Ultima Ratio Imperii Stellae

(Because a comment thread back a ways suggested a mention of the big dakka that hopefully no-one will ever have to use might be in order…)




Proceed (+/-)? +




[SSP image elided from file]

The ultimate sanction available to the Existential Threats Primary Working Group at this time remains the use of weapons in contravention to Chapter I of the Ley Accords, to wit, weapons inducing severe uncontrolled stellar perturbation up to and including sequence change.

Three weapons systems matching this criterion are currently provisionally available under CASE DYSPEPTIC FLARE, representing extremal response cases to otherwise uncontrollable excessionary-level existential threats. Deployment of any of these weapons systems indicates a willingness to sterilize entire star systems, and in itself constitutes a x-level photon and particle radiation hazard to nearby (range < 868 light-orbits, typical) star systems. These systems are:

  • DYSPEPTIC FLARE SHANK, deployment of relativistic kill vehicle from the deterrent fleet maintained by the Black Flotilla on stellar impact course, inducing megascale coronal mass ejection; and
  • DYSPEPTIC FLARE EMBRACE, use of extended iron-bombing or (untested/theoretical) twist-pinch device to induce stellar core collapse/artificial nova; and
  • DYSPEPTIC FLARE HELLFIRE, deployment of CALYX HOLLOW or other strangelet device to stellar target, causing supernova-equivalent conversion event.

(WARNING: DYSPEPTIC FLARE HELLFIRE has intrinsic and unknown black-level-plus existential threat potential, since the energetic conversion event may (p > δ) spread undecayed strangelets at relativistic speeds sufficient to prolong their lifespan,  enabling them to reach other star systems, where they may in turn trigger conversion events; as a worst-case scenario this could lead to self-replicant galactic annihilation.

As such, deployment of DYSPEPTIC FLARE HELLFIRE is absolutely prohibited except when the Transcendent warmind certifies that the x-risk prompting its deployment is of severity/range greater than the projected worst-case result.)

Note that as an extremal response case, deployment of CASE DYSPEPTIC FLARE requires consensus approval of the Imperial Security Executive, subject to override veto by vote of the Fifth Directorate overwatch, and Transcendent warmind approval.

Note also that special release conditions (noted below) apply to DYSPEPTIC FLARE, including but not limited to certified prior release of minimum three non-extremal response cases in failure state; threat (p > 0.5) of SKYSHOCK activity; unlimited collateral budget approval; and strategic ethics stricture <= ABYSSAL.


Communicating ANY PART of this NTK-A document to ANY SOPHONT other than those with preexisting originator-issued clearance, INCLUDING ITS EXISTENCE, is considered an alpha-level security breach and will be met with the most severe sanctions available, up to and including permanent erasure.

Proceed (+/-)?


Trope-a-Day: Star Killing

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.

Trope-a-Day: Earth Shattering Kaboom

Earth Shattering Kaboom: The Ulijen Disaster.  If you’re going to build an experimental power plant that taps power from your sun using a wormhole, don’t build it on the planetary surface!

Also, relativistic kill vehicles and really big strangelet bombs, or even antimatter bombs; and in theory, some other esoterica like twist-pinch bombs and causal weapons.  All of which are utterly, utterly illegal to use (which doesn’t stop everyone with a sense of paranoia from maintaining a relativistic deterrent fleet, of course) under pain of serious obliteration.

Trope-a-Day: The Dreaded

The Dreaded: Various in history, but most prominent in recent years is Admiral Caliéne Sargas “the Worldburner, for actually pulling the trigger on the Worlds’ single use of a strangelet bomb in the Burning of Litash, and the ensuing multi-megadeaths.  (Somewhat unfairly, since the Stellar Council and the Lords of Admiralty actually made the call to proceed with the destruction of Litash, but…)  She dislikes her reputation with the same minor blind spot that most of the Sargas have, but acknowledges that it’s actually rather useful to have.

(Or, on occasion, rather annoying to have because no-one will bloody stay and fight any more.  Frustrating!)

The Burning of Litash (6)

The rings of Depot, Palaxias system.

One orbital warehouse among many, Armory S7-224 was a simple “tin-can” habitat, dozens of red-striped modules plugged together onto a central interconnection frame. A freight cutter, just undocked, fell backwards away from the docking spine on the way to its next errand.

Within its second upper module, two loader robots backed away along their rails from the red-striped cargo containers they had brought from the freight cutter, now stacked along with the dozens of others the module held.

On the outer side of each was stenciled:

QTY: 16


From Fleet Admiral Caliéne Sargas-ith-Sargas, CS Unyielding Order, Field Fleet Coreward, to Esitariel Cyprium-ith-Avalae, c/o Core Command, Calmiríë, greeting.

Dammit, Cyprium. Can’t you let us keep just one of the new toys?

The Burning of Litash (5)

“These images are taken from the records provided by the command vessel of the fleet that carried out ‘Operation Ruby Gauntlet Sable’, the Unyielding Order…”

The ravaged planet hung in the center of the Conclave amphitheater, surface black and charred save for its fiery disfigurement; a crater over a thousand miles wide, filled with a sea of magma welling up through the world’s cracked crust, belching steam into the wracked air at its edge where it intersected the former coast.  Newborn volcanoes shouldered their way into the sky at its fringes and along radiating cracks, as the world heaved in the orogenic aftershocks of the detonation.

“These are simply the primary effects of the strangelet bomb deployed by the Empire’s task force.  The detonation set the atmosphere of the planet ablaze.  Firestorms driven by the pressure wave swept around the world, incinerating not merely everyone who escaped the initial blast, but the entire planetary ecology.  The direct radiation and particle showers produced by the bomb have rendered much of the planet radioactive.  That alone will render Litash unhabitable for a thousand years.”


“Ah, ni Korat, sit down.  I’m surprised you wanted to be seen meeting at a time like this.”

“We’re already so close to you in the public eye, it’ll hardly matter.  And all of us are nervous right now – everyone’s counting on me to find out what’s going on.”


“Technically, this is not a violation of the Accords as written.  Litash was not a signatory to any of the Accords, nor has there been any specific prohibition on the use of strangelet weapons.  Litash was a world which supported piracy, slavetaking, and other crimes against Accord members; a general threat to all the Worlds.  None of us here would quibble with the right of any Accord member to destroy the Litashian fleet with no quarter given, nor to prosecute general warfare against the Litashian government.  But this!  This is the destruction of an entire world, its entire population, its entire ecology.  This cannot be tolerated by the galactic community, surely.  If a smaller polity of the Accord had done this, it would be subject to the most severe censure, and it must therefore be so even if one of the Powers.”


“They’re really out for blood.  All your old enemies and half the neutrals are salivating over the chance to stick the knife into one of the Presidium powers.”

“I should certainly hope they are.”


“The Qiraf Assembly concurs with the League of Meridian.  While not a technical violation of the Accords, this attack violates their spirit in every way possible.  We condemn the actions of the Empire in destroying Litash-world in the strongest possible terms, and call for them to provide surety that they will never again use weapons of this nature!”


“We’ve always been your allies, and now we’re going to be caught in the backlash of this. All your allies are going to be caught in it.  Dammit, Calis, what are you going to do?

“We have it in hand.  Trust me on this.”


“This was an act of barbarism, of madness!  We cannot permit this to happen again!  The Calyet Guard demands that this assembly condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms, and we urge the other Presidium powers to take action immediately to prevent these madmen from repeating it!”


“But what are you going to –“


“The Presiding Minister for the Empire, Calis Corith-ith-Corith, now has the floor.”

“Gentlesophs of the Conclave, honorable representatives, at this time I would introduce Ambassador Extraordinary Cyprium-ith-Aelies, who speaks on our behalf.”

“Presiding Ministers, Representatives of the Conclave, on behalf of the Empire, I stand before you today to speak on the matter of the destruction, the burning – as the media is calling it – of Litash.  Let me first be clear on one point: we maintain absolutely that the destruction of the Litashian fleet, as active agents in piracy, slavetaking, and other crimes against sophoncy, was within our sovereign rights, as it would have been within those of any Accord member.  Moreover, we further maintain that the destruction of not merely the Litashian government, but also of the Litashian population, was justified as active supporters of these agents.  I remind you that the Litashian economy was principally driven by support for the criminal activities of its so-called fleet.”

“This being said, however, we acknowledge the legitimate concerns of the representatives here gathered where the excessive destructive power – unanticipated even by our own forces, as the bridge transcript records of the Unyielding Order show – of the strangelet bomb is concerned.  We do not desire any further destruction of worlds or ecologies to take place, at our hands, or indeed at any others’.”

“Therefore, the Empire moves that the Ley Accords be amended to include strangelet bombs, star- and planet-targeted respectively, as Tier I and Tier II prohibited instruments under Chapter I; and moves further that the protections and prohibitions of Chapter I be extended to all worlds and systems, not merely those actively claimed by Accord signatories.”

With that, the entire amphitheater erupted in general tumult, all but a few chagrined faces among the crowd – some of the former condemners prominent among them.


“You devious –“

“Would we ever have got those amendments passed if we’d proposed them cold? As it stands, the pirates are eliminated and the ambitions of a few dozen rogue states against their neighbors and Peripheral non-signatories will be neutered for the next century or two, all at the cost of one ecopoesed ecology duplicated elsewhere. All for the good of the Worlds, wouldn’t you say?”

The Burning of Litash (4)

CS Unyielding Order, Litash high orbitals.

“Grid configured.”

“Special package CALYX HOLLOW on the rails, launch when ready.”

“Permissive action set, authentication 0x991AC38575AA0D0E.  Admiral, do you wish to deploy the weapon?”

“Deploy it.  Right in the starport center, Mr. mor-Calarek.”

“Aye-aye, ma’am.  Right in the center.”

90,000 miles above the surface of Litash, battered in places but still mostly untouched, a near-imperceptible thrum was felt aboard the battlecruiser as one of its axial missile tubes opened and spat out the CALYX HOLLOW package, a tiny cylinder of gray-painted metal.  Twin flashes of light, one upon the ship’s hull and one upon the package, marked the invisible beam of a plaser reaching out from the ship and burning off a fragment of the package’s ablative propellant; and at this touch of thrust, it began to accelerate downwards into Litash’s gravity well.

CALYX HOLLOW was a weapon almost trivial in design.  No trigger or detonator was needed, and no guidance system fitted.  Once it had been launched, the weapons package simply tumbled on a ballistic trajectory into Litash’s atmosphere.  A few surviving ground weapons attempted to engage it, without hope of success with the orbital and ground sensor networks both smashed, but even had they been able to target it, it would have made no difference to the outcome, for the best they could achieve would be to fragment the casing early.

But the tough casing remained intact, cloaked in the plasma shock of its uncontrolled reentry, until only a few miles above the planet’s surface the stress of burn-throughs ripped it apart, shattering the delicate containment system within it and exposing its contents to the planet’s air.

Strangelets.  Unstable particles, kept artificially intact within the weapon; generated in nature in tiny quantities, harmless due to the speed of their decay.  But this was no single strangelet generated by a cosmic-ray impact; within CALYX HOLLOW’s containment was a mass of strangelets calculated to cause immediate prompt criticality. As they spilled into the relatively thick baryonic matter of Litash’s air, they merged with nearby nuclei, catalyzing their immediate collapse into more strangelets, and more, and more…

From the Unyielding Order, light flared over the target, blossoming instantly from a blue-white pinprick to an eye-searing flare hundreds of miles across, driving a visible miles-deep ripple of atmosphere before it, only to crash back into the hollow remaining as the flare itself collapsed – and the display blinked out and filled with sensor failure warnings, while the particle detectors screamed and fell silent as the radiation wavefront swept across them.

Caliéne Sargas’s throaty chuckle filled the silent bridge.  “Ha!  Well, Cyprium, now we know the damn thing works.”

“Indeed.  Although I’m considering passing a note along to the design team about their stand-off range estimates – that was a bit closer than I’d’ve liked.”

“Captain, damage reports as soon as possible, and contact the rest of the squadron for theirs.  And have the Surgeon-Lieutenant report to the bridge with his rad-test kits.”

She paused, then added, “And get someone out there in a cutter to find out if the planet’s still there.”