Trope-a-Day: Gaia’s Vengeance

Gaia’s Vengeance: One of the worlds the trikhad invaded and attempted to strip-industrialize during their brief conquistador period was Fynfil (Tanion Wilds), with its highly complex, highly interlinked, universally mutualist ecosystem. To say it went very badly indeed would be something of an understatement, because there’s not a lot you can do when pretty much every lifeform on the planet is willing to cooperate in killing you. Indeed, when pretty much the entire ecology is dedicated to the war effort.

And the word went forth: fuck not with the myriasoma.

Space Is Crowded… For Space

Something I was reminded of – by some of the comments here (…There Is Only Awesomeness) that suggest an assumption of ground combat as a default – is the surprising emptiness of space in many settings.

(I’m looking at you, Star Trek, where even the freakin’ capital of the Federation, Sol System itself, may have only one starship or even none at all present at any given time. Star Wars is usually better about this, but even then, there’s a lot less traffic than you might expect. And so on, and so forth and forth and forth.)

This is, needless to say, not the case in the Eldraeverse, in any reasonably developed star system.

Orbital space, in particular, is insanely crowded. (See the quote from Manna, here.) There’s the orbital defense grid, of course, but even leaving that aside, there are commsats, navsats, weather satellites (both monitoring and control), orbital mirrors, remote sensors of various kinds, space telescopes, junk sweepers, solar power satellites…

And then there are the orbital stations. Highports, research stations, orbital factories, skyfarms, residences (from city-sized habitats to personal mansions), skymalls, warehouses, control centers for some of the satellite constellations, data havens, propellant depots, autochandleries…

And all the OTVs, commuterspheres, satellite oilers, resupply skiffs, dock-n-snacks, and other small craft bustling about between them even before you get to regular traffic like orbital shuttles, tugs, commercial inbounds, commercial outbounds, the Watch Constabulary’s Orbit Guard…

Basically, near-planetary space is an ever-changing maze. And that’s true for pretty much every developed planet or moon in the system, to one degree or another.

That’d be bad enough if the universe worked on the kind of FTL where you can drop out of hyperspace close to planets. But since it doesn’t, then there’s the rest of the system, which isn’t by any means that crowded (it is, after all, much bigger), but which does still contain —

Long-range commsats and navsats, space weather satellites (and, close in, stellar husbandry arrays), bigger space telescopes, power-beam relays, drift stations (more farms, factories, habitations, etc., for people who like a little more distance), inhabited rocks likewise, transshipment stations for through traffic that doesn’t want to have to go downwell, smelterships, prospectors, rock pushers, comet herders, commercial traffic inbound and outbound, the Watch Constabulary’s Stellar Guard, stargates with their associated space traffic control and defense stations, more propellant depots and autochandleries…

…and, oh yes, the Imperial Navy, which in a valuable core system will mean an actual system garrison, but which even in a small, new colony will imply a system picket. With forward-deployed sensor platforms and AKVs thrown in, even by the minimal one-ship system picket.

All of whom are running their own local-space monitoring systems for space-traffic-control purposes, at least, and who are themselves being watched by SysCon’s own big track-everything-in-the-system arrays.

Which is to say, tl;dr, that your chances of making a successful approach from deep space to your target planet and making a successful landing without being detected are functionally zero, and your chances of doing it without being engaged are within delta of zero. To use an analogy, it’d be like trying to fly a Predator drone from mid-Atlantic and park it in the middle of the tarmac at Chicago O’Hare, past everyone in between, at the height of Thanksgiving traffic. Without being noticed.

Trying to do it with a viable planetary invasion force is like doing the same thing, except that instead of a Predator drone, you’re doing it with the battleship Iowa.

Which, to bring it back to comment-relevancy, means there ain’t no ground combat of any size without enough space battles to brute-force your way past that lot first, and there’s definitely no ground combat that the defenders don’t have all the time that they need to get set up for. Period.


Trope-a-Day: The Future Will Be Better

The Future Will Be Better: Well, obviously. We’re working to improve the present all the time, and we’re fundamentally awesome, so there’s basically no way the future can’t be better. Why would you even ask that question?

(In Earth-relative terms, the Imperial cultural climate successfully blends 1920s-1930s Gernsbackian utopian futurism and 1950s cultural self-confidence into a heady and unshakeable brew powering the Golden Age That Never Ends. Make Way For Tomorrow, Today —

— hold the irony, and banish the cynicism to somewhere beyond the outer rim colonies, m’kay?)

…There Is Only Awesomeness

So, today I was randomly reminded of In The Grim Darkness Of The Contact Form, and the hypothetical fictional possibilities of a face-off between the Empire and Warhammer 40K’s Imperium of Man, which details I cover there with a note that I can’t really deal with metaphysical mismatches like the wackiness of the Warp.

Well, here’s what occurred to me this morning:

The Tyranid hive mind is known for creating a “shadow in the Warp” that plays merry hell with all psychic communications, Warp travel, Warp-related abilities, and anyone with any sort of psychic sensitivity that happens to be beneath it, which appears to be everyone who isn’t a blank or a Necron.

So, folks: what do you think the Transcend, a hive mind collective consciousness with some additional relevant features, like a core brain the size of a star system and moon-sized local ganglia, looks like in the Warp?

(My take:

Best case, you have a Big Freakin’ Glow in the Warp, which is a lot nicer than the Tyranids’ shadow but which will still interfere with your day and is not to be fucked with.

Worst case (for the existing galactic powers): A weakly godlike superintelligence just got promoted to strongly godlike, and as the Warp’s first Order God/Constructive Power it has issues to raise with absolutely everyone.

We also might have to start calling its part of the galaxy the Eye of Harmony, but I think that name’s been used before…)


Trope-a-Day: Future Spandex

Future Spandex: By and large, this class of garmentage is averted. There are a very few specialist exceptions – skinsuits, which have to be skin-tight in order to work; body gloves, which are mocap and environmental sealing devices for hardshell armor; spray-on protection – but by and large what these things have in common? Being either technical garments, underwear, or both. As main garments, they lack elegance.

Cultivating Mighty Oaks

Cimór gazed out over the lectern as her audience finished connecting. The virtual space was crowded with avatars – the glowing spheres with emoticon faces that nym-avatars defaulted to, naturally, hiding identity, culture, and species – haloed with the expected glows marking slow connections and packet loss. Even those telerepresenting from less backward worlds found their connections impaired by the exigencies of encapsulation and multibounce routing.

The avatars themselves were arranged in groups of six: each representing the bundled communications of a single supercell’s membership, six cell leaders from different polities – carefully selected to be safely independent and yet of potential aid to each other, as well as synergistic personality matches – who would be given cross-communications at the end of the introduction. Each group, so far as it could perceive, was the only group in the auditorium.

The last avatar flickered into being, its “face” set to apology-but-necessity. Glancing down at the lectern, Cimór watched the extranet security panel flicker through its final checks, then spill out blue confirmation that the layered overweaves were properly secured, and the termination points were, at least, as secure as dumb agents were able to determine.

A flick of a finger brought the opening of her presentation up in the well, the COG’s tree logo, and the embracing text: Freedom’s Seed. Access to Tools and Ideas.

“Gentlesophs,” she began. “Thank you for attending. At this introductory talk, we’ll be discussing how to find and recruit new members for your seedling, while maintaining the proper security, deniability, and above all, cell structure. I’ll be presenting general strategies along with specific notes on adapting them to different types of polities and cultures, as well as both memetic and software tools to assist in assessing possible candidates for suitability and reliability, as well as eliminating potential spies, saboteurs, and agents provocateur.

“But first, let’s talk about the sort of candidates you should consider – a subject which will also answer a question many of you doubtless have, namely, why we recruited you.

“The first division to be made is that of the loud and the quiet. The loud, whichever kind they are, should be immediately dismissed as possible candidates, although the reasons differ between the loud and violent, and the loud and… shall we say less violent, in their use of violence is generally casual, rather than targeted.

“We do not support the former because even on the rare occasion that they espouse that they’re emulating the Drowning of the People, the Saryala Disarming, or the Spontaneous Disarchy of Dorentil Major, in practice the overwhelming majority of people whose plan is violent revolution not only cause a lot of collateral death and destruction along the way, but tend to be the sort of kveth-sakkar whose primary interest is being free to oppress someone else. We have, obviously, no interest at all in supporting that – and from your perspective, the reasons why such make bad partners should be obvious, even apart from the high-profile attention such activities tend to draw.

“We do not support the latter, meanwhile, for a variety of reasons – not least that many of these ‘activists’, too, are all too happy to support a heavy cratic hand just as long as it is perceived as working for them. Frankly, gentlesophs, we support groups with libertist values out of enlightened self-interest, and those who merely improve a few of the proximate results without addressing the ultimate causes do not provide a useful return on our investment.

“To you, on the other hand, they are dangerous. The sort of activities they participate in, especially the ones that are themselves coercive, are hell on operational security, break up the cell structure, and attract a lot of attention – the kind that makes more constructive activities harder to carry through under scrutiny, and can be easily spun to turn the general population against them – or, depending on the ruthlessness of the security state, to justify mass arrests or massacres. In either case, they’re just meat for the machine – and so if a seedling goes down this path, we drop it from the network.

“The recruits you want are the quiet ones. The tools and ideas we can supply are attuned to supporting those with an eye on the long term, and with a desire to live free, well, and under the radar in the meantime – and to build. That’s who you need to grow all the institutions of a civilized society in the shadow of the uncivilized, until one day your would-be masters wake up to find themselves redundant, ignored, and impotent.

“That’s why we selected you, and who your best candidates for recruitment, in turn, are likely to be.

“Now, any questions before we move on to practical matters?”

– Freedom’s Seed COG, introductory talks to proto-seedlings


Trope-a-Day: Future Imperfect

Future Imperfect: Generally averted, due to the historical greater continuity of civilization (“It has been 7,921 years since the last interregnum.”), general better record-keeping (thanks to the Repository of All Knowledge, et. al., and a religious climate that favors the burning of book-burners, and so forth), and, of course, people who live a long, long time and don’t forget much.