A Pistol With One Shot

black cell (n.): An originally-improvised form of prison or brig cell used by various independent drifts and starships designed for long-duration flight, a black cell is adapted from an airlock, in which the outer door is not equipped with a docking collar, and the inner door is only controllable from the outside. The prisoner is often (although by no means always) held in as much comfort as a standard cell would provide, supplied with air, water, and food, but always retains the option of opening the outer airlock door and choosing a quick death by spacing.

Opinion is mixed where the use of black cells, improvised or designed, is concerned: whether they are a means of providing their prisoners with an honorable alternative (or, in many spacers’ eyes, a way to spare their comrades the life-support burden), versus offering only a sadistic choice between a quick death and a slow, as they clearly do in those cases in which water and food are not provided. As in the case of so many technologies, it’s the application that determines the ethicality.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary


Trope-a-Day: A Glitch in the Matrix

A Glitch in the Matrix: Avoiding this sort of thing, when it comes to virtual reality, is one of the few legitimate uses for the Out-of-Mind visual textures. (Others mostly including hiding gifts and playing really terrible practical jokes.)

A more commonly seen variant are “weavespiders”, small metallic fractal spiders (which everyone knows to ignore) used in virtual realms to collect trash, reassemble broken scenery, and otherwise do maintenance. While, obviously enough, this can simply be done programmatically without requiring any visual metaphor, reifying them like this is a simple way of avoiding the uncanny valley effect of changes “just happening” with no apparent in-world cause.

Worldbuilding: Those Wacky Galians

A somewhat snarksome summary written for use elsewhere, which I repost here for general interest:

Theomachy of Galia

A polity controlled by and largely made up of religious fanatics, well-known for despising unbelievers, anyone they perceive as weak, the female of the species, any species1, and for some incomprehensible reason, “all that walks on six legs,” despite their homeworld being void of any hexapedes larger than insect-sized. Unpleasantly militant, ephemeralist, baseline-supremacist, slaveholders, possessors of not-at-all-secret plans to conquer the galaxy for their insufficiently-grovelled-before deity, etc., etc.

Also, in blissful and complete denial of the inability of fanaticism to compensate for technological inferiority, and of the way in which even fellow members of the Socionovist Association consider their outright fondling of the Villain Ball to be slightly less subtle than Snidely Whiplash2.

1. Even in cases such as the qucequql, which considering the qucequql male is little more than a non-sapient wrapper around a gamete packet, makes even less sense than the rest of their doctrine. Also, makes conversations at diplomatic dinner parties downright tedious.

2. Only without the sense of style or the awesome mustache.

Trope-a-Day: Giving Radio to the Romans

Giving Radio to the Romans: Tends to happen quite a bit, given the lack of any Prime Directive-equivalent and the large number of free traders around who are more than happy to sell anything to anyone who can pay – and that’s not even counting the “fell off the back of a starship, guv, ten bob to you for cash” crowd – and the desires of most people on most worlds for shiny toys.

Some of the real life consequences mentioned are prevented by the Empire’s also having a bunch of private organizations of various kinds, including professional civilization-uplift consultants, who go around helping people not to be total screwups under these sorts of circumstances… but not all of them. But, y’know, free will and all, and it’s not as if they made you invest in technologies granting you the capacity to be total dicks and then use it in that exact manner, belike. That’s on you.

Sold For Educational Purposes Only

“Be advised that the operation of transmitters or other equipment designed to jam, block, corrupt, or otherwise interfere with communicative signaling in the bands allocated to multipurpose mesh networking (see Electromagnetic Spectrum Global and Regional Allocations, latest edition) is a violation of the Free Communications (Trusteeship) Act (1462), as amended. This Act prohibits, enjoins, and binds by law any sophont from willfully interfering with mesh network communications of any type, proprietorship, format, protocol, or purpose carried out over the aforementioned frequency bands.

“Sophonts and/or coadunations in violation of this act shall and must be subject to the penalties provided for under the Act, including but not limited to fines beginning at one sur-doceciad esteyn and scaling geometrically with volume affected, full compensation of costs for all affected parties, and memetic rehabilitation and reconditioning.

“Be further advised that, inasmuch as multipurpose mesh networking protocols are used to fulfil a variety of essential infrastructural and personal safety functions including but not limited to smart grid coordination, health monitoring, emergency response, road-grid and vehicular coordination, et al., the Actions Willfully Prejudicial to Public Safety Act (710) empowers the Imperial Emergency Management Authority to order the immediate destruction of the aforementioned equipment by whatever means it shall deem necessary in order to maintain these functions. Since the act of operating such equipment is classified as a violation of property rights in spectrum with intent, no compensation is due or will be paid for collateral damage to other properties of the equipment operator.”

– a rather important warning label

Trope-a-Day: Geometric Magic

Geometric Magic: Well, not magic, no. But a lot of the Flamic rites and rituals make use of sacred geometry, as reflecting the perfect order of the conceptual universe. Elmiríën, in particular, as eikone of order, structure, stability, perfection, and proper functioning is very fond of these, to the point of self-representing as a perfect orrery of Platonic solids.

Also, there’s a lot of geometric engineering.

Not For Kitchen Use

At its simplest, a point-defense laser grid is a system of hundreds of meshed, phased-array, variable-frequency, plasma laser elements (on its parent starship, these are the glossy black domes speckling the hull), capable of outputting an arbitrary number of variable-power beams, limited only by the capacity of the controlling computer, along an equally arbitrary number of bearings.

In its most benign civilian application, the laser grid protects the hull against incoming mass, by vaporizing small particles entirely, and by causing outgassing of the surface elements of larger ones in such a way as to produce thrust sufficient to redirect their course – acting, in effect, as a portable laser broom. A standard military laser grid fulfils this function on a larger scale, vaporizing and redirecting incoming kinetic slugs using the same essential principle, while penetrating and disabling AKVs. Such a grid is typically able, in full-autonomic mode, to keep the volume of space within a dodeciad miles of the parent starship clear of all material objects not explicitly tagged by IFF as friendly.

A military-grade grid, of course, has certain other applications. One, for example, is serving to propel various otherwise-unguided packages by use of the grid to heat inert ablative propellant attached to them, functioning as the power element of a laser thermal drive. Another, less advertised, is that of dealing with enemy starships that have been disabled, but which decline to surrender and which do not possess any unusual value to be recovered by an opposed boarding action: specifically, a disabled starship within effective range of a laser point-defense grid can be conveniently sliced and diced into effectively-inert fist-sized cubes.