Trope-a-Day: The Spymaster

The Spymaster: In the Imperial governance, the people who sit on the Imperial Security Executive, the council that runs Imperial State Security, which is composed of the heads of the five directorates, the admirals in charge of the Shadow Fleet, its military intelligence counterpart, and certain others, whose identity is not available anywhere.  It’s also unique on the organization chart in that the Executive reports directly to the Imperial Couple as well as to its nominal superiors in the Ministry of Harmonious Serenity.

Plenty of other organizations, of course, have their own – even before we get into competing governments.

Trope-a-Day: Red Alert

Red Alert: In the Imperial Navy, played with realism (also with the Most Annoying Sound, inasmuch as the alert klaxon is custom-designed to irritate the nerves of every possible sophont listening, simultaneously):

“General quarters!  General quarters!  Set condition one throughout the ship!  This Is Not A Drill!

The Admiralty, Core Command and the Theater Commands in particular, prefers to use Defcon Five as its system, as do the Imperial Emergency Management Authority for states of civil emergency, and the Imperial Security Executive for local security warnings (a.k.a. our “terror alerts” and their “recommended paranoia levels”).

Military installations, the Constabulary, the EMA, hospitals, etc., do often have a bunch of color-coded response codes (“alerts” and “conditions”) to instruct everyone exactly which immediate situation they ought to be responding to, however, so the “emergency squad scramble” aspect of this trope is played straight.

Colder Than Space




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[SSP image eluded from file]

ICE BLUESHIFT agents are specially developed units of the Fifth Directorate intended for deployment under exigent circumstances requiring extremal action.

An ICE BLUESHIFT agent is the product of extensive, specialized ethical training and testing, coupled with the focused pseudosociopathy induced by a [REDACTED] “SubHe” implant. The function of this implant is to disable the sympathetic faculties of the mind, while permitting the empathetic faculties to operate nominally. This strips the unit of all default-valued social restraints or ascriptions of value to other entities or entity-sets (although permitting the retention of specifically instanced ascriptions). This does not, however, impair the capacity for social operations. An enabled ICE BLUESHIFT agent remains fully capable of interpreting and reading social cues and performing associated social functions.

Thus, while retaining full sophont-interactive capability and the capacity for loyalty and other targeted attachments, an ICE BLUESHIFT agent is capable of whatever extremal actions are required for the completion of their assigned mission.

(It should be noted that, unlike crude forms of memetic pseudosociopathy used by various other agencies (see: REFULGENT LIAR; CINNAMON PONIARD; ICEBERG QUEEN), an ICE BLUESHIFT agent is not susceptible to malicious/sadistic deviance. To derive satisfaction from such requires an operative sympathetic faculty.)

A secondary function of the implants of ICE BLUESHIFT agents is automated psychedesign, performing self-justification narrative editing at the point at which the agent is disabled. This prevents mental stress and consequent breakdown of the agents upon the restoration of their sympathetic faculties.

The deployment of ICE BLUESHIFT agents requires the explicit authorization of the Imperial Security Executive.


Communicating ANY PART of this NTK-A document to ANY SOPHONT other than those with preexisting ISE internal systems clearance, INCLUDING ITS EXISTENCE, is considered an alpha-level security breach and will be met with the most severe sanctions available, up to and including permanent erasure.

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Trope-a-Day: Defcon Five

Defcon Five: Three of these systems, actually.  The Admiralty has its “strategic condition” levels, in both global and theater senses, ranging from Six (“all is peaceful, quiet, tranquil, and frankly boring”) to One (“full-blown war, or, if this is the global level, galactic armageddon”).

Likewise, the Emergency Management Authority has its “civil emergency states” on a matching scale, where Six is “everything’s working just like it should, no trouble”, and One is “did anyone get the number of that asteroid?”; and the Imperial Security Executive has its “exceptional security alertness” scale, colloquially known as the “recommended paranoia level”, which runs Blue, White, Amber, Red, Violet, Black, where Blue is “nothing to see here” and Black is “total shitstorm, kill anything vaguely suspicious on sight, apologize later”.

You’re Not Cleared For This

adjustment: just about any op that doesn’t fit into any more specific category.  Anything from spiking planetary water supplies to curing a pet’s sniffles.

black house: a safe house or other facility so far out-system you can’t find your primary without a gravigraph.

cauterize: to clean up evidence or problems with extreme thoroughness when you’re out of time and options.  Usually involves ambiplasma, hence the term.

collateral budget: how non-surgical your op is allowed to get; alternatively, how much splash you’re permitted to make before Questions are Asked in the Senate, and your career becomes distinctly impaired.

defaulted: an agent, source, or other asset that’s now proven not merely unuseful but opposed; heading for the most severe censure or about to be cauterized.

deniability, minor: they can know we’re looking, as long as they can’t prove it.

deniability, major: they can know someone’s looking, but they can’t know that it’s us.

deniability, complete: they can’t know anyone’s looking, so hope they’re not paying attention.

deniability, perfect: if you know you’re looking, you’re doing it wrong.

the Executive: the shadowy council of the heads of the Directorates and INI that coordinates the Empire’s intelligence and security operations.  So far as you’re concerned, see fuliginous.

friendly silence: the well-concealed self-destruct mechanism given to you to use in the event of rigorous interrogation.

from Heaven: information that’s come down from far above – where, you don’t need to and aren’t cleared to know – and which should be believed absolutely, even where it concerns future events.

fuliginous: blacker than black, i.e., so far above your clearance level you aren’t even cleared to know what its actual clearance level is.  Anything the Fifth Directorate does.

the Game: what the people in it call the intelligence/security business.  It is, but it’s one where lives, wealth, the balance of power, and occasionally major civilizations are the stakes.  Try to play well.  No pressure.

the Ghetto: Nepscia (Galith Waste), the hellhole favored for rough intelligence games because it’s so easy for people to disappear there.  Unfortunately, people also tend to disappear there for reasons that have nothing to do with whatever op they were on.

heliums: those people with that implant, the one that suppresses anything resembling sympathy or conscience, letting them do anything that needs to and shouldn’t be done.  Occasionally useful; always a sign that your op just went prompt critical.

Mother’s garden: any of the major cities on Eilan (Eilish Expanse), whose centrality and neutrality makes it the place everyone prefers to play their friendly intelligence away games.

overwatch: the member of the proxy adhoc in charge for the current op; who you take orders from, who you report to, and who will be dissecting your performance in detail at the back-briefing.

proxy adhoc: the adhocracy beneath the Executive that ops and other directives originate from; your immediate supervisors.  See also overwatch.

[redacted for reasons of state security]: standard you-are-not-cleared-for-this message.  Also, the motto of the Fifth Directorate.  Possibly.

reduce for extraction: to make it easier to extract an agent (who should be prepared for this possibility) or a source (who somehow rarely are) from hostile territory by reducing them to a vector stack/cogence core, and disposing of the body.  Or, if vector stack technology is not in use, locally, by simply decapitating them.

quieting: removal, sometimes by assassination, or by framing, discrediting, or any other reliable means.

serious censure: killing someone reinstantiably by way of sending them a strongly worded message.

(most) serious censure: killing someone non-reinstantiably by way of sending someone else a strongly worded message.

shadow source: a non-dominant personality or agent imprinted into a hostile mind, acting as a source without the conscious awareness of its host.

sniffers: sigint ships hanging around in other people’s systems, listening to passing traffic and trying not to draw attention.  Worst job in the Shadow Fleet.

source-on-a-disk: a ripped copy of an unwilling source’s mind-state.  A clean source-on-a-disk is one where the source doesn’t know that you have it.

static: an op with no purpose but to draw attention to itself, and away from anything else.

the Antique Store: the Conclave Drift, where collateral budgets are always zero, where every fifth person who passes you on the street is in the Game, and where any mistakes will be maximally embarrassing.  But you have to play there, because everyone else does.

– excerpted from Rilial’s Informal Dictionary of Intelligence and Security Terminology