Máquina de Carne

The infamous tragalrás athánar (“meat machine”) – by whichever regional designation it is known1 – is both a awful and an excellent weapon. On the former point, certainly, it is crudely designed, generations obsolete, dumb, inelegant, and a wide assortment of other things which tend to give professional Imperial weapons designers fits of the vapors.

On the latter, however, it is durable, reliable even under the most stressful conditions, adequately lethal against soft targets, simple enough for even low-tech cottage industry to manufacture, and adaptable via an assortment of relatively simple kluges. It is these latter qualities that have made it the favored personal weapon of paramilitaries, asymmetrists, and criminal gangs the Worlds over.

Tracing its mixed heritage back to a variety of pre-gauss automatic rifles, the contemporary Meat Machine inherits a centuries-long evolution of design features chosen for maximal simplicity. The basic systems of the MM are an open-bolt design, using a spring-loaded magazine to push cartridges into the breech, where a gas piston advances them to firing position in the chamber when the trigger is pulled. It lacks any ejection mechanism; the cartridges are caseless, cast from a foamed propellant/oxidizer mixture – enabling it to operate in vacuum, in exotic atmospheres, or even submerged – beneath the bullet. This propellant is ignited by a mechanically or piezoelectrically generated spark. Residue build-up is generally loosened by the action and purged by the next shot, but does require periodic barrel cleaning.

Its design is very simple for ease of manufacturing or repair, using a wide variety of materials. In the most basic designs, the receiver is typically stamped (or occasionally machined) out of a single steel billet, whose scraps are used to construct the entirely mechanical action, mounted on or in a plastic or scrap wood frame. This makes it trivial to construct for most fabrication facilities, and simple even for pre-fabber cottage industry to turn out workable examples. Common dry lubricants – even animal grease – complete the assembly.

Performance varies widely depending on the quality of the assembly and the components of the foamed propellant, from barely adequate to sufficient to penetrate most civilian and low-grade military armor – proof that while the industry as a whole may have moved on to mass drivers, old chemical propellants still have some use. In addition, the flexibility of the weapon where propellants are concerned make it easy to avoid traces that show up on commonly-used sensors, including that of high-energy powercells.

In short: it’s a piece of junk that has its uses, and one not to be surprised by the wrong end of.

1. Common examples include “Meat Machine”, the name given to it by Resolutionist Faction ironmongers; the Nal Kalak Type 43, as it is known to one of its official manufacturers; RUSTY LEMON, the cryptonym assigned by Imperial State Security; the “Sewerslum Special”, a nickname from League of Meridian law enforcement; and “the ablative meat-stick”, as it’s known in the mercenary trade.


Item: In fresh cognitive threats this month, the Bureau of Internal Memetic Defense reports that the popular song “And A Plan I Found Atemporal” is the first known example of a memetic resource-hijacking, rather than a simple memetic resource-consumer. Sufferers from the Plan-Atemporal hijack find themselves coining additional lyrics to the song, which through a simple transform demonstrate themselves to be computations of further digits of π, which continue until the sufferer is sufficiently distracted to take the Plan-Atemporal hijack out of short- and medium-term memory.

There appears to be no method in the Plan-Atemporal hijack to read out the end result of the computation – and, for that matter, we already have more digits of π than this method can plausibly generate – but it seems clear that someone’s experimenting.

More information as we have it.

– Cognitive Threats Monthly (Sunarast 2960)

How to Talk to Rocks

“The typical computer in use in the modern Empire remains the parallel array of binary-encoded Stannic-complete processors that has been in use since the days of the first settled Stannic cogitator architecture. This is the case at all scales, from the smallest picoframe microcontroller to the largest mega, with the principal exception being the rod-logic nanocomputers used to provide computing power to microbots and other tiny devices, for which the distinction between hardware and software becomes fuzzy.

“These processors naturally come in a variety of designs utilizing a number of different internal architectures, microcodes, and instruction sets – even word lengths, although 128-bit words (banquyts) are an industry standard. That being said, while bare-metal programming is still taught to inculcate the fundamentals of the profession, it is rarely practiced today.

“Rather, high-level languages are compiled down to MetaLanguage, or ML. ML serves an an intermediate language whose core set of instructions is implemented, directly or indirectly, on all processors; a number of optional feature subsets (for physical interfaces, quantum computing, cryptography, and so on and so forth) may be implemented by various processors, but are not required. Exotic or experimental processors which wish to make use of ML, the majority, may implement their own private subsets. Code objects, or assemblages of such objects, are either precompiled upon installation or just-in-time compiled to platform-specific instructions for the processors they serve.

“The high-level languages of choice, naturally, are a much wider selection. The long-term leaders, at the time of publication, are:

Polychora: a general-purpose, multi-paradigm programming language designed to support object-, aspect-, concurrency-, channel-, ‘weave-, contract- and actor-oriented programming across shared-memory, mesh-based, and pervasively networked parallel-processing systems.

Descant: More dynamic and less strict than Polychora in its approach, and optimized for just-in-time compilation, Descant is a general-purpose language which, while supporting similar functionality in most areas, is optimized to serve in an extensible, modular, readily-integratable system-scripting role. Where convenient, it shares operators and syntax with Polychora.

Silvar: A dynamic language for data-structure-oriented programming, metaprogramming, and self-modification, supporting full homoiconicity while maintaining interoperability with other ML-based languages.

“Additionally, there are many domain specific languages in use. Common examples of these include Exapar (a language designed for convenient programming of nanoswarms and other massive-parallelism systems), eXchange (for expressing smart contracts), Imprimatura (used for declarative rights management systems), psylisp (an extended dialect of Silvar designed for optimal mind-state encoding and self-improving intelligent systems), and VIML (Virtual Interface Meta Language, used for virtuality design, along with specialized derivatives including IMF, the Interactive Modeling Format, and DObI, the Descriptive Object Interface).”

– Introduction to Computer Programming (Vol. 1.): Speaking To Minerals,
Imperial University Press

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The devices and techniques classed under PATELLA FLEXION are products of ISS research designed to assist field agents in social engineering, making use of hierarchy-based and submission instincts present in many sophont species. Rather than direct coercion or deception, the cerebroergetic and memetic technologies in this class function by projecting a comforting illusion of authority, designed to make its targets both well-disposed to and compliant with their user.

While effective (in proportion to the prevalence of said instincts; see relevant IES reports) in the former goal, they are of minimal use in the latter. Since PATELLA FLEXION leads the target to perceive the user as an authority figure communicating reasonable ideas – both observer-dependent – it can render actual communication (and thus persuasion of the target to do anything that they do not conceive their preferred authority-concept asking for from them) almost impossible. Worse, in some cases in which the target is hyperoneiric, it can trigger serious behavior excursions, often prejudicial to mission success.

Jini Raqelintios, Our Cabinet of Curiosities, ISS internal publication

The Accord of Galactic Polities

The Accord of Galactic Polities, less formally known simply as the Accord, is a loose meta-civilization composed of the non-starbound polities of the known regions of the galaxy. The Accord is frequently conflated with the Associated Worlds, which is more properly a galactographic term. (While the Accord is primarily composed of the polities of the Associated Worlds, it is neither exclusively nor exhaustively so composed; there exist both Accord signatories not galactographically part of the Worlds, and polities of the Worlds who are not Conclave signatories.)

It should be noted that the Accord is an association, not a governance – its membership is comprised of those polities which have agreed by treaty to observe certain borders, protocols, and procedures designed to maintain the peace and make trade and communication possible. Similarly, the Accord itself has no officers and maintains no offices; it is simply an agreement between its members.

The most important of the treaties which make up the Accord, of course, is the Accord on the Conclave, being a signatory to which grants full membership in the Conclave of Galactic Polities. This in turn grants you an embassy and exclave on the Conclave Drift, and the right to send one voting representative (titled curate) to the Conclave itself, along with a number of secondary negotiating representatives on the basis of your population. In short, it gives you a seat at the table.

Conclave membership also commits you to the single binding principle thereof: Members of the Accord shall not make war on each other, nor commit acts of war upon each other (including but not limited to piracy, slaving, and intentional destruction or confiscation of property), to the detriment of the Accord.

Violations of the Accords are arbitrated before the Central Conclave Court, an arm of the Conclave.

The ten lesser Accords (which are almost universally adhered to among signatories to the Accord on the Conclave, although a small number of members derogate from one or more of these agreements) are these:

I. the Accord on Colonization

The Accord on Colonization establishes the rules by which claims on colony worlds may be made and negotiated, and/or purchases may be made from the star systems held in trust by the Accord as the stargate plexus expands, including the allocation of limited numbers of habitable and near-habitable worlds as freesoil worlds, open to settlement by anyone.

NOTE: We would urge those polities for whom it galls to be asked to subordinate one’s expansion claims to the overall growth of known space, rather than to be able to expand as one wills into terra nullius, to study the historical summaries included in the first contact packet.

II. the Accord on Intellectual Properties

The Accord on Intellectual Properties provides for the mutual recognition of intellectual property claims between signatories, requiring them to treat all foreign intellectual property at least as well as domestic examples, and setting both strong minimum standards and weaker recommended standards for creator’s privilege, copyright, patent, discovery, and trademark law.

The Accord on Intellectual Properties does not provide for the recognition of intellectual property claims from non-signatory polities.

III. the Accord on Mail and Communications

The Accord on Mail and Communications establishes the Conclave Communications Commission, which addresses both the extranet and physical packet delivery.

In the former role, it defines and publishes open standards for extranet networking protocols and policies, and acts as a registrar for various shared extranet resources.

In the latter role, the Commission publishes transstellar addressing standards, and coordinates postal unions and other cooperative endeavors to ensure efficient and secure physical packet delivery throughout the volume of its signatories’ space.

IV. the Accord on Protected Planets

The Accord on Protected Planets establishes the Galactic Trusteeship Commission to regulate research access to and passage by protected planets, those planets subject to administration or interdict under the jurisdiction of the Conclave. Such planets typically include quarantined worlds, necropolis worlds, Precursor sites or other fossil worlds, unique sites of scientific interest, promising prebiotic worlds, and worlds home to unusual emergent sophont species that have not yet achieved technological competence or xenognosis.

It also sets the rules for designating a world a protected planet under Conclave law.

V. the Accord on the Law of Free Space

The Accord on the Law of Free Space sets common standards for interstellar jurisdiction, starship operations, space traffic control, communication protocols, duties and privileges of Flight Commanders and owners, distress, salvage, and related matters.

VI. the Accord on Trade

The Accord on Trade, through its arbitration and standards body, the Galactic Trade Association, defines protocols for trade and other forms of economic exchange between signatories, generally accepted accounting standards, transstellar corporate forms, choice of law, form contracts, trade categories and open standards, and provides access to interstellar transaction clearing services via the Accord Exval Fiscal Exchange.

VII. the Accord on Uniform Security

The Accord on Uniform Security coordinates law enforcement between the various jurisdictions within the Accord. Its provisions require either the extradition or local trial of criminals who are accused of serious crimes in another jurisdiction, with the reservation that signatory polities may reserve the right to only extradite and/or try those whose crime would have been such under local law.

It defines no universal legal code of its own.

VIII. the Common Volumetric Accord

The Common Volumetric Accord defines the agreement between Accord polities concerning what will be considered sovereign territory among star nations, on the system, planetary, and habitat scales, and which areas within and without it shall be recognized as free space, open to the passage of all.

It provides, additionally, for the recognition of regional galactographic institutes, and their coordination via the Galactic Volumetric Registry.

IX. the Ley Accords

The Ley Accords extend the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights to encode the rights of sophonts, both combatant and non-combatant, in time of war.

Their first chapter concerns itself with those Instruments of Regrettable Necessity which are capable of causing gross damage, such as gigadeaths or major environmental damage to a world, proscribing their use and laying out pains and penalties for violations.

The later chapters lay out the conventions of civilized warfare applying between signatories, forbidding the use of Instruments of Regrettable Necessity near civilian areas, types of noetic warfare which might affect or corrupt noetic backups, mistreatment of prisoners, and other causes of permanent and irreplaceable harm. Terrorism and other asymmetric or indiscriminate attacks on non-military targets are forbidden. Parole is to be accepted, as is honorable surrender, and quarter will be given. A baseline is also established for the treatment of POWs and of civilians under martial law in areas under occupation.

X. the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights

The Universal Accord on Sophont Rights (noted as universal as it is intended to be applied even to non-signatories) establishes the equality before the law of all sophont species, regardless of substrate, and their fundamental and inalienable possession of certain sophont rights: to liberty, to property, to associate and to contract freely, to defense of their self-integrity. It goes on to establish, too, certain rights derived therefrom to avoid misinterpretations.

The difficulty, of course, is in the details, and interpretations of the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights have been known to vary considerably between signatories – leading to a cautious approach in Conclave Court-led mediation which might prefer one interpretation above another – and in addition, the rights asserted are notably circumscribed: attempts to include economic “rights to” rather than “rights of” have been vetoed by the Conclave, for example, as have pressures to include protections for sub-sophonts against suffering or sophont cruelty, although non-binding statements of principles on these and other matters have been appended.

– An Introduction to the Accord, First Contact Publications


Belchar’s World, Battle of: The Battle of Belchar’s World – a term referring to Fourth Belchar’s, 6882 – while in most respects another of the minor squabbles endemic to the Shadow Systems, has attained a degree of fame through being taught in the majority of the Worlds’ military academies as an example of the problems that can result from close-orbital combat operations.

The battle was the last gasp of the Vile-Born Imperium’s attempted invasion of the freesoil Belchar’s World (Torgu Wilds). While a technical victory for the organized Vile-Born fleet against the irregular forces of the freesoil world, the majority of the battle took place in mid-to-low planetary orbit, resulting in extensive destruction of not only military craft, but also of civilian stations and other elements of orbital infrastructure – most significantly, the self-destruction of the orbital starport twenty-two minutes after Vile-Born boarding parties forced the docking bays.

Inevitably, the introduction of so much debris into this area caused a full-blown cascade catastrophe, resulting in mutual disengagement. After a number of attempts to penetrate the cascade zone with landing craft, all of which were lost with all hands, the Vile-Born fleet retreated from the system in good order.

(This was not to last: much of the fleet was subsequently destroyed in the Osquina Mutiny, instigated by a coalition of sub-admirals who preferred not to return to Vileheim and suffer the traditional sky-bath prescribed for failed naval officers.)