Career Limiters

Among the most loathed and dreaded phrases in the Imperial Military Service lexicon is this: “intervention outwith mission parameters is not required”.

That phrase is your lords and masters at CORECOM, usually prompted by advice from Admiralty Intelligence, ISS, the bright chaps at External Clarification & Rectification, or even the Conclave of Clionomy, telling you that your flag privilege to identify the right thing, the thing that the honor of Their Divine Majesties requires, and then do that thing has been – if not revoked – at least severely curtailed.

There’s a reason, of course. The supplementary data that comes with the mission orders tells you what future you’re buying with your restraint, with as many details as they can give you. You can override their call – but you need to be absolutely sure that you’ll win the trade-off, lest you spend the rest of your Navy career counting spacetight valves at the Depot logistics base.

If they need it revoked completely, they’ll escalate the euphemism to “we must stress: intervention outwith mission parameters is not required”. That’s politely mandatory, usually Fifth Directorate, and you don’t want to know the reasons they’re not telling you. In these operations, you don’t sleep well afterwards, but you’ll sleep less well for knowing the reason why.

Exceptionary Circumstances, those are called. Most officers will go through their careers without encountering any. Hope to be one of them, but be prepared for the worst.

– Fleet Admiral Ossil Teresu, classified memoir

Doom, Idiocy, and Weirdness

“A few special adhocs aside, the Fifth Directorate is divided into three primary working groups: Existential Threats, Inadvisably Applied Technologies, and Exceptionary Circumstances.  Or, as they’re less formally known, the PWGs of Doom, Idiocy, and Weirdness.”

“Existential Threats handles exactly that; the end of everything, or at least everything local.  Some of their adhocs are as public as the Fifth ever gets, working on problems like why, exactly, we relative latecomers qualify as one of the eldest of the younger races and why no-one from the Precursor era or earlier seems to be around these days; or preparation for natural disasters like gamma-ray bursts or the upcoming galactic collision.  Most of them, though, concentrate on action against more direct threats, like Leviathan Consciousness intrusions, the ambitious that bypassed the Corícal Consensus and incautiously cooked up unstable gods, and any number of insufficiently careful archive-resurrectionists.”

“Inadvisably Applied Technologies is our benevolence PWG.  Their adhocs are responsible for intervening in places where we have no particular authority to do so because someone’s playing with fire in the explosives warehouse, and it’s not in anyone’s interest to see a repeat of the Ulijen Disaster.  More importantly, it’s especially not in our interest to have people become paranoid about advanced technologies just because someone didn’t read the documentation and flash-fried his entire planet, or worse.”

“Yes, it’s not normally considered appropriate to save people from themselves; but really, that’s just a side-effect of saving large chunks of the rest of the known galaxy from them.  Usually, useful ones.”

“Exceptionary Circumstances?  We can’t tell you about Exceptionary Circumstances.  If we knew what they were or had any idea what to do about them, they wouldn’t be Exceptionary Circumstances.  But when we don’t, or we haven’t – that’s what the adhocs of Exceptionary Circumstances do.”

– org briefing to new members of the Select Committee on Imperial State Security