Haloed Bane

CONSTAT AND MALVREIN


Marjuin has brought up the Houses and Constat, and I feel I have to break in and add a few observations. Our chronicler knows much more about the nobility that she’s letting on, and far too little about Constat not to confess her lack of knowledge straight out.

Marjuin the Gorgon carries herself the noble blood of Jurmuin. Her home continent of Painuria is said to be shaped like a gryphon rampant, and if you can picture that image to yourself (though a shrimp would be more accurate a representation) then know that the Jurmuin duchy occupies the gryphon’s butt. The house is not top tier and irregular affairs like the Midnight War form the bulk of her glory, but to people like Marjuin it’s far better to be a noble, even of the derrière so to speak, than a commoner. In fact, a return to her ancestral Jurmuin consumes her and drives her work. And I should note that the word marjui means common, so that she is reminded of her lack of status every time she hears her name and is spurred by this.

Jurmuin Location

Here is an anecdote that any armchair psychologist will be able to appreciate. Relatively early on in her career at Conciliar Sub-Division A (CSD-A, the intelligence agency handling the "Earth affair," also the employer of Sinduin), the bosses discovered that she had been collecting hair samples of important personalities in Incudea. Lots of hair from extremely important people. Just when she was about to be confronted with this odd hobby, from which some believed they detected a whiff of rebellion and even terrorism (genetic and Meidinish, probably), an analyst realized that every single one of the hair samples belonged to a Highborn. We’re talking about not only Duchess Jurmuin LII herself, but even such ducal superstars as Karhalaun XXXI and Malsain XXVIII!

At once it was decided that the unauthorized activity was less subversive than juvenile and obsessive. Marjuin was informed by hints and innuendo that the jig was up and she should desist immediately. She did so and has prospered since, contributing greatly to Incudea in the process, although nobody has ever found out what she intended to do with all that hair.

As for Consolidation and Statistics, the fact is that it began with a lie, one so well-hidden that not even a highly placed agent like Marjuin knows anything about it. But there used to be a SICTO transmission to prove it…

Transmission Jo-Klo-Glo 32214

Sensory Integration Crew Transmission Orderer, in short, SICTO. The entire legal framework of Incudea may just as well call SICTO its mother, as debates surrounding the technology basically gave birth to Incudean jurisprudence. Before the SICTO storm, legal wrangling at the interplanetary level was considered uncouth. After SICTO, it was deemed a necessity. Some would even say that it (the wrangling, not the Orderer) saved Incudea. In the present time SICTO no longer exists, but it was in full operation at the time which we are to investigate now.

It is the period between the end of the First and the beginning of the Second Dolentian War. Marjuin has explained how Incudea, having suffered a decisive defeat at the hands of the Merciless Myriad from Dolentis, finds herself treated surprisingly well in the aftermath. To crush the little enemies and tame the large ones, this was the way of the Dolens. Inculae received from Dolentis valuable bits of manchaprana (i.e. lore of the worlds), as well as, at least on a practical level, even more valuable transfers of technology. The programming algorithms behind SICTO were a part of this new learning, although it isn’t clear if the Dolens ever used something as intrusive as this among their own fighting forces. Chances are they didn’t need it.

Lambian

The owner of said transmission.

Here’s a typical case: a ship is selected for SICTO implementation. Incudean scientists surgically insert a tiny machine inside each crew member’s brain. The machine transmits a constant signal to the mothership during a military operation (SICTO was never implemented in peaceful circumstances, though some pushed for this in the Council). The signal includes an array of sensory data, out of which a comprehensive picture of the crew member’s experience can be very conveniently recreated in any number of media. The goal of SICTO when operating properly, and it often did, was to have a personal record of each crew member’s activity without having to rely on the whimsicality of the subject. It’s as if each crew member were to do a battle report so thorough she included even what she didn’t know she knew. Each transmission would have separable sense-focused (objective, glongumaglari) and feeling-focused (subjective, pezomaglar) strands, and though the first was always emphasized when sifting through the data, the second could and was often used to analyze failures in battle.

As a general rule all of these transmissions would be pooled and integrated into a single SICTO report, an overall crew experience record. If need be, however, each component transmission could be examined independently. In addition, Incudean sociologists developed several formulas to weigh the data so that, for example, the contribution of the ship captain’s transmission (which was a priori considered more reliable due to her wider, strategic understanding of the military operation at hand) would weigh more heavily in the general SICTO report than those of rank-and-file crew members.

During the period under discussion, the Incudean race was only capable of rising to the third grade. If the Incudean Army met a species that had gone farther along the trinities, it was very likely that they wouldn’t be able to decapitate it outright (because the leadership would be ensconced in the fourth or fifth grade where no Incudean troops could follow). Of course, Incudean troops could devastate the species’ home planet in the first grade and effectively annihilate the race outright, since sapient beings are only fertile in the first trinity. It was possible, if the area of operations was on the small side, for a crack unit of bombers to go in, detonate enough explosives in the first trinity to wipe out the population, and then move out undetected. After that it was a waiting game, with Incudean scouts reporting on the dwindling number of the enemies in the second and third grade. And presumably, by the time that Inculae were able to finally reach the fourth grade, any enemy leaders would have already died, leaving no successors behind. (No immortal sapient species had been found at this point).

The preceding was considered a drastic solution and avoided as much as possible, not least of all because the Dolens strongly disapproved of it. Moreover, Inculae were and are far happier to conquer planets full of vassals and keep them alive as long as possible; consider the survival of Ephocto in the Home System right down to Sinduin’s own day. There have always been only two reasons that would make the Council even consider wholesale genocide: extreme fear or extreme anger. It was the latter that sealed the fate of Malvrein.

Incudean emissaries first arrived on the planet in 3540 BC. The Vrein were a clever folk, the fact that they could reach the fourth grade was proof enough of that. Then again, their exceptional longevity, at times reportedly reaching the 5,000 year mark, tempered assessments of their wisdom (anyone living that long was bound to ascend a few grades at some point!). Their penchant for building skyscrapers and their hatred of mirrors was noted with a roll of the eyes by the emissaries, however. They were also rather ignorant of affairs beyond their own system and greeted Incudea with less respect and awe than her soldiers were accustomed to.

What was worse, much worse, was what they called their own planet: Malvrein. The word mal, while defined mathematically as a quintillion, stands more generally in Belklaun for "the greatest number" and for greatness itself. Anything, anyone, who called themselves mal- something or other is asking for trouble, and only those truly deserving the moniker would survive what amounted to a linguistic declaration of superiority over the rest of the universe. Some of the emissaries visiting Malvrein had parents or grandparents who had fought in the Dagger Wars 700 years earlier, and even those who didn’t would have heard of how much the alternatively celebrated and dreaded house of House Malsain had had to do with that conflict.

The Vrein, with eager naïveté, offered an alliance. The Incudean counteroffer was simple: subjection without bloodshed. The Vrein smiled and asked for time to consider the proposal. Days passed until the emissaries grew tired of waiting and took to their ships.

In 3539 an Incudean Army detachment descended on Malvrein. They brought nothing new to the table, hoping rather that the hosts would be shocked and awed into submission. Instead, however, the Vrein tried to argue with the Incudean officers. They were a fourth-grade species, whereas their visitors were only third graders. The Incudean officers were handed a letter addressed to the Council. To the surprise of the Vrein, the leading Incula opened the letter right then and there and read it out loud. The first line was:

"From the imperial elder siblings to the imperial younger siblings…"

The Incula read no more. She rolled up the scroll and bid farewell. Although it was common courtesy throughout the universe for a species to address a more advanced one as an elder brother and sister, the language did not at all please Incudea. Malvrein owned no territory outside of its own system, so to compare their "empire" to "the Empire" was a bit of a joke. A bad joke. About the only way they could have angered Inculae further was by calling them by their real names, which, happily, they did not know.

(The faux pas is even more grievous when studied in the original language: "Dian kanvioreth tuk siadunis kodar min cha kanvioreth tuk siadunis nedar min." The word kanvior stands for empire (though I've adopted A-22's coinage of "Incudea" when it refers to this particular species), and kanvioreth means something like "people of the empire". Now, the suffix -eth found here is only used for common nouns. The equivalent suffix for proper nouns is -ans. Thus for example, the people of Salbakion are known as Salbakionans. And here is the problem: Inculae use the word kanvior as a proper noun, because their empire is in their view The Empire. Therefore, they refer to themselves as kanviorans and not kanvioreth. The Vrein would have been aware of this usage from prior communication, so their failure to follow suit at that juncture amounted to an epic slap in the face.)

It is said that as Incudea readied her invasion force, Malvrein sent a message for help to Dolentis in which they praised the Dolens as overlords of the universe and begged them to rein in "those rude and pesky beastlings" (ashi mitrekins dorkuste urromand). There are two traditions as to the Dolentian response, both equally laconic. According to some, Dolentis replied "And what have you done for us?" According to others, what they said was "The North belongs to the young" (the core Incudean planets and Malvrein were all in what is termed the north according to traditional Dolentian cosmogeography).

Malvrein and Melgam Glapakins

As Marjuin has told you, Constat debuted alongside Army forces in the conquest of that planet. That a contingent accompanied the First Trinity Army as it sailed to Malvrein was quite ironic, since Incudean commanders had been told that the Vrein were to be punished and that they had no authority to accept surrender even if it was offered them. Since the basic role of Constat during an occupation was to handle the movement of peoples in annexed territories from the sideline worlds to the stemline, there was absolutely no point in their presence here. No Vrein were expected to survive, therefore who would they be helping to relocate?

In any case, a Constat contingent was formed, its three ships split among various forces. The Dachamir, led by Captain {Baroness} Palas Terhalion and manned wholly by Naxian soldiers, was attached to the Naxis contingent in the First Trinity invasion force. And out of the 30-odd ships participating in the attack, it was Constat’s Dachamir, the "Unmoving," which had the (dis)honor of "sinking" in the "fighting" and going down in flames. Her sister crews in the Dofedimir and Dizomir must have looked on in dismay. It was, let’s be frank about it, a very bad debut for Consolidation and Statistics.

An investigation was launched immediately afterwards to determine what had happened. This is where SICTO came into play. Needless to say, before doubts about and (later on) resistance to the Orderers arose, some had already developed electronic viruses (known invariably in Sinduin’s universe as meidinvartans, literally "Meidin germs", whether they were developed in Meidin or not) to counteract it. The crew of the Dachamir had uploaded just such a virus, and so the set of transmissions sent to the mothership was fake. The data consisted of randomly generated perceptual and emotional output within the parameters of the accepted norms imposed by the Incudean government, in other words, a replica of the sort of behavior that Incudea expected from her soldiers. Incudean operations were particularly vulnerable to such viruses because the military doctrine of the time was obsessed with what we can call a Leibnizian optimism: the perfect operation was deemed to be ruled by a preëstablished harmony between monadic ships, where each vessel was supposed to carry out its particular mission without ever needing to contact any of the others. In a nutshell, that as long as a ship’s crew performed its outward tasks correctly, they could use a virus to mask whatever it was they were doing internally without fear of being caught.

In the case of the Dachamir, the investigators were sure that all of the transmissions had been compromised, and they could not recover the original output except for a portion of the tail end of Transmission Jo-Klo-Go 32214, owned by one of the crew members, Lambian, which somehow eluded the viral rewriting.

Lambian served as weapons engineer in Palas Terhalion’s crew. She was born in 3655 BC in Ombo Estrish Electoral Ward, Naxis, and up to the Malvrein invasion had led a lackluster career. Her impeccably un-aristocratic origin and upbringing had definitely helped her in rising through the ranks in her home planet, where many still feared the likes of once powerful noble families like Terhalion. In fact, the entire crew of the Dachamir aside from the captain were, from the perspective of bloodlines, as common as common could be. Medical Group’s unanimous opinion of Lambian was that she would never reach the second grade. A lack of ambition of any kind and repeated use of brain-stultifying narcotics were to be blamed. Thus, she was perfect for this First Trinity mission, during the course of which she died with the Dachamir. She was 117. What follows are the surviving snippets from her brain’s output to the mothership, or more officially, the original Transmission Jo-Klo-Go 32214, generated at around 20% capacity. Square-racketed [] phrases are original SICTO glosses, whereas curly-bracketed {} phrases are my own glosses for the benefit of Earthlings.

The Transmission Proper

…I [Lambian, Dachamir Weapons Engineer, Estrish Electoral Ward, Naxis] tried not to move, tried to disappear. {the reader should be aware that there was always a consensus to the effect that verb tenses in SICTO reports were essentially meaningless}

"You did what?!" Ilsitain [Dachamir Navigation Engineer, Sweetsea Electoral Ward, Naxis] said.

Kurtuin [Dachamir Controller {something like an inter-species diplomat}, Bardish Electoral Ward, Naxis] repeated herself. "You heard me. I already uploaded it. You think we can get away with having a debate about it before actually doing it?? They’d figure us out!"

Everyone looked at the Captain, whose face was bright red. She was furious I think.

Ilsitain said, "This means a prison sentence." She scowled at Kurtuin and thought that we might all as well gang up on her and kill her, otherwise every one of us would land in prison with her [This is the subject's assessment of another individual's thought process, and since the said person's output has been completely compromised it is impossible to judge of its accuracy].

Palas [Palas Terhalion, Highborn, Dachamir Captain, Little Naxis, Naxis] spoke next. "I cannot believe you jeopardized our careers and our lives just like that. Sending a virus {meidinvarta} and for what?! To the Mothership!! And for what?! I feel faint." The Captain stopped talking [This reference to the Dachamir Captain as 'Captain' is possibly a rewriting by the virus; the subject more often refers to her mentally as Palas].

I looked at Sirduin [Dachamir Data Analyst, Odeth Electoral Ward, Naxis]. Sirduin looked back at me, then said: "It’ll be fine, Captain. This is a mock mission anyway, as we all know. We have been ordered to disregard any and all communications from the target planet, then what need is there to keep quiet? We might as well drown them out by pumping up the music."

{Here follow Lambian’s musings on her favorite music growing up, which I will redact as they are rather cryptic and the SICTO investigators could make neither head or tails of them}

Oh, Ilsitain was crying inside, and almost on the outside too. "They’ll be begging us to stop with screams…"

"Right, so we might as well get fucked up and live a little…for the Vreins’ sake too, if it makes you—us—all of us—happy." Kurtuin said this and I looked at Ilsitain and I think she is definitely starting to agree. Nobody looks at me. Whatever {this last word is my rendering of the phrase mith m’ul brian, more correctly, as noted by SICTO, mith me ul brian, literally: Every thing is just some thing}.

Ilsitain is crying. "We’re supposed to keep our brains from breaking during the entire operation." Keep our brains from breaking? I can’t remember that in the manual. Nope, that’s street slang. That’s the sort of way my sister would put it, or I. I smile.

Kurtuin notices, but doesn’t smile back. She is clever. She will win. "For what, Ilsitain?!" says she. "Those guys don’t have a chance. We’re going to destroy them. I mean, they are." She almost chokes she is speaking so quickly. "They are. By the time we give our messages they’ll be sending the Glapachikos {See below} down to sort them out, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re out burrowing as we speak!!"

The Captain waved her hand. She looked tired. "You are dead. I am dead. We all are."

I remember what folk used to say back in Estrish. "My Mom used to say the likes of you were lucky to be alive still." Ilsitain looks at me like I’ve just said the most horrible thing ever. She’s from Sweetsea, though. They’ve killed more Highborn than anyone else, no?

Palas, I pity her: "Did you know about this, Lambian?"

Lerchaun [Dachamir Alienologist, Nonohar Electoral Ward, Naxis] talks now, and everyone is surprised. "Lambian didn’t know, I’m sure. But I did, Captain. And if I remember correctly, so did Sirduin."

Sirduin stares at Lerchaun, who smiles back. Lerchaun says: "Democracy means rule by the majority. My excuses, Captain, but you count as one-half, and so the score comes down to 3 out of 5½, which is good enough in our book."

Palas walks out on us and steps into her chamber. The door closes. Silence.

"I feel woozy," I say.

"Use the phase chamber," Kurtuin says. "It’s not like we’ll be needing your weapons expertise anytime soon."

I smile, just in case, and go straight into the phase chamber.

[Lacuna in the original transmission, due to virus infection.]

{Since Phase Chambers are known for eliciting the deepest, most personal thoughts in theirs users, it is possible that this "lacuna" is actually the product of censorship by prudish Incudean handlers, who might have judged the content too banal (and/or scandalous) to be worthy of remaining on the record. But this is all speculation on my part.

{All Incudean ships are equipped with phase chambers, so-called because they provide an ample choice of levels (phases) of interaction between a crew member and the environment within, and by extension outside, a spaceship. At Phase Zero, the chamber is shut tight and the walls have holographic images familiar to the crew member, gravity is also adjusted for the member’s home planet and physiological rhythms, and any and all ship engine tremors and sounds are balanced out. One would think one is at home (in the mother’s womb, even) and not in outer space. At the maximum phase, the chamber is transparent, one can see the stars outside, and the crew member’s body experiences the ship as is. In between, there is a gradual scale of hundreds of phases. During training, phase chambers are used to accustom new recruits to life aboard a spaceship. That said, it is not uncommon for seasoned veterans to enter phase chambers on occasion, especially right before or after key operations. The Incudean Army encourages crew members to use the chambers whenever they feel a need to.

{I, your humble fellow traveler in this mess of Marjuin and Sinduin’s making, like to think that Lambian dialed the phase chamber way low so she could "revisit" the fire temple in her native Estrish.}

Lambian praying

I went out and Kurtuin, Sirduin and Lerchaun were doing orruga {An umbrella term for any and all narcotics}. I can’t believe these people are as crazy as the Estrishers.

"How about it?" Lerchaun asked me.

"What is it?" Ilsitain was in the corner thinking about it [Once again, this comment is speculation on the subject's part].

"It’s Silver orruga! The best!" ["Silver orruga" is the unofficial name of a type of narcotic commonly thought of as originating in the Silver Planet. However, the name of "Silver" seems to have derived from the observation that ingestion in great quantities is known to tinge the user's vision with a pinkish hue similar to that in the Silver Planet's flayer field. In point of fact, this type of narcotic may have had its origin in the Dolentis-Ishdodeth region]. {This kind of drug comes in little transparent balls with an active substance inside. The balls are ingested via the nostrils, sniffed. The SICTO gloss seems to suggest that the Dolens might have been supplying Inculae with narcotics during this era, perhaps in a similar fashion to the British in China during the Opium War. Maybe the reason the speculation is not laid out fully is a healthy respect for Dolentian intelligence capabilities in this era.}

I didn’t say anything but took what was offered.

[Lacuna in the transmission, due to virus infection.]

…but then she stopped talking and pointed at the panel. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This was some amazing orruga maybe, but no, everyone was looking at it. It was a Hi-Shen [The sighting was no hallucination, there was a Mobile Strike Base Hi-Shen, the Tunimir la Vaze to be exact, in the vicinity at this time, cf. SICTO Tro-To-Mo 31240 and subsidiaries]. {The Hi-Shen was the largest vessel type in the Incudean Army at that time, and was always kept circling a target planet’s orbit; in this instance the Tunimir was clearly entering orbit with the intention of engaging directly with the enemy, which is why the crew is so stunned. The ship’s name means Heartbreaker, which goes to show that armies have the same sensational sense of humor in every universe.}

Ilsitain was high. She said: "Why are they running around like crazy people?"

"Put on some music then," I said.

"Are you high or are you just stupid?!" Sirtuin replied, "What would you be doing if someone decided to land a fucking Hi-Shen in your backyard all of a sudden?"

Nobody heard me. I went to my compartment and looked for some music. Talagar [Meaning of the word unknown] {I have no clue either}, great.

Lerchaun then said, "Maybe they’re trying to accelerate deployment?"

I laughed. I don’t know why, but Lerchaun misunderstood me. I don’t think Lerchaun is stupid at all, but Sirduin totally does and now she thinks I agree with her. She said "Am I fucking surrounded by idiots?! You could deploy a thousand fighters and retrieve them in half the time it’ll take that..that..monster to complete its landing. It’s just personal, the Council is pissed. Overkill."

Kurtuin couldn’t keep her eyes away from the people on the ground. "Nobody’s blinking. They’re all running but they’re not blinking" {One would expect the Vrein to try to escape by teleporting, i.e. "blinking", into the sideline words of Aym and Chanegra at this point}.

"They’re too scared," I said. Everything is the color of sick.

But the music was nice, but nobody was listening, so I said: "Hear that? It’s as sweet as a Lahurdan tune" [This line is contaminated.] {I have no choice but to agree with the investigators on this one. Lahurdan music was usually played at officer graduations, during the Chukei Games, and in some private ducal festivities. The possibility that Lambian was ever exposed to this music is practically nil, and even if she had somehow heard it she wouldn’t be speaking of it in this way at this point. This is a statement that could only be attributed to Captain Palas, who was not a participant in the conversation at this time. It seems the virus messed up its fake attributions.}

Lerchaun thought of something funny. You could tell by the look in her eyes. "I guess they won’t even send down the Glapachikos to lay the undergroundwork, {Note that the Glapachikos hail from the planet Melgam Glapakins in the Exotics, roughly in between Malvrein and the Near Systems, and that already by this time they were under Incudean rule and very active in her fighting forces; natural burrowers, they were capable of surviving various kinds of atmospheres so well that Inculae would almost always drop squads of them on enemy territory from extremely high altitudes, without anything resembling a parachute and with the flimsiest set of armor, to do reconnaissance before an invasion} they’d all get fried!"

I heard laughter. We stopped looking at the Hi-Shen because of this. Good thing too. I was starting to get woozy again.

Kurtuin starts talking now: "I hear Glapachikos taste great. Have you heard of how a Glapachiko that was doing exercises over Naxis crash-landed and sunk to the bottom of Sweetsea? And then some of the people there were curious because it had drowned and its belly was so huge and distended, and they ended up frying it and eating it. What with all that sweet water they say it was the best meat ever."

Ilsitain said: "I never heard of that, and I’m from there. But I did hear that the Salbakionites {Remember, these are the eternal enemies of the Naxians, then as always} were using a couple of Glapachikos to burrow underneath Keshabel and spy on the Naxians, but then they were caught and as punishment roasted to death. Only they smelled so good that the councilors decided that it was best to—"

[The next section is likely contaminated by the virus, as Kurtuin interrupts to give a very proper speech of well wishes to Incudea and a rededication of her life to the new division's service. The single phrase "began to laugh like a maniac" is probably legitimate, although under the circumstances it is unclear who it should be attributed to.] {On the contrary, I think it very possible that Kurtuin acted out a little play, not simply on a drug-induced whim, but on what human psychology would call a repressed impulse to act out the role of leader/captain, as it seems the sort of speech that the Highborn Palas Terhalion would have given in normal circumstances. Alas, the speech was excised from the SICTO records in my possession, so there’s nothing more to be said about it.}

"…stupid as it is, otherwise we’ll get in trouble." {I imagine the sentence began with "We should fulfill the mission…" or something along those lines.}

Kurtuin was excited. "Yeah, let’s show that Terhalion!"

We were scheduled to go where? Aym? Yup. I wonder if we can do it. I moved to the blink-seat and said to myself "Whatever." I’m not sure who said this: "Do it over 24. Send a message to the Captain and let’s hope she syncs with us." Whatever whatever whatever whatever.

Raigian in Naxis

4 of the Dachamir crew members hailed from electoral wards in the large continent of Raigian in Naxis. Sirduin was from another, smaller continent (not pictured) and Capt. Palas was from a Naxian moon. The black star represents the capital of Keshabel.

{Blinking (i.e. teleporting or jumping into a side world, e.g. from Briga to Aym or from Aym to Chanegra) in outer space is extremely risky, for two fundamental reasons: a) if one is traveling aboard a spaceship when one blinks, and somehow fails to pull the ship along at the same time, then the lack of breathable air will quickly be fatal, not to mention one will be stranded in space; b) if one is traveling with a crew then blinking risks having the crew members get separated from each other, with the obvious catastrophic results.

{The field of diamechanics is vast and complicated, therefore a cursory practical overview must suffice. If person A blinks from Briga to Aym, what s/he is carrying goes naturally along with him/her. If person A is at the same time being carried inside a vessel B, then B may or may not get pulled into Aym. Ultimately it is a game of probabilities, but it has been established that a number of separate contact points between A and B (the optimal being 5 on each side) maximizes the chances of a successful pull. In short, A must endeavor to have five body parts in contact with vessel B to have the vessel pulled.

{If A, X, and Y are on the ship, and A blinks while successfully pulling the ship to Aym, X and Y will remain aboard the ship back in Briga. This means, effectively, that the ship has been doubled, with the original B in Briga and a new version, Ba, in Aym. This is termed "doubling the equipment" (shaiklaskunglar la chiopama) and is a well-known practice, but one that carries its own risks. If X were to blink into Aym immediately after A and pull the ship along, then her version of the ship, Bx, would very likely crash into Ba. Most successful militaries in Belklaun will thus only double equipment in desperate situations, relying the rest of the time on having crews blink simultaneously so as to maintain the single original ship. (To add to the perils of doubling, a ship’s material substructure becomes more volatile the more doubling occurs, so that at some point too much doubling results in disintegration of the vessels involved).

{In the period under discussion, a ship like the Dachamir would have had eight seats. All six crew members would have seats primed for ship-pulling when blinking. Each of these seats would be arranged so that the crew member’s pubis, two knees, two elbows and forehead would be in direct contact with protrusions built into (not just attached to) the ship’s outer hull. The hands would be left free for use before and immediately after blinking. That crew members’ weren’t simply told to put both feet on the floor was due to the protective armor that covered the inside of the ship and was several layers removed from the structure itself (thus lowering the floor’s suitability as a point of contact for blinking/pulling). The two extra seats would have been for the weapons engineer and the navigation engineer, for whose jobs the specialized pulling seats were simply not suitable. These two specialists would be the only ones to have to shift seats for a blinking session. This explains Lambian’s reference to her "blink-seat" (izonsoma).

{The crew’s main worry, besides the fact that their intoxication might interfere with their blinking synchronization, is that Captain Palas will ignore the notice to blink into Aym with everyone else and remain behind in Briga. This would of course reveal to the rest of the Incudean force that things are not faring well on the Dachamir, or Dachamirs, as the ship would then have doubled.}

Shit.

"Ha!"

We’re in Aym. Someone’s laughing and talking. "There she is, there she is." It’s Kurtuin.

What is she on about? I look at the log. Oh, right, Palas did blink with us after all. Heh.

"Where is it, where is it?"

"What?" Sirduin asks Kurtuin.

"The switch for the messages, where is it??"

Now Ilsitain says, "I’ll do it, hold on." She’s so busy, that one. Kurtuin nods. She’s good to have, Ilsitain is.

Then Sirduin said, "You hoofhead, you don’t have access to the messages on your end!"

Kurtuin guffaws. "That’s right. Ilsi, have you gone mad?!"

"Her brain is broken." I might as well say it, so I do.

"Right, Lambian. That’s just it!" Kurtuin strains her eyes until they’re going to pop out, and then she finds it and hits it. Out booms the voice. Utterly utter mad. Whatever. Here we go.

"You are listening to a communication by the Incudean Division of Consolidation and Statistics. Your planet in this world has been scheduled for depopulation (dinduma). All sapient beings are hereby ordered to teleport into Briga and await further instructions. Do not teleport into Chanegra. Do not remain here. Teleport into Briga and await our instructions. Failure to obey this notice will result in immediate redefinition (tatraipima gampar) as an enemy of Incudea. We repeat…" {The official SICTO version of the transmission only includes the first two sentences of the recording, then switches back to Lambian’s musings (the rest of the message is relegated to an appendix). No doubt this is an accurate rendering of the flow of her thoughts. I’ve set out most of the message here because I know the reader, unlike Lambian, is not familiar with this kind of recording and would benefit from having access to the entire thing.}

"Hey, Kurtuin. You know what the… What’s the difference between being in the first grade and being in the third grade?"

Everyone’s looking at me. What?! It’s not a serious question people?! Or is it?

"What?" asks Ilsitain.

"It’s…it’s… Oops, I forgot."

{Odds are Lambian was trying to tell the crew an old artillery academy joke, to which the proper answer is: ‘In the third grade you get to choose your own password.’ The idea is that everything you can achieve militarily in the higher grades through abilities like transformation (or, as Marjuin called it in her chronicle, the malleability of the self), you can achieve in the first grade through technology. The difference is that in the first grade you use Incudea-sanctioned passwords to operate the weaponry, whereas in the higher grades people use private "spells" to trigger their abilities. The joke still exists in the present time, although "third grade" has been updated to "fifth grade".}

Someone says, "But those spires are tall!" It’s Lerchaun.

{It stretches the bounds of our reason, though maybe not of our imagination, to believe that Lambian and the talkative crew just now noticed for the first time the spires dotting Malvrein’s landscape, though it is very likely that the structures in the left sideline world of Aym were significantly larger and more imposing than their Brigandine counterparts. Chances are that, either in the lost initial part of the transmission, or in the lacunae, the crew had already discussed them, or at the very least that Lambian noticed and thought about them. I should also add that in the other Dachamir crew member’s transmissions (as produced or reproduced by the virus) Lerchaun gives a speech at this point in which she reflects, from her vantage point as an alien expert, on misplaced racial pride as she marvels at the Vrein spires.}

Everyone looked at the huge spires.

Ilsitain: "Wow."

Lerchaun: "Yeah."

I: Whatever.

"I bet you can’t land on one of them, huh, Ilsi?"

Ilsitain’s answer to Kurtuin is just: "Phase chamber". She runs straight out.

She’s going to be sick. "She’s going to be sick," I said, "took too much too quickly."

Kurtuin grins, for the hundredth time I think. "Aren’t you clever? You’re the smartest one of us here." She takes another orruga, stares at it like she’s waiting for the stupid ball to say its final prayers, then pushes it up with a flick of her finger. "I vote we make Lambian the new Captain. What do you all s-?

Kurtuin eyes drug

A door opens. I turn around and the Captain pops out. Her eyes are red. What a crybaby. She points straight at Kurtuin, who still has that orruga halfway showing. Trouble.

Now Palas says: "Pass me one of those."

My eyes open. This is some great orruga. Even Palas wants some.

"Guys."

Watch the tone, you…Sirduin, we’re all having a good time.

"Guys! Is that thing blinking? I can’t tell."

I don’t understand why Sirduin is over there but I’ll go anyway. She needs to relax, this one. So I went over to the thing, and it was hard to tell.

Sirduin says: "We should go get Ilsitain."

Then Lerchaun is upset: "Is it supposed to be blinking?"

"Fuck it," says Palas, "let’s just have fun." Now she does a cartwheel…

Coda

Here ends the transmission, not just the recovered, virus-free part, but the whole thing. Very likely Palas Terhalion’s "cartwheel" (kum terel) was in fact her shaking or falling due to the explosion that rocked the Dachamir right then, probably due to a collision with one of the Vrein buildings. The SICTO investigators verified after the fact that the ship’s automatic distress operator worked properly, but that by the time the signal generated had reached the mothership it had been transformed by the virus into the lines: "Mission over Aym completed ahead of schedule. Returning promptly."

First Trinity Fleet elements confirmed visually and electronically that all crew members of the Dachamir except for Lambian and Ilsitain managed to blink back into Briga before this new version of the ship was finally sunk by a secondary explosion (the version in Aym suffered the same fate a few seconds later). It is thought that Lambian was knocked unconscious after the first explosion, so she could not synchronize with the others. As to Ilsitain, there was probably no attempt by the Captain or the others to contact her in the phase chamber.

What actually caused the Dachamir to crash and sink will never be known with complete certainty, but the SICTO conclusion seems reasonable enough: Navigation Engineer Ilsitain must have accidentally disengaged the auto-pilot function, probably when scrambling to find a switch on her control panel to release Constat’s message for the people of Vrein, a switch that did not exist for a message that was not meant to be heard.

Although the Incudean Council was satisfied that the loss of the ship was an accident, they decided to credit the Vrein with sinking it, reckoning that in the final analysis it was far better to look vulnerable militarily than to sully the new Division’s debut with details of the Dachamir crew’s outrageous behavior. The Constat legend was well on its way, and nothing would stop it. I wonder what Marjuin would think if she knew.

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