I Can See Your House From Here

Anywhere Killer (n.): hypothetical weapons system using an arbitrarily-targetable wormhole generator to deliver ordnance – or convenient non-ordnance, such as stellar cores – to any target location in the galaxy whose coordinates are known or can be inferred, bypassing all defense systems in the intervening space-time.

Naturally, as a strategic first-strike weapon nonpareil, the development, deployment, and/or use of this technology has been banned by every respectable galactic polity.

Naturally, every respectable galactic polity has a research team or twelve squirreled away in secret working on it.

May their theoretical and practical difficulties long continue.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary


(Yes, this is the local version of Schlock Mercenary’s “Long Gun” – since people kept asking me about such a thing in the ‘verse.

And to clarify further: those research teams may not know it yet, but those theoretical difficulties are actually, genuinely insurmountable. The only way to inflate a distant wormhole end at a targeted location is the ER=EPR method used by stargates, and so Anywhere Killers are impossible.)

This Was Your Brain On Drugs

“Unlike chemodrugs, the problem with cutting nanodrugs is that everyone knows what a nanite suspension is supposed to look like. It’s quite distinctive. So unless you’re willing to go the costly route of cutting your nanodrugs with other, slightly less expensive nanodrugs carefully tested for interactions, people cutting nanodrugs for quick coin will use whatever nanites they can find lying around. If the customer’s really lucky, that means a veinful of unprogrammed medichines. Not so lucky, and whatever not-for-internal-use swarm they just injected will send their immune system into overdrive and they’ll be in acute septicemic shock within a couple of seconds. Needless to say, it’s a one-time-and-run crime — yes, question at the back?”

“And if they’re unlucky?”

“Unlucky? You’ll know what that means when you see someone who’s snorted a snootful of factory-reject garden paste, or cleaning dust, or something else that’ll actually operate in vivo. Being used as still-living constructor raws starts out at messy and ends with grotesque. No pictures – you’ll know it when you see it, and that’s soon enough.”

– training lecture,
Exopharma Exclusion Agency,
Xintenta Pharmacology

More of a Primand, Really

(Yes, this is so very real-life-writes-the-plot, but as with that age-old piece about transportation security, what can you do…)

From: Ektalis Munisinios (Second Undersecretary, Ministry of State and Outlands)
To: Cerea Oliviscios (Their Divine Majesties’ Ambassador to the Viridian States)
Security: DIPLOMATIC BLUE
Subject: Formal reprimand

We have this day received a missive from the State Department of your country of residence calling for your formal reprimand over certain impolitic remarks, to wit, “We are sure the people of the Viridian States must be inspired to great confidence by their governance’s ability to find people who will obey any order, especially in these troubled times.”

Herewith is that reprimand:

Next time, be sure the galactic press has been invited to the party, not just the locals. Makes it harder to cover up.

Drinks at the Mustelid are on me next time you make it back to the capital.

– Ektalis

Self-Dying

CAPITOL, YANOK ARCHIPELAGO, TORKATAN CONGERIES – Protests were reported today outside the Imperial embassy here in Capitol Drift over the recent death of a citizen of the Congeries during a tour of the Core worlds.

Ra Adom Underhull was struck and killed by an groundcraft on Ellisar (Imperial Core) late last year, one of only fourteen vehicular incidents reported in the Empire in 7204.

Her case has attracted some controversy both within and without Imperial space, since as a member of the pro-public-privacy group Behind the Veil, Underhull was wearing full-coverage clothing patterned with adversarial images designed specifically to impair the operation of commonly-used sensor algorithms, and had placed the Universal issued her at entry into a sealed embag. (This latter practice was one which had already led to several warnings from the Constabulary.)

A statement issued at the time by Silverwing Motors, ICC, the designers of the groundcraft in question, offered their condolences to Underhull’s family, but, while noting that the vehicle had detected her and begun obstacle-avoidance routines shortly before the collision, stated that they could not reasonably be expected to build systems secure against deliberate and technically sophisticated attempts to sabotage their operation.

The Constabulary coroner concurred with this, and returned a verdict of death by misadventure secondary to traumatic amentia, or as it is unfortunately also known, “death by stupidity”.

It is this verdict that forms the root of the controversy, with opinions varying from those prevalent in certain outworlds that one should be protected fully even from the consequences of one’s own actions, or that this once again highlights the intrinsic dangers of automation, to the common opinion among Imperials that one cannot in all reason possibly expect to be kept safe when engaging in acts of profound unwisdom, such as deliberately blinding safety systems or taking an evening stroll through a minefield.

Consensus on these matters remains as unlikely to be reached as ever.

– the Imperial Infoclast

Outsize

“Finally, let us turn to the biggest megaships of them all, the fleet carriers. Including them in this work is a choice which I expect to be somewhat controversial – many would argue that a fleet carrier is a formation, not a vessel – but with respect to those readers who may hold that position, since the Imperial Navy treats fleet carriers as a single vessel for asset accounting and command designation purposes, so in turn shall I.

“Let us begin with a look at the history of the type. Fleet carriers were not known before the Exterminomachy (5782-5901). While before that time lighthuggers had met with occasional hostility, they had proven more than capable of defending themselves against local system defense forces, in particular with the Perreinar Wheel1 – and in those cases where they were not, it was because they had encountered a Power not readily opposed by pure military force. This changed with the arrival of the skrandar berserker probes, whose numbers and willingness to embrace suicide tactics made them a serious threat to even well-defended vessels, and eliminating breeding site for which required the transport of full task forces to their host systems.

“The first fleet carriers, then, were improvisations; lighthuggers pressed into service under the right of angary. Stripped down by removing all cargo capacity, much crew space, and all other less-than-essential facilities, and enhancing their fuel capacity with multiple drop tanks, it became possible to clamp a small number of light units – overstocked with fuel and supplies – to the spine of such a vessel, and have it haul them slowly and painfully to a target system.

“Such crude improvisations were fraught with problems, from wear and tear on ships and crew during the slow transit, to the risk of interception before the transported units could free themselves from the carrier – both due to the inefficiency of the mechanical clamps, and the need to cut clamps frozen in transit or actual hard welds used where clamps would not suffice, to even entire vessels lost from the carrier in transit. (The last of these to be recovered, CS Bloodwashed3, was salvaged with all hands in 6722.)

“Fortunately, by the third year of the Exterminomachy, new designs were emerging from the cageworks at Ashen Planitia and Armory. The second-generation fleet carriers were custom-built starships, or rather, the specialized elements (the “propulsion head” and “collier module”) were, since the second generation eschewed the rigid designs of the first in exchange for dispersed tensegrity structures.

“In effect, the starships transported by the fleet carrier, along with the specialized elements, formed the floating compression struts of the overall structure, while being linked by braided cables (derived from orbital elevator technology) into a unified structure. The majority of the propulsive thrust is provided by the dedicated propulsion heads, while specialized fleet mediator software enables the use of the drives of the various carried ships to balance the structure and correct attitude. Meanwhile, supplies carried in the collier modules, distributed by rigged flexpipe and by cable-crawling logistics robots, eliminated the need to overload any individual ship with supplies, and indeed enabled the transportation of greater volumes of fuel and replenishment. Moreover, such fleet carriers could separate instantly if intercepted by simply blowing the explosive cable-couplers and engaging their drives independently, the dispersed tensegrity structure providing adequate safety separation for this.

“Such dispersed-design fleet carriers served with distinction throughout the remainder of the Exterminomachy, and have remained a key element of IN subluminal doctrine since. While there exist a third generation of fleet carrier designs, these merely reflect the evolution in technological reliability that allows the physical cables of the second generation to be replaced with vector-control tractor-pressor beams, and does not reflect any change in fundamental design or doctrine.

“As ad hoc structures, of course, it would be incorrect to say that fleet carriers have classes, in the strictest sense. However, the individual propulsion heads and collier modules, the former full starships in themselves, do. Thus, we shall begin our examination of fleet carriers with a look at the most common propulsion head in Imperial service, the Legends-class…”

– Megaships of the Imperium, Lorvis Maric, pub. 7290


  1. Perreinar2 Wheel: a fight-and-flight maneuver in which a lighthugger puts its stern towards the battle and engages its interstellar drive, thus retreating from the engagement while simultaneously treating the enemy to the close-range efflux of a pion drive – a situation which is very rarely survivable for anything larger than a baryon.
  2. From the eponymous horse archers who had perfected the “Perreinar shot” centuries before.
  3. Lost in the wreck of CS Cúlíän Daphnotarthius, which suffered a structural collapse of the spine while outward bound to IGS 31238 in the second year of the war.

Social Diseases

cognitive osmosis: The process, according to rumor, by which farspeech or other telepathic or techlepathic contact, especially the forms based in the exchange of neural gestalts, with the stupid causes one, oneself, to become less intelligent.

(Curiously, none of these stories ever suggests that this process makes the stupid themselves more intelligent.)

While having no basis whatsoever in sophontology, noetics, cerebroergetics, neuroscience, or indeed anything else but the unpleasant psychic odor of ill-formed thoughtforms, it remains an occasional phobia, a common urban legend, and a popular insult among everyone who has ever felt the urge to demand to know why they are surrounded by these incompetent fools.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary