Senatorial Privilege

While not its long-disused official name, the Defenestrative Balcony is the upper of the two observation galleries looking down upon the Hall of Convocation, surrounding the roof’s central oculus. Conveniently for anyone who wishes to place its nickname into effect, the outer ring of windows open onto an exterior walkway surrounding the peak of the dome, and its slope is shallow enough at this point that one thrown off it faces a long and rather uncomfortable, but not terminal, slide to the ground.

(Those thrown off the interior gallery into the Hall, however, will not be so lucky, and the responsible party will undoubtedly face the censure of the Senate along with whatever other pains and penalties may apply.)

Should one be considering practicing the defenestrative arts unofficially, one should be aware that the Guardians of the Senate post guards here whenever the Senate is in session, since the Defenestrative Gallery is believed to be particularly appealing to unsanctioned assassins and their clockbows.

– Orbiting the Center, Lyrisia Solanel-ith-Solanel

Subtext

“Barbarians, we say? Yes, and we stand by it.

“What such peoples as yours tend to describe as the appurtenances of civilization – your taxation, your conscription, your elaborately-justified coercive governments – are, in truth, shibboleths of your abject failure to be civilized peoples.

“A gentlesoph of some small wisdom understands the virtue and advantage of cooperation for mutual benefit, and thus obligates himself so to do by his own choice and unforced will. Those who must be compelled to ‘cooperate’ by threat and the lash thus demonstrate that they are not the one, and have not the other – and woe to their societies when the threat is removed, and the inner savage once again surfaces.

“Barbarians we name you; until you find your way to the Harmonious Path, barbarians ye remain; and never shall barbarian feet tread the sacred precincts of these blessed lands, these lands exalted in harmony, this Empire!”

– Silvia Oricalcios
Universal Indifference Society
“Address to the Benighted Dwellers of the Outer Worlds”

Independent Worlds Router

“Oh, climb down off it, Silvia. What they can’t see, they won’t learn from.”

– Corval Ellestrion
Society of the Golden Chain
letters to the editor
Independent Worlds Router

“Now, come, both of you. It does not befit us to argue in front of the children.”

– Varikani Tsurilen
Core Worlds Committee for the Promulgation of Social Virtue and Elegance
letters to the editor
Independent Worlds Router

“Could any of you possibly be more condescending?”

– Vintor ru’Kraden
citizen, Nineworlds of Isar,
letters to the editor
Independent Worlds Router

“Yes, I truly believe we could.”

– Varikani Tsurilen
Core Worlds Committee for the Promulgation of Social Virtue and Elegance
letters to the editor
Independent Worlds Router

Grave-itas

The graveyard was as silent as its contents might suggest. The planet’s large moon shone down on the cracked marble of headstones and memorials, the spidery vines climbing them from among the grass… and the distortion in the air flattening said grass, from which a low and discontented muttering could be heard.

Perhaps it would be better to say that it was almost as silent as the grave.

I’m quite certain, cousin, one of the figures beneath the distortion – revealed on closer inspection to be a tent-sized chameleon cloak – farspoke the other, that ere we set out upon this mission, I spoke to you quite eloquently upon the need for stealth, inasmuch as while the governance of this benighted world tolerates us violating their taboos against molesting the dead, they do so only insofar as we take reasonable care to make sure no-one knows about it. And thus, I am bound to remind you at this juncture, that this in which you are currently engaged? Is the opposite of stealthy.

It’s bloody freezing out here, the other replied, although shifting to verbal silence, and you’re not the one of us hip-deep in lich-yard mud –

Adept’s privilege,’prentice mine, adept’s privilege. It’s hard to carry out an exhumation without a certain amount of hume being involved.

It’s just… not what I expected.

Let me guess. You were a fan of Alves Sjarra: Soul Hunter.

The silence spoke for itself.

Ah, yes. Well, when you reach my exalted reputation with the company, you might occasionally get a sniff of one of those missions rich in cunning plans, deeds of derring-do, and opportunities to show off just how good you are. In the meantime, welcome to the glamorous other 90% of the soul-repo business. Backwater planets and mud are our bread and butter.

A mental sigh competed in the aether with a mental smirk.

You’re not the first with that idea. I can vouch for that… and at least these missions involve a lot less being shot at. Now, make sure your nose plugs are in tight. They don’t always get the right body in the right hole, and another adept’s privilege is that the apt gets first crack with the crowbar.

The King and the Planet Are One

KALLAER (SAPROS DEMESNE) – As the Laeth Pact entered its third year of economic recession, the reign of Hieros Navat atir-Laeth ul-Sark was brought to an end today. After failing to successfully address the Pact’s ongoing economic problems, the Elder Chieftains of the Pact directed that the Hieros be dedicated to the shadows of the overworld in accordance with the customary usages.

The ritual sacrifice was performed at the Omphalos by the chosen Successor, na-Hieros Rabil atir-Laeth ul-Rank. The former Hieros met his end with the dignity proper to his office, walking willingly to the altar after exchanging a few words with the Successor.

As is traditional, the flesh of the former Hieros will be plowed into the fields for the fertility of the land, his blood poured into the aqueducts serving the capital as a blessing on his people, and his bones gifted to interstellar merchants for good fortune in the marketplace.

An announcement of policy changes from the new Hieros is expected in three days, local time; 4.1 days, Imperial Standard.

Those Pesky Belters

In pre-space speculative fiction the image of the belt miner recapitulated the image of the prospectors of old. Grizzled belters in small ships, big enough to hold them, a small partnership, or perhaps a family, who would set out, hunt down a “motherlode” rock, hack the ore out of it with traditional miner’s tools loosely adapted to space, then net it up and sling it on its way to a smelter, cash-for-density.

This concept was, as you might expect, wrong in almost every respect.

To begin with the nature of the beast, ore veins are not to be found among the asteroids. Without a planet’s gravity to differentiate them, or hydrothermal processes to concentrate it into ore bodies, pay dirt tends to be evenly differentiated throughout the rock. And to call an asteroid a rock is itself generous, insofar as the majority of them1 are little more than heaps of rubble glued together with a dusting of regolith.

Thus, the smeltership.

In its modern form, the smeltership is instantly recognizable; they look as if a starship had collided head-on with one of the larger breeds of industrial plant2, and decided for whatever reason to keep on going, accompanied by their flock of parasites and the inescapable halo of dust3. From these ships, the collector drones, “spikers”, travel to nearby target asteroids and wrap them in finely woven titiridion nets, preventing the escape of fragments, then haul them back to the maw of the smeltership proper.

Behind the maw, the smeltership incorporates a maze of ore processing and smelting equipment. While in theory plasma-fountain distillation can reduce anything to its component elements, it is an inefficient process reserved only for otherwise intractable residues of ore processing. More conventional processing chains, therefore, handle the commonplace elements once the asteroids have been powdered by the initial grinding step at the back of the maw.

Meanwhile, flocks of lighters, typically drone freighters and tankers – for the volatiles driven off – attend the stern of the smeltership, collecting the ejected ingots of metal and blocks of other elements, bundling them together, and hauling them to market.

The “almost”? While the largest operators, such as Atalant Materials’ space subsidiary, Celestial Mining, operate entire fleets of fully automated smelterships, many smaller or more specialized mining interests instead contract smelterships owned and operated by independent belt miners – often, indeed, small partnerships or family outfits whose homestead-hab is permanently docked to their ship. So while incorrect in method and scale, the writers of yore did, to their credit, predict the demographics of belt mining correctly…

– A DirtsidersHistory of the Belt


  1. And, ironically, those preferred for mining. More solid asteroids have other uses, while rubble piles are generally considered only of use for mining, and thus the claim-staking fee is lower.
  2. Not the vegetative sort.
  3. Even with high-grade electrostatic traps, regolith fines get everywhere.

Rolk On!

Precursor artifact Spirel-1,147: “The Rolkifier”

Recovered from a vault in the Spirel Precursor site (located on Spiridon (Dexlilal Convergence)), the Rolkifier is a 3″ x 3″ x 5″ teardrop-shaped artifact constructed from an unidentified green-bronze substance. Attempts to examine the interior reveal it to be solid and apparently homogeneous to currently available scanning technology1.

All solid objects touched with the operant end of the artifact acquire (or lose, should they already have it), the property of “rolky-ness”.

This seems to be an ontic, rather than cognitive effect: while various different species and linguistic clades may construct their own names for the property (rolky being the identifier used among cosmopolitan Imperials), nonetheless, all are able to identify which objects in a random set are rolky, and which are not, with complete agreement across groups. None, however, are able to provide any explanation of what it means to be rolky, which perceptions allow it to be identified as rolky, nor does the possession of rolky-ness appear to affect any of the other properties or behaviors of any object in any way.

Thus, artifact Spirel-1,147 has been tentatively classified as an cosmontological semantic pointer editor capable of assigning and altering arbitrary universal conceptual tags tied, in an unknown way, to conceptual objects.

That this effect is not explained in any way by any of the three major ontophysical theories understood at this present time, and may imply contrary to all current scientific understanding that the universe has a notion of “conceptual object”, make this among the most puzzling artifacts presently undergoing research.

Footnotes

  1. The Rolkifier does not appear to be in and of itself rolky.

“I’m done, or at least taking a lengthy sabbatical. We all find our outweirding limit eventually, and this is mine. I’m going to the High Cysperia Luxurium and not dealing with anything more outré than a green-fuming finelle and a high-class honey-dream for the next decade.”

– Academician Excellence Alleyne Celdinar, chief researcher

The Extranet Is For Porn

From: Anethil 0x98AA45B2 (COO)
To: Ganly min Retholl (VPO, Calianus Passage)
Subject: Data filtering – need official refusal?

Ha! I almost admire their jír. Not often someone comes to us and requests help in censorship.

Anyway, obviously, we’re not doing that. Tell them that it is against Bright Shadow corporate policy to interfere with data in transit in any way, even so far as to inspect packet contents – and that even if it wasn’t against our policy to do that, the structure of IIP-based networks requires end-to-end encryption which makes it impossible for us to do so. By design. If they want to impose traffic filtering, they’re going to have to do it at destination, on their side of the border routers.

Then tell them that even if all of that could be overcome, it would require a steep increase in connection charges, because while, certainly, it may not be the most ‘enlightened’ use of our data transmission capacity, its packet fees nonetheless subsidize extranet traffic rates for – essentially – everything else, pay for network expansion and relay maintenance across the outer regions, and bought the last round of stock options and my third vacation moon.

Maybe don’t tell them that last bit.

Updated Definition

necromancer:

  1. (archaic) In legend and story, an evil figure who makes pacts with various personifications of entropy, offering service in exchange for power. In these stories, the fundamental error of the necromancer is their belief that they hold the advantage in such dealings – perhaps not the most wise belief where beings which crave destruction without qualification are concerned.
     
  2. In modern eschatology, people, organizations, or even polities that trade with unknown information entities across the extranet, or which they have discovered in some lost but functional archive. Such entities normally offer valuable information or computation in exchange for services in the physical world, typically intended to provide them with computational power, assembler resources, or access.

    As with their legendary counterparts, the modern necromancer is prone to believe that they hold the advantage in their dealings (or can if sufficient precautions are taken), and are aware that their patron will attempt to exploit them. Likewise, they are incorrect in this belief, and the consequences from a necromancer who succumbs to the wrong patron can include finding himself the first, and by no means only, victim of a blooming perversion.

    Thus, Imperial State Security and its counterpart organizations in other polities enforce the Archive Safety Code on dealing with such entities with great vigor, deploying both regular agents and combat eschatologists accordingly.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

skitter skitter skitter

From: Tiryns Anandonos (AIB)
To: Academician Iliys Roquentius; Academician Meris Tarisia
Subject: Incident 7922/0011867

Gentlesophs,

It is certainly the case that research into self-concealing patterns of information (so-called cryptomemes) is important, as is research into their applicability to and existence in the living world. This is only the more true since field teams from your laboratory have already discovered a hitherto-unknown genus of commonplace cryptid (Cryptomustelidae spp.).

It is also the case that it is necessary to perform experimental and evolutionary studies upon these, and as such my branch takes no issue with the experiment series in which you proposed to splice the Out-of-Mind visual textures and elements from the Citizen Nondescript bioshell design into laboratory mice to create a convenient pseudocryptid for study, and observe the development of ongoing generations.

We of the Board, further, acknowledge that neither of you can be held personally accountable for the incident of two days since, in which a laboratory technician left the habitat containing your Mus crypteia open during cleaning, in the mistaken belief that it was empty.

We must, however, insist that you devote a substantial proportion of your research time, in the immediate future, to determining exactly how we can effectively clean up an infestation of mice which can only be perceived as zero-volume mouse-shaped holes in the world.

Respectfully submitted,

Tiryns Anandonos,
Accident Investigation Board

for and on behalf of

Agathis Túkunra
the Sane Man

Bring Me The Head Of… (2)

ALL SECURITY SITES // ORANGE SENSITIVE
NOCONTRACT // NOFORN
ROUTINE
RED LIST // SPECIAL // UPDATE 7129/08/09

CANCEL REQ: Istar Oricalcios Veneri a.k.a. “the Mechanic”

REASON: Subject acquired internally (7129/07/24).

NOTES:

Subject recovered from debris created in an attempt to access Secure Storage Facility CINDER NOISETTE. While subject possessed partial knowledge of CINDER NOISETTE defenses, subject was intercepted and destroyed by defenses operating under threefold ignorance protocol.


ALL SECURITY SITES // GREEN SECRET
NOCONTRACT // NOFORN
IMMEDIATE
SECURITY ACTION MESSAGE

FOR IMMEDIATE EXECUTION

Place into immediate effect all security procedures required by CASE HONEY LAUREL.

Investigation of remains recovered of the renegade fork of Istar Oricalcios Veneri (per Red List updates 7912/06/01, 7912/08/09) were limited due to destruction of over 80% of vector stack and execution of ISS mind-state security self-erasure program. However, traces were found of a contaminated metagrammar of weakly angelic complexity, sufficient to compromise the self-integrity of a disconnected fork (i.e., in the absence of coadjutor-provided Transcendent security). Such linguistic-memetic infoweapon systems are not currently documented as being within the capacity of any non-Power agency within the Worlds.

Based on these established facts and analyses current within the All-Seeing Eye, the Executive additionally requests and requires all security and counterintelligence instrumentalities to be alert for potential necromancer activity and to immediately perform comprehensive security reviews of all archives and Precursor sites within their operational areas.

Deliver confirmation and full documentation within 72 hours.

BY ORDER OF

Anming Tsurilen,
Director of Operations, Third Directorate

Dead Orbit

WANTED

ADVENTURERS, BOUNTY-HUNTERS, AND SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE

In recent months, at least one starship of scavver low-lives have been picking the bones of our deceased brethren rightly and properly committed to the Deep, walking bright on the dead orbit, and stealing genes, grave-goods, and the memorials set out for them.

We offer the sum of 50,000 exval for these grave-robbers, dead or captured;

the sum of 100,000 exval if, in addition, the stolen grave-goods and memorials are recovered;

the sum of 250,000 exval if, in addition, these are returned to our brethren, and they in turn are returned to their proper drift.

APPLY FOR DETAILS

Fraternal Society of Gentlesoph Spacers
above Spacer’s Hiring Hall, Solid Street, Startown

– bulletin posted at the starport,
Thurid (Sarkandine Wall)

Máquina de Carne

The infamous tragalrás athánar (“meat machine”) – by whichever regional designation it is known1 – is both a awful and an excellent weapon. On the former point, certainly, it is crudely designed, generations obsolete, dumb, inelegant, and a wide assortment of other things which tend to give professional Imperial weapons designers fits of the vapors.

On the latter, however, it is durable, reliable even under the most stressful conditions, adequately lethal against soft targets, simple enough for even low-tech cottage industry to manufacture, and adaptable via an assortment of relatively simple kluges. It is these latter qualities that have made it the favored personal weapon of paramilitaries, asymmetrists, and criminal gangs the Worlds over.

Tracing its mixed heritage back to a variety of pre-gauss automatic rifles, the contemporary Meat Machine inherits a centuries-long evolution of design features chosen for maximal simplicity. The basic systems of the MM are an open-bolt design, using a spring-loaded magazine to push cartridges into the breech, where a gas piston advances them to firing position in the chamber when the trigger is pulled. It lacks any ejection mechanism; the cartridges are caseless, cast from a foamed propellant/oxidizer mixture – enabling it to operate in vacuum, in exotic atmospheres, or even submerged – beneath the bullet. This propellant is ignited by a mechanically or piezoelectrically generated spark. Residue build-up is generally loosened by the action and purged by the next shot, but does require periodic barrel cleaning.

Its design is very simple for ease of manufacturing or repair, using a wide variety of materials. In the most basic designs, the receiver is typically stamped (or occasionally machined) out of a single steel billet, whose scraps are used to construct the entirely mechanical action, mounted on or in a plastic or scrap wood frame. This makes it trivial to construct for most fabrication facilities, and simple even for pre-fabber cottage industry to turn out workable examples. Common dry lubricants – even animal grease – complete the assembly.

Performance varies widely depending on the quality of the assembly and the components of the foamed propellant, from barely adequate to sufficient to penetrate most civilian and low-grade military armor – proof that while the industry as a whole may have moved on to mass drivers, old chemical propellants still have some use. In addition, the flexibility of the weapon where propellants are concerned make it easy to avoid traces that show up on commonly-used sensors, including that of high-energy powercells.

In short: it’s a piece of junk that has its uses, and one not to be surprised by the wrong end of.


1. Common examples include “Meat Machine”, the name given to it by Resolutionist Faction ironmongers; the Nal Kalak Type 43, as it is known to one of its official manufacturers; RUSTY LEMON, the cryptonym assigned by Imperial State Security; the “Sewerslum Special”, a nickname from League of Meridian law enforcement; and “the ablative meat-stick”, as it’s known in the mercenary trade.

Ear-Worm

Item: In fresh cognitive threats this month, the Bureau of Internal Memetic Defense reports that the popular song “And A Plan I Found Atemporal” is the first known example of a memetic resource-hijacking, rather than a simple memetic resource-consumer. Sufferers from the Plan-Atemporal hijack find themselves coining additional lyrics to the song, which through a simple transform demonstrate themselves to be computations of further digits of π, which continue until the sufferer is sufficiently distracted to take the Plan-Atemporal hijack out of short- and medium-term memory.

There appears to be no method in the Plan-Atemporal hijack to read out the end result of the computation – and, for that matter, we already have more digits of π than this method can plausibly generate – but it seems clear that someone’s experimenting.

More information as we have it.

– Cognitive Threats Monthly (Sunarast 2960)

How to Talk to Rocks

“The typical computer in use in the modern Empire remains the parallel array of binary-encoded Stannic-complete processors that has been in use since the days of the first settled Stannic cogitator architecture. This is the case at all scales, from the smallest picoframe microcontroller to the largest mega, with the principal exception being the rod-logic nanocomputers used to provide computing power to microbots and other tiny devices, for which the distinction between hardware and software becomes fuzzy.

“These processors naturally come in a variety of designs utilizing a number of different internal architectures, microcodes, and instruction sets – even word lengths, although 128-bit words (banquyts) are an industry standard. That being said, while bare-metal programming is still taught to inculcate the fundamentals of the profession, it is rarely practiced today.

“Rather, high-level languages are compiled down to MetaLanguage, or ML. ML serves an an intermediate language whose core set of instructions is implemented, directly or indirectly, on all processors; a number of optional feature subsets (for physical interfaces, quantum computing, cryptography, and so on and so forth) may be implemented by various processors, but are not required. Exotic or experimental processors which wish to make use of ML, the majority, may implement their own private subsets. Code objects, or assemblages of such objects, are either precompiled upon installation or just-in-time compiled to platform-specific instructions for the processors they serve.

“The high-level languages of choice, naturally, are a much wider selection. The long-term leaders, at the time of publication, are:

Polychora: a general-purpose, multi-paradigm programming language designed to support object-, aspect-, concurrency-, channel-, ‘weave-, contract- and actor-oriented programming across shared-memory, mesh-based, and pervasively networked parallel-processing systems.

Descant: More dynamic and less strict than Polychora in its approach, and optimized for just-in-time compilation, Descant is a general-purpose language which, while supporting similar functionality in most areas, is optimized to serve in an extensible, modular, readily-integratable system-scripting role. Where convenient, it shares operators and syntax with Polychora.

Silvar: A dynamic language for data-structure-oriented programming, metaprogramming, and self-modification, supporting full homoiconicity while maintaining interoperability with other ML-based languages.

“Additionally, there are many domain specific languages in use. Common examples of these include Exapar (a language designed for convenient programming of nanoswarms and other massive-parallelism systems), eXchange (for expressing smart contracts), Imprimatura (used for declarative rights management systems), psylisp (an extended dialect of Silvar designed for optimal mind-state encoding and self-improving intelligent systems), and VIML (Virtual Interface Meta Language, used for virtuality design, along with specialized derivatives including IMF, the Interactive Modeling Format, and DObI, the Descriptive Object Interface).”

– Introduction to Computer Programming (Vol. 1.): Speaking To Minerals,
Imperial University Press

Optimizing Designer

From Karuna Couture, ICC, comes the very latest in fabulosity optimizers:

Our Girl in the Flow software agent seamlessly integrates your personal preferences with information gathered from your social circles and geolocative vicinity to optimize color and pattern to suit both your taste and to integrate pleasingly into local style, then transparently uploads the new design and a seamless transition plan to your choice of smart clothing.

Be perfectly attired wherever you go!

  • Comprehends and can apply over eight million individual semiotic tags.
  • Achieves your own ideal configured balance between personal taste and matching the aesthetic in-crowd.
  • Helps you stand out from that crowd to your chosen degree, with our Uniquity™ automatic differentiator.
  • Gathers data from all popular social and reputation networks and personal calendar applications.
  • Integrates smoothly with other clothing management systems, including our own Dress to Express™ adaptive emotag reader.
  • Compatible with all Karuna Couture designs, and many other OSI (Open Style Interface) compatible garments.

Available for download today, only from Karuna Couture!

PATELLA FLEXION

The devices and techniques classed under PATELLA FLEXION are products of ISS research designed to assist field agents in social engineering, making use of hierarchy-based and submission instincts present in many sophont species. Rather than direct coercion or deception, the cerebroergetic and memetic technologies in this class function by projecting a comforting illusion of authority, designed to make its targets both well-disposed to and compliant with their user.

While effective (in proportion to the prevalence of said instincts; see relevant IES reports) in the former goal, they are of minimal use in the latter. Since PATELLA FLEXION leads the target to perceive the user as an authority figure communicating reasonable ideas – both observer-dependent – it can render actual communication (and thus persuasion of the target to do anything that they do not conceive their preferred authority-concept asking for from them) almost impossible. Worse, in some cases in which the target is hyperoneiric, it can trigger serious behavior excursions, often prejudicial to mission success.

Jini Raqelintios, Our Cabinet of Curiosities, ISS internal publication

The Accord of Galactic Polities

The Accord of Galactic Polities, less formally known simply as the Accord, is a loose meta-civilization composed of the non-starbound polities of the known regions of the galaxy. The Accord is frequently conflated with the Associated Worlds, which is more properly a galactographic term. (While the Accord is primarily composed of the polities of the Associated Worlds, it is neither exclusively nor exhaustively so composed; there exist both Accord signatories not galactographically part of the Worlds, and polities of the Worlds who are not Conclave signatories.)

It should be noted that the Accord is an association, not a governance – its membership is comprised of those polities which have agreed by treaty to observe certain borders, protocols, and procedures designed to maintain the peace and make trade and communication possible. Similarly, the Accord itself has no officers and maintains no offices; it is simply an agreement between its members.

The most important of the treaties which make up the Accord, of course, is the Accord on the Conclave, being a signatory to which grants full membership in the Conclave of Galactic Polities. This in turn grants you an embassy and exclave on the Conclave Drift, and the right to send one voting representative (titled curate) to the Conclave itself, along with a number of secondary negotiating representatives on the basis of your population. In short, it gives you a seat at the table.

Conclave membership also commits you to the single binding principle thereof: Members of the Accord shall not make war on each other, nor commit acts of war upon each other (including but not limited to piracy, slaving, and intentional destruction or confiscation of property), to the detriment of the Accord.

Violations of the Accords are arbitrated before the Central Conclave Court, an arm of the Conclave.

The ten lesser Accords (which are almost universally adhered to among signatories to the Accord on the Conclave, although a small number of members derogate from one or more of these agreements) are these:

I. the Accord on Colonization

The Accord on Colonization establishes the rules by which claims on colony worlds may be made and negotiated, and/or purchases may be made from the star systems held in trust by the Accord as the stargate plexus expands, including the allocation of limited numbers of habitable and near-habitable worlds as freesoil worlds, open to settlement by anyone.

NOTE: We would urge those polities for whom it galls to be asked to subordinate one’s expansion claims to the overall growth of known space, rather than to be able to expand as one wills into terra nullius, to study the historical summaries included in the first contact packet.

II. the Accord on Intellectual Properties

The Accord on Intellectual Properties provides for the mutual recognition of intellectual property claims between signatories, requiring them to treat all foreign intellectual property at least as well as domestic examples, and setting both strong minimum standards and weaker recommended standards for creator’s privilege, copyright, patent, discovery, and trademark law.

The Accord on Intellectual Properties does not provide for the recognition of intellectual property claims from non-signatory polities.

III. the Accord on Mail and Communications

The Accord on Mail and Communications establishes the Conclave Communications Commission, which addresses both the extranet and physical packet delivery.

In the former role, it defines and publishes open standards for extranet networking protocols and policies, and acts as a registrar for various shared extranet resources.

In the latter role, the Commission publishes transstellar addressing standards, and coordinates postal unions and other cooperative endeavors to ensure efficient and secure physical packet delivery throughout the volume of its signatories’ space.

IV. the Accord on Protected Planets

The Accord on Protected Planets establishes the Galactic Trusteeship Commission to regulate research access to and passage by protected planets, those planets subject to administration or interdict under the jurisdiction of the Conclave. Such planets typically include quarantined worlds, necropolis worlds, Precursor sites or other fossil worlds, unique sites of scientific interest, promising prebiotic worlds, and worlds home to unusual emergent sophont species that have not yet achieved technological competence or xenognosis.

It also sets the rules for designating a world a protected planet under Conclave law.

V. the Accord on the Law of Free Space

The Accord on the Law of Free Space sets common standards for interstellar jurisdiction, starship operations, space traffic control, communication protocols, duties and privileges of Flight Commanders and owners, distress, salvage, and related matters.

VI. the Accord on Trade

The Accord on Trade, through its arbitration and standards body, the Galactic Trade Association, defines protocols for trade and other forms of economic exchange between signatories, generally accepted accounting standards, transstellar corporate forms, choice of law, form contracts, trade categories and open standards, and provides access to interstellar transaction clearing services via the Accord Exval Fiscal Exchange.

VII. the Accord on Uniform Security

The Accord on Uniform Security coordinates law enforcement between the various jurisdictions within the Accord. Its provisions require either the extradition or local trial of criminals who are accused of serious crimes in another jurisdiction, with the reservation that signatory polities may reserve the right to only extradite and/or try those whose crime would have been such under local law.

It defines no universal legal code of its own.

VIII. the Common Volumetric Accord

The Common Volumetric Accord defines the agreement between Accord polities concerning what will be considered sovereign territory among star nations, on the system, planetary, and habitat scales, and which areas within and without it shall be recognized as free space, open to the passage of all.

It provides, additionally, for the recognition of regional galactographic institutes, and their coordination via the Galactic Volumetric Registry.

IX. the Ley Accords

The Ley Accords extend the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights to encode the rights of sophonts, both combatant and non-combatant, in time of war.

Their first chapter concerns itself with those Instruments of Regrettable Necessity which are capable of causing gross damage, such as gigadeaths or major environmental damage to a world, proscribing their use and laying out pains and penalties for violations.

The later chapters lay out the conventions of civilized warfare applying between signatories, forbidding the use of Instruments of Regrettable Necessity near civilian areas, types of noetic warfare which might affect or corrupt noetic backups, mistreatment of prisoners, and other causes of permanent and irreplaceable harm. Terrorism and other asymmetric or indiscriminate attacks on non-military targets are forbidden. Parole is to be accepted, as is honorable surrender, and quarter will be given. A baseline is also established for the treatment of POWs and of civilians under martial law in areas under occupation.

X. the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights

The Universal Accord on Sophont Rights (noted as universal as it is intended to be applied even to non-signatories) establishes the equality before the law of all sophont species, regardless of substrate, and their fundamental and inalienable possession of certain sophont rights: to liberty, to property, to associate and to contract freely, to defense of their self-integrity. It goes on to establish, too, certain rights derived therefrom to avoid misinterpretations.

The difficulty, of course, is in the details, and interpretations of the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights have been known to vary considerably between signatories – leading to a cautious approach in Conclave Court-led mediation which might prefer one interpretation above another – and in addition, the rights asserted are notably circumscribed: attempts to include economic “rights to” rather than “rights of” have been vetoed by the Conclave, for example, as have pressures to include protections for sub-sophonts against suffering or sophont cruelty, although non-binding statements of principles on these and other matters have been appended.

– An Introduction to the Accord, First Contact Publications

Pyrrhic

Belchar’s World, Battle of: The Battle of Belchar’s World – a term referring to Fourth Belchar’s, 6882 – while in most respects another of the minor squabbles endemic to the Shadow Systems, has attained a degree of fame through being taught in the majority of the Worlds’ military academies as an example of the problems that can result from close-orbital combat operations.

The battle was the last gasp of the Vile-Born Imperium’s attempted invasion of the freesoil Belchar’s World (Torgu Wilds). While a technical victory for the organized Vile-Born fleet against the irregular forces of the freesoil world, the majority of the battle took place in mid-to-low planetary orbit, resulting in extensive destruction of not only military craft, but also of civilian stations and other elements of orbital infrastructure – most significantly, the self-destruction of the orbital starport twenty-two minutes after Vile-Born boarding parties forced the docking bays.

Inevitably, the introduction of so much debris into this area caused a full-blown cascade catastrophe, resulting in mutual disengagement. After a number of attempts to penetrate the cascade zone with landing craft, all of which were lost with all hands, the Vile-Born fleet retreated from the system in good order.

(This was not to last: much of the fleet was subsequently destroyed in the Osquina Mutiny, instigated by a coalition of sub-admirals who preferred not to return to Vileheim and suffer the traditional sky-bath prescribed for failed naval officers.)

Heaven Upbears

The skimmer sang with many voices.

The high stress tremolo of the variform hull, shifting through a thousand combinations a second to stabilize the skimmer’s flight path as it spiked the atmosphere; the low bass throb of the ram drive, pulsed magnetohydrodynamic vortices that could be felt in the skimmer’s structural bones; and mid-range, the pervasive thrum of laboring machinery, turbopumps and heat exchangers striving to keep mollysieves clear and gas flowing, punctuated by the periodic rattle of black diamond crystals being dumped from the bypasses.

And Inlétanós itself provided the accompaniment, percussion felt more than heard, as miles-long lightning bolts flashed cloud-to-cloud, sparks against the murk.

Marise 0x43B2AAC9 grinned to herself. For once, the chorus had an audience capable of appreciating it. While tiresome haggling over incarnation coverage kept most of her skimmer fleet in the hands of dumb automation, even those tight-wires couldn’t keep her off the survey flights.

And so here she was, a firefly flitting in between the pillars of the darkling sky, city-sized towers of cooling hydrogen among the bluish methane haze passing in an instant; wisps of cloud rising from the yellowish-orange whorls below, here ammonia, there longer-chain hydrocarbons, churned by the boiling gas-ocean below; here and there, even, broad dark flakes of dense, tarry organics, born aloft by chance, floated in the wind.

She side-slipped the skimmer to avoid one such, dipping one swept-forward wing into humped cumuli streaked with organic compounds that sent data crackling from the wing-tip sensors, feeling drag and gravity clutching at her frail ship. The hull keened in compensation. Pressure differential warnings flashed from that wing’s throat as changing gas composition threw off the processors. Then she was through, flashing wing-over-wing past and over, into the lazy updraft of a dying boil – enough to bear the skimmer, tanks and recorders filled, upwards in lazy spirals to the waiting tender.

Our codeline was made
To dance with clouds; gravity
Our fickle lover.

The Other Dismal Science

“Good morning, ye earnest seekers of wisdom. I am Reader Olíäth Rian, and I am your primary instructor for this class. Welcome to EX0487, Introduction to the Exosophontology of Mass Coercion. For our foreign students who are now looking confused, you may have seen this class listed under ‘political science’, and you may be in the right place. I shall return to that in a moment.

“It is, I believe, customary at this point to emphasize both that I, and my colleagues, will do everything we can to help you become your absolute best and master the material contained within this course, and yet that should you fail to do so, we will nonetheless crush your hopes mercilessly in the best interests of this institution’s reputation and that of its successful graduates. Since this is a second-level course, however, let us take that as read.

“Before we begin, there is often some confusion concerning precisely what this course is among those, shall we say, less familiar with the local organization of knowledge. Here’s what this class is not: if you want to learn how to run governances, administration is the purview of the Thousand Wisdoms Academy, civil engineering is held in the Cog, the law is on its own subcampus, and so on, and so on. If you’re here to talk, everything from negotiation to manipulation and sophont relations is taught in the applied memetics building; back out the front door, turn left, you can’t miss it — they make sure of that in a first-semester class project every year. And the Imperial War College isn’t on this planet. Meanwhile, if you want to serve your fellow soph, we have an entire business school devoted to that.”

“What it is is a detailed sophontological and sociomemetic study of the techniques used to induce in large populations – from the obvious primal fear, envy, self-righteousness, mistrust, and suchlike to the more philosophically advanced – a belief in self-appointed authorities and their ethical exemptionalism. Or, as one of last year’s outworld students put it rather pithily, ‘how to make people sell themselves into serfdom and pay for the privilege’.

“Now, let me address those few of our students who are – there are always a few – looking at turning our lessons here around into their very own dictator-in-a-box kit. Look to your left. Look to your right. Look to the docuspheres which are even now streaming this lecture to our off-campus students and everyone auditing the class over the extranet. Consider how hopelessly outnumbered you are by the people who are about to learn all the same tricks as you. Good luck. You’re going to need it.

“And finally, before we get started, there is an academic certamen component to this course, so would those students, foreign or otherwise, who have some political theory to defend already go ahead and light up… Now that’s not all of you. Don’t be shy now – you knew when you applied that we treat argument as a blood sport hereabouts.”

– Reader Olíäth Rian welcomes the class of 7240