What’s That Soph?

So, I hear you like demographics. Or, at least, the comments on the last post tell me you like demographics.

Describing the constituent species of the Empire can be a mite tricky, depending on exactly how you define things – leaving aside any nasty outworlder prejudices about the status of neogens or uplifts, some species – relevantly, the mezuar and chiril-{n,m}, don’t have identities which lend themselves to headcount, and thus various approximations must be used.

And complicating things further, of course, is that the Empire’s immigration procedures don’t give a lump of species-appropriate excretions what species you happen to be, which leads to, oh, just over 8% of the population being “other”.

But given that, here’s the rough breakdown in a nice, user-friendly pie chart:

And here is the same data in a table, giving you what those percentages translate to in terms of approximate population numbers out of the Empire’s roughly 2.57 trillion sophonts:

eldrae12.54%322,278,000,000
arthálneogen0.31%7,967,000,000
chfsssc2.48%63,736,000,000
chiril-{n,m}unconventional identity0.36%9,252,000,000
ciseflish9.14%234,898,000,000
dar-bandaluplift7.65%196,605,000,000
dar-célmekuplift1.10%28,270,000,000
dar-cúlnóuplift2.26%58,082,000,000
dar-e’sevdrauplift1.83%47,031,000,000
dar-íícheuplift3.36%86,352,000,000
dar-voracuplift2.15%55,255,000,000
digisapience14.56%374,192,000,000
esseli3.31%85,067,000,000
galari7.28%187,096,000,000
kaeth6.74%173,218,000,000
mezuarunconventional identity1.39%35,723,000,000
myneni4.91%126,187,000,000
selyéva2.78%71,446,000,000
sssc!haaaouú3.92%100,744,000,000
temísineogen0.49%12,593,000,000
verviani2.69%69,133,000,000
zal!enneogen0.43%11,051,000,000
other8.32%213,824,000,000

You may note that even the arthál, with the smallest demographic footprint due to their relatively recent creation and source population of fandom enthusiastic enough to change species, still manage to outpopulate Earth.

And that with 173 billion kaeth around… well, let’s just say the Legions don’t have any trouble recruiting.

Eldraeic Phrase of the Day: Never Tell Me The Odds

ka idaseir qané trasunael xasessqár!: “bugger1 the seers!”; common expletive phrase, originating in Jussovy, used to respond to statements of poor odds, predictions of failure or certain death, claims that something is a doomed venture, a suicide mission, impossible, etc., indicating the speaker’s determination to go through with it anyway and trust their qalasír to carry the day.

Curiously enough, this often works.


  1. This is, of course, an idiomatic translation.

    A more literal translation would be “may the seers engage in low-quality/unsatisfactory sex!”

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.

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.)

Heavy Cavalry Redux

“Drive me closer! I want to hit them with my sword!”

no-one with a tank, ever

This is a recreation/reformulation/retcon of the original description of the Empire’s heavy cavalry legions, in light of both criticism received – and assistance to resolve it – and rethinking of my own. It should be considered as a replacement for the original post here, et. seq.

Let us proceed.


Making up the remaining one of every sixteen legions (i.e., one per three light cavalry or heavy infantry, and one per nine light infantry), we have the heavy cavalry. Direct-fire death on very large treads, which is to say, main battle tanks. The biggest of all the big sticks. Putting the “brute” into “brute force”.

For additional flexibility, the majority of Imperial MBTs are built off a common base platform, with a selection of swappable modules to provide specific functionality for specific cases. (Unlike many modular vehicle systems in this ‘verse, however, these aren’t hot-swappable; the need to remove and replace and integrate large and complex chunks of armor plate, etc., when doing it means that this requires some pretty major machine-shop type facilities. It’s not something you can do in the field, and indeed something only seen at the most well-developed remote operating bases.) Due to these functionality differences, MBTs are usually classified by the module.

So first we’ll talk about the capabilities of the base platform, and then we’ll talk about some of the more commonly seen modules:


Base Platform

The base platform of the Imperial MBT is a low-slung vehicle with all-around glacis design, designed to minimize its target profile and give it a low center of gravity. In dimensions, it is approximately 12 m (39 ft) long, 4 m (13 ft) wide, and 3 m (10 ft) high; its total mass (varying, of course, by module), however, is of the order of 60 short tons, due to the extensive use of lightweight composites.

8 m of the length and 3.5 m of the width at the front is the module socket; height of modules varies, but none take it much above the basic 3 m height. At the rear of the platform, an externally-opening compartment can be used to hold resupply, infantry needing transport, or a “hot soup” fuel pod to increase vehicle endurance.

Armament

The armament of the base platform (effectively the secondary weapons systems common to all tank classes) is fitted in four altazimuth ball mounts, located on either side of the vehicle, towards the front and rear.

These mounts’ field of fire extends 180 degrees vertically, and approximately 160 degrees horizontally at zero vertical, i.e., limited only by the occlusion of that side’s other mount. In effect, they maintain full coverage to the side, front, and rear of the tank, with only a small gap in coverage to the front for the rear mounts, and to the rear for the front mounts.

The front mounts include coaxial ortillery target designators and heavy (72 mm) mass drivers/micromissile launchers; the rear mounts only include medium (36 mm) mass drivers.

(While the latter do spend much of their time firing forward and to the flank, their special purpose in being mounted where they are is to give you something to pop the drone lining up to shoot you in the ass with so you don’t have to stop engaging your main target while you do it. In their battlefield environment, micro-AKVs are cheap and plentiful, so this happens a lot. If you had to slew the main gun around every time, you’d be taking your eye off the ball way too much – even if you could get it to reliably track something that small and fast-moving.)

See also Point Defense, below.

Armor

The armor of Imperial MBTs is relatively standard for Imperial armored units; there’s just a lot of it. The core structural frame is honeycomb-patterned diamondoid composite, covered with multiple slabs of interlinked refractory cerametal (i.e., a ceramic-metal composite formulated for both great physical strength and resistance to heat), electrical and thermal superconductor meshes, more cerametal, reactive-armor sections, and an outer anti-energetic ablative coating to sprayed on top of it all. Additional side plating shields the rollagons. A nanopaste-based self-healing system runs through channels in the armor, keeping damage patched up in the field.

The survivability specifications on all this armor is that the vehicle should be able to survive a near-miss with a tactical-range nuclear weapon or equivalent orbital kinetic strike.

Command and Control

An Imperial MBT nominally crews three: semi-specialized commander, driver, and gunner positions; in practice, this is rendered a mite fuzzy inasmuch as they’re both ably assisted by the vehicle’s internal synnoetic (i.e., designed to function integrated with another sophont mind) AI, and linked to each other by internal conflux hardware (i.e., functioning as a loose, mesh-topology temporary group mind for maximal efficiency, enabling coordination and multitasking by splitting off semi-autonomous agents).

Primary control is routed through the AI and direct neural links – the vehicle seats are virtuality chairs, connecting to the crew’s implanted laser-ports – but auxiliary/backup manual controls are also available.

Core sensors and communications include all the standard options: radio and whisker laser communications, access to the OTP-encrypted tactical mesh, threat identification systems, teamware and C3I systems integration, thermal imaging, remote sensor access, and all-around local sensors including pulsed-usage radar and lidar, T-ray high frequency snoopers, ground-penetrating radar, target-painter detection – and, of course, plain old electronic visual and sound transmission, since the interior of the MBT is fully sealed and includes no direct visual paths.

The MBT also includes a battle computer capable of functioning as a major node in the tactical mesh, and a full ECM suite.

Drones

As with all other units of the Imperial Legions, the heavy cavalry too has its drone accompaniments, with each MBT having a pair of WMH-12 Skyorca drones attached to it for close air support, along with a pair of heavy ground drones matching its own tactical function.

Internal Environment

To the delight of those legionaries who like a little comfort in their soldiering, the internal spaces of an Imperial MBT are a comfortable – albeit confined – shirt-sleeve environment. (Climate control, leather seats, the works…)

This is partially because given the expense of building one of these anyway, throwing in a few civilized comforts is barely a blip on the budget, and partially because – well, anything that successfully penetrates the armor tends to leave the crew as a hundred-yard-long red/blue/silver-white/etc. smear on the ground behind the exit hole anyway, so there’s no point in having them sit around in full combat armor. A padded jacket and helmet are sufficient to prevent accidents from concussion and rough terrain.

The interior is also a fully sealed and controlled life support environment for NBCN protection and exotic atmosphere/vacuum use. This also renders all tanks amphibious tanks by default: once you’ve covered all the various atmospheric compositions and pressures you might need to operate in and discarded thereby air-breathing engines and other systems, you’ve built a vehicle that can shrug off submergence, too.You could drive a modern Imperial MBT from continent to continent across the ocean floor, given a case of rat bars and a good reason to try it.

Point Defense

The MBT is equipped, as all else is, with a military-grade kinetic barrier system.

For active point defense, the base platform is equipped with a mix of mini-autocannons (in altazimuth ball mounts) and laser emitters, laid out to ensure all-around coverage, and capable of independently and automatically targeting all incoming fire and close-in soft units, subject to target identification and prioritization routines set by the crew.

Power

It seems a little inappropriate to say that the MBT is also powered by a micro-fission “hot soup” reactor, inasmuch as, well, it ain’t that micro. It is “mini”, perhaps, compared to standard-sized fission reactors, but it’s as large as the thorium molten-salt kind gets. The bigger ones all tend to be the safer “pebble-bed” design.

Naturally, this is buffered through a large set of superconducting-loop accumulators to handle immediate power draws and provide backup power in the event that you lose the power reactor – enough to make a fighting withdraw, anyway, although not enough to continue an engagement with.

Propulsion

The Imperial MBT moves on neither wheels nor treads; rather, it sits atop eight semi-squishy rollagons, near-spheres of a “smart fluid” rotated electromagnetically from within the sealed main hull, enabling it to move with equal facility in any direction, at speeds of up to 150 mph on a good, flat roadbed. Note that this is not a drivetrain developed specifically for military purposes: modern civilian ground-cars use similar technology.

The propulsion system also has considerable electromagnetic control over the shape of the rollagons; while they don’t have them normally, if you need spiked wheels or some other shape-variation to cross some tricky terrain, it can provide them on demand; if need be, they can even form “paddle-propellers” for amphibious operation.

A limited vector-control/impeller system permits the tank to apply vertical thrust to itself; this is used primarily downwards on light-gravity worlds to keep ground pressure high enough for the rollagons to be effective, occasionally upwards to reduce ground pressure where the ground is soft, and even more occasionally to lessen the severity of falls, ground collapses, or deliberate drops from low-flying transport aircraft.

(It would theoretically be possible, on light-gravity worlds, to use it to make “skips” over obstacles or other short vertical jumps, but this is generally considered an excellent way to become skeet.)

Stealth and Masquerade

The Imperial MBT, much like the heavy infantry, supports only the most basic chameleonic coating and signature reduction features; the nature of the battlefield environment of the time is such that any heavy unit has a signature (in terms of heat, reactor neutrinos, and the EM pulse accompanying weapons firing) that can’t be baffled worth a damn. As such, designers concentrated on designing a vehicle that could “tank” (sic) incoming fire in the process of executing shock and awesome.

It should however be noted that this does not preclude the use of external decoys, or the use of signature modification systems to confuse terminal guidance of incoming weapons, or indeed to masquerade as something else — but these systems have to work with the platform’s high signature, not try to conceal it.


Module: Tactical Assault Tank (HV-10 Basher-class)

As close as it comes to a “standard” MBT design, the HV-10 Basher-class module loadout is similar to the V40 Ralihú IFV, scaled up; the Basher-class comes with a turreted super-heavy (144 mm) mass driver, but substitutes a bilateral quadbarrels with limited independent training for the Ralihú’s single coaxial quadbarrel.

(The heavy mass driver is also designed to function as a heavy micromissile launcher, if required, and as such is entirely capable of delivering large-diameter canister shot for anti-infantry work.)


Module: Long-Range Assault Tank (HV-12 Stormfall-class; also HV-12i Longeye-class)

The HV-12 Stormfall-class LRAT module is equipped with a turreted super-heavy (144 mm) mass driver intended to be capable of long-range indirect as well as direct fire, but substitutes the quadbarrels for bilateral “pop-out” missile pods, each capable of doing a simultaneous launch of up to 16 minimissiles, reloadable with a short cycle time from internal magazines. Just perfect for those days when you want to fight in the shade.

By changing the minimissile loadout of the Stormfall, it can also serve as an active air-defense platform.

Rarely seen is the HV-12i Longeye variant, which trades in both super-heavy mass driver and missile pods for a graser installation, suitable for direct fire only but capable of punching out even more heavily protected targets. Also, notably, the Longeye graser is often capable of penetrating the atmosphere and reaching targets in low planetary orbit.


Module: Drone Tank (HVC-14h Thunderbolt-class; also HVC-14l Stinger-class)

A drone tank, in legionary parlance, is the land-based miniature equivalent of an aircraft carrier. The HVC-14h Thunderbolt module contains nanoslurry and miniature drone components, which it uses to construct and deploy ad-hoc micro-AKVs to suit the requirements of the current battlespace, launching them into action as a centrally coordinated wing, for defense, reconnaissance, attack, or other functions.

(Or, to put it another way, it’s a self-propelled field factory that spews out custom drones and minimissiles on demand, simplifying your logistics and multiplying your options.)

The HVC-14l Stinger functions similarly, but substitutes swarm hives for the micro-AKV factory, and is thus able to saturate the local battlespace with microbot/nanobot swarms, be they the standard eyeballs, shrikes, gremlins, or balefire, or more specialized models.


Module: Tactical Arsonier (HV-10a Flammifer-class)

Used for cleaning up or eliminating nanoswarms (highly vulnerable to thermal overloading), area denial, reducing bunkers and dug-outs, and spreading pure terror, the Flammifer-class replaces the heavy mass driver of the Basher-class with a scaled-up nuclear-thermal flamer, while retaining the quadbarrels as-is.


Module: Command Tank (HV-10c Strategos-class)

The Strategos-class is a specialized vehicle for coordinating tank-squadron activities and close air support. The Strategos module doesn’t add any weapons systems; rather, it adds two more crew positions for squadron command, a specialized tactical/logistics C3I AI, and a nodal communications suite and its antennae.

A pair or triplet of Strategoi are usually assigned to a tank squadron made up of other classes for command/control functions.


Module: Pummel (HV-11 Pugnacious-class)

The pummel tank is a highly specialized variant, designed to rip apart buildings and fortifications. It carries sappers in its rear compartment, and is equipped with specialized demolitions equipment up front.


Module: Wrecker (HV-10w Trison-class)

Another highly specialized variant, the HW-10W Trison and other wreckers are logistics units, used to recover wrecked tanks and other heavy equipment off the battlefield for repair or for scrap.


Transportation

The Flapjack-class cavalry dropship was made specifically for this; apart from that, they mostly drive to wherever they’re needed, because only the biggest transport aircraft can carry them in useful numbers.