Location, Location, Location

The only permanently cold regions on Eliéra are the lands near its hub. On Upperside, divided by the grinding bergs of the Kjavalaer, the outer reaches of this region belong to the Icemarch, on the Alténiän continent, and to the Winter Principality elsewhere.

The outermost of these reaches are relatively clement windswept taiga, but as one advances towards the center, this soon gives way to cruel winter tundra. The land beyond the Frozen Gates is dominated by glaciers and permanently frozen ice fields, leading upwards to the barren, wasted foothills of the Talíär – or the Dalthíär, on the Underside – where endless ice storms and glaciers render the land nigh-impassable. The only successful settlements in this region are the siphon-towns of the Icemarch, buried deep beneath ice and rock, and accessed by ice tunnels leading far to the south.

Many explorers were nonetheless drawn to these regions, pulled onwards by the curious regularity and sixfold symmetry around the hub of the Talíär and Dalthíär mountain ranges. The most notable of these expeditions were those led by Nimínes Dalastel, whose third expedition reached the base of the Talíär proper, and whose sixth expedition, making use of base camps and caches established by the fourth and fifth, successfully ascended to one of the passes of the Talíär.

Had the expedition not correctly deduced the cause of the note resounding through the pass, it would undoubtedly have come to a fatal end after surmounting its narrow summit. Thus forewarned, however, the expedition proceeded with caution, and heavily secured by ropes, were the first to lay eyes upon the shaft within the Talíär; a near-vertical, artificially smooth descent plummeting not merely to the bottom of the mountains, but deep within the main body of the world itself.

(And so, the expedition solved a speleological puzzle of long standing. It had been observed that caves tended to “breathe”, and the predominant observation was that strongly connected caves – i.e., those leading into the network of deep-crust passages referred to as the Beneath – exhaled drafts of warmer-than-ambient air on a near-continuous basis.

We now know the source of this air is the Talíär and Dalthíär shafts. Cold stratospheric air pours through the passes of the mountains and descends rapidly into the bowels of the planet, where it serves to carry away the waste heat generated by the computation and matter editation layers of the machinery at its core. The then-heated air is vented into the Beneath, within which it cools and expands, and from which it eventually emerges at the surface as warm cave-breath.)

It is despite all this, then, that the Talíär was selected as the site for Eliéra’s first orbital elevator. While the difficulties involved in building a jack directly above a gale-force air intake in the middle of the arctic were indeed considerable, this is merely to say that the other two possible sites were worse…

– World on a String: A History of Early Orbital Elevators

The Truth Is In Here

True Tales of the Worlds: Recently selected as the Least Truthful Newsbytes for the 69th year in succession, True Tales of the Worlds is the Associated Worlds’ longest-running comedic-speculation journal, memetic experiment, and/or example of untreated delusions. Having recently turned 4,000, we present here a selection of recent headlines, all of which, we feel, live up to the standard set by the front-page story of their first ever issue, “Holy Shit, Planets Actually Spherical”.

  • Alleged Leytra Star Just a Blue-White Hallucination
  • Three-Ended Wormhole Discovered: Duplicates Expedition
  • Dropped Comet Made of Cheese: Colonists Surprised, But Surprisingly Delicious
  • Every Star Nation Secretly Ruled by Lizard People (Except the Empire of the Lizard People)
  • Empire of the Lizard People Secretly Ruled by Different Lizard People
  • Transportation Cartel Cover-Up – Galaxy Only Twelve Million Miles Across!
  • Many-Colored Shooting Stars Expected After Explosion of Candy Freighter
  • Universe Not Hollow, Claims Scientist, And We Live On The Outside
  • Giant Space Yeast Found In Beer Nebula
  • Giant Space Yeast More Awesome Than Giant Space Amoeba, Scientists Agree
  • Panspermia: Space Currents or Self-Pleasuring Deity? Very-Large-Baseline Images You Won’t Believe!
  • Conclave Votes To Raise Luminal Limit
  • Let My People Go, Ring Dynamics!: Interview With a Giant Space Worm
  • Lord Blackfall Converting Sun To Private Hyperyacht, Threatens ‘Global Warming’
  • Precursor Artifact Found in Public ‘Fresher: Scientists Now Searching For ‘Hyperspace Poop Moon’
  • Sen Shari Demands Hope Hegemony Dye ‘Eyesore’ Nebula
  • League Treasury Buys Three-Ended Wormhole, Pays Half Price
  • Plans to Soft-Land Moon of Sedria in Original Location Move Forward, Citing Benefits to Science, Tourism
  • Vordon’s Empty: “Detuned Heterodynes” Hire All The Mercenaries As Roadies For Upcoming Galactic Tour
  • Eye-of-Night Spontaneously Emits Mint ’53 Atomo: Science Team Takes Rocket Ride
  • Mermaids Make First Contact, Protest Moon-Landing Plans
  • Eels! Why?

If you are currently asking yourself why, consider the True Tales‘ never-changed masthead:

“The Truth Shall Enrich”

– A Star Travelers’ Dictionary

Why Did I Do That?

Of the various forms of mind control available today, the most subtle and horrible is that of overshadowing.

Overshadowing occupies the middle ground between full possession – in which the invading mind replaces or suppresses the host mind, which is either destroyed or unconscious during the period of possession; and black puppeteering, in which control is asserted at the sensory/motor interfaces, and in which the host is conscious (although not necessarily receiving sensory input) but rendered unable to act.

Sophotechnology recognizes that virtually all forms of cognition function as a society of mind, in which a variety of mental routines, from the primary personality down through subpersonalities, archetypes, self-and-other models, and mere invoked talents interact to create the mentality entire. Selfness – the location of primary executive function – migrates during mental processing between these routines, with that most apt to handle the present situation taking a foreground role under, in healthy minds, the guidance of the primary personality.

Overshadowing functions by introducing one or more additional viral routines (similar to a gnostic overlay) into this chorus, which can take control in unguarded moments and carry out its programmed functions while making full use of its host’s memory base, invoked talents, and in sophisticated examples, even higher-level routines to determine ways and means.

The true horror of this is seen after the fact: in conscious sophonts, the consciousness loop functions as a journal file recording and organizing mental processing into a self-narrative, and such consciousness loops assume that all mental processing is legitimate mental processing. As the cliché goes, you can’t perceive that you’re insane. As such, from the conscious perspective, the host perceives the actions of the viral routine as their own, and will weave them into their self-narrative with such post-hoc rationalizations as are required to make them fit.

As such, while no civilized polity would hold an individual ethically responsible for actions taken while overshadowed, it is often very difficult to persuade overshadowing victims that this is the case, especially since secondary mental structures may have formed to support the rationalizations, leaving behind motivations for a given behavior even after the viral routine which initiated in the past has been removed. For this reason, treatment is a lengthy process requiring sophisticated mind-state analysis, preferably including differential analysis against pre-infection backups.

– Manual of Mental Diagnostics, 271st ed.

The Lover of Money

“How do you make money, the symbol of exchange-value, properly match the actuality of exchange-value? Every civilization struggles with that, except the ones who give up and treat the mismatch as an opportunity to steal from the future… But it turns out that creating a liminal hyperintelligence that indwells your currency such that it can regulate its own value from a fiscally omniscient perspective works modestly well. Once people come to terms with the notion of spending tiny particles of god, anyway.”

Rilia Cheraelar, Economist Excellence,
on Aurifer, the Fiscal Mind

The Sleepers’ Deal

The third Cirys sphere in the known galaxy, unless you count the one the Photonic Network have under construction, is to be found in an unconnected system, perhaps twenty light-orbits to nadir of the Qulomna Maze. A computronium matrioshka, this is the “homeworld” of the Sleeper Estivation, one of the better-known of the elder races. Not that that’s saying much.

It can even be visited. There’s a dedicated lighthugger route out of Empta (Qulomna Maze)along which Equivalent Exchange makes a run every fifty years. At no charge to her typical half-dozen or so passengers, moreover – the crew are paid well in high-level computation or fragments of forgotten lore, enough to make them wealthy beyond the dreams of antimatter merchants.

And why would you want to take five decades out of your life to visit it? Well, because the Estivation has an offer for you. No strings attached.

They will tune your mind. Submit a copy of your mind-state to the Sleepers, and they will return you better. Able to think faster, and more clearly, creatively, intuitively, incisively. More perfectly attuned to your goals. The you that you wish you were. (People have investigated many of these copies for hidden traps over the centuries, and none have ever been found.) And finally, since it’s a copy, not a live edit, you don’t have to replace yourself with the new, improved you unless you think it really is an improvement.

Everyone does, of course. The Sleepers are very good at what they do.

And the price? Ah, there’s the catch — you let them keep a copy of you.

Hopeless optimists like to think the Sleepers are bored and lonely, and want company in their virtuality. Less naïve souls assume that the mind-states are being strip-mined for knowledge about the state of the galaxy, amusing memories, or software components. Or, if you listen to the cynical, there’s nothing to say that they aren’t being used in societum simulations, as sophont gamepieces or creativity farms, turned into infovore chow, or brute-force simulated across a trillion death-cubes by postsophont scientists caring nothing for lesser minds.

But then, that’s someone else’s debt to pay now, isn’t it?

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