Máquina de Carne

The infamous tragalrás athánar (“meat machine”) – by whichever regional designation it is known1 – is both a awful and an excellent weapon. On the former point, certainly, it is crudely designed, generations obsolete, dumb, inelegant, and a wide assortment of other things which tend to give professional Imperial weapons designers fits of the vapors.

On the latter, however, it is durable, reliable even under the most stressful conditions, adequately lethal against soft targets, simple enough for even low-tech cottage industry to manufacture, and adaptable via an assortment of relatively simple kluges. It is these latter qualities that have made it the favored personal weapon of paramilitaries, asymmetrists, and criminal gangs the Worlds over.

Tracing its mixed heritage back to a variety of pre-gauss automatic rifles, the contemporary Meat Machine inherits a centuries-long evolution of design features chosen for maximal simplicity. The basic systems of the MM are an open-bolt design, using a spring-loaded magazine to push cartridges into the breech, where a gas piston advances them to firing position in the chamber when the trigger is pulled. It lacks any ejection mechanism; the cartridges are caseless, cast from a foamed propellant/oxidizer mixture – enabling it to operate in vacuum, in exotic atmospheres, or even submerged – beneath the bullet. This propellant is ignited by a mechanically or piezoelectrically generated spark. Residue build-up is generally loosened by the action and purged by the next shot, but does require periodic barrel cleaning.

Its design is very simple for ease of manufacturing or repair, using a wide variety of materials. In the most basic designs, the receiver is typically stamped (or occasionally machined) out of a single steel billet, whose scraps are used to construct the entirely mechanical action, mounted on or in a plastic or scrap wood frame. This makes it trivial to construct for most fabrication facilities, and simple even for pre-fabber cottage industry to turn out workable examples. Common dry lubricants – even animal grease – complete the assembly.

Performance varies widely depending on the quality of the assembly and the components of the foamed propellant, from barely adequate to sufficient to penetrate most civilian and low-grade military armor – proof that while the industry as a whole may have moved on to mass drivers, old chemical propellants still have some use. In addition, the flexibility of the weapon where propellants are concerned make it easy to avoid traces that show up on commonly-used sensors, including that of high-energy powercells.

In short: it’s a piece of junk that has its uses, and one not to be surprised by the wrong end of.


1. Common examples include “Meat Machine”, the name given to it by Resolutionist Faction ironmongers; the Nal Kalak Type 43, as it is known to one of its official manufacturers; RUSTY LEMON, the cryptonym assigned by Imperial State Security; the “Sewerslum Special”, a nickname from League of Meridian law enforcement; and “the ablative meat-stick”, as it’s known in the mercenary trade.

Ear-Worm

Item: In fresh cognitive threats this month, the Bureau of Internal Memetic Defense reports that the popular song “And A Plan I Found Atemporal” is the first known example of a memetic resource-hijacking, rather than a simple memetic resource-consumer. Sufferers from the Plan-Atemporal hijack find themselves coining additional lyrics to the song, which through a simple transform demonstrate themselves to be computations of further digits of π, which continue until the sufferer is sufficiently distracted to take the Plan-Atemporal hijack out of short- and medium-term memory.

There appears to be no method in the Plan-Atemporal hijack to read out the end result of the computation – and, for that matter, we already have more digits of π than this method can plausibly generate – but it seems clear that someone’s experimenting.

More information as we have it.

– Cognitive Threats Monthly (Sunarast 2960)

How to Talk to Rocks

“The typical computer in use in the modern Empire remains the parallel array of binary-encoded Stannic-complete processors that has been in use since the days of the first settled Stannic cogitator architecture. This is the case at all scales, from the smallest picoframe microcontroller to the largest mega, with the principal exception being the rod-logic nanocomputers used to provide computing power to microbots and other tiny devices, for which the distinction between hardware and software becomes fuzzy.

“These processors naturally come in a variety of designs utilizing a number of different internal architectures, microcodes, and instruction sets – even word lengths, although 128-bit words (banquyts) are an industry standard. That being said, while bare-metal programming is still taught to inculcate the fundamentals of the profession, it is rarely practiced today.

“Rather, high-level languages are compiled down to MetaLanguage, or ML. ML serves an an intermediate language whose core set of instructions is implemented, directly or indirectly, on all processors; a number of optional feature subsets (for physical interfaces, quantum computing, cryptography, and so on and so forth) may be implemented by various processors, but are not required. Exotic or experimental processors which wish to make use of ML, the majority, may implement their own private subsets. Code objects, or assemblages of such objects, are either precompiled upon installation or just-in-time compiled to platform-specific instructions for the processors they serve.

“The high-level languages of choice, naturally, are a much wider selection. The long-term leaders, at the time of publication, are:

Polychora: a general-purpose, multi-paradigm programming language designed to support object-, aspect-, concurrency-, channel-, ‘weave-, contract- and actor-oriented programming across shared-memory, mesh-based, and pervasively networked parallel-processing systems.

Descant: More dynamic and less strict than Polychora in its approach, and optimized for just-in-time compilation, Descant is a general-purpose language which, while supporting similar functionality in most areas, is optimized to serve in an extensible, modular, readily-integratable system-scripting role. Where convenient, it shares operators and syntax with Polychora.

Silvar: A dynamic language for data-structure-oriented programming, metaprogramming, and self-modification, supporting full homoiconicity while maintaining interoperability with other ML-based languages.

“Additionally, there are many domain specific languages in use. Common examples of these include Exapar (a language designed for convenient programming of nanoswarms and other massive-parallelism systems), eXchange (for expressing smart contracts), Imprimatura (used for declarative rights management systems), psylisp (an extended dialect of Silvar designed for optimal mind-state encoding and self-improving intelligent systems), and VIML (Virtual Interface Meta Language, used for virtuality design, along with specialized derivatives including IMF, the Interactive Modeling Format, and DObI, the Descriptive Object Interface).”

– Introduction to Computer Programming (Vol. 1.): Speaking To Minerals,
Imperial University Press

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PATELLA FLEXION

The devices and techniques classed under PATELLA FLEXION are products of ISS research designed to assist field agents in social engineering, making use of hierarchy-based and submission instincts present in many sophont species. Rather than direct coercion or deception, the cerebroergetic and memetic technologies in this class function by projecting a comforting illusion of authority, designed to make its targets both well-disposed to and compliant with their user.

While effective (in proportion to the prevalence of said instincts; see relevant IES reports) in the former goal, they are of minimal use in the latter. Since PATELLA FLEXION leads the target to perceive the user as an authority figure communicating reasonable ideas – both observer-dependent – it can render actual communication (and thus persuasion of the target to do anything that they do not conceive their preferred authority-concept asking for from them) almost impossible. Worse, in some cases in which the target is hyperoneiric, it can trigger serious behavior excursions, often prejudicial to mission success.

Jini Raqelintios, Our Cabinet of Curiosities, ISS internal publication

The Accord of Galactic Polities

The Accord of Galactic Polities, less formally known simply as the Accord, is a loose meta-civilization composed of the non-starbound polities of the known regions of the galaxy. The Accord is frequently conflated with the Associated Worlds, which is more properly a galactographic term. (While the Accord is primarily composed of the polities of the Associated Worlds, it is neither exclusively nor exhaustively so composed; there exist both Accord signatories not galactographically part of the Worlds, and polities of the Worlds who are not Conclave signatories.)

It should be noted that the Accord is an association, not a governance – its membership is comprised of those polities which have agreed by treaty to observe certain borders, protocols, and procedures designed to maintain the peace and make trade and communication possible. Similarly, the Accord itself has no officers and maintains no offices; it is simply an agreement between its members.

The most important of the treaties which make up the Accord, of course, is the Accord on the Conclave, being a signatory to which grants full membership in the Conclave of Galactic Polities. This in turn grants you an embassy and exclave on the Conclave Drift, and the right to send one voting representative (titled curate) to the Conclave itself, along with a number of secondary negotiating representatives on the basis of your population. In short, it gives you a seat at the table.

Conclave membership also commits you to the single binding principle thereof: Members of the Accord shall not make war on each other, nor commit acts of war upon each other (including but not limited to piracy, slaving, and intentional destruction or confiscation of property), to the detriment of the Accord.

Violations of the Accords are arbitrated before the Central Conclave Court, an arm of the Conclave.

The ten lesser Accords (which are almost universally adhered to among signatories to the Accord on the Conclave, although a small number of members derogate from one or more of these agreements) are these:

I. the Accord on Colonization

The Accord on Colonization establishes the rules by which claims on colony worlds may be made and negotiated, and/or purchases may be made from the star systems held in trust by the Accord as the stargate plexus expands, including the allocation of limited numbers of habitable and near-habitable worlds as freesoil worlds, open to settlement by anyone.

NOTE: We would urge those polities for whom it galls to be asked to subordinate one’s expansion claims to the overall growth of known space, rather than to be able to expand as one wills into terra nullius, to study the historical summaries included in the first contact packet.

II. the Accord on Intellectual Properties

The Accord on Intellectual Properties provides for the mutual recognition of intellectual property claims between signatories, requiring them to treat all foreign intellectual property at least as well as domestic examples, and setting both strong minimum standards and weaker recommended standards for creator’s privilege, copyright, patent, discovery, and trademark law.

The Accord on Intellectual Properties does not provide for the recognition of intellectual property claims from non-signatory polities.

III. the Accord on Mail and Communications

The Accord on Mail and Communications establishes the Conclave Communications Commission, which addresses both the extranet and physical packet delivery.

In the former role, it defines and publishes open standards for extranet networking protocols and policies, and acts as a registrar for various shared extranet resources.

In the latter role, the Commission publishes transstellar addressing standards, and coordinates postal unions and other cooperative endeavors to ensure efficient and secure physical packet delivery throughout the volume of its signatories’ space.

IV. the Accord on Protected Planets

The Accord on Protected Planets establishes the Galactic Trusteeship Commission to regulate research access to and passage by protected planets, those planets subject to administration or interdict under the jurisdiction of the Conclave. Such planets typically include quarantined worlds, necropolis worlds, Precursor sites or other fossil worlds, unique sites of scientific interest, promising prebiotic worlds, and worlds home to unusual emergent sophont species that have not yet achieved technological competence or xenognosis.

It also sets the rules for designating a world a protected planet under Conclave law.

V. the Accord on the Law of Free Space

The Accord on the Law of Free Space sets common standards for interstellar jurisdiction, starship operations, space traffic control, communication protocols, duties and privileges of Flight Commanders and owners, distress, salvage, and related matters.

VI. the Accord on Trade

The Accord on Trade, through its arbitration and standards body, the Galactic Trade Association, defines protocols for trade and other forms of economic exchange between signatories, generally accepted accounting standards, transstellar corporate forms, choice of law, form contracts, trade categories and open standards, and provides access to interstellar transaction clearing services via the Accord Exval Fiscal Exchange.

VII. the Accord on Uniform Security

The Accord on Uniform Security coordinates law enforcement between the various jurisdictions within the Accord. Its provisions require either the extradition or local trial of criminals who are accused of serious crimes in another jurisdiction, with the reservation that signatory polities may reserve the right to only extradite and/or try those whose crime would have been such under local law.

It defines no universal legal code of its own.

VIII. the Common Volumetric Accord

The Common Volumetric Accord defines the agreement between Accord polities concerning what will be considered sovereign territory among star nations, on the system, planetary, and habitat scales, and which areas within and without it shall be recognized as free space, open to the passage of all.

It provides, additionally, for the recognition of regional galactographic institutes, and their coordination via the Galactic Volumetric Registry.

IX. the Ley Accords

The Ley Accords extend the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights to encode the rights of sophonts, both combatant and non-combatant, in time of war.

Their first chapter concerns itself with those Instruments of Regrettable Necessity which are capable of causing gross damage, such as gigadeaths or major environmental damage to a world, proscribing their use and laying out pains and penalties for violations.

The later chapters lay out the conventions of civilized warfare applying between signatories, forbidding the use of Instruments of Regrettable Necessity near civilian areas, types of noetic warfare which might affect or corrupt noetic backups, mistreatment of prisoners, and other causes of permanent and irreplaceable harm. Terrorism and other asymmetric or indiscriminate attacks on non-military targets are forbidden. Parole is to be accepted, as is honorable surrender, and quarter will be given. A baseline is also established for the treatment of POWs and of civilians under martial law in areas under occupation.

X. the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights

The Universal Accord on Sophont Rights (noted as universal as it is intended to be applied even to non-signatories) establishes the equality before the law of all sophont species, regardless of substrate, and their fundamental and inalienable possession of certain sophont rights: to liberty, to property, to associate and to contract freely, to defense of their self-integrity. It goes on to establish, too, certain rights derived therefrom to avoid misinterpretations.

The difficulty, of course, is in the details, and interpretations of the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights have been known to vary considerably between signatories – leading to a cautious approach in Conclave Court-led mediation which might prefer one interpretation above another – and in addition, the rights asserted are notably circumscribed: attempts to include economic “rights to” rather than “rights of” have been vetoed by the Conclave, for example, as have pressures to include protections for sub-sophonts against suffering or sophont cruelty, although non-binding statements of principles on these and other matters have been appended.

– An Introduction to the Accord, First Contact Publications

Pyrrhic

Belchar’s World, Battle of: The Battle of Belchar’s World – a term referring to Fourth Belchar’s, 6882 – while in most respects another of the minor squabbles endemic to the Shadow Systems, has attained a degree of fame through being taught in the majority of the Worlds’ military academies as an example of the problems that can result from close-orbital combat operations.

The battle was the last gasp of the Vile-Born Imperium’s attempted invasion of the freesoil Belchar’s World (Torgu Wilds). While a technical victory for the organized Vile-Born fleet against the irregular forces of the freesoil world, the majority of the battle took place in mid-to-low planetary orbit, resulting in extensive destruction of not only military craft, but also of civilian stations and other elements of orbital infrastructure – most significantly, the self-destruction of the orbital starport twenty-two minutes after Vile-Born boarding parties forced the docking bays.

Inevitably, the introduction of so much debris into this area caused a full-blown cascade catastrophe, resulting in mutual disengagement. After a number of attempts to penetrate the cascade zone with landing craft, all of which were lost with all hands, the Vile-Born fleet retreated from the system in good order.

(This was not to last: much of the fleet was subsequently destroyed in the Osquina Mutiny, instigated by a coalition of sub-admirals who preferred not to return to Vileheim and suffer the traditional sky-bath prescribed for failed naval officers.)

Heaven Upbears

The skimmer sang with many voices.

The high stress tremolo of the variform hull, shifting through a thousand combinations a second to stabilize the skimmer’s flight path as it spiked the atmosphere; the low bass throb of the ram drive, pulsed magnetohydrodynamic vortices that could be felt in the skimmer’s structural bones; and mid-range, the pervasive thrum of laboring machinery, turbopumps and heat exchangers striving to keep mollysieves clear and gas flowing, punctuated by the periodic rattle of black diamond crystals being dumped from the bypasses.

And Inlétanós itself provided the accompaniment, percussion felt more than heard, as miles-long lightning bolts flashed cloud-to-cloud, sparks against the murk.

Marise 0x43B2AAC9 grinned to herself. For once, the chorus had an audience capable of appreciating it. While tiresome haggling over incarnation coverage kept most of her skimmer fleet in the hands of dumb automation, even those tight-wires couldn’t keep her off the survey flights.

And so here she was, a firefly flitting in between the pillars of the darkling sky, city-sized towers of cooling hydrogen among the bluish methane haze passing in an instant; wisps of cloud rising from the yellowish-orange whorls below, here ammonia, there longer-chain hydrocarbons, churned by the boiling gas-ocean below; here and there, even, broad dark flakes of dense, tarry organics, born aloft by chance, floated in the wind.

She side-slipped the skimmer to avoid one such, dipping one swept-forward wing into humped cumuli streaked with organic compounds that sent data crackling from the wing-tip sensors, feeling drag and gravity clutching at her frail ship. The hull keened in compensation. Pressure differential warnings flashed from that wing’s throat as changing gas composition threw off the processors. Then she was through, flashing wing-over-wing past and over, into the lazy updraft of a dying boil – enough to bear the skimmer, tanks and recorders filled, upwards in lazy spirals to the waiting tender.

Our codeline was made
To dance with clouds; gravity
Our fickle lover.

The Other Dismal Science

“Good morning, ye earnest seekers of wisdom. I am Reader Olíäth Rian, and I am your primary instructor for this class. Welcome to EX0487, Introduction to the Exosophontology of Mass Coercion. For our foreign students who are now looking confused, you may have seen this class listed under ‘political science’, and you may be in the right place. I shall return to that in a moment.

“It is, I believe, customary at this point to emphasize both that I, and my colleagues, will do everything we can to help you become your absolute best and master the material contained within this course, and yet that should you fail to do so, we will nonetheless crush your hopes mercilessly in the best interests of this institution’s reputation and that of its successful graduates. Since this is a second-level course, however, let us take that as read.

“Before we begin, there is often some confusion concerning precisely what this course is among those, shall we say, less familiar with the local organization of knowledge. Here’s what this class is not: if you want to learn how to run governances, administration is the purview of the Thousand Wisdoms Academy, civil engineering is held in the Cog, the law is on its own subcampus, and so on, and so on. If you’re here to talk, everything from negotiation to manipulation and sophont relations is taught in the applied memetics building; back out the front door, turn left, you can’t miss it — they make sure of that in a first-semester class project every year. And the Imperial War College isn’t on this planet. Meanwhile, if you want to serve your fellow soph, we have an entire business school devoted to that.”

“What it is is a detailed sophontological and sociomemetic study of the techniques used to induce in large populations – from the obvious primal fear, envy, self-righteousness, mistrust, and suchlike to the more philosophically advanced – a belief in self-appointed authorities and their ethical exemptionalism. Or, as one of last year’s outworld students put it rather pithily, ‘how to make people sell themselves into serfdom and pay for the privilege’.

“Now, let me address those few of our students who are – there are always a few – looking at turning our lessons here around into their very own dictator-in-a-box kit. Look to your left. Look to your right. Look to the docuspheres which are even now streaming this lecture to our off-campus students and everyone auditing the class over the extranet. Consider how hopelessly outnumbered you are by the people who are about to learn all the same tricks as you. Good luck. You’re going to need it.

“And finally, before we get started, there is an academic certamen component to this course, so would those students, foreign or otherwise, who have some political theory to defend already go ahead and light up… Now that’s not all of you. Don’t be shy now – you knew when you applied that we treat argument as a blood sport hereabouts.”

– Reader Olíäth Rian welcomes the class of 7240

Intellectual Property

“You don’t need a license for patent S/03218B915. If you’d looked it up, you’d have seen that – it was granted to Cognitech and Biogenesis back in the 2300s. Five-thousand years in the public domain, more or less.”

“So what is it, and why are you killing people over it?”

“‘A Method and System for Artificially Stimulating the Growth of Mature Synaptic Function in the Biosapient Brain While Preventing Logos Iteration’.”

“…which is?”

“How you grow a working brain without a mind in it, and without accidentally getting a mind in it, when the brain requires stimulus and interaction with the world in order to structure itself properly. Very complex, very technical – or it was back in the 2300s – still quite expensive, and ethically critical, of course.”

“I don’t get it.”

“There are two ways to grow a working bioshell. One of them is described in patent number S/03218B915. The other one is to grow yourself a regular kid, let ’em walk and talk and run and jump and play when you aren’t putting them through hard conditioning routines until the crucial brain structures have been laid down. Or grab one off the street, but the customers like their meat fresh.

“Then you hit ’em with enough catacinin or other selective synapse-buggerer to turn their cortex into neuron soup and sell the result as a cheap blank. Usually without a label describing how your low, low prices are the product of murderous industrialized paediculture.”

– an eigeninterview from the Expansion Regions

Bring Me The Head Of…

ALL SECURITY SITES // ORANGE SENSITIVE
NOCONTRACT // NOFORN
ROUTINE
RED LIST // SPECIAL // UPDATE 7129/06/01

WANTED: Istar Oricalcios Veneri a.k.a. “the Mechanic”

REQED BY THIRD DIRECTORATE (INTELLIGENCE SECURITY)

FOR: activities in support of asymmetrism, details redacted; activities in support of insurrection, details redacted; activities in support of assassination, details redacted; activities in support of megacide, details redacted

NOTES:

  • Subject has received ExSec field agent training, fourth level.
  • Subject is an expert in the construction of improvised weapons across technological levels, including hand weapons, technicals, and explosive devices.
  • Subject has received special training in technical sabotage.
  • Subject should be considered extremely dangerous.

LAST SEEN: highport, Inidu (Freeport Loop), 2 days before publication

TERMINATE ON SIGHT WITH ALL NECESSARY FORCE.
LOG-3 COLLATERAL BUDGET PREAPPROVAL.
SECURE ALL SURVIVING FRAGMENTS.
RETURN TO ISE CUSTODY WITH ACCOMPANYING FULL FORENSIC ANALYSIS.

BY ORDER OF

Istar Oricalcios Veneri, Second Directorate,
seconded to Third Directorate

I Can See Your House From Here

Anywhere Killer (n.): hypothetical weapons system using an arbitrarily-targetable wormhole generator to deliver ordnance – or convenient non-ordnance, such as stellar cores – to any target location in the galaxy whose coordinates are known or can be inferred, bypassing all defense systems in the intervening space-time.

Naturally, as a strategic first-strike weapon nonpareil, the development, deployment, and/or use of this technology has been banned by every respectable galactic polity.

Naturally, every respectable galactic polity has a research team or twelve squirreled away in secret working on it.

May their theoretical and practical difficulties long continue.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary


(Yes, this is the local version of Schlock Mercenary’s “Long Gun” – since people kept asking me about such a thing in the ‘verse.

And to clarify further: those research teams may not know it yet, but those theoretical difficulties are actually, genuinely insurmountable. The only way to inflate a distant wormhole end at a targeted location is the ER=EPR method used by stargates, and so Anywhere Killers are impossible.)

This Was Your Brain On Drugs

“Unlike chemodrugs, the problem with cutting nanodrugs is that everyone knows what a nanite suspension is supposed to look like. It’s quite distinctive. So unless you’re willing to go the costly route of cutting your nanodrugs with other, slightly less expensive nanodrugs carefully tested for interactions, people cutting nanodrugs for quick coin will use whatever nanites they can find lying around. If the customer’s really lucky, that means a veinful of unprogrammed medichines. Not so lucky, and whatever not-for-internal-use swarm they just injected will send their immune system into overdrive and they’ll be in acute septicemic shock within a couple of seconds. Needless to say, it’s a one-time-and-run crime — yes, question at the back?”

“And if they’re unlucky?”

“Unlucky? You’ll know what that means when you see someone who’s snorted a snootful of factory-reject garden paste, or cleaning dust, or something else that’ll actually operate in vivo. Being used as still-living constructor raws starts out at messy and ends with grotesque. No pictures – you’ll know it when you see it, and that’s soon enough.”

– training lecture,
Exopharma Exclusion Agency,
Xintenta Pharmacology

More of a Primand, Really

(Yes, this is so very real-life-writes-the-plot, but as with that age-old piece about transportation security, what can you do…)

From: Ektalis Munisinios (Second Undersecretary, Ministry of State and Outlands)
To: Cerea Oliviscios (Their Divine Majesties’ Ambassador to the Viridian States)
Security: DIPLOMATIC BLUE
Subject: Formal reprimand

We have this day received a missive from the State Department of your country of residence calling for your formal reprimand over certain impolitic remarks, to wit, “We are sure the people of the Viridian States must be inspired to great confidence by their governance’s ability to find people who will obey any order, especially in these troubled times.”

Herewith is that reprimand:

Next time, be sure the galactic press has been invited to the party, not just the locals. Makes it harder to cover up.

Drinks at the Mustelid are on me next time you make it back to the capital.

– Ektalis

Self-Dying

CAPITOL, YANOK ARCHIPELAGO, TORKATAN CONGERIES – Protests were reported today outside the Imperial embassy here in Capitol Drift over the recent death of a citizen of the Congeries during a tour of the Core worlds.

Ra Adom Underhull was struck and killed by an groundcraft on Ellisar (Imperial Core) late last year, one of only fourteen vehicular incidents reported in the Empire in 7204.

Her case has attracted some controversy both within and without Imperial space, since as a member of the pro-public-privacy group Behind the Veil, Underhull was wearing full-coverage clothing patterned with adversarial images designed specifically to impair the operation of commonly-used sensor algorithms, and had placed the Universal issued her at entry into a sealed embag. (This latter practice was one which had already led to several warnings from the Constabulary.)

A statement issued at the time by Silverwing Motors, ICC, the designers of the groundcraft in question, offered their condolences to Underhull’s family, but, while noting that the vehicle had detected her and begun obstacle-avoidance routines shortly before the collision, stated that they could not reasonably be expected to build systems secure against deliberate and technically sophisticated attempts to sabotage their operation.

The Constabulary coroner concurred with this, and returned a verdict of death by misadventure secondary to traumatic amentia, or as it is unfortunately also known, “death by stupidity”.

It is this verdict that forms the root of the controversy, with opinions varying from those prevalent in certain outworlds that one should be protected fully even from the consequences of one’s own actions, or that this once again highlights the intrinsic dangers of automation, to the common opinion among Imperials that one cannot in all reason possibly expect to be kept safe when engaging in acts of profound unwisdom, such as deliberately blinding safety systems or taking an evening stroll through a minefield.

Consensus on these matters remains as unlikely to be reached as ever.

– the Imperial Infoclast

Outsize

“Finally, let us turn to the biggest megaships of them all, the fleet carriers. Including them in this work is a choice which I expect to be somewhat controversial – many would argue that a fleet carrier is a formation, not a vessel – but with respect to those readers who may hold that position, since the Imperial Navy treats fleet carriers as a single vessel for asset accounting and command designation purposes, so in turn shall I.

“Let us begin with a look at the history of the type. Fleet carriers were not known before the Exterminomachy (5782-5901). While before that time lighthuggers had met with occasional hostility, they had proven more than capable of defending themselves against local system defense forces, in particular with the Perreinar Wheel1 – and in those cases where they were not, it was because they had encountered a Power not readily opposed by pure military force. This changed with the arrival of the skrandar berserker probes, whose numbers and willingness to embrace suicide tactics made them a serious threat to even well-defended vessels, and eliminating breeding site for which required the transport of full task forces to their host systems.

“The first fleet carriers, then, were improvisations; lighthuggers pressed into service under the right of angary. Stripped down by removing all cargo capacity, much crew space, and all other less-than-essential facilities, and enhancing their fuel capacity with multiple drop tanks, it became possible to clamp a small number of light units – overstocked with fuel and supplies – to the spine of such a vessel, and have it haul them slowly and painfully to a target system.

“Such crude improvisations were fraught with problems, from wear and tear on ships and crew during the slow transit, to the risk of interception before the transported units could free themselves from the carrier – both due to the inefficiency of the mechanical clamps, and the need to cut clamps frozen in transit or actual hard welds used where clamps would not suffice, to even entire vessels lost from the carrier in transit. (The last of these to be recovered, CS Bloodwashed3, was salvaged with all hands in 6722.)

“Fortunately, by the third year of the Exterminomachy, new designs were emerging from the cageworks at Ashen Planitia and Armory. The second-generation fleet carriers were custom-built starships, or rather, the specialized elements (the “propulsion head” and “collier module”) were, since the second generation eschewed the rigid designs of the first in exchange for dispersed tensegrity structures.

“In effect, the starships transported by the fleet carrier, along with the specialized elements, formed the floating compression struts of the overall structure, while being linked by braided cables (derived from orbital elevator technology) into a unified structure. The majority of the propulsive thrust is provided by the dedicated propulsion heads, while specialized fleet mediator software enables the use of the drives of the various carried ships to balance the structure and correct attitude. Meanwhile, supplies carried in the collier modules, distributed by rigged flexpipe and by cable-crawling logistics robots, eliminated the need to overload any individual ship with supplies, and indeed enabled the transportation of greater volumes of fuel and replenishment. Moreover, such fleet carriers could separate instantly if intercepted by simply blowing the explosive cable-couplers and engaging their drives independently, the dispersed tensegrity structure providing adequate safety separation for this.

“Such dispersed-design fleet carriers served with distinction throughout the remainder of the Exterminomachy, and have remained a key element of IN subluminal doctrine since. While there exist a third generation of fleet carrier designs, these merely reflect the evolution in technological reliability that allows the physical cables of the second generation to be replaced with vector-control tractor-pressor beams, and does not reflect any change in fundamental design or doctrine.

“As ad hoc structures, of course, it would be incorrect to say that fleet carriers have classes, in the strictest sense. However, the individual propulsion heads and collier modules, the former full starships in themselves, do. Thus, we shall begin our examination of fleet carriers with a look at the most common propulsion head in Imperial service, the Legends-class…”

– Megaships of the Imperium, Lorvis Maric, pub. 7290


  1. Perreinar2 Wheel: a fight-and-flight maneuver in which a lighthugger puts its stern towards the battle and engages its interstellar drive, thus retreating from the engagement while simultaneously treating the enemy to the close-range efflux of a pion drive – a situation which is very rarely survivable for anything larger than a baryon.
  2. From the eponymous horse archers who had perfected the “Perreinar shot” centuries before.
  3. Lost in the wreck of CS Cúlíän Daphnotarthius, which suffered a structural collapse of the spine while outward bound to IGS 31238 in the second year of the war.

For-Profit Orbit

From: Qory Estenv, Flight Overadministrator
To: All Astronauts

In response to your request for clarification about the Initiative’s “souvenir policy”, we don’t particularly care if you want to shove a box of postcards, or vanity coins, or model kits of the Phoenix, or whatever else you like in your personal mass-allowance to make an esteyn or two.

We’re going to be cramming any spare cargo mass/volume we can find with our own official souvenirs, after all, and telling the people who’ve volunteered to ride a stack of bombs into space they can’t do the same would hardly be square play.

However:

Flight Dynamics has informed me that he will personally throw the owner of anything that doesn’t show up on his mass-balance charts out of the airlock.

Inventory & Materiel Test were less colorful about it, but their response was substantively the same.

And both Accounting and I, as your obligator, would request that if you come up with a scheme that makes the kind of money that’d show up in the Initiative’s budget — share the wealth with the ones that flew you, okay?

– a sign once posted at SIFC,
from the Spaceflight Initiative archives

“Seriously”

Overheard at the Classified Item Destruction Facility, Palaxias (Imperial Core):

“I’m telling you, they’re just not taking our job seriously. Look at this thing – it’s a Sera Esklav, for the love of — It makes hot drinks! How is that ‘containing information prejudicial to Imperial security, access codes to secure command systems, or inherently dangerous components’? It’s a complete waste of our resources, unless they’re using orbital grasers to warm mugs these days –“

“It was sent to us from Pyrethrin Nebula. Admiral Sargas’s flagship?”

“Then what blistering cretin let it be sent downside? Close the blast doors! Enact full artifact-grade containment protocols, and get a UXB team in here, stat!”

Living Libraries

The Office of Studied Archaism and Talent Preservation is a curious little department of the Ministry of Ancestral Heritage (itself part of the Ministry of Progress and Prosperity). Like their cousins at the Office of the Libraries, their job is to prevent antiprogress in the form of lost knowledge, but where the librarians focus on gnosis, the OSATP and its partners in the Repository of All Knowledge and various authenticist initiatives focus instead upon praxis.

As such, they monitor, and offer grants and stipends to, authenticist and recreationist societies and individual hobbyists and relicteurs both, in order to ensure that there will be plenty of people around who can manage second-century blacksmithing, 8th-century steam engineering, 10th-century cogitator computing, 16th-century silicon-chip fabrication, 23rd-century asteroid-homesteading, and so forth, such that the knowledge will not be lost, and thus will be available should there ever again be a need for such things – or should some synergy with modernity, otherwise unavailable, become apparent.

– Sur-Dodeciad Parts in Approximate Formation: The Empire from Outside

Uplifting Thoughts

In this course, we cover one of the most interesting branches of exosophontology, the exosophontology of uplifted species.

While we will touch upon the minority uplift cultural movements (the integrationists, who attempt to become indistinguishable from their creators; the separatists, who would divorce themselves from civilization to find their own way; the worshipful, who cast themselves as eternal servants; and the devolvers, who seek to cast off mentality and regain a state of presophonce), these will not be our focus. That remains the majority cultures practiced by uplifts.

These majority cultures are evolutions of a fascinating pastiche, composed originally of elements drawn from three primary sources. First, there is the culture of the uplifting species, which – being omnipresent from the uplifts’ first days, and practiced by their species-parents – inevitably makes a considerable impression upon them.

Second, there is their indigenous culture. In some senses, this is a vacuum waiting to be filled, since even the most developed of prosophonts remains prosophont, and lacks history, heritage, and traditional praxis. However, with sophoncy, the process of cultural development begins, based on instincts and merkwelt, along with their existing social structures, and protolanguages, rudimentary as they might be. Responsible uplifters, such as our own Family of Species, promote this process as a means of preserving the unique cognitive and social qualities that made the species worthy of uplift in the first place.

Third, and finally, a newly uplifted species naturally studies what has been said about it by others: not merely scientific information, although this is a natural place to start for those whose genesis came about through science, but also legend, story, fable, and folklore. Originally, uplifters made efforts to discourage this, to avoid contaminating emerging uplift cultures from the outset, but swiftly learned that such curiosity could not, and should not, be denied. While not encouraging it and offering appropriate cautions regarding the possibility of fitting themselves to a mold not theirs, such other-discovery is now accepted in the later stages of uplift and the new sophonts’ search for authenticity.

The cultures resulting from the intertwining and mingling of these three strands are complex, nuanced, often initially-contradictory creations, both simple in the fashion of young species cultures everywhere – even after centuries, in the presence of much older cultures, many uplifts still feel as if they are extemporizing much of the time – and at the same time filled with a surprising richness, with a great deal to contribute to the wider Imperial and galactic cultures.

This course, however, can offer only the most shallow examination of any individual uplift culture in the time available, as it must necessarily concentrate on describing the common features, principles, formation, and evolution of uplift culture. However, graduates of this course will find themselves well-positioned to undertake the study of specific uplift cultures or cultural features as their studies continue.

– from a course description at the
Imperial University of Almea