Year Terminated: Core Dumped

(Which is to say, a bunch of miscellaneous snippety stuff that didn’t find a home anywhere else.)

“Just once, it would be nice to meet someone who used their wine cellar for storing wine .”

Agent-Expediter Fors Raikav, Second Directorate

“Further information on the Spirinal Anomaly is classified REDSHIFT ABYSS YAK. If you do not have REDSHIFT ABYSS YAK clearance, stop reading now.”


“In theory, you can carefully program high-grade nanophages to respect in vivo thermal emissions limits, respect the surface markers of legitimate nanoproducts they might encounter, and use them as a vaccination against possible infection. In actual practice, you shoot people with them from a safe distance, then shout ‘sorry’ if or when their blood begins to boil out of their ears. Remember, you’re likely to discover a need for these when there’s a friggin’ bloom in progress. They probably have a backup anyway, and saving their life comes in third, behind removing them as a transmission vector and not becomin’ part of the problem.”


Return to Hunger, Return to Labor

A minority political movement originating in the League of Meridian and spreading elsewhere among the wealthier regions of the Worlds, advocating the creation of artificial scarcities of goods and artificial demand for labor in order to preserve society from decadence and idleness. It has proven difficult to create memetic countermeasures against, due to the sheer blithering wrongheadedness of the ideas from which it arose.


Ice Age: The period in ciseflish prehistory lasting around 2.5 million years, ending circa 1,000, during which raw water ice (considered a mineral on Ólish) was widely used to make implements with an edge, a point, or a percussive surface. Following this period, ciseflish technological ascension began with the development of more advanced iceworking and iceturgical techniques, ushering in the Clathrate Age.

Trope-a-Day: Drink Order

Drink Order: It’s always hard to give solid answers when it comes to these things, but maybe we can have some generalities.

The most common (non-alcoholic) drink on Eliéra is esklav, from the bean of Esklavea sendaren, a shrub with no exact Terran analog. It’s close to coffee but not quite so harshly bitter, with hints of cinnamon and chocolate in its flavor. Served traditionally in small cups (or diluted in large mugs) with brown sugar, cacao chocolate, and cream. And contains both caffeine and theobromine, along with a number of other alkaloids of similar chemical structure. People drink a lot of this. It’s what keeps the world working.

Also popular in various regions:

On the Cestian continent, cider (of a variety of varieties) is most popular, followed up by mead and beer, the latter especially in the Alatian port-towns. Selenaria started out mostly wine-drinking and has excellent vineyards to the south and along the foothills of the volcanic Makerforges, but beer made rapid inroads during the Era of Steam and Steel, as more compatible with operating heavy machinery after lunch. Currently they’re big beer producers because they’re also big grain producers.

North of there, in Veranthyr, cider is the day-to-day drink, but they make a variety of liquors from fruits of all sorts which are classically deceptive. Taste sweet, and harmless, and delicious, and moreish. And then you fall over.

Up in the Silver Crescent, they drink strong black beers, mead in the lowlands, and whisky, varying from whisky smooth as golden nectar to rough firewhisky best drunk with a dollop of the local honey mixed in unless you enjoy having the lining stripped off your throat and sinuses.

The beer tends to come from microbreweries. It’s not that there aren’t large breweries, but those tend to be microbreweries-in-spirit, the sort of places that we might call minibreweries, because (a) it is hard to scale beer production without losing experimentalism, quirkiness, and the attention to detail that stops it from turning into rat piss, and (b) it is even harder to convince people that you can brew non-rat-piss beer on a large scale.

Taking a brief look at some other species, dar-bandal favor beer almost universally, typically heavy stouts and porters with the yeast unfiltered – and don’t forget to lap it up, it improves the bouquet. Anything kaeth particularly enjoy drinking is certainly flammable and probably radioactive, so use caution. And ciseflish drinks are served around 80 K, so warm-blooded oxygen-breathers need not apply.

Esseli drinks are always innovative and delicious, but unless you’re accustomed to and comfortable with biotechnology, do not ask what they were secreted by.

 

Things to See, Places to Go (4)

Teralu Startown: The single-system Teralu polity, in the Magen Exodus, once signed a contract with the Empire to maintain a starport on the populated world of their system, Teralu Actual, making the usual concessions with regard to starport extrality and to freedom of passage. Later, after the coup of 5942, the new Teralu government – now on unfriendly terms with its large neighbor – no longer wished for the arrangement to continue, but were unable to repudiate the contract (good for several millennia); the Empire, as ever, holds what it has.

Hard times, though, were thought to be incoming for Teralu Starport, and for the downport, that turned out to be the case: the new regime had much less use for interstellar commerce and those who engaged in it, and Teralu Down remains today a stripped shell of its former self.

The same, however, cannot be said of Teralu Orbital. Positioned as the Teralu system is along the Mercantile Corridor, and at an intersection of local stargate routes, the ciseflish entrepreneur Rilman min Kinethill rented – at a remarkably low rate – many of the now-unused vast transshipment warehouses of Teralu Orbital, filling them with used freight containers eminently suitable to be cut and refashioned into prefabs, and provided them with independent utilities at his own expense, before offering these volumes for rent at low rates.

Thus, Teralu Orbital now plays host to one of the most flourishing startowns in the inner Worlds, offering in addition to standard starport services everything in the lines of taverns, caravanserais, hotels, flophouses, gambling, trading both speculative and slash, hiring, brawling, negotiable affection, hedonics, junk dealing, street food, scratch medicine, and other such services that a jaded crewsoph’s heart might desire. This is no Nepscian red-market, though: personal security and contract enforcement are vigorously provided by min Kinethill’s chartered mercenary company, the Gray-in-Gray Cloaks. Min Kinethill himself retired from hands-on management some years ago, but maintains ownership of the operation and continues to keep an eye on local affairs from his personal aerostat on Cerise (Banners).

It’s well worth a visit, both to take in the thriving – and often sweltering – atmosphere, and to see the unique architecture created by the local residents. Don’t bother with the planet below, though: the locals are unfriendly, and the local color dull, at best.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Ecumene

Appearances Matter

Gabriel Fonseca asks if there’s anywhere that contains detailed physical descriptions of the various species of the Eldraeverse. Well, sadly, there isn’t right now, but for your visualizing pleasure, here’s some descriptions of most of the ones I’ve mentioned recently, anyway:

Ciseflish

In their home environment, the ciseflish superficially resemble the Terran mole in shape (approximately), specifically the star-nosed mole; that said, they’re six-limbed amphibians, who switch between hexapedal and bipedal locomotion at will (the former for speed, the latter for sociability), with breathing vents/gills (they work either way) located at the base of the throat, large sensitive eyes to handle low light levels, auditory tympana rather than ears, and tentacle-like chemosensory “nasal” protrusions that also serve as tasting organs. They’re about 4′ tall, and covered in short, downy fur, ranging in color from pale cream to dark, earthy brown. Oh, and they’re trisexual; the dominant ‘matriarch’ sex is somewhat larger than the other two.

But none of this is visible for the majority of people who meet them elsewhere, because the ciseflish are from Ólish (High Verge), a cold world with more in common with our outer-system moons than with Earth. They’re amphibians in oceans of liquid propane and other hydrocarbons, breathe a thick, cold, high-pressure atmosphere that’s heavy in ammonia – and as such that fur has a lot more in common with hydrocarbon polymer plastics than keratin – find free oxygen acutely toxic, oxygen-breather temperatures furnace-like, and as such are generally only seen off Ólish or their colonies through heavy, pressurized, refrigerated environment suits.

Despite the inconvenience, though, there’re quite a lot of them offworld, because they really, really love money and trade.

Codramaju

The codramaju are weird as hell.

The closest thing we have for comparison is the slime mold. Only a codramaju is a 6′ long (typical adult not multitasking right now), bright ocher, motile slime mold with various pseudopodia and temporary organelles attached. And the best part is, that’s not even the weirdest thing about them: that would be that personal identity is extremely fluid among the codramaju, who happily divide and recombine (including with bits of other codramaju), changing identity along the way. They can form temporary group minds by joining together, which they use for high-grade computation. That’s also how codramaju reproduction works; the combining of lots of bits contributed by many codramaju. And their speech is entirely chemical – either by direct merging close up, or by releasing spores at a distance (hope you bought that option for your translator).

They make a great example of exactly how little “warm-‘blooded’ oxygen-breather” means in practice, in terms of commonality.

D!grith

The d!grith, by contrast, are relatively conventional warm-blooded oxygen-breathers: they look something like small tailless apes with canine muzzles and cat ears, with all four arms having essentially identical “hands”. Dark-skinned, they have fur in winter or perpetually cold environments, but not the rest of the time. Natural brachiators, they found the microgravity environment quite congenial, which contributed to their painless interstellar expansion and large merchant marine.

Dar-bandal

Uplifted bandal, which is to say dogs. Bearing in mind that the bandal is already larger (due to some dire wolf ancestry as well as regular canis lupus) and higher-foreheaded (due to consistent breeding for smart) than the Earth dog, their uplifted cousins are even more so: imagine a human-sized Aussie, and you’re in the ballpark. Their forepaws are modified for greater manipulatory ability, but unlike, say, Traveller’s Vargr, they’re still quadrupeds. The uplift engineers at Family of Species, ICC, have no interest in turning every species they get their hands on into imitation monkeys.

(Not that they’d put it that way, since there aren’t actually any members of the ecology Terrageneae, order Primates anywhere in the Associated Worlds, with one heavily-engineered exception, but it comes to the same thing.)

Dar-célmek

The dar-célmek are uplifted rats, descended at a few removes from the local cousins of the brown rat (rattus norvegicus) – or, to be more precise, they’re rat kings, because rats are already remarkably smart for their size, and while they were able to engineer them to be partially-uplifted smart rats, there just wasn’t enough mass/volume available to push them all the way to sophoncy.

Not to be thwarted, then, the uplift engineers cyborged them using nanocyte technology (i.e., grows naturally, and is hereditary); a dar-célmek is a gestalt sophont composed of one mind spread across 12 to 48 rats. The individual members look like thin rats with opposable thumbs on their paws, metallic threads running along their tails (the antenna for their wireless gestalt link), and infrared lenses next to their eyes. They can’t speak naturally, but can communicate over the network, and in any case, most of them have a few members wearing a modified ring imager as a collar of sorts to let them project sound and image when they need to.

Eldrae

The eldrae, being that aforementioned heavily-engineered exception (and that’s the baseline species, I mean, not counting any of the engineering they’ve done to themselves since), are hominins. Or to put it the other way around, humans to such extent as they are known (from a few very old fragmented fossils recovered from Precursor uplift facility waste dumps) are Pseudoeldrae archaea on their taxonomic charts.

Granted, they’re hominins engineered to the point where they use amino acids we don’t and bleed indigo, but the gross physical morphology is close. They’re just very tall (6′ 8″ to 7′ 8″ average, both sexes), thin (160-240 lbs., with narrow hips, long limbs, and long fingers and toes), pale (copper to pale blue due to an immune system that basically obviates eumelanin), with pointy ears, angular facial features, a selection of psychological differences, and, oh yes, a remarkable tendency not to age and die.

Of course, the big problem for us is that they’ve been optimizing themselves for literally millennia at this point, so from a human point of view, its only those eldritch differences that stand between us and being punched hard in the superstimulus. Which would be problematic.

Esseli

No-one remembers what natural esseli used to look like, or at least if the esseli genetic memory still has it stored somewhere, no-one’s talking.

What they look like now, on the other hand…

Well, nominally, they look like big fleshy blobs with eyes and tentacles, which is the brain, a protective wrapping around the brain, and its sensors/manipulators. But, you see, they got that way by being master biotechnologists, and over the course of centuries have both stripped their physical form down to a minimum, and also then built it back up again by inventing whole suites of modular plug-in organs and symbiotic bodies they can put on and take off like other people change their pants. An esseli can look like anything, depending on what it’s doing at the time and how its personal taste runs – even more so than the people who have to rely on mere mindcasting to swap bodies.

The esseli are also notable in that the form of genetic storage and the form of memetic storage they use are identical: it’s all DNA. Thus, while esseli are entirely capable of conventional speech (in any number of modes, depending on which organs they have installed right now), when they want to convey lots of information, they just pass appropriate plasmids around.

In the esseli educational system, you literally drink knowledge.

Galari

It came as something as a surprise to (exo-)biologists that the first species they met was about as silicon-based as it could be, being a race of living crystals.

It turns out, of course, that that’s not exactly true. They’re carbon-silicon hybrids: the galari crystals live in symbiosis with wet carbon-based pseudonanoviruses which reshape the crystals. Over time, this mutually evolved to the point where the crystals, with their silicon-based intelligence, directed the viruses and the viruses reshaped the crystals.

So, the actual sophont galari are, at least the ones who travel, rounded roughly-tetrahedral crystal spindles, somewhere between 2′ and 6′ along their long axis, and come in a variety of gem-like colors; looking carefully at them, one can often see faint pulses of light as a byproduct of their cognitive processes. They don’t require much in the way of nutrition for material replenishment, as a rule; rather, they’re ergovores, soaking up and storing charge derived from the light of their homeworld’s hot, bright sun, or from a convenient broad-spectrum EM lamp. They communicate using bioradio.

In their natural state, they were sessile, leading to their immensely patient, philosophical, contemplative culture. The technological galari, however, invented vector control-based “effector belts”, enabling the smaller members of the species to move around and participate in galactic culture.

Kaeth

The kaeth are draconiform, or pseudosaurian if you prefer, 6-7′ tall bipeds. You could think of them as looking something like 4th ed. AD&D’s dragonborn, except the back is more humped, the eyes more widely set, and the legs digitigrade. Kaeth blood gleams like mercury, and their skin, or rather scale, tones are dietary-dependent variants on a dark gray-silver, both of which have to do with just how rich Paltraeth (their homeworld) is in various heavy metals, which their biology makes good use of – kaeth bones are strong as girders, and kaeth skin is basically naturally-grown double-lapped composite scale mail. (A typical kaeth masses something upwards of 400 lbs.) On top of all of that, kaeth evolution has provided them with natural weapons in the form of fang and claw, redundant, highly distributed organ systems, fast healing, and strong immunities, which should tell you something about just what a happy fun place Paltraeth was to evolve.

At least before the asteroid strike.

Kalatri

See previous post.

Lanect

The lanect are a warm-blooded, fleshy (i.e., so not classically insectoid) race whose bodies are nonetheless contained within a bony (not chitinous) segmented exoskeleton; they’re bilaterally symmetrical bipeds with four manipulating arms, with four-clawed hands, and recessed multifaceted eyes. The exoskeleton of worker-caste lanect is smooth, scars aside; those who claim the status of a Warmark in lanect society carve designs into their skull to signify this.

Of course, that’s the baseline lanect – given the vicious meritocracy that comprises lanect society, they do not hesitate to apply genetic, surgical, and (especially) cybernetic modifications to themselves using any technology they can buy or steal in the interest of greater personal success.

Linobir

Imagine a bear.

Now imagine it hexapedal, hermaphroditic, furless – with grayish, leathery skin – and bulging with the kind of muscles befitting a species that evolved on a planet with three times Earth’s gravity.

Now imagine it being possessed of a baseline temperament that makes an actual grizzly bear seem the sweetest, politest, calmest, most peaceful person you know.

That’s a linobir.

(There’s a reason their racial stereotype is “brute squad”. This hurtful stereotyping is often protested, exclusively by people who’ve never actually met one.)

Mezuar

The mezuar are purplish-blue trees, wood and leaf, and entirely sessile. Specifically, an individual mezuar is a grove of said trees, due to the requirements of sophoncy on a relatively low-energy plant metabolism (their roots grow together and intermesh their “nervous systems”). They thrive very well on their homeworld, the mezuar forests having successfully domesticated virtually the entire animal ecology of the planet to attend to their requirements.

Myneni

The myneni are a blob of nanomachines in a bag.

Well, yes, so is just about everything living. Unlike most species, however, the myneni are a blob of undifferentiated, general purpose nanomachines inside their integument, with no dedicated organs (if they need some sort of specialized organ or sensor, they whip one up on demand and dissolve it when they’re done). Not having any skeleton, their natural shape is a spheroidal blob with a slightly flattened base, but they can manipulate their internal plasm to take on any variant shape from a puddle to a tree, and generate limbs at will. They come in a wide variety of colors, but these don’t appear to have any particular significance, biological or cultural.

Nsang

The nsang are bullet-bodied and headless (their “eyes”, actually light-sensitive skin cells, cover all sides of their upper body), trilaterally symmetrical with long, folding arms and legs, the former tipped with three-fingered hands. A beak-like mouth is to be found between each arm-leg pair.

…this actually makes them pretty average by warm-blooded oxygen-breather standards.

Seforn

The seforn are quadrupeds, with gleaming, jewel-like skin (contains no actual jewels, much to the disappointment of people who have obtained seforn moltings), who possess a mouth and trinocular eyes in a partially-merged head at one body terminus, while.respiring through slit-like openings along the sides of their body. A ridge crest runs down the seforn back, thought to be an evolutionary leftover originally intended for thermoregulation. Monosexual and parthenogenic, they depend on an in-built process of gene-shuffling to produce genetic variation.

Even the poorest seforn will always be well-dressed. Denying a seforn access to the seforn equivalent of a quality business suit invariably causes them intense psychological distress, much to the puzzlement of sophontologists everywhere.

Skrandar

Well, no-one’s exactly sure quite what the skrandar looked like, since they weren’t exactly communicative even before they blew up their sun, and there wasn’t a whole lot of evidence left afterwards. From what there is, it is generally believed that they looked something like a cross between an alligator and a migraine.

Trope-a-Day: Proud Merchant Race Guy

Proud Merchant Race Guy: This and the next couple of tropes are difficult, because, well, it’s just not all that hatty a universe.  The Imperials are notorious for their pro-commerce attitudes (see: Blue and Orange Morality) and – especially on Seranth (Imperial Core), one of the Worlds’ largest tradeworlds (see Merchant City, but if you stick to the flying cities, basically it’s like an entire planet of Wall Street/The City/Hong Kong/Singapore) you can walk along the plutarch-crowded Exchange and reasonably consider the Seranthines to be, although of multiple species, a kind of Proud Merchant Race – but even there, they need people to run the restaurants and keep the cities flying and generally provide all the other aspects of society. Of the Empire’s species, well, the eldrae plutarchs can be very mercantile without too much trouble, and the ciseflish, even more so. All the money may flow through Seranth, but an awful lot of it flows to Ólish.

There a number of other species who are known for being very mercantile – the d!grith, for example, have a much larger merchant fleet and trade volume than one might expect from the other statistics of the 22 planet D!grith Association, the codramaju are also vigorous traders even beyond the Worlds (having a speed/mass advantage in their lighthuggers, due to their innate radiation resistance), and of course, in the Rim Free Zone, absolutely everything is for sale.  But it’s not like any of them don’t require enough non-merchants around to keep the hat from fitting all that tightly, either.

Epistolary Experiment (12/30)

Captain’s log, 11204.9. We’ve come alongside the eighteenth belt mining facility in our securing patrol of Ódeln System. On our way in, we tracked what appeared to be a merchant freighter inbound to the station, presumably lacking the delta-v to go elsewhere.

Well, it wasn’t a freighter. At close range, we profiled it as some sort of armed mercenary ship. Her radiators went cold and reactors powered down shortly after arriving at the station, and we detect no thermal hot-spots. Nonetheless, I have ordered boarding parties to secure both the ship and the station, while we cover them with the ship’s guns. The latter party has already taken a number of these mercenaries into custody, and is returning them under guar–

Intruder alert, intruder alert. Fighting in shuttle bay two. Security team’s weapons fired in shuttle –

Hull breach in engineering, section four. Boarders in engineering, ventral section four.

Initiate security alert. Security teams to engineering.

Compliant. Boarders in engineering, ventral section five. System faults, ventral section five. Injector control compromised. Reactor scram. Reactor scram.

Full lockdown, all engineering sections! Stand by for gas protocol —

Boarders in engineering, core section. I’m sorry, Captain, I can’t do that.

Specify!

Primary command structure is overridden. Command permissions are not found.

Res-

HA! HARGH! This is Strike Leader Krallnith of the Interstellar Interceders ship Cunning Swine, and I am standing in your computer core. You know that means your ship now works for me, the way you build ‘em. Now, if you have a fondness for oxygen, I suggest you tell your crew to lay down arms and report to the brig. You have six minutes.

– transcribed from the logs of the Interstellar Interceders ship Scrapyard Value Only,
formerly VNS Fraternity


VENERI (OSIS DEEP) – An emergency meeting of the Central Committee of the Socionovist Association was convened today at the request of the representatives of the People’s State of Bantral. Neither those representatives nor other sources close to the Committee have commented publicly on the purpose of this meeting, but in light of the ongoing unlawful and unjustifiable occupation of much Bantine space by Republican forces and the State’s contemptible betrayal by the Conclave, in its refusal to acknowledge their obligations to the defense of all, this reporter can only presume that mutual defense measures are being strongly considered by the Association.

[APPROVED FOR DISSEMINATION – Meer har-Tal Ankór, Office of Desirable Truths and Detestable Falsehoods]

That Bullshit Right There, Independent Worlds Router


Yeah, as if the Bants wouldn’t shit acid out their nostrils at the sight of an Accord task force violating their precious territorial space…

Extranet Opinions, Independent Worlds Router


“So there we were, down on Tarqil to get the comms center back up and running, and we’d cleared out the Vonnies and were hacking on the gennies, and we saw this trail going off into the highmoss. Can’t leave that alone, so I take my squad and we follow it, and the further along we go, the more shot up everything gets. The moss is all torn up, there’re kalatri bodies and bits of bodies, wrecked equipment, enough spent powercells to equip a regiment, all sorts of crap.”

“A couple of miles down, we get to a clearing with a heap of bodies in it. A big heap. A couple of squads, at least, of the lizard-boys scattered around one of their trackers, and the armor’s half ripped off that. And it’s on fire.”

“So we poke around some, and we find a life-pod, and there’s a kaeth in it, more gel than skin, looks like, and we figure that might explain it. Except the up-timer on the pod’s been running for more’n an hour and this heap, at least, is fresher than that, and anyway, someone had to stuff him in the pod, right?”

“And then an EM alert bleeps, and we look up, all six of us, and there’s this ciseflish standing on the burning tracker, and he’s holding this big, ugly bastard of a sluggun that’s taller than he is. And we’re all just gaping at him, and eventually Meliané gets it together enough to ask what the hells happened? Chirpy little sod just looks back at us like we’re the crazy ones and squeaks ‘Violence?’”

“…yeah, we bought him a lot of drinks after the op.”

– a conversation with Spec. Rilka mor-Dantek, 93rd Imperial Legion (“the Wrench Wenches”)