Weighed in the Balance Sheet

“There is one thing that comes before the Fundamental Contract. That thing is the Fundamental Ledger. Before your first breath, before your first thought – even as your mind coalesces out of chaos, long before you can know your own nature as a sophont, its bindings are sewn and its pages cut, their pages empty, snow-white and pristine.

“As it must be, for without choice, there can be no obligation, and without existence, there can be no choice. New-made and yet unchoosing, free of all ties that bind, you owe the world nothing, as it owes nothing to you.

“But all through your life, your every action fills it. Black, and red. Credit, and debit. Profit, and loss. Every deed is recorded in full measure: no trick of manipulation, nor guised externality, nor immaterial value, escapes the view of the Hidden Cog or His Market’s Eyes.

“And at the end of infinite time, when all books are tallied and the accounts finally closed out, this is how you will be judged:

“Have you created value, or merely consumed it?

“In the universal accounting, were you an asset… or a liability?”

the Book of Covalan, Commentaries & Sermons

 

Book #3!

It’s coming!

(I was initially planning to wait until I had a novel-length piece to publish, but a lot of nanofic has passed under the bridge since then, so a third collection it is. At least once the editing work is done – so you can consider this a pre-announcement, which should give anyone who isn’t a current patron but would like to take advantage of the free e-book-for-patrons offer time to subscribe appropriately.)

No title as yet: that will come out in the editing. Cover art, on the other hand, that is on its way, so there’s absolutely that to look forward to!

 

So you’ve been attacked in the Rim Free Zone…

“So you’ve been attacked in the Free Zone…

“…you had a security provider, right? At least I hope you had a security provider, given the giant ‘THE RIM FREE ZONE TRAVEL FACILITATORS’ ASSOCIATION RECOMMENDS THAT YOU GET A SECURITY PROVIDER’ banner hanging in the starport with maybe a thousand different security provider advertisements stacked fog-thick around it in the augmentality.

“But maybe you didn’t take that advice. Or wanted to save money. Or plain didn’t have the money, or the rep, or anything else worth exchange-value.

“And no-one was around at the time? ‘Cause, I mean, not having a security provider doesn’t mean that no-one’s watching your back – it just means that no-one’s being paid to officially watch your back for you, and what you mostly have to watch out for are con artists and other relatively subtle kinds of fraud. (Well, maybe not that subtle, if you played the shell game with that dude who hangs around by the startown maglev.) But we all believe in non-aggression here on Hopamar, and if someone tried to attack you on the main drag, half the people around’d shoot him on general principles, and the other half’d shoot him for what the judge’d award them once she got done stripping the assets off his bones.

“But maybe some kveth-licker fresh off a ship from the Yaffish Marches got to you in an alley when no-one was around, took your terminal and foldcase away from you, and stabbed you cleanly in the left kidney.

“That’s when you call us.

Triple-G Eleemosynary Redistributionists, Inc.

“We make crime not pay.”

“For now, though… do you consent to emergency medical treatment and agree that payment for it can be added to your legal claim against your assailant?”

– a Triple-G advertisement-drone, to a prospective customer

One further note…

…on the technologically advanced civilization vs. WH40K Imperium of Man scenario occasionally played with.

What we might have here is a really dramatic example of why you don’t want single points of failure, regardless of how well defended you think your single points of failure are.

Combine Jon’s Law (any interesting space drive is a weapon of mass destruction) with the Imperium’s centralized governance (not exactly great centralized governance, but something has to provide centripetal force to the whole tangled mess – even if that’s mostly a corpsified and gross symbol these days) and even more centralized navigation system (Astronomican), throw in the way that canonical WH40K assumes that space defenses are porous and blind at medium-to-long range, and what you have a situation that just screams “relativistic kill vehicle“.

Basically, you whack Holy Terra with an RKV, then smirk as the thousands of successor splinter states, reft of their unifying symbol, are only prevented from slashing each other to suicide by their inability to reach each other in any sort of organized fashion. You may not have cured your human problem, but you’ve definitely reduced it to manageability.

 

Things You Are No Longer Allowed To Do In The Imperial Military Service

This one goes out to all my readers who have spent time deployed somewhere really, really, exquisitely tedious…

From: Master-at-Arms, CS Ablator
To: All Personnel, Task Group SPIKY POTATO
Subject: Prohibitions That Should Not Have To Be Explicit

It has come to my attention that due to the less than challenging nature of our current duty station, certain behaviors qualifying as discipline problems have become alarmingly common throughout this Task Group. Worse, it has come to the Admiral’s attention, and the Admiral, permit me to assure you, is even less amused by them than I am.

From the date of posting this notice, therefore, the following are now explicitly prohibited, and violations will attract the full weight of Article Three to the violator and anyone else involved.

  1. The chief reason for the unchallenging nature of our present duty station is the technical advantage we enjoy over the enemy. The correct military terminology for this, however, is battlespace supremacy. Under no circumstances is it to be referred to in after-action reports as god mode. Good grief, people, you all know that our AARs are matters of public record. Try to show a little professionalism.
  2. Local allies are technically referred to as colonial troops, and not as ablative meat, however lacking their TO&E might be. At least where they can hear you.
  3. Even if the locals have no missiles capable of doing more than bouncing off our ships’ hulls, the tactical tank is for monitoring local-space activity. Not for playing Galaxy of Conquest in super-high-res. (And if you’re the officer Captain Oricalcios walked in on mid-game, your tactics were terrible and you just failed this year’s promotion board.)
  4. The official motto of the Imperial Military Service is “Between the Flame and the Fire”. Unofficially, the paraphrase “civilization has enemies; we kill the bastards” has been usually tolerated. All of the following, however, are to be avoided: “Your sexy new war gods”, “because nuclear ain’t enough”, “death death death death death”, and any references to squid.
  5. Yes, the paderi are a quadrupedal species. This does not mean that our local allies can be used as cavalry mounts.
  6. Even, and I wish to emphasize this in particular, if it was their idea. Even assuming that it is a good idea, the optics are terrible.
  7. Nor are any of our current variety of combat drones suitable for use in this role. You’ll just have to live without valiantly charging down the enemy so you can hit them with your sword.
  8. Even if you have a cavalry sword. Why do you have a cavalry sword?
  9. Your fellow legionaries are not to be used as projectile weapons.
  10. Betting on arm-wrestling with civilians while wearing power-assisted armor is forbidden, even if they are drunk and spoiling for trouble. The local hospitals have started to complain.
  11. Combat stimulators are not to be considered a substitute for esklav, no matter what you think of the mess brew.
  12. Nor, although the Imperial Military Service is relatively permissive where fraternization is concerned, are they to be used to spice up your love life. Surgeon-Lieutenant Aendyr has been issued a blanket authorization to post pictures.
  13. While chameleon coatings can be set to any color and pattern, flames, hot pink, your favorite painting, or last week’s episode of Battle Beyond the Brane are not approved for field use.
  14. Aftermarket speaker systems are not to be fitted to combat exoskeletons. Your AI already provides a perfectly adequate soundtrack.
  15. …even if you did require them to “challenge the enemy to a dance-off”, we have a requisitions procedure for a reason.
  16. No military equipment is to be used for recreational purposes. If whatever you thought of makes you smile, giggle, or laugh, you are to assume that it constitutes recreational purposes until advised otherwise.
  17. Especially if it involves any intersection of stealth hardware with practical jokes.
  18. Yes, cook-outs are recreational. Besides, no heat-generating weapons in inventory can be turned down far enough to leave the meat even slightly edible. Yes, we checked.
  19. So is requisitioning drop shuttles for booze runs or ‘surprise rapid insertion liberty’.
  20. While the IMS recognizes that explosives can be used to solve a remarkable number of classes of problems, and while formal research into expanding this list is usually done by the Office of Military Research and Development it is nonetheless happy to add field improvisations to its official repertoire, this applies to field improvisations. It is not a blanket authorization for unofficial explosives research.
  21. While the Imperial Military Service also has no fan-fiction policy, largely due to no-one ever imagining that it might need a fan-fiction policy, would-be authors are reminded that it still needs to be cleared through all the normal channels before you post it publicly. Especially if you want to illustrate it with staged or real combat videos.
  22. …and if you’re writing that kind of fan-fiction, be aware that at least some of your characters can have you spaced for mutiny.
  23. While your efforts to challenge yourselves are admirable, save it for actual exercises. Pretending you’ve forgotten to bring bullets to the battle so you’ll be forced to improvise may be a challenge, but it’s also a mockery of the rules of war, and just begging for an unpleasant surprise.
  24. Especially if by “improvise” you mean “punch, a lot”.
  25. It’s still a bad idea to play Ancyr roulette even if it’s mathematically impossible for the bullets to penetrate N45 Garrex field combat armor.
  26. …especially if whoever you’re playing it with isn’t wearing N45 Garrex field combat armor.
  27. Unless you’re a psychological warfare specialist, you are not authorized to conduct psychological warfare.
  28. Against either side.

That is all. Or rather, that had better be all, because Ablator has an awful lot of hull that could stand a good cleaning. Six by six?

 

Darkness Within (26)

Sometimes Athnéël’s random factors are kind.

I grin like an idiot, staring into the hole my obliging drones have cut into the engineering bulkhead. Although, to be fair, that might be the oxy-tox.

It’s there.

It’s intact.

A geodesic sphere wrapped in golden foil, glittering in the weak starlight and its own sputtering photon-discharge glow. No signs of damage, leakage, or short-circuits. It’s a factory-spec, fully-operational, command-ready vector-control core.

And right now, I decide – as I order the drones to execute the clean shutdown-and-remove-for-maintenance procedure, then bring it out to me – it’s the most beautiful, unlikely, ridiculously perfect thing in the whole damned galaxy.

Hells, if I weren’t in this suit and it weren’t dangerous to touch, I’d kiss it. If it gets me out of this, I might anyway.


FROM: CS GOUGER (FIELD FLEET RIMWARD)
TO: CS GRITFIST (FIELD FLEET RIMWARD);
CS UNDERBELT (FIELD FLEET RIMWARD) ;
FIELD FLEET RIMWARD COMMAND (CS ARMIGEROUS PROPERTARIAN)

*** ROUTINE
*** FLEET CONFIDENTIAL E256
*** OVERDUE FOLLOWUP

REF: TASK GROUP R-4-118
REF: OVERDUE STATUS, CS GUTPUNCH

  1. AS PER TASK GROUP ORDERS ORIGINATING CS UNDERBELT, HAVE SEPARATED FROM COHORT CS GRITFIST AND HAVE PROCEEDED AT BEST SPEED TO NARIJIC SYSTEM.
  2. SYSTEM LONGSCAN BUOY CONFIRMS INBOUND GATING OF CS GUTPUNCH IN ACCORDANCE WITH PATROL ROUTING.
  3. SYSTEM LONGSCAN BUOY REPORTS LOSS OF TRANSPONDER SIGNAL FROM CS GUTPUNCH AS OF MET 183-10-1:16.
  4. INITIAL ACTIVE SENSOR SWEEP REPORTS PRESENCE OF MULTIPLE TARGETS CLASSIFIABLE AS HULKS WITH P > 0.85 MATCH, LEAKING WEAK EM EMISSIONS. NO TRANSPONDER SIGNAL PRESENT. NO INTENTIONAL SIGNALLING DETECTED.
  5. SELF COMMENCING CONIC SEARCH GRID SWEEP WITH ORIGIN AT MALTEVIC STARGATE AND LARGEST HULK TARGETS AS FOCI. REQUEST IMMEDIATE TASK GROUP REINFORCEMENT.
  6. MORE FOLLOWS.
  7. AUTHENTICATION AXE MOUSE FRANTIC FAN RIPPLE NUMERAL / 0x1DEED3A79926FFE2

ENDS.


Oh, you lovely, lovely thing.

All tucked in nicely into the thrust frame, right between the motors. I can’t see you, but I can feel the edge-effect take hold. The drain on the accumulators is more than I’d like, but low enough I can live with it. Heh, for long enough, anyway.

Right then, you drones! Enough gazing! I have Spark One and Spark Another clamp themselves onto the girders that brace my remass tank. I’m not going to get much more thrust out of them, but every little helps. Besides, can’t leave them behind after they might just have saved my ass. That’d be rude.

Checklist. What’s left on the checklist?

Course? The gyros screech again as I fire up the navigation program, spinning slowly to put the Kerjejic stargate prograde. Looks right, close as eyeball can tell, which isn’t very much, but it’s a bit late to start rechecking your numbers now, Isif. Time to see if that cross-training paid off.

Ackles. Ackles? Ackles! Remote access enabled. A fine lot of good it would do, running into some rescuers if they have to shoot the drives off this thing to stop me.

Anything else?

Not that I can think of. Just one last thing to do.

Node<-# lastchance exec.

The acceleration hits at the same time as the drugs, the pain of thrust on bruised bones mingling with the cold numbness of nepenthol. Nothing worth being aware for now – if anything breaks, I’m dead, and with nothing to fix. Or no-one’s searching in the right place and I’m about to turn into a one-woman expedition into the deep black. Either way, I’ll pass on the experience, especially as that’ll save battery and oxygen both.

– Good luck – , my muse whispers in the back of my mind.

I have just enough time to think that she needs it every bit as much as I do before –

Personality execution suspended.