The figure clinging to the side of People’s Security Observation Platform Number Three would have been barely noticeable even to a careful observer. The ambioptics of his chameleon cloak, whose electrostatics held it still and in position against the satellite’s hull, perfectly reflected the appearance of that hull across the entire visual and ultraviolet spectrum.  Some infrared emission was thermodynamically necessary over his four-day vigil, but he had carefully positioned himself over one of the platform’s radiothermal generators: the addition of his body heat would only fractionally increase emissions.

Careful ranging and hull mapping might still detect his presence, of course, but even the infamously paranoid Iltine State Security Bureau did not do that routinely – and, thank Éadínah and Her Shadows, no watchers had detected him on his brief cold-gas jumps from bermos freighter to cargo dropper, from dropper to Terilti’s tiny moon, from moon to shuttle, and most risky of all, from shuttle to this secure platform.

Silently he watched, unbreathing, relying on the stored oxygen of his hemocules. His hearts did not beat: constant-pressure pumps ushered the blood through his veins. Nothing disturbed his perfect stillness as, eyes pressed to the sights of a custom-tailored mass driver, he watched a garage door slide open in the side of a skyscraper on the planet far below. This was the fourth day, and once again, his target was departing precisely to schedule. Consistence of habits, and in such a desirable target! It was hardly even sporting.

(Nonetheless, he permitted himself a slight smile at the thought of the record he was about to set. Let the 75th boast of their prowess; to pull this off from 120 miles above the planet, with a low-angle shot even, would write his name for all time in a book which, admittedly, few would ever read.)

The garage door finished its traverse, and locked home. His brain flashed through final calculations, integrating the observations of the last days with what could currently be seen of the traffic around the building, the current weather, and a dozen other factors. He made a microscopic adjustment to the alignment of the mass driver, and gently squeezed the trigger.

Twenty pulses went by.

A black, luxury aircar nosed its way out of the garage.

Another ten.

The aircar began to turn, slipping sideways to join the flow of morning commuters.

One more.

And the aircar abruptly jerked downwards, shoving its nose into a lower traffic lane with – he presumed – some great effusion of horns and epithets, before its safety features yanked it to an abrupt stop.

Then alarms went off in the offices of the orbital SSB, as the thermal bloom of self-destruct nanotech reducing the sniper and his weapon to a thin, homogeneous, minimal-evidence plasma set off sensors all along Platform Three and beyond.

But by then, Lieutenant Dynari Ejava, 82nd Imperial Legion (“the One Hope”) – or the spray of neutrinos representing him – was already on his way home.


Trope-a-Day: What Do You Mean, It’s Not Political?

What Do You Mean, It’s Not Political?: It is, I suppose, only in the generic sense of fiction featuring utopias or near-utopias, which is to say, only insofar as it’s therefore automatically a Take That to all those other, lesser, civilizations.

As for more strictly political issues: well, if you’re willing to draw moderately inexact analogies, the Isliar Primarchy is a Take That to traditionalist conservatives, the Magen Corporate to corporatist conservatives, the Annik Sodality to liberals, the Voniensa Republic is one to moderates/statists, the People’s State of Bantral and the Equality Concord to communists (more anarchic and more static, respectively), the Iltine Union to fascists, the Theomachy of Galia to half the Middle East and arbitrarily-selected other religiously-dominated states, Valturak and Nal Kalak to warlordism, the Rim Free Zone to anarcho-capitalists and especially dogmatic Rothbardians, and every single-system backwater polity ever to humanists and Luddites. (Feel free to select whichever combination of acknowledgement and/or ignorance will produce the spin you want on my personal opinions.)

Imperial political scientists clionomists have a The Reason You Suck speech ready for all of these, and by extension, for just about everybody on Earth with a political opinion at all.  Which is appropriate, since by and large, that everybody has a loud and profoundly ignorant reality-immune political opinion is one of the major reasons why, to steal a perfectly quote, it would be their considered opinion that “All you of Earth are idiots!

Aftershocks (3)

From Elyse Corídatry, Psychedesigner Excellence, to Advisory Panel, Involuntary Dysfunction Eleemosynary COG, and Adm. Gileon Cularius, Imperial Navy, greetings.

Gentlesophs, I understand the urgency of your desire for good news concerning the status of the 14,934 mind-states entrusted to the care of the COG by Adm. Cularius, but must regret to inform you that this is an extremely complex piece of repair work. The changeling AIs used by the Iltines in their weapons systems were produced by methods that are, by our current standards, extremely crude as well as grossly unethical.

While I remain confident of eventual success, the Iltine weapon-programmers were, if you’ll pardon me, a bunch of semi-competent butchers stacking wire-and-tape jobs twelve deep. None of these are capable of operating in an organic, robotic, or even infomorph ‘shell at this time; this is the easiest of the problems to repair, since motor and sensory cortices can be patched with standard models. However, aversive and proversive conditioning have garbled the emotive-promotor loops all to dark and hash, and there’s noise all through the supporting structures. The majority of pre-installation memory is nothing but garble to wipe, and the rest of them will take considerably longer to unthread and reroute back to something resembling sanity, and as for the primary personality encoding structures, well, I can’t patch over the problems in those if you give a damn about who you’ll be instantiating at the end of this process.

Give me six months, and I’ll tell you if it can be done at all. A year after that, you might start seeing results.

(Unless there’s any chance you can get me one of the Iltine project team’s mind-states…?)

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

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.


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

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.

The Emperors’ Sword: Introduction

This is the first – in what turns out will be several – posts on the Imperial Legions, how they’re equipped and how they work in practice.

But before getting into the details of how the Imperial Legions are equipped, it’s important to understand what they are. The Legions are a force optimized for heavy striking and raiding – ideally, to jump in, sucker-punch the enemy, and bug out again – rather than to hold ground, or to act as occupying forces (much more analogous to the Marines than the Army, in other words). They are trained to excel at local strongpoint defense, but that’s a separate issue from trying to occupy or hold large areas.

This is for three reasons:

  1. In the minds of everyone but the very-minority Imperium Bellipotent, and some of its political allies, the Empire is out of the conquering business, and has been for a very long time. Mass forcible conquests are out of fashion, seeing as they don’t work very well, and very unlikely to ever come back into fashion. The Empire is very firm on not wanting anyone in it who doesn’t want to be there.
  2. When planning to occupy lots of ground, it helps to have lots of quantity. The Empire has rarely had that advantage, and so prefers to optimize its military forces for quality – and picks a strategic posture that works well for having the best, not necessarily the most, troops. (Also, for that matter, the kaeth – of whom there are many in the Legions – are temperamentally very unsuited for occupation duties, since they get bored really, really fast if no-one’s putting up a proper fight. And no-one wants them going out and looking for someone who’ll give them one…)
  3. Mass interplanetary warfare is, in any case, impractical in the extreme. It takes a ridiculously large number of troops to keep your boot firmly on the neck of an entire planet, up close and personal-like, and while you can build a fleet of troop transports fit to blacken the sky, etc., etc., if you don’t wreck your economy and bankrupt yourself doing so, you’ll certainly spend far, far more than you could ever possibly gain by doing it. This is a move generally reserved for the less sane members of the Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms, like the lovely space-fascists of the Iltine Union.

(In practice, I say aside, the Empire makes up for this doctrinal deficiency on the rare occasions – nth-generational future-warfare is usually long past the requirement for, as well as the habit of, mass warfare – it’s required to in one of two ways:

First up, and preferably, the practice of nexus warfare combined with orbital supremacy. This is one of the reasons the Legions are trained to excel at local strongpoint defense; because on any halfway civilized world/habitat, when you’ve got them by the data network, and the power grid, and the transportation hubs, and on many planets the life support, their hearts and minds tend to follow. This is then backed up by the Navy sitting in orbit ready to drop some KEWs on anyone who causes too much trouble. And together, these keep things stable long enough for concessions to be extracted or for the meme-wranglers to do their work.

Second, on the less friendly side reserved for the extreme cases, orbital supremacy combined with ruthlessness. If you’re fighting people who aren’t civilized, unlikely to become civilized, and likely to go on causing trouble, it’s time to dig out the old C/C strategy –Containment/Curtailment.

The former covers, after achieving orbital supremacy and dropping a few raids to take out possible countermeasures and existing facilities, placing a whole mess of interdiction satellites in orbit and a picket to supervise them, with instructions to shoot up anything that looks like a launch facility and shoot down anything they manage to launch anyway. Conquering and civilizing them may be out (which it almost certainly was anyway – see the Hopeless War trope, when its turn comes up for posting), but at least you can guarantee that whatever they’re going to do, at least they’re only going to be doing it to each other. And it’s a damn sight cheaper in money as well as blood than trying to occupy the place would be.

The latter covers that, well, once you have orbital supremacy, you do always have the option of shelling the planet back into the Stone Age with your KEWs. (You can actually do a lot worse, obviously, but that would violate a dozen or so solemn treaties on the Proper Treatment of Garden Worlds.) And in particularly intransigent cases, exercising this option and trusting that the civilization of the descendants of the survivors won’t be quite such a bunch of egregious assholes next time sometimes does look like the best solution.

In the event that neither of these actually works in a given situation and they absolutely have to run an occupation – something that has not yet occurred – the Board of Admiralty’s wargamed-and-filed plan is to take along a couple of nanofactories, have them churn out cheap automated milspec police-drones by the million, and put them in charge of the routine matters. They don’t get bored, it’s never personal for them, and people care a lot less that a hunk of non-sophont combat electronics just got blown up by an IED. It’s also rather discouraging for the opposition. No resistance/revolutionary movement was ever inspired by “Happy news, comrades! We finally made the hated Imperials equipment losses rise out of the statistical noise! Er, locally, at least.”)

(The other reason, aside again, for the local strongpoint defense training is on defense against large invasions, in which they are intended to hold strongpoints in the defense-in-depth battlespace, providing stiffening for the Home Guard, who act as raiding companies and partisans; against small ones, they counter-raid.)

But, exceptional and theoretical digressions aside, the Emperors’ Sword is built on speed, maneuver, force, and cunning. Pick your target, strike hard, strike fast, subvert, shock, disrupt, hit ‘em right in the vulnerable spot, and don’t get pinned down doing it or try to hold anything that’ll only slow you down. Then get out, regroup, resupply, and do it again. Repeat until you’ve won.

And so they equip accordingly.

The Damnedest Things

TERILTI (Osis Deep) – Iltine Minister of Affection, Kornáák har-Rin Ankór, who recently achieved notoriety with his placement of a personal bounty of 100,000 exvals upon the Directorate of Moon’s Eye Studios, ICC and other named “slanderers, wreckers, and defilers of the Blessed Union of the Chosen People of Ilth”, was reported killed today in a freak accident when his aircar was struck by a meteorite. Traveling along an unusually low trajectory, the meteorite penetrated the windshield of the Minister’s vehicle and stuck him in the head, killing and decapitating him instantly.

Union officials have closed their investigation and announced that they do not intend to treat the death as suspicious, and condemned reports to the contrary as “contumacious speculation not germane to good faith in the People’s security”.

Trope-a-Day: Corrupt Corporate Executive

Corrupt Corporate Executive: Extensively (albeit not completely) averted in the Empire, inasmuch as in its genuinely free market, without (a) an extensive regulatory state to buy and then use for yourself or against the competition, (b) legislators and other politicians who feel comfortable immunizing you from consequences, or (c) a legal requirement to act in a blatantly sociopathic manner, acting this way is bad for business, and therefore profoundly stupid.  (And, when it does occur, prone to bring the Market Liberty Oversight Directorate down on your head like Rods From Gods.)

Played as straight as reality permits in general, which is to say, pervasive in the corporatist Magen Corporate and the fascist Iltine Union, but substantially less common than the cliché that the generally left-leaning modern Earth media makes it seem.

Trope-a-Day: Banana Republic

Banana Republic: While not in the fruit sense, usually, a number of the (usually single-system) misfortunate client polities of the Magen Corporate and Iltine Union are exactly this.

One could make a case, possibly, for those polities unfortunate enough to get themselves into serious debt to Gilea & Co., and run foul of their so-you’re-a-state-so-what? collections policy, but those guys are capable of seeing the long view and thus avoid inflicting the gross mismanagement that tends to characterize banana republics.