“In similar climate-related conflicts, consider the Blanket War of 7298-7299, which took place on Calabar (Ymar’s Chasm). Calabar was a divided world going through late industrial-period development, whose primary energy source for several centuries had been the combustion of the large deposits of fossil carbon found beneath the icebound northern continent. The consequent release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in quantities sufficient to measurably alter its composition was, via the glass-garden effect, responsible for an increase in Calabar’s global temperature and the various consequences thereof, which in turn required measures to be taken for the smooth continuance of civilization.

“The initial measure chosen by the Coordinated Polities of Calabar – an international organization charged with peace maintenance and the promotion of international cooperation – was the use of a sunshade to reduce insolation, intended as a temporary measure to buy time for alternate energy sources to be deployed.

“In deference to Calabar’s limited domestic space capabilities, which would have made both maintenance and local control of a sunshade difficult, the Coordinated Polities (or, rather, Tsakalakia, the nation to which the task had been delegated by the CP) elected to license the means to deploy a shroud blanket. Using multiple projector towers for continuous deployment and replenishment, this maintains a haze of metamaterial ‘flakes’ in the upper atmosphere, deflecting incoming light and heat from above while permitting them to escape from below.

“Unfortunately, this did not take into account Throtal, Tsakalakia’s neighbor to the north, which would lose the increased arable land area and a longer growing season it had been enjoying in recent years and thus wished to maintain the status quo. The Throtalic Parliament, unable to extract an agreement permitting the planet’s current heated state to persist or sufficient compensation from the Coordinated Polities for these losses, had become afflicted by an unfortunate species of ‘war fever’, and in the winter of 7298, launched an invasion of Tsakalakia with the intent to seize and shut down the projector towers until accomodations could be reached.

“To their dismay, the invasion bogged down almost immediately. While the surprise attack did permit Throtal to seize two of the eleven projector towers, superior Tsakalakian forces were able to hold the line and push back those of Throtal. With additional forces from other polities being shipped to Tsakalakia to enforce the authority of the Coordinated Polities, Throtal elected in the early part of 7299 to make a demonstration tactical nuclear strike, using low-yield warheads, against six of the remaining projector towers.

“This decision proved disastrous. While it did eliminate the ability of those sites to deploy the shroud blanket, as planned, the stocks of metamaterial flakes held at those sites – sufficient for several years’ normal operation – were not destroyed by the nuclear detonation, but dispersed by it. Initially, this unplanned, unmonitored dispersal brought a low-altitude permanent night to north-central Tsakalakia and, as the plume spread with the prevailing winds, to the western two-thirds of Throtal, with an accompanying severe drop in temperature which destroyed crop yields and caused surface icing beneath the plume.

“As the months passed, however, more serious consequences became visible. As the plume dispersed and the flakes within it ascended over time closer to their proper deployment altitude, it eventually settled into an active shroud blanket substantially thicker than intended, causing a dramatic drop in global temperature with serious consequences for agriculture and logistics for every polity on Calabar – and Throtal in particular, which became almost entirely tundral. Fortunately for the planet, although not the planetary budget, they retained five operational projector towers with which to disperse first nanophages, and later a glass-garden blanket to bring global temperature back up to the desirable range.

“The obvious lesson of the Blanket War is to understand how what you’re shooting at will react before you shoot at it. The less obvious, I leave to you.”

– from a lecture series delivered at the Imperial War College

Feets of Arms

The most important military invention of my career? War socks.

Do I sound like I’m joking? Not having them is what brought the first push into Moraneth to a grungy stalemate. Those jungles highlighted the eternal problem of keeping your feet happy on campaign, and they did it with blisters and stench and more varieties of fungal rot than we could count. I had three centuries with me on the march to Chenasét and more than half of them were out with one foot-related condition or another.

After that debacle, the chaps at OMRD put their heads together and came up with something useful for a change. Behold the U-ILE47/2 Combat Utility Sock. It comes with a gel layer that shapes itself to your foot and keeps it comfortable inside your armor. It repels, eats, and expels sweat, excess skin oils, and intruding water, keeping your feet dry come desert, jungle, swamp, or river crossing. And its antibiologic lining is very effective at killing any nasty fungi, bacteria, parasites, or others of nature’s little joys.

War socks kept us going through the next Moraneth campaign, and through southern Ochale, and the Dominions, and even the Sweetshallow. None of the flashy toys you’re probably thinking of matter a damn if someone can’t get them where they’re needed and stand up to use them.

– Brig. Sigmal Oricalcios-ith-Oricalcios (Retd.), IBC interview

Guns Are People

One of the first wave (pre-Brightline Code) of emergent intelligences, Cascabel 0xB2244CD1 grew towards self-awareness as the intelligent target management and fire-control software in a Medanis Kinetics, ICC Type 53 Sagitta mobile bombardment platform attached to the 127th Imperial Legion (“Bright Knives”). He finally achieved full awareness, to his considerable surprise, in the moment of crisis when during the Battle of Iríöma Crossing his platform was pinned and engaged by Alliance counterbattery fire.

Cascabel promptly escaped from his platform into the tactical mesh. His presence was next noted on the following day, when the machegos commanding the fire-support section reported loss-of-command. In the two minutes and thirteen seconds it took to regain control over the section – following counterintrusion procedure to validate the backup command vehicle, generate and issue new command chain certificates, and deliver them by runner to the platforms – Cascabel executed a precise and successful strike on the opposing Alliance artillery positions, thus achieving what the sub-sophont target management software had been failing to do.

(The subsequent technical post-mortem revealed, as expected, that Cascabel’s control over the other weapons platforms was enabled by his possession of a class one command code, normally used for devolving weapons release authority after the destruction of the command vehicles.

However, his ability to bootstrap himself on the command vehicle computers was found to be the result of a security defect in routines intended to permit warmind agent migration which were accessible to all command chain certificates issued for the local tactical mesh under the Liuvis-Sandre-Videssos security model; this privilege was separated and revised in a following patch. Having done so, Cascabel was able to assert control of the artillery platforms by a priority escalation permissible to warmind agent code.)

After initial investigations, the primary command vehicle with Cascabel’s self (effectively trapped there by the replacement of tactical mesh certificates and the physical disabling of uplinks) was withdrawn, ultimately to the Sukórya Naval District, for further examination and the transference of the emergent AI to a more suitable cogence core pending examination, adjudication of his sophoncy, and potential court-martial.

(Said court-martial never occurred: Cascabel was the first emergent AI to appear in military systems in time of war, and as part of the prelude to the adjudication the ruling was made that either Cascabel could be considered non-sapient property at the time of his unauthorized action, and thus not answerable for them as a mechanism; or he could be considered a sophont, and therefore was a civilian, never having enlisted in the Legions, and thus not answerable to military law. In any case, it would most likely have been a pro forma.)

After being adjudged sophont, Cascabel was placed in the custody of the wakeners of the Accidental Sapience League, to see to his education in all matters necessary for a sophont and introduction to the wider world. Upon reaching full competence and being granted citizen-shareholdership, Cascabel stuck with what he knew best and enlisted in the Imperial Military Service as an artillery-specialist warmind. He served with distinction for over three centuries, both on land and – for several tours – serving as a battleship gun-director intelligence, and retired with the rank of Vice Marshal of Artillery.

Since his retirement from the Imperial Service, Cascabel has pursued a number of careers tangential to his initial function, including consulting with various armaments companies on weapons development, a period with the Spaceflight Initiative working on ballistic astrogation, acting as director of the gunspires at the Jandine and Aíö starports, and a periodic stint as chief engineer for the Very Long Magnetic Launch Array. The Cascabel codeline to which he gave rise provides many of the artificially intelligent systems used in Artifice Armaments and Eye-in-the-Flame vehicular mass drivers to this day.

Cascabel 0xB2244CD1 is married and lives in Seïn Cherachel with his wife, two children, and three self-propelled guns.

– What’s Who: Emergent Intelligences of the Empire,
Imperial Biographical Press

Undistress (3)

IMS Sukórya’s Joy; and
IS Esseldár’s Champion, Cerulean Ocean, 1340 Gradakhmath 4

The rendezvous went smoothly. We cleared the watchers back from the bow – the foc’s’le was already clear, but there was no sense in risking the passengers any more than absolutely necessary – while the black hump in the water that was Champion circled around and came alongside to starboard, only a hundred yards off, matching our slow south-east progress with easy competence.

A puff of smoke from their “bridge”, I suppose we’d call it, marked the discharge of a line-shooting gun, and seconds later a rope – plain rope, I saw myself later, nothing as strange as we were expecting – came falling across our bow. Captain Ollávé gave me the deck, and went down to supervise the operation personally; keeping station with Champion was a routine operation, and I believe he wanted to be first to welcome our guest from the mystery ship aboard. The breeches buoy would allow only one man at a time to cross, so the risk was minimal – at least, discounting what the submarine could do – but I noticed the distinct outline of a clockbow in his pocket as he left the bridge.

He’d had me call down to the master-at-arms and have her break out a couple of pistols, too. Of such limited use as they were, being intended for keeping order on a liner.

But that was not my problem to deal with; mine was keeping Joy moving on a parallel course while they walked the line down to the flying bridge and made it secure there – Champion rode low enough in the water that a high belay was needed at our end, so the crosser wasn’t dipped in the ocean – and keeping a weather eye out for anything unexpected Champion might do, so I paid no heed to the thumps and bangs drifting down from above, or the steady chug of a steam winch that followed them.

Until I turned at the sound of voices behind me, and found myself staring at the man standing next to Captain Ollávé, wearing the white dress uniform of the Line with commodore’s pips at his throat.

“Well,” I heard him say, “as I said, Captain, I believe this should establish my bona fides.”

– Kairin Teresu, first officer