Things You Are No Longer Allowed To Do In The Imperial Military Service

This one goes out to all my readers who have spent time deployed somewhere really, really, exquisitely tedious…

From: Master-at-Arms, CS Ablator
To: All Personnel, Task Group SPIKY POTATO
Subject: Prohibitions That Should Not Have To Be Explicit

It has come to my attention that due to the less than challenging nature of our current duty station, certain behaviors qualifying as discipline problems have become alarmingly common throughout this Task Group. Worse, it has come to the Admiral’s attention, and the Admiral, permit me to assure you, is even less amused by them than I am.

From the date of posting this notice, therefore, the following are now explicitly prohibited, and violations will attract the full weight of Article Three to the violator and anyone else involved.

  1. The chief reason for the unchallenging nature of our present duty station is the technical advantage we enjoy over the enemy. The correct military terminology for this, however, is battlespace supremacy. Under no circumstances is it to be referred to in after-action reports as god mode. Good grief, people, you all know that our AARs are matters of public record. Try to show a little professionalism.
  2. Local allies are technically referred to as colonial troops, and not as ablative meat, however lacking their TO&E might be. At least where they can hear you.
  3. Even if the locals have no missiles capable of doing more than bouncing off our ships’ hulls, the tactical tank is for monitoring local-space activity. Not for playing Galaxy of Conquest in super-high-res. (And if you’re the officer Captain Oricalcios walked in on mid-game, your tactics were terrible and you just failed this year’s promotion board.)
  4. The official motto of the Imperial Military Service is “Between the Flame and the Fire”. Unofficially, the paraphrase “civilization has enemies; we kill the bastards” has been usually tolerated. All of the following, however, are to be avoided: “Your sexy new war gods”, “because nuclear ain’t enough”, “death death death death death”, and any references to squid.
  5. Yes, the paderi are a quadrupedal species. This does not mean that our local allies can be used as cavalry mounts.
  6. Even, and I wish to emphasize this in particular, if it was their idea. Even assuming that it is a good idea, the optics are terrible.
  7. Nor are any of our current variety of combat drones suitable for use in this role. You’ll just have to live without valiantly charging down the enemy so you can hit them with your sword.
  8. Even if you have a cavalry sword. Why do you have a cavalry sword?
  9. Your fellow legionaries are not to be used as projectile weapons.
  10. Betting on arm-wrestling with civilians while wearing power-assisted armor is forbidden, even if they are drunk and spoiling for trouble. The local hospitals have started to complain.
  11. Combat stimulators are not to be considered a substitute for esklav, no matter what you think of the mess brew.
  12. Nor, although the Imperial Military Service is relatively permissive where fraternization is concerned, are they to be used to spice up your love life. Surgeon-Lieutenant Aendyr has been issued a blanket authorization to post pictures.
  13. While chameleon coatings can be set to any color and pattern, flames, hot pink, your favorite painting, or last week’s episode of Battle Beyond the Brane are not approved for field use.
  14. Aftermarket speaker systems are not to be fitted to combat exoskeletons. Your AI already provides a perfectly adequate soundtrack.
  15. …even if you did require them to “challenge the enemy to a dance-off”, we have a requisitions procedure for a reason.
  16. No military equipment is to be used for recreational purposes. If whatever you thought of makes you smile, giggle, or laugh, you are to assume that it constitutes recreational purposes until advised otherwise.
  17. Especially if it involves any intersection of stealth hardware with practical jokes.
  18. Yes, cook-outs are recreational. Besides, no heat-generating weapons in inventory can be turned down far enough to leave the meat even slightly edible. Yes, we checked.
  19. So is requisitioning drop shuttles for booze runs or ‘surprise rapid insertion liberty’.
  20. While the IMS recognizes that explosives can be used to solve a remarkable number of classes of problems, and while formal research into expanding this list is usually done by the Office of Military Research and Development it is nonetheless happy to add field improvisations to its official repertoire, this applies to field improvisations. It is not a blanket authorization for unofficial explosives research.
  21. While the Imperial Military Service also has no fan-fiction policy, largely due to no-one ever imagining that it might need a fan-fiction policy, would-be authors are reminded that it still needs to be cleared through all the normal channels before you post it publicly. Especially if you want to illustrate it with staged or real combat videos.
  22. …and if you’re writing that kind of fan-fiction, be aware that at least some of your characters can have you spaced for mutiny.
  23. While your efforts to challenge yourselves are admirable, save it for actual exercises. Pretending you’ve forgotten to bring bullets to the battle so you’ll be forced to improvise may be a challenge, but it’s also a mockery of the rules of war, and just begging for an unpleasant surprise.
  24. Especially if by “improvise” you mean “punch, a lot”.
  25. It’s still a bad idea to play Ancyr roulette even if it’s mathematically impossible for the bullets to penetrate N45 Garrex field combat armor.
  26. …especially if whoever you’re playing it with isn’t wearing N45 Garrex field combat armor.
  27. Unless you’re a psychological warfare specialist, you are not authorized to conduct psychological warfare.
  28. Against either side.

That is all. Or rather, that had better be all, because Ablator has an awful lot of hull that could stand a good cleaning. Six by six?

 

Yeah, Maybe Not That Short

Academician Sesca Galith stepped up behind the podium, and tapped it gently to begin. The audience quieted rapidly as she held up a wickedly-pointed poniard, of oddly-textured metal, with lights gleaming white and amber in its hilt, whose image was repeated on the displayed behind her.

“Presenting, gentlesophs, the latest in field interrogation technology from Eye-in-the-Flame’s cognitive weaponry division. This little tool is our ripknife, a guaranteed instrumentality for extracting information when it is both necessary and urgent. Using a nanitic burning-scan reader, when emplaced in the cerebral cavity of a target via some vulnerable aperture or thinness, the ripknife creates a high-resolution destructive scan of the neural network of their brain’s essential regions, then uploads it via your tactical mesh network to your battlespace command center. There, static mind-state analysis or fork interrogation using our patented NEUROLAUNDRY ™ software will lay your target’s secrets bare within minutes, and relay useful information back to you over the mesh. There is no better way to ensure field data acquisition proceeds rapidly enough to keep you inside the opposition’s command-and-control loop –”

A grizzled kaeth in the audience coughed. “Doc, we’re all just simple mercenaries here. Give us the short version?”

“Find someone knowledgeable on the other side, then stick it through the eye socket and wait until the light turns blue. Ignore the dripping. Then you know what they know. Knew.”

 

Trope-a-Day: Clone Army

Clone Army: Just… don’t.

In its simplest form, where you’re just using cloning technology to replicate military-grade bodies as quickly as you can, it may be valuable. It won’t help you with absolute growth rates, since the expensive part is growing the minds to put in the bodies which is much harder to rush, but if you have noetic backup technology at least you can get your casualties back into the field faster.

If you are actually attempting to run what is functionally a non-divergent fork army, however, this will fail dramatically as soon as anyone notices – because, gee, do you think having your entire army react in the same way to every situation and stimulus might just open up a few security holes?

If you’re really lucky, this won’t get everyone killed.

Undeath

Ravens.

Why are they always ravens?

I have met lots of dar-vorac in civilian life, and while they’re strange in the usual ways that uplifts are strange, dar-bandal possibly somewhat excepted, and they’re mostly cheerful, well-adjusted people. No death fixations or suchlike abound, unless you count their taste in restaurants. Oh, slevanka, please let it not be the eyeballs.

But in the Legions, if your battle goes sideways hard enough that you need to send for a necromancer – sorry, battlefield nonfunctional/deathected asset repurposing specialist – then eleven times out of twelve you’ll see a raven flying in. Accompanied by the rising, swirling, drone-spewed mist of nanites that’s going to chew its way into the plentiful corpses, biophage the spare parts, and use the resulting energy to make the rest shamble their way towards the enemy and pull the trigger from time to time before being shot to sufficient pieces. Well enough to serve as a distraction or cover your retreat, anyway.

You just have to hope the enemy finds it as creepifying as we do.

Or, at least, as nauseating.

 

The Blood-Brain Barrier

From: Alvis Antarianus, Expansion Renewal Union
To: Heriath Calliste, Inevitable Justice Foundation
Subject: Re: Cleaning up the Union once and for all

Look, your proposed operation is well designed. I’ll give it that. But there’s no chance whatsoever that it’ll pass the Senate. Galactic Relations or State Security’d kill it in a heartbeat even if Military Affairs were to let it pass, which they won’t.

Even if you can persuade all the right people that it’s a worthy cause, preemptive occupations are a dead letter for a reason, and it’s not just a few faded scrolls at State & Outlands with a peace addiction. Academician Doctor Excellence Selidië Cíëlle killed them the moment she figured out how to meme-map a mind-state and back-port alterations to the original living brain. She gave us desire control, meme rehab, psychedesign, and the Guardians of Our Harmony, but she shot the knees out from under the belligerati doing it.

People can tell themselves that they won’t crack under torture, even when it’s a nerve stapler or a death cube. They can tell themselves that they can resist any bribe, withstand any temptation, not succumb to any cunning memetic campaign, and intimidate or plain murder any of their neighbors who do. There’s even some damn fools who convince themselves they have the mental integrity to shrug off a YGBM.

But no-one, no-one, can resist psychedesign applied directly to their brain, and everyone out there knows that.

The Conclave of Clionomy have run the vectors on this. Our reputation for ethical stringency keeps people calm and trusting, under normal circumstances. But take a voluntary trip down into the tar-pit, and you’re going to get rumors and propaganda flying about how we’re mass-reprocessing people into good little libertist meme-bots, or weaponizing infectious nanotech that rewrites the loyalty circuits of people’s brains, or some such bitswarf, and if their projections are right, that has a high probability of taking us to CASE SKYSHOCK RED and a hard civilization kill event within two years, five at the outside.

You know they’d be lies, and I know they’d be lies, but try to imagine just how terrifying literally changing someone’s mind would be to a paranoid peon with a poor grasp of consensuality.

Maybe you could try pitching it to the waserai ambassador?

– Alvis

 

Trope-a-Day: Blade Below the Shoulder

Blade Below the Shoulder: Some types I and II exist; the former because a strap-on “weapon pod” is a standard accessory for quick-draw weapons, some of which might as well be blades, and the latter because – well, while they’re as impractical as concealed weapons as any other cybernetic implant, X-rays being a thing, and probably not the most useful thing you could stash inside your arm anyway, some people have funny tastes and like the notion of weapons attached to them.

Type III is certainly possible, but it not being considered an idiotic self-handicap probably isn’t. That discourages people.

Trope-a-Day: Biological Weapons Solve Everything

So, um, first some words of apology for the last week’s silence (due to feeling sicker than a dog, mostly, along with various other impedimenta that made it hard to write), especially to those new patrons who must surely be wondering what they signed up in time for…

Sorry.

But anyway – I’m back on stream, and new content should be with you very shortly, starting with this!

Biological Weapons Solve Everything: Well, not everything, but they do solve certain highly specific problems – ironically enough, usually those scenarios in which the answer is not, in fact, killing everything.

But if you want to paralyze the enemy’s army by inducing several million cases of hemophilia, just to take the military option off the table for a while so that affairs can be resolved via some better method, or just slow things down generally with the highly contagious common cold from hell, or degrade infrastructure with a handy mycoid that feeds on asphalt, or target a virus against one highly specific genetically-identified individual or group…

Subtle, highly specific tools. That’s what bioweapons and their nanoweapon cousins are good for.

(You’ve got to be bloody sure about the anti-mutation and limited-propagation safeguards you build in, though.)