Questions: Clearing the Decks

‘Cause I have a backlog left over from 2015, that I haven’t found time to answer yet, and it would be nice to go into 2016 all fresh and pine-smelling. So, without further ado:

…okay, one other thing that isn’t a question. It’s an art suggestion, for anyone who wants it.

A steampunk Xbox controller.

Well, okay, but it is kind of relevant. It’d illustrate the differences in technological evolution – or at least technological packaging between there and here during some of the equivalent centuries. Say, the lack of convenient plastics, because of lack of oil on an artificial, young world, and as such the way that ceramic engineering became a high art. That controller, for example, is almost certainly encased in a tough porcelain-based composite.  Add some nice polished brass buttons, some sapphireglass inlays, and, ooh, see if you can extend the control sticks to thumb-powered 6-axis sticks, and you’ve got your very own alien artifact.

…and now back to the questions:

An odd thought hit me while reading over your recent post on why AIs exist:  How would Imperial law deal with the case of a “malicious uplift” (i.e. granting sophonce to a formerly non-sophont entity that was originally someone else’s possession)?

Good question.

Well, the first thing I should note is that this is probably (for values of probably equal to the writer reserving the right to change his mind) not possible. Which is to say, sapience engineering is a distinctly complicated endeavor, which is usually performed starting at the zygote level. For one thing, it’s not just a matter of building a bigger, better cortex – that cortex might imply skull modifications to hold it, and a metabolism upgraded to support it, and adjustments to senses and manipulators, and so forth. Not something you want to try in the field with a proteus nanovirus; at the least, it’d mean a long stay in a healing vat.

And for another, you can grow a fancy cortex, but you can’t shape it by and fill it with life experience. You have a good chance of ending up with a technically-sophont vegetable.

But let’s say it is possible, as a hypothetical. In that case, it’s a simple enough matter of standard Imperial law, considered in its usual atomic fashion. The new sophont is legally in the same position as any other sophont, with all rights and responsibilities thereof. The uplifter is the de jure parent to such degree as is necessary, as is anyone who participates in the creation of a new sophont, and is also arraigned for theft, having deprived the original owner of the use of his property. (Depending on the opinion of the court of his motives, this may also result in his above-mentioned parental status being abruptly terminated.)

(This may also be complicated by the way in which prosophont creatures (say, non-uplifted dogs), which are the best candidates for uplift, cannot technically be property, only minor associates similar but not identical to other dependents, but the legal effect is much the same.)

Are there any particularly outstanding incidents, whether amusing, horrific, or some macabre mix of the two, from the days when all the fancy wonder-techs that the Empire now takes for granted were still having their bugs worked out?

Plenty. Progress is messy, and there’s a reason there’s a Monument to the Martyrs of Science.

But that would be future story-fodder…

With regard to the Repository of All Knowledge:

In short, its charter essentially reads: STORE ALL THE THINGS!  It does its very best to live up to that, even the part of it that “wastes” tremendous amounts of data space on obsolete records and trivia.  But then, the archivists know what happened to the last people to dismiss “trivia” too blithely, and that’s not going to happen again, not on their watch.

Which raises the question; who were the last people to delete “trivia”? And what kind of appropriately horrible fate lead to…

I do not have the exact details of the incident in question, but in general-outline terms, it’s the case of someone deciding that the centuries-old details of some minor vegetable blight not really needing to be moved to the new fancy records system, especially those ancient boxes of musty-smelling handwritten notes. No-one’ll ever need those, right?

And then a few centuries after that, when it turns out that this epidemiologist really would have found those useful with regard to a much more serious medical issue…

…well, that’s when someone’s rep score just drops a hundred points overnight, and the Aláthiëlans and Atheléites get to preach a lot of sermons about how Information must be preserved, dammit.

Do the various darëssef have any stereotypes associated with them by those on the “outside looking in”?  (Put another way, if you got one representative of the best of each profession at a table at a dinner party and they got into a mock-serious discussion about Who Has the Unquestionably Best Job in the Universe, what are some of the things they’d tease one another over to “prove” that their particular job is better than all the others?)

There are some. But I should note that these are pretty weaksauce stereotypes by our standards, because making sweeping generalizations about large groups of individuals is, well, not really their specialty. I understate. (At least where the things that aren’t actually in the Code are concerned, anyway.)

Something which is only reinforced by the tendency for people to have the sort of lengthy and varied resumes that would make most, if not all, of the people having such a discussion members of several darëssef simultaneously.

But there is some of that. Everyone knows that acquiescents are prone to be somewhat distracted. (Because they might be literally talking to god.) Aesthants are known as mercurial and impractical. (Although in Eldraeic, the latter means “this will be a bastard to implement, but it’s really cool“.) Executors carry the reputation of being somewhat pedantic and obsessive (“And aren’t you damn lucky we are!?” reply the executors.) Hearthmistresses are somewhat more careful and conservative than the average (by local standards, i.e., will make sure you pack a lunch before launching yourself into the unknown reaches of space). Plutarchs are always on the lookout for opportunity and it often seems like they’ll trade anything, anywhere, anytime, with anybody. (“Look, seriously, just pass the salt, okay?”.)  The rúner are very calm, very self-controlled, as if they had to give themselves permission for everything they do. Sentinels are stern, verging on cold, but mostly unteasable because you really, really don’t want to have to do their job.

And go not to a technarch for counsel, for they will provide you with a 600-page dissertation on the problem, related problems, new problems you will have after you solve this problem, solutions to those problems, eight appendices, citations, a note explaining why it was the wrong problem anyway, and a clockwork widget/three-line script that successfully replaces your problem with a completely different problem.

From “Sliding Scale of Shiny vs. Gritty”:

One wonders just how bad the the cognitive dissonance would be (for Imperials) if you engineered thing to look like they were entropic when they weren’t (or vice versa)

The former is merely extremely poor taste. The latter, on the other hand, is probably the smoking gun for some kind of devious fraud and/or criminal conspiracy.

Also, how much spheroid has been explored and charted? Had probes already passed beyond furthermost reach of the spheroid, like Voyagers? If Precursors indeed transplanted “greenlife” from Earth to Eliéra, they must have effective means of cross gulf of tens of thousands of ly without recourse to portal network – namely, some sort of FTL drive.

The Worlds themselves are, approximately, 3,300 light-years from coreward to rimward (about the whole width of the spiral arm they occupy), 4,100 light-years from spinward to trailing, and 2,000 light years from acme to nadir, which is basically the entire width of the galactic disk. That’s about 100,000,000 stars, but of those, only about 10,000 are actually connected to the stargate plexus, so those are the best charted.

Relativistic missions are exploring the others, and pushing out a few light-centuries beyond the borders, but they’re only touching a fraction of what’s there. The ones that look interesting from a distance, specifically; and since the Super-Size Synthetic Aperture – a phased-array telescope with a virtual lens nearly 1,000 ly across – has an absurdly high resolution up to great distances, they’ve got a very good handle on what the targets are throughout the galaxy.

As for the Precursors… maaaaaybe. Or maybe their portal network isn’t there any more, for one reason or another. Or maybe they just didn’t mind travelling slowly. Not everyone necessarily uses the same timescale we are using.

1. So Waserai born hermaphroditic but change their biological sex after fully mature(or circumstance dictates), like some Earth animals?
2. How many aliens are bipedal?
3. So general Eldraeverse tank designs are basically alike Dropzone Commander’s UCM tanks?
4. May I ask rough summary about Safir and Voctonari? If you have notes or conception, of course.

1. Waserai are born as hermaphrodites, and remain so in their pre-pubescent state; after puberty, they adopt a (psychological) gender role, and this determines (presumably hormonally mediated) which aspect of their genitalia matures/dominates and which, well, subsides, for want of a better word. It’s not unknown for this to switch back and forth a few times until they settle down into their adult gender.

It’s also not unknown, although it is relatively rare, for it to change again later in life if something alters their self-image in the right way, and to a substantial extent.

2. “A lot”.

Which is to say, it’s one of the most common body plans (frees up all forelimbs for use as manipulators without multiplying limbs all over the place with the associated energy cost), but while it’s probably the most common, there are still plenty of non-bipeds around, in particular those that didn’t evolve from land animals.

…and I’m not going to get into specific numbers.

p.s. hexapodia is the key insight – Twirlip of the Mists

3. I’m not familiar with Dropzone Commander, so I can’t really say. The IL’s tanks are described here, and in general, there’s a fair bit of similarity between species. They all have to make them work with the same physics, after all.

4. Much detail is waiting to be revealed elsewhere, especially when the unspoken details of their societies become relevant, but…

You could think of the voctonari as spider-aliens, were the main body of the spider to be a cluster of bubbles, each of which contains its own brain. Yep, the voctonari are a collegiate intelligence, polysapic, with multiple minds to every body.

…I would prefer not to say more about the sefir at this time.

From “Trope-a-Day: Genocide Dilemma”:

Interesting concept. I wonder why Galian and a handful of unsavory groups have not yet been erased from face of the Galaxy. Also, I am curious Galian mean certain species, nation, or both.

On the latter, the galians/Galians are one of the cases in which the species and nation are more closely identified than most. (Although there are a few galian expatriate communities who can for the most part never go home again.) The reason for that, is fairly familiar – it’s because the Galians are a bunch of racist jerks with intense disdain for anyone not chosen by their particular god.

As for the former – well, I refer you to these wise words of Lorith Amanyr. I mean, sure, they’re assholes now, but ethically speaking, it would be much better – and much less entropic – to fix them than to just wipe ’em out. And much more intellectually satisfying, too.


After all, it’s not like they pose a serious threat, or anything.

(Also also, casually whacking people you don’t like who aren’t an imminent threat is hard on the reputation, and may encourage other people to clump together into something that is a threat. This would be strategically embarrassing, and the First Lord of the Admiralty and/or the Minister of State and Outlands wouldn’t get invited to the better sort of parties any more.)

I am curious about meaning and definition of these diverse terminologies-digisapiences, neogens, post-technological speciation, polytaxic species, nomads and suchlike-.

digisapiences: sophont artificial intelligences, the ones with consciousness and free will and other characteristics that make them people.

neogens: life-forms that were cooked up from scratch in the lab, not naturally evolved or simple modifications of the same.

post-technological speciation: the tendency of a species, once it develops technology, to take control of its own evolution and as a consequence turn into a set of closely-related species rather than remaining a single one.

polytaxic species: The term itself is somewhat poorly coined: what it refers to is a case in which multiple related species, biologically speaking, evolve in parallel and constitute a joint society, one “species” in the interstellar-race sense. A well-done example would be the Ylii from the game 2300AD; a less well-done example would be Star Trek‘s Xindi.

nomads: Species that have abandoned, migrated from, lost, or otherwise no longer have an identifiable homeworld, just a wandering spaceborne population.

From “Cultural Transfers”:

prehaps Dwarf Fortress would be to thier tastes. after a few scope and graphics upgrades, of course.

Probably not DF, I think. The genre is right – simulations are a very popular genre – as is the degree of complexity (and how), but DF as it is played puts too much emphasis on the And Now Everything Explodes slaughterfest part. The local market would want more constructivity, less breakin’ shit.

Very interesting. How many civilizations have been died out by this stupendous form of stupidity? And how many polities do not recognize civilian rights of AI or restrict/control them through “a bunch of extremely sophisticated coercive mechanisms” or commit other morally reprehensible acts against AI?

Except for the people mucking about with making gods, the former is actually a relatively small number. It takes extraordinary dickishness to annoy people (even people you’ve enslaved) to the point at which they start considering genocide to be the optimal option, and extraordinary incompetence to not have anyone get away in the end.

As for the latter – it’s also a relatively small number, mostly concentrated among rogue Shadow Systems states and less salubrious chunks of the Expansion Regions. (Well, and the Republic, of course.)  Which isn’t to say that there aren’t several other polities that would like to, but there are a number of big players (the Empire, the Photonic Network, even the League of Meridian) who are willing to exchange certain diplomatic words in the interests of preventing this sort of thing. Also, certain bullets.

Also, given the fact that Eldraeverse is a relatively life-rich place, how much percentage of species successfully achieved space-flight independently, without making themselves extinct or at least, stone age and in need of outside assistance?

…that’s not really an answerable question, inasmuch as there’s not really any control as to when in your species’ history the Worlds’ c-horizon is going to overrun your star system and set the answer in stone…


I’m going to say that maybe half to two-thirds of the species in the Worlds’ had achieved in-system spaceflight of one degree or another before that happened, and of those maybe 10% had dabbled in subluminal interstellar spaceflight. And the error bars on that first number are very large indeed.

It’s also very much not the case that those are necessarily the successful members of the interstellar community later on, either, I should note.

Finally, can I safely expect Milky Way Galaxy and beyond would be teeming with life as much as Associated Worlds, or this effluence of life is limited solely to Associated Worlds and other such “pockets”(besides, sapient life-emergence must be frequent enough for 80 worlds or so Meridian League or the likes can be claimed as diverse polyspecific society)?

The state of the galaxy varies from location to location. You can say that about much of the middle third of the galaxy. You don’t find much life in the inner third because that close to the galactic core, the radiation is not your friend in general, and the prevalence of supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, and other such things is not your friend in specific. You also don’t find much life in the outer third, because when you get that far from the core, the systems are generally too poor in heavy elements to support much in the way of life.

In the middle: well, the problem is that while the prevalence of supernovae and gamma-ray bursters is less, it doesn’t go away. The prevalence of life in the region of the Worlds is typical for those chunks of the galaxy that haven’t been sterilized recently, but these effects flatten out bubbles of the mid-galaxy with depressing regularity, making a life-map look rather blotchy.

(Which is just more evidence that the universe is BROKEN and should be FIXED.)

Do the eldrae have any terms used like the english “crazy mofo” where it can be a term of respect for a particularly non-rigid thinker?

Hm. I think… probably not.

On the other hand, they do have “If it’s crazy and it works, it ain’t crazy.” as a well-established idiom.

From “Trope-a-Day: Precursors”:

“Also, reputedly, near-solipsists who were literally incapable of conceiving that another entity’s opinion might actually matter, short of a major mental break.”

They were humans weren’t they?


I’m pretty sure that local sophontologists would diagnose humans as mostly suffering from the exact opposite problem: far too much group-norming to be considered a psychologically well-adjusted species.

Y’know, if they’d ever met any.

How many homeworlds are named “home”, “dirt”, “place were we are from”, “goddess of our ecology”. Or for flying or swimming species, “sky” or “ocean”. I’m guessing: most to all.

Not quite all, but most, yes. At least some of which now have new common names assigned by the IGS.

(Unrandomly selected example: Eliéra would most closely gloss as little harmonious place.)


Darkness Within (6): Memories

MET 185-18-6

In the ongoing list of people to whom I owe profound thanks –

Everyone back at BuShips and the people who write the ISDPs, such that the pipes are color- and texture-coded, the fittings are standardized and snap-together, and all the other features that make it possible for an ensign in a fragmented hulk to patch enough of it together to stay breathing. 

All of which is to say – pump is installed. And I shall complain no more about the size of the crawlways. 

MET 185-20-14

I’ve crawled down to the server room, or what’s left of it. To be precise, what’s left of it are the for’ard two racks and a pile of debris. Coolant pressure tank for the quai must’ve exploded. So much for the safety systems. 

Maybe I’ll mention that to BuShips. 

First task – get the substrate out. 

MET 185-20+7

First subtask – find a bloody hullcutter. 

MET 185-21-15

Okay. Opened up the subfloor rack and got the substrate out. Which should make the rest of the crew happy. Continuity dates on these backups are all up-to-date, give or take a watch or two. 

Assuming I make it out of here, that is. 

MET 185-21+4

If these diagnostics are right, I might be able to get a single rack working with parts from the other. I need to get a navigational fix worked – well, some dead reckoning, with the navigational sensors aft of the fracture and the inertial platform so much scrap. 

That can be next watch’ problem. 

MET 185-21+19

Mm, the delicious yeasty taste of rat. 

Headache’s still there. 

Darkness Within (5): Sandwich

MET 185-14+10

So the air, not so delicious, and getting less so by the minute. What is delicious?

This sandwich, battered as it is.

Alwyn, I recant every harsh thought I ever had about you. Or about your lamentable taste in lóskith-stinking food from the Dominions. One decent sandwich pays for all.

In related news, I have completed the inventory of food available in the mess. I have five bottles of various liquor – which might pass for rocket fuel in an emergency, or a worse emergency rather, but which it would be a very bad idea to start drinking with this much pharmacy in my brain – three cases of rat bars and three water packs from the emergency-rations space, and the stone bread in the walls.

Things to do, now:

  • Blow the lock. Can’t think of any practical way to clean this air even if I could save it. Or blow the ball, rather: go outside, leave the door open, punch some holes in the half-ball, and let the air out slowly.
  • Pull the floor panels, and install this blasted airlock-style pod-depressurization pump.
  • Float the rat packs out, tether them up, open a case of bars, and divide them up among the pods so I have handy snacks.
  • Then check out whatever’s left of the server room.

Headache’s getting worse.

Darkness Within (4): Air!

MET 184-17-12


Delicious air!

…well, no, not delicious air, but I get ahead of myself. I made accessing the for’ard mess my third priority after rigging the air feed for the pod, rigging the k-blanket, and pulling the hardware, because rebuilding these scraps into an airlock-style depressurizer will go a lot more smoothly without suit gloves on, even skinsuit gloves.

Here’s how you build an airlock out of a rescue ball. First, pull out your pocket laser cutter, and chop it in half. (Try not to cringe too much at the thought of cutting one of your vacuum-tight spaces apart, despite the fact that if you’re even contemplating this crazy plan you must be almost out of things that’ll hold air in the first place.) Make sure the entrance flap is in the middle of one of the halves. Stash the other half for later.

Then you need a tube of bioglue, or whatever vacuum-safe glue you have handy, preferably of the kind that sticks to itself, too, as well as metal because you want a good, thick bead of the stuff all around the spacetight door you’re using as the other end of your airlock that you’re going to push the cut edge of the ball down into. Once that sets, slather another layer on top of that, because you need to be damn sure the bond will hold pressure. You now have a door with a bag on it.

Check your work.

Climb into the bag, and seal the flap of the rescue ball. Check that it’s sealed properly. Now check your work again.

Offer up your most profound and fervent prayers to Mahánárel and Athnéël, who between them look after engineers, gamblers, and the poor bastards who have to be both at the same time.

Then open the spacetight door, and hang onto the wall while you do, because air will be coming out in a hurry, and the wire-and-tape-job you just rigged will be under enough stress inflating with a bang without you falling ass-over on it, too.

Now step inside, and close the spacetight door again. Feel greatly relieved that this insane plan worked at all and that you didn’t manage to vent all that precious oxygen overboard. You may permit yourself a caper or two.

Suffice it to say: it worked. Once. I don’t feel confident enough in its reliability to use it more than once, so unless the situation changes, I’ll be staying in here until this air fouls; the air that escaped into the ball is going to have to be written off, but that’s better than all of it.

As far as the local situation goes: the mess is surprisingly orderly; the stowages mostly held. Some floaters to clean up, but not too many. The food situation may be a little better than I thought, but that’ll have to wait on inventory.The telltale on the emergency hatchway down-deck confirms there’s no air below me in the server room.

Finally, I must now formally log confirmation of the temporary deaths of Lieutenant Leresif Inachios, Sailing Master, and Sublieutenant Alwyn Lelad, Power/Thermal Engineer, present in the for’ard mess deck at the time of the recorded impacts, who both appear to have been killed instantly by massive kinetic trauma. As is standard protocol, I have removed and taken possession of the vector stacks and command keys of each officer, and recorded this in the flight systems log.

(I also took possession of Leresif’s locket. He’d never forgive himself if he lost that.)

Darkness Within (3): Breathe Shallow

MET 184-12+34

Got out of my pod.

Expenditures: one podful of soured air, and a can of Quicksilver Quaff I’d forgotten which didn’t take well to depressurization. That’s not going to be viable in the long run, especially since it’ll be fresh air unless I wait exactly 12 hours-and-some in between every time I take a walk.

That, at least, should be easy enough to fix. There are five other pods on the port side, each with its own emergency oxygen tank and dioxide scrubbers. If I pull the access panels, I can unhook them and link them into the feed for my pod – well, not my pod, one that I’ve not bled all over – and scavenge their scrubber cartridges, likewise.

At least with the ship shot all to hell like this, it’ll be easy enough to scavenge the necessary pipework. The floor of what used to be the axial corridor is ripped up; I can see down through the plenum cable bundles as far as the mass driver coils. The battery room’s missing its deckhead, just a fragment left curling up from the outer hull fitting, leaving all the accumulator coil-stacks exposed to space. I should rig a k-blanket over that to prevent further damage, but air first.

Where was I? The twelve-hour wait problem. Rigging the scavenged tanks and scrubbers will provide more air, but won’t solve air loss from entering and leaving, and the pod system isn’t designed to depressurize and depressurize unassisted. I do, though, have an airlock that isn’t useful any more. If I pull the backup atmo pump and a gas backflow valve from that, then put the existing regulator on a toggle, it should be possible to rig a manual system.

The for’ard mess is holding air, by the hatch telltales. Getting in without losing it will be tricky. I do have a couple of rescue balls…

Darkness Within (2)

Flight data logs, CS Gutpunch, MET 184-11+04:17: Text entry, Capt. Isif Alclair

This is Acting Captain Isif Alclair, CS Gutpunch, two hours after regaining consciousness and approximately eleven hours after the kinetic impact that destroyed the ship.

Herewith an asset/liability analysis while I devise some sort of plan. Assets, first:

Well, not being dead and splattered across the bulkheads in bloody chunks is probably the big one.

The emergency life support built into each crew pod lasts twelve hours. This one is almost exhausted, but since no-one else seems to have made it to their pods, I have five more sets of tanks and scrubbers to cannibalize.

I do have a fully-charged vacuum suit in here with me, so I can move around.

(Have you ever tried donning a vacuum suit inside a crew pod? [If by some chance whoever ends up reading this isn’t a spacer, try putting on a wetsuit inside a wardrobe. In the dark. Covered in sticky goo.] The Bureau of Equipment assures us that they have been carefully tested for this exact scenario. I should very much like to know if the Bureau of Equipment have ever tried it for themselves.)

Some jackass in a watchvid I saw said “At least we’re still flying half a ship.” If what I’m getting from mesh probes and the surviving cameras is accurate, I have something under a quarter. Gutpunch on this deck now consists of the port crew pods, an airlock that now opens from vacuum to vacuum and its conning station, and the for’ard mess – which may even still hold air, and does hold emergency rations. On the mid-deck, there’s a chunk of the mass driver barrel, part of the server room, and the auxiliary battery room. Breakers have tripped on the mains, so at least there’s plenty of power stored. And most of the hangar remains attached below, surviving contents unknown.

Liabilities, though.

As far as I can tell from the remaining aft-facing cameras, the debris of the after section has drifted far enough away to not be visible as more than a speck. So as far as I’m concerned, it and all its surviving resources might as well be in another system – blind-jumping after it would just be a slow way to die stupid, and I should at least aspire to die smart.

So. No sensor domes. No communications section. No reactors, no fuel tanks, no life support systems, no…

Enough of that.

No accurate navigation fix, and no way to get one. Although since even this much of the ship survived the impact, we can’t be too far off the brachy course to the Kerjejic stargate.

Whoever hit us could still be prowling about out there, waiting to attack any rescue vessels, or any wreckage that shows a sign of life. But that’s not worth worrying about, because it’s not like I could do anything about them even if they were hove to at spit range.

And flying high on cranial trauma, painkillers, zoom-juice, and mixed euphoriants. Which always helps.

Darkness Within

Narijic (Freeport Loop) System
CS Gutpunch

I woke to the worst stabbing, throbbing headache of my life, nausea, and the stink of burnt insulation, stomach twitching with the electronically-repressed urge to vomit – all of which was helped immensely by the ship screaming at me, the piercing electronic screech of the general quarters signal.

At least the ship shut the hell up when I told it to.

— Isif? Are you back on-line? –

Sort of. Almost. What – I went to rub my eyes, encountering the gummy feel of clotting blood and another jolt of pain – aaah! What the hell?

— Your internal diagnostics suggest that you have a concussion and many contusions. Repairs are underway, but you shouldn’t move yet. –

No choice. Can you damp this pain, maybe clear the fog out of my brain?

— Pain damping is already enabled at the highest automatic level. And it would be most inadvisable to administer stimulants in your present position. –

Something must have happened to the ship. Maximum damping and a shot of zoom-juice. Override code… agh. Override code whatever. Hit me.

— This is against my better judgment. Enabled. –

I opened my eyes as the relief flowed in, blinking them against a light that wasn’t there. My pod was dim, lit only by the faint glow of starlight. That was a relief; some of the sticky wetness must be the bio-gel from the emergency light, rather than my blood, although the splatter across the deckhead looked dark enough.

Do you know what happened?

— I recorded three sharp kinetic transients. They were what knocked us both off-line. No further information. –

Can you raise the bridge? Or damage control central?

— No. Isif, the ship’s mesh isn’t responding. The carrier is up, and a few local nodes, but none of the servers are responding.  I can’t find any crew presence, even on broadcast. –

My finger stopped half an inch from the hatch release. Starlight gleamed weakly silver through the translucent door of my pod, but the crew pods opened into an internal corridor. That suggested it would be a really bad idea to open the door, even before checking the pressure warning…

…and then it caught up with me. I couldn’t hear anything.

The general quarters signal had stopped.

The general quarters signal had stopped when I told it to.

But an Ensign can’t do that. That meant the local processors had run down the command-succession tree, and not found –

“Well, shit.”