Fleet Communications

A commenter raises an interesting point with regard to fleet communications, which as we have seen in various places, tend to look like this:

FROM: CS GRITFIST (FIELD FLEET RIMWARD)
TO: FIELD FLEET RIMWARD COMMAND (CS ARMIGEROUS PROPERTARIAN)

*** ROUTINE
*** FLEET CONFIDENTIAL E256
*** OVERDUE FOLLOWUP

REF: TASK GROUP R-4-118
REF: OVERDUE STATUS, CS GUTPUNCH

  1. AS PER TASK GROUP ORDERS ORIGINATING CS UNDERBELT, HAVE PROCEEDED WITH COHORT, CS GOUGER, TO LAST KNOWN POSITION CS GUTPUNCH, MALTEVIC SYSTEM.
  2. NO TRACES OF CS GUTPUNCH OR RECENT SIGNS OF COMBAT APPARENT OR RECORDED IN SYSTEM LONGSCAN BUOYS. TRANSPONDER LOGS CONFIRM OUTBOUND GATING TO NARIJIC SYSTEM IN ACCORDANCE WITH PATROL ROUTING.
  3. RESPONSE TO FORWARDED QUERIES TO SYSTEM ENTRY BUOYS IN NARIJIC AND KERJEJIC SYSTEMS INCLUDES NO HIGH-ENERGY EVENTS.
  4. CS GOUGER WILL PROCEED FORTHWITH TO NARIJIC SYSTEM AND COMMENCE SEARCH GRID SWEEP.
  5. SELF WILL PROCEED FORTHWITH TO KERJEJIC SYSTEM AND COMMENCE SEARCH GRID SWEEP.
  6. MORE FOLLOWS.
  7. AUTHENTICATION MORAINE HAMMOCK VAULT SIMMER GOLDEN PAWL / 0x9981ABD43E3ECC22

ENDS.

…to wit:

One thing about these: while I understand the stylistic motivation of using all-caps (reminiscing to WW2-era (and later) communiqués, in Isif’s world, that makes no real sense. In WW2, the all-caps was a result of having no distinct-case (and some bright chap thinking it was better to have all-caps, even if they are a lot harder to read).

I do not have a ready solution to carry the “fleet communiqué” vibe easily, but I think just the rest of the format (headers, enumeration, the “Ends.” trailer) would be good enough™.

Well, here’s the reasoning behind it. But first, I will note that not all communication to and from fleet vessels looks like this. We also see some that comes over more normal channels, which looks like this:

From: Executor Major Garren Melithos, Uulder Shore Constellation Adhoc, Imperial Exploratory Service
To: Cmdr. Leda Estenv, Flight Administrator, CS Iron Dragon
Subject: Checking up

Your Mr. Sarathos is shaping up as well as can be expected here after his transfer. Per his request, we put him to work on the hush-hush clean-up of Ekritat’s atmosphere after his oops, and he’s doing a good job there so far. Chastened, but competent.

My colleagues have some similar projects lined up for him after this. If all goes well, we might just manage to salvage him and his career.

-gm

…so what’s the difference and why the stylistic change?

Protocol.

The latter is just plain old extranet e-mail, sent out over SCP (Secure Courier Protocol), and which works the same way as any other e-mail, which is to say while rather more complicated than ours (involving the use of presence servers to first link name to location, and then routing protocols to link location-of-mobile-subnet – which is to say, starship – to current-network-location), is nothing special and can transmit arbitrary formatted data. It’s routed at standard-traffic priority, being routed over light-speed links between stargates until it gets to its destination system, then over laser tightbeam between relay stations and finally to the starship’s own receiver. Since it’s going to a military destination address, the protocol probably coerces the notrace, noloc, and deepcrypto bits on, but yet.

The former, on the other hand, is an action message, being sent over the Navy’s own GLASS PICCOLO system, which piggybacks on the extranet for some routing purposes but doesn’t use standard protocols. That’s because it’s optimized for speed, security, distribution without presence servers if need be (for starships running in communications silence), etc., but most of all minimal size, because the GLASS PICCOLO system uses the IN’s private tangle channel backbone wherever it can appropriately do so for speed, but once a tanglebit has been used in communications, that tanglebit is gone forever. It can’t be reused, only replaced. And if you’re coordinating a war, you don’t want to find yourself running out of tanglebits to do it with.

So it does have some relevant constraints. Not so much lack of distinct case – think of it more like the ELF communications the US Navy used to use, except the constraint is not speed of transmission, it’s the potential permanent consumption of the transmission medium.

GLASS PICCOLO messages are converted into five-letteral code-groups – which is why the language in them tends to be stilted, because you aren’t reading what anyone actually wrote, you’re reading the computer transliteration of the code-groups – signed, compressed, encrypted to the recipient key, and squirted out on the GP network as a single-packet datablip. The recipient’s communication computers reverse the process.

All of which is to say: it’s a deliberate stylistic choice, yes, but the reason I’m invoking those very different-looking historical communication formats is to suggest to the reader that these messages indeed ain’t like those messages.

(One side note: it’s not a matter of lacking distinct case, I append for those who aren’t keen minutiae-watchers, because none of the three major Eldraeic alphabets – runic, pen, or brush-optimized – actually have a concept of letter case. Which of the alphabets either of the above would be displayed in depends on the personal UI customization of the comms officer reading them.

There might be a tendency for slight runic to predominate, since as its hexagon-based letterals and numerals are all identical in size, it was the alphabet used by the people who designed the original fixed-width computer terminals and predecessor devices, but everyone *there* has had a WYSIWYG system for more years than humanity’s had writing, these days…

But from a Doylist perspective, all-caps makes a convenient Translation Convention.)

 

Trope-a-Day: Subspace Ansible

Subspace Ansible: The tangle channel, which involves manufactured entangled (not in the standard quantum sense, note, because we know that doesn’t work; these are ontotechnological devices using the “privileged channels” a long way behind those) particle-pairs.  This makes them quite expensive (since they are a consumable resource, one particle per bit transmitted, and have to be shipped there the long way once you separate the ends; if you don’t have one or a stargate, your best option is a lighthugging communications torpedo) at least relative to using light-speed EM communications and relaying them through the stargates, the way most of the non-priority extranet works, but they’re invaluable for priority communications and beyond the reach of the stargate plexus.  (They are, for example, the only means of ready communication available to lighthuggers.)  And yes, they do work for mindcasting.

(And, yes, they can also let you play interesting games with causality. Just as expected.)

That said, extensive use of caching, prefetching, and AI traffic prognostication makes the extranet delays mostly invisible in practice, as does the ability to engage in pseudo-real-time communication by sending a partial copy of you along with, or as, your message to be able to have a real discussion with the recipient, then reabsorb it when it returns.

Beep

“Greetings, Citizen Asamis! You have reached the voice communications service of Bora Phylarius. Unfortunately, my principal is off-world at the moment and cannot be reached by real-time dataweave services.

“If you are calling about a non-urgent matter, a message may be forwarded using non-real-time services. Current estimated time until receipt, including light-lag, is one day, five hours, twenty-seven minutes.

“If your call is urgent, you may escalate to a real-time communication over tangle channel. Please note that full tangle service charges will apply. Be aware that frivolous-communication surcharges may be applied at my principal’s discretion to unwanted communications directed over either of these channels.

“For matters relating to the Epiphani Initiative, designated representatives of the Initiative are available to handle matters on my principal’s behalf; likewise, domestic matters may be addressed to my principal’s home directly.”

“Alternatively, you may speak to a proxy emulation/partial derivative of my principal, which has limited authority to speak on his behalf and may, if necessary, refer you upwards.

“How may I be of assistance?”

Handwavium: Clarifying Tangle/FTL Restrictions

…since I’ve accumulated a couple of queries on this, it’s probably a good thing to clarify.

The restriction on taking tangle (and certain other members of its family of technologies) through a stargate arise from the details of the Minovsky Physics I have defined to fill in the handwavium gap between ontotechnology and our understanding of the universe. I’m not exactly ready to give a full primer on the details of those, heh, but here’s the relevant parts:

  • From a quantum-physics-interpretation perspective, the three competing current Theories of Everything are equivalent to a non-local-hidden-variables interpretation. (In short, I’m assuming that some version of NLHV is correct.)
  • All of these imply “privileged channels” – this is a metaphor – by which state information is “teleported” – this is an even worse metaphor – about the place.
  • I draw from various ideas I have seen in the scientific literature relating quantum entanglement to the quantum foam to thus associate these “privileged channels” with the foam-scale wormholes.
  • (Some of this may seem familiar to those who’ve paid attention to the revealed technical details of stargates. If you also notice some inspiration from Greg Bear’s conphysics in Moving Mars and Anvil of Stars, that’s probably fair to say.)

What does this mean for tangle? Well, it means that for those “privileged channels” to function, they require coherency. Ordinarily, this is a given – we, at the macroscale and even the particle nanoscale, all operate in a nice, consistent spacetime geometry, if one that’s interestingly distorted in places. But then there are stargates, which blow up a wormhole to macroscopic proportions, allow transit, and then collapse it, pinching it off. That breaks coherency because it changes the spacetime topology, not something that normally happens up here. The universe is a robust thing and can handle that/clean up after it, but the nitpicky privilege-dependent details like entanglement – be it the quantum kind or the more subtle kind tangle channels use – are wiped clean in the process.

And that’s why you can’t jump a tangle channel – meaning, specifically, one end of a tangle channel leaving the other end behind – through a stargate. Once you do, the entanglement is broken and both ends are now just boxes filled with random bits. (Incidentally, this is also why you can’t jump a stargate through a stargate; it scrambles the core’s connection to its counterpart.)

But you can, which has been the point that has led to some confusion, jump both halves of the same tangle channel together, because the topology change then happens around them; they stay inside a self-coherent “bubble” geometry, if you will.

So, for example, when I mention the use of tangle to communicate between IN starships and their AKVs, or tactical sensor platforms, they can get away with that because both ends of the tangle channel jump together; but if they jumped out-system and back in again leaving the platforms behind, they’d lose the communication channel. Likewise, they can’t use tangle comms with pre-placed sensor platforms unless they pick up the other half of the channel after jumping in.

And the chap who stole a colonial tangle-channel and ran off with it to do an NFT scam? He had no problems getting the stolen channel to his target world, because what he stole was both ends neatly packed together in their shipping container.

On the other hand, though, when looking at examples like the tangle channel the Stratarchy of Indirection and Subtlety were using on Vontok II, and so forth, those had to pre-positioned and taken aboard once they got in system. (There are a number of strategies for this, all of them annoyingly complicated and most of them involving some sort of masquerade or other, because they have to delivered STL and even a light-sail starwisp is not what you might call the stealthiest of craft.)

Likewise, when you see starships being ordered to report in over tangle channel, like, say, WHISPER NINE or SHUFFLE FOURTEEN, those tangle channels aren’t carried with the starship, if it’s not a lighthugger. Fleet Communications has carefully and subluminally placed communication relays at lots of different points in the Worlds with onboard channels – some of them in satellites that can receive radio signals, others, more covert, that you actually have to dig up and plug in – and you use them by going to their location, or sending a courier to their location, and then transmitting your message.

Hopefully that should clear everything up!

Trope-a-Day: Made of Phlebotinium

Made of Phlebotinium: Well, while there are several kinds of phlebotinium around (see: Applied Phlebotinium) of one grade or another, the deprivation of most of which would certainly make the universe substantially less pretty and/or efficient, the two big ones from a “made of” point of view would be the Absolutely Ubiquitous Computing, which would have much the same “rocks fall, almost everyone dies” effects were it to suddenly go away as electricity suddenly stopping working in Real Life1, and the specific pieces of ontotechnology responsible for the creation of stargates and tangle channels, without which – and thus with all communications and transport restricted to sub-light speeds – the galactic community would look very different indeed.  Indeed, if you delete the tangle channels (which allow real-time communication once you lob them at each other subluminally) as well as the stargates, there’s unlikely to be much of a galactic community, or much in the way of a “star nation” except very loose federations of subluminally-established colonies, bound together by information updates and data trade.

(1. ObVious reference example here: A Fire Upon The Deep, and the Countermeasure.)

Trope-a-Day: Faster Than Light Travel

Faster Than Light Travel: Means wormholes, which you have to drag to where you want them STL first.  (Or, for transmission only, tangle channels – which, for the physicists reading this, do not work by Quantum Entanglement As We Know It.)  For more details of which, see Cool Gate, Casual Interstellar Travel, and Corralled Cosmos.

And yes, faster than light travel, when combined with appropriate kinds of slower than light travel, absolutely does result in causality violations in the Eldraeverse.  (There are rules to govern which causality violations are possible – of which the short and mostly accurate version is “predestination paradoxes yes, grandfather paradoxes no” and various sophisticated computing techniques – “acausal logic” – make use of this fact.  It’s fun!)  Indeed, sometimes physics students are taken on (lengthy) field trips for the simple purpose of watching effects preceding causes.  It’s a fun day out for all the family!  (Even the ones who may not have been born yet.)

Sysadmins Wanted, Infomorphs Preferred

SYSADMINS WANTED, INFOMORPHS PREFERRED – Site systems administrators wanted to manage long-range extranet relay stations in the Expansion Regions. Infomorphs preferred, cybershells and bioshells accepted but must provide own IMS44 hab module and breathing gases if necessary. Companions accommodated at own expense. Skills required: IIP, extranet interchange routing, cloud servers, auton agent management, local-space mesh, including wireless EM and whisker-laser, metashl scripting, tangle, blacknet protocols, and interchange perimeter security (min. 6 wall-clock years live experience). Psych requirement: no to minimal negative isolation response. 2-year contract, pays 24k over standard for hardship/hazard, full backup cover and personal bandwidth allowance. Contact Litheia Elethandrion, Sophont Contracting, Outer Ring Netweavers, ICC.