Amphisbaena

Amphisbaena-class battleship

“Half ahe… that way.”

– Capt. Olavi Corel, first captain of Amphisbaena

Displacement: 125,000 long tons

Length: 330 m (at waterline: 316 m)
Beam: 84 m (at waterline: 48 m)
Draft: 12.1 m

Propulsion:

4 x Empire Nucleonics, ICC 64 MW “Fat Salamander” fission reactors
8 x Blackstone Industries, ICC steam turbines and reduction plant
In-house magnetohydrodynamic “inchworm” drive system

Speed: 42 knots (non-sustainable emergency power: 48 knots)
Range: Unlimited; 12 year refueling interval

Complement:

1,672 officers and men
Thinking Machines, ICC “Admiral Aliniv” Command Optimization Thinker

Sensors:

Artifice Armaments, ICC, ASR-24/3 air search radar
Artifice Armaments, ICC, SSR-36 surface search radar
Artifice Shadow Works X-449 imaging lidar
Hydrodyne Technologies, ICC, “Long Ear” sonar suite
Tactical interweave uplink

Armament (Primary):

6 x Artifice Armaments, ICC 22″ “Big Howlin’ Bitch” railgun
6 x triple Artifice Armaments, ICC, 16″ “Little Sister” railgun

Armament (Secondary):

24 x Artifice Armaments, ICC 9″ “Poniard” conventional gun
36 x Firefly Aerospace, ICC “Waterline” anti-ship seeking missile
36 x Firefly Aerospace, ICC “Gentle Touch” target-finding missile
8 x Eye-in-the-Flame Arms, ICC “Pesticide” automated threat protection system

Armor:

Citadel: 24″ layered C-allotrope/alloy composite; equiv. 53″ steel
Main turrets: 18″ layered C-allotrope/alloy composite; equiv. 39″ steel
Elsewhere: 12″ layered C-allotrope/alloy composite; equiv. 26″ steel

Aircraft carried:

16 x Stonesmight Automata, ICC “Tattletale” scout drones
16 x Stonesmight Automata, ICC “Fleshharrower” attack drones

The four Amphisbaena-class battleships were the last fast battleships laid down by the Imperial Navy (note: the “wet” navy of the era, not its space successor), and participated in a number of military actions including the last battles of the Consolidation to take place on Eliéra proper. They are widely considered to represent the pinnacle of the naval architect’s art, and the furthest development of the “wet” battleship as a class.

The design of the Amphisbaena-class, in keeping with the mandate the IN inherited from the Alatian Navy’s Weapons Development Board, was to produce a vessel that would utterly outclass any opponent against which it was set. Thus, the class carries six 22″ railguns – of a model designed to be scaled down for naval use, rather than used as is – in addition to its six triple 16″ railgun turrets and conventional armaments. This same approach led to the inclusion of the eight “Pesticide” automated threat protection systems, capable, once activated, of automatically reducing anything not tagged as friendly approaching within a mile of Amphisbaena, above or below the water, into chaff and charnel.

The final development of this approach was Amphisbaena‘s magnetohydrodynamic “inchworm” drive. While the primary characteristic of this type of drive is its quietness, and thus lower sonar profile, in the case of Amphisbaena, it was selected because its lack of the issues associated with high-performance propellers, coupled with an otherwise oversized power plant, enables Amphisbaena to reach the otherwise unprecedented – for a ship of its displacement – cruising speed of 42 knots.

It also has the advantage of functioning equally well in either direction, and this – combined with the ability to divert water to side outlets at both bow and stern – gave Amphisbaena unparalleled abilities not only to change heading 180° without turning at all, but also to decelerate, to turn in its own length, and to keep station – making it an incredibly stable gun platform.

It is also to this drive that Amphisbaena owes its entirely symmetrical hull profile and superstructure, since the designers felt no need to inflict the notion of a preferred direction on a ship which otherwise would have lacked one. Despite the quotation above, officers and men serving on Amphisbaena-class ships rarely had difficulty telling the bow of the moment from the stern when the ship was under way, but it is nonetheless true that a red-blue color gradient was added to the bridge paintwork after Amphisbaena‘s sea trials to make end from end clear when moored or hove to.

Twelve Random Definitions

bloodshits: A slangy, less polite name for the bloody flux, a rather unpleasant form of severe gastroenteritis.

di-clad: Coated in diamondoid or diamondoid-family materials.

electron plumbing: the thermionic valve equivalent of integrated circuits, intended for use in high-power and EMP-resistant applications.

“Empress’s word”: An implication of conspiracy or secrecy that must be maintained at all costs. The implication (referring back to Valentia I Amanyr), is that to break the Empress’s word is to condemn yourself to death.

glowful: An informal term meaning “good”, “pleasant”, etc. Has a greater overtone of specifically “pleasant”, or “emotionally/hedonically appealing” than shiny, which compare.

hedge-parking: In autonomous vehicle design, the practice of securing arrival time by overbooking a number of physical parking spaces based on the users’ urgency, preferences of timing, location, flexibility, and willingness to pay, then offloading the unused spaces (if possible) on the parking spot market at the last minute.

matter-shop: Slang; a neighborhood autofac/JITPOS center, especially one with JITINV capabilities.

orbital level: For the purposes of space traffic control, the space from immediately above the atmospheric height (rounded off) to geosynchronous orbit is divided into so-called orbital levels, altitude bands 10 miles apart, numbered from the bottom up.

perfect moron: The theoretical worst computer possible; one which performs one bit-transformation using the entire mass of the universe over its entire lifespan.

space scurvy: Nutritional deficiencies or toxicities caused by consuming food sourced from worlds and/or habitats incompletely compatible or incompatible with one’s own nutritional requirements and/or limitations. See biocode.

sparkhead: A direct brain-stimulation addict, especially a wire-point addict.

weak superintelligence: A superintelligence which is merely lower intelligence run at vastly higher clock speeds, without qualitative cognitive advantage.

Some Ancient Questions

Have a random selection of answers to old questions and comments that came up while I was clearing out my e-mail:

In our world, there is a Spanish proverb that runs: Ladrón que roba a ladrón tiene cien años de perdón (memorably quoted in translation by the villian of The Magnificent Seven as “A thief who steals from a thief is pardoned for a hundred years,” or more conventionally glossed as “It’s no crime to steal from a thief.”)

How would the eldrae analyze such a situation? Would they consider it wrong to take something without its possessor’s consent if that possessor is not, in fact, the true owner?

That would depend. On the first level of analysis, Imperial law is more concerned with the will than the deed, and as such technically, for example, you are guilty of theft if you take something that was being freely given away, if you did not know that that was the case and therefore you believed that you were stealing it. Likewise, if you did not know that the possessor was not the true owner, it’s still theft.

On the second level, since the essence of theft is depriving the rightful owner of their property, if B steals from A and C takes it from B, then C is also guilty of theft from A.

The only situation in which such a C would not be guilty of theft is if they were aware that A was the rightful owner and “stole” it in order to return the property in question to A, in which case no crime has been committed, for that is merely a special case of the reclamation of property by its rightful owner. We might call this the Leverage exception.

Just a quick question, but how does a post-scarcity civilisation like the Empire deal with the problem of the so-called “mouse utopia”?

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-mouse-utopias-1960s-led-grim-predictions-humans-180954423/

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-doomed-mouse-utopia-that-inspired-the-rats-of-nimh

My thinking, at least for us normal old humans, has been that we need three principle policies or conditions to avoid this:

1. Monogamy as the default for the great majority of people.

2. Scarce resources if need be due to artificial constraints, in order to motivate people to get out there & do things.

3. A small (preferably non-existent) welfare state.

Needless to say, there’ll be plenty of pressure to change all 3 of these, so have fun balancing the need to retain these conditions with little things like not being a tyranny. Anyway, obviously the Empire doesn’t have #3 to worry about, but #1 and #2 seem to apply to them. Did they just get lucky and manage to genetically modify everyone to avoid the trap caused by cornucopia machines and such, are their minds that different from human ones, or is there a hush-hush part of the Transcend that’s quietly ensuring that “if a man will not work, he shall not eat” …?

The short version is: sophonts ain’t rodents.

(Rodents don’t have birth control, for one thing, and it’s pretty clear from global demographics among humans who do that in the presence of abundance, our problem is a birth rate falling below replacement, not overpopulation.)

Now, overpopulation is the most notable failure-feature of the various mouse utopias, and we know empirically that that doesn’t happen. But also:

Well, not to impugn the intellect of our rodent cousins – who are really exceptionally smart for critters whose brains comfortably fit in a teaspoon – but they do possess certain limits on their creativity when they get bored. No-one’s going to write the Next Great Murine Novel, or even grind their way to the top in World of Ratcraft – although, I note, nonetheless providing this sort of outlet did improve matters in later mouse utopias than the infamous ones.

Even humans – well, I’m gonna save myself some time and point you at Scott Alexander’s take on basic income (which the Empire does effectively have in the form of the Citizen’s Dividend) vs. basic jobs, here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/05/16/basic-income-not-basic-jobs-against-hijacking-utopia/ . The whole thing is worth a read, but specifically, look down under the heading “iv) Without work, people will gradually lose meaning from their lives and become miserable“.

Specifically, look at all the people who didn’t or don’t have any particular need to work, and who still live perfectly meaningful, satisfying lives.

Now consider that the eldrae are even further out on the self-motivated dynamism bell-curve.

tl;dr The “mouse utopia” is a model of what you get when you provide for the needs (and needs, note, not wants) of a group of people in a prison both physical and mental, not a model of a functioning society.

Re sports: How popular are team sports and team-based activities locally, relative to “individual” sports?

Less common than here, ratio-wise, which is largely an effect of spectator sports being less popular than participatory sports, but by no means uncommon.

Re tort insurance, the IQI, and other matters: What typically happens to those unlucky few who are unable to pass the IQI test but also have no one willing to claim them as a dependent?

If they do not possess a robot guardian, a robot guardian will be appointed for them.

Yes, those same ones that you can appoint for yourself if you want to get all Declaration of Situational Mental Incompetence-y. Only without the option.

Spending as much time as we do to block information-collecting used for these ends comes across as putting a comical amount of effort into making your own life less convenient by making it harder for the desire-satisfaction sector to satisfy your desires, and why the heck would anyone want that?

First, what would they make of someone on the opposite end of the spectrum — a sort of “Very Private Person” who deliberately goes out of their way to leave as little footprint as they reasonably can and who reacts negatively to any sort of unsolicited contact or requests for information simply because they believe that their business shouldn’t be anyone else’s business?

“You do you, but keep your weird fetishes to yourself, ‘kay?”

Also bear in mind that privacy law doesn’t support the notion of public privacy. And that since information about transactions is owned equally by each party to the transaction, not knowing what they just did as your counterparty is likely to be an extra-cost service for the annoyance.

Possibly stupid question (that you may well have already answered) –

_if_ everyone has a neural lace (and therefore could have something very like machine-mediated telepathy), why are there still explicit communications devices (“phones” and the like)?

Originally (i.e., in the days before advanced tech, when there was just baseline eldrae techlepathy), other communication devices existed for two reasons.

First, because you have to know someone’s signature to find them in the aether, and they aren’t readily written down; but also

Because – well, the thing about techlepathy is that even mediated via wireless transmission of neural gestalts, it’s still rubbing your brain up against someone else’s. This is not necessarily something you want to get into with just anyone.

Now in the modern day (well before neural laces – this was true even of early virtual interface implants), of course, you can easily receive e-mail and make trinet calls using only your implanted hardware, so in general, a lot of dedicated communication hardware doesn’t exist. Mostly it exists in places where it’s important to have a secure, hardwired communications line regardless of other conditions.

Now, there are plenty of slates, hand terminals, etc., and other such devices. They mostly exist because of the shape of brains. We are, after all, built to work by eye and hand; vast areas of brain are devoted to just that. Tool users are comfortable using tools; it’s as simple as that.

First, referencing this:

As for self-control: well, any young citizen-intendant who doesn’t learn to show an adult’s self-control will likely be culled by the age of 12 or so, simply because they’re too bloody dangerous to keep around. This is acknowledged as harsh, but also as regrettably necessary; when temper tantrums can shatter bones and blow out walls, you can’t afford to permit them.

Would it be correct to infer a generalization from this that, essentially, the head of an Imperial household has some measure of power analogous to the old Roman patria potestas over their minor dependents?

No, it would not.

It’s a simple matter of self-defense. When a tantrum can and will escalate to a lethal incident (and bearing in mind that this requires years of them failing to get their ass under control, with all the assistance available), this is just the end of the line.

(I mean, think of what happens to people who throw tantrums with automatic weapons here, except that there, the gun is always in hand and the trigger is a thought away.)

Aside from axiomatic self-ownership, what sort of rights do children (or other wards) have, particularly vis a vis the “veto power” of their parents or guardians?

All of ’em. Life, liberty, property, and even contract insofar as tort insurance (theirs, or their parents) will cover it.

As a sort of sub-topic of that: How do eldraeic parents go about disciplining unruly and disobedient children? What are, for instance, local attitudes toward corporal punishment?

That it’s assault and battery. (And also is an effective lesson in how it’s acceptable to use force to get what you want, but really, that’s a secondary point.)

Raising children is generally a matter of Taking Children Seriously, and the carrot – positive discipline – and greater access to responsibilities and privileges than the stick. Such stick as is necessary is provided by social consequences and a legal system that doesn’t offer special exceptions by age.

(Which last is arguably another form of taking children seriously.)

A small question: Does the eldraeic love for speculative fiction extend to what we call *here* the “alternate history” genre? Are there any popular works that deal with the subject of “What If [pivotal event X] never happened, or happened differently?”

It exists, but it’s just a minor subgenre. I don’t have any particular works in mind.

On that note: Does eldraeic have a term for the local equivalent of stercorarius (“manure entrepreneur”)?

“Dirt farmer,” (no translation yet) which term you may have seen before in the context of ecopoesis. Because they literally farm dirt.

So, for a question for the month, here’s my question-

One day, an Imperial Scout Ship wanders into Eldrae space, and the eldrae have just had their first contact with the Third Imperium. What particular hilarity and comedy happens after that?

Arguing over whose FTL drive is superior. (Both of them.) Horror at all the psionics. The Empire’s memetic warfare specialists and the Hivers finally have found worthy opponents in the manipulation game. Clash of capitalist titans. Arguments over whether non-jump FTL qualifies you as a major race. Ancients vs. Precursors, who were the most negligent? Dar-bandal vs. Vargr, who are the goodest bois?

Really, this one’s going to be one of the most uneventful first contacts, since no-one’s terribly offended by anyone else, not in ways more than is usual in both settings anyway. The biggest effect is going to be the long-term effects of all that transsophont tech seeping into the Imperium.

While I’m asking questions, I may as well venture another one, to answer or not as you wish, since I’ve not exactly been donating recently… how does the balance of power between the diarchs of the Imperial Couple work? Is it a veto from either side of the diarchy if they do not approve of a given course of action, or a delineation of fields of responsibility, or what? What, from the eldrae perspective, is the advantage of the diarchy over a singular executive? Is it the fact that it does divide powers?

In legal terms, it’s like the Roman consulship or the Spartan kingship; the diarchs have the same powers, subject to mutual veto. In practical terms, most of them tend to work out a rough division of fields of responsibility day-to-day.

(The advantages – originally in the eyes of the Cestian kingdoms from whom the Empire inherited the system – were threefold. The mutual veto is a check on stupid-ass decisions, and the division of responsibilities both keeps the Imperial workload reasonable and helps with the spectacularly wide range of knowledge and experience needed for the role.)

Also would like to know what the Empire of the Star would do with nonlocality tech, and whether the Transcend already has it.

Non-local sensors and effectors (essentially, like “noach” from Greg Bear’s Anvil of Stars and Moving Mars) aren’t yet within the capabilities of any species of the Worlds, although the Empire’s ontotechnologists are working towards it.

(It does exist in the ‘verse, though. The matter editation that Eliéra’s ecology maintenance systems use is a species of this technology.)

As for applications – good grief, what couldn’t you apply it to?

While we’re on the subject of definitions, what are the ‘spacer pikes’ mentioned in “But I don’t need one for this!”? Are they similar to the collapsible ‘broomsticks’ that Clarke describes in “Islands in the Sky” and “2010: Odyssey Two”?

Very similar to those, yes, with a hint of lochaber-axe-without-the-axe.

Are there any notable sovereign polities out there that, in the same manner as the Hessians that fought in the American Revolution, approach the “mercenary market” as suppliers — putting up their own state troops for hire as auxiliaries, perhaps as a way to make a quick buck on the side — rather than as customers?

Several. It’s proven an effective way for some single-system polities concerned about their larger neighbors to fund a larger military force than they otherwise could, and battle-season it to boot.

My question is twofold: what style of warships do mercenaries typically operate; are they running large battleships or mostly smaller Hornéd-Moon starfighters?

If they can afford it, a large mercenary outfit will operate something like a light cruiser or two to provide some space muscle for their typical missions (raids, commerce raiding, boarding ops, orbital fire support). There’s not much market for the larger types among mercs, because it takes a decent-sized plane of battle to have much of a chance in a stand-up naval fight, and mercs rarely get into stand-up naval fights anyway.

(This is not to say that no-one does it, but it gets you an expensive-to-support white elephant and suspicions that your admiral is compensating for something.)

The second question is concerned with the commerce raiding aspect of the shadow fleet; are there/have there been instances of opponents arming merchant vessels to mitigate losses (I.e. A spacefaring ‘East Indiaman’, with a few defensive AKVs or lasers)? Thank you!

Q-ships and convoy escorts are more common than armed merchantmen, simply because a merchie (with its lighter structure) hasn’t a prayer of surviving a stand-up fight against any naval vessel, even a naval auxiliary or corvette.

Specialist armed merchant cruisers (built on warship frame) do exist, primarily for use in regions where piracy is common, but even they wouldn’t rate against a naval vessel, and aren’t economic for general use.

I have to wonder. Wouldn’t anyone who undertakes the trip be considered a pariah at best and a slaver at worst? Anyone taking advantage of the Sleeper’s Deal has failed the ethical calculus of infinities and asymptotic infinities per, for example, On the Nonjustifiability of Hells: Infinite Punishments for Finite Crimes, Samiv Leiraval-ith-Liuvial, Imperial University of Calmiríë Press, no? How can such a sophont openly return to civilized society?

Because not all quote civilized unquote societies use Imperial standards of ethicality, the poor benighted sods.

arídaqerach: laser; from arídan “sun” + qerach “lightning”.

So, what words would they use to describe a solar flare, or coronal mass ejection? Those being things that might be described as a little like sun-lightning, and probably visible before anyone made a laser.

To me, they’ve always looked more like flames than lightning, and the names are going to come before the understanding, I do believe. Probably, then, arídandris (“sunflame”), or a similar compound.

You have mentioned matter editation before, what exactly is it? From the context from before I figure it is some kind of ontotechnology.

The ability to read and edit the properties of the fundamental particles of matter as easily as tweaking numbers in a spreadsheet. Think of it as a Minecraft world editor for reality.

What is the difference between AKVs and missiles?

An AKV carries weapons (i.e., is more analogous to, say, a Predator drone); a missile is a weapon.

Did they have a word for something along the lines of “Precursor Metal”? Something to use to refer to the (apparently) impossibly strong and light substance that a lot of the artifacts lying around might be made of?

Not as such; there are an awful lot of different materials, alloys, etc., that the Precursor races used in their construction, and that was obvious early on enough that it would have seemed odd to give any of them that particular soubriquet. There are lots of specific terms for assorted material oddities they left behind, though: everything from dragon pearls through orichalcium and Saermaharavei crystal.

Seeing as most warships we’ve seen in the Imperial Navy thus far have particle shielding rated for only 0.3c, how do the fleet carriers provide particle shielding for their constituent members when cruising?

They don’t. Fleet carriers behave like slow luggers, not fast clippers, for exactly this reason – and because if you could build particle shielding large enough to shield an entire fleet, you’d be out of luck trying to haul that at near-luminal speeds anyway.

(You could probably cram a lighthugger’s worth of particle shielding onto the bow of a warship, but the resulting design would not do well against any equivalent vessel not so encumbered – like all those at your destination. 0.3 c is a compromise already, you may note, as already substantially more than that found on civilian vessels.)

Does the local laws of war recognize the difference in asymmetrical warfare acts of mass destruction between non-governmental actors and governmental actors?

(I.e. Would they consider “a terrorist/political group using NBCN (Nuclear/Biological/Chemical/Nanological) weapons, software weapons, and similar devices on somebody’s capital world” different from “our special forces, still operating under a legally recognized chain of command, using NBCN weapons, software weapons, and similar devices on somebody’s capital world after YOU INVADED US without provocation”?

The local laws of war, as written, don’t bother making a distinction between non-governmental actors and governmental actors period, because the people who wrote them tend to think of governments as organizations distinguished mainly by silly hats and an unearned sense of ethical privileges.

Which certainly don’t get to write themselves a special pass to go around using weapons of mass destruction against civilian targets.

“the mass drivers spin their projectiles purely through EM fields”
Why is needed to spin the projectiles, flechettes, at all? The term flechette means ‘little arrow’ (in French).

Flechettes are fin stabilized not spin stabilized, true some experimental flechette rifles did had very shallow rifling (low twist rate) but that was primarily to break the sabot once the flechette cleared out of the barrel. Does the mass drivers of your setting need sabots?

The spin stabilization in this case is a later addition (or re-addition, I suppose) to the system to correct for personal point-defense systems, which tend to use high-power laser ablation to shove projectiles off course. Spinning them reduces the effect of the laser by spreading out otherwise localized heating and outgassing.

I’ve been wondering, has anyone ever used a stargate with the kinetic compensator off as a means of transporting the gate?

Imagine: you gate a gas giant through a stargate pair at a substantial clip, maybe several dozens of kilometres per second. The well-aimed stargate pair fly off in opposite directions at holy-crap relativistic speeds because conservation of momentum, while the gas giant planet carries on its merry way relatively unaffected. One mouth deploys a brakeloop or something and shines with hard rads until it arrives in a Worlds-owned system, and the other end continues on its merry way until it decelerates the same way into the target system.

Would make the Elsewhere Project look like a bottle rocket.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the kinetic compensator is for.

Momentum transferred from the transiting body to the wormhole mouth doesn’t affect the stargate, because the wormhole isn’t coupled to the stargate; the wormhole terminus picks up the momentum, but it’s in the process of collapse back into the foam at that time and so it can be safely ignored. Likewise with the exit terminus of the wormhole at the other end.

So this local conservation isn’t a problem. What’s a problem, once all the various bits of finaglery are done, is global conservation – which is to say, stars move relative to each other, not to mention all orbiting around the galactic core, which is itself in motion, etc., etc., all of which means that post-gating your intrinsic velocity is that of the orbit you were in in the system you just left. Or, to put it another way, going HOLY CRAP fast in absolutely the wrong direction.

The job of the kinetic compensator is to sink or source enough momentum, linear and angular, to fix this – and thus prevent you from taking an impromptu tour of the Oort cloud, being hurled directly into the sun, or suffering some other awkward, hard-to-explain-to-insurers, fate.

Themes: Paracausality

So, stepping out of the ‘verse for a moment, why does paracausality exist?

Thematically speaking, the existence of paracausality says something very important about the nature of the universe. It means that it’s impossible to deny the existence of free will. (Or, rather, you can, but it’s about as useful as standing on a planet’s surface and denying the existence of gravity.)

You make choices, and your choices make you, and the universe you exist within. Create or destroy, heal or harm, save or damn, it’s all down to choice.

And either way, it’s your fault. No-one made you do it, not without rooting your brain and turning you into a non-volitional tool. Not society, not your parents, not circumstance, not culture, not memes, not instincts, not your friends, not your enemies, and certainly not the deterministic unfolding of acyclic causal graphs. Just you.

You chose, and the world responded. You did it. And the consequences are yours to own and to live with, forever and a day.

This gives the world a rather vital quality, especially in fiction: meaningfulness.

Question: Dark Stuff

In recent questions:

What’s the status of dark matter/energy in the setting?

Munson sez: ‘There ain’t no such thing. Somebody just needs to correct their math, is all.’

The honest answer is “I haven’t established that yet”…

…but here’s some bullshit I just made up that should not be considered official canon:

If the in-‘verse theory of information physics (and its non-local hidden variable implications) is true, then the universe has a lot of metadata to keep track of. (Traditionally described as kept “Elsewhere”.) The more interesting interactions happen in any given location, the more metadata is generated.

Let us now handwave some sort of information-energy equivalence, or at least that information has its own effect on the space-time metric. (In honor of the original author who came up with this one, we can call it Pratchett’s L-Space Hypothesis.)

Conclusion: dark matter is actually all the universe’s metadata distorting space-time from its secret lair. It tends to halo around galaxies because that’s where all the interesting stuff happens.

(Let the weeping of the physicists now commence.)

((For those who don’t mind a particularly silly universe – and this one is definitely not canon – we could also postulate that dark energy, which has the opposite – universe-expanding – effect, is produced by ignorance; or, I suppose, technically, computational operations which could have happened but didn’t produce it as a byproduct. So study hard, folks, and keep thinking — or the universe will explode!))

Lumenna-Súnáris System (12): Andrár

So, having completed all ten planets of Lumenna in this series, we now move to its companion star’s nine, once again, beginning with the innermost:

I/1. Andrár

Class: Eurymic
Orbit (period): 0.08 au (6.198 T-days)
Orbit (ecc.): 0.06
Radius: 2,850 miles
Mass: 2.51 * 1024 kg
Density: 4.88 g/cm3
Surface gravity: 0.81 g

Axial tilt: 1.2°
Rotation period: 6.198 T-days (tide-locked)

Black-body temperature: 687 K
Surface temperature (avg., sunside):  824 K
Surface temperature (avg., nightside):  69 K

Atmosphere: None.
Hydrographic coverage: 0%

Satellites: 2 moonlets.

The innermost planet of Súnáris, tide-locked Andrár was a twin of Eurymir in all but name; a tide-locked rockball of brightest day and blackest night; if anything, even more sun-scraping than Eurymir.

Its colonization, however, followed a markedly different pattern. Rather than an experimental or resource world, Andrár came under serious consideration in the era in which laser sails and early fusion drives were competing as possible propulsion systems for the first interstellar starships. Andrár, thus, was developed as a power plant and interstellar laser system.

Much of the surface of Andrár, in the modern era, is oddly smoothed by years of autoindustrialism – on sunside, the planet is practically plated pole to pole with layers of solar panels and thermal generators, whose cold radiators likewise cover much of the nightside, broken only by the rectennas beaming power to the planetary ring statite (and other nearby habitats), and the huge laser arrays dangling upwell therefrom.

While not used for the colonization ships the designers had in mind (Kasjan Lyris’s fusion drive having won the battle to power the Deep Star vessels), Andrár’s lasers did sterling work propelling starwisp probes to nearby systems in preparation for the colonization efforts, and served as interstellar communication lasers during the days of the Thirteen Colonies. While the renaissance promised by the Laserider Network never came about, due to the discovery of a workable FTL system, the Andrár Beam Station continues to power starwisps on their way through the Thirteen Colonies, and supply various other initiatives in the home system, such as comet melting and zone refining, that need all the laser.

(Computation of exactly how much energy you can extract from the sunlight falling on half the surface of a world 0.06 au from a K2V, plus the above temperature difference, is left as an exercise for the calculation-loving reader. For everyone else, trust me, it’s a fuckjoule.)

Lumenna-Súnáris System (11): Raziké

I/10. Raziké

Class: Alessán
Orbit (period): 32.4 au (184.424 T-years/67,362.71 T-days)
Orbit (ecc.): 0.06
Radius: 37,668 miles
Mass: 1.01 x 1027 kg
Density: 1.08 g/cm3
Cloud-top gravity: 1.86 g

Axial tilt: 4.1°
Rotation period: 12.1 T-days

Black-body temperature: 46 K

Satellites: 4 close moonlets (including Hyníne). 2 major moons (doublet). 6 eccentric moons.

Lumenna’s outer ice giant, a brooding dark blue-green, is a backwater in an otherwise busy system. Very few sophs travel as far out into the system as Raziké and its moons, beyond even the three stargates in the Lumenna sub-system (orbiting in a stable rosette at 24 au), trans-solar transit traffic excepted. There’s not much reason to, the options for doing so are limited, and the light-lag is extraordinarily inconvenient.

There are three principal qualities that bring sophs here: cold, ice, and privacy. Combine as you will, and you see a region whose inhabitants – if we discount the Distant Early Warning stations operated by the IN – are a few batch-mode computronium nodes, deep time data vaults, comet herders and ice miners, and the scattered communities and hermitages of those wanting to get a long way away from it all. Total population is below a quarter-million sophs.

I/10/a. Múrazór and I/10/b. Múrnamár

Class: Gelidian
Barycenter orbit (period): 1.356 million miles (10.17 T-days)
Barycenter orbit (ecc.): 0.04
Total Mass: 1.42 x 1022 kg
Density: 1.71 g/cm3

Black-body temperature: 46 K
Surface temperature (avg.): 42 K

Atmospheres: Trace. Primarily carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

Raziké’s major moons are a doublet; a pair of ice bodies orbiting around their common barycenter, which in turn orbits Raziké proper. The statistics given above are for the Múrazór-Múrnamár pair as a whole; the mass of the doublet is split two-thirds/one-third in Múrazór’s favor.

Múrazór houses much of the local population, in the form of an IN base for the outer-system picket, a scientific research station, and the Comet-Herder’s Gather, a meeting place and floating market for the population of the sub-system and nearby Senna’s Belt.

Múrnamár, by contrast, is almost untouched.

The Order of Defenders

A reader pointed out on this Discord that this

(go read it there)

has a vaguely eldraeic flavor.

Which it does. Not something a direct analog to which would exist *there* , mind you, inasmuch as defending yourself and civilization is something written right into the Imperial Charter, Section III, Article V: “Responsibilities of the Citizen-Shareholder”1. But the underlying sentiment, that certainly does.

(And the technarchs have their equivalent of the Ritual of the Iron Ring, too, as do many others. One of these days, I should trot out, for example, the plutarch version.

No-one has forgotten or denigrated the memetic power of ceremony in this ‘verse. What else, indeed, is the Logarchy of Protocol, Ritual, and Symbology for, or the entire profession of symposiarchs?)

And if you were wondering if the lay orders of Barrascán have appropriate ceremonial along these lines, well yes, they do.


  1. Well, that, and you aren’t going to find anyone prepared to tolerate being described as “the weak”.

Lumenna-Súnáris System (10): Iälessá

(I’d been meaning to get back to this series for quite some time, but never quite managed it. Until now, seeing as a generous reader on the Discord offered to make me a delta-v map for the System, which rather spurred me on to resume the project.)


I/9. Iälessá

Class: Alessán
Orbit (period): 23.17 au (40,737 T-days/111.529 T-years)
Orbit (ecc.): 0.01 (however, orbital inclination is 22° from the ecliptic)
Radius: 16,833 miles
Mass: 1.194 x 1026 kg
Density: 1.44 g/cm3
Cloud-top gravity: 1.11 g

Axial tilt: 27.1°
Rotation period: 2.13 T-days (tide-locked)

Black-body temperature: 54 K

Satellites: 7 close moonlets, ring. 5 major moons. 4 eccentric moons.

A swirled marble of blues pale and dark, Iälessá is the inner of Lumenna’s twin ice giants. Its somewhat unusual coloration is believed to be the result of a combination of factors: its ammonia-rich atmosphere, the unusually high quantity of silicate dust in that same atmosphere (believed to be a product of whatever primordial event was responsible for the unusual inclination of its orbit), the primitive microbial life dwelling in its upper layers, and the unusual states of matter found near its core.

A small number of aerostats dwell in the upper atmosphere of Iälessá, primarily concerning themselves with research into the history and lifeforms of the planet, and its small gas-mining industry. The civilian population outside the major moons primarily dwells here, and across its various moonlets. Outside the Iälessá sub-system itself, though, its libration points with Lumenna contain a large number of polises and other processing facilities, taking advantage of the low-temperature environment.

Meanwhile, the sub-system itself, inasmuch as it consists of a relatively small ice giant with a system of large moons, presents the unusual sight of an astronomical arrangement firmly in gravity’s grip, as everything is tide-locked to everything else!

I/9/a. Saeríändrá

Class: Thiorastan (high-silicate)
Orbit (period): 134,664 miles (0.921 T-days)
Orbit (ecc.): 0.01
Radius: 786 miles
Mass: 4.055 x 1022 kg
Density: 4.798 g/cm3
Surface gravity: 0.17 g

Axial tilt: 4.2°
Rotation period: 0.921 T-days (tide-locked)

Black-body temperature: 54 K
Surface temperature (avg.): 65 K

Atmosphere: Thin (0.1 atm), primarily sulphurous, with heavy ash clouds.
Hydrographic coverage: 0% (other than short-lived cooling glass lakes)

Saeríändrá, the innermost major moon of Iälessá, is an anomalous thiorastan-class moon in many ways, primarily because of the high percentage of silicon and silicate compounds in its makeup, similar to that of its parent planet. It is also anomalously warm, due to the high degree of tidal flexing caused by its proximity to Iälessá, along with frequent close passed by the moonlets with which it is in resonance and its peripatetic moonmoons.

This tidal flexing also drives a highly active geology, including many large volcanoes. It is primarily this volcanic activity that provides Saeríändrá with its thin atmosphere and the thick high-altitude ash clouds which retain the moon’s heat, although the moon’s mass is entirely insufficient to retain its atmosphere, leaving a long pseudo-cometary tail trailing it in its orbit.

CAUTION: Travelers to or near Saeríändrá should be advised that near-Saeríändrá space to trailing of the moon is rich in particulate manner which may score hulls and damage delicate equipment. Avoidance of this zone is recommended.

Saeríändrá’s volcanoes are rare examples of vitreovolcanism, due to its silicon-rich crust; the lava they spew onto the moon’s surface takes the form of a variety of silicate glasses. Ongoing volcanic activity over millennia has resculpted the majority of Saeríändrá’s surface into layers of sculpted glass, from the milky mountains, ancient frozen eruptions etched by wind-driven ash, to the lowland glasslakes, swirled in many colors from impurities within, where glass lava has settled to its natural level before freezing in place.

Saeríändrá is a provider of fissionables to Cinquané and other parts of the outer system, via the Empire Nucleonics, ICC mining station in the north extracting thorium and uranium salts from the brown-green glasslakes of the area. Habitation is concentrated in the southern hemisphere, which houses a large number of thriving galari colonies, along with the famed Crystal Lake Dome resort.

I/9/b. Cinquané Avincta

Class: Eugalínic
Orbit (period): 185,163 miles (1.49 T-days)
Orbit (ecc.): 0.12
Radius: 1,227 miles
Mass: 1.123 x 1023 kg
Density: 3.47 g/cm3
Surface gravity: 0.2 g

Axial tilt: 3.1°
Rotation period: 1.49 T-days (tide-locked)

Black-body temperature: 54 K
Surface temperature (avg.): 37 K

Atmosphere: None.
Hydrographic coverage: 0%

A moon trapped in the quiescent phase of the galínic cycle by its lower mass and lack of atmospheric retention, Cinquané Avincta is a frozen world, its surfaces dominated by ice, carbon dunes, hydrocarbon tars, and tholins. As its slightly higher density indicates, pockets of heavier elements are present within its mass, and as such, it serves principally as a mining colony of the Cinquané Commonwealth, of which it is a territorial annex.

However, its surface is also heavily and repeatedly cracked by the high tidal forces to which it is subjected, and thus riven with mazes of chasms and other similar formations. As such, it has a thriving secondary tourist industry in extreme sports, including vacuum spelunking, bridge diving, and high-velocity flight in and among the narrows.

(Let us skip discretely past the tertiary industry of scavenging the remains of extreme sportssophs from the bottom of said chasms.)

I/9/c. Cinquané

Class: Galínilacustric
Orbit (period): 235,662 miles (2.13 T-days)
Orbit (ecc.): 0.09
Radius: 2,850 miles
Mass: 1.248 x 1024 kg
Density: 3.09 g/cm3
Surface gravity: 0.4 g

Axial tilt: 5.4°
Rotation period: 2.13 T-days (tide-locked)

Black-body temperature: 54 K
Surface temperature (avg.): 58 K

Atmosphere: 2.16 atm; primarily nitrogen-methane.
Hydrographic coverage: 70% (primarily ethane, with misc. hydrocarbon admixture)

Galíné may be the archetypal example of the galínic planetary classes, but Cinquané was the first. A world of ice, carbon dunes, and ethane oceans lapping at tholin beaches, all beneath a smoggy red-orange methane sky, Cinquané began as a roughneck industrial colony producing hydrocarbon-based products for the ecopoesis of Talentar and space industry elsewhere in the system, and grew from those roots into the homeworld of the modern Cinquané Commonwealth, the largest and most prosperous polity of the outer system, however Inlétanós’s Ring Imperium might contest the claim. Over three billion cold-loving sophs dwell in the domes scattered across Cinquané’s dusty plains and shores, along with the open ciseflish settlements, the largest being the planetary capital, Yíhanad, and the jack city of Newfalls.

Both Biolith Chemical Produces, ICC, and Industrial Liquids, ICC, maintain large extraction and bactry facilities here, clustered around the industrial cities along the shore of the southern polar ocean.

Other notable planetographic features include the Hump, the permanent 330′ high tide beneath the noon pole (here defined as the planetward synchronous pole, rather than the sunward one).

I/9/d. Cinquané Tevinté

Class: Eugalínic
Orbit (period): 370,326 miles (4.10 T-days)
Orbit (ecc.): 0.07
Radius: 1,663 miles
Mass: 2.126 x 1023 kg
Density: 2.65 g/cm3
Surface gravity: 0.2 g

Axial tilt: 1.3°
Rotation period: 4.10 T-days (tide-locked)

Black-body temperature: 54 K
Surface temperature (avg.): 35 K

Atmosphere: None.
Hydrographic coverage: 0%

Similar in most ways to Cinquané Avincta, but lacking the heavier elements, Cinquané Tevinté is also a territorial annex of the Cinquané Commonwealth, serving as a de facto suburb colony for those preferring greater privacy.

One pseudo-island (i.e., area of raised ground within a tar lake) on Cinquané Tevinté holds a mothballed manufacturing facility, that in which Ring Dynamics, ICC produced the first stargate hulls before the construction of the modern standardized weylforge, and another holds a naval depot for the IN’s outer-system picket.

I/9/e. Alétel

Class:
Orbit (period): 420,825 miles (5.07 T-days)
Orbit (ecc.): 0.13
Radius: 2,336 miles
Mass: 5.154 x 103 kg
Density: 2.32 g/cm3
Surface gravity: 0.24 g

Axial tilt: 4.6°
Rotation period: 5.07 T-days (tide-locked)

Black-body temperature: 54 K
Surface temperature (avg.): 52 K

Atmosphere: 0.16 atm; nitrogen-methane.
Hydrographic coverage: 0%

Another otherwise undistinguished iceball, the moon is perhaps most famous for housing Uncertainty Dome, Bright Shadow, ICC’s chief domestic tanglebit manufacturing facility, and, historically, for the Alétel Equatorial Collider.

Ringing the moon’s equator, the Equatorial Collider, at 14,675 miles in circumference, was the largest particle accelerator ever constructed until the much later advent of the Déirae Collider, and enabled new and profound discoveries in high-energy physics.

What’s That Soph?

So, I hear you like demographics. Or, at least, the comments on the last post tell me you like demographics.

Describing the constituent species of the Empire can be a mite tricky, depending on exactly how you define things – leaving aside any nasty outworlder prejudices about the status of neogens or uplifts, some species – relevantly, the mezuar and chiril-{n,m}, don’t have identities which lend themselves to headcount, and thus various approximations must be used.

And complicating things further, of course, is that the Empire’s immigration procedures don’t give a lump of species-appropriate excretions what species you happen to be, which leads to, oh, just over 8% of the population being “other”.

But given that, here’s the rough breakdown in a nice, user-friendly pie chart:

And here is the same data in a table, giving you what those percentages translate to in terms of approximate population numbers out of the Empire’s roughly 2.57 trillion sophonts:

eldrae12.54%322,278,000,000
arthálneogen0.31%7,967,000,000
chfsssc2.48%63,736,000,000
chiril-{n,m}unconventional identity0.36%9,252,000,000
ciseflish9.14%234,898,000,000
dar-bandaluplift7.65%196,605,000,000
dar-célmekuplift1.10%28,270,000,000
dar-cúlnóuplift2.26%58,082,000,000
dar-e’sevdrauplift1.83%47,031,000,000
dar-íícheuplift3.36%86,352,000,000
dar-voracuplift2.15%55,255,000,000
digisapience14.56%374,192,000,000
esseli3.31%85,067,000,000
galari7.28%187,096,000,000
kaeth6.74%173,218,000,000
mezuarunconventional identity1.39%35,723,000,000
myneni4.91%126,187,000,000
selyéva2.78%71,446,000,000
sssc!haaaouú3.92%100,744,000,000
temísineogen0.49%12,593,000,000
verviani2.69%69,133,000,000
zal!enneogen0.43%11,051,000,000
other8.32%213,824,000,000

You may note that even the arthál, with the smallest demographic footprint due to their relatively recent creation and source population of fandom enthusiastic enough to change species, still manage to outpopulate Earth.

And that with 173 billion kaeth around… well, let’s just say the Legions don’t have any trouble recruiting.

Nope, It’s A Bridge

Many of you, gentle readers, are also devotees of the Atomic Rockets web site. (As well you should be, if you are interested in matters rockety.) And, of course, you may have noted the Atomic Rockets Seal of Approval off in the right-hand column.

But today I’m going to talk about a place where I find myself, and the ‘verse, disagreeing with it. Specifically, with “It is a CIC Not a Bridge“. For convenience, I’m going to quote from it here:

That round room in the Starship Enterprise? The one they call the “Bridge?” Wrong term, that thing is a Combat Information Center (CIC). On a real wet-navy vessel, the bridge is a tiny two-station place used to control the the movement of the ship. It only had stations for the navigation and helm.

In other words, the “bridge” on the Starship Enterprise is that little console that Sulu and Chekov sit at.

The CIC is where all the data from the sensors, scoutships, intelligence agencies, central command, and other ships is gathered and evaluated. The important information is passed to the captain along with tactical suggestions. Exactly the way Uhura, Scotty, and Mr. Spock pass information and tactical suggestions to Captain Kirk.

http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/misconceptions.php#id–It_is_a_CIC_not_a_Bridge

So, here’s the thing. It’s actually slightly more complicated than that. There are three places on a wet navy vessel all of which do things that people think of as functions of “the bridge”.

There is the CIC, as described above. It’s the information-gathering and decision-making center.

Then there is the wheelhouse, which is where the ship’s movement is controlled from. This, on ships that had a bridge, was usually buried down inside the hull or beneath the superstructure – for one simple reason. You don’t want it shot off. If you lose the wheelhouse, you can’t command the ship any more, so you don’t want it somewhere vulnerable.

And then there is the bridge, which is the place you conn the ship from. It’s up high at the front of the superstructure with generous wings, etc., because its requirement is that you be able to see what the ship’s doing in order to command it.

(On a merchant ship, you probably don’t need a protected CIC, and since you don’t expect anyone to shoot your bridge off, you may have the engine-room telegraphs and wheel up there in one place. On navy vessels, on the other hand, instead of passing engine orders and steering directly, you have a bridge talker yelling “Port 40! Half ahead both!” down voice tubes to the wheelhouse.

On the other hand, the bridge is also exposed to heavy weather, so merchies that expect to encounter the rough stuff may still have a separate wheelhouse. This was actually where they first came from.)

In a historical digression, incidentally, the original bridge is an evolution of what was originally the quarter deck, the raised deck at the stern, on sailing ships. When it became more important to avoid your own smoke than see what your sails were doing, which is to say, as we moved from sail to steam, the raised area moved for’ard and became the bridge as we know it today.

As for the wheelhouse, that came from sailing ship designs in which the poop deck (the highest deck at the stern, typically forming the roof of the stern cabin) was extended forward to cover the quarter deck and the ship’s wheel, on the entirely reasonable grounds that in a storm, it’s easier to steer without being out in the full blast of wind and wave, and in battle, it’s much easier to steer if you have some protection from being shot.

So let’s bring this back around to starships.

You don’t need a bridge in the above sense. As it says further up that page, Rockets Don’t Got Windows – given space ranges and instrumentation, you are never going to be trying to conn the ship with your Mark I Eyeball, which is essentially what a bridge up high is for. Your best view is going to come from sensors, but they can be read just as easily from the CIC, buried deep in the center of the hull for maximum protection.

(Why did the Enterprise designers perch the bridge right up at the top of the saucer, with about three feet between the back of the fancy digital sensor-feed-showing viewscreen and hard vacuum, right where any Tom, Dick, or Kang could shoot at it conveniently? Were they all Romulan spies?)

Do you need a separate wheelhouse? Well, given that starships are certainly going to have fancy electronic controls rather than the hydraulic/pneumatic/etc., systems that imposed constraints on the position of wet navy wheelhouses vis-a-vis the CIC – usually buried down in the bottom of the ship where the armor is thick – I’m going to say probably not. The CIC’s already in the safest place, per above.

(You may have a maneuvering room, as they call the place on submarines, where the engineers translate your requests into detailed instructions to the engines, and given that a starship ACS is probably also rocket engines of some sort, that may also be handled from there – but that’s a different function.)

You are going to have a CIC, because you still need somewhere to coordinate information, make decisions. In my opinion, it will probably also be the wheelhouse (after all, as in the Enterprise example above, it’s just one console, and since the maneuvering orders are going to come from the officer on watch in the CIC anyway, why make him shout any further than he has to?).

The only question is whether it will be called the CIC. The above (combined CIC/wheelhouse) is essentially the arrangement they use on submarines today (where it is called the control room; the bridge is the place you can stand at the top of the conning tower when the boat’s on the surface).

That may be likely nomenclature for starships, too. (Nothing especially that civilian starships are unlikely to have a Combat Information Center.)

On the other hand, the Imperial Navy, and their merchant tradition, call it the bridge. Why? Well, unlike our submarines, there isn’t another bridge somewhere to clash with it – and you get your best view of what’s around from it – and in the meantime, it’s a name that’s got centuries, indeed millennia, of tradition behind it as The Place From Which Ships Are Commanded. It’s a word, in a nutshell, that’s got weight.

And since you’re combining all the functions back together, as they were in the beginning, that counts plenty.

The quarter deck, on the other hand, that’s somewhere else.

They Fear Neither Death Nor Pain

It has been asked in various places what scares Imperial sophonts the most. Herewith is the answer:

As a side-note, you will observed that the answers here are mostly existential, not physical. Physical fear never had much hold on the eldraeic psyche in the first place (none at all, for those with access to battletrance or other high-order counterphobotics), so it doesn’t rank high enough to make it onto the list.

In roughly ascending order, then:

  • Ignorance
  • Loss of control (minor)
  • Permadeath
  • Wilful ignorance (i.e., becoming the sort of person who would indulge that)
  • Loss of control (major); submission
  • An end to ambition
  • Loss or corruption of identity, or of will

Of course, in a very real sense, and speaking for the culture as a whole, the correct answer is not a damn thing. It’s year N of a long, long Golden Age for the Empire, great and glorious beyond all greatness and glory, the future is brighter still, and nothing seems beyond their grasp.

(This is not a culture, shall we say, lacking in self-confidence.)

Heavy Cavalry Redux

“Drive me closer! I want to hit them with my sword!”

no-one with a tank, ever

This is a recreation/reformulation/retcon of the original description of the Empire’s heavy cavalry legions, in light of both criticism received – and assistance to resolve it – and rethinking of my own. It should be considered as a replacement for the original post here, et. seq.

Let us proceed.


Making up the remaining one of every sixteen legions (i.e., one per three light cavalry or heavy infantry, and one per nine light infantry), we have the heavy cavalry. Direct-fire death on very large treads, which is to say, main battle tanks. The biggest of all the big sticks. Putting the “brute” into “brute force”.

For additional flexibility, the majority of Imperial MBTs are built off a common base platform, with a selection of swappable modules to provide specific functionality for specific cases. (Unlike many modular vehicle systems in this ‘verse, however, these aren’t hot-swappable; the need to remove and replace and integrate large and complex chunks of armor plate, etc., when doing it means that this requires some pretty major machine-shop type facilities. It’s not something you can do in the field, and indeed something only seen at the most well-developed remote operating bases.) Due to these functionality differences, MBTs are usually classified by the module.

So first we’ll talk about the capabilities of the base platform, and then we’ll talk about some of the more commonly seen modules:


Base Platform

The base platform of the Imperial MBT is a low-slung vehicle with all-around glacis design, designed to minimize its target profile and give it a low center of gravity. In dimensions, it is approximately 12 m (39 ft) long, 4 m (13 ft) wide, and 3 m (10 ft) high; its total mass (varying, of course, by module), however, is of the order of 60 short tons, due to the extensive use of lightweight composites.

8 m of the length and 3.5 m of the width at the front is the module socket; height of modules varies, but none take it much above the basic 3 m height. At the rear of the platform, an externally-opening compartment can be used to hold resupply, infantry needing transport, or a “hot soup” fuel pod to increase vehicle endurance.

Armament

The armament of the base platform (effectively the secondary weapons systems common to all tank classes) is fitted in four altazimuth ball mounts, located on either side of the vehicle, towards the front and rear.

These mounts’ field of fire extends 180 degrees vertically, and approximately 160 degrees horizontally at zero vertical, i.e., limited only by the occlusion of that side’s other mount. In effect, they maintain full coverage to the side, front, and rear of the tank, with only a small gap in coverage to the front for the rear mounts, and to the rear for the front mounts.

The front mounts include coaxial ortillery target designators and heavy (72 mm) mass drivers/micromissile launchers; the rear mounts only include medium (36 mm) mass drivers.

(While the latter do spend much of their time firing forward and to the flank, their special purpose in being mounted where they are is to give you something to pop the drone lining up to shoot you in the ass with so you don’t have to stop engaging your main target while you do it. In their battlefield environment, micro-AKVs are cheap and plentiful, so this happens a lot. If you had to slew the main gun around every time, you’d be taking your eye off the ball way too much – even if you could get it to reliably track something that small and fast-moving.)

See also Point Defense, below.

Armor

The armor of Imperial MBTs is relatively standard for Imperial armored units; there’s just a lot of it. The core structural frame is honeycomb-patterned diamondoid composite, covered with multiple slabs of interlinked refractory cerametal (i.e., a ceramic-metal composite formulated for both great physical strength and resistance to heat), electrical and thermal superconductor meshes, more cerametal, reactive-armor sections, and an outer anti-energetic ablative coating to sprayed on top of it all. Additional side plating shields the rollagons. A nanopaste-based self-healing system runs through channels in the armor, keeping damage patched up in the field.

The survivability specifications on all this armor is that the vehicle should be able to survive a near-miss with a tactical-range nuclear weapon or equivalent orbital kinetic strike.

Command and Control

An Imperial MBT nominally crews three: semi-specialized commander, driver, and gunner positions; in practice, this is rendered a mite fuzzy inasmuch as they’re both ably assisted by the vehicle’s internal synnoetic (i.e., designed to function integrated with another sophont mind) AI, and linked to each other by internal conflux hardware (i.e., functioning as a loose, mesh-topology temporary group mind for maximal efficiency, enabling coordination and multitasking by splitting off semi-autonomous agents).

Primary control is routed through the AI and direct neural links – the vehicle seats are virtuality chairs, connecting to the crew’s implanted laser-ports – but auxiliary/backup manual controls are also available.

Core sensors and communications include all the standard options: radio and whisker laser communications, access to the OTP-encrypted tactical mesh, threat identification systems, teamware and C3I systems integration, thermal imaging, remote sensor access, and all-around local sensors including pulsed-usage radar and lidar, T-ray high frequency snoopers, ground-penetrating radar, target-painter detection – and, of course, plain old electronic visual and sound transmission, since the interior of the MBT is fully sealed and includes no direct visual paths.

The MBT also includes a battle computer capable of functioning as a major node in the tactical mesh, and a full ECM suite.

Drones

As with all other units of the Imperial Legions, the heavy cavalry too has its drone accompaniments, with each MBT having a pair of WMH-12 Skyorca drones attached to it for close air support, along with a pair of heavy ground drones matching its own tactical function.

Internal Environment

To the delight of those legionaries who like a little comfort in their soldiering, the internal spaces of an Imperial MBT are a comfortable – albeit confined – shirt-sleeve environment. (Climate control, leather seats, the works…)

This is partially because given the expense of building one of these anyway, throwing in a few civilized comforts is barely a blip on the budget, and partially because – well, anything that successfully penetrates the armor tends to leave the crew as a hundred-yard-long red/blue/silver-white/etc. smear on the ground behind the exit hole anyway, so there’s no point in having them sit around in full combat armor. A padded jacket and helmet are sufficient to prevent accidents from concussion and rough terrain.

The interior is also a fully sealed and controlled life support environment for NBCN protection and exotic atmosphere/vacuum use. This also renders all tanks amphibious tanks by default: once you’ve covered all the various atmospheric compositions and pressures you might need to operate in and discarded thereby air-breathing engines and other systems, you’ve built a vehicle that can shrug off submergence, too.You could drive a modern Imperial MBT from continent to continent across the ocean floor, given a case of rat bars and a good reason to try it.

Point Defense

The MBT is equipped, as all else is, with a military-grade kinetic barrier system.

For active point defense, the base platform is equipped with a mix of mini-autocannons (in altazimuth ball mounts) and laser emitters, laid out to ensure all-around coverage, and capable of independently and automatically targeting all incoming fire and close-in soft units, subject to target identification and prioritization routines set by the crew.

Power

It seems a little inappropriate to say that the MBT is also powered by a micro-fission “hot soup” reactor, inasmuch as, well, it ain’t that micro. It is “mini”, perhaps, compared to standard-sized fission reactors, but it’s as large as the thorium molten-salt kind gets. The bigger ones all tend to be the safer “pebble-bed” design.

Naturally, this is buffered through a large set of superconducting-loop accumulators to handle immediate power draws and provide backup power in the event that you lose the power reactor – enough to make a fighting withdraw, anyway, although not enough to continue an engagement with.

Propulsion

The Imperial MBT moves on neither wheels nor treads; rather, it sits atop eight semi-squishy rollagons, near-spheres of a “smart fluid” rotated electromagnetically from within the sealed main hull, enabling it to move with equal facility in any direction, at speeds of up to 150 mph on a good, flat roadbed. Note that this is not a drivetrain developed specifically for military purposes: modern civilian ground-cars use similar technology.

The propulsion system also has considerable electromagnetic control over the shape of the rollagons; while they don’t have them normally, if you need spiked wheels or some other shape-variation to cross some tricky terrain, it can provide them on demand; if need be, they can even form “paddle-propellers” for amphibious operation.

A limited vector-control/impeller system permits the tank to apply vertical thrust to itself; this is used primarily downwards on light-gravity worlds to keep ground pressure high enough for the rollagons to be effective, occasionally upwards to reduce ground pressure where the ground is soft, and even more occasionally to lessen the severity of falls, ground collapses, or deliberate drops from low-flying transport aircraft.

(It would theoretically be possible, on light-gravity worlds, to use it to make “skips” over obstacles or other short vertical jumps, but this is generally considered an excellent way to become skeet.)

Stealth and Masquerade

The Imperial MBT, much like the heavy infantry, supports only the most basic chameleonic coating and signature reduction features; the nature of the battlefield environment of the time is such that any heavy unit has a signature (in terms of heat, reactor neutrinos, and the EM pulse accompanying weapons firing) that can’t be baffled worth a damn. As such, designers concentrated on designing a vehicle that could “tank” (sic) incoming fire in the process of executing shock and awesome.

It should however be noted that this does not preclude the use of external decoys, or the use of signature modification systems to confuse terminal guidance of incoming weapons, or indeed to masquerade as something else — but these systems have to work with the platform’s high signature, not try to conceal it.


Module: Tactical Assault Tank (HV-10 Basher-class)

As close as it comes to a “standard” MBT design, the HV-10 Basher-class module loadout is similar to the V40 Ralihú IFV, scaled up; the Basher-class comes with a turreted super-heavy (144 mm) mass driver, but substitutes a bilateral quadbarrels with limited independent training for the Ralihú’s single coaxial quadbarrel.

(The heavy mass driver is also designed to function as a heavy micromissile launcher, if required, and as such is entirely capable of delivering large-diameter canister shot for anti-infantry work.)


Module: Long-Range Assault Tank (HV-12 Stormfall-class; also HV-12i Longeye-class)

The HV-12 Stormfall-class LRAT module is equipped with a turreted super-heavy (144 mm) mass driver intended to be capable of long-range indirect as well as direct fire, but substitutes the quadbarrels for bilateral “pop-out” missile pods, each capable of doing a simultaneous launch of up to 16 minimissiles, reloadable with a short cycle time from internal magazines. Just perfect for those days when you want to fight in the shade.

By changing the minimissile loadout of the Stormfall, it can also serve as an active air-defense platform.

Rarely seen is the HV-12i Longeye variant, which trades in both super-heavy mass driver and missile pods for a graser installation, suitable for direct fire only but capable of punching out even more heavily protected targets. Also, notably, the Longeye graser is often capable of penetrating the atmosphere and reaching targets in low planetary orbit.


Module: Drone Tank (HVC-14h Thunderbolt-class; also HVC-14l Stinger-class)

A drone tank, in legionary parlance, is the land-based miniature equivalent of an aircraft carrier. The HVC-14h Thunderbolt module contains nanoslurry and miniature drone components, which it uses to construct and deploy ad-hoc micro-AKVs to suit the requirements of the current battlespace, launching them into action as a centrally coordinated wing, for defense, reconnaissance, attack, or other functions.

(Or, to put it another way, it’s a self-propelled field factory that spews out custom drones and minimissiles on demand, simplifying your logistics and multiplying your options.)

The HVC-14l Stinger functions similarly, but substitutes swarm hives for the micro-AKV factory, and is thus able to saturate the local battlespace with microbot/nanobot swarms, be they the standard eyeballs, shrikes, gremlins, or balefire, or more specialized models.


Module: Tactical Arsonier (HV-10a Flammifer-class)

Used for cleaning up or eliminating nanoswarms (highly vulnerable to thermal overloading), area denial, reducing bunkers and dug-outs, and spreading pure terror, the Flammifer-class replaces the heavy mass driver of the Basher-class with a scaled-up nuclear-thermal flamer, while retaining the quadbarrels as-is.


Module: Command Tank (HV-10c Strategos-class)

The Strategos-class is a specialized vehicle for coordinating tank-squadron activities and close air support. The Strategos module doesn’t add any weapons systems; rather, it adds two more crew positions for squadron command, a specialized tactical/logistics C3I AI, and a nodal communications suite and its antennae.

A pair or triplet of Strategoi are usually assigned to a tank squadron made up of other classes for command/control functions.


Module: Pummel (HV-11 Pugnacious-class)

The pummel tank is a highly specialized variant, designed to rip apart buildings and fortifications. It carries sappers in its rear compartment, and is equipped with specialized demolitions equipment up front.


Module: Wrecker (HV-10w Trison-class)

Another highly specialized variant, the HW-10W Trison and other wreckers are logistics units, used to recover wrecked tanks and other heavy equipment off the battlefield for repair or for scrap.


Transportation

The Flapjack-class cavalry dropship was made specifically for this; apart from that, they mostly drive to wherever they’re needed, because only the biggest transport aircraft can carry them in useful numbers.

Worldbuilding: Sail Plans

Taking a brief moment to hand out a random factlet, let us turn from space navy to wet navy. Old school wet navy.

Did you know that the most widely used rig back in the days of sail, especially by the Alatian fleet, the largest both mercantile and military and which went on to form the core of the Imperial fleet, was a variation on what on Earth is called the junk rig?

(Well, no, you didn’t, because I’ve only just told you. It was a rhetorical question.)

Using bamboo battens and silk sailcloth, even, for a very Eastern flavor for the Earth reader.

The chief experimenters with alternate rigs and modifications to the standard junk rig were the actual Alatian Navy, principally because the major flaw in the junk rig is its difficulty in sailing close-hauled (i.e., close to into the wind), but in contrast, it’s exceedingly efficient at sailing with the wind, and requires – always a consideration – a rather smaller crew to manage it than a typical western rig.

With careful attention to hull design, too, the eventual junk-rigged clippers and windjammers of the Alatian merchant fleet ruled the ocean trade up to, and even into, the steam era: as their sailors would cheerfully point out, the trade winds were very reliable, and given that, that a good rig could deliver as much or more power than steam could, and also that it didn’t require all that fuel taking up space that could contain earning cargo kept the sailships in business, and in many cases those which carried steam engines used them as an auxiliary power source only, for when the wind failed.

(Why this digression into nautical history? I have no idea. But I found it an interesting piece of the universe, and so I wrote it down.)

On AKVs and Survivability

From the questions box:

Dear Gentlesoph,
Having been reading your posts, I have a question about AKVs such as the ‘Daggerfan’ and ‘Slasher’ classes. With high-powered lasers capable of doing damage at one light second, how do AKVs survive the 300,000km journey into single kilometer range? As stated in your ‘Nonstandard Starship Scuffles’ post, military vessels use armor woven through with thermal superconductors dumping heat into ‘thermal goo’. I assume this armor/thermal management system applies to AKVs as well, although you also state that point-defense lasers will shred a vessel unfortunate enough to get into very close range. How can an AKV survive at single kilometer ranges long enough to inflict damage on the target? Thank you for your time, I look forward to more posts!

Well, there are two parts to this: how do AKVs close to skin-dancing range, and how do they survive when they get there? I’ll take ’em one at a time.

On the first point: with great difficulty.

If you take a wing of AKVs and throw them at a fresh battleship, all you’re doing is providing its point-defense computers with skeet; they’ll be chaff and charnel before they get anywhere near the inside of the BB’s point-defense zone.

What you have to do is wear it down first. That’s is the job of the non-carriers on your side of the fight: throw a lot of kinetics at the enemy to make their PD work hard. That does three jobs: one, it keeps the PD grid busy in itself; two, any of it that gets through may just take out a chunk of the PD grid; but most importantly, three, by making them run their point-defenses, you’re building up heat in their ship. Your non-carriers also have the job of pumping heat into their ship directly with the big lasers.

That heat, in turn, is going to eat away at their PD efficiency in a variety of ways. Most simply, it’s going to have to cut back on its firing rate once the heat sinks start filling, because otherwise the crew will cook, but also the hardware becomes less efficient, processor error rates go up, and similar badness ensues.

That’s when you send in the AKVs, and you send in a lot of AKVs mingled with a lot of chaff and decoys, swamping the capabilities of the now-degraded PD grid. They won’t all get through – you plan for a lot of them not to – but once the grid’s sufficiently degraded, enough will to ruin the BB’s day.

As for when they’re there? Remember, they’re described as operating within the point-defense envelope, which is to say, inside its inner boundary, which is defined by the minimum effective range of the PD – set by a variety of factors, such as the range at which firing the PD will seriously damage your own ship, but of which probably the most important is the ability of the PD to track the target and slew to fire on it. At the sort of hug-the-hull sub-km range AKVs like to operate at, it doesn’t take much velocity to generate a huge traversal angle, and what you can’t track, you can’t reliably hit.

(And it’s hard for your screen to fire effectively at the AKVs ruining your day, ’cause even discounting the effects of the AKV exploding at point-blank range, every miss will hit you.)

All of which is to say: While there are some subtleties and complexities to the tactics (defense AKVs, screening vessels sharing PD, etc., etc.), the short answer is it takes a lot of work and losses to get an AKV force within range of a target, but once you do, that target is dead meat.

Heavy Cavalry: Fields of Fire

It seems there is a peck of confusion out there concerning exactly how the “base platform” weapons on Imperial heavy cavalry units actually function, and even are mounted (including at least one case of confusion so profound as to believe the rear/local defense guns were “sticking out the back of the turret”, in the style of anti-infantry defense MGs from early last century, despite the platform – without a module installed – not having a turret.).

Here is a diagram in my inimitably terrible style:

20181101_175819952_iOS

That’s your base platform, driving left to right. Green at the front are your cheek-mounted (i.e., in a three-axis gimbaled mount on the side of the vehicle) heavy mass drivers, target designators, and micromissile launchers. Purple at the rear are your cheek-mounted medium mass drivers for local defense. Both weapons are illustrated in their default rest position, i.e., forward-facing or rear-facing, respectively.

As can be seen from the shaded fields of fire, both can train sufficiently to hit anything on their side of the vehicle that doesn’t actually involve training through the platform body or the other weapon mount; i.e., the forward cheek-mounts can hit anything from directly forward (with a small blind spot directly in front of the vehicle) to not-quite-rear; and the rear cheek-mounts can hit anything from directly behind (with small blind spot directly behind the vehicle, likewise) to not-quite-directly forward.

In short, there are plenty of things for them all to shoot at.

 

Question: Useless Machines

Specialist290 asks:

So what do the eldrae make of the idea of “useless machines”?

The most famous example, of course, being the machine whose sole purpose, once turned on, is to turn itself back off. (Like so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z86V_ICUCD4 )

Insert usual disclaimer about the reliability of capsule summaries of the opinions of over a trillion sophonts.

Well, for a start, they aren’t “useless machines”. Useless machines manifestly fail to work properly. These are “amusing mechanical follies”, like Rube Goldberg designs, which are… amusing. Also decorative.

(The ur-example of the class *there* is actually a Precursor artifact, nicknamed “The Uncrater”, a black-box widget whose sole function appears to be declining to be packaged up in the current local language, then quietly disintegrating any packaging material used to attempt to do so.

You’ll find it indexed under “Amusing Mechanical Follies”. Also under “Suspected Precursor Practical Jokes”, and “Seriously, Guys, What The Hell?”)

 

Question: Marlinspike

Phineas Imhoff asks:

I have heard mention of the “spacers marlinspike” several times, I am curious what exactly is it for? Does it serve the same role as a traditional marlinspike, just recycled in space. Or is it something else?

It’s essentially the same tool, albeit with some minor microgravity adaptations. While there isn’t quite so much rope involved in celestime sailing vis-à-vis maritime, there’s more than enough to make such a tool useful (especially in the cargo department, for lashing of breakbulk), and that’s before you get to its handy secondary uses for poking suspicious-looking objects and rapping miscreants soundly across the base of the skull.

 

You’ll Want Us High and Clear

ICED FIRE-CLASS ANTIMATTER TRANSPORT

Operated by: Extropa Energy, ICC
Type: Antimatter Transport
Construction: Islien Yards, ICC

Length: 1,600 km (overall)
Beam: 3,200 km
Dry mass: 39,200 tons (not including cryocels)

Gravity-well capable: No; not even low-orbit capable.
Atmosphere capable: No.

Personnel: 31

  • Flight Commander
  • 3 x Flight Executive/Administrator
  • 3 x Flight Director
  • 3 x Flight Engineer
  • 3 x Propulsion Engineer
  • 3 x Cargomaster
  • 3 x general technicians
  • 2 x riggers/EVA specialists
  • Thinker-class AI

Drives:

  •  3 x Nucleodyne Thrust Applications 1×1 “Sunheart V” fusion torch

Propellant: Deuterium/helium-3 blend
Cruising (sustainable) thrust: 3.5 standard gravities (3.3 Earth G) at nominal load
Maximum velocity: 0.3 c unloaded, 0.1 c loaded (based on particle shielding)

Drones:

  • 3 x general-purpose maintenance drones
  • 3 x tether-climbing rigger drones

Sensors:

  • 1 x standard navigational sensor suite, Islien Yards

Other Systems:

  • 2 x Islien Yards boosted commercial kinetic barrier system
  • Biogenesis Technologies Mark VII regenerative life support
  • 2 x Bright Shadow EC-780 information furnace data system
  • Islien Yards custom dual vector-control core and associated technologies
  • Systemic Integrated Technologies dual-mode radiator system

Small craft:

  • 1 x Élyn-class microcutter
  • 1 x Adhaïc-class workpod

The standard vehicle for ferrying antimatter from the Cirys bubble at Esilmúr to its various places of use, the Iced Fire-class is a starship designed around one core principle, commonly adhered to when dealing with antimatter:

Don’t get any on you.

The core hull itself is much smaller than the dimensions above suggest; a blunted cylinder a mere 252 m in length, including bunkerage. This houses the entire livable volume of the starship, including a dock for the Élyn-class microcutter at the bow, and a bay housing for the workpod. Rather than the typical stern mounting, the three Sunheart V fusion torches are located in nacelles set off from the hull on radiator pylons amidships, located 120 degrees apart; these nacelles are fully vectorable for maximum maneuverability.

The stern of the core hull instead contains the attachment points and winches for a 1,600 km tether, at whose fully extended end is in turn attached the spinhub. This is a simple unit containing monitoring equipment and a centrifugal ring, to which in turn are mounted eight further attachment points and associated tethers, terminating in heavy couplings. It is to these couplings that antimatter cryocels are mounted during loading, and dismounted upon arrival. In flight, the action of the centrifugal ring maintains appropriate safe distance between the core hull and the cryocels, and between the cryocels themselves, while also ensuring that jettisoned cryocels will move away from the main body of the starship in the event of containment failure.