Entirely the Wrong Level

“Look, if your reaction to a sophont doing psychotically bad things is focused on the instrumentality they used, rather than why on you have a culture prone to psychopathogeny, you are wrong on a level that… well, starshit, you don’t need me to explain it; you need a metaphysicist.”

Sen. Olynthé Amanyr, 1,688th century,
demonstrating the problem with Imperials
appearing on Meridianite chat shows

(Loosely inspired by this and that, et. al.)

The Other Dismal Science

“Good morning, ye earnest seekers of wisdom. I am Reader Olíäth Rian, and I am your primary instructor for this class. Welcome to EX0487, Introduction to the Exosophontology of Mass Coercion. For our foreign students who are now looking confused, you may have seen this class listed under ‘political science’, and you may be in the right place. I shall return to that in a moment.

“It is, I believe, customary at this point to emphasize both that I, and my colleagues, will do everything we can to help you become your absolute best and master the material contained within this course, and yet that should you fail to do so, we will nonetheless crush your hopes mercilessly in the best interests of this institution’s reputation and that of its successful graduates. Since this is a second-level course, however, let us take that as read.

“Before we begin, there is often some confusion concerning precisely what this course is among those, shall we say, less familiar with the local organization of knowledge. Here’s what this class is not: if you want to learn how to run governances, administration is the purview of the Thousand Wisdoms Academy, civil engineering is held in the Cog, the law is on its own subcampus, and so on, and so on. If you’re here to talk, everything from negotiation to manipulation and sophont relations is taught in the applied memetics building; back out the front door, turn left, you can’t miss it — they make sure of that in a first-semester class project every year. And the Imperial War College isn’t on this planet. Meanwhile, if you want to serve your fellow soph, we have an entire business school devoted to that.”

“What it is is a detailed sophontological and sociomemetic study of the techniques used to induce in large populations – from the obvious primal fear, envy, self-righteousness, mistrust, and suchlike to the more philosophically advanced – a belief in self-appointed authorities and their ethical exemptionalism. Or, as one of last year’s outworld students put it rather pithily, ‘how to make people sell themselves into serfdom and pay for the privilege’.

“Now, let me address those few of our students who are – there are always a few – looking at turning our lessons here around into their very own dictator-in-a-box kit. Look to your left. Look to your right. Look to the docuspheres which are even now streaming this lecture to our off-campus students and everyone auditing the class over the extranet. Consider how hopelessly outnumbered you are by the people who are about to learn all the same tricks as you. Good luck. You’re going to need it.

“And finally, before we get started, there is an academic certamen component to this course, so would those students, foreign or otherwise, who have some political theory to defend already go ahead and light up… Now that’s not all of you. Don’t be shy now – you knew when you applied that we treat argument as a blood sport hereabouts.”

– Reader Olíäth Rian welcomes the class of 7240

Intellectual Property

“You don’t need a license for patent S/03218B915. If you’d looked it up, you’d have seen that – it was granted to Cognitech and Biogenesis back in the 2300s. Five-thousand years in the public domain, more or less.”

“So what is it, and why are you killing people over it?”

“‘A Method and System for Artificially Stimulating the Growth of Mature Synaptic Function in the Biosapient Brain While Preventing Logos Iteration’.”

“…which is?”

“How you grow a working brain without a mind in it, and without accidentally getting a mind in it, when the brain requires stimulus and interaction with the world in order to structure itself properly. Very complex, very technical – or it was back in the 2300s – still quite expensive, and ethically critical, of course.”

“I don’t get it.”

“There are two ways to grow a working bioshell. One of them is described in patent number S/03218B915. The other one is to grow yourself a regular kid, let ’em walk and talk and run and jump and play when you aren’t putting them through hard conditioning routines until the crucial brain structures have been laid down. Or grab one off the street, but the customers like their meat fresh.

“Then you hit ’em with enough catacinin or other selective synapse-buggerer to turn their cortex into neuron soup and sell the result as a cheap blank. Usually without a label describing how your low, low prices are the product of murderous industrialized paediculture.”

– an eigeninterview from the Expansion Regions

Cultural Crossovers #19: Avengers: Infinity War

In which TF is thoroughly W’d.

  • This piece of history is really sucking for the Asgardians. Culled twice? (Or three times, by the end.)
  • EBONY MAW, YOU POMPOUS ASS!
  • Oh, Loki. Don’t ever change.
  • Well, that’s a new experience for the Hulk, and I don’t think he cares for it very much.
  • And Heimdall of Asgard dies well.
  • Well, shit. Loki might actually be really dead this time. Never expected to be saying that.
  • And that’s some nice targeting for a dying god.
  • Aw, those crazy kids got back together. Excellent. Shame about the interruption.
  • Man, it would be nice if our universe came with a bunch of convenient ontotech keys. As long as they were in the right hands. Namely, ours.
  • Good cape.
  • What the hell is that, a giant flying cyclotron?
  • Great distraction, kid. Completely indistinguishable from genuine panic. And great cameo.
  • Pompous ass and dumb muscle. Nice pair.
  • Damn, Thanos gave the big guy PTSD.
  • Now that’s some fancy suitage. Pretty sure you can’t actually make one even with our tech, but still. Unless that’s vibranium, maybe.
  • Spider-Man has evidently has time to get used to Starkplanations.
  • Best cape!
  • Ah, that new suit smell. Nice crazy-prep.
  • Light-lag: sucks.
  • Man, we love these guys.
  • Not sure you have god wipers.
  • Drax has quite the man-crush, there.
  • Well, that’s a hell of a thing to bond over. Such magnificent dysfunction.
  • He decimated Xandar? Damn. We liked that place.
  • Nidavellir sounds interesting. Let’s go there. The audience is very much with Rocket, here —
  • Well, okay, except that last bit.
  • It can speak! (Not the mind stone; that we were expecting. The one-man brute squad.)
  • You have a beard now.
  • And Team Freedom And The Right Thing continue to kick ass. Were we expecting any less? We were not.
  • This, presumably, is the culling of Gamora’s homeworld.
  • So, literally killing half the population.
  • That’s a hell of a thing to ask. Even more of one to have to ask.
  • Drax, the Destroyer of Moments.
  • Also, Tivan, what in the universe could you possibly sell an Infinity Stone for?
  • And there I was expecting Drax to play the role of Leroy Jenkins.
  • That was too quick.
  • The reality stone. Right.
  • Okay. That was both messy and awesome.
  • Damn. All that for nothing.
  • And this Ross continues to prioritize being an asshat over, well, reality. Fortunately, Rhodey knows that.
  • Thank you, Cap, for continuing to be the voice of ethics.
  • Shuri built you a new arm! Can’t wait to see how this one performs.
  • I’m guessing you missed hearing about the whole Dormammu incident?
  • Makes perfect sense to us. Also, you have the same chronic hero syndrome as your mentor, there.
  • Beautiful. And the perfect end for said pompous ass.
  • Well, it is a Strange name.
  • Welcome to the team. Everyone else’s induction was about that short, too.
  • Seriously, that’s your motivation? DO YOU KNOW HOW BIG THE UNIVERSE IS? AND WITH THE SIX STONES YOU’RE LOOKING FOR, COULDN’T YOU DOUBLE THE SIZE OF THE UNIVERSE ANYWAY? OR AT LEAST THE AMOUNT OF RESOURCES?
  • AND YOU KNOW WITH POPULATION GROWTH YOU’LL HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN?
  • YOU’RE INSANE.
  • …and that looks really uncomfortable.
  • Thanos shows that he does know the one way to make torture work.
  • Nidavellir sounds like one hell of a forge.
  • We understand your motivation, Thor. Just hope you have something left when it runs out.
  • You collecting body parts again?
  • Well, okay, it was one hell of a forge.
  • 3/4 of a ship isn’t so bad.
  • “Blanket of death”.
  • Mr. Lord is his father…. oh, wait.
  • I’m guessing scrying gambit. Yep, scrying gambit.
  • Those are poor odds. Or a certainty, depending on how you look at it.
  • …okay, how did you get there?
  • Which raises the question: just how sapient/sophont are the stones? Other than mind, obviously.
  • So, the soul stone has a test that guarantees only deeply terrible people can take it. Seems poorly designed.
  • Well, shit.
  • Nice kinetic barrier. Couldn’t do better ourselves.
  • Well, I guess they probably would have some spares.
  • Jump-starting a neutron star. Impressive. Also, what the hell are the dwarves made of?
  • Put Banner in the Hulkbuster suit. Cute.
  • Nice to see T’Challa and M’Baku getting along so well now.
  • Ah, the infamous Inhuman Wave Attack.
  • A bold move, and did Thanos teach any of his minions tactical acumen?
  • (Guess he’s helping to reduce overpopulation by ensuring as many of his own armies die as possible.)
  • Okay, what the hell is Thor made of? Flesh-phase neutronium?
  • The axe is Groot.
  • The audience wonders how the Bifrost is still working when its generator presumably got all blowed up with Asgard.
  • Still a grand opening move.
  • This not-plan is going remarkably well.
  • …until then. Quill, dammit. We understand, but damn it.
  • You just threw a moon at them. A friggin’ moon.
  • Dual-wielding a raccoon. That should go on the resume. But watch your arm.
  • Heh.
  • And I shall call you Excessive Wheelbots.
  • Well, Okoye, that would be why.
  • Some of those armored war rhinos seem like they’d be useful about now.
  • You won’t like him when he’s angry, either.
  • …and now you’re throwing singularities.
  • That is probably the greatest honor a human has ever received.
  • This, presumably, is the one path out.
  • Okay, that’s a really nice starship-killing axe.
  • …did he just turn Bruce into a half-fossil?
  • How impressive is it that the Scarlet Witch is able to significantly hold back Thanos while simultaneously destroying an Infinity Stone? All of impressive, we say.
  • Horrible as it is for those people who have already had to make the worst possible heroic sacrifice and have it be for nothing, having it actually reversed right in front of your eyes manages to out-horrible it.
  • (Worse, in-‘verse, because this might actually be a possible kind of causal weapon.)
  • Oh, gods. So close.
  • And Peter dies thinking he failed. Thanos needs to die twice for that alone.
  • (Huh. How did Bruce get out of being half-phased into solid rock?)
  • Hope that pager calls someone… you might have been better off calling most of a movie ago. Did no-one keep Fury up to date?
  • “THANOS WILL RETURN”. Well he’d better. He’s got a hell of a lot of red in everyone’s ledger.

…really, they’re not gonna want to make the audience wait too long for Endgame, ’cause the audience is all heated up and baying for ol’ purple-chin’s blood. Now it’s personal.

(Which is to say, they are a passionate race, and they have an understanding of the proper protocol for heroic sacrifices, which is to get together, hunt down whoever was responsible for ’em, and get medieval on their ass. And they’ve been following these folks through their triumphs and tragedies for eighteen movies now.

Damn right it’s personal.)

Bring Me The Head Of…

ALL SECURITY SITES // ORANGE SENSITIVE
NOCONTRACT // NOFORN
ROUTINE
RED LIST // SPECIAL // UPDATE 7129/06/01

WANTED: Istar Oricalcios Veneri a.k.a. “the Mechanic”

REQED BY THIRD DIRECTORATE (INTELLIGENCE SECURITY)

FOR: activities in support of asymmetrism, details redacted; activities in support of insurrection, details redacted; activities in support of assassination, details redacted; activities in support of megacide, details redacted

NOTES:

  • Subject has received ExSec field agent training, fourth level.
  • Subject is an expert in the construction of improvised weapons across technological levels, including hand weapons, technicals, and explosive devices.
  • Subject has received special training in technical sabotage.
  • Subject should be considered extremely dangerous.

LAST SEEN: highport, Inidu (Freeport Loop), 2 days before publication

TERMINATE ON SIGHT WITH ALL NECESSARY FORCE.
LOG-3 COLLATERAL BUDGET PREAPPROVAL.
SECURE ALL SURVIVING FRAGMENTS.
RETURN TO ISE CUSTODY WITH ACCOMPANYING FULL FORENSIC ANALYSIS.

BY ORDER OF

Istar Oricalcios Veneri, Second Directorate,
seconded to Third Directorate

Things to See, Places (Not) to Go (13)

Hotephny (Flaming Skies Complex): The throneworld and crown jewel of the Simple-Safe Regression, Hotephny is a world which no other polity would ever want, nor indeed be able to take, for Hotephny is a world uniquely hostile to any advanced technology – or, indeed, any post-lithic technology.

How is it hostile? Let us count the ways:

  • Located as it is in the Flaming Skies Complex, Hotephny is bathed in the region’s high levels of magnetism and stellar radiation, in addition to the activity of its own primary, a K-type flare star. Any technology dependent on electronics will not function on Hotephny without high-level shielding, and even purely electrical devices suffer from the extremely dirty power.
  • Hotephny’s native fungus-analogs, along with other chemotrophs, digest hydrocarbon-based plastics (including all known examples of petroplastic and bioplastics, save for a few members of the lactopolymer family) and many other polymers with great efficacy.
  • Another family of local lifeforms, bacterium-analogs, promotes the rapid oxidation of metals. It has been suggested that these show clear evidence of Precursor or other artificial origin – since they do not merely promote oxidation reactions from which energy can be harvested, but even drive those which require climbing a steep energy gradient using catalysts, acids, peroxides, and even perperoxides – but they have been little studied due to the difficulty of finding scientific equipment containing neither metal nor plastic, and scientists willing to risk personal dissolution. (Exoarchaeologists and paleotechnologists comfort themselves with the obvious conclusion that any Precursor site on Hotephny must, by now, be devoid of any useful remains.)

There have been three attempts, despite the above-noted undesirability, to seize Hotephny since the Simple-Safe Regression took possession of the world. All proved to be embarrassing defeats for the invaders, with troops equipped with their civilization’s most advanced military technology falling to a militia armed with ceramic-tipped wooden sticks. While naked.

While Hotephny would otherwise be an interesting world to visit for its pastoral landscapes and the ingenuity with which the Simple-Safe settlers have recreated much early metallic technology with ceramics and native materials, it is unfortunately true that a visit to Hotephny’s surface is certain to be a one-way trip, given the effects of its native life on spacecraft. Tourists should content themselves with the museum aboard the world’s single orbital station, operated by the Cubit-caste personnel of the Simple-Safe Regression’s governance.

A limited communication channel with the surface is available. This may in itself be of interest to visitors, being the Worlds’, and possibly the galaxy’s, only known example of surface-to-orbit heliography.

Hopebright

So, there was some conversation on the Discord which led to this shameless riff/parody/etc. of the Warhammer 40K intro quote to produce one for this setting:

It is the dawn of the Ninth Millennium. For nearly a hundred centuries the unbroken line of the Imperial Couple have sat upon the Dragon Throne. They are the executives of the Empire by the free contract of its three trillion citizen-shareholders, and sovereign over twelve score worlds by Their own will and merit. They are the chosen of their people’s self-created machine deities, haloed in the power of transcendent computation. They are the line of Alphas and Seledíë, those who first brought the galaxy order, progress, and liberty.

Yet even beyond the Empire, Their benevolence is felt. The matchless fleets of the Imperial Navy roam the ten-thousand stars of the Associated Worlds, their paths forged by stargates, the only swift route between distant stars. Vast populations live lives of peace and contentment on uncounted worlds beneath the Empire’s protective cloak. Even beyond these, their comrades – the bold scouts of the Imperial Exploratory Service – roam, forever seeking the knowledge of new worlds and the friendship of new peoples. But for all their striving, the galaxy is vast, and there is so much yet to know…

To be a sophont in such times is to be one among unimaginable diversity. It is to live in a world shaped by freedom, harmony, and vaulting ambition. These are the tales of those times. Revere the power of technology and science, for so much is known, and so much can be done. See the promise of progress and understanding fulfilled, for in this bright future there is only awesomeness. There is no more darkness lurking among the stars, only the promise of eternity, and the laughter of delighted gods.