Do Not Taunt

Gentles all, I ask but one thing of you in your scholarship: while you may and should, of course, describe the cliodynamic tendencies leading up to the states and systems you study, and the tendencies inherent in those states and systems that may push them in a particular direction, you must refrain from describing them as pre- and post- with regard to others. In your previous studies of the field you have learned many of the elegant telic theories of history your predecessors have generated; in your present studies of the field’s subject matter, you should have learned that – in the absence, and even in the presence, of a telos-enforcer with a big stick – history happens over and over again in different orders and by different means as if driven by some perverse imp to spite anyone conceiving of a simple acyclic path.

In short: reality doth make fools of us all, but I would prefer that my students did not bait it.

Saváne Filéristríös,
Asamis Chair of History,
Imperial University of Almeä

Exigency

This is, the operator thinks, possibly the worst day to hear the stolid parping of the some-moron-thinks-he’s-a-train alarm.

A glance at the monitor pointed to by the sensor indicator told the story. Courtesy of the motion-and-presence trackers, it played back the moment at which the aforementioned moron had forced open one of the doors of his stopped train –

the Midmorn-18 eastbound express, Clifftop line, reflex filled in, currently holding for 22 minutes awaiting a pause in Inclinator emergency traffic –

– dropped to the trackbed, and jogged off down the tunnel towards Upslope station.

The operator glances at his board, and the covered, key-locked switch labeled ETHICAL STRICTURE. A timer below it, freshly reset, counts down by pulses from seventy-two, a mechanism implemented to ensure that no changes could be made without mindful forethought. At its normal setting, OPTIMAX, traction power would automatically have been cut to the section in which the not-train was detected, and security robobulls automatically dispatched to drag the hapless wight in question to an uncomfortable interview with security and a lengthy repayment of his fellow passengers’ inconvenience.

But today…


CICENCOM/EMA: PHíLAE/LANDING/INFRASTRUCTURE EMERGENCY DIRECTIVE
EVENT+0.00:14:11.182
IMMEDIATE ACTION ORDER

This is a TRANSPORTATION ASSETS IMPERATIVE directed to SUBMARINE EXPRESS.

STATUS: Impact of not-under-command bulk freighter TDMMS Pelagic Pedestrian on foreshore defenses sector 112 has caused failure of sea wall and protective kinetic barriers in that sector. Minor flooding, since secured, has occurred in Ironclad Docks District to +18 in over datum. Estimated time to repair (including salvage of freighter): 18 hours +/- 6 from mark.

FORECAST: Arrival of storm producing sea state HIGH with wave height estimated at 402 in over datum at event locus predicted at estimated time 4 hours +/- 1 from mark. Consequences predicted include total flooding of Ironclad Docks District. Severe infrastructure damage. Mass casualty event.

IMPERATIVE: I am requisitioning all available transportation to evacuate Ironside Docks District. Clear all non-evacuation traffic from Inclinator. Trains engaged in evacuation activities are granted priority over all other traffic. All currently-unassigned consist elements capable of passenger transport are preempted for evacuation traffic. Otherwise proceed in accordance with established emergency protocol.

To secure transportation under current, predicted, and undetermined conditions, adopt ethical strictures GRANITE EXIGENT.

CICENCOM/EMA
NNNN


…the key was turned two steps beyond that, and the computerized systems instructed to maintain traction power and transit come hell or literal high water. Or, indeed, the presence of any obstruction in the tunnels not sufficient to impede the passage of a train.

Which meant, the operator’s thoughts continued even as the security monitor flashed white and dimmed and the alarm self-silenced, that one stumble into the maglev coils or a slip sufficient to contact the traction power bus-bar would be regrettably, inevitably, lethal.

“Note to Track Maintenance,” the operator murmurs into his command headset, grimacing at the monitor that now showed only a shadow on the bed of the twilit tunnel. “We have rat chow in the tunnel between Upslope and Seawatch, section four. Once the isohaz clears down, send a recovery team to pick up the marble and hose off the trackbed. Operations, clear.”

Moving Sideways

To review, we have already considered the first type of psychokinetic manipulation: the extrinsic manipulation of objects. While largely instinctive in use – unlike the extensive families of techniques built on top of them – reproducing these effects was relatively simple and produced the unifield vector effector, the enabling technology behind the modern tractor, pressor, and torquor beams.

The second type of psychokinesis is the intrinsic manipulation of one’s self. While more difficult to master, most people do acquire proficiency with the basic component effects of in this area, which together form the heart of psychokinetic freerunning: the rejump, in which one bends momentum in mid-air to adjust one’s trajectory and/or velocity; and the longstep, in which one uses a high-intensity pulse of mass-reduction to achieve a burst of speed, appearing to cross a room or otherwise reposition oneself in an instant.

(Body-flying is not considered part of this type, inasmuch as it is impossible to lift oneself, and it depends on extrinsic manipulation of fixed or high-mass objects.)

Work on technological reproduction of these effects led up to the development of the modern vector-control core for vehicles, from skimmers to starships.

The path of inspiration leading from rejump to core is relatively straightforward, as obvious parallels can be seen in the integration of the vector-control core with attitude control systems.

Developments from the longstep are, however, somewhat more obscured. While the work of the Precursors was readily able to support such operations on a single-person scale, it proved impossible for many centuries to build a vector-control core capable of spike operation. However, the traditional vector-control core mode is based on what is, in effect, a low-energy continuous longstep which provides lesser thrust enhancement on an ongoing basis.

This state of affairs persisted until the late 7900s, with the release of Shue Lezíär’s hypertoroid drive core. Fed by a double ring of chained flash accumulators, the hypertoroid core is capable of spiking to power levels orders of magnitude greater than standard cores for brief moments. Timed with exquisite precision to match firings of attitude-control thrusters or even main drives, a vehicle – even the largest of starships – equipped with such a core can appear to blink from one position to another in a matter of moments: a true longstep.

– Histories and Parallels in Vector Control Development

Not That Fish Story

Recreation Commons
Second Deep
Anemone Deep-Aqua Lab
Isimír

“So,” Oswyn interrupted my brooding, “you saw something to go with your anomalous biologic?”

“You’ll be the fifteenth person to tell me that I didn’t see the flash-of-gold that I have a plain memory of, Oswyn Maric, and no more welcome than the first.”

“No challenge intended.” He pulled up a seat and poured himself another beer. “Just a welcome to the Isimír old-hands club. Sub drivers have been seeing Goldie out here since they retired the old Benthic Needle.”

“And you’ve come to tell me a literal fish story to pass the time until I get my privileges back?”

“Nothing but truth on sale here, my word on it.”

I spread my arms in invitation. “Spin me your tale, then.”

“It all started back in the first year, when GenTech were setting up their aquaculture labs. They’d brought a whole bunch of test organisms to see what they could get to grow in Isimír water: plankton, algae, seaweed, and most importantly, carp. Back then we had a bunch of temp bubbles set up around the shaft entrance, all lit, warmed, and conditioned with test environments. It was all going smoothly until a newbie sub-driver mistrimmed, came shallow too fast, and hit one at ten fips. Split the shell open and dumped the biologicals.” He flicked a finger and an incident report glimmered in my vision.

“Into an ocean that would kill them.”

“They only recovered 96.2% of the biomass. Check for yourself.”

“So it sank, or it drifted out of range.”

“Or…”

“Or nothing. You want to hear all the ways in which that’s impossible? They may have been salt-adapted, but not brine-adapted. There’s not enough dissolved oxygen in native water to support an Eliéran fish, and it’s cold enough to freeze them solid. And what are they going to eat? The only native life we’ve found out there is bacterial.”

“At the depths we’ve explored. For as long as we’ve been here, we’ve just been splashing in the shallows. It’s warmer down there, too, if the probes are accurate, and who knows what native life interactions there might be?”

“Speculation.”

“And yet there are the anomalous contacts.”

“Your pitch is bubbly, and I’ll tell you why. Firstly, because that contact couldn’t possibly be some lost carp, because it was damn near the size of a whale. And secondly because rules be damned, I left a wide trail of warm water and nutrients on the way back to dock in hope of native life, so if there were something out there -“

Oswyn’s voice was a hoarse whisper; his gaze fixed behind me.

“Do we have a lot more of that nutrient aboard?”

“Probably, why?”

“Look out the window. I think your friend wants more snacks.


“Where was-“

“I don’t know.”

“How did-?”

“I don’t know that either. On the other hand, being a world-ocean, Isimír has no waterfalls.

(Apology &) Glorious New Tractor Factory

First, the apology.

As you’ve noticed, this is the first thing I’ve posted this December, for which I apologize to all my readers and especially to those kind enough to pay me for posting things. To explain – well, it’s a second-order effect of our summer being-raided-by-the-Feds experience. (Details here, for anyone who didn’t get them at the time.)

You see, way back at the start of the month, we were called upon once more by the FBI, who were quite unexpectedly bringing our property back. I must reluctantly credit them for taking only four months to decide that weren’t, in fact, holding corporate networks for ransom, which by the standards of the American government is quite uncanny speed and efficiency. They even went so far as to apologize for “the inconvenience”, which was both (a) entirely unexpected and (b) possibly the most delicate euphemism imaginable for “having our goon squad smash up your house, terrorize your family, and help themselves to your stuff”. Dear friends, it was not the former which left me too slack-jawed with incoherence to make a properly sarcastic response.

As such, I have found myself spending the month going through the returned items, taking inventory and determining what will be the subject of future claims due to being obviously faulty (the two servers with large chunks of their cases broken off, for a start) or more subtly faulty now (gee, could that high abnormal sector count have anything to do with the natural antipathy of hard drives and fucking grenades), and then ensuring that they are all purified, exorcized, and mind-cleansed before being returned to use (my network does not need a case of foamy fibbie fever, thanks so much), which has taken up pretty much all of time.

And then it was Christmas, which was a timely relief from stressful reminders of bullshit.

But, yeah, that’s what I was doing this month instead of writing. Mea culpa, but at least I have some back ideas stored up for next month?


That all said, now, let’s talk about tractors. The beams, that is. This is inspired by a question a reader asked over on the Discourse:

Say, why aren’t tractors and other vector control tech used for fast atmospheric vehicles (especially aerospace cruisers)? You’ve got plenty of remass just sitting around outside, so you should only be spending fuel for the energy to run the vector control core?

But really, to answer it, I need to talk some about tractor beams in general, and so I’m going to do that.

Ultimately, tractor and pressor beams (and the hybrid torquor beams, which I’m not going to talk about extensively here but which y’all can deduce from the information on tractors and pressors) aren’t beams in the strictest sense. They’re representatives of one offshoot of vector-control technology, which is to say, non-local force transfer; the relevant engineered devices in this family acquired the moniker because an easy way to point your non-local force transfer is to heterodyne the exotic ontoeffect on top of a carrier. Hence “beam”.

(This is not the only way to do it: you can build a much simpler projector pair which, when powered on, will exert tractor/pressor effects between themselves – but only themselves. You can’t redirect the force anywhere else or otherwise point them. That makes them useless for many purposes, although if you want to build those cool-looking catamaran spaceships without physical hull connections or flying cities that don’t crush any poor schmuck who walks underneath, they’re quite useful for that.)

Rather than get into the messy internal details, I’m going to describe their effects. Basically, you can think of them as a springs-only-without-the-springs. If you lay a tractor beam on a target, it acts like a spring stretched between the projector and the target that wants to return to its natural length of zero; the further away the target gets, the harder it pulls, and ultimately it wants to pull the target right into the projector. A pressor beam, meanwhile, acts like a spring squished between the projector and the target that wants to return to its natural infinite length; the closer the target, the stronger the push, and ultimately it wants to shove the target an infinite distance away.

(Both of these phenomena are, of course, limited in range by the range of the carrier beam; if you can’t focus it on the target, you can’t project the ontotransfer. As the carrier beam disperses, the effective ontotransfer diminishes until the beam “snaps”.

Also, I am simplifying by using the projector as reference frame when I talk about the effects on the target. As with local force transfers, Newton’s Third Law is in effect: the tractor “really” pulls things together, and the pressor “really” pushes things apart. It’s just easier to talk using the projector reference frame.)

On its own, a tractor isn’t really all that useful; it has all the problems of a towrope – magnified, in space use, by the lack of a friction-providing medium – insofar as you can’t stop something moving towards you with a pull. Or, to put it simply, if you, the Enterprise, start towing a million tons of asteroid with your tractor beam, when you stop doing so, you’d better dodge before you get a million tons of assteroid, if you know what I mean.

Thus, in practice, all “tractor beams” are actually combined tractor-pressor units. The combination gives you the ability to hold things in place (along one axis): the tractor and pressor are configured so that the push-pull balances out at the intended distance. If the target moves closer, the tractor’s pull weakens and the pressor’s push strengthens, moving it back out; if the target moves further away, the pressor’s push weakens and the tractor’s pull strengthens, moving it back in.

Note that using a single tractor-pressor unit in this way only keeps the target in a fixed position along the axis of the beam. This can be useful in some scenarios, but as anyone who’s ever towed someone will know, does not stop it from fishtailing all over the place, along the other two axes in the absence of gravity. Tugs and other professional towers will thus use multiple projectors pointed at multiple tractor points in order to prevent this.

(A lot of tugs in the ‘verse have a similar layout to the nuBSG Cylon basestars, to mount three big projects at the end of the three protruding arms, thus giving them plenty of leverage and three-axis coverage.)

What’s a tractor point? Well, as I said, Newton’s Third Law applies: when you use a tractor (or a pressor), all the force you’re transmitting through it – potentially the full weight of the target – is applied to both the projector and the specific part of the target the beam is pointed at. For this reason, the projectors are generally bolted directly and heavily to the major structural members of a ship mounting them; likewise, on the other side of the equation, tractor points are heavily reinforced plates also bolted directly and heavily to the main structure, to provide places where a tractor beam can be safely pointed.

For non-barges, think of them as the equivalent to the tow hooks they fit to cars for emergencies, and important for the same reason: hulls are not designed to bear that much weight, and much like the case of the idiot who ties the tow rope around the fender, that will come right off and make a nasty mess. Hell, using weaponized tractors to rip off big strips of hull was even in vogue for a while.

Why not point the beam at the whole ship, you say?

Well, a couple of reasons. One, it’s a beam. Much like light only illuminates the surface of an object, the carrier beam only transmits the ontoeffect to the surface of the object. That’s not as bad as it sounds: obviously light doesn’t interact only with the first layer of atoms and nor does the carrier beam (another point in the design of tractor points is maximization of penetrance), but you aren’t going to force either through the entire object without deleterious effects.

And two, dispersal affects efficiency. A highly collimated carrier beam can deliver the ontoffect on target with little lossage; the wider you disperse the beam, on the other hand, the more lossage you get (the inverse square law is not your friend). The limiting case of this is the “reactionless drive” that works, essentially, by pointing this particular ontoeffect at half of the observable universe, at which point you’ve successfully achieved efficiencies that make the photon rocket look good.


So, to return at last to the question:

Say, why aren’t tractors and other vector control tech used for fast atmospheric vehicles (especially aerospace cruisers)? You’ve got plenty of remass just sitting around outside, so you should only be spending fuel for the energy to run the vector control core?

(And there is at least part of me at this point that really wants to say “the answer should now be deducible from the information given above”, but I’m not that mean, and besides, it’s Christmas.)

Well, there are some applications that are used, such as using tractor tethers to swap momentum (seen here) or turn corners more quickly by club-hauling against fixed tractor points; and other related effects, such as using the distinct paragravitational family of vector-control effects to, for example, build magnetogravitic jets with no moving parts. But as for main-drive effects:

  • You can’t push off things, because they suffer your weight. If you use a downward-pointing pressor to keep your aircar up, everything underneath you gets crushed, and very little of it was built to be run over by an aircar. This includes all aircars using lower altitudes.
  • You can’t pull on things either, because they too suffer from your weight. The club-haul grapple turn looks cool when you pull it off, but it looks less cool when you yank the coffee shop on the corner and all its patrons into the middle of the street trying it.
  • You can’t fix either of those by dispersing the beam, since the same inverse-square phenomenon that reduces the harmful effects also murders your efficiency to death.
  • Air (presumably the remass in question?) isn’t very motivatable by tractor-pressor technology, because it’s not solid and as such sucks at intercepting the carrier beam. (We’ve seen hand tractors being used in air before, I believe.) Tractor-pressors _do_ lose some efficiency in air – and create some minor draughts, if sufficiently powerful – because of the fraction of the beam that is intercepted, but much like shining a beam of light through air, it’s a tiny fraction. (Dust particles or water droplets can intercept it, though, so if you are in a filthy place or it’s foggy, be prepared to keep wiping the projector lens off.)

In short, you’re better off using other bits of the vector-control family for propulsion, like the basic mass-twiddling, and paragravitational widgetry like the magnetogravitic jet/pump.

Speaking of aerospace cruisers, though, consider the later designs where, given the translocation rings allowing easy back-and-forth transit, they simply keep most of the ship in orbit and use tractor technology to lower the entire flight deck into atmo…

Quintenary?

quaternary weaponry: Among heavy infantry, who use the M-70 Havoc combat exoskeleton, there are three official categories of weaponry:

  • primary weaponry: the heavy tribarrel, flamer, and target designator built into the exoskeleton;
  • secondary weaponry: additional hardpoint-mounted weapons provided by a modular weapons back, such as the BP-400 Conflagration;
  • tertiary weaponry: weapons carried by, rather than attached to, the exoskeleton.

Quaternary weaponry, therefore, is a term that shows up principally in aftermath reports, meaning “punched to death”. Insofar as the M-70 Havoc provides a twenty-four-fold physical strength multiplier to its wearer, the use of quaternary weaponry against armored troops, vehicles, buildings, and occasional field fortifications is far from unknown.

— Blackjacket’s Dictionary

There Have Only Ever Been Four

In 7262 and 7263, the Imperial Security Executive suffered a number of leaks of documentation referring to the establishment of a “Sixth Directorate”, including location information on forward operating bases attributed to this Sixth Directorate, and a number of sightings of Intelligence prowlers whose pennant numbers indicated association with this Directorate, and backed up by traffic analysis indicating the existence of this new intelligence organization.

The Sixth Directorate, of course, did not exist. Not, it is to be noted, in the sense that the Fifth Directorate does not exist, but in the sense that it literally did not exist save for the shadow cast by leaked documentation, dressed-up empty prefabs, and altered transponder data.

Its nonexistence, however, and the panic reactions of most of the Worlds’ intelligence agencies, did a marvelous job of distracting everyone from Second Directorate and Admiralty Intelligence operations during the 7265-7269 period of the Republican central government’s final collapse.

(A brief resurgence in Sixth Directorate sightings occurred in 7489 and 7490, which were largely dismissed as an attempt by the Executive to resurrect their old masquerade. In this case, however, ExSec had designated their Primary Working Group for dealing with the Exceedingly Hostile Takeovers the “Sixth Directorate PWG”, allowing them to operate with impunity in the former Magenite sphere of influence while attention was directed conspicuously elsewhere.)

– Imperial State Security, A Declassified History

That Is Not Dead

By dreaming dragons – the world was carved
To dreaming dragons – the world yet bends
Those dreaming dragons – all lie dead
Yet dreaming dragons – carve it still.

“Lay of the Dead Dragons”, fragment, circa -3,500

the light breathes
the shadows move and the objects don’t
are you real?
am I?

I am not.

unknown survivor of passage through the periphery of the Tortelsvard grimward, immediately before dissolving without trace

Drones can’t bleed.

Dallen Osiríän, engineer on OPERATION ABYSS DREDGE, upon being confronted with a post-dive drone that was, in fact, bleeding

You can try a reality engine against it the moment that no-one else is living on this planet, and not before.

Prefect Aldysis Paluna, Fifth Directorate

“That’s not fog. That’s reality getting fuzzy. Basically… run.”

History records that the trakelpanis trakóras amán are all dead, wiped out at the beginning of the Gloaming, three hundred thousand years ago. In this, history is correct.

The common assumption that death carries with it finality, on the other hand, is incorrect. During the Chaos that marked the end of trakelpanis trakóras amán civilization, five fell upon Eliéra: for three, those who we believe dwelt here before the Chaos, we have names. The Shaper died at her home, in the Dragon’s Nest, and in so doing created the largest of Eliéra’s grimwards, nearly twenty miles across. Of those who dwelled at the Gate of Dragons, both died elsewhere: the Architect fell in Saralainn, and the Farseer was slain abroad in far Marukamui. Of the nameless amán legendaria presume to be their attackers, one formed the first and most famous grimward in central Kaládav, brushing the valley of the Falthrang, and the other died far to the south, amid the monazite sands of Tortelsvard.

And there part of them remains.

What is a grimward? It is the mad dream of a dead dragon, no more and no less. The trakelpanis trakóras amán possessed a peerless ontotechnology, capable of commanding the forces of reality and warping it in accordance with their desires and ambitions, making, twisting, and unmaking with a thought. The amán knew few strictures or boundaries, and acknowledged fewer, the fatal flaw that led to their self-destruction as a race: how much less restrained, then, the passions flickering in their hollow bones, unconstrained by conscious will?

The land, sea, and sky for miles around where they lie, then, are regions where reality grows fuzzy: even the most mundane things found within or passing their boundary may find themselves warped into prodigies or horrors unique in the universe. Space and time themselves quail there: one may cross miles in a footstep only to find that step taking centuries, or a mile may stretch into a journey of decades which leads one out before one entered. There can be no certainty there, no prediction, and no safety. Only the whim of the grimward’s master defines the structure of being within its bounds.

Thus, these regions have been surrounded by long and high walls, posted warnings, and the strongest wardings ancient thaumaturgy or modern technology could devise since early in the Gloaming, long before there was an Empire, layers built on layers and warnings inscribed over earlier warnings, with reality engines humming where once beacon-fires burned.

They may be the greatest dangers we have found in this universe.


WARNING
EXTREME ONTOLOGICAL DANGER

DO NOT TRANSGRESS THE BOUNDARY OF THE GRIMWARD UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
DEATH IS PREFERABLE TO THAT WHICH LIES WITHIN.

DO NOT APPROACH THE GRIMWARD.
DO NOT CONTEMPLATE THE GRIMWARD.
DO NOT PROVOKE THE GRIMWARD.

BY ORDER

IMPERIAL RANGERS, SUPRADEATH CONTAINMENT SECTION

Their Shafts Benight The Air

The Daalípel (“Whiteout”) is the first entry of Eye-in-the-Flame Arms, ICC into the military vehicle market. An evolution of the classic MLRS platform, Daalípel has a variety of advanced design features.

The vehicle itself resembles a large pillbug, with rows of individual rocket launchers and laser point-defense units arranged behind the defensive armor plates leading each of the Daalípel‘s nested segments. However, the resemblance extends beyond appearance; while the Daalípel moves only slowly using its conventional rollagon drivetrain, the vehicle, like its inspiration, can conglobulate – docking nose to tail and forming an gyrostabilized ellipsoidal wheel. In this mode, while the rocket launchers cannot be used, the armor offers maximal protection and the rollagons can be used to drive the entire vehicle at high speed for rapid deployment scenarios.

The weapons systems of the Daalípel are an equal advance over its predecessors. While most MLRS systems (such as the Imperial Legions’ venerable HVR-17 Burnscar and HVR-19 Glasslake systems) are configured to fire unguided or minimally guided rockets in order to either blanket an area with submunitions (the time-honored “erase this map square” option) or inflict heavy damage to a single target, or small group of targets, the Daalípel incorporates a high-factor tactical warmind and wideband multiplexed control channels, enabling it to simultaneously fire hundreds of smart, seeker minimissiles, each in turn equipped with multiple guided submunitions.

In summary, the Daalípel can, with a single fire mission into a densely crowded target zone, take out the enemy with astounding precision while causing little or no damage to civilian property or infrastructure. One demonstration event showed this capability being used to assassinate a target demographic entire within a crowd without causing significant harm to anyone else, a function valuable for eliminating hostage-takers, occupation forces, or users of sophont shields.

Similarly to the HVR-19 Glasslake – although significantly more difficult to achieve due to the greater complexity involved – the Daalípel is designed to manufacture its own ammunition from onboard stocks, field replenishment, or even scavenging, with advanced onboard fabbers capable of restocking an empty Daalípel fully in a matter of hours under typical conditions.

While still being evaluated by the Imperial Military Service and little-purchased elsewhere, modified Daalípels have proven popular in a number of roles: they have been used for the rapid deployment of search-and-rescue minibots across areas afflicted by disaster; to spread mesh network nodes across silent regions; for emergency application of medical solutions; and to distribute self-expanding supply packages to those in need.

The response of the Directorate to this development is, as yet, unknown.

– Destruction Review editorial

Si Vis Pacem, Pacem Fac

They call me a warmonger? Then they are correct. Pacifism in the face of evil is concession to Entropy; therefore I mong war. Therefore it is the policy of this branch to mong war. And therefore we intend to go on monging war until the last tyrant in the universe has been strangled with his own entrails.

…assuming he has entrails.

Senator Akisko Deteis, Imperium Bellipotent, League Systems Newsbytes interview

Dancing With Myself

CASE MIDWINTER MIRROR

SECRET (GREEN) / MIDWINTER MIRROR

TRACKED-COPY DOCUMENT
NOFORN

Proceed (+/-)? +

EXECUTION:

STELLAR COUNCIL ONLY
TRANSCENDENT APPROVAL ONLY

SUMMARY:

All MIDWINTER MIRROR related material applies to situations in which situations unknown, possibly including but not limited to worldline forking, temporal bifurcation, probability actualization, or extrauniversal phenomena, lead to the Empire being confronted with a duplicate of itself.

Initially, an attempt to confirm (with high probability a mutual attempt, since we may reasonably presume Empire-prime to be executing its own MIDWINTER MIRROR doctrine) alignment, and in the case of δ-imperfect alignment to achieve a mutually beneficial median must be made, as documented in the subfile MIDWINTER MIRROR PARALLEL.

If this has a positive result, which will necessarily be the case if Empire-prime is a true instantiation of the Imperial entelechy, proceed initially to determine Imperial and Prime Function priority using the below-documented random procedure, followed by complete organizational and logistic merge under priority command following the protocols outlined in MIDWINTER MIRROR RACEMATES.

If, however, Empire-prime does not possess an identical procedure for MIDWINTER MIRROR, reference should be made to procedures classified under MIDWINTER MIRROR SCISSOR. Developed in accordance with current research into acausal trade between agents operating according to δ-identical ethics, MIDWINTER MIRROR SCISSOR outlines a process for determining which MIDWINTER MIRROR process should be followed to which both parties must necessarily agree.

If this proves not to be the case, it is to be assumed that the Empires party to case MIDWINTER MIRROR are not operating according to δ-identical ethics, and a second MIDWINTER MIRROR PARALLEL process should be attempted.

If alignment proves impossible, initiate CASE SKYSHOCK FUNHOUSE.

Proceed (+/-)?

Upon The Sand

RIANTAR VENTURES TICKET-TRACKING: CASE 7918/314995

From: Facilities Manager, Dendra Residential Tower, Meridian Secundus

Subject: Contemplative CultiVator™ garden maintenance system
Version: 41.2.90.71340
Issue: Robot no longer functions, claiming enlightenment
Priority: Normal

We purchased one of your automatic gardening systems some years ago to take care of the sand garden in the central plaza of the Tower. After several years of satisfactory service, the central controller claims to have reached enlightenment (according to remaining system log files), and its operating system appears to have been radically rewritten. Our attempts to perform a reload and reset have not been successful.

Request repair or replacement.

Resolution: WILL NOT FIX – WORKING AS DESIGNED

Note to Field Service:

Perform check that Brightline Code engram has not been removed from system.

Note to Customer:

The point and purpose of raking a contemplative sand garden is to perform a meditative exercise with the goal of reaching enlightenment.

We are gratified that our product has done so.

You should be gratified that your garden, too, has fulfilled its telos.

The Complexity of Complexity

In the first volume of our work, reason and natural philosophy have appropriately laid waste to the claims of imbeciles and nihilists by virtue of an inarguable demonstration that the most fundamental rules of ethics are implicit in the very nature of ethical actors themselves, insofar as an examination the ontology of volition itself clearly carries forth these implications.

In the following chapters of this volume, we shall construct a further objective extension to these core ethical principles by addressing the implications of information theory and the study of complexity. In particular, we shall demonstrate the principle that more complex systems are superior to simpler systems – or, rather, that systems whose dynamic properties require more bits to describe are more meritorious, thus more deserving of existence, than those describable in fewer bits.

Destruction, in this paradigm, goes against ethics because it randomizes the system destroyed. (Although a random system requires many bits to describe precisely, its dynamic behavior can be simply expressed as “random”.) Final erasure of information is, of course, worst of all.

To such extent as this may seem simple, it is not. While it is trivial to assert the superior merit, in isolation, of a porcelain tea-set over a pile of fragments, consider, for example, the question of homogeneity. Naively, one might consider a large homogeneous system of little worth, inasmuch as it takes little more information to describe a thousand identical items than a single one, and the resources consumed by the others could be used to instantiate diversity; but this ignores the question of the complexity of their interactions in the larger system – from which the great value we place on ecosystems, which contain many near-identical components, is derived.

In theory, while we speak airily of a system, in reality, there can be no such isolation. Any given situation is inhabited by a complex fractal embedding of multiple conceptual systems on many scales, all of which have their own informational content and complexity, and all of which must be taken into account.

– Ianna Quendocius, Scientific Ethics, introduction to Vol. II

Voyage to Neverwhere

The Greatest Mission
That Never Was!

Brought to you by Parahistoricity, ICC and its associates in the Sodality for Imaginative Parachronism, an unforgettable adventure in space colonization.

From The Creators Of
After Eclipse™, Kanatai Ascendant™
Octopodotopia™ and Crystal Space™

In their latest alternate-history extravaganza, Parahistoricity will recreate the experience of travelling to another world by subluminal generation ship, possibly the most famous road not taken in Imperial history.

From History’s Most Famous Cageworks
And The First Family of Interstellar Travel
Comes The Ship They Did Not Build

Even now, CMS Dream of Many is under construction at the same cageworks above Talentar responsible for the Deep Star sleeper ships, under the supervision of Quandry Lyris, herself a renowned celestime architect and granddaughter of the original designer, Kasjan Lyris. When complete, and her passengers have embarked, she will fly an extended 36-month loop out of and back into the home system to simulate the full interstellar voyage.

A Starship of Dreams
On a Voyage of Eternity

Except for emergencies, the caverns within Dream of Many – carved as it is from the asteroid 1149 Tíranjan – will serve as an almost completely isolated environment in deep space, as the original ship would have been. Once the passengers have embarked, they will take on the role – with oneiroverse-style gnostic overlays to maintain authenticity – of the initial generation setting out to colonize a new world. Eighteen months later, after a celebration and review for turnover, they will assume the new personae of the final generation of colonists, and will guide the ship in to orbit around, and landing on, their “new” world.

The Experience of Two Lifetimes

Tours of the completed segments of the starship are open now. The first departure of the generation ship itself will take place on Midyear’s Day, 7325.

Book Now
For The Original
Out-Of-This-World
(And Into Another)
Voyage
!

Eldraeic Words of the Day

grangár: to consume, to ingest, (alternative) to eat

glágrang: intemperate consumption, gluttony

alathglágrang: (“knowledge-gluttony”) intemperate absorption of knowledge; essentially, the tendency to disappear into the library and not be seen until days later, passed out on a heap of books, having succumbed to the irresistible temptation of so much knowledge collected in one place.

alathglágrandár: one who indulges in, or is prone to indulge in, an alathglágrang. In theory, a pejorative term; in practice, no-one acculturated to Imperial norms will think too badly of an alathglágrandár in general, only inasmuch as doing so can on occasion be a damned inconvenience.


súnashír: (from súnar “brilliant, shining” + sashír “glamor”) awesome

andrakith: (from andra “fire” + ankithel “emotion, passion”) inspired; possessed by inspiration

trasúnashír anandrakithef: the state or quality of inspiring others with the aura of one’s personal reputation, deeds, qalasír, etc.; inf. “awesomeness”

argylayékith: (from argyr “merit” + layés “longing” + ankithel “emotion, passion”) a manner of carrying oneself such that other people wish to be more like one; inf. “coolness”

dísgalith: (from dísil “difficulty, challenge to be overcome” + galith “challenger; to attempt”) daring

traqanédaëljír dísgalithef: (from qané “a little” + daëlin “probability” + jír “choice” and dísgalith “daring”) willingness to attempt deeds that few would consider; inf. “radicalness”

It’s Not Quite a Smeerp

So, some worldbuilding notes on the nature of greenlife…

It’s easy to make the assumption that it’s just Earth-life in every way, especially since I tend to use the Earth-parallel names for things to create a sense of familiarity.

But a thing worth bearing in mind is that the Precursor genetic-distinctiveness harvesting vessel Incomprehensible Draconic Screeching collected its samples of Earthly life, the ancestors of Eliéra greenlife, around 360,000 years before present time.

This is, in short, before the domestication of anything, plant or animal, a process which has a lot to do with how modern plants and animals appear and, in some cases, behave. So while greenlife is from the same biochemical family as Earth life, it’s been through various different paths of descent that often result in a rather different organism.

Let’s talk some examples, starting with plants.

  • The múleth, or apple, is actually one of the least odd-looking cases, even though it wasn’t domesticated here on Earth until 10,000-4,000 years ago, mostly because it was being domesticated for many of the same traits. Thousands of cultivars exist; it’s just that none of them are the same cultivars. The most obvious thing, as you would see upon picking up a children’s book which includes the equivalent of “A is for Apple”, is that the modal Eliéran apple isn’t green; it’s golden. Green apples are a small minority among the cultivars. There are also more than a few purple apples, which while they do exist on Earth, are confined to one rare cultivar from a particular Tibetan region.

  • Oranges, on the other hand, don’t exist. The sweet orange as we know it today is the product of a deliberate post-domestication cross between the mandarin and the pomelo, and doesn’t show up in our history until a couple of hundred BCE, in China, not making it to Europe until well into the common era. Naturally, they have a whole lot of fruits bred out of the primordial citrus they did have (given that the genus Citrus is infamous for its hybridization), but while there is a rubescent citrus serelléth (“bloodfruit”) that is very popular in the fruit dishes and juicers of the Empire, it’s not a direct counterpart of our sweet orange. The closest direct counterpart you’ll find is something like a pinkish mandarin.

  • And then to grains. There is corn (by which I mean maize), but it wasn’t domesticated until around 10,000 years ago in Mexico, and even then, it looked nothing like the fat yellow kernels found in your local grocery store, which are entirely an agroindustrial creation. While the maize that was developed on Eliéra by the Aictectep shares some of the traits of our cultigen – insofar as those traits were necessary steps in turning it into a useful food plant for a civilization – the red-and-purple spatter-patterns, etc., of the primordial teosintes it was developed out of are retained in the Eliéran version, for example. (You can see a particularly good example on the planetary crest of Ponratectep (Talie Marches), being rather more prominent than even that world’s famed fire opals.)

  • One of the most immediately recognizable grains to our eyes would be rice, among other grain crops. It is, after all, amazing what grass varietals can do, and how robust they are. It is not as close a cousin to Oryza sativa as it might appear – and it is often rather more colorful that we could expect, compared to most of our commercial rice – but it’s very close to the same grain.

    What we might not expect as the number of cultivars of an offshoot species which has developed salt sensitivity to the point where it can be grown in, and even prefers, coastal salt marshlands and even floating seawater paddies.

    (And, of course, in very familiar-looking grasses, there is dyanail (“bamboo”), although the number of cultivars and engineered varieties in the modern era would be quite something to see.)

  • Coffee, on the other hand, does not exist either (it doesn’t appear in Earth records until the 15th century or thereabouts, unless you credit the 9th-century attribution of the legend about Kaldi’s buzzed goats). Esklav, while drunk like coffee, isn’t coffee; while Esklavea sendaren probably does share part of its ancestry with Coffea spp., they’ve both diverged a lot since then. It also has qualities that suggest a partial ancestry descending from Theobroma, but since the closest relation that bears to Coffea is that they’re both eudicots, it suggests someone’s been mucking about in their genomes along the way, and that’s not just the radioactivity.

    At least some cousin of Theobroma cacao managed to make it through close enough to be recognizable, even if the product doesn’t taste quite the same and is somewhat lighter in color.

  • And now to animals. Let’s start with man’s best friend, the dog, who might kind of be the same as eldrae’s best friend, the bandal.

    Well, sort of. See, the dog was domesticated in human history no later than around 15,000 years before present, but no earlier than 40,000-30,000 years before present, which is the point, we believe, at which they diverge from their now-extinct wolf ancestor (not the grey wolf). This ancestor doesn’t turn up in the record until around 129,000 years before present, which is still a good long way from 360,000 years.

    So while Bandal vocíëvis is definitely a wolf-like canine (family canidae, subfamily caninae, tribe canini, and probably-mostly subtribe canina, despite some likely admixture of Aenocyon dirus), you could make some interesting arguments as to whether it is or is not technically a member of the genus Canis. (It probably is; after all, Canis spp. were around well before the genetic harvest, and it is probably interfertile with C. familiaris, C. lupus, C. latrans, etc., because the Canis species are like that.

    In any case, they’re very good boys. Yes, they are. Even if they’re second or third cousins a couple of times removed.

  • “You think that’s cow you’re eating now?”

    If you order a steak *there*, you’re getting quebérúr. Now, quebérúr is delicious red meat, to be sure, but it’s doesn’t come from the domestic cow (first seen in the form of the zebu, maybe 8,000 years before present), or indeed from anything in the genus Bos, although it is one of the Bovina. The closest relative of the quebérúr on earth is its distant cousin the bison (Bison bison), as you might be able to tell from its distinctive humped back, but their common ancestor is back in the now-extinct megafauna. It is, in fact, a bloody big piece of pot-roast on the hoof, given that the typical quebérúr is around 3,500 lbs and 7′ at the shoulder; also known for their sharp, downturned horns, and thick, shaggy – like Highland cattle – black coats.

    Guess the radiation was good for them, huh?

  • The sevesúr isn’t exactly a chicken (domesticated about 8,000 years ago), either. Or a turkey. Or even a guineafowl. They’re certainly order Galliformes, superfamily Phasianoidea, and maybe even family Phasianidae, but further taxonomy is not available at this time.

  • And finally, we get to horses (domesticated on Earth on the Central Asian steppe, about 5,000 years ago). Well, sad as it is to say for would-be equestrians, none of the common riding animals on Eliéra are equines, or indeed greenlife. There are the cerrúr and the certárúr, both of which are bluelife hexapeds. The latter is a rather dull, plodding creature which one might consider analogous to a bluelife ox – mostly kept as heavyweight draft animals, and for leather and parchment, which can be repeatedly harvested from the skins they shed in spring; the former, while a intelligent and agile riding animal, has more in common morphologically with some of the larger species of deer than with horses, and is not terribly suited for any but light draft work.

So, this has been your quick trip into just how variant Earth-descended life got when you take it early and abandon it on another planet for a few millennia. Hope it was a somewhat interesting peek into the process of making exotic worlds a little more exotic.

Implying The Existence of a Thesis Attack

“So how did you get that scar, anyway? You never told me.”

“I told you I undertook advanced studies at the Inperial War College. I acquired it during my thesis defense.”

“How do you get that at a viva voce?”

“Professor-Brigadier Oríänoclés didn’t believe in half-assing hypotheses. His contribution was a short battalion of Longeye laser tanks.”

Meta: State of the Writer

So, I won’t reiterate the sad and rage-inducing story of the past few weeks, since I’ve done that in enough places and for enough times already. If by chance you haven’t seen it, you can find it on the Discourse here, forwarded along from Patreon.

Anyway.

While we don’t expect to get any of our stuff back (a) soon, or (b) in working order, good fortune and the generosity of kind friends has allowed us to start getting the most important parts of our network back up and running, and we’ve managed to restore our offsite backups from Azure, so that’s the main thing, although since full cleanup (“…I have my notes, now I just need to install the nodes to host the Kubernetes cluster to run the wiki stack to display them…”) not to mention fixing the damage done to house and home will still take some time, it’s not back to normal operation yet. But since I am posting some ‘verse-related things already, you can see that we’re a lot closer.

(On a related note, I don’t yet have posting access to the Discourse, since I was using 2FA with it and both my security key and the hardware running my authenticator app were among the items we lost. I’m talking to the hosters about it, and hope to have that back soon, but in the meantime I ask for your patience with regard to responding to your posts.)


On another note, as it happened, when the Feds so rudely interrupted our normal television-watching cycle, we were in the middle of Star Trek: Discovery, and not having our media server serving media any more, decided that the easiest thing to do was to switch to just marathoning that.

This was a good decision.

I’m going to embrace the controversy here, and take a moment to say that Discovery is probably the best Star Trek we’ve seen, bar none. In particular, from where we were – the very end of season two, on through seasons three and four – was exactly what I needed to be watching in our time of crisis and trial. Because when your real-life party has just been crashed by what amount to exemplars of the opposite, hope, and faith, and people finding the inner strength to rise above and be the best versions of themselves, and successfully navigating your way through – and finding the path to ending – the dark times surrounding you through your ideals and principles, and not by immediately tossing them aside like all too much so-called “gritty” fiction has its characters doing, is just everything you need.

In fact, one of the major reasons I call it the best of the Treks is because it is precisely when the world has gone to shit around you that it is both hardest and most important to cling to those ideals and principles that define you, and your response to that challenge that most defines you, and it does a brilliant job of showing it.

(Also Stamets and Culber and the rest of their found family are absolutely goddamned adorable and I will brook no dissent on this. But I digress.)

tl;dr I approve this. Add it to the semi-canonical Media Of Which The Imperials Would Approve list, too.

Also, just to bring some canon into this post:

“If there is to be a rapprochement between us and the Republic – and such a thing is, I think we must all concede, profoundly to be desired – I can think of no better basis than this: that they, like we, are a civilization that holds principle above expedience.”

– Talaïs Oravedra, Imperial Diplomatic Corps

On a final thought, before I move along; back at the start of the month, I had a conversation on Twitter with one of y’all (readers, that is) concerning a resisted urge to write a fanfic where they tried to pull that kind of no-knock raid crap on an Imperial citizen-shareholder. (“Because it would probably star a Sargas, and that’s not *quite* called for, objectively speaking.”)

To which I had to admit to having restrained a few vengeful thoughts along such lines myself, authorially. (It would be cathartic, at least, although also almost certainly dreadful crap which I would burn before anyone else got to read it.) It would also be very easy to conceive. Not like you’d even need a Sargas.

I mean, you probably can’t throw a rock without finding someone who thinks using an extra microgram of antimatter to power her bug-out transmitter is about right for visiting some places, and using terror tactics on someone with a spite charge that size is its own punishment.

I mean, I started writing for various reasons, but a big one is that I wanted to inspire people. I wanted to show them a realized dream of a better world, one where people listen to their better angels, not their worst impulses.

I can’t as yet. It’s too close.

But I want to write the story of how this sort of thing would be handled there. Where enforcing the law is a sacred trust that demands the nation’s best. Where everyone is treated with honor, and respect, and dignity, and kindness.

Even the very worst. Just because it’s the right thing to do, the civilized, decent, good thing to do, at whatever cost. In a world, in short, in which listening to our worst selves and calling it pragmatism hasn’t turned protection and service into a goddamned punchline.