Epistolary Experiment (28/30)

Republic-Worlds Peace Conference
Synchel ab Kamisir Negotation Center
Eilan (Crimson Expanse)

“You’re stalling.”

This statement from Elyse Phylarius, the senior Imperial representative at the conference, fell flatly across the conference table.

“I’m sure we don’t know what you -”

“Of course you do not, gentlesophs,” she continued. “You would have no reason to stall for time to allow your deep-penetration fleet to reach its objective, naturally. But you also might have no knowledge of the current status of that fleet, given the, ah, difficulties the Silicate Tree has been introducing into your communications recently. Permit me to enlighten you on that point.”

She reached into her briefcase, and tossed an object onto the table with a metallic clank. The kalatri representatives stared at it in silence.

The object had once been a brass plaque, now charred, space-burnt, and warped by intense heat, but despite its battered surface, the bold characters could still be made out:

VNS President Siroshin
RCC-1497

“This arrived earlier today by fast courier from the Core. Your deep-penetration fleet, I regret to say, no longer exists. You’ll want to provenance that, of course, and no doubt consult with your goverment. Shall we reconvene in, let us say, two hours?”


“They’re lying. They’ve got to be lying.”

“Then how did they get Siroshin‘s commissioning plaque? Which is genuine. The embedded codes check out. The trace alloys check out.” Admiral Tarvil glared at the younger kalatri. “Your supposed covert operation has failed just as badly as the rest of this war.”

“They could have faked it! If they could get an agent aboard Social Harmony, they could have stolen the details of the security codes. And even if Siroshin has been destroyed, that doesn’t mean the fleet is lost. We need to give them time to complete their mission and report.”

“No.”

“May I remind you, Admiral –”

“You. May. Not. When we go back into conference, Commander, I will attempt to salvage what I can from this debacle you and the rest of the Propulsion Group have dragged the Republic into. And then, we are going to have an in-depth discussion concerning exactly how many starships were destroyed and how many of my people you got killed on your idiot crusade.”

– Republic discussions at peace conference,
Second Directorate transcript


“These talks are a waste of time. We’ve got them against the wall, now. We should press our advantage! Their forces defending their side of the Borderline are weakened, demoralized! An advance, now, could take three sectors before they respond – or, hells’ favor, we could punch right through and knock out Vonis Prime!”

“The Conclave agrees!” a second voice spoke up. The Qirafian who had been sent to represent the other polities of the Worlds pushed his way to the front of the crowd. “A return to status quo ante is not acceptable to us. We require victory!”

“And there,” Elyse replied wearily, “speaks the voice of innumeracy. The Republic is eight thousand systems. We are hundreds. Even if we could take it, we could never hold it, and the Empire does not pursue wars that it can’t win, however winnable the battles look.”

“And as for the Conclave,” she continued, turning to the Qirafi deshnik, “do you have new promises with you of starships, logistics trains, occupation troops? If the Conclave wishes a full military invasion of the Republic, the Conclave needs to put its military forces where its warmongering mouth is. Our existing allies in this affair have already indicated to us that they aren’t interested in sticking any parts of themselves into that meat-grinder.”

“We could still punch out Vonis Prime!”

“Yes, we probably could do that. If we did, clionomic projections suggest that, as a tightly-controlled centralizing governance, Republic space would collapse into an extended period of anarchy, and I don’t mean ‘like us’, or even ‘like the Rim Free Zone’. I mean 8,000 worlds of chaos and warwilds. The collapse of infrastructure. Entire fleets turning to piracy. A complete bloody catastrophe, in short, and one that going to come boiling out across the Borderline and ruin all our tomorrows.”

“You didn’t object to that when it was the People’s State collapsing!”

“And if the Republic was a handful of worlds and notoriously worse as a governance than a complete absence of one ever could be, we wouldn’t object to it collapsing either. But it isn’t. In any case, gentlesophs, I strongly suggest that you take what you can get – and what we think we can get is a general return to status quo ante bellum, reparations for the damage, and half a constellation, twenty-six systems, chopped out of Vonis 31 – and be satisfied, because the only thing that could possibly be worse for us than losing this war is winning the damned thing.”

– Associated Worlds discussion at peace conference,
legate’s personal transcript


From: Elyse Phylarius
To: Ministry of State and Outlands, Republic Affairs Committee
Subject: Conference status
Security: MOST SECRET (ICE SHADOW)

We got lucky this time: our allies came through for us, and with their help I was able to talk the Conclave representatives out of doing anything stupid and beat down the factions. But it was a close-run thing – we’ve got to find some way to cool things down or accelerate the timetable, or else ICE SHADOW and our hopes for inducing a peaceful fragmentation may not survive another incident.

-ep

Trope-a-Day: Mix-and-Match Man

Mix-and-Match Man: Happened a lot more in the early days of genetic engineering – and still sometimes happens when the spouses in a multiple marriage of one schema or another wish to have a child that’s descended from all of them – but these days, if you want your child to have some specific traits, you just order those sequences out of the Colonial Genetics, Biogenesis, FleshTech, etc., catalog.

Micromechaphobia

Many people have written in to ask, “What is that silvery, liquescent lining inside the pants of spacesuits we occasionally see on your broadcasts?”

Well, viewers, that’s the sanitary nanopaste. You see, back in what we might call the pointy-stick era of spaceflight, the problem of the crew having to take a ‘fresher break while stuck in their vacuum suits for hours on end was handled by catheterization – it was necessary for astronauts to insert catheters into their urethra, rectum, cloaca, and/or any other excretory or partially-excretory orifices they might have in order to convey waste products to reservoirs for later disposal, and prevent them from contaminating the interior of the suit.

Apart from the occasional technical problems this had with leakage and providing pathways for infection, it was not a solution that was comfortable for anyone, or that anyone was comfortable with.

Fortunately, modern nanotechnology has provided the answer. Sanitary nanopaste selectively infiltrates one’s excretory orifices in a much more gentle manner than gross apparati (the sensation, I am told, being akin to mild tickling that rapidly becomes imperceptible), interfacing with the body’s own systems, and breaking down and compressing the body’s wastes in situ and conveying them directly and continuously, by molecular pass-the-parcel, to the vacuum suit’s recycling apparatus. In short: now, you simply never feel the need to excrete as long as you’re in your suit.

This is a much more elegant solution, obviously, and has satisfied virtually everyone – or at least everyone who isn’t overcome with squeamishness at the thought of microscopic robots roaming around in their bowels.

– Ixril Valenarius, Spaceflight Initiative Public Relations,
“This Week in Orbit”

Trope-a-Day: Mithril

Mithril: The Empire’s so awash in exotic materials of the future (see: Unobtainium) that there’s almost certain to be one that matches mithril’s hypothetical properties pretty much one for one.

I mean, sure, it’s some hideously complicated nanoformed metallic-glass composite, but “does the same, is the same”, right?  Right?  (Or at least close enough that that’s how the first-contact team’d program the translator when they got around to pillaging our fantasy and SF for linguistic close-fits.)

Makes a damn fine mail shirt, too.

Epistolary Experiment (27/30)

“First, know yourself; and know your enemy, second. This is the first principle of victorious war.”

The Thousand Wise Analects of the Supreme Warlord,
Xian Anandonos

“It also doesn’t hurt to know what your enemy knows about yourself.”

Adm. Inesmír Muetry-ith-Muetry, in conversation


Netharn (Idrine Margin) System
CS Unconquerable Self
Coreward Fleet Yards & Logistics Division

“What’s our readiness status, Captain?”

“Excellent, Admiral. These yard dogs know their stuff. Special weapons package SPLITSHANK RIPPER has been loaded to all ships in the task force. I have the tactical departments setting up dedicated weapons queues for it now. Electromagnetic screen generators have been compiled and are installed in the free module spaces of all ships. They’re undergoing final proving tests right now.”

“And the extra radiation cladding?” The Admiral nodded at a nearby projection, displaying a dozen foot-long bulldozers scraping busily at the surface of a nearby asteroid.

“Running about 7% behind. Bagging the regolith is going to schedule, but they had some trouble getting the nets adapted to the hulls of the frigate screen. We should still be aweigh-ready by the foredawn watch.”

“Very good. Keep me informed.”


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
CS Eädne’s Helm
Flag Bridge

“The Republic task force has entered the system, Admiral,” the tactical officer reported. “From the Karmál gate, as expected. My best read is… thirty to forty of the plane, same again of screen, in staggered-scramble formation, with the megastructure in the middle.” She leaned over her board and adjusted the focus controls again. “I can’t get a clearer count than that, though. All this rad-hash is ruining the sensor resolution.”

“Very well, Cymnéä. Pass the word to the AKVs at the tarvic generator: scramble and attack on closest approach. Remind them that kills are secondary; their highest priority is to pass us target data.”


signal from flag: we are go at closest approach, target ailék.

all wings report in

weasel weasel weasel

shrike shrike shrike

scorpion scorpion

declamp and puffball. ready thrust packs, ears only.

guidance lock, no growler.

weasel wing, arm and attack screen from system acme; shrike wing, arm and attack screen from system nadir; scorpion wing, punch through and heat up the sweatbox. flank speed, backfire closure.

report scan data to flag soonest via tangle.

count is running.

flash-backup

hold knives to eyeball range; light the fires; stove-top hop; go go go

– from the thought-record of AKV Oriel-2-2-1


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
CS Eädne’s Helm
Flag Bridge

“AKVs are running.”

“When will they be within the Republic task force’s threat range?”

“Estimate three-two minutes, sir.”

“Set the maneuver clock: in three-two minutes, fleet is to cease acceleration and skew-flip, but is not to start deceleration yet. Let them think we’re satisfied with our closing rate and are going for a zero/zero after the AKVs have chewed on them some more. Pass the word to tactical: as we maneuver, fire SPLITSHANK RIPPER as you bear, per uploaded fire plan.”


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
VNS President Siroshin
Bridge

“Target Alpha just cut acceleration. Aspect change on target, looks like the beginning of a skew-turn.”

“Very well, Mr. Kadesh. Helm, maintain course and acceleration. If they want a passing engagement, we’ll oblige –“

“Contacts, contacts! We show multiple inbound missiles, groupings three, estimate over six hundred inbounds, range one-eighty-thousand, heading two-six-five mark three-two.”

“Signal to all ships: shift immediately to defensive globe formation. Stand by point defense. Mr. Kadesh, get me profiles on those missiles –“

(The sensor report of an electromagnetic spike accompanying the aspect change scrolled off the screen, unnoticed.)


Loaders clanked, switches closed, stacked accumulators discharged with an electrical hiss, drive coils spat lightning, and the SPLITSHANK RIPPER slug left the axial mass driver of Eädne’s Helm at a leisurely 1% of light speed; enough for multiple kilotons of impact should it directly hit its target, but nothing that would do exceptional damage to a starship designed for war, such as President Siroshin.

But it was not targeted directly at President Siroshin.

Minutes after being fired, the slug, fired retrograde, dropped into the ergosphere of the Eye of Night, that portion of space-time distorted by the spinning black hole in such a way as to drag all material objects along with it. Shortly thereafter, the SPLITSHANK RIPPER charge built into the slug fulfilled its designers’ intentions, and blew cleanly in two.

The larger part, no longer needed, fell away into the event horizon.

The smaller, a mere grain by comparison, in obedience to conservation of momentum, was hurled out of the ergosphere at high relativistic speed.

As were the smaller fragments of the other 119 slugs fired simultaneously.


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
VNS President Siroshin
Bridge

“Incoming! INCOMING! Gamma blueshift—“


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
CS Eädne’s Helm
Flag Bridge

“The package has been delivered. Flash is… okay, surviving AKVs are getting their sensors back on line. We have – splash fifty-seven, sixty-nine casualties. Twelve still under command, all screen. The megastructure looks battered, but appears intact and not at immediate risk of sympathetic detonation.”

“Very good. Make signal to senior surviving officer, Republic task force:

“‘This is Grand Admiral Inesmír Muetry, commanding CS Eädne’s Helm and all other Imperial forces in this system. Your forces, in my estimation, are no longer capable of sustaining battle, and therefore, to prevent an unnecessary effusion of blood, I wish to offer you the opportunity for honorable surrender.’

“‘You will immediately shut down all offensive systems. You may proceed, as a group, up to one light-minute from the megastructure you have been transporting for your own safety along with any survivors you may pick up, and will there heave to and prepare to be boarded.’

“‘Otherwise, be advised that my fleet will range upon you in seven-six minutes, and will commence firing for effect at that time. Muetry, clear.’”


“One braced for the wildfire will miss the serpent at their feet; one checking their boots for scorpions cannot run from the flame.”

The Thousand Wise Analects of the Supreme Warlord,
Xian Anandonos

“I knew what they were expecting of us. The cunning-mind stratagem, the feints-within-feints, all the deceptive devices that they believe transsophonts are known for – and which Fleet Admiral Daphnotarthius gave them over and again in the Borderline campaign. One simple act of misdirection? They were bound to misinterpret it entirely.”

– Grand Admiral Inesmír Muetry-ith-Muetry,
ICIN interview after the Battle of Eye-of-Night

Trope-a-Day: Unobtainium

Unobtainium: Of many kinds.  Sophisticated materials science is one of the major areas of advancement in this particular universe.  Of particular note: deuterium slush, metastable metallic hydrogen, helium-3 and antimatter (more specifically, antideuterium slush) for power, room-temperature superconductors, sapphiroids (the trade name for the high-grade kind is Adamant™ – not adamantium, because it’s not an element; after all, transparent aluminum has been used, even if accurate), carbon nanotubes, highly refractory cerametals and metallic glasses, muon metals, strangelets, raw tangle – oh, and fun nonbaryonic things like exotic matter (you make stargate frames out of it), gluonic string (held together by the strong force, thus with the best tensile strength available), and so on and so forth.  Less elementally, various nanofluids with fascinatingly exotic behavior, nanotech composites, and smart and biomimetic materials (living metal, nanowell-bearing programmable matter, etc.), computronium (okay, that’s not an element either, but…), and again, and so forth.

And medically speaking, of course, immortagens.