Data File Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012  

(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.)

(There is significant overlap between some of the quotes in this file and those in Volume I. I will edit out the redundancies as time permits.)

Yes. Someone mentioned Yoko Tsuno here (earlier this year, I think), but I had not heard of the Vineans prior to that. My inspiration for blue aliens comes in general from watching various Leiji Matsumoto anime, and more specifically from the aforementioned Elerians and Syreen.

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Alex is about 5'8" or 5'9". (I have some conflicting notes entries on the subject.) He's taller than Beryl who is 5'6", and slightly shorter than Fireblade at 5'9" or 5'10" (again, conflicting data). I have been told that 5'7" is the average for a human male (admittedly, by a human male who was himself 5'7"), but I agree that Alex is not considered tall by North American standards.

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Aygar is going off of data from the tactical sim that I put together a while back. Here's what I posted on the subject before:

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.

The wave loom was developed at about the same time as the pulse cannon, operates on similar principles, and is also based on Historian technology, though not on a specific similar Historian weapon. It's meant to be a long range, area of effect weapon. I think of it in some ways like the German railroad guns of WWI -- fearsome, but with significant practical limitations that hinder its effectiveness.

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The wave looms on Cry of the Wind are pretty much the same size as the one on Tempest except that there are two of them. So I would expect that the visuals will be similar.

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Loroi are omnivorous. 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.

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Also -- and maybe this is just my perception -- but from my own cooking experience, fresh vegetables are more important than fresh meat. In the sense that the difference between fresh meat and frozen meat in many dishes is not very significant, whereas fresh vegetables vs. frozen vegetables is a huge difference.

Despite the energy inefficiency, if you had a species that was exclusively carnivorous and detested anything but fresh (read: live) meat, then you might be willing to put up with having to carry live animals on your ships (like the Kif in the Pride of Chanur series). I don't imagine the Loroi as quite that carnivorous.

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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.

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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.

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The Loroi have exposure to alien races that use song (the Barsam in particular), so Human singing wouldn't be something completely novel.

Loroi written literature would be pretty much strictly nonfiction.

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Gloves would help, yes. Though I'd expect any sensible medic to be using gloves anyway.

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Yes, so two TK's can wrestle over an object, or one can attempt to cancel out a force applied by the other.

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Or one could simply pick up a pebble and throw it; with sufficient power this would be like a gunshot. With significant limitations on range and accuracy, of course.

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The energy comes from "somewhere else," meaning not from the psi herself. Whether this "somewhere else" is an extradimensional source, a mystical energy field, or some complicated local mass-conversion system, the point is still that it's not coming from the psi herself.

We can speculate on how this is accomplished, and I have some ideas that tie into the other Loroi psi abilities (in particular, the ability to sense mind at a distance), but it's really not that important, in this case, to how the story is told.

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Force applied is still limited by TK power, but it's true that the force can be applied more or less continuously. Given that we aren't using a local energy source, I don't see any practical problems with this.

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Considering their own bloody history, I doubt the Loroi would find Hitler remarkable, even in comparison to the rest of the long line of human warlords and conquerors.

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A small detail: "Ashrain" is the translation of the spoken name (like "Fireblade"), as in "rain of ash", not the Trade name itself. Ashrain's spoken name (or, at least what I have written down) is Bilosin.

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Topaz would be lenei.

It's usually not a good idea for me to comment on the subject matter of fan fiction (as doing so necessarily involves spoilers). But if you're looking for writing pointers, my main suggestion would be to include more specific description, especially visual description of the surroundings and characters. I don't get a sense of what the characters look like (with the exception of Ashrain, of course, since I already know what she looks like ). A more detailed description of what the main character sees in his new surroundings (and what he thinks about it) would also make sense for this kind of story.

I also think it's a good idea to pick one character as the point of view (instead of showing the thoughts of multiple characters) as it makes the narrative stronger, but not everyone agrees on this point.

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"Would submarines make good planetary defenses?"

Any ground defense station can be pretty well camouflaged, but it will give away its position the moment it opens fire.

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I don't think mines make a lot of sense in space combat; space is huge, even in the relatively small confines of the orbital theatre. The chances that an enemy ship will happen close enough to a mine to be damaged by even an antimatter explosion is remote. In order to be effective, a mine will have to have a drive and seeker in order to move toward a nearby enemy vessel in order to score a hit; in other words, it has to become a torpedo.

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I expect that reactors can probably be pushed to 110-120% for short periods (with appropriate risk), but I don't think that's going to substantially change the equation in this case.

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"One common space combat weapon in sci-fi is X-ray lasers. Sometimes the weapon is just "a laser", but other times they use explosive devices to generate the laser and empower it. Can anyone explain how they work exactly?"

I think something like this might be a viable alternative as the "warhead" for a torpedo, exploding and directing as much energy as possible toward the target as possible (at relatively close range), sort of like a modern shaped charge warhead. You don't have worry about heat, since the device is destroyed as it fires, and while the efficiency of the directed energy may not be high, it will still almost certainly be an improvement over an omni-directional explosion.

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An X-ray or gamma-ray laser is just a very, very high energy (short wavelength) laser. The specific frequency of the laser may affect how well it can penetrate specific materials, but otherwise there's nothing magical about it.

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A major factor in the length of the war is simply the speed of travel -- it can days or weeks to transit a single star system. Simply moving fleets to and from battle areas can take months, and a single offensive campaign can stretch across multiple years. If you look back into human history when travel times were equally long, it was not unusual for wars to last for decades -- as an example, the First Punic War between Rome and Carthage lasted 23 years.

The other major factor is the nature of jump drive, in that it funnels movement into system choke points that are difficult to bypass, and the fact that Farseer detection makes it very difficult for the Umiak to outflank or surprise the Loroi. This is similar in a way to how the development of the scout airplane in WWI helped to establish the static nature of trench warfare; it was very difficult for one infantry force to outflank the other without being detected by aerial reconnaissance.

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Higher technology doesn't always equate to more movement in battle. Prior to WWI, you had a three-sided balance between infantry, cannon and cavalry that was fairly even between offense and defense. Infantry could dig in and defend, but then they risked being outflanked by cavalry. WWI added more effective artillery, machine guns and scout aircraft, and the balance shifted to defense -- infantry could dig in without much fear of being outmaneuvered. In this case, better technology meant less movement. WWII added tanks, ground-attack aircraft and trucks for quickly transporting infantry, the combination of which allowed the use of tanks and aircraft to quickly attack vulnerable spots and then motorized infantry to quickly exploit the breach; this shifted the balance back toward the offense.

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You've jumped about a dozen tech levels ahead of me there. Realistically, the process to create Type-A fuel is probably going to require more energy than you get back when you "burn" the fuel, so the fuel is not itself an energy source, just an effective method of storage and release.

Even if this is not the case, and you do have a "Mr. Fusion" device that will convert any matter into energy, it's a long way from there to being able to convert a planet-sized mass into energy (or fuel) on a useful timescale. The expense and physical limitations of such devices are going to impose logistical limitations on how much matter you can convert and on what timescale.

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"to me Historians live up to their name, they don't get involved they simply watch a record and they simply don't care about the rest of the galaxy beyond that. heck they don't even leave there home space, they send out AI's to interact with other races. they seem to be like the Japanese before 1900. there isolationist in away, only interested in information about the outside world not interaction with it."

Except instead of being backward in technology, they're ahead in technology.

Perhaps a more apt analogy would be the Christian cathedrals and monasteries of the European middle ages, who had retained much of the writings and technology of the fallen Roman empire, yet remained largely content to watch the barbarian states around them fighting amongst each other.

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Yes, I agree. Even with self-destruction aside, a ship has to be intact and yet completely crippled to be boardable by an enemy vessel; any maneuvering capability or even the most basic operable point-defense weaponry will make boarding very difficult, even by dedicated specially-designed assault craft. Most boarding actions will be on space stations or under very special circumstances.

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The armed Loroi aboard ship are for internal security. There is, after all, an alien on board.

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I'm aware that our military has a chain of command, and that a supply Captain probably can't countermand the combat orders of a platoon leader from a different unit. However, if I'm not mistaken, a lower-ranking officer is required to defer to a higher ranking one (specifically, he must salute him), regardless of their roles. The notion of a combat officer having to defer to a non-combat officer would be intolerable to the Loroi.

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Yes, Tempo is ranked on the third and top tier of GURPS comeliness, as "Very Beautiful."

This is, of course, a scale of physical beauty, which does not take into account personality or agreeable/disagreeable nature.

It's also worth reiterating that these character sheets are exercises that I use to try to put characters' abilities on a point scale in order to limit them... they aren't meant to be a definitive description of a literary character, especially as regards the personality advantages and disadvantages. The idea is to quantify and balance advantages against disadvantages, and so avoid characters where advantages run amuck -- a good example being Star Trek's Spock, who seems to be good at everything and has essentially no disadvantages -- who is smarter, stronger and faster than everyone else, who knows engineering better than Scotty and medicine better than McCoy... but who for some reason is still only a second-in-command.

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Well, that's exactly what I'm talking about, but I don't agree that two females holding hands constitutes lesbian sexuality. Certainly I will have a great deal of tapdancing to do as a storyteller to explain to the reader that this is not what they think it is... but that is neither here nor there.

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The only present example we have of discardable engines is the example of rocket stages such as the solid-fuel rocket boosters used on the Space Shuttle. In this case, a rocket motor is not a whole lot more than a valve through which escapes the gases from exploding fuel... the vast majority of the mass and a significant amount of the cost of a rocket stage is in the fuel and fuel tanks and the hull of the stage itself. The endurance of most such stages is measured in seconds, and there's no possibility of refueling, so once the fuel is expended the motor itself is useless, so it makes a certain amount of sense to cut the whole stage loose.

In an aircraft or naval vessel, however, the engine is mechanically very complicated, and is among the most expensive components of the craft. Such engines require very complicated infrastructure that make them difficult to simply "detach" (and yes, I laugh my ass off every time they eject a warp core in Star Trek). Further, they have fuel durations measured in hours or even days (or weeks or months for the reactors of nuclear vessels). So these do not seem like good candidates for disposable engines. From what we know about Outsider starships, they would also fall into this category.

I can see some kind of disposable boosters having certain uses, for lifting small craft out of gravity wells or giving them a needed boost -- for letting a shuttle catch up to a fast-passing starship, say... or giving a pack of torpedoes a nice head start. Such boosters might be stacked on a larger ship like today's RATO/JATO packs and used for a makeshift, short-term acceleration boost, but it's hard to imagine a lot of instances in which such a boost would be useful enough to justify the cost and extra weight of carrything such things around -- multiple small disposable engines are almost certainly going to be less efficient than designing larger, more powerful conventional engines in the first place.

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Here's where it helps to think backwards a little bit, because this is space opera and many design decisions are aesthetic and not driven by realism -- especially in the case of a subject like inertial damping, where nearly any answer we come up with is going to be pure fiction. So if we choose to take what designs we have and think realistically about how they might operate, then we really have to start with a key assumption: that the Loroi and Umiak are not fools. The combatants are supposed to have significantly higher technology than the humans and have been in a state of total war for 25 years. We have to assume that they are doing what they're doing because it works. If Loroi ships are designed with spacious corridors without handholds everywhere, and bridges without lots of restraints and acceleration couches everywhere -- and yes, we know why they were really designed that way by the author, and that has nothing to do with realism -- but in story terms we have to assume that the Loroi are not idiots and designed them that way for a reason. Inertial damping must be pretty effective and reliable, and there can't be a major advantage to diverting power away from inertial damping and using acceleration couches instead... or surely the Loroi would already be doing exactly that. So one has to infer that the inertial damping does not consume a significant proportion of the engine's output.

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And yet, when I look at the interiors of real-world ships and aircraft -- even transport planes and airliners -- I don't see any padding.

Again, we don't expect Tempest to survive a lot of kinetic hits that the dampers can't compensate for. Mass driver rounds are not used in ship to ship combat at this tech level because they are too easy to dodge, and a torpedo is usually going to detonate before it makes physical contact with a ship.

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I'm not exactly sure, but I think that's beside the point. If a ship the size of the Tempest (which is in the realm of a million metric tonnes) is hit by a 200 kg mass driver round with enough velocity (in theory) to throw a Loroi crewmember into a wall hard enough to seriously injure her, then that mass driver round almost certainly penetrated screens and armor, ripped all the way through the ship and out the other side. And chances are most of the bridge crew are still in their chairs, because a) the inertial dampers compensated for some of the impact, and b) most of the kinetic energy of the attack will have blown through the ship. Now, it's true they're all about to die anyway, because the ship has been holed and is very likely crippled, but padding is not going to help that at this point.

No practical amount of armor could stop such a kinetic assault. Kinetic impacts at the velocities we're talking about are devastating ship-killing events -- if they can be achieved. Which is very difficult against 30 G maneuvering targets.

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Shock wave in space? There's nothing at this scale to create a significant "wave" in. The explosion of a torpedo, which would be a matter-annihilation reaction (not a thermonuclear one), does damage by electromagnetic radiation: light and heat, either an omnidirectional blast or a projected cone (like an insane version of a shaped-charge warhead). It is not a kinetic attack.

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Pretty much. Mass drivers could only have a chance of achieving a hit against a 30G maneuvering target at well under 10,000km (probably much less than 1,000km), which is point-blank range even for an Umiak. Such a weapon is not completely useless, but it's not useful enough for most Loroi or Umiak vessels to justify carrying one. At this tech level, I think the most useful application for mass drivers will be against ground targets.

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The Loroi heavy fleet units are going to be much better protected than the faster raider units, with thick armored prongs protecting larger defensive screen generators and heavier compartmentalization and redundancy, but there's a price in terms of cost and weight (and therefore maximum acceleration) to be paid for this extra protection. Not every ship in the fleet can be armored like a battleship.

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As others have hinted at in previous posts, the linear distance available to accelerate the round becomes a limiting factor, even if you have terrific amounts of energy to play with. To get a round to significant fractions of lightspeed, you're going to need launch rails that are hundreds of meters long. Crest of the Stars has some nice examples of ships with realistic-looking railguns. These things don't look like they'd be very easy to aim, and still have the basic problem that the projectile can still be dodged (the Abh railguns had to churn out a ton of rounds to get a hit, if memory serves, and starship combat in Crest was conducted at relatively close range due to the nature of their FTL drives), but the bottom line is that this is not what I wanted Outsider warships to look like.

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Well, Firewing is correct that if you want something badly enough, there is probably creative hand-waving that can get you there.

Crest of the Stars does it the most straightforward way: they have slender kilometer-long ships that could easily house the rails that you'd need for decent projectile velocities, and they have an FTL drive mechanism that often forces close-range battles. FTL ships carry a bubble of real-space through hyperspace with them, and they can attack other ships still in hyperspace by "merging" the bubbles. Since these bubbles are relatively small, this results in some nasty close-quarters fights.

Another possible way that I considered when I was working on the "realistic" prose predecessor to Outsider was to make the "coil" an electromagnetic field that is projected out in front of the ship. The launching ship had vanes that would open up and project the field, and the projectile would continue accelerating for several kilometers after leaving the launcher -- kind of a backwards version of the Loroi drive system. I also had projectiles made out of some monofilament supermaterial, that could draw out into large-scale rings or lattices that might increase the chance of a hit. But even with these considerations, it seemed to me even at the time that such a weapon would probably be very difficult to score a hit with, and would be useful mainly to force a target to dodge, or to chew the hell out of a ground target.

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In the case of unarmed combat training, being taught how to deal with the opponent's telepathic attacks is going to be as important as dealing with her physical attacks. Politeness and social taboos are not going to be much of a consideration here... it's also not very polite to stick a knife in someone's heart. Hand to hand combat is not meant to be polite.

As for sports, if potential telepathic contact is not itself part of the contest, then the participants will wear gloves and covering clothing. But again, if you're talking about a game where people are bonking each other over the head with sticks, I doubt the social taboo of touching is really going to be a top concern. There are plenty of things that go on at the bottom of an NFL fumble pileup that are not considered proper behavior at a tea party.

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I've gone back and forth over that. I like the strange spelling, adding to the notion that this is a meaningless term to them, but I'm not sure how "humaniti" would be differently pronounced than "humanity", and even if it was, Beryl and Tempo as professionals would be last people to mispronounce it after hearing it more than once or twice. But since Beryl and Tempo are doing the lion's share of the talking, that's kind of that. I'll continue to think about it, especially in connection with other mispronunciations on the way.

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I'll start by cut-and-pasting the relevant section of the Telepathy essay:

Skin-to-skin physical contact between Loroi automatically creates a direct telepathic link that is much stronger and more intimate than normal remote telepathy. Sending between individuals is faster and carries more bandwidth, nearly equaling the sharing of thoughts. Large amounts of information can be transferred quickly in this manner. Attempting to relay false information or to even conceal information is even more difficult than in remote sending because of the increased intimacy of the connection, and physical link is sometimes used as a means between individuals to verify the truth of a given issue. However, the direct physical link involves the lowering of a substantial portion of one’s personal barriers, and is normally only done between close friends. Casual touching is taboo in Loroi society, which is one of the reasons why Loroi clothing exposes very little skin.

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.

Which is about to be addressed in a few pages, so I'll leave it at that.

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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.

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I'm skeptical of the view that technology is a regular, inevitable march toward progress. Earth history does not support this view, even among humans who, in this story, are supposedly a rapidly-advancing culture. I'm also skeptical of the view that war necessarily drives innovation, since some of the most backwards technological cultures on Earth have been among the most warlike.

The "stone age" of technology on Earth goes back 2.5 million years, supposedly predating homo sapiens by a significant margin (though the more I read about modern archaeology, the more I get the impression that they are very confused about the specifics of speciation in primitive humans.) Nevertheless, there is a gap of roughly 2 million years between the first tool using proto-humans and the first human civilizations that started around 4000 BC. And yet, stone age technology persisted right through to the modern age and the twentieth century, and (in limited form) persists to the present day.

Since the stone age, contrary to what seems to be the popular view, technological progress has not been a steadily upward-sloping curve. Even in the technological West, technological progress has often been reset by the fall of empires, most specifically the collapse of the Roman empire c.450 AD, that set technology back to the most primitive of iron-age levels, that did not recover until the Renaissance some thousand years later. In the East, Chinese technology flowered in the early centuries BC, until the stratification of society under Legalism essentially froze culture into an unchanging form, despite repeated conquest by Asiatic warrior tribes, that stayed unchanged until occupation from much more modern Western powers woke the East from its slumber after nearly two thousand years. And as for Africa and South America... most "civilizations" never progressed past the stone age before Western intervention in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Chinese and Aztec and Mali humans were every bit as intelligent and creative as Greek and Roman and European humans... yet look how differently their technological paths diverged, due to societal, historical, and geological details. Now imagine the potential divergence between completely different alien species, on completely alien worlds.

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Only in the respect that in Outsider there are two kinds of races: the "old" races who have languished for thousands of years slowly rediscovering old technology lying all around them, and the "new" races (such as the Umiak and humans) who are aggressively advancing like wildfire, whether or not the Soia have been so kind as to provide examples.

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Some technology springs up to fulfill a need, but other technology springs up on its own and creates a "need" that no one knew they had. Take the development of the Internet as a key example. In 1985, there weren't any people walking around saying, "damn -- if only I had a global computer network and a mobile device, I could be looking at porn right now while I text my mother." And yet, twenty years later, the Internet has become something we can't live without. The development of technology is sometimes like evolution in that it can seem as sometimes purposeful, and sometimes random.

"You said earlier the Loroi would be impressed at human technological advancement. While we know the historians don't let Loroi enter their databases, I can't see the other members of the alliance having no networking tech on the Internet level at the very least. How can a TL9+ society like that exist otherwise?"

Everyone has computer networking technology; the question is what you do with it. The Internet is as much a cultural phenomenon as it is a technological one. You can see in places like China that authoritarian regimes have a very different idea of what the networks should be used for than we do in the West. The telepathic Loroi have little use for the kind of Internet that we enjoy, but other races may have different uses for their networks.

The Loroi would be on the slow end of the technological progression curve (for a variety of reasons that I have mentioned), but the majority of the local races are also pretty conservative in terms of rate of progress; nearly all of them are pretty old races that had civilizations that were blasted back to the stone age at the fall of the Soia empire, and took a long time to venture back out into space. Most relied heavily on Soia-era examples to prop them back up again, and so many treat technological advancement as much as an archaeological exercise as an innovative one. Some are more inventive than others: the Pipolsid are a standout, and lead the Union in drive and some computing technologies. The Umiak advanced relatively rapidly, not because of their creativity, but more because of the mania that drives them to constantly improve, where other races may be more content with the status quo. Humans are on the high end of this scale: capable and creative, and with a society that encourages change and rewards innovation. The Loroi will be impressed with the rate of human progress more so because of the fact that we did it without any Soia examples to follow, but I think they probably don't realize that relying on ancient tech may be more of a retarding influence in the long run than a help.

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Loroi males are wards of the state, and from birth most live separately from the females, in cloistered communities that would have some things in common with monasteries (and other things in common with brothels). Any careers that Loroi males wish to take part in have to take into account that they are going to be professionally separated from female society as a whole. Most of these cloisters are probably going to be like the civilian Loroi female guilds, in that they're organized around a particular profession, and often federated into large orders or fellowships, and some will have many branches and even sub-specialties. Unlike the females who are usually expected to stay in the guild or caste of her mother and relatives, males are less constrained by family ties and would have more freedom of mobility between orders and cloisters, with the caveat that there will often be few local cloisters to choose from, and the professions practiced in these cloisters will be limited to non-military (and usually non-technical) specialties. Males will not generally be involved in government or administration, but there are always exceptions to every rule.

In medieval Japan, the high-class courtesans were often secluded in a fancy walled/gated section of town that was entered only by appointment, and with great ceremony --- this would be a fair description of a typical cloister for Loroi males. That there was an important social, artistic and intellectual component to the "geisha" experience (in addition to the sexual one) would also be an appropriate analogy.

The visual arts, especially as regards historical or mythical depictions (as with the Tempest tapestry) would be a very appropriate profession for Loroi males, especially those in the philosopher orders.

Regarding the relative size of male Loroi sexual apparatus, keep in mind that while Loroi males are smaller in stature than human males, Loroi females are the same size as human females, and so Loroi males will need equipment of the appropriate size to get the job done. Consider also the frequency with which many males are going to be using their equipment, and I think that it's logical to expect that Loroi gear would have to be "professional grade."

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"how long is the gestation period for a Loroi female?"

8 months. However, given high medical technology and the busy nature of warrior mothers, it is probably common to induce birth very early.

I'm thinking more like an advanced high-tech incubator, so the mother can pop it out a few months early without too much risk, and avoid some of the worst of the late pregnancy.

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As you might expect of a warrior culture in which peacetime overpopulation is a potential problem, Loroi concepts of health/eugenics and of crime and punishment will seem harsh by our standards.

Most detectable physical defects will result in the artificial termination of a pregnancy long before the fetus becomes viable. A warrior child must pass health standards to even begin the child-band training regime; a child that fails is ether expelled from the warrior class (and delivered into the civilian system that is slightly less harsh) or killed outright. Every warrior child is legally bound to some entity who is responsible for her, either a parent, relatives, or some form of local government. Until she completes the warrior trials and becomes a legal adult citizen (or is expelled from the system altogether), every warrior child is essentially the property of her legal guardian, who can have her expelled or put to death at any time, and for any reason. The legal guardian is also responsible for the child's actions: crimes committed by the child will result in legal charges against both the child and the guardian. As you can imagine, this system allows very little tolerance of chronic criminal misbehavior. The civilian system will be less draconic and more tolerant, but the shame of being expelled from the warrior class leads many of those who are spared outright execution to commit suicide.

Regarding mental illness, their very high medical technology and telepathic ability will give them effective tools to deal with mental illness, but individuals who do not respond to rehabilitation will probably be euthanized. This may seem unduly harsh, but in a society where one individual can literally harm another just by thinking about it, incorrigible criminality or untreatable mental illness is not something that can be solved by locking the person up. And remember that this is a culture that sends its children out into the wilderness to fend for themselves.

Males are considered civilians and so would fall under the less harsh version of eugenic hygiene and criminal liability, but a violent or untreatably insane male would probably still have to be destroyed.

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In the case of a warrior child, it's completely subjective and up to whoever is legally responsible for the child. This is really not very different from the way most human cultures have been throughout most of history; if a child seriously offended his head of household, the child could usually be disowned and kicked out of the house. In most places and times, the survival prospects for such a child were not good. But this was and is a last resort.

Most Loroi caregivers are not going to be eager to put children to death. Most transgressions are going to be punished by more conventional means, probably heavy on the corporal punishment. Serious transgressions (including cowardice or weakness) will result in expulsion from the warrior class. Only the most violent, incorrigible cases (or the most cruel, sadistic guardians) will result in the actual execution of a child.

For adults, the behavior limits and punishments for breaking them will be set in law, the same as in our system.

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"How do the civilians treat failed warriors? With deference because even though they failed they still were given the chance? No different from any other civilian? With derision for their failure? A mixture depending on the individual?"

I think this has to be the correct answer. But it's worth pointing out that a significant percentage of the civilian population will consist of failed warriors.

To elaborate on my edit above, a pretty significant percentage of the civilian population will be failed warriors or descended from failed warriors, so there probably isn't a huge benefit or stigma either way. I can see both extremes of reactions.

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Well, it also provides the warrior class a pretext for not doing so, in that they can view the civilian class as already having proven themselves as unworthy, being descended from failed warrior stock.

Although I suppose it simultaneously provides an out for allowing civilians of great merit back into the warrior class... if they were of warrior stock originally.

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Well, it also provides the warrior class a pretext for not doing so, in that they can view the civilian class as already having proven themselves as unworthy, being descended from failed warrior stock.

Although I suppose it simultaneously provides an out for allowing civilians of great merit back into the warrior class... if they were of warrior stock originally.

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The main combatants in Outsider will need to use some sort of matter-annihilation fuel to power their starships. It could be antimatter, but that is problematic to store, and from what I understand, very expensive to produce. I imagine the possibility of a different, more exotic type of annihilation fuel: one that is less expensive to produce, perhaps a little less volatile, but that can still be converted into energy on demand, given the proper conditions. I have referred to the Loroi version as "Type-A conversion fuel". It's possible that other races have their own alternatives. Or it could be that these "alternatives" are really just exotic forms of antimatter. Torpedoes would use the same fuel and reactor type.

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Since I think the biggest problem with antimatter is the massive energy cost to produce it, I like to imagine Type-A fuel as some sort of hydrogen or helium nuclei excited by some arcane process into an exotic, excited quantum state, in which you can annihilate it just by poking it in the right way. Such fuel would probably never be "safe", but it couldn't be much worse than antimatter.

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In addition to the range limitations, Fireblade's maximum telekinetic force output is about 6,500 lbs, or around 30,000 Newtons. That can do nightmarish damage to a living target, a wall or door, or a device you might encounter in small-unit combat, but it's going to be small potatoes compared to the terawatt damage potential of ship weaponry... even if you had a large PK amplifier that increased power by several orders of magnitude.

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Most Loroi subcultures cremate their dead... funerary pyres seem to have been a common aspect of many Earthbound warrior cultures. In addition to the pragmatic aspects of cremation vs. burial, it prevents desecration of the bodies of the honored dead. Details of the ceremonies would differ by subculture. Most would, I think, dispose of the ashes in some manner so that they could not be easily found, and if there is any memorial marker to the deceased, it would be an empty cenotaph.

In the Loroi fleet, pragmatism would dictate that casualties be jettisoned in most cases, but not before being incinerated, so that a warrior's body is not subjected to the indignity of floating in space for eternity.

Of course, the human corpses that Tempest has recovered are far too valuable to the Loroi to be disposed of.

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"do the loroi believe their souls ( or what ever their equivalent) is released from the bodies ??? or is/are their any traditions for the loroi for their dead in this regard ???"

There are probably many different beliefs among the Loroi on the subject, just as there are among humans. The warrior-oriented philosopher's orders teach that immortality is achieved in living an illustrious life that is remembered and retold in telepathic tales, but it doesn't refer to an actual afterlife. However, I'm sure various Loroi sub-cultures have come up with alternative religious beliefs, including some borrowed from alien cultures.

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Despite their warrior ethos, the Loroi are pragmatic -- they know a dead warrior can't fight. They also don't believe in an afterlife, as such. So although they recognize that death is an unavoidable part of war, they realize that staying alive is important. Loroi can fight tenaciously in the face of certain death, but they are aware of their own value and are not eager to spend their lives cheaply, and so will retreat in the face of unfavorable odds, when it is reasonable to do so. And, personal relationships are important to them, so they grieve the loss of friends as much as we would. That said, there is a superstitious stigma associated with someone who has survived too many times when her comrades have died, particularly in the fleet where the loss of a ship often means the loss of all hands. This has as much to do with the Loroi concept of luck as it does with a concern over personal valor -- Loroi regard luck as a zero-sum affair. Standing next to a lucky person is often seen as a very dangerous place to be. As much as the Loroi adore their heroes, they become disturbed when one survives too many scrapes when her comrades are killed.

In such a long and bloody war, nearly every single Loroi that Alex comes into contact with will have had personal experience with death. Casualties have been very heavy over a very long period, and any Loroi warrior, even one not directly involved in front-line fighting, will have lost many friends. For the crews of raider squadrons such as Strike Group 51, who have been very active at the front in recent years, death has been a constant companion. Umiak weaponry is deadly; even in a minor skirmish, entire Loroi ships are lost, and especially on raider duty, there is rarely time to hunt for survivors.

For the older generation, the war will most likely have claimed a large majority of their friends. Given the desperate nature of the Loroi position for a large portion of the war, veterans had to be left on the front lines more or less until they were killed. Front-line commanders as old as Stillstorm have become relatively rare. Most of the pre-war generation who have not already been killed will have been promoted out of harms way. Having matured in a time of peaceful Loroi supremacy, the dark years of the war will have been more than many of the older Loroi could bear -- many who survive can't bear the loss of so many friends over such a long period. Stillstorm lost nearly everyone she knew in the Semoset collapse -- sisters, daughters, friends -- and was herself critically injured when her own ship was destroyed at Tasinei. She spent years being pieced back together (mentally and physically) before she was able to return to the front lines.

For the younger generation that has known nothing but war, death is something that touches their lives on a regular basis, but it is something they have always known. Talon and Spiral have been pulled off interceptor duty and forced to pilot shuttles because they are the last survivors of their diral band, and Talon (at age 13) is nearly the oldest fighter pilot aboard ship. Beryl's mother was killed at Mosi during the Tasinei battle shortly after Beryl was born aboard her mother's cruiser. Fireblade lost her home and everyone she knew when Seren was occupied (and later purged) by the Umiak, and has survived two lost ships (a distinction not appreciated by her fellows).

As to how the Loroi react to loss, I don't think it's that different from how humans would, although the Loroi find themselves in unusual circumstances. Loroi morale is a very important issue in the current conflict, and it's an issue that I intend to explore in some detail.

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Ashrain is the captain of Black Razor, the battlecruiser featured in the foreground of the second panel of page 59.

Stillstorm is both the commander of Strike Group 51 and the captain of Tempest; Loroi line admirals don't like to give up the formal status of captain, although they may have high-ranking executive officers that perform many of a captain's tasks.

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Although the existence of the Farseers is common knowledge, non-Loroi won't know many details about them. They are generally not seen by outsiders, and the Loroi don't talk about them.

There is a Farseer currently aboard Tempest, but we won't see her for a while, and so unfortunately most of the details about her and Farseers in general will have to remain under wraps until then.

The male philosopher order has a sect that has similar abilities to the Farseers and performs a similar function, and Rain, the male character mentioned above, is one such. These philosopher seers are used for domestic purposes -- things like census and the telepathic version of public opinion polls. Males would not normally be used in a "military" Farseer capacity, as this entails significant hazard.

The "military" female Farseers are technically a civilian caste, even though their job is dangerous and they are sometime assigned aboard military vessels. Warrior children are not used as Farseers; a warrior child with Farseer-quality abilities will probably be used as a Mizol or some other type of military telepathic specialist.

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Under Greywind's martial law, all civilian industry is under direct military control, so there will be a lot of uniformed military administrative personnel who sit behind desks, but the majority of jobs in the industrial sector will be civilian. Any craft or trade specialty is almost exclusively civilian. The military must have its own mechanics (and medics), but they're really just operators... the "doctor" on board Tempest is really a medical technician: she operates the advanced medical machinery that actually does most of the doctoring. Shipboard engineering will be much the same. Ground and orbital bases, on the other hand, will have much more of a civilian presence, including an alien civilian presence. When it comes to civilian jobs, the Loroi will often be just as happy to have aliens working in their drydocks as Loroi civilians -- if not happier, as certain aliens are probably better at certain jobs.

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Farseers are not living FTL radios. A Farseer's ability (and her available instrumentality) is centered around reception, not transmission. Broadcasting an amplified telepathic transmission that could be received (even by a Farseer) at interstellar distance is dangerous to nearby Loroi, and so (except in an extreme emergency) can only be attempted from specially prepared, safe locations. This means that FTL messages can be sent from HQ to Farseers in the field, but generally not the other way around. Only high-priority messages can afford to be sent in this way; the vast majority of communication must still be done with conventional courier starships like Mozin's.

And, as has been mentioned, Farseers are a limited resource and with a limited useful functional lifespan, and so must be used as sparingly as possible.

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The number of active Loroi warships would probably be over one thousand, considering the size of the empire and the number of ships required on each front. A long time ago I had numbers of ships for each class listed (as they are in the Terran version of the fleet list), but I eventually realized that the total indicated number was far too small, and also that it would be a good idea to leave myself some wiggle room by not being quite so specific. High production rates and regular heavy losses will mean that this number fluctuates significantly over time.

The Loroi fleet comprises six sector fleets, each of which should be well over a hundred vessels. Each sector fleet will include a number of system-defense task forces (mostly cruisers and smaller vessels) that usually stay at a particular system, at least one major heavy combat unit (with heavy battleships and usually the sector command ship) that moves to engage incoming assaults, and a number of fast-raider strike groups that are constantly harassing the enemy, either interdicting incoming assaults or raiding enemy systems. The seventh fleet, the Tellai reserve (which includes the Emperor's personal squadron), is normally used to plug holes in the line, but it has in recent years swelled greatly in size. Even though a large number of ships will move to counter incoming Umiak assaults, the size of the Loroi empire and the length of travel time will limit how many Loroi ships can concentrate in one place at one time. So, usually a large-scale battle will involve the targeted system's defense fleet, the sector heavy fleet, a small portion of the reserve, and any neighboring sector fleet ships or raider squadrons that could be summoned in time. A large system defense battle will probably include a hundred or so Loroi warships, and often several times that number on the Umiak side.

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Fred's question is from a different thread, but I think it's worthwhile to reference here. Although it's true that manpower shortages must be a fleet-wide problem after so many years of war, they are most acutely felt in the sector fleets, and specifically in the raider fleets like Strike Group 51. Greywind is attempting a strategy analogous to one the Russians used at Stalingrad; once confident that her sector defensive fleets can repel the regular Umiak attacks locally, she is committing the bare minimum to these local fleets to allow them to hold the line, and then diverting everything else to her reserves in the hope of using them for an offensive at the moment in which the enemy shows a vulnerability. The regular Umiak assaults are suicidal but designed specifically to inflict heavy casualties on the Loroi, and in this the Umiak are very adept, so the current Loroi strategy is to commit only minimal reserve forces to these battles. This is of course very hard on the sector fleets, but it is especially hard on the interdiction groups like Tempest's, as these groups are constantly redirected to a new threat, and are resupplied in the field as much as possible, so it may be months or even years before they can return to base for proper repair, refit, and full re-staffing.

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Granted that telepathy of the kind we're talking about is not the most realistic of science fiction elements; although were are going to have to make some less-than solid assumptions to explain how it works, that doesn't necessarily mean we have to just throw up our hands and say "oh well, it's space opera, don't worry about it."

Telepathy of the kind that we have in Outsider is dependent on the idea that there must be some real physical quality to consciousness. A telepath in this case is not attempting to decode brainwaves, but rather somehow to connect with another mind... and by "mind" I'm not referring to a physical brain, but this concrete quality of consciousness. This is the shaky assumption that we have to start with, but it does allow for the possibilities we need: that telepathy cannot (easily) be reproduced by artificial means, that alien minds might possibly be compatible, and that information can be exchanged more or less instantaneously at great distance.

At the same time, there must be some connection to the physical world, as there are touch and range limitations, and the possibility of amplification or dampening. Also, the ability of minds to connect varies from species to species, so it's possible for an alien mind's thought processes to be so inscrutable as to limit or prevent such connections.

In the case of a Loroi telepath trying to explain to a colorblind Golim what "red" is, there are two possibilities I can think of: one, the Golim fails to understand the reference. Two: the Golim understands what the Loroi perceives as red, regardless of whether it can see the color itself. In the case of the Golim, the compatibility between minds is so good that the Golim is probably able to comprehend the concept of colors it can't see, and experience something of the world in the way that a Loroi sees it.

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It's true that forms of sign language almost certainly played an important role in communication between foreign tribes in early pre-literate human pre-history, but it's hard to imagine that it will be important in starship-era interactions, where meetings will mostly be planned affairs where interpreters are available, and even the most impromptu interactions in the absence of diplomats will be aided by software translation tools. Even the Umiak, who lack the physical apparatus to form the sounds of the Trade language, can communicate clearly with the aid of mechanical translators.

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That's essentially what I meant by option two: the Golim uses the Loroi's perception to experience "red." The Golim may not know what to make of this sensation, and will be at a loss to explain it to other Golim, but will probably be able to retain the memory of it after contact is broken. You can see why many Golim will view enthrallment by nearby Loroi as a near-transcendental experience, and far from resenting it or avoiding such contact, may actually seek it out.

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The vast majority of melee-era Earth warrior cultures had long hair, so I don't think it's an accurate statement to say that long hair is a significant drawback in hand-to-hand fighting. Modern soldiers cut their hair very close for issues of hygiene, and of soldierly social tradition (losing one's individuality and becoming one of the rank and file).

And the last item is surely why you don't see as many shaven-headed soldiers in fiction; it's harder to tell them apart.

And it's also the rationale behind the Loroi hair rituals. The Loroi children are raised as warriors with long hair in the child bands, then they are homogenized as soldiers with the passage into adulthood and the ritual shaving of heads; then as they age they grow their hair back in their own distinctive styles, regaining their individuality as warriors.

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It was other people, not me, who were saying you couldn't fly with PK. The lack of a counterforce is not an issue... if you can apply an arbitrary force to a physical object, there's no reason that object can't be your own body.

A psychokinetic who can generate enough force to lift her own body (and who has enough fine control to avoid slamming into walls) will be able to fly. Mothwing can do this, but I don't know that we'll get an opportunity to see her do it. Fireblade lacks the control to perform delicate flying maneuvers, but it's easy to imagine that this ability helped her to survive the loss of her ship on more than one occasion.

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Acceleration of a fighter (like a larger ship) is going to be limited by engine output vs. ship mass, and not by the amount of G force the pilot can take. If we accept that the fluid medium can allow the pilot to withstand 40G, then I don't think another few Gees more or less is going to make or break the deal.

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Vulcans are described as telepathic, but I haven't seen any mention or evidence of psychokinetic Vulcan abilities. The Vulcan ability to enter a deep healing coma/trance seems more biological than anything telepathic or psychokinetic related.

But yes, if you had telekinesis and excellent control, and especially if you had a way to sense the location and status of a person's internals, I can definitely see PK being used in a medicinal way. In Wendy Pini's Elfquest the elf "magic" was really psionics, and though their abilities were handled in a way that was more magic than science, there are some parallels. PK was specialized to a medium -- wood shapers, rock shapers, or flesh shapers (healers). Skilled healers could do more than heal -- the villainess Winnowill could use her healing abilities to injure or cause pain, and she could "shape" the flesh of a living target, as she did to her henchman Tyldak, transforming him into a bat-like winged form.

Such healing applications of PK would be possible for Loroi, but I think the efficacy of technological medicine at this tech level would largely replace them, except for more subtle or more archaic uses. I can easily see an archaic, empathic PK healer being male.

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Since Tempo explicitly states that the title is in recognition of Alex's command of a vessel, I thought it should be clear that this is the naval version of a captain.

A Commodore is a captain who at some point commanded a squadron of ships, but it is often an honorary title (similar to the honorary title of "captain" for the commander of a small ship who does not have the rank of Captain). At one point in the US Navy it was a 1-star (O-7) rank equivalent to Brigadier General (a Rear Admiral being equivalent to Major General), but it has since been dropped except for honorary titles.

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When Alex is addressed as "Captain" or "Ambassador", these are going to be Trade words referring to the generic positions of commander of a vessel and diplomatic envoy, respectively. Alex is not being given a specific Loroi caste rank (such as Torret or Parat), but rather his foreign status is being recognized. This version of "Captain" will be the same word used to refer to the Barsam courier captain, Mozin. Loroi, on hearing this title, will be expected to show him adequate respect due to one of his station (as captaincy is a big deal among the Loroi), but Alex has no official Loroi military standing.

Yet.

As far as the Terran military is concerned, Alex is indeed the de-facto captain of Bellarmine and, more importantly, commander of the mission (such as it is) -- but his rank has not increased, he's still just an Ensign Second-class. If any member of the Bellarmine crew of a rank higher than that was to suddenly appear, that officer would take over command.

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That would depend on the situation and what Alex and the new officer agreed upon -- they might agree that it would be simplest to keep things as they are, or they might agree to explain to the Loroi that the new officer is in charge. Assuming that the Loroi agreed to this -- assuming that they didn't take an instant dislike to the new officer, for example -- in the case of diplomatic titles, this would mean that the new officer would be designated as "head of the mission", and Alex would be relegated to a "member of the mission", but both would be addressed with the title of "Ambassador." Alex might keep the title of attaché, but that would be an arbitrary decision. In the case of military titles, if they explained that the new officer was technically captain, then the new officer would probably be accorded that title, and they would go back to addressing Alex as "Ensign" (the Loroi having no idea what rank this title means).

However, I don't think it will surprise you if I say this is not going to happen.

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The main division in the modern military between an officer and an enlisted man (correct me if I'm mistaken) is that the officer is expected to have a college education or equivalent, and the enlisted man is not. So in a highly technical environment, like say the reactor room of a submarine, it would seem to me that the only reason to have a job performed by an enlisted man instead of an officer, other than tradition, is that the enlisted man costs less.

Spaceflight is very expensive. Today there are millions of people competing for just a handful of astronaut positions, so NASA will not even consider you without a degree (and more likely multiple advanced degrees). If you watch NASA tv, you'll see that the vast majority of what the astronauts do on the shuttle and the space station is some incredibly menial stuff -- you've got Ph.D's fixing air conditioning and cleaning toilets. And that's plain pragmatism... when there are ten million applicants for 100 jobs, and it costs $5,000 per pound to lift someone into orbit, it doesn't make sense not to hire very well-educated, well-qualified people for every single available slot. And in space, you really need the best people you can get, as the most trivial problem can become deadly very quickly.

Starflight is also going to be very expensive, and the Scout Corps jobs in particular are going to be very sought after. So I just don't see the logic in non-commissioned ranks for the Scout Corps, though they may still exist in the more traditionally military Colonial Marines or Colonial Fleet. This means that some very highly trained people are going to sometimes be mopping floors or slinging hash (or doing damage control), but this makes perfect sense to me.

I'd also like to think that "higher" education will become the norm rather than the exception in the future, but that may just be excessively optimistic of me.

As an aside, in my opinion the arbitrary division between officer and enlisted ranks has more to do with the tradition of European social class divisions than it has to do with military practicality, particularly as the military gets more and more technically advanced. I listen to stories of the grizzled ex-Marine gunnery sergeant and his dealings with the lieutenants and captains, twenty years his junior, who he reported to, and he makes no effort to hide his open contempt for them. He told me once that he literally dressed down a new lieutenant who tried to do some work himself (and give direct instructions to the men). Ostensibly the sergeant's objection was that because he's an officer, the soldiers shouldn't see him getting his hands dirty, but really it was because the officer was stepping on his authority with the men, and because he assumed the officer by definition was an inexperienced dolt and didn't know what he was doing. I can't even count the number of ways this situation is unhealthy.

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Just being a member of the Scout Corps is special; there's nothing "extra special" about being a Scout Corps officer, because all Scout Corps members are officers. This is like saying, what's so special about a NASA Astronaut officer? Nothing -- they're all "officers." However, we're still dealing with a rank system... being a Commander or a Captain or an Admiral is still more prestigious than being an Ensign Second Class.

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I don’t have an exhaustive list of all the Umiak client states. The Umiak empire is much more closed than the Loroi Union; outsiders generally aren’t allowed past the frontier systems, and the client states in the interior are not much seen or heard from, and so the don't have much information on many of them. The client states on the frontier sometimes retain a certain degree of nominal autonomy, as the Umiak have to worry about the possibility of them switching sides if they are regulated too harshly. So, the only Umiak client states that we are likely to hear from before the war is over are those on the periphery: the Tanuki, Morat, Lurs and Tithric along the Seren/Tinza front, the Jilaad on the Maiad front, and now the Orgus on the far side of the northern reach of the Umiak sphere of influence.

There probably isn’t enough there to warrant an Umiak version of the Loroi Union page, so I’ll probably at some point convert the Union page into a full listing of all the aliens.

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The surviving Tithric are either in refugee habitats provided for them in Umiak territory, or subsisting amongst the ruins of the Tithric worlds. In either case, they are not of any substantial aid to the Umiak war effort.

Here are the entries I have on the Umiak client states so far:

Race: Morat
Affiliation: Dependent Ally
Biology: Separated by less than a million years from the pre-Soia common ancestor with their Delrias cousins, the Morat are smaller and sleeker, and with a more varied diet and a less martial culture. Considered "degenerate scavengers" by the purely carnivorous Delrias, the Morat are nonetheless quite dangerous in personal combat.
Notes: Not unlike the Delrias, the Morat exhibit a nationalist pride, born of their ancestral history of pre-Soia galactic empire, that belies their current status as a client state. Prior to the war, the Morat had been Umiak trading partners in the Seren region, but were independent-minded and had strongly resisted Umiak pressure for more binding ties. The Morat had helped facilitate early contact between Loroi and Umiak, but Morat reaction to the Loroi was suspicious: while very interested to learn of the existence of their ancient Delrias kin, the Morat were not not pleased to find them under Loroi occupation. Expansion of both the Loroi and Umiak into the Seren sector hemmed in and squeezed out any ambitions of Morat expansion. The Morat finally acceded to Umiak influence at the start of the war when the Loroi forced the issue by using Morat space for their failed 2136 counterattack. The Morat are still technically a sovereign power, and Morat fleets continue to fight alongside their Umiak allies, but Loroi raids have ravaged much of Morat territory, and the Morat are now almost wholly dependent on the Umiak for their survival.

Race: Lurs
Affiliation: Subjugated Population
Biology: 6 m tall lanky giants, bipedal, use long arms for secondary locomotion.
Notes: The Lurs were already firmly under the Umiak thrall when the Loroi first contacted them in the early 2100's. They were seen occasionally in Morat ports, but kept to their own affairs and did not engage in much contact with the Loroi. Forming a wedge between Morat and Tithric territory, Lurs space is believed by Loroi intelligence to be a major forward industrial region, but it has been out of the reach of Loroi raiders and so is relatively untouched.

Race: Tanuki
Affiliation: Partially Amalgamated Population
Biology: Small (1m), round, bipedal, bushy tails
Notes: The Umiak had already expanded just past Tanuki territory when they met the Loroi, and had begun the process of absorbing the feisty Tanuki. Tenacious but pragmatic, the Tanuki valued their freedom but recognized that their only way of retaining some self-determination would be to aid the Umiak as vigorously as they could. It was from the Tanuki border that the Umiak launched the first strikes of the war against the Loroi, and the Tanuki have been beyond Loroi contact ever since.

Race: Tithric
Affiliation: Dependent Ally
Biology: Sluglike gastropods
Notes: Situated in a precarious location on the coreward end of the Steppes front, the Tithric desired to remain neutral in the war, but did not have the political unity to make neutrality work. Local systems seeking to profit from the overtures offered by both sides made independent deals, most notably permitting Umiak forces to pass through their territory to raid Loroi systems. The Loroi pressed the Tithric to stop this, but the central government was too weak and corrupt to control its own systems, leaving the Loroi little option but to conduct interdiction raids into Tithric space. These attacks unified the Tithric and prompted the formation of a stronger central government (and a formal alliance with the Umiak), but it was too late: the Loroi laid waste to the region. Though destroyed as a functioning nation, the Tithric are not extinct; some refugees escaped into Umiak territory, and survivors on several of the devastated Tithric worlds continue to eke out an existence, mostly cut off from the interstellar community.

Race: Jilaad
Affiliation: Subjugated Population
Biology: Three-lobed coral-polyp head/body, long spindly legs
Notes: Prior to the war, the Jilaad in the southern reaches of the Maiad sector were more concerned with resisting the encroaching Loroi sphere of influence than they were about the still-distant Umiak. But by 2139, the Umiak had expanded into contact with Jilaad territory, and the Umiak, desperate to open a new front against the Loroi, ran over the Jilaad like a freight train. Overrun, and further isolated by the new no-man's land created in the Maiad sector in 2151, it is not known how the Jilaad are faring under Umiak control.

Race: Orgus
Affiliation: Subjugated Population
Biology: Squat, three-limbed
Notes: The Orgus specialized in up-arm trade, on the far side of the Umiak sphere of influence from the Loroi point of view. They refused Umiak requests to join in the far-away war against the Loroi, and also attempted to maintain the exclusivity of their trading contacts by barring the passage of Umiak exploratory vessels. As the Umiak expanded ever closer, the tension grew until, somewhat unexpectedly, the Umiak invaded in 2158 and swiftly took control. A few long-range traders were able to use their knowledge of the periphery to escape the invasion. Some went up-arm, but one was forced to flee in the direction of Human territory, and is now under Human protection.

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All the Milky Way maps I've seen have galaxy spinning clockwise relative to "up" (galactic North), so that's left-hand-rule. You have coreward, rimward, spinward, antispinward, and galactic north and south (up and down out of the plane of the galaxy, respectively). Loroi space is rimward and south of human space. From the Steppes border depicted in the map on page 59, Umiak territory is spinward (toward the top of the map) and Loroi territory is antispinward (toward the bottom of the map). Bellarmine will have come "down" into Naam from the right and from the plane "above" the map.

I have maps that are incomplete and inaccurate, and obviously I need to make some that are fit for public consumption, but that's a bigger job than it sounds like.

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"is that why the loroi/umiak space is at about 200 LY?"

The mechanics of the story require it: human space has to be far enough away so that the aliens have not already stumbled across it, yet near enough so as to be reachable by the Orgus and human scouts.

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The gravitational episode in 1436 would not have been the initial collapse of the black hole, but rather a "burp" related to some other activity. The Well of Souls is at least several million years old. But in answer to your question, there is no known black hole candidate to use for the Well of Souls. For one, there are no known black hole candidates (that I'm aware of) closer than 2,700 light years. For another, the vast majority of the black hole candidates that we know of are only visible because they are in binary systems and are eating the companion, and this is inappropriate for the Well of Souls, which is an isolated body. If the Well of Souls were real, I don't think our astronomers would know about it.

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I got a good chuckle out of the first part, and I agree with the second -- you can debate about whether the Terran fleet could defeat a small number of ships, but I don't think there's any way (at this point) they could withstand a determined assault by one of the combatants unless they had significant aid from the other. And I don't think they would even try, unless they knew help was imminent and sought only to delay the enemy for a few days.

However, you can be sure that humanity is doing everything they can right now to arm themselves, including crash programs to complete unfinished ships. The problem, as many have mentioned, is time.

Regarding the Terran Colonial Authority: the TCA is responsible for chartering colonies, regulating all aspects of interstellar trade, and acting as the interstellar police/military force for humanity. All forms of spacecraft and especially starships will have to be under rigorous control; individual nations cannot be allowed to have their own military starships. Any starship, even a civilian transport, is going to be a very dangerous weapon. It's also going to be incredibly expensive, meaning that only powerful nation-states and multinational megacorporations will be able to afford them, at least early on.

The early colonization period is going to be a wild and wooly time; you'll have Earth nations seeking to expand their power offworld, corporations and other private organizations seeking to formalize themselves as new nation-states in the colonies, and a large émigré population working under a variety of unusual frontier conditions under questionable legal jurisdiction and questionable rule of law. The problems will be less about outright piracy and more about the kinds of problems seen in America's frontier period: conflicting claims, competing jurisdictions, feuding colonists, local colonial powerbrokers using strongarm tactics to oppress their people and terrorize anyone who tries to bring them in line... and labor and populist organizations that may be tempted to resort to violence in the absence of legal protections. It's going to be hard for Earthbound authorities to attempt to bring sanctions against the Ares International Corporation for anticompetitive business practices and their mistreatment of workers on Mars when Ares has spaceships that can drop asteroids on Washington and Brussels and Beijing. So somebody is going to have to take control early or it will get out of hand fast.

Humanity probably got an early taste of the potential problems to come with the pre-FTL colonization of Mars, so I think that the TCA would have been formed very early in the interstellar colonization process. It was probably formed as a consolidation of several competing colonial treaty organizations, created mainly by Earth nation-states, partly out of concern for the rights of colonial citizens, but probably more urgently out of concern for the growing power of private and corporate colonial entities and the potential threat they could pose to Earth nations. Different agencies for chartering colonies, providing for supply, security and rule of law were consolidated under one roof as the TCA. Such agencies don't normally give up power or sovereignty readily, so it's reasonable to assume that this event was spurred on by some impending crisis or conflict. The threat of an imminent human civil war would also explain why the TCA bothered to build heavy warships in the absence of an alien enemy.

Whether or not you think it likely that the fractious humans could unify themselves without first enduring a major interstellar war, the existence of some kind of central human authority is really a prerequisite for the events of the story. If the human colonies were still in wild and wooly frontier mode, I don't think Alex's mission could have been executed.

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The United Nations has no real legal authority and no means to enforce its resolutions; it depends on the whims of senior member nations (read: the United States) to fund it and actually do anything that needs to be done. It's not a very good model to follow. I think by 2160 there will almost certainly be a newer, more effective Earth meta-government to help regulate planetside international affairs, but this would not be the TCA.

The TCA will be somewhere in between NATO and the US Federal Government in the scope of its powers, run by a delegation of member states and a federal bureaucracy. No doubt the large Earth nations will require some special concessions to sit down at the same table with tiny colonial nations, perhaps in the form of veto power or something like the bicameral system of the US Senate and Congress, but the details aren't terribly important in story terms. Member nations, in particular the chartered colonies, will be required to adhere to a sort of bill of rights, but otherwise TCA members remain independent, sovereign nation-states, and may maintain their own planetside militaries – only space-based forces, especially those with FTL capability, are regulated by the TCA. Although the TCA does have a Colonial Marines service, their main instrument of enforcement is the threat of denying access to interstellar shipping, which is critical to all of the colonies.

An important thing to consider when thinking about the colonies is that each colony world is not going to be a monolithic entity; each world may have dozens of independent colonies, set up under different charters. Some will be on friendly terms and may cooperate to form a planetwide meta-government, and some may be on unfriendly or even hostile terms with each other. At the current time, there are no major hostilities between the various nation-states, and those that are unfriendly have temporarily set aside their disagreements in view of the greater mutual threat.

When a colony is first chartered, it is probably not yet recognized as an independent nation, and will probably need a sponsor, which will be an existing (usually Earth) nation-state, a corporation, or occasionally the TCA itself. The goals that the colony needs to reach will be explicitly specified in the charter. A colony that has not yet earned statehood will probably have a TCA governor, who might be appointed or elected, but who probably has to be approved by the TCA.

Overpopulation may provide motivation for people to move offworld to escape it, but this movement won’t significantly reduce overpopulation on Earth, so it's not any kind of solution for overpopulation. If Earth nations choose to subsidize the movement of population to the colonies, it will be for other reasons.

In our Age of Sail colonial period, it was common for colonists to pay for transportation to the New World by agreeing to enter into limited terms of indentured servitude. While indentures will probably not be legal in this future, many colonists will probably still agree to contracts that require a certain number of years of employment in return for transport costs, which will come due if the worker decides to quit early. So there is the strong possibility of worker/employer conflict on that issue alone, as frontier conditions are likely to be harsh, and workers may be inclined to feel mistreated due to the fact that they can't really quit.

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It's also worth pointing out that torpedoes would be one of the easiest alien technologies to retrofit into Terran vessels. If the Terran fleet did get into combat, it's very likely that they'd be loaded with alien torpedoes.

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Yes, both sides have a variety of defense satellites that could be transported and set up in relatively little time. I think, however, that any transport convoy sent to deliver supplies to Humanity is likely to be accompanied by at least a small squadron of warships. Not just to protect the convoy, but to make sure that the arms headed for your new ally don't end up in the hands of your enemy's newer ally.

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It is certainly a biased comment, as it reflects the Loroi view that their hyper-specialized society is "normal" and more generalized societies are backward and possibly inferior. However, her comment is in reference to other examples of what the Loroi consider to be "warrior" races -- the Umiak and Barsam -- that also have biological strategies for very aggressive population growth (the Umiak strategy being hermaphroditism, in which all individuals can bear offspring). The Loroi contrast these "successful" warrior species with other examples like the Delrias, who despite having had a very martial culture, have a more conventional system of reproduction similar to ours (balanced gender ratios, slower maturation). The speed with which the Loroi were able to conquer the Delrias makes it easier for them to view the Delrias as inferior, and not a "true" warrior species. Ignoring, of course, the fact that the speed of Loroi victory meant that the relative rate of Delrias reproduction had nothing to do with the outcome of the war. But it is true that without their high reproductive rate, the Loroi probably would not have been able to keep up with the Umiak in the current war.

As to the question of why the Loroi use females as warriors: the biggest advantage to using females as your warrior gender is that it allows you to have a large proportion of your population as warriors without crippling your reproductive capacity. In the era of starflight, ship crews don't need to be big and brawny, so carrying around reproductive systems is not a real handicap. You are putting your child-bearers in harm's way, but since nearly your whole population can bear children, that's not really a penalty.

Now there's an important element to consider here, and it's that the Loroi (and Barsam, and to a lesser extent Umiak) came into their current form in the era of starflight. When Beryl refers to "adaptation," she's not talking about natural selection; when a species exists for thousands of years at such a high level of technology, it is reasonable to assume that artificial tailoring (either intentional or unintentional) is going to be a factor. The Loroi females -- all of them -- are meant to be starflight-era warriors. The fact that their interstellar civilization collapsed and they had to progress through a primitive phase for which they were not specifically adapted, and that there was no "worker" species available and so failed warriors had to learn how to be craftsmen, was entirely accidental... from the Loroi point of view.

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Assuming that your species is naturally evolved and not engineered, having only 20% of your population available as hunters/warriors may be a serious limitation during the primitive phase of the species' development. In human hunter-gatherer societies, typically all of the males (half the population) are hunter/warriors, and the females are gatherer/homemakers. The nice thing about hunting is that the same skills and physical adaptations translate well to warfare. 50% of the population are skilled warriors available to fight when needed, and during peacetime they add significantly to the food collection capabilities of your tribe. Having a small percentage of your people as hunter/warriors in this kind of society is risky -- a defeat in battle could wipe out a significant portion of your warrior population, leaving you almost completely without protection against rival tribes. This must be balanced against the higher reproductive capacity of the tribe with more females, but I think in hunter-gatherer societies the maximum population size is determined more by the availability of food rather than the speed of reproduction, so a neighboring tribe with a higher percentage of males could have a significant advantage over you.

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As little as possible. Today, human babies are considered viable at 24 weeks, or 2/3 of the full gestation period, though of course with a reduced survival rate. Considering advanced Loroi medical technology, and the hardy nature of Loroi babies, I think survival at 2/3 full gestation could be made pretty reliable, and possibly even pushed shorter than that. So I wouldn't be surprised if many Loroi warriors during wartime cut their pregnancies perhaps as short as 4 months.

However, I don't think that shorter gestation is the real key to fast population growth, especially if the females are going to be away fighting much of the time. Loroi give birth early so that their fighting ability is less impacted by the pregnancy, not so they can get pregnant again sooner. The availability of 90% of the population to give birth and the shorter maturation times are going to have a much bigger impact.

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My notion is that it's really our culture that makes us advance rapidly. Human technology advanced very slowly throughout most of human history, sometimes going forward and sometimes backsliding with the fall of civilizations, until there arose a culture in the West (around the time of the Renaissance) that really valued innovation and rewarded change. Since then, technology has really progressed on a steep curve for us, progressing from medieval technology to starflight in not much more than 500 years -- ten times faster than the Loroi.

What I think would be more impressive to the local aliens, though, is that we did it mostly on our own, without the benefit of historical knowledge of the Soia civilization, or examples of artifacts to follow. The Umiak also progressed from a primitive nomadic culture to starflight very rapidly, but they had a more advanced local race to emulate and later steal from, something they became very good at.

If you're asking how quickly Humanity can catch up, that depends heavily on how much assistance they can get. But even just seeing examples of what's possible can be a huge benefit to technological progress -- it's a lot easier to find something if you know what you're looking for.

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40 years ago, Earth population was around 3.5 billion, and there was a lot of research stating that humanity had reached its physical limits of food production, and shortages of every kind, food riots and mass anarchy were imminent. (Also, pollution was destroying the environment, and the ozone layer was disappearing... and there was of course the looming nuclear war that everyone was certain would happen.) Movies like Soylent Green reflected the contemporary outlook of doom.

In the 40 years since then, Earth's population has doubled, from 3.5 to 7 billion. We are still nowhere near our food production limits; the most agriculturally productive areas of the world are today still some of the least populated. The world has not descended into poverty or anarchy -- on the contrary, the world is more prosperous and more peaceful than it was 40 years ago. We have not resorted to living in domed megalopolises, or underground, nor have we resorted to eating algae (or each other). And yet the population continues to grow.

It's true that birth rates have started to tail off in developed nations, and I think this trend will continue as Asia and Africa develop further, but what I think the official estimates of world population growth are missing is that I believe they grossly underestimate the degree to which medical advances are extending lifespans. The current average life expectancy today is 65 years, but note: that's for a person who is 65 years old today. Today's 65 year old was born into a world without antibiotics, in which nearly everyone smoked and drank heavily without a second thought. I wouldn't be surprised if average life expectancy doubled in the next 50-100 years, and continued to extend much farther than that. I don't think social planners have really got their heads around the idea of a society in which people are still having children but don't conveniently drop dead when they're supposed to. I think it's very likely that there are people alive today who will still be here in 2160.

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The longest recorded human lifespan is 122 years, so we know humans can already live twice as long as the average human does today, even without advanced medical technology. It's just a question of moving that average marker up toward the maximum. It's already happening in developed countries: Japan's average life expectancy leads at 81 years and rising (the US is at about 78). And this is just with improved living and medical care. But the unlocking of the genome and advanced information and medical technology has some much more fundamental changes in store for us.

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This is a separate issue. What is good for the individual and what is good for the whole are rarely compatible. Individuals will certainly wish to extend their own lives, regardless of what impact on the world this will have, and a government that seeks to set a cap on how long people may live probably won't be a government for very long (especially since the old people are generally the ones in charge). Similarly, decisions about whether or not to have children are made at the individual level, not at the government level. Today reproduction is considered by most societies to be a basic human right, and attempts to control population growth have failed even in totalitarian countries. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to encourage (or force) people to die early or forgo having children if they do not want to, and the ecological impacts are just something we are going to have to learn to deal with. I don't think humans will bow to that kind of fundamental restriction until there is no other option -- and that really can't happen until we're already well past the point of overpopulation.

It's quite possible that a major disaster (most notably, a worldwide pandemic) will significantly reduce worldwide population, but that only delays the issue.

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"Loroi Music: Do they have it? If so, I assume it's purely instrumental?"

Yes, and yes. Well, let me clarify that a little. There is a form of Loroi ritual music/performance art that is based on ancient battle communications, which along with flags, drums, horns and bells does include some shouted vocalizations. It was sometimes possible to jam telepathic communication at close range, so more primitive forms of command relay were often in use during the ancient period.

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Yes. Loroi telepathy works simultaneously on multiple levels: one level is mostly subconscious and emotional, another level is sort of like a data channel, and yet another level is symbolic and structured, something like a language, to allow the use of high-level tokens to speed the transfer of information. This structured component requires conscious effort and skill to organize, and a message can be composed artfully or it can be composed clumsily. However, even at its most artful, sanzai is still very direct... there is not much room for euphemism or prevarication.

The closest thing to telepathic poetry would be in telepathic storytelling, especially the ancient tales that are retold often enough as to have a structure or a repetitive nature so as to aid in memorization. Such storytelling can be simple or elaborately artful, even to the extent of accompanying a physical performance.

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Certainly the Loroi dress to impress, so we can expect that any Loroi swimsuit is likely to be highly decorated, but showing off a lot of skin probably won't be the main way to achieve being noticed, except perhaps in very warm climes. Especially since the people that one is showing off for are mainly other females.

Climate as well as local dress codes will vary considerably among the different Loroi subcultures, so a "proper" swimsuit might be a full-body wetsuit in Northern Taben or Deinar; or a modest one-piece swimsuit in warmer, more liberal Maia; or a topless bikini in the balmy Amenal islands of Equatorial Taben.

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Yes, the glowing rank tabs has been a design element since the very early versions of the uniform designs. I always imagined the bridge environment as very dark, and the lit rank tabs are part practicality to prevent people walking into each other, part formality to show which officer ranks are on duty, and part cool.

Glowing stuff is cool.

If you take a closer look at the third panel of page 52 (or the enlarged version thereof), hopefully you can see that the rank tabs of all the officers except Tempo are lit.

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"how much time has actually taken place between page 1 and page 55?"

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 72 hours.

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No, children are not born directly into the Torrai caste. But I can certainly imagine children of influential Torrai being fast-tracked through other castes and being passed through into the Torrai at a comparatively young age.

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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.

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Although there won't be any scenes of Alex at a Loroi dinner table, we will get a look at some examples of Loroi food items. In chapter 2 there is some prepackaged food that gets passed around, in addition to the tea/coffee alternative, and a discussion of milk. Later, there is a scene with Alex and Tempo in the Tempest arboretum where they are growing exotic Perrein fungi for consumption, and there is a brief discussion of strange Perrein delicacies.

In regards to the Rapier design, it is a formation defense light cruiser, in the mold of WWII-era Atlanta cruisers, or the modern Aegis cruisers. Rather than heavy anti-ship weaponry, it has a lot of lighter weaponry designed to deal with torpedoes and gunboats: six twin medium turrets, a pair of VLS-style AMM launchers, and a bunch of point-defense lasers.

This ship went through a lot of design variations over a long time, but I'm pretty happy with where it finally ended up.

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Most ships do not have a wave-loom device. The signature forward prongs of Loroi warships house the generators and accumulators for the primary (forward) defensive screens, so all warships have them. The wave-loom tasks these same components as part of the weapon, but currently they are only installed on a few flagship-class vessels that have the power and space to spare for the system.

And yes, the "stern" is the rear of the ship.

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"Additionally I'm curious as to why the Loroi wouldn't use mine layers. Slowing down an army notorious for swarm-tactics seems pretty smart, if for nothing else than firing with impunity through them at attackers."

3D space being very large, mines will be of limited use, and will have to be able to move in order to have any chance of engaging a target; essentially, they'll be torpedoes. In any case, you don't need any special apparatus to lay mines in space; you just kick them out the airlock. Any ship should be able to lay mines.

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The bridge is in the center of the ship, inside an armored ring. The oblong silver dome on the top is meant to be an observation gallery.

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"Where is the medical bay when Alex first woke up?"

It's in the main "crew section" block, not far from the bridge.

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Usually your powerplant is going to have to be near the surface of the vessel, if for no other reason than to facilitate heat management. For the Loroi, the main powerplants are out in the engine nacelles, and are part of the main engines.

In general, I think you want to put your command center in the best protected part of the ship; if the enemy can penetrate a shot into the thickest, best-protected part of your ship, then it really doesn't matter where you put it. If you have a thickly protected forward section that you can be sure will always be presented toward the enemy, then placing the bridge aft might make sense. I don't think that's the case for the Loroi. Although the Loroi ships are designed with a doctrine oriented toward keeping the enemy in front, that's an optimal situation, and they need to be able to handle a less-optimal situation in which a more-numerous enemy can swarm from any direction.

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Alex will certainly have had combat training as part of his Academy curriculum -- the Scout Corps officers come from the same pool of cadets as those of the Colonial Fleet -- but he's no kung fu master. Most Loroi he might be put up against would probably be more skilled at hand to hand fighting than Alex, but he will probably significantly outweigh most of them. However, trying to pick a fistfight with a male (albeit an alien one) is probably not high on the list of things the Loroi would like to do with Alex.

Fireblade's unarmed skill isn't higher because a) she doesn't need it, and b) her uncontrolled PK makes sparring with a live partner dangerous.

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On the subject of body language...

The starting point of the Outsider story concept is the humanoid Loroi, and everything flows from there. Comics are a visual medium, and so there are some tradeoffs to make, in contrast to prose, in terms of the amount of expository detail that you can cram in... being a webcomic is a further limitation on this, as for web you have to use larger font sizes to maintain readability, and this means less text per page than a print comic. The alien culture of the Loroi is an important focus of the story, but I also wanted to do a lot in terms of adventure and battle and political chicanery and character development, so in order to keep up the pacing I found I had to pick and choose how alien the Loroi should be. A lot of the difficulties in communication in the first-contact scenario got glossed over -- I had anticipated a lot more misunderstanding and untranslated words in the first interchange between Alex and Beryl, but I found in practice that it just didn't work very well. I had also considered the question of whether the telepathic Loroi should be expressionless or emotive, and the answer seemed clear: the Loroi characters are important and need to be compelling, but since many speak very little (or not at all), using the fact of their humanoid similarity to allow them to use facial expressions and body language that we recognize is crucial to moving the story forward. They can still be alien, but they are less alien in their appearance and in the mechanisms of communication, and more alien in the structure of society and their world view. The misunderstandings are at a higher level.

Imagine how differently we would feel about Beryl if she had never smiled. Or Tempo if she was not doing... whatever it is you would call what she's doing right now.

If Outsider were a more gritty hard-science story that was more focused on the details of the first contact, I think I would have chosen a much more alien race, both physically and behaviorally. Prose is a better medium for that kind of story, because there is room to go into a lot of fine detail about what's going on. It could be done in comic form, but it would be difficult... there would have to be tons more narration, and trying to convey truly alien gestures to the reader in non-moving panels would be a challenge. The details of learning how to realistically communicate with aliens would be so involved that they would have to be the story. Without the familiar tools of human expression and language, it would be hard to flesh out more than one or two alien characters. A story like that could be very interesting, but that's not what I'm going for in this case.

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It's possible that personal armor may get very heavy (if the application warrants it), and it's possible that powered joints or harnesses may develop to help the wearer handle the weight of the armor and the weight of heavier equipment. But the Starship Troopers style power armor exoskeleton that essentially turns the infantryman into a superhero doesn't seem, realistically, like a practical weapons system.

First, I think the hard-hitting, mobile armor/cavalry role is better and more cheaply fulfilled by more conventional armored vehicles or close support aircraft. Super strength is not a huge advantage in a shooting fight (aside from the ability to carry heavier weapons) and the humanoid form is not much of an advantage in most situations that require speed and armor and heavy firepower. It's hard to imagine something a powered exoskeleton could do that a combination of conventional infantry, armor, air and artillery forces couldn't do just as well and more cheaply.

Second, even if you do decide you do have an application where you want a heavy armored superstrong humanoid heavy-weapons platform, it's much easier and cheaper to engineer it without the human inside. And at the level of technology such a thing would be possible, there's no reason to put a human inside. Whether the unit is autonomous or remotely piloted, an unmanned combat robot is going to have a significant advantage over a manned exoskeleton, in terms of cost, effectiveness, and safety for the operator (if any). Hybrid systems like cyborgs could also be practical, but you start to run into ethical considerations (at least, in a society like ours), and the biological component is still often going to be the weakest link in the system.

As you get into the levels of technology required for super-tech Crysis style suits, then that's a different equation.

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Defense is very important to the Umiak, because since they lack Farseers, effective defense for them means stacking every border system with substantial fleets and very aggressively patrolling the outlying routes. For those client states that have first-line ships of their own and are near the Loroi border -- as in the case of the Morat (formerly Skarbe) -- these forces will generally find use defending their own systems. The client ships will form their own fleets, but these will be under pretty tight Umiak control, and almost always deployed along with substantial Umiak fleets. A little bit like German forces deployed alongside Italian defenders in WWII: there to help with the defense, but also to keep an eye on their allies. Those client states whose forces were hopelessly outdated or whose territory was not strategic might be cannibalized for parts or put to some kind of specialty use. The Umiak like to utilize everything they can, but they also like keeping a very tight lid on.

Non-Umiak shipping is kept under very tight restriction, and for the most part, the populations of client states are required to remain in their own systems. When client uprisings occur, information about them rarely leaves the system. It is unlikely that the Umiak would use a client ship as a scout or put in a position where they could compromise security (or flee), unless it was absolutely necessary. For this reason and others, for the most part, client ships would not be used as part of an Umiak assault force.

The Umiak do not treat all their client races the same; some are loyal and trusted and others suspect and distrusted, some are weak and can be bullied, and some are powerful and must be handled with care. The Morat are a recent ally of convenience with capable fleets of their own in a very strategic position; the Umiak are pragmatic enough to know not to oppress the Morat so hard that they might wish to defect. At the same time the Umiak know they have to be especially watchful of what the Morat choose to do with their extra privileges.

In the case of the Loroi Alliance, only the Loroi, Historians and Nissek maintain separate military fleets, and the other Union members operate only civilian vessels (including system police/defense, transports and some armed scouts and couriers like Mozin's Prophet's Reason). The Loroi sent some forces into Historian territory during the initial Umiak invasion in 2139, but since then they have been two very separate commands operating in mostly isolated theatres. The Nissek are far removed from the primary fronts and most of their forces are deployed elsewhere.

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The typical mode of failure for a Farseer is that her health deteriorates past a baseline level, and she has to be taken offline. The Mizol who is responsible for monitoring of and communication with the Farseer would know if the Farseer became unconscious or unresponsive.

And as someone else mentioned earlier, each of the other two strike groups that were ambushed also had their own Farseers (as any interdiction group must, to be able to function) and were also not able to detect the ambushers. If Farseers were normally that unreliable, I would not expect the Loroi to be so surprised or concerned about this particular failure.

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The Historian constructs have no telepathic signature that the Loroi can detect. Although in theory an artificial consciousness might qualify as having whatever physical properties of "mind" that Loroi telepathy requires to connect with, to date the Loroi have never been able to telepathically connect with any computers or artificial beings.

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Sunfury is a character in Outsider (daughter of Sunfall).

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Farseers generally work solo, so they must be able to determine distance as well as direction on their own.

Farseer range is not unlimited, and signatures presumably become more faint with distance, so one way a Farseer might be able to judge distance would be to correlate how strong or faint the signature is.

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I don't recall saying this, specifically. The issue of the Semoset spearhead being outflanked by Umiak reinforcements moving in Umiak-inhabited territory was due to difficulties for the Farseers in distinguishing the Umiak aboard ships from the planetside Umiak populations; the planetside populations masked movement of Umiak fleets along the border. Umiak minds and Loroi minds appear distinctly different to a Farseer, so the proximity of many Loroi (while perhaps not ideal) is not a severe limitation. Operating in a defensive mode in the vicinity of Seren, with heavy concentrations of Loroi fleets and millions of Loroi civilians planetside, did not pose a problem to the effectiveness of the Farseers.

I think what I may have said was something about the limitations of using Farseers as FTL radio. Telepathic activity from nearby Loroi would constitute interference for a Farseer trying to detect a distant amplified signal from someone transmitting a telepathic message, but this is not primarily what Farseers are used for. Telepathic messaging and signature detection are related, but they are separate functions

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The ability of an individual ship to "zigzag" to deter enemy fire is the same whether the formation is amorphous or geometric. The requirement that an escort needs to stay within a reasonable distance of its squadron leader adds only an infinitesimal reduction in the uncertainty of which way the ship is going to jink in the next second. The spacing between ships is in the tens to hundreds of kilometers; there's a lot of room to maneuver.

The Umiak are highly organized, but decentralized, which is important because they know they are going to take casualties before they can even get into weapons range. Elaborate centralized fire control or maneuver schemes generally don't survive the first volley of Loroi fire, so small-scale organization, adaptable formations, and detailed and flexible command structure that allows for seamless transfers in chain of command are critical. Showing the Loroi some of their internal organization by starting the battle in their quincunx squadron formations doesn't really provide the Loroi any advantage, because one Umiak captain is as capable at squadron command as the next, so it really doesn't matter which ship you choose to shoot at.

Aside from ship size, of course. Which is why the Umiak don't field that many superheavy vessels (see Umiak Rule of Acquisition #325: "Don't put your admiral in the largest ship in the fleet.")

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I feel you may be overthinking this. Movement doesn't have to be 100% random to make targeting more difficult. In order to maintain formation you're going to want to stay in a certain box, but that box is very large in relation to the volume of the ship. If the pilot allows the ship to get near the edge of that box, then increasingly it would seem more likely that the next turn will be toward the center of that box, but in terms of predicting what this ship will do in the next second, I doubt that's even a 1% increase in certainty.

I also think you're overestimating the effectiveness of evasive maneuvers against beam weapons. Even assuming perfect unpredictability in movement, for a 300m target at 1 LS you're still talking about a roughly 50% probability of a hit. Given the number of weapons firing, that's a lot of damage the Umiak will be taking as they close to optimal weapons range (inside 200,000km), at which point target lock becomes more or less automatic (for targets larger than 100m), unless they have something else to occupy the Loroi weapons -- which is where torpedoes and gunboats come in.

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This is not meant to be obvious; Alex is a bit perplexed by the Loroi at this point and the reader can't be expected to be much father along. But for the insiders here: aside from necessity (like the volume of radio communication that we will see during the battle), the traditional use of spoken communication is between Loroi who don't trust each other. If you are going to challenge an enemy to combat (and you don't want her attacking your mind while you do it), or if you are going to make a diplomatic overture (and you want to take liberties with the truth while you do it), you use spoken words instead of telepathy. For Alex to speak of truth and honor using spoken words is what Stillstorm finds hypocritical. Though I think what she's really doing is showing us why Mizol exist in the first place.

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Bellarmine is not exactly in working order at the moment, so Alex's position as captain of a floating hulk is academic at best. The more relevant point is that it's the mission, and not really the ship itself, that's important, and as the only breathing member of the Human military currently in contact with the Loroi, he's in charge of that mission, whether or not the remnants of the Bell end up vaporized.

The fact that the Loroi are addressing Alex as "Captain" rather than "Ambassador" is a technical courtesy. A Loroi captain who was the sole survivor of a diplomatic mission would feel slighted to be addressed by what is essentially a civilian title. People don't stop addressing you as "Captain" just because your ship sank.

The status of Alex's "field promotion" as regards the Terran military is really not relevant, because it's only important if he comes back into contact with other humans, and his de-facto command expires the moment he encounters someone with a rank higher than ensign second-class.

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It's somewhere between the two. The high accelerations and built-up inertia allow for very high relative movement that may resemble jet combat more than the relatively slow relative movement of naval vessels, and a direct hit by a torpedo is generally going to be a game-ender; however, there are lots of countermeasures against torpedoes. Defensive screens provide significant defense against the various beam weapons, but in fleet battles both sides are going to be using focused fire from multiple ships that can overwhelm the defenses of almost any single target, so ships are going to be blowing up left and right. Ships also have armor, but much like current infantry combat armor, ship armor in Outsider is designed primarily to mitigate the effects of a minor hit, and not intended to resist a direct hit from a capital weapon.

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This is why the Umiak must be very aggressive and try to keep the Loroi on the defensive, and why the Loroi interdiction raids can be very successful. The Umiak counter to this is in their superior numbers and superior firepower at close range. They can use their numbers to attempt to restrict Loroi movement, and they are of course more loss-tolerant; the Umiak commander can only lose so many ships to a pass from Loroi raiders, but a Loroi commander who makes an error and allows a close pass with part of the Umiak fleet risks the loss of her entire squadron in a single pass.

The upcoming engagement should give you a pretty decent idea as to how an Umiak assault plays out (at least, in the first stage), even though it is slightly atypical in the sense that the Loroi will be attempting to defend a fixed point.

The OSD sim is still available to look at, but keep in mind that it's very much out of date, and had significant flaws even when it was new. The main problem is with the damage resolution system, which undervalues the effectiveness of defensive screens. Screens need to have in addition to damage resistance, what the GURPS system calls a "passive defense", or the possibility to deflect a shot entirely. How this is worked into simulation mechanics and balanced properly is something I don't have time to do at present. The sim still has some interesting information in it, in terms of movement rates and relative weapon effectiveness at various ranges. Just keep in mind that it's very rough and the offense/defense numbers don't match up, so don't try to use it for any kind of statistical analysis.

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The solon is a little bit longer than one second.

The Loroi classify any Umiak vessel larger than a light cruiser as a "heavy." It's a heavy cruiser, battlecruiser or pocket battleship. A ship as large as a Loroi battleship would be classified as a "superheavy."

"Medium" being smaller than a "heavy": a light cruiser or destroyer in the ~200-300m range.

Light, medium and heavy are size classes. Most Umiak vessels are hybrids of some sort, and even those that are specialized are difficult to identify at first glance because they often don't conform to predictable silhouettes. So the Loroi mainly categorize them by size class.

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Isn't the length your foot an excellent example of approximately how long a foot is? Especially when you're talking to someone with whom you share very few common reference points. How would you describe the length of a second to an alien?

Solon literally means "heartbeat," and I think that's pretty descriptive on its own. Beryl could describe it more precisely in terms of the number of fluctuations of the ground state of a cesium-133 atom, but I think that would asking a lot of Alex (and the reader) in terms of converting that into useable information. She could tap out a rhythm demonstrating the time, but in a comic that requires far more effort and panel space than the importance of this minor detail warrants.

Alex isn't trying to build a bridge, he just needs to know what order of magnitude is being talked about.

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I think they were referring to a human's complete lack of telepathic signature.

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I can't imagine that Alex would ask to fly an interceptor. He's an ambassador and military attaché with a command-grade rank, and interceptor pilot is a rank-and-file (and highly dangerous) role. It would be kind of like the ambassador from France asking if he can run a hot dog stand in the most dangerous part of Oakland.

The Loroi would never let him do it; regardless of whether they trust him or care about his safety, he's just not qualified. Remember that fighters are too small to have inertial dampers, so to survive 40+g they have to use elaborate fluid-breathing systems. These are not something you can just jump into without extensive specialized training, which is exclusive to the Tenoin caste.

Loroi fighters and smaller vessels suffer disproportionate losses mainly due to Umiak gunboat tactics. The Umiak try to time their attacks so that the torpedoes and gunboats hit the Loroi formation at pretty much the same time, so escorts and fighters trying to pick off torpedoes also have gunboats to deal with. Loroi heavy vessels can roll away to try to maintain optimal heavy-weapons range, but for the escorts, optimal point-defense weapons range is also optimal plasma focus range.

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Yes, the Loroi mythology/philosophy (of which there are a number of different cultural flavors) performs some of the same roles for the Loroi that religion does in our culture. I suppose you could say it is a spiritual outlet for a Loroi society that is otherwise primarily atheist.

And yes, the Loroi fascination with weather-oriented names is a link to this mythology, as is their fascination with names related to archaic weapons. The Loroi mythic heroes, like Tempest, are often associated with weather phenomena.

There will definitely be more visual references to the mythology similar to the Tempest tapestry. There will also be opportunities for Alex to have some of the actual stories told to him, though this may not come until later in the story. I'd like to work a little bit of that into the second chapter, but there may not be room for it. Both the Loroi mythology and the Barsam religion contain links to their Soia-era past, and so are significant to explore (a bit) in the story.

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On the subject of advantages: both the Loroi and Umiak each dominate a stable of about a dozen alien civilizations. Each of these alien civilizations is more technically advanced than humans, at the current time in the story. To expect that the Loroi or Umiak could achieve this domination without having some very significant advantages (as compared to humanity) wouldn't make much sense.

Regarding the rate of technological advancement: as I've mentioned before, I think technology progress has as much (or more) to do with culture as with the intelligence of individuals. The rapid progress of today's Western technological culture is unprecedented even in our own history. But this doesn't mean that humans today are any smarter than humans from a hundred (or a thousand, or ten thousand) years ago. We have better tools, certainly, but we also live in a culture that encourages and rewards innovation. We tend to think today of that being natural and inevitable, but it hasn't been that way for the vast majority of human history.

And regarding the fall of the Roman Empire, I don't think the influence of Christianity even makes it into the top 10. I would point out that the Eastern (Byzantine) empire, which was its religious center, outlasted the Western empire by some 500 years.

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Just as a point of detail, the Historians gave the Loroi plans for a reduced-capability plasma focus, not their plasma array. The Historians wouldn't give the Loroi their best tech, not just because they don't trust them, but because it is too far beyond their capability to reproduce.

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Even if you understand the principle of how something works, you must still have the technical expertise and materials technology to actually make it work. The Historians deliberately dumbed-down the designs that they gave the Loroi, but they were still at the extreme limit of Loroi technology. Similarly, if the Loroi handed Alex the plans for the Pulse Cannon or the Floater Drive, it's very unlikely that human technology would be able to easily reproduce one. At least, not for some time.

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I'm referring to all manner of advantages, but in this case specifically biological and cultural advantages. When the Loroi took their first steps back into space and started picking fights with their neighbors, they did not have advantages in terms of territory, numbers or technology (sometimes quite the reverse), and yet they ended up dominating all their neighbors. I think you have to expect that this wasn't just luck.

Similarly, the Umiak started out as a barbarian sub-species under the thumb of a much more advanced "parent" civilization. In this case, the parent species was not just more advanced and more cultured than the Umiak; they were literally more intelligent. That the Umiak rose to galactic empire from such beginning certainly suggests, I think, that they have biological, cultural and behavioral traits that are very effective when it comes to kicking people's butts.

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I'm being facetious; the Loroi of the early period usually didn't deliberately start wars, but it's fair to say their diplomacy at the time left something to be desired.

Biological advantages are not always about ground combat. Rapid reproduction, reduced life support, increased acceleration tolerance, telepathy and farsensing -- these are all biological factors that can give an advantage in space combat. Especially in the first war with the Delrias (in which the Delrias had larger ships with better beam weapons), manned fighters played an important role, and the superiority of Loroi fighters had a lot to do with the biological qualities of their pilots.

And again, culture has as much to do with this as biology. The desire and drive to win (despite the cost) and the societal tools to accomplish your goals is very powerful. The Romans were the same species as the people they conquered; a Roman soldier was no more powerful than a Gallic or Greek or Carthaginian soldier. But the Romans clearly had a system that was very effective.

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Shaye asked for some information about Taben. The response was too long to fit in a private message, so I'm posting it here.

This is the essay on Taben from my notes.

Taben was the last of the three sister worlds to be reached by Deinarid ships, 45 years after Deinar and Perrein had made contact. In addition, Taben had the smallest population of the three, and also have the lowest occurrence of psychokinetic abilities. As a result, the Tabenids have often perceived themselves to be treated as the junior partner in the alliance. However, Taben is home to the Tenoin headquarters and academy, the Listel headquarters, and important Pipolsid colonies. Taben exports large quantities of marine products, and is an important shipbuilding center.

Taben is an ocean-covered world with very little dry land. There is only a small continent in the northern hemisphere (called Beleri), and the large archipelago of Amenal south of the equator. Beleri is cold and rocky, heavily forested with native evergreens, often covered deep in snow during the truly epic winter storms. Active geothermal regions provide pockets of ice-free land year round, and rocky fjords shelter excellent deep-water ports. The Amenal islands are sub-tropical and much less harsh, but also much smaller in land area. The seas around Amenal are comparatively shallow and calm, but elsewhere on the planet the oceans can be very deep, with massive global currents and sometimes fierce weather. Taben is moonless and has a significant axial tilt that causes seasonal variation in climate. Taben oceans are filled with a variety of marine life, from shallow-water Amenal reef organisms to monstrous deep water whale-like creatures. Volcanism is still active, and rich mineral veins are common, though you have to go underwater to get to most of them.

There was evidently a major Soia-era colony here, as Soia artifacts litter the ocean floor, and the impact craters from the orbital bombardment that ended the era are still quite visible. Many of the marine organisms are introduced Soia-Liron species.

There are two major Loroi ethnic groups: the fair-skinned northern sailors of Beleri, and the darker southern islanders of Amenal. The Belerid Loroi tend to be tall and thin, with long noses to warm the cold northern air. These bold sailors on the treacherous northern seas enjoyed a long tradition of heroic seamanship, from fishing and “whaling” to global exploration and trading, and even some raiding and piracy. In the warmer, calmer seas of the southern islands, the southern Amenal lived a more sedentary existence, becoming expert divers in the reefs, for food and marine products but also for Soia artifacts and treasure. Eventually, the Amenal archipelago became a center of trade and learning, but also a target of plunder for Northern raiders. Despite these regular raids, Taben had by far the most peaceful pre-contact history of the three Loroi sister worlds in terms of conflict between Loroi nation-states; the settlements were widely dispersed, but traded frequently, and the elements themselves posed a strong challenge to survival.

By the time of contact with the other Loroi sister words in 895 CE, the Amenal island-states were living in fairly high-tech cities and aquatic habitats, while many Belerid tribes still sailed wooden ships. Because of the limited amount of arable land, population in pre-contact Taben never got much above 50 million, and was sometimes as small as 30 million. Today the population has grown substantially, but Taben still has the smallest Loroi population of the three sister worlds, though today it is also home to a significant Pipolsid population, living mostly in aquatic enclaves in the Amenal region, and includes some of their most important research academies.

Taben is perhaps most famous as the home of the Tenoin warrior caste. The caste headquarters and training academy are housed in the massive Anchorage Citadel, the largest of Taben’s many orbital facilities. The main headquarters of the Listel caste is also located on Taben on the “big island” of Soladra in Amenal (though there is also a major Listel academy on Mezan in the Deinar system).

Taben today still does not have a single global government. Beleri is united as a single nation with its capital at the port of Sezabi, but the island-states of Amenal are still technically independent nations, aggregated into a loose economic federation. Due to their long tradition of isolationism and self-rule, Taben has often been a seat of dissent against the imperial system. During the Splinter Wars, the Loroi civil conflict between imperialist and republican factions, most of Taben was firmly in the republican camp. Even today the Loroi Axis, the republican anti-imperial opposition party, finds some of its strongest support on Taben.

(In the comic, Stillstorm and Talon are from Beleri; Forest is from Amenal.)

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The Mizol academy is located on Perrein.

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Even in the shallows, there is ample seafloor space to accommodate the Pipolsid. Expansionist Loroi are usually better-served to migrate offworld, where there is available dry land and less restrictive reproductive rules.

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Among humans, sex performs an important and continuing role in the pair-bonding between male and female, that helps keep them together for the difficult task of raising a child. Accordingly, sex for us is especially pleasurable and varied and intimate, and it fulfills an important psychological need for intimacy.

Loroi mating partners are temporary, and the male has almost no role in child-rearing, so the need for pair-bonding is not there. Females have a strong sex drive in the sense that they eagerly seek sexual contact with a male, and find it very enjoyable and desirable, and they must be willing to compete with other females, if necessary, for access to a limited number of males. However, lack of access to males is a societal norm for most Loroi, and they must be able to deal with extended periods without sex. This is not a problem for Loroi females, because since ovulation occurs after insemination, there is no need to "heat up" the system prior to sex, so a female is always ready for impregnation without having to walk around in a hormonal haze looking for sexual release (as a male might).

Loroi still have a psychological need for intimacy, but being telepathic means they have very effective tools for satisfying this need that don't require sweaty fumblings in the dark or exchanges of bodily fluids. Close telepathic contact occurs during sex with a male, but it can also occur between close female friends in non-sexual contacts. Because such contact involves physical touching, there is a physically intimate aspect to it, but it is not overtly sexual. Close friendships with other females are much more psychologically and emotionally important to a Loroi than her fleeting encounters with a male.

So, do Loroi females have sexual encounters with other females? I'm sure some do, but not as many as you might think, as the physical and psychological impetus is simply not there, and such would be considered aberrant (though not particularly offensive) behavior by most Loroi.

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"I think "special service" here include smuggling of various good. (referring to Mozin's bio on the Cast page)"

That's more along the lines of what I had in mind. You naughty monkeys.

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The word "active" was removed from Alex's dialogue to save space, and because I thought it was superfluous. The ships indicated in parentheses in the list are inactive (and the reasons are included in the notes of each section). In addition to the inactive ships mentioned above, Bennet is also inactive while refitting. However, even taking into account these and the loss of Bellarmine, the total active number comes to (4+3+9+3+3+1+4)= 27, so Alex's statement is still factually inaccurate. Hopefully we can forgive him this emotional embellishment, considering that the 3 Bennet-class scouts are not really warships.

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Aside from the fact that starships are proportionally much, much more expensive to build than naval vessels, I think you could just as well ask why the fleet is so large, considering that it was built before there was any knowledge of an alien threat. As an internal patrol/enforcement/deterrent force with the side benefit of being a defense force against possible alien contact, I think it would be hard to justify many more ships. Indeed, I think that (before the Orgus contact) the TCA had a hard time justifying the ships it already has, which is the idea behind the cancellations of some of the heavy cruisers.

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The irony is, Alex apparently also can't count, as there are 28 Loroi vessels on the display not 27. I noticed this when GeoModder mentioned he couldn't find the 27th vessel, and I recounted them. One of the destroyers in the left wing is obscured by a cruiser in the center squadron in the third panel view of page 74. It's a little easier to see in this view.

My notes list the number at 27, but apparently I changed my mind when I built the tactical display model a few years ago. I added a third destroyer to the center squadron and evidently forgot to write it down. Shame on Alex for reading the script instead of actually counting ships.

I have corrected the error in the dialogue.

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As you can expect, there has been much furor among humanity over what to do. They know that impeding contact with one side or the other will possibly make whatever steps they take a complete waste of time, but since they have nothing else to do but wait, they are going ahead very aggressively with any projects they can.

First and foremost would be to put a rush on those warships which are under construction and not yet completed, and reactivation of some building projects that had been previously cancelled but not yet scrapped. Second would be short-term upgrades that can be applied to their existing fleet, such as the modular heavy beam cannon upgrade for the America-class cruisers. Third, there will be a lot of planning for new warships, but it is unlikely that they will start construction on anything new until they have established contact and know more about what will be required of them, and what assistance (if any) they can expect.

There will certainly be a lot of civil planning to attempt to prepare the populace for various doomsday scenarios, and there will be numerous different strategies to try to ensure the survival of the species should the worst come to pass. However, these deep-bunkers and space-arks will be small-scale projects. The focus of world governments will be on preventing such doomsday scenarios from happening in the first place.

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Strike Group 51 entered the system with 35 ships, and lost essentially a full squadron repelling the ambush. Not all the missing ships were destroyed; some withdrew due to damage after the fight was over.

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That humanity could afford a peacetime fleet of 27 vessels (without any hint of an external opponent) suggests a very prosperous and productive species. Earth's and Mars' populations and potential industrial output exceed any comparable single Loroi system, and given time, humanity could pump out hundreds of their current design of heavy cruisers. Unfortunately, these ships are hopelessly outdated by the "modern" standards of the current combatants, and it may take decades of research, retooling and retraining of labor for humans to catch up to where the major combatants are now, and Sol is really the only system with an impactful industrial output that the humans currently have; the colonies are still barely self-sufficient. It's difficult to say how many "modern" ships humanity could produce, given that no one has yet agreed to help them modernize.

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The Loroi are their allies are doing a very good job of pumping out warships. Greywind's reforms have transformed Union infrastructure into the very picture of an engine of total war... the problem is that the Umiak are doing it even better. The Loroi are producing warriors and ships at a pace that they would not have believed possible before the war, and although their losses are heavy, they are inflicting proportionally higher losses on the enemy at a rate which seems like it must be unsustainable for the Umiak. However, except for a brief lapse during the Semoset offensive, the Umiak despite this horrendous loss rate have shown almost no sign of faltering. The Umiak are known to be production experts and total fanatics who are willing to give up almost anything in the name of victory and survival, but Loroi and Union planners are unable to account for how the Umiak are maintaining these levels of industrial output (though it's fair to say that very little is known about the deep interior of the Umiak domain or how far it extends). This situation is the deepest cause of failing Loroi morale and hope -- that if they cannot somehow inflict a catastrophic defeat on the Umiak in a large set-piece battle, they feel they have little hope of victory in a continuing war of attrition.

Rather than blaming the Loroi and their allies for not being able to keep up with Umiak production, it is more appropriate in this case to be intimidated by the seemingly supernatural Umiak ability to maintain production at a pace deemed impossible by their opponents.

And again, starships are incredibly expensive items to produce. We're talking about vessels with power generation capabilities that potentially exceed the total output of all the powerplants on modern-day Earth. The Loroi produce hundreds of such vessels each year, and the Umiak of course even more than that.

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I think the repeated suggestion that humans might serve as ground troops for the Loroi comes from a desire to see any advantage in humanity's very poor starting position in this story.

The Barsam are indeed physically formidable individuals with a martial tradition, and for any non-Loroi organization within the Union that wants intimidating troops or guards or security personnel, Barsam are always the first choice. However, as a warrior culture the Loroi are not really interested in having someone else do their fighting for them, and in large-scale ultra-tech ground warfare, physical size and strength is really a secondary asset. The Loroi will not refuse any offered aid, and would not mind having access to millions of human or Barsam auxiliary troops. At this point in the war, however, one of the few things that the Loroi are not short of is ground troops. There have been few major ground operations since the retaking of lost Loroi territory in the Semoset campaign 14 years ago. There are extensive reserves of Loroi infantry divisions with little to do but polish their nails and style each others' hair.

But no, I would certainly not want to insult the Prophet in a Barsam bar, or somehow get the attention of an enraged Barsam with a heavy weapon. Neither would most Loroi, for that matter.

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The Loroi are superb occupation troops, and have kept five races (Delrias, Golim, Mannadi, Arekka, Nibiren) under successful occupation for as long as 865 years (in the case of the Delrias). Revolts against Loroi rule have risen many times, but have all been swiftly and brutally crushed. Consider: first, the basic Loroi infantry are telepathic, and can tell whether an individual is a civilian or insurgent if she can get close enough, and will not hesitate to kill an insurgent. Second, there is no better tool for counter-insurgency operations than the Mizol. Third, there is no more formidable tool for eliminating opposition than the Teidar.

Umiak hardtroops are extremely formidable, but even they are little match for Loroi Teidar. In contrast to Loroi success in occupation, the Umiak totally failed to pacify the Loroi populations of the systems they occupied.

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Aside from the fact that I really detest and reject the stereotyped oversimplifications that are embodied in the rote "tvtropes" classifications of everything under the sun, this is a reasonable criticism. But consider that this is a story about galactic empires. It's kind of hard to support the idea that a single race/culture could so thoroughly dominate many others unless it had very significant advantages. Again, the Romans didn't conquer by accident.

Still, Loroi advantages are largely racial, and not individual. None of the Loroi around him are significantly stronger or smarter than Alex. He is largely immune to Loroi telepathy, so that advantage is nullified. Long lifespan is irrelevant in the context of the interpersonal relationships in the story; Alex is older than many of the Loroi. Fireblade's telekinesis is unlike anything humans have, but Fireblade is an unusual individual, and physical prowess means very little in the context of Alex's interactions with the Loroi: he is one human among thousands of Loroi; it wouldn't matter if he were the strongest being in the galaxy. His job is not to beat up Loroi, but to convince them to accept humans as allies.

Maybe it's the slow-unfolding nature of the updates that causes people to forget that a protagonist who is inherently superior to his opponents doesn't usually make for a very interesting story.

I could go on about how the Vulcans from Star Trek are smarter and stronger and better in every way than humans, and yet we are expected to believe that Spock (who can do every job on the ship better than the human specialists assigned to it) and the Vulcans are naturally content to let the humans be in charge... but I've certainly beaten that horse enough.

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Keep in mind that the Loroi have, at present, absolutely no intention of using troops to occupy Umiak worlds.

"What about worlds populated mainly by other species that are under Umiak control?"

That is the inherent peril associated with choosing the wrong side. After such a long and costly war, both the Loroi and Umiak are seriously pissed off at the races who dared to ally with their mortal enemy.

In a purely hypothetical scenario in which the Loroi were suddenly to overrun Umiak territory, I suspect those former Umiak client states with the sense to beg for immediate clemency would probably be spared. Let's not forget though that it's hard to turn an interstellar society's war footing and public opinion on a dime, and that the Loroi require very little justification at this point to resort to genocide.

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Except the Loroi aren't perfect, and they didn't have a head start. The Delrias, whom the Loroi first conquered, were descendants of a galactic empire that predated the Soia. And the Loroi beat them. The story requires this; it doesn't make sense to somehow infer that the Loroi are weak, stupid, fragile creatures who through accident conquered the galaxy but can be easily brushed aside by neophyte humans.

I really don't know what point you're trying to make. I can offer you dozens of historical examples in which the "bigger gun" did NOT win a conflict, but I would like to point out to you that this is fiction. This is not a war that will be decided by a spreadsheet, but by the actions of heroes. And it's not a game environment where all the factions are meant to be balanced against each other.

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Loroi castes are mainly hereditary - a daughter usually joins her mother's caste. Some of the specialist castes like the Teidar, Mizol or Listel require specific abilities that are linked to genetic traits (psychokinesis for Teidar & Mizol, eidetic memory for Listel). Usually this means having a mother from the desired caste, but because these traits can be passed through males as well, and males are casteless, it is possible for these traits to cross caste barriers, and that's the main reason why children are allowed to join a different caste from her mother. For example, a Soroin daughter might inherit eidetic memory from the male line, and if so she would probably be raised as Listel rather than Soroin, but not necessarily. The daughter of a Mizol might have no PK at all (in which she would be switched to a conventional caste), or she might have much stronger PK than her mother, in which case she might be switched to the Teidar.

Switching of castes is also possible after adulthood, but is much more rare. Ashrain, for example, was born with psychokinetic abilities and was therefore enrolled as Teidar, even though her mother was a high-ranking Torrai. Ashrain went through her trials as a Teidar and was fitted with a psi amplifier. As an adult, Ashrain displayed strong aptitude for tactical ability and leadership, and in the meantime her great aunt Greywind had become Emperor. There was substantial political pressure to put Ashrain in a less expendable position, so she was allowed to switch castes to Soroin, and eventually assigned to the Imperial Guard.

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That's correct. You can't start as Torrai; you have to take your trials as one of the standard castes. The idea is that you progress (hopefully through merit) through the hierarchy of your caste, and if you reach the top, you may become eligible for Torrai induction. However, the Torrai bureaucracy (the Diadem or admiralty staff) does have administrative positions (Sorimi or adjutant) that don't require command expertise, and these are often filled by daughters of high-ranking or influential officers; in this case, the individuals may begin Torrai induction at a fairly young age, shortly after completion of trials and formal education. Having your daughter inducted early as an adjutant keeps her off the front lines and gives her a high-status position, but also makes her mostly ineligible for future field command.

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As armored vehicles transition to ground-effect vehicles and hovertanks, and as close-air support aircraft become more heavily armored and transition to hover-capable propulsion mechanisms that are less vulnerable than helicopter blades, it seems obvious to me that eventually they meet in the middle at a general-purpose flying armored vehicle. There will no doubt continue to be dedicated ground or air vehicles at either extreme, but I suspect the middle ground will be increasingly dominated by these hybrid vehicles, because they're very flexible. Eventually they will probably advance to the point where they can operate in or out of atmosphere similar to the Aliens dropship.

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The problem with torpedoes is point defense. Consider torpedoes in World War II. Torpedoes were expensive, but one or two could sink a cargo ship. The infamous German Type-VII U-boat carried only 14 torpedoes; the formidable American Gato-class carried 24. Now imagine if even basic cargo vessels had point defense capability, such that it required 10 or 20 or 30 torpedoes to overwhelm the target's defenses. That significantly changes the economics of weapon effectiveness.

The Loroi do use torpedoes, but they save them for specific situations (mostly close-in) where they can be used to best effect. The large-scale Umiak use of thousands of torpedoes as a diversionary/screening tactic doesn't make sense for anyone but the Umiak. Not just because the insane Umiak industrial machine can produce enough torpedoes, but also because constantly outnumbering the Loroi means a lot more available point defense guns in Umiak formations in most circumstances.

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A point-defense missile most likely has a chemical rocket motor with a extremely high thrust (probably in the 100 g realm) but a very short burn, measured in seconds. This means its effective range is very short, in the thousands of kilometers. It's also most likely a kinetic kill weapon, so if it misses the target, it doesn't have fuel reserve for another attempt or a secondary target.

As a kinetic weapon, it can be used offensively against enemy ships if the crossing velocity is high enough, but only at point-blank range, like a mass driver. Fighters and "scatter pack" torpedoes can be used to deliver them to this range, with the caveat of course that such delivery methods need to be able to survive to reach such range. Which is very difficult in the context of the current conflict.

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The Loroi Emperor is elected by the Torrai Diadem, which is a council of the highest ranking officers, in a similar way that the College of Cardinals elects a Pope. Like a Pope, the Loroi Emperor holds office for life, but it is not a hereditary position.

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The Diadem is not a civilian entity, it is a council of the most powerful warlords in the empire. The vote of the Diadem is usually to confirm someone who has already proven herself to have the support necessary to be Emperor. The transition of Imperial power has only happened four times. Only the first Emperor Loremark died of old age and gave over her power peacefully to her picked successor (Swiftsure), but Loremark herself siezed power as a result of the first Loroi civil war, and Swiftsure was a weak leader who was later deposed by Eighth Dawn in the second civil war.

The nature of Loroi telepathic honesty makes political opposition problematic. Diplomacy is considered a foreign concept, an appeasement for inferior aliens who are not familiar with a warrior's decorum. Compromise is recognized as an important tool of coexistence, but there is little provision in Loroi society for failing to tell an opponent exactly what you think of her. Personal disagreements that cannot be resolved through consensus tend to end in bloodshed. Personal duels are rare, but inter-faction combat is not. The Loroi warrior castes view this form of conflict resolution and healthy and virtuous.

Greywind had been trained as a Mizol before advancing to the admiralty. As a loyal member of the opposition, Greywind had been very vocal of her criticism of Emperor Eighth Dawn's hesitance to nationalize industry in response to the Umiak invasion. When Eighth Dawn was killed, Greywind was the clear successor in terms of military support, but her status as an opposition leader and a former Mizol was problematic for both loyalists and conservatives, many of whom considered Mizol untrustworthy as a basic tenet. However, Greywind's strong ties to the Mizol community helped her to quickly eliminate her opposition.

Greywind's power is by agency, though like most Mizol she has some telekinetic abilities and is a formidable telepath. Power in telepathy is a common factor in rise throughout most of the warrior castes; it's difficult to achieve command grade without it.

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Like any military organization, Loroi government has to have a well-delineated chain of command that runs from top to bottom. Authority would pass to the chief of staff (who is kind of like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) and then through various members of the admiralty.

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It certainly wouldn't be gas pressure. I'm not sure exactly how a real drive trail would interact with a ship's hull that disturbed it, keeping in mind that gas in the drive trail probably has a net electrical charge... but many of the real-world images I've seen of jets in space show turbulent atmosphere-like effects. There is also the presence of the ship's defensive screens to consider, and the ship's drive.

But, as you allude to, the drive trails are there to give the impression of motion. I doubt real torpedoes would leave such a bright, long trail.

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*regarding Talon*

Yep, the scenes with her in the shuttle in chapter 2 are a lot more charming with her not dead.

This is true. It's tough to be expendable, and maybe even tougher when they decide you're no longer expendable... but that your comrades still are.

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An Outsider torpedo uses its fuel as a warhead, so it's definitely true that the longer it has to burn the engine, the less powerful the explosion will be. Fuel, endurance and explosion yield are all part of the same equation. But considering that the fuel is (essentially) antimatter, it doesn't take much fuel to make a pretty big bang. A torpedo that gets close enough can seriously damage a ship even if the torpedo is running on vapor, but the larger the fuel reserve, the farther away a torpedo can detonate and still damage the target. A larger torpedo can carry more fuel, has a longer endurance (assuming similar burn rates) and a potentially larger explosion. A smaller torpedo will have less endurance, but potentially higher acceleration (with the same engine). When ships cluster in a small area (as the Umiak often try to do), a large torpedo has a chance to damage more than one target, and that's a situation in which torpedo use starts to look especially attractive to the Loroi.

In addition to the Umiak industrial advantage, differing drive technology is a factor in differing Loroi and Umiak torpedo design and tactics. The Loroi are good at building large, high-output engines. A typical Loroi cruiser has two engines. For the Loroi, larger (more expensive) torpedoes can take full advantage of their drive design and provide a big bang in select moments when the fight gets close. However, larger torpedoes are more expensive and have to be used sparingly.

The Umiak are good at building smaller, more efficient engines. A typical Umiak cruiser might have as many as six engines. The Umiak are better at building smaller long-endurance craft, and so torpedoes are a natural niche for them. For the Umiak, massive numbers of smaller torpedoes take advantage of their tactical doctrines as well as their industrial advantage and disposable philosophy.

The Loroi have three basic flavors of torpedo: small, medium and large (SR, MR, LR). The LR has the best endurance and acceleration (~60 g), but is too expensive for general Loroi use. The SR has good acceleration (50 g) and is cheap, but has very short endurance, and is useful mainly for delivery by small craft. The MR is a compromise, with 40 g acceleration but decent fuel/range/yield, and the is one most often carried by fleet ships.

The Umiak have a much wider range of torpedo types. Along all the variables of size, maximum thrust, range, maneuverability, and protection, the Umiak have a full suite of available choices. Still, most often the Umiak will favor medium-sized short-range torpedoes, as they are used primarily to draw defensive fire away from manned Umiak vessels, and the efficient Umiak designs have ample endurance and yield (should the odd hit occur) more than sufficient for a typical engagement.

As ordnance, Umiak torpedoes have to conform to the launching standards of whatever platform must carry them, so they have to have some standards. Just a lot of them.

The markings on Umiak vessels and munitions are a contradictory combination of camouflage (attempting to confuse unit recognition, not detection) and Sioux horse war paint (arising from tradition, creativity, and martial passions of the moment). So sometimes they mean something, but it's hard to tell when.

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I eventually plan to post an Insider essay on this subject, possibly from the point of view of the Barsam. The different cultures draw very different conclusions about the Soia from the limited available physical evidence. But here are some short points:

Because of the limitations of jump drive travel and the lack of FTL communication, very little is known about the galaxy outside of the Local Bubble. There have been some expeditions up and down the Orion arm, but almost nothing is generally known about the rest of the galaxy. It is therefore not known whether the ancient empires were restricted to the Orion arm or were galaxy-wide. Also, there are few historical records from these ancient periods. Examples of writing exist, but they are more along the lines of signs saying "space port" than Egyptian inscriptions that tell of kings and battles.

The available evidence suggests that there was not just one precursor empire in the Local Bubble, but a long series of different civilizations over great spans of time that displaced each other, and in some cases coexisted in different areas. At least three distinct phases of empire have been generally agreed upon:

* Fenrias: these were the ancestors of the modern Delrias and Morat. It is generally agreed that this species was native to the Local Bubble, and there are known ruins of planetary settlements. At the time that the Fenrias had achieved stardrive, the other native races of the region were still very primitive, and so the Fenrias expanded unopposed. There is some evidence that the empire fragmented into multiple Fenrias nations, and that these fought amongst each other over long periods of time.

* Dreiman: the Fenrias were eventually displaced by a new empire, which evidence suggests invaded from up-arm. The Dreiman were physically very small lapdog-sized creatures, but whose technology greatly outclassed that of the Fenrias. There is little evidence of Dreiman planetary settlements, but there are remains of large orbital facilities. The Dreiman undertook great works of planetary engineering -- Maia is a strong candidate for having been a Dreiman terraforming project -- and it seems very likely that they actively engaged in uplifting several of the local species. Scattered remnants of the Fenrias empire did persist into this era, holding on at the periphery of Dreiman territory; two such groups are believed to have eventually become the modern Delrias and Morat.

* Soia: the Dreiman and Fenrias remnants were displaced by the Soia, though this time the displacement was complete and appears to have happened very abruptly. There is no direct evidence to suggest where the Soia came from or exactly who the they were. Soia technology was more advanced even than that of the Dreiman, and though Soia-era tools and artifacts are common, these are found in settlements of the local races; no known planetary ruins can be definitively identified as belonging to the Soia themselves. Common tradition among several modern cultures holds that the Soia existed in Laputa-like artificial moons that traveled from one system to another, and that these "doom stars" patrolled and enforced a very strict limit on the interstellar travel of subject species. The most ubiquitous remnant of the Soia era is in the many Soia-Liron organisms that were introduced to planets all over the Local Bubble. These organisms range from domestic crops and livestock (misesa is a Soia supergrain, found on most planets with any history of Soia contact, and the pig-like miros is also common in many forms) to several intelligent species (notably the Loroi, Barsam and Neridi). It is not clear what the purpose behind the introduction of these organisms is, but it does seem that the local native civilizations flourished during this period, despite Soia-imposed restrictions and possible competition from the introduced species.

A few hundred thousand years ago, the Soia era abruptly came to an end. All advanced civilizations everywhere in the Local Bubble were bombed literally back to the stone age in intense orbital bombardments, the scars of which are still visible on many planets. It seems likely there was some kind of war, but between whom and for what reason is unknown. Some species went extinct, and those that survived had to rebuild their civilizations almost from scratch.

Today, the different cultures have reached different conclusions about who and what the Soia were. The Loroi believe that the Soia were their direct ancestors, and that the Soia presence in the Local Bubble was just one province of a greater galactic empire, and the destruction in the local systems was the result of a regional conflict. The Loroi point to the fact of their telepathy being unique among known races, as also the fact that Loroi do not appear in planetary archaeological records until after the fall. The Barsam church teaches that the Soia were angelic beings from an alternate plane of existence, who came to this universe to bring peace and brotherhood to sentient species. The Soia-Liron species are explained as having been "enlightened" by the Soia. The Barsam explanation for the fall is along the lines of the biblical expulsion from Eden: the "mortal" species did something to displease the Soia, and were punished accordingly before the Soia returned to their plane of origin in a huff. A famous Neridi joke is that the Soia were plants, and it's the misesa supergrain plants that are their true (and most prolific) descendants. Delrias humorists have noted that since most of the Soia-Liron plant and animal species seem to be intended as food items, perhaps the Loroi, Barsam and Neridi were also created to be eaten. Needless to say, neither the Loroi nor the Barsam are amused by these suggestions.

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Telepathy can work on any species (subject to individual compatibility/susceptibility) with a mind. There is no clear distinction between "people" and "animals," but the more complex the mind, the stronger the mental signature. There is also no clear dividing line as to when very primitive organisms qualify as having a mind, but once you get down to the level of an insect, you're well below the detection threshold of a typical unamplified Loroi.

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A fetus' mind is very primitive throughout much of gestation, and it's hard to say at what point it becomes complex and active enough that the mother become aware of it. I have read that there is evidence that human babies' minds can be measurably affected by music or the sound of the parents' voices while still in the womb -- probably only unconsciously -- so it seems very likely that telepathic contact with the developing fetus could be an important developmental stimulus for the baby, as well as a strong bond between mother and daughter. Which seems like a contradiction, considering that Loroi mothers often do not carry pregnancies to full term, and Loroi daughters are usually raised in crèche and have only minor relationships with their birth mothers.

I can think of a few reasons for this seeming contradiction. The first is the need of mothers to be active during wartime. A mother's telepathic connection to her unborn baby is going to be primitive but intense -- it's hard to imagine a closer "physical link" than a fetus that is practically a part of one's own body. An unborn baby's thoughts might be unconscious or on the level of emotions, but those might be occasionally intense, as when a baby squirms or kicks in the womb. Such constant telepathic feedback might be very distracting or unbalancing to a working military person, and I can easily see pregnant Loroi becoming increasingly irrational as they near term. This combined with the physical limitations of pregnancy could be a strong incentive to remove the baby to an incubator as soon as it is viable.

The other factor is the cultural emphasis on group care versus care by the birth mother. Part of this is a practical matter, since mothers called away to battle have limited ability to parent, but part is the ethos of a warrior culture that looks down on a nurturing connection to the mother. In warrior cultures such as the Spartans or Maasai, the male child's relationship to his mother is often ritually limited or outright severed at a certain age, as part of the rigors of becoming a warrior. For the Loroi, having practices that limit the bond between mother and daughter may serve to produce more independent daughters, as well as to reinforce the importance of community over individuals. On the mother's side, the idea may be that disassociation from her daughter may help to preserve the mother's harsh warrior's detachment, limit maternal "softness", sentimentality or overprotection her own child at the expense of the other warriors under her command.

If telepathic contact is important for the development of the fetus (and baby after birth), we must expect that the crèche staff have a way to provide this contact to the infants under their care.

Since these restrictions stem mainly from the rigors of wartime, I can see them being relaxed during peacetime, when an officer (especially a high-ranking one) may be able to take a leave of absence for a full-term pregnancy and perhaps even some time of child-rearing. Whether this practice would be encouraged or discouraged is open to debate. In such a case, though, one could expect much stronger bonds between mothers and daughters, and I think this could account for some of the established behavior of the older Loroi toward their offspring -- the examples of nepotism, placement into less hazardous areas of duty, or disproportionate sense of bereavement (for a Loroi) at the loss of a daughter. This could be yet another layer of distance in experience between the older Loroi and the new war generations.

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I think the physical touch and telepathic link of an adult would be more along the lines of what I'm thinking. I doubt that two Loroi infants have any idea how to initiate telepathic contact with each other, and even if they were touching, I'm not sure they'd have much to say to each other that would be comforting or instructive.

I imagine an incubator of the kind we have, where there's a sterile glove so the caregiver can slip her hand into so she can touch the baby.

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In ancient times, I think that child-rearing was mostly done by members of the warrior class that had grown too enfeebled (by age or injuries) to be useful on the battlefield. In the modern era when medicine can remove most such physical impediments to active service, the birthing and early care of warrior children is under the auspices of the Doranzer caste. The Doranzer are doctors, medics and medical technicians, and are few in number, so much of their care is provided by machines and civilian caregivers. By tradition, Doranzer crèche units often have access to an assigned older warrior veteran, who may provide ethical or practical guidance depending on the situation. Such veteran guidance can help a largely civilian staff to instill the proper warrior virtues in a batch of children destined for the warrior trials.

The conditions under which such veterans become crucial are those in which a fetus/infant may have extraordinary telepathic or psychokinetic abilities that are recognized before or shortly after birth. Veteran guidance can both help the development of such prodigies, as well as minimize damage to care facilities and staff -- though considering the rarity and potential of such infants, potential damage to civilian staff or facilities is considered entirely secondary by the military authorities.

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The medics aboard ship are equipped with basic facilities to handle pregnancies and births, as it's not an uncommon situation. However, the idea is that the baby hopefully doesn't have to spend long aboard ship before it can be dropped off at or ferried to the nearest planetary facility. Ships in the field, even raider groups, must be regularly resupplied, and infants (as well as severely injured crewmembers) can hitch a ride on supply ships back to friendly lines.

The possibility of a fetus demonstrating active psychokinesis while still in the womb would be a once-in-a-generation event, so that is not a case that is practical to plan for.

Multiple births can be caused by more than one egg being fertilized (polyzygotic or fraternal twins), or by an error in cell division (monozygotic or identical twins). Such errors are also possible in Loroi (or pretty much any organism, I would imagine), so multiple births are also possible in Loroi. In humans, about 2% of births are multiple, and of these more than 90% are polyzygotic. I would guess that the number of polyzygotic births are probably fewer in Loroi, due to the more controlled circumstances under which fertilization takes place, but that monozygotic multiple births are probably about the same rate as in humans. So, perhaps 1% of total births, with 20% of the multiple births being monozygotic (identical).

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I like the flavor of untranslated words, but I have learned that I need to carefully choose where I use them. The page-at-a-time nature of updates makes it more problematic to introduce something that is ambiguous or confusing, because rather than just shrugging and continuing to the next page, the reader has little to do other than stew about whether he/she really understood what that reference was supposed to mean.

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I didn't use the "seems" construction with Tempo because I wanted her to sound very professional, and very savvy with language. One issue with this is that there just aren't that many Loroi speakers; Tempo has the vast majority of the dialog in this scene... Stillstorm has a few lines, but she's not trying real hard to be polite. Even going forward, nearly all the talking is done by Beryl or Tempo (or as translated by Beryl or Tempo). Other Loroi characters get a few lines, but few other than Beryl or Tempo are very interested in being polite.

Beryl hasn't used the "seems" form in a while, because Alex pointed it out to her and she made a conscious effort not to use it, but it will probably creep back into her speech patterns.

It's true though that the comm. chatter from the other captains is a lot more straightforward and less ritualized and cryptic than I would have liked. But since even relatively straightforward metaphors such as "keep the handle on the blade" seem to spark confusion, that's probably for the best. I generally feel that if something requires separate offline explanation, it probably wasn't presented adequately in the first place. There's so much going on in the scene that I think it would probably be an unwelcome distraction.

I think Talon is probably the only other Loroi character in the first half of the story with a lot of lines, and she should present an opportunity to play a little bit with language, because in that case Alex's difficulty in understanding her is more to the point of the scene, rather than a distraction.

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Yellow is the standard warning color for the Loroi.

Yellow, red and orange (especially when contrasted with black) are ubiquitous warning colors in nature, presumably because they stand out very strongly against green, brown and blue (the colors of the environment). Black and white is also sometimes used as a high-contrast attention-getting combination. The significance of red for higher animals is probably enhanced by its association with blood, but red is also used as an attention-getting color by plants and insects that don't have red blood. Assuming that Loroi planetary environments are similar to ours (brown dirt, blue sky and water, green chlorophyll plants), yellow, red and orange still make sense as warning colors.

The texture in question was used more than six years ago. Currently all such signage is custom-created from scratch.

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The Loroi rely heavily on robots for mechanical and medical assistance. Any critical menial or technical task considered unfit for warriors is gladly delegated to machines where possible, to keep unfit civilians out of the loop. These robots are not at all humanoid in appearance, but more likely radial with many arms, kind of like a floating FX-7 from Empire Strikes Back. Medical robots are appliances usually part of an infirmary's equipment -- there was meant to be such a robot in the ceiling of Alex's infirmary scene, but I did not take the time to design or model it. Mechanical tech robots are ubiquitous in the engineering spaces -- Alex was meant to pass by one on the machine deck (right after he passed Talon and Spiral), but again I chickened out. At that time I was not confident enough to draw mechanical entities by hand, and there wasn't time to model it in 3D. There will be opportunities to show such robots in future chapters, but they do not play a crucial role in the story.

The Loroi are not fond of delegating combat roles to autonomous machines, but there is no ground combat in the current script (aside from flashbacks), so I don't plan to consider the possibility of infantry robots in any great detail.

Whatever robot assistants the humans may have are also irrelevant to the story.

The Umiak make extensive use of machine-enhanced cyborgs, and are not squeamish about putting "living" Umiak at risk, so the concept of pure robots sounds insane to them.

The Historian Emissary is software, and perhaps not technically a machine, but it has an important, continuing role in the story.

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"With the Loroi's tech level, regrowing damaged/destroyed organs/body parts is probably just as viable as cybernetic replacement."

This is my view.

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It would be spelled "Omiag", but the Loroi don't use this word. They refer to them as "the Enemy", or to the name of their government ("the Hierarchy" for short), or by one of various racial epithets.

The Umiak don't use the word "Umiak" either, as it's not an Umiak word and they don't have the ability to make the "oo" or "m" sounds. "Umiak" is an archaic Trade word that probably refers to a location or region. Most words used in the international community to refer to all things Umiak are foreign in origin or severely mangled, because of the incompatibility of the clicking language to a mostly fleshy community. There's a running joke among the Loroi that every Umiak word sounds like "kikitik", so all Umiak individuals are named "kikitik" and all Umiak objects are called "kikitik."

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I saw this question when it was originally posted, but because of the way it's phrased I couldn't think of a way to answer it properly without a two-page essay. I'll try again.

The Umiak have a relatively egalitarian, merit-based hierarchy, and able individuals rise quickly in the ranks. The difficulty comes in keeping them alive long enough to be useful on the larger scale.

Without FTL communication, operational commanders have to lead from the front, so keeping experienced officers alive in the current environment of extreme attrition is a problem for the Loroi as well as the Umiak. There is no "safe" duty in fleet actions, and the Loroi even lost an Emperor in combat earlier in the war. So, if you want to preserve a promising commander, you either have to kick her upstairs or transfer her to the reserves to save her for a rainy day, but either way it means she's not directly contributing to the (sometimes critical) battle on the front lines.

In the early-war assaults on Seren, when victory seemed within grasp, the Umiak were not careful about preserving their best ships or commanders. This oversight came back to bite them during the Loroi Semoset offensive when the strategic equation changed overnight, and the "remnant" Umiak command structure was slow to respond. New, able Umiak commanders rose quickly to positions of authority, and they were eventually able to regain the upper hand and thwart the Loroi drive. The Umiak learned from this episode, and they also realized that they now faced a long war which would not be won by headlong assault. Suicidal attrition attacks continue, intended to deter another Loroi offensive rather than fulfill any hope of breakthrough, but are made with second-tier forces (mostly new ships with green crews, or outdated ships with bored crews), while the majority of Umiak forces, including their most elite ships, crews and commanders, are kept in reserve, waiting for a decisive battle.

Do the Umiak have renowned commanders? Yes. Some that rose during Semoset and since are still alive and active in the reserves and behind the scenes, and there are still some (especially at higher levels) who have been around since before the start of the war.

Do the Umiak have a "Stillstorm?" That is a separate question.

In a war in which it sometimes seems like it's raining every day, it's hard to save for a rainy day. There are times in which top combat commanders seem too valuable to promote or reserve, especially when they are not well suited to administrative duty or inaction, and they are for one expediency or another left on the front lines indefinitely, until they are killed or crack from the pressure. Stillstorm's legendary status is not so much for her tactical excellence (which is undeniable) but rather her seemingly unnatural ability to survive years on end in high-risk interdiction duty for which the survival expectation is measured in months. As the last of her class, Tempest has a distinctive silhouette, and Umiak fleets that encounter her know by now who they are dealing with. Willingness to die does not make the Umiak immune to fear.

An Umiak "Stillstorm" would be an Umiak commander who has been around since before Semoset, but who has continually been assigned to front-line duty, including attrition assaults, and yet somehow Just Refuses To Die. Such an Umiak commander would be a pretty scary prospect for the increasingly demoralized Loroi.

Do the Umiak have a "Stillstorm?" Yes. It calls itself Kikitik-27-tikhak-tikkukit.

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Farseers are not FTL radios. There are limited situations in which Farseers in the field can be used to receive emergency messages, but this is not sufficient for regular command and control. That must be done through courier networks, which are problematic outside one's own territory.

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Some do. The job of an attrition assault is to go out and cause as many casualties as possible. To do this, one or more groups will usually try to cross the Steppes and hit the Loroi lines. However, if a fleet sees a lot of combat while crossing, if they lose a lot of ships or expend most of their fuel and/or ordnance fighting Loroi interdictions, the assault fleet may reach a point where there is no point in pressing forward. In such a case, the assault commander will just withdraw. Especially if the Umiak were able to cause significant casualties to the Loroi raiders, such a mission could still be considered quite successful. These aren't kamikaze attacks or martyr attacks; you don't get any points for offing yourself unless you actually accomplished your objective, and if you can do that and still make it back alive, so much the better.

If an assault fleet does reach the Loroi lines, chances of successful return are greatly reduced, as most Umiak commanders will go balls to the wall at that point, and even if the two sides fight each other to a standstill, the prospect of crossing all the way back under fire from raiders is not a good one. But it does happen. Such assault fleets rarely attack alone, and if there are successive waves coming in behind you, you may be able to hold on until reinforcements arrive, giving the chance for ships that are depleted and not much more offensive use to slip back home. But the odds are not good.

Another type of attrition attack is one that's not meant to hit the Loroi lines at all, but rather is made up of fast ships with longer range weapons, intended specifically to draw out Loroi interdiction fleets and try to chew them up. Such missions are still very dangerous, as a clever strike group commander can turn the tables on such ambush attempts, but it's a much more survivable class of mission.

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"The Umiak, as I recall, often, if not usually, send fleets in without enough fuel to get back even if they *do* win."

I don't recall saying this. I think I may have said something to the effect that an assault fleet commander wouldn't worry much about saving fuel or ammo for the return trip, since chances are they wouldn't be coming back. However, all such assault forces are sent out fully fueled and armed, even if they aren't expected to survive.

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The Loroi were a little bit busy (being ambushed by Umiak) at the time that Bellarmine made her transmissions. When Alex woke several hours later and activated his beacon, the battle was over and the surviving Loroi had more free data analysis resources to spare.

There are a lot of heat and radio noise sources in any system, especially a planet-forming system. Information processing resources are not infinite.

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Gunboats are mostly towed on external linkages (not carried internally), and so can be serviced by relatively small mother vessels. Gunboat linkages are common on regular combat vessels, and dedicated tenders can service multiple craft. The gunboat tender on page 71 is a cruiser-sized "medium" vessel, about 300 meters long, and can service six craft. The gunboats are of a small variety (~75m) that don't have a long endurance and so are often kicked loose just before combat, while others have better endurance and only dock to refuel or transit. Many of the light vessels in the Umiak squadron were already undocked (seen in lines flanking the formation above and below) when first spotted by the Loroi on page 68.

If we estimate that the 8 heavies average two linkages and the 64 medium vessels average 1 linkage per 2 vessels, 8x2 + 64/2 = 48.

An Umiak "heavy" vessel is generally between 350-500 meters. These are equivalent in size to Loroi heavy cruisers and battlecruisers, though the Umiak heavies tend to be much more heavily armored and not as fast as their Loroi counterparts. As such they can sometimes be thought of as "pocket battleships." Many heavies will have two or more gunboat linkages as standard equipment.

A "medium" vessel is generally between 200-350 meters. These are light cruisers and destroyers, and specialty vessels such as the light gunboat tender (as seen on page 71) and the missile destroyer (seen on page 75). Perhaps a third of medium vessels will have up to 2 linkages, and specialized tenders may have 4, 6 or more.

Vessels smaller than 200 meters are classed as "light vessels," and include frigates (<=200m), corvettes (~150m), and gunboats (<=100m). Gunboats are usually defined as vessels that don't have their own jump drives, but they range from 120m corvette-sized vessels that are mostly autonomous, down to 60 meter attack craft with very limited duration, and it's not always easy to tell whether a light craft is a gunboat or a corvette just by looking at it, so the Loroi often lump all the smaller vessels together as "gunboats."

"Superheavies" are 500+ meter vessels that are the Umiak battleships and dreadnoughts, but these are rare to see in attrition raids, as they are expensive, and draw undue Loroi attention when they are seen.

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"And if you look, that far ship does indeed have a black stripe. Some sort of honors mark, like Corellian Blood (or whatever) Stripes?"

It's Imperial Guard insignia.

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The Imperial Guard is part of the reserve, and they aren't seeing a lot of action at this point. The Loroi are trying to build their reserves for another offensive, and they know that most of the Umiak attacks on the Steppes front are specifically for the purpose of causing Loroi casualties, so they are reluctant to commit reserves to those fights, as they know that most attacks won't break through, and they don't want to expose the reserve forces to casualties (the Umiak attrition fleets have devious skill at managing to take Loroi ships out with them), and they don't want to show the enemy how many ships they're accumulating.

As a relative of the Emperor, Ashrain's superiors are reluctant to put her in harm's way for political reasons. Ashrain requested a transfer because she wanted to prove her abilities, and she doesn't feel that sitting behind the lines guarding the Emperor's flagship is really doing her duty for her nation. She requested interdiction duty because the raider groups are always short-handed, they see the most action, and it is nearly impossible to hide or protect someone in these groups. She expects that she will not receive any special treatment from Stillstorm in particular, who is a political opponent of the Emperor.

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Ashrain brought her ship with her and most of its crew. Any among the crew who complained about moving to the front would have been gladly granted transfers elsewhere; those are not the people you want with you at the front anyway.

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By "political opponent" I mean someone who disagrees with the policies and actions of the government, not someone who intends to personally replace her. Stillstorm is a member of the Loroi Axis, the largest loyal opposition party, which advocates a republican form of government. The manner in which Greywind took power, and the degree to which she has implemented martial law and suspended civil rights of private parties in the name of Total War has not endeared her to the traditional opponents of the Imperial dictatorship. Stillstorm's political disfavor is one of several reasons why she is still on the line and has not been promoted "upstairs."

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The Loroi crews are warriors, born and bred in a warrior culture; they're not converted civilians hoping to ride out the war and go back to their civilian jobs. Loroi are supposed to want to fight; morale suffers when they have to sit on their hands at home while their sisters are out fighting and dying. Now, I'm sure not everyone on Black Razor was thrilled when informed they were heading to what's essentially the most hazardous duty in the theater, but I would be surprised if anyone dared asked for a transfer. If you're a warrior and you consider yourself a member of an elite unit (which the Black Razor crew certainly do), it would be pretty shameful if you balked when they asked you to actually fight.

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The Nissek signed a treaty with the newly-formed Loroi Union that essentially amounted to a defensive pact: that each would agree to aid the other if attacked. There is no shared command in a NATO sense. The main problem that prevents Nissek forces from having a meaningful role in the conflict against the Umiak is one of distance and logistics; Nissek territory is on the extreme opposite end of Union space from the border with the Umiak. It can take months for ships to reach the Steppes from Nissek territory, and there are significant logistical issues with supporting a non-Loroi fleet (which may have unique supply and maintenance requirements) so far from native bases. It's also a command and control problem, because of the lack of FTL communication. The second problem is one of the lukewarm relationship between the Loroi and Nissek. The Nissek Hegemony itself is an aggressive nation that has vassal states of its own, and the Nissek have their own local tensions to concern themselves with, so they are not eager to send large portions of their own military abroad (and be unable to recall them for many months). The Loroi are not particularly trusting of the Nissek, and so are not eager to ask for Nissek forces. So, for the most part, the Nissek have had very little part in the Umiak conflict. There have been a few times when the Loroi contacted the Nissek for support in a tight spot, but usually the crisis had passed by the time any help was due to arrive.

The Historians have a different agreement with the Loroi, which was hastily concluded following the Umiak invasion of Historian territory. It is also lacks a shared command structure, and one supposes that the language of the agreement must be pretty loose, as the Loroi and Historians have very different ideas about what the agreement requires and whether it has been lived up to up to this point. The Loroi and Historian forces are under different command and mostly defend their own sectors. The Historians allowed Loroi fleets into Historian space at the start of the Umiak invasion, but once things were under control, they were promptly shooed out; the Historians don't like having Farseers poking around their territory. Historian fleets rarely venture outside their own territory; during the Semoset Offensive, the Historian offensive operations stopped promptly as soon as they had recovered their own systems that they had lost.

The Loroi dissatisfaction with the Historians as allies (and the Historians' point of view on the subject) will be covered in some detail in the story, and relatively soon.

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The warhead launchers are tubes covered by doors built into the prong(s) of most Loroi ships. Like torpedo tubes on submarines, they're not visible in most cases. The Scimitar class has a bolt-on accelerator for the tube that's visible on the topside starboard prong in page 78.

The correct number of laser turrets for the Scimitar is 7; the Insider listing is in error. I think I fixed it once but the change was reverted.

Rapier has a sixth medium turret underside aft, and four more laser turrets under the prongs. Katana has a sixth laser turret underside aft.

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The ships are depicted as looking a lot closer together than they should be. Realistically, they should be thousands of kilometers apart. There won't be any Starship Troopers style issues with ships running into each other as they try to avoid fire.

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The issues of heat saturation and power overloads regarding operation of the wave loom refer mainly to its use aboard Tempest, which is a derivative of an outdated Semoset-era fast command class (the Vortex). The wave loom is an area-of-effect weapon with enhanced penetration capabilities, which is limited by accuracy and power issues. There are not many circumstances in interdiction duty (for which Vortex was not designed) that permit time and tactical space for the wave loom to be deployed. Vortex was considered by the Loroi to be a failed experiment, which is why Tempest is the only remaining example.

Larger, more powerful, and more modern vessels such as Cry of the Wind still must deal with the formidable power and linear space requirements of the weapon, and its accuracy issues, but they are generally not plagued by the overload problems of the smaller and older command ships. Cry of the Wind has two wave looms; even the Imperial Flagship's great power can only charge one of them at a time, but it can achieve more continuous fire through allowing one to cool while the other is charged.

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That's correct, and I thought of this when I was drawing the panel, but I felt it was most important that it be clear what was happening (that is, the missile intercepted the torpedo). A more realistic rendering would have required more panels to get the point across.

Regarding Talon's status: in chapter 2, Talon and Spiral reappear as pilots of a shuttle, having been transferred from interceptor duty in an attempt to extend their life expectancies. My original idea was that this transfer would have already happened by chapter 1, and they could have been the pilots who plucked Alex out of space, but it eventually became clear to me that this was an irrelevant detail that didn't add anything to Talon's interaction with Alex; if anything, it worked out better that the chance meeting in the corridor on page 41 was their first meeting. So when I was working on the page 79-80 battle mosaic and thought it would be a good idea to include an image of a fighter pilot, I decided to use Talon, because it didn't make any sense to introduce a new character just for one panel.

I did wimp out a bit on the pilot hardsuit, which I had originally intended to be much more robust. But since I had already established Talon in the lighter suit, and since spending time on a hardsuit design that will probably never be used again didn't make sense, I just beefed up the lighter flight suit with some extra pieces.

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"Why are Loroi ships named after human weapons?"

They're named after Loroi weapons, but names like nezatin, eides and nazali are not meaningful to most readers, so English translations of similar human weapons such as scimitar, katana and warhammer are provided. Like spoken names, I try to provide both the Loroi names and the translations where possible.

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"So the Loroi have mermaids?"

Keeping in mind that the sailors are female? No.

They're sea furies, a sort of storm spirit. Different depiction of the same things that are in the Tempest tapestry.

They're two different depictions of more or less the same thing: a sea fury or storm spirit. Since they're mythical, depictions and attributes can vary substantially. There's a shrieking, storm-calling siren/banshee element to them, and also an element of the Greek Erinyes (Roman Furies), that is, as spirits of vengeance.

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That's a manta-like Taben analogue to the flying fish, that is associated with the storm spirits. Kind of like seeing an albatross, if you saw these things jumping in the wake of your sailing vessel, it was a sign you were in for trouble.

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Capital ships are going to have much more powerful ECM suites than fighters, so you'd only need ECM on the fighters if they are operating far from the motherships.

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Most of the caste uniforms have more than one variant, and the rank tabs sometimes take different shapes for different titles, especially as you get up into the command ranks and nearly all the tabs are yellow/gold/orange. The Soroin armor has a lot of variants, as Soroin can vary in rank and role from footsoldier to shoe-girl to ship captain.

Ashrain is a Torret (Captain), Moonglow is a Mazeit (Senior Captain / Commodore), and Stillstorm is a Lashret (Commander / Rear Admiral). The differing styles of their rank tabs and shoulder pauldrons indicate their differing titles. Normally all squadrons would be commanded by a Mazeit, but the Loroi are short of flag officers in the raider squadrons at the moment.

Nova is a Soroin Torret (junior Captain). It's common for new captains, especially on smaller ships, to serve for some time as a Soroin Torret before they are given leave to complete Torrai training. In this case Nova is actually the acting squadron commander, because the normal commander of the Van squadron took her ship home after the first Naam battle due to damage. There will be more details about these kinds of factoids in the forthcoming Insider page on Strike Group 51 at Naam.

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"So does Greywind generally wear the red Torrai armor, or does she have her own special suit?"

Both. She has a conventional Torrai uniform, and a more elaborate ceremonial white and silver armor (of which there is a concept in the gallery) for more formal occasions.

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Whether it's antimatter or some other exotic material, it's still a matter-annihilation reaction, so it's always going to be E = mc², minus some percentage for inefficiency. Assuming perfect efficiency, 1 kg of matter annihilated yields 89,875 terajoules, or about 21.5 megatons. (Edward Muller's calculator is a little bit misleading, as it produces 43 MT per kg of antimatter, because he's assuming that there is an equal amount of matter that is also annihilated, doubling the yield per kg.)

A hypothetical 40 g 20-ton torpedo that wanted to burn for a full displacement of one light-second would need to have at least 20 minutes worth of fuel. Mass equivalent of the energy needed for this acceleration (assuming perfect efficiency) is only .026 kg. Even if we assume order-of-magnitude inefficiency in the conversion and drive mechanism, the amount of matter-annihilation fuel needed for this 20 minute burn is still probably less than 1 kg.

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Some ships do have a linear accelerator launch tube to give the torpedoes some extra starting velocity, but I think that sort of thing would work best in a configuration where you have a small number of launchers and a magazine feeding them. In the case of this particular Umiak ship, if every one of those ports was a linear accelerator, that would be an awful lot of linear accelerators -- 120 at least. I doubt that the firing of these torpedoes is exerting a very significant force on the ship, but if it was, I'm sure the pilots wouldn't have any trouble compensating for it.

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Note that the line is "estimated time to intercept," which is conveniently ambiguous. Cobalt and Redrill are preparing to operate the main batteries.

If your goal as an Umiak commander is maximum protection of your ships, it might seem to make sense to launch gunboats and torpedoes early and time them so that they hit the Loroi line just as your ships are entering pulse cannon range, so that the Loroi ships are dodging attacks instead of shooting at you. The drawback of this strategy is that you give the Loroi a lot of time to take "free shots" at the torpedoes and small craft with all available weapons. Gunboats can dodge to some degree while closing, but most torpedoes are designed for straight-ahead acceleration rather than evasive maneuvers, so they can be often be hit even with the Loroi heavy weapons. If the Loroi can destroy most of the small craft before the Umiak heavies come into range then it is a wasted effort, so this requires an extreme number of torpedoes and gunboats to be effective.

A more aggressive Umiak commander that wants to balance ship safety with maximizing the threat of torpedoes and gunboats to get in close and do serious damage can use his heavy ships to bait Loroi fire, forcing the Loroi to make tough choices about which to shoot at, and try to time arrival of the small craft on target at the same time that the Umiak heavies are entering effective plasma focus range, so as to apply maximum pressure at the moment that the Loroi themselves come under fire. In this case the tactic would be to launch the bulk of your torpedoes right before you enter Loroi pulse cannon range and then press in behind them. An Umiak heavy vessel does have a chance to withstand a pulse cannon hit, especially at longer range, whereas torpedoes do not. Any Umiak heavy that is destroyed is already empty of torpedoes, and draws fire off the small craft. The drawback in this tactic is that the Loroi have multiple tiers of weapons systems that can engage different targets at different ranges simultaneously, so a well-coordinated Loroi fleet may be able to inflict heavy ship losses on the Umiak while still managing the incoming torpedoes. As with all Umiak strategies, numbers are an important key to success.

Which tactic is mathematically optimal will depend on the situation, but given that the objective of most Umiak attacks is to cause maximum Loroi casualties (almost without regard to their own losses), the latter of the two tactics is usually Umiak standard operating procedure.

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The Nozotel has a slightly different style of uniform, like Nova's (page 73, top right) except with a triangular glowy on the breastplate.

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You don't have to "dodge" to avoid a ballistic projectile, you just have to change course very slightly every now and then. You could use a mass driver as a last-ditch close-in point defense system (somewhat like the CIWS), but I'm not sure the effective range of such a system would be much greater than the blast radius of a torpedo. Would it be superior to the Loroi rapid-fire laser point defenses? No. If it was, the Loroi would be using it.

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That's correct, Tsunami is a Vanguard-class battlecruiser. Also the #19 escort cruiser is part of the center squadron, though of course that's not relevant to the calculation at hand.

Falling back ahead of the torpedoes would normally be a very effective tactic to buy extra time to shoot at them, but there is a limitation on how much ground you can give when one is defending a fixed point.

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Arclight's Torrent is a Scimitar-class heavy cruiser.

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Ashrain's ship Black Razor is the Katana-class war cruiser. It's distinctive by the black stripe across the prongs. Arclight is the spiky-haired captain in charge of the Tempest's escorts (center squadron), and Ashrain is the white-haired captain in charge of the right wing. Don't worry, there isn't going to be a test later. I'm not burdening the reader with the names of all the ships and captains at this point, because it's a ton of exposition that's not particularly relevant at this point; I think Ashrain's name is the only one that gets mentioned. I'll post all this information (for those interested in trivia) in an Insider page after the battle is completed.

The current strength of Strike Group 51 is: 1xGCS, 1xBC, 1xCW, 8xCA, 4xCLE, 13xDD. Aside from Tempest, the three main actors in the forthcoming sequence each command a conveniently different class of ship: Ashrain of Black Razor (CW), Moonglow of Tsunami (BC), and Nova of Winter Tide (CLE). (The CLE isn't unique, but when you see a CLE, it's Winter Tide.)

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Yes, the blue doors are hangar bays. Tempest has a normal complement of 8 interceptors, but the light interceptors can also be carried in place of shuttles on the smaller vessels, and so SG51 interceptor squadron is a collection of individual craft carried on board the various heavy cruisers and battlecruisers.

The Loroi squadron is at the edge of the proplyd disc; most of the material is in front of them. It's unlikely that an enemy squadron would be able to leave the disc and flank them without being detected by conventional sensors.

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SG51 currently has 19 interceptors in action, which is 9 for Tempest, 2 for each of the battlecruisers, and roughly 1 for each of the heavy cruisers. The original complement was probably 25, but the fleet also originally had seven more warships that were destroyed or damaged in the first day's fighting (the damaged vessels having withdrawn).

And, as discord mentions, you can see the specs for the dedicated carriers on the ship classes page.

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It all depends on the situation. If your ship suffers a catastrophic failure while under enemy fire, you're not going to see many survivors; maybe a few people who happened to be in pressure suits and were near the extremities of the ship. If there is time for an orderly evacuation, one might expect a significant portion of the crew to survive to be rescued. However, any possibility of rescue requires that your side "held the field" and are at hand to rescue you.

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I suppose a realistic hard-science spaceship crew would probably be decked out in flight gear and visibly strapped into their stations, but that's not the feel I'm going for. The command deck is deep in the center of the ship, so there may be an argument to be made that any hit that suddenly exposes them to space is probably going to be pretty fatal regardless of what gear they have on, but I guess that largely depends on your point of view. For a while before the Challenger accident the space shuttle crews were doing liftoffs in shirtsleeves; now they won't even launch unless there's a backup to come rescue them. The risk level hasn't changed, but the mindset certainly has.

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The Loroi like to decorate things, but often such decoration is reserved for official citations: for example, a unit is allowed to display a custom emblem if it has earned a unit citation. However, to a certain degree this is left to local command, and there have been a few Loroi commanders who have allowed a wide variety of personal embellishments of their craft (reminiscent of Baron von Richthofen's Flying Circus). Stillstorm is not such a commander.

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The Kikkut had it rougher than their Hal-tik cousins, as they were smaller and even less sophisticated. As the other sub-species advanced and challenged each other, the Kikkut were displaced into ever-less-desirable habitats. When the Hal-tik first began the long conflict against the Trik-tik, the Kikkut were still valued as slaves and conquerable peasant communities, but by the time the modern Umiak finally achieved dominance, the natural ecosystems of Empire were in ruins, and the Kikkut had been reduced to the status of sewer rats -- primitive scavengers off the technological societies that had left them in the dust.

Yes, life on the ancient Umiak homeworld was fun times.

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On the contrary, larger animals require larger brains, and large brains seem to be a good path to sentience: there is more processing power available for diversion to other pursuits. Aside from our closest kin (primates), the most intelligent mammals you'll find on Earth are among the largest: elephants, dolphins, orcas and other whales.

Again, we're talking about a low-gravity ecosystem here... a Lurs is tall but lanky... a 6m specimen might weigh 5,000 kg (as much as an elephant), but assuming that the Lurs homeworld is one-half Earth gravity, such a creature could move pretty well. You've got an elephant's mass of muscle moving only half as much weight. I imagine the proto-Lurs filling a niche across between a gorilla and a tree sloth. Imagine the kind of monstrous trees that could grow in one-half gravity. Such animals would require a lot of food, but not near as much as an elephant on Earth.

It's true that giant populations will be smaller than human-sized ones, but I haven't seen any evidence that smaller populations equates to lesser technical advancement. If population size was the ultimate meter of technological advancement, then Asian cultures should have dominated the West on Earth... and that's not what happened.

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Torpedoes vary in maximum thrust potential from 40-60 G, and they accelerate at full thrust pretty much the whole time. The only way to "sprint" at the end would be to include a secondary motor or booster, and I don't see the benefit that would justify the added cost or weight. Real-world torpedoes and cruise missiles don't have anything like this kind of "sprint" mode.

The real-world Sprint missile was a point-defense weapon, not a torpedo or cruise missile. It could do 100G, but required two stages and burned all its fuel in just a few seconds.

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I don't think parallax is going to be an effective way to determine distance... if a target is 10 light years away, I don't think a Loroi mind is going to be able to accurately measure the displacement of the contact over the distance that a ship could travel in a few hours; Farseers aren't computers. The only way they will be able to judge distance is if a more distant contact has a fainter signature. Faintness with distance doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the speed of the detection medium; a distant star would still appear fainter than a near one even if the light was transmitted instantaneously.

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Well, the Mannadi are still there, and it's kind of a Forbidden Zone of unregulated activity. The Loroi patrol the area looking for ships and orbital installations and other high-value targets, but they mostly leave the planetside Mannadi remnants alone to their own devices. The Mannadi would not be able to build ships of their own, unless they had outside help, but they certainly have motive to attack the Loroi, even against desperate odds. If what you want is ground combat against a guerrilla enemy, having an outpost in that region fighting resurgent Mannadi locals is as plausible an option as any. Mannadi space is not near to human territory, so it's not clear why humans might be there, though the proximity to the Historian border is one possibility.

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Loroi males are outside the caste system and do not use titles. Some males do not even speak Trade, as they are never in contact with non-Loroi, and therefore do not need spoken names. But many do have spoken names, which are similar to the feminine versions (though less martial), and he usually is addressed with his name and a reference to his most important female relation, such as: "Welcome Rain, third great-nephew of Emperor Greywind."

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I would expect support robots to be a lot like modern UAV's in that they're semi-autonomous and capable of performing missions on their own, but human operators assist when it comes to engaging targets. It could probably operate in a variety of modes, ranging from full remote control (by an operator in a remote location), to fire-support mode (where a nearby soldier designates targets with his own weapon/targeting system), to a verbal-command mode (where a nearby soldier says "shoot that bitch!"), to a fully autonomous mode. It could be as sophisticated as a full-functioned AI trooper, or as simple as a walking tripod that's programmed to follow you around. But in any case, it provides the solution of mobility for your heavy weapon much more effectively and MUCH more cheaply than a human exoskeleton.