Sithri Meritocracy (Early Turns)

Fiction from the SM and players from the Alpha Omega Campaign.

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Sithri Meritocracy (Early Turns)

Postby Rhishisikk on Sat 01 May 2010 00:24

Preturn – Stasis Egg
Coming from the Stasis Egg, Rhishisikk found his thoughts muddled. His first thought was that he was hacking up an awful lot of the oxygenated compound that he had been immersed in. It came out the gills on his throat, just before his hood (which he noted was fully extended), and also further up his throat to come out his nose and mouth. It smelled like blood, he noted.

It also came out other orifices, one of the reasons the awakening was being conducted alone. Each of them would purge alone, then clean up and report to High Lord, whomever that actually was. How long had he been in hibernation? A year? Two? Ten? These thoughts were washed away as he gasped actual air into his lungs. Then he began puking, and pain again filled his world.

His mate had probably taken another; it was one of the things they had discussed when Thashasakk High Lord had convinced him into the Stasis Egg. The chamber was as drab and hard as he recalled. Spasms wracked his body, atrophied muscles locking and unlocking randomly as partially frozen neurons sent muddled signals to them. By some miracle he didn't bite himself. Not that he was worried about that – his venom was weak and his tolerance for the venom of others had been proven high, a requirement for anyone wishing to become a diplomat.

He lay on the left side of his back, gasping in the filth, still coughing and leaking. No, that would never do. His need for dignity and control was less than that of the Stormlord, the military commander, but as one of the six elders he was expected to maintain a certain level of decorum at all times.

The floor was unyielding to his claws, and eventually he had to pull himself upright on the edge of the Egg itself. His legs wobbled, faltered, failed. How long did it take in hibernation for the limbs to atrophy like that? His limbs (when he peeked) looked thin, fragile. He felt the soreness in his shoulders, as his puff-hood was just deflating into near-invisibility. All his soft tissues felt impossibly raw and swollen.

His tongue refused to relay any scent save that of blood and bile. His ears hammered an impossibly slow heartbeat in time to the pulses in his extremities. He tried opening his eyes fully, and had to close them. The chamber, once impossibly dim, was now a fountain of light. His eyes refused to focus.

Suddenly, webbed claws were upon him, manhandling him. He struggled futilely until he remembered that there were supposed to be medics present. He was lifted, and hurled on his back onto an only slightly padded surface. He started moving upward at a great velocity, and muffled noises competed with the rhythmic boom of his own heart. Ah, words. Yes, that was what they were called, and they were his trade. He didn't recognize these words, though.

Part of that was that his brain wasn't entirely working. Part of that was just his ears being partially frozen. And the rest? Medics, like soldiers, thought it made them sound professional to have their own jargon, like unto a language itself.

No, wait. Someone WAS speaking to him. Telling him to relax, all he had to do was survive and they would do the rest.


Preturn – Hexagon
The Hexagon was a dominant structure on Nest Prime, surrounded by a city of millions. Five digits worth of drones labored to keep the structure clean. Rhishisikk often wondered at the waste of time and resources that went into the building. It was, to him, a symbol of waste, that symbols themselves meant more to the masses than actual results. An utter failure of Rhishisikk First Voice, diplomat, to do his job to keep the different breeds of his people from needing such wasteful measures to prevent them from slaughtering each other over the diminishing resources of his greatly changed world.

He was still not able to walk far, and being pushed around on a hospital gurney was hardly worthy of one of the Six, advisors to Itashi High Lord. He had balked at a palanquin, such as Vashthan Stormlord was riding in. However, technology had advanced in the years since the Six had gone into hibernation, an experiment in preserving notable leaders for more than the sixty years (now nearly ninety!) that nature permitted the Sithri to live.

Just by flicking his claws, Rhishisikk could control a small motorized desk. The medics had tried to assign him an ostentatious model, but he found he could barely keep track of the features installed in his current one. A tiny module the size of a palm monitored his vitals, with only a few probes jabbed under the scales on his left hip. When he was busy, which began on the ride over, he could forget it was there.

He had also forgotten, or perhaps never become aware of, the politics involved with diplomacy. His staff had tried for far too long to keep him ignorant, to maintain some control over an overly massive organization that was his responsibility. Some idiot had ignored the commands that he had put in place when his own generation was in charge, nearly forty years ago. It still baffled him that he had been left in stasis for that long, had lost none of his rank or power during his time 'asleep'.

His desk was surprisingly maneuverable, and the voice navigator made certain he got to the meeting on time. Three of the Six he recognized. Vashthan, like himself, still appeared young. He had come out of stasis the same time that Rhishisikk himself had.

Only slightly older was Ahshima Trackmaster, smug enough to have eaten a mammalian bird of some kind. There were still blank areas of memory, but many of the important facts remained. Ahshima had built a fleet of exploration vessels, consuming vast amounts of resources to do so. Wasteful, given how far away the stars were. Even with developments in propulsion technology, the stars were generations away. The only food sources were the two worlds in Nest, chafing the population with a too-slowly expanding cap.

That cap was among the primary concerns of the oldest of the Six, Rhighiri Grandmother. She was long past egg-bearing age, but actually was a grandmother and great-grandmother. She had barely spent six months in hibernation before popular outcry forced her back into duty. Like Rhishisikk, she hated politics. Unlike him, she had no problems grouping people into 'useful' and 'expendable' categories, and working the expendables to make life less of a burden upon those she favored.

The new Coinmaster was a young woman called Saethass, who either had recently been ignored or had never been assertive. Oh, the economy had grown by leaps and bounds, but the vast expenditures of the government could not have been approved by the young one, could they?

Somewhere between Ahshima's age and Rhighiri's was the new MindFire, Hmychee. He was always twitching, symptom of some chemical spill he had suffered. Though no longer suited to research himself, his theories continued to advance science across multiple fields. And his ability to translate discussions of the Six into practical projects for the scientists to research made him invaluable, ensuring his rise to MindFire.

The six of them reported to Itashi High Lord, who made the decisions that got blamed on the Six themselves, or on their internal councils. In theory, each section of the government had equal funding – the actual practice, as Rhishisikk had discovered, was actually quite different. But as he was wondering on this point, Itashi High Lord called the meeting to order.


High Lord's Meeting – Part One
“Firstly,” began Itashi High Lord, a mature but not quite elderly female, “I wish to welcome our final two council members, Vashthan Stormlord of warrior calling and Rhishisikk First Voice of the diplomat calling.”

Vashthan raised his head in greeting; Rhishisikk was amazed at the effort even such a simple gesture took. There was no courteous response from their colleagues.

Itashi herself barely paused. “I trust both of you have familiarized yourselves with the events of the past year?”

Rhishisikk hadn't, he'd been too busy gathering useful intelligence that wouldn't be covered in this meeting.

Vashthan had. “A momentous discovery, and one I would have hoped would prompt more urgent fleet building. That said, I am very impressed with the design specifications of current military vessels.”

Hmychee raised his nose. “You will also notice that the rocket packs you have been pestering us for have actually been completed. Look for Jump Troops under your Ground Troops on your data sheet when you have time.”

Itashi reclined backward in pleasure. “I am glad that you approve of the designs, and hope the actual hardware does well. First Voice, are you equally pleased with your beacons?”

Moment of truth. His voice came out scratchy, and far too frail-sounding. “I am impressed with both communication beacons and these courier drones. The combination of the two technologies greatly accelerates communication.” Swiveling his head toward Hmychee he added. “I was unable to decipher this symbol here, however.” Touching a few buttons, he requested the symbol display on the holographic tank at the center of the septagonal table.

Hmychee's hood twitched in irritation. “Ah. That is the symbol for 'warp-point'. The one we scientists are using, anyway. Your calling has accused us of tampering with the language in an attempt to assert dominance.” Rhishisikk noticed a slight shaking of the head from side to side. Was Hmychee challenging him, or angry, or just nervous and being defensive? The same air circulation system that kept the air moist and properly saline also helped to suppress the normal olfactory clues.

Vashthan was quick to assert his own dominance. “The military calling is willing to support this version of 'doorway' as the symbol for 'warp-point'. As indicated by the markings, there is no door. It represents open and instant access to the stars. Though lacking in poetry and aesthetics, I cannot think of a more literal and concise way of drawing the word that so accurately conveys what the word means to the Sithri people.”

Vashthan paid close attention to Rhishisikk, watching for signs of weakness beyond those caused by a dozen years inside the Stasis Egg. Rhishisikk may, for all he knew, be sending such signals through body language, as he had been rapidly clicking on his data sheet, which thankfully had an opaque backing. This prevented the others from seeing exactly how little he knew about the phenomenon. “Diplomatic calling has no objection to the new word, and agrees it must be generic enough to be used by all callings.” Change the topic, there was too much that he didn't know. “I trust we are awakened now because we expect contact with an alien species has actually been made? Or we have evidence of such a species?”

“No.” Admitted Itashi. “But the entire Six needed to be awake before we take our next step. Before we swim from familiar currents out into the stars. Trackmaster, if you would please give your updated briefing of our survey status?”

Ahshima Trackmaster raised her nose. “I shall gladly recite the mantra for what our Monitor-class scouts have learned of warp-points within our system, as well as those details of interest to other callings.” And she did begin, complete with the required holo-still models required.

Rhishisikk absorbed what knowledge he could, enthralled from the third flick of the presentation onward. He was beginning to realize how much his world had changed.

High Lord's Meeting – Part 2
Three warp points departed from Nest. Gateway itself had a planet with the promise of being habitable – possibly. There were no planets in Blue Pearl, just the giant star that gave the system its name. And in the Green Storm – the chanters of fiction could only guess.

Vashthan Stormlord scratched his nose. “I see we've built a monumental starbase on that warp point? Whose loss of mathematics approved that monstrosity?”

Saethass Coinmaster flicked her tongue at the air, eagerly agreeing with him.

Rhighiri Grandmother raised her nose. “The people needed to feel safe. Would you rather we barricaded all our warp points? Look at the number of people living on airless asteroids, dead with the first failing of the commercial network.”

“That will NEVER happen!” hissed Saethass, her hood twitching on her shoulders.

“Perhaps not.” Admitted Rhighiri. “But the point remains that if the oceans of Gateway are warm and pure, we need that planet. And if they are toxic diseased sludge – we need that planet.”

“I must concur.” Rhishisikk winced, realizing the voice was his own. “Although sending dissidents to the asteroids gets them off Nest Prime, it wafts this government with a bad smell. Letting them inhabit their own worlds, experiment with their own ideas-”

Itashi said nothing, but her hood came up. Rhishisikk realized he must take another tack.

“Mindfire? What percentage of your calling are officially dissidents?”

Hmychee lowered his nose in submission. “I do not know.”

Rhighiri raised her nose, if only slightly. “Does twenty percent sound about right, Mindfire?”

Not on my watch, thought Rhishisikk, not even you, Grandmother. “The actual figure is down to one in six. The Military, by percentage, is the lowest. The greatest may actually be my own calling, although it is officially Labor calling.”

“Mine?” asked the Coinmaster. Followed shortly by, “What do you mean 'officially'?”

Rhishisikk refused to lower his nose. “Which calling gathers those figures? I have not seen these results with my own eyes, smelled them on my own tongue. Mine are not the hands that built the statistics that appear to be so critical to determining loyalty.”

Itashi shook her head slowly, a warning gesture. “Continue.”

He did. “We cannot continue the way we are proceeding now. If things get worse for those who question government policy, we risk filling the oceans with blood again. This council exists to prevent that.”

Itashi looked at Vashthan. “Your opinion, Stormlord?”

“I see things differently. In any conflict, nearer targets tend to suffer more. If chanting against the government becomes action, it is better if they have other seas to churn red. If war comes from outside, it is better that dissidents be out on the fringe colonies that our enemies will destroy first. And, having their own colonies, they will expand the number of the called needed. Isn't that a boon, First Voice?”

“It would be hard for them to dissent against a government while they are part of it, and in charge of their own local welfare.” agreed Rhishisikk. “Coinlord, Grandmother? I notice that we have somewhat massive vessels just for setting up colonies?”

Rhighiri was too slow to raise her nose, and lowered it in deference to Saethass. “By supplimenting our commercial network with government ships, we not only boost our income, but we also create a dedicated reserve that we may call upon at will. Although the wealthy could pay their own way to a distant colony, a truly self sufficient colony requires a … proportional... distribution of the callings and the uncalled. To provide such a stable basis, government expenditure is mandatory. That said, the economic returns begin in as little as three moon-cycles.”

Rhighiri had some things to add. “The clutches, in theory, would start breeding immediately. Predation would begin higher, but we could bring these numbers down as we have on Nest Prime and Nest Second. This would also cut down on our dissident problem.”


Interlude – Asteroids First, A33 colony
Eyashi looked up into the sky, where the colony-pod of his nearest neighbors was again rotating into view. It baffled him, that they would choose such an asteroid. The dangers were many, when one was a Spacer calling. It was new, and so had no actual leaders, no representation on the council, but Eyashi and his mate Salakha had their eyes on the future.

Yes, their bones were de-mineralizing, becoming brittle in the low gravity. And their eggs required special treatment. Already they had lost one of their sons, when he hadn't secured the seals on his spacesuit properly. Still, only one child in five months. The mortality rate in the oceans of Nest Prime were as deadly, and Nest Second was worse. He might still be wondering whether the wildlife had eaten his son or whether his neighbors had just gotten hungry.

Out here, mining the rocks for the silicates needed to feed the maw of the ceramics industry was peaceful, and it gave him a place in society that he hadn't had on Nest Second. But still, he wondered. There were rumors of a new world beyond the anomaly.

One couldn't spend an entire lifetime in space, even with medical suppliments. The six months he and his wife could exist in space before they were trapped there was nearly exhausted. Eyashi wouldn't have minded that, of course. It was like the inside of a sargasso, the calm of space.

But it wasn't his call to make, and Salakha had made her wishes clear. For two months, she had been petitioning the lower merited leaders of the Economic calling, the Traders, to cycle back to Nest Second. Eyashi knew he could never persuade her to stay here, in safety – she wasn't happy unless she were locked gums-deep in biting something at least as large as she was.

And her venom was strong!

If the waters of the new world were breathable, she would find the adversity that she professed to hate about life, but sought out with such passion. She was a ferocious adversary, particularly when defending their children. Children whom she had claimed needed gravity to develop normally.

Eyashi started bounding toward the dig site. He'd bet four scales from his chest that whatever the conditions on the new world that it had gravity.

Rumor had it that Spacers had a five point advantage in the tests to be among the first colonists of the still un-named orb.

It was a good midnight, he decided, to be a Spacer.


Interlude – Gateway System, Monitor-1 Fleet
Asaka flipped a shell into the pot, listening to the clink-roll she had learned to love. Her hearing was more acute and accurate than most. She counted it as compensation for her decreased sense of smell, a malady that had ordained either suicide or a career with Exploration. She regretted choosing to transfer to space exploration – the hum from the ship systems that nobody else could hear!

On the other hand, she'd only lost one friend to a micrometeorite – and none to hungry Sklathil. The pained screams of her sisters, or their curses as her shell finally began settling. She knew which one she preferred.

She looked forward, at the viewscreen of the cockpit. Shashara was leaned far back in the co-pilot's seat, only the methodical rocking of her chair indicating that she wasn't asleep. But it was the screen that drew her hypnotic attention. Not the drive fields of the nearby ships, in conical formation behind the Probe, but the planet beyond, blue-green oceans speaking of life.

If, as her sisters had joked, there were no tidal viruses. Or voracious predators. Or the ocean just had too much aluminum, or some other unfriendly element. Or – and this thought annoyed her more than knowing which parts of the ship were on – the possibility of a hostile race with starship technology.

Oh, the Scientist calling had developed improved weapon systems. But the Monitors only had the latest in sensors. Like a school of suicidal fish, the fleet of Monitors approached the unknown.

But Asaka had winnings to collect, and possibly to lose back only to win them again.
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Re: Sithri Meritocracy (Early Turns)

Postby Rhishisikk on Mon 03 May 2010 05:06

Private Meeting – Hexagon, Office of Research

Vashthan raged at Hmychee, his hood fully extended, drops of venom mixed in with his phlegm. “What do you MEAN there is no timeline? Are your scientists working on projects, or just spending government funds exercising their whims?”

Hmychee was unperterbed, except for a random drop of venom that hit his eye. It burned, but he had the foresight to inject a dose of antitoxin specifically for Vashthan's venom prior to this discussion. He might not be a genius anymore, but he wasn't stupid, either.

“How long will it be until you defend us from our first foe?”

“THAT depends upon when Exploration calling does THEIR job and locates such a threat! It depends upon Economic calling granting us the funding and shipyard space to take an array of CONCEPT DESIGNS and make an actual fleet! This mish-mash of impressive ships is nothing without a comprehensive fleet design.”

“And are you not missing the point?”

“I KNOW MY POINT AND YOU ARE NOT LISTENING!”

“You mention Exploration. My people are also exploring terrain – mental terrain – and we cannot guarantee the discovery of land, nor of minerals, nor of thorny problems – call them Vahshasa, or a school of Sklathil. We simply cannot provide a path of warm water, always flowing in the direction you desire to travel.”

Vashthan sputtered, but still loomed over Hmychee's desk.

“Now, to your fleet issue? What environment do you anticipate fighting in?”

“We need fleets for warp point assault, warp point defense, planetary assualt and defense, and for open combat – a minimum of five fleets. I don't care if we have to put them in mothballs. We need more ships. If we run across a hostile system with even half our economy into their military, we ARE doomed.”

Hmychee leaned forward, calmly standing to place his nose level with the taller Vashthan's. “And if our economy were just three times larger, our current budget percentage would equal theirs. Do you propose halting research into weapons and armor to build a fleet of obsolete junk? Perhaps you meant instead to give up our industrial development, those advantages that allow us to supply said fleet?”

Vashthan pushed his nose up against Hmychee's, but leaning over the desk prevented him from raising his nose above what Hmychee could match. “We need more. And we need it faster. And I read in these reports that you are only 'patching the holes in a rampant research program'? What am I to think of that? Why are we not building on our strengths?”

“Our weaknesses are limiting our strengths. A tower may only be built so large before it exceeds what its base and frame can support. We MUST work on the basics IN ORDER to extend our dominant techniques farther. And part of that includes such things Military caste deems a waste, such as electronics and commercial engines. Many things we consider advances do not result in an improved weapon, in a smaller shield generator or denser armor. We cannot attack science, we must discover it. And like exploring a reef, we cannot leave nooks and crannies unexplored just because we think we know what is there – it might be Ashalarn or Sklathil. In either case, something better discovered sooner rather than later.”

“But in either case, one still swims the same. One maintains claws, and venom.”

“Odd that you would mention that. Aren't you taking dietary suppliments to improve your muscles, your reaction time, that strengthen your venom? How many of your calling have been saved by the 'worthless' science of medicine?”

“If you are wrong, the entire nest is destroyed. Be certain of these waters before you swim in them. Before the enemy troops land on Nest Prime, I WILL stop by your office and throttle the life from you personally.”

“Vashthan Stormlord, if I am truly that wrong, I shall help you to do so.”

Private Meeting, Hexagon, Office of Economy
“Saethass! How are you doing, young one?”

“Rhighiri.”

“Is that any way to greet the Grandmother?”

“Rhighiri Grandmother, your title does not make you MY grandmother. You have already shown that you have no respect for my calling.”

“How is that, young one?”

“Don't even try to deny that millions of people – millions – are already off to the asteroids. How much more productive would those people have been in another month?”

“Saethass Coinmaster, did you not expend your part of the budget on that, also?”

“We did not need that investment doubled! Asteroid populations are the last resort, not the first. You, second only to Ahimsa, should understand the expenses involved with living anywhere but on oceanic worlds. Water IS a limited resource.”

“When was the last time you were in the water, Saethass?”

“Last night. You know that already.”

“And did YOU know that there were young adults who have NEVER spent a full day using their gills? Do you understand how truly densely packed Nest Prime and Nest Second have become? Did you think the Population calling had imposed nesting limits for no reason?”

Saethass shook her head in a warning gesture. “Unemployment is down to an all-time low. Not all of those jobs are mucking out nuclear reactors, or purifying the muck at the bottom of trenches. After a certain threshold is reached, your populations need to be given that freedom to service their own needs instead of just that of the government.”

“I am missing your point, Coinmaster.”

“We need to make a larger surge into the new system, rather than a smaller one. That means not squandering our funding on maintaining a population made invalid by short-term economic needs. You eat kelp at the fronds, not the roots!”

“But during the time it takes Ahimsa's people to do their job, why do we not grow our population as we can? For every thousand that leave for the asteroids, another thousand -minus expenses, of course – have room to grow. I shouldn't have to explain to you that our agriculture is more than sufficient, nor that ground asteroid rock is one of the more popular 'fillers' in modern mulch and fertilizers.”

“Which does NOT mean that we need another of those – monsters – your calling clogs our docks with.”

Rhighiri was unperterbed. “That is our budget, and those monsters as you call them, don't change the fact that nearly a third of our shipyards are still unused. Nor that two thirds of our shipyard use is packed with those small yet expensive vessels favored by Ahimsa's needs. When we CAN exploit worlds beyond the Gateways, we shall. Until then, if Economic calling doesn't save for that time, why would you be upset that Population calling follows your lead?”

Saethass felt her hood begin to rise from her shoulders. “You have never followed another's lead, Grandmother.”

“Indeed not, but I can tell that whatever you truly are upset about, it is neither me nor the actual budget. How much is that expected to improve, if I may ask?”

“You may, but I cannot yet answer. In addition to taking a chunk out of our budgets, now that Diplomacy and Military are putting their people to use, my calling is unable to gather data as quickly as they used to.”

Rhighiri hissed.

“No, seriously.” inisted Saethass, “You'd be surprised how quickly people agree to file their economic returns quickly when you send a steroid-built marine to have a polite discussion with them!”

Private Meeting – Nest Capitol, the Shallows
Rhishisikk ignored protocol and slapped a button near the tub. He remained floating in the slowly cycling water, almost hypnotized by the warmth. But if Ahimsa had come to seduce him, she would be sorely disappointed – there were side effects of the Stasis Egg that were not widely advertised.

“Trackmaster.” he greeted her, “What is so urgent that you felt the need to trail me to my nest?”

“When will we receive the updated protocols for determining the sentience of animals?”

“So far as I know, Research calling is still not certain whether the Ashasha jellyfish are a sapient species. If their standards haven't changed, how can you expect us to give you updated protocols? And not on linguistics, but rather whether a trainable animal is a pet or a primitive? Do you even think that Rhighiri or Saethass would hesitate to crush a pre-tool sapient?”

“Wouldn't you? If something were out there that might swim beside us as equals, isn't it worth waiting a thousand years for it to grow to that status?”

He tried to hiss, what his species considered laughter, but his relaxed nasal cavities just wouldn't allow it to be more than a wuffling noise. “If the chanters of science fiction are correct, we will not have a thousand years. Space is full of the most disgusting and alien life forms.”

“That can't be-”

He splashed, enjoying too much the feel of warm water. He couldn't afford to sleep now – Ahimsa WOULD explore every nook and cranny of his homestead, including the cold files on his home computer. “Cryanoids, traveling between stars and coveting the frozen husks that orbit the outer rim of solar systems. Space Vash, ingesting bio-matter to preserve their forms in the cold of space. Plasmoids, living in suns. The Sentient Ick, a psychic disease that turns our own population against each other. All this, hiding in the infinite black of space.”

“How CAN that be YOUR attitude? Your kind negotiate conflicts – why would you quote chants of races that cannot possibly communicate with us?”

“What is common to all of them? Are they – sentient?”

“Not the Space Vash!”

“No, not the Space Vash. But that could be a point. Sentient or not, each of those threats chose not to communicate, and was a threat to the entire species. No matter what happens, the laws of infinite probability insist that there is a threat out there that only Vashthan's calling can handle it. At least one, if not multiples.”

Her nose closed, her eyes squinted. “Yet you disagree with many of his methods and logics. You are going somewhere – I sense a path to your argument.”

“Heh. Complete the path, then, and see if you arrive at the same destination.”

“The law of infinite probability says there is at least one dyed-in-the-wool enemy out there. It must also include the opposite end of the spectrum, that at least one race exists that is our truest friend. And between them, and infinite variety of shades and attitudes between the two extremes.”

“Exactly.”

“And that is why we MUST have those protocols, First Voice. Are we as evil as the Cryanoids, to destroy an inferior sentience for living NEAR our habitats? Are we the Space Vash, looking only at the nutrition provided by a sentient? Are we plasmoids, destroying all without technology compatible with our own? Are we the virus, spreading throughout the stars and crushing all beneath our all-absorbing will?”

She answered her own question. “Not while a chair in the High Lord's meeting is mine. Never on my watch!”

As she stormed out, Rhishisikk wondered at the conversation. The young one just didn't realize how much life out there was able to communicate. Why waste time trying to talk to a mere animal? Had he been wrong to speak plainly to her? He was too warm to to care...
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Re: Sithri Meritocracy (Early Turns)

Postby Rhishisikk on Wed 26 May 2010 09:19

Second Month
Gateway System, Monitor-1 Fleet


Ashala didn't understand what all the fuss was, or why she needed to be awake to see it instead of a recording. It was a blip on the screen, following a string of other blips. It resembled a tether-line of Hahsha beetles, each following the scent of the beetle before them.

“See, see?” trilled Ikoka, in her too-high-pitch-for-morning-conversation voice. Ikoka tried to count cards. If she ever developed anything that resembled a memory, she might be a threat.

Ashala tried to look interested, and failed with a yawn. “Spawn class. We knew they'd be here.”

“No, silly. Look at the color.” Color. So many of the youthful generation forgot that their elders hadn't been spliced for that gene. “That's a military drive signature.”

And she DID see it now, how it trailed slightly behind its fellows. Military drives were good for short bursts, but for Ashala's money, nothing beat the reliability of the commercial drive. And best of all, no lethal radiation – her rights to the spawning pools wouldn't be ruined, provided she didn't stay in space more than six months. Now if they had a set of spawning pools for spacers...

But no, the puff-brains in the government couldn't see past their petty feuds to even notice that problem. Spacers just weren't that valuable of a commodity, not while the colonists were evacuating the worlds of Nest at this rate.

Ashala hadn't even gotten to smell the atmosphere of the new world; her experience had been limited to sensor scans and analyzing information gathered by shuttle pilots, like Ikoka. Probably for the best. An entire beach to herself? She'd have started a spawning pool in a cove somewhere, if she had to catch a turtle to fertilize the eggs.

She envied the colonists, getting to stake out the best spots for so many months before she was eligible to swap out for her own little home. It just wasn't going to be above the water-line. Oh, the life support tried to keep salty moisture in the air, but it just wasn't the same as immersing oneself in water, in breathing it through your gills. Every time she took it up with her ship-sisters they spoke of Sklathil and other dangerous beasts.

And there were some of those in the oceans of the new world, and others on land. It was a wild land, full of danger. But among those dangers weren't the Purists, nor the One Pool fanatics, nor those weirdos who only raised a mere two dozen or so young in indoor pools. Perhaps most alluring was the concept of space.

Unlike Nest Second, the people on the new world wouldn't be stacked upon each other, choking the environment with their industrial by-products. There would be no toxic tides, no acid rain, no prion warnings. And if something WAS foolish enough to invade her privacy, she could always use a free snack.

And the extra tools and funding provided for her tour of duty wouldn't be too shabby, either. She'd miss her sisters, of course. But to breathe a clean tide – that bliss was worth leaving behind this broken promise of exploration and discovery.



Doorway System, Narwal Cruiser, Magazine Room 2

Kagaro hated his nuclear charges, each one leeching off trace radiation. Although 'safe' individually, the thirty of them together radiated a field that made his skin itch. He didn't care if every sensor told him his exposure was still less than those fools who worked in the drive chambers; he knew that his DNA was slowly being sandpapered away by their presence.

He didn't even understand WHY he had to watch the things; it wasn't as if some terrorist team COULD get through the drive field, shields, and armor. He wasn't even needed to throw the switch turning on the motors and pulleys that could ferry his charges to their launchers. Fourfold damnation on the physicist who first conceived of capital ship missiles!

And just to make things worse, he'd had classes on just how useless these things were in a single vessel. The Narwhals were a new design concept; ships that were to work together in a tightly coordinated unit. It was increasingly becoming the norm; the navy barely discussed ships anymore, but worked in datalink groups. Even the beam vessels, which didn't benefit as much from the system were fitted with it.

Waste of time and effort, had anyone asked Kagaro. Which they hadn't, of course. In addition to his lowly station and plebian genetic makeup, he was male. Nominally, the matriarchies had ceded equal rights to his gender over half a decade ago. And he had to admit progress had been made. But not having to worry about being raped and envenomed in his quarters as he slept was a far cry from actual equality.

If he could find others who believed as he did, he might have formed a factional group, perhaps gained some concessions, like removing the mates-killed logos from the officer's coffee cups. Those women gave new meaning to the word 'cold blooded'. Genetics had never been Kagaro's strong suit, but there had been a time in evolution when the Sithri species had been little more than clever fish. Some billion or so years back – nothing that affected HIS duties.

No, the chanters of science fiction had it wrong; Kagaro was convinced that there were no sentient species. Hadn't the Sithri jump-started their own evolution, even before the splitting of the atom generated the threat of world-venom, of weapons so powerful they threatened world oblivion? What other species could have that kind of head start? Kagaro lived in a world of despair and hopelessness, where the last great predators worthy of fighting had all been slain by legends.

And so he filed his report. All thirty of the missiles were in place, each one capable of killing about 20,000 rebels – when the colonists got uppity and started eating each other. Kagaro had no delusions; it was one thing to mix the populations on the Prime and Second worlds in asteroids. It was another to mix them on an unspoiled world. It could only end with the Omega Order, the command to annihilate everything from orbit.

The orders were specific, to protect the colony from space threats. If that had been the TRUE purpose of their mission, they would have sister ships, or at least escort vessels. Instead, his vessel was alone, exposed. And it wasn't as if alien life ACTUALLY existed. At least not intelligent alien life, not the sort that could conceive of capital ship missiles.

And Kagaro looked forward to that day, for he would be free of the itchy feeling all over his skin that the missiles gave him.




Nest Prime, Hexagon, Office of Research

Rhishisikk wasn't supposed to be walking for another two weeks, so he took pride in doing so. He wasn't foolhardy enough to walk all the way across the Hexagon – he was recovering faster than Vashthan, but not by enough to endure that length of trek. Not yet, anyway.

He could have ridden the flow tubes, but the water in them always tasted – unsavory. It didn't surprise Rhishisikk that the government provided the least amount of life support that would actually keep their personnel healthy – rather, it amazed him what people would accept.

But he didn't have long to ponder these thoughts before he was permitted into the MindFire's office. Rhishisikk had expected a clutter, but he was surprised. Hmychee Mindfire kept his office serine, and oddly free of the plastees (silicon plastic replacements for the pressed sea-kelp, for actual writing) that littered Rhishisikk's own office. Exactly what had brought him to the Mindfire's office.

Hmychee himself was engrossed in what appeared to be a lumpy length of fish-sausage. He motioned with the claws of his hand, and the pieces of the holographic puzzle re-arranged themselves. “With you in a moment.” he said. “Wish we could just spinal mount these doubly cursed missiles. It would be simpler.”

“I'm not about to be tricked into THAT conversation, Mindfire. “I'm here to learn about this SIGIL system, that sends files and such by voice command.”

“There's a tutorial in the online training files.” Hmychee said, still not moving his head from his modeling.

“It doesn't work. Not the Sathanik version, anyway. Is this scale correct?” He had tapped the legend, and enlarged it where he could read it.

“You just need to recompile the libraries. Admiral Ashalah calls it her 'battleship proposal'. It'll take months just to lay the skeleton down, if the funding gets approved.”

“That doesn't work, either. It's as though the base Sathanik language files were corrupted. How much... huh. How does Vashthan expect that kind of figure to get approved?”

“Beyond my ken. He's not sparring with the Coinmaster, at least. But I'd wager a month's research data that he's working on Itashi High Lord's fear of whatever's lurking in the Green Storm Nebula as part of that plan.”

Yes, that irritation had been Rhishisikk's for the past two months. Communication buoys were invaluable – in colonized systems. They even generated a few million credits just keeping the colonists in touch with their associates back in Nest. Oddly, things were calm on the new world, and had become locally tranquil. In spite of his misgivings, the new system had even a more dramatically peaceful effect than originally planned for.

Sadly, all this peace left Rhishisikk with leftover budget. Budget in metals and silicates and software and chips and services. The diplomatic calling was itself engaging in diplomacy, just to keep the pieces of its overly generous budget from filtering permanently out to other callings. Rhishisikk felt like he was at the mercy of a pack of financial Sklathil, and it wasn't that bad of an analogy.
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Re: Sithri Meritocracy (Early Turns)

Postby Rhishisikk on Wed 01 Dec 2010 14:43

Warp Doom Station, Green Storm WP
Simmis watched the reports. Reports that said that meager resources were being manufactured into laser buoys. At least two generations old, the core lasers were also poorly powered, and the capacitors too small. Simmis would never have approved the design herself.

But, here she hunched before her computer display, ordered to construct defenses against the threat a child might fear. For all the concern expressed over what lay within the Green Storm nebula, not a single survey vessel had yet transited the warp point. It was, in Simmis' opinion, a last ditch defense against the empty void of space itself.

Oh, she was certain there was LIFE out there. But how many societies, even if they were intelligent, would get past the development of nuclear power and weapons? Simmis expected to find nothing more dangerous than bacteria in space, and a full pattern of obsolete buoys would never stop that.

Other than that, she expected the Exploration calling to return nothing more than reports of orbiting debris and irradiated husk worlds, where life HAD developed. Where life had existed for a brief moment, and then destroyed itself in the hubris and petty concerns common to leaders everywhere. Leaders whose concerns meant that Simmis was here, doing nothing productive with one of the most advanced construction ships in history.

She sighed, and flipped her computer to the next report. Perhaps, just perhaps, she would find something in those reports that would allow her to do waste time more efficiently.


Month Three
Gateway Colony
Eyashi placed a hand out, a hand his daughter grasped in both of hers. Some day she would dwarf him, but for now she relied on the kindness of her father and mother. Her fangs hadn't grown completely, and she hadn't even started producing venom. So young, Eyashi thought. And she had been terrified on the asteroid. But now, standing in the sunlight of a virgin world made it all seem worth-while.

Nudged from behind, he continued down the ramp of the shuttle. His daughter tugged on his arm, wanting him to carry her. “You are too big, small one. Too heavy in this gravity. Even mother can't carry you.”

“Can so. You can too.” She sounded so much like her mother. Commanding.

And, Eyashi found, so correct. Just like her mother. A knack for being right even when logic and science suggested otherwise. And, just as her mother would have, she drummed on his head with enough force to drown out parts of the instructions.

Eyashi told his daughter to hold on, and gathered pastees. How to build your home. Eyashi already knew how to build one that was vacuum sealed. What to eat. What not to eat. How to enter the job pool. He already had a job in a rock quarry, with good odds of becoming an administrator. Known hostile animals. Location of public parks.

Wait. Parks? Plural? Eyashi pulled out the plastee with the map of Colony Third. “Ikkini, what do you see on this map?”

Ikkini was silent for a while.

“What is this?” he indicated the green spot with a clawed thumb.

“Park!” she exclaimed, tapping the same spot with a clawed toe. “Park. Park.” She tapped the other places. “Not just one! “Pool!” she said, tapping a spawning pool. Eyashi noticed there were multiples of these as well.

“Those are adult pools, tadpole. These are the symbols for children's pools.” Eyashi wasn't happy with how close those were to the water arenas, where hostile animals would be raised for the entertainment of women like his wife. Salakha had once told him she got her first taste of blood watching women settle their differences with finality.

What differences could they possibly have on this new world? There was no shortage of resources, nor of work. For those who desired combat, there were nets in the shallows and walls for those who wanted the challenge of fending off predators on land. Surely, even Salakha could find something more productive than killing her own.

On the fourth repetition, Eyashi even began to believe it.


Hexagon – Private Quarters of High Lord Itashi
Itashi refrained from clawing at her windows. Large though her quarters were, the feeling that the walls were closing in on her persisted. She had medications that helped with the anxiety, but they also slowed her mind down. Slowed it down to where she might just be a normal citizen.

Unacceptable. One thing that Itashi would never, could never be, be was normal.

Itashi looked again at the holographic display of the Warp Doom station, showing the first five of fifty scheduled buoys. It was all she could wrestle from the Coinlord, who wanted industrial structures the size of small cities, and from the Warmaster, who preferred large missile equipped vessels to the more practical stations.

But Itashi knew better. The warp points were more than doors, they were the cracks in the reef of the universe. Hold the cracks, and none of the predators could get beyond. The people, and therefore Itashi herself, would be safe. But only if they could control the warp points.

And Itashi had no doubts that there were hostile monsters in the ocean of space. Space was NOT empty, could not be empty. There was no environment that could support life that wasn't filled to capacity, sometimes over that capacity. There were always predators, just lurking about waiting to eat the people. Waiting to eat Itashi, if she were ever foolish enough to let herself be unsafe.

No, far better that other lives be out in the wild universe. Let others see strange sights and send back holograms and information. It was more than enough for Itashi to decide what shape their lives would take. After all, others had done so for her.

Before she had hatched, her genetic structure had been modified. She had undergone no fewer than three gene therapies before she reached adolescence. As an adult, she required none of the surgeries that most of her populace required. Her lifespan, like that of most of her council, was substantially extended beyond those of the general citizen.

And, in spite of what the chanters promised, she was in no hurry to extend those medical benefits to them. The murkiness of the water, browning with people's wastes, underscored how many of them there were. On plastee, half a million of the worst rabble-rousers, under the command of second-tier (but still promising) Called, were doing the job of dying on the subtle dangers of the new world, of thinning the herds of predators, of growing food that the colonists who would follow them would need. Off plastee, there were still too many people. More than could be permitted to breed freely, especially if their lifespans were tripled.

And, as the history of Nest Second showed, enough hunger resulted in mass cannibalism. In a culture that could accept such things as normal. Rhigiri Grandmother assured her that discovery of the inertial drive, reducing the delivery of supplies from months to hours, ensured that it would never happen again. Itashi knew better, had read confidential reports from First Voice. Even under penalty of death, cannibal cults existed in the depths and backwaters of Nest Second.

If it wouldn't deprive her empire of valuable resources, she would have purged the surface of Nest Second with nuclear fire. But, disgusting as the frigid oceans of that remote orb were, Itashi's safety relied upon putting lesser people between her and the dangers of an uncaring universe. And doing that would require more resources than normal minds could process.

Even with the new silicon base, construction used a large amount of metals. Plastics. Radioactive power sources for the engines. Artificial magnetics, capable of sustaining the inertial drive fields. Itashi didn't understand what the MindFire tried telling her about them and the scientific progress they allowed. They worked, and moved everything from distilled water to food to industrial electronics.

And that, in turn, allowed her shipyards to churn out colony vessels. Vessels which, in turn, moved people. People to stand between her and the predators that lurked in the unknown depths of space.

For better or worse, her people were now part of that ecology. And like any ecology, the predators were just circling before they closed in for the kill.

And if it was Itashi's destiny to be eaten by some manner of space-beast, or exterminated by another people, she would do everything within her enhanced intellect to make certain that she took as many of them with her as possible.
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Re: Sithri Meritocracy (Early Turns)

Postby Rhishisikk on Thu 27 Jan 2011 22:32

Green Storm Nebula
Amid the swirling chaos of gasses, a bubble formed. It was created by the electro-magnetic properties of something physics said shouldn't exist – but it did. The particles of gas charged, and the pressure of those like charges caused the gas to push against itself rapidly enough to form a near vacuum.

Not a perfect vacuum, for such a thing did not exist. And something that physics said shouldn't exist sprang into being in that near-void. A starship, mostly intact, fractured only on the atomic level by the frightfully impossible journey across multiple light years in less time than it takes for a particle physicist to consider what principles they need to describe to a layperson before describing what a warp-point itself actually was.

Like the gasses, the ship itself was ionized. Electrons, smaller than the rest of the atom (those that weren't broken into their component quarks) had been moved about in seemingly random patterns. The net effect was the same as if the vehicle and crew had been exposed to an electrical current. Fairly mild, considering the destruction and reformation that had actually occurred, but even these effects were enough to scramble computer systems and the equally fragile neural systems of the crew.

Even the silicon-concrete shells of the starship sparked with electricity returning to atoms in compliance with 'normal' physics. And even as the normalizing vessels sped away from the anomaly, restoring their inertial drive systems, other vessels also materialized behind them. This procession took roughly two minutes, from first to last.

By this time, the science instruments of the first vessels were already stabbing into the soup of the nebula, seeking other gravitational anomalies. Things that might (or might not) be other warp-points, doorways to stars even farther away. The crews, reduced to quivering bundles of flesh, were already free of their seizures and forming rational thoughts, confirming the readings of their instruments were relatively boring.

But only relatively. Although the swirling gasses held no malicious life, nor ignited upon the abuse of warp physics, the vessels of the Monitor-3 fleet recorded their readings for scientists back home. As explorers, they had some sense of the value of their data to the Research calling, even if it wasn't anything they themselves particularly wanted. It wasn't as if there were any need for 'electron cannons'. Current theory was that between nuclear weapons and focused light beams (lasers), the Sithri battle fleet was more than equipped for a confrontation with any conceivable alien threat.

As for the inconceivable alien threats? That was what Exploration calling was for, to search the darkness of space, to find those enemies as far from Nest as possible, to give the other callings as much time as possible to find some way for the species to survive. Much as the crews of Monitor-3 wanted to find sentient life, they also wanted to NOT find life sufficiently advanced to challenge their people.

Not that there was anything to fear here. Certainly, they had to form up in a condensed wave, due to the interference of the nebula with normal communications systems, but not so close that it impeded their exploration. In some ways, the nebula was even easier to explore than a system with a star and rotating planets would have been. Seeker Sass, the equivalent of a navy admiral within her own calling, was well aware of the advantages and limitations the nebula posed.

In one sense, she felt inexperienced; but no Sithri had ever performed a warp-point survey inside a nebula, so she pushed those doubts to the back of her mind. Instead, she spent her time mesmerized by the swirling colors on the monitor. Unlike most Sithri, she didn't even stop to consider what those displays looked like to those without the genetic alterations that allowed her to see lower-spectrum energies that were safer from a genetic standpoint than the ultraviolet. She looked at the screens and her thoughts were pushed away by the beauty.

Not that she snapped at the crew as they annoyed her with distractions. Monitor-83 was out of formation, but would be in the proper place for the next 'sensor-stab'. Monitor-87 had lost a crew-woman who had foolishly exited an airlock and been fried by the drive emissions that allowed her vessel to travel at nearly 12% the speed of light. Sass wondered if that crew-woman had shared her awe at the swirling mass she could only see on a view-screen. Gone was any jealousy of Seeker Moby, with her habitable planet.

She was still mesmerized twenty eight hours later, when her executive officer jabbed her in the neck with a sedative to force her to sleep.

She dreamed of swirling green, of a beauty that would be with her for the rest of her life.


Month Four
Hexagon, High Lord's Conference Room
“No, High Lord, that is not what I said.” pleaded Hmychee.

“Then say it again.” Itashi said, as cold as the lightless depths.

“The capacitor breakthrough has applications allowing us to restore shields at a rate unheard of prior to know, even under combat conditions. The points that are getting lost in translation is that the technology may never be stable, and that it just isn't DONE yet.”

Itashi's hood flared, all the more impressive because they were the only two present. Not that Hmychee thought she needed her guards to deal with him – she was short and thin by female standards, but she still out-massed him. And he was certain that none of her genetic tampering had removed her ability to produce venom.

“Are you telling me. This. Technology. Is THEORETICAL?” she exploded into his face, her fangs coming halfway into attack position. Comical, in some people. Intimidating, in her. Hmychee tried to think about her genetic improvements, but instinct wouldn't let him.

“Less so than before, High Lord. We are ready to move into planning, if not production, of the new technology.”

There was a snap as her fangs returned to rest against the roof of her mouth. “So you have made great progress toward this shield regenerator?” Her tone still carried anger, but less menace.

“Yes, High Lord. I caution you that like the shields themselves, the regenerator device is prone to burning out if overly stressed. It is a limitation of -”

A flick of her tongue silenced him. She waited.

“Begin the project. Our stand-off vessels, the Narwhals, should benefit from this technology, if nothing else. And Admiral Ashalah assures me that we will have need of larger ships, which will have space to mount more than one of these units. Like inertial engines, these devices can spread the load between them, share the stress?”

“Yes, High Lord. In theory. In sound theory, as it happens. We'll need the actual device to run tests on, of course.”

She snapped at his nose, a gesture of irritation. He felt the tension in his spine as he recoiled.

“I shall... begin the project immediately, High Lord.”

“Go.”

He wasted no time in doing so. When the door was closed behind him, and he was safely away from Itashi's guards, he withdrew his hand recorder. “Field trial of compound 17, report follows. Compound intensifies, rather than mutes, fear reaction. Useless for intended purpose, but has potential for interrogations. Memo to forward to Diplomatic for further testing.”

He didn't slow his pace until he was back in his own office, where he moved his desk to huddle in the corner. The after-effects lasted two days.

Hexagon, Military Wing
“I fail to be thrilled by this discovery, Mindfire.” said Vashthan, who continued pacing about the room. It was an energy suppliment, and the chemical had taken away the need for sleep – but prolonged use also took away the ability to sit still, to focus. And, thought Vashthan would never admit it, he was afraid that if he were not already addicted, he soon would be.

“The shield regenerator is crucial for our capital ships!” Hmychee retorted.

“And only our capital ships, which, by fleet doctrine, should be relying more on point defense than their shields, anyway.”

“You really ought not to discard this technology without looking at it.”

Vashthan dipped a hand in water, rubbed it on the bridge of his nose. He was dehydrating, and couldn't figure out why. “I'm not discarding it, Mindfire. I just don't think our ships are at a point where this technology is even useful.”

“Have you looked at my proposals for a different sort of battleship?”

Vashthan scoffed. “The one with the warts along its body?”

“The internal datalink is another technology that will change the way we do battle.” he lowered his nose. “When we perfect it.”

“Mindfire, let me be clear. We. Need. The space. For. Weapons. For things that blow enemy ships up, not for systems that let our women exchange naked photos of the captive males on their crews.”

The de facto status of men as captive upon the mixed-gender vessels was an open secret among the Warrior Calling, and to a lesser extent, the Stithri people in general. Survey vessels were small enough that males were able to commandeer their own vessels. On the larger ones – they held together against their own females with a pack instinct normally reserved for predators. But even if they had numbers on their side, which they didn't, the females were larger and more venomous.

“Warmaster,the concepts you're asking for – a radiation cannon?”

“To kill our enemies and capture their ships intact! Just like the chemical missiles. Has there been any progress on those?”

“There has, to date, been no progress on your -” (abominations) “ - radical ideas. The radiation cannon may be workable, but the risks to the crew-”

“Are acceptable!” insisted Vashthan. “We have an abundance of people. That means an abundance of Called. That means an abundance of Warriors. Even if we asked for volunteers, we would have too many to crew such vessels.”

“You can spare me the statistics lecture. I ran the figures after our discussion about gunboat pilots. That we're going to lay the keel for one of those meat grinders still churns my stomach.”

Vashthan felt the warm satisfaction in his hood and flowing throughout his back. “We're laying the hulls for four excellent carriers of the line. Gunboats are the immediate future, MindFire. Once we get past the expense, they are the tool that will allow us to strike at our enemies with impunity.”

“Warmaster, in your efforts to strike our enemies, do not forget – we need to survive that battle.”
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