There are those who accuse us of being shamelessly manipulative. Of always subtly and secretly weaving our webs of contract and obligation, favor and xicé, ideas and influence to make the world come out just exactly the way we want it.
To these people I say: you are absolutely correct, of course. How else would anything get done in a mature and civilized society? A few words here, a quiet whisper there, which together with some mutually advantageous deals done yonder move the world towards betterment – this is surely the very height of civilization.
At its best, the Great Game turns what might otherwise breed conflict and resentment into a series of elegant positive-sum intrigues which all can be proud of their association with, and the architects of whom may be admired for the accomplishments of their cunning, not loathed for their violations of the Contract. At its worst, it is still not the use of force.
There are those, too, who claim that we apply our manipulatory arts to every other race in the known galaxy, subjecting them to our intrigues will they, nil they. This claim, in its former part, is accurate. We have yet to meet any part of the galaxy – including our own – that does not brook some improvement.
As for the latter? It is true that we offer access to tools, ideas, and contracts without troubling ourselves overmuch whether the recipient would have sought them out on their own, but nonetheless, we offer. We do not compel. It is true that to decline may not be to the recipients’ ultimate advantage, but opportunity cost is implicit in time’s arrow, not in the opportunities to which it is attached.
To complain that we are harming them by offering them greater possibility is assuredly mere squallery even by the lax standards of the Periphery.
(And it’s even less fun being a pronoid conspiracy theorist.)
– Apologia pro Imperium Meum, published anonymously
“We should not hate our enemies. Hatred is a poison which, like acid, eats away at the integrity of the spirit, to the destruction of those who indulge it. Rather, we should seek to understand our enemies, such that we may encompass the regrettable necessity of their annihilation with a clear and cold mind.
“…or, should this be too much to achieve, engage the services of an assassin. Professional detachment isn’t a perfect substitute for personal cold-mindedness, but it will do in a pinch.”
– the Gentlesoph’s Little Book of Vendetta, published anonymously, 341
bloodshits: A slangy, less polite name for the bloody flux, a rather unpleasant form of severe gastroenteritis.
di-clad: Coated in diamondoid or diamondoid-family materials.
electron plumbing: the thermionic valve equivalent of integrated circuits, intended for use in high-power and EMP-resistant applications.
“Empress’s word”: An implication of conspiracy or secrecy that must be maintained at all costs. The implication (referring back to Valentia I Amanyr), is that to break the Empress’s word is to condemn yourself to death.
glowful: An informal term meaning “good”, “pleasant”, etc. Has a greater overtone of specifically “pleasant”, or “emotionally/hedonically appealing” than shiny, which compare.
hedge-parking: In autonomous vehicle design, the practice of securing arrival time by overbooking a number of physical parking spaces based on the users’ urgency, preferences of timing, location, flexibility, and willingness to pay, then offloading the unused spaces (if possible) on the parking spot market at the last minute.
matter-shop: Slang; a neighborhood autofac/JITPOS center, especially one with JITINV capabilities.
orbital level: For the purposes of space traffic control, the space from immediately above the atmospheric height (rounded off) to geosynchronous orbit is divided into so-called orbital levels, altitude bands 10 miles apart, numbered from the bottom up.
perfect moron: The theoretical worst computer possible; one which performs one bit-transformation using the entire mass of the universe over its entire lifespan.
space scurvy: Nutritional deficiencies or toxicities caused by consuming food sourced from worlds and/or habitats incompletely compatible or incompatible with one’s own nutritional requirements and/or limitations. See biocode.
sparkhead: A direct brain-stimulation addict, especially a wire-point addict.
weak superintelligence: A superintelligence which is merely lower intelligence run at vastly higher clock speeds, without qualitative cognitive advantage.
While that would probably make a decent story title, sad to say, this isn’t one.
As you may have noticed, my output has been down in recent months, and really down this last month in particular.
Why, you ask? Well, because so am I. Which is to say, in despite of medication, my depression is kicking my ass right now. On some days, to the ol’ “been staring at nothing for six hours trying to find motivation to do anything useful” degree. This is, as I hope you can appreciate, somewhat problematic where writing is concerned, inasmuch as my muse appears to have declared this Altogether Too Much Trouble To Deal With and buggered off until the local climate improves.
Why, then, you also ask, am I whining about it to you?
Well, for my loyal Patreon and Liberapay patrons, so you can be aware that this is the situation, that I don’t know when it’s going to improve, and that you may wish to, and should feel entirely free to, suspend or cancel your payments. After all, the deal is money in exchange for value, and since I can’t provide the value right now, I do not wish to take your money. Not until I get my mojo back, anyway.
justonce breaker / justonce bar / justonce stop / etc.: Engineering jargon. A justonce in any of its forms – be it the hardline switch or insertable bus-bar that bypasses circuit overload protection, the stop valve that seals off pressure-relief valves, or the disabling of thermal trips is the manual override which permits equipment to continue operating even when doing so will result in damage to equipment, personnel, or the surrounding area – even, in its most common military applications, to the entire containing vessel.
The justonce, naturally, is intended to be used only in situations where the risks and consequences of having a given piece of equipment out of action are outweigh the risks and consequences of it failing catastrophically.
The unusual name for these devices refers to a cynical saying common in the Imperial Military Service: “Doesn’t matter what they’ve got; you can’t explode twice.”
“Othalbar SysCon, this is ISStar of Miragrann preparing to initiate fittle-flight per filed intentions. Please reconfirm entry vector.”
“Star of Miragrann, SysCon. We show you initiating fittle-flight at 8201-06-09:2+11-54. We confirm your entry vector as computed and valid for twelve-pulse window. You are clear for entry at your discretion; squawk null. Good hunting! Over.”
“SysCon, squawking all zeroes. We’ll bring you back a present. Star of Miragrann, clear.”
Captain Sarizar looked out over his bridge, and smiled slightly. “By the book, people. Run the clock.” Punching the button for a direct line to the maneuvering room, he added, “Ninety percent power, please.”
“Extending frameslip ring.”
The flight geometry display over his Exec’s head showed the struts which mounted the segments of the frameslip ring slipping out from their sub-light positions alongside the ship, moving the fittler’s nodes to their optimal position for the envelope, when the maneuvering watch came over the intercom.
“Reactors ramping. You have sixty percent power.”
The sailing master had the next set of checks.
“Auxiliary drives show shutdown and are safed for transit. Vector-control core switching to frameslip mode.”
“You have seventy percent power.”
Back to the Exec, and then over to Relativistics. The flight geometry display was now, indeed, indicating full extension and all segments locked in place.
“Frameslip ring is extended and locked. All external sensors show zone clear.”
“Preferential-frame buffers integrated and synchronized. Frame trap executed. Geodesic trajectory successfully mapped to empire-time manifold.”
“You have eighty percent power.”
It was all in the sailing master’s hands now. Well, the sailing master’s programming’s hands…
“All stations report secure for transit. Vector-control manager confirms frameslip mode active. Board reads blue across. We are ready for entry commit.”
“You have eighty-five percent power.”
“We are now entering the entry window. Timer abort set.”
“You have ninety percent power, and holding.”
A last glance around at his repeater displays, and Captain Sarizar performed his primary, and indeed only required, action in the fittle entry checklist: “Commit.”
“Entry is go on autosequencer. Envelope forming. Fittle in three, two, one –“
The sensations of a normal entry surrounded him, the rising hum of the drive coupled with the creaking of the hull and the peculiar and familiar twitch in the guts as the forming drive envelope’s side lobes tickled the starship’s interior —
And then —
A thunderclap from astern, the sound of an inconveniently inconceivable amount of energy being dumped into whatever buffers and sinks were available.
The sickening sensation of an uncontrolled envelope collapse, as the space-time stress that had been pumped into the drive envelope relapsed, converting itself to gravity waves – fortunately, almost entirely directed outward.
The hissing roar of untold gallons of thermal goo vaporizing and pouring unimpeded into space.
And, in contrast to those, the sound of his crew taking all the correct actions when all those things happened.
“Null engage. We have a null engage. Autosequencer reports successful entry abort, core spindown in progress –“
“– running flash-accumulator bleed-down, preparing to vent secondary heatsinks –“
“– transmitting splash advisory on guard channel –“
He punched for external communications.
“Othalbar SysCon, Star of Miragrann. We have experienced a null engage. We’re holding orbit and running an interference manifold computation” – he glanced over at Astrogation, unnecessarily confirming that his astrogator was already on it – “up here, and we’d appreciate it if you could do the same on the big brass. Data follows. Our intentions are to recompute entry and execute as soon as we have reliable data.
“Also, if the interference manifold matches available flight records, we’d appreciate the address of record for whatever chesdinye durchevi didn’t bother to file a flight plan.”
“Why will we use green lasers for starwisp and light sail propulsion?
“Because stars aren’t green. Can’t be green, in fact, because a black-body spectrum that peaks in the green is broad enough that there’s plenty of other-colored light to make it not sum to green. That makes green the least stealthy color in space.
“So when you’re going to be shining a few hundred terawatts into someone else’s star system, a monochromatic 530 nm green is as good as it gets in letting them know up front that you aren’t trying to sneak something in on them.”