The Spice Way

In the year 8054, a forward-thinking Initiative of Ring Dynamics, ICC, evaluating the expansion program for the stargate plexus based on the recent advent of the frameslip drive, a free-flight capable FTL technology which would allow the positioning of stargates with speeds and at distances previously unattainable, made a proposal to the Directorate named after the historic trade route.

That proposal was for a new backbone for the stargate plexus which would cover the entire galaxy, if thinly – rather than expanding by constellations, using the new frameslip drive to build braided “thread” routes out along each galactic arm, connected by initially single – but ultimately multiple – crossing spines. In this way, distant civilizations would be placed a position in which contact could be made relatively simply – each could join the transportation and communications network simply by reaching the local “thread”, and become part of the larger galactic community. New local networks of constellations and cross-links would spin out from such contacts, which would serve as seed crystals for further development.

This was that proposal:

[a map of the routes involved in the Spice Way Program]


  1. The Imperial Way and Lethíäza Trade Spine are, of course, expansions of the existing named routes you will see on previous maps of the Worlds.
  2. The “stations” to be seen on this map, with the notable exception of “Imperial Center”, marking the current center of the Worlds, were to be large regional hub space stations on a similar pattern to the Conclave Drift – providing seeds for local development, and somewhere for the network to broadcast its existence to anyone who happened to be in the vicinity.
  3. All those station names starting with “Cal”? Well, apart from that particle (meaning, approximately, “center”), they’re all named after large, bright stars in that region of space – those being obvious local landmarks around which to place your localized nexus.
  4. As may have been mentioned before, the Greater and Lesser Ancíël Whirls are the Magellanic Clouds (to which the Elsewhere Society has long since dispatched stargates). The Metan Ring is the Andromeda Galaxy, in our Earthling parlance, and the Milky Pool, of course, is Triangulum.

Death and Gravity

PEVELISK (QUARTER PASSAGE) – Intercepted local transmissions report that the armed patrol monitors around the Pevelisk System’s outermost ice giant, Pevetor, were destroyed today by the battlecruiser LS Brutish and Shot, registered to the Sjark’s Burning Eye mercenary fleet out of Bir-Galk System.

While no formal statement has been issued, it is widely rumored that this action was contracted by Ring Dynamics, their recent warning that the attempts of the ecclesiastical junta currently in control of the Pevelisk System to levy tolls on through traffic making use of Pevetor’s gravity for vector change contravened both contractual and Accord-specified guarantees of freedom of transit having been ignored.

No official body in the Pevelisk System was available for comment.

Sticker Price

“I do not believe it is possible for us to reduce our transit fee costs, except possibly by further optimized routing.

“Notably, Ring Dynamics offers a single fee structure to all users – military, commercial, and private – of the stargate network, based on mass and distance traveled, and offers no concessions to any type, ownership, or polity of traffic; Imperial vessels pay the same rates as all other stargate users.

“The sole concession they do offer is the dodecentennial discount to new stargate users, which is not without controversy of its own. The most recent complaints, which various star nations chose to air on the floor of the Conclave of Galactic Polities, were responded to with a 485-page document, which upon semantic analysis yielded the following key points:

“(a) It is a contractual matter, and specifically, a policy deliberately intended to build customer diversity and encourage stargate usage; and

“(b) It is a contractual matter, so suck it.”

– excerpted from an internal cost-control memo,
Outer Rim Freight & Haulage, JSC

Questions: Sleep, Implied Contracts, Twinning, Pandeism, Cascading Default, The Drowning, Deals with the Devil, White Elephants, and Stargates

Random thought: Do eldrae sleep?

Yes, except for a few unconventionally modified clades. Specifically, it’s necessary in order to dream – because bio-brains get very unhappy when they don’t get their maintenance downtime. The nowline doesn’t need as much as the baseline (being quite happy to sustain three to four hours a night, or go without for several days if given an extended rest period thereafter), but that’s about where the diminishing returns set in.

The unconventional modifications tend to each come with their own disadvantages.

Do Imperial law and common custom acknowledge the validity of implied contracts, whether implied-in-fact or implied-at-law?

Not as such. The Curial courts have no particular desire to have to invent the terms of contracts and try to parse out the meeting of the minds that may or may not have been.

Instead, to save time, they have form contracts, which are basically library functions in contract law that can be invoked by various things: purchasing over the counter, entering a brawler’s bar, and various other legally defined social rituals. That ensures that the terms are defined, and contracts are always entered into intentionally.

You mentioned that sometimes someone can acquire a backup twin if their incarnation insurer mistakenly believes them to be dead. How is this resolved legally? Is property and assets split evenly? How about debts and obligations? Relationships? Can one arrange in advance what will happen and are there established precedents and norms?

When one person becomes two, the basic legal rule (in the absence of any specific agreements between self and self otherwise) is that various things attaching to them instead attach to the corporate body of both of them. So their property and assets, rather than being split, are jointly owned by both of them; they are jointly and severally liable for all debts and obligations; like any other contracts, they are jointly and severally attached to any relationships they’re in; and so on and so forth.

If it happens accidentally, such that there isn’t any previous agreement, it’s up to the new selves to exchange rights and obligations and buy each other out. Or, y’know, remerge and become one person again.

How are disputes resolved (for those foolish enough not to be able to come to an agreement with themselves).

If all else fails, they can always call on the Curial courts to make a division for them. (This is not recommended; the Curial courts dislike having to referee this sort of thing that reasonable people should be able to work out between themselves, so doing that guarantees that you’ll get a solution that neither of you will like.)

So what would the eldrae make of the idea of pandeism — that the Universe as we know it came about when a Creator of necessarily immense power and knowledge (though explicitly not an omnipotent and omniscient Deity in the classical Abrahamic vein), for whatever reason, ceased to be a unitary consciousness? How compatible would such an idea be with the precepts of the Flamic faith if someone were to make an effort to reconcile the two?

On one level, it has very few compatibility problems – the Flamic faith expends much more time on ethos than cosmos, as evidenced by its existing multiple creation myths which don’t trouble themselves particularly with consistency. And it’s no stranger an idea than many of those creation myths are, particularly in these days of mechanimism and pervasive nanoecologies.

It may, however, somewhat troubled by the pretty clear notion among the Flamics that the creator is a schmuck, for making (or in this case, becoming) such a fundamentally broken universe in the first place. So it would need to be a school of pandeism that can cope with the idea of performing invasive surgery on a blind, idiot, possibly suicidal deity.

And perhaps more interestingly, if said Creator were to have left behind some sort of “last will and testament” (or some other analogous set of injunctions) in the fundamental fabric of the Universe’s structure for its possible beneficiaries to decode and implement, what sort of considerations would the Imperial Curia have to take into account in deciding whether to accept it as a valid and enforceable document?

A contract with only one party is no contract. (Leaving aside the special case of contracts with one’s future self, which is the form many oaths take.) Nor can a creator bind their sophont creations, because they’re independent of will. So between those two alone, it’s not looking good for enforceability.

And the content is going to affect how seriously anyone might take it as advice, even. As mentioned before, the creator is a schmuck. No-one’s going to take the word of the entity responsible for either screwing up and creating entropy, or worse, deliberately creating entropy, as particularly ineffable.

When there are just two parties involved, debt and obligation seem to be pretty straightforward: Once you undertake an obligation, you assume liability for discharging it, and if you default, Bad Things Happen.

However, how do things work out under Imperial law and eldraeic practice when, for instance, A’s default on their obligation to B causes a “domino effect” where B is unable to fulfill their obligations to C as a direct result, causing C to default in turn on their obligations to D, who then has to default against E, etc.? Is each party still responsible solely for its own obligations, or is there some mechanism by which part or all of their liability in this matter can be assigned to A for their role in knocking over the first domino?

“You, and only you, are responsible for yourself,” as the old legal maxim has it.

Contract arrangements delegating risk notwithstanding, you are responsible for all of your obligations. If you choose to subcontract some of your obligations, well then, you’ll want to be confident you have a backup, can cover a potential default yourself, or otherwise hedge  it (using subguard insurance, say, or surety bonds, just like in our system, or guild backing of the subcontractor).

(The courts do have systems to stack cases and process them together for optimal handling in the event of cascading defaults, but that’s merely a convenience feature.)

1. So what’s the “Big Picture” historical view on the Drowning of the People? The “It all happened in seven hours” tale makes for a good yarn to tell around a campfire or kitchen table, but I’m sure that there must have been plenty of preexisting movements, trends, and ideas well before the event itself that all came to a head in that moment.

Actually, that’s more or less accurate for that part of it.

As indicated, the preparations for the revolution took place over years, and the overthrow itself took about a year from start to finish – and afterwards, it took more years to establish the start of what would later be known as the institutions of the Ungoverned Era, to put them on a proper philosophical grounding with the existing ideas floating around (including but not limited to this particular philosopher), and even more time for those to coalesce into the first things resembling a modern Society of Consent…

…but the part where the revolution decided that the democratic faction of their leadership were trying to be the new boss, just like the old boss, and chucked them over a waterfall? That happened pretty much as described.

2. While we’re on the subject of the days of yore, does eldraeic folklore or mythology have any tales in the same vein as the “deal with the devil” plot, where an ambitious yet impatient and shortsighted individual makes some kind of pact with an unsavory sort that (to put it mildly) ends up putting them at a disadvantage, and has to find some sort of loophole to escape their obligation or else risk eternal damnation (or some other equally sordid fate)?

I haven’t written any of them yet, and they are obviously somewhat different inasmuch as most Eldraeic belief systems have/had no adversary/negative-principle personification, merely a negative cosmic force, but it seems quite certain that there are plenty of fairy tales with morals relating to incautious pledges, yes.

(Many of them do probably relate to Úlmiríën, the Necessary Chaos, eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, trickery, epiphanies and unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts, but hesh’s not a evil deity, but a trickster deity whose bargains, while often painful, teach. Hesh is, after all, the Necessary Chaos.)

Does the Empire have an equivalent of the proverbial “white elephant,” either as an idiom or as an actual “gift”?

The concept exists, as does the social maneuver, although as yet I do not know their names.

After reading that the Empire sends out automated stargate deployment ships, and so there are systems with stargates in them that are otherwise largely unexplored, a thought struck me. How would the Empire respond if they sent a scout through one of these stargates and discovered that there was another non-Imperial, non-Voniensan stargate already in that system? Has that, in fact, ever happened?

By doing SCIENCE to it!

(Carefully and respectfully, of course, certainly. But it’s an obvious scenario that leads to seeking out more of that knowledge and friendship that the Exploratory Service is so keen on.)

And, per below, it has happened…

Also, regarding stargates in the Worlds, the Empire and the Republic are the only folks with the capability to make them, no? I know you’ve said before that Ring Dynamics made most of the stargates in the Worlds, but you never really hinted at anyone else having a weylforge (other than whatever it is that the Republic’s been mining), so I assumed that the non-RD gates were of Imperial manufacture too, just technically by different companies or maybe state-owned.

Ring Dynamics is the only Imperial company in that business, and owns and operates all of the Empire’s gates, under one contract or another, as well as leasing gates and selling gate services elsewhere.

The (rare) non-Ring-Dynamics ones, for the most part and subject to the author’s better-idea privileges, are almost all either rediscovered ancient paleotech relics (many of which are administered by Ring Dynamics under contract because, well, they have people who understand the tech), or belong to local Vingean Powers who figured it out on their own.


The Vastness of Thinking

(Follows on from this.)

Vontok System
Former Republic Stargate, Maintenance Access Four
Probable Technologies Forensic Eschatology Team (subcontracted by Ring Dynamics)

“Kanaze, we’ve got a subsumptor amok in fifthspace.”

“Shut it down and blacklist that port sequence. We’ll spin up a new sim with the next test set.”

“Will do, es-”

* * *

One Simulation Level Higher

“Kanaze, we just lost a second-level sim; excursion at 5.4 megaseconds. Looks like a poison angel was guarding their access route.”

“Do we have a line on the vulnerability?”

“At their level it looked like a port guardian, but if we cross-hash it with evidence from the other sims, this whole approach is looking fundamentally misguided. I think we’re being spoofed.”

“Affirm. Let’s close down this approach. Archive the sim, and reseed a couple of fresh ones with its conclusions incorporated: we’ll try the timing-channel attack on one, and the reflective merkwelt in the other.”

“We could up the chances of success if we could borrow some hypercomputation for the TCA. Any chance, estrev?”

“That… may not be possible here-now.”

* * *

One Simulation Level Higher

“Kanaze, we lost the main thread. Looks like a self-reflection/simulation awareness cognitive hack.”

“Damn. And their approach was probably the most promising, too. Roll it back to the best previous snapshot we have, patch that me’s response seed, and we’ll try a rerun.”

* * *

One Simulation Level Higher (Base Reality?)

“Looks like we’re getting some useful results out of the first-level simulations, now.”

“Useful results, maybe. That last excursion penetrated too far up the stack. I’m inclined to pause the whole probe and restart with an extra layer of simulation spaces and gatekeepers, maybe two.”

Aftershocks (2)

Vontok System
Former Republic Stargate, Maintenance Access Four
Ring Dynamics Transition Team

“I don’t like it.”

“It’s going well so far. The interface layer reconfigured cleanly to accept standard blue-box protocol.”

“That’s why I don’t like it.”

“Because it reconfigured cleanly?”

“Because it reconfigured too easily. This thing was ripped out of a dead god’s brain with stone axes. That shouldn’t make it user-friendly.”

“Maybe it was built for them.”

“Okay, then, how do you explain the computronium stacks? Big and clunky this isn’t; it’s just got far more parcycles and dataspace than the stargate manager needs. What are they for – and don’t say nothing, and before you answer, remember dead god’s brain.”

“…that’s paranoid.”

“But am I wrong?”

“No, I can’t say that. What are you proposing?”

“I’m proposing we get this meme-gapped and rig the best emergency-destruct package we can that won’t risk kernel integrity, then call in a Probable Technologies forensic eschatology team. And that we shut down all our probes and mapping operations. It’s one thing if the gate goes diagnostic on us; it’s quite another if our pokin’ around wakes up a poison angel or triggers a prompt intellect excursion, and worse yet if it’s a strongly connected one.”

Trope-a-Day: Mega Corp

Mega Corp: Oh, quite a few.  (Well, bearing in mind the cultural, demographic, and technological differences that mean that while an Earthly multinational might hit millions of employees, its Imperial counterpart probably has a couple of dozen executives, a large computronium core, and millions of jobs being done by subcontractors, sub-sub-contractors, etc., or “on-bounty”.)

The canonical list in the Empire and nearby, the “Big 26” starcorporations, are usually given as:

All Good Things, ICC – retailing

Artifice Armaments, ICC – firearms, heavy weapons, military vehicles, and defense technologies

Atalant Materials, ICC – mining, refining, and nanoslurry production

Biogenesis Technologies, ICC – neogenic organisms, biotech products and bioshells

Biolith Chemical Products, ICC – bactries and organochemicals

Bright Shadow, ICC – computers (including expert systems and thinkers), telecommunications equipment, and infotech

Cognitech, ICC – cognitive science, psychedesign, nootropics, and sophotechnology

Consolidated Mutual Mitigation and Surety, ICC – insurance underwriting and ancillary legal services

Crystal Flame, ICC – immortality (noetic backup archiving and insurance)

Databeat, ICC – major cycle brokerage and information furnace rental org

Ecogenetics, ICC – ecopoesis, living systems, environmental services, and bio-architecture

Enjoyment Unbounded, ICC – entertainment and luxury goods

Experia, ICC – entertainment and media (watchvid, InVid, slinky, and virtuality)

Extropa Energy, ICC – energy production and distribution, antimatter production, and fuels

Gilea and Company, ICC – banking, investments, and futures markets

Llyn Standard Manufacturing, ICC – cornucopias and industrial-scale production

Prosperity Nexus, ICC – investment, fund management, and commercial banking

Ring Dynamics, ICC – stargates (construction, maintenance and leasing)

Riverside Eubiosis Foundation, ICC – pharmaceuticals and health and medical services

Service Gate, ICC – contract matching and labor allocation

Stellar Express, ICC – delivery services, interstellar logistics, supply chains, and shipping

Systemic Integrated Technologies, ICC – robotics, automation, and infrastructure technology

Telememe, ICC – news, statistics, demographics, data mining and information research

Traders in Ideation, ICC – information brokerage, rights management services and data warehousing

Ultimate Argument Risk Control, ICC – security services, military contracting, and mercenary brokerage

Vermilion Harvest, ICC – agriculture, silviculture, carniculture, and bioproducts

…but there are several others that compete close to these leagues – exactly which are named depends on who precisely you’re talking to.

Given the nature of the setting, of course, the traditional unremittingly negative portrayal of business in fiction is utterly averted, and the Big 26 receive the respect they deserve as the mighty prosperity-generating engines that they are.  But then, in their home markets, the free market actually is a free market, so they never had the opportunity to discover corrupt business strategies of monopoly, rent-seeking, and regulating the competition out of business, even if they didn’t tend to be run by people who are every bit as ideological as everyone else in the vicinity.

(Well, not that this opinion is shared by everyone.  Gilea & Co. and UARC, in particular, tend to attract some opprobrium elsewhere in the Associated Worlds, particularly in places that don’t appreciate the absolute sacredness of contract in Imperial ethics, Gilea & Co.’s policy of not recognizing any special difference between “states” and its regular commercial customers, and – especially – its willingness to pursue “asset realization” after a sovereign default with however many of UARC’s finest mercs it takes to impress upon the customer that when they do the job, they always get paid.  But that’s not the mainstream opinion at home.)

As a side note, while it is by no means a conventional corporation, the Imperial Charter makes use of much of the traditional structure of a joint-stock corporation in the Imperial government, such as it is – its citizens, for example, are citizen-shareholders in the technical lingo, and the traditional style of the Imperial Couple includes “Chief Executive Officers of the Imperium Incorporate” – so you could make a convincing argument that the Empire is, in quite a few senses, the biggest Mega Corp of them all.

Epistolary Experiment (9/30)


Interruptions, Delays to Service in Spinward, Coreward Constellations

Outer Ring Netweavers, ICC regrets to inform its customers that, due to the ongoing state of war, extranet service can be expected to suffer delays and interruptions in the spinward and coreward constellations affected due to necessary network security measures.

Extranet service via ORE relays in the three constellations adjacent to the Republic border, the Crimson Expanse, Vanguard Reaches, and Csell Buffer, has been temporarily suspended to all except military priority traffic and high-protocol overweaves. Other constellations currently affected include the Galith Waste, Frentish Nebula, and Cordai Gap, all of which may suffer service delays due to enhanced security, anti-worm, and authentication checking protocols, and in which all current open-service relays have been suspended.

Affected constellations currently include the primary territorial volumes of the Free Eilish Confederacy, the Nineworlds, the Nsang First Interactivity, the Qiraf Assembly, and the Silicate Tree, in addition to various freesoil worlds and ecumenical colonies. Further suspensions in the coreward-spinward segment of the Worlds are expected to follow.

ORE apologizes for the inconvenience and asks for its customers’ understanding of the exigencies of war.


Serril Cyprium-ith-Reyne
Sophont Relations
Outer Ring Netweavers, ICC

From: Adm. [blank], Imperial Naval Intelligence
To: Imogen Andracanth, VP Research, Ring Dynamics

About what? We don’t know any more than you do.

From: Imogen Andracanth, VP Research, Ring Dynamics
To: Adm. [blank], Imperial Naval Intelligence


“…while skirmishes continue along the Borderline, the Admiralty reports that a Republican raiding force has successfully broken through in the Crimson Expanse, and is currently pushing coreward into the Cordai Gap constellation, through systems controlled by the Qiraf Assembly, making significant efforts to loot additional fuel and resources as they go. Their motivation for doing so is presently unknown, since no known major military assets or other suspected high-value targets lie directly in their path. Nevertheless, Field Fleet Core is beginning a discreet mobilization.

“The Spinward Lines cruise liner, Circumstellar Wanderer, has been recovered from Republican forces in the course of securing the Doranzer System, Admiralty sources reported today, although she was heavily damaged in the ensuing battle. Of the 4,128 souls aboard, 2,919 were reported temporarily killed and 328 permanently killed in fighting aboard the ship as she was taken, ongoing resistance, and as collateral battle damage in Doranzer System. All aboard, per manifest, and their vector stacks have been accounted for, and detailed casualty lists have been made available by the Admiralty.

“In other related news, the Seranth Exchange today announced an eighteen-day suspension of trading on assets located within the primary conflict zone. <Brassy Trumpets in B-flat>, floor supervisor, was quoted as saying that it was ridiculous to expect any market to clear while all its asset values were coated in a thick smog of war. Meanwhile, on the currency exchanges, the Voniensan external-exchange credit closed dramatically down at 14,127 to the esteyn.

“This is Wynerva Peressin, reporting for Telememe.”

The drop pod sings as it descends. Bass thrum of the atmosphere. High tremolo hiss of the plasma sheath. Clattering thrusters as we jink —

Mektsha, that one was close.

Three hundred thousand. Aerozone, fins popping, countermeasures spinning up.

Painted already, fast for meat, someone’s on the bounce down there. Two-fifty kay, closing rate —

Incoming! SHIT —

– from the thought-log of Legionary Cordril Tsurilen




Epistolary Experiment (3/30)

From: Karr mor-Kadrek, Fleet Security
To: Virni Alman, Fleet Communications
Subject: Re: War warning – procedure?

File it.

Nice of the home office to send it through, but even cutting the corner of their space, what’s the worst they could do to us? It’d take ’em ten years just to get done saying “Heave to and prepare to be boarded…”


– from the archives of the relativist market-maker, Rocky Road to Riches


Spinward Lines regrets to announce that CMS Circumstellar Wanderer, a chartered cruise liner with 4,128 souls aboard, is 48 hours overdue to arrive at her next port of call after departing Istria (Crimson Expanse). Attempts to contact the Wanderer made by standard means and direct corporate tangle channel have failed. It is feared, therefore, that she may have been interned or become a casualty of war. No communication has been received from the Republic government on this matter, and investigations continue.

The thoughts and hopes of Spinward Lines are with the passengers and crew of the Wanderer, their families, and associates.

– from the Accord Journal, shipping news section


…and then there were warships all over the scanner, pinging loud enough to overload the ‘mesh…

…lizards, bloody four-armed lizards, on my claim…

…open up! they say. My hairy arse I’ll open up…

…through the walls. Blew out the garden maze…

…never find me in the deep tunnels, not with all the refinery hash…

– fragments retrieved from a log recorder, found in a rubble pile, Charach System


From: Sinith Arání, VP Public Relations
To: All Contractees
Subject: Shit. Fan. Congruence.

Well, folks, we’ve all heard the news.

From our corporate perspective, that means that we’re about to be condemned by a hundred polities and a thousand news organs for failing to do the impossible.

This in turn means that I need you to get three memetic campaigns polished up and ready to go:

First, that while we obviously deeply regret the specifics of this situation, in general freedom of transit is both extremely important and something they personally have benefited from greatly in the past. In the version of this we’re pitching to more militaristic governments and cultures, it probably wouldn’t hurt to remind them gently how unhappy they would have been if we’d disabled the stargates during some of their local squabbles, just so that they realize that we will have no problem pointing that out to everyone else, too.

Second, we need to subtly remind people that you can’t just turn a stargate off, anyway, in a manner that can’t be readily hacked back on, and if they think the damage the war will cause is bad, they should try comparing it to the amount of damage that a loose kernel would do to their star system.

And third, that we are doing our bit for the war effort, inasmuch as we’re waiving all transit fees for Accord member navies to, from, and in the front lines. Don’t launch that one yet; I still have to run the details past the Directorate, but it’s too obvious not to pass. And it’s not like we don’t have as much to lose as everyone else.

Actually, also, fourth: since we certainly can’t rely on those idiot baselines to hack carefully or even not to land on the stargates themselves and screw about with things beyond their understanding, you’d better start working on one to place the blame appropriately if they do manage to set a kernel loose, too.

Budgets are cleared all the way up on this one, people. We need to be at our best right now.


– from the Ring Dynamics, ICC, corporate e-mail archive

We’re the Phone Company

Lhaegár Rhuanhz, Vice President of Operations for Bright Shadow in the Hanth Cluster, looked around her office, eyes passing lightly across a dozen network status displays, a reassuring blue overall with normal local traffic and the brighter datatrails of the Selvaciy and Synnecy backbones, before returning to rest on the extranet map that hung over her desk, a mesh of links between systems with five ugly black spots near its center – shut-down interchanges in the middle of the Hanth ‘net.

On cue, two incoming trinet images shimmered in next to it, flagged with special governance-priority, supersedence, and shutdown-override codes, and already engaged in an argument that had evidently been going on for some time.

Lhaegár very deliberately folded her ears back flat, and bared her teeth in what, she was confident, could not be mistaken by even the most parochial as a species-specific smile, before keying acceptance of the call.

“I regret that you have not been called here to address your complaints, gentlesophs.  That does not call for the attention of one of the Directorate – and you are both, of course, entirely aware of what underlies your complaints, since your intersystem data service has been suspended.”

“Rather, you are here to address the violations of your extranet service agreement.  Specifically, you are here, Prince-President Rsh-t-t-n-tf-g” – she gazed at the mists enshrouding the rntrugg – “because one of the agencies of your government endeavored to disrupt communications for your enemies by introducing a data plague into their Xan-Rak-Han system network.  Ordinarily such activities are beneath our concern, except that you overreached when you had it target the extranet infrastructure itself.”

“And you, Gene-Archetype lant-hak-nint” – her gaze shifted to the shifting disks of the aklaknak colony – “overreached yourself even further when you went so far as to land a force on the surface of the Tttnfl-Fgflln stargate itself, and attempted to physically disable the extranet router there.  Our cousins from Ring Dynamics, I believe, also wish to address this with you.  In either case, either of these acts are clear violations of your service agreements and our property both.”

Silence fell.  Mists and disks alike shifted uneasily.

“Very well, we admit our… mistake,” Rsh-t-t-n-tf-g hissed.  “Yes, some of our agents were zealous.  They will be corrected.  What is the cost of this error to be?  How soon may we be restored?”

“And how much more must we pay to ensure that they are not?” lant-hak-nint added.

“I fear you mistake your negotiating position, inasmuch as this is a negotiation of any kind.  There are costs, certainly, incurred by us and our clients both.  Your mutual efforts interfered with approximately 3% of the traffic along the Selvaciy backbone for almost a kilobeat; reparations for the substantial economic and other losses involved, as well as the costs of redirection along secondary routes and system repair and revalidation are being assessed.  These you will pay; this we require of you absolutely under the terms of our existing contract and the Accords.”

“In addition, however, we require an end to your war.  You will each withdraw from the claimed territory of the other within one month of this date; you will further both resign all claims you have in the Fgflln/Lak-Han-Tar system.  In order, you understand, to prevent further zealotry from infringing upon Bright Shadow corporate sovereignty.”

“The money, yes, but you have no right—“

“You can’t dictate to nations—“

The rntrugg and the aklaknak glared at each other, neither willing to allow the other to speak first.

“This is not, you understand, a demand or an ultimatum.  As a neutral commercial organization we are not in the habit of issuing such things.”  She bared her teeth again, without humor. “It is merely a condition we attach to the continuation of your contracts.  Should you believe yourselves able to find or contrive a viable alternative to our extranet service, you may feel free to continue your war. Perhaps a particularly large courier fleet?”

“I will contact you again in – shall we say one hour? – to hear your decisions.  Bright Shadow, clear.”


All is prepared.

The alignment is ready.  My bow spindle is perfectly aligned with the empty central apertures of the paired stargates, themselves aligned in matching orbits; in time, they will drift again out of alignment, but for now forced thrust keeps them together.

My accumulators seethe with energy bound into their superconducting coils, fusion reactors laboring to pump them with more energy still.

The final confirmations come in from external sources: traffic control confirms area clear.  Legal department confirms litigation threshold clear.  Kalcír Operations is ready to accept the new structure.  The new gatekeeper-pair has spun up its frame buffers and is ready to accept its duty.

I shift into my quantum-compiled submind, feeling my consciousness expand into a superposition of possible selves, and leak energy from the reactors – not touching the accumulators yet – into the spindle, feeling the shape of the manifold with its subtle field-manipulations.  Down at the quantum level, space is frothy, a tangled polydimensional labyrinth of impossible topology, twisted spatial constructs forming and collapsing in microtime, awash in a sea of virtual particles – existence and non-existence intertwined, causality itself impalpable at this – and among them all, a few possible wormhole candidates.

There.  My superposed selves reach consensus, and collapse back into my singular self.  The broad-spread radiators at the base of the spindle flare abruptly bright, as my accumulators discharge, exajoules of energy expended in a moment as I force inflation onto one knotted tube’s hypersurface —

And between the stargates, a space-black sphere – a distorted inside-out starfield, surface defined by the blue-purple glow as it struggles to radiate away its energy and collapse again – blossoms into reality.  My body feels the tug and shudder of the gravity-wave splash as space is bent far beyond its natural limits.  With a final thrust, I separate the wormhole’s overlapping ends – stretching the distortion into an ellipsoid, a barbell, and finally two separate spheres, pushed a little further, further, until they snap on to the exotic-matter frames held ready to accept them within the stargates.

A flood of information pours in from the gatekeepers, accepting responsibility for the new wormhole.  I let the spindle power down again – although the radiators will keep burning bright for hours yet – its work done.  The first and hardest part of the job is done; the wormhole is forged.

But now comes the longer part.  Vanlir 22-882 is nearly 20 light-years away, so I should have the gate in position in 22 years, or so.  At least I’ll only have to experience half-a-dozen of them.

Trope-a-Day: Black Box

Black Box: Quite a few of them lying around in the form of leftover elder race artifacts and other archaeological recoveries.  Sensible civilizations and corporations (like Probable Technologies, ICC) really hate this, because they know exactly how Sealed-Evil-In-A-Can dangerous that sort of thing can be, and the likelihood of unknown side effects, and decline to extensively use or commercialize any of them until they’ve figured out not only how to reproduce them, but also just how, exactly, the things work.  Very minor, very benign examples may be sold off to collectors, but no-one’s making them a part of their infrastructure until they know all about it.

There are, of course, plenty of sense-challenged people out there.

(On a lesser scale, there are some other examples: the secrets of stabilizing wormholes and building stargates, for example, are both a state secret of the Voniensa Republic and the highest possible grade of commercially-sensitive information for Ring Dynamics, ICC, for reasons in both cases less about maintaining their monopoly and more about wanting to discourage people from screwing with the infrastructure of their really expensive interstellar transportation system – so while the rough details of how they work are known to any schoolchild, that’s about it.  Likewise, the algorithms for producing recursively self-improving AI seeds are generally considered proprietary and closely held by informal agreement [the “Corícal Consensus“] of the people who have them, due to the tendency of amateurs to do really stupid things that Go Horribly Right.)

[Of course, in fairness to everyone else, it’s not like in their universe they ever ran into a recovered Black Box that was quite so all-fired useful as, say, Mass Effect‘s mass relay network.  On the other hand, I am fairly certain that, while the Imperials might have been unable to resist the urge to put that one into immediate operation, they also would have been sure to find a less important one somewhere that they could take apart to figure out how the damn things worked…]

Workin’ On The Star Road

“Gentlesophs,” the silver figure at the front of the room said.  “Congratulations on your transfer to Kalcír Station.  If you don’t know me, I am Istry 0xC89ABB62, Chief Security Officer, and I’m here to give you a personal reminder of the security regulations pertaining to Kalcír.”

“Kalcír Station, which houses the core of the distributed intelligence that runs our stargates, expansion linelayers, and traffic management systems, is the single most important asset that this company has.  As a result, security there is extremely tight.  You are all to be congratulated on passing our corporate loyalty check and sophodynamic analysis at the highest possible level.”

“In any case, as such, there will be no communication permitted, or indeed possible, during your month on-shift at Kalcír, except via the dedicated tangle lines to Ring Dynamics corporate headquarters, the Ministry of Transportation, and the Conclave Presidium.  After this briefing, you will have a final opportunity to communicate with your family and associates before being transmitted to the station.”

“Likewise, no information media may be transmitted to or from Kalcír Station, and after your shift, your memories of your time on Kalcír will be sequestered under the rules specified in Addendum G to your Ring Dynamics work contract.”  It smiled, thinly.  “While we maintain a fairly extensive entertainment library on board, don’t read anything you won’t regret reading twice.”

“Finally, Kalcír Station is located, as you may have heard rumored, in deep space at an undisclosed location.  This location will not be disclosed to you, and I must advise you that despite the memory sequestration, attempting to discover this location during your time there is a violation of corporate regulations punishable by immediate termination of contract and current corpus, again as per Addendum G.”

“If you will now proceed through the door on my left, my assistant will verify for each of you the initial half-payment of your adverse-conditions bonus.  Thank you for your service to Ring Dynamics.”