Fittly Business

“Othalbar SysCon, this is IS Star of Miragrann preparing to initiate fittle-flight per filed intentions. Please reconfirm entry vector.”

Star of Miragrann, SysCon. We show you initiating fittle-flight at 8201-06-09:2+11-54. We confirm your entry vector as computed and valid for twelve-pulse window. You are clear for entry at your discretion; squawk null. Good hunting! Over.”

“SysCon, squawking all zeroes. We’ll bring you back a present. Star of Miragrann, clear.”

Captain Sarizar looked out over his bridge, and smiled slightly. “By the book, people. Run the clock.” Punching the button for a direct line to the maneuvering room, he added, “Ninety percent power, please.”

“Extending frameslip ring.”

The flight geometry display over his Exec’s head showed the struts which mounted the segments of the frameslip ring slipping out from their sub-light positions alongside the ship, moving the fittler’s nodes to their optimal position for the envelope, when the maneuvering watch came over the intercom.

“Reactors ramping. You have sixty percent power.”

The sailing master had the next set of checks.

“Auxiliary drives show shutdown and are safed for transit. Vector-control core switching to frameslip mode.”

“You have seventy percent power.”

Back to the Exec, and then over to Relativistics. The flight geometry display was now, indeed, indicating full extension and all segments locked in place.

“Frameslip ring is extended and locked. All external sensors show zone clear.”

“Preferential-frame buffers integrated and synchronized. Frame trap executed. Geodesic trajectory successfully mapped to empire-time manifold.”

“You have eighty percent power.”

It was all in the sailing master’s hands now. Well, the sailing master’s programming’s hands…

“All stations report secure for transit. Vector-control manager confirms frameslip mode active. Board reads blue across. We are ready for entry commit.”

“You have eighty-five percent power.”

“We are now entering the entry window. Timer abort set.”

“You have ninety percent power, and holding.”

A last glance around at his repeater displays, and Captain Sarizar performed his primary, and indeed only required, action in the fittle entry checklist: “Commit.”

“Entry is go on autosequencer. Envelope forming. Fittle in three, two, one –“

The sensations of a normal entry surrounded him, the rising hum of the drive coupled with the creaking of the hull and the peculiar and familiar twitch in the guts as the forming drive envelope’s side lobes tickled the starship’s interior —

And then —

A thunderclap from astern, the sound of an inconveniently inconceivable amount of energy being dumped into whatever buffers and sinks were available.

The sickening sensation of an uncontrolled envelope collapse, as the space-time stress that had been pumped into the drive envelope relapsed, converting itself to gravity waves – fortunately, almost entirely directed outward.

The hissing roar of untold gallons of thermal goo vaporizing and pouring unimpeded into space.

And, in contrast to those, the sound of his crew taking all the correct actions when all those things happened.

“Null engage. We have a null engage. Autosequencer reports successful entry abort, core spindown in progress –“

“– running flash-accumulator bleed-down, preparing to vent secondary heatsinks –“

“– transmitting splash advisory on guard channel –“

He punched for external communications.

“Othalbar SysCon, Star of Miragrann. We have experienced a null engage. We’re holding orbit and running an interference manifold computation” – he glanced over at Astrogation, unnecessarily confirming that his astrogator was already on it – “up here, and we’d appreciate it if you could do the same on the big brass. Data follows. Our intentions are to recompute entry and execute as soon as we have reliable data.

“Also, if the interference manifold matches available flight records, we’d appreciate the address of record for whatever chesdinye durchevi didn’t bother to file a flight plan.”

The More Things Change…

From: Adari Lyranthar, Directorate Coordinator
To: Future Directions Team
Date: 17 Yrnaes 8001, Midmorn falling 5
Subject: All Fittled Up

Well, gentlesophs, courtesy of the our new friends, the Starleaper Initiative, and the chaps from Metric Engineering, we now have a fittler making a test run.

It’s going to take a little while before my aunt finishes fully evaluating the consequences and implications, not to mention singing the full-length lament to not thinking of that herself, but so we can get started thinking about specific applications, I have some preliminaries to give out.

First, the frameslip drive – to give it it’s proper name – is never going to be a general tool. It’s big, clunky, energy-hungry, and temperamental. To ward off the first response, yes, this a prototype, but no, these are not qualities attached to it being a prototype: most of them aren’t even in the engineering, they’re down in the physics of the thing.

Big and clunky: the core’s not so bad, even if it is bigger than a vector-control core for the same ship and we might even manage some integration there.

The problem is that you can’t fittle without at least one – and possibly more, depending upon configuration – frameslip ring surrounding the ship at a healthy distance, such that you can warp space without turning anyone aboard into rad-seared spaghetti. Essentially, they’re going to dominate the design of anything we put a frameslip into.

Also, they have to go outside everything, including the radiators – at least when they’re retracted, but if you do that, that’s going to up your required heatsink mass.

Energy-hungry: Numbers are attached. Suffice it to say that Extropa are going to sell a lot of antimatter.

Temperamental: You will be delighted to know that causality still holds and the Fifth Directorate will not be coming to wipe our brains before we accidentally an exadeathcrime.

On the other hand, this means that all the fun of universe-enforced causality protection is also the case with the frameslip, although we believe the software should shut it down safely on warning.

It also, which has been extensively tested with pre-prototype models, interacts badly with itself and with stargates. The use of a stargate in the same system as, or whose wormhole track passes near, a frameslip drive tends to cause a bubble collapse, although fortunately not a catastrophic one for the wormhole.

The conclusion I draw from this is that our main business is not obsolete: it appears to be impractical to operate frameslip drives within an extensive, well-trafficked stargate plexus, or indeed in large volume along similar routes. Even more importantly, it appears that the use of frameslip drive is, and in the absence of another high-level breakthrough should continue to be, more expensive in capital, energy, necessary training, and starship design constraints than the use of stargates even at our current rates.

What then of the frameslip? Well, I see two obvious markets. One is the Exploratory Service, who can obviously make use of the frameslip for both far horizon probes, and for new classes of scoutship intended to precede stargate deployment rather than follow it. (Marwyn, can you throw together some scratch designs?) The other is relativist trading vessels working both in the Inner Periphery and the Outback, since the frameslip should be more cost-effective per light-orbit, even without journey time differential taken into effect, than current-generation lighthugger drives.

I’m sure we can come up with more applications if we put our heads together, so see what you can come up with. We’ll have a brainstorming meeting tomorrow at Courtly rising 12.


From: Adari Lyranthar, Directorate Coordinator
To: Future Directions Team
Date: 17 Yrnaes 8001, Waterclock rising 12
Subject: REDIRECT EVERYTHING (was Re: All Fittled Up)

New, direct from the test team:

The optimists were right. Since the frameslip just warps space, and thus creates no discontinuities in its operation, unlike gating, it can transport entangled half-objects and it can transport stargate half-pairs.

We’ll have to replace the linelayer fleet to take advantage of it, but the entire Expansion Timetable just got squished. We’ll still have the meeting with whatever you’ve got so far at a later date, but as of right now, our main priority is drawing up projections on what this does to our plexus growth scenarios given different investment options and other presentations to take to the investors. Attached simulation space in six.

Anyone who can stick around tonight to help, please do. We’ve just been handed the opportunity to become the galaxy’s common carrier in a golden chalice, and if we pull this off, in under a century we’ll all have maharargyr, glory, and nice shiny exponents on our net worths!


Trope-a-Day: Hyperspeed Ambush

Hyperspeed Ambush: Hard to arrange, given the nature of FTL in the ‘verse; it generally requires that the ambushees be approaching or otherwise close to a stargate while your fleet remains at the other side of the pair, and yet and at the same time has access to real-time information about what the ambushees are doing. And then pull off a perfectly-timed low-drift jump.

It’s been done, but opportunities don’t come up all that often.

Trope-a-Day: Subspace Ansible

Subspace Ansible: The tangle channel, which involves manufactured entangled (not in the standard quantum sense, note, because we know that doesn’t work; these are ontotechnological devices using the “privileged channels” a long way behind those) particle-pairs.  This makes them quite expensive (since they are a consumable resource, one particle per bit transmitted, and have to be shipped there the long way once you separate the ends; if you don’t have one or a stargate, your best option is a lighthugging communications torpedo) at least relative to using light-speed EM communications and relaying them through the stargates, the way most of the non-priority extranet works, but they’re invaluable for priority communications and beyond the reach of the stargate plexus.  (They are, for example, the only means of ready communication available to lighthuggers.)  And yes, they do work for mindcasting.

(And, yes, they can also let you play interesting games with causality. Just as expected.)

That said, extensive use of caching, prefetching, and AI traffic prognostication makes the extranet delays mostly invisible in practice, as does the ability to engage in pseudo-real-time communication by sending a partial copy of you along with, or as, your message to be able to have a real discussion with the recipient, then reabsorb it when it returns.

Birthday Present

Peréä System, far orbit, 4016


“Okay, go ahead and open your eyes.”

“You got me a giant laser! Wait, where did you get me a giant laser? … And, um, why did you get me a giant laser?”

“In order: yes, the Laserider Network’s fire sale, and –”

“Fire sale?”

“Yeah. It hasn’t hit the public ‘weave yet, but word from the Deep Space Relay is that someone back Home has cracked the fittling problem and they’re sending us the necessary, so the interstellar light-sail network concept is dead in space. Helén Inuriannon is taking the news about as well as possible for someone whose reason for being here just took a long walk out a short airlock, but they’re in full close-it-out, sell-it-off mode already. I picked the main laser array up for a short song and a handful of considerations.”

“We have FTL now –  no, never mind, in a minute. So why do we – I – whichever want a giant laser?”

“Think of it less as a laser and more the prospect of being independently wealthy.”

“Right now I’m thinking of it less as an explanation and more the prospect of being annoyingly smug.”

“If they have FTL, we’ll be getting more colonists, more quickly. That means the ecotects are going to be even hungrier for metal than they are now. And that laser…”

“…is going to be a thousand sideritic asteroids smelted down and put on the market first.”

“So, you like it?”

“Be as smug as you want today, love.”

Handwavium: Clarifying Tangle/FTL Restrictions

…since I’ve accumulated a couple of queries on this, it’s probably a good thing to clarify.

The restriction on taking tangle (and certain other members of its family of technologies) through a stargate arise from the details of the Minovsky Physics I have defined to fill in the handwavium gap between ontotechnology and our understanding of the universe. I’m not exactly ready to give a full primer on the details of those, heh, but here’s the relevant parts:

  • From a quantum-physics-interpretation perspective, the three competing current Theories of Everything are equivalent to a non-local-hidden-variables interpretation. (In short, I’m assuming that some version of NLHV is correct.)
  • All of these imply “privileged channels” – this is a metaphor – by which state information is “teleported” – this is an even worse metaphor – about the place.
  • I draw from various ideas I have seen in the scientific literature relating quantum entanglement to the quantum foam to thus associate these “privileged channels” with the foam-scale wormholes.
  • (Some of this may seem familiar to those who’ve paid attention to the revealed technical details of stargates. If you also notice some inspiration from Greg Bear’s conphysics in Moving Mars and Anvil of Stars, that’s probably fair to say.)

What does this mean for tangle? Well, it means that for those “privileged channels” to function, they require coherency. Ordinarily, this is a given – we, at the macroscale and even the particle nanoscale, all operate in a nice, consistent spacetime geometry, if one that’s interestingly distorted in places. But then there are stargates, which blow up a wormhole to macroscopic proportions, allow transit, and then collapse it, pinching it off. That breaks coherency because it changes the spacetime topology, not something that normally happens up here. The universe is a robust thing and can handle that/clean up after it, but the nitpicky privilege-dependent details like entanglement – be it the quantum kind or the more subtle kind tangle channels use – are wiped clean in the process.

And that’s why you can’t jump a tangle channel – meaning, specifically, one end of a tangle channel leaving the other end behind – through a stargate. Once you do, the entanglement is broken and both ends are now just boxes filled with random bits. (Incidentally, this is also why you can’t jump a stargate through a stargate; it scrambles the core’s connection to its counterpart.)

But you can, which has been the point that has led to some confusion, jump both halves of the same tangle channel together, because the topology change then happens around them; they stay inside a self-coherent “bubble” geometry, if you will.

So, for example, when I mention the use of tangle to communicate between IN starships and their AKVs, or tactical sensor platforms, they can get away with that because both ends of the tangle channel jump together; but if they jumped out-system and back in again leaving the platforms behind, they’d lose the communication channel. Likewise, they can’t use tangle comms with pre-placed sensor platforms unless they pick up the other half of the channel after jumping in.

And the chap who stole a colonial tangle-channel and ran off with it to do an NFT scam? He had no problems getting the stolen channel to his target world, because what he stole was both ends neatly packed together in their shipping container.

On the other hand, though, when looking at examples like the tangle channel the Stratarchy of Indirection and Subtlety were using on Vontok II, and so forth, those had to pre-positioned and taken aboard once they got in system. (There are a number of strategies for this, all of them annoyingly complicated and most of them involving some sort of masquerade or other, because they have to delivered STL and even a light-sail starwisp is not what you might call the stealthiest of craft.)

Likewise, when you see starships being ordered to report in over tangle channel, like, say, WHISPER NINE or SHUFFLE FOURTEEN, those tangle channels aren’t carried with the starship, if it’s not a lighthugger. Fleet Communications has carefully and subluminally placed communication relays at lots of different points in the Worlds with onboard channels – some of them in satellites that can receive radio signals, others, more covert, that you actually have to dig up and plug in – and you use them by going to their location, or sending a courier to their location, and then transmitting your message.

Hopefully that should clear everything up!

Trope-a-Day: The Milky Way Is The Only Way

The Milky Way Is The Only Way: Played straight, given the general uselessness of other experimental fittlers, and since the only reliable form of FTL the universe evidently permits is stargate pairs, the far end of which has to be dragged out to its destination at subluminal speed.  Thus, only a veritable tiny fraction of even this galaxy has been explored.

That said, the Elsewhere Society did manage to raise the mind-croggling amount of money necessary to have a stargate pair constructed and its Wandercompagnon lobbed at the Greater Ancíël Whirl (which is to say, the Large Magellanic Cloud) at near-light velocity, but it won’t get there for a long, long time.  They’re having rather less success in raising more money to build a second pair and repeat the exercise with Andromeda.

And it’s not like sufficiently powerful telescope arrays can’t see some interesting things going on Beyond The Space We Know, other galaxies included…

Trope-a-Day: Faster Than Light Travel

Faster Than Light Travel: Means wormholes, which you have to drag to where you want them STL first.  (Or, for transmission only, tangle channels – which, for the physicists reading this, do not work by Quantum Entanglement As We Know It.)  For more details of which, see Cool Gate, Casual Interstellar Travel, and Corralled Cosmos.

And yes, faster than light travel, when combined with appropriate kinds of slower than light travel, absolutely does result in causality violations in the Eldraeverse.  (There are rules to govern which causality violations are possible – of which the short and mostly accurate version is “predestination paradoxes yes, grandfather paradoxes no” and various sophisticated computing techniques – “acausal logic” – make use of this fact.  It’s fun!)  Indeed, sometimes physics students are taken on (lengthy) field trips for the simple purpose of watching effects preceding causes.  It’s a fun day out for all the family!  (Even the ones who may not have been born yet.)


The second stage of jump procedure using a Ring Dynamics stargate is obtaining a reference-frame trap, thus ensuring that you arrive in your destination system in the same sequence and association to the empire time frame that you were in when you left, thus preserving chronological consistency.

In urban myth and pulp fiction, this is the procedure that prevents you from wondering why the dinosaurs are warning you off their nice carboniferous planet when you were told to deliver a load of colony prefabs, or from having your extropy sucked out by the ice giants at the end of the universe who are so glad you turned up to feed ‘em high temperatures and ordered states.

In theory, this is the procedure careful adjustment of which permits you to indulge in predestination paradoxes, knight’s-move oracles, and other cunning manipulations of the informational content of your future light-cone.

In practice, this is the procedure that stops you from coming out the other end of the wormhole as a light-year long smear of exotic particles. The universe hates time travel, and is not shy about telling you this.

Stop Fittling With That: Author’s Notes

For those who might be a mite curious, Stop Fittling With That is set in “present-time” – that is to say, the furthest future point of my defined timeline (although, obviously, not the end of their history), so those mentioned technologies are things that won’t actually appear anywhere in the Eldraeverse, certainly not in the context of the peoples of the Associated Worlds.

FTL (other than the mentioned wormholes and tangle channels) won’t appear at all, and in fact is canonically impossible by other means using my conphysics; for reasons which boil down to “it interferes with the kind of stories I want to tell and the kind of technologies I want to use to tell them”.  Such forms of FTL as wouldn’t – like, say, mass relays – are for the most part functionally isomorphic to the wormhole network I chose to go with anyway.

Dimensional transcendence just hasn’t been invented yet – any examples of it you may see are faked by means which you’ll read about when the Trope-a-Day catches up to, ah, Hammerspace, I think – but is permitted by the local conphysics.  (If you can bend space and time enough to do practical, mass-produced wormholes, bending them enough to put a decent-sized mansion inside a police box is for the most part merely a matter of working out the engineering – for very large values of “merely”.)

Negentropy or something like it probably will require the ability to not merely bend but actually drill holes in the universe, and so is deep-time lengths of time away if it’s possible at all.  Which it may well not be, but I don’t plan on arbitrarily declaring the greatest expression of their greatest ambition physically off-limits when I can just Shrug of God it into the indefinite far future.

And both matter translocation/teleportation and instant Star Trek replicator-style manufacturing don’t exist for the same two reasons.  First, Heisenberg…

(Or rather, in-world, Jeness Rafientar, who spent the first, shorter part of his physics career discovering the uncertainty principle under the name of the Indeterminacy Barrier, and then spent the rather longer rest of his physics career trying unsuccessfully to find some way, any way, to work around the blasted thing.)

…is a bugger, as we know, and magical Heisenberg Compensators are a little too handwavy for my taste, thanks so much.  And secondly, even if you only do it at the molecular level, all that binding energy has to go to/come from somewhere in a very short time, and that poses some thermodynamic problems at the level of physics, and some literary/worldbuilding problems in explaining the implications that the ability to routinely toss that much energy about has on everything else.

These may theoretically exist in the future – given that the basis of the emerging field of ontological engineering is to use manipulations of the laws of the laws of physics that underlie the regular laws of physics to tell the latter to shut up and sit down, but they don’t at any part of the timeline I’m working with.

Stop Fittling With That

Congratulations, my students, on your successful completion of the first half of Ontological Engineering.

When you return in two months, it will be time for each of you to choose the research project you’ll be carrying out for the next two years.  And with regard to that, I would like to encourage you to choose something other than the current obsession with faster-than-light devices.

While I can appreciate your enthusiasm, whether based on the honors and plaudits that await anyone who cracks that particular problem, or the unspeakably large bounty that the Imperial Navy have waiting for anyone who can provide them with a tactical fittler capable of pulling off that four-simultaneous-shots-with-one-ship maneuver – ever since it was shown off on Galaxy of Conquest, anyway – I should nevertheless like to remind you of a few things.

Firstly, that people have been banging on, yanking at, and poking any piece of physics that looked like it might have practical or even impractical fittling potential since before Imogen Andracanth’s team invented the wormhole; and except for the wormhole and the tangle channel, have produced absolutely no positive results whatsoever.

Secondly, that Exogenesis, Islien Yards and Stellar Express, between them, have poured more money into their Starleaper Initiative than the entire budget of this university, and have hired a great many talented graduates of this course.  You can therefore be fairly sure both that the competition is extremely stiff, and that if there were any low-hanging fruit to be plucked in this area, we would probably have heard about it already.

And thirdly, of course, there are a great many unsolved, and indeed, as yet uninvestigated research problems in other areas of ontotechnology, many of them leading to potentially exciting developments in fields as simple as remote sensing and drive efficiency to old speculative-fictional dreams such as dimensional transcendence, matter translocation, negentropy, and instant manufacturing free from all that tedious mucking about with nanomachines.

So go home, enjoy the blue and green season, and come back to me with some exciting proposals!  You won’t be penalized if you do insist on sticking with the fittle, but do check what’s been done in the past and what the Starleaper team have been trying recently, and put some fresh and interesting spin on it.

Class dismissed.

– address to the most recent OE class, Imperial University of Almeä