Meta: State of the Writer

So, I won’t reiterate the sad and rage-inducing story of the past few weeks, since I’ve done that in enough places and for enough times already. If by chance you haven’t seen it, you can find it on the Discourse here, forwarded along from Patreon.

Anyway.

While we don’t expect to get any of our stuff back (a) soon, or (b) in working order, good fortune and the generosity of kind friends has allowed us to start getting the most important parts of our network back up and running, and we’ve managed to restore our offsite backups from Azure, so that’s the main thing, although since full cleanup (“…I have my notes, now I just need to install the nodes to host the Kubernetes cluster to run the wiki stack to display them…”) not to mention fixing the damage done to house and home will still take some time, it’s not back to normal operation yet. But since I am posting some ‘verse-related things already, you can see that we’re a lot closer.

(On a related note, I don’t yet have posting access to the Discourse, since I was using 2FA with it and both my security key and the hardware running my authenticator app were among the items we lost. I’m talking to the hosters about it, and hope to have that back soon, but in the meantime I ask for your patience with regard to responding to your posts.)


On another note, as it happened, when the Feds so rudely interrupted our normal television-watching cycle, we were in the middle of Star Trek: Discovery, and not having our media server serving media any more, decided that the easiest thing to do was to switch to just marathoning that.

This was a good decision.

I’m going to embrace the controversy here, and take a moment to say that Discovery is probably the best Star Trek we’ve seen, bar none. In particular, from where we were – the very end of season two, on through seasons three and four – was exactly what I needed to be watching in our time of crisis and trial. Because when your real-life party has just been crashed by what amount to exemplars of the opposite, hope, and faith, and people finding the inner strength to rise above and be the best versions of themselves, and successfully navigating your way through – and finding the path to ending – the dark times surrounding you through your ideals and principles, and not by immediately tossing them aside like all too much so-called “gritty” fiction has its characters doing, is just everything you need.

In fact, one of the major reasons I call it the best of the Treks is because it is precisely when the world has gone to shit around you that it is both hardest and most important to cling to those ideals and principles that define you, and your response to that challenge that most defines you, and it does a brilliant job of showing it.

(Also Stamets and Culber and the rest of their found family are absolutely goddamned adorable and I will brook no dissent on this. But I digress.)

tl;dr I approve this. Add it to the semi-canonical Media Of Which The Imperials Would Approve list, too.

Also, just to bring some canon into this post:

“If there is to be a rapprochement between us and the Republic – and such a thing is, I think we must all concede, profoundly to be desired – I can think of no better basis than this: that they, like we, are a civilization that holds principle above expedience.”

– Talaïs Oravedra, Imperial Diplomatic Corps

On a final thought, before I move along; back at the start of the month, I had a conversation on Twitter with one of y’all (readers, that is) concerning a resisted urge to write a fanfic where they tried to pull that kind of no-knock raid crap on an Imperial citizen-shareholder. (“Because it would probably star a Sargas, and that’s not *quite* called for, objectively speaking.”)

To which I had to admit to having restrained a few vengeful thoughts along such lines myself, authorially. (It would be cathartic, at least, although also almost certainly dreadful crap which I would burn before anyone else got to read it.) It would also be very easy to conceive. Not like you’d even need a Sargas.

I mean, you probably can’t throw a rock without finding someone who thinks using an extra microgram of antimatter to power her bug-out transmitter is about right for visiting some places, and using terror tactics on someone with a spite charge that size is its own punishment.

I mean, I started writing for various reasons, but a big one is that I wanted to inspire people. I wanted to show them a realized dream of a better world, one where people listen to their better angels, not their worst impulses.

I can’t as yet. It’s too close.

But I want to write the story of how this sort of thing would be handled there. Where enforcing the law is a sacred trust that demands the nation’s best. Where everyone is treated with honor, and respect, and dignity, and kindness.

Even the very worst. Just because it’s the right thing to do, the civilized, decent, good thing to do, at whatever cost. In a world, in short, in which listening to our worst selves and calling it pragmatism hasn’t turned protection and service into a goddamned punchline.

Not Cosmic, But Incomprehensible

This was originally a prompt over on Mastodon, the original prompt being: “MC POV: Name one thing that is guaranteed to make you angry? Why?”. I liked the result enough that I thought I’d share it over here, as well.

“Make me angry? The cases that fall into, in our legal code, ‘destructionism’.

“Why? Because I don’t understand it.

“We get – I’d say a lot, but this is still Imperial space, so let’s say an anomalously high level of crime here. We get slash-traders, commercial fraud, thieves grand and petty, stowaways, dockside brawls, too-long-aboard-syndrome on and on, everything a major trade station attracts like flies. But even if you slice off the truly desperate who need a hug, a hot meal, and someone to walk them to the Eleemosynary Exodochium more than what most people think of as justice, I can understand most of them. They’re zero-sum crimes; desire and greed and unfortunate passions are things we all have, and they’re not even wrong in themselves, only in how some folk handle them. Even the murderers – I’ve never hated anyone so much I couldn’t stand to share the universe with them a moment longer, but I can understand how someone might.

“What I’ve never been able to understand about these people — these are people who set out just to make the universe a little bit worse for their existence in it. Destroy or desecrate things just so that other people can’t enjoy them. Go out of their way to ruin someone’s day, or week, or decade, not as a side-effect, but as the point of their actions. Hurt and smash and wreck not for greed or other profit, not even for revenge upon their target, but just because they can, and it – I’d say it pleases them to do so, but it is hard to imagine real pleasure coming from such. These I do not understand, and it is hard to temper anger without understanding.

“And that’s dangerous for me. I’ve escorted people who have done much more damage to arraignment, but it’s these who make me think fondly of — unapproved uses for airlocks, before I quash it. And that they can make me think that, even for a moment, that makes me angriest of all.”

– Jynne Cerron, Enforcer, Watch Constabulary
Mer Dinévál Countermass Station, Seranth

God’s Bootstraps

Why are there no historical records of the commissioning of the 160th Imperial Legion?

Because it hasn’t been commissioned yet.

There are records of it participating in several battles independently from any Theater Command, or even Core Command.

Yes.

Without being commissioned?

While cause mostly precedes effect, this is not necessarily the case.

While utterances mostly convey meaning, this is not necessarily the case either.

The “Causal Effectives” will be founded in 11346 as one of the Transcend’s special troubleshooting teams, Anything they do before then is all of important, classified, and unlikely to be understood in its full historical consequence before that date.

What else do we –

Further information is not available in this whenwhere.

– a conversation which never happened

The Lady Offshore With The 16″ Guns

“Honestly, I think the primary motivation to develop warships that can descend into the atmosphere and hover in a menacing, fight-in-the-shade manner has nothing to do with any of the technical rationales you hear bandied about.

“It’s so that when someone says to you, ‘You and what army?’, you can just point upwards and say, “No, no, me and that Navy.

“Who wants that? Everyone who’s ever led a shore party in hostile territory, just about. It’s nice to be able to intimidate people without a telescope.”

– Commander Eril Tsurilen, Imperial Navy,
extranet interview

On This Day

On this day in 2290, Optimal Splay Games of Foiríäs, Ildathach, held a grand party and press event to celebrate the successful completion, by Torys Kularacen, of the first successful in-game voyage carried through from launch to completion in their debut first-ring game, the real-time Relativistic Freighter Simulator, a feat requiring sixty-three months of play over the course of nine years. In the course of the event Kularacen was presented with a platinum-iridium model of the starship he used in the game, as well as a lifetime subscription to future Optimal Splay games. The latter was also presented by way of consolation to Orielle Televaricios, whose competing bid was foiled after forty-three in-game months by a simulated asteroid impact.

Eldraeic Word of the Day: fanc

fanc: (pron. “fansh”) a flaw or defect; an imperfection

from which

talifanc: (from talis “truth” + fanc) an imperfection whose presence indicates authenticity; examples would include inclusions in natural gemstones, grain in natural wood, and unintentional variations in hand-crafted objects; compare Jp. wabi.

and also

lin-fanc: the Flaw; entropy.

Run, Bank, Run

ILINSHEN (UNITED VIRIDIAN STATES) – Six days after the extraordinary near-collapse of the Ubthar Advancement Bank in the most prominent of the recent series of bank runs and its equally extraordinary rescue by Gilea & Company Capital Ventures, ICC, which extended a line of credit equivalent to 168 billion Viridian daal to the struggling bank simultaneous with its purchase of 17% of its equity, the repercussions are still rocking the economic and political status quo of the Viridian States.

While economic instability has become a fact of life in the States in recent months, the failure of a bank so prominent in the technical sector would have raised eyebrows even without transstellar intervention, but the situation was further inflamed four days ago with a press release issued under the seal of Móes Cheraelar-ith-Cheraelar, Chief Capital Officer for G&C Capital Ventures – rather than, as might be expected, that of the Cinti Xi VPO. In this release, Móes Cheraelar specifically attributed the bank runs in general and the collapse of UAB in particular to “misinformation concerning industry practices and bank liquidity being deliberately propagated by public, media, and governmental figures to the severe detriment of financial stability”, accompanied by detailed semantic analyses of various examples, and warned that the Hidden Cog would undoubtedly take such measures as it deemed necessary to preserve fiscal integrity. The press release specifically named Senator Eryl Torrad (Equilibrium/Erayshen-ro-Dine) as a source of “innuendo, allegation, and distortion without regard for truth, honor, or decency” which led directly to the run on the UAB.

While praised by a number of analysts, that a transstellar based outside the States, even one of the Big 26, should so directly criticize local politics has proven controversial. The situation, however, has escalated further with the news having reached Ilinshen yesterday that G&C Capital Ventures have filed a petition with the Court of Trade and Commerce requesting that they apply the extraordinary sanction of judicial incredibility to Senator Torrad.

The granting of such a petition by the Court is extremely unlikely, inasmuch as judicial incredibility – the legal declaration that a given person is “not to be believed upon any topic” – is a legal archaism that has not been applied for over seven millennia, and it would, in any case, only be of legal effect within the Imperial territorial volume. Nonetheless, the petition appears to be having its intended effect in the Court of Public Opinion, with the Equilibrium Party moving quickly to deprive Senator Torrad of her committee posts, even those unrelated to financial matters. Equilibriate spokesmen ascribed this to the trouble, even without an official finding of incredibility, the Senator would have in interacting with the many Imperial or Empire-proximal interests relevant to such positions, but it is generally accepted among pundits that the party and President Nallen’s administration are engaging in damage control.

Ambassador Rithan-ishi-Dellia declined to comment on the matter, citing the impropriety of commenting on legal matters which remained sub judice and the Imperial Diplomatic Corps policy of refraining from involvement in purely commercial affairs. Cheraelar & Orthodox, the primary market rating agency for large institutions (including polities) in the Cinti Xi constellation has made no comment at this time.

– from the Imperial Infoclast

Beriv’s Privateers (Filk)

When you think filk, you also think folk. Or I do, anyway. And recently, when I think folk, it’s been because my random writing music playlist has been bringing up Barrett’s Privateers more often than one might expect. (If you don’t know the song, you can hear it performed here.)

And when my mind wanders back to filk, it recalls that few, indeed, are the science fiction universes for which I haven’t seen at least some attempt made to produce a localized version: Star Trek, Wars, Traveller, etc., etc.

So this one is mine, the tragic story of a young Magen spacer who, back when much travel in the Worlds was still relativistic, signed up with Half-Captain Beriv’s ill-fated Khadara for the promise of an easy cruise, a bloodless victory, and a fortune at the end. Needless to say, it did not work out that way.

Naturally, to the tune of Barrett’s Privateers, by Stan Rogers. © Fogarty’s Cove Music 1976.

1

Oh, the year was 4178¹
How I wish I was on Sardion² now!
A letter of marque under manager’s ring³
Sold t’ the scummiest ship I’ve ever seen

Chorus

Suns⁴ damn them all! I was told
We’d cruise the deep for the Star’s red gold⁵.
We’d lay no beams, spill no tears.
But I’m a broken man on a Sardis pier⁶
The last of Beriv’s Privateers

2

Oh, Half-Cap⁷ Beriv cried the halls⁸
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
For sixty brave sophs, all spacers, who
Would make for him the Khadara‘s crew

Chorus

3

The Khadara‘s hull was a sickening sight
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
Her gyros tumbly⁹ and her bottles cracked¹⁰,
And her plating half patches from front to back

Chorus

4

When the Suns aligned we made for the black
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
We were nine years to Sagori Light¹¹
With a thousand glitches in the wakeful night¹²

Chorus

5

In the eleventh year we sailed again
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
When a bloody great Impie hove in sight
With our juiced comm lasers¹³ we made to fight

Chorus

6
Now the Impie lugger¹⁴ was laden high
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
Her drives burnt low¹⁵ as she clawed for way
But to catch her took Khadara sixty days

Chorus

7

Then at length we stood two seconds¹⁶ away
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
The beam caps¹⁷ charged with a howl and a whine
But with one lead head¹⁸, the Imp broke our spine

Chorus

8
The Khadara snapped, laying open her side
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
Beriv was smashed like grav-juggled eggs¹⁹
And a main bus short vaporized my legs

Chorus

9

So here I lay in my fortieth year
How I wish I was on Sardion now!
It’s been twenty-two years since we flew away
And I just made Sardis yesterday

Chorus


Historical and explanatory footnotes:

  1. Around forty years after the First Interstellar War. The Reunification was complete at this point, but lighthuggers were still in use carrying supplies to and from the outer worlds.
  2. Sardis (Magen Exodus), one of the secondary systems of the Magen Corporate, is a trinary system. Sardion is one of the inner planets of its primary star.
  3. i.e., from the Corporate, which was pursuing all means to fight its trade war with the Empire at this time.
  4. See (2). This is a common form of oath among Sardis natives.
  5. By “red gold” the speaker means orichalcium. The Magenites had lost access to it with their parting of ways from the Empire, leaving them with only inferior substitutes. A cargo of orichalcium or orichalcium-based components was the most valuable cargo a Magen-sponsored commerce raider could capture.
  6. “Pier”, in this case, means the first deck inside docks and locks on a major drift; a common place to find ships’ suppliers, dockside cargo sales, mechanics, spacer’s bars, brothels, flophouses, and other startown appurtenances.
  7. Indicates the rank of “Half-Captain”, a Magenite equivalent to “first mate”. Were he less blinded by profit, the speaker might have taken this as a warning that his captain had never commanded his own lighthugger, but at the time the Corporate were offering letters to anyone who could raise the capital for one.
  8. Spacers’ hiring halls, another fixture of the pier area of major drifts.
  9. i.e., a worn or defective attitude control system.
  10. i.e., engines desperately in need of maintenance, and quite possibly recused from a wreckyard.
  11. A communications relay and replenishment station in the Sagori (Magen Exodus) system, between the Corporate and Imperial space.
  12. “wakeful night”, among relativistic ship crew, indicates the repeated need to come out of cryo to make emergency repairs or otherwise handle the ship.
  13. Why buy actual weapons for your privateer, after all? To be fair, you can put a lot of juice through an interstellar comm laser.
  14. A heavy freight lighthugger, operating at relatively low accelerations.
  15. i.e., the lugger was so heavily laden that it had to operate below its maximum acceleration in order to avoid structural damage.
  16. Light-seconds.
  17. The rapid-discharge hypercapacitors used to buffer power to the lasers.
  18. A nuclear-tipped weapon; given the period, presumably a Casaba-Howitzer.
  19. “We juggle priceless eggs in variable gravity.” As a general rule, NEVER DO THIS.

De-cryp-tion

proof of work (obs.): an archaic technique for (usually blockchain-based) cryp mining which ties mining capability to computational power. In its original form, it required transaction blocks to be hashed, which demonstrated time and computational effort put forth, and which would generate a certain amount of virgin cryp until the configured money supply was reached.

While widely criticized for its lack of scalability as transaction volumes grew and the extreme wastefulness of resources (both material and energetic) required¹ to maintain equivalent mining capacity in the face of the ongoing general expansion of computational capability, it nevertheless became a relatively commonly utilized technique in early cryp architectures.

A substantial blow was struck² to proof of work by the algorithmic crisis associated with the Isif Theorem and the Great Slump of 2840. Nevertheless, the concept staggered on for some considerable time afterwards, although the need for increasingly sophisticated cryptographic algorithms and specialized processors rapidly took mining of proof-of-work-based cryp outside the realm of individuals and small organizations. This left only large consortia of various types (and, of course, Powers³) capable of mustering the computational power necessary to participate.

The final death of proof of work did not come until 5193, when the Market Liberty Oversight Directorate – with the assistance of the Fiscal Mind and a specialized acausal logic processor – demonstrated the ability to mine out the entire volume of three newly launched cryps, using dust transactions to rapidly fill new mineable blocks, within seconds of each one’s launch.

– A Core Economic Dictionary, Aurum Press (6900)


  1. For this reason, proof of work was never a popular basis for Empire-based cryps. It is hard, after all, to imagine a domicile less friendly to the notion of deliberately overworking.
  2. Although a prolonged one, as much of the actual striking occurred after the advent of interstellar travel as word of the Theorem spread throughout what would become the Worlds at the speed of communications.
  3. A group whose existence enhanced the flight from proof of work, since those who were already concerned with confidentiality were, by and large, not enthusiastic about currencies seemingly doomed to fall under the control of alien space-gods.

Will Not As Strong As Steel

Bionic Dyscognitive Disorder

(a.k.a. Bionomanic Disorder; Bionic Dysphoria; Cybernetic¹ Dyscognitive Disorder; Cybernetic Schizotypal Disorder; Cyberpsychosis; Mechanization Stress Disorder; Post-Augmentation Stress Syndrome; Robolunacy.)

By whatever name it is known, bionic dyscognitive disorder is a severe mental health issue triggered by augmentation with non-biological technology (bionics). In various analyses, it can present with symptoms similar to a variety of other conditions, such as:

  • body integrity dysphoria (most common with the use of limb augmentations, in which cases it can trigger intense desire to remove the augmentation; some sufferers attempt this themselves, often fatally);
  • severe schizotypal disorders or schizophrenia (typically associated with neural interfaces or sensory augmentations);
  • post-traumatic stress syndrome-like symptoms associated with fictive memories of the augmentation procedure;
  • Cluster B borderline (typically antisocial) personality disorder; or
  • in the most extreme cases, a monothematic depersonalization delusion similar to the Cotard delusion, in which the sufferer perceives themselves as a robot, often including the belief that they are an automaton incapable of volition.

Bionic dyscognitive disorder also does not exist, insofar as no reputable iatropsychic professional has determined a neurophysiological cause for any case.

Rather, bionic dyscognitive disorder is a convenient label placed upon a variety of memetically-induced syndromes attributable to the high frequency of autotoxic and exotoxic anti-augmentation memeplexes found in primitive and primitivist societies, active at the conscious or subconscious level.

When one provides a limb augmentation to one with a deeply internalized subconscious belief that bionic augmentation is unnatural, one induces memetic body integrity dysphoria; when one provides certain types of neural interface to a patient with high risk factors for schizotypal disorders, the data input from the interface will be interpreted accordingly, and the result misdiagnosed as attributable to the augmentation rather than the underlying factors; when convinced that augmentation must necessarily be traumatic, the brain will obligingly perceive it as such; and in extreme cases, when submerged in vitalist memeplexes, the least stable will develop the delusion that augmentation is equivalent to mechanization.

(And, naturally, those on the borderline of borderline personality disorders may be tipped over the border by any enhancement to their personal armamentarium.)

On an individual basis, the recommended treatment for any of these issues is intensive corrective memetic therapy, preferably preceded by removal from the memetically toxic external environment. In the longer term, the only reliable course is to press for the adoption of Collegium standards of mental stability by all extra-Imperial augmenteries such that they will be appropriately watchful for those whose variously fragile mental states will be destabilized further in the process of augmentation.

See also: autoscient depersonalization disorder; social transition stress disorder; technical somatically-induced stress disorder.

– Manual of Mental Diagnostics, 271st ed.


  1. Yes, we know.

Flexibility

“Look here. You know there are a more than a few species out there whose names we can’t hope to pronounce, even if you only count the ones that use vocal language. Such as all the amorphoids, whose vocal organs are as arbitrary as the rest of them.”

“Like the myneni, whose whole surface can be one big tympanum.”

“Exactly. And you know how many of those species adopt use-names so they don’t have to put up with us mangling the real ones?”

“Just tell me what you’re trying to say.”

“I’m saying don’t even look like you might snicker when you meet Senior Chief Instructor Oobleck.”

– overheard after lights’-out, recruit dormitory, Fort Petrae

Gender Transition

So, I have received some questions and noticed some little curiosity recently about what the process of gender transition/sex reassignment looks like in the ‘verse, or since that is highly variable, in the Empire.

Well, it goes something like this – and this is the procedure and the whole of the procedure, which requires no permissions or approvals from anyone:


You pay a visit to the local branch of Novacorpora. (This will not be difficult. They’re everywhere – basically the Starbucks of bodysculpt parlors.)

You say, “I can haz new [appropriate-sex] body?”

They say, “We can haz deposit?”

You give them the 12%. (It is slightly higher in some cases – such as female-to-male, for humans – because you don’t have the relevant chromosome and they have to synthesize a compatible one. But that’s just an implementation detail.)

You stick your hand in the fancy laser-genetic-sequencing-machine when they ask you to. It goes beep, and then there’s a brief discussion (and possibly some holography) of any non-genetic features you have that you want preserved in your new body.

They ask you to come back in a week. (Unless you feel like paying over the odds for even-faster-than-regular-forced-growth cloning rates and went to a different store in the first place, but we’re assuming the default consumer version here.)


You come back a week later. They usher you into the changing room at the back, where you get to stare at an [appropriate-sex] version of you in a forced-growth tube. They cough to get your attention. You stop ogling yourself. (They laugh, and say that everyone does it the first time.)

They set up the cerebral bridge to put you into your new body. (There is a brief discussion of animus/anima/animua/animin remapping, but as you are what Earth would call a trans person, you don’t need that particular service.) You change into a medical coverall and sit down in the chair.

>DISCONTINUITY<

You wake up. By the clock on the wall, a couple of hours have passed, but right now you’re busy coughing growth-tank fluid out of your lungs. They hand you a towel. Your eyes ache in the peculiar way of eyes that have never been used before, but it soon passes. You look over at your old body, now running the Minimal Maintenance Architecture. It’s breathing, but it looks comatose.

They help you over to a chair and help you dress – well, unless you were good at guessing your new sizes and brought your own, help you dress in a fresh new set of GenericWear™. You’re hungry. Food is provided, all food you can eat with a rubber spoon, but in fairness you have to learn how to use a brand-new nervous system. There’s not enough of it, either, but they gently remind you that your digestive tract is new to all this, too.

Part of the forced-growth process involves teaching your new cerebellum how to operate, so it’s not as bad as it could be, and an hour or so of practice has you able to manipulate objects and walk around without falling over. They suggest that you wait a few days before operating heavy machinery anyway, just in case, as recommended in the pamphlet they hand you, Care and Feeding of Your New Body.

There’s a little legal paperwork to read through, details of the Identity Tribunal confirming that you are, in fact, still you and updating all the relevant records with your shiny new Body Identification Number so that all the biometric stuff in the world still works. That uses up another few minutes; the Imperial Service is efficient.

You pay at the desk. They ask you what you want done with your old body – they can ship it to cold storage for you, or put it up for resale, or arrange for biowaste disposal (i.e., euthanasia and incineration). It’s up to you – it’s still your property, even if you’re not living there any more. You ask them to keep it on site for a couple of days while you think about it. It’s not a problem.

You’re done here, so you go about your day. You catch sight of yourself in the store window as you leave. Damn, you look good.

Sketchy Orions

Hello, and welcome once again to Truly Awful Whiteboard Pictures season, as I present to you the basic workings of a nuclear-pulse Orion drive, Empire-style. Or at least Empire-of-the-Spaceflight-Initiative-Era style. Mostly so that I can refer to it later and y’all’ll know what I’m talking about.

Behold ye first (and note that I’m not really getting into explaining the Orion drive itself at this point: for that see here, which should give you an idea of what I’m riffing on) an exceptionally crude and simplified illustration of the mechanics of the drive itself:

A crude diagram of the mechanics of the Empire's nuclear-pulse drive.

The way this works as part of each firing cycle is approximately this:

  1. A pulse unit, taken from the magazines, is fed by the loader into the breech/spinner and magnetically suspended there. The “spinner” spins it up for the purpose of spin-stabilization, as later in the process, it will be vitally important that the coaxial firing laser be able to lay a beam on the lens at one end of the soda-can-sized pulse unit.
  2. The irises (both the primary one built into the pusher plate, and the secondary one at the end of the coilgun, snap open to let the pulse unit pass.
  3. The coilgun throws the pulse unit out and down towards firing position.
  4. As the pulse unit reaches firing position, the firing laser delivers an ignition pulse to it (right down the now-empty bore of the coilgun). The pulse unit does its prompt critical thing.
  5. Immediately afterwards, before the plasma from the pulse unit detonation can reach the pusher plate, the primary and secondary irises snap closed to protect the firing mechanism from the detonation.
  6. And repeat for the next cycle.

As for the pulse units themselves, they look like this. Very roughly, as I’m eliminating all the complexity that goes into making them Happy Fun Shaped Charges as well as streamlined, spin-stabilized projectiles. Conceptual only:

Crude sketches of fission and fusion pulse units for 'verse Orion drives.

The upper one is the old-style fission-based unit. Basically, it’s a laser-triggered fission bomb. The firing laser hits the beamcatcher lens, which splits the laser impulse into many beamlets proceeding along optical fibers, which are set up so that the laser impulselets reach the various explosive lenses surrounding the pit at the same moment. Implosion, prompt criticality, and fission pulse proceed to happen.

The lower one is the new hotness fusion-based unit. It’s a laser-triggered pure fusion bomb. In this case, the beamcatcher lens focuses the considerably more powerful laser impulse onto a parabolic mirror and needed secondary mirrors (not shown), for the purpose of delivering the laser impulse to all sides of a fusible pellet at the same time, even as the mirrors themselves are busy vaporizing. Fusible pellet hits inertially-confined criticality, and fusion pulse proceeds to happen.

The important thing to note here is that as much of the complexity as possible has been offloaded from the pulse units to the drive, inasmuch as you might want to knock a quick thousand pulse units out in the field with a relatively crude shipboard machine shop, which is not something you would expect to be able to build the drive.

Smol But Effective

GERRAWAY-BY-CLASS ORBITAL SERVICE VEHICLE

Operated by: The canine orbital mechanics of regular orbital mechanics.
Type: Orbital transfer/service vehicle.
Construction: Horizon Cageworks, ICC

Length: 2.2 m
Beam: 1.7 m
Dry mass: 784 kg

Gravity-well capable: No.
Atmosphere capable: No.

Personnel: 1 smart dog (prosophont bandal partial uplift)

Drives:

  • Propulsion Dynamics, ICC HX-3 Husky low-thrust orbital maneuvering engine
  • Propulsion Dynamics, ICC cold-gas reaction-control assembly
  • Horizon OrbitSpace, ICC reaction wheels

Propellant: Liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen mix.
Cruising (sustainable) thrust: 0.25 g
Δv reserve: 1,350 m/s

Sensors:

  • Orbital Positioning System
  • Star tracker
  • Passive EM array
  • Short-range collision avoidance and docking radar
  • Transponder

Other Systems:

  • Cognitech, ICC/Family of Species, ICC “Radio Sniffer” audio-olfactory merkwelt translation system
  • Cognitech, ICC/Family of Species, ICC “Starlight Barking” multimodal communications system
  • Exogenesis, ICC AI pilot-assist and remote override system
  • Omnidirectional radio transceiver
  • 3 x Extropa Energy, ICC accumulators
  • Systemic Integrated Technologies radiative striping/solar power collection systems
  • 1 x Extropa Energy, ICC hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell
  • Canned (non-regenerative) life support; CO₂ scrubbers
  • High-intensity LED work lights
  • 4 x fixed-point multipurpose, interchangeable-tool work arms (Horizon OrbitSpace, ICC)
  • optional satellite servicing kit, tool platform, and component rack (Horizon OrbitSpace, ICC)
  • optional interchangeable drop tanks for use with refueling probe
  • optional debris-collecting shield, basket, and tow cables

DESCRIPTION

The Gerraway-By-class of “micro” orbital service vehicle was a unique oddity brought to life by the circumstances of the early space era, and a chance meeting at the Look Out Below Café and Bar. Specifically, a wide-ranging discussion over several beers between some of the celestime architects from Horizon Cageworks, a number of gentlesophs working in various orbital industries, and a trainer of working bandal – and more specifically their “smart dog” variants who had undergone stage one uplift – who happened to be visiting the platform at the time. The topic was the increasing amount of grunt work – refueling satellites, performing basic maintenance, debris collection – that maintaining orbital industry required, and how inefficient it was to continue carrying this out by hand.

The result, a design outline found scribbled on a pile of napkins delivered to the Horizon offices the next morning, was the Gerraway-By.

In its essentials a shrunk-down version of the Minnal-class workpod – refactored so that one or two Gerraway-Bys could be carried by a Minnal, or several by an OTV – the Gerraway-By was intended as a means to bring our old friends with us into the space age. While AI was not quite ready for independent use performing the necessary tasks, it was more than capable of operating in conjunction with a well-trained working bandal, and their eldrae supervisor, to command a small service vehicle operating from a larger ship.

Combined with the work into uplift carried out by Family of Species and Cognitech’s beginning research into merkwelt translation easing interface difficulties, the timing was perfect for an entirely new kind of spacedog to take their place shepherding Eliéra’s increasingly crowded low orbitals, and a new era of partnership was born.

“Accidentally”

To clarify the ongoing rumors:

It is NOT true that people who kick the floor-cleaning robots in ISA-administered starports tend to have their luggage accidentally rerouted to Geydagan Down, where it is pillaged by a bunch of black-hole cultists, torn apart, used to clean up after ritual sacrifices, and recycled as toilet paper. The floor-cleaning robots are professionals, after all.

It IS true that we let everyone think so, because those sophs who are bothered by the notion more or less deserve to be.

– ISA Planetary Relations, internal update 7216/3, “Overheard…” column

Things To See, Places (Not) To Go (16)

Most blights are considered not only places not to go, but also places you cannot go, thanks to the englobement grids wrapping around them, having been correctly declared existential threat zones by the appropriate authorities.

The large ice moon of Torren, a gas giant in the Empta (Qulomna Maze) system which had the misfortune of playing host to the Torren Moon Incident, is an exception to this rule. Its englobement grid has a carefully maintained hole in it, monitored from an orbital habitat above.

Necrotheos Station, however, does not cater to the potential ghoul-tourism industry. Rather, the Torren Moon Blight is an example of what forensic eschatologists refer to casually as a friendly perversion and also as mostly dead; after the responsible perversion escaped its livelock laming, its bloom ended, as so many do, in a Falrann collapse which is believed to have wiped out the upper layers of its intelligence. In combination, these two factors ensure that, if you follow every guideline in the God-Botherer’s Safety Handbook with neurotic, obsessive-compulsive precision and run away promptly – while maintaining strict adherence to safety protocol – at any sign of undocumented behavior, you probably won’t have your brain eaten.

Naturally, this means that it was the perfect blight to preserve as a training venue for would-be forensic eschatologists. While primarily administered by the Imperial University of Almeä, the Empire’s Imperial State Security, the League’s Invisible Executive, the Photonic Network’s OOPSKILL, the Echelons’ Echelon of Hindsight, and even the Voniensan Republic’s Exception Management Group all make use of the facilities.

Public access is available to Necrotheos itself, primarily for visitors to the Memorial to Foresight Unheeded, constructed to honor the forensic eschatologist who provided warning to the wakeners a full eight minutes before the bloom. Public access to the moon below, on the other hand, is not permitted to anyone but those training there, and indeed flight guidelines state clearly that any starship traveling closer to the englobement grid aperture than the station itself will be destroyed without warning.

As one without any training in forensic eschatology nor desire to acquire it, I was not permitted to visit the moon in person. I was, however, permitted to view a small number of cleared slink recordings from previous visitors. From these I offer this brief summary:

The perversion was partway through the process of reformatting the moon into a computational megastructure at the time of its collapse: beneath its perforated surface lies a fractal maze of ice tunnels layered with ice-silicate opto-fluidic circuitry, occasionally broken by concentrations of metal identified as manufacturing centers and other facilities either newly made or repurposed from the original outpost equipment. Intense and variable radiation and magnetic field hazards abound near these facilities.

Robots of unknown design – and bioroid cyborgs of unknown design, repurposed from the material of the original project team and those involved in bloom response unlucky enough to be captured – continue to roam the maze, engaged in construction and repair activities without any apparent coordination (and occasional hostility) between groups. All are, however, uniformly hostile to any visitors.

The time trainees are permitted to spend on the surface, even in maximally protective suits/shells including Lorith cages (encoded transmissions are broadcast at random intervals within the tunnels) and anti-basilisk sense-filters, is strictly limited. Patterns in the opto-fluidic circuitry have been reported to have pseudohypnotic effects. The recovered mind-states (subsequently erased or archived in the Aeon Pit when not being actively researched) of those who overstayed these limits report memory gaps, impulses of unknown origin, and “whispers”.

Disturbingly, these whispers have occasionally been reported to include information from, or claims to be, one of the original outpost staff. However, there has never been any verifiable evidence of any intact or restorable mind-states within the blight zone; indeed, as researchers pointed out to me, it is entirely possible and indeed quite likely that the whispers themselves contained meta-information intended to produce the apparent familiar feeling of such information.

To close, I shall quote some of the warnings prominently displayed near the station’s docks and locks:

Do not joke about your mental state at any time while on the surface of the Torren Moon, during the return journey from it, or at any time before the expiry of your mandatory mental hygiene quarantine period. Under system safety edicts and professional conduct guidelines, any such behaviors may result in summary spacing without recourse, laser-grid incineration, and erasure of mind-state.

Beneath this, an unofficial addendum reads:

Frankly, it’s not all that great an idea to do so after you’ve been released from quarantine, either.

Those who have studied the prospectus of the Imperial University of Almeä may also have noted that their primary course in forensic eschatology lists a field visit to the Torren Moon facility as a final step before graduation – and that passing the class requires a perfect score on the first attempt. While surprising to some, this is generally accepted as the level of care required for any practice of the field.

It only reinforces this that the last warning to be seen before descent to the moon is the following:

Please note that participation in training events held on the Torren Moon WILL result in your current and any descendant mind-states being permanently listed as a potential contamination vector. Plan accordingly.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Hazards of the Core Worlds

The Naming of Everything

If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant;
if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be thought remains unthought;
if what must be thought is not thought, then what must be done remains undone;
if this remains undone, apprehension of truth and beauty will deteriorate;
if apprehension goes astray, the people will act poorly in helpless confusion.

Hence there must be neither arbitrariness or ambiguity in what is said.
This matters above everything.

Aurí Péng, philosopher of Ochale, quoted in the charter of the Conclave of Linguistics and Ontology

Author’s note: This is inspired/based on a quotation from K’ung-fu-tzu, on the Rectification of Names (see The Analects of Confucius, book 13, verse 3, for the original), modified in accordance with the then state of Imperial philosophy. I think it fits quite well.

Fact Checking

From the Truth and Reason/So Or No?/Extranet Claims memeweave:

Claim:

The popular extranet site Caliéne Sargas Facts published the following fact:

In 7240, Admiral Caliéne Sargas of the Imperial Navy was awarded 1.8 billion quidpro in a defamation suit against the Ionazere Tribune. The Tribune had alleged in a 7239 Gradakhmath article that the Admiral had shown mercy during the reduction of asymmetrist bases in the belts of Refugium (Madel Cauldron).

Rating:

True.

Contemporary news articles from Ionazere (Cariane Deep) record the lawsuit and its outcome. Furthermore, even a brief examination of the remains left over from the Battle of Honne Gap, carried out from minimum safe distance, clarifies that the reduction was carried out with the Admiral’s customary efficiency, lethality, and attention to detail. Published tactical records, additionally, clearly show no evidence for survivors and no plausible mechanism for the possibility of survivors.

While Caliéne Sargas Facts is not known, in general, to be a reliable source of factual information, in the case of this particular claim they do appear to be accurate.