Data File Updated: Monday, May 30, 2016  

(This is a collection of quotations from the forums compiled by fredgiblet, provided here in one huge chunk to make it searchable. For the most part Arioch is answering questions posted by forum-goers; when the question is included, it is listed in blue, and Arioch's answer is listed in white. Often the original question is omitted.)

WHAT DOES ALEX KNOW?

Although you could keep the ship's course a secret from most of the crew, they are all academy graduates with basic astrogation skills; they know how many jumps they've made and can guess the general direction... if somebody shows them a starmap, I'm sure they could recognize enough stars to be able to point out where Human space is. But, as it happens, Alex's original position (before he and Ellen were reassigned to damage control) was as a pilot on the bridge, so he certainly knows the Bellarmine's route. He also knows the location and rendezvous schedule of the Prabhu the fifth ship that is being used as a communications relay and refuel point.

As you can guess from Captain Hamilton's announcements to the crew on p.4-5, he kept them fairly well informed on the ship's location and status. Note also that the entire crew was taught the Trade language. The idea being that any member of the crew could (if necessary) function as an ambassador in the event of the senior officers being killed or incapacitated.

What Alex won't know are Humanity's defense plans, or the locations of the other three scout craft.

II

The existence of the Orgus and the combatants is common knowledge. The degree to which the Humans are outclassed and the genocidal nature of the war is probably not common knowledge. You have to tell the population something... you can't gear up a democratic society for war without explaining why it's necessary.

ARE WE BEING PARANOID ENOUGH?

Once the decision is made to send the scouts out, it's pretty much inevitable that the aliens are going to find you. In order to inform Earth that you've made contact, you're going to have to return home... and the aliens aren't stupid -- they can watch where you go. If you don't intend to let the aliens know where you are, what is the point of sending out scouts to establish contact in the first place? Is it reasonable to expect that an alien race will accept you as an ally if you won't even tell them where your country is located?

Quote:
I give a dedicated Loroi expedition between two and five years after 2160 to find one of the Terran colonies.


I give the aliens that long to find it, even without a dedicated expedition. Human space is not one star; it's 40 systems across 35 light years, the edge of which is only 217 light years from the actual front line. The Umiak are expanding aggressively in the direction of Human space, as evidenced by the conquest of the Orgus. The Loroi must also expand in the same direction to prevent being outflanked by new Umiak-controlled systems. Human space got stumbled into by refugees; they're going to get stumbled into by something more potentially harmful. Contact is imminent; the option to hide is not a viable one... unless you're going to try something absurd like evacuation or abandoning space travel and hiding underground. The whole premise of the scout mission is to make proactive contact, and attempt to gain more favorable terms while you still have something to offer (and they are still a bit in the dark about your capabilities), before one side or the other stumbles across Humans space and simply imposes a deal.

LOROI BIOLOGY

Even if the Soia-Liron/Loroi biology used an X-Y type scheme for determining gender (which is by no means certain), it's not necessary to multiply the number of gene types to get an off-balance gender ratio. Males produce both X and Y gametes; you just have the male produce a disproportionate number of the gamete type for the gender you want to favor. Earth mammals don't produce an exactly even ratio of X-Y gametes anyway... in Humans, about 5% more Y (male) than X is produced, and I suspect in other species the differential is more pronounced.

II

Loroi probably have better cold tolerance than Humans, as they conserve heat more effectively, but I would guess that their heat tolerance is about the same as ours.

No, I think it would be at about the same temperature as our limit, or about 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius). I don't think that having a lower core temperature would necessarily make you less resistant to heat.

III

Even assuming that Loroi and Umiak use the same chemical means of encoding genes -- which is highly unlikely -- trying to splice genetic material from one alien into an unrelated one is like pasting a section of LISP code into a Java program... it might do something, but only by accident, and the odds are a million to one that it will even compile. There may be something to be learned by looking at a LISP program and seeing how its code solves a problem that might help you to solve the same problem in Java, but the code itself (and sometimes even the algorithm) is not directly usable.

IV

Luckily, there would be no issue of paternity, because there couldn't be children.

V

Some of the characters have bluer lips to exaggerate their feminine characteristics (Tempo's being the bluest). Whether this is the natural result of her hot blood and pale skin, or some sort of makeup, is best left to the imagination.

VI

Birth defects or brain damage might produce a telepathic mute. Because Loroi social interaction relies heavily on telepathy, a telepathic mute would always be something of a social outsider. Probably not too different from how deaf people are treated in our society. The handicap would almost certainly exclude her from military service.

VII

The gender imbalance is not considered by the Loroi to be a mystery, but rather a necessity of a warrior race. Most Loroi assume that those races without such a gender imbalance (or a similar reproductive boosting mechanism) are merely not suited to galactic domination (read: inferior).

VIII

The Loroi are relatively long-lived, even without advanced medical technology, and can live several hundred years. Aside from very minor outward signs of aging (the bones and cartilage still grow slightly over time, resulting in older Loroi growing taller, and developing longer ears, noses, fingers, etc.), a Loroi can remain healthy and relatively youthful looking throughout most of her life. If a Loroi lives long enough (and few do), around age 400 her biological system starts to crash, and her body rapidly deteriorates. Medical technology can extend life from this stage, but their martial pride usually prevents them from taking advantage of it. One exception would be a certain class of elderly Listel who linger on well past their normal lifespans, serving as living repositories of information.

A long of things can dramatically shorten a Loroi lifespan -- physical violence, obviously, but also extreme stress, and overuse of certain telepathic or telekinetic functions.

IX

With lower energy requirements than humans, most Loroi probably only eat one meal per day.

I don't imagine telepathy requiring a particularly large amount of energy. The brain may be an expensive organ to operate in general, but in terms of use... I have never noticed getting hungry by thinking too much.

In terms of physical activity, a Loroi and a female humans of the same size and weight expend the same amount of kinetic energy to walk a certain distance, but how much food energy each must consume depends on efficiency and waste heat: efficiency in the muscles, efficiency in digestion, efficiency in the metabolic process of respiration and conversion of food to energy. But also, and perhaps most importantly, in the efficiency of the homeostatic system. Mammals expend a huge amount of energy just running our systems on idle... maintaining our internal temperature is very expensive. Exothermic creatures such as reptiles that do not expend energy to maintain temperature have vastly reduced dietary requirements -- a Komodo dragon the same size and weight as a human can survive on as little as one meal per month. Reptiles are of course less energetic than mammals in general and conserve energy in other ways as well, but you get the general idea. By having more efficient metabolisms operating at a lower internal temperature, Loroi generate less waste heat and therefore require less fuel.

X

A lower nominal body temperature does not make one less tolerant to hot environments, but rather more tolerant. An organism with a lower normal internal body temperature is more resistant to high external temperatures than a human is, because there is less internally generated heat to disperse into the environment. Terrestrial reptiles are extremely resistant to hot environments specifically because they do not generate internal heat (and can survive in food-deprived ecosystems for weeks without food because they do not have to expend the energy to maintain their own internal temperatures). Being so-called "cold-blooded" means that they are much more comfortable in hot environments than cold ones. The fact that the Loroi/Soia-Liron biochemistry can operate at a lower temperature than Terrestrial mammals can doesn't by any sense mean that they are any more susceptible to heat than we are. On the contrary, they can survive longer on the same amount of food (having to expend less to maintain our higher mammalian internal temperature), are comfortable at cooler "room temperatures" of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and have less of a problem disposing of internally-generated heat at temperatures above 90-100 degrees F. Overheating is, of course, still a potential problem, but the Loroi will have the same mechanisms that we have to cope with it, and will have a lower baseline temperature with which to work. The temperature at which human biochemistry overheats really has nothing to do with the temperature range at which Loroi biochemistry can operate.

XI

Under the current situation, a warrior female in the fleet on the front lines won't have a lot of leave time in which to get pregnant (since this means returning back behind the lines, as forward bases won't be safe enough to shelter males), but once pregnant she can remain on duty almost throughout the pregnancy, with notable exceptions being those with strenuous physical duty, such as marines and combat pilots. Most Loroi warships will have basic pre- and post-natal care facilities, and I can easily imagine that it's common to induce early labor or perform surgical extractions to allow the mother to get more quickly back to duty. Warships require regular resupply, so babies can be unloaded on supply ships or at base. Warrior children are not usually raised by the birth mothers anyway, so this shouldn't really constitute a problem.

XXII

Quote Voitan: With great medical advances, wouldn't it be possible to transfer the fetus to an artificial womb, and let a machine carry the pregnancy? Social stigma could easily bar this practice. Is it possible? Is it important enough to utilize resources for such a thing, if possible, and socially accepted?

I think it is probably cheaper and less complicated to do it the normal way. If your job is to sit at a console and punch keys, being pregnant is probably not going to significantly affect your job performance.

Also, with a live mother, there's the possibility of telepathic stimulation of the unborn infant. I'm not really sure how telepathically active a fetus would be, but it's something to consider.

TELEPATHY

Loroi telepathy is not limited to line of sight. Senders can broadcast to everyone within her range, or send specifically to an individual she already knows (even if not in line of sight), or send specifically to an individual she doesn't know, but who is within range of signature detection (so that she can properly "address" the message).

The normal sending range for most Loroi will generally cover most of a ship's inhabited area, which tends to be the relatively small region in the center of the ship. For telepathic messages which need to move farther than this range, the message can be relayed, similar to a verbal command being passed along a WWII submarine from one compartment to another. Of course, this sort of relay would be restricted for certain official uses, much in the way an audio intercom would be.

II

Loroi telepaths can broadcast to all Loroi within an area, or they can send a private signal to one particular Loroi they either know or can see. They can't broadcast to a certain subset of people, though they can send individual messages to several different people in rapid succession.

Beryl would have broadcast her request for the shoes, and it would have been relayed to the quartermaster, and nearly everyone on the ship would have "heard" the message or its relays. Because everyone hears such a relay, this method would not be used by everyone to order new shoes, but rather only for special, official business. Getting shoes for the alien was considered important.

The Loroi do not usually communicate ship-to-ship via telepathy, but via conventional voice and digital communications. Ship-to-ship telepathy would have to be amplified; you'd either have to have Farseer-level telepaths on both ships (who could send messages directly to each other), or the message would have to be broadcast loud enough for everyone on the target ship to hear, which would be disruptive (especially to those on the sending ship).

From your description, Bonewits' psi system seems to be closely based on the standard SJGames GURPS psi system, including telesend, telereceive, antipsi and the like. The main difference between Loroi telepathy and the GURPS system is that in GURPS Telesend is literally "sending thought", and Telereceive is literally "reading someone's thoughts". In Loroi telepathy, Send and Receive are the abilities to send and receive telepathic messages, which are not literally thoughts, and the ability to read someone's unsent thoughts is a completely different skill.

III

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mjolnir
Could a particularly talented Loroi manage a multiple-simultaneous-target contact? Something like the way some people can follow multiple conversations better than others? How easily can a Loroi focus on one particular "speaker" if they are the target of multiple contacts? That is, is it a simple "loudest speaker is heard most clearly", or could a pair of Loroi engrossed in a discussion "tune out" other Loroi to the point that it can be hard to get their attention? Or do all telepathic conversations seem to happen in the same "place" to the receivers?


I think this can be treated almost exactly like verbal communication, since what we're talking about is the brain's ability to comprehend, regardless of the medium. It is difficult, but not impossible, to follow two simultaneous conversations.

IV

Range of Farseer sense varies. "Average" Farseers are generally able to sense some distance into the Umiak lines, although most don't have the "resolution" to detect ships distinctly from planetary populations, so for the most part they can only detect ships when they have entered the lifeless Steppes, or occasionally when they are moving through largely uninhabited "transit" systems. Combined with the scouting ability of the fast-attack groups, and the intelligence work of the Mizol, the Loroi try to keep close tabs on Umiak fleet movements.

V

Loroi telepathy is a product of the way the Loroi brain is structured; there isn't a telepathic "organ" or something similar. It's not entirely clear even to the Loroi exactly what makes some telepaths more powerful than others, so I doubt that it's something the Umiak could easily adapt to their own physiology. Umiak and Loroi would have very different genetic systems. No doubt the Umiak did a great deal of experimentation on the populations of the Loroi planets they captured early in the war.

VI

As Siber mentions, it's the intimacy of the physical link that makes casual contact unwelcome. In terms of a sexual encounter, the intimacy of the physical link would normally be considered an enhancement to the experience. A non-telepathic creature might be more comfortable as a "buddy" that a Loroi could rub up against without telepathic contact, but since the avoidance of casual touching is an ingrained social behavior, normal circumstances wouldn't offer that many situations in which a Loroi would be rubbing up against an alien. Well, normal circumstances, anyway. But also, the telepathic physical link is a non-sexual way that same-sex friends can express intimacy, so there's a limit to how much of a "buddy" such an alien would be.

VI

They're touch-operated controls. Some key switches may require the telepathically "hot" touch of a Loroi to activate, however.

VII

We've had brief discussion about telepathy/consciousness as it relates to "quantum mind" before (though not using that specific term). Mjolnir makes a good point about the pitfalls of attempting to make too-specific explanations of fictional phenomena, but I think it may be going too far to suggest that we shouldn't think about it at all. Quantum mind suggests three concepts that can be of use in thinking about Loroi telepathy: that there is some sort of physicality to consciousness, that an object or event can span multiple planes of existence, and that objects or events can be physically linked in ways that are not obvious. Taken as a whole, that does offer some suggestions as to how one consciousness can detect the presence of others at distance, among other things. Such theories of how fictional phenomena may function are (in my opinion) mostly useful not for technobabble, but rather for suggesting additional possibilities that are implied by the function. But as was mentioned, it's having a consistent set of rules for how a phenomenon behaves, and not necessarily how well those rules relate to known physics, that is useful.

VIII

In this case, the explanation is a lot simpler... Fireblade did not have the same training in mental discipline that most Loroi receive as children that helps to keep subconscious telepathic "babble" under control.

IX

I think it would have to be a mixture of both. I imagine telepathy working on a number of levels simultaneously. Given that Loroi telepaths can read alien minds, and even something as simple as Alex's brain interpreting Fireblade's telepathic presence as an image, there has to be a universal element to telepathic communication. More complicated communication will probably require some sort of structure that (however intuitive it may be) must be learned, so this will probably lead to telepathic dialects. More complicated forms of telepathic communication (that is, higher-level than simply sending the image or description of an item every time the item is mentioned) can improve the efficiency of communication -- you don't have to send the full description of "dog" if your recipient already knows what a dog is, but rather a symbol instead -- but when such symbols are not recognized, you can fall back on more basic descriptions. Because of the speed and two-way nature of telepathy, such interrogative back-and-forth about what that "dog" you just mentioned is, might be a natural and non-intrusive part of normal conversation. Also, a structure and "grammar" to telepathy provides for an opportunity for clever and artful telepaths to socially demonstrate their wit and artfulness in communication.

X

Touching is not strictly necessary for telepathic connection -- the physical contact enhances the connection. It's not a binary on/off thing... standing close to someone may improve the connection to a degree, touching the person's shoulder through clothing improves it more so... touching the bare skin of the hand even more so, increasing with the amount and intimacy of contact.

XI

Telekinetic attacks against inanimate objects are limited by the Teidar's ability to judge distance to the target; it may take some "poking" around for her to achieve a hit looking through binoculars. Against a living target, a Teidar may be able to use her telepathy to pinpoint the location of the enemy, potentially even beyond visual range (if her telepathy is sensitive enough). However, a Teidar's attention is not infinite; in the midst of a heated skirmish, a distant sniper may be very difficult to notice before it is too late.

XII

For ordinary Loroi, detecting a telepathic transmission means being within the normal sending radius of that transmission. Loroi with exceptional telepathic sensitivity can detect transmissions beyond their normal range, and this can also be enhanced by large mechanical amplifiers. Such room-sized amplifiers are usually for the purpose of enhancing detection of signals (or mental signatures), and not broadcasting of signals.

Given enough power and instrumentality, it is possible to mechanically amplify an ordinary Loroi individual's telepathic transmission so that it may be readable at interstellar distances, but this is not usually done. Keep in mind that during the pre-starflight Loroi period of internecine warfare, amplified telepathic transmissions were used by the Loroi for the purpose of attacking the minds of their fellow Loroi, and the telepathic amplifiers worn by Mizol and Teidar are for the purpose of attack, not communication. If you imagine trying to amplify an audio signal generated from Chicago so that it could be heard in New York, and consider what that might do to the hearing of people in the surrounding areas, you get an idea of why this is potentially dangerous to unintended recipients. A telepathic signal can be focused in terms of "frequency" to attempt to limit the contact to an individual Loroi, but there are limits to how effective this focusing can be. Using telepathy at interstellar FTL communication is possible, but limited to unusual situations in which the target is a known amplified Farseer who can detect a transmission at a specific "frequency" and low enough power that it will not potentially lobotomize nearby ordinary Loroi, or where transmitter and receiver are in a "safe" location free of nearby vulnerable listeners, or else in such a desperate situation that the sender is willing to accept such a risk to telepathic bystanders. Warning an outpost of an incoming Umiak strike may not be worthwhile if you destroy the minds of the majority of the people you are trying to warn.

Farseers can sometimes transcend this limitation, but they are limited in number and, not to give too much away, in lifespan. Farseers are a limited resource that must be allocated very carefully.

XIII

Farseers detect the presence of the minds of a ship's crew. They can do this at great distance, but I would expect that the resolution of this detection at extreme range is not very good. By which I mean, if you have a planet a dozen light years away with several million people on it, and a ship in orbit with a few hundred people on it, I doubt a Farseer would be able to reliably pick out the crew of the ship as separate from the population of the planet. Farseer detection is most effective when the enemy is moving through unpopulated areas, which is why the "dead zone" of systems has become an important advantage in the current Loroi defense. It is least effective when enemy forces are stationary in enemy territory. When the Loroi offensive regained lost ground and neared Umiak-populated territory, it became harder for the Farseers to accurately determine the locations of the Umiak fleet's reserves.

XIV

The Loroi female should only store the male gametes long enough for her reproductive system to come online; this is a mechanism to avoid the need for regular menstrual cycles, but it's not intended to eliminate the need for multiple matings, which are necessary to control population growth. If the female could store sperm indefinitely, then the female could continue to reproduce indefinitely without further copulation (like an ant queen), and that would make limitation of access to males useless as a form of population control.

Also, this activation of the reproductive system would be involuntary, likely triggered by the act of fertilization itself. No doubt appropriate drugs exist to suppress this activation for those who are not interested in getting pregnant (or triggering a pointless menstruation, even when other contraceptives are used). But in any case the female would not trigger conception "at will."

Originally Posted by Entity325
So apparently for the Loroi, conception occurs about a month after?

Probably more like a week or two. In humans, I think it takes about two weeks to ovulate, and about a week to prepare the uterus after menstruation (both being done concurrently).

XV

Yes, the glowing eyes are a cue for the reader that there is a psi ability in operation. Whether or not it is real or perceived is an open question.

XVI

Just one slight question, the TK/PK ability requires that you SEE the target, i am wondering about manipulating something INSIDE something you can see.(specificly refering to mental surgery, which could be HIGHLY useful for a spook....with enough understanding of anatomy it should be possible to create a death that would look VERY natural without a rather detailed autopsy.)
As long as you can locate the target, whether through sensory contact or anatomical guesswork, you can affect it. Without some sort of sensory feedback, however, it may be difficult to determine whether your attempt was successful.

Pinching off blood vessels, especially around the heart, or constricting the heart itself would also be effective ways of killing someone that might be difficult to diagnose.

XVII

Originally Posted by Mjolnir
Does the force available depend on the mass, volume, or cross section of the object? Or can it be exerted on a small pebble as easily as on a wall?

I think this would depend on your degree of skill at manipulation. Ideally, you could choose whether to spread the force across a large area or focus it on a small area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mjolnir
As for the PK...regardless of heat capacity or phase changes? Or for your typical bag of mostly water?

Both PK applications involve adding energy (in the form of heat or kinetic energy) essentially from "nowhere," so I wouldn't think that conductivity or heat capacity would matter... though I am open to being convinced otherwise.

XVIII

TK can be used to move any object, including yourself. If you have power sufficient to lift your own weight, and control such that you don't hurl yourself into the ceiling, you could "levitate" with it.

If you weigh 200 lbs. in Earth normal gravity, it takes 200 lbs. (890 N) of TK force to levitate.

In the Outsider system, the force comes out of "nowhere" and is arbitrarily applied to the target. The user does not experience any opposite force, nor is she required to supply the energy required to generate the force. Obviously, this breaks several rules of physics, but there is nothing to prevent you from applying the force to yourself.

In a more "realistic" TK system that tries to obey the laws of physics, in which, say, the TK user had some sort of organ that could generate a field capable of moving objects, then when she applies a pushing force against an object, she should experience an equal, opposite force. This means that she should be able to lift herself off the ground by pushing down against it.

XIX

Yes, the problem with the "realistic" system is that the more you flesh it out, the more problems you run into. If you're experiencing the Newtonian "pushback" from your TK use, chances are you're experiencing that force specifically in whatever organ is producing the "TK field". How much force you can apply is going to be limited by how much pushback force you can withstand yourself, and if said organ is your brain, that's going to be a serious limitation. Even if the pushback force is somehow spread across your whole body, your TK is still going to be limited more or less to the amount you could physically lift yourself. Trying to lift a boulder is out of the question... you'll crush yourself.

Then there's the question of the first law of thermodynamics: how do you supply the energy required to generate TK force? If your body is required to supply this energy through it's own metabolism, this is also going to limit you to lifting not much more via TK than you could physically. I recall someone telling me about a system for powering TK -- I think it might have been a Niven story -- in which the TK user "paid" for the TK use by having heat drawn out of his body... and if he lifted something too heavy, he'd freeze to death.

XX

The story requirement is that Fireblade has very powerful telekinesis, able to apply several tons of force. I mentioned above the problems this poses in terms of power source and reaction force. Given these requirements, it seems to me the only "realistic" solution is that this force and the energy required to power it can't originate directly from Fireblade's body, as the "equal and opposite" force would kill her, and a humanlike body really isn't capable of producing that kind of energy anyway. So that means it has to come from somewhere else.

Adding detail does not always add realism. If you're on shaky scientific ground to begin with, trying to explain a system you don't understand can do more harm than good. You could develop some sort of "equal exchange" system to justify the power source, similar to that used in Full Metal Alchemist, in which which the TK user converts matter to energy and uses this to somehow generate a force, but I think this creates more believability problems than it solves. There is also the issue of artificial replication: the more you understand how psi works, the more likely you'll be able to artificially replicate the effect and eliminate the need for living psis altogether.

XXI

As was mentioned, unamplified telepathic messages don't have a very long range. This isn't a problem for communication within a ship, as messages can be relayed from one individual to another, kind of like a verbal command being repeated and relayed on a submarine in a WWII movie. For ship to ship communication, however, conventional radio or equivalent EM transmitter receivers must be used. The majority of this transmitted inter-ship communication will be data, but there is also voice communication.

As was also mentioned, in addition to the range limitation to normal telepathy, voice has the advantage that it can be recorded and archived. The Listel are used to record telepathic communications, but of course they are not computers, so a voice record is much easier to search, index and cross-reference than a Listel's memory. The voice interactions between the Loroi officers on different ships are terse, formal, and somewhat stylized, as you will see in the comic very shortly.

Telepathic amplifiers are only seldom used for long-distance communication. The main reason is crew safety. Imagine using a loudspeaker powerful enough to allow spoken commands could be heard on a naval ship from miles away; it might work, but would almost certainly shatter the eardrums of everyone on your ship. Telepathy is occasionally used for long-distance communication, but it is generally done with a modest amplifier on the sender (often a Mizol), and a much more powerful and elaborate reception-booster on the part of the receiver, usually a Farseer. Farseers are used because of their sensitivity, and Mizol are usually used as senders because they are often skilled enough to be able to send a message that is "tuned" specifically for the intended target, so that the disturbance to those near the sender is minimized. Farseers and Mizol are both in relatively short supply, and amplifiers are expensive (especially the room-sized ones used by the Farseers), so only squadron flagship will generally be equipped with them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karst45
in the post you linked they talk about Fireblade having "sleep talk" am curious as to where that information was said. was it a written novel?

We were discussing unconscious telepathic communication, and I mentioned that it's not uncommon for a Loroi to "talk" telepathically in her sleep, and in particular that this is problem Fireblade has. I think this is listed as a quirk on the character sheet, also.

XXII

The large room-sized Farseer amplifiers are for boosting reception rather than transmission (and to help screen out local telepathic noise); these are usual primarily for remote signature detection. A sender with a moderately powerful portable amplifier (such as one Fireblade or Tempo might use) should be detectable by a boosted Farseer, though you'll want to use a Mizol's ability to target the message to avoid disturbing Loroi near the sender, as these portable amplifiers are powerful enough to be used for telepathic attacks. Also since the information transmitted in this fashion is likely to be sensitive, you probably wouldn't want to broadcast it for public consumption anyway. But Farseers are a very limited (if somewhat abused) resource; there aren't enough of them to use as a living interstellar phone network.

Males are as likely as females to have Farseer-level telepathic sensitivity, and there is a subset of the male Philosopher caste that performs a function similar to that of Farseers, but males are not normally permitted to be Farseers. Though the Farseers are technically a civilian caste, they are often put aboard ship in harm's way, and even operation from a safe location carries with it potentially serious health risks.

XXIII

And to clarify: physical contact for a Loroi is essentially a boost for her normal telepathic abilities; it's like having a wireless device than you can plug in to a land line for a huge increase in bandwidth. It's not an "emotional" or empathic link per se; Loroi telepathy operates on a variety of levels simultaneously, conscious and unconscious, emotional and logical. But a better link with more bandwidth does allow for a more complex interaction... kind of like the difference between shouting a message across a river and whispering provocatively in someone's ear.

Loroi telepathic abilities can affect non-telepathic aliens, to a certain degree depending on that species' relative susceptibility, ranging from overwhelmingly effective (Golim) to no effect whatsoever (no comment). Achieving physical contact with the alien will increase the effectiveness of the telepathic contact, such as it may be. Even Alex, who has recently surmised that he must be resistant to telepathy in some way, was able to recognize Fireblade's telepathic presence when she touched him, and even to recognize that she was attempting to probe his mind. Actually, Alex's semi-conscious mind was able to detect Fireblade's presence even before she touched him... though this probably says as much about Fireblade's amplified power as it does about Alex's supposed resistance.

FIGHTERS

Quote:
Originally Posted by Keehra
As far as I remember, the crews of fighter crafts use oxygenized liquids to prevent grayouts/blackouts from gravitational pulls. This would prevent vocal communication, wouldn't it? In the Sidestory I let the pilots of the Poii fighters communicate telepathically. Please don't tell me I was wrong


The breathing fluid does prevent the vocal cords from operating (according to what I've heard), so the pilots will have to use an alternate method of communication. Telepathy doesn't have the range to be used for general-purpose communication, though it could be used in specific situations when the ships are in close proximity (so your comic page is not technically wrong there). Messages will still be sent by radio, but they will have to be generated by keypresses or some sort of neural link. If you've played a team-based first-person shooter, you know it's not hard to quickly send complex command with just a few keypresses, so this is probably a primary method of communication. An argument could be made that a neural link would be required just to control the fighter during high G-stress (when it might be physically very difficult for the pilot to move even her fingers), and a fluid-filled helmet no doubt restricts visibility, so communication through a neural link also looks like a strong possibility. I haven't given the matter a great deal of thought, because it's not something I plan on focusing on in the story.

II

Fighters can indeed be shot down with ease when at close range, and thus are not very effective against enemy capital ships, and are used by the Loroi primarily in anti-missile defense (as mobile point-defense batteries). They are also used to a lesser extent in larger numbers as long-range standoff missile platforms. I don't know where you got the impression that missiles in Outsider are useless, because they're quite useful when employed in certain ways. Because they can be easily shot down, they must be used in large numbers to overwhelm enemy defenses. Even the Loroi use torpedoes, but they don't have the ample supply of them that the Umiak do.

III

Human bone is roughly twice as dense as soft tissue, so when in an acceleration fluid that has the same density as soft tissue, bone should exert a force about half of its normal weight. Bone accounts for about 20% of human body mass, so we're talking about a force under acceleration on your bones that is roughly 10% of your normal weight. A fluid-suit human pilot under 40G will experience a weight similar to a modern pilot under 4G; moving one's hands or head inside the suit should not be a problem. Even outside the suit, I think you'd probably still be able to move your fingers pretty well; your hands are dense but not very massive. As acceleration increases, the weight of the bones will eventually start to damage the soft tissue, but that is probably into acceleration ranges that are outside the realm of this example.

As an aside, one way that G-tolerance could be improved in an engineered species would be to make the various body tissues as even in density as possible.

As for powered assistance, I don't think it will be necessary, but again... whatever feedback you would use to trigger the power assist could simply be used for ship control instead, removing a point of failure. User-friendliness is not the top priority here; sticking someone into a fluid-breathing suit is an inherently unnatural act. Anyone with even the tiniest hint of claustrophobia will be completely useless as a hardsuit pilot.

IV

A hardsuit helmet is probably big enough that you can move your head within the fluid independently of the helmet itself, but if your helmet is filled with fluid, chances are you're not going to be able to see much out of the front visor anyway. You'll have to depend on artificial visual inputs, be they projectors that deliver information directly to the eye, or "jacked in" data that bypasses the eyes altogether.

V

In an atmospheric aircraft, when an aircraft is crippled, it's going to crash, and the pilot is just an ejection away from safety. In a space fighter, there's no ground to crash into, and space is likely more dangerous than a crippled fighter. Space fighters might include escape mechanisms, but it would be an unusual circumstance in which being ejected into empty space would be less dangerous than just staying with the crippled fighter. It's also more likely, given the high damage potential of the weapons in play and the compact nature of the fighter, that any hit damaging enough to cripple the fighter will kill the pilot as well.

In the classic anime Gall Force, the fighters had an ejector hardsuit (called a "struggle suit", hehe) with thrusters that could maneuver -- and to a certain extent, fight -- on its own. In a realistic physics environment though, given the high velocities that a 40G fighter can build up, it doesn't seem likely that any suit thrusters could be sufficient enough to get you out of trouble in the moment (such as colliding with that planet you're heading towards), much less bring you to a safe harbor. And it would have to be a heavy, expensive item to carry around in a fighter.


ORDERS

Perhaps he's referring to such recorders on large ships, where you might want an audio record of what orders were given when, and such. Here the Listel on duty is the primary record, but this is obviously not sufficient, particularly if the ship is destroyed. Certain key types of orders will require a spoken component for the audio record... such things as weapons fire, change of duty, or other critical functions. These commands would either be spoken directly by the commander, or relayed in spoken words by one of the staff officers.

INERTIAL COMPENSATION

The effect of a kinetic hit on the ship will be the same to the crew no matter how the ship is accelerating. As the transfer of kinetic energy in such a hit is momentary rather than continuous, even if such a hit is not countered by the inertial dampers, a crewmember thrown into a wall by the force will hit the wall with exactly the same force whether she is thrown 50 meters first or whether the wall is right next to her. On the contrary, assuming that the artificial gravity is still working, the momentary jerk could be less of a problem along a long corridor, as the crew will still be pulled toward the floor by the artificial gravity, and will have a chance to use friction to roll to a stop before hitting the opposite wall.

The inertial dampers and artificial gravity are assumed to be fairly reliable. There aren't handholds all over everything, and there aren't great padded linings all over the walls. The damping system can counter any engine acceleration that the ship is capable of. As for an uncompensated kinetic hit that substantially alters the momentum of the ship enough to kill the crew... such a hit is also likely to cripple the ship.

Any engine (and here I mean powerplant) has a maximum output per second, and when you pump all of that into your drives, that's your maximum thrust. You may be able to temporarily increase engine output over 100%, but this just means more power... more power for the engines, more power for the inertial dampers. Thrust here is limited only by power generating capacity, not by crew or structural concerns. You can build a ship that will do 40 or 50 G, if you make it light enough and give it big enough engines. 30 G is a pretty ambitious figure... that's a lot of energy output for ships of the sizes we're talking about.

An inertial damper (which cancels the effects of acceleration) and artificial gravity (which pulls you toward the floor) are probably different mechanisms. It's true that you could use artificial gravity instead of an inertial damper to counter the effects of acceleration, but then you have to have very close integration between the AG and the drives, because if the drives should quit unexpectedly, then you have 30 G of AG slamming you toward the front of the ship. As Gallthan mentions, the fact that you have a reactionless drive suggests that you already know how to create an inertial damper, and that the two devices may be related. However, this doesn't necessarily solve the problem of how to create the artificial gravity that sticks you to the floor.

The initial idea on artificial gravity was that it was related to the jump drive mechanism; ships too small to have AG are also too small to have a hyperdrive. The most likely way I can think of to punch a hole in space-time through which to slip into hyperspace is by creating an intense gravitational field, so jump drive suggests artificial gravity generation. The fact that the intense gravitational field doesn't rip the crew or the ship to shreds implies an effective internal inertial damping capability. I suspect that all three effects (reactionless drive, artificial gravity, and inertial damping) are closely related. The rationale for small ships not having the latter two is that there is some sort of "critical mass", or rather of power generation, that is needed, and the small craft just can't produce that much power. (The real reason being that I wanted the Loroi to use fighters/carriers and the Umiak to use gunboats/tenders.)

MORE POWER

That's true; like in SFB, the engines are your primary source of energy, which is used to power most of the systems on your ship. There will be backup reactors and the like (auxiliary power), but big energy expenditures like firing the main batteries will require main power, that is, engine power. If you divert all power to the drives, you will be able to accelerate faster than if you are reserving some energy for weapons fire, but I'm guessing not by much. Accelerating a 350 kiloton cruiser at 30 G for one second requires 15 terajoules, which I suspect is enough energy in the form of weapons fire to burn that cruiser to cinders. If we hypothesize that the cruiser has four main batteries, and that each main battery requires about 10 terajoules to fire, and can fire once every minute, then maximum weapons fire consumes 40 TJ per minute, while the drives consume 900 TJ per minute. So diverting weapons power to the drives adds 4% more energy, which (assuming the efficiency remains the same) adds 1.3 G. If you can run the powerplants at 105%, that nets you another 1.4 G. So is "sprinting" at 32.7 G instead of 30 G going to save the ship? Probably not in most cases (an extra 2.7 G won't help you outrun a 60 G torpedo), but the option is there. The application that comes to mind is trying to get across a system faster in an emergency, but that's also the situation in which overloading the engines for a prolonged period is the most dangerous.

ARTIFICIAL GRAVITY

An inertial damper (which cancels the effects of acceleration) and artificial gravity (which pulls you toward the floor) are probably different mechanisms. It's true that you could use artificial gravity instead of an inertial damper to counter the effects of acceleration, but then you have to have very close integration between the AG and the drives, because if the drives should quit unexpectedly, then you have 30 G of AG slamming you toward the front of the ship. As Gallthan mentions, the fact that you have a reactionless drive suggests that you already know how to create an inertial damper, and that the two devices may be related. However, this doesn't necessarily solve the problem of how to create the artificial gravity that sticks you to the floor.

The initial idea on artificial gravity was that it was related to the jump drive mechanism; ships too small to have AG are also too small to have a hyperdrive. The most likely way I can think of to punch a hole in space-time through which to slip into hyperspace is by creating an intense gravitational field, so jump drive suggests artificial gravity generation. The fact that the intense gravitational field doesn't rip the crew or the ship to shreds implies an effective internal inertial damping capability. I suspect that all three effects (reactionless drive, artificial gravity, and inertial damping) are closely related. The rationale for small ships not having the latter two is that there is some sort of "critical mass", or rather of power generation, that is needed, and the small craft just can't produce that much power. (The real reason being that I wanted the Loroi to use fighters/carriers and the Umiak to use gunboats/tenders.)

II

The harnesses on the Tempest bridge chairs are for emergencies in which the artificial gravity fails or can't compensate for a sudden impact; this situation doesn't happen very often (as you can guess from the large open spaces in the ship's interior). Artificial gravity is required to cancel out the terrific acceleration generated by the ship... if your artificial gravity is out, you can't move, and chances are you're about to become very dead. As for momentary impacts, again, if the gravity system can't compensate for an impact, the instant acceleration will likely be enough to kill anyone who's not rigged into a fluid-filled pilot hardsuit, so it's not worth expending too much worry over. Except for certain positions (such as helm) that may be required by regulation to be strapped in at all times, most officers won't wear the restraints most of the time.

SHOE GIRL

"Shoe-girl's" name is Nial ("Cloud"), by the way.

MALES

Some of the Loroi males do belong to a civilian Philosopher caste, which is not strictly religious but does have some spiritual aspects, having similar functions to the Listel as a keeper of memory (though in a civilian context), and also providing some of the spiritual guidance that a priesthood might. I don't know whether Philosopher males would practice abstinence, but I doubt it. I think it would be kind of funny if Loroi spiritual advisors also gave physical comfort... sort of a cross between a Father Confessor and a Geisha. Then again, Loroi society is not monolithic... there are no doubt various sects with different practices, perhaps some practicing abstinence.

Anyhow, Beryl isn't hitting on Alex, and she doesn't think he's hitting on her. She is merely reminded by Alex's comments that Humans and Loroi are similar in many ways, and she's trying to cover the ones that could be potentially problematic.

II

Yes, a male Loroi character (Dozal Lenara, "The Welcome Rain") along the lines you mentioned is planned. He is the character depicted in this concept.

III

Loroi males would be limited to civilian education and careers, but would not otherwise be limited in those terms. They don't get pregnant and aren't generally involved in child-rearing, so even the most sexually active Loroi male will have free time to pursue personal, academic or professional interests. Male status isn't low, it's just somewhat restricted.

SEX

Some of the Loroi males do belong to a civilian Philosopher caste, which is not strictly religious but does have some spiritual aspects, having similar functions to the Listel as a keeper of memory (though in a civilian context), and also providing some of the spiritual guidance that a priesthood might. I don't know whether Philosopher males would practice abstinence, but I doubt it. I think it would be kind of funny if Loroi spiritual advisors also gave physical comfort... sort of a cross between a Father Confessor and a Geisha. Then again, Loroi society is not monolithic... there are no doubt various sects with different practices, perhaps some practicing abstinence.

Anyhow, Beryl isn't hitting on Alex, and she doesn't think he's hitting on her. She is merely reminded by Alex's comments that Humans and Loroi are similar in many ways, and she's trying to cover the ones that could be potentially problematic.

Beryl didn't say anything about monogamy or permanent relationships, she was talking about the one to one Human gender population ratio. Where a Loroi male has 8 or 9 females at any given time to worry about (if he's "pulling his weight"), a Human male only needs to worry about one. There's nothing to say it has to be the same female over time, or that a male can't "steal" an extra female from another male. On the contrary, permanent relationships between males and females are actively discouraged among the Loroi, who do not have the social institution of marriage or an equivalent. So that's not what Beryl would have meant.

II

As Siber mentions, it's the intimacy of the physical link that makes casual contact unwelcome. In terms of a sexual encounter, the intimacy of the physical link would normally be considered an enhancement to the experience. A non-telepathic creature might be more comfortable as a "buddy" that a Loroi could rub up against without telepathic contact, but since the avoidance of casual touching is an ingrained social behavior, normal circumstances wouldn't offer that many situations in which a Loroi would be rubbing up against an alien. Well, normal circumstances, anyway. But also, the telepathic physical link is a non-sexual way that same-sex friends can express intimacy, so there's a limit to how much of a "buddy" such an alien would be.

Regarding the female Loroi sex drive, I think the comment that I made was that female Loroi do not have as powerful a sex drive as male humans, and that Loroi have alternative telepathic means to satisfy a need for intimacy that could curb a "need" for regular sex. This was in response to speculation that Loroi females would necessarily resort to rape or homosexuality when deprived of access to males (as human males sometimes do). I did not mean to imply that Loroi females are frigid or uninterested in sex, merely that they're not as obsessed about it as most human males are. As Siber mentioned, a lowered drive is not no drive.

I don't think there's necessarily a trigger for a Loroi "breeding drive"; when presented with a ready and willing male, a Loroi female is unlikely to decline an opportunity for sex. The Loroi female needs to have an interest in sex, the ability to cope with long periods of time where it is not available, and the readiness to take advantage of the short periods of time when it is available. Anyway, all a female has to do is receive the sperm... it's the male that has to get "heated up", so to speak... and as we know, the Loroi males are constantly ready for action. The act of copulation itself is what triggers ovulation in the female, since in Loroi this is done after the fact (and sperm is stored until the eggs are ready). So the "breeding drive" is a social control rather than a biological one; a population explosion is triggered just by allowing more females access to the males.

III

A large, muscular frame would be a very alien element to the Loroi, so the reaction to such a male would depend heavily on the individual. It would be outside the normal Loroi standard of attractiveness, but it's important to consider that biology does not allow Loroi females to be especially picky about who they mate with.

Human females that like pretty or boyish men might find Loroi males attractive, but their small (almost childlike) stature might put some women off.

Since Loroi and human females are nearly identical, I have no doubt that most Loroi males would consider the possibility, if given the opportunity (which is unlikely).

IV

I guess an important distinction to draw is that for humans, sex is associated not just with pleasure, but as the glue that holds a long-term mating pair-bond together, and this mating pair-bond is the most important relationship in our society (in our Western culture, at least). For Loroi sex can be just as pleasurable, but they don't form long-term mating bonds, so for the Loroi the one has nothing at all to do with the other. The most important relationships for a female Loroi are going to be with her female relatives and comrades.

Another need that sex satisfies for humans is intimacy, but since the Loroi are telepathic, they have alternative, possibly more effective methods for satisfying this need.

So yes, I'm also interested in the kind of intense relationships that close bandmates might form, but I'm trying to resist the human impulse to sexualize everything, and I'd like to avoid the "amazon lesbian" cliché... it's not like there aren't plenty of examples already out there in webcomicry. And it's also not like a story about a lone male swimming in a sea of hot female space-elves really needs a whole lot of sexing-up.

V

Many of the Loroi will be expecting Alex to behave like a sex-crazed Loroi male; if he were to suddenly grab Beryl, they would make him stop, but otherwise it would probably be laughed off as silly male behavior. Even so, I don't think this would be a good idea if he is trying to get the Loroi to take him seriously as a representative of humanity.

FIREBLADE

Because the reader doesn't know Fireblade's motivations, she may seem capricious or even brutal... and that's an appropriate misconception for the reader to have at this point. There were two ways the elevator scene could go... either Fireblade could step out of the way and let him fall to the floor, or she could use her PK to stop him. Catching him physically is not an option.... Fireblade would not allow Alex to stumble into her, for a variety of reasons. The best option for Fireblade (and for the story) is to use her PK, because it is a demonstration for Alex of her ability. This demonstration is in some ways in Alex's best interest, because (from her point of view) the fact that she is unarmed seems to embolden him, and he needs to know that when they reach the bridge (which is their destination), if he makes any sudden unexpected movements, she may be forced to kill him on the spot... she needs to make Alex believe that she can and will do it. Unfortunately, gently stopping Alex's stumble with PK was also not an option... Fireblade does not have fine control with her PK (especially with the amplifier on), and so she has essentially two force levels with which to shove things: "really hard" and "lethal". And she's a professional soldier, not a diplomat... she couldn't care less if Alex's ego is bruised. The Loroi have substantial reason to mistrust Alex at the moment (some of which will be revealed shortly). For all she knows, he was trying to stumble into her on purpose.

As I mentioned before, in the first draft of the page I had Fireblade stepping out of the way instead, because I was worried that a sudden confrontation between Alex and Fireblade would derail the current conversation with Beryl. But I was able to find a way to write it such that there was only a single page of interruption (with Beryl essentially continuing as if nothing had happened, apologizing as if it had been her fault), so I went with the PK shove.

STEALTH

Stealth doesn't work very well in this milieu, given the enormous output of detectable energy generated by starship engines. Most long-range detection would be done via passive EM sensors and telescopes rather than active radar, anyway. Coasting at the edge of a dust cloud with your engines off is about as close as you're likely to get to "unnoticeable", and that's exactly what Bellarmine was doing

II

I agree with the general philosophy that a "stealth ship" is impractical in this milieu, but I think it's going too far to assume that a ship can't hide, on occasion, if it wants to. The action in Outsider doesn't take place in deep space, but rather in the confines of a star system, where there are a lot of objects that are a heck of a lot hotter than the background radiation -- billions of them. If a ship lights up its main drive, there's a good chance you're going to be able to see it no matter where it is in the system, but unless you've been in a system watching continuously, a non-maneuvering ship near a planetary mass (or other hot mass) would not be so easy to instantly detect, if you didn't know specifically what you were looking for. It's often said that there's no terrain in space, but I think that's a gross oversimplification. Especially when you're talking about a proto-planetary system where there is a huge, hot accretion disk of gas and dust spanning the width of the system, along with high-energy jets at the poles of the protostar.

MYTHS

The Loroi heroic myths are very ancient (their sources probably predate the Splintering, as the different splinter factions have similar myths) and have become very "tall" tales in the retelling (even today, the stories are not written down, but told only telepathically), and have become an important part of Loroi philosophy. They are similar to Greek or Norse heroic myth, except that the gods are replaced by very powerful Loroi heroes. Tempest would be one such, with "realistic" powers just as telekinesis, but also "mythical" powers such as control over animals, the elements, and malign spirits. The bauble would represent some sort of artifact that might have been the focus of one or more of these powers.

The scene would be a depiction by a modern Loroi artist, and she has portrayed Tempest in iron-age Loroi warrior attire, even though the real Tempest (if there was one) certainly predates that period, but I imagine this being a common convention for mythical characters, sort of like how King Arthur is commonly depicted in 15th Century plate armor when he more likely lived in the 6th Century.

TORPEDOES

Yeah, I assume most of the torpedo/warhead launchers probably use some sort of rail or coil mechanism to expel the torpedo at high velocity so that it can quickly light it drive without the danger of damage to the firing vessel from the exhaust plume. The exit velocity might vary widely, according to type. I'm guessing that the Loroi forward prongs would make ideal housings for the long launch tubes.

The Loroi launchers can fire 6 torpedoes per 80 seconds. That's all I have at the moment.

I think you'd want them to be as long as you can given the layout of your ship, but if this is not a primary weapon, then you probably aren't likely to redesign the ship just to allow for longer tubes. Loroi launchers would probably run the length of the prongs. Umiak just use box/array/rack launchers, so I would image that they're using boosters of some kind.

INTERNET

One limitation on planetary internetworks in Outsider (including those on Terran planets) is the lack of FTL communication, so what you will have is a series of disconnected networks, one for each system, rather than a single connected whole. Each local planetary network might have logical "nodes" that represent the networks of other systems, and contain archives of data from other networks, as well as "virtual" addresses for contacts on other networks, but this data will have to be "refreshed" irregularly by the equivalent of mail ships traveling between systems. You can send an email from Earth to Aldea, but it may take several weeks to get there. Aldeans can search off of archived Terran Internet data, but the data may get pretty stale... especially considering how quickly a massive amount of data on Earth's network changes, even if there are regular ship transits through which to carry the data, it might be very hard for the colonies to keep up with what's going on at the level of detail to which Googlers have become accustomed... some data could easily get months or even years old. So I think that even in a relatively open society (as we may assume Humanity has become in 2160), there may be some informational as well as cultural compartmentalization due to lightspeed lag between star systems.

Now the Loroi, on the other hand, are not an open society, and are further compartmentalized by caste, region, and even family. This is part cultural and part a reliance on telepathy, which requires proximity. There are certainly Loroi planetary information networks with great repositories of data, but the Loroi are more comfortable using telepathy than reading and writing. They would much rather "listen" to a telepathic story than read one written down, and much rather "learn" telepathically from a teacher than from a textbook or a webpage. The advantage is that information can be very quickly and effectively transmitted via telepathy, and with the addition of eidetic individuals such as Beryl to act as repositories of knowledge, Loroi institutions of research and learning can be very formidable, in a certain sense. This is part of how a Loroi can be educated to a Terran college level at an age of only 12 years, and also how Loroi scientists could go from "modern" technology to jump drive in less than 50 years (once they knew where to look), and how Loroi weapons engineers could develop a weapon as formidable as the Pulse Cannon in only two years (after having been given a Historian Plasma Focus as an example). The drawback, however, is that much information tends to stay compartmentalized within each local intellectual community, and rarely jumps the geographical and social boundaries between telepathic societies. This is part of why the overall rate of Loroi technical advancement is slow compared to ours; each group rarely knows about what another is doing, and so the "connections" that are so critical to innovation, where two unrelated technologies A and B are combined to create innovation C, are rare in Loroi society. And if you want to learn something, you need to find a teacher in your physical location. So, to get back around to the actual question, the role of eidetic individuals in the storage and retrieval of information is still very important, even with the existence of a local internetwork.

In the matter of "connecting" information between compartmentalized intellectual circles, however, the role of the Listel and other eidetic individuals in innovation is even more critical, because a Listel can absorb an enormous amount of information from within one telepathic network (be it a caste organization, or a scientific community, or a military unit), and then physically move to another network and disseminate that information. This is one of the few ways that such information can be moved effectively across the "gaps" between social compartments.

The trick here of course is getting such individuals to move from one society to another, which is also something that doesn't happen much among the Loroi.

ALEX'S BRAINPOWER

It's not integrated into the academy curriculum; there was a special program teaching it to a limited number of cadets, and among the teachers were one or more of the Orgus refugees... the Terran linguistic experts were still learning it at the same time as the cadets. Those cadets that scored high in Trade Language had an advantage when applying for the mission. As you can guess, the preparations made in the year and a half following the Orgus contact have been pretty intense.

The TCA Academy (which serves both the Colonial Fleet and the Scout Corps) is the premier military academy on Earth, and only the best and brightest of Earth's 25 billion people are chosen to enroll. Alex has to be a pretty smart kid.

WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?

The Terran Colonial Fleet has only existed for about 50 years, and has no genuine space combat experience. The Loroi Imperial Fleet has existed for more than a thousand years, and has fought in no less than seven conflicts, not including the current one that has been going on for 25 years.

TECH DEVELOPMENT

In order for the Humans, who are way behind the Loroi in military technology, to have a tech that was so much better than Loroi or Umiak equivalent in order to be significant in combat, then yes, for Humans that would be super-tech, because it would be about a tech level and a half above the rest of Human technology. By the way, I disagree that technology is a "tree" where you can choose which "branches" you want to study, independently of other branches. Rather, it seems to me that technology is only a "tree" in strategy games; in real life, it's a "web" or a "net"... the nodes are connected laterally. You can only advance so far in one isolate field until you begin to run into limitations imposed by another field that you have neglected, because inventions are linked by many different technologies. I don't know of any examples in history where a culture was substantially inferior in a critical military technology (as in several generations inferior), while being somehow superior in a different military technology. Da Vinci knew enough about the principles of flight to design a helicopter, but it could never work, because the powerplants and materials sciences of his time were not up to the task. Remember, we're talking about the Loroi having a thousand years' head start in technology. Humans can innovate much more quickly than the Loroi, and it won't take a thousand years to catch up, but that's not going to happen overnight.

ARMOR vs WEAPONS

The test version is that screens can stop damage equal to the screen class times the ship's size class plus one. So a cruiser (size 3) with class III screens can stop 12 points of damage, and a battleship (size class 4) with class IV screens can stop 20, etc. This is probably not enough to compete with the weapon tables, as it allows a cruiser's full volley a good chance to penetrate a battleship's screens and armor at pretty long range, which is probably not acceptable. Haven't had time to play with this and balance it out. Anyhow, the screens regenerate quickly, but can be reduced over time if they are repeatedly penetrated. Certain weapons (such as lasers and mass drivers) can penetrate screens better than others, and plasma weapons can reduce screen strength whether they penetrate or not, due to "splash" effect. Blasters are affected by screens normally but are good at penetrating armor. Armor ratings range 3 to 7 points for Loroi, 4 to 10 points for Umiak.

II

Defensive screens have reduced effectiveness against lasers, but they do affect them.

III

The Tenoin vacc suit is something intended for a pilot, and not for EVA work or infantry combat. Soroin/Teidar boarding parties would have a more robust armored pressurized combat suit, and EVA work crews would have something in between.

The current Loroi helmet designs have a decent about of room in the back of the head for coiled up hair. As for Fireblade's over-the-top mane... someone once showed me an idea for a helmet with some sort of iris for allowing the hair to actually flow into space (and given the Loroi enthusiasm for heroes with ridiculously long hair, I'm actually considering it), but that's TBD.

Combat assault armor is going to be a lot tougher than the corridor walls -- likely by an order of magnitude or more. Bulkheads are not designed to resist weapons fire, but combat armor certainly is. In particular, the Umiak hardtroops will have hard armor that's three or four inches thick in some places. Rubber bullets wouldn't even bruise a Loroi wearing the standard duty uniform.

IV

The idea behind the function of the armor is that there's a black fiber mesh bodysuit that provides basic protection against most forms of attack: ballistics, blades and beams. The thicker colored "plates" are of a similar material, hardened to the consistency of leather, and provide slightly more protection in the covered areas, but really this part is cosmetic and largely ceremonial.

WEAPON TECH

You can paint a target with a laser at very long range, it just won't do much damage past a certain distance because the laser loses focus and the beam spreads. And, as has been mentioned, there are a lot of ways to counter a laser: ablation, reflection, etc.. Particle beams and plasma weapons are meant to be more "advanced" weapons where there's an esoteric technique used to keep the beam together at longer ranges, such as braiding of oppositely-charged streams in the case of the blaster, and some sort of carrier wave in the case of the plasma focus. I suppose you could in theory do the same thing with a laser, but it seems to me that photons are going to be harder to corral than charged particles or plasma.

But mostly "because I say so." Lasers and mass drivers are supposed to be "primitive" in this milieu. Again.... fiction, not prediction.

II

Let's look at it another way. In an ion beam, how much do you think the actual mass of the ionized particles is going to be? The only way these particles can be accelerated to a very high fraction of lightspeed is if they're not very massive. Probably very small fractions of a gram. The target is damaged partially from the kinetic energy of the ions, but also from the electrical discharge. This is nowhere near the kind of damage you'd get from a 1kg railgun projectile, but at least you can score a hit. Even at .1 c, a railgun shell takes 100 second to cross 1 LS to the target; that's more than enough time for even a 6 G ship to dodge.

A plasma beam (or pulse) operates on the very same principle as an ion beam, except using a different mechanism. Depending on the type of plasma used, the "bonus" damage (above and beyond kinetic energy) could be heat, electrical discharge, or even matter-to-energy annihilation if the plasma were made of an exotic material. But that aside, the plasma weapon is not just a fancy mass driver, any more than an ion beam is.

If you accept that a charged particle beam can travel near lightspeed and still have the mass/energy required to damage a ship, then I don't understand the reluctance to believe that a plasma weapon could do the same, provided that you can deliver it on target.

III

The small, turreted weapons that the Terrans use on their ships are most likely to be coilguns, and they are limited in velocity due to the small physical distance that is available to accelerate the projectile. The speed estimates of the Attack Vector coilguns are low (as the Terran ships are significantly larger and more powerful than the ships in AV), but it doesn't really matter if you increase the Terran coilgun mass driver velocity by a factor of 100 or more; even at 1,000 kps, you're still talking about a ballistic shell that takes 5 minutes to cross 1 LS and has an effective to-hit range of less than 10,000 km. The Terran warships are essentially glorified police cruisers; they are designed for very close-range interception duties against civilian or criminal threats that are not likely to outgun them. They are simply not designed for fleet combat at long ranges against opponents that are larger and more powerful than themselves. If it makes you feel any better, don't think of the Humans as "weak," but rather "unprepared."

If you wanted a higher-velocity mass driver, you could design a ship with a railgun that extends the full length of the vessel, (or on a very large spinal mount like the one in the concept art). With this sort of weapon, throwing much smaller projectiles, you might get a high enough velocity to have a meaningful chance of hitting a target beyond 10,000 km, although you now have the issue of the whole ship being a weapon that has to be pointed at the target. However, if the Terrans were going to build dedicated war-fighting ships, this is a system they might include. But this is still going to be a short-ranged, crude weapon by alien standards.

IV

The drive plumes of the engines would interfere with targeting. It's certainly possible to fire weapons aft, and a number of the Loroi ships do have aft-facing point-defense turrets, but I think if you put your main turrets pointing aft, the interference from your drive plume could definitely hamper your long-range accuracy.

The Loroi like to have "Front Toward Enemy". The bow of the ship is where the heavy armor and screens (represented by the prongs) are oriented on Loroi vessels, so it makes sense to have all your heavy weapons able to fire in the forward arc. You can do a very effective slashing attack, even while still under full acceleration, in which you keep your nose pointed at the enemy. Even while running away, you can usually keep your broadside to him, which will still allow most Loroi heavy weapon turrets a clear field of fire (if you roll the ship so that your top or bottom side is to the enemy).

V

Sure, but it seems to me the use of such countermeasures will be very limited. As Northstar suggests, I don't think noise-saturation ECM techniques will work without some kind of medium to bounce signals off of. You might still use "false return" techniques to attempt to deceive a sensor as to your true nature (sort of like shining a searchlight at someone trying to see you), but this will only make you easier to target, so unless you're talking about some sort of "Wild Weasel" ECM drone that is trying to draw fire away from a larger ship, I don't think this will be very useful in most cases. Because a starship's drives and weapons put out such a terrific amount of energy, you're going to be using a combination of active and passive sensors for targeting, and even if your active radar is somehow fooled, you still have an incredibly bright optical and IR target. Using a combination of countermeasures (false return ECM and decoys) you might succeed in momentarily confusing a seeking weapon to attack the wrong target, but I don't think such a deception will fool another starship for more than a few seconds.

VI

Granted that data analysis is always the long pole of the tent, given the computing power at the tech levels of the story, I would still expect that ship-based targeting systems are going to be very difficult to fool. Even a torpedo-mounted system is going to be pretty smart.

VII

Right. To elaborate slightly, the Wave Loom is the Loroi analogue of the Yamato's Wave Motion Gun. The silver doors at the bow of the Tempest open to reveal the twin muzzles of the weapon. The basic concept of the weapon is that it uses the same sort of carrier wave as the Pulse Cannon, but on a much larger scale to (essentially) conduct the full output of the engines (in the form of exotic, high-energy, volatile particles) toward the enemy. The "loom" aspect of the weapon is that it includes a series of accumulators that can be charged over time, building accumulated energy into some sort of exotic and sinister "lattice" that can be used in devious and destructive ways that might be more interesting than a simple directed drive plasma beam. But I haven't quite got that part figured out yet. The disadvantage of the weapon is that it takes all of the ship's power to charge, and the firing saturates the heat systems of the ship, leaving it unable to maneuver or fire weapons for a short time after discharge.

VIII

All the weapons are heavily automated and are capable of firing themselves, and all targeting will have extensive computer assistance in terms of course prediction. etc. Targets for defensive fire tend to be relatively close to the ship, well-described by active sensors, and the defensive weapons tend to have a comparatively high rate of fire, so coordinating defensive fire is pretty much just a matter of allocating weapons to targets and letting the automated systems engage them. Engaging offensive targets at distance is a more challenging task requiring the operator to make predictions of how the target may change course, set patterns of fire when necessary to increase the chance of a hit, and time weapon discharge for maximum effect (as the cooldown for the main batteries is measured in minutes).

Fire control, both offensive and defensive, can be managed in a number of different ways depending on the situation. Defensive fire is usually decentralized; a squadron controller usually assigns targets to each ship, and then it's up to each ship's fire control officers to decide how to allocate weapons to targets. Offensive fire can also be managed in this way (sort of a "fire at will"), especially when the opponents are numerous and small, as they often are against the Umiak. When facing larger, harder targets, the fleet commander or squadron leader may opt to focus fire, with a squadron controller personally allocating targets and even remotely triggering fire from other ships.

The 27 ships of Tempest's Strike Group AE are divided into four squadrons, each with its own squadron leader, subordinate to fleet commander Stillstorm. So Tempest FIRE1 will at times be directing offensive fire for multiple ships. In this particular case, the squadron escorting Tempest is led by the cruiser Torrent, so defensive targets are being allocated by an officer on that ship. In the case where Tempest was allocating defensive targets, there would be an additional FIRE3 officer acting as squadron controller sitting at the AUX1 station to FIRE2's right. Obviously, offensive targets can quickly become defensive, so the officers have to work closely together as a team.

In any case, both FIRE1 and FIRE2 have a lot of help; in addition to the automated systems, there are additional fire control officers seated in the row below and forward of them to offload tasks if necessary, as well as crewmembers at the physical site of each weapon mount, to monitor and troubleshoot potential problems.

IX

Both sides use three basic classes of torpedo: small, medium and large. Each side will have all manner of variants, but they can be abstracted thusly:

SR - 50G, very short endurance - used by Loroi fighters and small Umiak vessels
MR - 40-45G, medium endurance - standard ship-carried torpedo
LR - 50-60G, long endurance - often used as "tail-chasers"

The standard torpedo would be roughly 15 meters long, which is the length of a modern F-16.

X

Regarding electronic warfare: as far as I know, I don't think modern navies have specialized EW ships, but rather, EW is integrated into normal units, and there are a variety of aircraft and other deployables to assist in EW. I would expect countermeasures to be similar in Outsider.

XI

Torpedoes in Outsider will rarely achieve an actual collision with the target. Generally, a torpedo will maneuver as close as it can to the target until it comes under fire, and then (if it is close enough) it will expend its remaining fuel to explode -- either in a simple omni-directional blast, or in a more focused jet (similar to how a shaped-charge warhead works). This is a matter-annihilation reaction (essentially the same as a matter-antimatter explosion), so it's very energetic;

XII

Quote:
1. How powerful are infantry portable weapons?

At this technology level, man-portable tactical nuclear weapons are possible. Obviously, the heaviest weapon is not always appropriate to every situation, and there will still be cost restrictions.

Quote:
2. Do marines and crew need to use underpowered weapons (shotgun vs rocket launcher) to avoid hull punctures and other problems when repelling boarders?

The answer to this question is pretty self-evident.

Quote:
3. Do infantry forces (ground based as opposed to marines) exist in large numbers?

Yes.

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4. For planetary invasions, are things like tanks and APCs rendered obselete by overwatch orbital support?

No, armored vehicles are still very important; tanks are much less expensive than orbital craft and can be in more places at once. At this tech level, most armored vehicles have limited flight capability and can double as close-air support units, or even in some cases as dropships.

Quote:
5. Is body armour effective against direct hits, or is it still more important to get out of the way?

It's always important to get out of the way. In general, body armor is designed to deal with area-of-effect attacks such as grenades or artillery, or to deflect glancing hits from small arms. A direct hit from an armor-piercing weapon has the potential to defeat almost any armor.

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6. How many forms of martial arts are there still in use, and how have they evolved beside firearms?

Unarmed combat techniques will still be taught, but they don't have a significant impact on futuristic (or modern) combat. The only potential change in such techniques might involve the new possibilities offered by genetic or cybernetic enhancements.

Quote:
7. Swords?

No. Ranged weapons are useful both at close range and long range; melee weapons are useless at anything but point-blank range. You will see some swords and knives among the Loroi, but these are purely ceremonial items. (Obviously, troops will have a variety of utility cutting tools that can double as emergency weapons, but I don't think that was the question.)

Quote:
8. Power armour?

The Umiak use heavily modified, armored cyborgs. I think this is the closest thing to powered armor you will see in Outsider.

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9. How would YOU deal with with enemy forces capable of telekinetically killing you on sight.

If fighting in the open, I would try to use numbers. Only a few of the Loroi are telekinetic; it's important to eliminate them as soon as possible. A Teidar can't stop an attack she can't see, so attacks from beyond visual range, or multiple attacks from different directions can be effective. Unfortunately, this is not always feasible in close quarters. If my ship were boarded by a Loroi force including Teidar, my only real option is to destroy the ship. This is the option Umiak commanders generally take.

Quote:
10. How would bulkheads and "security chokepoints" work on the average spaceship.

They probably wouldn't be very effective against well-equipped assault troops. It's not that hard to cut new passageways through the structure of the ship. If vital control centers are enclosed by an armored ring, this might delay the enemy somewhat, but such structures are heavy and expensive, and probably limited to large combat vessels.

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11. Why the hell do people in the future never wear helmets? (generally speaking)

It's not just the future, but essentially all fiction; characters are easier to recognize when they don't have face-concealing helmets on. But if you notice, the Loroi security guards in the detention area on page 36 are indeed wearing helmets.

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12. How would the loss of gravity and atmosphere affect the average shipboard firefight. (in terms of the crew and of tactics)

Loss of atmosphere will only affect the fight in the sense that only those troops with pressurized suits will be able to participate. Loss of gravity can be counteracted to a certain degree by magnetic boots and the like, but it will make forces less mobile -- which side this benefits will depend on the situation.

XIII

Interceptors are used mainly as defense against enemy torpedoes and small craft, and can also be used as scouts or pickets when larger vessels are not available. Their hardpoints can mount AMM missiles or short-range torpedoes, and so can be used against larger ships in a pinch, but they would probably not be very effective in this role unless used in large numbers. The convenient thing about the light interceptors is that almost any ship with a decent sized shuttle bay can carry a few, so they're nice little force-multipliers.

The Loroi also have attack fighters and dual-role heavy fighters, but these are mostly found aboard dedicated carriers and are best suited to the role of system assault, where there are many small- to mid-sized craft that need to be chased around planetary obstacles, and there is an advantage to being in a lot of places at once.


MARTIAL ARTS

The basic GURPS system distills martial arts into two different types of skills: "hard" forms that emphasize blows and kicks, and "soft" forms that emphasize holds, locks, and throws. The hard skill is called "Karate" and the soft skill is called "Judo", just for simplicity's sake. Loroi "Judo" would be something taught for unarmed defense, primarily against other humanoids, along with knife skills and other basic things that are also taught to modern American combat personnel. One would not be expected to take on an Umiak hardtrooper with Loroi Judo.

XENOPHOBIA

I have used the term "xenophobic" to describe the Loroi in the past, but the Loroi do not truly have a "fear" of outsiders, but rather are usually uncomfortable around and intolerant of non-Loroi, and have a highly ethnocentric point of view, in that their psionic abilities make them superior to others (and that they believe they are descended from the Soia, and are therefore the rightful heirs to that galactic empire). Fireblade came late to Loroi society, so she is herself a bit of a cultural outsider. However, like other Loroi born since the start of the war, who have never known peace, it is easy to see all non-Loroi as potential enemies.

LOROI SOCIETY

Loroi industry is certainly hard-pressed, and the Loroi social institutions are certainly being put to the test, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that either is crumbling. War is a natural state for the Loroi, so being in full war production is something the Loroi are good at. Except for specialists (such as Teidar and Farseers, that are hard to find and take a long time to train), the Loroi are mostly able to replace their losses in both personnel and materiel at an acceptable rate. The problem for the Loroi is becoming psychological; the replacements are ever-increasingly younger, and always being on the defensive is starting to erode the confidence of both the war-fighters and the civilian population supporting them that they have any chance of winning the war. The Loroi had hoped that a defensive strategy could win them the war via attrition (since Umiak loss rates can be two or three times those of the Loroi), but so far, aside from a brief slackening prior to the Loroi Semoset offensive in 2144, the Umiak haven't yet shown any signs that they are reaching their industrial or reproductive limits. There is enormous political and social pressure on the Emperor to go on the offensive, and it is only increasing over time. As Kambei in the Seven Samurai said, "If we only defend, we lose."

II

The Loroi Emperor is an appointed military dictator, similar in some respects to the shogun of medieval Japan. The position is not hereditary. The Emperor is appointed by the Diadem, which is the ruling council of the Torrai caste and functions as something across from an Admiralty Board and an Executive Cabinet. The appointment is usually fait accompli, following a power struggle between contenders. The office of the Emperor is usually held for life; though the Diadem retains the nominal authority to replace the Emperor at any time, this has only happened once and the result was civil war.

Federal power in the Loroi system is in the hands of the military, executed by the Emperor, the military bureaucracy, military governors and the military court system. The federal legislative body is the Union Assembly, which includes delegates from non-Loroi worlds. However, much law is determined not by the Assembly but instead by Imperial executive order.

Local civilian governments vary widely, as there are many traditions of government among the many subcultures on the three original Splinter Worlds, in addition to the many new colonies and assimilated alien worlds. Each world has its own charter, subject to the administration of an Imperial governor. Most worlds are subdivided into multiple nations and principalities, each in turn having their own local community governments. Some territories are directly controlled by various military castes and other military entities.

III

Q.How large is the Loroi warrior caste?

Might be as much as half the population.

In addition to points mentioned above, many functions and services that we would consider to be civil (government administration, judiciary, police and emergency services, medical services, civil engineering) are mostly handled under the auspices of the Loroi warrior castes.

There would also be individuals who had "retired" from active service and were doing something else, but a Lorori warrior never stops being part of the warrior culture, and as was mentioned, the exertions of nearly the entire society are directed toward the war effort.

Care of the males would normally be a civilian task. Coordination of access to the males would be more complicated and based on local power structures.

IV

Quote:
Originally Posted by fenghuang
I read somewhere (I can't remember if it was the Insider material or the forums) that the Loroi only went into space because of very compelling circumstances. Given that according to the timeline less than 50 years elapsed between first telepathic contact (803) and first physical contact (850), was it the 'rediscovery' of other Loroi that made them go into space? Or was it something else that I missed?

The development of powerful telepathic amplifiers allowed Farseers on Deinar to detect their counterparts on Perrein, about whom they had been completely unaware. The question of Loroi origins had always been a matter of great debate, so it became a matter of prime importance to make contact with these lost relatives. The Deinar Loroi already had a fairly high level of technology, and had recovered the remains of Soia-era starships centuries before, so it didn't take them long to bridge the gap.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fenghuang
Also, how advanced were Perrein and Taben compared to Deinar? It seems that Deinar plays the most prominent role in the early timeline. Just wondering!

I'm pretty sure I posted this essay on Loroi cultural groups before, but for some reason it never made it into the Insider. I think it answers your questions about the early colonies, so I'll repost it:

• Deinar: Prior to the colonization of Maia, Deinar held the largest population of Loroi (about 1 billion in 850 CE), and today it is still the capital and cultural center of the Empire. Deinar is a temperate world that sports a wide variety of climes, and accordingly Deinarids are found in many shapes, sizes and hues, and are roughly divided into three major racial groups (Barraid “of the mountains”, Tadan “carapace”, and Login “nomad”). A non-Loroi would probably not notice the difference between the three. Barraid are reputed to be tall and athletic, usually fair-skinned; Tadan are darker-skinned but also tall, and have a reputation for beauty; the Login are shorter and rangy, with a reputation for toughness. All three races are renowned as vicious and accomplished fighters, so aside from some cosmetic differences, they are all inherently Loroi. The majority of the higher animal species on the planet are Soia-Liron (“ancestor-blue”) genestock, quite different from the more primitive native organisms. Soia-era artifacts are relatively common on Deinar, so even in the “ancient” period, many high-tech items were known, and the Loroi always had a cultural sense of being the descendants of an earlier civilization. The various nation-states on Deinar had a long and contentious history of warfare prior to the reunification of the Splinter Colonies, and had developed a complex set of warrior castes. The Torrai, Soroin, and Teidar castes all have their roots on Deinar, as do the Farseer and Philosopher castes. For unknown reasons, perhaps because of the large starting gene pool, the largest number of current Loroi with psychokinetic abilities can trace their ancestry to Deinar.

Mezan, an inner desert world of the Deinar system, was the first world to be colonized by the Deinarid before starflight and reunification. Early in the “modern” period (roughly 375 CE), several Deinarid factions experimented with spaceflight. Mezan was uninhabited, but Soia artifacts there were well-preserved in the dry environment. New technologies discovered on Mezan triggered a fresh round of global warfare on Deinar, but also proved crucial to the development of psi amplifiers and, later, starflight. Mezan currently supports a very small population, but is home to various research academies, including the main academy for the Listel caste. The Mezan Loroi are of mixed geneology; the Loroi of the Mezan sub-culture are contemplative and inquisitive, and often considered by other Loroi to be naïve and overly idealistic.

Because of the baggage of many thousands of years of nation conflict, local nationalism still exists on Deinar, and still affects Loroi politics in general. Many members of the Loroi Axis (the opposition party) are nationals of states that were in traditional conflict with the current ruling power.

• Perrein: A hot, wet, jungle planet, Perrein was home to a relatively small (~200 million) population in 803 CE when they were contacted by Farseers from Deinar. The habitable zone of Perrein’s native ecosystem is populated with dense rain forest and dangerous organisms; Loroi settlements tended to be small, dispersed and somewhat insular. As on Deinar, Perrein knew constant warfare between its city-states, but because of the hostile and dispersed geography, conflicts usually consisted less of large armies and more of small teams of elite troops. The Mizol were Perrein’s equivalent of the Teidar, and the caste still has its headquarters here. Physically, Perreinids are of medium height, and often have dark hair and larger than average ears. Perreinids form a single large racial group; the frequent conquest and reconquest of city states seems to have kept bloodlines tangled, even in remote communities. Without the abundance of Soia-era artifacts available on Deinar or Taben, Perrein technology was comparatively primitive, and without Soia texts as a baseline, the Perrein dialect of Trade was barely recognizable during contact; however, the Perreinids have perhaps the strongest spoken tradition among the Loroi, and have a reputation for being easy to communicate with (if not always easy to trust). Perrein produces formidable telepaths, and has the highest occurrence of psychokinetic abilities as a percentage of any Loroi population, though Perreinid psychokinetics tend to be of lower power-levels. Many telepathic technique schools (including the Mizol) are still based here. Although at the time of reunification the population of Perrein represented nearly a quarter of all Loroi, since then the population of Perrein has grown the least of the three Sister worlds, and is still less than half a billion.

More than any of the other Loroi cultures, the Perreinids have enjoyed a truly exotic diet of weird native creatures from their world. Their unusual palates are often the subject of jokes; it is said that it’s impossible to turn a Perreinid’s stomach.

• Taben: Though Taben was arguably the most technologically advanced of the three Splinter Colonies prior to spaceflight, due to the large quantity of Soia-era artifacts littering the ocean floor, Taben was the last of the three to be reached by Deinarid ships, 92 years after the initial telepathic contact. Taben had by far the smallest population of the three, and also the lowest occurrence of psychokinetic abilities in the population. As a result, the Tabenids have often perceived themselves to be treated as the junior partners in the alliance. Taben is an ocean-covered world, with relatively small land masses; there are two main racial groups, the fair-skinned northern sailors (the majority of the population) on the small continent of Beleri, and the darker southern divers who inhabit the Amenal archipelago. The northern group in particular is known for being very tall and thin, and fair hair and especially yellow eyes are normally a trait unique to the Northern (Belerid) Tabenids; they are also often kidded about having larger than normal noses. The sailors on the stormy northern seas enjoyed a long tradition of heroic seamanship, from fishing and “whaling” to trading and exploring, and even raiding and piracy. In the warmer, calmer southern islands of Amenal, where the seas are shallow in places, the Southerners (Amenal) often dived in search of treasure and artifacts. Loroi resistance to pressure and their efficient metabolisms allowed Amenal divers to descend to remarkable depths, long before the development of submersibles. The southern islands became a center of trade and learning (and a target of northern raiders). While by the time of the contact in 895 CE the Southern Tabenids were living in fairly high-tech islandic and aquatic habitats, many Belerid still sailed wooden ships. Because of the limited amount of arable land and frequency of disastrous weather, population in pre-contact Taben never got much above 50 million, and was perhaps as small as 30 million at the time of contact. Though the Listel traditions pre-date the Splintering and existed in each of the three colonies, the second of the major Listel academies is located here in the Amenal islands on Taben. The Tenoin caste also has its traditional roots here, and is headquartered in an orbital facility. Alone among the three colonies, Taben did not have a constant history of inter-tribal conflicts, aside from the occasional northern pirate raids on the southerners. The elements were a strong challenge in and of them themselves, and the communities were widely dispersed, but traded frequently.

Not surprisingly, Taben is known for its variety of seafood, and sea-greens form the traditional staple of the Tabenid diet.

Because of their perceived cultural differences and traditions of isolationism and self-rule, Taben has often been a seat of dissent in the Empire, among the Belerids in particular. In each of the two major Loroi civil conflicts, Tabenids have formed a major part of the rebel faction. Today, many of the members of the Loroi Axis, the opposition party, continue to be Tabenid.

• Maia: The term “Maiad” is both a cultural and a biological classification; it is used both to refer to the culture of Maia specifically and also to biologically classify Loroi of mixed descent who do not fall into the traditional three racial categories of the Sister Worlds. Maia was an early Loroi colony (1311 CE), a large, fertile world with a welcoming climate and bountiful resources. Maia was the first Loroi world to have reproductive restraints almost completely released, which in addition to producing a population explosion had a powerful impact on local culture. Maia culture is the “melting pot” of the Loroi Empire, and tends to be more easy-going than the relatively uptight Sister worlds. Maia is currently by fair the most populous Loroi world, and continues to enjoy relaxed reproductive controls (in comparison to other Loroi worlds), and it continues to be a major source of emigrant population for the rest of the colonies.

Together with this secondary descendant population (the Detan-Maiad or “new” Maiad), the Maiad represent a very large numerical percentage of all Loroi. However, this larger colonial racial group does not possess a unique culture. Detan-Maiad are common in the colonial frontier, such as in the Maiad and Seren sectors. Maiads comprise all shapes and sizes.

V

Sure, there are civilian freighters and transports. Most would operate during wartime pretty much the same way as during peacetime, except of course that there would be contested systems that they could not enter peacefully. But most commercial traffic moving within Loroi territory or between Loroi and allied territory doesn't have much to worry about in terms of enemy activity. During the war, there would be a lot of military cargoes available for civilian transports to carry, so they'd be doing pretty well. Courier vessels are also very important in a system without FTL communication, and there will be civilian and well as military couriers, and some private couriers who will take on military-style duties. Starships are very expensive, so they would be mainly operated by commercial guilds, and less by individuals.

VI

Loroi society is very much centered around the warrior culture... the Loroi of the warrior castes are generally of much higher social status than the civilians. The Loroi government is essentially a military dictatorship, so the warriors are in charge. The interaction between a warrior Loroi and a civilian might be something like the interaction between a medieval knight and a local merchant or artisan; the knight needs the services of the civilians and so must interact with them to some degree, but no more than is absolutely necessary. Even in peacetime, civilian concerns take a back seat to military ones... now at war, there's no question that military concerns are paramount.

Civilian society closely follows the example set by the warrior castes; the civilian equivalents of the warrior castes are more like regional guilds or companies centered around a specialty, with their own internal hierarchies, and with many of the Loroi within a guild being blood relatives.

VII

Birth defects or brain damage might produce a telepathic mute. Because Loroi social interaction relies heavily on telepathy, a telepathic mute would always be something of a social outsider. Probably not too different from how deaf people are treated in our society. The handicap would almost certainly exclude her from military service.

VIII

The gender imbalance is not considered by the Loroi to be a mystery, but rather a necessity of a warrior race. Most Loroi assume that those races without such a gender imbalance (or a similar reproductive boosting mechanism) are merely not suited to galactic domination (read: inferior).

IX

Semoset is a traditional Loroi event on Deinar, celebrated once every 20-30 years (to coincide with the periodic arrival of a comet in the Deinar system). The festivities involve feasts and athletic competitions (similar to the Olympics), and last for about a month and a half.

X

I think there's some middle ground between "we are instantly able to replicate this technology" and "this lump of material is no help to us whatsoever." Even the most dilapidated spacecraft wreck is going to be of major interest to a lesser-developed culture, even if the only benefit is of speculation about what might be possible. You may not understand the implications of the remains of the FTL drive you're examining if you're at the iron age level of technology, but the galley kitchen implements may be extremely interesting to you.

Imagine if your culture grew up surrounded by these kinds of artifacts. At every stage of development, pre-existing examples of whatever you're trying to invent (in whatever state of decomposition) already exist for you to examine. This cannot help but be a major benefit to the progress of technology in a culture.

XI

The Loroi military is very professional, and so I would expect that dueling would be highly illegal. However, with such a long martial tradition, it's going to be inevitable that various Loroi sub-cultures will have long histories of ritualized dueling, and much less formalized fights are no doubt common in the largely unsupervised child-bands, so duels will probably still happen, but in the shadows.

XII

Males are going to be very important genetically, if only because males can be much more prolific than females in terms of passing on genes. Although a successful warrior female's high status may give her access to a harem of males for breeding, she can only give birth to a limited number of children during her lifetime - especially if she's a busy warlord - even given her potentially long lifespan. Her brothers, sons and nephews, however, can father hundreds or even thousands of offspring in a lifetime. Even civilian females can give birth to warrior children if mated with males of warrior pedigree. And remember that males can also have powerful telepathic or even psychokinetic abilities that will make them especially prized as breeding partners, regardless of their social origin, as these traits are very important in warriors.

In terms of social evolution, we must expect change to be slow for the Loroi... they are a warrior culture with very rigid social structures that are reinforced both by biology and a history of almost constant conflict, both internal and external. Though conflict has the potential to effect rapid change, it seems to me that it more often has the effect of slowing change instead, especially when it becomes the norm (as in various "warring states" periods in Earth history).

The current conflict with the Umiak has been very short in terms of the entire history of Loroi spacefaring culture (25 years in a span of more than a thousand), though it is certainly unprecedented in terms of scale and destruction. I'd add at least one item to Kavalion's list:

4) Pragmatism. Losses of both population and infrastructure on planetary scales and the looming threat of potential extermination may force some breakdowns in the otherwise rigid structure of Loroi society, where required by simple necessity. A bit like a depopulated Europe after the devastation of the Black Death (and still facing military threats from the East), the Loroi must find a way to get things done any way they can, whether or not it follows their traditional ways of doing things. Jobs that are traditionally reserved for warriors of status might have to be given to a civilian female, or an alien ally, or possibly even (gasp) a Loroi male.

XIII

The Loroi have varied sub-cultures and traditional eating habits, but for the most part the youthful military Loroi encountered in the story are hands-and-knife eaters. Futuristic technologies make prepackaged "Hot Pocket" style heatable finger-foods the main staple of the Loroi warrior's diet, so in most cases even a knife is not required. Older Loroi might have more sophisticated eating habits, but the Loroi are not a "banquet" culture; in contrast to Humans, eating is considered a private biological function (in a similar class as going to the bathroom) and is not a shared social event. This in addition to the warrior taboo of eating in front of males means that we won't see much of it in the story. Alex's "vomitorium" -- in which he finds (by trial and error) which Loroi foods he can digest -- is summarized rather than directly shown.

XIV

Loroi warriors are considered adult for all legal purposes when they complete trials and standard training, usually at about age 9. The war has been going on for 25 years, so that's more than two and a half biological generations.

Because reproduction is restricted during peacetime and not during wartime, the majority of pre-war officers are between the ages of 50-150, and all the wartime-birth warriors are under the age of 25, and only a handful in between. But yes, there is a stark culture clash between the old timers and the new kids, even if they don't look physically very different.

XV

I meant to say that most warrior Loroi don't have formal group dining practices, and that eating is considered a pragmatic function, but not an exclusively private thing (going to the bathroom wouldn't be an exclusively private thing, either). In the training camps, there is a rule that young warriors are not supposed to eat privately -- this is a actual taboo in some real-world primitive hunter societies, presumably so that everyone can see who is consuming the limited resource of food. As adults, Loroi warriors would have no problem eating alone, but when in the company of others, they feel more comfortable eating where they can be seen doing so, to follow the tribal rule... whether their companions are themselves eating at that moment or not. But there is not a scheduled time of day for eating, or even a designated location for it. Meals are had in whatever location is convenient, whether at a desk or just sitting on the ground.

This is something I can imagine having a lot of local cultural variation, but the above is how I plan to handle it in the comic.

I imagine something like an office break-, with a variety of facilities that off-duty personnel can use, including food dispensers or maybe even some cooking paraphernalia.

XVI

But yes, Loroi are omnivores.

XVII

Originally Posted by Radkres
How long is the orbit, day, and night cycle of the three Loroi home worlds?

I don't know, but since all three are temperate Earthlike worlds orbiting Sunlike stars, it's very likely that the orbital and rotational periods of each are very similar to Earth standard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Radkres
Does the Loroi and the Umiak use Soia Empire based time and date systems?

Not really. There are "galactic" time and date standards with some Soia elements in them that are used as a sort of standard measure and method of conversion, but both the Loroi and Umiak have their own individual time/date systems. Loroi standard time is based around Deinar standard time, and would be similar to Earth standards. Umiak standard time is based around that of their own home planet, which is a low-G planet orbiting a dim red star, and so is likely very different.

XVIII

Star systems are given names which are usually applied equally to the name of the system, the primary (star), and the major inhabited planet of the system; other planets in the system referred to as I, II, III, etc., unless there is a more specific regional name. (This is the nomenclature employed by Star Wars, and it makes a certain amount of sense to me.) In the case of the three splinter worlds, each of the stars were referred to by local populations by the same name meaning "the sun", so even here the primaries are referred to as Deinar, Taben and Perrein, respectively.

The Deinar system is relatively young, from a stellar age point of view, and so there is still a lot of dust and debris in the system, and comet/meteor activity in the system is still moderate. This isn't a problem with modern countermeasures, but it did make quite an impression on the primitive Deinarid Loroi. Deinar I, also called Mezan, is a hot, sandy wasteland that was colonized after the redevelopment of spaceflight, mainly due to the high density of Soia-era artifacts preserved in the dry environment. Mezan is hot, moonless, and though heavily terraformed, still mostly unsuited for Loroi life outside the underground habitats. The main inhabited planet, Deinar III (usually just called "Deinar"), has minimal axial tilt, and therefore not much seasonal change. The planet has two moons; the outer moon, Talas, is about one-fifth the mass of our Moon; the inner, Mepona, is very small and trails a faint ring, probably the result of a recent impact. Deinar has only very primitive native life, at the microbial stage; the surface is dominated by imported Soia-Liron life forms. It is in most ways very similar to Earth, though colder and more arid.

Perrein's primary is fairly old, and moonless Perrein is in a relatively close orbit (still within a Terran-style biozone) and has little axial tilt, and again little seasonal change. The climate is hot and wet, and dominated by a sophisticated ecosystem that has evolved through plants to higher land animals. The heat from direct sunlight is mitigated at the surface by the canopy of monstrous foliage. The Perrein day would be longer than ours.

Taben's primary is about the same age as ours, and while moonless, Taben has an axial tilt similar to Earth's that indicates a massive impact in primordial times. The preponderance of surface water helps to mitigate the effects of seasonal change, but there are still major differences in the climate zones between the northern islands (Beleri) and the equatorial islands (Amenal). The shallowness of the southern seas also helps to make them much calmer than the stormy northern seas. Taben's rotational period would be shorter than Earth's, with no moons to help slow it down.

XIX

Almost all the Loroi characters under the age of 25 will have had at least one child. Keep in mind though that for most of them, they will have had very little contact with such children, partially because Loroi children are usually not raised by their birth mothers, and partially because most of the Loroi characters at hand have been fighting hard on the neglected Seren front for years on end, without any personal time to devote to family matters.

Beryl has one child, who is by this point four or five years old, and Fireblade is childless.

XX

Loroi warriors receive unarmed and melee combat training from a young age, and so they can be dangerous hand to hand fighters, but a properly trained human male would have a size and strength advantage.

XXI

There are more different Loroi sub-cultures than there are human sub-cultures, so I imagine they would have a wide variety of differing musical styles and interests. That said, most forms of traditional Loroi music are strictly instrumental, without vocals. However, the Loroi also have access to the music and arts of their alien neighbors, and the Barsam in particular have a strong tradition of song.

XXII

I think so, to a certain extent. The Loroi probably attempt to make a clear distinction between the "Platonic love" of companionship and the more carnal feelings of the mating drive, but they aren't animals, and the males they're mating with aren't animals either, but pleasant, intellectual people who are often spiritual and philosophical leaders in the community... no doubt there are times when the one feeling bleeds over into the other. Attachment is discouraged, and obsession even worse, but I'm sure it happens anyway.

XXIII

Since the ordinary range of telepathy generally doesn't generally reach beyond the confines of a ship, the Loroi have to use the same ship-to-ship communication methods that we would use... transmitted voice and data. Much of the information exchanged will be non-verbal, but in a busy situation it is probably easier (even for a Loroi) to speak into a communicator rather than have to type a text message. So all pilots and any other officers likely to be in charge of a ship (of any size) will need to have competent basic verbal radio skills, although the verbal messages exchanged in the heat of battle are somewhat terse and ritualized (as you will very soon see). Higher-ranking Loroi will often have underlings who perform this disdainful use of speech for them, but all will need to have good comprehension skills and the ability to override a verbal order when necessary.

The issue of a fighter pilot immersed in a fluid G-suit is more complicated, as this would incapacitate her vocal cords, but I think it would be hard for even a hardsuited pilot to be able to operate a ~40G fighter without being neurally "jacked" in, so I suspect they have other ways of communicating. Even were this not the case, I know from playing online shooters that it is possible to choose fairly complicated messages from a relatively few number of keystrokes.

XXIV

The Trade characters double as numerals. I originally intended to have an additive Roman/Hebrew-like system, representative of its archaic origin (and to help explain why the Loroi hate math) but it was just too complicated and didn't match well with the examples I already had written down for the class names (Lerril-ZP for "Halberd Mk.17"), so I settled on an octal system with no zero:

1 : P
2 : Z
3 : E
4 : G
5 : T
6 : A
7 : R
8 : M

So here ZP is octal 21, or decimal 17.

I said that partially in jest, but there's some truth to it. Like language, math and science are viewed by the Loroi as alien tools that must be grudgingly mastered in order to fight effectively. Having computers that can do the math for you eases the pain of fumbling with an archaic numerical system, but it does mean that the Loroi are not on the top of the charts when it comes to advanced theoretical math. They're good at applying existing principles, but not so great at coming up with new ones on their own.

How much math does your typical Loroi warrior have to learn as part of their general education?
About the same amount as a human kid would be required to take for ROTC, which isn't very much.

Quote:
Are there Loroi civilians of certain castes who have to learn more? Or do they let other species (like the Pipolsid) handle most of the maths?

Certainly civilian engineers would need more math. Loroi aren't incapable of doing math, they just don't like it, and appreciate it when others like the Pipolsid or Historians can give them examples to work from. And as with any species, personal attitudes will vary greatly from individual to individual. There will no doubt be Loroi who just love math, but perhaps not as many as the engineering corps would like.

Lack of a zero as a placeholder digit to express numbers does not indicate that you don't have the concept of a null value. The Loroi write the word bishires ("nothing") to indicate a null value, as I imagine the Romans probably wrote the word nihil to indicate the same thing. Not having a zero digit makes arithmetic harder to do by hand (though I would point out that the Romans accomplished quite a bit of complex engineering with their system), but whether your computer input and output is formatted base-10 with a zero, base-8 without a zero, or even as Roman numerals, this really has nothing to do with how the numbers are represented and manipulated in the computer internally. Assuming that Loroi computers are based on a binary on/off system, it's very likely that they represent binary numbers in almost exactly the same way we do -- perhaps even grouping them into the same 8-bit bytes as we do (since this would correspond nicely with their octal input/output system) -- the only difference being whether a null value is represented by 8 "offs" or 8 "ons".

A hardware adder works exactly the same way whether 8 "offs" represents 0, 1, 255 or 256. The boundary conditions are all just implementation. Our own computer systems use a dizzying and contradictory array of different ways to represent numbers, from differing methods of describing floating point numbers of various precisions, signed and unsigned integers of differing sizes, alphanumeric characters, and everything in between... with differing bit orders, "special" bits for sign or error correction, and "secret" bit combinations to represent nulls and all manner of other quirks. Early 16-bit Intel systems had the high-order and low-order bytes backwards (maybe they still do... thank God I don't have to work at that level anymore). These all had reasons for being weird, and could be awkward for machine-level programmers, but they didn't have any significant impact on performance (or on the experience of the end-user, even a technical end-user), even in the slow-computer era in which they were introduced. I sincerely doubt that even the most kludgy of numeric representations will have a any kind of serious performance impact on the kind of computing power we're talking about c.2160.

But as I mentioned before, Loroi computer binary representations are probably nearly identical to ours (in principle), the only significant difference being how numerals are represented in input and output.

The 8-digit system is a Soia relic, and has always been with the Loroi, as have devices that use it. They inherited the system the same way Western Europe inherited the Roman system, and if the Romans had also left examples of pocket calculators, I'm not so sure Europe would have been so quick to jump on the Arabic system after the Crusades. If the Loroi had been forced to start from scratch, it's reasonable to assume they would have developed a base-10 system, regardless of whether it had a zero.

A null value (as in, "I have no bananas"), and the Arabic zero as a placeholder digit (as in, Arabic "10" instead of Roman "X"), are two completely different concepts. The concept of the null value is as old as language, but the zero as a placeholder digit is a relatively recent invention, originating in India and moving to Europe in the 11th century via the Muslim occupation of Spain (and the Crusader occupation of Arab lands). Using nine digits and a zero placeholder for a decimal system makes doing arithmetic by hand a lot easier than using the Roman numeral system, but as I mentioned before, if the Romans had left the medieval Europeans examples of computers and pocket calculators that used Roman numerals as input and output, then doing arithmetic by hand would be of limited value, and it's not clear to me that the mathematicians of the day would have been so quick to abandon the traditional system for a foreign one. As an example, I'm a fan of the Metric/SI system, the benefits of which are undeniable, but we Americans seem to be having trouble getting even science organizations such as NASA to switch to it. Thanks to the electronics revolution of the late 70's and early 80's; nobody cares whether your calculator has to internally multiply by 100 to get from centimeters to meters, or multiply by 36 to get from inches to yards... either way you just hit the button. As NASA has found out, having different departments using two different systems at the same time can get you into trouble, but in the computer age it really doesn't matter which system you use, as long as it is used consistently.

The Loroi haven't switched to a zero-based system because they don't need it. It doesn't offer them a significant benefit over what they have that would justify an official change.

To claim that binary computer numerical representations "unavoidably" use zeros (in the sense of a placeholder digit) seems to me to be more of a philosophical argument than a technical one. It's convenient for us to think of the on/off of a binary computer system as equivalent of binary zero and one in a zero-placeholder system, but that's just the way we think of it. If you have 8 bits to represent a number, and off is A and on is B, then you have 256 possible combinations, in the form:

*snip*

Each of the 256 unique combinations represents a number. As long as the represented numbers are integers and consecutive, it does not make any difference whatsoever what the represented range of numbers is. It could be 0-255, 1-256, 64-319, -127 to +128, P to ERM, Quatloo to Bleen, or any other range of 256 numbers you choose. Using exactly the same hardware binary adder logic we have today, AAAABAAA plus one is AAAABAAB, and BBBBBBAB minus AAAAABAB is BBBBBAAA, regardless of what numerals these bit patterns represent. We use all kinds of arbitrary mappings for bit patterns. In the ASCII system, the 8-bit binary patterns represent alphanumeric characters... but you can still add ASCII capital-A to ASCII [space] and get ASCII lower-case-a. Binary patterns can be used to represent whatever that you want them to represent. Shuffling arbitrary definitions of bit patterns to and from various internal representations is unlikely to have significant impacts on the processing power of a 2160 computer system. See: XML processing.


XXV

Since a lot of Loroi production comes from non-Loroi factories, most of the key union members (Delrias, Pipolsid, Neridi, Golim and probably Barsam) will need to have the design specs for most Loroi technology.

XXVI

Both Soroin (warrior) and Tenoin (pilot) castes can rise to the rank of XO and Captain. Normally, upon reaching command rank, the officer is admitted to the Torrai (command) caste -- with much pomp, ceremony and extra training -- but in wartime it's not always practical to pull captains off the line, so there are a lot of Soroin and Tenoin brevet captains running around.

The Captain and XO will not always be on the bridge, so more junior officers will have opportunities to temporarily take control of the ship, and must be trained accordingly.

XXVII

Yes, that's the general idea. Loroi crew each have their own bunk capsules (they don't have to share), which are sealable both for environmental safety and telepathic privacy, but only those above a minimal rank have any kind of private space (beyond a bunk) to themselves. Communal space is considered a higher priority to the Loroi military than private space.

The reason the corridors seem empty (as should soon be clear) is that the ship is on combat alert, and everyone is at their combat stations, prepared for imminent enemy contact. This is also the reason why Alex is being brought to the bridge to speak to the Mizol Parat (who is also a key bridge officer), rather than to her private office.

XXVIII

I don't have much in the way of hard Loroi population figures. Checking my notes, the three Loroi splinter worlds had a combined population of about 1.25 billion in 850 CE, at the time of rediscovery of starflight. I had made a note that Perrein's population had only increased from 200 million to 500 million since then, but that this was unusual, and also that the most populous Loroi planet was Maia. Most Loroi worlds would probably have populations much small than that of Earth, but Loroi territory is perhaps ten times as large. I would guess at a figure somewhere in the neighborhood to 50 to 100 billion. With high birth rates and appalling casualty rates, the number could fluctuate a lot.

As for the Umiak, I wouldn't even venture a guess, except to say it's "a lot more."

XXIX

I decided that they don't have one. Nobody salutes when the Commander enters the infirmary, nor when Beryl and Fireblade (who are fairly senior officers) pass the various Loroi in the corridors. No doubt there is some kind of formal telepathic acknowledgement that occurs between superior and subordinate, but that's something we can't see. Because many of the Loroi don't speak, I try to use body language when I can to give some insight into what's going on, and I figure that's easier if the Loroi are relatively informal with their posture and gesticulation. If they had to snap to attention and salute, then their reactions to Alex would probably be hard to read.

I can imagine Loroi troops standing straight at attention in some circumstances; like human infantry, Loroi would also have been fighting in ranks at some time in the distant past, and so I can see that tradition surviving in some form like ours did.

XXX

The Loroi equivalent of the handshake would also be telepathic... initiating a telepathic conversation would be considered a friendly gesture. It is not exactly a lowering of defenses, as a telepathic connection can be used by either party to attack the other, but communicating telepathically with someone may allow them to learn things you may not have wanted to tell them. When Loroi do not trust each other, they use verbal communication.

If the Loroi were really trying to gain someone's trust and lower barriers, they could actually touch hands... but that would be the intimacy equivalent of giving someone a bear hug and a kiss.

XXXI

The Loroi Empire consists of six sectors, each containing about 20-50 developed systems and 1-4 major population centers. It covers an area roughly 100 parsecs across.

The number of ships is harder to pin down; it's certainly in the hundreds and perhaps in the thousands. They are destroyed and replaced at a relatively high rate.

XXXII

Officers on duty at certain important positions on the bridge keep their rank tabs lit, partially to indicate that they are active at that post (whether or not they are actually in their seats at the moment), partially to make them easy to find at a glance.

Beryl and Fireblade are not on duty at bridge posts at the moment (the orange-haired Listel and the purple-haired Teidar are currently sitting at the posts Beryl and Fireblade would normally man, respectively). Tempo is technically on duty, since there is not someone else sitting in her empty chair, but she's busy talking to aliens at the moment, and many normal rules don't really apply to the Mizol position anyway.

XXXIII

Loroi are ominvorous. They have various sub-cultures, including some that live at a very primitive level, so I'm sure they have all kinds of gross delicacies. There won't be too many opportunities to go into Loroi eating habits in the comic, but I may be able to work some things in. Taben would obviously be known for seafood, and Perrein, which has a vibrant ecosystem almost untouched by Soia-imported lifeforms (other than the Loroi themselves), produces a variety of unusual delicacies that make other Loroi turn up their noses.

Starships at this tech level no doubt have very effective methods of food preservation, but fresh food is probably still going to be desirable. Large ships like Tempest can afford space for a small garden for growing small amounts of fresh food; in particular, fungi would be an ideal food to grow on board ship, allowing you to turn waste into food without even requiring sunlight. I do have a short scene planned in the Tempest grow room where they have these huge, phosphorescent Perrein fungi all over the place.

I also have another scene planned where they try to introduce Alex to the Loroi equivalent of coffee.

Agreed, I think the vast majority of food aboard a starship would be preserved, and it would probably be pretty decent. But a little fresh vegetable would always be welcome, and the fungi seems essentially "free", except for the space allocated and the water (which is recoverable), it seems like a good use of waste products.

I'm not so sure that a 3-month supply of water is out of the question, but regardless, a spacecraft is a closed system. The only way you could "lose" water is if you dump it overboard. The vast majority of consumed water is going to come out with the waste, and this is all recoverable.

XXXIV

I think that the Loroi would have a wide variety of performing arts, and the more ornate and abstract the better... Cirque du Soleil would probably be right up their alley -- perhaps with a sort of telepathic opera instead of singing. They would not be offended by the physical contact between the performers... remember that humans have touching taboos as well -- we aren't allowed to touch strangers on the street in the way that acrobats touch each other either, but we understand that it's a performance and normal rules don't apply. Loroi also don't take the social taboo to impractical extremes... a Loroi medic, for example, won't hesitate to touch a wounded Loroi in any manner that may be required.

The Loroi would have many kinds of non-vocal instrumental performances, and a variety of live performances of various dance/acrobatic styles, and they would have recordings of each. But I think the stage performances would be very abstract, as the Loroi are accustomed to the use of telepathy for storytelling. They would find our television and movie dramas very confusing... they would probably think they were looking at documentaries.

However, since the war has been going on for 25 years, the Loroi probably do not devote much in the way of resources to entertainment, so whatever traditions they had before the war are probably stretched thin, especially with their emphasis on live performance. Almost any kind of performance would be a novelty.

XXXV

Loroi written literature would be pretty much strictly nonfiction.

XXXVI

During peacetime, I can imagine a lot of athletic sports that the Loroi would enjoy, from outright arena combat to more abstracted sports similar to ours. However, all of these would have been suspended by several years into the war, and the younger Loroi probably wouldn't even remember them. But certainly, sparring with each other will be a frequent pastime for shipboard Loroi crews. Most Loroi fighting forms will involve the use of a weapon (knife), but there will also be unarmed moves. In Loroi vs. Loroi combat, physical contact favors the more powerful telepath, as telepathic "shouts" can be used to disorient or even stun an opponent.

Psychokinesis is relatively uncommon, and almost anyone who has it is going to be railroaded into the Teidar or Mizol or another similar specialty. If you're facing a group of Loroi troops, most of them will not have PK, but you can probably bet that there's at least one squad leader that does -- so Loroi traditionally did not use a lot of ranged weapons because they were easily deflected.

Psychokinesis (moving things with the mind) and telekinesis (moving things remotely) are pretty much the same thing. The GURPS system nomenclature had telekinesis as the specific ability to move objects, and psychokinesis as the more general power of matter manipulation (including telekinesis and things like pyrokinesis), so I sometimes ape this distinction, referring to the power as PK and the act of moving something as TK.

The way telekinesis works is that the user can apply a force (limited by power, which varies by user and subject to amplification) to an object that they can sense. There is no theoretical limit to range, but functionally it is limited to something you can see and accurately judge the distance to, so for most people this will be 25-50 meters. A living target may give off a telepathic signature that can be used to help in determining range, so attacks against a living target will be subject to telepathic range. Attacks at very long range will be very difficult; looking through a scope will let you see a target at long range, but will not help you judge the distance.

PK abilities are strictly limited to squad-level combat. Even PK power levels as formidable as Fireblade's would have no effect on a warship at range.

Fireblade and Tempo both have PK abilities, but they differ greatly in power and scope. I have spec'ed some of these out in the GURPS system. With her amplifier, Fireblade's nominal TK push force is about 1,500 lbs (6,670 N), and significantly more when she becomes enraged. She doesn't have fine control in terms of manipulation -- she can't thread a needle with her TK -- but she can shove you into a wall with enough force to be potentially lethal. She can also use her PK to heat up an object at a rate of about 500 degrees F per 1 lb. per second (108 degrees C per 1 kg per sec). Between these two abilities, I'm sure you can imagine a wide variety of methods for killing things.

Tempo's PK power is unamplified and comparatively feeble, with a push force of about 1/4 pound (1.1 N), but she has very fine control, ideal for the sorts of things that a Mizol might do... manipulating remote switches or rearranging items on someone's desk when they're not looking. Tempo's key abilities are telepathic rather than kinetic.

Both Fireblade and Tempo get a chance to show their abilities off in Chapter 2, so a demonstration of these concepts is not far off.

XXXVII

During World War II, Roosevelt allowed baseball to continue during wartime, on the premise that it was important for morale both at home and for military forces overseas. However, baseball lost most of its players to the military, and had to face serious resource limitations due to rationing. By 1944 teams were reduced to fielding 15-year-old pitchers and one-armed outfielders. Now imagine if the war had lasted for three generations, still and was still going on with no end in sight. Baseball might still exist, but it would probably be only a shadow of what it once was.

For the Loroi, the emphasis on live performance and the lack of FTL communication means that entertainment can still be an important morale boost for civilians on the home front, but warriors at the front hundreds of light years away will probably not get to see much of it. Also, warrior children go into isolation for training at a young age, and are usually deployed soon after graduation, with limited options for entertainment in the little off-time available to them, and little experience of higher culture. A ship pulled back from the lines might offer the young crew a chance to experience some homefront Loroi culture, but in some cases this might be like taking the Feral Kid from The Road Warrior to a production of La Boheme. (Okay, that's an overstatement, but you get the gist.)

Tempest in particular has been on the line for a long time, is overdue for refit, and is operating with an under-strength crew, most of whom are replacements. The base they have been operating out of, Azimol, was once an inhabited system but now contains only military installations (the civilians long since having fled or been killed during the Umiak occupation). The only performances the Tempest crew are likely to have experienced in the last several years would be those they had organized themselves.

XXXVIII

I think Loroi would find beauty contests quaint. They are certainly aware of the concept of female beauty -- they obviously spend some effort on how they look, and visual aesthetics are important to them. However, because they are the dominant gender, they don't have an inferiority complex over being "ogled" or treated as objects, so a hooter contest would probably not be offensive to them, though they might find it silly. To them it would be something like lining up a bunch of people and judging them on how big their ears are.

XXXIX

It's hard to imagine Loroi males being used for this kind of entertainment, given their small numbers and relatively high status. Loroi females would probably not have the appetite for constant titillation that human males do, but then again, Loroi females may have to go very long periods without any kind of sexual contact, so you figure there might be some interest there. It's hard to imagine what form such interest might take. Pinups come to mind, but females are culturally discouraged from fixating on a particular male (as you can probably imagine, given that most females would not have an opportunity to mate on multiple occasions with the same male), so I'm not sure that makes sense. The other thing that comes to mind are representations, possibly abstract, of the male apparatus (eastern lingam spring to mind). But probably best to leave that where it is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithril
how about poker? kind of moot since they are telephatic and all. However, I see the game become popular in an attempt to train your telephatic to block other people. what do you guys think?

The Loroi have a chess-like game called Crossfire; the play is strategic, but for the Loroi an important part of winning the game is the telepathic contest between the players as each tries to read the other's thoughts. This game is shown being played in chapter 2.

XXXX

There are all kinds of physical mechanisms to achieve a skewed gender ratio; if your gender-choice mechanism depends on X or Y gametes from the male, for example, you simply produce more of one type than the other. I don't think the specific method used is important, except to say that in this case, parthenogenesis would remove social control over population growth, which would probably be disastrous for an almost-all-female warrior species with high reproductive rates.

You're right that the evolutionary processes that create such a ratio and maintain it over time is an important, separate question. A while ago when I was thinking about Loroi family/clan dynamics, it occurred to me that high-status Loroi females could benefit a lot by having a larger percentage of male children, since those males could more effectively spread her genes than female children could. This was worrisome, because you might expect that this pressure could cause the percentage of male births to rise over time (especially during peacetime, when it's the high-status females who are doing most of the reproducing), eventually balancing out the male/female ratio.

However, as you mention, this potential evolutionary benefit to the individual must be balanced against the overall benefit to the group. Outside of reproductive and social capacity, the Loroi males are pretty much deadweight; they don't gather food or maintain dwellings, but they still consume food. Being a warrior species, a Loroi tribe with a higher than normal ratio of males risks being at a severe disadvantage in food gathering versus consumption, or more to the point, in combat against another tribe with a larger percentage of fighting females. Also, males can spread genes but not bear children, so every male that replaces a female reduces the raw reproductive capacity of the group. So, a larger percentage of male offspring may benefit the individual's genes, but a smaller percentage benefits the family/clan group as a whole.

Also, the social nature of the Loroi and specifically their traditional "clan" extended family system, in which most of your colleagues are mothers and daughters, sisters, cousins, aunts and nieces, means that the people around you are your close relatives, and the propagation of their genes are nearly as important to you as your own. The power of this concept can be seen in action in social insects and similarly organized mammal and even primate species in which only the alpha females are allowed to produce offspring, and the other females forgo their own genetic interests in favor of protecting the offspring of their sister/mother/cousin's. I think it's plausible to suppose that this counter-pressure could prevent the trend toward higher percentages of male births without direct social intervention.

XXXXI

Very nifty art, icekatze -- I especially like the disgruntled former catch-carrier, and very nice drawings of Ashrain and Arclight. And a cool sport idea, too. I think the Loroi would like any team sport that gave you a chance to brain your opponent with a stick.

I can see this kind of thing developing in the southern Amenal islands, where the warmer shallower seas would be more surfer-friendly... it could be used for fishing with a spear, or perhaps a crook for snagging nets. I wonder how practical it would be to one-hand control a conventional windsurf board though... the crook would help you hang on, but it wouldn't really help the mast stay upright. I'm trying to imagine a configuration that would allow better structure for the sail but still allow enough movement to that the sail can be easily shifted. Maybe with the mast rooted closer to the bow and a secondary support strut farther back.

Which reminds, me I never did post that Loroi subculture stuff in the Insider. Another item on the to-do list.

XXXXII

The colored rank tabs are used to mark relative rank within a cast -- they aren't an absolute measure in the way that our military ranks are. You have to use the caste uniform color together with the rank tab color to figure out the officer's position and title. In our system, a supply officer with the rank of Captain would outrank a combat platoon leader with a rank of Lieutenant, and that just won't do for the Loroi. Each caste has its own hierarchy, and aboard a ship with multiple castes, there is a somewhat Byzantine interplay of the various titles, who reports to whom, and who has what function in the running of a ship. As an example, Beryl is a relatively high-ranking officer aboard the Tempest in the sense that she has yellow rank tabs and is a member of commander's senior staff, but as a member of the Listel which is a support caste, she has very limited authority in terms of being able to give combat orders to even a junior Soroin officer.

In the Loroi Fleet, there are five primary warrior castes: two conventional combat tracks (Soroin and Tenoin), and two specialist psi-oriented combat tracks (Teidar and Mizol) that lead to a fifth command track (Torrai). There are also a number of support castes (Listel, Doranzer, Bistimadi, and others) that are considered outside the normal command structure.

The two primary combat castes, the Soroin and Tenoin, make up the majority of a ship's crew and officers. The relationship between the Tenoin and Soroin can probably be compared to that between the fliers of the US Navy and the Army Air Corps in the 1930's and 40's: two groups with similar and sometimes overlapping responsibilities, but who come from very different backgrounds and traditions. The Soroin are ususally the most numerous, and arise from the land-based warrior traditions of Deinar, whereas the Tenoin owe their roots to the seafaring traditions of Taben. At the lower-rank levels, the Soroin tend to fill roles dealing with weaponry and physical security, and the Tenoin deal more with navigation and the operation of small craft. At the middle and upper ranks, there is more overlap between the two, and the most senior titles on the ship for each caste are the same -- a first officer, for example, can be either Tenoin or Soroin. Either caste can also go on to special training as a Torrai and rise to command grade. Overall, the Tenoin, Soroin and Torrai share a more or less combined rank structure and chain of command aboard a ship.

Specialist castes such as the Teidar and Mizol are not part of the regular chain of command, except as exists within their own departments, but they interact with the regular command structure in complex ways. As you might expect, Teidar are regularly placed in command of Soroin security forces, and while Teidar are not permitted in most circumstances to directly command a ship, she may be required to resolve disputes over succession of command in unusual circumstances (such as where there is no clear senior officer aboard a captured prize vessel, or such as where the whereabouts, condition or competence of the current senior officer is in question). Mizol usually report directly to a ship commander, and have few direct reports besides Farseers or other Mizol, but they can occasionally take part in Teidar-style direct action and so may also be put in charge small units of Soroin or even Teidar. Mizol are also prohibited from taking direct command of a vessel, but the senior Mizol usually fills a role (in addition to that of diplomat) across between an intelligence officer and a political officer, and is often in a position to deliver Admiralty-level commands to the ship's captain (sometimes through Farseer contact). Higher-ranking Teidar and Mizol do have the possibility of moving up to the Torrai command caste, but this is rarer and these will usually be in staff positions rather than ones in direct command of line units.

The support castes such as the Listel or Doranzer are generally entirely outside of the regular chain of command, and generally can rise only into the upper echelons of their own internal caste hierarchies.

To more of a wrench into the works, ships of different sizes may be missing some of these positions -- a smaller vessel might not have a Mizol, a senior Teidar, or even perhaps a Torrai captain (the commander in this case being a Soroin or Tenoin "Torret", or even a Mallas in the case of a very small ship). The Loroi seem to like their societal mechanisms complicated. Also, an officer's responsibilities in terms of her caste hierarchy may not always be totally compatible with her responsibilities within the command structure of her current assignment.

XXXXIII

Tempest has only a few interceptors that are used almost exclusively for point defense, so this is probably not a high-profile enough subject to have its own seat on the innermost bridge "ring". My notion was that hangar and small craft operations would be handled from the subsystem section (which reports to the SYS station on the inner ring), and that coordination of deployed fighters would probably be handled by the fire control staff.

No doubt a dedicated carrier would have more specialized squadron command personnel on the bridge, or perhaps a separate flight control room.


JUMP TECH

Since you have to put enough energy into your jump to escape the departure star's gravitational field, the destination object needs to have enough of a mass to pull you back down again. The smaller the mass you're aiming for, the farther away from the destination star you have to be before you jump, and the smaller a target you have to hit. You might use some "null" points (as C.J. Cherryh would say) such as brown dwarfs at target points, if you had them mapped out and wanted to be sneaky, but you'd be riding the ragged edge of the safety margin. Intra-system jumps are functionally impossible at this tech level. The Oort cloud objects are too small and scattered to have a significant effect on the vector of a jumping starship; certainly they're not enough to pull one out of hyperspace.

Trying to jump from a Lagrange point would be the same as trying to jump from Earth orbit; you'd be deep within the Sun's gravity well, and you'd still have the gravitation of the outer planets to contend with.

II

You can, but they don't yet. The galactic civilization is by no means yet at a level where every possible technology is developed. The nice think about telepathy is that you don't have to understand how it works to be able to use it.

The issue trying to send information via probes or streams of data through hyperspace is the way jump drive works:

1. A ship can't "fire" probes or data into hyperspace without being drawn into hyperspace itself. In theory it might be possible to "project" a jump field on to a different location and build a sort of stargate, but the baseline galactic civilization doesn't have the capability to do that.

2. Gravity affects objects in hyperspace, and is necessary to pull objects back into realspace, since the path through hyperspace is ballistic. The object entering hyperspace must have the correct velocity and trajectory to both ensure its escape from the departure gravity well, and ensure its capture by the destination gravity well. I'm not sure how you might transmit an electromagnetic signal into hyperspace, but if you could, the problem then is how to get the signal back out again.

3. Because gravity affects objects in hyperspace, it's very difficult (read: impossible) to jump "past" an intervening star. Which means you can't throw probes at the home planet; they have to jump star to star the same way a ship would. Add to this the power and mass requirements for the jump drive, and you have a 100m probe with a starship drive that must have the systems to navigate through realspace, perform multiple jumps, etc. In other words, you don't have a probe, you have a small manned courier vessel, and it still takes just as long to get a message from point A to point B.

4. Short-jumps are possible in theory, but nearly impossible in practice. For example, say you want to jump from Jupiter to Saturn. You can jump with velocity small enough to escape Jupiter's gravity and be captured by Saturn, but the problem is that you're still within the Sun's larger gravity well. It's very hard to short-jump within a star system without getting sucked into the star itself.

III

Jump distance limitation isn't really a question of energy, but rather a question of increasing risk of path perturbation through the interference of other masses. The more dispersed stars are going to be easier to jump to at longer distances because of reduced gravitational interference from other stars, and the denser clusters are going to be more dangerous for the reverse reason, especially if there is a large amount of interstellar gas and dust to account for, or if there are very massive stars that exert undue influence. So your massive star clusters and star-forming regions are going to be natural barriers to jump travel. If you had two stars all alone without any other nearby stars and little interstellar medium, then the safe jump distance between them could be very large. However, there are few places like this in a busy galactic arm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crosshair
I find it curious that there isn't more talk about working to increase the ability/range of jump drives. Perhaps this could be accomplished by sublight mapping of gravity wells along the path of jumps using probes to increase accuracy.

Beyond accurate measurement of stars, which will have already been done, there's not much to do to increase safe jump distance. The mechanism that makes jump drives inherently risky (and therefore requiring a certain margin for error) is the idea that the topography of hyperspace is chaotic. That is, you can predict the large-scale curvature of hyperspace by accurately measuring the local masses and their relative motions, but there are going to be small-scale structures that change from moment to moment that are difficult to accurately predict. These small perturbations pile up over distance, increasing the probability of a misjump. Improving jump accuracy by a significant amount means either being able to scan hyperspace from realspace, or to report measurements made from within hyperspace, either of which requires what amounts to faster-than-light communication, which is currently beyond the capabilities of the main combatants.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TommiR
The area of space in the comic is naturally not an isolated bubble of space, and there may well be other species lurking just outside, with their own agendas.

Actually it is, to a certain extent. Galactic space, on the large scale, has a fairly complex terrain. A succession of massive supernovae has blown out complex "bubbles" in the interstellar medium. We are near the middle of one such bubble, in which the density of the interstellar medium is relatively low. On the borders between bubbles, where the expanding shells or shock waves of interstellar gas blown out by the supernovae collide, you have nebulae (molecular clouds) and star forming regions, and young, massive star clusters. In the case of our Local Bubble, the Gould belt represents this boundary. These boundary regions will present obstacles to jump travel, and will ultimately define the territorial limits of star empires.

The Orion arm is roughly 40,000 ly long, 3,000 ly wide and about 650 ly deep. The bubbles are large enough that they blow "chimneys" vertically through the arm, top and bottom. This is a pretty good visualization of a 1500 light-year top-down view of the nearby Orion arm Galactic center in the direction of image top.

The territory of the factions of Outsider is mostly confined within the ~400 ly wide Local Bubble. Loroi and Umiak space would be in the lower half of this region.

Some bubbles will be joined by spacious corridors that freely allow travel between them, some will have narrow corridors that are difficult to cross, and some boundaries may be impassable by the current capabilities of the combatants.

IV

Originally Posted by Absalom
Here's a thought, it was recently mentioned that the outermost limits on the expansion of any empire in this setting are the higher-mass-density 'walls' of interstellar gasses surrounding the 'supernova bubble' that we're in. Should it be possible/feasible to create 'jump oases' in the 'walls' so that jumps could be performed to usable distances through said walls? I'm thinking a scout-sized jump vessel with a meaningful sized warhead to produce a low-density region, then another, then another, so that you could cross to another supernova bubble by jumping along the path. It would certainly be expensive, and would require maintenance to be used for a few thousand years, but what if you just needed to evacuate from the local bubble without being immediately followed, and both knew the need was inevitable, and had the time?

A shock wave from any explosion, no matter how powerful, still only expands at (less than or equal to) the speed of light. So you're talking about a very lengthy timescale for creating new bubbles or tunnels. Also, the interstellar medium itself is only the minor part of the problem; the more significant obstacle is the star clusters and massive stars that formed in the bubble boundaries, and these are not easily cleared out.

I don't think the bubble boundaries represent impenetrable boundaries to jump drive, as you can cross a star cluster by making lots of shorter, safer jumps through it, and the interstellar medium even at its densest is still extremely diffuse. The terrain of the bubble boundaries will encourage some routes and discourage others, though, as ship range (or rather endurance) is a factor.

TACTICS

Guerilla ground combat is the ideal asymmetrical theater of war if you're the underdog; even untrained Iraqi insurgents (who would be useless in conventional combat) can take out top-of-the-line American armored vehicles with RPG's and roadside bombs. But though guerilla forces can cause casualties and harass supply lines, they can't actually hold a position against a determined assault from a superior foe. I doubt you could describe Terran and alien forces as "well-matched", since the aliens are going to have superior weapons, armor and sensory devices, as well as complete air and orbital superiority. If the Terrans did have some way to prevent the Loroi from using their telepathy to detect enemies on the battlefield, this would negate a Loroi advantage, but it would not itself be an advantage, because the Terrans do not themselves have a similar ability, and because the Loroi are quite capable of fighting using their regular senses and mechanical sensors. And being physically larger than your opponent is not much of an advantage, since hand-to-hand combat probably accounts for less than 1% of modern combat. This is of course academic, since ground combat between Humans and Loroi is unlikely in the extreme; the Loroi would not bother with the expense and delay of occupying the Human worlds at this stage of the war... if the Humans are not willingly cooperative, the Loroi response will likely be to simply destroy us and deny our infrastructure to the Umiak. Ground combat with an Umiak occupation force is a more possible scenario, but still unlikely; if the Umiak arrive in force, I would expect the Humans to play ball rather than fight.

II

GEOMODDER: As on being able to fire at the Umiak while retreating, with a 5-10 G surplus acceleration reserve over the enemy there should be time to whirl the ship around occasionally and fire aft with your bow weapons, and have spurts of acceleration to keep the gap wide.

In addition to GeoModder's point, keep in mind that not all engagement are going to be between fleets that have completely matched velocities. In particular, when you have hit-and-run attacks by Loroi ships out in the Steppes, the Umiak forces are going to be at system travel velocity (which takes many hours both to build up and to cancel out) and so are the Loroi ships, so when they meet it's very likely that the crossing velocity will be fairly high, more than either side can cancel out quickly afterward. So no matter what either side does in terms of acceleration, the two fleets are going to close and then rapidly separate. So even if the Loroi ships aren't accelerating at all, their existing vectors will carry them swiftly past and away from the Umiak, and they can keep their noses pointed at the enemy and just shoot and coast, and then if the Umiak aren't actively trying to get away, the Loroi can loop around the system primary and do it again. The Umiak can start trying to match velocities as soon as they see the Loroi raiders in an attempt to bring them into a matched-velocity battle, but this will mean killing their travel velocity, expending valuable fuel and causing them a delay of perhaps several days... not to mention that the Loroi, being faster, can avoid contact altogether if the Umiak try to match velocities in this manner. The Loroi will be more than happy to lead the Umiak fleets on a merry looping chase around the system, wasting precious Umiak fuel, for as long as they like. So in most cases, the Umiak really don't have any choice but to maintain course and take the best shots they can at the rapid passing Loroi raiders.

III

Unlike the Loroi, the Umiak don't know where the bulk of Loroi forces are at any given moment; attacking a Loroi system is usually the only way they can bring Loroi forces to battle; if the Loroi want to avoid battle, they can. The Umiak typically attack a single system with as large a force as they can spare, but they must leave substantial defensive forces in place to deal with potential Loroi counterattacks. If the Umiak were to pull all of their ships into a single assault fleet (leaving nothing for defense), and attack a single Loroi system, the Loroi (who can see them coming) could leave a token force to harass the Umiak as they crossed the Steppes, and then send a large part of the Loroi reserves in a massive counterattack into now-undefended Umiak territory and cut the Umiak lines of supply (not to mention trashing Umiak border systems). Because of Farseers, the Loroi fleets be very flexible in how they run their supplies; they can arrange to rendezvous with resupply convoys in relative safety and keep the supplies away from Umiak raiders (knowing where the Umiak are and aren't and being able to relay that information faster-than-light), whereas the Umiak must maintain well-protected pre-planned supply routes. The Umiak juggernaut fleet may do substantial damage, smashing a few border systems while the Loroi defenders play cat and mouse with them, forcing them to expend fuel and munitions. Once the Umiak are out of fuel, the Loroi recall their reserves, defeat the massed Umiak fleet in detail, and then mount a full offensive deep into the Umiak industrial heartland. And the war is over.

IV

No matter how long this war has been going on, there is never going to be a single “best” strategy for all situations. The right strategy is going to depend very heavily on the specific situation, the forces in play and, more importantly, what your enemy is doing. Since it’s usually not clear what your enemy intends to do, victory often goes to whichever commander does a better job of figuring out his enemy’s intentions, while disguising his or her own.

I recall several people saying that there is no “terrain” in space. I don’t think that’s true. Stars and planets can have two substantial forms of impact on combat -- they can block line of sight, and they can be used as gravitational slingshots. A Jupiter-sized planet is about half a light-second across… that’s a significant obstacle on the tactical scale. A star’s gravity can be used to reverse the course of a high-speed ship that might otherwise require many hours or even days to cancel out with engine thrust. I can easily imagine a commander playing “chicken” with her opponent by maneuvering near an asteroid ring. Gas and dust (like the Naam proplyd) can be used to conceal movement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by osmium
Now multiple jousts could mean that either fleets are large and firing times are long such that each passing actually significantly reduces the size of the fleet (i.e. offensive weapons are vastly superior to defensive ones). Or that defenses are strong and take a while to whittle down. OR that defenses are strong enough that significant damage is done, but that by the time the second joust happens "damaged" ships have been able to repair the damage.

The “jousting” nature of some engagements is caused by high velocities and limitations of acceleration; it has nothing to do with weapon or defense effectiveness. Allow me to explain.

There are going to be two basic types of ship-to-ship engagements. The first type is an engagement in which the two sides have more or less matched velocities. This will generally occur when one side is defending a fixed point, or when the two fleets meet by mutual consent (one is not trying to avoid the other). In this case, the ships can close to within weapons range and slug it out. Maneuver is important, but at 30G acceleration it takes 24 minutes from a standing start to cross max beam weapon range of 1 light second (LS)… it takes time both to close range and to get back out again.

The second type of engagement occurs when there is an interception, but the two sides have more differential velocity than can be counteracted within a tactical time scale. In this case, the two fleets will close, cross, and then move beyond weapons range before the delta-v can be counteracted. In this case, if both fleets still want to fight, the two will arc back and close again, and you may get repeated "jousting"-like passes. If one fleet chooses to disengage, it can generally do so after any of these passes, unless the enemy is significantly faster.

Most of the fleet combat in Outsider will be either the Umiak assaulting a defended Loroi system, or a Loroi fast raider group attacking an Umiak assault force while en route through the Steppes, so both types of engagements will be common. Let’s think about the dynamics of the second type of “jousting” engagement.

A typical warship system transit speed might be 1% lightspeed (roughly 3,000 km/s), which takes 2.8 hours to build up or cancel out at 30G. Of course, crossing velocity will vary widely depending on the situation and what each commander is trying to do.

Let's imagine one fleet intercepting another fleet at a crossing velocity of 1% lightspeed, and assume the top acceleration for both fleets is 30G. This is a speed of 36 LS per hour. The ships will engage with beam weapons when they get closer than a distance of 1 LS, but at their current delta v, the opposing ships will remain within firing range for less than 2 minutes before they zip past each other, which is only enough time for about two volleys of main weapons fire from each ship. Assuming that both commanders still want to fight, the two fleets are now moving away from each other at 3,000 km/s. If both fleets turn and max accelerate toward each other again, it will take a minimum of 2.8 hours before they can cross again; 1.4 hours to cancel out the separation velocity (at a maximum separation of 12.76 LS), and another 1.4 hours to close the distance again. If both commanders continue in this way, what you have will be a series of crossing passes 2.8 hours apart, in which the ships are only in range for less than 2 minutes at a time. In practice, one or both commanders will probably choose to reduce acceleration on the inbound half of the arc, which will gradually reduce separation velocity and maximum separation over the course of the fight, but each side will still have long periods of time to regroup, repair and contemplate the next move. If either fleet decides to retreat after a cross, the engagement is over. The enemy may pursue, but the fleeing fleet has the velocity advantage.

Given this initial case, let’s consider the situation of a Loroi fast strike group intercepting an Umiak assault fleet that is heading through the Steppes en route to Loroi territory. The Loroi group will have a top acceleration of about 30G, but the Umiak fleet’s heaviest units will probably be limited to about 25G. Although the Umiak ships have better fuel endurance than the Loroi, the Umiak must conserve fuel for their assault mission, and so probably can’t waste fuel jockeying with the Loroi for position. As a result, the Loroi commander is probably going to be able to dictate where she intercepts the Umiak, and at what crossing velocity. The Umiak is probably going to have a much larger fleet, a substantial firepower advantage at medium to close range, and better capability to absorb punishment. The Loroi heavy weapons have longer maximum range. So, what tactics do you use?

The Loroi commander’s goal is to cause maximum damage with minimal loss, and to try to get the Umiak to waste as much fuel and ordnance on her raiders as possible. Her options seem pretty straightforward… she can dictate the pace of combat and has the range advantage, which means she’s ideally suited to hit and run. The Loroi will try to cross at a relatively high velocity, and at a distance that favors the long-range Loroi weapons, so that the Loroi can zip by, fire and be out of range before the Umiak can get close. If she has them, the Loroi can even use nutty one-shot weapons like the Wave Loom, since she only has time for a few volleys on each pass anyway.

The Umiak are in a difficult situation, but they have a variety of options. The Umiak goal is to conserve ships, fuel and ordnance for the eventual attack on Loroi territory, but they probably won’t be able to avoid contact with the Loroi raiders. One option is to more or less ignore them… hold course, speed up as much as your fuel budget can afford, and adopt a spread-out defensive formation that puts your high-value assets at the center and your smaller vessels in a spread-out ring around them, perpendicular to the angle of the enemy course and closer to the enemy, so that if the Loroi wants to get close enough to fire at your heavies, she’ll have to run a gauntlet of your escorts, or dare to go right down the center of the ring and under the guns of the heavies themselves. This option means you’re going to lose ships (if the Loroi elects to pick off your escorts), but you’ll save fuel and munitions, preserve your heavy units, and you won’t lose time chasing the enemy.

Another option is for the Umiak to use their numerical superiority and divide their forces. This will allow grouping of faster ships into faster sub-fleets (Umiak escorts can usually do 30G+, and gunboats as much as 35G for short periods), and will also allow the Umiak to put different sub-fleets in different locations and on different vectors to confuse the Loroi and make it harder for her to hit and run without being hit back. Putting squadrons of escorts and gunboats out “behind” the main force can give them a head start on trying to catch Loroi ships slashing past the main group, or act a discouragement against attempting to loop back for a second pass. They can expend torpedoes to try to hit Loroi ships on the high-speed cross, or to chase the tails of ships that faster groups are “almost” catching. This option will use up fuel, munitions and time (as well as ships), but offers the possibility of doing serious damage to a Loroi commander who gets too aggressive.

This is just one example of one kind of engagement. Tactics used in a battle defending a planet, for example, would be very different.

V

Originally Posted by brianm
Not to be an annoying hole-poker, but, if the Loroi commander only needs to get the Umiak fleet to waste fuel, it seems the superior tactic is to cross a few light-seconds ahead of the Umiak and either lay mines, or fire down the line of advance. At 25g acceleration, even a diffuse cloud of titanium marbles is going to be a serious issue (unless the shields can be expected to repel such dead physical objects without letting any through, and without too much strain). If dead mass works, the Umiak are screwed; the Loroi can just dump sand in their path every light-minute and force them to burn all their fuel.

As icekatze mentions, it's a very trivial effort to dodge such obstacles, particularly when they are placed in full view of the enemy. As has been mentioned before, mines have no use in space combat; even if you can entice the enemy to run directly into a minefield, ships formations are spread thousands of kilometers apart... the odds that a ship will happen to stumble within the blast range of a mine are pretty long (unless you place millions of mines... which doesn't seem very economical). The closest thing to a mine would be a remote-activated torpedo. Which, again, can be given a wide berth when the enemy observes you placing them just a few light-seconds away.

VI

Missile launch rates are pretty fast in comparison to the time scale of combat. The Umiak torpedo arrays are box launchers that can empty a full load in just a few minutes. Some ships have reloads in internal magazines.

In a transit engagement, when fast Loroi raiders make slashing attacks on an Umiak assault fleet, the Umiak will limit their use of torpedoes, conserving them for the later system assault. They will sometimes utilize long-range torpedoes to chase the tails of raiders that come too close, or lob them at long range at a raider squadron that is turning for another pass, in the hope of catching them off guard.

In a head-on assault, the Umiak will usually launch as many torpedoes as they can at the outset, timed (if possible) to coincide with the arrival on target of the gunboats and smaller warships for maximum saturation of defensive fire. Those ships with reloads will continue to fire during the battle as quickly as they can. In this sort of battle there is usually no attempt to conserve ordnance... torpedoes sitting in the magazines of a destroyed Umiak ship do them no good.

VII

Most Loroi fighters have atmospheric re-entry capability, but there's no reason to bring them into the atmosphere to fight when you can probably engage the same targets from low orbit. It's a bit like hauling a destroyer out of the water onto the beach to fight an enemy on an island... you could do it, but why would you? Or maybe a better analogy is landing an F-15 and driving it around the streets like a tank. You wouldn't be able to use most of your weapons or the full power of your engines, and you'd be incredibly vulnerable to any yokel with an AK-47.

VIII

I believe that the Navy still uses frigates as pickets (or at least would if it were in an actual war situation where the safety of airborne AWACS aircraft was not guaranteed), without any special radars. In the wet navy, the ultimate limit of radar range is in the curvature of the Earth and inevitable blockage of line of sight. In space, there is no such barrier, and detection ranges are much greater, so the utility of a fleet "scout" destroyer with beefed up sensors is questionable.

Of course you'll have scouts, but they'll be solo exploration/patrol vessels of the Bellarmine type, and the difference will be extended range rather than superior sensor capability, the latter of which must be very good in all combat vessels.

IX

Each side has effective ground forces that have conducted successful planetary invasions against the other. Loroi Teidar are nearly unstoppable on the battlefield, but they are very few in number. Cyborg Umiak killing machines are both fearsome and plentiful, if perhaps they lack subtlety. However, there are many tactical and strategic factors that determine victory, of which troop quality is only one.

X

In an impact, it's not your acceleration but rather the masses of the ships and the closing velocity that will determine damage potential. Even the slowest differential velocities we're talking about are in the range of 10-20 kilometers per second - ten times the muzzle velocity of an armor-piercing tank round - and often much, much more. So the energy produced by even the glancing collision of a relatively small vessel is going to be devastating. The kinetic energy produced from a head-on collision by a small 250 ton fighter at a relatively modest closing velocity of 80 km/sec would be:

KE = ½mv²
KE = ½ * 250,000kg *(80,000 m/s)²
KE = 800,000,000,000,000 joules

or 800 terajoules. Which is roughly equivalent to the yield of a 190-kiloton tactical nuclear weapon. A lot of this kinetic energy will probably blow through the hull of the larger ship, but even so the heat generated by the impact will be enough to convert some of the mass of both hulls into hot plasma. With or without oxygen, I would expect there to be a significant fireball that will no doubt cause secondary damage.

So almost any collision between two comparably sized vessel is likely to cripple if not completely disintegrate both vessels, and even a larger vessel being rammed by a much smaller one will probably be very badly damaged. However, given the scales and velocities involved, collisions between vessels are very unlikely, even if one vessel is actively trying to ram the other.

Maybe, in an unusual circumstance. The Umiak don't employ dedicated kamikaze craft -- that's what torpedoes are for -- and an Umiak ship that's close enough to attempt to ram is also at optimal weapons range - both for the Umiak and the Loroi. It's unlikely that both ships would survive to reach collision... generally one or the other would be destroyed by weapons fire first. A case where I can imagine an Umiak ship trying to ram a Loroi might be during a high-speed pass as Loroi raiders are trying to slash through an Umiak formation on a hit and run attack... an Umiak escort might try to get in the way of one of the Loroi ships as they cross at high relative velocity. But even in this case, it's hard to ram a ship that's trying to avoid you.

XI

Regarding mines: first, geosynchronous orbital velocity is about 3 km/s, so a retrograde projectile would have a differential velocity of 6 km/s. That's fast enough to do significant damage if a hit is achieved, but it's very slow in combat terms; if the enemy detects the projectiles, even at very close range, they can dodge them pretty easily. Making the projectiles low-observable will be critical, but warships will use optics as well as radar, and these projectiles will be at relatively close range. Since the projectile must close to zero range to strike the target, there's a decent chance the intended victim will detect it before it can strike.

Second, even if you limit yourself to mining a very specific orbit in this way (such as an equatorial geostationary orbit), the odds of a collision are very, very low. Making the projectiles smarter increases the chance of a hit, but also increases unit cost. Theoretically, you might use such an insane number of projectiles as to make the chance of a hit in this specific orbit more likely, but what are the odds that an enemy ship will use exactly this orbit? Most geosynchronous orbits are not equatorial, and have a nearly infinite number of permutations of angle, eccentricity and altitude. It doesn't seem practical to try to mine them all, and even if you could, you'd then start to have problems of the projectiles colliding with each other (as these orbits cross). The more projectiles that you use, the greater the chance that the enemy is going to detect one. And the more you use, the more prohibitively expensive it becomes.

The third major problem with the system is that it will really only work once; after one enemy ship is hit (or even experiences a near miss), the rest are going to figure out what's going on and either leave orbit, or simply shift to an irregular orbit.

Finally, as you mention, these projectiles are nearly as dangerous to the defenders as they are to the attackers. Even if the projectiles are self-guided, carefully controlled (so you can order them to take an atmospheric dive when you're done with them), and kept in specific known orbits, the sheer number of projectiles that you'd have to use means that some are going to malfunction. So you're inevitably going to end up with rogue projectiles zipping around your orbital lanes that are difficult to detect and remove.

Overall, the benefits don't seem to justify the substantial cost.

XII

I was already assuming that the projectile had some sort of guidance... without it, a hit at range seems nearly impossible. Assuming for the moment that the projectile can be guided but still evade detection, the weapon is still mostly ballistic, and you're still depending on the enemy to do exactly what you expect him to do. A projectile fired retrograde to engage a target in geostationary orbit on the other side of the planet would take six hours to reach its target... that's a long time, and if the target ship changes course at all during that time, you have no hope of scoring a hit. And I think you have to assume that it will. A ship in orbit around a hostile planet is almost certainly going to have to expect some kind of attack, and if the enemy has any kind of combat experience at all, they're going to take preventative measures. Like a naval vessel zig-zagging to deter torpedo attacks from U-boats, all an orbiting vessel has to do to avoid long-range ballistic weapons is change vectors at various intervals. If I were in command of the ship, I would alternate between fast low orbits and high looping orbits; doing so would not only throw off ballistic projectiles, but would also most likely reveal the mass launcher attempting to hide in the planet's shadow.

Any projectile drive system energetic enough to compensate for major changes in orbit is probably going to be easily detectable by the enemy, and will have to deal with the issues of the conventional torpedo, chief among which is dealing with ship defensive weaponry.

XIII

I think this has been mentioned, but it bears repeating -- if you are engaging an enemy fleet around your own inhabited planet, then you are in a very difficult situation. If enemy starships have made it as close as Lunar orbit to your planet, then there is very little you can do to stop them from devastating the surface of the planet at pretty much any time they want. One would hope that you would have already made your defensive stand long before this point. If the goal of the enemy is the destruction of your planet, then the battle is already over. If the goal of the enemy is invasion, then the defense has some difficult choices to make. If you care at all about the civilian lives at stake, then you're either going to have to just let the enemy have the system, or you're going to have to plan your defense very carefully. If at any time your defense really angers the enemy or it looks like they're not winning, they can change their plan to destruction. In any case, it's not a good situation, and employing wonky terror weapons at this stage may not be the best plan.

XIV

The Loroi have three types of shipboard fighting forces. The first are Soroin security forces, essentially part of the ship's crew, but they are well trained and well equipped for fighting. The second are the psionic Teidar, but these are very few in number; even a ship as large as Tempest won't have more than 4 or 5, and they usually act as squad leaders. Third are infantry ground forces (essentially the Loroi Army), but these will generally only be found aboard carriers or embarkation craft.

XV

The problem with the Umiak strikes coming through Historian or Tithric territory is not that they were a surprise or that they bypassed some sort of fixed defenses, but rather that they hit the flanks of an already thinly stretched and outnumbered defense. Even with Farseers to direct them, Loroi ships cannot be everywhere at once along a front that takes weeks to traverse. The problem is compounded in that the non-hostile populations serve to make enemy movements more difficult for the Farseers to detect, and that your ability to interdict such strikes in non-hostile territory is limited by political restrictions.

XVI

Given the relatively long cooldowns for direct-fire weapons and the very large ranges in Outsider, the only application of "saturation" attacks are in the use of missiles or massed numbers of ships themselves. Pattern fire, in which you use something like the pulse cannon at very long range, with the individual pulses spread out in a shotgun pattern to increase the chance of a hit (with the trade-off that most of the pulses will certainly miss) is an option, but I don't know that I would call that saturation fire. It is very unlikely that pattern fire will give you a chance to hit more than one ship, as even ships in "tight" formation are going to be many kilometers apart.

Because of the need to impart visual information to the reader, I am making it look in the comic like the ships are closer together than they actually should be. I think this is probably necessary in the static visual medium of comics to give the impression of a fleet; otherwise it's just shots of individual ships. This can be rationalized to a certain extent by noting that Alex isn't looking out a window, but rather at an artificial display in which things can be zoomed in or out... I thought of putting zoom boxes around the images of the ships, but didn't have time to do it.

Regarding formations: when forced to defend a point (which usually means a v-matched head-on firefight), the Loroi typically assume a box formation spread across several thousand kilometers, with the heavy ships at the center of squadron formations (to assist with point defense), and a line of smaller vessels at the vanguard to screen them from the enemy. Basically, the Loroi want to spread out as much as possible while still allowing for overlapping spheres of point defense. The Umiak want to swarm and close to point-blank range (<10,000 km) where the weapons on their gunboats and destroyer-sized vessels are most effective, so it is not a good idea for the Loroi to bunch up too much. The Loroi want to force the Umiak to close on a particular point in the formation (preferably, the van) while the whole Loroi formation pours fire on them from range. The formation will roll left and right to try to keep the enemy in this kill box.

There is no problem of formations restricting fields of fire, because the positioning of ships is so diffuse that there's really no chance of one ship blocking the field of fire of another.

The tactical display image below shows the relative distribution of the 27 ships currently forming the Tempest's strike group. The formation would probably be about 40,000 km across.

I think point-defense missiles in space will have much longer rangers than icekatze is suggesting. I expect them to be effective out to 10-20,000 km.

A single torpedo hit can completely cripple a ship, so they are very effective, even though actual hits are extremely rare, because they must be given the highest priority as targets, allowing other targets to close range unscathed. An odd analogy: in the tabletop Warhammer Fantasy wargame, one of my armies -- the undead Tomb Kings -- has a static weapon called the Casket of Souls. Basically the Casket can fire once a turn and has a chance to kill every single enemy model that can see it. It can be dispelled like any other spell, and so it almost never successfully kills anyone... but it absolutely forces the enemy to allocate a significant number of his dispel resources every turn to make sure the Casket never goes off, allowing the Tomb Kings to get other spells off that might otherwise be dispelled. Since the Tomb Kings rely very heavily on these other spells to get their otherwise slowly shambling skeletons to fight effectively, the Casket becomes a very effective weapon, even though it rarely actually kills anyone.

XVII

I was referring to a strategic rather than a tactical mode. You're right that static defense, in a tactical sense, does not favor the Loroi, which is why the Loroi try to defend by counterattack whenever possible. However, being strategically on defense favors the Loroi, as it allows them to make maximum use of their Farseers, concentrate their forces, and diminish the disadvantage of their fuel-hungry engines by operating close to base, while at the same time diminish the advantage of the more efficient Umiak engines by forcing them to operate far from base. I did use the term "fixed defense" in the article, which perhaps should be changed to something more descriptive and less confusing.

XVIII

The main problem with the Loroi using fighters against the Umiak is a question of numbers. Fighters are only useful on offense if there aren't enough enemy guns to shoot them all down. Maneuverability (with two engines instead of one, which allows for better snap-turns) helps a fighter survive better than a torpedo, but pattern fire (or "boxing" as someone else mentioned) can reduce this advantage, if you have enough guns to aim. In most engagements, the Umiak greatly outnumber the Loroi, and have more than enough guns to blunt a conventional Loroi torpedo or fighter attack.

Fighter beam weapons are essentially the same as the point-defense weapons on larger ships -- good against missiles and small craft, but not really effective against full-sized ships. The Loroi use screen-piercing laser cannons on most of their fighters, which allows them a chance at scratching a destroyer-class vessel, but the real anti-ship capability of a fighter is in launching short-range torpedoes. Torpedoes are relatively expensive and also suffer from the problem of numbers -- torpedoes can only be effective when they are used in sufficient numbers to overwhelm enemy point defenses. The interceptors deployed with Loroi fast-attack ships like Tempest are optimized for interception, and have limited offensive torpedo carrying ability. The Loroi do have strike fighters designed for anti-ship duty, which can carry 8 torpedoes and house sophisticated ECM suites to enhance their survivability, but these are large and most operate from dedicated full-scale carriers. The Loroi carriers, like their battleships, are expensive and comparatively slow, and so are limited to action in full-scale fleet battles. Carriers will not generally be assigned to fast strike groups like that of the Tempest.

XIX

In space, building up a lot of velocity makes it harder to turn completely around (or avoid large obstacles like Jovian planets), but dodging a beam or a torpedo is just as easy no matter what your velocity is. Newtonian physics allows a targeting computer to calculate your current trajectory with the same precision whether you're going 10 kps or 100,000 kps; the only variable is your ability to change velocity, and this is the same (within relativistic limits) no matter what your current velocity is. 30G allows you to alter your vector by 294m/s and displace 147m in one second regardless of whether your current velocity is 10 kps or 100,000 kps.

XX

The problem with a biological weapon is how to deliver it. Each side does not generally have access to enemy planetary populations and if they did, they would probably use more straightforward planetary bombardments to eradicate a population. Biological agents are slow, unpredictable and dangerous. Matter-to-energy conversion warheads are quick, reliable, and extremely effective, when all you want is your enemy to be dead, dead, dead.

A biological agent might have been seriously considered by the Umiak in the latter stages of the failed occupations of the captured Loroi systems, but those systems have since either been retaken or destroyed, and so no longer a problem to be considered.

XXI

The best defense for a planet against enemy starships is, generally, friendly starships. They are expensive but versatile. Starships can move to intercept the enemy anywhere, not just in weapons range of the planet and not even necessarily in the same star system, and ships can also be used for offensive operations themselves.

Damaging the surface an enemy planet is pretty easy from a starship; if an enemy fleet can get within weapons range of your planet, then they will probably be able to destroy it, regardless of what defenses you have set up. There are plenty of ways to do it, but the most straightforward (that doesn't involve bringing tugs to lob asteroids) is simply to drop antimatter-equivalent bombs... no need to use expensive anti-ship torpedoes. The enemy doesn't really have to work hard to get these missiles past your fixed defenses; they have only to directly attack these fixed defenses themselves, using standard direct-fire ship-to-ship weapons or specialized siege weapons such as mass drivers, which, while useless against moving targets, should be very effective against immobile or relatively immobile orbital and ground facilities. In a slugging match between mobile and immobile weapons platforms, the mobile ships will have a very significant advantage. Once the planetary defenses are eliminated (and the enemy can continue to test whether there are any still active being held in reserve, launching a few bombs at valuable ground assets such as population centers to see if additional defensive sites will give themselves away by attempting to intercept) then the enemy can bomb the surface at their leisure.

However, terrestrial planets don't sit right next to jump points. When enemy ships initially enter a system with a target planet terrestrial planet, the defending ships are generally not going to wait in orbit around the planet, but will rather move to intercept the attackers before they can get into weapons range of the planet. Terrestrial planets will be in the 1 AU (~500 LS) distance range from the primary, whereas the inbound attackers will be at the edge of the system at the 20-30 AU (10,000-15,000 LS) range. That's a lot of space in which the fleet battle for the system will take place, well away from the target. If your defending fleet is insufficient to defeat the attacking fleet, then it's very unlikely that any planetary defenses, no matter how elaborate, will be able to withstand a sustained attack by an enemy starship fleet.

Will anyone even bother to construct defensive installations, then? Certainly. Battle stations, defense satellites and ground weapon stations won't be able to protect a naked planet from an assaulting fleet, but they may be able to protect a planet from those one or two destroyer-class ships that slipped through during the fleet battle, or against attempted hit-and-run raids by smaller fleets.

XXII

Both the ground bases and the attacking ships in orbit will have to contend with atmospheric interference when engaging each other, but I agree with your overall point.

On the issue of using your planetary defenses to beef up your fleet defenses, I'm not sure that inviting the enemy to take shots at your population and infrastructure in order to enhance your fleet's survival makes a lot of sense in the long term.

If you have defensive bases on largely uninhabited planets or moons at the front line that are almost purely military (such as the "Sentinel Moon" at Azimol or other similar Steppes line systems), then you might be more apt to fall back on your defenses -- but if the base does not shelter anything of interest to the enemy, they are not obliged to attack you there. If you turtle around your fixed defenses, you may encourage the enemy to attempt to bypass you altogether and make a run for the next system.

XXIII

What "normal operational accelerations" are you referring to? Most high-efficiency piston and turbine engines such as you'll find on board a modern naval vessel have "cruising" modes that are very close to maximum output, because that's the most efficient way to run them. Some military turbine engines do have an afterburner that can greatly increase thrust by dumping fuel into the exhaust, but these are for relatively small aircraft. Rocket engines run pretty much at full throttle all the time. It's my understanding that nuclear submarines can run at maximum "flank speed" for days on end. If we believe The Hunt for Red October, a nuclear vessel can squeeze a little more speed by running the reactor at 105%... but this is "not recommended." That's the kind of speed boost I imagine for an Outsider starship engine.

With the exception of the military afterburning turbine engines, most large engines systems don't have much in the way of "sprint" capability... sustained maximum engine output is pretty much the same as maximum output, period.

XXIV

Originally Posted by wortspiele
So... this is not a war of large battles in which in relation to their total amount of available troops a significant amount of personnel and ships is engaged in but rather a conflict that is fought in small skirmishes? Or let me rephrase it: there are generally only a few ships at most engaged in a battle. The big battles with the numbers of participating ships in dozens to hundreds are very few a decade (one to three) whereas the aforementioned skirmishes take up most of the time.

There are still large fleet battles, but they are battles of attrition where the goal is more to reduce enemy numbers than to gain territory. A good WWI analogy would be the huge combined battles at Verdun and the Somme which lasted nearly all of 1916 and cost some 2.5 million casualties, and yet resulted in no significant change in the battle lines. Stalemate can still be very bloody.

Even though the lines haven't moved much in the last few years, there is a lot of fighting and both sides are taking heavy losses. While the Loroi can use their Farseers to predict attacks, the Umiak can't, so the Umiak must maintain large defensive fleets spread across the border, and they are under heavy pressure to stay on the offensive, to keep the Loroi in their own territory and try to prevent them from building up enough of a reserve to go on the offensive. So there are regular, sometimes large Umiak attacks on Loroi positions that are almost exclusively for the purpose of inflicting casualties on the Loroi, even though this often means that the Umiak are regularly taking even higher losses, because the Umiak feel that they can replace them faster than the Loroi can.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Firewing
So how long can this war last? A even better question would be - how exhausted are both sides? how close to collapsing?

The war can last all the way to the end of the story.

On the one hand, both sides have been increasing their reserve forces (despite the regular losses), but on the other, there is a limit to what a society can sustain, and the cracks are starting to show. In the case of the Loroi, aside from the strain of constantly being pressed to the limit (both in terms of civilian infrastructure shortages and military losses), morale is low and on the decline. The Loroi have been building reserves by only committing the bare minimum to defend against the Umiak attrition attacks, and this has taken its toll on the front-line forces. Most of the best senior Loroi commanders are dead, and the ones who remain are either young and unproven or older and starting to come apart at the psychological seams. Intense political pressure is building on the Emperor to seek a decisive battle, and if the Loroi cannot find a way to move on the offensive soon, they may begin to disintegrate from within. The Umiak have similar though distinctive problems. And each side has a trick up its sleeve that is waiting for the right moment to spring on the enemy.

Essentially, the war has been building toward a massive, decisive confrontation, and that is the setting for the story.

XXV

- Most battles take place in systems that do not have extensive civilian populations or infrastructure. The Loroi defensive nodes of Mosi, Seren, Golzos, Azimol, and Laget are systems that previously were occupied by the Umiak and evacuated (or depopulated), and though they have been built back up for use as military bases, there is not a lot of production infrastructure here accessible to an attacking Umiak fleet. Population and production centers lie deeper in Loroi territory behind the lines. The same is true for Umiak front-line systems... any vulnerable infrastructure or population that can be reached by Loroi raiders has long since been destroyed or moved. So, in order to affect infrastructure in a meaningful way, an offensive must push deep behind the existing lines into the enemy heartland.

- The nature of supply makes deep strikes difficult. Even if you can overwhelm a star system's defenses and push past to the next one, you must still protect your supply lines from counterattack. Deep salients risk being cut off, but broad offensives can bog down easily. Obviously, if one side had enough of an advantage to push the enemy back along a wide front, they would already be doing so. The Umiak have tried numerous massive all-out attacks that have failed and led to Loroi counterattacks, so they have scaled this all-out mentality back somewhat. The major Loroi Semoset offensive also ended badly, resulting in a net gain of territory but also in a loss of a large portion of the Loroi fleet.

- One way to accomplish deep strikes is to take along extensive mobile supply in the form of transports and tankers; this is a "crasher force" whose goal is to get as deep into enemy territory as possible and attack infrastructure and populated systems. The problem is being able to assemble a force large enough to have a chance to break through the front lines, yet small enough to be manageable in terms of being able to take along enough supply. Loroi crasher forces can strike unexpectedly but have extensive Umiak defenses to push through, and Umiak crasher forces have the problem of inability to achieve surprise.

- For the Umiak to pool all their forces, leaving nothing for defense, and throw them at the Loroi would be a dangerous gamble. They're not going to surprise the Loroi, so at best they're forcing a decisive battle, but on terms favorable to the Loroi, who will likely have enough warning to be able to concentrate all their forces to meet the attack. If the Loroi choose instead to avoid combat and abandon the front line systems and look for opportunities to counterattack into undefended Umiak territory, again the Loroi have the advantage of being able to know where the Umiak forces are and what they're doing. The Umiak could still win in either scenario, but there's a substantial risk of failure that could mean the end of the war and the extinction of the Umiak species. The Umiak aren't desperate, and it's not in their nature to gamble on this scale.

- From the Umiak point of view, the Loroi are representatives of the ancient empire, the old order... whereas the Umiak see themselves as the agents of bringing in a new order. The primitive Umiak were originally a second-fiddle species to the related but more sophisticated Tizik-tik (sort of a Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon relationship), but the cataclysm of the fall of the Soia empire eliminated Tizik-tik civilization and allowed the barbarian Hal-tik Umiak to rise. The Umiak see this as evidence of their manifest destiny to forge a new empire, but they also have a neurotic inferiority complex that stretches back to the days of being treated as retarded children by the Tizik-tik.

- The Umiak regard this war as one of defense; they immediately recognized the Loroi as an inevitable threat to their manifest destiny, and prepared accordingly. Though their inability to end the war frustrates them, they have been dictating the pace of the fighting for most of the war, and they feel in control. They don't like risk, and in a manner of speaking, their aggression is driven by fear.

- The Umiak forces along the line are somewhat decentralized, and there is probably a good degree of local autonomy as to launching raids against Loroi positions. The Umiak suffer from a fair amount of group-think, and their focus on detail and efficiency can border on the obsessive-compulsive. They have been in this mode of perpetual assault for some years now, and the crews are very gung-ho; it will probably require some effort on the part of higher command to get them to stop. The ships sent on such missions will often not be the top-of-the-line new models, but more often the older ships that have been sitting on defense for a while, and whose crews are starting to lose morale.

XXVI

I don't think it's possible to know with that kind of certainty that the war is lost until it's so far gone that you are well beyond the kind of options you're talking about. If you still have a significant fighting force and the will to fight, then you still have the capacity to continue the war.

The Loroi spent about five years of this war deep in their own territory, with things looking pretty bleak, hanging on by their fingernails. If the Umiak had succeeded in breaking the Loroi lines in 2140, the Loroi would probably have continued to fall back, opposing the Umiak to the last with whatever forces they still had, trying to buy more time for a last miracle, or even perhaps just more time period. But even if the Loroi had a notion to use their remaining forces in a vindictive last suicide-strike, there is very little they could have done to hurt Umiak territory, which would have been well beyond striking range by that point.


REFITS

If Humanity joins into an alliance with one of the combatants, and assuming the terms of the alliance allow for technology exchange, then the Humans will need to do two things: plan for a new generation of ships using the new technology, and see how existing ships can be upgraded.

For the completely new classes using the new technology, this will take some years for assimilation of the new concepts, design and testing, and manufacture. This is beyond the scope of the story, so it's not something we need to worry about.

For the second thing, there's a very limited amount you can do to upgrade the existing Terran ships given that you probably can't afford to have your whole fleet laid up in the shipyards for an extended period of time... let's say for the sake of argument you have six months. What are some practical upgrades?

Your engine and energy transmission infrastructure is probably too different from the alien engines to directly benefit from the new technology without a complete refit, and you probably don't have time for this. You might be able to add some alien reactors as high-efficiency bolt-on auxiliary reactors.

Existing ships probably won't be able to handle the energy or cooling requirements of alien beam weapons, and the alien technology probably won't provide your existing lasers and mass drivers with any improvements on a short schedule. You can, however, carry alien-made torpedoes.

You may be able to add bolt-on defense screen generators, and in some cases you may be able to weld on plates of improved armor. You also might benefit from alien sensory and computing packages... though I imagine that by 2160, our computers are as fast as they need to be.

So that's probably the extent of short-term upgrades for the existing ships. Now, if you just happened to have, say, a ship that was still under construction, or one that had already been laid down but was cancelled (but not yet scrapped), then you might be able to use this partially-built hull as a test bed for new technology that might be able to be completed in a short amount of time... maybe less than a year if you really pushed it and had a lot of help from your ally. Kind of in the way that the hulls of the cancelled battlecruisers Lexington and Saratoga became America's first full-fledged aircraft carriers.

II

In the same vein, the Loroi had similar experiences and lessons with the performance of their Saber battlecruisers and Vortex commands ships in the Semoset campaign, which gave me the notion that they might want to call the Katana class something other than a battlecruiser. But don't worry too much about it. I'm not.

TECH TRANSFERS

The Orgus vessel was a civilian transport packed with refugees that entered Human space. It would not have had weapons or defensive screens, but the engines, infrastructure and materials are ahead of what the Humans have, though not up to the standard of the combatants. The Orgus refugees are still in Human space, and their ship and personal items of technology have been (politely) confiscated by Terran authorities. Certainly these items are being fervently researched, but without better technical advice than the Orgus crew can provide (as users but not designers of the technology), this could be a long-term effort.

Loroi engines would have been a pretty mature technology at the start of the war, so I don't think engine output would have increased much more than about 25% since that time. The Historian technology transfer was limited to a few specific items: weapons, better defensive screens and armor, none of which was top of the line Historian stuff. A typical prewar Loroi warship would have been a hybrid battlecruiser/carrier armed with lasers and particle beams, capable of perhaps 25 G with really big engines. A heavy battleship might have been limited to 18-20 G.

CAN WE RUN?

Assuming that there is no contact from the scout mission, or that such contact somehow does not accelerate the arrival of the aliens, you have perhaps two years at the most until one of the two sides finds you on their own. Setting up colonies takes decades and is very expensive, and fledgling colonies require a massive amount of support from the mother systems over a significant period of time before they become self-sufficient. Existing commercial transports have finite ranges; you can't just loose them into the depths of space (a la Battlestar Galactica). You could probably design and build long-range super-colony vessels, but that takes time. And any new colonies are just as likely to be found by the enemy as your existing ones. Being a little bit farther away is unlikely to save them.

LANGUAGE

The idea is that the roots of the Trade Language are in the Soia language, which existed before the Loroi lost starflight and became splintered. The Loroi already knew a form of the language at that time, and they were surrounded by Soia relics with various forms of writing. The other Soia Liron races were also splintered at that time, and also had a legacy of Soia culture. Together with the persistent influence of the Historians, various forms of Soia became spread as trade languages. The version sponsored by the Historians, which uses a Historian version of the alphabet (which is more geometric looking than the Loroi script) became the de-facto standard.

Unlike some of the other splintered races, the Loroi had no native language of their own, and so the Loroi dialect of Trade became a customized Loroi language, with Loroi-specific idiom and a custom script. When the three Loroi splinter groups reunited, the languages were merged (mostly standardizing on the Deinar variety), but localized dialects still exist. Since the rise of the Loroi to prominence, many other races now standardize on the Loroi version of Trade rather than the Historian version, but both are in common use, and are similar enough that a clever speaker of one dialect could understand some of the other, even though they use different alphabets. The "Standard" or international version of Trade is still the Historian version. This is the version that the Orgus would have taught Humans.

Beryl has been trying to use the formal, Standard version of Trade when speaking to Alex, but she frequently uses Loroi-specific terms and idioms, some of which Alex doesn't understand. Alex can't yet read the Loroi script, and when other Loroi speak in the Loroi dialect, he will have trouble understanding them, at least at first. Fortunately for Alex, Beryl and Tempo both have a good command of the Standard version of Trade.

II

Schwartz is correct that the base-8 numeric system is a holdover from the Soia system. Most of the other Soia-Liron races have four-fingered hands.

III

Vocal language (like written language) is a remnant of the Soia era, and it survived the primitive period as a necessary tool for warrior Loroi to be able to communicate with potentially hostile Loroi (who might use a telepathic contact as an avenue of attack). In the modern era it serves a similar purpose of communicating with aliens, but since telepathic signals can't currently be recorded or retransmitted, spoken language is also used for radio communication and for making verbal records.

IV

I think it would have to be a mixture of both. I imagine telepathy working on a number of levels simultaneously. Given that Loroi telepaths can read alien minds, and even something as simple as Alex's brain interpreting Fireblade's telepathic presence as an image, there has to be a universal element to telepathic communication. More complicated communication will probably require some sort of structure that (however intuitive it may be) must be learned, so this will probably lead to telepathic dialects. More complicated forms of telepathic communication (that is, higher-level than simply sending the image or description of an item every time the item is mentioned) can improve the efficiency of communication -- you don't have to send the full description of "dog" if your recipient already knows what a dog is, but rather a symbol instead -- but when such symbols are not recognized, you can fall back on more basic descriptions. Because of the speed and two-way nature of telepathy, such interrogative back-and-forth about what that "dog" you just mentioned is, might be a natural and non-intrusive part of normal conversation. Also, a structure and "grammar" to telepathy provides for an opportunity for clever and artful telepaths to socially demonstrate their wit and artfulness in communication.

V

Originally Posted by Blackbox
1. What is the Trade equivalent for the verb 'to have'?
2. What about interrogatives? How does one ask questions?

1. peilo.
2. I haven't figured that out yet. My idea was that there would be a keyword either at the beginning or end of a clause to indicate a question. However, looking at the comic, there are no such keywords in Beryl's untranslated questions, so if we were required to go on that, we would have to assume that she's using some sort of tone inflection.

In English, a question is usually indicated by a keyword at the beginning of the sentence (a form of the verb "be" or "do", as in, "do you feel all right," or "are you feeling all right"), but this is optional. The main indication of interrogative is with a tonal inflection at the end, indicated in writing by the question mark. Depending on your inflection, "You're okay" can be a statement, or "You're okay?" can be a question. Japanese is similar in that there is a suffix ("-ka") that indicates a question, but that the same tonal inflection is also used, often without the suffix. So, technically, Trade could rely on a tonal inflection, but this seems against the character of a language that is meant to offer clear communication between species. So, I agree that the most clear and obvious solution is to add a distinct keyword (preferably at the beginning of the sentence) that signals an interrogative.

VI

Knowledge of a trade language wouldn't be very useful as a medium of high-tech communication if there weren't also established frequencies and a/v protocols on which to transmit. We have to assume a whole list of standard communication protocols, or the whole notion of an alien contact mission isn't going to fly; you're not going to be able to safely approach a combatant during wartime without having some kind of remote communication. When Alex switches to the "open frequency" to transmit his distress calls in Trade, he would be using such an established frequency. The "friendship messages" transmitted by Bellarmine to her attacker also would have used such protocols, though likely a non-verbal version.

VII

That's correct, to be an effective Trade language, it will have to include standard weights and measures based on universal constants, which the Orgus will have taught to the human scouts. Alex will have to do some work to make sure that these standards are the same versions the Loroi are using, and he will have to do some math on the fly, and when he tries to work out certain numbers (for example, when Beryl tells him how old she is), he may be reluctant to believe he's got the results right.

TIME

I haven't yet worked out what the length of the standard Loroi day is, but I assume for simplicity it's similar to Earth's. Almost all the planets in our solar system (that aren't tidelocked) have rotational periods between .4 and 1.03 days (Mars' day being 1.03 Earth days), so it's reasonable to expect that many Earthlike planets will have a rotational period similar to Earth's.

II

In the case of Taben and Perrein (and allied alien homeworlds) that evolved their own local time/date systems, they will keep these systems and refer to official time through conversions. New colonies will probably adopt modified versions of official time (which for the Loroi would be Deinar time).

HYPERSPACE

I tend to view hyperspace not as an extra dimension in realspace, but rather as a parallel universe with dimensions of its own. It's not clear how many dimensions our "normal" universe has... some say 4, some 10, and some as many as 26... what the difference is between the hypothetical "hidden" 23 dimensions of our own universe and a separate parallel universe is, I'm afraid I don't know enough about theoretical physics to say. But what I can say is that the whole point of hyperspace is to be able to travel faster relative to realspace, so the requirement for hyperspace is that the relationship of the dimensions of time and space is different than it is in realspace. I'm not sure that's possible if hyperspace is actually just an additional dimension of realspace. But in any case, resolving this question is not required to gain a basic understanding of how hyperspace works. The primary thing to keep in mind is that hyperspace has at least one more dimension than we perceive here in realspace.

If we think of realspace as a flat two-dimensional plane, then hyperspace is a three-dimensional volume that exists above it (and probably below it as well, but let's forget about that for a moment). So the direction that separates the plane of realspace from hyperspace in this case is up and down.... let's call it direction "T". When a ship makes a hyperjump, it is popped "up" in the T direction from realspace into hyperspace. It still retails its two-dimensional (X and Y) velocity, but now it has a third velocity, in the direction of T. Gravity from realspace continues to affect the ship in hyperspace, not only pulling it along the X and Y directions, but also along the T direction. Which is to say, gravity will begin to pull the ship back "down" toward realspace. When the ship intersects the plane of realspace again, it exits hyperspace and returns to realspace.

Mass in realspace causes gravity that warps the plane of realspace, causing dimples in the plane in the direction of T. Since the volume of hyperspace follows the topography of realspace and is also affected by gravity, hyperspace is also distorted in similar ways. But since hyperspace is more complex than realspace, it is distorted in ways that seem more chaotic and harder to predict. This is the second factor that limits jump distance (the first being intervening mass), the tendency of error to rise with distance due to the chaotic nature of hyperspace topography.

Note though, that the T-warping of realspace gravity wells acts as a sort of "ramp" that helps to boost you into hyperspace, as well as "cushion" your fall back in. If a ship were to fall at a steep T-angle with low lateral velocity into a flat section of realspace without a gravity well, there's the possibility of it punching right through realspace and going out the other side. If a ship were to intersect realspace at too shallow a T-angle and with high lateral velocity, it might skip off. There's a very delicate "pitch and catch" that has to occur.

Originally Posted by aygardupinal
4. Why is failing to escape the gravity well of the current star different from failing to escape the gravity well of the target star?

The departure star's gravity is still pulling the ship laterally toward it (say, in the X direction), in addition to pulling it "down" back toward the plane of realspace. So I guess the answer is that it's not any different... it's a bit like firing an artillery shell at a very high angle against the wind... it will land somewhere near where it was launched. In either case, the idea is to maintain as flat a T trajectory as you can, to minimize the chance that you will be pulled deep into the star's well -- either on departure or arrival. A flat trajectory also minimizes the chance of punching through realspace on reentry.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aygardupinal
5. Why will greater mass of the target star cause a greater chance of an 'overjump'?

A deeper gravity well requires a steeper T-angle for the falling ship to be "caught" safely, which means a "higher" arc through hyperspace, allowing the massive star more time to pull the ship toward it. There is less margin for error.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aygardupinal
6. If a photon enters hyperspace what happens to it? Does it have an infinite amount of hyperspace momentum?

The photon will continue on its own vector and go wherever that takes it. The ship and the photon maintain the same relative realspace velocities as they had before jump. Objects retain the same momentum or energy in hyperspace, but the compression of time in hyperspace causes them to move through it very quickly, relative to realspace.

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Originally Posted by aygardupinal
7. Does the device that creates a jump drive field have to be in the center of the created jump drive field?

I don't think so. More than likely, the jump field creates its own "well" in realspace that is deep enough to puncture spacetime and allow the ship to "pop" through into hyperspace. This field is has a certain area of effect (which may or may not be perfectly spherical), but there will not be a strict boundary at the edge of the field, but rather a falloff. The farther a long ship's antenna or vane, say, stuck outside the edge of the field, the more force would be subjected to it as the ship "dragged" into hyperspace; as long at the vane could withstand that force, it would be dragged through with the ship. If a ship with really long vanes had a very small jump field, the ends of the vanes might be ripped off as the ship jumped, and left behind in realspace.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aygardupinal
8. If you took a ship to a spot where there was no star within 3 light years. Pointed it at the closest star gave it zero relative velocity to the target star and engaged the jump drive field what would happen?

Because there was no gravity well to "ski jump" the ship into hyperspace, it would have very little upward T velocity, and might not even make the transition to hyperspace unless it had a powerful jump drive generator. If it did make the transition, it would pop into hyperspace with a little bit of positive T velocity and just drift. The gravity from the star 3 light years away would pull the ship towards it, but at that distance the gravity from that star would not be significantly greater than the gravity from the surrounding stars, so the ship would wander in an indeterminate direction. Because this lateral wandering would be very slow, the small initial positive T velocity would take the ship higher and higher into hyperspace. Gravity might eventually bring it near a star, but by that time the ship would probably be too high in hyperspace to ever return to normal space.

II

It's pretty much the same as a gravitational tide (and in all likelihood, that's exactly what it is). The dimple created by the jump drive is like a deep, localized gravity well. The mass of the ship within the area of effect of the well is pulled into it by a force (gravity or the T equivalent of gravity) that causes acceleration in the direction of T... but as with gravity, the ship within the area of effect of the jump field does not feel this acceleration; it just "falls". Parts of the ship outside of the area of effect will be affected by the force less (or not at all), and inertia will act against the physical stress of being dragged by the rest of the ship. This is the same effect as a gravitational tide... the part of an object closer to the gravity source is pulled harder than the part farther away, resulting in tensile stress. If the force is high enough, it will rip the object apart. Just like an object being sucked into a black hole.

III

Originally Posted by Absalom
Arioch, have you considered just making the distance shorter by way of non-Euclidean spaces? If you dealt with it that way, then travelling through real space could be compared to the longer leg of the great circle intersecting LA and San Francisco, while hyperspace would be akin to the short leg: The difference in travel time could come down solely to distance.

There must be some kind of time compression, because to the hyperspace traveler the jump seems instantaneous. (This is necessary to prevent people from trying to noodle around in hyperspace.) Aside from that, whether the quickness of hyperspace travel is due to time compression, non-Euclidean geometry or a weird relationship between space and time, I don't think really matters to those of us in realspace. Since direction T very likely represents time, it shouldn't be surprising that things behave very differently in hyperspace.

IV

Any photons in the vicinity of the jumping ship would be carried with it into hyperspace. Because they would have a different velocity than the ship, these photons would follow a different path through hyperspace, and so would not reenter realspace at the same time or space as the ship.

V

If you try to jump toward a distant mass and there are nearer masses in the way, the nearer masses perturb your path through hyperspace. This is the major factor that limits the range of hyperspace jumps. It takes very careful calculations to be able to drop out of hyperspace near to a star without actually flying through it, so it is extremely unlikely that you would safely arrive at one of the nearer masses in this case.

VI

The mass of a real-world object does not exist in hyperspace, but the gravity from that mass does affect objects traveling through hyperspace. This is necessary for a variety of in-story mechanics (the ballistic jumping ship needs something to pull it back into realspace), but it is suggested by real theoretical physics. If you can call String Theory "real" physics. One of the speculations of String Theory is the existence of parallel universes (or "branes"), and this is further offered as a potential explanation for why the gravitational force is so much weaker than the electromagnetic and nuclear forces (even the weak nuclear force is 10^25 times as strong as gravity): gravity is weaker because its effect is not limited to this plane of existence... the gravitons are free to cross the boundaries into the parallel dimension(s). This results in a much weaker gravitational force in realspace, and gravitational fields that extend into hyperspace.

So, passing "through" a realspace object won't cause you to collide with it in hyperspace, but it will bring you within that object's gravitational well, which will more than likely pull you out of hyperspace (and collide with the object in realspace). It's theoretically possible to fly through a mass in hyperspace and emerge into realspace on the other side, this would probably only work for a low-mass body (say the size of a planet) and would be very difficult to pull off. In practice, if you "overshoot" a star by a small amount, you generally end up plowing right into it. If you overshoot by a large amount, you don't come out of hyperspace at that star at all. Gas, dust and small masses don't generally have enough of a gravitational pull to wrench a ship out of hyperspace, so there won't be a collision in this case... though there may be slight perturbations of the ship's arc through hyperspace.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quazel
So, how long does it take to calculate the relative velocity and direction of a nearby unknown star? Wouldn't that be the biggest largest hurdle to making unknown jumps? After all the star you plan to jump too could be up to ten years out of place from where you see it.

An accurate measurement would probably take years, but most of this data will be collected by ground-based telescopes long in advance of a jump attempt. And yes, of course you must allow for the actual location of the star, and not where it appears to be.

ORGUS

The Orgus were a small nation located on the periphery of what would eventually become the Umiak sphere of influence. As an interstellar presence, the Orgus would probably have been just a stop on the long ancient trade routes, sort of an oasis on the dusty and largely disused “silk road” between distant civilizations, and the nations that were soon to come under Umiak hegemony. As the Umiak Empire began to grow, the Orgus (and other nearby nations) would have been known to the Umiak, but not of much interest to them. Even after the start of the war and the resulting aggressive Umiak expansionism, it would have been difficult for the Orgus to believe that one day there would be Umiak warships knocking on their door. Even as late as the Tithric incident in 2141, there may not have been much alarm regarding the Umiak announcements of non-neutrality, partially because the Orgus and their neighbors were not near the borders with the Loroi, and partially because the Umiak were still then a remote power whose threats were not taken seriously. It was not clear at the time that the Umiak would take the non-neutrality doctrine as license to annex their neighbors.

The Orgus now in Terran hands would have been a collection of refugees gathered at a remote trade outpost. Some would have been returning from abroad, and some fleeing interior areas. What they would have in common is that none would have much information on the diplomacy that preceded the military action, nor many details about the invasion itself, once it had taken place, as no information left a system once the Umiak had taken control of it. The Orgus refugees did not know what the Umiak had in store for them, be it genocide, reorganization, or merely a very rigorously controlled tea party. Those Orgus still in outlying areas who had decided not to submit to the Umiak fled in what transport they could arrange.

In the case of the group that found our space, they chose a freighter that had been returning to Orgus space from outlying areas, removed the cargo and filled it with as many refugees as it could sustain. Many such ships attempted to flee Umiak dominion, mostly to destinations that were previously known, along the existing trade routes. However, most of the nations surrounding the Orgus had already agreed to some form of affiliation with the Umiak, so some ships did not take the direct routes through the silk road, but instead took detours that they believed could eventually deliver them to the desired destinations. Some detours required making jumps that had not been tested for millennia. Some ships did not survive the attempt. At least one Orgus ship found its detour taking it through space now claimed by a previously unknown race, Humanity. The Orgus refugees would have discovered Terran marker buoys that led them to 82 Eridani, site of the human Esperanza colony. Rather than continue the hazardous search for an alternate route to the Silk Road, these Orgus surrendered themselves to the Terran authorities at Esperanza, and their flight ended. Several thousand Orgus offered their ship and their combined knowledge in exchange for sanctuary.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mayhem
Where are the refugees now? (All on one planet? Spread out?)

The Terran Colonial Authority took custody of the Orgus ship, crew and passengers, though the ship and most of the Orgus remain at Esperanza due to issues of local sovereignty. Many of the Orgus have been transported to other locations, mostly Earth, to serve as experts and teachers, especially regarding the Trade Language and the locations of the trade routes, on which some Orgus individuals were aids in teaching classes at the TCA Academy (which Alex attended).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mayhem
What is their status in Terran Society?

The Orgus are aliens who have requested sanctuary. The current TCA charter does not recognize the rights of aliens, so the status of an Orgus is dependent upon what human nation it resides in, and what deals have been made. The existence of the Orgus has not been kept a secret (as one can hardly expect to place six planets on a war footing with no explanation), but they have certainly been kept under the tightest security, for a variety of reasons which I'm sure you can imagine. As you can expect, each and every one of the Orgus expatriates has been closely interviewed by the Terran authorities, and their movements are carefully controlled.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mayhem
How did they react to the possibility of the humans allying with the Umiak?

It is unlikely that the Terran authorities discussed any of their plans for the survival of humanity with alien refugees.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mayhem
Do we know where their home territory was?

The refugees eagerly supplied Terran intelligence with detailed information on Orgus space and the trade routes known to them. In this sense, Humanity may know as much or more about some of the peripheral races and the ancient trade routes through that sector as the Umiak do. This information is they only way that Terran scouts could have arrived along the axis of Loroi/Umiak conflict.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mayhem
How long ago did the Umiak attack?

Many details of the Umiak attack are unknown even to the Orgus that fled the aftermath. The flight of the Orgus refugee freighter would have begun earlier in 2158.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mayhem
Did the Loroi know of / meet the Orgus prior to the Umiak attack?

The Loroi were relative newcomers to what they now call the Seren sector. Even before the outbreak of war, the Umiak did not permit unauthorized vessels to pass through their borders, so knowledge of the territory and races cut off from the Loroi by the Umiak “iron curtain” is very limited. Knowledge of the region beyond the Umiak domain would be limited to ancient legend perpetuated by the Historians, and what Loroi intelligence could obtain through "non-traditional" methods. But those Loroi that Alex is likely to bump into would probably never have heard of the Orgus. The Orgus refugees, never having met a Loroi, certainly know them by reputation and (Umiak-supplied) propaganda.

II

The group of refugees that made it to Human territory were not on the homeworld at the time of the attack, so they do not know what their own government knew about or prepared for prior to the invasion, to what extent their military resisted (or continue to resist) the invasion, or what the fate of those on the homeworld was, or what other groups of Orgus might have escaped. You appear to be assuming that genocide took place, but there's nothing to indicate that. The Umiak policy regarding neutrality has nothing to do with genocide, and I would point out that it is the Loroi, not the Umiak, who are known to have committed genocide. What the Umiak want is your strategic location and your industrial capacity, and that includes people. Destroying your own infrastructure (and thereby cutting the throats of the majority of your own people who depend on that infrastructure) and waging a bitter insurgency to deny resources to the invader seems to me to be the best possible possible way to convince the Umiak that they should just glass your planet.

TITHRIC GENOCIDE

If you're referring to the Tithric incident, it was a little bit like the current situation between Israel and Lebanon, where an enemy is using splinter groups within a neighboring country as a proxy to conduct raids against your home territory, and the government of that nation is either unwilling or unable to control these groups. In the case of the Tithric, there were regional factions that were actually allowing the Umiak to use their ports as bases from which to strike into Loroi territory while the Tithric federal government claimed neutrality. The Loroi action against the Tithric began as raids targeting infrastructure that was being used by the Umiak, but of course these raids only pushed the Tithric government to formally side with the Umiak, and it soon became clear that the only way to stop the raids was either to occupy Tithric territory or basically destroy it. The former not being a practical possibility, the Loroi chose the latter, and targets expanded to include civilian infrastructure and population centers. By the end of the battle, all of the Tithric systems had been completely devastated. As in the earlier case with the Mannadi, Loroi anger heated by six years of bloody war probably resulted in a lot more destruction than was strictly necessary to accomplish the goal. Not every single Tithric was killed, and the Loroi made no effort to pursue individual Tithric, but the Tithric were effectively destroyed as a civilization.

I don't think that genocide is synonymous with extinction. I don't think it's practical to hunt down and kill every single member of a ethnic, cultural or a political group (I don't know of a single example in our history when this was ever successfully done), so it seems to me that a "successful" genocide has to be viewed as a case where so many individuals of a race have been killed or displaced and so much of their civilization destroyed that they effectively cease to exist as a group.

RELIGION

Each alien race will have (much as humans do) a variety of traditions, philosophies, and myth systems that we might call religion. The unusual quality of the Barsam religion is that it is state-sponsored and that the Barsam make active attempts to spread it to non-Barsam. As a pluralistic faith that preaches peace and the brotherhood of all beings, I'm sure the Barsam church would appeal to some humans (particularly those those crystal-hugging new-age congregations you see here in Northern California), but I doubt there's much danger in Barsam religion being "taken over" by devout humans, any more than there's much danger of Arabian Islam being taken over by the NOI.

II

There is no official state religion of the Loroi. Most Loroi would claim that they are not a religious people, though as with humanity, Loroi of different sub-cultures have very different ideas about spirituality.

The current Loroi civilization arose amid the obvious wreckage of an older civilization, and with the telepathically remembered tales of a previous age of galactic warfare, which have evolved into a sort of heroic-ancestor mythology. This mythology takes different forms in different Loroi sub-cultures, running the full gamut between science, philosophy and religion.

The most popular form of the Loroi philosophy centers around the telepathic sharing and retelling of the heroic myths, and discussion of the meanings of these stories and how they apply to modern life, and the example of heroism they provide for modern Loroi. The reliving of these heroic deeds provides a measure of immortality for the ancient ancestor heroes, and the hope of living a life worthy of retelling suggests a means of a similar legacy to the living. Many adherents of this philosophy believe that the ancient Soia whose empire now lies ruined were Loroi ancestors, and that the Loroi are the rightful heirs to mastery over the local region.

The state religion of the Barsam does have some Loroi adherents. According to Barsam doctrine, the Soia were angelic creatures that established a holy empire in this universe, and were responsible for the creation of the various blue-skinned Soia-Liron races. Special religious significance is assigned to the Well of Souls stellar remnant, the collapse of which the Barsam believe was responsible for the disappearance of the Soia and the fall of their empire. The Barsam church preaches that all intelligent creatures are brothers and share the same "soul", and so should live together in peace (though some sects of the church, particularly those that have taken hold among the Loroi, limit that brotherhood to the Soia-Liron). Like many Earth religions, however, this philosophy of peace belies a long history of violence under the banner of religion. Though they espouse peace, the Barsam are fierce, powerful fighters, many of whom do not hesitate to use force when the occasion calls for it.

III

The Loroi don't have the concept of a hell in terms of a place of suffering and punishment. The real world has been tough enough for them.

Some Loroi sects have traditions of an underworld in terms of the land of the dead, sort of a cross between a Greek Hades and a Norse Valhalla. But most modern Loroi believe that the only afterlife is for one's deeds to make one immortal in the memories of fellow Loroi; to become a part of the heroic myths.

The Barsam church claims that the spirits of deceased beings go to a heaven-like dimension that is the home of the Soia. The Barsam also do not have the tradition of a hell, but rather regard the real world as a sort of purgatory; to blaspheme is to be denied admission to the Soia heaven.

Reincarnation doesn't seem like characteristically Loroi concept. Reincarnation implies balance and suggests tolerance for other creatures (who may be reincarnations of your ancestors).

IV

The bulk of the heroic myths are very old, and unified rule under the Emperor is a relatively modern concept to the Loroi, the coronation of the first Loroi Emperor being some 500 years after the rediscovery of starflight. Prior to that point, Loroi rule had been under regional warlords, and most of the myths deal with heroes of regional conflicts between Loroi. A few of the truly ancient myths date back to the Soia-era Loroi pre-civilization, but these are highly abstracted, dealing with concepts of galactic warfare in terms of medieval weaponry and politics. Currently the "priesthood" of the heroic mythology is embodied in the philosopher caste, similar in function to the Listel but which is instead a civilian institution (some of the members of which are male) outside the direct control of the warrior castes and the Emperor. So though the philosophers espouse the virtues of the warrior path, they are not themselves warriors and the heroic mythology does not perform the role of an Imperial Cult of the Emperor such as was created and spread by the Romans. Modern heroes are added to the mythos, but more on the merit of their deeds than in regard to their political influence, and most frequently as a result of resembling the deeds of an already known, ancient hero. Mythologizing the deeds of former Emperors would probably be discouraged, since the discussion of the hero often focuses as much on her errors and faults as on her perfections.

COMBAT BALANCE

I don’t have time to answer this fully… as the only way to fully answer it is to lay out a complete simulation… but I’ll try to briefly lay out what the issues with balancing are.

Special effects like ablation and splash are of secondary importance. Armor is also of secondary importance… it helps to mitigate damage, but it’s not an adequate defense against heavy weapons (like current infantry body armor). The main balancing issue is beam weapons vs. defensive screens.

I didn’t want to have a Star Trek system where you have “shields” that are themselves knocked down by damage, until they “buckle” and the ship is unshielded; the ship takes no damage until the shields fail, and then it’s basically defenseless. There’s nothing wrong with such a system (and it has advantages of being relatively simple), but I just wanted something different. I preferred instead the idea of a defensive “screen” that absorbs or deflects some damage, the rest penetrating to damage the ship, but the screen still there for the next strike, though perhaps with reduced effectiveness. In other words, I wanted it to behave somewhat like armor in WWII-era surface ship combat. Because energy weapons are so powerful, screens have to be powerful too… so a ship has screens that are rated to stop a certain amount of damage, and this has to be balanced against the amount of damage that weapons for a ship of that size class can do. This means that destroyer guns won't be able to scratch a battleship's screens, but that follows the model. You also want to have a way to reduce the effectiveness of screens that are taking damage, and so I seized upon the idea that it’s the penetration of the shields (as opposed to just being hit) that causes overloads and gradually reduces screen effectiveness over time. Again, very much like armor being reduced in effectiveness when it is penetrated by a shell.

The thing that had me confused for a while was the idea of volley fire, and combining multiple shots fired at the same time to be counted as a single shot for the purposes of penetrating screens. This is really problematic for balance, because if you have an individual weapon mount that’s capable of penetrating screens, then if you allow volley fire of multiple such weapons, you’re going to overwhelm the target. On the other hand, if you set screen strength to handle volley fire, then there’s no way a single ship is ever going to be able to damage a target on its own. The conclusion I’ve come to is that volley fire doesn’t work in this model. Aside from the balancing issues, I don’t think it makes sense from a practical point of view. The idea of volley fire is that you focus multiple beams on the same spot and at the same time so that it has the effect of being a single strike. But is it really feasible to so precisely focus the fire from multiple turrets, even from the same ship, on a target 200,000 km away? I’m beginning to think not. Maybe the fire from multiple weapon mounts within a turret could be focused in a volley, but even then only for certain kinds of beam weapons… I get the feeling that plasma pulses aren’t something you can time to this kind of accuracy at these distances.

But anyhow, I’ve come to the conclusion that what’s missing from the current model is the ability of defensive screens to deflect, and not just absorb, damage. The GURPS system has a nice mechanism for representing the ability of armor to deflect as well as absorb damage… in GURPS, armor is rated for both DR (Damage Resistance, the value of damage that is absorbed), and PD (Passive Defense… the potential for the damage to be deflected altogether). Once a target is “hit”, that target gets a defensive action… to attempt to block, parry or dodge… and the PD is added to that defense probability. If the defense roll succeeds, then the target takes no damage at all; if it fails, then the DR is subtracted and the remaining damage is applied to the target. Even if the target has no active defense -- if the attack was not seen, for example -- the target still gets the passive defense… the PD value.

So I think defensive screens should have both a PD and a DR. Other things like ECM and evasive maneuvering can add to PD. Reflective armor could also conceivably add to PD. Using the PD, the target gets a defensive “roll”, and if successful the shot is deflected. If it fails, then the DR is subtracted, and damage is allocated against the armor and internal systems. DR of screens would still be reduced when penetrated (and perhaps PD as well).

The problem there is that if screens only stop a percentage of damage, then every weapon, even the tiniest fighter laser, can penetrate even the best screens and do some damage, which is not what I'm looking for.

If we resolve each weapon attack against screens separately, and allow twin-mounted blasters or lasers to count as a single attack (plasma weapons would have to fire each barrel as a separate attack), the current damage and screen values work reasonably well. The current screen values for Loroi ships are DD:7, CA:9, BC/GCS: 12, BB:16. A twin medium-blaster turret can penetrate the screens of a destroyer at about 50,000 km; a twin heavy blaster can penetrate cruiser screens at 60,000 km, and a single pulse-cannon strike can penetrate even battleship screens at a range of 150,000 km (.5 LS). If we add a Passive Defense (or "Armor Save", depending on how you want to look at it) of about 3 or 4 on a 2D6 (or 1-2 on 1D6), and allow for bonuses like ECM or evasive maneuver, then a target might have as much as a 17-28% chance to deflect the shot. Given the current Umiak plasma weapon numbers, at very close range (~15,000 km), even the smallest Umiak gunboat has a chance to pierce Loroi cruiser shields, which is correct. Considering the number of weapon mounts on each ship, this seems like it might work reasonably well, and helps to explain why blasters have twin mounts and Umiak plasma cannon use single mounts. Add the screen generators as destroyable components in the ship SSD; for each one destroyed, screen DR drops by one. I still think damage that penetrates screens should reduce screen effectiveness (or at least have a chance to do so), as this certainly represents an overload of the system. For the Loroi the main screen generators would be housed in the armored forward prongs... which is fine, since I changed the "subsystem" hit location system to a "section" system -- foward/aft/right/left/center/core, and each section can have its own armor rating. For most ships, screen strength would probably be reduced in the rear part of the ship... but one does not want to choke one's self with too many variables when starting out balancing a system.

UMIAK

Umiak gunboats vary in size and role, and some larger ones do have FTL drives, but most depend on being towed through hyperspace by a larger vessel. All gunboats are limited in endurance (fuel/life support capacity), and so are dependent on tenders, whether they have FTL drives or not. The Umiak have some dedicated tenders, and additionally many "normal" warships, especially cruiser sized and up, have tethers for servicing gunboats.

Gunboats are basically stripped-down corvette-class warships, with beefed up armaments and engines, but minimal fuel storage or crew facilities, giving up endurance for increased speed and firepower, and relying on larger ships for refuel, service/repair and to rest (or change) crews. Gunboats come in a variety of sizes and with a range of armaments, but they are mostly intended for the anti-ship role. Even the small plasma focus weaponry carried on a gunboat is capable of damaging a Loroi capital ship at close range.

A typical medium gunboat is about 75 meters long, without FTL drive. It might be armed with 4 short-range Type 2 plasma cannons, or a single medium-range Type-5 plasma and a point-defense particle beam weapon. Maximum acceleration 30-35G. Crews might be as small as 10-20, and cramped as if aboard a WWII bomber.

Heavy gunboats range from 80-120m, with larger specimens having an FTL drive so that they can jump independently of the mother vessel (usually so that they are ready to fight immediately upon arrival, in the event of enemy defenses at the inbound jump zone). Typical armament might be twin Type-5 MR plasma and 2 point-defense weapons, or a combination of SR and MR plasma weapons. Max acceleration ~30G.

A light gunboat might be as small as 60m, typically armed with 2 SR Type-2, and built for speed, with max acceleration around 35G.

Perhaps ironically, the Umiak gunboats usually don’t carry torpedoes. The gunships themselves, like the torpedoes, are primarily intended to be separate targets in the attempt to saturate and overwhelm Loroi defense fire.

Even the dedicated tenders are still destroyer-class combat vessels and generally follow the rest of the fleet into the fighting. Such vessels are usually in the 200-300m size class and can tow 4-8 gunboats. A third to half of regular warships in a fleet, cruiser sized and larger, may also have tow points for gunboats. A typical cruiser might have 2 tow points, and a larger battleship might have as many as 6.

The Umiak don’t have formal ship class designations, but gunboats (like torpedoes) are mass-produced to the degree that they are much more uniform than larger Umiak vessels. Gunboats are referred to by their general type (e.g. heavy medium-range armament), and boats of a given type from the same factory will look the same, but in the field, a swarm of gunboats will usually be a motley assortment of shapes and sizes.

Key to understanding the Umiak reluctance to spend a lot of resources on upgrades or spare parts for existing vessels is the very short lifespan of Umiak vessels in combat. Umiak warships, particularly the smaller ones, rarely live long enough to become outdated. It is not at all unusual for an Umiak assault force attacking a Loroi system to suffer 100% casualties. The Umiak do repair damaged ships, but this is usually left to the resources of the crew. With such loss rates, those ships that do survive a battle usually won’t have to look far to find spare parts.

I don’t think it’s a case of planning, but rather a question of raw industrial output that allows the Umiak to use relatively expensive units as expendable munitions. This applies both to torpedoes and gunboats.

II

Yes, the Loroi generally use twin high-output engines, and the Umiak tend to use multiple lower-output engines, which are more efficient but have a lower total maximum thrust, so an Umiak vessel is typically ~5g slower than the Loroi counterpart.

III

A fair amount. Both sides maintain extensive surface military forces on many allied planets, and the Umiak in particular are known for using their troops to acquire new client states (as in the case of the Orgus). The Umiak have launched large-scale ground invasions to take control of a number of Loroi planets, and the Loroi have done the same to take some of them back, though the last Loroi operation of this nature would have been almost 15 years ago.

IV

The Umiak have two general classes of shipboard fighters: crew security forces and dedicated Umiak cyborg hardtroopers.

V

The Umiak certainly do maintain and repair their ships, but it is not their highest priority; if there is a resource conflict between support and new production, the new production will usually win. This is part philosophy and obsession with raw unit numbers, but it is also part pragmatism: in the attrition raids that the Umiak regularly conduct against Loroi positions, it is expected that a large percentage of the ships in an Umiak assault force will not return. A ship that is damaged badly enough to require drydock for repair will likely be cannibalized on the spot for much-needed parts to help repair other less-damaged ships. And if a ship survives long enough to become outdated (for example, if it has been stuck on defensive duty), it will usually be left that way. It is, however, rare to encounter a really old Umiak warship.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karst45
It is always cheaper to melt old metal than to produce new one with raw material.

Perhaps, but it is very likely that the amount of energy a spacecraft would have to expend to go out, collect, and bring the stuff back would far exceed any energy savings compared with ore smelting. Unless there is some ultra-rare macguffin material or component that is so expensive that it makes salvage attractive, like a dilithium or vizorium or pasha, but I don't think we have any of those in Outsider. It would be comparable to dredging a sunken ship off the ocean bottom and trying to salvage it... it's possible, but the economics don't make a lot of sense.

The main value of space wreckage would be in intelligence. If a vessel were found somehow nearly intact, it would certainly be put to some use... but this is rare.

BARSAM

Originally Posted by Quazel
Anyhow, are the little horns on the head fixed or do they have a small degree of movement?

I imagine them being rooted to the skull, so I don't think there'd be much movement.

HYOO-MANS

Some human nations will inevitably disagree over how the Colonial Authority conducts the treaty, but it's not clear to me that this would necessarily lead to civil war. The disaffected nation might instead simply withhold its support in terms of finances, resources and manpower. The Terran Colonial Authority is not a federal government per se, and has limited jurisdiction to force member nations to do anything they don't want to do, but since it controls the only significant human military starfleet, there's not a lot that a potential rebel force can do in strategic terms. it's not as if rogue nations go and join the other side... I doubt if the Loroi would really care whether or not Zimbabwe refuses to formally ratify the treaty and declares its support for the Umiak. Even if a large block of nations became so enraged with the treaty that they wanted to overthrow the Colonial Authority (say, in the case of a particularly oppressive treaty), I think starting a civil war in the midst of such a species-threatening crisis would be a remarkably foolish thing to do. Both those for and against the treaty must realize that any loss of central control will almost certainly mean an alien intervention that will, at best, result in permanent loss of human sovereignty.

How will the rebels get word to the Umiak? Assuming they had access to starships to carry a message, how would they even know where to send them?

It's hard to imagine a situation in which Loroi and Umiak ground troops would be fighting each other on Earth. Any occupation force is going to be accompanied by a fleet that would prevent the other side from landing troops. If the other side brought a fleet sufficient to displace the one guarding human space, let's just say that this would be a very dangerous situation for the locals.

Terran worlds will already have a variety of orbital and ground-based defensive installations. Current missiles and warheads (which are already in many cases nearing end of life cycle) will not be operational 150 years from now, but there will no doubt be much more effective future equivalents that are much better suited to engaging orbital targets.

II

The Scout Corps doesn't have "enlisted" ranks -- even the most menial position aboard an exploratory starship requires Academy-level training -- so there are two grades of the lowest "officer" rank, Ensign. Otherwise it is the same as the modern US Naval rank structure: two grades each of Lieutenant, Commander, then to Captain and so forth.

No, I hadn't really thought about it... the Scout Corps duty uniforms don't have any rank insignia on them. The only noticeable difference relating to rank is that the staff officers have blue rather than orange jumpsuits, and the captain wears service ribbons below his name tag. Scout duty uniforms are instead adorned with emblems of their ship, the Corps, and the TCA. The Scout Corps are highly professional and observe strict discipline, but I think at heart they consider themselves an egalitarian, civilian organization... even the most junior plebe is a highly educated, highly motivated individual. This was mostly an unconscious decision on my part, probably influenced by the fact that I don't recall seeing rank insignia on NASA astronaut jumpsuits... if they are there, they are overwhelmed by the colorful mission patches, NASA logo, and American flag.

No doubt the scouts have dress uniforms with more traditional insignia. The true military arm of the TCA, the Colonial Fleet, would also have much more traditional military insignia.

III

There is a fifth ship. In addition to the four scouts, there is also a long-range transport, the Gopal Prabhu, that serves as a command vessel for the mission. Prabhu maintains station at a predetermined rendezvous point, and the other scouts are supposed to report back to this location. The scout captains have a great degree of leeway to negotiate with the aliens, but they don't have the authority to sign a treaty. A scout must bring any proposed agreement (preferably, with an alien representative) back to the Prabhu, and from there it can be relayed back to Terran space (again, preferably along with alien diplomats for further discussion). Even if the scout captains end up negotiating with both sides at the same time, and it becomes a race to get to the rendezvous point first, there's no danger of a double-agreement. Whichever side loses the race might not be happy about it, but themselves not having FTL comm, they will be accustomed to the idea of all diplomatic agreements being subject to distant approval, and in any case they will only have the location of the rendezvous point, and not the location of Earth itself.

IV

The Terran Colonial Authority is not envisioned as any kind of unified Human government, nor any future version of the United Nations. The authority of the TCA does not supersede the sovereignty (for most purposes) of its member nations. Rather, the TCA is more like a military alliance, such as NATO, created in response to problems encountered in the early days of colonization. Without any single dominant superpower to manage the first steps of Humanity into interstellar space, the first colonization efforts were no doubt plagued with problems of conflicting claims, lack of legal jurisdiction, if not outright piracy. I can easily imagine that it was one of several competing entities that were created to deal with the problems of colonial administration, each supported by different coalitions of Earth nations, that emerged during that period, but the TCA eventually emerged as the dominant player -- in a vaguely similar way that the early 21st Century saw former Warsaw Pact nations applying for NATO membership. Certainly the TCA has become a powerful entity, but like NATO, it is at the mercy of the funding whims of its member nations (hence the cutbacks that resulted in the cancellation of planned TCA warships). Since the alien contact, the responsibilities (and funding) heaped on the TCA have ballooned, but this is a very recent occurrence.

V

Birth Name: Alexander Horatio Jardin
ID Number: 230-023894-39823684-02
Date of Birth: December 17, 2140 CE
Place of Birth: Redding, California (USNA, Earth, Sol System)
Ethnicity: Caucasian (unspecified)
Hair Color: sandy brown
Eye Color: brown
Height: 175 cm (5’9”)
Weight: 68 kg (150 lbs.)
Gender: Male
Education:
Foothill High School (Redding, California): 2155 (valedictorian)
Terran Colonial Authority Aerospace Academy (Hellas Planitia, Mars): 2159 (salutatorian)
Current Citizenship: USNA
Current Rank: Ensign Second Class (2), Terran Colonial Scout Corps
Current Assignment: TCSC Long-range Scout ECS-154 Bellarmine; C.O. Capt. Hamilton
Current Status: Killed In Action / Body Not Recovered
Service Record and Decorations:
5 June 2159: TCA Academy Salutatorian Citation
5 June 2159: Commissioned Ensign Second-Class, TCSC
6 December 2159: Awarded Scout Corps Training Medal
6 December 2159: Awarded Scout Corps Good Conduct Medal
8 February 2160: Assigned ECS-154 Bellarmine (Sol)
17 May 2160: Bellarmine assigned to TF-32, Alien Contact Mission (82 Eri)
27 September 2160: Bellarmine designated as overdue
26 December 2160: Bellarmine designated as lost with all hands
26 December 2160: Awarded Scout Corps Deep Space Mission Ribbon
26 December 2160: Awarded Purple Heart (posthumous)
26 December 2160: Awarded Scout Corps Distinguished Service Medal (posthumous)

VI

Alex and Ellen got in trouble over some off-duty antics, the details of which are revealed later in the story. Neither would ever be careless on duty -- they're both early graduates of the academy with top honors, chosen for a critical mission over millions of other candidates. However, they're both still very young -- Ellen just turned 21, and Alex is not yet 20. The second chapter opens with a flashback of Alex standing in the captain's office, and reveals some of the issues surrounding Alex's education and induction into the Scout Corps.

VII

The red patch is the Bellarmine unit patch; I think the clearest view of it is on page 46. It has a white head-on silhouette of the ship, text across the top that reads "ECS-154 Bellarmine," and the ship's motto across the bottom, "Never Behind." The blue patch is the TCA logo, which is a UN-style globe and laurel with the text "Terran Colonial Authority" underneath.

VIII

The idea was that the Scout Corps ship names would be like the U.S. Coast Guard -- not easily recognizable names that are presumably taken from famous former members of the service. So we assume that there was someone in the space service (some time between now and 2160) named Bellarmine who distinguished his or her self.

The specific origin of the Bellarmine name was a character named "Aya Bellarmine" from a short comic that Andrea L. Peterson and I were working on at the time.

IX

I think that anyone with any knowledge of the layout of the stars in Terran space would not have much trouble picking them out from a Loroi star map. Even I could probably do it. So the notion of compartmentalized navigation data doesn't seem practical. More to the point, the whole purpose of the contact mission is to bring alien representatives back to the rendezvous point. If Alex doesn't know how to get to that location, the mission is now a failure. Attempting to keep your people in the dark for a mission of this nature is counter-productive.

X

I hear this one mentioned a lot: the assumption that a huge stockpile of Cold War era nuclear warheads will still be around in 2160. This doesn't seem likely; in addition to continued reductions due to treaty, nuclear warheads have limited operational lifetimes. Many have already been dismantled due to age, and the ones still in use have to undergo regular, costly refurbishment at ~20 year intervals.

In any event, I imagine that the 2160 Terrans have much more effective modern warheads available. The challenge is delivering one on target, when said target is maneuvering at 30G and firing back at you.

A Loroi or Umiak torpedo doesn't need a nuclear warhead; the drive itself is the warhead, and it puts out far more power than any present-day thermonuclear weapon.

XI

Bellarmine's computer system probably consists of a dozen or so nodes networked together across the ship, with redundant data storage that's also distributed, like a RAID. There is certainly data here about the attack, and there might even be a removable archive node, but the problem is that you'd have to know exactly what you're looking for, both in terms of physical devices and in terms of software and data. The computer is not a Trade standard, and the information is in Human language and almost certainly encrypted. If the system was still powered, Alex could probably call up the data, as he knows how to use the system and probably still has valid access codes. However, the Loroi currently searching the vessel will not have any idea how to access the computer. They or their allies might be able to figure it out given enough time, but that's time the Umiak are not going to give them.

The idea of an ejectable black box seems like a notion for a civilian passenger liner -- it expects that your own people are likely to be in a position to recover the box. In the case of an exploration vessel that meets with an accident far from home, or a military vessel that's destroyed by an enemy, it's unlikely that such a black box is going to fall into the right hands. In order to be found by anyone at all, it's going to have to have a radio beacon, and in this case that would mean it would surely have already been destroyed or recovered by the Bellarmine's attacker.

Loroi salvage teams have been searching the hulk and the surrounding debris for between 24-48 hours. They will be making detailed recordings of everything, and grabbing everything that isn't nailed down, but they are aware that a comprehensive investigation will require that the hulk be towed back to Loroi lines, and that is almost certainly not going to be possible.

XII

I believe I have said that the Loroi were a thousand years ahead of the humans, but by that I meant that the Loroi reached the human level of technology a thousand years ahead of us. I expect that, given the right circumstances, humans could catch up very quickly.

I think that human culture's relatively recent rapid advance in technology will be unusual, and not just in comparison to the Loroi.

GENERIC TECH

At one extreme you could have control that is entirely virtual, with the pilot "jacked in", so to speak. At the other end, you could have conventional controls and give the pilot a "power suit" with boosted abilities to move a regular stick. In this case though, the latter seems extraneous... if you can only wiggle your fingers, which makes more sense... having that wiggle translate into commands, or trying to make the wiggle translate into powered motion of a cybernetic arm that moves a joystick that translates into commands? It's kind of like the Anime-style powered armor that has hands that hold giant humanoid-looking weapons with triggers that have to be pulled by giant robot hands instead of a simple electronic linkage... it's a bit silly. You're building in extra points of failure that don't buy you anything except looking cool.

II

An inertial dampening (or amplifying) system changes the degree to which matter experiences the effects of force -- it probably doesn't create any force itself. A force generator of the type that pulls your crewmembers towards the floor certainly does generate force, but it's not necessarily reactionless -- it could just be a field acting between the crewman and the floor, causing attraction. Pointing such a force generator out the back of the ship and switching it to repel won't do anything... there's nothing behind the ship to "push" against.

If you have a true reactionless drive system, in which you can convert energy directly into motion without having to rely on reaction mass, then your drive and your artificial gravity system are probably the same thing. You probably won't have any kind of visible external engine outlet, and your ship can probably accelerate in any direction without having to rotate. That's a little bit too high-tech for the main combatants of Outsider, however.

The fuel requirements for a "realistic" reaction-mass drive, in which the vast majority of the ship's volume would have to be dedicated to fuel storage, also precludes the kind of sleek ship designs that are in Outsider. However, I think there's some middle ground between a real reaction drive and an ultra-tech true reactionless drive.

Assuming you have an inertial damper that can reduce the effects of acceleration on your crew (and likely on the structure of your ship itself), then it's not unreasonable to infer that the reverse principle could work -- an inertial amplifier might be able to increase the effect of acceleration on reaction mass exiting the drive outlet, allowing for much higher acceleration to the ship with a much smaller reaction mass than would normally be required. This is the best justification I can think of for how a "semi-reactionless" drive might work.

III

While it's true that information gathering increases at an exponential level, science itself does not -- it seems that the amount of information required to inform the next advance also increases at a similar rate. Those last few key discoveries may require so much information that it's nearly infinite and almost impossible to gather within the lifetime of the universe. It's also important to note the distinction between science and technology -- you can know a great deal about the workings of black holes for a very, very long time before you are able to develop the tools and techniques to actually be able to manipulate them. Outsider assumes that technological curves flatten out a bit after the steep climb following the information age and early space exploration phase, so that it's possible for a civilization like the Loroi to have starflight for thousands of years but experience only relatively minor technological advancement during that time.

Whereas most of the races experienced a "global reset" of technology in the cataclysm of the fall of Soia empire, the Historians represent an analogue of the European monastic orders that managed to keep some of the Roman knowledge out of the hands of the plundering barbarians, and have squirreled it away for their own purposes. Although they are at a significantly higher level of technology than their neighbors, they are still far from the goal of universal knowledge, and can still be threatened by sufficient numbers of lower-tech units.

IV

The primary Loroi conversion-engine fuel -- let's call it "Type-A" fuel (I really liked in the old Omnitrend Universe games how they referred to their fuels/ores with monikers... so even though you were pretty sure you were using hydrogen, there was some comfort-level of ambiguity) -- is similar to antimatter in that you can induce it, under the proper conditions, to convert almost completely to energy. Hopefully it is more economical to create than antimatter, and easier to store; however, it still requires a terrific amount of energy to create. The technology of producing the fuel could probably be picked up relatively quickly, especially if supplied with the necessary equipment, but I'm not sure that the Human planets will have the surplus energy capacity to be able to create more than a small amount of fuel.

V

Warships would have both passive and active EM sensors on a wide variety of wavelengths. Gravimetric sensors might be too large to fit on a warship, but I can't think of much that would create a detectable gravity wave except perhaps FTL system entry, and that is usually detectable by other means. No doubt larger "fixed" installations would have such detectors, however.

I would think, though, that even if detectors were sensitive enough to detect a target ship's artificial gravity or drive system, and small enough to be mounted on a warship, the warship's own artificial gravity and drive system would probably blind the sensor. You might have to mount it on a specialized vessel or probe, or stick to ground-based or orbital detection platforms. But, given how gravity wave detection works (it depends on ultra-precise measurement of the distance between two points), it's hard to imagine one operating accurately on an accelerating warship.

Since your vector needs to be precise, measurement will be important. Inhabited systems will no doubt have the systemwide equivalent of GPS transmitters to aid in measurement; in an uninhabited system, ships will have to depend on internal computed navigation systems supplemented by external observation of planetary landmarks. I'm not sure how one could "damp" such observations, but even if you could completely blind a target, it would still have its own calculated position. This calculated position would stray from its actual position the longer the ship was blinded, of course. A ship could theoretically jump during combat, but jumping while under acceleration would decrease the certainly of one's vector, as would weapons fire or weapons hits, or other activities that might alter a ship's vector slightly. Also, there is the issue of the power requirements for the jump drive; the idea is that a ship must divert power over a period of time into accumulators to build up the (assumed) large amount of energy necessary to punch through the fabric of spacetime, but given enough power and/or power management, this would be possible to do during combat. The ideal jump situation would be one in which the ship has time to coast, verify its vector through last-minute observation, and divert energy to the jump accumulators. A less-than ideal situation for jump just increases the risk.

VI

The Loroi defensive screens are envisioned as electromagnetic fields, without any plasma or particle element. Screens are designed primarily to deflect or deter charged particles, such as particle beam or plasma weapon fire, but would also offer some protection against neutral particles, various frequencies of light energy, and probably least of all kinetic weapons. The generators are concentrated in the forward prongs, the visual idea being that the beefier the prongs, the heavier the protection... and another good reason to keep the nose pointed at the enemy. The orientation of the fields could be optimized to coincide with the "flatness" of the prongs and the Loroi ships in general when viewed head-on, to increase the angle of deflection. Sort of in a similar way as a stealth aircraft is shaped to deflect radar beams.

I haven't come up with a satisfactory mathematical model to represent the defensive capabilities of the Loroi screens, but the general idea is that depending on the angle of attack and a bit of luck, the screens may either deflect most of an attack or may pass a good deal of it through. The GURPS system has an interesting dual PD/DR system for representing damage mitigation, where the "Passive Defense" value helps to avoid damage altogether, and the "Damage Resistance" value subtracts directly from damage that strikes the target. In the case of Outsider, screens would have high PD but low DR, and armor would have low PD but higher DR.

I don't think screens would be "knocked down" by damage the way that Star Trek shields are, but an attack that penetrates the screens might be expected to cause overloads from electromagnetic feedback, and of course direct damage that penetrates the armored prongs could damage the individual generators.

THE STORY

The script is a strange beast... it has a high-level synopsis, a fairly detailed breakdown of the chapters (sometimes containing rough versions of dialogue), and then a conventional script complete with actual dialogue. The rough script covers the whole story, but the "real" script with dialogue (and sometimes, panel direction) rarely gets more than about 10-20 pages ahead of the current page... mainly because I do panel layout page by page, and a lot of the dialogue gets tweaked or rewritten as I draw each panel so that it flows correctly. I also have a copious amount of notes that contain plot, dialogue, and everything in between. So when I say that something has been "scripted," I usually mean that I've written it down somewhere. But yes, I do have a very detailed layout of what happens in the second chapter.

II

Thanks. There's more to do of course, but I'm happy with the basic design; Greywind is one design that has given me trouble for a long time. She is a significant character in the comic, first appearing in chapter 3.

MISC

The narrator (Alex) is translating Trade dialogue into English for the reader. The speech bubbles are not meant to be word for word literal translations of the actual Trade words Alex would be speaking. When there is an issue of language misunderstanding between Alex and the Loroi, I will make it as clear as possible so you shouldn't have to guess. Such as in cases there is a word that (at the time) he doesn't understand, it is left untranslated, and in other cases such as the Loroi use of the word "seems" or the confusion over Alex saying "uh", the characters or the narrator will bring it up specifically.

As for the reactions of surprise from the Loroi, it's not complicated... Alex is an alien they've never seen before, who happens to look like a pink male Loroi. The purple-haired Teidar is the same one who was involved in the earlier "interrogation," so her reaction is not surprise, but something less positive.

II

A plot convenience perhaps, but hardly hand-waving.

A proto-planetary disk is a solar system that's in the process of forming. It's a large object, and not all one uniform temperature. Most of the disk material is relatively cool, but it's certainly hotter at the nodes where planetoids are coalescing, hotter near the center where it's being heated by the star, and hottest of all nearest the star, where there are often superheated jets coming out of the poles, produced by material falling into the star. Certainly not an ideal sensor environment.

The action in question is happening at the edge of the system, where the material is thinnest and coolest. Ships that aren't moving can probably hide pretty well in this material, and even when they do move, it might be difficult to tell exactly how many there are and exactly where.

III

A ship would have a wide variety of sensors positioned all over the hull for a wide range of input, but not all of these sensors would be wide-field 360 degree deals. In particular, very sensitive telescopes and EM sensors designed for detection at extreme range will probably have very restricted fields of view, and so the question becomes where you happen to have the things pointed at any given moment.

The other question is one of data analysis; even if you're receiving detection data, unless you know what you're looking for, it may not be immediately obvious. Computer automation is going to help you a lot here, but even so I still think a typical warship will need a whole office full of data analysis people sifting through sensor returns real-time, and depending on what they're expecting, some things may escape notice.

For example, both the Bellarmine's system entry from hyperspace and the weapons fire that destroyed her would have been events that the Tempest's passive sensors would have detected, and no doubt that data is still in the sensor logs when they went back to look for it, several days later. At the moment these events occurred, however, the Loroi sensor teams were a bit preoccupied (as the ship was engaged in combat), and it would not be surprising for them to miss or outright ignore events happening outside their momentary sphere of interest.

Certainly, if you detect a system entry, command is going to be informed immediately. My point was that sensor and analysis resources are not infinite, and you have to allocate them as they are most needed at the moment. During a pitched battle, I'm not sure allocating sensors and personnel to watch the jump zones is always going to be the best use of your resources. Especially in this case, when there are enemy ships mucking around under the partial cover of the proplyd, and your detection capabilities are being stretched to their limits.

There is also the issue of physical limitations of sensors during battle; distant, faint signals may be difficult to detect when there is terawatt weapons fire and torpedo explosions all around you.

IV

Tempo is 54.

V

Originally Posted by osmium
One mobile ship yards are for producing ships.

I don't think so. The mobile shipyards in question would be analogous to the mobile drydocks/transporters that are used to repair or service ships in the field today. In theory you could use such a drydock to build a ship, but the logistics of getting the needed materials on site as needed would be very difficult, and I have never heard of anyone attempting this. Production is as much about supply and infrastructure as it is about the actual facility that you use to physically assemble the product. You need warehousing and some pretty heavy infrastructure around the factory itself.

VI

In a war of attrition, you can bet that both sides are working hard to build up their industrial infrastructure and expand to new territory as much as possible... though there's a limit to how far you can bring along a new colony even in a 30-year timeframe. Which makes established worlds that much more attractive. Both sides continue to annex inhabited territory as the opportunity presents itself, the most recent example being the Umiak occupation of Orgus worlds.

I don't think a planet can "run out" of minerals -- at least not on the time scales we're talking about -- they just become harder and more expensive to get at. Iron, for example, makes up something like 35% the mass of the Earth... it's hard to use it all up. Especially with a starfaring civilization's access to metal-rich asteroid fields and the like, there won't be an "end" to production of a raw material, but production may fall off over time and there may well be critical shortages, especially of rarer elements. In this case the Umiak may have an advantage; although they use more materials than the Loroi, they are willing to go farther in terms of ecological damage to get at them. This may be a bigger problem in the long term, but in the scope of a 30 year war, long term ecological damage will probably not have a direct impact on production.

Limited resources like fossil fuels can be depleted, but such low-energy fuels will probably be obsolete at this level of technology (and I suspect will have already been mostly depleted in the rise to the starfaring stage). Fissionables are probably in a similar class. Biologicals are a limited but renewable resource.

The only power source for starships that makes sense is some sort of matter annihilation reactor, using matter/antimatter or some other exotic form of matter than can be made to efficiently convert to energy (I have been referring to the Loroi version as "Type-A" fuel). However, this doesn't explain where the antimatter or Type-A fuel comes from. It will take a lot of energy to produce such fuels... some candidates might be nuclear fusion, solar collection, or deep geothermal. I like to imagine that there might be some ingenious process where by a relatively common material, such as hydrogen, could be excited through some sort of catalyst and a modest amount of energy into this exotic state that allows it to essentially self-annihilate on demand. However the fuel is created, the source of the energy behind it has to be functionally unlimited, but the rate at which such energy can be converted into fuel is limited by your infrastructure. So, you're not going to "run out" of energy for your fuel any time soon, but the amount of fuel you can produce in a given period is limited.

VI

I am assuming that most bath facilities on a military vessel will be communal.

Loroi males do not grow facial hair.

Barsam are hairless.