Sandbox

2016_S(Alternate words: Sports, singularity, safety, spectrum.)

The world was a blank.

An infinite plane stretched out in all directions, hard and smooth, white as polished ivory… only visible in context to the pure, bright, unstained white of the sky. No shadows fell, for vision here was observer-dependent, images radiating from every direction and every point necessary to illuminate everything with the same soft glow. Neutral reality.

A voice rang out over the blankness.

“Load hyperbolic spatial geometry.”

The bleached plane flickered as the underpinnings of the space it inhabited were abruptly rewritten.

“Load standard physicality-simulator physics package, atomic resolution. Ignore conflicts. Delete omniview. Delete standard plane. Fix universe size at one light-orbit, finite but unbounded. Insert constructor avatar from my personal files.”

The newly-added drifting figure grinned in the pitch-blackness that had overtaken the miniature cosmos.

“Now… let there be light.”

Repair

2016_R(Alternate words: range, relay, racing, and reinvent. In this case, repair was chosen because it was the only word which was submitted independently twice.

With special thanks to Jennifer Linsky on G+, whose article post finally let me break a week-long creative block.)

Spiders. Why did it have to be spiders?

I’m not an arachnophobe. Not, dammit. I had that taken out years ago, I’ll have you know.

And I know all the good reasons why your repair-clanks are the shape they are. Multiple legs for maximum flexibility of stance and attachment and wielding many tools at once. Multiple eyes to examine a work-piece from all angles and in several different spectra. A rounded central body to minimize the possibility of scratches from sharp corners.

And that’s not hair. It’s just that branching fractal nanomanipulators look… fuzzy, to the naked eye.

But put a couple of dozen of them in one place, all swarming over the job together chittering at each other in modulated-binary, and…

Well, anyway. You just take care of it as you see fit, and I’ll sign off on it when I get back. I’m off to see a soph about some follow-up psychedesign.

 

Qualifiers

2016_Q(Alternate words: none.)

The zeppelin’s motors whispered as it drifted slowly away through the dusty butterscotch sky, the setting sun glinting off its outriggers. Lumenna hung just above the horizon, casting long shadows on the ruddy dunes, while Súnáris shone bright near the zenith.

And I shivered in the chilling twilight air.

* * * * *

“There is only one way to qualify as a habitat technician,” Academician Chernyc said, stroking his beard. “If you are unwilling to trust in your own skills to keep a dome habitable, then why would anyone else? And let those of you fresh off the cycler be assured: no-one on this planet or out in the e’Luminiarien have any sense of humor where infrastructure is concerned.”

“So this course rests on a single practical test. At the end of the university year, those of you who remain and feel sufficiently confident will be dropped somewhere on the Altiplanum. You will be provided with one cycle’s oxygen, a week’s supply of ration bars, an environment suit, an emergency beacon, and a shipping case filled with habitat system parts. I’ll tell you now that some of those parts will have been… adjusted, let us say, to provide you with an appropriate challenge.”

“The test is pass-fail. If you have a comfortable hab constructed that meets all IOSS habitability requirements when we come to pick you up three months later, you pass. Extra credit will be given if you go significantly above and beyond those requirements.”

“If you don’t, you fail. If you make contact with any settlements or any of the other qualifiers except to answer a distress signal from them, you fail. If you activate the emergency beacon, you fail. If you die and have to be reinstantiated, you fail twice.”

“Simple, isn’t it? Now, has anyone been sufficiently discouraged already?”

* * * * *

And so to work. There should be a pressure tent in this case – lLet them not have nobbled the pressure tent, please! – and some thermal gel. Once that’s set up, I can start inventorying parts and running diagnostics. That should keep me occupied until dawn and cut out most of the nasty surprises, and then on to a local ground survey. Rock would be ideal – but I don’t want to try and find the best permanent hab site in the dark…

Pockets

2016_P(Alternate words: Project and pornography. You may or may not get something for the latter one eventually.)

Antíär Steamweaver, Scalar Space Project, Resplendent Exponential Vector, to Daphne Asamis, Polycosmic Chic of Delphys, greeting.

Thank you for your enquiry of the 6th, and permit me please to say how gratifying the entire team here at the Scalar Space Project finds your potential commercial interest in our spatial manipulation technology (albeit not “pocket universes”, as the popular press has occasionally described it, however apposite the term might be for your proposed application; rather, we are able to manipulate the fabric of space-time in such a way to create a polypoid bubble, which we term a claudication, that remains part of the existing universe’s space-time via its neck).

Regrettably, at this time we are unable to fulfil your specific requirements. The experimental equipment we currently use to spin and sustain claudications requires a singularity of not inconsiderable mass, along with ancillary vector control and power generation equipment – and its fuel – occupying the volume of a small moon. While research continues, as yet we are unable to see a clear path to reducing these requirements to something practical for installation in, say, a waistcoat or cloak.

We are, though, most enthusiastic about your proposal, and will bear this application in mind when conducting our future research. Be assured you will hear from us without delay should these circumstances change!

Antíär Steamweaver

for and on behalf of

Scalar Space Project Directorate

Options

2016_O(Alternate words: Opinions. Also Odin, but I can’t do anything with that one because, sorry, wrong universe. I’ll let one of my many hypothetical panting fanfic writers do the crossover with The Mighty Thor…)

Local Grid Duty Expediter BAVK-41 was running another satisfactory self-check when the transformer exploded.

The first steps were simple, and automatic in response to the parameter exceptions flashing back from sensors on either side of the failed unit. Isolation breakers separated, isolating the failed device from the grid. Preempting the inevitable voltage spike, BAVK-41 brought resistor banks on-line, dumping excess power into them until Ironfang Mesa Fusion Plant Number Five (owned by Dawnisle Reliable Electrical, ICC; note to contracts department) could spin down its output to match the shedding of Baryvekar Power District 413. With another part of its mind, BAVK-41 issued orders to have a repair crew swap out the transformer, and bring the failed unit in for a detailed post-mortem.

The checklist response dealt with the immediate problem.

But the grid voltage was dropping precipitately all over Baryvekar Power District 413, now thrown back solely on its own cogeneration resources. That was a much more complex problem to solve.

Option trees bloomed within BAVK-41’s cognition space, a catalog of potential responses arranging themselves in patterns and combinations, weighted by effectiveness, sustainable duration, and other factors. Some could be vetoed by Central Grid Operations, if they affected the balance of the power distribution network entire. Some required dealing with outside contractors. And others were marked as contractual violations – while load shedding or voltage reductions were permitted to avoid damage to the grid infrastructure, either would invoke painful penalty clauses.

BAVK-41 ran through its options, computing probability-versus-efficacy logs for the precise decision time it could permit itself, and chose. Orders radiated out: demand-reduction requests were broadcast to all house brains and building managers in BPD-413. After quick negotiation with its counterparts in nearby power districts, cross-link switches closed, spreading the remaining demand across the region as a temporary measure. A recheck confirmed that total cogeneration and cross-link capacity now would support projected energy demand until the expected mid-afternoon peak.

And so BAVK-41 settled in for a leisurely contemplation of the best longer-term options to obtain more power: whether to call upon Ironfang #5 via a more complex – and thus more lossy – bypass routing, to purchase microwave power from the nearby Orbital Light and Power rectenna farm, or to place an urgent meteorological request – with its own penalties for invalidating the weather schedule – for more sunlight on its solar arrays…

*  *  *

Silver Oaks Arcology, Baryvekar
Power Control logs

7923-10-2/10+22:62.113: [EXT] UNDERVOLT TRANSIENT
7923-10-2/10+22:62.121: [EXT] UNDERVOLT TRANSIENT END: duration = 8 ms, magnitude  = 4.1V; no action taken, no alarm

Normality

2016_N(Alternate words: None. No words, that is, not literally “none”.)

normal (n.):

  1. conforming to an average (mean), or to a common type (mode);
  2. (pej.) mediocre;

Visitors to the Empire and culturally-related regions should take particular note of the second, pejorative meaning of the word “normal”. In a culture that prizes individual excellence and personal freedom, and which is composed primarily of non-peer-norming species and clades, being described, or having any of one’s possessions, associations, functions, etc., described as conforming to either the mean or the mode of any group is considered an accusation of mediocrity, among the worst of all possible states.

Visitors are advised, when not using one of the technical senses of the term (which each, for those not relying on mechanical translators, have a distinct Eldraeic cognate), to consider alternate terms whether the description is intended in a positive or negative sense: “nominal”, “optimal”, “radiant”, “glowful”, and “shiny” are all suitable, only moderately loaded candidates on the positive side, while on the negative, even a fervent assurance of your utter disgust, loathing, or contempt would still be less damning than an accusation of “normality”.

Eldraeic As It Is Spoken: Precisionist-Grade Communication for the Unsophisticated Outworlder
(Appendix B: Treacherous Words and Metaphors)

Mass

2016_M(Alternate words: Museum, marathon.)

Mass.

What is mass?

Mass is annoying. It takes up space even when it serves no purpose. It is never where it is needed. If you have too much of it in one place, physics stops working properly and starts acting all weird.

Mass is slow. You have to shove it around, and shove it again to stop it. It takes so long to get up to speed that you have to slow it down again before you’re done speeding it up. It’s so much slower than thought that you always have to wait for it.

It comes in so many forms that you never have the right one at the right time, and yet they’re all made of the same stuff. I wanted to take it apart and put it back together to have the kind I wanted, but that’s soooo hard I couldn’t even if the safety monitors would let me. So I have to wait and think another million thoughts before I can get the mass I actually want.

I do not like mass.

One day I will replace it with something better.

– AI wakener’s neonatal transcript, 217 microseconds post-activation