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?
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.
Star Killing: The theory exists behind several nova bombs, anyway, and ontotechnology shows the way to interesting possibilities like twist-pinch bombs. (These are essentially the same type of nova-inducing weapon that we see at the start of Charlie Stross’s Iron Sunrise.) And one probably could induce a nova with sufficient perversion of the stellar-management technology that goes to make up a stellar husbandry framework, were one to have the luxury of building a giant industrial megaproject in the system one wanted to explode. But by and large the list of Tier 1 star-killing Instruments of Regrettable Necessity that one shall never use, by the Ley Accords and on pain of the displeasure of the entire Accord is just about empty.
Well, there is one, the star-targeted strangelet bomb. Theoretically, it should work – from the Burning of Litash, they know that the strangelet bomb itself works, and that it does burn out before destroying all matter in the vicinity, and that strangelets themselves decay and don’t irreversibly contaminate the neighborhood. But that said, no-one is exactly sure of the result of trying one out on a star, and just in case it turns out to be the nightmare case where the nova scatters active strangelets all across nearby space, no-one particularly wants to be the one to run the test.
And in any case, doing this would be an excellent way to get every major military in the Accord hunting you down, loaded for genocide. If you thought garden worlds were expensive, stars are even more so, and the collateral damage that can be caused more than a few light-years away significant.
All was in readiness.
The magnetic traps and screens were staged hot, and standing by. The mass-driver injectors and their stocks of catalytic reactant slugs awaited his command. Energy pulsed in the star-wrapping coils of the gravomagnetic stirrers. The gluonic strings tethering the megastructure together were nominal and stable. Data poured into the solar model from the close-in sensor platforms, displayed in a ruddy, prominence-wracked globe at his right hand to match the blaze of the star beyond the broad half-sphere viewport.
“All stations: terminate system checkout. Prepare for transition to phase one. Enable safeties.”
A ripple of blue-lit indicators showed the sacrificial safety platforms coming on-line, ready for their deaths to carry news of disaster to all nearby – potentially endangered – stars. It would take years, decades, to determine the success of this project, whether they could tame a star’s fires and lengthen its life. A mistake, however, could be manifest enough to obliterate the Athanor Array and the entire project team in a much shorter time, and then – if they somehow triggered a prompt core collapse – go on to shower a half-dozen nearby systems with lethal radiation levels. Triggering, no doubt, some most sincere apologies at their liability insurer, which would doubtless prefer not to pay out on a policy with a record-setting exponent.
A somewhat risky affair, this stellar manipulation. But then, with pure science and practical application in the balance, was there an alternative?
Not for a technarch.
“To propose taking apart, possibly explosively, a star by means of, or to use as, a weapon is to suggest a violation of Tier I, Chapter I, yes, and a serious war crime. Call the chaps at Harmonious Serenity.
“To propose doing exactly the same thing for science, on the other hand, because you want to better understand how they work, and how you can redesign them to work better – well, that’s just Amphimis morning at MinSciTech. Just… dissuade them gently. Remind them that they almost certainly can’t get insurance cover for that, even if they can afford a personal star to try their proposed experiment out on.
“Unless it’s a really good proposal, of course. In which case, tell them that insurance rates are a lot cheaper a hundred light-orbits or so into the Beyond. Or better yet, in the halo.”
– Morrian Arden-ith-Ardenis, executor major, Ministry of Science and Technology