Some Definitions, and a Location

heliobraking (n.): decelerating by making a number of close – i.e., transcoronal – stellar passes, in extreme cases even dipping into the upper boundary layer of the photosphere. While effective, such maneuvers pose hazards both physical, such as irradiation, combustion, or sudden realization of what a bad idea this was, and legal, as there is now someone to whom liability can be attributed both fairly and unfairly for every coronal mass ejection, solar storm, and other stellar hiccup in the near future.

axiomancy (n.), axiomantic (adj.): lit. “the magic of definitions”. Originally an informal term for the manipulations ontotechnologists perform with their reality engines (q.v.), which has been adopted as jargon of the profession.

diproton bomb (n.): theoretical ontopathic weapon functioning by inducing a delta increase in the strong interaction coupling constant, rendering the diproton (2He) stable. Should such a modified region be deployed in a stellar core, the low threshold for initiation will dramatically accelerate hydrogen fusion, upsetting the balance between thermal pressure and gravitic contraction in favor of the former, ultimately resulting in an artificial supernova event.

ISS Additional: See research categorized under BACKFIRE FULMINATION. If you do not have BACKFIRE FULMINATION clearance, please report this IMMEDIATELY to your local internal security officer.

cystal universe (n.): a “subuniverse” created by advanced axiomancy, in which the modified region created by ontotechnological means is incapable of direct interaction with the volumes beyond it. Thus, a topological defect arises at the boundary, resulting in a protected cyst surrounded by a domain wall across which interaction is necessarily limited.

Irreality Vault: A series of linked cystal universes buried beneath the city of Ascension, Resplendent Exponential Vector (Imperial Core), used for primary testing of experimental technology in the fields of ontogenesis, ontopoesis, and ontopathic weapons.

Things to See, Places (Not) to Go (10)

The Burning Brickyard: Located in the middle of the Bright Desert, in possibly the most inhospitable terrain Eliéra has to offer, this 108-acre site is the primary nuclear waste storage site on the eldrae homeworld, with millennia of high-level waste stacked in pyramids of vitrified glass bricks glowing gently, interspersed with occasional stacks of long-set bricks of decontamination foam from ancient clean-ups.

Of course, you can’t see any of that from the perimeter fence; unless you have business there, you can see the small administration building, and the even smaller visitor center, and that’s about it. Do not cross the perimeter fence to try to get a better look at the waste however impressive sight you might think the sight to be; the signs hung on the fence reading “IF YOU CROSS THIS LINE YOU WILL DIE” are intended literally, and if you ask at the visitor center, they can show you the small pile of bricks containing the remains of the last few fools who thought that they weren’t. On the monitor feed, of course; they won’t be safe to visit in person any time soon.

Just buy a postcard at the gift shop, and move on.

Better yet, write and ask them to send you one.

 

Moments in History (3)

Red Planet, Blue Sky?

The news on everyone’s lips today here in Orbitfall, as well as back home, is the televised deployment of the new soletta array here in Talentar orbit. While not the first step taken, the soletta is the first tangible result of the comprehensive ecopoesis program announced last year by the Spaceflight Initiative, Project Redblossom, which will allow eldrae to walk on the blue-green surface of lowland Talentar without respirators within three centuries. Present with the project lead and the colonial legate at the unfolding ceremony today were representatives from several of the Empire’s constituent nations most represented in the Spaceflight Initiative, and from the newly formed Orbital-Seléne Alliance.

The soletta array is the first and principal orbital mirror in an array which will be deployed in synchronous orbit, reflecting the suns’ light as part of the ongoing effort to warm the planet. Smaller mirrors will also be deployed for use in melting the planet’s surface rock and liberating some of Talentar’s hidden water, presently locked in frozen aquifers.

But not everyone is happy with the ecopoesis program. Diplomatic protests have been lodged by the Cerenaith Alliance, both here and back home, citing lack of consultation and concerns with the potential use of the mirrors as orbital battle platforms. I spoke to one of Project Redblossom’s senior engineers:

“Seriously? If they’re going to complain about the mirrors, what are they going to do when the ice asteroids get here? Lyricen Lacus isn’t going to carve itself, much less fill — this is off the record, yes?”

– from the Imperial Infoclast, summer 2273

Eschatofer Teaser

“So we’ve all laughed at Imperial warship design, even when it scares the hell out of us. Impressive, yes, but also flying hotels. Everyone down to the janitors gets private cabins. And we snicker at the Flight Commander’s private garden and jacuzzi, and the crew swimming pool, and the bridges dressed in heavy oak and polished brass, complete with leather seats and wet bar. All of that mass and volume they could have spent, we say, putting a few more weapons on it, or a deeper ammunition reserve.”

“And then they build this motherfucker.”

– Admiral Sef Elim Karmos, League of Meridian Navy

Things to See, Places to Go (10)

Ochemír Station: The first thing to notice when you board this massive skyfarm cylinder, parked in the Eliéra-Elarion L4 point, is the humidity. It’s downright wet. (A local fashion outlet, Ochemír Silks, offers a complimentary change of clothing to visitors, who are heartily recommended to take up the offer.) From docks and locks, through station control and the habitation sector, and even the factory torus, you can expect to feel moist, and see condensation.

It turns out that it’s very hard to avoid that, short of using completely separated life-support systems and internal airlocks, if you want to put a swamp in a space station.

For that is the purpose of Ochemír: as the leading supplier of dyanail and mahardyanail products to habs across the Orbital-Seléne Alliance and beyond, the main body of the station is an eight-mile cylinder whose floor is covered with shallow water and the finest synthetic mud, painstakingly crafted from selenic regolith and periodically refreshed with biowaste again imported from across the OSA. And that means entirely covered – even the windows, albeit the wet windows are covered in clear ponds, surprising visitors occasionally with the giant shadow of a koi swimming past, sun-side.

Of course, within the cylinder the station’s own products are widely used; paths of mahardynail separate the individual groves and towers of it hold sensors and cameras; water is recycled and special nutrients are added through pipes likewise; dyanail shacks house robot hotels and local facility nodes; and even the harvesting and maintenance drones run on dyanail rails.

Meanwhile, the factory torus processes the ongoing perpetual harvest into all manner of products: raw wood, laminate, bioplastic, ethanol, charcoal, and other carbochemicals, foodstuffs, paper, dyanail silk and raw fiber, and myriad hand-crafted products.

A fascinating visit for anyone interested in industrial ecology, wet-phase life support engineering and construction, spacer history, or merely unusual habitat designs.

 

Unseen Key

(Note: this is set a few years before the Core War.)

Palaxias (Imperial Core) System
CS Eádinah’s Bower

The Admiral kept a Variasotec double-scimitar on his desk, twelve feet long if it was an inch.

It wasn’t likely that the Admiral himself was Variasotec, of course – nearly three hundred planets and even more countries to choose from – but whatever the real face was hidden underneath the carefully chosen generic features of the day, no-one was going to dispute the right of a soph who used that as a paperweight to own anything he damn well pleased.

As the whispers have it, a couple of hundred years back, some contractor or other decided they’d double-cross the Shadow Fleet, and do it right to the old man’s face. They say he didn’t get through more’n a couple of treacherous words before the Admiral picked that blade up and stabbed him right through the heart, then went questing around for the backups with the sharp end. They’re only whispers – anything that happens at that level’s downright fuliginous – but then there’s that nick in the blade. Just exactly where it’ll catch the light if you’re sitting in front of the Admiral’s desk.

Fortunately, I wasn’t a contractor, just seconded over from ISS, Second Directorate, and made more uncomfortable by body-adaptation than semiotic trickery. The only way into or out of the Shadow Fleet’s most-secret-death-before-disclosure-hush-hush headquarters, unless you’re being brought in to receive a reward either great or final, is mindcasting, and when your mind gets there – if you’re not permanent staff or some kind of specialist – they instantiate you in a generic synth-shell. No sense in growing custom bodies for anyone who’s only staying long enough to do some business, and if you’re here at all, that’s what you’re here for.

Which meant bipedal locomotion, binocular vision, bilateral symmetry, and assorted other things starting with bi-. I’m sure they were great advances when my proteinaceous cousins’ ancestors first thought them up, but really, in this day and age, they’re welcome to them.

With which grumbles I was occupying myself – or debugging myself, take your pick – when the Admiral telerepped in behind his desk, a different projection this time than the one that called my section chief and had me seconded – this one a blond, coppery lumeneldrae male, not the black-haired, pale eseldrae neuter of before.

I offered him an ISS-brand civilian-Service salute, “Agent-Minor Athné 0x411A7CB2, Second Directorate, reporting as requisitioned,” which got me a nod in return, while the Admiral lit up his desk and flicked virtual papers around the glasstop.

“So. Agent. The operational reviews for your previous missions appear quite impressive. Your section chief speaks highly of you.”

“Thank you, Admiral.”

“And you are also qualified in technical archaeology?”

“Before joining the Directorate I worked at Probable Technologies for thirty years. That was one of the reasons I was recruited.”

“And presently unknown, to the best of our knowledge, to both foreign intelligence agencies and other domestic interests.”

“If that’s what my file says. What’s all this about, Admiral?”

“Hmh.” He gestured a trigraphic image into existence over his desk. “What’s that?”

I shrugged. “That? It’s a stargate. Ring Dynamics Mark Three.” I peered closer, but couldn’t see anything unusual about it. “Relays, projectors, traffic-control… Nothing visibly special about it. There must be sur-dodeciads of them, all over the Worlds.”

“And this?” A second image appeared, similar to the first, but bulkier, with cubes and angled edges where the first had smooth organic curves, seam lines visible crisscrossing its surface.

“I haven’t seen one personally, but since they’re the only other people building them in quantity, I’d say that that must be a Republic stargate. Am I wrong? Where’s this going, sir?”

“You are not wrong. How much do you know about the invention of the stargate, agent?”

“Just the same as everyone else. Imogen Andracanth’s Initiative was dabbling in exotic physics research. The way the later company history tells it, they stumbled across the key to inflating wormholes serendipitously, published, and a private consortium then funded them to reduce it to engineering practice. Once they did some demonstrations, they pulled together a huge influx of capital from all sides to reunite the Thirteen Colonies – and since no-one else has figured out that piece of engineering, and Ring Dynamics isn’t letting it out of their hands, they’re now one of the Big 26 and lease out just about everyone’s interstellar transport infrastructure. Except the Republic’s, of course.”

“Of course.” The Admiral’s voice was ironic. “How?”

“How? Presumably they discovered it –

“-the same way we did?”

“If we discovered it as a matter of chance –

“If we discovered it as a matter of chance alone, certainly. If. I can believe in the unlikely happening twice, Athné. I can believe that even that civilization must occasionally throw up the odd millennial genius on the scale of Imogen Andracanth. But what I will certainly not believe is that the serendipitous discovery of a millennial genius with her brain ‘laced, in symbiosis with self-improving thinkers, and hooked up to what was, in its day, the largest quantum computing cluster ever built can be reproduced using slaved AIs and brains running solely on baseline meat.”

“Something’s going on. Maybe they’ve just dug up an elder-race artifact, or found a simple wormhole recipe in some archive. If so, we can deal with that. But there are other options, ranging from bad to existential. Finding out which is going to be your job. We need to know, Second Directorate needs to know, and quite possibly Ring Dynamics needs to know, too.”

He slid a data rod across the desk towards me.

“Operation UNSEEN KEY. Memorize, encrypt, and burn.”

 

Snippet: The Riot Act

“Having adjudged those persons here present to constitute a riotous assembly within the meaning of the Act thereupon, and by that Mandate which I hold and which I serve, I charge and command ye all, in the Voice of Their Divine Majesties, immediately to lay down arms and submit yourselves in peace to the Constabulary, that fair judgement may be laid upon ye, or else by your actions renounce any rights and claims in citizen-shareholdership and declare yourselves subject to such pains and penalties as the law does prescribe for the common enemies of sophontkind.