Bill of Rights

Article IV: Imperial Rights of the Citizen-Shareholder

The Empire guarantees the following inalienable civic rights to all Imperial citizen-shareholders, over and above the fundamental rights of all sophonts.

Right of Person and Property: In recognizing the sacred and fundamental Right of Domain, the responsibilities of the citizen notwithstanding, all Imperial citizen-shareholders shall retain the inviolability of their minds, persons, homes, data, correspondence, and honor, save in accordance with strict process of justice, upon probable cause and within specific bounds, or for the immediate public safety. And since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified; when the immediate preservation of the public safety and order shall demand it; or by due process of law as punishment for a crime.

There shall be neither chattel slavery nor any other form of involuntary servitude in the Empire.

Right of Knowledge: Access to information shall not be abridged by the Empire, or by any instrumentality thereof, save to the least extent required for the public safety; nor shall the freedom of research and inquiry; nor shall the freedom of speech, nor that of the press, save when such information or speech constitutes, in whole or in part, infectious or self-executing code; nor shall the right of the people peaceably to assemble be abridged, subject to the availability of free public volume in which to assemble, and the capacity of the local environment to sustain life.

Right of Arms: In recognizing the sacred and fundamental Right of Defense, all Imperial citizen-shareholders shall retain the right to bear such personal arms as they deem their honor and the public safety to require; nor shall the exercise of this right be abridged on account of any crisis or state of emergency, howsoever existing or declared.

Right of Association: All citizen-shareholders of the Empire shall have the right to form and eschew associations with their fellows as they shall see fit; and they shall also have the right to form, join, withdraw from, and disband such coadunations as they shall see fit; nor shall anyone be compelled to become or remain a member of such a coadunation; and this right of association shall only be restricted by law on the grounds of protecting the public safety, the public order, or the public health.

Such coadunations, as associations of citizen-shareholders, shall have legal personality; and shall be guaranteed rights and be bound by responsibilities equal and equivalent to those guaranteed to and binding the citizen-shareholders constituting them, without exception.

Right of Trade: In recognizing the sacred and fundamental Right of Fair Contract, all Imperial citizen-shareholders shall retain the right to work within their trade or profession, to own, buy, and sell goods and capital, to enter freely into binding contracts, and to otherwise transact business within the Empire, without let or hindrance; and no law shall be made impairing the obligation of contracts, or restricting the freedom of trade.

Rights of Petition and Appeal: Each citizen-shareholder of the Empire shall have the right to petition the runér in whose fief a matter, having direct negative impact upon them, falls for redress of grievances; to, should they fail to relieve such grievances, appeal further to that runér‘s superior; and finally, to appeal for redress to the Imperial Couple.

Right of Voyage: An Imperial citizen-shareholder shall have the right to travel freely between and take up residence within the Empire’s constituent nations, except where impeded by due process of law for the public safety or public health; to leave the Empire; and having left the Empire, to return to it, except where prohibited by previous due process of law completed before the date of their departure.

Rights of Justice: The Empire shall recognize these rights of an Imperial citizen-shareholder accused of a crime:

  • To be released on the word of a runér;
  • To seek such release by writ;
  • To challenge the prosecution before trial to show that the prosecution is motivated by evidence linking the citizen-shareholder to the crime;
  • To a trial before a tribunal of judges of the Curial courts, of legal capacity to examine all relevant evidence;
  • To examine the indictment and the evidence against him before trial;
  • To summon witnesses on his behalf;
  • To engage an advocate and investigators;
  • To make any statement of explanation or exculpation; and
  • To accuse others.

For the protection of the citizen-shareholders against the unjust application of law, the privileges of the prerogative writs shall never be suspended; nor shall any ex post facto law be passed; nor bill of attainder, bill of pains and penalties, or lettre de cachet be used; nor conviction work corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate.

And all citizen-shareholders of the Empire shall and must have full recourse to the courts of justice and mediation both for remedy.

Right of Self-Mutagenesis: The Empire shall respect the right of each and every sophont of self-ownership insofar as, but not limited to, each citizen-shareholder’s inalienable right to modify their physical substrate as they shall see fit, through genetic or cybernetic technologies or through any other means, including the right to transfer their mind-state to such replacement physical substrates as they shall see fit.

While the Empire shall respect the Right of Self-Mutagenesis with respect to germ-line genetic modifications or other modifications which may affect the subsequent creation of other sophonts, the Right of Self-Mutagenesis shall not be held to supersede lawful restrictions upon reproduction imposed for the public health, or for the benefit of the incipient sophont.

Right of Gnosis: The Empire shall respect the right of each and every sophont of self-ownership insofar as, but not limited to, each citizen-shareholder’s inalienable right to modify their mind-state as they shall see fit, through noumenal pharmacy, psychedesign, noetic modification, or through any other means, provided only that such modifications do not constitute pernicious irrationality threatening the public order, the public safety, or the public health.

Right of Assistance: Inasmuch as the Eldraeic Transcend exists coextensively with the Empire, the Transcend guarantees to all Imperial citizen-shareholders, whether currently Aspects of the Transcend or not, the assistance and advice on demand of a Transcendent coadjutor.

– the Imperial Charter (as amended)


Trope-a-Day: Utopia

Utopia: Well, the Imperials would certainly like to think that they live in one, or at least an asymptotic approach to one, anyway.

Of course, as we pointed out back in Imperial Dream, the Empire is a utopia for people who think the way that the Imperials think people ought to think (“the right sort of ambitious, self-motivated, self-defining, run-through-life-without-a-guidebook, make-it-up-as-you-go-along soph”). Kind of sucks if you need other people’s terms to live your life by, though, really sucks if you want to define those terms for other people, and can be quite horribly crushy if you actually want some darkness, ugliness, or mediocrity in your universe, even just as a contrast to the pervasive drive towards unrelieved, inescapable shiny awesomeness. You deviated cacophile prevert, you.

In short: there ain’t no universal utopia. The Empire tries for it, with its ideology of “An it harm none, do as you will – so long as it’s awesome!”, but even then, people who don’t know what they want, whose wants involve harm, coercion, or externalities, or who want non-awesomeness, are pretty much screwed.

There’s also a particular non-utopian case which I might well mention, exemplified by this quotation from John C. Wright’s The Golden Age:

Helion had leaned and said, “Son, once you go in there, the full powers and total command structures of the Rhadamanth Sophotech will be at your command.  You will be invested with godlike powers; but you will still have the passions and distempers of a merely human spirit.  There are two temptations which will threaten you.  First, you will be tempted to remove your human weaknesses by abrupt mental surgery.  The Invariants do this, and to a lesser degree, so do the White Manorials, abandoning humanity to escape from pain.  Second, you will be tempted to indulge your human weakness.  The Cacophiles do this, and to a lesser degree, so do the Black Manorials.  Our society will gladly feed every sin and vice and impulse you might have; and then stand by helplessly and watch as you destroy yourself; because the first law of the Golden Oecumene is that no peaceful activity is forbidden.  Free men may freely harm themselves, provided only that it is only themselves that they harm.”


Helion looked sardonic.  “‘Mistake’ is such a simple word.  An adult who suffers a moment of foolishness or anger, one rash moment, has time enough to delete or destroy his own free will, memory, or judgment.  No one is allowed to force a cure on him.  No one can restore his sanity against his will.  And so we all stand quietly by, with folded hands and cold eyes, and meekly watch good men annihilate themselves.  It is somewhat… quaint… to call such a horrifying disaster a ‘mistake.'”

The Empire’s like this. You are the captain of your soul, the proprietor of yourself, the beneficiary of an unshakable tradition of absolute self-ownership. You have bodily – and cognitive – autonomy in an actual, meaningful, and complete sense (granted, if you venture into the territory labeled ‘pernicious irrationalism’ you will subsequently have to be autonomous elsewhere, but no-one can or will actually stop you), not the limited ones some of *here*’s activists use. You can do anything you want to yourself, massively self-destructive things included, and when you’re doing it to you, you don’t even need informed consent, because the only person who could judge that is also you.

So far as they’re concerned, the Freest of the Free, that’s the way it has to be. Yes, some people accidentally wipe themselves out, but it’s a very small number, and we count on our ongoing tradition of being clever and wise and temperate and disciplined and creatures of talcoríëf to keep it that way – but if we take away your ownership of yourself, then what are you?  Nothing that belongs in a free society, and neither are we. A degree of choice-and-self-mastery-risk is the price you pay to live in a world without gorram slavers.

Humans, contrariwise, by any brief examination of your local democracy, are on average very keen on taking powers away from everyone so that they personally don’t do anything dangerous, bad, or unpleasant with them. Empirically, we don’t seem to like living without safety rails everywhere.

The Imperials would consider that a lamentable lack of character (which, indeed, is what they consider it in-universe when someone takes the individual option to disempower themselves out of fear of what they might do), but nonetheless, it’s probably enough to take the Empire out of the utopia category for most of this planet’s ape-descendants.


Questions: Meddlement, De Minimis, and Food

Specialist290 asks:

One thing I didn’t really see clarified anywhere else:  What exactly is “meddlement” in the sense that it’s used in Imperial law (and, more to the point, what sorts of behavior would it outlaw that would be considered “business as usual” and beneath legal scrutiny *here*)?

Well, the legal definition is:

To make use of, interact with, or non-destructively interfere with, without engaging in theft, another’s property without the consent of its owner.

So, that, basically. It’s the legal reflection of the concept of coválír, property as extension of self, in which conceptually to them, “my car”, say, is every bit as much a part of them as “my hand” is. And thus and so, even as decent humans in general will refrain from making free with other people’s bodies without their consent…

(Or, alternatively, you could think of it as the personalty equivalent of what in realty terms would be trespass.)

So there are literally all sorts of things that would qualify: if you sit on someone’s chair, use the calculator on their desk, borrow their stapler, access their wi-fi, take a book off their bookshelf and read it, etc., etc., without their consent, you’ve just committed misdemeanor meddlement. (I’d add “help yourself to a drink in their house”, but since you don’t plan on giving the liquid back, that’s actually theft.)

[For efficiency reasons, obviously, certain blanket permissions exist – if you are welcomed into someone’s home as a guest, for example, you receive the hospitality of the house, the offer of which constitutes a blanket consent for some things – make use of the public rooms, get yourself drinks, use the bathroom, access the guest network, read books off the non-private shelves, etc. – albeit not for others – go opening drawers in the private study, use someone’s personal computer – and so forth. For full details, please consult Codices of the Mannerly Symposium, Vol. II, p. 78 et seq.

And in emergencies – well, for example, in a case of defense-of-self-and-others, it’s technically a violation to grab someone else’s gun to use for that in the absence of better alternatives, but in the unlikely event that it were to proceed to litigation, a plea of necessity existed will more than cover it.

But as a general rule: ask before touching.]

Side note:

So far as being beneath legal scrutiny is concerned, a thing to bear in mind is that the Imperial legal system has no de minimis rule. To say that the Curia finds the arguments that support it in our legal system unconvincing is to understate the case, pointing out that to declare such a rule is no more than to declare that society will tolerate an arbitrarily large amount of injustice provided that it’s measured out in sufficiently small individual increments, and, pardon their Klatchian, fuck that shit. No sparrow shall fall, etc., or at least no sparrow shall be pushed without the legal right to redress.

(If it sounds like this implies that some people might be filing and/or responding to their first lawsuits before leaving their kindergarten-equivalents, well, it does. The Courts of Common Pleas and Small Claims are used to that. It’s educational.)

JonS asks:

In the whole “Royale With Cheese” translation, I’ve got a question-

(For those who don’t follow my G+, this was just a phrase I translated randomly probably for reasons including vague feverishness and cheeseburger craving. And if you want the big burger there anyway, you don’t want to order that, you want to order an Equity Lord With Cheese.

Anyway, the translation is:

tralin-runér galráchan ond-mícma


Let’s plop a thousand statistically average Eldrae in a well-stocked, well-appointed food court on Earth with cash to burn.  No chain restaurants, you can get pretty much anything that isn’t completely “off the wall” exotic there, and the food is good.  Not five star great, but a decently good example of the food type in all regards.  Assume everything is labeled (or we provide warnings) to prevent somebody from eating something that they might be allergic or can’t consume.  There is beer, both microbrewery of your particular choice and commercial brands.  There is wine, for meals that go with wine, but no bar.  There is a decent coffee and tea shop, and a very good ice cream/dessert/pastry stall.

On average, what will the Eldrae like in the food court and what would they not like?

Well, that’s a difficult question in the first place, because – short of stacking the deck by carefully selecting your thousand eldrae from the same community or food affinity group, which is not a good way to do “statistically average” in the first place – you’ve got a group large enough to like all sorts of stuff. Not much of a bell curve, either, thanks to the absence of peer norming, except that you might only have the one guy out on the end who thinks lye-pickled fermented hagfish or synthegen B is the absolute epitome of cuisine. Between them, they’ll eat and drink all manner of things.

But maybe I can offer some generalities.

Let’s start with raising three key points of difference, here. The first one is that, culturally speaking, anyone who spent their formative years in the Empire is accustomed to very, very high quality in everything. Their “fast express food” restaurants don’t get the option of substituting speed for quality – they have to solve the difficult problem of managing both, ’cause speed alone sells no burgers.

The second is that they’ve all been enhanced for better chemoception. They can all taste and smell really well, which rewards subtlety in cuisine, and punishes things that you can probably get away with where a human palate is concerned. The difference in flavor between cane sugar, beet sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup is stunningly obvious to an eldrae palate, for example, and anything picked up from cross-contamination or absorbed from packaging is rather more likely to turn out to be a problem.

The third, which probably isn’t all that relevant in this case, is that the portion sizes are too small, especially if this food court is located anywhere that isn’t the US. High-power metabolisms that chew through 7,000 kcal/day make you a big eater.

The good chemoception pushes the favorite things list towards the organic end of the scale – not because it’s organic, specifically, but because less processed foods tend to have, empirically, better and more subtle flavors. (Example, tomatoes: a heirloom tomato has flavor; a regular supermarket tomato tastes like a blob of mostly water.) Also, because some of those additives we mostly don’t taste? Many of those, they absolutely can taste. Which is not a prejudice against synthetics in or as food, note: it’s just that the people *there* working on those were responding to different incentives.

(A similar effect applies to the beer. Microbrews – and even some commercial brews that have some depth to them – will go over well. Mass-market love-in-a-canoe beer on the other hand… not so much.)

That subtlety preference in turn affects choice of styles, when multiple styles are available. For example, given the choice, a modal eldrae will prefer Indian-style curry – in which the subtle complexities of the spicing matter – over British-style curry, which often prefers to eschew sophistication for seeing how big a fire it can light in the eater’s stomach.

The third factor, incidentally, probably makes the Healthy Options portion of the menu unlikely to attract notice. Insufficiently calorific and composed by and large of inferior or watered-down versions of things (low-fat sour cream, imitation foodstuffs, etc., that does not delight the palate). And aren’t extra-healthy in this case – said metabolism can chew its way through a giant steak and hefty serving of whole-fat double-cream cheesecake without shifting gears.

(Also, while you avoided chain restaurants, operating procedures like, say, Chipotle, in which you participate in customizing your food such that you get exactly what you want how you want it will also go over well.)


Trope-a-Day: Uterine Replicator

Uterine Replicator: Or, as it’s known locally, the exowomb.

Ubiquitous. (Although neither mendacious nor polyglottal.) I mean, “In vivo? How quaint.”

For values of quaint, that is, equal to “Gods below, what is this, the primordial reign of chaos and darkness? With stone knives and bearskins?”

Because even leaving aside practical considerations, such as the gambling (if you went for conception in vivo rather than gene-printing like responsible parents) with felony dysgenesis, or the difficulties that arise when mother and child are not technically the same species, or the heteronormativity that assumes there is even a mother involved in any particular generative scenario, or the risks and stress levels (not to mention the inconvenience) involved to both mother and child in a vivo pregnancy and birth, complete with permanent after-effects, or how much more difficult and less effective it makes pre-natal education, and so on and so forth….

…well, let’s just say that the equivalent of the Betan – or possibly Cetagandan – cultural points of view in this particular area from Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga universe all apply here, too, and have had many centuries to sink in.

No-one expects women to do the work of reproducing personally any more anywhere halfway civilized. The only reason the Citizen Eugenics Board even keeps the capability around at all is long-range disaster-planning.


Trope-a-Day: Used Future

(As a side note, please permit me to apologize for the lack of new fic content over the last few days. I appear to have once again contracted some sort of death plague that is playing merry hell with my creativity, so I’m just sitting around crunching numbers, popping excedrin, and playing video games. Normal operation will be resumed as soon as I can operate normally.)

Used Future: Averted in the Empire – as you can probably tell by the way we hit up Crystal Spires and Togas, Everything is an iPod in the Future and Raygun Gothic on the way here, not to mention Scenery Porn, the Empire sits hard on the shiny side of the Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty.  Note: it’s not necessarily new; some of it’s just been lovingly maintained for millennia and polished every morning until it gleams.  Even more so with robotics and nanotechnology and post-scarcity energy supplies that fervently and with zeal ensure that all litter is picked up, all spills vanished, all nicks and dings repaired, and everything maintained in a state of appalling just-off-the-production-line perfection at all times!  Even the garbage trucks are gorgeous!

The metaphorical appearance of the actuality may best be compared to the perfect streets and shiny happy people seen mostly in architect’s impressions and Jehovah’s Witnesses pamphlets.

How used everyone else’s future is tends to depend on location: see Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty for this, and Shiny Looking Spaceships for one way this trope plays out in practice.

Trope-a-Day: Urban Segregation

Urban Segregation: Averted in the Empire, at least in the prestige/class-based sense, mostly because the sort of class structure that results in people of different classes (especially wealth-based classes) declining to associate in the segregationist sense is an outgrowth of primate relative status hierarchies and exclusivist signifiers.  Since the eldrae, as they would put it, are not insane – or in any case, don’t do relative status hierarchies, and people of all wealth levels share the same mores, culture, and tastes – their cities aren’t divided into the upmarket and downmarket areas, the gated and the ghetto; their districts tend to be a jumble of all incomes, and residential, commercial and light industrial properties all mixed together.

(As a side note, I would add, most of the cities are owned by people who, first, consider their personal pride a function of their civic pride; and second, as runér, are inclined to the quaint notion that poor people are every bit as entitled to have their rights respected as anyone else.  Any city-district that degenerated to a level even substantially above that of a “ghetto” would swiftly attract a military garrison, loaded to shoot trouble; and even before that, well, the Watch Constabulary understand the iterated prisoner’s dilemma, and that their jobs will be a hell of a lot easier if they keep things above the point at which the rational strategy flips to default-defect.)

Inasmuch as you’re going to find differentiated districts, you’re going to find them differentiated by function, profession, or cultural fillip – “Commerce Gyre”, “City Hall”, “Cinnareville”, “Kaethburg”, “Little Vervian”, “Codewalkers’ Apartments”, “Cogging Ash”, etc., etc., with lots of mixed creole districts in between.

Trope-a-Day: Uplifted Animal

Uplifted Animal: Quite a few, in the interests of adding people with different points of view and abilities to the population (see: Intelligent Gerbil).  Of the greenlife – and therefore recognizable to Terrans – animals, most prominent are the dogs (dar-bandal), cetaceans (dar-ííche), octopi (dar-cúlnó), rat kings (dar-celmek), and ravens (dar-vorac).

Averted in the case of apes, because apes were not among the greenlife transported offworld by whichever Precursor did it.  Really, even should they discover Earth, apes, or at least the commonly seen in SF chimpanzees, are unlikely to be a high priority for this sort of thing, on the grounds that there already are billions of more or less intelligent apes running around the place, and who needs more?

Letters from Deep Space

(As it happens, my lovely editor and lovelier wife, Amy, has been looking to try her hand at this writing gig, and so please give a big hand to the first piece of Eldraeverse canon not written – my hand was limited to a one-line prompt – by me!)

Dear Mom:

It’s been a weird month here. I got kitchen duty AGAIN (you’d think after the first time when no one would touch my Fantastic Fungus Fricassee they’d’ve taken me off that rotation, but nope), and I thought I’d redeem myself with a grand surprise.

Well. To make a long story short, surprise, you’re a grandma! Who knew 50 pounds of tofu could even HOLD enough bacterial volume to cohere into a sapient mind-state? Well, now we do, I guess. I should probably have read the culture sachets more carefully, huh.

The science team are thrilled, but the captain is pretty pissed at me, and is threatening to space me to save the air that my accidental offspring will be using over the next couple of decades. I think she’s not serious, but, uh, if you don’t hear from me for a while, wake up my backup and apologize to her/me for losing the long-haul bonus we were counting on, yeah?

Anyway, I’ll try to stay alive long enough to make it home, and maybe I’ll even manage to teach your grandspawn how to talk. I’m not looking forward to trying to explain to it someday that I was actually trying to make cheese, not become a parent. Talk about “The Talk”.

Still, keeps things interesting! I’ll try to have a quieter month coming up.



Trope-a-Day: Unusually Uninteresting Sight

Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Played slightly straight, inasmuch as that given the degree of species and clade diversity to be seen in cosmopolitan regions (most of the Empire, the Conclave Drift, the Rim Free Zone, the Free Eilish Confederacy, other hub worlds, etc.) is sufficient that merely looking weird will not draw huge amounts of attention on the street, because it happens all the damn time.

You have to be acting weird.  No, weirder than that.

Marlinspike-class MAV

So, since I’ve just described the nature of boarding actions, I might as well go ahead and describe the ship used to carry them out when necessary, the Marlinspike-class MAV.

And yes, this does mean that it’s horrible diagram time again.

…or rather not, because Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets made much better diagram of the Marlinspike-class, which I’m now using instead:


The thing to bear in mind in considering the design of the Marlinspike-class is that it’s built to be disposable: much like the Sledgehammer-class drop shuttle and its kin with their habit of lithobraking, getting there is hard enough that survivability is up front and reusability takes a very distant back seat. And as such, the Marlinspike is about as stripped-down as a small craft can be and still function in role.

The basic hull form is exactly as the name suggests: it’s a narrow-tipped, heavily armored, slender spike, designed to hammer its way into the body of the boarding target and stick there. Its bow (1) is a hardened penetrator whose surface is configured as a contact-fused explosive plasma cutter; i.e., a shaped breaching charge. That’s designed to soften up the outer and pressure hulls of the target such that the momentum of impact (at the several hundred mph differential velocity traditional to this sort of maneuver) can drive the MAV in.

(That initial velocity, incidentally, is provided along with power and attitude control by a strap-on thruster pack (2), which is designed to detach and eject itself at the point of impact – because it has most of the expensive stuff in it, and can be salvaged and reused. Control up to this point is remote, from the parent craft, with limited local AI in the event of communication jamming.)

Once it’s penetrated the hull, the four strips of grip-track (3) located around the hull at 45 degree intervals come into play. Their job is to grab onto the wreckage around them and shove the MAV forward, powered by the onboard accumulators at (6), further into the ship, until it gets to the optimal – or at least a less pessimal – location for the squad of espatiers aboard to disembark. Said espatiers are located in a chamber in the center of the Marlinspike (4), sealed into their own armor (which provides their life support), doped up on anti-g and combat drugs, and strapped into racks in what amounts to a tank filled with concussion gel to protect them from the rapid acceleration and even more rapid deceleration of the ram-and-board maneuver.

Once one of the embarkation hatches (5) – a pair at the fore and aft ends of the chamber to both starboard and port, and a pair amidships to both dorsal and ventral, to allow for the inevitable mismatch between the MAV’s positioning and the target’s internal layout – is in a good position both for disembarkation, and vis-a-vis their target, the squad leader stops the MAV’s advance, detonates the shaped antipersonnel charge embedded into the outboard side of the embarkation hatch (basically the equivalent of a Claymore) to clear the way, then blows the hatch and leads his men out.

Victory or death!


Trope-a-Day: Unusual Euphemism

Unusual Euphemism: Eldraeic, by and large, is not a language given to a great deal of euphemism.  Circumlocution, yes, but not so much euphemism, as its principal speakers prefer their straight talk to be straight.  For example, polite society has no problem with people just saying straight out:

valdar sessqár (“We had sex”)

On the other hand, one can get many of the same overtones by playing around with tense words and affixes.  For example, playing around with the “noble” tense and the augmentative affix could produce the following:

valdar chal sessqár

(“We made love”, in a more romantic/poetic sense)

valdar lin-sessqár

(perhaps best translated “We engaged in rampant shagging”, emphasizing the happy-fun activity)

Or even both at once:

valdar chal lin-sessqár

(suitable for describing, say, one’s honeymoon, creative translations capturing both of these senses simultaneously are left as an exercise for the reader)

As a final note, the Eldraeic verb meaning “to have sex” is a mutual verb, that requires a set of at least two members as a subject and takes no object; in these examples, valdar (“we”) literally means “I-and-you”.  In one case of not-really-a-euphemism, it is entirely possible that the Eldraeic verb meaning “to masturbate” is actually also sessqár, merely applied to the set of “I-and-nobody”.

Boarders Away!

“There are two types of boarding action: non-contested and contested.

“The former is only moderately terrible: which is to say it is usually carried out in the course of routine inspections or interdictions, or after surrenders, and the starship being boarded has obligingly hove to when requested; one has been able to close with it without problems, and board it through the airlocks or by taking a cutter across; and in all other ways is being cooperative.

“In other words, if it goes wrong – which can happen quite easily even if everyone on the bridge is cooperating – it’s only house-to-house fighting, at point-blank range, in a maze, filled with fragile and dangerous industrial machinery, surrounded by vacuum, with hostile parties in control of the light, air, and gravity. If you’re lucky, no-one will be sufficiently in love with the idea of taking you with them to blow a hole in the reactor containment.

“And then there’s the difficult kind.

“There are actually very few contested boardings. Starship engagements typically happen at long range (light-seconds to light-minutes) and make use of weapons potent enough that surviving vessels are rarely in any condition to be boarded in any sense distinct from salvage and rescue. The exceptions to this general rule come when it is absolutely necessary to recover something valuable from the target vessel – be it hostages, a courier’s package, some classified piece of equipment, or the valuable data stored in the starship’s command computers – which will inevitably be destroyed if the vessel is forced to surrender.

“Achieving this requires a series of highly improbable operations to all go off perfectly in sequence.

“First, the approach: getting to the ship you intend to board; i.e., closing to suicide range, which may involve either surviving the fire from its cohorts, or cutting it out of its formation. This always, however, requires both surviving its fire while closing and depriving it of the ability to evade your approach and to take offensive action against the relatively fragile boarding party.

“So, in the course of matching orbits, you have to disable the drives, disable its weapons systems able to bear on your quadrant of approach, disable the point-defense laser grid (which can slice apart small craft at close range) and defense drones likewise, and disable the kinetic barriers that would otherwise hold off your approach to the hull; all of which you must do with sufficient careful delicacy that you don’t destroy the valuable part of the vessel that you want to claim in the process.

“Second, having achieved this, you must then board the target starship. In a contested boarding, you do not do this through the airlocks: they lead directly to designed-in choke points and people whose job it is to repel boarders, and if they retain attitude control, they can throw a spin on their ship that docking clamps won’t hold against. This is the job of the microgravity assault vehicle, affectionately known as the boarding torpedo, which serves to carry a squad of espatiers into an unexpected part of the target vessel – preferably near enough to the target within the target to make seizure easy, but not close enough to cause its destruction – by ramming, burning through the armor and the pressure hull, and crawling forward until an ideal position is reached or it can go no further.

“(This assumes that you are following the standard model, which people are constantly trying to improve on. One captain I served under rigged saddles for his AKVs and had us ride them to point-blank range of the target, then drop to its hull and take out the laser grid emitters directly. I would not recommend this tactic.)

“Then it’s guaranteed house-to-house fighting, at point-blank range, in a maze, filled with fragile and dangerous industrial machinery, surrounded by vacuum, with hostile parties in control of the light, air, and gravity.

“Third, you must do all of this very fast, for one reason or another. The above operations are not subtle, and your target will know you are trying to board them as soon as you start sharpshooting to disable. If you have terrorists or pirates, this is when they start shooting hostages. If your target is a military starship, though, as soon as they see a boarding attempt, the bridge, damage control central, and the maneuvering room all put one hand on the arming keys for their fusion scuttling charges, and as soon as any two of them conclude that they can’t repel boarders, they’ll scuttle. All you have to do is get sufficiently inside their response loop that you can punch them all out before that happens. (And once armed, it takes positive action to prevent the scuttling, so you can’t take the otherwise obvious short-cut.)

“All of which should explain why espatiers ship out with six times as many warm spares as their naval counterparts.”

– Maj. Esvan Solanel, the 22nd (“Alatian Highlanders”) Imperial Legion, Retd.

Trope-a-Day: The Unpronounceable

(Sorry for the delays in the next part of Darkness Within, folks – having some trouble getting it to gel in my head.)

The Unpronounceable: Quite a few, due to all those species that don’t use spoken language the way we understand it: as mentioned previously, esseli names are DNS strands, myneni names are made of sounds only a synthesizer could love, galari names are modulated EM radiation, and then there are the sonar pings, electrical waveforms, patterns of bioluminescence, complex aromatic chemicals, neural-gestalt-expressed qualia which are very, very hard to parse for anyone of different brain design, etc.  All of that is before you get to the really simple problems like different larynx designs.

It is somewhat averted due to the Eldraeic language being designed as a lingua franca, and thus possessing multiple different phonologies for its alphabet, including several designed for different ways of speaking, including sonar, bioluminescence, EM codes and DNA encoding, so in theory it should be possible to transliterate names encoded in those ways into something pronounceable and adequately unique, even if it doesn’t resemble the original all that much to the ear or other organ.

In practice, not so much, or not without your speech organ hurting, or not in a manner that’s agreeable to the person named.  But you can try, at least.

Trope-a-Day: Unlimited Wardrobe

Unlimited Wardrobe: Played mostly straight – the flexibility is not unlimited, after all – by smart clothing, which can offer a variety of style modifications (via inbuilt MEMS), color changes, and other self-reshaping properties on the fly.  (And, of course, at home there are cornucopia machines.)  Played entirely straight by virtual clothing (which consists of an AR projection over a neutral gray jumpsuit or spraysuit, so long as onlookers are subscribing to the public v-tag channel and your coding budget is adequate.

Lumenna-Súnáris System (8): Melíeré

I/7. Melíeré

Class: Melíeréan
Orbit (period): 7.24 au (7,116 T-days/19.5 T-years)
Orbit (ecc.): 0.12
Radius: 38,372 miles
Mass: 9.81 x 1027 kg
Density: 3.08 g/cm3
Cloud-top gravity: 5.43 g

Axial tilt: 22°
Rotation period: 14.0 T-hours

Black-body temperature: 98 K

Satellites: 9 close moonlets, ring. 3 major moons. 2 eccentric moons.

Melíeré is exactly what it looks like: like its closest counterpart, Jupiter, it’s a hydrogen-helium mesogiant with the traditional turbulent gaseous envelope around a whole bunch of metallic liquid hydrogen around a core. It’s a big, brawling, orange-red, yellow-streaked behemoth of a planet that successfully dominates the gateway to the outer system. Unlike Jupiter, it doesn’t have a single, distinguishing “Great Red Spot”, but it is known for enormous storm cells, the linaurrauken, which come and go upon its surface like pale blotches.

In the future, it becomes very significant in the outer system, first as a gravity assist, but also due to the plentiful energy resources available in the system and its relative proximity, in gravity well terms, to the e’Luminiarien Belt. It also acquires the families of gas mining stations common to major gas giants in the Empire and the Empire Nucleonics station for bulk-producing metastable metallic hydrogen.

It has a ring – not a spectacular Saturnine ring, but one which you can see from anywhere in the system, and a family of moons, of which three are major (I’m going to skip lightly over the moonlets and sub-moonlets at this time) and could be considered the equivalent of the Galilean moons: Kerasta, Isimír, and Cysperia:

I/7/a. Kerasta

Class: Thiorastan
Orbit (period):
383,389 miles (0.489 T-days)
Orbit (ecc.):
Radius: 522.7 miles
 8.809 x 1021 kg
Density: 3.53 g/cm3
Surface gravity: 0.085 g

Axial tilt: 1.40°
Rotation period: 0.495 T-days (tide-locked)

Black-body temperature: 98 K
Surface temperature (avg.): 75 K

Atmosphere: None.
Hydrographic coverage: 0% (unless you count short-lived sulphur pools)

Kerasta is very like Sol System’s Io: a seething, wracked sulphurous hellscape of tidally heated tectonic and volcanic fury. Expect sulphur geysers, molten rock, and general no fun on the surface here, and needless to say, the given surface temperature is for the parts that aren’t currently buried in the middle of the latest eruption. And then there’s the radiation, because just like Io, it has a flux tube.

Popular future activities in the region of Kerasta include some minor resource harvesting, tapping power for local activities out of the Kerastan flux tube, burying things that you’re very unlikely to want to see again, and types of extreme sports that would be considered pathologically idiotic for anyone who didn’t have a backup.

I/7/b. Isimír

Class: Inachian
Orbit (period):
613,423 miles (0.990 T-days)
Orbit (ecc.):
Radius: 716.5 miles
 1.525 x 1022 kg
Density: 2.37 g/cm3
Surface gravity: 0.078 g

Axial tilt: 0.29°
Rotation period: 0.990 T-days (tide-locked)

Black-body temperature: 98 K
Surface temperature (avg.): 84 K

Atmosphere: None.
Hydrographic coverage: 0% (externally)

Isimír’s surface is generally hostile, since Isimír has no magnetosphere worth speaking of, and as such its surface is routinely bombarded with horrendous amounts of radiation. It’s also not terribly interesting, being – in its essentials – one very large sheet of ice with occasional cryovolcanism when the crust is cracked by tidal forces.

The ocean beneath the ice, though…

Isimír has a lot of tidal activity keeping it warm, an order of magnitude more than even Kerasta. Between that and warm hydrothermal upwellings from its core, the Nighted Ocean of Isimír has long since given rise to its own autochthonous life, tiny plankton- and coral-analogues that thrive in the icy darkness.

In the future, there’ll be great colony cities here at the bottom of shafts through the crust, clinging to the bottom of the icy crust, and an ecosystem which is not, technically, the result of an ecopoesis project – it’s the result of artistic assistance to evolution, introducing new lifeforms designed based on the biochemistry and potential of Isimír’s native life.

I/7/c. Cysperia

Class: Cysperian
Orbit (period):
920,134 miles (1.819 T-days)
Orbit (ecc.):
Radius: 1,391 miles
 1.250 x 1023 kg
Density: 2.65 g/cm3
Surface gravity: 0.169 g

Axial tilt: 1.12°
Rotation period: 1.819 T-days (tide-locked)

Black-body temperature: 98 K
Surface temperature (avg.): 103 K

Atmosphere: Thin nitrogen-methane atmosphere.
Atmospheric pressure (sfc.): 0.21 atm
Hydrographic coverage: 30% (thin hydrocarbon lakes)

Cysperia is the outermost of the major moons, with a small iron core – enough to give it a mild magnetic field and some protection from the radiation environment – and a mantle of mixed rock, ice, and silicate clays above its own briny ocean (this one, alas, lifeless).

Slightly more hospitable than its inner neighbors, Cysperia is both the future focus of most colonization efforts in the Melíeré sub-system, in partially-buried dome cities to shield from the radiation, and the gravity anchor for the majority of its habitats, other than those built into the lesser moons.


Trope-a-Day: Universal Universe Time

Universal Universe Time: Subverted.  On the one hand, it’s played straight; just about all of the Associated Worlds sync to empire time/weavetime, the consensus establishing-a-common-relativistic-reference-frame timebase agreed to and broadcast by all the stargates – see Microts for more details – so that there’s some agreement with everyone else as to what the time is.

(The Voniensans, perverse as ever, don’t – so life along that border can get confusing.)

But weavetime is mostly of use for scientific purposes and for synchronization.  In the Empire, to provide more practical units for daily use, there’s Imperial Standard Time, which is the weavetime-synchronized version of the Eldrae homeworld’s cycles, and so is used there and everywhere else where the local planetary or habitat cycles aren’t convenient, and as the standard commercial calendar; meanwhile, many planets, moons, and habs, on the other hand, have a local calendar based on their own cycles which they use for local purposes.  (Or sometimes two, if orbits and seasons are out of sync with each other.)  And lighthuggers, of course, have their own version of IST which also include the relevant frame corrections.  Not that the other local times don’t include many and various frame corrections, but lighthuggers are where they become really obvious.

Other polities, as expected, do much the same thing internally, establishing their own interplanetary and planetary calendars, synchronized to the weavetime timebase – so even though one does still have to ask what time it is, at least understanding the answer is usually a simple matter of unit conversions.

(Datetimes from anywhere that doesn’t have a local stargate/timebase beacon operational invariably include a +/- estimated-drift figure.)

Trope-a-Day: Universal Ammunition

Universal Ammunition: Not quite universal, but so far as regular guns go (see Bottomless Magazines for the description), there are very few different types of standard magazine cartridges (metal for slicing up), powercells (which are just the fast-discharge versions of regular battery equivalents), and heat sinks which cover virtually everything on the market.  And even where slugguns are concerned, there aren’t all that many different bore sizes beyond the two main ones, and the rest of the compatibility issues can often be handled by software patch.

Conventionally averted where the exotica are concerned, though.

Darkness Within (22): Coming Back







Trope-a-Day: Ungovernable Galaxy

Ungovernable Galaxy: A reflection of the truth, long before you get to the size of an entire galaxy, at least when you’re talking about centralizing-hierarchist structures. As they scale up, they start bottlenecking horribly – there’s a reason why most growth patterns matching this structure stall out well before they get to 100 systems.  Hell, a large subset of them crash and burn before they reach one planet.

(The exception that proves the rule is the Voniensa Republic, which claims 8,000 systems – but then, not all of those 8,000 are technically “its”, and the Shell is different from the Core, and so forth. That said, they are perhaps the acknowledged masters of making centralizing-hierarchist structures work on this scale, inefficient and kludgy though they are; just because they insist on being primitives doesn’t mean they’re stupid.)

As for the Empire? It was pursuing alternative approaches long before it hit the one-planet level. If you look over here, you’ll see this:

Peter B. Evans uses Williamson’s control loss model to show that higher efficiencies are possible when the Emperor switches to “multiple hierarchy” systems, such as the dual hierarchy. If the Emperor creates a complete second command hierarchy in parallel with the first, his effectiveness rises by nearly two-thirds. The superiority of dual hierarchies is well-known in business (line-and-staff) and in public administration (especially Communist bureaucracies). Lattice structure systems are a more sophisticated form, involving a complete lattice of hierarchial links providing a startling multiplicity of pathways to the top. Such novel system my not encourage galactic stability, but the opportunities for palace intrigue are legion!

Now, what’s the limiting case of a lattice-structure system?

The adhocracy.

That’s the strategy the Empire is pursuing – a radically decentralized system, with tremendous local autonomy handed out at each level, based around Symbol, Meme, and Mesh.

You’ve got a nice spectacular center – the Imperial Couple, the Senate, the Curia – who do serve a key function as deciders-of-last-resort, but who work very hard to avoid decisions having to reach their level, and whose main function, along with the trappings of office and capital, is to be the Symbol, the gravity well around which all else orbits.

You have the Meme, the idea of empire, the dream that is Rome, the ideology that guides policy. Which works much better as a control mechanism because it doesn’t need a center. Memes replicate. It’s what they do. There is a minor centralizing element inasmuch as the Meme must be tended, mutations pruned, and so forth, but that itself can be distributed.

And you have the Mesh. Not a single, massive, centralized hierarchy, but a whole team of organizations flying in close formation, orbiting the same point but not directly controlled by it, with each one – like flocking birds – correcting and corrected by the others near it. Exchanging information – flowing in to the center, back out to the edge, and around peripheral routes. Local nodes of distributed AI systems make decisions based on local knowledge but following shared ideas, creating global coordination without need for centralization. Everything is disseminated everywhere.  Everything checks everything else.

Will it scale to an entire galaxy?

We’ll see.