What Do You Mean, It Doesn’t Grow On Trees?

What is cryptid-currency? It’s the latest brainstorm to come out of the convergence of bankers, cryptographers, and genetic engineers – a blockchain-based form of cryp designed to use the photosynthetically-powered computing capacity of mesh-networked genetically enhanced trees to provide the validation and storage necessary to operate the cryp’s backing protocol, combining environmental friendliness and stealthy operation in a single package.

All you need to do is find the trees. You’re looking for at least six (the minimum needed to form a functional server-grove with enough combined power to reach distant networks) – and bear in mind that since many varieties have been created, such as the byteoak, the moneple, the wishwillow, the cashelm, and the greenwood, not all trees in the grove are necessarily identical. Indeed, the converse is also true, and identical-appearing trees may be of different protocol varietals.

At this point, you can register an account with the appropriate wallet application for the cryptid-currency in question, running on your more conventional computing device. Since no special peripherals are required on ubiquitous cognitive radio hardware, all the data is stored in the tree’s logs (sic), and cryp applications tend to support steganographically concealed keys, a self-destructing app can effectively hide your use of tree-cryp from any and all nosy chaps out there.

So now let’s take a look at some of the more popular cryptid-currencies out there…”

– excerpted from Profiting on the Woodblock-Chain:
A Guide to Cryptid-Currency

For The World Is Hollow

The second of the Precursor megastructures held by the Empire, Thalíär is a peculiar world by any standards. It is a three-layered shellworld – which is to say, it has three planetary crusts, separated not by simple caverns, but by skyvaults which can exceed a mile in height.

Unlike some shellworlds proposed by writers of speculative fiction, rather than being made up of continuous shells, Thalíar’s upper- and mid-crust are cut away in many regions to expose the lower crusts, and broken up by large shafts and canyons – the Clefts – permitting travel between the layers. Plant life spills freely down the walls of these canyons, and both natural caves and cut balconies offer spectacular views.

As the planetary gravity is relatively low, and given the multilevel nature of the world, flight is the most common method of transportation used on Thalíär. Wings are highly recommended as the most rewarding means of personal exploration.

THE ENIGMA OF THALÍÄR

The question everyone has when they come to Thalíär, even before they disembark from the Loadstone beanstalk, is how exactly it works. There should not, indeed, be any way that a three-layer shellworld could exist without reinforcements of exotic materials, and yet neither the walls and pillars which support the upper and middle crusts, nor the upper and middle crusts themselves, show any sign of such structural reinforcement. Rather, they appear in all ways to be native rock, showing no sign of the strain which ought to cause them to collapse under their own weight.

Those studying the shellworld at the Loadstone Geophysical Institute have recorded signs of extremely powerful magnetic fields interacting with bodies of superconducting orichalcium, various possible side-effects of metric engineering, and unexplained emissions of sterile neutrinos from opaque bodies buried deep within the planetary mantle.

All of which is no more than to say that they have had a great deal of success in defining the parameters of the enigma.

LOADSTONE

The capital of Thalíär, the jack city of Loadstone forms a circle around the base of the planetary beanstalk, sitting on the tip of a mid-crust promontory supported by a solid pillar beneath. The promontory itself is surrounded on three sides by a wrinkle in the Curtainfall. As such, the villas scattered around the perimeter of Loadstone enjoy spectacular views and perpetual rainbows as the waterfall cascades into the mid-crust’s Twilight Sea, and are some of the most expensive volumetric property in the system.

Other landmarks to be found in Loadstone include the Probable Technologies Academy of Crypto-Archaeology, the Loadstone Geophysical Institute, and the headquarters of the Megastructural Colloquium.

The CURTAINFALL and the STREAMING OCEAN

As well as the highest, Thalíär also hosts the longest waterfall in the Empire. The Curtainfall marks the point at which the uppermost crust ends in mid-ocean; prevented from draining in its entirety by a ridge of hard rock – as well as the replenishment it receives from the nearby Hydrocaust – the waters of the Streaming Ocean cascade down into the mid-crust along nearly a thousand miles of edge.

The EYE OF ALDÉRÉ

A single, ruler-straight shaft which descends from the highlands of the upper crust directly to the Undersea, the Eye of Aldéré is notable for providing an excellent view of the stars at any time of day. The astronomical orders of Aldéré have claimed the site as a hallows, and constructed a floating shrine to the eikone of the celestial vault thereupon.

GLITTERING HALLS

The Glittering Halls are a series of caverns large enough to house small cities, located within the planetary mid-crust. Massive quartz formations above the Halls, coupled with the cut-away upper crust above the region, allow natural light to penetrate miles deep and illuminate the caverns. Plentiful geothermal energy, meanwhile, bubbles up from the solid pillar below. It is one of the most populated regions of Thalíär, centered around the cities of Shimmer, Brilliance, Scintillation, and Tinct, and the buried industrial center of Drophammer.

SARDAL’S PEAK

The highest mountain on Thalíär, readily identifiable by its unusually flattened peak, Sardal’s Peak rises 28,947′ above upper crust datum. It is named after Sardal Elemtieros, the first-in scout who first set foot on the planet in 4196.

The SKY’S TEAR

A roughly teardrop-shaped section of the upper crust connected neither to the main body of that crust nor to the mid-crust below it, the Sky’s Tear is an island floating free in Thalíar’s sky.

Unlike the cloud coral islands of Torachal (Talie Marches), however, or the floatstone mountains of Calríäkay (First Expanses), the Sky’s Tear is a solid body of normal, native rock – just one, to the dismay of geologists, hanging in the sky in a manner not typically characterized by rocks.

The Sky’s Tear Exodochium, built into the island’s lower surface, is recommended to all visitors. The caves nearby house small populations of the airthia and xoxixa reconstructed by the Mythologae Immanentization Initiative, the latter in particular taking well to the intense geomagnetic environment of the region.

THUNDER WELL

As might be expected, Thalíär also plays host to the highest waterfall in the Empire. The Vorissevel river plunges over five miles straight down from the upper crust directly into the Undersea through the shaft of the Thunder Well. The force of the water crashing upon the volcanic plug at the base of the Well sends an endless peal of thunder reverberating for hundreds of miles across the Undersea.

The UNDERSEA, and the HYDROCAUST

Within the dusky world of the lower crust is the resting place of all Thalíar’s waters; a mostly-lightless ocean whose waters embrace much of the planet, warmed by geothermal vents, home to pale fish and darkness-adapted cephalopods, from minuscule plankton-feeders to the mighty kraken. This is the Undersea.

The most notable illumination found in this shadowy realm is the Hydrocaust. Where a series of deep clefts brings light to the ocean, a curiously stable magma plume also brings heat from below, raising the temperature in the vicinity to near-boiling. The plumes of steam gushing from these clefts are responsible for much of the cloud formation, and hence rainfall, on the shellworld.

The particularly heavy rainfall on the slopes of the nearby Precipice Range keeps the Streaming Ocean full, and so the Curtainfall spectacular.

THALÍÄR SURVIVAL COMPLEX

A city-bunker providing for the survival of civilization against the largest of natural disasters – potentially even such cosmic catastrophes as gamma-ray bursts or nearby supernovae – the Survival Complex is buried deep within the lowest of Thalíar’s multiple crusts. Armored in continental plates, this last redoubt rests secure beneath multiple protective layers of rock and water, miles-thick.

– excerpted from Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Core Worlds

Revolutionary

blacklight (n.): an external window in a large space habitat, looking out into space (see: the black). The word was deliberately coined in opposition to skylight, since due to the operation of spin gravity, the majority of blacklights are in the floor.

It is considered both polite and practical to throw a rug over the blacklights when flatlanders come to call.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

(Well, no-one’s going to call an UV light a blacklight when they can see UV natively, are they?)

Cultural Crossovers #12: Ant-Man

In which the insect themes begin.

  • Someone is very untrusting of the Starks.
  • You’re an ass working for SHIELD. Does the audience smell HYDRA? I think they do.
  • (Someone’s going to need to explain prisons, seeing as the locals only use ’em for remand. Good cultural overlay time.)
  • Shit, humans, we have a… reputation… for strict justice, and we know you don’t have meme rehab, but once a soph’s paid his debts, don’t be a bag of dicks.
  • Good grief, you invited him to your backstab-fest?
  • Also, this particle does what? The scientists are scribbling in their notepads explaining all the reasons why that won’t work, and while you can do some ontotechnology with the Planck constant, you’d, like, totally break electromagnetism.
  • “obstacles on the road to peace,” huh? You’ve been listening to Eye-in-the-Flame advertising again.
  • Again with the bag of dicks. Ooh, asshat. That’s a good description.
  • Squishy.
  • Oh, your rationalizations are so transparent. So, maybe you’re not HYDRA. Just an independent asshat.
  • It’s always nice to watch a professional at work.
  • Even one who was totally set up.
  • You imploded a goat? Also, why does it make any difference if it’s organic or not? Carbon ain’t that special – bet there was some carbon fiber in that suit – or is this vitalism?
  • Ah, the working version.
  • Wait. Is your density reduced or isn’t it? Wait, is your mass reduced, or —
  • These particles somehow make mass and momentum asymmetric? Low when something interacts with him, high when it’s the other way around? They can’t even!
  • Interesting recruiting technique.
  • Ants. Great delivery mechanism. Also, clock. Huh.
  • …and about now, with the flying ant escape, is when the science guys stop complaining and start trying to figure out how they can do it. Well, a slightly more physics-friendly version.
  • Table ants. Adorable.
  • And, okay, one that doesn’t drive you crazy. A good characteristic of any tech, that.
  • Nice loyalty, kid.
  • “Dropping cities out of the sky?” Ooh, burn.
  • Not exactly starting training at the easy end, huh? And, yeah, asymmetric mass relation. That’s got to be fun.
  • The Quantum Realm sounds worth sciencing.
  • Man, antroductions are hard on the lawn. But also, so many capabilities.
  • Oh, that storage facility. Of course it would be.
  • Nice sensors. Also, so much for secret identities.
  • Yeah, he is good.
  • Bantering: the only universal superpower.
  • Wombats? Well, they do obfuscate their brilliance very well.
  • Such science. So snore.
  • Ant rafting. Best extreme sport ever.
  • Ah, those are the guys from HYDRA.
  • Wouldn’t those explosives have had the same force if they’d been left miniaturized?
  • Rescuing the guard you knocked out? Yeah, you’re the good guys. Sorry.
  • THAT IS BEST KEYCHAIN EVER. (Although it makes little sense even under asymmetrical-mass rules.)
  • Dammit. Antony was best ant. You bastards.
  • Yeah, let’s randomly laser shit. That won’t go wrong.
  • Battle of the Train Set. Aww, yeah.
  • Well done, giant ant.
  • At least implosion saves a lot of trouble on clean-up.
  • Everyone wishes you were taking notes right now, Scott. The quantum realm looks pretty cool and scienceable.
  • Yeah, and Hank is wishing that right now.
  • So, do Pym particles ever decay, or is there going to be a bunch of stuff lying around in weird-ass exotic matter states for the rest of ever? ‘Cause there are some interesting questions with regards to chemical interactions and such.
  • Well, someone took a level in decency.
  • Aww, they made it a pet. Shiny. Although its ability to eat tiny little molecules with its great honking molecules raises SO MANY QUESTIONS.
  • …sequel hook looks awesome, too.

Overall conclusion: is cool, but man, that’s some maaaad science.

It’s Just Business

The Data Acquisition Echelon aren’t the enemy. They’re the opposition. Ignorance is the enemy.

Agent-Expediter Fors Raikav, Second Directorate

Grand Game Accords: A rumored covert agreement between many of the Worlds’ more gentlesophly intelligence agencies and data brokers reflecting the spirits of rivalry and partnership whose balance changes from moment to moment as the board develops. It provides for limited field cooperation and permits their agents, if compromised in the act of espionage, to surrender to each other with an assurance of good treatment, including during limited interrogations and memory redaction, and regular exchanges of captured operatives.

After all, we all spy on each other in the interest of galactic peace, or at least galactic stability. No-one gains anything from making it personal.

– Rilial’s Informal Dictionary of Intelligence and Security Terminology

Year Terminated: Core Dumped

(Which is to say, a bunch of miscellaneous snippety stuff that didn’t find a home anywhere else.)

“Just once, it would be nice to meet someone who used their wine cellar for storing wine .”

Agent-Expediter Fors Raikav, Second Directorate

“Further information on the Spirinal Anomaly is classified REDSHIFT ABYSS YAK. If you do not have REDSHIFT ABYSS YAK clearance, stop reading now.”


“In theory, you can carefully program high-grade nanophages to respect in vivo thermal emissions limits, respect the surface markers of legitimate nanoproducts they might encounter, and use them as a vaccination against possible infection. In actual practice, you shoot people with them from a safe distance, then shout ‘sorry’ if or when their blood begins to boil out of their ears. Remember, you’re likely to discover a need for these when there’s a friggin’ bloom in progress. They probably have a backup anyway, and saving their life comes in third, behind removing them as a transmission vector and not becomin’ part of the problem.”


Return to Hunger, Return to Labor

A minority political movement originating in the League of Meridian and spreading elsewhere among the wealthier regions of the Worlds, advocating the creation of artificial scarcities of goods and artificial demand for labor in order to preserve society from decadence and idleness. It has proven difficult to create memetic countermeasures against, due to the sheer blithering wrongheadedness of the ideas from which it arose.


Ice Age: The period in ciseflish prehistory lasting around 2.5 million years, ending circa 1,000, during which raw water ice (considered a mineral on Ólish) was widely used to make implements with an edge, a point, or a percussive surface. Following this period, ciseflish technological ascension began with the development of more advanced iceworking and iceturgical techniques, ushering in the Clathrate Age.

Things to See, Places (Not) to Go (11)

Ulijen (Cordai Gap): Honestly, if I have to tell you it’s a bad idea to visit a planet that looks like someone took a bite out of a giant apple, you probably aren’t able to read this book anyway.

Ulijen is the infamous site of the eponymous Ulijen Disaster, in which an ill-advised attempt to tap power from the system’s primary using a wormhole resulted in the planet being bathed in heart-of-a-star conditions for long enough to vaporize a substantial chunk of its mass: the resulting crater covers a quarter of the planet’s surface area, and the rest of the planet is not a habitable world any more, either.

But that all happened long ago (circa -1,000), you say?

Well, there are three very good reasons not to go that still apply:

One, it’s astonishingly radioactive. Being effectively dunked in a stellar core causes a lot of neutron activation, and while to my knowledge no-one’s actually computed how much shielding you need to visit a planet that glows from orbit 8,000 years later, it’s certainly more than you have.

Two, to call it tectonically unstable would be to call Leytra (Ringstars) ‘bright’. When you vape that much mass off a planet, it tends to collapse back into a proper sphere under its own gravity. This is not an easy, short, or comfortable-to-be-around process.

Three: you want to go there to salvage paleotech, don’t you? Of course you do; that’s why anyone goes to a fossil world. But even if it wasn’t all vaporized in the disaster, you’re then going to try and sell someone a power generation system with a known history of destroying civilizations.

The likely consequences of this are best appreciated by reading my companion book, 1,769 Sophs Who Were Airlocked, And Why They Had It Coming: A Cynic’s Study Of Consequences (Bad Stuff Press, 7920).