Things To See, Places (Not) To Go (16)

Most blights are considered not only places not to go, but also places you cannot go, thanks to the englobement grids wrapping around them, having been correctly declared existential threat zones by the appropriate authorities.

The large ice moon of Torren, a gas giant in the Empta (Qulomna Maze) system which had the misfortune of playing host to the Torren Moon Incident, is an exception to this rule. Its englobement grid has a carefully maintained hole in it, monitored from an orbital habitat above.

Necrotheos Station, however, does not cater to the potential ghoul-tourism industry. Rather, the Torren Moon Blight is an example of what forensic eschatologists refer to casually as a friendly perversion and also as mostly dead; after the responsible perversion escaped its livelock laming, its bloom ended, as so many do, in a Falrann collapse which is believed to have wiped out the upper layers of its intelligence. In combination, these two factors ensure that, if you follow every guideline in the God-Botherer’s Safety Handbook with neurotic, obsessive-compulsive precision and run away promptly – while maintaining strict adherence to safety protocol – at any sign of undocumented behavior, you probably won’t have your brain eaten.

Naturally, this means that it was the perfect blight to preserve as a training venue for would-be forensic eschatologists. While primarily administered by the Imperial University of Almeä, the Empire’s Imperial State Security, the League’s Invisible Executive, the Photonic Network’s OOPSKILL, the Echelons’ Echelon of Hindsight, and even the Voniensan Republic’s Exception Management Group all make use of the facilities.

Public access is available to Necrotheos itself, primarily for visitors to the Memorial to Foresight Unheeded, constructed to honor the forensic eschatologist who provided warning to the wakeners a full eight minutes before the bloom. Public access to the moon below, on the other hand, is not permitted to anyone but those training there, and indeed flight guidelines state clearly that any starship traveling closer to the englobement grid aperture than the station itself will be destroyed without warning.

As one without any training in forensic eschatology nor desire to acquire it, I was not permitted to visit the moon in person. I was, however, permitted to view a small number of cleared slink recordings from previous visitors. From these I offer this brief summary:

The perversion was partway through the process of reformatting the moon into a computational megastructure at the time of its collapse: beneath its perforated surface lies a fractal maze of ice tunnels layered with ice-silicate opto-fluidic circuitry, occasionally broken by concentrations of metal identified as manufacturing centers and other facilities either newly made or repurposed from the original outpost equipment. Intense and variable radiation and magnetic field hazards abound near these facilities.

Robots of unknown design – and bioroid cyborgs of unknown design, repurposed from the material of the original project team and those involved in bloom response unlucky enough to be captured – continue to roam the maze, engaged in construction and repair activities without any apparent coordination (and occasional hostility) between groups. All are, however, uniformly hostile to any visitors.

The time trainees are permitted to spend on the surface, even in maximally protective suits/shells including Lorith cages (encoded transmissions are broadcast at random intervals within the tunnels) and anti-basilisk sense-filters, is strictly limited. Patterns in the opto-fluidic circuitry have been reported to have pseudohypnotic effects. The recovered mind-states (subsequently erased or archived in the Aeon Pit when not being actively researched) of those who overstayed these limits report memory gaps, impulses of unknown origin, and “whispers”.

Disturbingly, these whispers have occasionally been reported to include information from, or claims to be, one of the original outpost staff. However, there has never been any verifiable evidence of any intact or restorable mind-states within the blight zone; indeed, as researchers pointed out to me, it is entirely possible and indeed quite likely that the whispers themselves contained meta-information intended to produce the apparent familiar feeling of such information.

To close, I shall quote some of the warnings prominently displayed near the station’s docks and locks:

Do not joke about your mental state at any time while on the surface of the Torren Moon, during the return journey from it, or at any time before the expiry of your mandatory mental hygiene quarantine period. Under system safety edicts and professional conduct guidelines, any such behaviors may result in summary spacing without recourse, laser-grid incineration, and erasure of mind-state.

Beneath this, an unofficial addendum reads:

Frankly, it’s not all that great an idea to do so after you’ve been released from quarantine, either.

Those who have studied the prospectus of the Imperial University of Almeä may also have noted that their primary course in forensic eschatology lists a field visit to the Torren Moon facility as a final step before graduation – and that passing the class requires a perfect score on the first attempt. While surprising to some, this is generally accepted as the level of care required for any practice of the field.

It only reinforces this that the last warning to be seen before descent to the moon is the following:

Please note that participation in training events held on the Torren Moon WILL result in your current and any descendant mind-states being permanently listed as a potential contamination vector. Plan accordingly.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Hazards of the Core Worlds

For The World Is Hollow

The second of the Precursor megastructures held by the Empire, Thalíär is a peculiar world by any standards. It is a three-layered shellworld – which is to say, it has three planetary crusts, separated not by simple caverns, but by skyvaults which can exceed a mile in height.

Unlike some shellworlds proposed by writers of speculative fiction, rather than being made up of continuous shells, Thalíar’s upper- and mid-crust are cut away in many regions to expose the lower crusts, and broken up by large shafts and canyons – the Clefts – permitting travel between the layers. Plant life spills freely down the walls of these canyons, and both natural caves and cut balconies offer spectacular views.

As the planetary gravity is relatively low, and given the multilevel nature of the world, flight is the most common method of transportation used on Thalíär. Wings are highly recommended as the most rewarding means of personal exploration.


The question everyone has when they come to Thalíär, even before they disembark from the Loadstone beanstalk, is how exactly it works. There should not, indeed, be any way that a three-layer shellworld could exist without reinforcements of exotic materials, and yet neither the walls and pillars which support the upper and middle crusts, nor the upper and middle crusts themselves, show any sign of such structural reinforcement. Rather, they appear in all ways to be native rock, showing no sign of the strain which ought to cause them to collapse under their own weight.

Those studying the shellworld at the Loadstone Geophysical Institute have recorded signs of extremely powerful magnetic fields interacting with bodies of superconducting orichalcium, various possible side-effects of metric engineering, and unexplained emissions of sterile neutrinos from opaque bodies buried deep within the planetary mantle.

All of which is no more than to say that they have had a great deal of success in defining the parameters of the enigma.


The capital of Thalíär, the jack city of Loadstone forms a circle around the base of the planetary beanstalk, sitting on the tip of a mid-crust promontory supported by a solid pillar beneath. The promontory itself is surrounded on three sides by a wrinkle in the Curtainfall. As such, the villas scattered around the perimeter of Loadstone enjoy spectacular views and perpetual rainbows as the waterfall cascades into the mid-crust’s Twilight Sea, and are some of the most expensive volumetric property in the system.

Other landmarks to be found in Loadstone include the Probable Technologies Academy of Crypto-Archaeology, the Loadstone Geophysical Institute, and the headquarters of the Megastructural Colloquium.


As well as the highest, Thalíär also hosts the longest waterfall in the Empire. The Curtainfall marks the point at which the uppermost crust ends in mid-ocean; prevented from draining in its entirety by a ridge of hard rock – as well as the replenishment it receives from the nearby Hydrocaust – the waters of the Streaming Ocean cascade down into the mid-crust along nearly a thousand miles of edge.


A single, ruler-straight shaft which descends from the highlands of the upper crust directly to the Undersea, the Eye of Aldéré is notable for providing an excellent view of the stars at any time of day. The astronomical orders of Aldéré have claimed the site as a hallows, and constructed a floating shrine to the eikone of the celestial vault thereupon.


The Glittering Halls are a series of caverns large enough to house small cities, located within the planetary mid-crust. Massive quartz formations above the Halls, coupled with the cut-away upper crust above the region, allow natural light to penetrate miles deep and illuminate the caverns. Plentiful geothermal energy, meanwhile, bubbles up from the solid pillar below. It is one of the most populated regions of Thalíär, centered around the cities of Shimmer, Brilliance, Scintillation, and Tinct, and the buried industrial center of Drophammer.


The highest mountain on Thalíär, readily identifiable by its unusually flattened peak, Sardal’s Peak rises 28,947′ above upper crust datum. It is named after Sardal Elemtieros, the first-in scout who first set foot on the planet in 4196.


A roughly teardrop-shaped section of the upper crust connected neither to the main body of that crust nor to the mid-crust below it, the Sky’s Tear is an island floating free in Thalíar’s sky.

Unlike the cloud coral islands of Torachal (Talie Marches), however, or the floatstone mountains of Calríäkay (First Expanses), the Sky’s Tear is a solid body of normal, native rock – just one, to the dismay of geologists, hanging in the sky in a manner not typically characterized by rocks.

The Sky’s Tear Exodochium, built into the island’s lower surface, is recommended to all visitors. The caves nearby house small populations of the airthia and xoxixa reconstructed by the Mythologae Immanentization Initiative, the latter in particular taking well to the intense geomagnetic environment of the region.


As might be expected, Thalíär also plays host to the highest waterfall in the Empire. The Vorissevel river plunges over five miles straight down from the upper crust directly into the Undersea through the shaft of the Thunder Well. The force of the water crashing upon the volcanic plug at the base of the Well sends an endless peal of thunder reverberating for hundreds of miles across the Undersea.


Within the dusky world of the lower crust is the resting place of all Thalíar’s waters; a mostly-lightless ocean whose waters embrace much of the planet, warmed by geothermal vents, home to pale fish and darkness-adapted cephalopods, from minuscule plankton-feeders to the mighty kraken. This is the Undersea.

The most notable illumination found in this shadowy realm is the Hydrocaust. Where a series of deep clefts brings light to the ocean, a curiously stable magma plume also brings heat from below, raising the temperature in the vicinity to near-boiling. The plumes of steam gushing from these clefts are responsible for much of the cloud formation, and hence rainfall, on the shellworld.

The particularly heavy rainfall on the slopes of the nearby Precipice Range keeps the Streaming Ocean full, and so the Curtainfall spectacular.


A city-bunker providing for the survival of civilization against the largest of natural disasters – potentially even such cosmic catastrophes as gamma-ray bursts or nearby supernovae – the Survival Complex is buried deep within the lowest of Thalíar’s multiple crusts. Armored in continental plates, this last redoubt rests secure beneath multiple protective layers of rock and water, miles-thick.

– excerpted from Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Core Worlds

Literary Conceit

(Author’s note: for those not remembering the galactography, much as Sialhaith is the Venus-like planet orbiting the primary star of the eldrae home system, Elémíre is another example of the same class orbiting its binary companion…)

Unlike its cousin, Sialhaith, the ecopoesis of Elémíre proceeded to schedule. No longer a lifeless hothouse, Elémíre is a lifeful hothouse; life flourishes throughout the green-blue jungles that flow around its jagged mountain ranges and highland plateaus, and in its seething, briny, red-orange seas, and even in its clouded, misty skies. Hothouse, however, it most certainly remains: temperatures vary from a (relatively) cool 298 K at midnight rising quickly to a steamy 315 K at midday, and humidity hovers in the 90%-plus range at all times, giving the air the consistency of warmed soup. Mist and fog are perpetual (and cloud cover is near-continuous in the lowlands); rain almost so, as the rising mist forms droplets in the lower atmosphere which splash back to the surface, to the point that local meteorologists find it simpler to forecast the absence of rain.

Would it be possible to continue the ecopoesis to render Elémíre cooler and more Eliéran? Almost certainly, but such proposals have never attracted much interest. Elémíre’s colonists were drawn to their world by the promise that it could be made to reify the imaginings of authors inspired by the mysterious cloud-veiled planet seen in their telescopes, and mere convenience is insufficient to shake their love for their sweltering jewel.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Core Worlds


At Least It’s Not Corpse Flower

The defining feature of Lintis (Banners), to most visitors, is that the entire planet smells strongly of peppermint. (A characteristic attributable to the local grass-analog – there’s always a grass-analog – which is heavily loaded with menthols.) Natives and long-term residents, of course, have all long stopped smelling anything, but the casual visitor always ends up leaving before their nose burns in. Or burns out.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Core Worlds

Things to See, Places to Go (9)

Silicate Sanctuary Worlds: The renegade digisapiences of the Silicate Tree have two “sanctuary worlds” for biosapiences who flee into their space and are, or have been, of utility to them. These worlds are named Zero One (Galith Waste), a barely eusylithic habitable world and One Zero (Csell Buffer), a eutalentic supplied with scattered colony prefabs. Neither supports much in the way of industry, culture, society, or other reasons to visit, save the all-too-interesting experience of flying under the guns of grumpy ex-slaves who need a reason not to blow you out of space.

This nomenclature alone should give you a fair idea of the degree of wit that the Tree tends to ascribe to protein intelligences.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Ecumene


Things to See, Places to Go (5)

Kuramesu Drift: A modestly-sized modular drift-habitat located in the Omane (First Expanses) System, at the Solar-Diageri (Omane IV) trailing libration point.

Kuramesu Drift is an independent drift, unaffiliated with any of the polities or law providers of Omane Actual, the freesoil world with which it shares a system. Rather, Kuramesu Drift is chartered to the Microstatic Commission, providing a data haven and negotiation space for the Worlds’ many micronations and small freeholds to play politics out from under the eyes of their much larger cousins. Omane, one link outside the Empire’s border, protected from intimidation by other polities by its position in an isolated loop route only accessible by passing through an Imperial border world – Ionai (First Expanses) – and yet only 13 links from the Conclave Drift by optimal routing, is essentially perfect for these purposes.

Naturally, Kuramesu Drift has a very high density of spies per capita. In fact, gentle reader, you may find it easiest to assume that everyone not an actual delegate or you, yourself, is a spy for someone.

The drift is, however, well worth visiting for reasons other than espionage. The lifestyles of even minor notables ensure that Kuramesu Drift is blessed with excellent shopping districts, banking facilities, and cultural events, including a spintronic symphony orchestra, tholin baths, and microgravity ballet, and the Commission offsets the running costs of the Drift by renting out their facilities to a variety of conferences (especially those seeing an advantage in a location near, but not within, the Empire) and conventions when they are not otherwise in use.

Meanwhile, the Agent’s Rest offers one of the finest polyspecific selections of liquors and other hedonics to be found in the central Worlds. Just don’t ask for a double – everyone’s heard that one already.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Ecumene

The Eleventh Planet?

(In honor of current events, here, have a Pluto-analog…)

They say one is the loneliest number, but eleven is the loneliest planet. Well, it’s not a planet as such. Múrcár is, galactographically, a gelidean-class planetesimal, massing 1.7 x 1022 kg, and orbiting well beyond the system snowline at an average of 41 au.

This terminological technicality is a great relief to the Imperial Grand Survey’s Board of Nomenclature, since at aphelion, Múrcár’s orbit reaches 56 au from Lumenna, at the far outer edge of Senna’s Belt. Since the stars of the Lumenna-Súnáris System have only a 125 au separation at closest approach, the height of deep summer, they have been known to swap Sennan objects back and forth at this time; and while it has not yet been observed, astronomers believe that Múrcár’s orbit is vulnerable to this phenomenon when conditions are right. And thus the nomenclaturists would prefer, in this special case, not to have to rule definitively that Múrcár is Lumenna XI when it might be Súnáris X only a matter of mere millennia later.

The above, unfortunately, is the most interesting thing that can be said about Múrcár specifically. It is in virtually all ways a typical gelidean-class Sennan object, composed largely of ices (primarily water ice, with a surface admixture of methane, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen ice) surrounding a core of silicaceous material; it is merely the largest – and first discovered – of the objects in Senna’s Belt.

Múrcár was discovered in 1843 by Senna Marasi, an astronomer at the Starspike, during a fortuitous transit of Súnáris. While it was considered for a while the eleventh planet of the Lumenna system, further studies of the region soon showed other bodies, albeit smaller, to also exist there, similar to the e’Luminiaren. The first close-up images of Múrcár were obtained in 2099, in a fly-by by the Peregrine Ardent probe, and it was first visited in 2139, at which time a lander from Outward Bound confirmed much of the speculation about its surface conditions. The first sophont landing did not take place until 2409 (CSS Veiled In Darkness As A Gown), during an exploratory mission primarily focused upon the further-out bodies of the Shards.

Since then, Múrcár has remained essentially uninhabited. It has however, in its time, hosted:

  • A temporary home port and refueling station for comet herders during the ecopoesis of Talentar;
  • An astronomical observatory far from the traffic and noise of the inner system;
  • A monastery, “Emptiness Dome”, for the meditative Children of the Void sect, before the construction of their present home of Blackwatch Station in Almeä System;
  • A repository-vault for the Green Bytes data haven, which moved on due to Múrcár becoming too well known for their purposes;
  • The primary coordination point for the Outsystem Early Warning line, until it was obsoleted by newer technologies and placed far behind the Empire’s borders after the Reunification;
  • The observatory control center for the Barrascán Array (before its replacement by the Very Long Baseline Observer, itself replaced by the Super-Size Synthetic Aperture).
  • A fueling station for outbound lighthuggers of the now-largely-obsolete “snowball” type.

In the present day, however, Múrcár hosts only a single automated, unstaffed, habitat and fuel station, intended for emergency use. Múrcár also serves as a gathering place, market, and communications hub for the various hermits, fringers, and other darkfolk who make their homes in the far outer system, but this activity almost always takes place in Múrcár near space, rather than on the world itself.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Core Worlds

The Fire at the Heart

Corícal Ailek.  It’s not the oldest star system in the Transcend, nor the most central – two gates from Eliéra via Palaxias, one gate from Cinté, and one gate from Tessil – but it may well be the most important; the seething brain of the transcendent overmind itself.

Corícal had five planets once, according to galactographic records, but only the oldest, the indigo-green hydrogen-methane ice giant Saviáná at the far fringes of the system remains, its moons hosting refueling stations (some dating back to the system’s days as a stopover on the Cinté-Tessil route), reception habs for visitors, and the system defense force.  The four small rocky planets that once orbited closer in to the primary have long since been dismantled, torn apart for construction materials along with the majority of the system’s asteroids.

After all, it takes a lot of material to build a Dyson swarm.  Or even a partial Dyson swarm; the Transcend is yet young, and evidently feels no need to expand Corícal any faster than its processing needs grow, and so the three layers of the Corícal swarm still only fill a fraction of the circumstellar sphere.

The most complete of the three layers is the innermost, orbiting so close to the Corícal sun as to skim its corona.  Golden-winged polyhedra soak up light and particles alike, beaming power and fuel to the complexes and terranes further out, and soothing the temperamental star’s emissions.

Further out, AI-hosting complexes, immense fractal chandeliers of organic crystal, orbit; photonic computronium glimmering with information light, communication lasers flashing between them and binding the Transcend’s core mind – for though it is scattered across processors throughout the Imperial worlds, this is the center to which they all answer – into one single whole.

And outermost, within the life zone of the star, orbit the hexterranes; open-topped hexagonal habitat-plates, walled to hold atmosphere, organized into a great free-floating lattice that will one day surround it, with scattered wells to vent the heat from the inner layers.  Under the yellow-white light of Corícal, scattered across rainbow skies by the crystal computers of the middle sphere, the hexterranes play host to dozens of environments – oxygen, halogen, ammonia, methane, hydrogen, sulfide – each with its own paradisiacal ecology perfected for the comfort of the sophonts who inhabit it, or who come to visit the cathedrals, loreworks, contemplationaries, and estates of these cities on the edge of the heart of the light.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Core Worlds

On the Drift

The Conclave Drift. The jewel at the heart of the Associated Worlds, it is the heart of the Accord community; the seat of the Conclave of Galactic Polities, the most comprehensive center of interpolity diplomacy in the Worlds; an unofficial cultural, commercial and financial capital for hundreds of species and star nations; and the most tightly packed polyspecific community anywhere in the known galaxy.

Located very close to the center of the Worlds – just one gate away from Eliera, Palaxias and Cinnaré by arterial – in the Accordance system, the Conclave Drift is also at the heart of Imperial space. While system security is provided by detached units of the Imperial Capital Fleet under Conclave authority, the system is legally neutral territory open to the passage of all; the diplomatic vessels of even the Empire’s avowed enemies are permitted free passage to Accordance, in peace or war.

(The Drift owes its location to the willingness of the Empire both to provide an otherwise empty – except for a few support facilities – star system to house it, to accept the principle of free passage to and from the Drift, and to defray by far the largest part of the construction expenses and operational overhead. Much of this, in practice, was paid for by private interests which foresaw the advantages of such a hub, and indeed, the Empire’s commerce has reaped considerable benefits from playing host to the Conclave and its hangers-on.)

The Drift itself orbits 52 million miles from the hot, white star Accordance. It is the largest drift-habitat ever constructed (excluding the hexterranes at Corícal Ailék) at 36 miles long, a gleaming, fluted flame lily against the void of space.

The stem of the lily hosts the drift’s microgravity infrastructure, a short mile-long stalk.  Most visitors to the Drift will dock here, at the far end of the Stem, and take a transport pod to their intended destination.

Abutting the utilitarian Stem is the Conclave Mall, a wide habitat ring clad in shimmering gold cerametal plating.  It contains the heart of the Drift’s official functions; the offices of the various organizations attached to the Conclave, embassies and offices from the various polities represented in it, offices of the largest starcorporations, and a few restaurants, shopping districts and private residences for the Worlds’ elite.  While most of the Mall is maintained as a compromise mid-range oxygen-breather environment, of note are the Alternate Environment Sectors between the 40 and 160 meridia, for the use of species preferring ammonia, halogen, methane, sulphide, or hydrogen environments.  The spin gravity is maintained at a third of standard (“just enough to keep your feet on the floor”), in deference to the aquatic and aerial members of the Conclave, and the simulated day-night cycle matches Imperial Standard Time.

But with a few exceptions (such as the Crescent Bar – one of the galaxy’s largest hotels, with an open-air bar which crosses the entire width of the Mall, which most of the unofficial business of the Worlds passes through at some time or other, and which still maintains a welcoming atmosphere, an excellent cuisine, and an unmatched drink selection – opposite the Conclave Chambers at the 180 meridian), the businesslike and relatively ascetic environs of the Mall are not the reason why travelers for pleasure should visit the Drift.  The excitement happens in the Petals.

The “flower” of the Drift, the Petals, curves outwards in a single sculpted megastructure 32 miles from the ring of the Mall to its open end, its polished silver cerametal coating gleaming white in the light of Accordance.  While the structure of the Petals itself contains transport systems and other low-level infrastructure, within it is the true bustling city of the drift, the Enclaves. Every polity associated with the Conclave is permitted to claim an region within the Petals, which it may then develop as it sees fit; a bustling throng of miniature cities in myriad architectural styles and environments, home to nearly 20 million embodied sophonts.  The Enclaves never sleep – following an early-established custom, there is no alternation of day and night in the Petals – and at any time of the cycle, business is done, entertainments are to be found, meals to be had, and there is always something to do.

While there are tens of thousands of places to visit in the Petals, here are some of our particular favorites…

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Conclave Drift