Epistolary Experiment (30/30): Epilogue

FILISSIN, ÓDELN – The last ship of identified Republic sympathizers left Ódeln this morning on its way to Márch, under the supervision of local consular authorities from a number of polities, and at the same time, as tensions cool, the internment of the local kalatri has been terminated – although they have little to return to but now-destroyed homes and businesses. Many intend to seek transport off-world at the first opportunity.

The Temporary Tyrancy, the provisional governance of this freesoil world, has announced its intention to dissolve in one year, “subject to the resolution of the state of emergency now pertaining”. Many of Ódeln’s residents seem happy with this news, but a strong minority are unhappy with this qualification, expressing deep concern that the Tyrancy may intend to effect a transition into a permanent governance. A movement is growing among this minority to call upon Interstellar Interceders, FK, to oversee and, if necessary, enforce this dissolution.

The management of Interstellar Interceders were unavailable for comment.

– the Accord Journal


From: Sinith Arání, VP Public Relations
To: All Contractees
Subject: Thanks and Congratulations

Well done, people, well done!

Thanks to your work, the company’s come through this crisis with name unstained and flying colors. I could not be more proud of our achievement, or of all of you.

I’m also delighted to be able to tell you that the Directorate has approved a performance bonus of Es. 1,150,500,000 for our achievement, and in view of the excellent joint performance you’ve all turned in, I’ve elected to divide that equally among the department (i.e., just over a million for each of you receiving this message).

For both myself and Ring Dynamics, congratulations, and thank you again.

Sinith

– from the Ring Dynamics, ICC, internal e-mail archive


VENERI (Osis Deep) – The Iltine Union regrets to report that the former Minister of Pacification, Kadrish har-Lan Sarkdor, his wife, and two of his three children, were killed yesterday when their groundcar was struck by an express maglev when leaving the capital. Investigations continue, but while suspicion must fall, in the current climate of interstellar tension, upon offworlder terrorists and other factions opposed to the Blessed Union, it is believed that this was no more than a tragic accident.

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


From: Executor Major Garren Melithos, Uulder Shore Constellation Adhoc, Imperial Exploratory Service
To: Cmdr. Leda Estenv, Flight Administrator, CS Iron Dragon
Subject: Checking up

Your Mr. Sarathos is shaping up as well as can be expected here after his transfer. Per his request, we put him to work on the hush-hush clean-up of Ekritat’s atmosphere after his oops, and he’s doing a good job there so far. Chastened, but competent.

My colleagues have some similar projects lined up for him after this. If all goes well, we might just manage to salvage him and his career.

-gm


STATUS REPORT: FORMER PEOPLE’S STATE OF BANTRAL WORLDS: SUMMARY
SECOND DIRECTORATE INTERNAL
(SUITABLE FOR TRANSPARENCY RELEASE)

ALLIAC (CORDAI GAP): Alliac’s governing committee has elected union with the Equality Concord. Concord representatives have already arrived on-planet and have begun mass implantation. Agents withdrawn.

DINC (CORDAI GAP): New socionovist governance has achieved stable control of the planet, and lays claim to all the former territory of the People’s State of Bantral, a claim rejected by the other Bantine worlds. Governance has limited interstellar capability at present, but is attempting to increase its military production capacity.

GORBIS (CORDAI GAP): Gorbis is presently dominated by a coalition of revolutionary groups controlling leftover Republic basing infrastructure and is evolving towards a syndic-managed anarchy; the governing coalition provides free cornucopia access to all who agree to their syndicratic pact. Consensus recommends cautious support and advisory role, and potentially inclusion in the Accords as a freesoil world.

ONCBIS (CORDAI GAP): Oncbis remains unstable, the planet having been hit hard by unlawful vultures and salvagers. Economic productivity has been severely damaged by loss of capital technology. Local militias dominate.

RRENAC (CORDAI GAP): Rrenac has collapsed entirely into warwilds. Economic productivity is zero. Interstellar capability is marginal and dropping. Habitats in the system are dying or dead. General war continues unabated. Consensus recommends placing the system under interdict.

TURBIS (CORDAI GAP): Turbis remains divided between self-governing local militias and a governance leaning towards the Equality Concord. Concord missionaries are presently attempting to convert the militias peacefully but the situation remains in balance. Consensus recommends intervention.


Sarq Iqador, the Voniensa Republic’s last governor of Vontok II, watched from the window of his office as the last of the Empire’s transports pointed its nose skyward and departed his planet.

“Finally! Now we can start putting things back in order.”

“In order?”

“We may no longer be part of the Republic, Tiesh, but we will not abandon its principles. We will start by re-indexing and securing our networks, closing the starport to smugglers, and getting all the technological leftovers of the occupation rounded up and placed under proper –“

“You may not have noticed, Governor, but the agreement we signed guarantees that we will permit the free flow of information and free trade.”

“The Republic signed that when it threw us away. We didn’t. I don’t consider it binding.”

“The Republic had the authority to sign it at the time. And are you seriously suggesting that we break our agreement with the people who just handed our entire polity its ass? Because they probably consider it binding.”

“We must clean up our own house. We are kalatri, and we will maintain –“

“You may also not have noticed, Governor, but there is enough ‘prohibited technology’ out there to keep us cleaning up for years, and at least half, maybe two-thirds, of the people on the planet are using it even if they don’t agree with it. And the ideas behind it are out there, saved in ‘qar only knows how many personal databases, and with that treaty, we can’t keep them out even if we wanted to. Might I also suggest that a much more productive line of thinking, from your perspective, would be your own legitimacy?”

“I am the appointed governor of this planet!”

“Appointed by the Republic, you mean? Which, as you pointed out, no longer owns the sovereignty of this planet. It’s a new age, Governor, and you’ll need to get used to that. Meanwhile, here’s the resignation from your administration I came to give you. I’ll see you in the election.”

“Election! What election!?”


From: Sarine min Gethill, Imperial Starport Authority
To: Phoebe Dracotarthius, Sheriff, Nightside Rock
Cc: Galin Tarquelios, Port Director, Nightside Rock
Subject: Facility Reactivation

Per standard protocol, in light of the addition of twenty-six worlds to the Accord to spinward of your facility, and in anticipation of the consequent increase in passenger and trade volumes to this region, the ISA Volume Advisory Adhoc has concluded that your star station facilities should be reactivated to Class II, pending Class III, status. As such, equipment and staffing to suit these levels (details enclosed) have been dispatched to you to enable this.

Please advise on readiness to receive and any special requirements soonest.

– SmG

(encs.)

VERBAL ANNOTATION BY RECIPIENT:

Oh, starshit, plague, and corruption.


Council of the Republic
Vonis Prime

PRESIDENT: Where is the Propulsion Group representative?

SECRETARY: We haven’t been able to find him, sir.

DEFENSIVE MINISTER: The entire Propulsion Group is missing from their offices. We haven’t been able to contact, or track, any of them. I’m having their stations searched by Fleet Security.

PRESIDENT: Damn it! Put the Exception Management Group on this. I want them tracked down and made to answer for this debacle!

[pause]

Well, we’ll have to handle the situation as best we can. What is the status of the Fleet?

DEFENSIVE MINISTER: We’ve lost approximately half of our trailing forces, including their logistics train, at a very unfavorable exchange ratio. We’ll get some of the crews back in prisoner transfers, but space battles don’t leave many survivors. We are, let me emphasize, very lucky that the Worlds weren’t interested in pursuing the war any further. As it stands, the Fleet can’t defend our trailing border. We need an immediate rebuilding program, and a drastic one.

PRESIDENT: Chancellor?

FINANCE MINISTER: Out of the question. Out of the question. Between the reparations we now have to pay in goods or out of our external currency reserves, and ongoing internal expenses, there’s no room to fit even a modest rebuilding program in the budget – unless we hike the tithes on the Shell Colonies again, if they wouldn’t take advantage of the situation to break away. And that’s assuming that our present economy is sustainable.

DEFENSIVE MINISTER: Without it —

PRESIDENT: What do you mean, ‘assuming our present economy is sustainable’?

FINANCE MINISTER: The Propulsion Group operated all the stargates in the Republic. They seem to have disappeared. No stargates, no interstellar travel, which means no interstellar economy – and no Republic.

TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: He’s right, Mr. President. The stargates are operating for now, but we have no way of knowing how long that will continue without—Well, unless something useful is found when Fleet Security searches their stations, we may lose our stargate plexus at any time.

PRESIDENT: What?

TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: At the foundation of the Republic, we agreed to let the Group handle the necessity of stargate technology at arms-length, for what seemed like good reasons at the time. But that means we don’t have an understanding of it now.

FINANCE MINISTER: So what do you propose to do about it?

TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: I don’t think we have any choice but to accept the Ring Dynamics proposal to take over construction and maintenance of our stargates, effective immediately.

DEFENSIVE MINISTER: Unacceptable! The security risks alone –

FINANCE MINISTER: Do you have any idea what that would cost –

TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: Compared to not having a polity or its economy, it’s risk-free and cheap.

[pause]

We may also want to consider accepting the Probable Technologies offer to examine the Group’s “relics”, especially if they are what they say they are.

PRESIDENT: No. That is unacceptable. It will be bad enough if we have to use an outside corporation to provide us with interstellar transportation – which decision we will defer until Fleet Security has had a chance to report and the Science Division have examined one of our existing stargates – but I cannot, and will not, go down in history as conceding our one possible advantage to our adversaries.

[pause]

Is the Fleet capable of keeping order in the Shell?


FROM: BORDERLINE DEFENSE MATRIX (107 – CHARACH)
RECEIVED AT: BORDERLINE DEFENSE MATRIX COMMAND

*** ROUTINE
*** FLEET CONFIDENTIAL E256
*** SITREP

SITUATION NOMINAL. NO ANOMALIES DETECTED.

AUTHENTICATION HATRACK RATCATCHER GALLANT FLARE BISCUIT LINELAYER / 0xCEEE8273B231AA04

ENDS.

Epistolary Experiment (29/30)

“EILAN (CRIMSON EXPANSE) – The Third Border War, or the Core War, is finally over. In amendments to the Republic-Worlds Demarcation Convention, signed today by Minister Plenipotentiary Elyse Phylarius for the Empire and the Worlds, and Admiral Irjen Tarvil for the Voniensa Republic, the belligerents agreed to a cease-fire in place, followed in the coming weeks by a staged withdrawal to the military status quo ante bellum.”

“In the settlement, the Republic has agreed to concede the twenty-six worlds forming the trailing half of the Vonis 31 sector to the Associated Worlds, as a new constellation as yet undesignated. The primary Republic colonies at Vontok II, Vilin IV, and Tinesh III are to be granted their independence and offered conditional membership in the Accord; another five colony worlds, not self-supporting, will be assigned freesoil status. By agreement, the four Republic Protectorate worlds in the region will be assigned the status of protected planets under the Accord; in exchange for this concession, the Republic will grant all Worlds-registered vessels free port access in Uinul System, at the coreward-spinward edge of the concession area.”

“Of other viable planets in the region, the Empire, Quave Republic, and Múrast Symbiosis have claimed one each, and others will be made available according to normal Accord procedures. Former Republic governance assets including the repair yards at Manar, the fuel depot at Dantry, and the deep-space logistics station at Barresh are currently in Accord trust and will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.”

“The Republic has also agreed to pay reparations of hard goods and resources, with a value estimated at 11.3 trillion exvals, The largest part of this is intended for the Qiraf Assembly, whose territorial volumes were hardest hit by the war, but sums have also been designated for affected freesoil worlds and single-system polities, for affected corporate entities, for the war expenses of the combatants, and for loss of revenues caused by disruptions in trade and communications.”

– from the Objective Eye newsfeed


“Admiral? Admiral Tarvil?”

“Yes?” The kalatri Admiral turned, then clamped down on the double-clench of his stomach, first at the prospect of another discussion today with an eldrae, then again on observing the platinum hair and slate-gray complexion of their four-armed spacer clade.

She floated up to him, proffering a scroll-case. “Sinith Arání, VP Public Relations, Ring Dynamics. Our Directorate has a proposal for you, concerning the maintenance and expansion of your stargate network.”

“What? Ah – we’ve just come out of a war. Why are you making us this offer now?

“Why not?” She shrugged with all her arms. “You have a need, and we can satisfy it. Trade makes peace, and peace makes plenty. It’s just good business.”

Sinith looked at him assessingly. “Also, if I may speak frankly, among the things this war should have demonstrated to you is our commitment to the freedom of transit for all our customers. We live or die by our contracts. If there’s anything behind the rumors surrounding your Propulsion Group, I should think that alone would be worth something to you.”

– from the Ring Dynamics due-diligence chaperone-log archive


From: Kenth min Gogille, Director of Research & Prospecting, Probable Technologies
To: Adm. Irjen Tarvil
Subject: Opportunities

Admiral,

I represent Probable Technologies, ICC.

You’ve heard of us, I’m sure. We’re the ruthless apotheosians’ ruthless apotheosians. We’re vultures. We pick through the ruins of dead civilizations and eschatological events for any technology or knowledge we can recover, then turn what we can into licensable intellectual property (and publish the rest). And, if you listen to most of our critics, we’re a disgrace to the good name of archaeology, albeit a very successful and academically respected disgrace.

And I’m contacting you because, according to their transparency releases, our intelligence community believes that your government is sitting on the ruins of a dead Power, and deriving your stargate technology from it. In which case, you need us.

You may not like us. Hell’s spores, it’s a damn certainty you don’t. But we are the acknowledged experts in this area, and in particular those parts of this area covering “making relics into sustainable technology” and “not getting your civilization eaten by the resurrection seeds of ancient, demonic AI gods while doing it”.

I won’t tell you that we won’t demand a share of the rights, because we will. I won’t tell you that we won’t share information with the Imperial intelligence community, either, because you wouldn’t believe it anyway, and we probably will. But I will tell you that that’s a small price to pay for the benefit that comes with understanding your technologies, and not making the sort of absolute wretched hash that your Propulsion Group, or whoever, made of the relic currently floating around Karmál System in several pieces, and all of its potential.

-KmG


Consolidated Mutual Mitigation & Surety today announced a staged normalization of shipping and property insurance rates across all affected areas of the Worlds at pre-war levels, in response to the news of the peace agreement concluded on Eilan (Crimson Expanses) earlier this week.

In other responses, Gilea & Co. and Prosperity Nexus announced an advance-loan program for corporations and governances expecting to receive reparations from the Republic, prompting similar action to be taken by several consortia of commercial banks. Meanwhile, Probable Technologies, ICC, has authorized a number of freelance prospecting expeditions into the region opened up by the border adjustments, and a number of colonial outfitters and prefab manufacturers have also reported favorable prospects.

The market as a whole responded favorably to this news, if in a subdued manner, closing up 113 basis points on its primary index.

– the Seranth Times, financial section

Epistolary Experiment (28/30)

Republic-Worlds Peace Conference
Synchel ab Kamisir Negotation Center
Eilan (Crimson Expanse)

“You’re stalling.”

This statement from Elyse Phylarius, the senior Imperial representative at the conference, fell flatly across the conference table.

“I’m sure we don’t know what you -”

“Of course you do not, gentlesophs,” she continued. “You would have no reason to stall for time to allow your deep-penetration fleet to reach its objective, naturally. But you also might have no knowledge of the current status of that fleet, given the, ah, difficulties the Silicate Tree has been introducing into your communications recently. Permit me to enlighten you on that point.”

She reached into her briefcase, and tossed an object onto the table with a metallic clank. The kalatri representatives stared at it in silence.

The object had once been a brass plaque, now charred, space-burnt, and warped by intense heat, but despite its battered surface, the bold characters could still be made out:

VNS President Siroshin
RCC-1497

“This arrived earlier today by fast courier from the Core. Your deep-penetration fleet, I regret to say, no longer exists. You’ll want to provenance that, of course, and no doubt consult with your goverment. Shall we reconvene in, let us say, two hours?”


“They’re lying. They’ve got to be lying.”

“Then how did they get Siroshin‘s commissioning plaque? Which is genuine. The embedded codes check out. The trace alloys check out.” Admiral Tarvil glared at the younger kalatri. “Your supposed covert operation has failed just as badly as the rest of this war.”

“They could have faked it! If they could get an agent aboard Social Harmony, they could have stolen the details of the security codes. And even if Siroshin has been destroyed, that doesn’t mean the fleet is lost. We need to give them time to complete their mission and report.”

“No.”

“May I remind you, Admiral –”

“You. May. Not. When we go back into conference, Commander, I will attempt to salvage what I can from this debacle you and the rest of the Propulsion Group have dragged the Republic into. And then, we are going to have an in-depth discussion concerning exactly how many starships were destroyed and how many of my people you got killed on your idiot crusade.”

– Republic discussions at peace conference,
Second Directorate transcript


“These talks are a waste of time. We’ve got them against the wall, now. We should press our advantage! Their forces defending their side of the Borderline are weakened, demoralized! An advance, now, could take three sectors before they respond – or, hells’ favor, we could punch right through and knock out Vonis Prime!”

“The Conclave agrees!” a second voice spoke up. The Qirafian who had been sent to represent the other polities of the Worlds pushed his way to the front of the crowd. “A return to status quo ante is not acceptable to us. We require victory!”

“And there,” Elyse replied wearily, “speaks the voice of innumeracy. The Republic is eight thousand systems. We are hundreds. Even if we could take it, we could never hold it, and the Empire does not pursue wars that it can’t win, however winnable the battles look.”

“And as for the Conclave,” she continued, turning to the Qirafi deshnik, “do you have new promises with you of starships, logistics trains, occupation troops? If the Conclave wishes a full military invasion of the Republic, the Conclave needs to put its military forces where its warmongering mouth is. Our existing allies in this affair have already indicated to us that they aren’t interested in sticking any parts of themselves into that meat-grinder.”

“We could still punch out Vonis Prime!”

“Yes, we probably could do that. If we did, clionomic projections suggest that, as a tightly-controlled centralizing governance, Republic space would collapse into an extended period of anarchy, and I don’t mean ‘like us’, or even ‘like the Rim Free Zone’. I mean 8,000 worlds of chaos and warwilds. The collapse of infrastructure. Entire fleets turning to piracy. A complete bloody catastrophe, in short, and one that going to come boiling out across the Borderline and ruin all our tomorrows.”

“You didn’t object to that when it was the People’s State collapsing!”

“And if the Republic was a handful of worlds and notoriously worse as a governance than a complete absence of one ever could be, we wouldn’t object to it collapsing either. But it isn’t. In any case, gentlesophs, I strongly suggest that you take what you can get – and what we think we can get is a general return to status quo ante bellum, reparations for the damage, and half a constellation, twenty-six systems, chopped out of Vonis 31 – and be satisfied, because the only thing that could possibly be worse for us than losing this war is winning the damned thing.”

– Associated Worlds discussion at peace conference,
legate’s personal transcript


From: Elyse Phylarius
To: Ministry of State and Outlands, Republic Affairs Committee
Subject: Conference status
Security: MOST SECRET (ICE SHADOW)

We got lucky this time: our allies came through for us, and with their help I was able to talk the Conclave representatives out of doing anything stupid and beat down the factions. But it was a close-run thing – we’ve got to find some way to cool things down or accelerate the timetable, or else ICE SHADOW and our hopes for inducing a peaceful fragmentation may not survive another incident.

-ep

Epistolary Experiment (27/30)

“First, know yourself; and know your enemy, second. This is the first principle of victorious war.”

The Thousand Wise Analects of the Supreme Warlord,
Xian Anandonos

“It also doesn’t hurt to know what your enemy knows about yourself.”

Adm. Inesmír Muetry-ith-Muetry, in conversation


Netharn (Idrine Margin) System
CS Unconquerable Self
Coreward Fleet Yards & Logistics Division

“What’s our readiness status, Captain?”

“Excellent, Admiral. These yard dogs know their stuff. Special weapons package SPLITSHANK RIPPER has been loaded to all ships in the task force. I have the tactical departments setting up dedicated weapons queues for it now. Electromagnetic screen generators have been compiled and are installed in the free module spaces of all ships. They’re undergoing final proving tests right now.”

“And the extra radiation cladding?” The Admiral nodded at a nearby projection, displaying a dozen foot-long bulldozers scraping busily at the surface of a nearby asteroid.

“Running about 7% behind. Bagging the regolith is going to schedule, but they had some trouble getting the nets adapted to the hulls of the frigate screen. We should still be aweigh-ready by the foredawn watch.”

“Very good. Keep me informed.”


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
CS Eädne’s Helm
Flag Bridge

“The Republic task force has entered the system, Admiral,” the tactical officer reported. “From the Karmál gate, as expected. My best read is… thirty to forty of the plane, same again of screen, in staggered-scramble formation, with the megastructure in the middle.” She leaned over her board and adjusted the focus controls again. “I can’t get a clearer count than that, though. All this rad-hash is ruining the sensor resolution.”

“Very well, Cymnéä. Pass the word to the AKVs at the tarvic generator: scramble and attack on closest approach. Remind them that kills are secondary; their highest priority is to pass us target data.”


signal from flag: we are go at closest approach, target ailék.

all wings report in

weasel weasel weasel

shrike shrike shrike

scorpion scorpion

declamp and puffball. ready thrust packs, ears only.

guidance lock, no growler.

weasel wing, arm and attack screen from system acme; shrike wing, arm and attack screen from system nadir; scorpion wing, punch through and heat up the sweatbox. flank speed, backfire closure.

report scan data to flag soonest via tangle.

count is running.

flash-backup

hold knives to eyeball range; light the fires; stove-top hop; go go go

– from the thought-record of AKV Oriel-2-2-1


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
CS Eädne’s Helm
Flag Bridge

“AKVs are running.”

“When will they be within the Republic task force’s threat range?”

“Estimate three-two minutes, sir.”

“Set the maneuver clock: in three-two minutes, fleet is to cease acceleration and skew-flip, but is not to start deceleration yet. Let them think we’re satisfied with our closing rate and are going for a zero/zero after the AKVs have chewed on them some more. Pass the word to tactical: as we maneuver, fire SPLITSHANK RIPPER as you bear, per uploaded fire plan.”


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
VNS President Siroshin
Bridge

“Target Alpha just cut acceleration. Aspect change on target, looks like the beginning of a skew-turn.”

“Very well, Mr. Kadesh. Helm, maintain course and acceleration. If they want a passing engagement, we’ll oblige –“

“Contacts, contacts! We show multiple inbound missiles, groupings three, estimate over six hundred inbounds, range one-eighty-thousand, heading two-six-five mark three-two.”

“Signal to all ships: shift immediately to defensive globe formation. Stand by point defense. Mr. Kadesh, get me profiles on those missiles –“

(The sensor report of an electromagnetic spike accompanying the aspect change scrolled off the screen, unnoticed.)


Loaders clanked, switches closed, stacked accumulators discharged with an electrical hiss, drive coils spat lightning, and the SPLITSHANK RIPPER slug left the axial mass driver of Eädne’s Helm at a leisurely 1% of light speed; enough for multiple kilotons of impact should it directly hit its target, but nothing that would do exceptional damage to a starship designed for war, such as President Siroshin.

But it was not targeted directly at President Siroshin.

Minutes after being fired, the slug, fired retrograde, dropped into the ergosphere of the Eye of Night, that portion of space-time distorted by the spinning black hole in such a way as to drag all material objects along with it. Shortly thereafter, the SPLITSHANK RIPPER charge built into the slug fulfilled its designers’ intentions, and blew cleanly in two.

The larger part, no longer needed, fell away into the event horizon.

The smaller, a mere grain by comparison, in obedience to conservation of momentum, was hurled out of the ergosphere at high relativistic speed.

As were the smaller fragments of the other 119 slugs fired simultaneously.


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
VNS President Siroshin
Bridge

“Incoming! INCOMING! Gamma blueshift—“


Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System
CS Eädne’s Helm
Flag Bridge

“The package has been delivered. Flash is… okay, surviving AKVs are getting their sensors back on line. We have – splash fifty-seven, sixty-nine casualties. Twelve still under command, all screen. The megastructure looks battered, but appears intact and not at immediate risk of sympathetic detonation.”

“Very good. Make signal to senior surviving officer, Republic task force:

“‘This is Grand Admiral Inesmír Muetry, commanding CS Eädne’s Helm and all other Imperial forces in this system. Your forces, in my estimation, are no longer capable of sustaining battle, and therefore, to prevent an unnecessary effusion of blood, I wish to offer you the opportunity for honorable surrender.’

“‘You will immediately shut down all offensive systems. You may proceed, as a group, up to one light-minute from the megastructure you have been transporting for your own safety along with any survivors you may pick up, and will there heave to and prepare to be boarded.’

“‘Otherwise, be advised that my fleet will range upon you in seven-six minutes, and will commence firing for effect at that time. Muetry, clear.’”


“One braced for the wildfire will miss the serpent at their feet; one checking their boots for scorpions cannot run from the flame.”

The Thousand Wise Analects of the Supreme Warlord,
Xian Anandonos

“I knew what they were expecting of us. The cunning-mind stratagem, the feints-within-feints, all the deceptive devices that they believe transsophonts are known for – and which Fleet Admiral Daphnotarthius gave them over and again in the Borderline campaign. One simple act of misdirection? They were bound to misinterpret it entirely.”

– Grand Admiral Inesmír Muetry-ith-Muetry,
ICIN interview after the Battle of Eye-of-Night

Epistolary Experiment (24/30) – Revised First Segment

(This is the corrected version, with fixed astronomy…)

The Eye of Night (Last Darkness) System has the distinction of being the only black hole accessible to the Associated Worlds, and indeed, the primary reason for the existence of the Last Darkness constellation.

The black hole itself, Eye of Night, is designated as the system primary. It boasts a magnificent accretion disk, fueled by the asteroidal remnants of the system, and a stream of infalling matter drawn from the system secondary, the mottled red giant star Bloodshot.

As such, the entire system is designated a high-radiation environment, and entry should only be attempted by starships hardened against the prevailing radiation and thermal conditions. There are, for this reason, three stargates opening into the Eye of Night system, all orbiting coplanar with and in the outer fringes of the accretion disk to make best use of its occlusion umbra. Current occlusion status information and forecasts are available from Ring Dynamics public sources; visitors are advised to consult these and make all appropriate drift calculations before selecting their emergence point; emerging above or below the plane of the accretion disk significantly increases radiation exposure and other associated hazards.

Little civilization exists in the system. The majority of it is found on the Empire’s Edgewalker Research Station, a deeply-buried beehive habitat orbiting further into the fringe of the accretion disk. The habitat is operational the majority of the time, due to its heavy natural shielding, but may close down external services and near-surface facilities at short notice during radiation storms.

Edgewalker Station is run jointly by Dynamic Spatial Geometry Group, a research collective, and by the Order of Endings Manifest, a monastic order of Entélith – indeed, there is much overlap between the two, as the devotees of the Lady of Death and Endings take great interest in such research. It also houses modest facilities for visiting researchers and tourists, and a small funerist, capable of performing appropriate death rituals for many species of the Worlds.

Orbiting much closer to the Eye is the Eft Sédir Containment Facility, a maximum security prison run for a consortium of Accord polities by a division of the White Hands mercenary fleet. Eft Sédir lies within the inner accretion disk, protected against escape attempts and rescue attempts alike by the extremely hostile local environment. It survives in its location by means of extremely heavy coaxial radiation shielding and electromagnetic deflectors similar to those used in coronal habitats.

The Facility is designed as a skyhook extending from its anchor asteroid (home of the prison administration facilities and its spaceport) down towards the hole; prisoners are held in modules attached to the skyhook and resupplied by one-way descender ‘bots. The Facility uses the increasing levels of gravity as the skyhook descends to assist in the containment of their more violent and dangerous prisoners; modules can be placed at levels offering from near-microgravity to a crushing twelve standard gravities. In the event of riot, attempted escape, or other trouble, separation charges can blow any module clear of the skyhook and drop it into the Eye, or the entire skyhook can be separated from its anchor, likewise. Approaching the Facility is not recommended for anyone except for an approved White Hands prisoner transport; the locals are unfriendly, and the station will fire on anyone entering its claimed million-mile security zone.

Points of Interest: The only other structure of interest in the Eye of Night System is the remains of a tarvic project to magnetohydrodynamically tap energy from the infall of stellar plasma originating from Bloodshot. While abandoned partway through construction, and obviously derelict, this miles-long megastructure is still remarkable, the more so that it continues to hold station within the plasma streamer despite centuries of neglect.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Ecumene

Epic Research Failure!

So, bit of a wee problem back in Epistolary Experiment (24/30). It appears that I do not know what I thought I knew about black hole accretion disks. Or rather, I did know it, with the minor issue that what I knew turned out to be, well, bollocks.

The researchers responsible have been sacked.

Many thanks go to James Sterrett for catching this one, and especially for catching this one before publication.

…aaand now I’m off to send it and the draft of part 27 back to rewrite.

Epistolary Experiment (26/30)

From: Adm. [blank], Imperial Naval Intelligence
To: Imogen Andracanth, VP Research, Ring Dynamics
Cc: CINCCORE; Grand Admiral Inesmir Muetry-ith-Muetry
Subject: Unknown object
Security: EYES ONLY UNSEEN KEY/FERVENT SPAN

The enclosed is an excerpt from sensor logs of the Battle of Viridit. Our analysts are having difficulty identifying the large structure the Republic fleet appears to have under tow in the center of their formation. Is this something in your bailiwick? Please advise on possible threat level and/or collateral danger.

(enc.)


LANDING, SARAGÓS – “The mood on Saragós was celebratory today with the final withdrawal of Iltine forces from the planet. Despite the long task of rebuilding ahead, the Saragónes are both proud of the achievements of their militias in defeating Iltine ground forces, and thankful to the Imperial task force that made it possible by removing their orbital support from the system.

“A joint statement of the local governances expressed thanks specifically to Admiral Gileon Cularius for pressing forward to the Veneri System and obtaining generous reparations for Saragós on their behalf, to be administered in escrow by Gilea & Co. A spokesman for this group later announced that in addition to funding reconstruction efforts, part of these reparations would be expended to hire mercenaries to blockade the inbound routes from Union space, and to construct and cadre a new condominium system defense fleet for the Saragós system.

“This is Xaríä Cieng, Telememe News.”


VENERI (OSIS DEEP) – The Central Committee of the Iltine Union condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent unauthorized military adventurism, carried out by certain reactionary elements within the Ministry of Pacification without the knowledge and permission of the People of Ilth, and further condemns their use of illegal and immoral weapons systems developed in secret with the assistance of and at the instigation of corrupt offworld apotheosians. The Union assures all star nations that the Iltine Union desires only to live in peace with its neighbors, and that those responsible shall be punished for their actions with the full stringency of the People’s Law.

The Central Committee offers its hand in friendship and good will to the people of Saragós, also victimized by the treacherous actions of these criminal freebooters, and will lend any aid it can to the cause of rebuilding their world.

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

– That Bullshit Right There, Independent Worlds Router

Rejoice and know no fear, People of Ilth, for the rumors of invasion and war are no more than dust in the wind. The Imperial starships seen in the Veneri System are making a goodwill visit, escorting negotiators to make application to the Central Committee. The Ministry of Pacification remains ever watchful for outworld treachery.

Fear and rumormongering poison the People’s Will. Defeatists and traitors pollute the People’s Genes. Be vigilant!

– Office of the People’s Wisdom, Iltine Union: INTERNAL DISSEMINATION ONLY


From: Imogen Andracanth, VP Research, Ring Dynamics
To: Adm. [blank], Imperial Naval Intelligence
Cc: CINCCORE; Grand Admiral Inesmir Muetry-ith-Muetry
Subject: Re: Unknown object
Security: EYES ONLY UNSEEN KEY/FERVENT SPAN

Possibly. Unfortunately, that’s as far as I can go.

I’ve run it past Operations and Engineering as well as my team. Our consensus is that it might be a weylforge. The toroids resemble frame buffer-dampers; the configuration of the radiators and nearby equipment suggests a facility for producing boson condensate. But that’s all circumstantial; the design is sufficiently alien from our equivalent equipment that there’s not an ideal resemblance, and we can think of at least a dozen other geometry-manipulation possibilities, several with significant offensive connotations. And that’s assuming they either have automation for it or understand how to operate it correctly in manual mode, which latter would be most unlikely.

As it is, we believe potential collateral damage considerations would suggest not being within two light-minutes of it if it’s destroyed. If it is charged – and we strongly believe that that would require both an external power source and a time period measured in, at minimum, cycles – you’d want to be at light-cycles of range.