present is considered a genetic atavism and typically removed surgically shortly after birth. Nutrition, originally biochemically compatible post-mortem plant and animal matter, but in the modern era more commonly corresponding synthetics, is ingested through a single multi-toothed mouth located on the anterior surface of the inferior portion of the head. Excretion, copulation, and parturition take place through a single combined cloaca located upon the ventral surface of the inferior terminus of the torso.

The kalatri head (containing the brain and primary sense organs) is also lacertian in form, although relatively platyopic. It bears no respiratory orifices; kalatri respiration makes use of neck vents. The kalatri possess dual, stereoptic eyes on the anterior surface of the superior portion of the head. Immediately lateral to these are a pair of large auditory tympana. Kalatri visual range covers from galle to mid-blue, and aural range from 45 Hz to 29 kHz.

Kalatri are a bisexed, usually pair-bonding, dianisogamic, and ovoviviparous species, K-strategy, typically producing a single offspring at a time, which requires fourteen to sixteen years to reach physical maturity. Offspring are functionally helpless and require parental care for the first several years of their lives. Unmodified kalatri lifespan extends to between 90 and 130 years, with gross physiological deterioration setting in the last 20 years.

Psychologically1, against baseline average, kalatri can be considered moderately ludic, mildly xenophobic/chauvinist (although commonly-seen kalatri cultural elements decry this), moralist, moderately precautionary and uninnovative, low-trust, and susceptible to an unusually high degree to conscious and subconscious peer norming, with consequent prosocial/counteregoic tendencies.

By the standards of the Associated Worlds, Republican kalatri are a near-baseline species: While their technological base in other areas remains relatively well-developed, Republic law prohibits a variety of technologies, including but not limited to volitional machine intelligence (or, rather, the development of volitional machine intelligence, and the full recognition of the personhood of machine sophonts is dubious), seed AI, the uploading of organic sophonts into algorithmic form (such uploaded sophonts are denied personhood within Republic space, except by special treaty arrangement) and its concomitants, synnoetic integration of organic and machine intelligence, bionic enhancement, the majority of non-industrial-grade nanotechnology, biotechnology, genetic enhancement of sophonts and most other forms of genetic manipulation except under strict controls, immortagens and other high-grade anagathics, and intelligence enhancement by technological means. Those kalatri who have abandoned the Republic for one of the few independent kalatri colonies in Worlds space are not externally prohibited from using these technologies, but usually find it hard to shake off their cultural conditioning.

– A Comprehensive Index of Sophonts, ed. Trestat hr-Mirek, Third Order Publishing

1: Authorial aside: Given that the kalatri are also about as close to psychologically human as anyone in-setting can be, interested readers can occupy themselves reverse-engineering what the Worlds’ modal sophont species is like from this…

Trope-a-Day: Immortality Bisexuality

Immortality Bisexuality: Might look that way (well, not for the galari, who have no concept of sex, or sex, or gender), but it’s actually the result of desire control, etc., as listed under Bi The Way and Everyone Is Bi.  The rest of the immortals weren’t inclined this way until the tech came along to make it so.

(And, to be clear, in many civilized areas such outcomes are desirable. Preferences are one thing, but instincts that contradict your conscious desires on this point are inhibiting your freedom of choice, and as such are instincts that need to be told to shut up and sit down.)

Trope-a-Day: Immortality Begins at Twenty

Immortality Begins At Twenty: Played mostly straight with the eldrae and eldrae-designed immortagens.  Well, late twenties, dignified early thirties, anyway, and it doesn’t take all that much longer after that before the combination of bodily reflections of the experience of age and biological youth to make it very, very hard to pin an actual age on them, anyway.

Happy news, citizen-shareholders!

For sundry reasons which are assuredly of no interest to you, gentle readers, I have been granted an abundance of writing time, something which for the past year and a half I have been eking out in dribs and drabs here and there.

So, this weekend notwithstanding, you should hopefully be able to expect the fic-a-day schedule to return to something rather more like the -a-day schedule that I was on back in ’12.

And there was much rejoicing?

Trope-a-Day: The Immodest Orgasm

The Immodest Orgasm: While this is unlikely to ever appear on screen… well, despite not being quite the hedonists the Culture are – having a few other things to do other than amuse the Minds – they do have access to high levels of biotechnology, and believe in excellence in all things. How do you see this going – in the light of Power Perversion Potential?

(In the days of small, early space habitats… well, it was quite handy that glassboard – a standardized space internal construction material that’s basically foamed quartz inside an aluminum sandwich, to make use of extremely common elements – is a good insulator of sound.)


Order in Council,
64th Meeting of the Stellar Council, 4941.

We deem it regrettable that the once-proud name of the Valonar Interactate, once associated with the highest ideals of liberty and technological progress and a beacon for civilization in the Expansion Regions, has now become a byword for the fall into barbarism. They have chosen to renounce enlightened libertism and abandon their own creation, selling their own freedoms in exchange for the oppressive perversion of mass-minded sédármódan egalitarianism.

Respecting their right to choose, We will not forbid them their own chosen damnation.

Notwithstanding this, the planetary Interactate now wages war on its in-system colonies, seeking to subject them – will they, nil they – to the same system it has chosen for itself.

No longer.

As of this day, acting on behalf of the now-exiled people of the outer Valonar colonies whose petitions for relief and desire to elect Imperial membership have been relayed to Us, We request and require all instrumentalities of Our government to take any steps necessary to protect and, if necessary, liberate these colonies, hereafter designated the Lis Core Exclave, and to bring them into Our Care;

And to that end, We appoint Tricíël Amanyr-ith-Amaranyr, Magnate, as Our legate to establish Imperial governance within the Exclave, in accordance with its customary forms, and Admiral Stane Rysar-ith-Rysakar, Capital Fleet Heavy Flotilla, as Warmain of the Lis Corridor;

And we request and require them to proceed without delay to the Lis Core Exclave, there to take possession of said realm in Our Name and end all conflict therein.

Given under Our Hand and Seal this day, 18th Telenith, 4941.

Admiral of the Fleet Erraine Tsurilen Inachios, OP, O. Vic.,
First Lord of the Admiralty
Protector of the Starways
Warden of the Charted Void
Warlord of the Empire

for and on behalf of

Linariel Andracanth Falranna
by right of Coronargyr and Chartered Mandate
Empress 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 Lady of the Heights and Depths
Dyarch of the Infinite

Trope-a-Day: I’m Melting

I’m Melting: This is what happens to people who are being devoured by certain types of nanoweapons (the generic name is nanoburn) whose mode of functioning is to rip you apart, molecular fragment by molecular fragment, until what’s left is a pile of organic sludge.

This is, of course, a ridiculously impractical, inefficient, and above all messy weapon, and not one fielded by the majority of military groups anywhere; rather, it is the specialized intimidation weapon of people who like their choice of weapon to reflect just exactly how pissed off and indiscriminately wasteful you made them at the time they sent this stuff after you; or, in other words, who are trying to make a (melo)dramatic point.