The Range of Range

“You will hear it said that lasers have ‘a pathetically low range’ and are ‘suitable only for point defense and the inner engagement envelope’. To put this statement into its proper context, one must understand the proper scale of starship engagements; i.e., that the pathetically low range in question is approximately a light-second, or to put it another way, that the enemy vessel must close to within a distance roughly equal to twenty-five diameters of your home planet before you can engage them with this notoriously short-ranged weapon.”

The Dirtsider’s Guide to Interplanetary Warfare

Sidebar: Fixed Wormholes

(An in-universe explanation as to why the Empire, et. al., prefer to use their special – i.e., yes, per here, space-magic enhanced – wormhole technology.)

A common question among newcomers to the field of spacetime engineering, especially as it applies to wormholes, is the reasoning behind our use of dynamic wormholes (i.e., those that are created, used, and collapsed in the course of a single gating) rather than static wormholes, permanently inflated to allow passage and held open by exotic mass-energy “frames”. This seems, to these questioners, more elegant: being less wasteful in terms of energy (although the cost of maintaining the unstable exotic mass-energy frames should not be undercounted; the analogous Andracanth ram is not designed for continuous operation), and requiring nothing on the part of transiting vessels.

Sadly, this is prevented by the interaction of static wormholes with relativistics. Transporting a wormhole end incurs the time dilation of relativistic flight, such that one can travel through the wormhole to the destination system, in the reference frame of the transported end, years or decades before the wormhole end is delivered in the reference frame of the sender; sometimes, indeed, while the linelayer would still be visible leaving the origin system! This means, in effect, that outgoing travelers through the wormhole are stepping years or decades into the future, while returning travelers are likewise passing into the past, vis-à-vis flat space-time.

While this has interesting astrophysical and galactopolitical consequences (amply dealt with elsewhere), it alone does not cause issues from the point of view of infrastructure; since a return through flat space-time must require (per the Luminal Limit) more time than the wormhole’s time differential, the block universe is preserved.

However, it is easily demonstrable that the only topology which guarantees this is a pure directed acyclic structure, or tree, in which only one path is available to outgoing and returning traffic.

This is undesirable from an infrastructure point of view, since it greatly limits the capacity of the network given the bottleneck links near its core; forces all otherwise cross-link traffic, even between nearby systems, through a single distant core node (likely to be, as a strategic aside, near to if not within the builders’ most important star systems); and causes both of these issues to expand geometrically with scale.

More importantly, while there are a few primarily theoretical exceptions, almost any alternative structure containing cross-links (and therefore cyclic structures) enables certain routes to function as closed timelike curves, allowing particles, even virtual vacuum fluctuations, to return to their origin point at or before the time of their entry into the route. Such a path doubles the intensity of transiting particles with each retraversal (which all occur effectively instantaneously), thus creating arbitrarily high peak intensities, in turn resulting in the catastrophic resonance collapse of at least one of the wormholes along the critical path. Quite apart from the loss of route, the energies involved in this collapse along with those likely to be liberated from damaged stargate systems are such as to pose a significant hazard to the systems containing the mouths of the collapsing wormhole.

(This is also, as we will see later, perhaps the most important reason for the Imperial Timebase system being intertwined with stargate control systems at a very low level, and for the various sequencing and safety protocols encoded therein. While the wormholes used for gating are ephemeral, it would be possible – without coordination – for a simultaneous set of openings to form such a closed causal loop, which would then undergo such catastrophic collapse.

Bear in mind that, while we are able to lock the emergence of dynamic wormholes onto the empire time reference frame, the natural phenomenon of drift (q.v.) along t axis guarantees nonidentity, and as such this does not immunize loops of such wormholes from the catastrophic resonance collapse phenomenon.)

Since the point of collapse is controllable to a limited extent by the “strength” of the links along the CTC route, this effect is also weaponizable by hostile powers with wormhole capability (a causality attack, recognized by the Ley Accords as one prohibited form of causal weapon).

For these reasons, Imogen Andracanth’s team considered the static wormhole to not be viable as a large-scale interstellar transport technology.

 

– The Stargate Plexus: A Journeysoph’s Guide

…And The Strength Of The Wolf Is The Pack

The MMR-144 Parasol rockets launcher.

No, it’s not a rocket launcher. It’s a rockets launcher.

That’s because the MMR-144 fires a single unguided projectile which acts as a bus for twelve smart missiles, which deploy at the apex of its trajectory and hunt target areas according to their programmed profiles.

Yes, we said target areas. Upon reaching terminal guidance, each smart missile separates into another twelve penetrating guided warheads, each capable of seeking out and mission-killing an independent target, for a sky-darkening total of one hundred and forty-four kills per firing.

The MMR-144 Parasol rockets launcher. For when you really want to throw some shade.

– from an Eye-in-the-Flame Arms interactive advertisement

 

Eclipse

Solar eclipses are a relatively frequent phenomenon within the Worlds, occurring on any planet which possesses a moon large enough to elevate its occasional traversal of the primary from a mere transit. The majority of these are annular eclipses, although – even if we discount those habitable gas giant and superlithic moons whose parent planet hides the sun for days, weeks, or months at a time – full occultations are hardly rare.

The perfect solar eclipse, however – that moment of impossible beauty when the lunar disk precisely covers the primary’s photosphere at syzygy, allowing the corona to shine forth as a ring of jewels – requires such a serendipitous coincidence of lunar diameters and orbital elements as to be virtually unknown even across ten-thousand systems, rendering minor wonders such as double planets and circumbinary sunrises commonplace by comparison.

While a handful of systems experience them occasionally, and a few have attempted to recreate the phenomenon artificially, the true natural perfect solar eclipse is best witnessed on Mezimiali (Qulomna Maze), the only known system to be blessed with a solar and lunar configuration capable of giving rise to totality somewhere on the planetary surface approximately every 1.5 local years.

Would-be eclipse viewers should be warned, though: plan ahead! The autochthonous moig have taken enthusiastically to their world’s primary source of tourism, relocating an extensive complex of motile resorts to fully cover the predicted path of totality of each and every eclipse to allow as many visitors as possible to enjoy the experience, but even allowing for this, bookings must be made years – even decades – in advance, and travel comply strictly with published schedules to handle the logistics of moving so many sophonts onto and off planet in good order.

Such is the price of observing one of the rarest of all astrophysical phenomena.

– Around the Worlds on ¤1,000 per Sol

 

Literary Conceit

(Author’s note: for those not remembering the galactography, much as Sialhaith is the Venus-like planet orbiting the primary star of the eldrae home system, Elémíre is another example of the same class orbiting its binary companion…)

Unlike its cousin, Sialhaith, the ecopoesis of Elémíre proceeded to schedule. No longer a lifeless hothouse, Elémíre is a lifeful hothouse; life flourishes throughout the green-blue jungles that flow around its jagged mountain ranges and highland plateaus, and in its seething, briny, red-orange seas, and even in its clouded, misty skies. Hothouse, however, it most certainly remains: temperatures vary from a (relatively) cool 298 K at midnight rising quickly to a steamy 315 K at midday, and humidity hovers in the 90%-plus range at all times, giving the air the consistency of warmed soup. Mist and fog are perpetual (and cloud cover is near-continuous in the lowlands); rain almost so, as the rising mist forms droplets in the lower atmosphere which splash back to the surface, to the point that local meteorologists find it simpler to forecast the absence of rain.

Would it be possible to continue the ecopoesis to render Elémíre cooler and more Eliéran? Almost certainly, but such proposals have never attracted much interest. Elémíre’s colonists were drawn to their world by the promise that it could be made to reify the imaginings of authors inspired by the mysterious cloud-veiled planet seen in their telescopes, and mere convenience is insufficient to shake their love for their sweltering jewel.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Core Worlds

 

Once, For a Bet

There is, technically, a less expensive way to reach orbit than an elevator ride, and it has the additional advantage of being the fastest way to reach orbit. However, I cannot recommend it to you for one simple reason: I’ve “ridden freight“, and it’s an experience best saved for when you have no alternative.

It’s inexpensive, in a nutshell, because you’re being squeezed into a gap in the freight schedule. And as you’re riding freight, the accommodations are very much suited for freight: you get a comfortable acceleration seat, certainly, but one fixed inside what remains unmistakably an intermodal freight container fitted with an aeroshell.

Most providers do, as a courtesy to keep their passengers entertained, equip the nose of such capsules with a sapphireglass window. This is less helpful than it might be.

After boarding, it provides you with a fine bullet’s-eye view – for the seconds of your loading slot – of what it’s like to be shoved into the breech of the Worlds’ largest gun. Then the gravomagnetics catch you up and hurl you forward. The featureless sides of the tube rush by, but you won’t be paying attention to them: being on the freight schedule means fitting in the fewest freight slots possible. Eyeballs in, folks, feel the elephant on your chest and watch your vision blue-shade out – it’s six standard gravities from here all the way up the gunspire.

(Unless you’re riding freight on Paltraeth. Then they fire you at the full twelve local gravities and take bets on whether you’ll be conscious at the top. There’s a barrel of the local booze in it for anyone who can climb out of the capsule on their own, starport legend says, just in case the trip upwell didn’t impair you enough.)

Then comes the fun part. In the old days, the brief glimpse you’d get out of the window would have been of the exceptionally solid iris holding out the attenuated atmosphere at the gunspire’s tip, opening for you with such fine calibration that it’s impossible to see. Now, there’s just a brief flash of blue as you pass the kinetic barrier, the sickening lurch – and eyeballs snapping back out – as you pass beyond the magnetics, and the end of the world coming to call.

You see, everything up until this point has been quiet as a moth’s whisper. A mass driver in an evacuated tube makes no noise – the switchgear and the pumps might, but they’re on the outside.

Once you hit the end, though – the air might be attenuated, but there’s still enough of it to hit like a granite cliff. One moment, silence. The next moment, the storm gods of every pantheon you’ve heard of and a few more besides have come to call, with a real urgent need to come in there.

And they brought some friends, it looks like, ’cause that convenient window is making it very clear that everything outside is on fire.

This, you might think, would be a good time to panic.

Well, you’ve got something under of a second before they start hitting you with the lasers, and it’s back to elephants, blue-outs, and now an angry giant whaling on the back of the capsule with a to-scale warhammer to add to the rest of the noise – with your eyeballs vibrating in time.

That’s the worst of it. It only gets quieter from there to orbit, and after the hammering you’ve taken on the way up, the eyeballs-out dangling-in-your-straps deceleration to match velocity with the highport comes as something of a relief.

But I trust you understand, gentle reader, why it is that I cannot recommend this mode of transport.

– Around the Worlds on ¤1,000 per Sol

 

Potayto, Potahto

“While the Imperial University of Calmiríë does have an academically excellent and thorough program in political science (or, as its introductory course is listed in the 7930 catalog, EX0487: Introduction to the Exosophontology of Mass Coercion), prospective students should be aware that it is taught very much from the perspective of ‘the history, sophontology, and praxis of rationalizing ethical exemptionalism’. Those students from abroad who do not already have that particular smirk will assuredly either acquire it or grow very tired of it over their course of study, and as such, we cannot recommend it to those preferring a more conventional approach, especially since those considering their qualifications in the future are likely to be aware of the nature of the course.”

– Student’s Helper: Considering Studying Abroad?,
pub. 7932, League of Meridian