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exact type: she resembles a Leviathan-class dreadnought to aft, but the whole forward half of the vessel seems to have been replaced by a long, four-pronged, blunt-ended ‘snoot’, which more closely resembles the working end of a stargate than anything else.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

Some Ancient Questions

Have a random selection of answers to old questions and comments that came up while I was clearing out my e-mail:

In our world, there is a Spanish proverb that runs: Ladrón que roba a ladrón tiene cien años de perdón (memorably quoted in translation by the villian of The Magnificent Seven as “A thief who steals from a thief is pardoned for a hundred years,” or more conventionally glossed as “It’s no crime to steal from a thief.”)

How would the eldrae analyze such a situation? Would they consider it wrong to take something without its possessor’s consent if that possessor is not, in fact, the true owner?

That would depend. On the first level of analysis, Imperial law is more concerned with the will than the deed, and as such technically, for example, you are guilty of theft if you take something that was being freely given away, if you did not know that that was the case and therefore you believed that you were stealing it. Likewise, if you did not know that the possessor was not the true owner, it’s still theft.

On the second level, since the essence of theft is depriving the rightful owner of their property, if B steals from A and C takes it from B, then C is also guilty of theft from A.

The only situation in which such a C would not be guilty of theft is if they were aware that A was the rightful owner and “stole” it in order to return the property in question to A, in which case no crime has been committed, for that is merely a special case of the reclamation of property by its rightful owner. We might call this the Leverage exception.

Just a quick question, but how does a post-scarcity civilisation like the Empire deal with the problem of the so-called “mouse utopia”?

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-mouse-utopias-1960s-led-grim-predictions-humans-180954423/

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-doomed-mouse-utopia-that-inspired-the-rats-of-nimh

My thinking, at least for us normal old humans, has been that we need three principle policies or conditions to avoid this:

1. Monogamy as the default for the great majority of people.

2. Scarce resources if need be due to artificial constraints, in order to motivate people to get out there & do things.

3. A small (preferably non-existent) welfare state.

Needless to say, there’ll be plenty of pressure to change all 3 of these, so have fun balancing the need to retain these conditions with little things like not being a tyranny. Anyway, obviously the Empire doesn’t have #3 to worry about, but #1 and #2 seem to apply to them. Did they just get lucky and manage to genetically modify everyone to avoid the trap caused by cornucopia machines and such, are their minds that different from human ones, or is there a hush-hush part of the Transcend that’s quietly ensuring that “if a man will not work, he shall not eat” …?

The short version is: sophonts ain’t rodents.

(Rodents don’t have birth control, for one thing, and it’s pretty clear from global demographics among humans who do that in the presence of abundance, our problem is a birth rate falling below replacement, not overpopulation.)

Now, overpopulation is the most notable failure-feature of the various mouse utopias, and we know empirically that that doesn’t happen. But also:

Well, not to impugn the intellect of our rodent cousins – who are really exceptionally smart for critters whose brains comfortably fit in a teaspoon – but they do possess certain limits on their creativity when they get bored. No-one’s going to write the Next Great Murine Novel, or even grind their way to the top in World of Ratcraft – although, I note, nonetheless providing this sort of outlet did improve matters in later mouse utopias than the infamous ones.

Even humans – well, I’m gonna save myself some time and point you at Scott Alexander’s take on basic income (which the Empire does effectively have in the form of the Citizen’s Dividend) vs. basic jobs, here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/05/16/basic-income-not-basic-jobs-against-hijacking-utopia/ . The whole thing is worth a read, but specifically, look down under the heading “iv) Without work, people will gradually lose meaning from their lives and become miserable“.

Specifically, look at all the people who didn’t or don’t have any particular need to work, and who still live perfectly meaningful, satisfying lives.

Now consider that the eldrae are even further out on the self-motivated dynamism bell-curve.

tl;dr The “mouse utopia” is a model of what you get when you provide for the needs (and needs, note, not wants) of a group of people in a prison both physical and mental, not a model of a functioning society.

Re sports: How popular are team sports and team-based activities locally, relative to “individual” sports?

Less common than here, ratio-wise, which is largely an effect of spectator sports being less popular than participatory sports, but by no means uncommon.

Re tort insurance, the IQI, and other matters: What typically happens to those unlucky few who are unable to pass the IQI test but also have no one willing to claim them as a dependent?

If they do not possess a robot guardian, a robot guardian will be appointed for them.

Yes, those same ones that you can appoint for yourself if you want to get all Declaration of Situational Mental Incompetence-y. Only without the option.

Spending as much time as we do to block information-collecting used for these ends comes across as putting a comical amount of effort into making your own life less convenient by making it harder for the desire-satisfaction sector to satisfy your desires, and why the heck would anyone want that?

First, what would they make of someone on the opposite end of the spectrum — a sort of “Very Private Person” who deliberately goes out of their way to leave as little footprint as they reasonably can and who reacts negatively to any sort of unsolicited contact or requests for information simply because they believe that their business shouldn’t be anyone else’s business?

“You do you, but keep your weird fetishes to yourself, ‘kay?”

Also bear in mind that privacy law doesn’t support the notion of public privacy. And that since information about transactions is owned equally by each party to the transaction, not knowing what they just did as your counterparty is likely to be an extra-cost service for the annoyance.

Possibly stupid question (that you may well have already answered) –

_if_ everyone has a neural lace (and therefore could have something very like machine-mediated telepathy), why are there still explicit communications devices (“phones” and the like)?

Originally (i.e., in the days before advanced tech, when there was just baseline eldrae techlepathy), other communication devices existed for two reasons.

First, because you have to know someone’s signature to find them in the aether, and they aren’t readily written down; but also

Because – well, the thing about techlepathy is that even mediated via wireless transmission of neural gestalts, it’s still rubbing your brain up against someone else’s. This is not necessarily something you want to get into with just anyone.

Now in the modern day (well before neural laces – this was true even of early virtual interface implants), of course, you can easily receive e-mail and make trinet calls using only your implanted hardware, so in general, a lot of dedicated communication hardware doesn’t exist. Mostly it exists in places where it’s important to have a secure, hardwired communications line regardless of other conditions.

Now, there are plenty of slates, hand terminals, etc., and other such devices. They mostly exist because of the shape of brains. We are, after all, built to work by eye and hand; vast areas of brain are devoted to just that. Tool users are comfortable using tools; it’s as simple as that.

First, referencing this:

As for self-control: well, any young citizen-intendant who doesn’t learn to show an adult’s self-control will likely be culled by the age of 12 or so, simply because they’re too bloody dangerous to keep around. This is acknowledged as harsh, but also as regrettably necessary; when temper tantrums can shatter bones and blow out walls, you can’t afford to permit them.

Would it be correct to infer a generalization from this that, essentially, the head of an Imperial household has some measure of power analogous to the old Roman patria potestas over their minor dependents?

No, it would not.

It’s a simple matter of self-defense. When a tantrum can and will escalate to a lethal incident (and bearing in mind that this requires years of them failing to get their ass under control, with all the assistance available), this is just the end of the line.

(I mean, think of what happens to people who throw tantrums with automatic weapons here, except that there, the gun is always in hand and the trigger is a thought away.)

Aside from axiomatic self-ownership, what sort of rights do children (or other wards) have, particularly vis a vis the “veto power” of their parents or guardians?

All of ’em. Life, liberty, property, and even contract insofar as tort insurance (theirs, or their parents) will cover it.

As a sort of sub-topic of that: How do eldraeic parents go about disciplining unruly and disobedient children? What are, for instance, local attitudes toward corporal punishment?

That it’s assault and battery. (And also is an effective lesson in how it’s acceptable to use force to get what you want, but really, that’s a secondary point.)

Raising children is generally a matter of Taking Children Seriously, and the carrot – positive discipline – and greater access to responsibilities and privileges than the stick. Such stick as is necessary is provided by social consequences and a legal system that doesn’t offer special exceptions by age.

(Which last is arguably another form of taking children seriously.)

A small question: Does the eldraeic love for speculative fiction extend to what we call *here* the “alternate history” genre? Are there any popular works that deal with the subject of “What If [pivotal event X] never happened, or happened differently?”

It exists, but it’s just a minor subgenre. I don’t have any particular works in mind.

On that note: Does eldraeic have a term for the local equivalent of stercorarius (“manure entrepreneur”)?

“Dirt farmer,” (no translation yet) which term you may have seen before in the context of ecopoesis. Because they literally farm dirt.

So, for a question for the month, here’s my question-

One day, an Imperial Scout Ship wanders into Eldrae space, and the eldrae have just had their first contact with the Third Imperium. What particular hilarity and comedy happens after that?

Arguing over whose FTL drive is superior. (Both of them.) Horror at all the psionics. The Empire’s memetic warfare specialists and the Hivers finally have found worthy opponents in the manipulation game. Clash of capitalist titans. Arguments over whether non-jump FTL qualifies you as a major race. Ancients vs. Precursors, who were the most negligent? Dar-bandal vs. Vargr, who are the goodest bois?

Really, this one’s going to be one of the most uneventful first contacts, since no-one’s terribly offended by anyone else, not in ways more than is usual in both settings anyway. The biggest effect is going to be the long-term effects of all that transsophont tech seeping into the Imperium.

While I’m asking questions, I may as well venture another one, to answer or not as you wish, since I’ve not exactly been donating recently… how does the balance of power between the diarchs of the Imperial Couple work? Is it a veto from either side of the diarchy if they do not approve of a given course of action, or a delineation of fields of responsibility, or what? What, from the eldrae perspective, is the advantage of the diarchy over a singular executive? Is it the fact that it does divide powers?

In legal terms, it’s like the Roman consulship or the Spartan kingship; the diarchs have the same powers, subject to mutual veto. In practical terms, most of them tend to work out a rough division of fields of responsibility day-to-day.

(The advantages – originally in the eyes of the Cestian kingdoms from whom the Empire inherited the system – were threefold. The mutual veto is a check on stupid-ass decisions, and the division of responsibilities both keeps the Imperial workload reasonable and helps with the spectacularly wide range of knowledge and experience needed for the role.)

Also would like to know what the Empire of the Star would do with nonlocality tech, and whether the Transcend already has it.

Non-local sensors and effectors (essentially, like “noach” from Greg Bear’s Anvil of Stars and Moving Mars) aren’t yet within the capabilities of any species of the Worlds, although the Empire’s ontotechnologists are working towards it.

(It does exist in the ‘verse, though. The matter editation that Eliéra’s ecology maintenance systems use is a species of this technology.)

As for applications – good grief, what couldn’t you apply it to?

While we’re on the subject of definitions, what are the ‘spacer pikes’ mentioned in “But I don’t need one for this!”? Are they similar to the collapsible ‘broomsticks’ that Clarke describes in “Islands in the Sky” and “2010: Odyssey Two”?

Very similar to those, yes, with a hint of lochaber-axe-without-the-axe.

Are there any notable sovereign polities out there that, in the same manner as the Hessians that fought in the American Revolution, approach the “mercenary market” as suppliers — putting up their own state troops for hire as auxiliaries, perhaps as a way to make a quick buck on the side — rather than as customers?

Several. It’s proven an effective way for some single-system polities concerned about their larger neighbors to fund a larger military force than they otherwise could, and battle-season it to boot.

My question is twofold: what style of warships do mercenaries typically operate; are they running large battleships or mostly smaller Hornéd-Moon starfighters?

If they can afford it, a large mercenary outfit will operate something like a light cruiser or two to provide some space muscle for their typical missions (raids, commerce raiding, boarding ops, orbital fire support). There’s not much market for the larger types among mercs, because it takes a decent-sized plane of battle to have much of a chance in a stand-up naval fight, and mercs rarely get into stand-up naval fights anyway.

(This is not to say that no-one does it, but it gets you an expensive-to-support white elephant and suspicions that your admiral is compensating for something.)

The second question is concerned with the commerce raiding aspect of the shadow fleet; are there/have there been instances of opponents arming merchant vessels to mitigate losses (I.e. A spacefaring ‘East Indiaman’, with a few defensive AKVs or lasers)? Thank you!

Q-ships and convoy escorts are more common than armed merchantmen, simply because a merchie (with its lighter structure) hasn’t a prayer of surviving a stand-up fight against any naval vessel, even a naval auxiliary or corvette.

Specialist armed merchant cruisers (built on warship frame) do exist, primarily for use in regions where piracy is common, but even they wouldn’t rate against a naval vessel, and aren’t economic for general use.

I have to wonder. Wouldn’t anyone who undertakes the trip be considered a pariah at best and a slaver at worst? Anyone taking advantage of the Sleeper’s Deal has failed the ethical calculus of infinities and asymptotic infinities per, for example, On the Nonjustifiability of Hells: Infinite Punishments for Finite Crimes, Samiv Leiraval-ith-Liuvial, Imperial University of Calmiríë Press, no? How can such a sophont openly return to civilized society?

Because not all quote civilized unquote societies use Imperial standards of ethicality, the poor benighted sods.

arídaqerach: laser; from arídan “sun” + qerach “lightning”.

So, what words would they use to describe a solar flare, or coronal mass ejection? Those being things that might be described as a little like sun-lightning, and probably visible before anyone made a laser.

To me, they’ve always looked more like flames than lightning, and the names are going to come before the understanding, I do believe. Probably, then, arídandris (“sunflame”), or a similar compound.

You have mentioned matter editation before, what exactly is it? From the context from before I figure it is some kind of ontotechnology.

The ability to read and edit the properties of the fundamental particles of matter as easily as tweaking numbers in a spreadsheet. Think of it as a Minecraft world editor for reality.

What is the difference between AKVs and missiles?

An AKV carries weapons (i.e., is more analogous to, say, a Predator drone); a missile is a weapon.

Did they have a word for something along the lines of “Precursor Metal”? Something to use to refer to the (apparently) impossibly strong and light substance that a lot of the artifacts lying around might be made of?

Not as such; there are an awful lot of different materials, alloys, etc., that the Precursor races used in their construction, and that was obvious early on enough that it would have seemed odd to give any of them that particular soubriquet. There are lots of specific terms for assorted material oddities they left behind, though: everything from dragon pearls through orichalcium and Saermaharavei crystal.

Seeing as most warships we’ve seen in the Imperial Navy thus far have particle shielding rated for only 0.3c, how do the fleet carriers provide particle shielding for their constituent members when cruising?

They don’t. Fleet carriers behave like slow luggers, not fast clippers, for exactly this reason – and because if you could build particle shielding large enough to shield an entire fleet, you’d be out of luck trying to haul that at near-luminal speeds anyway.

(You could probably cram a lighthugger’s worth of particle shielding onto the bow of a warship, but the resulting design would not do well against any equivalent vessel not so encumbered – like all those at your destination. 0.3 c is a compromise already, you may note, as already substantially more than that found on civilian vessels.)

Does the local laws of war recognize the difference in asymmetrical warfare acts of mass destruction between non-governmental actors and governmental actors?

(I.e. Would they consider “a terrorist/political group using NBCN (Nuclear/Biological/Chemical/Nanological) weapons, software weapons, and similar devices on somebody’s capital world” different from “our special forces, still operating under a legally recognized chain of command, using NBCN weapons, software weapons, and similar devices on somebody’s capital world after YOU INVADED US without provocation”?

The local laws of war, as written, don’t bother making a distinction between non-governmental actors and governmental actors period, because the people who wrote them tend to think of governments as organizations distinguished mainly by silly hats and an unearned sense of ethical privileges.

Which certainly don’t get to write themselves a special pass to go around using weapons of mass destruction against civilian targets.

“the mass drivers spin their projectiles purely through EM fields”
Why is needed to spin the projectiles, flechettes, at all? The term flechette means ‘little arrow’ (in French).

Flechettes are fin stabilized not spin stabilized, true some experimental flechette rifles did had very shallow rifling (low twist rate) but that was primarily to break the sabot once the flechette cleared out of the barrel. Does the mass drivers of your setting need sabots?

The spin stabilization in this case is a later addition (or re-addition, I suppose) to the system to correct for personal point-defense systems, which tend to use high-power laser ablation to shove projectiles off course. Spinning them reduces the effect of the laser by spreading out otherwise localized heating and outgassing.

I’ve been wondering, has anyone ever used a stargate with the kinetic compensator off as a means of transporting the gate?

Imagine: you gate a gas giant through a stargate pair at a substantial clip, maybe several dozens of kilometres per second. The well-aimed stargate pair fly off in opposite directions at holy-crap relativistic speeds because conservation of momentum, while the gas giant planet carries on its merry way relatively unaffected. One mouth deploys a brakeloop or something and shines with hard rads until it arrives in a Worlds-owned system, and the other end continues on its merry way until it decelerates the same way into the target system.

Would make the Elsewhere Project look like a bottle rocket.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the kinetic compensator is for.

Momentum transferred from the transiting body to the wormhole mouth doesn’t affect the stargate, because the wormhole isn’t coupled to the stargate; the wormhole terminus picks up the momentum, but it’s in the process of collapse back into the foam at that time and so it can be safely ignored. Likewise with the exit terminus of the wormhole at the other end.

So this local conservation isn’t a problem. What’s a problem, once all the various bits of finaglery are done, is global conservation – which is to say, stars move relative to each other, not to mention all orbiting around the galactic core, which is itself in motion, etc., etc., all of which means that post-gating your intrinsic velocity is that of the orbit you were in in the system you just left. Or, to put it another way, going HOLY CRAP fast in absolutely the wrong direction.

The job of the kinetic compensator is to sink or source enough momentum, linear and angular, to fix this – and thus prevent you from taking an impromptu tour of the Oort cloud, being hurled directly into the sun, or suffering some other awkward, hard-to-explain-to-insurers, fate.

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

Eldraeic Words of the Day: Agreements

caülgyrelef: compromise; agreement in which neither party receives what they want (from tratracalma traülgyr elefí, lit. “least worthless/unfavorable contract”, i.e., a bad deal but the least bad deal possible).

sédelélef: mutually beneficial agreement; agreement in which both parties succeed (from trasédelékith elefí, lit. “mutually pleasing contract”.)

Traditionally, a caülgyref is what you end up with if you are unable to make a sédelélef; which may not be the result of one party being an obstinate idiot, but usually is.

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

Natural Law Enforcement

Opposite the Core, seven hexterranes of Coricál Ailék are occupied by the <Crimson Opalescent Arpeggio in F> Emergency Reality Enforcement Facility. A complex constructed in response to the ongoing work of OPERATION VACUUM AVALANCHE regarding physics-based threats and SKYSHOCK VOID/SKYSHOCK YELLOW scenarios, the EREF is a system engineered around 36 of the largest selective ontology evocation systems thus far constructed, configured for coordinated operation.

In concept, the EREF is designed to use the stored power of the Coricál Cirys swarm to reinforce the laws of nature as they currently stand throughout a large bubble, encompassing most of Imperial space. This is intended as a protection against major false vacuum collapses or other large-scale reconfigurations; effectively, preserving the cosmic status quo within a de facto cystal universe.

Unfortunately, it has been deemed inadvisable to test the EREF. While in theory the activation of the facility within the status universe should have no discernable effect – as determined by small-scale experiment – even the slight possibility of miscalibrations or unknown unknowns is considered too hazardous for a large-scale deployment.

– Emergency Management Authority: Index of Facilities

Self-Crossover: Wyrm

Yes, I’m writing crossover fanfic of my own universe again.

(Obviously not canon.)

You can blame my readers over on the Discord for this, for recommending Wormhttps://parahumans.wordpress.com/ – to me, which led to the ever-expanding universe of other Worm alt-universe and crossover fics, which now I’ve got around to reading them, reminded me of the discussion on said Discord about this particular crossover, and well, here we are, with me once again writing down things to get ’em out of my head.

Disclaimer: Worm belongs to John “Wildbow” McCrae, and I’m just playing in his sandbox.

Further disclaimer: I already have one crossover self-fanfic that I’m working on, by which I mean shamefully neglecting, so it is very unlikely that I will be continuing this one, certainly not any time soon.

So if someone else would like to pick it up, feel free to let me know and I can provide the details of such outlines as I have, plus appropriate info on powers, other changes, universe-interactions, and bullshit hax.


OPERATION COSMIC CRUSTACEAN1
EXPERIMENTAL STATION ANNELIDA
!! UNIVERSE CLUSTER 6
!! WORLD-LINE PROBE 14
DOMAIN DRILL IN POSITION
COMMENCE INTROITUS

FOUND/BEGIN/JOIN

PROMISES/OFFER/POWER/AGREEMENT?

BARNACLE DETECTED. INITIATE ONTOREPULSION.

INTERFERENCE/INTERVENTION/REJECTION?

INCREASE ONTOPATHY.

!PAIN/AVERSION/FLIGHT!

CONTINUE INTROITUS. INVESTIGATE ATTACHMENT.


Somewhere an an immeasurable infinity, among the raging storm of primordial chaos, a tiny bubble hung, its membrane pressed up against – although not intersecting with – one much vaster. A careful observer, could one have survived outside a friendly universe, would have noticed too the tiny thread trailing off from the bubble into the distance.

Within the bubble, on the other hand, a girl floated in water that was not water, among stars that were not stars, and was thrice confused. Firstly, by where she was, which was clearly not the inside of her school locker; secondly, by the fact of her cleanliness, her body and clothing being entirely free of filth, rotting things, and crawling insects; but thirdly, and by far the most, by how quickly the horror, terror, and panic she had felt a moment ago had become relaxation and a comfortable lassitude.

TAYLOR ANNE HEBERT.

The voice – or voices, rather, since it echoed around itself like a vast chorus – came from nowhere, but filled the tiny bubble. She was briefly astonished to still be calm, before asking the obvious questions.

“Who are you? Where am I?”

WE ARE THE ELDRAEIC TRANSCEND, AN EXTRAUNIVERSAL CIVILIZATION OF SOME SMALL ADVANCEMENT. THE UNIVERSE-CYST YOU ARE CURRENTLY WITHIN IS A BASE FOR OUR BRANE EXPLORATION PROGRAM.

Well, she thought, that answers everything. Before the next equally obvious question occurred to her:

“Are – are you the one giving capes their powers?”

WE ARE NOT. BUT WE HAVE AN OFFER FOR YOU. YOUR UNIVERSE IS SURROUNDED BY ENTITIES UNKNOWN TO US, WHICH WE CALL BARNACLES2. THESE MAY BE THE SOURCE OF THE “POWERS” TO WHICH YOU REFER.

WE DESIRE KNOWLEDGE OF THESE ENTITIES, WHICH YOU WILL OBTAIN. IN EXCHANGE, WE OFFER YOU THE BLESSINGS WROUGHT BY OUR CHILDREN, AND ADVICE ON THEIR USE. WHILE NOT “POWERS” AS YOUR THOUGHTS DESCRIBE THEM, THEY ARE SIGNIFICANTLY EMPOWERING.

“Why me?”

BECAUSE YOU ARE STRONG. AND WE BELIEVE/PREDICT/COMPUTE THAT YOU WILL USE THESE WELL.

Even through the unnatural calm, and a rising sense of unreality about the whole situation, the last year-and-a-half of memories stung. She opened her mouth to disagree —

IN THIS, YOU ARE INCORRECT. YOU HAVE ENDURED IN THE FACE OF BETRAYAL, AND CONTINUE TO ENDURE, WHEN LESSER MINDS WOULD NOT.

WHILE WE UNDERSTAND YOUR SUFFERING, WE DO NOT PROPERLY COMPREHEND IT. NONETHELESS, IT OFFENDS US. THAT OUR PAYMENT WILL ENABLE THIS, AND THE FLAWS OF THE WORLD WHICH ENABLE IT, TO BE CORRECTED IS SOMETHING WHICH WE FIND PLEASING AND DESIRABLE.

The offer sounded too good to be true. If she wasn’t dreaming. Or insane, or dying, or…

But when it came down to it, could it make her life worse?

“Then… yes.”

THUS IS OUR CONTRACT WRITTEN. THUS IS AGREEMENT MADE.

BRING ORDER TO A WORLD IN CHAOS.

BRING PROGRESS TO A WORLD IN NEED.

BRING LIBERTY TO A WORLD OPPRESSED.

AND… DON’T FORGET TO ENJOY YOURSELF ALONG THE WAY.


Outside the locker, three girls laughed. “She’s gone quiet in there,” Madison spoke up. “Let’s go before someone catches us.”

“She’s probably just fainted,” Sophia sneered. “But, yeah, let’s leave Hebert to the -” She paused, as the vile stench held back by the locker’s plugged-up vents became much more apparent, and metal shards began dropping out of the air3, one landing on her nose. “Wh -“

None of them remembered the details of what happened next. The explosion which shattered the locker into confetti, twisted those near it into abstract sculptures, and blew the upper part of the opposite wall and much of the ceiling outward in a shower of debris made little impression on them, even as it tossed them into an undignified, battered, bruised, and cut-up heap against the remaining wall, and rained down filth atop them.

But what Emma Barnes, Sophia Hess, and Madison Clements would remember for the rest of their lives was the tall figure wrapped in blue-silver light that drifted past them, eyes closed, and face set in a slight smile of perfect serenity.


  1. Setting ‘verse-side: at least a millennium, maybe more, after the current ‘verse date, to explain exactly where the paracosmic multiverse-wrangling came from.
  2. I.e., what Shards look like when you’re seeing the universe from the outside and haven’t carried out a thorough investigation; some sort of clingy cosmic parasite that seems to be focused on particular loci within the universe in question.
  3. When you have a four-dimensional explosion4, some of the debris starts falling before the blast.
  4. Well, technically, an eversion, but details.

Senatorial Privilege

While not its long-disused official name, the Defenestrative Balcony is the upper of the two observation galleries looking down upon the Hall of Convocation, surrounding the roof’s central oculus. Conveniently for anyone who wishes to place its nickname into effect, the outer ring of windows open onto an exterior walkway surrounding the peak of the dome, and its slope is shallow enough at this point that one thrown off it faces a long and rather uncomfortable, but not terminal, slide to the ground.

(Those thrown off the interior gallery into the Hall, however, will not be so lucky, and the responsible party will undoubtedly face the censure of the Senate along with whatever other pains and penalties may apply.)

Should one be considering practicing the defenestrative arts unofficially, one should be aware that the Guardians of the Senate post guards here whenever the Senate is in session, since the Defenestrative Gallery is believed to be particularly appealing to unsanctioned assassins and their clockbows.

– Orbiting the Center, Lyrisia Solanel-ith-Solanel

Subtext

“Barbarians, we say? Yes, and we stand by it.

“What such peoples as yours tend to describe as the appurtenances of civilization – your taxation, your conscription, your elaborately-justified coercive governments – are, in truth, shibboleths of your abject failure to be civilized peoples.

“A gentlesoph of some small wisdom understands the virtue and advantage of cooperation for mutual benefit, and thus obligates himself so to do by his own choice and unforced will. Those who must be compelled to ‘cooperate’ by threat and the lash thus demonstrate that they are not the one, and have not the other – and woe to their societies when the threat is removed, and the inner savage once again surfaces.

“Barbarians we name you; until you find your way to the Harmonious Path, barbarians ye remain; and never shall barbarian feet tread the sacred precincts of these blessed lands, these lands exalted in harmony, this Empire!”

– Silvia Oricalcios
Universal Indifference Society
“Address to the Benighted Dwellers of the Outer Worlds”

Independent Worlds Router

“Oh, climb down off it, Silvia. What they can’t see, they won’t learn from.”

– Corval Ellestrion
Society of the Golden Chain
letters to the editor
Independent Worlds Router

“Now, come, both of you. It does not befit us to argue in front of the children.”

– Varikani Tsurilen
Core Worlds Committee for the Promulgation of Social Virtue and Elegance
letters to the editor
Independent Worlds Router

“Could any of you possibly be more condescending?”

– Vintor ru’Kraden
citizen, Nineworlds of Isar,
letters to the editor
Independent Worlds Router

“Yes, I truly believe we could.”

– Varikani Tsurilen
Core Worlds Committee for the Promulgation of Social Virtue and Elegance
letters to the editor
Independent Worlds Router

Grave-itas

The graveyard was as silent as its contents might suggest. The planet’s large moon shone down on the cracked marble of headstones and memorials, the spidery vines climbing them from among the grass… and the distortion in the air flattening said grass, from which a low and discontented muttering could be heard.

Perhaps it would be better to say that it was almost as silent as the grave.

I’m quite certain, cousin, one of the figures beneath the distortion – revealed on closer inspection to be a tent-sized chameleon cloak – farspoke the other, that ere we set out upon this mission, I spoke to you quite eloquently upon the need for stealth, inasmuch as while the governance of this benighted world tolerates us violating their taboos against molesting the dead, they do so only insofar as we take reasonable care to make sure no-one knows about it. And thus, I am bound to remind you at this juncture, that this in which you are currently engaged? Is the opposite of stealthy.

It’s bloody freezing out here, the other replied, although shifting to verbal silence, and you’re not the one of us hip-deep in lich-yard mud –

Adept’s privilege,’prentice mine, adept’s privilege. It’s hard to carry out an exhumation without a certain amount of hume being involved.

It’s just… not what I expected.

Let me guess. You were a fan of Alves Sjarra: Soul Hunter.

The silence spoke for itself.

Ah, yes. Well, when you reach my exalted reputation with the company, you might occasionally get a sniff of one of those missions rich in cunning plans, deeds of derring-do, and opportunities to show off just how good you are. In the meantime, welcome to the glamorous other 90% of the soul-repo business. Backwater planets and mud are our bread and butter.

A mental sigh competed in the aether with a mental smirk.

You’re not the first with that idea. I can vouch for that… and at least these missions involve a lot less being shot at. Now, make sure your nose plugs are in tight. They don’t always get the right body in the right hole, and another adept’s privilege is that the apt gets first crack with the crowbar.

Running Under the New Regime

Well, here we are.

As those of you who missed the minor disruption last night won’t know, we’e now all transferred over from WordPress.com hosting to a private WordPress instance running on a DigitalOcean droplet, leading to a glorious new era of something that looks much the same to readers, but works much better for me.

Except for the new Discourse-based commenting system, that is, and the site’s new availability over IPv6. But more and better things are to be forthcoming that this enabled, so the move of domain, hosting, and such hasn’t all been cat-vacuuming in my now-ended post-book writing sabbatical.

Anyway, the move is all done, but since there are always some anomalies and oversights that show up after the fact, please let me know if something isn’t working correctly. (Thanks to those who already have.)

Also, the theme I’m currently using (Reddle) is, apparently, no longer updated. At some point, it seems I’m going to have to update, but given the sheer number of WordPress themes out there and just how… overcomplicated most of them seem to be, these days, if anyone would like to suggest alternate themes that maintain the site’s current elegant simplicity, please do feel free to suggest them.

State of the ‘Verse

So, it’s been pretty quiet around here this month.

Part of that is post-book recovery, of course, but another part is that in celebration of Book III, I’ve been working on a fairly comprehensive revamp of the technical end of this site and its associated operations to make them work better, stronger, faster, cooler, and all that.

Top of that particular list is that we now have a Discourse as a discussion and chat site for the reader and fan community, which you can get to through the “Community” link at the top of the page. This is part of a greater effort to stop splitting said community up across multiple incompatible sites and services, which will later also include replacing the WordPress comments for new posts with shiny new Discourse topics embedded right into the pages. In the meantime, if you want to talk about the ‘verse, or have questions you want to ask, or the like, the Discourse is the absolute best place to do it.

There’s more, of course, but that’s for later. In the meantime, please enjoy the new community site!

Eldraeic Phrase of the Day: traäzik ulalath

traäzik ulalath: literally “stony ignorance”, (or for the convenience of Tellurian readers, “stone stupid”, even though the backing metaphor is entirely different), the very special kind of stupidity self-inflicted by and on the extremely loyal, be it to contract, person, cause, or necessity, characterized by making extreme deeds and ludicrous plans appear logical, sensible, and sane.

See azkith, “loyalty”, from azik “stone” + ankithel “emotion, passion”.

(Incidentally, for the MLP:FiM watchers among my readers, Tanks for the Memories is pretty much exactly what an episode of traäzik ulalath looks like.)

The King and the Planet Are One

KALLAER (SAPROS DEMESNE) – As the Laeth Pact entered its third year of economic recession, the reign of Hieros Navat atir-Laeth ul-Sark was brought to an end today. After failing to successfully address the Pact’s ongoing economic problems, the Elder Chieftains of the Pact directed that the Hieros be dedicated to the shadows of the overworld in accordance with the customary usages.

The ritual sacrifice was performed at the Omphalos by the chosen Successor, na-Hieros Rabil atir-Laeth ul-Rank. The former Hieros met his end with the dignity proper to his office, walking willingly to the altar after exchanging a few words with the Successor.

As is traditional, the flesh of the former Hieros will be plowed into the fields for the fertility of the land, his blood poured into the aqueducts serving the capital as a blessing on his people, and his bones gifted to interstellar merchants for good fortune in the marketplace.

An announcement of policy changes from the new Hieros is expected in three days, local time; 4.1 days, Imperial Standard.