Phosphorylation is Murder

Tsingale Light: In most respects, this drift in the central Raidermarch is a typical starship propellant-and-shore-leave stop, albeit one in a bad neighborhood. One should, however, note the curious local law that all corpses on the station are property of the Administration – which exists, based on our writer’s conversations with the drift’s engineers and the purchase of much strong drink, due to the Administration’s reluctance to spend exval on upgrading to a less primaeval phosphate/sulphur recycling system. It would appear that simply tossing the periodic fruit of brawls between unruly belters, privateers, and long-haul freightsophs into the rendering vats is considered a more than adequate and fiscally advantageous substitute – so long as the Administration can also avoid spending money to upgrade security in the vicinity of docks and locks.

For all three of these reasons: Not Recommended.

– Around the Worlds on ¤1,000 per Sol

 

Eclipse

Solar eclipses are a relatively frequent phenomenon within the Worlds, occurring on any planet which possesses a moon large enough to elevate its occasional traversal of the primary from a mere transit. The majority of these are annular eclipses, although – even if we discount those habitable gas giant and superlithic moons whose parent planet hides the sun for days, weeks, or months at a time – full occultations are hardly rare.

The perfect solar eclipse, however – that moment of impossible beauty when the lunar disk precisely covers the primary’s photosphere at syzygy, allowing the corona to shine forth as a ring of jewels – requires such a serendipitous coincidence of lunar diameters and orbital elements as to be virtually unknown even across ten-thousand systems, rendering minor wonders such as double planets and circumbinary sunrises commonplace by comparison.

While a handful of systems experience them occasionally, and a few have attempted to recreate the phenomenon artificially, the true natural perfect solar eclipse is best witnessed on Mezimiali (Qulomna Maze), the only known system to be blessed with a solar and lunar configuration capable of giving rise to totality somewhere on the planetary surface approximately every 1.5 local years.

Would-be eclipse viewers should be warned, though: plan ahead! The autochthonous moig have taken enthusiastically to their world’s primary source of tourism, relocating an extensive complex of motile resorts to fully cover the predicted path of totality of each and every eclipse to allow as many visitors as possible to enjoy the experience, but even allowing for this, bookings must be made years – even decades – in advance, and travel comply strictly with published schedules to handle the logistics of moving so many sophonts onto and off planet in good order.

Such is the price of observing one of the rarest of all astrophysical phenomena.

– Around the Worlds on ¤1,000 per Sol

 

Once, For a Bet

There is, technically, a less expensive way to reach orbit than an elevator ride, and it has the additional advantage of being the fastest way to reach orbit. However, I cannot recommend it to you for one simple reason: I’ve “ridden freight“, and it’s an experience best saved for when you have no alternative.

It’s inexpensive, in a nutshell, because you’re being squeezed into a gap in the freight schedule. And as you’re riding freight, the accommodations are very much suited for freight: you get a comfortable acceleration seat, certainly, but one fixed inside what remains unmistakably an intermodal freight container fitted with an aeroshell.

Most providers do, as a courtesy to keep their passengers entertained, equip the nose of such capsules with a sapphireglass window. This is less helpful than it might be.

After boarding, it provides you with a fine bullet’s-eye view – for the seconds of your loading slot – of what it’s like to be shoved into the breech of the Worlds’ largest gun. Then the gravomagnetics catch you up and hurl you forward. The featureless sides of the tube rush by, but you won’t be paying attention to them: being on the freight schedule means fitting in the fewest freight slots possible. Eyeballs in, folks, feel the elephant on your chest and watch your vision blue-shade out – it’s six standard gravities from here all the way up the gunspire.

(Unless you’re riding freight on Paltraeth. Then they fire you at the full twelve local gravities and take bets on whether you’ll be conscious at the top. There’s a barrel of the local booze in it for anyone who can climb out of the capsule on their own, starport legend says, just in case the trip upwell didn’t impair you enough.)

Then comes the fun part. In the old days, the brief glimpse you’d get out of the window would have been of the exceptionally solid iris holding out the attenuated atmosphere at the gunspire’s tip, opening for you with such fine calibration that it’s impossible to see. Now, there’s just a brief flash of blue as you pass the kinetic barrier, the sickening lurch – and eyeballs snapping back out – as you pass beyond the magnetics, and the end of the world coming to call.

You see, everything up until this point has been quiet as a moth’s whisper. A mass driver in an evacuated tube makes no noise – the switchgear and the pumps might, but they’re on the outside.

Once you hit the end, though – the air might be attenuated, but there’s still enough of it to hit like a granite cliff. One moment, silence. The next moment, the storm gods of every pantheon you’ve heard of and a few more besides have come to call, with a real urgent need to come in there.

And they brought some friends, it looks like, ’cause that convenient window is making it very clear that everything outside is on fire.

This, you might think, would be a good time to panic.

Well, you’ve got something under of a second before they start hitting you with the lasers, and it’s back to elephants, blue-outs, and now an angry giant whaling on the back of the capsule with a to-scale warhammer to add to the rest of the noise – with your eyeballs vibrating in time.

That’s the worst of it. It only gets quieter from there to orbit, and after the hammering you’ve taken on the way up, the eyeballs-out dangling-in-your-straps deceleration to match velocity with the highport comes as something of a relief.

But I trust you understand, gentle reader, why it is that I cannot recommend this mode of transport.

– Around the Worlds on ¤1,000 per Sol

 

Welcome to the Seam

“The Seam” refers to the region of the Associated Worlds in direct contact with the Voniensa Republic, consisting of the Crimson Expanse, the Vanguard Reaches, and Csell Buffer constellations on our side of the border, and Vonis 31, Vonis 36, and Vonis 41 on the Republic side.  The Borderline arterial runs down our side from Istria (Crimson Expanse) to Quor (Csell Buffer) via Karal (Vanguard Reaches), and those three systems have Imperial naval depots in them.  They’re safe.

The Borderline route and the links back into the rest of the Worlds are heavily patrolled.  They’re mostly safe, as are some of the systems other navies base out of – depending on where you’re from, of course – and the freesoil world Ódeln (Vanguard Reaches), the principal entrepôt between the Republic and the Worlds.

The rest of the Seam?  Well, it’s a nice place for pirates and perversions, raiders and Renegades, and smugglers, snakeheads, and spies.  Also unbonded mercs, slavers, black labs, blacknet nodes, survivalists, the crazier kind of cult colony, and everyone else with a good reason not to be found – and the people trying to find them.  And it’s a not so nice place for the law, insurance companies, and anyone who’s not a walking arsenal.

No, not like the worst bits of the Expansion Regions.  Worse than that.  With the Conclave and the Republic staring each other down across the border, waiting for each other to blink, and twitching every time a decent-sized military ship moves towards the Supposedly Demilitarized Border Zone, no-one’s investing any time in bringing civilization or even keeping the peace hereabouts.

Good places to visit in the Seam?  If you fit any of the above description, you already know where you’re going.  If you don’t, for the love of Flame and Star, go somewhere else.  Even if you’re fixing to die, Nepscia’s cheaper.

– Around the Worlds on ¤1,000 per Sol