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

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).

Boom Tomorrow?

HÍÄSTRE, INTAIS (LEY NEBULA) – The small letal colony in the Chiaras (Beratnas Cluster) system broadcast an appeal today for aid, after local astronomers confirmed that the orbit of the comet IGS 31278493 would intersect with the orbit of Chiaras in three months time. While impact cannot be confirmed due to the increasing outgassing of the comet as it approaches perihelion, neither can it be ruled out. No assistance can be expected from the greater Inial Consulate, with which the Chiaras colony had severed formal ties, and no response has yet been made by any of the regional powers.

While no statement has been issued, public eyes report that the Imperial Rimward Fleet’s Task Group 149, currently on patrol in the Stritta (Vertyl Gyre) system, altered course at approximately the same time as the broadcast could have reached them, light-lag permitting, although their intentions remain unknown at this time.

(Amendment: the Accord Journal has, however, received a joint statement of protest from the Seventeen World Empire and the Vile-Born Imperium concerning the Empire of the Star’s monopoly on the adjective Imperial in this story and such publications as ours. We thank them for their attention to the most important details, although our editorial policy remains unchanged.)

The Right To Bear Arms

“If you need a good cadre job done fast, the Gun Captains are who you want to hire. They have an office in Plenary, a couple of blocks north of the Battlespire, or if you’re not welcome on Vordon, you can lug it all the way out to Hantol System in the Free Verge and call on them at home on Guntown Drift.

“Yes, that Guntown Drift. Don’t listen to the scaremongers; all the fresh puppets, clankie or squishie, were certified mindless before import. And we’re reasonably sure that any battle-trophies being worn about the place were legitimate spoils before they were turned into zek-meat.

“The locals may be the product of an AI revolt, but not the implacable-hostility-to-biosapiences kind. dilReigar Weapons screwed up their sophonce inhibitors by the numbers, but all they got were, heh, smart guns, that didn’t want to walk fresh milmeat through basic competence for free. So offer some quality pay. Trust me, they’re worth it.

“Oh, and look them in the sights, not the barrel, and definitely not the puppet’s eyes. That’s just respectful.”

But Not Quite Yet

Yeah. Big changes to come. But not quite yet, since this is the piece I have in mind for the closing of, not book three —

Book three, in editing.

— but rather, of book four.

So the galaxy won’t be having a paradigm shift to suffer through quite yet. I’m just issuing early teasers.

It’s coming, though.

And the stars shall tremble.