Eldraeic Word of the Day: Leirlaras

leirlaras: (lit. “mist-word(s)”). A term referring specifically to words, phrases, paragraphs, or even entire works deliberately so constructed as to be void of meaning, misleading, or obfuscatory. Depending on circumstances, it may be pejorative (when used to describe a collocutor’s evasions, for example), or complimentary (describing a skillful piece of adversive diplomacy, likewise).

The etymology of leirlaras was, of course, deliberately selected in honor of Leiríah, eikone of mists, illusions, deceptions, trickery, wit, and intrigue.

Eldraeic Word of the Day: Maharargyr

maharargyr: maker’s merit; from mahav (make, maker) and argyr (quantized merit), the excellence which one accrues from a worthy creation.

Note: refers only to the excellence itself, rather than the repute derived from it. This latter is mahadársúnar, from mahav and dársúnar (glory), which in turn is from daráv (sophont) and súnar (brilliant, shining).

On AKVs and Survivability

From the questions box:

Dear Gentlesoph,
Having been reading your posts, I have a question about AKVs such as the ‘Daggerfan’ and ‘Slasher’ classes. With high-powered lasers capable of doing damage at one light second, how do AKVs survive the 300,000km journey into single kilometer range? As stated in your ‘Nonstandard Starship Scuffles’ post, military vessels use armor woven through with thermal superconductors dumping heat into ‘thermal goo’. I assume this armor/thermal management system applies to AKVs as well, although you also state that point-defense lasers will shred a vessel unfortunate enough to get into very close range. How can an AKV survive at single kilometer ranges long enough to inflict damage on the target? Thank you for your time, I look forward to more posts!

Well, there are two parts to this: how do AKVs close to skin-dancing range, and how do they survive when they get there? I’ll take ’em one at a time.

On the first point: with great difficulty.

If you take a wing of AKVs and throw them at a fresh battleship, all you’re doing is providing its point-defense computers with skeet; they’ll be chaff and charnel before they get anywhere near the inside of the BB’s point-defense zone.

What you have to do is wear it down first. That’s is the job of the non-carriers on your side of the fight: throw a lot of kinetics at the enemy to make their PD work hard. That does three jobs: one, it keeps the PD grid busy in itself; two, any of it that gets through may just take out a chunk of the PD grid; but most importantly, three, by making them run their point-defenses, you’re building up heat in their ship. Your non-carriers also have the job of pumping heat into their ship directly with the big lasers.

That heat, in turn, is going to eat away at their PD efficiency in a variety of ways. Most simply, it’s going to have to cut back on its firing rate once the heat sinks start filling, because otherwise the crew will cook, but also the hardware becomes less efficient, processor error rates go up, and similar badness ensues.

That’s when you send in the AKVs, and you send in a lot of AKVs mingled with a lot of chaff and decoys, swamping the capabilities of the now-degraded PD grid. They won’t all get through – you plan for a lot of them not to – but once the grid’s sufficiently degraded, enough will to ruin the BB’s day.

As for when they’re there? Remember, they’re described as operating within the point-defense envelope, which is to say, inside its inner boundary, which is defined by the minimum effective range of the PD – set by a variety of factors, such as the range at which firing the PD will seriously damage your own ship, but of which probably the most important is the ability of the PD to track the target and slew to fire on it. At the sort of hug-the-hull sub-km range AKVs like to operate at, it doesn’t take much velocity to generate a huge traversal angle, and what you can’t track, you can’t reliably hit.

(And it’s hard for your screen to fire effectively at the AKVs ruining your day, ’cause even discounting the effects of the AKV exploding at point-blank range, every miss will hit you.)

All of which is to say: While there are some subtleties and complexities to the tactics (defense AKVs, screening vessels sharing PD, etc., etc.), the short answer is it takes a lot of work and losses to get an AKV force within range of a target, but once you do, that target is dead meat.

Heavy Cavalry: Fields of Fire

It seems there is a peck of confusion out there concerning exactly how the “base platform” weapons on Imperial heavy cavalry units actually function, and even are mounted (including at least one case of confusion so profound as to believe the rear/local defense guns were “sticking out the back of the turret”, in the style of anti-infantry defense MGs from early last century, despite the platform – without a module installed – not having a turret.).

Here is a diagram in my inimitably terrible style:


That’s your base platform, driving left to right. Green at the front are your cheek-mounted (i.e., in a three-axis gimbaled mount on the side of the vehicle) heavy mass drivers, target designators, and micromissile launchers. Purple at the rear are your cheek-mounted medium mass drivers for local defense. Both weapons are illustrated in their default rest position, i.e., forward-facing or rear-facing, respectively.

As can be seen from the shaded fields of fire, both can train sufficiently to hit anything on their side of the vehicle that doesn’t actually involve training through the platform body or the other weapon mount; i.e., the forward cheek-mounts can hit anything from directly forward (with a small blind spot directly in front of the vehicle) to not-quite-rear; and the rear cheek-mounts can hit anything from directly behind (with small blind spot directly behind the vehicle, likewise) to not-quite-directly forward.

In short, there are plenty of things for them all to shoot at.


Question: Useless Machines

Specialist290 asks:

So what do the eldrae make of the idea of “useless machines”?

The most famous example, of course, being the machine whose sole purpose, once turned on, is to turn itself back off. (Like so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z86V_ICUCD4 )

Insert usual disclaimer about the reliability of capsule summaries of the opinions of over a trillion sophonts.

Well, for a start, they aren’t “useless machines”. Useless machines manifestly fail to work properly. These are “amusing mechanical follies”, like Rube Goldberg designs, which are… amusing. Also decorative.

(The ur-example of the class *there* is actually a Precursor artifact, nicknamed “The Uncrater”, a black-box widget whose sole function appears to be declining to be packaged up in the current local language, then quietly disintegrating any packaging material used to attempt to do so.

You’ll find it indexed under “Amusing Mechanical Follies”. Also under “Suspected Precursor Practical Jokes”, and “Seriously, Guys, What The Hell?”)


A Musing & the FAQ

On the evergreen question of what about us, Earth-now, the Imperials might find worthy of a little respect, a recent rewatching of Apollo 13 reminds me to mention that our space program, especially of the Apollo era, definitely qualifies.

Bear in mind, for one thing, that for various reasons involving their homeworld’s quirky perversions of physics, that their moon program, Project Silverfall, didn’t reach fruition until they were already a mature information-age society, and so Moondancer and her sister ships, along with Oculus Station and so forth, were all equipped with fancy, modern integrated network systems, and other technology of similar advancement, with the controls looking rather more like a Dragon V2 touchscreen-and-voice UI than anything else. (And, of course, it was a roomy Orion ship, not a capsule that barely fits its crew.)

So, y’know, it wasn’t quite “In a cave! With a box of scraps!” from their perspective, but getting to the moon with slipsticks and core memory, in a vehicle smaller than Moondancer‘s bridge — that’s remarkably impressive by any standards. And, of course, there’s simply no way you can’t respect any of the sodality of folks willing to strap their asses to a cannoboom and ride it into glory.

(On the other hand, the way the program was abruptly terminated after having served its political purpose of being a stick to beat the Soviets with pretty much confirms all of the negative stereotypes in the book, or at least the ones indexed under short-sightedness, Obstructive Naysaying, democracy, cratic government in general, and so forth.

Never mind all the people saying “What’s the point in going to space?”, then and now. I mean, it’s not like the Empire has never had any mental cripples, but by and large, they don’t give them column-inches or seats in the Senate.)

On another note, I am contemplating adding a FAQ page for the benefit of new visitors to the site. As such, I welcome nominations for Qs that are FA – which doesn’t mean a free for all in re new questions, I stipulate; nominate from questions already answered or posts which answer unspoken questions, please!


Question: Marlinspike

Phineas Imhoff asks:

I have heard mention of the “spacers marlinspike” several times, I am curious what exactly is it for? Does it serve the same role as a traditional marlinspike, just recycled in space. Or is it something else?

It’s essentially the same tool, albeit with some minor microgravity adaptations. While there isn’t quite so much rope involved in celestime sailing vis-à-vis maritime, there’s more than enough to make such a tool useful (especially in the cargo department, for lashing of breakbulk), and that’s before you get to its handy secondary uses for poking suspicious-looking objects and rapping miscreants soundly across the base of the skull.