Trope-a-Day: Shock Collar

Shock Collar: Unsurprisingly used (because in a universe with extensive automation possibilities and, moreover, the ability to use perverted sophotechnology to edit people into compliance, the only reason to go for conventional slavery is sadism For The Evulz) by the absolute worst of the Galaxy’s slaver civilizations and subcultures; usually, the kind that stimulates the brain directly into pain and pleasure, thus causing brainwashing and the slow and nasty kind of crazy-going.

Possession (in most places) or use (absolutely everywhere vaguely civilized) of one is, obviously, a very capital crime indeed.

Fire Brigade

INVOKE INVOKE INVOKE
CASE INFERNO ANTEDILUVIAN

UNCLASSIFIED

IMMEDIATE ACTION ORDER
PROCEED UNLESS CANCELED

SUMMARY:

There have been determined to exist within DANGER CLOSE range of Associated Worlds space two stellar bodies (full galactographic coordinates in file) profiled as existing in pre-supernova state within planning time horizon 129, these bodies identified in catalog IGS 21492 and IGS 33126, henceforth coded INFERNO ANTEDILUVIAN BILIOUS and INFERNO ANTEDILUVIAN CAUSTIC.

This situation constitutes a civilization-scale x-threat, severity NIGHTFALL EXIGENT.

CASE INFERNO ANTEDILUVIAN invokes x-threat management authority to dispatch relativistic missions towards identified targets BILIOUS and CAUSTIC equipped with appropriate monitoring hardware and autoindustrial seeds suitable to initiate star lifting projects, capable of reducing the present mass of each body to levels beneath the supernova initiation threshold and taking such other measures as are necessary to prevent initiation while this is done.

ISE/EXT-PWG SIGNOFF
AUTHENTICATION SEQUENCE FOLLOWS

Trope-a-Day: Shining City

Shining City: Oh, my, yes. If there is a city anywhere in the Empire that isn’t competing in these leagues, it’s because it’s pursuing some other stylistic city trope just as hard as it can.

And in various styles, of course, riffing off their general tastes in Art Deco, Crystal Spires, and Raygun Gothic: the seashell spirals of Cileädrin, the black stone geometries of Leirin, the coral spires and glass-blown bubbles of Lochrannach, the living wood palaces of Veranthyr, the flying – well, hanging off the end of an orbital elevator – multi-leveled golden towers of Mer Covales, the mother-of-pearl pleasure domes of Ameri, the crystal domes of undersea Alaerlor, the vaulted, polished caves of Azikhan, the glittering gemstone pillar-arcologies of Dal Shan, the amber-and-marble mandala streets of Ellenith, the three-dimensional fractal layout of Voxelville, the mile-wide cavern parks of Silverfall City… and so forth.

While enabled by post-scarcity economics, it’s not a product of them and predates then considerably. It’s a product of a species and a culture with very firm ethical opinions on the subjects of beauty, wealth, and excellence, and equally firm aesthetic opinions on visible manifestations of entropy1. Helped along, for that matter, by certain necessities of leadership of a people who universally fail to intimidate worth a damn and are very bad at responding to crude bribery, but who can be impressed. Ergo, dear city founder, you must manifest impressiveness, and architecture is a good place to start.

The ultimate example, of course, is the Empire’s capital, “Eternal Calmiríë, the jewel at the heart of the World”, founded back in the day by Alphas I Amanyr and Seledíë III Selequelios, such that neither existing pre-Imperial capital would have priority over the other. Founded – and bear in mind this was well before the local Industrial Revolution – using the simple principle of going to the biggest damn mountain on the Cestian continent, and saying, “That? Right there? Make it a city.”

Note: not build a city on it. Not even build a city in it, although both of those things happened as part of the project. Turn the entire mountain above and below into a city, complete with all the soaring towers, shining buildings, garden parks, multi-hundred-foot-high statues, fountains, waterfalls, monuments, promenades, giant Tesla coils, shining aureoles of fey light, etc., etc., to be expected of the stone upon which the Dragon Throne rests, the temple of unsurpassed grace and shining beauty, the seat of wisdom ever-growing and power never-failing, and so on and so forth.

Alphas and Seledíë were many things, but small thinkers was not one of them. Especially since, you may note, they had very good reasons to build a capital that could out-impress everyone, everywhere, anywhen.

So returning to the general case, sort of like this:

center_of_universe_5k_25x16

(The above is an Nvidia test image, named “Complex at the Center of the Universe”, about which the TV Tropes page cross-links to Your Head A Splode. It’s worth clicking through to the full-size image and appreciating all the little details.

This is relevant, in particular, because it would be entirely accurate and unexaggerated to say that your modern Imperial city planner or arcology designer will look at this and thing, “Hm. Not bad. A little modest, but a good place to start.”)


1. And the reality behind those visible manifestations, of course. It would be hurtfully inaccurate to say that the great and near-great worked so hard to abolish poverty just because it offended their sensitive souls to have to look at it, or rather put up with the knowledge that it existed in their personal universes. But it was a nice bonus.

Darkness Within (4): Air!

MET 184-17-12

Air!

Delicious air!

…well, no, not delicious air, but I get ahead of myself. I made accessing the for’ard mess my third priority after rigging the air feed for the pod, rigging the k-blanket, and pulling the hardware, because rebuilding these scraps into an airlock-style depressurizer will go a lot more smoothly without suit gloves on, even skinsuit gloves.

Here’s how you build an airlock out of a rescue ball. First, pull out your pocket laser cutter, and chop it in half. (Try not to cringe too much at the thought of cutting one of your vacuum-tight spaces apart, despite the fact that if you’re even contemplating this crazy plan you must be almost out of things that’ll hold air in the first place.) Make sure the entrance flap is in the middle of one of the halves. Stash the other half for later.

Then you need a tube of bioglue, or whatever vacuum-safe glue you have handy, preferably of the kind that sticks to itself, too, as well as metal because you want a good, thick bead of the stuff all around the spacetight door you’re using as the other end of your airlock that you’re going to push the cut edge of the ball down into. Once that sets, slather another layer on top of that, because you need to be damn sure the bond will hold pressure. You now have a door with a bag on it.

Check your work.

Climb into the bag, and seal the flap of the rescue ball. Check that it’s sealed properly. Now check your work again.

Offer up your most profound and fervent prayers to Mahánárel and Athnéël, who between them look after engineers, gamblers, and the poor bastards who have to be both at the same time.

Then open the spacetight door, and hang onto the wall while you do, because air will be coming out in a hurry, and the wire-and-tape-job you just rigged will be under enough stress inflating with a bang without you falling ass-over on it, too.

Now step inside, and close the spacetight door again. Feel greatly relieved that this insane plan worked at all and that you didn’t manage to vent all that precious oxygen overboard. You may permit yourself a caper or two.

Suffice it to say: it worked. Once. I don’t feel confident enough in its reliability to use it more than once, so unless the situation changes, I’ll be staying in here until this air fouls; the air that escaped into the ball is going to have to be written off, but that’s better than all of it.

As far as the local situation goes: the mess is surprisingly orderly; the stowages mostly held. Some floaters to clean up, but not too many. The food situation may be a little better than I thought, but that’ll have to wait on inventory.The telltale on the emergency hatchway down-deck confirms there’s no air below me in the server room.

Finally, I must now formally log confirmation of the temporary deaths of Lieutenant Leresif Inachios, Sailing Master, and Sublieutenant Alwyn Lelad, Power/Thermal Engineer, present in the for’ard mess deck at the time of the recorded impacts, who both appear to have been killed instantly by massive kinetic trauma. As is standard protocol, I have removed and taken possession of the vector stacks and command keys of each officer, and recorded this in the flight systems log.

(I also took possession of Leresif’s locket. He’d never forgive himself if he lost that.)

Trope-a-Day: Shapeshifting

Shapeshifting: Not really practical for most natural biology (although there are the myneni, who can shape their crystalplasm fairly effectively), but a property that more than a few specially designed bodies can have; from relatively-close-to-baseline changeling-shells that can vary their appearance within their species quite well, to advanced nanoswarm bodies that can become pretty much anything, at least in shape and physical functionality, even if they stay composed of the same kind of matter – although some can disperse into nanoclouds without much more density than smoke.

Trope-a-Day: Sex By Proxy

Sex By Proxy: The slinky (i.e., recorded full-sensory and emotional data) erotica market.  Also, possible by techlepathy (see: Psychic Powers) if you have the consent of the people you’d be eavesdropping on.

Also, in a more friendship/romance-oriented way than strictly sexual, a consequence of the metamind feedback system mentioned in Touched By Vorlons, and, relevantly, Angel Unaware.  If a lot of people like you (or one person’s liking, or indeed love, is particularly intense), this feeds back into the metamind’s opinion of you, which in turn feeds back into individual’s opinions of you… which then leads to people liking, or at the very least being predisposed to like, you even if they’ve never actually met you personally. As A Miracle of Science puts it, “Brazil has decided you’re cute.