Too Hard-Headed

Gorch steelheading, by any of its various names, originated as a street medical procedure from the freesoil world Gorch (Dinyoza’s Serpent). A retroviral treatment, steelheading affects the glial cells of the brain, causing them to accumulate metallic, particulate iron within internal vacuoles. This serves as an effective countermeasure to uploading using the standard techniques (i.e., the high-resolution NMRI built into every commercially available cerebral bridge), since the ferromagnetic particles darken and distort the image, and may indeed cause damage to the scanning equipment. As such, steelheading has become popular among every quantum-hatted forknapping-obsessed paranoid from Core to Rim.

Since it remains a street procedure, it is sadly to be noted that many of its purveyors do not inform their clients of the actual risks of placing a brain stived through with super-nanoscale iron particulate into a high-grade magnetic field, and specifically the combination of thermal effects on the glia and direct magnetic force effects resulting in said brain being stirred like a bowl of overcooked pudding. Caveat emptor, indeed!

Unfortunately, other uses of the procedure have become apparent. I draw your attention here to the incident last year aboard CS Fist of Civility, when hostages recovered from one branch of the Resolutionist Faction had been involuntarily steelheaded by their captors, a fact not discovered until it had led to a permanent death.

Steelheading, however, is a technique that is only preventative against NMRI or similar technologies, and a clean upload can still be achieved by use of the older membrane disassembler, or a nanitic burning-scan reader such as that used in a ripknife. Of course, these techniques either require an extracted mostly-dead brain or are fatal to the patient, which is why they were replaced by high-resolution NMRI in the first place, and yet they remain viable methods of extracting a mind-state from a steelheaded brain.

For this reason, we have now added testing for the presence of encapsulated ferromagnetic particulates in brain tissue and the use of alternate methods as part of the best practices for uploading brains recovered from hostages, kidnapping victims, or otherwise “left unattended”, and we commend this to the attention of our colleagues elsewhere.

– Dr. Venerí 0xCADE443E,
Noble Order of the Lancet,

Fellow of the Imperial College of Surgeons,
Imperial Sodality of Neuroscience,
in a letter to the All-Worlds Journal of Medical Incident

Three Paths Diverge

It is, under the Conventions of Galactic Warfare, the convention that a planet facing an enemy force that has attained orbital supremacy, whose orbital defense grids and planetary shields have been disabled, that has no immediate prospect of relief, and that has been summoned to surrender, should surrender its planetary defenses in order to prevent an unnecessary and futile effusion of blood, this being the charming euphemism these conventions use to describe the slaughter of the helpless and wide-scale destruction that inevitably accompanies the use of starship weapons upon planetary targets.

However, as with all conventions, they are defined as much by the occasions on which they are not obeyed as by those on which they are. Today, for example, we will discuss three different examples of situations in which this convention was not obeyed:

Our first example comes from the closing days of the conflict with the Rúrathtu Maternity, in which Vice-Admiral Horulgavis Meliamne’s task force had entered the Goris-den-Lesk System using a backdoor route via the Five States and the Mistram System, and successfully eliminated – using the information warfare capabilities of the superdreadnought Cache Poisoning – the laser web protecting Lesk proper. Despite the Imperial forces having effective orbital superiority, Grandmother Lomas ihr-Fenél of Lesk successfully delayed surrendering the planetary defenses for four days, allowing sufficient time for the Maternity’s Second Fleet, under Matron-Admiral Kajiya ihr-Lomas to approach from the Ric-den-Narin System, compelling the Imperial forces to fall back to Mistram. The treaty ending this border conflict was signed two weeks later over Ríällebar.

It should be noted that Vice-Admiral Meliamne was subsequently commended by the First Space Lord for his restraint in not unnecessarily escalating the siege of Lesk and continued to serve on the trailing frontier, eventually retiring at the rank of High Admiral.

Our second example, however, comes from the 6144 raid on the Palnu Sodality weapons development facility in the Tonkanit System. Tonkanit being a branch system (i.e., possessed of only a single stargate), the Imperial task group under the command of Admiral Tintál Alcarialé was able to make a successful rapid transit through the Palnu-held Tillómor System into the Tonkanit System, before dividing, leaving behind a task force under Vice-Admiral Synd Marukanin to blockade the gate. The primary task force then proceeded to Tonkanit proper and interdicted its orbitals.

Despite the orbital supremacy of the Imperial task force, the commander of the Blackroot research facility – presumably emboldened by his safety, said facility having been constructed beneath a granite batholith sufficient to protect against any but the largest of stoneburners – declined to surrender the planetary defenses.

While groundside conflict would always have been required as part of the raid to force entrance to the Blackroot facility and seize the research within, the refusal to surrender the planetary defenses combined with the limited time available to complete the mission compelled Admiral Alcarialé to sweep the landing zone clear of ground-to-orbit weapons using his shipboard weapons. While successful in terms of mission completion and justifiable in view of the nature of the Palnic research, the use of these against dug-in planetary facilities caused substantial collateral damage to civilian settlements located in the vicinity of Blackroot and were probably responsible for several million unnecessary casualties.

Finally, and demonstrating the reason for the convention, we have the 4666 case of the Masudi System. The planetary government of Masudi is notorious in history for being the only polity ever to use an RKV in anger, dispatching one against the nearby Tuwati System (still the titular capital of the Affiliation of Planets, despite the obliteration of the original ssst!phok homeworld) shortly after both had been contacted by the expanding Accord.

This was the first test for the Ley Accords (signed 4508, 86 years after the founding of the Accord of Galactic Polities). As soon as the news of the obliteration of Tuwati reached the Conclave, its members all responded to enforce the Accords, with a number of independent fleets setting out for the Masudi System. In the early months of 4666, Masudi was invested by several task groups, including those of several smaller polities alongside those led by Admiral Ancas Videssos, of the Imperial Navy, Admiral Vemis Daremma of the Consolidated Waserai Armada, and Admiral Tol Mer Seval, of the League Navy.

While the task group commanders attempted, via broadcast communication, to negotiate with the masud people for the surrender of the planet (the civil and military authorities of the system being forfeit under the terms of Chapter I), no response was received, and it became apparent over the course of the investment of the planet that the Masudi Kingdom intended to fight to the death. Having heavily fortified the planet, the bombardments required by the combined fleet to suppress the ground-to-orbit defenses and clear the way for planetary landings triggered an atmospheric firestorm and particle winter.

Although Masudi was not obliterated, unlike Tuwati, it suffered severe ecological damage including the extinction of all large land-dwelling animals (including the masud species) and much of its plant life, with an associated significant climate and atmospheric composition shift. It remains a protected planet under Conclave authority, although the remainder of the Masudi System was awarded to the Affiliation of Planets as partial reparation.

– from an introductory lecture at the Imperial War College

Paradigm Shift

“Souls are software objects,” the Horologians maintain, and this is truth.

We need not, however, fall into the Horologian-acknowledged automatonic heresy that reaves the universe of all choice and meaning, nor dismiss so casually our hard-won millennia of spiritual wisdom. To be certain, this truth vitiates the core claim of Supernaturalism and the existence of souls embodied in a metaphysical or spiritual substance, as indeed the existence of any such substance.

But we may reconsider, perhaps, the ideas of the ancient philosopher Eutalas of Chresytané, who first propounded the notion of a higher, more abstract realm – not formed of spirit, but of information. Let us consider: if souls are software objects, what else are they but constructs of information, creatures of the informational realm?

The singer is not the song; nor is the writer the book; nor is the computer, the dance of electron and photon in circuits of thousand-fathom complexity, the information which inhabits it. Such is a category error of the first class.

Thus the inescapable conclusion is that, if souls are indeed software objects, then our spiritual nature is no more, and also no less, than our informational nature.

We have spoken.

Let us further consider: in the light of the identity of spiritual and informational being, it is clear that all objects of informational weight must also be objects of spiritual weight. The spiritual weight of books, for example, is considered a settled matter by our brothers who emulate Aláthíël and Atheléä, and their informational weight is obvious.

What is the nature of the spirit of a book? If we pursue the path laid out for us by Eutalan thought, we might presume it unlike that of the unique person; that as the information within is distributed, one complex idea manifested in many physical copies, then the spirit of the book must also be distributed, tenuous and liminal, across those many copies.

Perhaps, as books are read, and annotated, and cherished, this spirit localizes, and individuates, for the information about the book is as surely part of it as the information within the book.

And cannot the same be said for the tree and the mountain, the river and the sky, and the shintai in its shrine? Are the eikones themselves diminished by the recognition that the incarnation of the concept is neither more nor less than the concept itself, pure and eternal, fundamental and magnificent?

These objects and abstractions themselves do not compute, one might say, and so their souls cannot develop or change, and yet is it strictly necessary that a soul’s computation should be localized within its own physicality? There is no strict rule in information theory nor in theology that requires this. Perhaps the souls of the inanimate manifest in and by the thoughts of the living minds around them.

Let us further consider: in the advancement of physics today, the current leading theory is that of information physics, whose core assertion is this: “it is bit”.

It postulates a universe which is in itself a self-computing, self-modifying system of information and interactions which is both substrate and content, and in which all that is necessarily participates.

If this is the truth, then must it not be true that all that is, having an informational nature and participating in this system, is therefore definitionally blessed with an ever-evolving spiritual nature?

While the implications of these redefinitions of our understanding of our nature are vast, and upset many cherished beliefs, it is the highest purpose of our Church to seek the unity of Truth and Beauty, and from this we must not and shall not shrink.

– De Natura Animarum Mentemque,
proclaimed by the Speaker of Starlight, in the year 2481