Trope-a-Day: Hyperspeed Ambush

Hyperspeed Ambush: Hard to arrange, given the nature of FTL in the ‘verse; it generally requires that the ambushees be approaching or otherwise close to a stargate while your fleet remains at the other side of the pair, and yet and at the same time has access to real-time information about what the ambushees are doing. And then pull off a perfectly-timed low-drift jump.

It’s been done, but opportunities don’t come up all that often.

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.



2016_H(Alternate words: hammer, hardware, hatred.)

It was in the fourteenth year of the reign of the Third Citrine Triarchs that the new star appeared, a blue pinpoint in the Fourth House, above the beak of the Ram.

No ancient writings spoke of this. None predicted its appearance. As is customary, the Royal Astronomers were beheaded for their failure.

Fifty-seven years later, during the sixth year of the reign of the Fourth Citrine Triarchs, the star swelled in brightness, until even the commonality of the fields could see it with bare eyes. The Triarchs demanded an omen, and made it known throughout the land, that this was the Perfect’s blessing upon their lands and reign.

When three years later the Triarchs were assassinated by one of the star cults that grew up throughout the lands, as is customary, the Royal Astronomers were strangled for their failure.

It is now one hundred and fourteen years since the star appeared in our skies, in the reign of the Second Lapis Triarchs, and this very night when it passed behind the moon, it vanished as if it had never been. Only darkness surmounts the Ram’s beak. The surviving star cults openly proclaim it a harbinger of doom. The commonality, the stadtmen, even the armigers surround the Perfect’s temples. Fear grips the cities, and the palace guards no longer hold to their posts.

I myself have sealed the passages and brought down the stairs to my observatory. If all else fails, the door is sturdy, and should hold for many hours – against whichever doom comes.

– Journal of the 374th Royal Astronomer-Superior,
from Naolh (Nesthin Abyss),
in the Periphery


Trope-a-Day: Universal Universe Time

Universal Universe Time: Subverted.  On the one hand, it’s played straight; just about all of the Associated Worlds sync to empire time/weavetime, the consensus establishing-a-common-relativistic-reference-frame timebase agreed to and broadcast by all the stargates – see Microts for more details – so that there’s some agreement with everyone else as to what the time is.

(The Voniensans, perverse as ever, don’t – so life along that border can get confusing.)

But weavetime is mostly of use for scientific purposes and for synchronization.  In the Empire, to provide more practical units for daily use, there’s Imperial Standard Time, which is the weavetime-synchronized version of the Eldrae homeworld’s cycles, and so is used there and everywhere else where the local planetary or habitat cycles aren’t convenient, and as the standard commercial calendar; meanwhile, many planets, moons, and habs, on the other hand, have a local calendar based on their own cycles which they use for local purposes.  (Or sometimes two, if orbits and seasons are out of sync with each other.)  And lighthuggers, of course, have their own version of IST which also include the relevant frame corrections.  Not that the other local times don’t include many and various frame corrections, but lighthuggers are where they become really obvious.

Other polities, as expected, do much the same thing internally, establishing their own interplanetary and planetary calendars, synchronized to the weavetime timebase – so even though one does still have to ask what time it is, at least understanding the answer is usually a simple matter of unit conversions.

(Datetimes from anywhere that doesn’t have a local stargate/timebase beacon operational invariably include a +/- estimated-drift figure.)

Question: Stellar Relocation

Another reader question:

A thought hits me: If the Empire has the power to shepherd stars and (at least theoretically) to destroy them, does that mean that it also might have the capability to move them?

Well, now.

The destroying them (in theory, but it’s a good theory) isn’t so relevant in this context. It is a sad reflection of the nature of the universe that destroying things tends to be pretty easy, at least compared to creating them. That’s entropy for you.

As for moving stars. Well, theoretically, there are several possibilities. For example, you could use the Cirys bubble (a solar-sail-material-based dynamic Dyson sphere, similar to this) technology in use at the Esilmúr energy production facility along with the star-stabilizing plasmonics at use in stellar husbandry arrays to build a functioning Shkadov thruster.

Doing this would require solving several of what I believe technarchs traditionally refer to as “interesting engineering problems”, but it wouldn’t require any radically new scientific breakthroughs to make work. Just time, genius, and an Imperial assload of cash.

(In somewhat more radical ideas – a stargate moves mass around, and stars are, well, mass. Given certain constraints on energy requirements (because stars are a lot of mass) and the need to sink rather vastier amounts of kinetic energy (because stars are a lot of mass) than usual to avoid nasty intrinsic problems – and you’ll note no-one’s stargate-jumping planets around, either – this almost certainly involves solving a great many more interesting engineering problems than the former one. But again, nothing fundamental stops you from doing it, either.)

All of which is to say: moving stars isn’t a realized capability, but while it’s currently restricted to the drawing board and wild speculative fiction, it’s certainly a realizable one. Analogically speaking, should the necessity suddenly turn up (“it’s coming right at us!”), they just have to run the Manhattan Project; they don’t have to discover nuclear fission, first.


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.”