Sep 052012

Flattened circular construction are with buildings and other structures in foreground, green lighting contrasting with the dome of red-violet light above.A double line of ornamental pine trees stretched into the distance for perhaps five kilometers, bisecting the broad avenue leading to our last battle target.

We’d all but won our objective for Hecht; this battle would destroy the last command-and-control resources for the old colonial government and their Vetzkarran mercenary contractors. Two of the three Hecht planets had already declared a functional autonomy and were ready to legalize Protectorate agreements with our government; this, the third, was the seat of colonial control. Most of the colonial forces and their mercenary defenders had concentrated here.

The avenue linked the subcolony’s major mercantile and governmental facilities with its principal spaceport. There wasn’t much call for passenger transport yet—Hecht is a long way from the major commercial travel circuits—so the spaceport was designed mainly for industrial and military use. The port and its facilities occupied about a fifth of the planet’s largest habitat dome. Wresting control of the port from the Orban colonial masters would decide the balance in our favor.

This planet was close enough to Hecht’s primary that it could use a natural sunlight cycle. Filtered by the habitat’s tavis field, the angle of the light was almost perpendicular, minimizing shadow and throwing reflections upwards. That would be a factor for the gun platforms and the heavy-armor troops of the Vetzkarrans, using standard-issue visual-ranging technology.

Klarosian technology gave us an edge; Klarosian fighting experience and will expanded it. And the blessing of the Creator upon His Chosen, and the spirit of the Divine Warrior that would sustain us in battle (according to the pious,) assured the ultimate outcome.

The Intel drones supplying my vantage point on the battle were behind and just above the centermost gun platform on our forward right-wing battle group. When you wear a drone headset you feel like you’re there, physically. The impulse to duck incoming fire is almost irresistible, at first. Your body responds to the situation the way it would as if it were there, not eighty kilometers up in a low-orbit observation corvette.

It’s safer than being on a gun platform, even a shielded one, or bouncing around in heavy armor in the thick of the fire zone, but it doesn’t feel safer. Not by much. Not if you’re not used to it.

I’m not usually assigned to Combat Observation, but my Intel unit was substituting for the CO team normally attached to this battlegroup. Brass confidence in a decisive victory dictated having my chain of command on hand right away, to negotiate the most advantageous transfer-of-control terms. My boss’s boss, General Praukent, was to be in charge of the prep for those negotiations, and he wanted our people on the spot. We’d have to move fast to salvage information that the Orban government was probably trying to destroy even now.

The gun platforms ahead of me dipped sharply and the crawl alongside the drones’ analog reconstruction suddenly blossomed with data. We were on the move. Level-sounding voices gave brief, precise orders.

The avenue ahead was utterly deserted. We had warned the population to evacuate the area around the spaceport. There was no element of surprise to be sacrificed; they knew that was the critical target and they’d been preparing defenses there. One section of the readout area surrounding my headset was a feed from the team working on telemetric intercept and signal analysis that would give us realtime information on what they had where, where and when they were moving it, and so forth. Their jammers were good; we’d wasted a number of expensive skit-class nanoparasite rounds on dud targets.

Even so, over the last few critical minutes we’d managed to establish a fairly reliable outline of what waited for us, and the final victory wouldn’t be cheap. The Vetzkarran forces knew what kind of firepower we had in the system and they knew they didn’t have a chance of running past our pickets with heavy materiel transports. They’d have to expend it or abandon it to us and take the loss either way.

A big amber wash blanked out one section of my readout: They’d concentrated massive FE beamfire on the left wing command platform. A bright line of data in one of the upper corners showed three squadrons of our ATO fighters converging on the firepoint. The roofs of two large buildings nearby suddenly slid apart and fell a hundred meters to the street, flattening smaller structures and raising huge clouds of debris. Thirty or so Vetzkarran atmo fighters rose from inside the now-roofless buildings, where they’d been concealed, to engage our squadrons while the beamfire began to rake outwards to vaporize the warehouse and commercial structures behind which our Heavy Infantry Troops were massed.

I tore my attention away from that part of the readout; it wasn’t my responsibility. A quick adjustment grayed that section a little so that the activity wouldn’t distract me from my assignment: teasing apart the confusing tangle of data streams to identify personnel tracks that might locate critical command and control installations. It’s tricky work, you not only have to follow the precise degree and type of readout, but pick the right traces to collate and analyze for patterns that will reveal what’s going on. Physio, communications, weapons, and enviro power signatures all have their unique variations based on function and it all comes together in the realtime chaos of a battle situation.

Intel programs could give you an edge, if they were fine-tuned to a hair more effective than your opponent, but only if your firepower and human and strategic assets gave you time to use them. It looked as though the Vetzkarrans were trying to rush us into committing resources and overwhelm our computing power, while the Orban government forces—what were left of them—and the militia they’d recruited from among the subcolony population took chunks out of our strike forces.

I picked three promising data clusters and activated analysis subroutines that were designed to identify the relationship between their transmissions and the meta-synthesis of the battle events. If any of them showed a time lag profile match, we might be looking at command nodes.

My readout juddered and sputtered for a moment, and the headset filled with a dull roar. Then it stabilized, as the datafeed was shunted around the damaged probes, and self-repair subroutines kicked in. But the momentary disruption had fried my analysis tracks and two of the promising nodes had dissipated and were lost in the flood of information. The third was now clearly tagged as ordinary mobile assault unit command, and it was already being routed into my boss’s infeed stream. I started looking for something else to chew on.

Another part of the readout flared blue, suddenly, stabilized, and minimized, with other sectors enlarging to occupy its area. We’d taken the habitat control facility, one of our key objectives.

I glanced at the realtime track and realized that we’d been engaged for nearly an hour already, though it felt like minutes.

Suddenly the entire readout flashed, purposefully, three quick pulses. My brain, still tracking the datastreams, froze for a moment. But my fingers were already on the controls, minimizing the readout area and switching from full-combat mode to ready mode, allowing sensory input from the actual environment where I was sitting.

I could hear the “secure for maneuvers” siren around me, and the other members of the Intel team were already retracting headset feeds—our corvette was under attack by Vetzkarran Atmosphere-To-Orbit fighters, breaching the jathrin dome fields and boosting for our low-orbit assets.

The projection film at one end of the compartment showed the corvette’s combat plot: A Vetzkarran Destroyer was maneuvering to engage us from above, and the ATO squad was already strung out in attack pattern five kilometers below. This really did not look good.

Colonel Gratev’s voice growled in my headset. “Relax, gentlemen. The Saintly Sword is on the job, and we have Glerik Squadron on their tails. There’s still a battle to conn.” The projection film went dark, which would have made me pee myself with fright if I hadn’t been suited up and fully catheterized, but I realized a moment later, as existence continued, that the film had just been deactivated to keep it from being a distraction.

You can’t work as effectively in “ready” mode, but there’s a lot you can do and the boss wanted us doing it, not worrying about whether we were about to be meet the Divine Warrior face-to-face.

It was some comfort to know that Glerik Squadron was in our vicinity. I knew the squadron leader, Matt Donley—we’d been classmates at the Academy and Matt was one crazy-dangerous son-of-a-falut who could outmaneuver anything in flight, atmo or insystem. He had more than thirty kills notched on his helmet and the Glerik Squadron’s pennon was loaded with enough battle honors to weigh it down in a gale-force fanbreeze. I got back to work.

Three hours later the Orban government signaled our command ship, asking for terms. I’d feel good about it, after the migraine wore off.

Sep 022012

Weapons discharge at left, with trailing light effects, smoke, and an armored vehicle at right, against a dark background.Deran Chagarth had always assumed roses would sprout from his ears before he’d admit that his father was right about anything. As he remembered that, he caught himself fingering his ear and suppressed a rueful grin, even as he picked up his helmet and looked around the ready room.

Chagarths—at least this Chagarth—didn’t belong in the military. He’d gut it out for another two years, but the chance that he’d re-up was rapidly reaching the zero level. As the light bar around the ready room ceiling went from green to amber, he mechanically lifted the helmet and settled it over his head, replacing ambient sound with the soft ping of the electromagnetic seal engaging in auto mode.

A purple digital readout flared into existence in the upper right-hand corner of his field of vision: -00:03.20

The only things left on the armor rack were the massive glove/gauntlet combinations, positioned so that he could slide his hands into them as he stood before the rack labeled “Chagarth, D: T-4” with his unit designation below. Another ping and he was fully accoutered in the massive suit of a Heavy Infantry Trooper. There was no hiss of pneumatic seals engaging yet, they’d remain on ambient air until the cruiser spat them at their target, the last remaining underground base that contested Klarosian dominance of Hecht II.

Mechanically, he initiated the test sequence that would tell his platoon RS that he was fully suited, all systems functioning. In the corner of the ghostly headsup display that floated inside the faceplate of his helmet, he saw the ready indicators of the platoon light, one by one. Ahead of him, Trooper Prant went through the ATV’s bay door and webbed himself to the drop rack.

Chagarth bite-clicked his mobility circuit to “basic,” and followed Prant. In the ATV’s drop bay, the light bar over the bay doors gleamed a steady amber. He webbed himself next to Prant, and behind him, Trooper Madchek checked the security of the FE cannon’s targeting assembly on his special-function chest bracket before webbing himself to the drop rack.

“First platoon, on standby for weapons activation,” Rankserj Jorvak’s voice growled over the squad circuit as the last light came up, and the ATV bay door closed. A moment later, Lieutenant Brant’s voice came over the platoon circuit, “First platoon requesting weapons activation,” and the weapons officer, Kenterum Rorkav, responded, “You’re hot, first.”

Chagarth’s glance flicked quickly over the telltales to confirm that the suit’s built-in weapons were slaved to his control and all the ammo packs fully charged, even though he’d run the checks on the charge packs himself before he’d racked the suit after the last drill.


He could feel his adrenaline starting to ramp up, the flutter somewhere between his throat and the top of his stomach, and the sweat starting to break on his palms, absorbed by the glove liners. The suit’s airflow adjusted a degree cooler in compensation as, simultaneously, the light bars above the bay doors winked from amber to scarlet, his pneumatic seals hissed, and his faceplate polarized so that the ATV’s drop bay was no longer visible except as a tactical representation on his heads-up.

“First squad, prepare for deployment.” Corporal Arnix’s voice, sounding calm, maybe even a little bored, came over the squad circuit. Arny always sounded like he was half-asleep before an action, but Deran had never gotten up the nerve to ask him if it was some special way the Corporal had of dealing with pre-drop nerves.


You couldn’t actually feel the drop, not really. Suit gyro compensators kept you feeling an “up and down” orientation. And the drop from a high-atmo cruiser orbit didn’t require any more kinetic thrust than it took to boot the ATV clear of the cruiser’s drop doors. But Deran always knew when they were falling. They all did.

This part of Hecht II didn’t have any atmosphere to speak of. The jathrin domes that held most of the planet’s population were in the equatorial belt. So there wasn’t even any need to engage the Atmospheric Transit Vehicle’s field grappler. A slight jerk was the only sign that they were on the grav-mag cushion, riding down to the final landing.


“First squad, clear rack.” The red bars above the doors began to wink, and the catches on the webbing that secured suits to the drop rack opened. Each trooper pulled his retract tab. There was a slight but noticeable sway to the vehicle now as the grav-mag cushion bucked a little on the set-down Might be a grav-mag fault, might be the pilot’s jitters. Or it might be field disturbance from enemy fire. No way of knowing.

“Platoon deploy,” the ATV pilot’s voice crackled onto the platoon circuit.

Deran pivoted to face away from the drop rack, to the sliding blast door that would drop in three… two… one seconds.

He was already moving when it dropped.

His digital timetick display read: 00:00.00.

The tactical representation showed the rippled edges of the huge hole that the Klarosian plasma mortar had ripped in the massive, triply-armored wall of the entry bunker. Moving with ponderous speed, Chagarth went through the opening and flattened himself against the right-hand wall between Dannek and Prant. Following him, the three-man team that operated their FE cannon made it to the other side. Second squad was moving in the controlled-bounce of heavy armor mobility down the side of the bunker to another hole.

To their left, the massive blast door that protected the entry bunker from the planet’s nitrogen-heavy atmosphere hung askew in its frame, dislodged by the mortar impact, and to their right, an airlock blinked red, showing the seal inoperative, the next compartment breached. As the FE crew flattened themselves, Corporal Arnix bounced past them, a forearm lifted to enable the auxiliary scanner array to assess the airlock door and what could be sensed of the area beyond.

“Alright, Prant, let’s get that airlock open. Chagarth, Dannek, flank and cover.”

Behind them, a brilliant flash momentarily blanked whole segments of their TR displays, and their suits transmitted a vast rumble. As the displays cleared, what was left of the ATV could be seen, bouncing away from the bunker in three large pieces, still coruscating flares from the FE blast that had hit it.

“A little late, aren’t you, boys?” Prant’s voice on the squad circuit was followed by a couple of snorts from other troopers.

“Alright, alright, let’s get this done, they might correct their aim any time,” Arnix reminded them calmly although he was working fast, attaching the microseal around the edge of the airlock doorframe. Prant followed with the fine spray of chemical activator and as the two men stepped back, the door, frame and all, fell with a “whump” transmitted faintly by their ambient sensors, revealing a scorched and burned pile of heavy, twisted armor shards barring their passage.

“Cute,” muttered one of the FE crew.

The ambient sensor array was transmitting faint echoes of firing, now, and the ambient temp display was rising, but only Arnix’ display would provide more information than the short-range displays the troopers could see.

“I don’t think they want us to go this way,” Dannek observed mildly, as he fell back to allow the FE crew to pass him. While they were dropping the cradle for the cannon, Chagarth again stepped back, and flipped up the enhancement on his visual scanners, checking the room for… There!

“Corp, got automatics two and ten, two and a half meters,” he reported, and sure enough, as his voice sounded over the squad circuit the improvised panels faired into the walls beyond the airlock slid back and the deadly emission bells of needle sprayers emerged. Without conscious thought, Chagarth was already shooting one of his forearm-mounted heatbeam sprayers at the right-hand opening.

The left-hand bell managed to get off a truncated volley before fire from Arnix’s heater fused it, but needler bolts weren’t something Heavy Armor troops needed to worry about unduly, although there was a sound between a yelp and a curse as one of the FE crew took a direct hit on a sensor array.

“Madchek, was that your ranger?”

“No, Corp, just an enviro.”

The FE cannon was mounted and the cradle locked down. “Give it the business,” Arnix instructed, and the others turned away, quickly. Suit sensors could compensate for FE emission leakage, but the first shot was likely to stress them until they calibrated for it.

Chagarth could feel his suit’s airconditioner ratchet up, and the resolution on his display faltered briefly, then stabilized. A slight turn enabled forward visuals again, and he saw the residual glow and the melting pile of slagged heavy metals. His suit’s atmospheric sensors chattered briefly and the readout turned amber. “Not healthy to stay here,” Arnix observed, “And they seem to have ranged behind us. Looks like the only way out is through, hmmm? OK, troops, full defcon.”

The digital timetick read: 00:02.04

The FE team was already disassembling and stowing the cannon. Chagarth bite-clicked his suit control, scrolled it to “Defcon:full.” Suit power shifted from weapons and mobility systems to shielding. The suit’s movement “feel” reflected the shift, becoming heavy and a little sluggish. Weapons indicators blinked amber.

Arnix advanced a step or so, slowly, taking readings from his suit’s more advanced sensor array. “Alright, go, go, go…” he waved them forward and, moving at the max speed their suits allowed, they filed past him, bouncing over the worst piles of bubbling slag.

“Corp, I got personnel blips!” Prant, who’d gone first, reported.

“I see ‘em. Didn’t think they’d ignore us when we knocked so hard.”

Now Chagarth could see the blips on his own TR, showing people at the far range of his suit sensors, crouching behind an improvised gauntlet of barriers and weapons emplacements.

“Chagarth. Find a cover.”

Chagarth was the squad’s sharpshooter. His mouth was dry, he turned his head slightly and took a mouthful from the water nipple as he maneuvered, suit still sluggish, forward and to the left. No line-of-sight yet… yet…

“Got ‘em, Corp,” he said softly, even though their helmet circuits transmitted no ambient sound and his own ambient sensors indicated a lot of noise out there. The cross-hairs of his targeting display came up, and he blinked rapidly three times, slaving it to his eye movements, and confirming it with a bite-click. The targeting display showed his field of fire, laid out over the cluttered representation of multiple layers of barriers. Within, four bright white blips showed what his sensors thought were personnel, covered by multiple layers of wall, barrier, and debris, and five amber blips that might be personnel.

“Aright, Dannek, Silz, point.”

In Chagarth’s display, the blue blips that were his squadmates approached his peripheral sensors, slid past. One of them launched a jinker, a projectile with electronic emissions intended to confuse enemy sensors into reading it as a personnel blip.

Sure enough, it drew fire, revealing the position of a gun emplacement. Deliberately, Chagarth centered his targeting crosshairs over it, and fired.

The wall he’d aimed at melted, but as it did, his display suddenly went bright, then vanished, his faceplate automatically depolarizing as his suit took damage. Through the screened faceplate he could see the blazing glare that engulfed the corridor ahead, and the prone, stationary suit of one of his squadmates. His own suit’s emergency display lit, around the edges of the faceplate, coded lights indicating damage, indicating that his suit was yammering for help to the platoon command circuit, but he could hear nothing, only the faint vibrations of ambient noise.

He saw two other suits—Prant and Arnix, he thought, move in the far periphery of his faceplate. Something sailed past him. Ahead, the prone suit suddenly half-vaporized as an actinic glare blinded him even through the heavily-shielded faceplate.

His suit got hot. A sighing sound, and two of the lights around his faceplate turned red. One was blinking. Which one was that, again? Deran racked his brain, frantic. Damn. He was on residual air, the suit’s conditioner was out. He had a choice, now: activate the injection that would put him into a coma, reducing his air use so that residual suit air might keep him alive until he was picked up, or let ambient air into the suit’s emergency mechanical exchanger.

He tried to recall the last reading he’d seen on the atmo sensor, as the emergency com circuit crackled to life in his ears. “Chagarth, hibernate. We’ll get pickup in five.”

The worst thing about being a legionary trooper, sometimes, was not knowing. Were the other squads doing better than theirs? Would there even be pickup? Sure, Arnix had radioed, but if they were all getting pounded like First Squad, Third Platoon, would there even be anyone to do pickup?

The digital timetick, powered by the suit’s emergency battery, read: 00:03:43

As unconsciousness took him, he wondered briefly who had been in that half-vaporized suit ahead of him.

Sep 012012

Seven chalk sketches of fashion designs on a black background.Four days before the researchers at Rayki Weapons Lab discovered that it’s easier to induce matter-to-energy projection than to control the results, Mirget Kostak was downside. She had personally escorted her son and daughter to the exclusive schools that would continue to strain the Kostak family budget in the short term, but yield (she hoped) considerable dividends in the long term.

It was disappointing, she fumed, to find that so much had changed in the formerly-exclusive Deb Argosy shopping complex—though not unexpected. Trends came and went, and it was more than fifteen years since she’d spent a good part of her Presentation Year flitting giddily from shop to shop, trying to get every credit’s worth of fashion from her (in her opinion) miserly Presentation Allowance. She’d thought then that The Tarvine should have made a more generous investment in a great-niece whose beauty and education promised as well as hers.

There were few Boardsman-class establishments left here now, she decided, looking down the long arcade with its central aisle of huge potted palm trees. And those few remaining were unlikely to remember her, and fudge her Purchasing Credentials on the strength of old acquaintance. In fact, she was probably, she reflected gloomily, exactly where she belonged. Most of the shops displayed the scroll-design that designated them as authorized to accept employee-class Purchasing Credentials, and most of the scrolls were silver, although there was a scattering of gold among them.

Really, it was too provoking! Now she’d either have to manipulate one of her sisters or cousins into a shopping trip—and they’d certainly know exactly why she was doing it, which would be appallingly humiliating—or settle for using her Kostak Purchasing Credentials, and buying something from an emp-class shop to wear to the Pykalt Cultural Affairs Gala. Even if two childbirths had left her figure exactly as it was before she’d married, all of her clothes from then were hopelessly outdated.

And it would be worse to show up in outdated boardsman-class finery than to show up in the best possible employee-class gown she could manage. Oh well, maybe something from a shop in one of the most prestigious downside communities would be better than anything she’d find upside, even if it cost more. It was always worth it to dress well when you had a position to maintain. And even more so, when you had a position to aspire to.

She’d find something, somehow. Anything was better than having to ask Partel for help and be condescended to.

Aug 292012

White priest's vestment, lined with faded red silk and heavily embroidered with scrolling figures in gold and multicolored thread.Father Rillem Oktap was holding Penitents’ Vigil in the Church of the Compassionate Sword, in the Pykalt district known as Six Under. He sat quietly in the little cubicle with its two chairs, small table holding a box of tissues, and etched-glass stele of the Warrior and His Bride, guarding the opened Gate to Eternity. He was just about to say a final prayer and darken the cubicle light when the chime sounded, and he composed his face to an expression of warm encouragement, mingled with interest.

It had been—what, nearly a year?—since he’d seen Torvin Angalt at a Penitents’ Vigil. She was a large, shapeless woman with a gap-toothed smile and straggling wisps of dull grayish-brown hair, married to the parish’s most notorious ne’er-do-well, Donkar Angalt, whose only discernable virtue was connubial fidelity. She was a devout churchwoman, though uneducated, and a conscientious mother to fourteen children.

“I-ask-the-Holy-Warrior’s-blessing-and-His-Divine-Bride’s-merciful-intercession-to-petition-the-Creator-for-forgiveness-of-sins,” she said in a breathless, adenoidal monotone, her puffy, slightly reddened eyes fastening anxiously on Father Rillem’s face.

“Be comforted in the knowledge of the Creator’s infinite love and forgiveness. What brings you to penitence this night, my daughter?”

Having gotten this far, she seemed stumped. She sat, blinking, her slightly-open mouth twitching a little as though unable to form coherent words. Which might easily be the case. He smiled encouragingly at her. “What is it, Torvin?” He kept his tone light, in an effort to head off tears, but it didn’t work. She continued staring at him for a moment, then began to heave.

Eventually, his patient questions teased it all out. His face was grave, without being condemnatory. “It is indeed a serious sin, daughter. You know that the Creator’s Providence is the only arbiter of human life—the use of contraception thwarts that Divine Providence.” Dolefully, she nodded, all the while sniffing deeply and wetly. He handed her the tissue box.

Doctrine demanded he require her to turn herself in to the Proctors. If she did, and provided the name of the person who supplied the contraceptives—something Father Rillem had carefully not asked—she’d receive only a light, symbolic penance. The supplier, on the other hand, would be routed to “assisted repentance”—which could mean anything up to and inclusive of psychochemical intervention and brain restructuring, for such a serious crime. If she refused to turn her supplier in, Torvin, too, would be “assisted” to “repent.”

He’d dealt with this dilemma before, in different ways. He didn’t condone the dispensation of contraceptives, but his first mission was the care of souls. Sometimes that required him to exercise his own judgment in the interpretation of doctrine.

“Daughter, when the Creator sends us children, we are also given access to all the resources of strength and courage and love that we will need for those children. To impede Divine Providence from fear of our own weakness or inadequacy is a failing of faith, is it not?” Another doleful sniff.

“And you repent of this lack of faith?”

“Yes, Father,” Torvin dabbed her eyes and sniffed again.

“Very well. In penance, I want you to schedule yourself for four three-hour food-prep shifts at the Mercy Center.” And she’d get to take home leftovers, if any, for her huge brood, extras to supplement their just-adequate res-class rations.

Aug 272012

Tomato plants lined up on metal racks with artificial lighting overhead.Vetkar Allis was showing the Quality Inspector from Niepach Agro around his small-cubage agronery. Civadmin regulations required each grower who supplied raw materials for food processing to be inspected annually, but since the inspections were done by the food processing corporations who held the growers’ contracts, it wasn’t much of an inspection. Unless the grower was deficient in production or the various management kickbacks that kept the contract mechanism well-oiled. Vetkar never stinted on such things, but even if he had, it would have been difficult for an inspector to find anything to cite.

“And the total cubage allocated to variety production?” the inspector enquired boredly, his datapad at the ready.

Vetkar handed him a wisp of mylar that contained a plan of the agronery, showing each production area and including measurements and statistics. “Eight point six percent,” he said crisply. His contract with Niepach allowed him to put up nine percent of the productive cubage into products other than soy, and he’d been slowly increasing the amount of other production, year by year.

The inspector slid the wisp into his datapad’s input slot, and nodded. “You’ve added dairy? That requires an additional inspection.”

“It’s already scheduled,” Vetkar nodded at the datapad.

“Oh. So it is. All right, let’s check on the storage units.”

Patiently, Vetkar showed him over the holding bins and racks, the chemical and tool storage sheds, seed storage, and the loading bays where materials were transferred to and from Niepach delivery drones. The inspector, a rotund, rather dour-looking man who’d replaced Kegan Istril last Yearturn, took a few desultory readings with a biometer and chemstrips, noting the results on the datapad.

“I notice you’re due for an upgrade on your maintenance filter hoods,” he said, scanning the readouts, “but you’ve appealed for an extension.”

“Yes, they’re well within parameters for another couple of years’ service,” Vetkar said as he led the way past the processing area and the scooter stand, to the rows of growing vats, stacked four-high and stretching, seemingly, into infinity. Maintenance racks stretched between each row, with their controls on a stanchion at the end. Vetkar went to the first one, and lifted the cover that protected its keypad from dust and chemical vapor.

He gestured to the inspector, who looked blankly at him. “You can verify the seals, first,” he suggested. “That way you can confirm that the maintenance readouts haven’t been tampered with.” The inspector blinked. “That won’t be necessary, Agronist,” he said politely.

Vetkar suppressed a grin. The man didn’t even know how to check the seals, he’d bet. He had “new employee” written all over him, and it appeared Niepach was cost-cutting in the training budget again. “Well, that’s alright, then. Do you want me to run a random select of filter hoods, so you can check their tolerances?”

“Uh, that’s alright, let’s just look at this one, and, um…” the man pointed, “the one for that row.”

And so it went. When it was over, Vetkar reflected that he ought to invoice Niepach for the time he spent doing the inspector’s job. It would be amusing, if it weren’t for the fact that this clueless git was in charge of maintaining the integrity of a good portion of Hurst Niepach’s contribution to the food supply. One of the reasons he and Gislet had decided to put as much of their cubage as contract allowed into variety products was so that he and his family could supplement their rations from the agronery’s produce.

It cost them—the yield bonuses from high-yield soy, his contract crop, would have been more lucrative than what they could get on the specialty market for their fruits, vegetables, and modest dairy output, but it was worth it. A better future for his children started with good quality food.

The thought of his children reminded him he needed to return a call to the Special Activities Coordinator at their school. He dug his comlink from a pocket as he shucked off the new coverall he’d worn for the inspection.

“Bride’s Arms School.”

“This is Vetkar Allis, Kacek and Pralet’s father? I’m returning a call from Stipendary Gavrost…”

“I’ll put you through to his comlink.”

He carefully folded the coverall and slipped it into a plastic bag, shelving it, while he waited for the connection.

“This is Gavrost.” Vetkar was startled, he’d expected to reach the man’s message box.

“Uh, this is Vetkar Allis. You called… something about a field trip?”

The man’s voice warmed perceptibly. “Ah, yes, Agronist. We’re planning a field trip for the third and fourth levels, as you know… a shuttle trip to Pykalt Interstellar Port, and a tour of the Port facilities.”

Vetkar chuckled. “I know, I know… the kids have been talking of nothing else for days. We sent in their permission vouchers, didn’t we?”

“Oh, yes, we have them. I was calling about another matter. The charter company called yesterday. They have a surface-to-orbit shuttle for us, but the pilot they’d booked has come ill. I noted on your Parent Information Profile that you have a current STO Pilot’s Qualification?”

Vetkar blinked. “I do, yes. I did a hitch in the Home Legion as a shuttle jockey. I’ve kept up the Qualification, but I don’t actually do any regular piloting, you know.”

“Yes, but your Qualification is current, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. But…”

“Agronist Allis, on such short notice we just can’t find another pilot, and if you can’t volunteer, we’ll have to cancel the field trip. I hope we can count on you?”

Vetkar chewed his lip anxiously. The kids were so looking forward to the field trip, it would be awful if the school had to cancel. But it would mean a whole day away from the agronery, he’d have to do the critical chores extra-early, rearrange his planting and pollinating schedule, throw extra work on his wife to do the dairy takeoff and processing… He hesitated.

Gavrost sensed the hesitation. “There’ll be four other parent volunteers and three school staff on the trip, to assist. All you’d need to do is the actual piloting,” he wheedled.

Vetkar nodded, reluctantly, even though he didn’t have a visual circuit on his portable comlink, then belatedly added, “Well… alright. I’d hate the kids to miss the chance.”

“Wonderful! I’ll stat the volunteer waiver and orientation to your message box right away. The children will be so delighted!”

Vetkar grinned ruefully to himself as he broke the connection. A regular softy, he was.

Aug 272012

Painting, abstract, female form in motion with colors streaming around her as in a dance.As the music swelled and applause rippled through the dining room, Yalet tensed her muscles, poised on her toes, and gave a last tug at the sparkling molded silicate bustier that enhanced her mammary glands. On cue, she high-kicked out from behind the proscenium, perfectly synchronized with the other eleven women who made up Dastek’s Divine Dozen Dazzlers, working their way around the arched thrust that put the stage show “right at the side of your table!”

There. That one, maybe… though he had a woman sitting next to him. Or possibly that one, although he looked half-toasted already, maybe wouldn’t be able to go the distance. Barely breathing hard, she reached the end of her promenade, pirouetted, chausee’d back two steps, then forward three, then started back across the thrust. She gave more careful consideration to the older of the two men sitting at table eighteen as she passed, making him for exec-class, possibly a junior boardsman. And the woman with him, so much younger—wife, or daughter? Hard to tell.

On the third pass she gave him the eyeball, catching his gaze and giving him a just-for-you-honey smile. Daughter, certainly. He had not the slightest hesitation about smiling back, and there was a definite family resemblance. But maybe not an exec, after all. Something about the way he sat said mil, possibly retired. Hopefully not an undercover proctor’s nark, he looked too high-up for that.

She went into a series of gliding kicks, circling the warbler as the song reached a crescendo, then sinking slowly, with exquisite control, into a full split, her torso stretched back over the extended left leg, arms extended to meet those of the dancers to left and right. Behind the show, the holscreen showed the overhead view of the pattern they made, the warbler’s swirly dress coordinated with the glittering costumes of the dancers, and there was another spattering of applause.

The music paused, the warbler went into a brilliant cadenza of vocal flourishes, and then the FX flares went off as the playback crashed back in. Yalet let her arms drift to the floor, began drawing up her left knee slightly, found her balance and lifted the front leg into a full back walkover in slow motion. As she and the other dancers’ right legs reached full vertical extension, the bows perched on the front of their flirty high-heeled shoes shot fountains of rainbow-colored sparkles over the tableau for the blowoff. An old-fashioned number, but a crowd-pleaser.

Next number was a cracker, to give the Dozen a costume change. On the way back to the dressing room, she walked past Ild Devet, one of the assistant maiters, standing in the wings watching the show. As she passed, she murmured. “Eighteen. Senior,” and he inclined his chin a centimeter, without looking at her or giving any other sign he’d heard.

The Dozen’s next number was the climax of the early show, a bravura display of acrobatic dance, posing, and special effects. Billed as a “Celebration of Beauty,” there was nothing overtly erotic about it—they weren’t in that part of the resort; Treasuredome was billed as a “family” hotel—it nevertheless gave male customers so inclined a chance to assess the physique, limberness, and energy of twelve extremely attractive young women. For those in the know, that assessment could be turned into a more—personal—encounter later, if the right palms were greased, and the girl was willing. Most were. The income from such unofficial services generally exceeded official salaries, even for the most highly-paid of the Treasuredome’s entertainers, like the Dozen.

Yalet was an old hand at letting this or that audience member know that if he were so inclined, she wouldn’t turn him down. She liked the look of the older man at table eighteen. He wasn’t getting spliffed, but that was the second ninety-credit bottle of wine in the holder beside their table. The other couple, obviously married and pleased about it, and the younger woman who might be daughter or perhaps sister, were laughing and applauding openly, clearly enjoying themselves, and he was clearly enjoying their enjoyment even while he rather sedately appreciated the show.

During the number, she eyeballed number eighteen, awarding him just the right number and intensity of smiles, and once holding his gaze quite provocatively as she was posed, in the front row, in a position that was only just this side of doubtful for a family hotel’s floor show. She was pretty sure she saw interest there, and as the number ended he was watching her as he applauded.

“Oh, mother, gonna get me a rich senior exec tonight, I am,” Lispet gloated behind her as they made their way back to the Dozen’s dressing room. “Did you see table twenty-six? Four of them. Definitely off the chain, betcha the brides and kiddies are at the lightshow bally. Thank you, beautiful Bride!” She leaned over and lifted the icon that hung from the corner of her dressing mirror, kissed it.

Yalet chuckled amiably. “Y’think? Well, don’t let Ild shake him for too hawt a room.”

Lispet nodded. If a guest had to pay too much for an extra room for the unofficial visit, the tips were likely to be reduced. And with the rake-off from the hotel, the split to Ild, and the assorted expenses—Association fees, proctor’s bribes, extra tithes to the Church—a girl already saw less than a third of the outrageous “service fees” collected. You could make a lot more going official with the Association and staking a corridor beat (at least, if you didn’t have a pop to support or a joyjuice habit,) or working the illic shows at the “adult” resorts, but the risks were a lot higher. No one wanted to collect a thirdstrike, and end up doing penance in a warren reformatory, assembling microparts and getting old and fat on res-class rations.

Yalet wasn’t surprised when, as she waited in the wings for their first number in the late show, Ild walked past, and murmured “Forty-three twelve.” But she was pleased that it wasn’t one of the “Jenny” rooms on the sixtieth level, rented by the hour rather than the day. She’d guessed right, no wife for her nice (she hoped) number eighteen to escape. She’d see he had a really nice time.

Aug 272012

Prelate's seat, with chair, canopy, and drapery around it.  A sketch showing the magnificent detail of fabric, construction, and decoration.Each day, a list of arrivals and departures to and from the Pykalt Interstellar Spaceport appeared in the current file of Prelate Lorgan Edrell’s comlink. Not all the arrivals and departures, naturally. Although the Church kept an eye on such comings and goings, routine traffic was handled by officials much lower in the food chain.

Only the names that appeared on a watch list of those tried for heresy or currently suspected of heretical intent ended up on Edrell’s comlink. For the Prelate of Avatar Kanstan’s was also a Senior Interlocutor on Doctrinal Purity.

It would have been an important office in a big downside Province. Unfortunately, Edrell had neither the family pull nor the money to qualify him for such an appointment. Avatar Kanstan’s was the second largest Seat in the Insystem Province, but if you dropped the whole Insystem Province into one of the big downside Provinces it would barely make a ripple. And it was a dead end. The Insystem Provincial was only fifty-two and not ambitious for advancement.

If Edrell wanted to continue his upward path in the Church hierarchy, there was no place to go but downside. He’d carefully schemed for the Doctrinal Purity appointment with that in mind—the Guardian of Doctrinal Purity was well-known to have the Archprelate’s ear.

Thus, Lorgan Edrell was always diligent about following up when the Spaceport monitor alerted him to a clearance application from someone on the Doctrinal Purity watch list. When the double chime alerted him to an incoming communication from that source, he set aside the quarterly tithe report immediately.

So Zarel Kerant was back Insystem. Edrell’s eyes narrowed, and he called one of his lay clerks. “Contact the Censor’s Office, and get copies of the logs and manifests from the Star Song. It just arrived today. Send them to Junior Interlocutor Garstad for analysis, and tell him I want a report at the earliest possible time.”

“Yes, Reverend Prelate.”

It was barely two hours later that the clerk announced Garstad. The older man bowed respectfully as he entered, his Fryar’s habit hushing softly around his ankles. “Reverend Prelate.”

“Please, be seated, Brother,” Edrell invited. “You have the report on the Kerant woman?”

“I do, your Reverence,” he handed over the sliver of mylar as he sat on one of the hard, armless plastic chairs across the desk from his superior.

“Hmmm…. Censor passed on the manifest without inspection, I see,” Edrell frowned slightly.

“Indeed, your Reverence.”

“Got around, didn’t she…? Vir Galan, Tawan Center… Ir Kavatti II…” he scrolled through the list of clearances from each Hub port that the ship had visited. “Oh, now this might be interesting. Auriga VI. Isn’t there a major University League institution there?” He looked up at Garstad.

The Palatinian Fryar rarely showed much expression, but Edrell picked up a clear chill in his innocuous, “That is so, Reverend Prelate.”

Edrell’s eyes narrowed as he scrutinized the man. “But you don’t think we should follow up on this.”

Garstad cleared his throat. “It might present… difficulties, your Reverence. If you will recall the disposition of her case…”

“I wasn’t even in Seminary yet when she was tried, Brother. Refresh my memory,” Edrell was frowning. Probably he should have been able to recall the facts of the case, but his appointment to Doctrinal Purity was recent, and all he recalled was the media sensation that had surrounded a Kerant being arrested for heresy. He’d only been twelve years old at the time, after all.

“Of course, Reverend Prelate. Zarel Kerant was arrested for heresy in two-three-twenty-six, on the basis of an accusation by Randell Tarvine, whose proposal of marriage she had rejected in terms which led him to believe that she held heretical views with particular regards to female duty.”

Edrell nodded. Everyone knew of the long-standing rivalry between the two wealthy Boardsman families.

“A Case for Discussion was opened, under the authority of the Guardian, who himself served as Interlocutor, given the, ah… potential implications.”

Again, Edrell nodded. Naturally, they’d proceeded cautiously, given the money and influence of The Kerant. “Rather surprising that a Case was opened at all, given the source of the accusation.”

“Well, the Mutiny was quite recent.”

Oh, yes. The Kerant had taken quite a hit in the purges that had followed that. Their position had been precarious, for a time. Doubtless The Tarvine had hoped to use the Church to finish off his rival. “I see. And…?”

Fryar Garstad’s thin lips tightened a bit. “I believe the Guardian was prepared to find the accusation baseless, a mere artifact of the old rivalry. However, when the Query was established, he was dismayed to find more than enough corroborating evidence of the original charge, as well as evidence of—at best—doctrinal heterodoxy in several particulars. He really had no choice but to order a full trial.”

“And the disposition?”

“I was not on the Tribunal, you understand, so I have no knowledge of how the disposition came about. The original charge was laid aside, upon representation from The Kerant that, in fact, his daughter had accepted the duties of Adlitem for the orphaned children of his cousin, Resnek. The other charges were reduced to Deviationism, and an administrative penance imposed, the terms of which Zarel Kerant has strictly abided. I believe they included the retention of a Chaplain to act as her personal spiritual advisor, and regular catechetical examinations, as well as in-lieu gratuities to a number of worthy institutions that promote the application of feminine duty.”

“There has never been any reason,” Garstad said with lips slightly twisted, “to connect the extremely generous endowment for the renovation of the Archprelate’s Chancellery, given by The Kerant in memoriam of his second wife, to the disposition of Zarel Kerant’s case.”

“I see,” Edrell said. He did see. The Archprelate and The Kerant’s accounts were neatly balanced, and the books closed. And given the current level of Kerant power and influence, unless Zarel Kerant paraded herself naked across an inverted triangle in the Glorious Revelations Basilica courtyard, the Office for Doctrinal Purity couldn’t touch her. He restrained a sigh. “Very well. Thank you, Brother.”

Aug 262012

Fountain crystals from Liralt-K, in an artificial vacuum display field.Five days before her world died, Zarel Kerant, the ‘eccentric’ older sister of one of Klaros’ wealthiest and most influential commercial barons, returned from a pleasure jaunt in her private yacht, the Star Song. The ship docked at Pykalt Interstellar, along the arm reserved for the cream of the private shipping trade, and she sent her crew—except her personal maid—on leave. Most of them left for the surface of Reveille C, where two sprawling rings of expensively engineered habitat complexes circled the planet just a few degrees from each pole, providing homes for nearly half a billion people.

Zarel’s home was there, too—the vast estate of Kelarant, in the exclusive Vardry Cluster. She had no plans to return there immediately, which was fortunate, as she discovered. Almost as soon as the Star Song had completed docking procedures, her personal comlink chimed.

She accepted the incoming transmission and, just as she expected, the head of the family, The Kerant, who was also her brother Harlis, appeared on the screen.

“Well, the stray lamb returns.” His smile reminded her irresistibly of someone trying to ignore gas pains.

“As you see, Brother,” she agreed amiably.

“Profitable trip?”

She shrugged. “So-so. Gems, foodstuffs, a few artifacts.”

His brow wrinkled. “Artifacts? Nothing…uh…controversial…?”

Zarel was amused. “Nothing that will raise a Censor’s eyebrows, dear Brother. Gharren weavings, some antique Galanian ceremonial weapons, fountain crystals from Liralt-K, that sort of thing. Barely enough to cover the trip expenses, if the truth be told. But I enjoyed myself.” Did he really think she was fool enough to try and smuggle forbidden artifacts past the Censors? Or stupid enough not to know what was on the current interdict list?

His smile relaxed a little. “Well, I’m glad to hear it. It’s been too long since we’ve seen you, Zarel. Ranlis was disappointed you weren’t back for the Yearturn holidays.”

“I got a relay from him when we stopped off at Kitran. Is the wedding scheduled yet? I haven’t updated my family calendar.”

“No, well, you’ve hardly had time, have you? That’s partly why I called… but no, the wedding isn’t scheduled yet. Still three months to run on the girl’s Presentation Year, you know. Bad luck to schedule a wedding before that.”

Something about his manner piqued Zarel’s curiosity, so she connected to the Family network and asked for a calendar update as she replied. “It seems like Ranlis’ Drone Year just ended, too, but it’s been, what… three years? I’ve lost a few hundred hours in the time-dilation lag.”

“Three and a half. You’ll see when you check your calendar.”

And she did, as the current family calendar opened in a window on her comscreen. She also saw a clue as to why Harlis, a man who rarely spared time for family chit-chat, had called her so promptly.

“I see you’re entertaining this Tenday. A reception for the newly-installed Prelate of Five Avatars. Impressive!”

“Ah. Yes.” Harlis cleared his throat, hesitated.

It was tempting to let him squirm, but she tried never to annoy The Kerant needlessly. Especially since there were so many occasions upon which he needed annoying.

“What a shame I won’t be able to make it. I’m planning on staying at Moonstation for a few days. There’s a dealer in Ruv Denal I want to see about these fountain crystals. And I’d like to discuss some refitting for the Song with Three Stars Chandlery. This and that. I notice the Kos Centrum Ancient Music Ensemble is playing at Pykalt Conservatory, too.”

Harlis didn’t let his relief show, she noted. But then, he’d learned a stoneface from their father, who had been one of the best in that line. “Well, I’d convey your greetings, but…” he said with unexpected humor.

She chuckled. “Why spoil what the Kelarant kitchens and wine cellars will effect? Insincerity is a minor sin, but one ill-suited to the presence of a Prelate… unless it’s the Prelate doing the sinning, of course.”

His smile froze again, momentarily, but he let it go with a snort. “Enjoy your stay upside. And if you run across Jarvin, try not to make too much trouble for him.”

“Jarvin? What’s he doing here?” Zarel had never had much of an opinion of the youngest member of the Family’s senior branch.

“He’s got the Protectorate Affairs Seat on the CivAdmin Council now. He’s upside for some kind of meeting. Gotta go now…I’m supposed to be at a senior staff conference. Creator bless you, Sister.”

“Warrior guide you, Brother. Love to Sirlet and the kids,” she broke the connection.

Well, she’d better get busy finding something to occupy herself with upside for a few days. The presence of the only Kerant ever to be tried for heresy would hardly be appreciated downside just now.

Aug 232012

Illustration of half-dome warren transit area, with panels showing HVAC & technical access.The type-3 terraforming of the new Klaros—Klaros II—concentrated on the planet’s viable near-polar zones, establishing two loosely-organized rings of warren/dome habitats with spurs extending (in the northern zone) to the polar ice cap for water mining, and (in the southern zone) to the largest lode of transuranic ores easily accessible to extant mining technology.

The Oligarchs also contracted independently with Rilm Habitat Systems for an administrative cluster adjacent to the northern ring, and another cluster on the planet’s primary satellite.  Over some objections from influential elements in the colony’s economic sector, the government opted for the more expensive thousand-year terraforming, committing both present and future colony assets to a major long-term obligation.


Southring is the more populous of the planet’s two habitation axes. It included nine major complexes of the standard warren/dome type, linked by high-speed gravprop tubes.

The largest, Gattrek Major, formed the colony’s main industrial hub, focused around the polis of Kos Gattrek, a city of 15 million or so inhabitants. Kos Gattrek included the colony’s largest (although not the most important) STG port and shipyard, and was the major Southring station for the AB shuttle that linked the two rings. (There were also less important Southring stations at Doxan Pab, Jethrik, and Oquanax.)

Nearby Gattrek Minor formed a high-amenity, high-end residential and recreation area for the elite of Kos Gattrek, and included many cultural and artistic facilities. Gattrek Minor had its own exclusive small-traffic STG port, as well as a free-surface reservoir lake with extensive “natural” terraforming around it.

Proceeding westward around Southring from the Gattrek complexes, the next major habitat was Hirst Niepach, a large agronic production and processing center. The polis of Demira (about 2,000,000) was also a destination for religious tourism, based on the life of Warter Manjek, a Prelate at the time of the Transfer who was credited with saving an entire shipload of colonists and believed to be an “Avatar,” a saintlike figure in Duo-Latteran Hamartic theology. Although Manjek was not officially accorded Avatar status until nearly a century after the transfer, pilgrimages to the Holy Shield Monastery where he lived and died began almost immediately after his death.

A long way further west (the Southy gravprop, or GP tube, had to be blasted through a major geological formation,) the habitation ring resumed with the Zenlis Complex, including the small but influential polis of Oquanax. The Zenlis Complex, though not heavily populated in itself, linked several offshoot complexes including the Ampart Maxicells processing facilities (Ampart Central,) the Pon-Trevis Research Complex, Wendlach Mining, and a small military base, South Gamma.

Fard Karachik, the next Complex in the Southring, had no major polis but several smaller ones, including Limnak, Purvap, Doxan Pab, and Reschek. The Fard Karachik domes and warrens were widely dispersed to take advantage of a cluster of rare ore nodes and most of the communities are mining-oriented. Many were nearly wholly-owned subsidiaries of the half-dozen Democratic Companies dominating Klaros’ extractive sector.

The large Home Legion training base was the center of Morj Alpha Complex, which also included extensive residential complexes and some high-end domes and warrens outlying the smaller of the Complex’s two polises, Alpha Nex. The larger, Mag Alpha, was a city of about three million that is oriented around military and military contractors’ activities. A substantial military STG field/base was the northernmost node of the Complex. The Home Legion military academy, Kortallis Dome, was the southernmost.

The next Complex, Martabal Bwes, was loosely-dispersed among one of the more salubrious areas of the planet’s surface, a valley among long-dead volcanic ranges that has the planet’s last remaining free surface watercourse. Vestiges of the native xenons could be found among the sparse stands of vegetation, and several “exotic tour” vacation resorts and tourist facilities made the major polis, Jethrik (pop. about a million), a popular destination. There was also a scattering of industrial complexes and the Karvich University’s research complex.

Tikparran Complex was home to several facilities developing and producing communications equipment, components, and consumer goods, as well as some major military contractors. It was the home of Keval Ust University and the Corporate Headquarters of Chagarth Fabrik, the colony’s second most influential Democratic Company. The only sizable polis, Metarad, was a modernistic city of half a million or so high-status emp-class, exec-class, and owner-class enclaves, surrounded by suburban domes housing the smaller communities of emp-class and cit-class workers who fulfilled the menial functions of Metarad.

South Ust Complex was the eastern neighbor of Gattrek Major, a sprawling network of cheaper habitats housing light manufacturing and low-status housing. The largest polis, Ardill, was home to about three million Klarosians but noted for being very high in violent crime and possibly under the control of criminal elements. A valiant civic leadership was constantly working to overcome this perception and vitalize the polis (and the Complex) with new development, but the outcome of the struggle was always in doubt.



Less populous, but more influential, the ten habitat complexes of Northring were home to many of administrative headquarters of the colony’s governing institutions.

Northring was dominated by Center, the largest habitat complex on the planet and home to the colonial capital, Kos Centrum. A polis of nearly thirty million, Kos Centrum also formed the nexus for Klaros’ financial industries and services. Adjacent to Center, the Admin Central complex formed the civadmin’s major facilities. Center was home to the planet’s most important STG port, Centrum Bek, and had been extended several times to incorporate smaller polis and industrial domes and warrens.

West of Center, the complex of Jait Hurst was the largest concentration of military facilities on the planet, including the Shirch Prime military academy, Legion Hospital, the heavily-fortified Supreme Command Center, Tarvich Fleet Base, and the Miranat Testing Complex adjacent to the south. The major polis, Port Andall, was a nexus for military families and retirees, and several smaller communities included extensive recreational facilities.

Devlit Complex to the west of Jait Hurst was a small cluster of prestigious residential and very high-tech research and development facilities, many exclusive enclaves of military contractors among the Democratic Companies. Three communities, Pentrad, Xellek, and Chart Deb, formed the main central nexus of warrens, clustered around a small patch of xenic biome sustained by underground watercourses from the northern polar cap. Several Boardsman families had domes in the biome.

Tof Oqualat, the next westernmost Complex, was the location of the colony’s major watermining collection and processing facility, the North Oasham Plant. A string of adjacent dome and habitat clusters extended to the north, to house pipelines operated by the Segeth Vanus Company, the prime contractor to the colonial government for water production and distribution. Several free-surface reservoir lakes centered prime high-end residential real estate especially for retired exec-class and wealthy emp-class individuals, and a large hospital and medical services complex served their needs as well as being home to the Bride’s Mercy Medical Academy, the Church’s most prestigious medical education facility.

Kos Parkel, the next Complex, was an almost wholly-owned enclave of the colony’s most powerful Boardsman family, who controlled Parkel Multigen, the prime contractor to the colonial government for power production and distribution. In addition to the massive industrial domes and the planet’s deepest-delved warren spaces housing the largest power generators on the planet, adjacent to the north a smaller cluster known as Parkel Quast housed the Quast Vallek campus of Center University, the colony’s most advanced engineering school. Stenzak, the planet’s largest single-dome polis (sited between the two complexes,) was home to nearly six million Klarosians.

Veztarran Major, almost directly opposite Center on the Northring axis, was a sprawling mixed habitat of light industrial, manufacturing, and financial interests, including the Ulgarast Port facility, the colony’s third-largest but highest-volume STG Port. Most of the colony’s major merchant shipping interests had headquarters and shipyard facilities there. It was regarded as a center of immorality and possibly even heresy by the Church, which tried in vain to control the various “sin industries” common in the res-class and cit-class habitats clustered around the port areas.

Veztarran Minor, very close (almost adjacent) to Major in the Northring, was a considerable contrast to its larger neighbor, being the home of the famous Sword of Eternity Monastery and the Warrior’s Rest Basilica, as well as numerous small colleges training teachers, medical workers, and proctors. It included a number of retirement facilities for the Church’s lower-echelons, pensies, stipies, and eesies, as well as some very luxurious and exclusive facilities for administrators. A large tourist industry and some “family recreational” complexes were clustered around Palatis (population about 3 million,) the major polis.

Tang Matris, a mixed complex of industrial, military, and financial sectors, was almost adjacent to Vezterran Minor, and included the Legion’s Quental Academy and a good many Second Legion bases and facilities, as well as the Hellgate Training Base, at the far western end of the Complex, whose facilities extended into the large area of usable but harsh planetary surface environment that formed a high, extensive plateau between Tang Matris and Storrest Bek. The major polis in Tang Matris was Garravet, population about half a million. A loose cluster of residential habitats extended south of the Complex, housing a number of smaller communities and military families.

Fendal Points was a long way west of Tang Matris, with the GP tube snaking across Hell’s Plateau to reach the cluster of educational, research, engineering, and light manufacturing facilities dominated by Kervik Dome, the tallest dome on the planet and the headquarters of Kerant Cryston. Regarded as an exclusive, Boardsman’s recreational area, the adjacent Vardry Cluster provided high-end recreational and entertainment facilities. Fendal Points was also home to the Klarosian entertainment industry and its main polis, Istarak, boasted many celebrity homes and a flourishing arts community.

Piskal Haret, Center’s eastern neighbor, was a smallish cluster of habitats holding a mix of commercial and communications interests, as well as the Church’s Extant Stand cluster of warrens housing the bulk of the Church bureaucracy and the Bride’s Gift theological seminary. Although the spiritual “center” of the colony was at the Glorious Revelations Basilica in Center, where the Supreme Prelacy was headquartered, Extant Stand was the real “guts” of the Church. The rest of Piskal Haret’s habitats were heavily influenced by Church-related activities, but it was also the center for distribution of entertainment media (being conveniently close to the Shining Truth Proctory so that media could be reviewed for “appropriateness to the public good”) and the headquarters of some large entertainment industry companies. Adjacent to Piskal Haret and extending far to the South was the colony’s largest Reformatory, the Compassionate Bride, which held nearly a million and a half penitents along with proctors and stipies, and a small Home Legion unit, who provided security.


Aug 222012

Purple sky with an orange satellite floating in it, above a horizon of skeletal structures lit in red and blueThe Creator blesses procreation, and His Plan for humanity involves lots of breeding. That’s how a comparatively small human colony like Klaros, originally a very minor offshoot of the vast Procyon colonial axis, ended up with nearly half a billion people, shortly before it was destroyed. You’d think a benevolent Creator would give His Devout People more credit for their hard work fulfilling His Plan, and do a little better by them than allowing a weapons experiment to get out of control and hork up the entire surface of Reveille C, killing damn’ near all of the Divine Warrior’s Chosen.

Such cynicism is fairly easy to understand after the fact. Having everything that matters to you—your work, your family, your ambitions, your home—blown to hell and gone might make anyone a little cynical. But Kelm Poquard was cynical long before the Rayki Weapons Lab carelessly lost control of its matter-to-energy induction projector. He didn’t think of it as ‘cynical,’ of course. He considered himself ‘objective.’ And ‘scientific.’ Continue reading »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: