THE CHRONICLES OF KANANGAR: A RISING TIDE
It is an age of turbulence.
After decades of corruption,
oppressed colonists and natives
have joined forces against
an alliance of megacorporations.
In a rare moment of solidarity,
two rival civilizations,
the Drall and the Marlon Chaan,
have pressured the TriGalactic Federation
against unilateral intervention.
Meanwhile, the insurgents
wage a fierce guerilla war.
Seeking a decisive victory,
the corporate alliance
is assembling a mercenary fleet.
Little do they know
that informants have revealed
the coordinates of the rendezvous…
Not the edge of a star system,
but somewhere midway between star systems.
Thousands of astronomical units
away from a star—no, tens of thousands.
A light flickered somewhere in the abyss,
and then another, and then dozens more.
BOOM!!! a pilot could almost hear
as his starfighter banked away
from one of eight kilometer-long battleships.
Several other starfighters zig-zagged away from the explosion,
and quickly regrouped
before returning to the combat zone.
“Alpha Wing, return energy to your rear shields.”
a voice resonated through the com channel,
“Here they come!”
Almost 300 starfighters emerged
from the handful of carriers that had survived,
and both sides were now evenly matched.
1/3 of the coalition fighters had been destroyed within the first couple minutes.
Sure, the mercenaries had been distracted by a swarm of missiles,
but their anti-fighter defenses were state-of-the-art.
By and large, the private security forces adhered to a Medium Ship Doctorine:
an emphasis on frigates as opposed to starfighters and cruisers,
kind of like playing chess with bishops instead of knights or rooks.
Frigates could tear apart fighter squadrons like hornets raiding a honeycomb.
Corvettes? Well, as far as frigates were concerned,
corvettes were just big starfighters with less maneuverability.
Still, a fighter squadron within close range
could be just as deadly to a frigate
as a knight landing on a bishop.
Most of the starfighters broke off
and engaged their counterparts,
swarming each other like Mayflies,
and filling the void with flashes of railgun blasts
while other coalition ships continued a relentless barrage
consisting of missiles and long distance lasers
against 80 frigates using data
relayed from the combat zone.
“Corvette group in route.
Bravo Wing, concentrate your fire on the cruisers’ engines
and stick to the ion canons and EMP disks.
That first battleship was just to show them we mean business.”
Other than the eight battleships, there were sixteen enemy cruisers
and two dozen corvettes.
Meanwhile, most of frigates were attempting to disperse,
despite interference from disruption fields
and increased vulnerability caused by active warp drives.
The alliance’s main group lay wide open
for 200 corvettes now within range.
Half a minute later the pawns landed on the rooks.
Of course, the marines, blades, and walker pilots
would not have appreciated the comparison.
Nor would have the handful of beast moderators:
skilled telepaths who were now directing
several 30-meter battle worms
along the outer hulls of their respective battleships.
‘Third Law Organisms,’ the humans had called them
a couple hundred years ago
when watching the then-divided Marlon Chaan skirmish.
‘Fire Worms,’ some had referred to them,
because of the creatures’ ability to emit plasma
as they burrowed subterranean tunnels
or breached the hulls of starships.
Unlike the marines and walkers,
who relied primarily on heavy armor and big guns,
the blades were limited to deflector suits and used melee weapons.
Neon-like stripes lined their silhouettes,
gracefully balancing an array of energy shields
that provided protection
from lasers, plasma blasts and high velocity projectiles.
Within five minutes a team of blades took control
of a battleship,
and then used it to blast apart one of its counterparts.
Several minutes later three of the other battleships were commandeered,
and the remaining cruisers and fighters surrendered
while two dozen frigates fled the arena.
But the hasty negotiators did not refer to their forfeit
as surrender, per say,
instead agreeing to join a new mercenary group:
one with considerably diminished compensation
and less flexibility than their previous contracts.
Thus, in a relatively short timeframe
a fleet of predominantly rooks and bishops
had been subdued by knights and pawns.
The feudal skirmishes of yesteryear
were but a distant memory
but when all was said and done
everything still resembled Chess.
New technologies altered the mechanics,
but the essence of the game persisted.
And as in all great Chess games,
the most important piece was the Queen.
But, what would a queen be in this arena?
A battlecarrier? A dreadnaught? A titan?
No, those were all rooks.
A queen was more similar
to its Medieval counterpart:
an individual of great distinction,
though not necessarily wealthy or directly powerful,
or even a woman—although in this case it was.
This queen excelled in the arts of propaganda,
social climbing and making obstacles disappear.
Some would judge her for such intrigues,
but her approaches produced results.
In the coming days self proclaimed experts
would talk in circles about the battle that had just transpired,
expounding upon erroneous jargon,
forces of history, and petty statistics.
The real story, however,
the one involving a well positioned queen
winning a war almost before it had even begun
was only a whisper
amid a roar of fatuous nonsense.
“…and today the Intergal Industrial Average dropped three points during a massive sell-off of assets along the Sierra Corridor…”
“…the Atlas Party will fight tooth and nail against any executive action aimed at appeasing the mercantilist double standards of rogue nations…”
“…human rights to do what?! Those people were being used as indentured servants and wage slaves. Of course they’re better off now!...”
“…a transport full of refugees arrived at…from the…system. Harrowing accounts have described human farmers being driven away from their land…”
“…conservative faction took control of the…parliament. The pro-human government has declared marshal law…”
“…several rebel groups based in the…sector are alleged to be engaged in piracy…”
“…according to our sources, the Secretary of State is meeting with the Archbishop of…as well as several coalition leaders for a Church of Orion-brokered diplomatic summit…”
“…and I am pleased to announce that the Populist Party supports the president’s decision to normalize trade relations with the sovereign nations of the former Sierra Coalition…”
“…six hours ago a coup occurred in the…capital. General…has assumed control of the government…”
“…Federation Intelligence is not interfering with…We will not condone these unsubstantiated accusations…”
“…regional legislature is pleased to announce the addition of…new Federation member worlds.”
“…so far the Xanilla Corporation has been the only multinational to fully integrate the Terran Mining Guild into its supply chain…”
An attractive blonde in her late twenties blinked as she gazed through one of the windows of a subway train and moved her briefcase from the side of her hip to the top of her lap. Moments earlier she had been reviewing news stories via her corneal and auditory implants, but now that the craft was near its destination she preferred half a minute of silence.
The train was clean, lightly packed, and spacious, almost to the point of being luxurious. As the craft decelerated the blur beyond the windows slowly transformed into a series of hexagonal tunnel sections.
After disembarking, the woman took an escalator to a platform walkway two levels above the tracks and then took a right, passing through an entranceway that lead out of the subway. On the other side she walked across a concourse full of restaurants and shops, and then took an elevator ten levels up.
The woman then emerged from the lift and walked through a large atrium. The enclosure was ovoid, full of large fountain plazas and immaculately gardened green space. The architecture had a curvaceous, chrome white style to it: a look that epitomized perfection through simplicity. Sunlight beamed down from a series of skylights 50 meters above and glimmered along the surface of the water.
When the woman reached the other side of the atrium she passed through a government security checkpoint and waited in a lobby for several minutes. She was then escorted along a corridor to an elevator that took her up an additional 50 levels. There, she passed through another security checkpoint, briefly interacted with a receptionist, and waited 30 minutes while a VIP’s previous meeting dragged through most of her time slot. So much for arriving early.
At this point her cybernetics were unavailable due to security reasons, so she opened her briefcase and glanced through paper printouts of policy documents, talking points, etc that she had kept for such occasions. At one point she looked up to relax her eyes, and noted that the room was much more ornate than the other interiors she had passed through: each side was lined with four Corinthian columns; the wall paneling was exquisite, almost to the point of being gaudy; and four large oil paintings hung on each of the walls.
The first painting, hanging near the entranceway behind her, depicted a massive space battle, painted in vivid shades of red, orange, yellow, and dark blue; the second mural, the one to her left, portrayed some kind of gathering in a large chamber full of what appeared to be dignitaries, with a central human figure shaking hands with a quadrupedal alien, probably a Marlon Chaan; the third painting, the one across from her and behind the receptionist’s desk, appeared to show some kind of large scale terraforming operation: in the bottom right corner, there was a jagged wasteland, full of reds, greys, and browns, along with figures in environmental suits, and in the bottom left corner there were various shades of green, making up the edge of what would undoubtedly become a sprawling layer of vegetation. Meanwhile, a tempestuous sky, interspersed by the occasional isle of blue, filled the top half of the painting with a captivating array of grays, whites, and golds. The fourth image, hanging near a window to her right, depicted several curvaceous arcology cities interspersed between a series of snow-capped mountains, forests, glades and turquoise lakes. The architecture of the monolithic ivory-silver cities complemented the surrounding wilderness; blending with it in a way that was almost intoxicating for her as she gazed upon the graceful half-domes, green terraces, smooth towers and enchanting waterfalls.
“Ms. Green, Congressman Charhyyn will see you now.”
“So you mean tuh tell me there’s uh shortage uh scientists right now? If thah’s true, then I’m the mos’ hones’ politician on this side uh the Sierra Corridor,” Charhyyn said with a deliberate frontier drawl. He was tall, middle aged, handsome enough, and had a pair of penetrating brown eyes. The man was also charismatic, with an aura befitting of one who not only accepts how he is perceived, but embraces his stereotype.
“The Feds certainly seem to think so,” Ms. Green replied. Diane Green had come from a humble background, hailing from a densely populated ‘Middie’ industrial world, but, like most people, her accent fit with what was referred to as ‘Movie English.’ “That, or they’re trying to brain drain their rivals. Either way, now is the time to get our region on board with this.”
“Or at leas’ thah’s whah the Ivy Consortium would have us tuh believe.”
Diane blinked. Ivy was not her employer, but the megacorporation certainly made generous contributions to the special interest group she promoted.
Charhyyn continued, “Shore, this mih’ be a fanTAStic opprutunity in the lon’ run, but rih’ now, my constituents seem tuh be a wee’ bit mo’ah consunned abou’ jobs, seCURity an’ infrastructure. An’ you expect this legistlachuh tuh fit in some miscellANEous provision fo’uh popin’ up a buncha’ resuch centuhs all ova’ the place?”
“You’re the Majority Whip. You could make it happen.”
“That I suttenly could,” Charhyyn smiled slyly as he lifted his eyebrows, “But then what? Miz Green, I may be a team playuh, but I dihn’t get wheh I am jus’ by bein’ some corprit lapdog. Ova an’ ova again I tol’ folks ‘The only one who can help a Rimmuh, is a anothuh Rimmuh!’ An’ you have the auDAcity to tuh think that I’m jus’ gonna roll ova while a bunchuh vital resou’suhs are diVERted tuh subsidize Arr an’ Dee while the poor fall through the cracks!”
“And that is where you are wrong. New industries emerging from frontier research initiatives will improve the economy as a whole, not to mention allowing this region to compete with other areas of the TriGalactic that, shall we say, have a much more conducive atmosphere for capital expenditure. The analysts at my agency predicts that sixty percent of the funding will come from the Feds, twenty percent from Public-Private partnerships and ten from nonprofit entities. All that we need to make this happen is a small investment from the regional legislature.”
“Yes, a ‘small investment,’” the politician grinned again, “but how soon can my constituents expect the oth’uh ninety percent to start chippin in? Five yea’uhs? Ten? Twenty?”
“Actually right away. My sources have informed me that a number of former Sierra Coalition members have taken a keen interest in this.”
Charhyyn grimaced. “Wait a minute. You mean to tell me that the other half of this startup fund is going to come from the guilds??”
“Why not? They can’t afford police their territories and they know it. Besides, you and I both know that unless the Feds invest more in your side of the Corridor, they’ll just do the bare minimum when things start heating up again.”
“Well now we’re talking. Fifty percent from us, fifty from the Commies; the fat cats jump in once the nerds finish the heavy lifting and then everybody’s happy! Sounds almost too good to be true, but, I suppose it might be worth the risk…”
“Sometimes politics makes strange bedfellows,” Diane said as she batted her eyes seductively.
“It does indeed, Miz Green. It does indeed,” Charhyyn leered at her, “Tell me, Miz Green, is there a, uh, Mister Green?”
“No,” she said coyly as she twirled her hair across her shoulder, “Green is my maiden name. But you can call me Diane.”
The congressman touched his intercom. “Hi Jan,” Charhyyn said, “Cancel my next three appointments.”
The TriGalactic: Milky Way Galaxy: Chaan Region: Sierra Sector Block: Kanangar Sector: 1500 astronomical units away from the Kanangar Star System. A sleek bluish-grey transport, 70 meters in length, cruised toward a yellow star at maximum warp. Warp drive, not to be confused with hyperspace, which was much faster, was safe at speeds up to 0.25c. This velocity was a mere quarter the speed of light, but in the absence of detailed hyperspace charts—a rarity in the poorly explored territories just beyond civilization—long voyages at this speed were required prior to periods of rapid expansion. Pirates and ruthless military commanders often pushed their ships to 1c, which was moderately dangerous, and if a blockade runner were truly desperate s/he might travel at 8c, which was 50% fatal for a 24 hour time period, but even that speed would not allow a ship to completely outrun torpedoes. Torpedoes often traveled at 32c, which gave them a 90% chance of spontaneously detonating within 24 hours, (at 64c a torpedo would be destroyed within seconds) but given that most long distance battles occurred within 1000 AU, >55% of all torpedos traveling at this speed would reach the same distance as their respective targets 4.3 hours after being launched. But in regards to long distance probes, even swarms of unmanned ones, 32c was hopelessly unrealistic because most stars were >200,000 AU apart. Despite this impediment, in recent centuries the Federation had explored much of what now made up the Sierra Corridor; however, humans were not the only ones in the region who held expansionistic ambitions.
Captain’s log, Day 184, Year 18,042 Post Reckoning:
It has been ten hours since the crew and myself were awakened from stasis, and twenty years have passed since the beginning of our voyage. Mission Control has informed us that a series of power struggles among non-Drall has changed the dynamics of our region. The Kanangar Sector, in particular, is now within the territory of a human dominated group that calls itself the Terran Mining Guild. Despite being somewhat speciesist in internal matters, the guild is apparently on excellent terms with the Hegemony, and, as a token of friendship, ownership of our expedition has been transferred to them.
There is not enough time to recalibrate the stasis chambers, so the lead scientist, my wife, has suggested a series of regimented exercise and intellectual development over the next month. Each day one of us will deliver a presentation of historical, scientific or philosophical significance. Given the circumstances, I have insisted that all ten of us speak the Terran trade language exclusively. It concerns me that a few of my crew may prove to be less compliant than others in this regard.
The vessel was heart-shaped, with a pair of ion engines for short ranged transit. The cockpit, just large enough for four beings, was at the top level, front center, followed by an open area functioning both as a command center and a data analysis hub, and then engineering. The starboard side contained captain and crew quarters, a virtual reality suite, a galley and mess hall on the top level, and a medical bay, exercise room and general storage on the bottom level; the port side contained a conference room, computer core and hydroponics on the top level, and liquid storage, life support systems and a biology laboratory on the bottom level. The central area of the lower level contained miscellaneous cargo, such as surveyor drones, packages of processed food and a couple vehicles: one four-wheeled rover and a hovercraft.
Why the rover, one might ask: The trouble with relying exclusively on hovercraft was that gravity manipulation systems relied on certain varieties of exotic matter that made them high maintenance commodities. The exotic matter in this case was not fuel, per say, but it was like fuel in that it required replacement after a certain amount of use—kind of like a poorly constructed light bulb. Ships used gravity manipulation as well, but in most situations the resistors did not wear out as quickly as those in hovercraft because the ship-based systems utilized a steady output. Hovercrafts, on the other hand, were constantly readjusting the amount of electricity running through the resistors in order to adapt to subtle variations in a planet’s gravity as well as the weight of its cargo. It sounds easy—just balance the weight with the lift force and fly far enough above the ground to avoid crashing into a hill or subtle slope in elevation—but, unless one adds some kind of thruster or rotor-based mechanism, which, by the way, requires a significant amount of combustible fuel—not just electricity—and, needless to say, is also required to keep the craft up after the initial lift because of the change in potential energy, one will either guzzle though quite a bit of fuel in order to power the auxiliary components, or, sooner or later, one will burn out the resistors needed for gravity manipulation. Most rovers, on the other hand, relied exclusively on lithium batteries.
Twenty-four hours after the awakening ten Drall gathered in the port side conference room and took seats at a rectangular table. Four subordinates sat on either side; the captain took the seat at the end closest to the door, and the lead scientist sat at the other end with a view port behind her. At a mere quarter the speed of light, the view appeared just like any other starry night. When the meeting began, a hologram appeared above the center of the table. The 3D image was a semitransparent polyhedron composed of eight equilateral triangles, four meeting at each vertex. One edge along the horizontal plane was red while its counterpart on the other side was blue; another edge perpendicular to the blue/red spectrum was white, and its opposite was jet black. The top of the polyhedron was grainy; the bottom was blurry; and the colors, shades, and texture spectrums merged together as one looked from one side of it to the other.
Unlike humans, Drall anatomy consisted of a hammerhead-like elongation of the head, twelve tentacles surrounding an avian-like beak, and three thumb-like appendages on each hand. The Drall were hairless, dressed in a silk robe and tunic combination, and under normal circumstances their language was characterized by a simple variety of gargled low octave chirping noises (E2-C3 for males, and G2-G5 for females). Millennia of cultural homogenization had bastardized what had once been a multitude of complex languages into a dull yet efficient brogue.
“No speaking in Drallian!” the alpha female shrieked at one of the subordinates, “Fifty percent of your success in the Mining Guild will depend on your ability to speak English. NOUN! VERB! OBJECT!”
“Uzrashti is right,” the captain said while looking at the four non-scientists to his right, “The Fourth Axiom states that in order to succeed in the Long War you must understand the ways of your allies.”
“Thank you, Uztarth. Now, can any of you explain what we all looking at.”
“Hierarch Uzrashti,” Uzrashti’s subordinate closest to her right began, “the hologram is depicting a regular octahedron. The depiction above has served as the basis for the Central Dogma of Drall philosophy, ever since the Seventh Reckoning—and humans refer to it as a Platonic solid, Hierarch Uzrashti.”
“Thank you, Uztoshen. I am relieved that at least one of you is in accord with the Fourth Axiom. Now, can some else explain why the humans refer to this as, a, ‘Platonic Solid.’”
This time the Drall to Uztoshen’s right spoke up. “Hierarch Uzrashti, um, uh, ancient humans, Play-Doh used. Abstract concepts, Play-Doh, express in. Similar commercial product to this day…um, uh, philosophers, to express idea of octahedron, used Play-Doh…um, uh—Hierarch Uzrashti—“
“NOOO!!!!” Uzrashti’s face flushed from the usual grayish white to yellow and then magenta, “Such ignorance brings shame not only to yourself, Uzcosh, but also to your colleagues, to House Uz, to House Cosh, to our expedition, to the Hegemony, and to the Terran Mining Guild!” While Uzcosh trembled tears filled Uzrashti’s eyes and she sobbed hysterically. “Oh, why has fate been so cruel as to curse us with such monumental ineptitude? Please, please, please, can someone else enlighten this bumbling Undrall as to what it means to be a Platonic solid?”
One of the non-scientists to Uzrashti’s left spoke up. “Heirarch Uzrashti, a Platonic solid consists of identical polygons merging together in a way that each vertex has the same number of sides. There are only five polyhedrons that accomplish this, and ancient humans associated each one with an element: tetrahedron for fire, cube for earth, octahedron for air, dodecahedron for Ether and icosahedron for water. Although this view was shortsighted, the Platonic solids do show up quite a bit within Nature, Hierarch Uzrashti.”
An awkward silence followed as Uzrashti wiped her tears away, so the captain spoke up. “Very good. Now, can someone reflect, in English, on why the octahedron is so important to the Drall.”
A female crewmember to Captain Uztarth’s right spoke, “Hierarch Uztarth, in ancient times truth and untruth were determined by the ruling class, and society stagnated for millennia. Countercultures were extinguished in most cases, and subverted by the ruling class in others. Control was maintained, in large part, by limiting information, especially mathematical literacy, from the populace. However, such a policy had interesting consequences. In a way, punishing commoners for engaging in mathematical discussions actually caused individuals to become much more interested in symmetry as an unbiased system for discerning truth. The octahedron, in particular, was especially useful for disassembling false dichotomies propagated by the ruling class prior to the Seventh Reckoning, Hierarch Uztarth.”
“Excellent. Now, compare and contrast the Terran Mining Guild with the Hegemony in a way that integrates the Central Dogma.”
“Hierarch Uztarth, as we all know, the Central Dogma consists of seven ethics: Hierarchy, Purity, Reciprocity, Suffering, Harmony, Discipline and Balance. Altruism correlates with Purity and Reciprocity while Selfishness correlates with Hierarchy and Suffering; Order correlates with Purity and Hierarchy while Chaos correlates with Suffering and Reciprocity; public policy emphasizing Knowledge infrastructure correlates with Discipline and policy emphasizing Culture correlates with Harmony.
“One thing that the Terran Mining Guild and the Hegemony have in common is a desire for Order, although perhaps for different reasons: the TMG seeks to establish an ordered economic system through central planning, and the Hegemony is opposed to what some euphemistically refer to as 'Eudaimonia,' which implies that we are also somewhat opposed to Chaos. Likewise, the TMG can also be characterized as somewhat selfish based on their aversion to environmental regulations in favor of what some of their detractors have referred to as ‘Mordorian’ approaches to resource extraction. The Hegemony, on the other hand, is neither selfish nor altruistic in essence, but seeks to strike a balance. Conversely, the essence of the TMG is balanced in regards to Discipline and Harmony while the Hegemony values Knowledge at the expense of Tradition, Hierarch Uztarth.”
Uzrashti spoke next, “I think that is enough for today. Uztarth, I want you to present during the next session. Everyone else, COME PREPARED! Especially if you are a scientist. Uzcosh, your performance was the worst today. You are hereby banned from the virtual reality suite for the next 72 hours.”