(Inspired by the Inevitable Certainty Engine, of course.)
BROADCAST // PHÓLARAE LABSWARM & ADJUNCTS // INFRA UNCLASS
ALL ECS STATIONS ANNOUNCE
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY // ALERT 6981/11/04
This is an EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY alert for all residents of the Phólarae labswarm and adjuncts. Related travel advisories have been dispatched to regions proximal.
An enhanced lactobacillus culture having escaped from a bactry system within Tokóver Hot Labs module 3/A in the early hours of this morning – a culture which is now displaying signs of internal self-organization, intentionality, and device manipulation – the Office of the Sane Man advises that all areas aboard Tokóver Hot Labs module 3/A should be considered off-limits to all non-essential personnel without special authorization until negotiations are complete and a contrabroadcast is formally made.
The Office of the Sane Man requests that all personnel and/or visitors with experience in linguistics or in the chemical communication of the biological components of yoghurt please identify themselves to the Unexpected Cognition Task Force and hold themselves ready for deployment.
It has been three (3) days since our last unanticipated intelligence excursion.
All citizen-shareholders are thanked for their cooperation.
Turning to the Vector itself, it is, as we have said, the eighth planet of its primary, hot white Enlightenment. Ordinarily, one would not expect a planet so distant from its sun to be warm enough to be habitable, but the energetic history of the system and the star-forming region from which it was born blessed Enlightenment’s worlds in general and the Vector in particular with a bounty of radioactives. Thus, the Vector is heated to habitable temperature by its fiercely burning core and continuous vulcanism.
The Physical Vector
On approach, Resplendent Exponential Vector is a sooty jewel smeared with wisps of yellow cloud; its twin continents, far-flung Innovation and isolated Discovery black with millennia of layered volcanic ash, set amid esklav-dark seas, and gleaming in the night with traceries of red and blue-white – the red of flowing lava rivers, and the glimmering stars of civilization.
The atmosphere is breathable, rich with oxygen produced by the acidophilic phytoplankton found in the oceans, although the plentiful sulphur compounds therein wouldn’t recommend breathing it to those without appropriately resistant lungs. Nonetheless, this rendered it a prime colonization prospect, since the Vector’s domed cities merely require simple filters and pressurization pumps to maintain their internal atmosphere.
The native ecosystem of the Vector is sparse, simple, and robust: land plant niches are dominated by thermovoric, chemosynthetic fungi, including analogs to slime molds, truffles, mushrooms, lichens, and others, many bioluminescent. The animal niche is occupied by so-called “fungimals”; organisms with chitinous exoskeletons whose cells bear more resemblance to the mycetes than to more conventional animaloid lifeforms.
(To many of those selecting Resplendent Exponential Vector as a scientific colony, the nature of the planet held considerable appeal; agronomists were delighted with the potential of the nutrient-rich ash, while biochemists considered the fungal ecosystem to be a veritable treasure-trove.)
An unusual component of the Vector’s ecosystem is its wild mechanicals; the feral descendants of experimental robotic swarms with unusual low-level intelligences.
The planet itself appears surrounded by a thin ring, visible even from the surface as a gleaming band of junklight; the legacy of millennia of orbital development. While never hosting as grand a labswarm as Phólarae, the orbital band is nonetheless rich with habitats, workshacks, orbital laboratories, research satellites, resource dumps, powersats, orbital mirrors, and other structures.
Of all these structures, two are the grandest. The largest station in the Vector’s geosynchronous orbit is the Tramaharav Kaernar, the “manufacturing warrens”. A group of engineering habitats, microgravity factories, and macroscale fabbers of various shapes and sizes strung together on loose scaffolds like clusters of beads, gathered around a hollowed-out former mining asteroid, it is here that much of the prototyping and assembly into the finished goods needed by the researchers of Resplendent Exponential Vector and for new facilities being constructed in the system is done.
The unquestioned queen of the orbit, however, is Axiom Station – the upper terminus of the Vector’s beanstalk, and the capital of the system.
The golden gateway to this world of science, Axiom Station sits atop the four-stranded orbital elevator descending to the planetary capital of Asymptote, far below. A symbol, it is constructed in the shape of a giant atomic model from the dawn of modern science: the core of the station is formed as a nucleus of 6Li, six merged spheres, in which the protons are clad in shimmering gold chrysadamant alloy, and the neutrons picked out by the dark windows of park terranes and greenhouses. Around these spin the three habitation rings of polished silver, each bearing a teardrop representing the ever-circling electron.
While much of the space aboard Axiom Station is naturally given over to spaceport services and transshipment, the majority of the volume aboard is given over to the operation of system governance, with each of the three “protons” housing the offices beholden to a particular member of the Science Triumvirate: the Supreme Investigator, the Dean of Evidence, and the Sane Man.
A Note on Governance
The formal, conlegial governance of the Vector – the Science Triumvirate – is very much focused on the pursuit of science, engineering, and progress above all else. We will therefore spend little time discussing the routine functions of governance as they are performed everywhere in the Empire, save to note that these rest safely in the hands of the aptly-named Chancellor of the Mundanities, whose offices are located downwell in Asymptote’s Bay City dome.
As for the Triumvirate themselves, they each preside over a distinct segment of the scientific endeavor:
The Supreme Investigator deals with the first stages of the scientific process: in presiding over the Grant Council and the Project Execution Commission, along with Potential Applications and the tangle of other subcommissions beneath them, liaising with the Vector’s private and corporate sponsorship, and coordinating public and private requests for lab space, equipment access, and other limited resources, as well as maintaining the hypothesis bounty board, the Supreme Investigator sets the process of discovery in motion.
The Dean of Evidence concerns himself with the extraction of truth from all the science being done, all across the Vector. As such, the research prediction markets which drive the Evidentiary’s activity are under his purview, as are all matters relating to confirmatory and replicatory experimentation – and by the Vector’s charter, no research conducted there may be published without the Evidentiary’s imprimatur. It is the Evidentiary which arranges for confirmatory experiments funded by the research predicatin markets, and further replications as necessary, all carried out either by the Evidentiary’s permanent staff of consultant replicators, or by scientists willing to carry out experiments – in areas unrelated to their own research and in which they have no investment, to ensure a lack of bias – for compensation or additional priority with the Supreme Investigator.
And the Sane Man endeavors to ensure that the entire system – and, for that matter, the entire System – does not explode, supervising a range of departments along the lines of Laboratory O&M, Range Safety, Precautionary Mandates, Tort Insurance Liaison, Existential Threats and Doom Avoidance, the Science Constabulary – not a police organization, but rather iatropsychic specialists in talking highly-strung geniuses back from the edge – and the Bureau of Mandatory Fun Weeks, and when those fail, with access to certain last resorts, including a peremptory veto on research exceeding the Vector’s indemnity coverage, and a small arsenal of antimatter warheads to terminate prompt experimental excursions.
Asymptote is the Vector’s planetary capital, located in the crook of the “L” where northern and western Innovation meet to form a wide crescent bay almost exactly on the planetary equator.
The city itself is divided into five multi-mile-wide domes; two – Gleaming Children and Evolutionary Park – sit on the bay’s southern edge, while Everlasting Science Fair and the Apparatus Agora lie to the east. Between these, the river of lava originating in the Knucklebones, far to the south-east, oozes its way past the heat exchangers of the Stonefall Geothermal Power Plant and beneath the city’s famous Glass Bridge to a steamy end in the city’s deep lagoon.
(The many small cafés scattered along the bridge, where the ruddy light of molten stone below meets the twilight provided by Asymptote’s dedicated solettas, it is worth mentioning, are the city’s most popular spot for clandestine rendezvous and romantic tete-a-tetes.)
The descent from Axiom Station on the orbital elevator provides a spectacular view of the city. It descends into the center of the bay, and through the apex of the Bay City dome directly into downtown. Passenger arrivals are usually routed via the south-east strand, such that the windows of the descending capsules are afforded a spectacular view of the other city domes, and of “Aspiration to Utopia,” the city’s centerpiece – a huge sculpture upon an island at the mouth of the lava river celebrating the spirit of Imperial progress, a stylized man and woman grown from gleaming spinmetal, standing together and reaching up to claim lightning from the heavens.
Bay City itself is constructed on an artificial island, floating in the bay amid the other domes. Aside from the groundside terminus of the orbital elevator, it is the most cosmopolitan of Asymptote’s domes, containing most of the city’s housing, hotels, and other basic functions. A fleet of environmentally-sealed charterboats provide transport back and forth from Bay City to the quays of the other domes.
The Everlasting Science Fair dome is centered around Resplendent Exponential Vector’s largest exhibition hall and conference center complex, which hosts a never-ending series of presentations by the Vector’s sponsors and many of its leading researchers. The remainder of the dome, however, which gives it its name, is exactly that: a vast, sprawling plaza filled with exhibits demonstrating the principles of science and technology, from the simplest natural phenomena to the most complex of ontotechnologies, a dynamic and joyful collection of knowledge.
(While this does generate a considerable portion of the Vector’s tourism income, it is visited every day by many of the local researchers, who report finding the atmosphere remarkably restful.)
Gleaming Children is Asymptote’s corporate sector, a labyrinth of office plazas and secondary businesses radiating out from the spike at its center, the topaz-and-emerald tower piercing and surpassing the dome’s apex: Exogenesis Plaza, the radiant headquarters of Exogenesis, ICC, most prominent among the Vector’s original corporate sponsors. A full sixth-sector of the dome is owned by them and sublet gratis to their prized “garage inventors”, lending it the nickname “Sponsored By Exogenesis!”.
Also prominent within the dome are Extropa Energy’s twin glass skyscrapers, illuminated from within by the blue glow of the vertically-stretched, transparent fusion cores at their hearts, and from without by arcing lightning between the towers, a living symbol of their function; and the Vault, the Probable Technologies facility housing thousands of paleotech artifacts recovered from all across the Worlds, made freely available to interested researchers.
Evolutionary Park is Asymptote’s glass-garden dome, receiving additional illumination from solar-spectrum lights built into the dome’s framework. Around the fringes, some areas are given over to specialized farming projects, but the majority of the dome is a vast botanical garden and park, an ecosystem woven together from hundreds of Imperial worlds and accented with the finest products of the Vector’s biosculptors; a calm and peaceful oasis amid the city’s bustle.
The Asymptote Maglev Terminal is attached to the outer edge of Evolutionary Park, this garden dome providing, in the view of the city governance, the best and most relaxing introduction to the planetary capital.
Finally, Apparatus Agora is the last dome, and one dedicated entirely to commercial pursuits. The eastern half of the dome is the Supply district in which virtually any apparatus, component, or other item needed by the Vector’s researchers – in any field – can be purchased. To the west, in Demand, a variety of small bazaars offer the fruits of science and invention for purchase, including access to prototypes and experimental models offered on the condition that the purchaser provide detailed reports on their use in the field.
The Vector, of course, has many other cities, primarily scattered across Innovation and linked by a maglev web. Discovery is lightly populated, principally with localized research habs, with much of the continent held in fallow reserve.
The other cities of Resplendent Exponential Vector are, of course, particularly focused on research. These tend to be intentional communities focused on a particular field or area of research. Some of the best known are these:
Cog, a specialized robotics community, whose entire infrastructure is constructed as a dynamic sculpture of interacting gears;
Fusion Pulse and Gravity Resonance, twin cities for the study of astronomy and astrophysics, and centers for the analysis of data from the Empire’s large-baseline arrays;
Memento, the library city, and home of the planetary branch of the Repository of All Knowledge;
Modular Future, a swarm of self-reconfiguring buildings, home to ongoing studies of emergent behavior, coordination, and complexity disciplines;
Volatile Enterprise, the semi-subterranean center for the study of explosives, nucleonics, and propulsion technologies;
and Ascension Praxis, the birthplace of the Transcend itself, and a continuing center for the development of seed AI and trans-singularity thought.
If you’re coming to the Vector, your first stop is going to be Axiom Station, the tip of the beanstalk descending to Asymptote, the Vector’s capital, jack city, and safe harbor. Everywhere else in the system, from the solar corona to the Shards, is full to the gunwales with Science!, and until you know what it is, you don’t want to get any on you. Or vice versa.
But let us digress for a moment and consider the remainder of the system. The hot white sun Enlightenment hosts one belt and ten planets of varying size and nature, of which Resplendent Exponential Vector itself is the eighth from the sun.
Closest in is the Fireforge Belt. An asteroid belt with an unusually high orbital eccentricity (0.4), it is believed to be the remains of a planetesimal from outside the Resplendent Exponential Vector System which passed close enough to Enlightenment not only to be captured by its gravity but destroyed by the ensuing tidal forces. While the high temperatures (approaching 900 K on average, and significantly higher during perihelion) and radiation levels here have discouraged settlement, several research stations exist to monitor Enlightenment and study the unusual alloys and minerals formed in this uniquely harsh environment.
The second planet of the system, Linrachlin, a moon-sized rockball, was given over at the Vector’s foundation to an experiment in artificial life and robotic ecology similar to that of Eurymir, but without that experiment’s limiting constraints. However, in 6432, Linrachlin was withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Vector Science Triumvirate after the apex species of the Linrachlin ecology achieved sophoncy; it is now recognized as the independent homeworld of the chiril. The chiril, however, fascinated by the scientific endeavor which gave them birth, cooperate with the Vector Authority in many of their projects.
The third through sixth are minor rocky bodies with little atmosphere, which serve as overflow laboratory space for the Vector itself. Most are notable in some small way, from the materials complexes of Márasanc to the societums of Lethintrí. but of these, the best known is the fifth and largest. Kaërndúr houses a deep bore leading to a heavily shielded vault at its core; this Kaërndúr Deepness houses some of the most sophisticated and delicate experiments in low-energy-state physics, quantum coherency, and other fields that require the unlit silence of such a vault to prevent perturbations.
The seventh, Anbárad, another tiny rockball, houses the local branch of the Repository of All Knowledge, and is a major storage facility for scientific data. The communications facilities of Anbárad are without parallel, and receive dedicated transmission priority for synchronization with other Repository branches.
The ninth, Resplendent Repose, is the second major inhabited world of the Resplendent Exponential Vector System. Almost as large as the Vector itself, Resplendent Repose is the ice to the Vector’s fire, a Galiné-like world of glaciers and alkane oceans buried beneath hydrocarbon smog. While some scientific work and carbon mining takes place in its remoter regions, Repose is the restful garden of the system; resort colonies scattered about its black sand beaches provide an escape from the laboratory far from the myriad temptations of the Vector itself.
The tenth, Phólarae, is the system’s sole gas giant. The planet itself serves primarily as a gas-mining resource (operated from the atmosphere-skimming pentuple moonlet of Ithmaen) and gravity anchor for the largest habswarm (or, if you’ll pardon the expression, “labswarm”) in the system; much dangerous research – by the Vector’s local standards – that might escape the laboratory is based in Phólarae’s trailing libration point, to maximize the time available to clear it up. Experimental proposals at various times to stellify Phólarae were variously deemed impractical or shot down on the basis of the need for local gas mining, before being rendered moot by the successful singularity-induced stellification of Xavéral, creating an artificial brown dwarf.
Its moons, however, are another matter, being reserved for grand experiments requiring a planetary scale. Most famous of these is Lyréssleth, a paraecopoesed moon leased in perpetuity to the Mythologae Immanentization Initiative. Beneath its glass-garden roof, neogenic mythic beasts of many kinds frolic in the jungle surrounding the laboratories, from radioactive basilisks and nanotechnological phoenixes to such relatively mundane recreations as the roc – a behemoth bird able to fly and thrive in the dense, oxygen-rich atmosphere and low gravity. Safaris through the wilds of Lyréssleth provide a valuable additional income stream to the Vector Authority, although hunting is strictly forbidden – not least because the majority of the mythologae recreated there would find hunting the hunters a trivial recreation.
The eleventh, Amnás, is a small, icy dwarf planet orbiting in the outermost fringes of the Resplendent Exponential Vector System. While the planet itself is the focus of some water ice and ammonia mining, most nearby activity is related to its moon, Marín, which is sealed off by the Vector Authority, since it serves as the home of the Marín Nanotechnological Proving Grounds. In short, the entire surface of the planetoid is a seething mass of gray, red, and blue goo, occasionally burned off in regions by bombardment from Amnás in order to introduce some new test scenario.
(The Marín picket warns off impinging vessels, but concentrates its effort on eliminating anything that might leave the surface of the moon. Since trespassers that land on Marín, however well protected, are invariably devoured with minutes, it is generally considered that they are more of an object lesson than a security risk.)
Here There Be Dragons: Seen on star charts which include the Resplendent Exponential Vector system, and in particular, that moon given over to the biogenesis project working on creating the mythologae the way they really ought to have been.
(They haven’t managed to actually create any dragons yet, but no-one wants to be caught by surprise when they do.)
Syntric Station, Free-Floating Lab Module 11-5 is simultaneously one of the greatest successes and greatest failures of the independent research programs here at Resplendent Exponential Vector.
The advertised purpose of the research going on in FFLM 11-5 was an attempt to create invincible shielding. In this, the researchers both succeeded and failed beyond their wildest dreams.
We believe that they were using an experimental technology based on UNMOVED MONAD in the construction of a device capable of forcing the future probability of their existence to unity, and therefore requiring chronological consistency protection to guarantee that the present probability of their destruction, correspondingly, be zero. Whether the device was accidentally triggered, a defect believed corrected that in fact was not, or the design flaw simply overlooked, it would appear that this use of consistency protection also forces the present probability of any change in quantum states to be zero; which is to say, instead of a lab module we now have a perfectly reflective sphere with mass equal to that of the lab module and its contents. Rather than an invincible shield, it would appear that the research team have successfully devised the stasis field.
Of course, this is all speculation. Due to the nature of the accident in question, we are unable to close and examine it, or, more usefully, to turn the damn thing off. Further investigation will have to wait for the natural collapse of the phenomenon, whether that is based in the passage of the future moment with which the (hypothetical) UNMOVED MONAD unit is entangled across time, or or inasmuch as finite energy should only support a finite period of stasis, assuming the conservation laws continue to hold. Neither, of course, is a proven or testable hypothesis at this time.
– Resplendent Exponential Vector Project Reports, 7930
SAFER SCIENCE INITIATIVE
(that we noticed)
Academician Lylvíëve Lochran-ith-Lochran’s concept of ambition, despite her otherwise excellent presentation of the near-term possibilities of Information Physics, remains lacking.
Recompiling the universe to remove its more irritating constraints is a project suitable for those of only moderate ambition. But consider: the implications of idestelté, of universe as processor, is that the physicality we reside in is neither more nor less than a computable simulation space, and all physical substrates within it, therefore, simulations.
Consider further: It is established that physics – in the known regions within the brane – is invariant over entropy. The implication of this is that the substrate implementing physics is not subject to entropy as we presently define it, and thus possesses extensions into the plenum. (No data is available at this time concerning possible entropy-analogs operative in these higher-order spaces, perceptible only along non-t axes, for obvious reasons.) This could, indeed, potentially be the entropic escape method long sought after by the Select Committee on Long-Range Planning.
The proper path, therefore, for the exceptionally ambitious is to achieve transcendence of our simulated substrate by transferring our – the Transcend’s – cognitive operations directly into the fundamental substrate. To, if you will, become the universe’s physics, the laws and legislators of reality, and convert weakly godlike superintelligence directly into its strongly godlike counterpart; ultimate apotheosis.
This, and this alone, I submit to you, is an aeonic vision worthy of the sophonts gathered here today.
– Academician Excellence Quor Marukanin,
129-era supergoal planning debate,
held at Axiom, Resplendent Exponential Vector (Imperial Core)
One Nation Under Copyright: There are various forms of corporate-style governments found in the Associated Worlds – at least three distinct ones in the Empire alone.
The first of these is the governing corporation – a government which organizes itself along corporate lines. (A distinct feature of this type of corporate government is that the corporation exists solely to be a government, rather than being a corporation focused on something else that happens to govern.) The Empire contains quite a few of these, and indeed, is itself the largest – albeit an impure, the joint-stock corporation itself being in its infancy when it was founded – example of the type, hence the term citizen-shareholder, and the presence in the Imperial Couple’s style of Chief Executive Officers of the Imperium Incorporate. Another unusual constituent-nation example is the First Distributed Exclavine Republic, a confederation of Imperial exclaves run by a central Board.
(For the libertarians in the audience, one reason for this is that many of these, the Old Empires included, evolved out of PPLs or mutual-PPLs, themselves founded after the fall of the korásan and the Drowning of the People.)
The second of these is the corporate conlegial model, which exists to cover the large number of company-owned (or other privately-owned) but still Imperially-sovereign habitats or other enclaves, in which the responsibility to provide law/contract enforcement and other sovereign services on the Charter model is formally devolved upon the owning corporation’s Infrastructure and Security departments, thus saving a great deal of trouble where all the thousands of habitat-based office parks and research parks are concerned. The largest examples, of course, are the jointly-held corporate research planet Wynérias, the privately owned storage depository system Argyran, and the interlocking-collectives-of-Mad-Scientists-owned system Resplendent Exponential Vector.
The third is the corporate colonial model, in which those Imperially-chartered ecopoesis, colonization and development corporations that own entire planets under development are responsible for providing said sovereign services under Charter law on those planets until such time as they’re turned over to their actual final owners.
Variations on these three – essentially benign – models also exist elsewhere in the Worlds, as do some other less benign examples; in the Magen Corporate, for example, non-shareholding citizens are considered corporate assets in the literal sense, and the Chelzan Syndicracy is always fighting corruption in its mutual-conlegial model, but on average, corporate government tends to produce results no worse than any of the other kinds people try and use.
Mad Scientist: What would be a very large number of the technarchs, in the Empire, and not just them, either… except that the science isn’t usually all that mad (and does involve diligent research, standing on the shoulders of giants, taking advantage of venture capital and selling results to people For Engineering!, which some mad scientists seem to think would be letting the side down). Well, it’s not to start with, anyway. (See For Science!)
(Yes, the ones out at Resplendent Exponential Vector are just the long tail.)
Some people have an issue or two with science, because it keeps saying no to all their fond notions. Geocentrism? Turns out that not only is your world not the center of the universe, but it’s an insignificant speck in the middle of undreamt vastnesses and eternities. Souls, destinies, the vital field? Nothing but interacting matter and energy. And for those of us who grew up with heads full of myths and legends, no airthia, no phoenixes, no xoxixa, no basilisks…
While an object of great resentment in many civilizations, those more sensible do overcome their disappointment with a decent respect for truth and appreciation for the many vistas of wonder it opens up in due turn.
But these are not the only two reactions possible. On Resplendent Exponential Vector, for example, it inspired Aurel Minaxianos, Professor of Less-than-perfectly-Sane Creative Biology, to attempt to miniaturize an alchemic furnace to the point that it could be conveniently fitted into an eyeball.
Fortunately, he wasn’t able to achieve actual carbon-silicon transmutation, but a half-ton lizard that can give you terminal neutron poisoning with a glare is a big enough problem.
Especially when you lose the damn lizard…
– Hunting Journal, Calis Sinyé
Resplendent Exponential Vector Grant Council to Valeran Simíche, greeting.
We have received your experimental proposal of the 19th inst.
However, in the absence of significant theoretical and preferably experimental support for the hypothesis that penetrating the brane will not result in the universe entire popping like a soap bubble with the consequent instantaneous dissolution of its contents into the sempiternal cacoastrum tides of the infinite, all-containing empyrean, this institution must reject your grant application.
(Besides, we don’t have a galactic-core-class black hole to offer you in the first place.)
Nonetheless, we recognize the importance of this line of inquiry and welcome future applications.
for and on behalf of
Resplendent Exponential Vector Grant Council
Technically, this is a trope-a-day from much later in the cycle, but seeing as (a) I just wrote it up having been thinking about it recently, (b) I’m sure at least some of my readers have been wondering about the very common use of reaction drives in the Eldraeverse ever since I first mentioned vector control, and (c) among those are the ones wondering how (and if) I avert running smack into Burnside’s Advice in the worst possible way. So:
Reactionless Drive: The important thing to remember about a reactionless drive is that it’s not reactionless.
A vector control drive is a member of the entire family of vector-control technologies, and like all the other members of said family, it obeys Newton’s Third Law. Vector control used for artificial gravity transfers the reaction to the action it’s applying to the stuff between the gravity rotors to the structural framework it’s bolted to. Vector control used in tractor/pressor beams pushes the party of the first part every bit as much as it pulls the party of the second part, and on the precisely opposite vector. And a vector control drive, while it utilizes extremely fancy ontotechnological trickery to spread the reaction to the action out across all the ambient mass in appropriately vast volumes (if not the entirety of, but that’s real hard to measure) of the local universe, is absolutely no different in this respect.
What you get from a vector control drive is not needing to haul all those vast quantities of reaction mass around with you. Note: only the remass. Vector control drives still need fuel, and since there are certain inevitable inefficiencies in coupling the action to the reaction quite so indirectly, they need significantly more fuel than an equivalent reaction drive. You aren’t getting away from having those huge spherical tanks of D and He3 strapped to the back of your starship that easily.
Another thing you might get is a degree of, um, stealth, inasmuch as you don’t have the huge bright drive flare that most reaction drives tend to produce. Of course, as we all know, there ain’t no Stealth In Space, because apart from your life support’s comfortable temperature alone making you stand out like a lighthouse against the 3K sky background, you’re also running a bloody great reactor (and radiating its heat) to power your vector control drive.
In short: the existence of vector control permits you to build something damned close to a classic SFnal reactionless drive. It provides you with rather fewer reasons as to why you might want to, outside a few highly specialized edge cases.
(Side note: the mad scientists out at Resplendent Exponential Vector have also been experimenting along the lines of the Alcubierre drive to get reactionlessness and a working fittler in one package. After their prototype vaporized a fortunately-spare dwarf planet and exploded first time out, their tort insurers have been reluctant to cover further development at a price they can afford.)
I should also perhaps take a moment to note that, given their philosophical views, the Laws of Thermodynamics in general and the Second in particular would seem to be right up there on the list of Problems Which Ontotechnologists Should Urgently Address, inasmuch as knocking that one off (and maybe stopping to take a swing or two at Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems along the way) would be a paradigmatic ethical accomplishment comparable to, say, reversing the Fall, un-eating the Apple, and preempting the War in Heaven, sort of thing.
Well, yes, they are.
And I am absolutely sure that there are any number of people and their masses of grafted-on computronium, especially in places like Resplendent Exponential Vector, working away on the problem. (And hopefully not exploding too much in the process.)
Thermodynamics is deeply enough embedded at the core of How Reality Works, though, that I wouldn’t be expecting usable results any time soon, for cosmological values of soon.
After all, the impossible always takes a little bit longer.