Trope-a-Day: Gem Heart

Gem Heart: Truth in television where silicon-based or carbosilicate lifeforms are concerned, although while some make use of gem-like structures (say, the galari, who even look like cut gems due to their crystalline structure) one is equally, or even more likely, to find Rock Heart. Or plain old crystalplasm.

Otherwise, mostly seen as things like the trope-page-mentioned gizzard stones.

Hariven-class Free Trader

So, I got a request from a reader for a few specs on the Hariven-class free trader. Well, why not?

(Sadly, they were imagining something like Vaughan Ling’s Planetes-inspired debris collector with comparable dimensions, capacity, etc. Sorry to say it, but that ship? Had some style. The Hariven? Really doesn’t.)


Operated by: Desperate free traders, just starting-out bands on tour, your sketchy brother, refugees, space hobos, and anyone else who can’t afford a better ship.
Basic freighter.
Under open-source license; produced by multiple manufacturers, most of whom would prefer not to admit it, along with various backyard fab shops.

(And when I say “desperate free trader”, I don’t mean, say, the people who fly around in a Firefly-class in Firefly. Those people, in this verse, own something like a Kalantha-class. This is down from there at the true ass end of space travel.)

Length: 46m, of which 30m is the hold.
8m (not including radiators)

Gravity-well capable: No.

Personnel: 3, as follows:

Flight Commander
Flight Director
Flight Engineer

(This assumes you’re following the typical regulations which require – since the Hariven has no AI, and only dumb automation – that at least one qualified person be on watch at all times, hence a minimum of three. In practice, a Hariven can be flown by one and very often is, if they don’t mind violating the rules of navigation of every halfway sane polity in space.)

Drive (typical; may vary from build to build): Nucleodyne Thrust Applications “Putt-Putt” fusion pulse drive.
 Deuterium pellets.
Cruising (sustainable) thrust:
 0.6 standard gravities (0.56 g)
Peak (unsustainable) thrust:
 1.2 standard gravities (1.12 g)
Delta-v reserve:
 (Not yet calculated, but limited; if you’re flying a Hariven, you ain’t going brachy unless you devote a lot of your hold space to extra tanks. Be prepared to spend much of your voyage time on the float.)
Maximum velocity:
 0.02 c (based on particle shielding)


Not supplied as standard, but buy some. You’re gonna need ’em.


Orbital Positioning System sensors
Inertial tracking platform
Passive EM array
Short-range collision-avoidance and docking radar



Other systems:

Omnidirectional radio transceiver
Communications laser
Whipple shield (habitable area only)
Mechanical regenerative life support (atmosphere/water only)
Algiprote vat
2 x information furnace data systems
Sodium droplet radiators

Small craft:

Not supplied as standard, but a common as-supplied variant adds a partition to convert part of the forward hold into a bay with docking clamps suitable for many surface-to-orbit vehicles.


It’s a classic tail-lander layout of the crudest form: a 30m steel box welded on top of an 8m steel cylinder welded on top of a cheap fusion pulse drive, the latter two surrounded by pellet containers. It couldn’t look more brutalist/functional if it tried. At least most Hariven owners try to give it a bright paint job.

The hold is up front, a big steel box roughly the size of eight standard shipping containers. (Indeed, sometimes it’s made from eight standard shipping containers.) Putting it right for’ard has the advantage of simplifying construction greatly – all the machinery is at one end – and giving Hariven captains the assurance that if they ram their junker into anything accidentally, at least there’s 30m of other stuff between them and whatever they hit.

The hold opens up along its entire length on the port side to permit access. Responsible captains who convert their Hariven for passenger transport (the aforementioned touring bands, refugees, and space hobos, for example) by attaching deck partitions inside the hold and adding canned air have these welded shut. Less responsible captains simply pray for a lack of wiring faults.

The habitable section (the cylinder at the back) is wrapped in auxiliary engineering machinery and fuel storage, to the point that it’s only 4m in internal diameter. (If you need to fiddle with most of the engineering systems, you’re going to need a drone, or to take a walk outside.) It’s divided into four decks, from the bow down:

The bridge, which shares space with most of the avionics;

A small living area, which contains the food vat, a tiny galley, the inner door of the airlock, and any luxuries you see fit to squeeze in there. Like chairs;

The crew quarters, which means four vertically-mounted sleep pods, and maybe room for another luxury or two if they’re small;

And a tiny workshop, for any repairs that need doing.

That all sits right on top of the shadow shield and the business end of the drive. If you need to adjust anything below that – well, hope you brought a drone.

But enough of this. You buy this ship, treat her proper, she’ll be with you the rest of your life.

Ain’t sayin’ how long that’ll be, mind.



Trope-a-Day: The Game Come To Life

The Game Come To Life: Doesn’t happen literally, but perhaps a little played with inasmuch as there are augmentality games – designed to integrate seamlessly with the real world and make use of real-world elements during gameplay – which blur the boundary more than a little. (Enough so that a number of them have been manipulated by various sponsoring entities to achieve real-world goals. Amazing what people will do for progress towards an achievement…)

And then, of course, there was the Lord Blackfall incident.

…And Your Enemies Closer

“Among the torang, when crisis strikes, it is safer to be among your enemies than among your friends. A friendly torangta may expect you to sacrifice yourself in the name of the friend-group; an enemy will keep you alive as an assertion of superiority.”

– To See The Outer Worlds And Live!, Peregrine Press, 7930

Trope-a-Day: Galactic Superpower

Galactic Superpower: Somewhat true, in the “United Nations” sense, since the Accord of Galactic Polities doesn’t actually wield all that much power over the Associated Worlds, but the Associated Worlds do make up the majority of the setting. (Less so in numbers, given the presence of the 4/5ths as large Voniensa Republic, but more so in terms of attention paid and interesting things happening.) Averted, however, inasmuch as the Empire is a mere few hundred systems among ten-thousand, even if they are the largest polity of the Worlds and one that punches well above its weight militarily, economically, and culturally.


“That?” Cathál glanced at the slate-blue pipe in question, then down at her slate. “Water coolant source for distillation unit 02-367, tap off main section 11-9120, return through 02-3683, automatic flow valve controlled by sector utility server #2, manual cutoff accessible via service panel 02-38.”

“Distillation unit? This isn’t a machinery section.”

“Not that kind of distillation unit. It’s a… personal still.” Seeing her apprentice’s still-confused expression, she continued. “A starshine still.”

“You have those on the plans?”

She looked at him appraisingly. “You’re new-up, aren’t you?”

“First spaceside rotation, yeah. What’s that –”

“Look around you. The hab’s maybe two-thirds, or a little more, plumbing by mass. All kinds. Potable, non-potable, gray, black, steam, rad-hot, loaded, non-aqueous – hell, we’ve got reactor lines in section one circulating liquid sodium. People around here get all kinds of upset when they find a pipe that’s not on the plans, especially if they don’t know what it’s for or what’s in it. So we have an Agreement. We agree to put all the, um, unofficial plumbing on the master plans and hook it into the control systems, and the adminisphere agrees not to bug us about it unless it causes a genuine issue.”

“And it’s still unofficial?”

“Surely. But it’s officially unofficial.”


In Which Reality Is Exactly As Strange As Fiction

In today’s news, it turns out MSNBC’s legal correspondent, Ari Melber, has proposed treating “fake news”, or more technically “disprovable media claims” as a species of fraud along the same lines as fraudulent advertising – and therefore something the FTC can protect the public from.

Long-time readers may notice a certain similarity to the Empire’s  long-standing principle that “the freedom of speech is not the freedom to deceive” that establishes lies on matters of fact as criminal fraud, only aggravated by the number of people you’re lying to.

It’s just a more limited (concentrating only on “deceptive businesses” and keeping the government away from “actual journalists” and “citizens exercising their right to lie” – O tempora! O mores!) and government-centered (rather than creating a cause of action for anyone lied to) version of it. Which differences probably make it worthless anyway, but just in case anyone’s getting ideas from my fictional politics…

…it works there because of a millennia-old tradition of intellectual integrity (“right to lie, indeed!”) and of principled valxíjir and of not being a bunch of malevolent means-justifying sons-of-bitches. Both I and my fourth-wall-breaking characters strongly anti-endorse the notion for use here, where approximately none of those conditions hold true.