Or Possibly A Landscape Feature

“You don’t want us to touch this one.”

“I thought you were the best demolitions company in the Worlds!”

“We are.”

“Then why can’t you demolish this?”

“I never said that we couldn’t demolish this. I said that you didn’t want us to demolish this. Look here – you see the very distinctive bevel on the trailing edge of the doorcog? That makes this a Stravage-Minepa Vault, and they build these to survive full-up planetary bombardments. You’re looking at twelve meters of hyperdense laminate armor, with the same again in two inner shells. You could fill this thing with conventional explosives and all you’d do is spoil the decor. Hell, let off a nuke in there and at most you’ll get a plasma fart for your trouble. Neither one’d make a dent on the outside.”

“So what would you have to do?”

“Well, for a start, I’d need someone at the top level of your government to sign a waiver holding Claithmat Annulments and all associates harmless for any adverse consequences of using dismounted starship grasers and high-yield antimatter charges on a planetary surface.

“That’s assuming you have control over the internal defenses – which are automatic and powered by a sealed-up reactor good for ten millennia or so after external power is cut off – otherwise we’re also going to need a promise of military commitment, or a mercenary budget. Demolitions is our specialty, not fighting a war against a supercomputer on a custom-designed killing field.”

“There must be some alternative.”

“Declare it a planetary monument?”

Thoughtful Wrath

“There are those, pacifists they name themselves, who proclaim that no man’s life is worth another’s; that it is better to die, or witness murder, than to take a life. And if one first grants that all lives have equal value in some mythical sense, this may make sense upon its face.

“There are those, the grovelers, who opine that life is far more precious than the liberty to live it. And so, that ’tis better to be the live dung-worm than the dead eagle, that it is better to live on one’s knees – or one’s face – than die on one’s feet, and thus so how much better not to slay in its defense? And for those timid souls who value their lives but little, whose satisfaction is mediocrity and whose ambitions are but embers, this may also be true.

“There are, too, those who claim that no property or possession is worth a life. And once again, for those whom life is worth infinity in the abstract but nigh-naught in the concrete, it indeed boots little to give away fragments of a life, however cherished, however hard-earned, however irreplaceable, for such small Flames surely quail to fill even their bearer’s body, much less invest the world about.

“But for the sake of the principle that these things embody, that man is a means, not an end; that none exist for the use or pleasure of another; that he who kills, or enslaves, or robs even the least among us, by whatever means, for whichever cause, commits a crime not only against his victim but rebels against the proper nature of rational beings itself —

“If the world chooses to deny this principle, gentle reader, we must drown the world in its own blood.”

– writings of Rhovallis, student of the philosopher Sardonyx,
fellow of the Schola of Vigorous Praxis

Ten Light-Second Pole

From: Capt. Eladin Cineätreos, CS Fustuary Castigation
To: Adm. Hars mor-Lanak, CINCTRAIL
Subject: Intervention on Sorn (Olost Belt)

Per received advisory and request, we proceeded to Sorn (Olost Belt) to investigate pre discretionary Imperial intervention to preserve peace and order on Sorn Actual, under authority of the appropriate Intervention Act.

Upon investigation of local conditions (details attached), Col. Ranik mor-Telantog declined, for his part, to authorize intervention on the grounds that, I quote, “I cannot find anyone on the ground whose head I don’t want to put on a spike, and that is not a disposition a Colonel of Legionaries should be deploying with.”

Upon review, I concur with his decision in its entirety.

In consequence, and in view of the authorizing Act considering a repeat of the Gervés solution undesirable, Fustuary Castigation intends to remain in orbit for 72 hours while assurance of the safety of any Imperial citizen-shareholders and/or associated property in the vicinity is assured, and will then depart for Fleet Base Trailing, per standing orders.

– ec/FC

Shoot Them Later

If They Want To Leave, Let Them Leave

Malefactors in command of a docked starship are always to be permitted to depart if they request it. There are no ‘land-locks’ or armored space doors for a reason. Do not forget that even a tramp merchie or private yacht has point defenses against micrometeoroids, if nothing else, which can do a spectacular amount of damage if used at point-blank range; and, of course, every starship has a drive. While firing up a reaction drive inside a docking bay is of course suicide, it is Imperial policy not to play games of flinchy-flinchy with the desperate.

This applies no matter how clever the plan you have to disable the pd grid and drive systems and/or to board and storm is. Protection of the station and those aboard it comes first. The plan will work just as well when executed by a patrol cruiser a healthy distance from everything expensive.

– Orbit Guard Manual OG-134: Negotiations

Big Iron

INERTIA WARNING

MAGNETIC DRUM STORAGE IN USE
ACCESS BY AUTHORIZED TECHNICIANS ONLY

Magnetic drums rotate at 36 rpm when in use. Do not enter drum room unless steam valve is closed and padlocked, drive clutch is disengaged and padlocked, and spin-down is complete. (Governor ball check is insufficient; spin gauge must read zero.)

Inform supervising administrator before entrance and after exit. All keys are to be retained by responsible technician until maintenance is complete.

Full manual rotation must be performed to check balance before spin-up. Use auxiliary engine only; do not attempt to manipulate drums by hand. Steam release from head positioning servos may occur during zeroing and read/write tests.

EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN CAN NOT BRAKE DRUMS
CONTACT WITH ROTATING DRUM WILL KILL YOU

INERTIA WARNING

The Forgotten City

Once, there was a proud city whose towers touched the heavens. But the people of the city were not its equal in pride, and they grew afraid of the world, for it went on forever, and they believed that such reduced their measure, and the measure of their city.

They thought to make their fear their tool, and erected mighty walls and fortifications to keep the city safe, and hired many swords and ships to guard it against foes coming by land and by sea, and went forth by night to seek those already hidden within. But the more they prepared against the foes of their fancy, the more they supped on fear with their meat, and drink, and breath. They came to believe that it was strength, and so they fed it, even as it grew, until it became a great beast, and that beast devoured them from within.

There are no more towers touching heaven, for there is no city there any more. No foes came to plunder it, nor doom befall. Hollow, it was worn away by time, and the winds carried away its bones, and dust, and name. Books of lore tell not its tales, nor do the rains let fall their tears, nor even fallen stones remember it.

For that which does not live must die.

– A Child’s Treasury of Eldraeic Myth

ahn-kel seeks ahn-ros for discreet encounter

No discussion of approaches to gender in the Associated Worlds would be complete without mention of the peculiar customs of the mourcalt of the Trailing Assembly.

The mourcalt‘s biology gave them an exceptional degree of sexual dimorphism, which is typically correlated with strong gender archetypes, as indeed it was in their case. When in time this proved unsatisfactory for later stages of their social development, and yet seemed difficult or impossible to overcome per se, the Assembly’s governance opted for an unconventional solution – purchasing an extensive memetic campaign to disassociate, as far as possible, the concepts of sex and gender in the mourcalt mind, and so far as was possible, to create a gender-concept that was free of existing archetypes.

The first part of this campaign succeeded magnificently. Citizens of the Assembly are now randomly assigned to one of eighteen genders at birth, and both ongoing memetic practice and cultural inertia ensures that this remains their psychosocial gender throughout life. (Indeed, this has succeeded to such an extent that mourcalt involved in the sexual marketplace must maintain an appropriate degree of doublethink in consciously finding a partner of a permissible gender for theirs, while simultaneously being unconsciously aware of them being the appropriate sex.

The second part, however, succeeded only insofar as the new genders were free of existing archetypes. Within the first few years of the new system, de novo archetypes for each of the new genders had come into being, and in the present day have hardened into rigid sets of behaviors, customs, and expectations for all eighteen genders (such as, for example, which genders may pair with which other genders for sexual or intimacy purposes, which are curiously disjoint sets), proving if anything even more binding on those claiming them than the old genders tied to biological sex were.

This gender-norming has led in turn to the rise of the ahn-gazet subculture among the mourcalt, which attempts to conceal and obfuscate all visible signs of the psychosocial gender and biological sex, permitting them to act as they please, and to the large number of mourcalt expatriates many of whom reject the Assembly’s gender system, were former ahn-gazet whose gender had become publicly known, or both.

– Unconventional Approaches to Gender Identity,
Makar, Melodion & Avila,
in the Quarterly Journal of Social Exosophontology,
vol. MMCCXIV, no. iii

Sim-Descartes

Well, last month was kind of crappy, productivity-wise, what with one damn thing after another going wrong in non-writing-friendly ways, even without the coronavirus.

Let’s hope this coming month works out better. In the meantime, I hope the lack of posting here has been in some way compensated for by my second venture into self-fanfic.


Proposition: A consequence of the theory of information physics (“it is bit”) is that it renders the simulation argument moot with regards to reality-as-it-is, inasmuch as ontogeny has no bearing on current status.

Defend or refute this proposition. If defending the proposition, explain how the presence or absence of a supervising entity or entities can be considered metaphysically irrelevant. If attacking the proposition, suggest an experiment capable of distinguishing a simulated universe from a self-computed universe.

[10%]

– Hexad Examination in Pure and Applied Metaphysics,
Imperial University of Calmiríë

Things to See, Places to Go (11)

One of the taverns located inside Paltraeth Down’s extrality zone, the Sages’ Stomping Ground has the unique distinction of being both a brawler’s bar and an enhanced-privacy facility. In a traditionally kaeth twist, the proprietor, mor-Tanaz Vivek, defines “privacy” as ignoring anything going on outside the common bar – where weapons are requested to be kept sheathed or holstered, and appropriate waivers can be signed for a longer stay – short of wall-penetrating explosions without prior arrangement. Even official records reflect that this has extended, in the past, to rival mercenary groups staging pitched battles in the more spacious upstairs rooms.

Naturally, furnishings and decor are carefully chosen to be sturdy, cheap, and eminently replaceable, so we cannot recommend the Ground as a place to stay. However, the drink selection is excellent, even for those who like their strong liquor at less than kaeth-strength and scrubbed of radioactivity, and the food is also good if your tastes run to bloody-roast meat with a soupçon of heavy metals.

Before you leave, don’t forget to ask mor-Tanaz for the card of his specialist cleaning service. While expensive, there’s no-one more skilled or experienced at removing any portion of other patrons that may have spilled on you in the course of your visit.

– The Longest Crawl: Dodeciad Worlds, Dodeciad Drinks

Hidden Maintenance Costs

“This year’s work list at Planetary Management: Redirect an estimated dozen hurricanes. Lance a supervolcano. Perform injection lubrication of five fault lines for controlled tectonic stress release. Reinforce the bedrock of a major regional aquifer. And orchestrate a thousand-year river channel shift.”

“Why are you even reading that?”

“Reminding my mother-in-law that while space may be trying to kill us all the time, at least it doesn’t do so by surprise.”

– overheard on Sulavé Station, Istelrith (High Verge)


(Because when talking about the maintenance needed to prevent your space colony from killing people in droves, no-one talks about that needed to stop your planet from doing the same. Status quo bias much.

Speaking of maintenance, incidentally, my 3D printer still needs some, by which I mean replacement. Help a broke author out?)

The Calmiríë Chthonic Railway

It’s been a while since I gave you folks a map, so here, I’m giving you folks a map:

[map of the Calmiríë Chthonic Railway]
Click through for full-size version.

Should you find yourself needing to find a way around the central region of the capital, this should come in rather handy.


On another note, and one less relevant to writing, our 3D printer here at Chez Author chose this last week to break on us, and since it’s a fairly key part of our business that funds, y’know, mortgages and other key writing supplies, we’re gonna need another one. And in this highly inopportune time of economic and coronavirus brouhaha, this means that I am once more resorting to shameless blegging.

So please, if you can, toss a coin to your author. And if you can’t, please reshare. Every tiny bit helps!

(Hell, I may even throw in a 3D-printed esteyn by way of thanks.)

Hold the Eggs

Bacon Maneuver: A stealth tactic used by sailing masters with no sense of self-preservation, the Bacon Maneuver involves hiding a small starship within the drive wake of a larger vessel. Large, multiple-drive craft often have “sweet spots” close in where the drive plumes have not yet impinged on one another, and thus in which a small vessel can lurk without being instantly immolated by the larger vessel’s torches. In such a position, the small starship relies on the “white-out” of sensors looking directly at the drive plume to conceal its own presence.

Carrying this out is fraught with a number of problems: the ability to approach the sweet spot through the distal drive wake without being incinerated; the need to sink radiant heat from the drive plumes surrounding the sweet spot; the high likelihood of a collision with the larger vessel or its drive plume should it maneuver unexpectedly; and so forth.

From this litany of difficulties is drawn the name of the maneuver: one who attempts it while being so much as a minim less good than they think they are will assuredly be fried crispy.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

Begone, And Trouble Us No More

You may have seen a new Imperial Navy ship on the through route from Qechra to Palaxias in the past few weeks, and not been able to pin down her exact type: she resembles a Leviathan-class dreadnought to aft, but the whole forward half of the vessel seems to have been replaced by a long, four-pronged, blunt-ended ‘snoot’, which more closely resembles the working end of a stargate than anything else.

If the scuttlebutt is anything to go by, that’s exactly what she is – the latest unique special weapons platform of the Black Flotilla, CS Perfect Translocative Defender.

She’s not a wormhole logistics ship; those remain impractical. Despite all the improvements in linelayer-superlifters over the years, moving stargates around is still a very slow process, and one which makes even fleet carriers look speedy and maneuverable. This is largely due to the moon-sized mass of the kernel, which enables stargates to communicate with their paired counterpart. But as you can see, Perfect Translocative Defender does not house a kernel, only the Andracanth ram itself.

Without a kernel, Perfect Translocative Defender is only capable of opening an untargeted wormhole around her target, but this makes her a perfect weapon against those threats undefeatable by conventional means; once she closes to fire her weapon, the target is simply dispatched to a randomized location in space and time, thus removing it as an immediate problem – and, given the sheer vastness of the universe, very likely removing it as a problem entirely.

– Star-Spotter’s Quarterly, Autumn 7840

Stealing From Yourself

The Advocate for Guilt has cited the existing precedent set by this Court in Ulpiaj v. Ulpiaj (7918), affirming that for one sophont to appropriate property from themselves in the past constitutes theft, inasmuch as a worldline-past time-slice of an individual cannot consent to the actions of a worldline-future time-slice.

However, in this case, we must instead affirm that for one sophont to appropriate property from themselves in the future cannot constitute theft, insofar as so doing is a performative act binding one’s future self, and a worldline-future time-slice has, ex sequens, consented to all voluntary actions of worldline-past time-slices of the same individual.

The Shareholders’ Court therefore finds for the DEFENDANT, Ulpiaj of 7994, who is VINDICATED upon all counts. The charges of the plaintiff, Ulpiaj of 8002, are DISMISSED.

– Ulpiaj v. Ulpiaj (8002),
Shareholders’ Court (City of Synchrony, Resplendent Exponential Vector)

Sons of Ancyr

Horns of Ancyr, blow ye wildly,
Thunder forth your brazen fury,
Summon every soul who hears ye,
To the battlefield.

Shields of Ancyr, stand before we,
In your lock-step, ever steady,
Naught was forged can e’er score ye,
Stand and never yield.

Spears of Ancyr, sound your brattle,
In terror drive them forth as cattle,
Ardor quenched in bloody battle,
Death to foemen deal’d.

Sons of Ancyr, make your foray,
Ye shall live in song and story,
This shall ever be your glory:
Free men never yield!

– “Sons of Ancyr”, trad. military march, circa. 400

Front Effects

While perfection is our delight, perfection is also profoundly dangerous where it interacts with imperfection.

In the world of pharmacology, this principle is best represented by two particular drugs, aumbril and thanachav.

The former is a perfect euphoric; the latter a perfect disinhibitor. Both, however, are also perfectly deadly – although the latter as often to others as to its user – and are so due entirely to their advertised effects, rather than side effects.

Aumbril provides an experience of perfect pleasure, perfect satisfaction. Rather than simple euphoria, aumbril provides a complex, multi-layered experience combining every pleasure that its user might imagine experiencing – delight in beauty or knowledge, contentment after a job well done, satisfaction after a hearty feast, weariness after achievement, pride in victory, release from pain, laughter at a cosmic joke, love of every variety from limerent to aeonic, orgasm – however intellectually abstract or carnal the pleasure, aumbril provides it and weaves it together into a tapestry of perfect hedonic synergy.

Most aumbril users die on first exposure, from satiation too perfect to remember to live, although at least they die happy. Of the survivors, while a second dose does have the same risks, those without immediate access to another typically die from the effects of severe depression, since nothing else in the world can provide any pleasure to compare with that produced by the drug.

Thanachav, too, is exactly as described. It is a perfect disinhibitor in that it removes all inhibitions, however strong or instinctive they might be. On its own, this is fatal enough for the user, inasmuch as they are unable to tell good ideas from bad; while they may know intellectually that they cannot fly or that flesh will burn, they cannot proceed from this to the notion that departing a building via the roof or remaining within a conflagration to finish one’s book is an unwise course of action. Nor, while they continue to perceive pain, does pain serve to inhibit action.

Of course, such disinhibition is also deeply hazardous to bystanders, inasmuch as empathic and social inhibitions are also entirely stripped away. Perhaps the most common case of this is seen when various amateur street pharmacologists sell thanachav as an aphrodisiac/libidigen of the Class 3 (prohibited) type, through either ignorance or finding the inevitable results hilarious – since while it does remove all the would-be rapist’s victim’s inhibitions against having sex with him, it also removes all their other inhibitions, such as those, ethical, cognitive, and physiological, preventing them from tearing out his intestines and wearing his spleen as a hat.

The results are precisely as imagined.

– Journal of Chemical Hedonism, 1842nd issue

To The Pain

death-equivalent existence: It is a cliché, at least among Imperials, that “there are no fates worse than death”. A living sophont, after all, possesses the capacity for choice and action, and thus to better their situation – or, failing that, at least the capacity to be acted upon, in ways that open up further options.

Death, however, terminates your worldline, thus foreclosing all futures.

The term “death-equivalent existence” refers to alternate scenarios which also foreclose all futures. Almost all of these are hypothetical, as it is exceptionally difficult to construct a scenario that is as effective as foreclosing futures as nonexistence, with the accepted candidates being irreversible p-zombification, event horizon suspension, and terminal cases of fulfilled automatomania (q.v.).

The informal term “delta-death scenarios” has arisen to describe those cases which, while not meeting death-equivalency criteria, nonetheless skim very close to them.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

Also, Mind the Gap

spin-stop: A stop on a non-axial habitat (or occasionally starship) internal transit line for access to a spin gravity area.

While in many cases the most convenient way to allow access to a gravity wheel or rotating segment within an otherwise non-rotating habitat is an axial transit line (or, in small examples, floatway), this is not universally the case.

In such examples, the spin-stop, a loop of track parallel to the spin section, serves to provide access. As the name suggests, rather than the train or transpod stopping at the station, as it would elsewhere, it simply comes to a stop relative to the spin, having entered the loop in synchronization with the rotating station. That is to say, while at a spin-stop, the vehicle is actually continuing to move at the tangential velocity of the spin section; typically, dozens to hundreds of miles per hour.

This is imperceptible to those boarding or departing the vehicle, of course, since the relative motion is the relevant motion. However, passengers unfamiliar with spin-stops should be aware that in many designs the vehicle cannot hold its departure for errant passengers, and the consequence of not standing clear of the closing doors are inevitably rather messy.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

With Care

From Gateway Station Operations to all within, greeting.

As you may be aware, Gateway Station is a low-orbit station, which consequently suffers from a minuscule degree of drag from Eliéra’s outer atmosphere, necessitating periodic corrections in our orbit. The day after tomorrow (Yrnaes 21st) is the scheduled date for this annual orbital maintenance.

To minimize undesirable gravity effects, we have elected to make a six-minute prograde burn symmetrical around the moment of apoapsis, Courtly falling 17:22. While this should limit the resultant peak acceleration to well below one one-hundredth of a standard gravity, we nonetheless recommend that all loose and/or fragile objects be secured for the duration of the burn, and plumbing services also will be secured for burn as per standard procedures (please consult your station infrastructure guide if additional details are required).

We anticipate no requirement to undock any vessels berthed here during the burn, although for convenience, docking and undocking during the burn is restricted to emergencies only.

Thank you for your cooperation, and our apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Galár Valarian Indoricios

for and on behalf of

Gateway Station Operations

Gravy

“Among things that you all can be thankful for is that gravitic weapons are of almost no practical use. Partly this is because there is very little training we can give you in dealing with the resulting casualties – due to the low survival rate – but mostly because the results are ugly even by time-of-war standards.

“Gravitic shear, first, ripping a ship in twain with an opposed tractor and pressor, is probably the least bad in damage, but the worst to attend. At least that one might have survivors in the remaining halves, albeit survivors who’ve broken almost every bone in their bodies from the abrupt acceleration, but anything near the shear line will be torn apart. Worst, though, is anyone caught in the fringe effect – that bends and stretches flesh in all the wrong ways. Sophs who’ve been twisted into abstract artwork, and some of them even live through it.

“Then there’s gravitic vibration. ‘Rattling’. Leaves no bodies to bury, because it leaves no bodies. The effects are similar to an inertial damper failure, leaving you with a ship full of meat-slurry. No call for medical treatment; cleaning up after this just needs a hose, a mop, and a well-callused soul.

“And lastly there’s gravitic implosion. There are no slides for this one. No-one, to my knowledge, has ever used a gravitic imploder in combat, but if you insist upon knowing, you can find images of the tests on the IN med-weave. I do not recommend doing so. Sphagettification should have stayed beneath the event horizons where we found it…”

– Surgeon-Commander Vinea Allatrian-ith-Aplan,
lecture at the Faculty of Medicine, Imperial War College