2016_F(Alternate words: Firefly, Fan, Fanboy, Fantasy, and Failure. Added to the list.)

“3. Information must be preserved.”

– the Five Noble Precepts, modern formulation

Deep Repository Site Mocál spun on through the darkness between star systems.

Mocál was a sub-Murian wanderer moonlet, a stony body falling free in the endless dark between star systems, unbound by any star’s gravity. More, Mocàl existed far to acme, beyond the furthest systems of the Periphery – indeed, beyond the plane of the galactic disk itself, out where its upper fringes trail off into the Lonesome Wisp. It dwelt within a darkness purer than any sophont eyes had seen, only the faint light of distant suns – insufficient for illumination despite the magnificence of the Starfall Arc spread out below it – glimmering across the wasteland of regolith that was most of its surface.

Within the moonlet, on the other hand, was another matter entirely, hollowed as it was into three great caverns, each filled with a vacuum purer than that of the space outside, sealed by layered vault doors from each other and from space.

The innermost, in the heart of the rock, most carefully protected, had its many walls lined with pigeonholes each holding a single diamondoid rod – exabytes of information locked in the stippled, atomic-level patterns of carbon-12 and carbon-13.

The next, smaller, with racks of capacitative storage devices: platinum foil sandwiching a ceramic dielectric, carefully labeled, cataloged, and packaged, awaiting a reader.

The outermost, larger again to accommodate its medium, with shelves of ultra-hard composites holding rack after rack of platinum plates: laser-etched symbols, row upon row, from simple pictographs upon those nearest the entrance growing in complexity to the more traditional styles of writing upon those found at the opposite end of the cavern’s maze-like layout of shelves.

And then, the entrance: another massive door, surrounded by monoliths of ceramic and stone. Some were etched with pictographs in turn: some giving instructions for its opening or directions to contact its creators; others, almost certainly meaningless to whoever might find it, were the sigils of those who had created it, or of the coadunations, corporations, and branches that had helped fund its establishment. Others, in patterned layout and mirror-bright finish, were intended to form a simple optical beacon, declaring to any who might be looking that this moonlet, this wanderer, was an object worthy of interest.

* * * * *

It was the chartered purpose of the Repository of All Knowledge to provide for the preservation of knowledge and useful arts against time, mischance, catastrophe, or assault. No upper bound was set on ‘time’, and every librarian knew that meant exactly what it didn’t say.

The Deep Repository Sites wouldn’t last forever. Gigayears, certainly, maybe even terayears with favorable time and chance, but not forever.

But they were close enough for now.


Extreme Sport

2016_E(Alternate words: Espresso, Effect, Ecumenopolis, Eldritch, Evidence, and Ending. Added to the list.)

The shuttle hangs barely a hundred yards away to my retrograde, cargo airlock still agape; the pilot’s nerves must surely be worn to shreds with the delay in this atmosphere-scraping orbit, even more than mine.

Time for another check-out. I punch for another round of diagnostics on suit, shield, and thrusters, reciting the mnemonics. Suit integrity, blue. Cerametal oversuit integrity, blue. Oxygen, blue. Regenerator-scrubber, blue. Liquid cooling systems, blue. Heat sink, blue. Communications circuits, blue. Cold-gas thrusters, blue on diagnostics, blue on pressure. Drogue chute, blue. Main chute, blue. Shield integrity and strain, blue…

I resist the urge to unlock the foot couples and do another visual inspection of the shield. I’ve already checked it over the regulation thrice and once more for good fortune. I bounce some terahertz rays off it instead, and no weak spots show up. Any more than they did last time.

Count breaths. Nice and regular. I have this, dammit. Twelve simulations, no fatalities. I’m prepared. I glance up and down at the copper foil loosely wrapped over my suit. If I’m not, at least I’ll make a spectacular green fireball…

A voice breaks in. “Meteor One, this is Sialhaith Orbital. Acknowledge.”

“Sialhaith Orbital, Meteor One. Go.”

“Meteor One, net-zeps are in position and your window begins now. Commence entry at your discretion. Window closes in four point six minutes. Over.”

“Orbital, Meteor One. Commencing entry now. Clear.”

This is it. My navigation HUD lights up with trajectory plots, burn times, entry ptojections. I trigger the cold-gas thrusters with a thought and nitrogen hisses, shoving at my back as I drop lower in orbit. The shuttle’s ACS flickers overhead and lemon-yellow Sialhaith wheels below me as I reorient, getting the shield in position to feel the first touch of air and swift, sudden, roaring plasma shock.

Time to kiss the sky.



2016_D(Alternate words: Devil, Delta, Defiled, and Dalliance, all of which have been placed on the later-consideration list. Also “Drink Order”, which will be today’s trope-a-day.)

Calencail 14th
Summer breakfast parlor

With all respect to my illustrious cousin, the most frustrating aspect of the translocation problem is having an answer to it sitting closer to me than the liquor cabinet, which answer happens to be completely useless.

So far as understanding theory and practice are concerned, at least. Our House of a Thousand Doors is certainly the wonder of this or any other age, sprawling as it does across eight cities and two continents, has served us well as the foundation of the Claves fortune, and the view from here atop Tirias Mirénon is undoubtedly superior to that from anywhere save possibly the Starspike, for all that it requires a roaring fire for my comfort even in high summer.

And yet we can reproduce none of it.

The doors of the House were recovered from an archaeological expedition south of Inisvaen by my ancestor, Iallis Claves-ith-Claves, which we now know to have been an offshoot of the Precursor site at Iniscail. (Although they do not sit well with other known Precursor technologies, which raises further possibilities still – are they artifacts from those who came before the Precursors that the Precursors were investigating?) Discovering how they worked and that their function seemed interwoven with the traditions of our family, she built the House around them, deeming their discovery an inspiration from Dírasán, and bidding her successors to discover their workings and learn to fashion more.

Ten generations later, freshly appointed, and having carefully studied the journals left behind by all my predecessors as Discerner of the Doors, I can sum up our knowledge thus:

  • We possess 327 instrumentalities capable of translocating one from place to place. (So, yes, our estate is misnamed, having only 325 actual doors – unless you count Uncle Severian’s observatory, which adds one on the occasions that it orbits within range. Thus, we now only have one spare, the remaining two having been destroyed in ill-considered experiments by my early predecessors.)
  • We know how to make them work, how far you can remove them from each other’s presence before they stop working, how often they can work, and other minutiae of their operation.
  • We don’t know how they work, either practically or theoretically, what powers them, how to duplicate them, or what they’re made of.
  • We do, however, have a comprehensive list of all the scientific investigation methods of the last seven millennia that have completely failed to reveal anything useful about our family treasures.

So it stands.

Will I be the one to crack open this mystery? Well, I shall do my damnedest. The prospect of fame, major scientific prizes, and the trillions of esteyn that normally accompany revolutionary discoveries do have a certain appeal, after all, even beside the curiosity that has inflamed generations of Claves scions.

I cannot, however, claim to be confident of success.

– Alar Claves-ith-Estenv, personal journal

(Note: this is a from-the-deuterocanonical files. I’m still considering the consequences of introducing even this extremely limited form of translocation to the Eldraeverse, so it’s not established canon yet – and any expansion of it will definitely be in the form of a future discovery, not something that exists at the setting’s current “present time”.

But it is something that may well exist, and in any case, it is canon that many of the Houses possess or have possessed some sort of artifact like this as a “family heirloom” or two.)



2016_C(Alternate words: Citadel and Computronium, both of which have been added to the later-consideration list.)

Clothes define the sophont, the sages say.

That the sages are indubitably correct on this point is, however, a distinct trial to those of us addressing a crisis, and so finding ourselves dashing aboard the high-delta shuttle to Ambria without luggage, on-board boutique, or time enough to consult a single epulary, locutor, or designer – and thus facing the inevitable meetings with only what I happens to have left on Ambria Highport in the course of meetings past.

Two hours, with light-lag, to pull this listing, and none of it seems suitable. Discard all of the swarmwear – it’s the windy season downside, and surprise nudity is unprofessional. Much as I’d love a cloak for that, none of these have useful amounts of delta-v, which means they’d be strangling me in microgravity.

I have my old uniform from the Flying Corps. That’s professional enough, but too “darken the sky with missiles to let us fight in the shade” for a project in trouble. Then there are all these evening gowns – not an option for a working visit, and three of them aren’t an option for public viewing – and then…

Three choices left. The eight-layer court robes, too formal for any circumstances likely to arise on that planet, and how did they even get there?; a double-breasted engineer’s work-jacket that is too clean to give me any credibility; and one, bless it, technical style business suit…

…in mourning-skies blue. Also a very bad choice for a troubled project, not to mention in general.

I could give up and go with a spraysuit, but without a lot of AR work, all that signifies is a dreadful hurry or lost luggage, neither conditions one wishes to reflect in front of the people who are counting on you to have it together.

It may be time to consider who there is on Ambria Highport that might care to be owed a favor.



2016_B(Alternate words: Beefcake.

…well, okay. I said to myself that I would keep all the alternate words that I don’t use first time through for potential later use, but with the best will in the world, I don’t think I can do anything with that one. Sorry, o beefcake-desirer!)

The path towards today’s helmet style grew out of a number of converging interests. Early Spaceflight Initiative helmets required more bulky hardware than modern compact systems, for example, which consumed and obscured much of the rear volume. Later industrial vacuum suits had the disadvantage of holding the wearer’s head in a forward-facing position, due to cushioning and ancillary equipment, restricting the wearer’s field of view. And then, of course, there were the various RFPs from the nascent Imperial Navy, and specifically the requests from the Flight Operations representatives, who were most insistent that while they were willing if reluctant to concede the impracticability of their traditional silk scarves as a vacuum suit accessory, relegating them to the role of dress uniform only, and even to acknowledge the uselessness of their equally traditional aviator goggles, they would not under any circumstances give up their leather-and-fur flight helmets.

(They had, after all, been presented upon graduation of every Pilot Officer since the first foundation of the Imperial Flying Corps. One might as well, in their view, expect a legionary to go into battle without his sword – or, as Military Service slang prefers to put it in either case – ‘stark ruddy naked’.)

And so we come to the modern bubble helmet, a spherical dome of smartglass sandwiched between high-impact sapphiroid. The outermost layer is gold-anodized, to block glare and harmful radiation (while in theory the smartglass could provide this filtration, the gold anodization is fail-safe, functioning even if suit power or data systems are malfunctioning), and designed to intrinsically shed fluids, dust, and electrical charge. The smartglass is capable of acting as an infinitely configurable variable-filter and information display surface, with HUD and augmented reality functions including night-vision and optical zoom. The view provided is unobstructed all around – even beyond the typical 100 degree head rotation – with the exception of two coin-sized spots above the eyeline and to each side where the headlight/camera modules are mounted. A third light/camera module, rear-mounted, provides a projectable rear view. These modules also include miniature trigraphic projectors, enabling the projection of status, communicative, and affective symbols over the wearer’s head.

The helmet is pressurized with the normal canned life support blend of oxygen and inert-mix, to standard ship’s pressure. (Since modern skinsuits incorporate MEMS-based respiration assistance, it is no longer necessary to use high-oxygen breathing mixes.) This is controlled by the systems torc at the base of the helmet, which locks onto the attachment ring/neck dam at the neck of the vacuum suit (itself connected to many fibers running throughout the suit fabric to prevent accidental detachment). Light nanofluid cushioning that surrounds the neck once the helmet is donned provides additional neck protection and stability.

The primary purpose of the systems torc, apart from this connection, is the containment of the suit’s data systems and mesh communications suite. (Its location permits it direct interface with its wearer’s back-neck laser-port, although an auxiliary manual keypad can be connected and mounted on an arm of the suit if desired.) It also contains a miniature high-pressure oxygen tank and rebreather/dehumidifier system as a final hour’s emergency life-support supply. The torc also contains the connectors for the PLSS backpack, including those which permit water, other beverages, food pastes, and pharmaceuticals to be dispensed to the wearer through a deployable pipette, or additionally in the case of pharmaceuticals, through an autoinjector into a neck vein.

Communications can be provided directly by the torc, either via the laser-port interface or via miniaturized microphones and loudspeakers built into the torc surface. Alternately, many wearers prefer the use of a simple headset worn under the helmet, which connects to the torc using local mesh radio.

– A History of Space Hardware, Orbital Education Initiative


2016_A(Alternate words: none.)

Among the complexities of dining in the modern age are those introduced by the many different worlds upon which we now dwell, all with different histories, geologies, and ecologies, independently evolved. As children of a single world, this has required a degree of adaptation, whether biotechnological or simply in custom, to the varying conditions of Sylithandríël’s other daughters.

What these adaptations are vary from world to world across the Empire, and I shall list only a few examples here. On our many eutalentic worlds, to list a commonly found example, many residents make use of the Rieltelir biomod to breathe in the open, which requires the body to take in additional calcium and potassium salts to assist in disposing of excess carbon dioxide. Such salts are thus presented as seasonings on every dinner table; for the most part harmless to visitors, if unnecessary to consume and prone to cause minor digestive upsets.

Clajdíä, on the other hand, is a colonized garden world whose native life is, miraculously enough, both edible and often delicious – save for the high levels of selenium found therein, which would prove toxic over time. Thus, a particular tisane is commonly drunk there to accompany the midday meal, from a plant engineered to contain complexes capable of chelating selenium, which is essential for both residents and visitors alike.

A similar provision, accompanied by a radiation detector, is made on Paltraeth, known for its burden of heavy metals, along with an electronic stunner, and krevtakris blade (an approximate translation would be “soft-belly”; it is usually given to young children whose digestive systems are not fully developed) when dishes customarily served live are part of the presentation. If these are not provided, either you have been truly accepted by the clan, or else you are being assassinated, a situation which is beyond the scope of this book.

And, most familiar of all, on most worlds it is customary to serve one of a number of common antihistaminic drinks along with water, when any local food is being served in the presence of offworld guests, as a convenience to prevent any adverse reactions which one’s guests might have to such food.

With such constraints, what does custom mandate?

While these adaptations differ enough from world to world that there are few general customs, one that has developed is that such necessary adaptations are served in a turquoise vessel (be it bowl, teapot, goblet, or of other form), turquoise as a blend of blue and green being the symbolic color of life.

With the exception of the antihistaminic drink, and its defined position in the place setting, however, whether the visitor may, must, or should not participate in their consumption is not something readily understood from their presentation. The thoughtful host may mention this at the beginning of the meal, in small groups with homogeneous guests, or may include this information in discreet place cards for those who require it in a larger or more diverse setting. Otherwise, a quiet word with the host or the host’s footbot will not be out of place.

– Madame Allatrian’s Garden of Exquisitely Correct Etiquette


A to Z – Get Your Words In!

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]Hey, readers! This challenge that I did last year?

It’s starting REAL SOON NOW. As in LESS THAN A WEEK.

So if you didn’t take the opportunity to nominate a word to prompt me with last time, you’d better hurry.

Just for your reference, the letters we currently have suggestions for are A, B, C, K, M, R, and S – so you have a whole NINETEEN untouched letters to make suggestions for. So there’s plenty of room.

Hit me!

Click here to suggest!

No limits on how many or how few letters you may submit for, or how many suggestions you may make in total – just send ’em in, and I’ll take a look at them.

(No promises, either, for the person already thinking that “quetzalcoatl” is a word deeply underused in science fiction writing. But I’ll at least try to use suggestions.)

Blogging from A to Z – April 2016!

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]So, this challenge that I did last year?

That was fun.

So I’m doing it again this year!

This time, though, I’m going to offer you, gentle readers, a chance to help me out a little with the conceptualizing of things and possibly see things you want to see as a result. Namely, I’m going to let you suggest words for each letter, if you would like to do so.

Click here to suggest!

No limits on how many or how few letters you may submit for, or how many suggestions you may make in total – just send ’em in, and I’ll take a look at them.

(No promises, either, for the person already thinking that “quetzalcoatl” is a word deeply underused in science fiction writing. But I’ll at least try to use suggestions.)


ZWhile they are used on many colonies, due to the extremely small investment in infrastructure required, Sialhaith (Lumenna III) is the world on which the modern airship has reached its apotheosis. In Sialhaith’s hot, thick atmosphere – the planetary ecopoesis program was bought out and effectively terminated in its 150th year by the aerostat consortium – a standard oxygen-breather atmosphere serves as a potent lifting gas, the factor which enabled its sky cities to exist in the first place.

This same factor makes Sialhain an airship designer’s dream.

Picture, if you will, a broad, flattened ellipsoid envelope of tough, lightweight, clear aerogel – perhaps a full mile in length. It supports a traditional gondola, certainly, holding its reactors, ducted magnetoaerodynamic engines, and pylons for shuttle aeronefs hanging below, but unlike conventional designs, the gondola doesn’t represent the habitable space of the airship. The lifting gas, after all, is entirely breathable. Instead, look down upon the envelope, and in place of ballonets, ballast pumps, and other support machinery within, see instead a single, vast, open volume, in which the designer has scattered a small town’s buildings over a lightly wooded park. That’s the simplest possible Sialhain airship.

How many Sialhain designers do you think were content to build the simplest possible airship?


YThe reporter looked dubiously at his sandwich.

“So this is made entirely of yeast?”

“Absolutely! Nutriyeast spread on yeast-fermented yeast product with a steaming bulb of yeast-synthesized theobrom. Versatile little wonders, those.”

With careful mid-bite timing, she added:

“They also made the plate, the cutlery, and the table. Well, not the same ones, but one stabilized organochemical emulsion is much like another stabilized organochemical emulsion, yes?”


Xxenognosis (n.): (also “the Big Hello”) The knowledge that sophont species other than one’s own exist; also, the discovery by an individual or species that they exist.

In popular mythology, this is usually conflated with first contact, or at least with the establishment of genuine communications between the species in question – which portrayal, unfortunately, is almost pure nonsense.

Interstellar civilization just isn’t that subtle.

Space is cold and dark. Interstellar life is the exact opposite. Between the EM penumbra, starship drive flares, the gravity-wave ripples of stargates in operation, and even some few modified stellar spectra, anyone within a couple of thousand light-orbits of the Periphery with any astronomical competence at all can have no doubt that there’s exotic life out there – with the only possible exception being those on the wrong side of the Shadow Veil.

If you’re actually trying to make contact, you can’t avoid giving advance notice. In the first first contact on record, the galari identified Extropy Rising – a slowship, not even a lighthugger – light-months out of their system, even before the inbound ship spotted the radio emissions of galari civilization. The deceleration burn of a modern lighthugger is easily visible from the next star over, and highly distinctive to boot; an optimized fusion torch or the double-peaked signature of a pion drive look like nothing else in space. As for starwisps – how many stars do you think there are that shine monochromatic green?

(And if the lighthugger in question is a linelayer, it’s going to leave a stargate megastructure orbiting in their outer system for them to look at for months, maybe even years, before a scoutship gets there. Conveniently engraved with instructions for use, even.)

This does have its disadvantages, triggering social unrest, cultural shifts, bursts of technological development, and the like, or on less developed worlds – the kind whose occupants may go unnoticed until your arrival – sometimes even religious movements. In the case of psychotics-in-waiting like the skrandar, it may well have converted them into the berserkers they ended as.

But if you want to explore the galaxy at all – well, what can you do? Even the Voniensa Republic, who are remarkably prissy about this sort of thing, have had to reconcile themselves to that.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary


ISSUE: 2242/04/216

Speculative Edubanking Certificates

Issued by Súlíän & Daughters Personal Securitization, Pty.,

for and on behalf of

Cathál Rian-ith-Ríëlle

The Speculative Edubanking Certificates offered hereby represent beneficial option interests in future income of the subject, Cathál Rian-ith-Ríëlle. Realized funds from purchases of these securities will be used to fund on a 75/100 basis attainment of an Academician-level degree in Hydrodynamic Engineering by the subject, Cathál Rian-ith-Ríëlle; repayment will commence six years and one day post IPO, to an amount consisting of 25% of the post-expenses contractual income of the subject (refer to appended actuarial tables, Appendix B, for expected investor yield) for a period of twelve years.

Supervisory interest for the assurance of fiduciary behavior on the part of the subject, Cathál Rian-ith-Ríëlle, on behalf of the investors, is vested in Súlíän & Daughters Personal Securitization, Pty., and administered on their behalf by Korris Hearthtender Optimal Choices, ICC and Initiatives of said organization.

In the event of involuntary default the tort insurer of the subject, Cathál Rian-ith-Ríëlle, Smooth Flow Underwriting, ICC, has agreed to recompense the principal of all investors (refer to appended agreement, Appendix C); in the event of voluntary default, the burden of default lies with the subject and investors may wish to hedge accordingly. For this purpose:

These securities have been rated AA by Tinth Investor Protection, ICC.
These securities have been rated A+ by Ilythir Oversight & Certification, ICC.

These certificates are offered for sale and subsequent public trade by Marblyngrad Securities Exchange, subject to issuance by Súlíän & Daughters Personal Securitization, Pty., subject to prior withdrawal of the offer with or without notice, when, as, and if delivered to and accepted by the Exchange. It is expected that the certificates will be available for delivery in printed, registered, and sealed form at the Exchange Central Office on or about 2242/05/01.

One quarter of the certificates to be issued have been pre-allocated to the membership of the Marblyngrad Watermen’s Fellowship under their existing reciprocal sponsorship program.

(Note: this summary does not contain complete information about the Speculative Edubanking Certificates or the subject of this issue: for further information, please contact the Exchange Central Office for full details of this class of security and for a complete personal information statement and declaration as issued by the subject, Cathál Rian-ith-Ríëlle.)

Opening bids are invited from the date of issuance of this offering.


T…stars glimmer white and yellow and red in the blue-black sky, pale light of the moon, running through the shadowed grass, feel of moisture underfoot, scent of flowers on the breeze, hot and sharp taste of the air, clouds part at a touch, voices of the trees whisper, leaping into the branches…

* * *

The trigraphic image of the giant brain’s neuroelectrical activity, hanging in mid-air over the gel-tank containing the cortexture itself, rippled with activity.

“What’s his status?”

“Steady and stable in deep dream sleep.”

“I wonder what he’s dreaming about.”

“You know we can’t look at that… although look at that suppressed motor cortex activity. It might be time to req our boy a body, or at least some sensor-effectors.”

– records of the Biotronics Research Initiative
Cognitech, ICC




Among the most dangerous agents fielded by the Theomachy of Galia are the a’hugal (“soulless”), designated REFULGENT LIAR.

The a’hugal are operatives of the Theomachy’s highest-order intelligence agency, the Jeret-i-dín-Tanjgal (“Preservers of the Pure-Souled”), loosely analogous to the Fifth Directorate or to the Exception Management Group, and operate solely under its directives so far as is known. (While we have never observed a’hugal seconded to any other agency of the Theomachy, the possibility cannot be ruled out especially under exceptional circumstances.)

The a’hugal are created by the Jeret-i-dín-Tanjgal using off-the-shelf cerebral bridge technology to create a fork of a highly trained template agent; a technology, note, which is otherwise entirely proscribed within the Theomachy. The reason for the use of such technology in this case is identical with the reason for its general proscription: according to Galian doctrine, forks are mere soulless automata, and thus can commit any act without sin or spiritual penalty. Those who command the a’hugal refrain from instructing them in methodology; rather, they simply designate the problem to be solved, and in avoiding the knowledge of their methods, avoid the spiritual burden of ordering forbidden acts. The a’hugal acts on its own initiative thereafter.

Adhocs and overwatch of the Directorates SHOULD NOT underestimate the danger posed by REFULGENT LIAR units. While usually no better equipped than baseline Galians and possessing only baseline-equivalent mentality (although it should be noted that the “soulless” a’hugal are also exempt from the doctrine of spiritual corruption by augmentation found in Galian theology), the a’hugal are manufactured from templates that believe profoundly in their post-forking soulless state and the moral exemption that results therefrom. While this memetic indoctrination does not give them the long-term psychological stability enjoyed by the [REDACTED: ICE BLUESHIFT], in the short term they are capable of acting with the ruthlessness of ICE BLUESHIFT units in the field, and also retain the emotive capacity for the malice-sadism spectrum suppressed by ICE BLUESHIFT treatment.

Standing doctrine calls for the preemptive quieting of REFULGENT LIAR units in active operational areas.


QLumenna-Súnáris System
Talentar High Orbit
Liméri Station
Agricultural Torus B

Bícek-Qor-Eleven’s nose quivered. The dried liquid that had left these marks on the floor of the conduit smelled… sweet, and sharp. Not food. Trouble. His trouble. Sniffing, he set off down the line, following it back to its –

The trail ended. Eleven stopped, raised his head, sniffed again. Above. He scampered up the wall, and took a firm grip on a cableway with his tail, metallic skin-threads glistening. His front paws patted the insulation of the pipes, seeking moisture. There. He parted the insulation, pulling it aside, and touched his nose to the pipe surface. Leak.

Eleven pulled the tiny, half-inch canister of repair-spray from his jacket, applied it to the pipe, and listened to it hiss for a moment. He gripped the insulation with his teeth, pulling it back into place, then uncoiled his tail and dropped back to the floor of the conduit.

* * *

Lumenna-Súnáris System
Talentar High Orbit
Liméri Station
Central Operations

“Estrey? Take a look at this. That intermittent coolant leak we couldn’t find in the ag section; it looks like BQ11 just fixed it for us.”

“Well, I’ll be – see he gets some extra cheese at shift-end. Smart rat, that smart-rat.”


PDISCLAIMER: All population figures found herewithin should be considered provisional and contested.

Ongoing controversies exist where the correct measurement of population figures is concerned, including:

  • Accounting of clone families;
  • Accounting of fork families, both synchronized (cikrieth) and desynchronized, and the measurement of repeated non-persistent forks;
  • Accounting of group intellects, including both true hive-mind species (such as the hjera and cusaron) and independent Fusions, representing single minds in a multiplicity of bodies, and collective consciousnesses (such as the Eldraeic Transcend), representing multiple independent minds sharing only specific layers; as well as multiple intermediate and overlapping cases;
  • Accounting of collegiate-intelligence species, such as the embatil and aklaknak;
  • Accounting of naturally fork/merge capable species, such as the codramaju;
  • Accounting of biologically casted species in which only a single caste or a subset of castes is sophont, such as the vlcefc, or the gender-based equivalent;
  • Accounting of polysapic species possessing multiple natural minds acting in accord, such as the múrast and voctonari;
  • Accounting for members of species not possessing sophoncy at all points during their lifespan, including but not limited to the majority of r-selected species;
  • Accounting for presently-inactivate species members, including those in long-term cryostasis/nanostasis or data storage;
  • Accounting for the deceased retaining active cognition within technologically-mediated afterlives;
  • Accounting for unconventional forms of identity, such as teleological threads;
  • Location accounting of infomorphs (by processor or by avatar/point-of-interaction location);
  • Legal differences of opinion on the prosophont/sophont boundary;
  • Calibration of population accounting for post-sophont entities, both regarding the appropriateness of categorizing such minds on an equivalent scale with baselines, and inasmuch as high post-sophont minds are capable of generating transient and/or lasting sophont memes in the normal course of cognition;
  • And so forth.

While recognizing that in many cases appropriate answers to these questions is determined contextually (the computation of required life-support capacity obviously is dependent on bioshell-population, for example), the meaning of population in the generalized sense requires the resolution of these questions, many of which are hotly debated philosophical, theological, and/or political topics in many of the Worlds’ polities.

As such, we have chosen to use population figures, in all cases superseding those locally provided, established by the Imperial Grand Survey, whose methodology has the virtue of being consistent, transparent, and well-documented (see publication IGS-1134/P rev. 112).

– from the preface to the Associated Worlds Factbook, Conclave Press


ODeepHab Eleven
Eastern Abyssal
Gulf of Antareä

The incoming voice rattled scratchily from the speaker. “Benthic Needle, we have you on our magnetograph now. Confirm your position.”

“Inertial guidance shows us eight-eleven porisedt from sonar target, relative bearing zero-eight-five, station-keeping against current. Request calibration reading on relative depth, DeepHab.”

Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping!

“Benthic Needle, we show your relative depth as two porisedt above our datum, with a three degree for’ard pitch.”

“Thanks, DeepHab. Retrimming.”

Water gurgled into the trim tanks as the pilot adjusted the controls.

Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping!

“We’re ready for terminal guidance, DeepHab. Advisory: we have negative, repeat negative, visual capability.”

“Proceed on heading zero-six-zero for eleven-one porisedt to intercept final vector, Benthic Needle, activate high-resolution targeting sonar, and hold; descend six porisedt to four below datum relative for moon pool access. Map follows.”

A burst of data-noise later, the proposed course mapped itself out in blue-green trigraphics on the inside of the minisub’s blank steel cupola.

“Executing, DeepHab.”

Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping!

“Say, Benthic Needle, out of curiosity, why does the Spaceflight Initiative want you guys to practice blind docking anyway?”

“No mystery, DeepHab. The Needle’s shipping out to Isimír next year. There’s no light down in its subcrustal ocean, so we’re learning to operate without it.”

“There’s no light down here, either, Needle, but we do have lights.”

“Yeah, but there’s never been any light down in Isimír’s ocean. If there’s any life down there, it’d be rude to go lightin’ the place up before we find out if it’ll poison the locals.”


N“No. Reject the shipment.”

“Reject the – It’s just a bunch of toys!”

“Read me the exact description line.”

“Coríël Fabrications on license to Mirajdíä Studios, videogame replicas.”

“And the port of origin?”

“Jandine Orbital, Empire of the Star. So?”

“So they’re videogame replicas from the land of the mad scientists who take their authenticity way too seriously, that’s what. The moment whatever game it is shipped, a million fansophs started trying to build that stuff for real, and now it’s in those containers. The guns will really shoot, the robots will really… robot, and while the starships may not be full-size, they will probably really fly and zap things with tiny little plasma cannon. We let it through, it’s going to be Mothers Against Plushie Drone Carnage all over again, and nobody needs that, especially us. Reject it.”

– overheard at the local tech-customs office, Fennan (Kaylin Cache)





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[SSP image elided from file]

The Existential Threats Primary Working Group has maintained in secure storage a number of sub-black level threats, and has access to two black-level threats, of type BURNING ZEPHYR – i.e., unlimited autonomous nanoscale replicators (“gray goo”).

Case UNGUENT SANCTION represents an extremal response case to physically manifested excessionary-level existential threats. It is hoped that, in such cases, the deployment of an existing sub-black level or black-level existential counterthreat may ideally destroy or subsume the excessionary-level threat, replacing it with one already considered manageable, or in lesser cases, at least delay the excessionary-level threat while more sophisticated countermeasures can be developed.

Note that as an extremal response case, deployment of CASE UNGUENT SANCTION requires consensus approval of the Imperial Security Executive, subject to override veto by vote of the Fifth Directorate overwatch.


Communicating ANY PART of this NTK-A document to ANY SOPHONT other than those with preexisting originator-issued clearance, INCLUDING ITS EXISTENCE, is considered an alpha-level security breach and will be met with the most severe sanctions available, up to and including permanent erasure.

Proceed (+/-)?