Outsize

“Finally, let us turn to the biggest megaships of them all, the fleet carriers. Including them in this work is a choice which I expect to be somewhat controversial – many would argue that a fleet carrier is a formation, not a vessel – but with respect to those readers who may hold that position, since the Imperial Navy treats fleet carriers as a single vessel for asset accounting and command designation purposes, so in turn shall I.

“Let us begin with a look at the history of the type. Fleet carriers were not known before the Exterminomachy (5782-5901). While before that time lighthuggers had met with occasional hostility, they had proven more than capable of defending themselves against local system defense forces, in particular with the Perreinar Wheel1 – and in those cases where they were not, it was because they had encountered a Power not readily opposed by pure military force. This changed with the arrival of the skrandar berserker probes, whose numbers and willingness to embrace suicide tactics made them a serious threat to even well-defended vessels, and eliminating breeding site for which required the transport of full task forces to their host systems.

“The first fleet carriers, then, were improvisations; lighthuggers pressed into service under the right of angary. Stripped down by removing all cargo capacity, much crew space, and all other less-than-essential facilities, and enhancing their fuel capacity with multiple drop tanks, it became possible to clamp a small number of light units – overstocked with fuel and supplies – to the spine of such a vessel, and have it haul them slowly and painfully to a target system.

“Such crude improvisations were fraught with problems, from wear and tear on ships and crew during the slow transit, to the risk of interception before the transported units could free themselves from the carrier – both due to the inefficiency of the mechanical clamps, and the need to cut clamps frozen in transit or actual hard welds used where clamps would not suffice, to even entire vessels lost from the carrier in transit. (The last of these to be recovered, CS Bloodwashed3, was salvaged with all hands in 6722.)

“Fortunately, by the third year of the Exterminomachy, new designs were emerging from the cageworks at Ashen Planitia and Armory. The second-generation fleet carriers were custom-built starships, or rather, the specialized elements (the “propulsion head” and “collier module”) were, since the second generation eschewed the rigid designs of the first in exchange for dispersed tensegrity structures.

“In effect, the starships transported by the fleet carrier, along with the specialized elements, formed the floating compression struts of the overall structure, while being linked by braided cables (derived from orbital elevator technology) into a unified structure. The majority of the propulsive thrust is provided by the dedicated propulsion heads, while specialized fleet mediator software enables the use of the drives of the various carried ships to balance the structure and correct attitude. Meanwhile, supplies carried in the collier modules, distributed by rigged flexpipe and by cable-crawling logistics robots, eliminated the need to overload any individual ship with supplies, and indeed enabled the transportation of greater volumes of fuel and replenishment. Moreover, such fleet carriers could separate instantly if intercepted by simply blowing the explosive cable-couplers and engaging their drives independently, the dispersed tensegrity structure providing adequate safety separation for this.

“Such dispersed-design fleet carriers served with distinction throughout the remainder of the Exterminomachy, and have remained a key element of IN subluminal doctrine since. While there exist a third generation of fleet carrier designs, these merely reflect the evolution in technological reliability that allows the physical cables of the second generation to be replaced with vector-control tractor-pressor beams, and does not reflect any change in fundamental design or doctrine.

“As ad hoc structures, of course, it would be incorrect to say that fleet carriers have classes, in the strictest sense. However, the individual propulsion heads and collier modules, the former full starships in themselves, do. Thus, we shall begin our examination of fleet carriers with a look at the most common propulsion head in Imperial service, the Legends-class…”

– Megaships of the Imperium, Lorvis Maric, pub. 7290


  1. Perreinar2 Wheel: a fight-and-flight maneuver in which a lighthugger puts its stern towards the battle and engages its interstellar drive, thus retreating from the engagement while simultaneously treating the enemy to the close-range efflux of a pion drive – a situation which is very rarely survivable for anything larger than a baryon.
  2. From the eponymous horse archers who had perfected the “Perreinar shot” centuries before.
  3. Lost in the wreck of CS Cúlíän Daphnotarthius, which suffered a structural collapse of the spine while outward bound to IGS 31238 in the second year of the war.

Social Diseases

cognitive osmosis: The process, according to rumor, by which farspeech or other telepathic or techlepathic contact, especially the forms based in the exchange of neural gestalts, with the stupid causes one, oneself, to become less intelligent.

(Curiously, none of these stories ever suggests that this process makes the stupid themselves more intelligent.)

While having no basis whatsoever in sophontology, noetics, cerebroergetics, neuroscience, or indeed anything else but the unpleasant psychic odor of ill-formed thoughtforms, it remains an occasional phobia, a common urban legend, and a popular insult among everyone who has ever felt the urge to demand to know why they are surrounded by these incompetent fools.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

Elementary, My Dear Reader

This wasn’t what I intended to post next, but I’m still working on the “fleet carriers” post. In the meantime, have some more words.

So, among the basic words in a language, certainly for chemists, are those for various substances, and this is as true in Eldraeic as it is for any other language.

If we are to begin at the beginning, it would be with the classical elements, which in the Old Empires region were usually held to be six: air, fire (andra), water (alír), wood, metal, and stone (azik). But that is not quite enough to describe anything but what were, in the ancient days, considered the most fundamental substances, it being their combinations that gave rise to all the myriad components of the world.

And so, in the next step down, the first eldraeic alchemists divided substances into airs (gases), clays (“woody earths”, of which there seemed to be rather a lot), crystals (“metallic stones”, likewise), fires, metals, oils (“fiery waters”), salts (“stony waters”), waters, woods, and stones, thus:

  • aessoth: a (type of) crystal; any crystalline (to the eye) substance
    (from aesa “crystal” + oth “substance, stuff”)
  • alíroth: a (type of) water; any watery substance
    (from alír “water” + oth)
  • azikoth: a (type of) stone; any stony substance
    (from azik “rock, stone” + oth)
  • claithalíroth: a (type of) oil; any oily substance
    (“dark/shadowed water”, from claith “shadow” + alíroth)
  • ésaeroth: a (type of) salt; any salt or similar substance
    (“many little crystals”; from é [diminutive prefix] + aesa + oth)
  • múszikoth: a (type of) clay; any clay-like or earthy substance
    (from músel “soft” + azikoth)
  • nistraöth: a (type of) metal; any metallic substance
    (from nistra “forge” + oth)
  • teliroth: a (type of) air; any airy substance, or gas
    (from telír “sky” + oth)
  • lethroth: a (type of) wood; any woody or fleshy substance
    (from leth “life” + oth; note that lethroth includes both wood and meat, as the classical element does)

There is also:

  • andradoth: a (type of) fire; any fiery substance

Resulting from the common ancient confusion that fire is an element, rather than a process. Although while not substances, it is still possible to consider various different types of fire (i.e., different combustion reactions) and arguably plasmas as subcategories of andradoth.

To provide a comprehensive list of substances would of course be a virtually endless task, but let’s simply start with the metals, of which there were a pleasantly limited number known in ancient days:

  • andralis: uranium (“fire-metal”; it’s warm to the touch)
  • arídanis: gold (“sun-metal”; from the color)
  • ashínis: silver (“star-metal”)
  • brans: iron; also bransael, steel, and telbrans (“sky-iron”), meteoric iron.
  • glénis: tin (“key-metal”, so called because it unlocks the potential of other metals, such as copper and lead)
  • morins: copper (“red-metal”; from the color)
  • púlnónis: lead (“mass-metal”; obviously, it’s heavy)
  • traäshínis alír (“star-metal water”): mercury

And there you are. Go forth, and talk about stuff!

Eldraeic Word of the Day: Lechné

lechné: sweat, perspiration; technically, lechné refers to any fluid intentionally used to carry heat away by evaporation, and so cooling water for planetary power reactors, liquid hydrogen coolant used for evaporative hull cooling, and so forth, can all be described as lechné, as well as the original referent, biological secretions used for this purpose.

For-Profit Orbit

From: Qory Estenv, Flight Overadministrator
To: All Astronauts

In response to your request for clarification about the Initiative’s “souvenir policy”, we don’t particularly care if you want to shove a box of postcards, or vanity coins, or model kits of the Phoenix, or whatever else you like in your personal mass-allowance to make an esteyn or two.

We’re going to be cramming any spare cargo mass/volume we can find with our own official souvenirs, after all, and telling the people who’ve volunteered to ride a stack of bombs into space they can’t do the same would hardly be square play.

However:

Flight Dynamics has informed me that he will personally throw the owner of anything that doesn’t show up on his mass-balance charts out of the airlock.

Inventory & Materiel Test were less colorful about it, but their response was substantively the same.

And both Accounting and I, as your obligator, would request that if you come up with a scheme that makes the kind of money that’d show up in the Initiative’s budget — share the wealth with the ones that flew you, okay?

– a sign once posted at SIFC,
from the Spaceflight Initiative archives

Nope, It’s A Bridge

Many of you, gentle readers, are also devotees of the Atomic Rockets web site. (As well you should be, if you are interested in matters rockety.) And, of course, you may have noted the Atomic Rockets Seal of Approval off in the right-hand column.

But today I’m going to talk about a place where I find myself, and the ‘verse, disagreeing with it. Specifically, with “It is a CIC Not a Bridge“. For convenience, I’m going to quote from it here:

That round room in the Starship Enterprise? The one they call the “Bridge?” Wrong term, that thing is a Combat Information Center (CIC). On a real wet-navy vessel, the bridge is a tiny two-station place used to control the the movement of the ship. It only had stations for the navigation and helm.

In other words, the “bridge” on the Starship Enterprise is that little console that Sulu and Chekov sit at.

The CIC is where all the data from the sensors, scoutships, intelligence agencies, central command, and other ships is gathered and evaluated. The important information is passed to the captain along with tactical suggestions. Exactly the way Uhura, Scotty, and Mr. Spock pass information and tactical suggestions to Captain Kirk.

http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/misconceptions.php#id–It_is_a_CIC_not_a_Bridge

So, here’s the thing. It’s actually slightly more complicated than that. There are three places on a wet navy vessel all of which do things that people think of as functions of “the bridge”.

There is the CIC, as described above. It’s the information-gathering and decision-making center.

Then there is the wheelhouse, which is where the ship’s movement is controlled from. This, on ships that had a bridge, was usually buried down inside the hull or beneath the superstructure – for one simple reason. You don’t want it shot off. If you lose the wheelhouse, you can’t command the ship any more, so you don’t want it somewhere vulnerable.

And then there is the bridge, which is the place you conn the ship from. It’s up high at the front of the superstructure with generous wings, etc., because its requirement is that you be able to see what the ship’s doing in order to command it.

(On a merchant ship, you probably don’t need a protected CIC, and since you don’t expect anyone to shoot your bridge off, you may have the engine-room telegraphs and wheel up there in one place. On navy vessels, on the other hand, instead of passing engine orders and steering directly, you have a bridge talker yelling “Port 40! Half ahead both!” down voice tubes to the wheelhouse.

On the other hand, the bridge is also exposed to heavy weather, so merchies that expect to encounter the rough stuff may still have a separate wheelhouse. This was actually where they first came from.)

In a historical digression, incidentally, the original bridge is an evolution of what was originally the quarter deck, the raised deck at the stern, on sailing ships. When it became more important to avoid your own smoke than see what your sails were doing, which is to say, as we moved from sail to steam, the raised area moved for’ard and became the bridge as we know it today.

As for the wheelhouse, that came from sailing ship designs in which the poop deck (the highest deck at the stern, typically forming the roof of the stern cabin) was extended forward to cover the quarter deck and the ship’s wheel, on the entirely reasonable grounds that in a storm, it’s easier to steer without being out in the full blast of wind and wave, and in battle, it’s much easier to steer if you have some protection from being shot.

So let’s bring this back around to starships.

You don’t need a bridge in the above sense. As it says further up that page, Rockets Don’t Got Windows – given space ranges and instrumentation, you are never going to be trying to conn the ship with your Mark I Eyeball, which is essentially what a bridge up high is for. Your best view is going to come from sensors, but they can be read just as easily from the CIC, buried deep in the center of the hull for maximum protection.

(Why did the Enterprise designers perch the bridge right up at the top of the saucer, with about three feet between the back of the fancy digital sensor-feed-showing viewscreen and hard vacuum, right where any Tom, Dick, or Kang could shoot at it conveniently? Were they all Romulan spies?)

Do you need a separate wheelhouse? Well, given that starships are certainly going to have fancy electronic controls rather than the hydraulic/pneumatic/etc., systems that imposed constraints on the position of wet navy wheelhouses vis-a-vis the CIC – usually buried down in the bottom of the ship where the armor is thick – I’m going to say probably not. The CIC’s already in the safest place, per above.

(You may have a maneuvering room, as they call the place on submarines, where the engineers translate your requests into detailed instructions to the engines, and given that a starship ACS is probably also rocket engines of some sort, that may also be handled from there – but that’s a different function.)

You are going to have a CIC, because you still need somewhere to coordinate information, make decisions. In my opinion, it will probably also be the wheelhouse (after all, as in the Enterprise example above, it’s just one console, and since the maneuvering orders are going to come from the officer on watch in the CIC anyway, why make him shout any further than he has to?).

The only question is whether it will be called the CIC. The above (combined CIC/wheelhouse) is essentially the arrangement they use on submarines today (where it is called the control room; the bridge is the place you can stand at the top of the conning tower when the boat’s on the surface).

That may be likely nomenclature for starships, too. (Nothing especially that civilian starships are unlikely to have a Combat Information Center.)

On the other hand, the Imperial Navy, and their merchant tradition, call it the bridge. Why? Well, unlike our submarines, there isn’t another bridge somewhere to clash with it – and you get your best view of what’s around from it – and in the meantime, it’s a name that’s got centuries, indeed millennia, of tradition behind it as The Place From Which Ships Are Commanded. It’s a word, in a nutshell, that’s got weight.

And since you’re combining all the functions back together, as they were in the beginning, that counts plenty.

The quarter deck, on the other hand, that’s somewhere else.

They Fear Neither Death Nor Pain

It has been asked in various places what scares Imperial sophonts the most. Herewith is the answer:

As a side-note, you will observed that the answers here are mostly existential, not physical. Physical fear never had much hold on the eldraeic psyche in the first place (none at all, for those with access to battletrance or other high-order counterphobotics), so it doesn’t rank high enough to make it onto the list.

In roughly ascending order, then:

  • Ignorance
  • Loss of control (minor)
  • Permadeath
  • Wilful ignorance (i.e., becoming the sort of person who would indulge that)
  • Loss of control (major); submission
  • An end to ambition
  • Loss or corruption of identity, or of will

Of course, in a very real sense, and speaking for the culture as a whole, the correct answer is not a damn thing. It’s year N of a long, long Golden Age for the Empire, great and glorious beyond all greatness and glory, the future is brighter still, and nothing seems beyond their grasp.

(This is not a culture, shall we say, lacking in self-confidence.)