The More Things Change…

Security: RING DYNAMICS INTERNAL / MULBERRY WISDOM
From: Adari Lyranthar, Directorate Coordinator
To: Future Directions Team
Date: 17 Yrnaes 8001, Midmorn falling 5
Subject: All Fittled Up

Well, gentlesophs, courtesy of the our new friends, the Starleaper Initiative, and the chaps from Metric Engineering, we now have a fittler making a test run.

It’s going to take a little while before my aunt finishes fully evaluating the consequences and implications, not to mention singing the full-length lament to not thinking of that herself, but so we can get started thinking about specific applications, I have some preliminaries to give out.

First, the frameslip drive – to give it it’s proper name – is never going to be a general tool. It’s big, clunky, energy-hungry, and temperamental. To ward off the first response, yes, this a prototype, but no, these are not qualities attached to it being a prototype: most of them aren’t even in the engineering, they’re down in the physics of the thing.

Big and clunky: the core’s not so bad, even if it is bigger than a vector-control core for the same ship and we might even manage some integration there.

The problem is that you can’t fittle without at least one – and possibly more, depending upon configuration – frameslip ring surrounding the ship at a healthy distance, such that you can warp space without turning anyone aboard into rad-seared spaghetti. Essentially, they’re going to dominate the design of anything we put a frameslip into.

Also, they have to go outside everything, including the radiators – at least when they’re retracted, but if you do that, that’s going to up your required heatsink mass.

Energy-hungry: Numbers are attached. Suffice it to say that Extropa are going to sell a lot of antimatter.

Temperamental: You will be delighted to know that causality still holds and the Fifth Directorate will not be coming to wipe our brains before we accidentally an exadeathcrime.

On the other hand, this means that all the fun of universe-enforced causality protection is also the case with the frameslip, although we believe the software should shut it down safely on warning.

It also, which has been extensively tested with pre-prototype models, interacts badly with itself and with stargates. The use of a stargate in the same system as, or whose wormhole track passes near, a frameslip drive tends to cause a bubble collapse, although fortunately not a catastrophic one for the wormhole.

The conclusion I draw from this is that our main business is not obsolete: it appears to be impractical to operate frameslip drives within an extensive, well-trafficked stargate plexus, or indeed in large volume along similar routes. Even more importantly, it appears that the use of frameslip drive is, and in the absence of another high-level breakthrough should continue to be, more expensive in capital, energy, necessary training, and starship design constraints than the use of stargates even at our current rates.

What then of the frameslip? Well, I see two obvious markets. One is the Exploratory Service, who can obviously make use of the frameslip for both far horizon probes, and for new classes of scoutship intended to precede stargate deployment rather than follow it. (Marwyn, can you throw together some scratch designs?) The other is relativist trading vessels working both in the Inner Periphery and the Outback, since the frameslip should be more cost-effective per light-orbit, even without journey time differential taken into effect, than current-generation lighthugger drives.

I’m sure we can come up with more applications if we put our heads together, so see what you can come up with. We’ll have a brainstorming meeting tomorrow at Courtly rising 12.

Adari


Security: RING DYNAMICS INTERNAL / MULBERRY WISDOM
From: Adari Lyranthar, Directorate Coordinator
To: Future Directions Team
Date: 17 Yrnaes 8001, Waterclock rising 12
Subject: REDIRECT EVERYTHING (was Re: All Fittled Up)

New, direct from the test team:

The optimists were right. Since the frameslip just warps space, and thus creates no discontinuities in its operation, unlike gating, it can transport entangled half-objects and it can transport stargate half-pairs.

We’ll have to replace the linelayer fleet to take advantage of it, but the entire Expansion Timetable just got squished. We’ll still have the meeting with whatever you’ve got so far at a later date, but as of right now, our main priority is drawing up projections on what this does to our plexus growth scenarios given different investment options and other presentations to take to the investors. Attached simulation space in six.

Anyone who can stick around tonight to help, please do. We’ve just been handed the opportunity to become the galaxy’s common carrier in a golden chalice, and if we pull this off, in under a century we’ll all have maharargyr, glory, and nice shiny exponents on our net worths!

Adari

The Counterrevolution Will Be Televised

combat instrumentation and logging module (CILM): Part of the standard military-basic biomod package, the combat instrumentation and logging module is an enhanced lifelogger, recording tagged sensory recordings as well as physiological information, armor, weapon, and equipment telemetry, and tactical mesh status. The data recorded by the CILM is used to provide contextual data in after-action reports, for targeted improvement of individual performance and fireteam coordination, and in the development of future training scenarios.

Given the Legions’ institutional sense of humor, the CILM is commonly if unfortunately referred to as the “fight data recorder”.

Blackjacket’s Dictionary

Some Definitions, and a Location

heliobraking (n.): decelerating by making a number of close – i.e., transcoronal – stellar passes, in extreme cases even dipping into the upper boundary layer of the photosphere. While effective, such maneuvers pose hazards both physical, such as irradiation, combustion, or sudden realization of what a bad idea this was, and legal, as there is now someone to whom liability can be attributed both fairly and unfairly for every coronal mass ejection, solar storm, and other stellar hiccup in the near future.

axiomancy (n.), axiomantic (adj.): lit. “the magic of definitions”. Originally an informal term for the manipulations ontotechnologists perform with their reality engines (q.v.), which has been adopted as jargon of the profession.

diproton bomb (n.): theoretical ontopathic weapon functioning by inducing a delta increase in the strong interaction coupling constant, rendering the diproton (2He) stable. Should such a modified region be deployed in a stellar core, the low threshold for initiation will dramatically accelerate hydrogen fusion, upsetting the balance between thermal pressure and gravitic contraction in favor of the former, ultimately resulting in an artificial supernova event.

ISS Additional: See research categorized under BACKFIRE FULMINATION. If you do not have BACKFIRE FULMINATION clearance, please report this IMMEDIATELY to your local internal security officer.

cystal universe (n.): a “subuniverse” created by advanced axiomancy, in which the modified region created by ontotechnological means is incapable of direct interaction with the volumes beyond it. Thus, a topological defect arises at the boundary, resulting in a protected cyst surrounded by a domain wall across which interaction is necessarily limited.

Irreality Vault: A series of linked cystal universes buried beneath the city of Ascension, Resplendent Exponential Vector (Imperial Core), used for primary testing of experimental technology in the fields of ontogenesis, ontopoesis, and ontopathic weapons.

Things to See, Places (Not) to Go (10)

The Burning Brickyard: Located in the middle of the Bright Desert, in possibly the most inhospitable terrain Eliéra has to offer, this 108-acre site is the primary nuclear waste storage site on the eldrae homeworld, with millennia of high-level waste stacked in pyramids of vitrified glass bricks glowing gently, interspersed with occasional stacks of long-set bricks of decontamination foam from ancient clean-ups.

Of course, you can’t see any of that from the perimeter fence; unless you have business there, you can see the small administration building, and the even smaller visitor center, and that’s about it. Do not cross the perimeter fence to try to get a better look at the waste however impressive sight you might think the sight to be; the signs hung on the fence reading “IF YOU CROSS THIS LINE YOU WILL DIE” are intended literally, and if you ask at the visitor center, they can show you the small pile of bricks containing the remains of the last few fools who thought that they weren’t. On the monitor feed, of course; they won’t be safe to visit in person any time soon.

Just buy a postcard at the gift shop, and move on.

Better yet, write and ask them to send you one.

 

Moments in History (3)

Red Planet, Blue Sky?

The news on everyone’s lips today here in Orbitfall, as well as back home, is the televised deployment of the new soletta array here in Talentar orbit. While not the first step taken, the soletta is the first tangible result of the comprehensive ecopoesis program announced last year by the Spaceflight Initiative, Project Redblossom, which will allow eldrae to walk on the blue-green surface of lowland Talentar without respirators within three centuries. Present with the project lead and the colonial legate at the unfolding ceremony today were representatives from several of the Empire’s constituent nations most represented in the Spaceflight Initiative, and from the newly formed Orbital-Seléne Alliance.

The soletta array is the first and principal orbital mirror in an array which will be deployed in synchronous orbit, reflecting the suns’ light as part of the ongoing effort to warm the planet. Smaller mirrors will also be deployed for use in melting the planet’s surface rock and liberating some of Talentar’s hidden water, presently locked in frozen aquifers.

But not everyone is happy with the ecopoesis program. Diplomatic protests have been lodged by the Cerenaith Alliance, both here and back home, citing lack of consultation and concerns with the potential use of the mirrors as orbital battle platforms. I spoke to one of Project Redblossom’s senior engineers:

“Seriously? If they’re going to complain about the mirrors, what are they going to do when the ice asteroids get here? Lyricen Lacus isn’t going to carve itself, much less fill — this is off the record, yes?”

– from the Imperial Infoclast, summer 2273

Things to See, Places to Go (10)

Ochemír Station: The first thing to notice when you board this massive skyfarm cylinder, parked in the Eliéra-Elarion L4 point, is the humidity. It’s downright wet. (A local fashion outlet, Ochemír Silks, offers a complimentary change of clothing to visitors, who are heartily recommended to take up the offer.) From docks and locks, through station control and the habitation sector, and even the factory torus, you can expect to feel moist, and see condensation.

It turns out that it’s very hard to avoid that, short of using completely separated life-support systems and internal airlocks, if you want to put a swamp in a space station.

For that is the purpose of Ochemír: as the leading supplier of dyanail and mahardyanail products to habs across the Orbital-Seléne Alliance and beyond, the main body of the station is an eight-mile cylinder whose floor is covered with shallow water and the finest synthetic mud, painstakingly crafted from selenic regolith and periodically refreshed with biowaste again imported from across the OSA. And that means entirely covered – even the windows, albeit the wet windows are covered in clear ponds, surprising visitors occasionally with the giant shadow of a koi swimming past, sun-side.

Of course, within the cylinder the station’s own products are widely used; paths of mahardynail separate the individual groves and towers of it hold sensors and cameras; water is recycled and special nutrients are added through pipes likewise; dyanail shacks house robot hotels and local facility nodes; and even the harvesting and maintenance drones run on dyanail rails.

Meanwhile, the factory torus processes the ongoing perpetual harvest into all manner of products: raw wood, laminate, bioplastic, ethanol, charcoal, and other carbochemicals, foodstuffs, paper, dyanail silk and raw fiber, and myriad hand-crafted products.

A fascinating visit for anyone interested in industrial ecology, wet-phase life support engineering and construction, spacer history, or merely unusual habitat designs.

 

Unseen Key

(Note: this is set a few years before the Core War.)

Palaxias (Imperial Core) System
CS Eádinah’s Bower

The Admiral kept a Variasotec double-scimitar on his desk, twelve feet long if it was an inch.

It wasn’t likely that the Admiral himself was Variasotec, of course – nearly three hundred planets and even more countries to choose from – but whatever the real face was hidden underneath the carefully chosen generic features of the day, no-one was going to dispute the right of a soph who used that as a paperweight to own anything he damn well pleased.

As the whispers have it, a couple of hundred years back, some contractor or other decided they’d double-cross the Shadow Fleet, and do it right to the old man’s face. They say he didn’t get through more’n a couple of treacherous words before the Admiral picked that blade up and stabbed him right through the heart, then went questing around for the backups with the sharp end. They’re only whispers – anything that happens at that level’s downright fuliginous – but then there’s that nick in the blade. Just exactly where it’ll catch the light if you’re sitting in front of the Admiral’s desk.

Fortunately, I wasn’t a contractor, just seconded over from ISS, Second Directorate, and made more uncomfortable by body-adaptation than semiotic trickery. The only way into or out of the Shadow Fleet’s most-secret-death-before-disclosure-hush-hush headquarters, unless you’re being brought in to receive a reward either great or final, is mindcasting, and when your mind gets there – if you’re not permanent staff or some kind of specialist – they instantiate you in a generic synth-shell. No sense in growing custom bodies for anyone who’s only staying long enough to do some business, and if you’re here at all, that’s what you’re here for.

Which meant bipedal locomotion, binocular vision, bilateral symmetry, and assorted other things starting with bi-. I’m sure they were great advances when my proteinaceous cousins’ ancestors first thought them up, but really, in this day and age, they’re welcome to them.

With which grumbles I was occupying myself – or debugging myself, take your pick – when the Admiral telerepped in behind his desk, a different projection this time than the one that called my section chief and had me seconded – this one a blond, coppery lumeneldrae male, not the black-haired, pale eseldrae neuter of before.

I offered him an ISS-brand civilian-Service salute, “Agent-Minor Athné 0x411A7CB2, Second Directorate, reporting as requisitioned,” which got me a nod in return, while the Admiral lit up his desk and flicked virtual papers around the glasstop.

“So. Agent. The operational reviews for your previous missions appear quite impressive. Your section chief speaks highly of you.”

“Thank you, Admiral.”

“And you are also qualified in technical archaeology?”

“Before joining the Directorate I worked at Probable Technologies for thirty years. That was one of the reasons I was recruited.”

“And presently unknown, to the best of our knowledge, to both foreign intelligence agencies and other domestic interests.”

“If that’s what my file says. What’s all this about, Admiral?”

“Hmh.” He gestured a trigraphic image into existence over his desk. “What’s that?”

I shrugged. “That? It’s a stargate. Ring Dynamics Mark Three.” I peered closer, but couldn’t see anything unusual about it. “Relays, projectors, traffic-control… Nothing visibly special about it. There must be sur-dodeciads of them, all over the Worlds.”

“And this?” A second image appeared, similar to the first, but bulkier, with cubes and angled edges where the first had smooth organic curves, seam lines visible crisscrossing its surface.

“I haven’t seen one personally, but since they’re the only other people building them in quantity, I’d say that that must be a Republic stargate. Am I wrong? Where’s this going, sir?”

“You are not wrong. How much do you know about the invention of the stargate, agent?”

“Just the same as everyone else. Imogen Andracanth’s Initiative was dabbling in exotic physics research. The way the later company history tells it, they stumbled across the key to inflating wormholes serendipitously, published, and a private consortium then funded them to reduce it to engineering practice. Once they did some demonstrations, they pulled together a huge influx of capital from all sides to reunite the Thirteen Colonies – and since no-one else has figured out that piece of engineering, and Ring Dynamics isn’t letting it out of their hands, they’re now one of the Big 26 and lease out just about everyone’s interstellar transport infrastructure. Except the Republic’s, of course.”

“Of course.” The Admiral’s voice was ironic. “How?”

“How? Presumably they discovered it –

“-the same way we did?”

“If we discovered it as a matter of chance –

“If we discovered it as a matter of chance alone, certainly. If. I can believe in the unlikely happening twice, Athné. I can believe that even that civilization must occasionally throw up the odd millennial genius on the scale of Imogen Andracanth. But what I will certainly not believe is that the serendipitous discovery of a millennial genius with her brain ‘laced, in symbiosis with self-improving thinkers, and hooked up to what was, in its day, the largest quantum computing cluster ever built can be reproduced using slaved AIs and brains running solely on baseline meat.”

“Something’s going on. Maybe they’ve just dug up an elder-race artifact, or found a simple wormhole recipe in some archive. If so, we can deal with that. But there are other options, ranging from bad to existential. Finding out which is going to be your job. We need to know, Second Directorate needs to know, and quite possibly Ring Dynamics needs to know, too.”

He slid a data rod across the desk towards me.

“Operation UNSEEN KEY. Memorize, encrypt, and burn.”