Trope-a-Day: Weapon of Mass Destruction

Weapon of Mass Destruction: Per the Ley Accords (i.e., the Laws and Customs of War), in descending order of aargh, you’ve got star-killing weapons (nova bombs, including specifically star-targeted strangelet bombs, twist-pinch bombs, and most hypothetical causal weapons), planet-killing weapons (large/fast kinetic impacters, including asteroid drops, planet-targeted strangelet bombs, and relativistic k-kill weapons, extremely large [strategic-plus] energy-burst weapons, including nucleonic and antimatter warheads, and self-replicating planetary-scale war machines [berserker probes]), and uncontrollable self-replicating infoweapons and memetic weapons (that affect systems beyond their legitimate targets, propagate themselves widely across the extranet, and lie dormant in archives to come out and kill innocent people ten thousand years later), and ecocidal weapons (merely large [strategic-plus] energy-burst weapons or ongoing bombardments with same, general bombardments with small kinetic impactors [smaller asteroid drops, de-orbited satellites/stations, or orbital k-kill systems], uncontrolled self-replicating weapons [autonomous goo, unchained bioweapons, technophages, and clanking replicators], global ecoweapons and phage weapons, or the use of persistent ecoweapons and bioweapons, salting nucleonic weapons [say, cobalt bombs], or chemical weapons likely to permanently damage or accumulate in ecosystems).

Using any of the first three types anywhere, or the fourth on a garden world, will get your entire polity blasted and governance wiped out even if it takes the use of otherwise prohibited technologies to do it; these are technologies that eliminate habitable worlds – and those are really goddamned expensive – or tend to run beyond any reasonable control.  Ergo, they’re the galaxy’s primary do-not-fuck-with list.

Mere tactical-to-strategic nucleonic/antimatter weapons, non-persistent chemical and biological weapons, incendiary weapons, cerebroergetic weapons, and nanoweapons are not covered by this treaty, or considered the equivalent of WMDs.  Not enough mass.  They’re all fair game.

Trope-a-Day: Star Killing

Star Killing: The theory exists behind several nova bombs, anyway, and ontotechnology shows the way to interesting possibilities like twist-pinch bombs.  (These are essentially the same type of nova-inducing weapon that we see at the start of Charlie Stross’s Iron Sunrise.)  And one probably could induce a nova with sufficient perversion of the stellar-management technology that goes to make up a stellar husbandry framework, were one to have the luxury of building a giant industrial megaproject in the system one wanted to explode.  But by and large the list of Tier 1 star-killing Instruments of Regrettable Necessity that one shall never use, by the Ley Accords and on pain of the displeasure of the entire Accord is just about empty.

Well, there is one, the star-targeted strangelet bomb.  Theoretically, it should work – from the Burning of Litash, they know that the strangelet bomb itself works, and that it does burn out before destroying all matter in the vicinity, and that strangelets themselves decay and don’t irreversibly contaminate the neighborhood.  But that said, no-one is exactly sure of the result of trying one out on a star, and just in case it turns out to be the nightmare case where the nova scatters active strangelets all across nearby space, no-one particularly wants to be the one to run the test.

And in any case, doing this would be an excellent way to get every major military in the Accord hunting you down, loaded for genocide.  If you thought garden worlds were expensive, stars are even more so, and the collateral damage that can be caused more than a few light-years away significant.

Building the Imperial Navy: Strategic Goals


But that ain’t all!

This is the second part of our six-part series on Building the Imperial Navy (first part here), in which we extend the strategic assumptions – regarding the security environment and the resources available to meet them – we made in that part into the actual outcomes the Imperial Navy is supposed to achieve.

As is often the case, this is relatively simple. As of 7920, the Imperial Navy’s strategic goals and responsibilities, in order of priority, are defined thus:

  1. Preservation of the assets required for civilization survival in the event of invocation of CASE SKYSHOCK BLACK (excessionary-level invasion posing existential threat) or other extreme-exigent scenario (i.e. concealed backup sites, civilization-backup ships, etc., and other gold-level secured assets).
  2. The defense and security of the Imperial Core (including those portions of it extending into the Fringe), including population, habitats, planets, data, and Transcendent infrastructure against relativistic attack.
  3. The defense and security of the Imperial Core (including those portions of it extending into the Fringe), including population, habitats, planets, data, and Transcendent infrastructure against non-relativistic attack.
  4. The defense and security of stargates and extranet relays throughout the Associated Worlds volume and other associated critical corporate assets of Ring Dynamics, ICC and Bright Shadow, ICC1.
  5. The defense and security of Imperial ecumenical colonies throughout the Associated Worlds volume.
  6. The continued containment of perversions of any class, including but not limited to enforcement of the Containment Treaty of Ancal (i.e. containment of the Leviathan Consciousness).
  7. The maintenance of defenses against possible invasion or other violations of the Worlds-Republic Demarcation Convention.
  8. The protection of Imperial commerce including but not limited to the Imperial merchant fleet.
  9. Intervention, as required, for the protection of the Imperial citizen-shareholder abroad.
  10. Enforcement, as required, of the Accord of the Law of Free Space, the Accord on Protected Planets, the Accord on Trade, the Imperial Plexus Usage Agreement, and the Ley Accords.
  11. When requested or otherwise appropriate, the defense and security of Imperial client-states and allies.
  12. General patrol activities to maintain the perception of security, suppress “unacceptably damaging” brushfire wars, piracy, asymmetrism, and the interstellar slave trade.

It should be noted that with the exception of (7) and certain elements of (6) these are not targeted at specific enemies, of which the Empire has a distinct shortage requiring specific identification at this level; rather, the strategic supergoal of the Imperial Navy is the maintenance of the peaceful status quo, the Pax Imperium Stellarum if you like. Also, specifically, note that none of these goals requires the ability to conquer and occupy; they are all highly defense-focused.

1. This may seem a little high on the list to you, oh reader mine, especially since they’re specifically corporate assets. Well, think of it this way: if you lose the interstellar transportation and communications networks, which those two companies own most of, your fleet can’t find out where to go and couldn’t get there even if it could find out. This, most admirals deem, is something of a problem.

Trope-a-Day: Obstructive Code of Conduct

Obstructive Code of Conduct: The Imperials would certainly argue that the Fundamental Contract, with its insistence on protecting people’s life, liberty, property, and contracts would be one of these.  (Of course, some non-Imperials would point out that, given the very large number of societies in the Galaxy that aren’t nearly so fond of those, the Contract also lets people like the Sanguinary Enforcers of the Liberty Ethic set the war-drums to beating any time they feel like it; which is unfair, but not completely unfair).

Also to be mentioned here are the Code of Alphas (the rather detailed Eldraeic honor-code with specific sub-codes for each daressëf), the Five Noble Precepts (entropy is bad, and here’s how not to feed it), and, for military purposes, the Ley Accords (the basic rules of “civilized” warfare – although since they’re mostly reciprocal rules, anyone who prefers uncivilized warfare will find their challenge happily taken up.  Less happily for them, usually.)

Slag Them!

To whet appetites while I feverishly write this day, here’s a comment I left elsewhere a while ago on the general topics of planetary invasions, and the ongoing argument of the “just slag the planet, no need for troops” vs. “massive world-spanning groundpounder warfare” schools of thought.

My conclusion, in a nutshell: on any post-colonial planet that isn’t easy to nexus-interdict, it’s less what you might prefer, and more what you’re going to get anyway:

For myself and my setting, I concluded that at least some aspects of the “kill it with nuclear fire” school are going to be more or less inescapable because of, as you point out, how good the planetary defenders have it.

What the Ley Accordsthe Eldraeverse equivalent of the Geneva Convention, essentially – actually says is that you can’t use planetary bombardment indiscriminately on civilian populations or to make terror strikes, and once you’ve disabled the orbital defenses and “own the high orbitals”, you’re supposed to ask for their surrender before you start firing on the legitimate military targets…

…because once you’ve started dropping heavy enough hellflowers (air-burst antimatter sterilization/EMP weapons), stoneburners (sub-ground-burst anti-bunker burrowing antimatter shaped-charges), and plain old k-rods (Rods From God) to take out deep-running submarines, crust-embedded fortresses, giant planetary lasers, etc., etc., there’s no way not to do major damage to the planet even if you’re not trying to, or indeed if you’re trying not to. If you’re lucky, you’ll get away with a few dozen simultaneous earthquakes/tsunamis/wildfires/hurricanes/massive radiation events/etc. worth of damage. If you’re unlucky, you throw enough debris into the air to give you a particle winter and a major extinction event. And either way, depending on how careful the planetary government is to keep its military facilities in the middle of nowhere, you’ve got megadeaths to gigadeaths.

The polities that are both (a) established galactic citizens, and (b) halfway civilized, all understand this, and that you’re supposed to surrender the planet when you lose the orbital defenses, because while you might not be able to take it back, you definitely can’t un-wreck it.

(Even if you intend to fight a guerilla war groundside afterwards and are willing to absorb the damage from that, you may still find it worthwhile to surrender any formal planetary defenses you invested in. At least that way they’re only going to be dropping tactical k-rods on you…

…but there’s no upside to engaging in a pissing contest with starship-class weapons and their planet-mounted equivalents when the planet is going to take all the collateral damage, and the fleet in orbit doesn’t have to worry about that.)

Thus, Imperial admirals hate having to fight galactic newbies (who might be under the impression that you can fight and win an orbit/ground battle without taking horrific collateral damage), or worse, the kind of fanatics who don’t mind taking their population and ecology along with them when they go. (Although, in practice, there’s usually someone in the latter’s command structure willing to introduce their leader to a bullet rather than let him initiate Ragnarok.) Even Caliéne “the Worldburner” Sargas-ith-Sargas, the IN’s mostly-tame sociopath, thinks it’s a little messy and inelegant.

Drones Don’t Kill People, People Kill People


From: Bureau of Social Hygiene, Ikklar Triumvirate

Subject: Nightwing-class military-grade security drone
Issue: Drone refuses to obey orders.
Priority: Urgent



I’m sorry to hear that you have had problems with our Nightwing-class security drone.

Unfortunately, in this case, the drone’s systems are working as designed. While not a sophont product, the Nightwing‘s AI is programmed for strict adherence to the Ley Accords and the guidelines put forth by the Imperial Institute for Ethical Warfare, and as such will refuse all unlawful or unethical orders while operating correctly, including refusing to permit such orders to be carried out while operating as a remote extension or in manual override. As such, it is unsuitable for use as an instrument of assassination or asymmetrism.

Please refer to the user documentation, section four, pp. 369-440. As this function is described therein, I regret to inform you that no return/refund will be available.


Taris Antilochios,
Artifice Armaments Support Services


No, actually, I’m not sorry. You want to use our products to do what, now? With any luck at all, you’ll trip the anti-atrocity/anti-tamper code soon and put yourself out of our misery. Either that, or go back to throwing rocks, or whatever the fashion is among barbarian savages these days.

Bloody shits, so you are.

Snark of the Day

“Yes, the Ley Accords do consider using ecocidal weapons on garden worlds a more serious issue than the self-genocidal use of strategic nucleonic weapons.  That’s because, in the big picture, the sort of chumps who nuke themselves to death are rather less valuable to the galaxy than the ecosystem that might, one day, give rise to a second species blessed with less epic fail.”