Trope-a-Day: Blood Sport

Blood Sport: This, obviously, gets much easier when you have noetic backup technology to ensure that you don’t run out of people quite as fast as you otherwise might. Even so, in the Empire and other civilized polities, this is usually limited to martial arts competitions where death is mostly accidental, and minor outgrowths of duelling culture.

Elsewhere, some downright horrifying examples also exist thanks to the export versions of the tech… but what can you do? Barbarians gonna barbar.

Questions: Spite, Amendments, Nomic, Favor-Trading

So what’s the eldraeic take on spite? (In both the game theoretic and emotional senses.)

In the former, that it’s pointless and self-defeating, inasmuch as it’s a negative-sum interaction. You lose, they lose. The best you can do in a spiteful interaction is come out relatively better off because they lost more than you did, even though in absolute terms you end up worse off yourself. Simply walking away or minimum-cost defensive action wins every time.

(Humans are prone not to think of it this way because exchanging absolute losses for relative gains makes sense if you’re operating on primate relative status instincts; you get a larger piece of a smaller pie. Eldrae, contrariwise, tend to think of relative status games as perhaps the single dumbest notion the universe ever came up with, and so recognize that they’d be worsening their own position right off the bat.)

So far as the emotional sense is concerned, it’s spiritual entropy. The sort of thing that chews away at the soul, and if indulged or unless corrected, likely to end up leading you directly into one of the Antithetical Heresies, probably the Defiling Nihility with a chance of the Obstructive Naysayer.

More pointedly, what’s their take on Hamiltonian spite?

It has all the negative qualities of Wilsonian spite, with the additional fillip that it’s pure-quill “To improve my position it is sufficient to worsen someone else’s.” In their above-mentioned paradigm, that qualifies as both stupid and evil, as well as unsatisfying (the one-eyed human king might be able to derive satisfaction from seeing better than all his blind subjects, but it would never occur to the one-eyed eldrae to use other people as his yardstick in the first place).

How amenable is the Imperial Charter to amendment or revision? We’ve been made aware that it’s possible, but how does the amendment mechanism itself work?

The amendment mechanism is a spectacular pain in the ass. Of course, that’s by design; if you can’t push whatever amendment you wanted to make through said spectacular pain in the ass, it almost certainly wasn’t both important and generally agreed with enough to be an amendment. Specifically to quote:

Article IV: On the Amendment of this Charter
After the ratification and implementation of this Charter, amendments may be proposed for consideration in three ways:

  1. By a two-thirds vote of each of the Chambers of the Senate; or
  2. By a proposal put forward, concurrently or consecutively, by two-thirds of the demesnes of the Empire; or
  3. By a citizen proposal, put forward in the same manner as an initiative, which achieves the support of one-third of the citizen population.

Any amendment proposed for consideration by either of these methods shall first require a substantive vote of each of the three Chambers of the Senate for ratification;

And, this having been achieved, shall then require a three-quarters vote in a plebiscite of all citizens of the Empire for further ratification;

And shall then become effective on the first day of the next year, following this final ratification.

A substantive vote, incidentally, means a 5/6ths vote rather than a 2/3rds vote of a substantively quorate Senate. So in order to approve an amendment, you have to win 2/3rds of each of the three Chambers of the Senate, or 2/3rds of all the constituent nations, or 1/3rd of the citizen-shareholders; then win 5/6ths of each of the three Chambers of the Senate; then win 3/4s of the citizen-shareholders (total, not just voting).

There’s a reason it’s only been amended 12 times in over 7,000 years.

Also, there are some parts that can’t be amended at all:

Article V: Irrevocable Provisions
The provisions listed here within shall not be amended, nor shall their amendment be proposed. They shall remain above all power of amendment or repeal.

  • Section I, Article I: On this Charter
  • Section I, Article III: Limitations of Imperial Government
  • Section I, Article IV: On the Amendment of this Charter
  • Section I, Article V: Irrevocable Provisions
  • Section I, Article VI: Dissolution
  • Section III, Article III: Fundamental Rights of the Sophont
  • Section III, Article VI: Nonrestriction
  • Section III, Article VII: Equal Protection
  • Section III, Article X: Renunciation
  • Section IV, Article I: On Sovereignty
  • Section IV, Article II: Full Faith and Credit

For various reasons. Not kicking away the latter you’re standing on while you’re on it (I.I, IV.I), because the governance shouldn’t invent new roles for itself without going through the proper procedure (I.III), because amending the amendment rules or the irrevocable sections would defeat the whole point of having them (I.IV, I.V), because when they said inalienable they meant it (III.III, III.VI, IV.II), because there shouldn’t be special privileges in ethics (III.VII, IV.I again, IV.II again), and because people shouldn’t be deprived of their right to wind up their collective body (I.VI) or their right of exit (III.X).

And the Curia will throw out any proposals that are going to make the whole thing nonsensical due to innate self-contradictoriness, or suchlike.

But apart from that? Easy.

By extension, how comfortable are the eldrae with incorporating nomic mechanisms into games and contracts, as a general rule?

Perfectly comfortable… when used appropriately and properly scoped. A fully general nomic contract is a potential suicide mission, in the same way that a unilaterally, arbitrarily modifiable contract is, and no-one in their right mind’d consent to that. But building nomically adaptive contracts such that they can handle unanticipated changes within the essential scope of the contract – well, doing that is exactly how smart-contracts began in the first place.

Given how it’s an eldraeic principle that everything can be quantized in some fashion, can (and do) favors accrue “interest” in some fashion, just like monetary debts and balances?

They could, if the people involved wanted to set them up that way. In practice, they don’t: a debt carries interest because of the opportunity cost of lending money; namely, you can’t spend it while you don’t have it (and you risk losing it) and that deserves compensation. But unlike money, there’s not the same opportunity cost of having an outstanding favor.

Is there such a thing as “favor arbitrage,” where you can make arrangements to connect people you owe favors with people who owe you favors to resolve both at a profit to yourself?

In a manner of speaking. If A owes B and B owes C, connecting A and C transfers A’s debt to C, paying off B’s, and then performance pays off A’s, leaving no-one indebted to anyone.

Now if you happen to have collected a lot of favors, like, say, the Marquis de Carabas, and you happen to know people who could use certain favors from certain people, you can certainly arrange introductions there, at which point the provider no longer owes you and the recipient owes you one. And some path-pointers operate in this mode to transfer in one direction or another favors you can’t use or can’t fulfil, either way. But that’s not you doing it: that’s involving a third party, whom you owe for their trouble.

Also mainly in reference to favors, but with potential application to monetary debts as well: We all know by now the Imperial attitude to failing to discharge an obligation that you owe to someone else, but what’s their attitude about imbalances perpetuated by the creditor refusing to, say, take payment offered in good faith for an “early release,” or intentionally holding a favor in reserve to call in at an advantageous time?

Well, I think their first question would be “what imbalances?”

(I mean, in the first case, well, unless there’s an early release clause in the contract, it’s not like you have a right to early release – and if there is, they can’t refuse to take it. But even if there isn’t, if you happen to have the cash on hand to pay off the debt, principal and all interest accrued right up to the end of the normal term, and they still refuse to renegotiate for the same money offered earlier, there’s nothing to stop you from sticking that into an escrow account with a smart-contract attached and forgetting about it.

And in the latter case – well, since most people are going to call favors in when there’s an advantage to doing so, I’m guessing you mean “when it will disadvantage the debtor in some way?” But unless you’ve written and agreed yourself into a tight corner, it’s not like favor-repayment is so tightly defined as to demand specific performance right then, either. Unless you inadvisably promised to jump when they say “frog”, or you owe a life-debt to someone being hunted by assassins today, or something, you can say “Sure, but I’m getting on a lunar shuttle in less than an hour, so it’ll have to be next Tuesday, if that’s okay by you?”)

Or, I suppose, there’s the psychological factor of having a debt hanging over you, but – that’s another case of primate status hierarchies. It makes us feel all stressed and subordinated to have outstanding debts, but that plays on instincts they don’t have. So far as an eldrae is concerned, “a debt and its repayment sum to zero”. Unless and until they’re actually behind on servicing it or flirting with default, it’s no big deal, and no little deal either.

Trope-a-Day: Blood on the Debate Floor

Blood on the Debate Floor: It’s not usual.

That said, it has nonetheless happened and occasionally still does, especially in the early days when any hint of the sort of sentiments that led up to the Drowning of the People reoccurring would tend to lead rapidly to the defenestration of the misbegotten wight who proposed such a thing. (The Defenestrative Gallery is now on the public tour.)

And when particularly sensitive topics arise, some Senators – especially from more hot-blooded or kinesthetic species – have been known to start the odd brawl.

The Guardians of the Senate always finish it, though. What, you thought those weapons were ceremonial?

Although when it comes to protecting the Senate from itself, at least they usually stick to the electrolasers.


The Love of Money is the Root of Reliability

mercenary (n.): A source who is working for us in exchange for money (typically discreetly delivered cryp) and detailed explanations of where all their body parts are likely to be found in the event of a contract default. A pleasure to work with, relatively speaking, because all the cards are on the table.

idealist (n.): A source who is working for us and betraying his putative employers for ideological, religious, patriotic, etc., beliefs. Widely considered unreliable, especially compared to mercenaries, since anyone who’s turned their coat once may do so again if they change their mind. Consequently, the first step in handling an idealist is to secure a firm yet invisible grip on their gonads, or failing that, a half-gram of KL-8 implanted in one of their heart valves.

– excerpted from Rilial’s Informal Dictionary of Intelligence and Security Terminology

Non-Canon Parody: Travel Advisory

So, I was chasing links this morning and ended up at a State Department travel advisory, and then this just wrote itself, really…

“The Ministry of State and Outlands alerts Imperial citizen-shareholders that the quadrennial elections are scheduled to take place in Blatantly Obvious Expy near the end of this year. The opening engagements have already begun, and related activities are expected to only intensify in the coming months.

“As such, the Ministry of State and Outlands recommends that citizen-shareholders avoid travel to Blatantly Obvious Expy until the second quarter of the coming year, due to the high risk of nausea, rage excursions, and self-inflicted head injuries.

“The Ministry regrets that there’s really nothing it can do to help you if you insist on visiting during this period of crisis and localized brou-ha-ha.

“For further information, see publication SO-2961 – Seriously, What The Fucking Fuck?: Coping With Barbarism Through Alcohol Consumption.”


Trope-a-Day: Blade Below the Shoulder

Blade Below the Shoulder: Some types I and II exist; the former because a strap-on “weapon pod” is a standard accessory for quick-draw weapons, some of which might as well be blades, and the latter because – well, while they’re as impractical as concealed weapons as any other cybernetic implant, X-rays being a thing, and probably not the most useful thing you could stash inside your arm anyway, some people have funny tastes and like the notion of weapons attached to them.

Type III is certainly possible, but it not being considered an idiotic self-handicap probably isn’t. That discourages people.


The headquarters of Nucleodyne Thrust Applications was not, it was widely held, the most elegant of the habs in close orbit about Melíeré. The double-torus housing both the living spaces and the corporate offices, adorned about the docking hub with the stylized silver atom over flaring golden sun of the corporation’s logo, to be fair, might have qualified on its own – and did, in publicity pictures carefully shot to contrast it with the ruddy gas giant it orbited and to conceal the remainder of the station.

That remainder being the research section, an incoherent conglomeration of laboratory modules, floatways, power reactors, fuel storage tanks, construction slips, storage temps, and less identifiable machinery strapped along the massive truss that protruded from the rear of the docking hub, a messy tangle unconcealed by an aesthetic shroud, harkening back to the earliest days of space.

No, Cherac’s Breath Station was not an elegant construct.

* * *

The same, however, Melíändre Steamweaver thought, could not be said for the products they built there.

Dwarfed by the size of the construction bay it floated within, still gleaming in places with the fine buffering oil the nanoassemblers used, the prototype of Nucleodyne’s latest fusion torch drive was a case in point. Its clean lines breathed elegance from tip to tip: from the petal-like shrouds encapsulating the tangle of support machinery where she would attach to her ship, studded with molycircs gleaming like jewels in the bay lights; through the clustered cylinders of the injectors and beamers, surrounded by the polished, reddish orichalcium rings of the buffering accumulators; through, too, the silver ellipsoid swelling of the fusion preburner, surface marked with eloquent scrollwork depicting the fields within; though the golden toroid of the magnetohydrodynamic accelerator and the magnetic couple; and finally to the graceful outward sweep of the magnetic nozzle retained by that couple, blade shields of muonic iron glistening an impossibly bright white.

She turned to the head of the assembled engineering development team. “Beautiful work, Aurin, as ever.”

“She’s the smallest we’ve ever built. Half the size of a Little Sparky… We still need a type name for her.”

“What’s the current designation?”

“K64 pinnace-class torch, revision 3.”

“Hmm.” Melíändre turned, and headed for the airlock leading back to the hub junction. “If she passes static fire and flight tests, designate her Firefly.”


Trope-a-Day: Bizarre Seasons

Bizarre Seasons: Eliéra’s seasons aren’t actually all that bizarre, but they are more complicated than the standard model. It has something resembling our earthly seasons (based on the binary system it occupies, rather than non-applicable axial tilt: it is summer when the planet is between the stars, increasing insolation, and winter when it is on the far side of the primary from the secondary – pure solar effects magnified by chaotic atmohydrospheric effects), but overlaid on this is the “deep seasonal cycle”, caused by the 2,856-year orbit of Súnáris around Lumenna. When it’s at periapsis, in deep summer, summers are hot and winters mild; when at apoapsis, in deep winter, summers are cooler and winters cold.

Kythera (Thirteen Colonies) has a similar deep seasonal cycle, but its is caused by an oscillation in oxygen levels and planetary albedo that leads to warming along with growing oxygen levels punctuated by planetary wildfires that deplete oxygen again and whose shifts the albedo enough to plunge the planet into winter. And repeat.

No Hope in the Hegemony

“I don’t know why I’ve been connected to you, but could you kindly redirect me to Kejor Nreslin?”

“He’s not available. He’s been – reallocated.”

“Then let me talk to whoever has replaced him.”

“Dammit. That’s me. But I can’t talk to you.”


“I can’t talk to you. The Planner doesn’t value what you were working on with Kejor, and the damn fool believed that would change if he finished the deal right up until he lost enough karma to be reallocated. Now I’m bleeding karma from this conversation, and my life-debt’s not secure enough to cover it. So goodbye.”

“Wait! Reallocated where? Can you -”

“Live transplant donation. Goodbye, sir!

“You -”

<line cleared by destination>

– recorded at the Hegemony Karmic Virtue Monitoring Center, Spirath V


While they haven’t yet taken much of a part on stage, this little by-request piece illustrates some of the joy that is the Hope Hegemony.

Their governance is an outgrowth of what you might call some of the perversions of scarcity. Spirath V itself was a harsh world, scarce in even basic resources, to which their society adapted through, shall we say, even harsher measures. Even if you might consider that forgivable under the circumstances (even though they are a terrible way to address the problem), it’s certainly somewhat less forgivable now that they’re no longer limited to the resources of said planet.

These measures come in two chief parts:

First, the life-debt, which is similar to the life-debt you may acquire on a primitive habitat – except in the Hegemony, you get a fairly large one when you’re born, for the liabilities against those scarce resources which you’re imposing on the Hegemony by existing, like the need to raise and educate and feed you, and which only continues to climb due to such inconsiderate things you might do like “become ill” (or even worse, “infect others”), “breathe the Hegemony’s oxygen”, and “exude waste products into the Hegemonic biosphere”. Until that life-debt is not only paid down but paid off and kept paid off, the Hegemony owns your ass in a very real and legally-binding way. You must obey and you don’t get to (legally) emigrate.

What it does with said owned ass is determined by the second part of the measures, the karma system, in which work on projects beneficial to the Hegemony and success in them gains you karma, as do things the Hegemony deems to be of social benefit, and just about everything else loses it. Your current karma determines the work options you must choose from allocation to. Which would only be typically totalitarian, except that at the bottom end, your options start becoming things like “recreational services provider” (of the kind you really don’t want to ask about), “toxic waste cleanup”, “life-fire exercise target drone”, “disassembled for spare parts”, or “the protein vats”.

Even Hegemony patriots – and they exist, ’cause there are plenty of people who have firmly convinced themselves that all this is necessary to their survival and prosperity, such as it is, and if a few [which it isn’t] of the underclasses [which it is by no means limited to] end up recycled as Soylent Green, that’s just the way it has to be – are renowned throughout the Worlds as being both very hard-working and utterly terrified.


Trope-a-Day: Bizarre Alien Sexes

Bizarre Alien Sexes: While the eldrae started out with the standard two (male, female), biotechnology has since added two more to their repertoire (neuter, hermaphrodite). And the standard taxonomy of sexes in their language, which has to cope with other species, includes two more – the most common mappings of other-species sexuality (prenuptial catalyst, postnuptial catalyst). And the language allows for an arbitrary number of other gender affices, because while most species can fit into that six-gender system, usually having no more than four and the mode being two, the one-to-couple-of-dozen-variants spread in how species divide into sexes means that… well. Yeah.

Oh, my ears and whiskers! I’m on time!

While going over the old “How to Tell if You’re Imperial” post, this particular entry stood out to me:

If you have an appointment, you’ll be sure to turn up a couple of minutes late. While you’ll apologize if you’re more than five minutes late, being early (or on time for that matter) is worse.

Is there any particular reason behind this? Given that Imperial law and custom takes the matter of oath-contracts so seriously in every other case, it seems a little out of place that it would be customary to show up late for a promised appointment.

…only a little late. That’s important. You aren’t supposed to be actually late-late, just never early and not annoyingly prompt.

It’s a courtesy thing. One does not hazard embarrassing the person one has come to see by arriving before they’re ready for you. By establishing a little customary “spread” in appointment times (it’s even in the CSP), one ensures that this solecism does not happen.


Non-Canon Snippet: Myrmidonic Carbonizer

From today’s utterly-non-canon-but-it-got-stuck-in-my-head department of advertising snippets:

The myrmidonic carbonizer. It’s the top of our range.

The myrmidonic carbonizer. Erodes muon metals in seconds.

The myrmidonic carbonizer. For when you absolutely, positively need to split quarkonium.

Our critics have accused our research department of being questionably sane. Well, we showed them. We showed them all.

Our critics have also claimed the myrmidonic carbonizer is spectacularly dangerous overkill for any ordinary circumstances.

We agree. But we didn’t build the myrmidonic carbonizer for ordinary circumstances. We built it for “What has that psychotic asshole done now?” circumstances.

The myrmidonic carbonizer. Built by Mad Science ™, for use on Mad Science (not tm).

Also considered as a slogan:

If God’s Not Dead, You Weren’t Using A Myrmidonic Carbonizer.


Trope-a-Day: Bizarre Alien Senses

Bizarre Alien Senses: Well, hell, who doesn’t have some sort of bizarre senses? Especially since it gets very tricky if you count the whole electromagnetic spectrum as one – i.e., “ultravision” and “infravision” are both strict subsets of “vision”. As, for that matter, is sensing gamma rays – and other similar elisions. It’s not like anyone gets to claim the canonical radiation range for “sight”, now is it?

But we’ve got people sensing everything from low infrared to high UV, with bioradio senses, with the ability to detect electromagnetic fields both static and changing, with the ability to feel the curvature of space-time (that would be those bionano vector-control effectors again), with echolocation and/or sonar, the ability to read plasmids by tasting them, and pretty much any other physical effect that you can measure somehow on the macroscale.

(The current eldrae alpha baseline clocks in at 24 recognized senses, by the way, counting the synthetic and transcendent ones, and that’s after considering smell and taste as one: photoception, audition, chemoception/olfaction, static mechanoception, dynamic mechanoception, thermoception, nociception, static electroception, dynamic electroception, proprioception, chronoception, farspeech, spatioception, secondary gestalt, secondary linear, mesh, metadata, worth, mnemonesis, nature, utility, entelechy, obligation, and autosentience.)


From: Capt. Isvieve Kalyn, Procurement, Resplendent Exponential Vector
To: Adm. Gilad Tsurilen, Bureau of Innovation
Subject: FAT NINJA progress report

Development on project FAT NINJA itself is essentially complete. Our research contractor has successfully demonstrated a prototype design capable of using intense paragravitational fields to distort the fabric of space-time in such a manner as to place the prototype within an enclosed polypoid volume of distortion, connected to the original location of the prototype by a narrow “neck”. They have further demonstrated limited communication capacity through this “neck”, suggesting that it would be theoretically possible to monitor events outside the distortion using a small drone vehicle, rendering FAT NINJA a non-double-blind device.

Unfortunately, no progress has been made on the fundamental problem of sustaining the distortion in the light of fundamental thermodynamics: necessarily, an enclosed polypoid volume suitable for preventing detection retains all radiation, including waste heat, emitted by the objects within it. Were the distortion to be handwaved into existence, this would be merely an irritating limitation; however, given the extremely high energies required to create the distortion, even with the most efficient power generation and paragravity equipment available, FAT NINJA is able at best to sustain a cloaked state for a matter of milliseconds before undergoing a catastrophic thermal excursion leading to complete vaporization of the prototype and immediate reversion of the cloaked volume.

While the experiment was worth doing, I must conclude that this is a physical limitation of all FAT NINJA type devices, and in the absence of some new fundamental breakthrough with regard to the thermodynamics of the case, FAT NINJA is a dead-end – at least as a cloaking device.

It does, however, make a rather splendid, if outré, bomb.

In service and glory,

Isvieve Kalyn (Capt.)


Trope-a-Day: Bizarre Alien Reproduction

Bizarre Alien Reproduction: …are you sure you really want to know?

Well, first, if it’s done on Earth, by anyone, it’s probably used somewhere. Mere external fertilization, et. al., is relatively mundane. The temísi, say, are quite straightforwardly parthenogenic. For exotic – well, then we’re getting into how the vlcefc reproduce by having their motiles spin a new brain-web, something that any number from one up can do together. Or the esseli literally building the next generation in their gene-labs. Or the codramaju simply coming together as X individuals and coming apart as X+n individuals, any of whom may contain various different bits of the minds of the original X. Or…

And that’s before people come up with clever ideas like bigenetic organisms, in which – say, a plant and insect are mutually engineered so that the plant can grow insect eggs and the insect lay plant seeds, thus enabling them to mutually spread each other in early-stage ecopoesis, and contribute to a more stable ecological web overall.

Black [Water|Gold]

217-9963 (BIOWASTE)

For interstellar freight purposes, biowaste is defined as nonspecific organic matter for disposal: this includes categories as disparate as sewage, grooming fragments (i.e. shed skin, hair clippings, etc.), animal waste, plant matter, spoiled food, medical and surgical waste, corpses, et. sim., and mixed lots of any or all of the above.

Biowaste is typically shipped locally to skyfarms for sterilization, decomposition, and processing into fertilizer, or to new habitats and worlds undergoing ecopoesis for use in soilbrewing and dirt farming; in the modal case, that of oxygen-breather biowaste, it serves as a rich source of CHON compounds and CHNOPS. It is, however, important to check the subclassifications (if present); organic matter for disposal from or of species other than oxygen-breathers is also properly classified as biowaste, even if from an oxygen-breather perspective it more closely resembles industrial chemicals.

Note: Due to the potential for infection and ecological cross-contamination, improper disposal (i.e., other than to a sealed biowaste processing facility) of biowaste is classified as a crime against nature under Imperial law, and is subject to severe censure.

Applicable special handling characteristics: All cargoes classified 217-9963 are considered biohazard cargoes, requiring sealed containers and appropriate handling. Depending upon the precise nature of the biowaste in question (per above), such cargoes may also be classified as flammable (often due to decay products, such as methane), corrosive, or radioactive.

– Merchanter’s Association Handbook, “Trade Categories”


Trope-a-Day: Bizarre Alien Psychology

Bizarre Alien Psychology: Most of them, to one degree or another, however well concealed it may be by translation and commonly agreed protocols. Particularly notable are the aklaknak and embatil, both of whom are collegiate intelligences rather than single consciousnesses; the codramaju and seb!nt!at, who don’t use identity the same way we do; the cusaron and hjera, which are hive minds of different internal topology; the járaph, who are total solipsists; the mezuar, who are forests; the múrast and voctonari, who have five or so minds each; the tennoa, who are obligate utilitarians; and the vlcefc, who have a sessile brain with coordinating independent non-sophont motiles.

Also, of course, much of the point behind uplift – so you can have minds around the place with fascinatingly different points of view.


On that day, eleven years before Alphas I crowned himself, two figures walked down the dusty road striking down from the wooded dales of upland Vintiver into the setting sun. The hills on either side of the road were shadowy, draped as they were with the vines of the purplish-black Vintiver grapes, whose scent hung heavy in the stifling air of late summer, but no such mercy was afforded the road itself.

The elder of them marched steadily in front, face battered by sun and wind beneath black hair, bound back by a leather thong, and bearing a notable gray streak from an underlying scar. Swathed in a light cotton wrap, covered only by a few selected plates of lacquered armor and the pouches and bundles at his wide belt, the sheathed teirian across his back and hanrian ready at his hip made his profession abundantly clear.

The younger stumbled along behind him, face purpling under sweat-streaked blond hair. Wrapped in antiquated bronze chain from neck to ankle, while the thin-bladed knives of his bandolier and the glaive upon which he leaned tried to convey that same impression, his need to lean under the weight of the immense pack slung across his back detracted rather from it.

The younger spoke.


The elder replied.


“This is adventuring.”


“The books never mentioned this part.”


“All the walking, I mean.”


“Epic quests, terrifying foes, romance, treasure, unbelievable sights, forbidden and forgotten wisdoms, ancient artifacts from the era beyond time, and greater than even odds of unpleasant death, yes, but not all the walking.”


“But I suppose we have to get to them somehow.”


“I just assumed that we would have some suitably epic mode of transportation, too.”


“Don’t you have anything to say besides ‘mm’?”

“No. Walking.”


Trope-a-Day: Bizarre Alien Locomotion

Bizarre Alien Locomotion: In many variants on the standard walking, flying, and swimming, certainly. Eliéra’s bluelife includes its tubefish, for example, which move via peristaltic pumping of water, not swimming as we know it.

Among sophont races, the chfssssc swim through solid rock thanks to what one might call an active metabolism, the ciamél turn into vapor in order to move, the codramaju ooze along on pseudopodia, the d!grith brachiate along artificial vines, the esseli use whatever locomotive organs they happen to have today, the galari have built in maglev functionality, the kaliatar can coil themselves up and roll like a mythological hoopsnake, the seb!nt!at may well be there already, the vlcefc are webs carried by their motile castes, and that’s just scratching the surface…

The Contract That Is Not

The most important thing to know about the Fundamental Contract is that it is not a contract.

The second most important thing to know about the Fundamental Contract is that it is not fundamental.

Or, rather, while it is expressed in the form of a contract, it is not one in actuality, and while it is fundamental to law, both the law of oath-contracts and the law otherwise, it is not fundamental to ethics.

It is, instead, a restatement of the fundamental inalienable and non-derogable right, inherent in the the nature of all sophont and volitional beings, to liberty and its concomitants in a format which better permits explication of the privileges and obligations that inhere therewithin (with regard, in particular, to the avoidance of choice-theft), and thus in membership of the greater community of sophonts.

It is not a contract, therefore, inasmuch as its authority does not derive from the sophont’s innate power to place themselves under obligation by their consent. (That would indeed be circular, if it were to be the case.) Rather, it derives from – by consisting of – the ethical fundamentals implicit in the nature of sophont beings, by which all entities that are, remain, or are composed of or controlled by, sophont beings are necessarily bound.

This is a matter of natural law, akin to gravity or supply and demand, if indeed not even more fundamental than either, and thus not subject to revision or denial.

– Fundamentals of Imperial Law, Valarian Elarios-ith-Elarios