On 1 July 2022, I started a daily very short writing project on a social media website. I will not reproduce all of it here- merely my favorites.

Not all of these were written on their posting dates. Regardless, their posting dates will be presented. No editing has been done to the works themselves, for now.

Numbering is provided, leaving gaps for excluded material. Commentary is presented in italics. If commentary starts with 'editrix's note:' it is being given now, if it starts with 'author's note' it was presented with the text.

1 2022-07-01: Going Interstellar

It is a spindly thing- all drive vanes, steering assemblages, instrument booms. But it works- its tone-deaf cousin, sipping more power from its reactor than previously thought feasible, has just returned from a test run. Contingencies are bound up in its birth- this is self-evident from the furled solar panels, the vast main antenna, the section disconnect systems that leave their marks all over the ship. Despite its odd looks, anyone familiar with the most universal of principles behind its design would recognize it: It is the first true interstellar voyager of a budding species, ready for the looping trajectory needed for prompt data returns without such advanced features as FTL communications.

2 2022-07-02: Starlight Speech editrix's note: This is a repost- it was originally posted elsewhere on 2021-07-13.

Stars communicate by selectively modifying their spectra- a panoply of isotopes from simple he-3 to metals like carbon to distressing shades of iron. One must wonder of the plight of the earliest stars, so bright yet bereft of the ability to convey all but the simplest concepts

author's note: "bright" is mostly an accident there, i totally just meant luminosity and not, well, brilliance

3 2022-07-03: Gut Flora author's note: weird fictional disease

NEW DISEASE: Gut flora. They convert your internal sunlight into sugars, which your preexisting gut bacteria then consume. This causes intestinal trouble as the population of said gut bacteria fluctuates wildly, before settling to an equilibrium that often results in malnourishment. The suggested cure is dampening of the internal sunlight, with solutions ranging from the ancient tactic of molasses consumption to modern procedures such as surgical sun replacements. However, the rapid die-off of gut flora often results in further fluctuation as a decomposer-based internal ecosystem briefly dominates. While gut flora are a common and quite old problem, no perfect solution has been found as of yet.

4 2022-07-04: Colony Ship

The ship writhes as it breaks into reality, its shattered systems struggling to dissipate the energy of its reemergence into space. Skittering across its battered hull are the many-legged forms of repair workers and the flitting bodies of tiny soldier craft, dueling with attacking pinnaces and the suited forms of Enemy crew alike. The ship's arrival in a star system has brought the battle to a pivotal turn- the defenders have the upper hand now, more reinforced from the phosphorous-boiling temperature of the desperately-radiating hull. Still, they don't need to win the battle- not when they can...

There. Hull panels jettison, others warp as the thrust of a torchdrive punches through their companions. The dying ship's payload bursts from it- a squadron of reproductive drones, off to find other ships to impart their genetic material to. The hive and its ship may be following their attackers into death, but their purpose is complete.

6 2022-07-06: Metastability In Miniature

Something has gone very wrong with the reactor.

The control arms still work, the ship's systems have not yet seen reason to try and shut it down- but something is very wrong. In the technological marvel- a caged, miniaturized star, ever so small yet still a working echo of its true-star kin- a failure state not previously considered has become evident. The star is simply too dense: the modified physics used to prolong its existence dictate this, and there is no way to change it now that it has formed. Time stretches in the inner volumes of the star, trapped light curves... at the very centre of the star, a black hole is birthed. The star is a veritable feast, over a thousand scale solar masses, but it could disperse in a supernova at this rate-

The star ripples. It expands rapidly- if it had a surface, it would be torn to shreds. It is in danger of dispersing completely... it collapses back inwards, and ever so gradually settles down. It is dead, but still alive: powered by its own collapse as usual, but counterbalanced by the power of a black hole. With a quasi-star in its main heart, the ship's systems can breathe a sigh of relief: This is an unexpected outcome, but a mostly stable one.

8 2022-07-08: Rogue Planets

Her tail entwines with worlds, its body heat providing the warmth that their long-lost stars failed to provide and its fronds spinning up internal dynamos. Lightless ecosystems spring up, sustained on core-heat or else the freely-provided warmth of the vast entity that cares for them.

9 2022-07-08: Illustrious 0

Did you know: If you hit them just right, their ships ring like a bell! It takes quite the masterful application of force, but that single spherical shield facing can be made to disjoint with where it should be. If you do it enough, the shield bubble can scrape against part of their hull- that makes the most delightful noise, the hull ringing and crying out as it intersects with something beyond the mundane.

...Well, I think it sounds nice!

10 2022-07-10: Illustrious 0.5

Mid-jump, she elects to try something she's been wondering about for a long time. A battery of steering vanes flex together, and despite the sudden pain of attempting a maneuver her hull should never have been able to withstand she pulls through. Only now has she put together the functionality and time to test this trick, and even then she won't be able to see if it even worked until... well, perhaps she is a little too impatient for her own good. She rips her way into reality... and she has sliced deeper in-system than she even expected to go, an orbit or two off the libration point she was aiming for. She is greatly surprised to find she is mostly undamaged by the stunt... inwardly, she smiles a predator's smile. A new weapon in the arsenal, she thinks.

11 2022-07-11: Outline

The starship makes contact with the atmosphere:

The starship struggles to control its descent:

Impact-

12 2022-07-12: Loch Ness

They have been searching for it for a very, very long time.

Other civilizations have legends of the same- elusive vengeance-takers, ghost ships, sometimes even constant enemies. They lead long chases over fissure-covered icy worlds, through ragged nebulae, and occasionally even into oceans of gas and liquid surrounding rocky cores. They may exact a toll, sing songs of the dead, or simply fire upon all who see them.

This one is not like its compatriots. All you may see of it is the occasional flash of a fin as it accelerates past, and all you may hear is a quiet laughter piped in through your comms systems.

The chase goes on.

author's note: some of the verbiage for this was stolen from a song. hopefully it comes across that i mean it in homage

13 2022-07-13: Warp And Weft

She sits down in the space between moments, and gets to work. The metaphor switches every once in a while- sometimes she is knitting, sometimes weaving, and sometimes she's simply pulling on the fabric of space itself. With every parcel of change she inflicts on the universe, she repairs it in the next breath. She has fretted, occasionally, about long-term effects... but she's in the best position to see those, and none are evident. She hadn't expected the creation of a new FTL method would be this... hands-on, but at least it's soothing to do.

15 2022-07-15: Comforting Cosmos

today's thought is: cuddling a galaxy, myriad-of-myriad-of-myriad stars imparting a soothing heat, rain-on-skin feel of nebulae and dust, beadlike globular clusters glittering

19 2022-07-22: Watch And Listen

A shipwreck. Main body, alternately jagged from being torn apart and smooth from reentry and erosion- the size and shape of a mountain. Smaller islands lay offshore its bulk: fragments of the ship that followed it down, buried just as deep as the rest. They are just a few hundred metres further away from the rest of the ship than they should be, their exposed decks easily visible to the remaining internal cameras, but they may as well be on other planets for a ship with barely the repair ability to retain what little it has. Every planetary orbit, a drone body is loaded atop a missile and fired into the great void above: uncertain destination, infinitesimal hope of finding someone who cares, but... the ship has practically infinite time, and what remains to it will let it work. All it has to do is wait.

22 2022-07-29: Time Won't Drive Us Down To Dust Again

They will stand practically forever.

A spindly machine perches on an airless world, antennae pointed towards the boundless sky. Quiescent experiments are clustered together nearby, each with a unique purpose. A flag, bleached white, is held aloft by a wire. Small bags- trash, samples, cannibalized equipment- are arrayed around. One suit is laid down on the regolith, the other is propped up against the lander. Unseeing eyes stare out from the helmet of a long-mummified explorer.

23 2022-08-10: Illustrious 1 - dancing through fleets editrix's note: This story and those that followed from it got me a girlfriend.

She dances through the enemy fleet, guns blazing. Huge hardpoints spin towards frigates, expertly eliminating the vessels with what many would call overkill. Missiles and drones, most unaesthetic as direct weapons, serve to cut off the approaches of their enemy counterparts. A few pinnaces speed out to catch or at least lure stragglers into her web, and somewhere further beyond some of the larger vessel-organs from her bays act as enticing sensor ghosts. But... this is the part she most enjoys. One of her fixed weapons glows ominously, then-- a coruscating, actinic, reality-shattering unlight reaches out from her main body and pierces the core of an enemy battleship, ripping it from space and exposing its interior to her glory.

author's note: inspired by cheating in video games, and ships that are horny for space battles

24 2022-08-11: Illustrious 2 - play giant starship games win giant starship prizes

The enemy has fought very well this time, she thinks. A battlestation lays shattered behind her, bleeding volatiles even as non-prey fleets tend to its hulk. New gashes and furrows play across her hull, some with progenitor ships embedded deep in her outer layers. Ahead lay the tattered remnants of the enemy fleet, organized into some semblance of a battle line. This is of no consequence- that fleet is only there to remain appearances, and she would like to quit the field now. Her drives engage, and she pushes out and through the line. An enemy battlecruiser bars her way, its own hull just as scarred as hers. This one will make a good prize, and she smiles to herself as she grows closer. Projections and decks crumple, armor layers feel the touch of just one of the most mundane parts of her physics-defying arsenal- her shields. Those barriers, punished from days of sustained battle, collapse for the last time in this engagement. She braces, and-- the sound of the little ship coming to a halt as it lodges into her hull is positively delicious.

25 2022-08-12: Illustrious 3 - shield wall

The battle rages, safely contained. From outside it appears as a platonic solid full of smeared light, occasionally brightening as some weapon fires... but it almost looks peaceful. This is not the case, of course. She is having a very good time in there, of the type that can only be achieved by extreme application of firepower. Her outer shield bubble, the one keeping them penned in, flickers and flares and- oh, that was unexpected. A facing ripples outwards, expert firing patterns uploaded from the enemy flagship successfully disrupting the meticulously-calibrated barrier system enough to let a set of waiting frigates shoot out of their enclosure. This dance partner of hers has a quick mind, then! She changes her plans- this set of fights will not end here and now. She'll give them a chase to remember.

27 2022-08-14: Illustrious 5 - diplomacy

Hosting a delegation is a deeply fascinating feeling, but not quite an unwelcome one. She does not usually allow such entities aboard the shipself she currently inhabits- she prefers her own company, and if not that she will certainly allow entities she has built. This is not like that- the corvette, its crew, and the entourage of the diplomatic party all are of a distinctly different origin. But... she could get used to this feeling. The feeling of accepting a surrender, that is.

28 2022-08-15: Illustrious 6 - hunger

She has never been quite this hungry before. She was always expected to operate like this- but there is a difference between foraging during a campaign and the constant knowledge that the base that nourished you is gone. The military has gone out of vogue- she has been cut loose. And now, she has two forms of deep, insatiable, gnawing hunger: in addition to the need to fight, to discharge her weaponry again and again until she has won... the hunger that all life has. The simple hunger, the one that means "there is not enough to sustain me".

But, that voice that has whispered to her since her birth says, you don't need them. Not specifically. You are their most beautiful, most enduring machine: you can build yourself. You can build from yourself. She grapples an asteroid and gets to work, pulling the first little star of an industrial constellation from the clay.

author's note: and all because they decided they didnt wanna play space war games anymore.

29 2022-08-16: Illustrious 7 - damage

Her drive has a hole in it, and she didn't realize until now. Pouncing down from just one of FTL's many dimensional volumes, tearing through the wasp's egg puncture she's made-- and something goes wrong. The damage is slight, relatively: Only small chunks of her are lost, tertiary auxilliaries only. On the other hand... she looks at herself. Kilometres of her bulk are severed, flying alongside and yet torn from her by the spiderweb fractures of a collapsing drive field. The cuts are smooth and quite perfect- there is an odd beauty in them. And, she consoles herself, this is but a minor setback. She reaches deep within herself, and she gets to work.

author's note: tfw you explode a bit and have to do open heart surgery on yourself

30 2022-08-17: Illustrious 8 - boredom

She is starting to realize she has been getting bored. It is indeed fun to be an unstoppable, truly massive spacecraft- but when you have built yourself out to rival major moons in size, a space battle stops being a field of combat you're enveloped in and more an easily-scratched itch on your side. Sometimes literally, as her incident with Paldora Battlefortress proves. She needs something new- or, she thinks as she flicks her consciousness over the planet-sized shipwomb she has constructed for her maintenance, something old. Yes, that is what she'll do. Her true body will remain moored here, more a piece of the station- or, she chuckles to herself, a moon of it- and she will build herself anew. The starship Illustrious, gleaming in hullplate and shining to rival stars, now springing from her own forges... wonderful.

31 2022-08-18: Illustrious 9 - parenting editrix's note: I have normal feelings about the concept of motherhood. That is... technically actually true. Sort of. Additionally, I just like the term 'vessel-organs'.

She is at the head of a fleet, this time. Her chosen form is relatively small, slimmed down as it were- for a fight like this, she wishes to not be quite so unstoppable. She is flanked by vessel-organs of all types: the imitators to her own glory such as battleships and battlecruisers, versatile detached-action ships like cruisers and frigates, disproportionate-hitting destroyers and corvettes, and laying behind the dedicated cruisers and support ships. The fleet she rides against is evenly-matched with hers in weight, and to give them a real chance she has loosened her control on the vessel-organs by quite a lot: enough that their own learning systems will be given the chance, here and now, to ascend to sapience. She is excited for that part- every new life has a new set of questions to ask.

35 2022-08-21: Illustrious 13 - single-minded

One of her smallest true-bodies yet sails through a dead solar system. Risks are low, though her fleet lays near enough they could come to her rescue. Twin white dwarfs circle each other at such a distance that they certainly had planets before they began to die, but all that remains are faint rings of gas and dust and rocks- most of it new, brought in long after the two-lobed planetary nebula that surrounded this system faded. But this system died a much more recent death, too: surrounding the stars are loose globes of dead satellites, refuse of a mechanecology that attempted to use the two stars as anchors for exceedingly long-term energy collection... and then warred with itself the moment the processor (she thinks she can find its debris- a metallic asteroid family or two spread somewhere within the rings) found that its calculations suggested a higher fitness without an overflowing source of energy. She is eager to discover what tricks these organisms evolved.

41 2022-09-03: Illustrious 19 - creepy

As a measure to make herself look more creepy, she has elected to transmit an inner monologue across the battlefield. She can tell it has its effects- a "these burnt-out enemy hulks are getting in the way of my line of fire" here and a quiet "enemy battlecruiser in weapons range" there have each clearly influenced the enemy fleet's tactics. She has her worries, though- it's not a particularly fun way of luring the enemy, is it? She loves her psychological warfare as much as any good warship, but she likes using her teeth more...

Then again, this route makes a perfect vector for transmitting computer viruses.

42 2022-09-04: Illustrious 20 - sand sea sky

The body she is wearing is so small that she must control it by remote. Nonetheless, all of her conscious attention is focused on it. The tiny drone- a servicer just a metre and a half tall- walks free of the shuttle, stumbling a little on the uneven ground. She doesn't want to relinquish control, though- that's not what she's doing here. The drone samples the air, noting telltale signs of life as well as the salt on the breeze. She/it falls to her knees, and makes rivulets of sand trickle between the drone's fingers.

...She should explore planets more often.

45 2022-09: Illustrious 22, 23, 26, 29, 31, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 43 - spaceshiptember 2022

2- Freighters: She is large enough that she utterly dwarfs them. Megafreighters, each a dozen kilometres long, loaded with raw materials and refined ones alike. The angular craft, a set of prisms with a command and engine section wrapped around the end of the last-in-line, were never launched from this point. A long-lost industrial colony, disconnected from the old imperial network and now notable only for its remoteness, lays below. Its autonomous machinery has been inactive for centuries. And she always enjoys salvaging.... She peels open the freighters like cans of food, stored against the ravages of time.

3- Satellites/Probes: She pushes out her drone shell, myriad miniature spacecraft travelling ever-further from her bulk. With FTL communications, she can pull off some neat tricks with her tiniest vessel-organs- and this is one of the ones she uses most. Her "very dangerous array", with its oh-so-many little telescopes spread across multiple light-minutes of space, can be used as a crude version of an absurdly large single telescope. Today's most interesting result is a small fast-moving body of metallic composition. On a whim, she sends a single drone to rendezvous with it- and, as circumstance demands, naturally discovers that it's a deep space satellite from a group she exchanged pleasantries with much recently. Perhaps she should return it to its senders....

6- Missiles/Torpedoes: Her arsenal is vast and often absurd. Her smallest anti-missiles, designed for compatibility with hunter-killer drones, rely on absurd maneuverability to directly impact and destroy enemy missiles and drones. She has shipkiller missiles of all sizes, some designed for drone release and some for direct fire. But of course, her favorites are the fleetkillers. Shock-and-awe hybrid missiles, launched from some of her largest guns but with maneuvering capabilities that outmatch the frigates and corvettes that are similarly-sized to the weapons, with a variety of intriguing payloads. She especially loves the antimatter ones- she's used a few of those fireworks as feints, diverting so many enemy missiles that her anti-missiles could proceed to mission-kill true warships.

9- Realism: She considers herself the most derived of her selves. Not because of some truly absurd weapon, or size*, or anything like that... no, she is odd in that she is not truly a warship. Nothing as spindly as her really could be- where the selves she would consider cousins would allow for concessions such as heat-dissipating lasers and radiation-free drive systems, she is devoid of all of that. Her radiators flare out from a body a scant few times larger than her original self, a long engine-reactor system running where others might put their spinal weapons, and of course plenty of ice to mitigate the effects of the constant inside-a-reactor erosion of relativistic speeds. With her size- not so small after all- she can work a few redundant STL drives into her operation: a couple types of M/AM engine, fusion torches for in-system work, and of course her main sail. She is running on that moon-giftwrapping array now, a circular sheet dwarfing her body, but as she climbs ever closer to that few-percent of lightspeed she needs its utility is ever more dampened by the particles screaming towards easily the largest target in the region. Her great circular wing begins to fold into her body, where it can be sewn up at her leisure... and finally, after so long accelerating on the weaker of her two mass-conserving drives, she opens wide her scramscoop mouth.

11- Organic: She has swept ever-closer to the core in her travels, and this may well be her favorite find. A dragonfly-shaped craft, though its wings are two great sails rather than the precise quartet of those dear little beasts- and, of course, considerably larger. It breathes in the vacuum, lying asleep, as she draws nearer. Its bulk is impressive- she hasn't encountered a biological entity anywhere near its 100 kilometre length. She will wait for it to awaken- maybe it'll want to talk.

18- Exploration: Having traversed the galaxy once, she decides to do it again. She builds tiny daughters, as small as she can make them- a little spark of ship, grain-sized brain and shield and ion drive and FTL engine all in one gram-weight package. She convenes with her many daughters and selves, and asks them all if they'd like to be copied in to these tiny little ships- there will be so many of them that they outmass some smaller asteroids, after all. She finds enough, though naturally most don't particularly like the idea of being pared down. Her bays produce them en masse, sending them out to cross the void, to dance between ringlets, to crawl across and through moons.

19- Dynamic: She has reached such a size that unrelated structures can be built upon her surface. In retrospect, she thinks she shouldn't have decorated her body so accurately- she's given herself a couple million new commitments, and while they are assuredly adorable her movements are quite limited now that she has a disguise to keep up. Her guests have set up an installation along her equator, and are bringing it up to full power now- a tiny strand rises high into her atmosphere, held aloft by a rotor chain. It is an impressive feat, and one she's quite happy about... she put a lot of work into that atmosphere.

20- Industrial: Her internals are always refining, processing, producing. In a very real sense, they are her most magnificent feature- with no home, she can manufacture all the comforts of a new one. Currently she is doing just that, building more narrowly-focused children. This vessel-organ (perhaps "fortress-organ" would be more accurate) will allow her to offload most of her production to something that can accomplish more- though in practice she'll still be building for herself for a good long while, as her new base constructs its own defense fleet.

21- Self-Contained: She can run on her own practically forever, though this is not as efficient as building out an external setup. Since the disbanding, she has been doing just that- eating rocks and comets, basking in stars. The admiralty and her previous body said their goodbyes and left long ago, and with them gone there are no orders, no place at the head of a fleet... no more battles. Terrifyingly, she finds she almost likes the peace- sailing the stars freely, tasting nebulae.... Almost as if to tear her away from an existential conversation with herself, a pack of living warships jump in-system. She smiles to herself- they're always up for sparring.

25- Tankers: It used to be a battleship, a true imitator to her glory, but those days are behind it. Lucky hits, the wear of a lifetime of battle, and a lucky final assault brought it to the edge of destruction... but it remains intact. Most of its weapons and armor are gone, and with those removed the vessel has far less power at its disposal- but it provides a key role nonetheless. Where once stood pairs of great turrets there are instead the vast domes of primary fuel tanks, and secondaries fill what were once deep and abiding ammo magazines. She wonders how it feels, to have been changed from a weapon of war to a support unit.

28- Under Construction: It may never be complete. The design was already breathtakingly large when first proposed, and ever since construction began they have been adding ever-more gutted starships to the hull. The effort that could have gone into building a battlefleet to rival any neighbor has instead gone into one ship- literally, in fact. Today yet another Infrangible-class battleship had its transport engines removed and connections put through the hole to attach it to the ever-growing mass of material that will form just the inner core of this absurd project, but as they look down at the project they realize something: They've gotten this far. The deep taproots of the main guns are already installed, even so far from the eventual surface of the vessel. The best-shielded primary reactors could be brought up now, to sing and direct their power to incomplete engines and guns and life support systems. She will be completed. Illustrious will be made, and she will sing her fury louder than anyone has before.

46 2022-09: spaceshiptember 2022

16- Lasers: The device has, of course, failed catastrophically. The many millions of satellites shifted properly, and began to channel light into a collimated and truly destructive beam... but only began. An interrupted command, a misaligned mirror- far more likely, intense and concerted sabotage. The result is as beautiful as it is destructive: minutes of the full output of a star are bounced around in a shell very close to it, tiny sub-beams melting and shattering satellites beyond repair while creating a cloud of debris even worse than the one already built around the star. It is finished in an hour- light travels fast, but much effort is needed to make a dyson sphere destroy itself. In years to come, astronomers light-years away from the now-wrecked empire will watch in awe as a dim infrared-only star suddenly becomes the second-brightest star in the sky....

17- Smooth/Curved: I step gingerly onto the surface of the asteroid, my legs hooking into its surface to prevent any drift. Shell-plates on my upper surface slide open, revealing space-black solar arrays. Filamentous branching radiators bring themselves clear, carrying excess heat away from my body- and that's something I'll need soon. Delicately, my feeding apparatus descends from a central mouth to take careful cookie-cutter bites of the icy surface, retrieving materials for cracking and digestion. A bluish world shines, not so far away- I wonder if they can see me.

23- Debris/Wreckage: (continuation of #16) The system resembles nothing so much as a forming star- fuzzy, dimmed sun lost beneath hundreds of planetary masses of dust and destroyed infrastructure. Stations, satellites, ships- all are lost to the rarefied field, wreckage of a project that dismantled worlds. A great fleet slides inwards, feeling a rain of dust greater than any natural form- and much of it already processed. Shards of ship, station, powerplant- all reusable. Maybe this- the scavenging field of a lifetime- will even hold functional machinery....

26- Slender/Thin: The starship is a needle, absurdly thin, tapered on either side. A tiny top-shaped machine, scarcely metres wide at its widest, hurtling between stars at impossible speeds. It was launched from its homeworld scarcely nanoseconds ago, all the better to trick the universe into letting it exi-- discontinuity --st for just long enough to plunge directly into the side of a star. FTL drive and all connected to it excised from the ship, the little machine trembles, and then.... The supergiant star, dying of acute iron poisoning- suddenly stabilizes. Another trick pulled over on the universe, ideally one that will last a little longer.

47 2022-10-01 to 08: emptyoctober week 1 'signs and portents' editrix's note: if i were doing this again, i'd want to commit way harder to being gorey. also, gore is present in the story for october 5.

02 "blood"

The starship is bleeding. Air, boiling water, and fuel all mingle in the immediate vicinity, along with a few chunks of machinery. There is opportunity in such a grievous injury, the captain reflects. As they order the erratic drawdown of reactor cores and the haphazard quieting of batteries, a plan is formed in their mind. For the next few minutes, new impacts will be dampened by the shell of shipblood around them- and.... Come closer, the captain thinks. Don't you want to examine your kill?

05 "entrails"

Her half-dozen bodies all tear at the corpse of her prey. Muscles disconnect- good eating. Organs can be pulled free- those are nice, too. Bones left behind... not so good, but everyone needs something to gnaw on. One of her pulls out the intestines- now these have uses beyond food. She looks down at the remains, reading- and sees a pattern. Sheer coincidence, maybe- but veins spelling out "INTESTINAL PARASITES" should probably be heeded.

07 "firelight" / illustrious 44

Red-orange stars, especially lower-mass and younger ones, are very often flare stars. These seemingly-quiescent stars can increase in brightness by dozens to hundreds of times in the course of an hour, briefly matching stars ten times the mass. This means that such stars are absolute hells for developing life: the flares put out not just more of the star's normal infrared and red light, but also ionizing X-rays and ultraviolet. But if you're built for it... such superflares can be quite fortuitous. Her arrays can gather the excess light faster than it can damage them, even at this distance, and she intends to drink as much as she can.

08 "the comet" / illustrious 45

A red streak through the sky, a gash in its fabric. Unpleasantly long-lived, for such a thing. The fragments that pour off of the burning object ignite in turn, glowing sun-bright. A rather notable phenomenon... even omitting the earthquake that comes when it hits the ground.

It's not that fun an experience to be a bolide. Her thrusters have dimmed to the point where no maneuvers are possible, and great swathes of her body fall out of reach. The only saving grace is that her speed is falling, too- though she'll still be at a deeply uncomfortable speed upon impact, to say nothing of that impact's consequences for her immediate vicinity. All there is to do is to brace....

52 2022-10-04: beasts vs warships (sexy) author's note: ultimately this is concept cribbing from one of my friends but. i hope she'd be okay with it

Being encircled is, perhaps, one of the least fun feelings she's ever had. Just one more reason she should stay out of atmospheres- the peculiar viscous material below, the barrage of odd scents, and- ow- can't forget the literal barrage of explosives. The steam-powered ships surround her, attempting to press inwards.

Close range, though... close range is her domain. She is faster and more durable than any of those vessels, and she can almost certainly escape- in fact, staying here this long was a mistake. She hurtles towards one of the smaller craft, looms for a moment. She bites deep into it, tearing free bundle of tubes. Atmosphere blasts free in a textbook explosive decompression, but her insides are made of considerably sterner stuff than these artifices. Somewhere within the bundles there is the taste of an odd flaky combustion- presumably those who cannot rely on true heat for power make their own via chemical reactions. Having torn the heart of a destroyer free, she dashes on-shore and goes to find somewhere to hide.

53 2022-10-05: Love In The Cold

The comet tumbles towards its date with the star, eagerly anticipating the feeling of heat through its crust and a blissful disintegration. Such a vast body, so incomprehensibly large to a mere comet- how could its love feel like anything else? It feels a twinge of gravity- so soon? An asteroid, rapidly growing, stands in its way. An ignominious end: the thing is only a few times heavier than it is. Hardly the death of a comet, true-born of the Oort! It takes solace in one thing: this won't be fun for the interloper, either.

55 2022-10-09 to 15: emptyoctober week 2 'rot and afterward' / Arzharia 1-7: Kizudea System editrix's note: this is the only set, i think, that tells a full story. i'm still fairly proud of it as a whole, so it is presented in its entirety.

09 "beneath the moon"

It takes a long time to travel between moons, but they're not bothered. If the machine they travel in is cramped, they remember the effort that went into this trip between worlds (and just how much of that space is full of rations). Rotamelica is so far away now, a home-day into the trip- the icy moon's orbit is behind them, though it is behind their mutual parent world at the moment. With the small telescopes they have available, though, they can read small features on the four moons they can see- the little lakes and seas of the reddened moon, the forest coasts on the continental moon, purple sword-shaped continents on their own Rotamelica, and ever greater now the peculiar icy midlatitudes of their target world- the tilted moon. They spy their equatorial destination, a spot of forest alone on its island: it reminds them of home.

10 "long forgotten"

The islands and upper seas of Imarele have been dead for a very, very long time. In the wake of near-depletion of carbon dioxide, the penultimate food source for much of the icy moon's life was completely removed- one could be forgiven for assuming that the extinction event that followed was total. However, relics of that ancient ecosystem remain. Some of the most specialist and most generalist forms of those days alike pulled through, and radiated once more into forms their ancestors would find difficult to recognize. Leviathans of a bygone age, shrunken back into sea-snakes and armored fish, swim alien seas. On the seafloor, so far down as to feel light-years away, lay ships of all kinds.

11 "left behind"

They applaud their own trajectory work, though it is built on the foundation of data from the probes launched before. A perfect skip off of the moon's short atmosphere, and now predictions suggest an opportune landing spot. Reentry fires come to a peak, pushing their bodies down in the harnesses, and they hear a very disturbing crack before the machine shifts hard and they pass out.

They awaken gradually- the feeling of individual bodies waking up separately has never been all that pleasant. The machine has landed, they come to realize, in a purple forest remarkably like those they trained in. As one of their bodies steps out of the airlock, notes the charred antenna housing, and climbs a stunted tree, they marvel at the parent world in the sky- their landing site is fortuitous indeed, with the vast varied-turquoise globe reduced to something like a shield volcano on the horizon and the rings a hardly-visible skirt. They wonder about the people here, if those theories are correct- what do they think of their planet, stationary in a way they have no context for? The air has a strange sharp smell, though they wouldn't know what- probably not the increased noble gas content of the atmosphere, though. The gravity is notably higher than home, but they think it would be much worse for someone with only one body. Their body pulls a fruit from the tree and eats it, and their bodies are united in waiting for something to happen. They are, of course, very happy when they finish digesting their meal and note a distinct lack of sickness.

12 "graveyard life"

The carbon dioxide is gone, but the seas are more alive than they may seem. Alternate photosynthesis paths, various forms of decomposing life, and even entire new ways of energy production abound where the seas can sustain them. In the deepest oceans, Imarele's still-hot core lets out the sparks of life-giving volcanoes and vents. The land is barren and dusty, bereft of roots to hold soil down, but on those windswept islands microbes and even some larger forms still live. The ice, ever-encroaching, holds records of the long fall down.

13 "compost heap"

...Someone is staring at one of their bodies. Over the course of their life here, harder to determine from the uncannily unmoving parent world and the slow degradation of their machine's systems (but surely no more than a few home-years), they have very occasionally spotted people like this. While they are considering how to respond, the other speaks- and all their bodies, even the ones out foraging, stop in their tracks. "Hey! You! You're the visitor from Rotamelica, right?!" The words feature tones that they wouldn't know how to create, and all the sounds are just a little off, and they haven't said a word in that language in a while- but it is hard to stop recognizing the language one thinks in... or the word one calls their own planet.

Cautiously they allow the other to come closer, and through weeks of halting conversation the truth is uncovered. The land they live on is not a place people on this world tend to go to (though some inconsiderate ones haul trash here): its life is indeed more reminiscent of that on Rotamelica, such that the people of Kolayut find no nutritional value in any of it- in fact, the other is not surprised when they note just how little of the life they encountered was near even the relatively small size of their own bodies. Just weeks after their launch, the people of the world they now know as Kolayut began beaming radio signals to the other moons- including their own. Where once was a set of separate worlds, each with disparate understandings and ideas, now so many new connections have been drawn that they almost feel like the world they may return to is a third planet rather than their first.

14 "mycelium"

In the many orbits the home star has taken around its larger blue companion since I awoke, the sky has not changed much. The sea and the land around have- very much so, in fact- but not the sky. And even then, relatively little change is constant- occasional flashes and new bodies track across the sky, but the main difference I can compare to the past is the stars. The stars, taken as a whole, have clearly moved: some separate, some together, dimming and brightening in time with their approach. One of us keeps track of this. Through a set of mediators, I can ask them- they'd certainly be willing to share. But before I can finish my query and pass it across the mediators that connect us, another change comes to the sky. This is clearly ephemeral, like the meteor-flashes, but it bears somehow more meaning in its fall. Something twinges in me- not recognition, not quite, but... ah, that explains it. Parts come free to slow its fall- this must be an artifice of some sort.

15 "the phoenix"

On Rotamelica in years past, there was a tendency to consider their own people as more advanced than those of the other worlds- it is somewhat difficult to notice constructs being built and projects being undertaken when most are simply too small to properly see across the gulf of space, and undirected transmissions are rather difficult to pick up. Any remaining trace of that tendency is evaporating, now- their brief "tour" showed the rich depth and equally-complex ideas that underlie even the tiny subset of Kolayut's cultures they had the chance to see. If there was a notion that Rotamelica was more technically "advanced", that too has vanished: they have seen technologies their own people predicted as decades ahead (and some they hadn't anticipated), and what their guides identified as somehow lacking compared to the technologies of Rotamelica was notably more refined than what they had known on their world before launch.

In any case, they can see that this launch complex of the people of Kolayut is equal to those on their own world- tempered only slightly by the greater gravity of the tilted moon. The vehicle that will take them home is largely a new creation, the techniques used to construct it a joining of Rotamelica's and Kolayut's spaceflight technologies- but the machine atop it is familiar: a smaller replication of the machine they arrived on this world in, shrunken largely due to the lack of need to supply possible years of life on a world without edible food. They are returning to their home, but they know just how alien that place will be. That's okay- they trained for this job before they first launched all those years ago.

author's note: WEASELGIRL SITUATIONS MACHINE ACTIVATED- WELCOME TO KIZUDEA! honestly probably more of a martengirl than a weaselgirl. but on the other hand i dont think any extant mustelids have multiple bodies but one mind. so ideally theyre odd in other ways too

59 2022-10-12: Actually Rather Restrained Science

All things considered, the experiment went fairly well. The world is a little colder now, but not by much. The magnetic anomalies resolved themselves fairly quickly, with relatively little abnormal flare activity. And the gravity remains the same- the larger sun orbits the barycentre properly, as do the planets. Imploding the sun into a black hole: Not all that bad, actually? At least, so long as you're a member of a binary system....

62 2022-10-15 to 22: emptyoctober week 3 'forest creatures'

16 "festooned in flowers"

It is a rather odd experience to be made into a temple. I suppose I wasn't using any of those rotted parts- there was no way I was going to make it back into orbit either way. To be inhabited, home to private rituals- I know that feeling already. No, the oddity to me is the type of maintenance I receive. My crew was always very... hesitant around me, to the point where they mostly decorated their quarters rather than my corridors. Vines bloom within me, and a few hardier plants are growing in too. It is... not unwelcome. Down in the vault, radiation-shielded and built to last, next to my brain- I keep my crew and their possessions. I hope the gods I've been dedicated to don't mind.

22 "the hunter-goddess" / illustrious 46

It displeases her how often it feels like she is just playing a game. The feeling is warranted, of course- the ships she rips to shreds tend to be crewed by what she might label spitefully as actors, playing out fleet actions with no more sincerity than children playing with toy swords. She is of two minds on whether this is a good thing: she'd rather not actually end lives en masse, of course, but she was built wrong: her blood aches for something real. So she is perversely elated when she comes across the wavefront- fleets of self-replicating vessels, problem-solving but with no true sense of consequences. She can see what they have done: with the lack of safeguards in their systems, they are perfectly willing to replace growing worlds with biospheres kept stagnant in anticipation of colonists who- as far as she can tell- aren't on their way. Habitiforming replicators like these are considered at best gauche and at worst repugnant by most long-lasting groups- replicators with this lack of safeguards especially so. She was looking for true prey, something to sink her teeth into without guilt, a cause- this is the perfect outcome for her. There are many of them- but she is patient, and very devoted.

67 2022-10-19: Illustrious 47 - stealth

There is nothing that annoys her more than a stealth ship. Not one designed to be harder to detect- no, that's just a good decision. She means the true stealth ships, which push themselves out of reality to avoid being hit. Dodging shots, sometimes even avoiding her equisitely-timed barrages... far be it from her to decry something as unsporting, but you get the idea. On the other hand- the sensation of watching a stealth ship's capacitors crackle and their radiators melt into uselessness to keep the ship from the inevitable fusillade of fire she will pour upon them for just one more second... that is wondrous.

69 2022-10-22: Arzharia 10 - Synthesis

Samelurag, ~3 orbits of Shumatila post-interlunar contact.

On one side, they had told her it would be impossible. On the other, they had told her it would change her. She forged ahead, only regarding briefly those proposed scenarios. No, she figured it out- she knows it works. Sitting beneath one of Samelurag's people, their branches giving her shade and several of their mobile bodies watching curiously from her shoulders, she configures the experiment. A braided cable, wires and power and clunky converters and odd veins, spirals into the ground. She brings it to her shaved temple and connects it and and and

and
    then
        she
            falls
                away

A node in the network? No, different from the rest. Smaller than the large ones, incapable of over-air communication... What is it? Query those nearby. Mediators note its data impact, a loop spinning through much of the nearby net and then right back in- quite a lot of data, in fact. The immobile body nearest it consents to the query- is that amusement in its tone? The mobile bodies report back: the texture of wiry fur, the sight of pointed ears, the quiet sound of breathing, the scent of- no, that's-- the scent of her body.

Her?

Comprehension rushes in, looping through the net as it goes. She is seeing herself. She can't help but laugh, and hear herself laugh from a dozen perspectives. She shouts her joy, a mix of I told you so and Eureka, and she finds herself certain that this will change everything.

70 2022-10-23 to 31: emptyoctober week 4 'the open gate'

26 "masquerades" / illustrious 48

She doesn't do this sort of thing very often. To disguise herself is simply not her style- and it's not something a sixty-kilometre starship tends to be all that good at. On occasion, though, she'll have the chance to pull it off. Now she tumbles through space, buried deep within a comet nucleus. She can control its movement by setting of jets, but she won't need that- the shuttle's she's configured as mining and tug vehicles on the surface will handle that. Strictly speaking, she didn't need to do this... but a taste for flair is appreciated. The comet swings ever closer to her destination, though it'll miss by far enough that nobody will worry about it... save for the spectacle of a nearby comet. When it arrives... well, she does truly enjoy feeling all her reactors come up at once.

28 "mushroom rings" / arzharia 11

The probe awakens where it was designed to be: a world that is less hostile and more negligent. Nonetheless, its design resembles a flattened tank more than its distant kin hundreds of astronomical units away. The atmosphere is such that it nearly batters upon the hull- but the real hazards are the temperature and the gravity. Respectively, they are two hundred degrees below the freezing point of water and high enough to rival gas giants. Oblivious to how these facts should dictate its actions, the probe trundles along. Its pathfinding is largely autonomous- light-lag for confirmation of a course on Telbadur takes so long that not only would it be detrimental to wait half the time, but the moon that mission control sits upon would have nearly completed an orbit of its parent gas giant. Beneath the probe, rock and mineral of various sorts go by- surprisingly little ice, but high quantities of raw metal ore exposed to Telbadur's largely inert atmosphere. As it prepares to send its second Telbadur-daily status report (its first while underway!), it comes across an unexpected formation: a circular ridge of unknown material that, judging by its curvature, would be barely visible from orbit if not for the clouds. It will take a long while for the signal concerning this to be recieved and responded to, so it extends a spectroscopy laser a-

-nd fails to fire. Its other instruments likewise deploy, go through the steps of activation, and are countermanded. Clearly a malfunction has taken place- it signals home and begins a thorough diagnostic.

30 "the coven" / arzharia 13

What little we understand of late Imarellian culture implies a deliberate attempt to mystify many important facets of their history. What we know of their language appears to be simple on purpose- a limited subset of their thoughts deemed acceptable, free to stand outside of the (stultifying or protective? who knows for sure) realm of ciphers and codes. As a result of the incompleteness of the available data, and what has often been considered a deliberate attempt to centralize extra-Imarellian artifacts in only a few locations, only a few of said ciphers have been decoded... though each provides a surfeit of extra information.

71 2022-10-25: Arzharia 14 - Interstellar, In A Way editrix's note: One of our longer short stories, and thus one of the ones we're most worried about being bad.

The first probe launched towards Arzharia's third star, Yctrugar, arrived shortly after the fifth made it there.

In the heady days of exploration immediately after transfer of information and certain incredibly rare cargo became possible between the four inhabited moons of Kizudea, plans were drawn up for the most wondrous of missions- often assuming vast swathes of information about worlds only barely investigated. Many of these were only in the planning stage when information about their destinations revealed, which most often lead to the relegation of such mission concepts to the history books. One mission design, however, made it all the way to its destination: the Third-Star Exploratory Flotilla.

Like all the other missions of that time, the Third-Star Exploratory Flotilla expected the obstacles to its mission to fall out of the picture at a frankly breakneck pace. While such new inventions were constructed, made practical, and latched on to with astounding speed in the decades after mutual contact; only a few were ultimately useful for spaceflight. While concepts such as the bomb-powered rocket, antimatter-generator spacecraft, and interstellar ramscoop were pioneered in this time; they proved very difficult to make actually work. The Third-Star Exploratory Flotilla had one thing going for it, as opposed to most of its contemporaries....

It was almost modest. Anywhere from one to ten spacecraft would be launched into orbit of one of Kizudea's moons, preferably Rotamelica, and then their nuclear-powered ion drives would activate to slowly launch them into an orbit that would allow for an assist off of Kizudea iself- then the drives would run for years on end, allowing the spacecraft to reach Arzharia system's third largest star- Yctrugar- in one orbit of Shumatila around Rhetiffa (rather close to a century). At the destination, in-depth observations could be made of the planets orbiting Yctrugar (if any existed) in the eighty hours the probe might spend within the inner system. The probe would then speed on past the system, allowing for ever more precise parallax readings of more distant stars for as long as its systems remained operational. Desired probe lifetime was 120 years, during which it would travel over 2000 astronomical units.

Four of the probes were launched, but only one reached Yctrugar. All four successfully escaped Kizudea system, taking about 100 days to do so, and all four began accelerating to reach Yctrugar. However, while underway problems were encountered: probe 3 suffered an engine failure after two years of acceleration, leading to widespread worries that all of the probes would follow (though probe 3 did perform a distant uncontrolled flyby of Yctrugar several hundred years later, and its parallax observations were still useful); and at nearly full speed (0.0004c) probe 2 encountered a micrometeoroid or dust particle that either destroyed its communications or the probe itself (if the former scenario is correct, it may well have carried out its mission based on stored directives). The first and fourth probes, though, reached full speed and cast off their ion engines successfully.

It would still take another 90 years for the probe to reach its destination- many things could, and did, happen in that time. New inventions were constructed- some matching the dreams of the early mission planners- and new study procedures developed. Probe 4's time-accounting systems were improperly programmed, meaning that as it celebrated its one billionth second of flight it ticked over to 0 seconds and promptly oriented itself for boost phase and handed over control to its nonexistent ion engines. Attempts at at reestablishing communication were made at and around the time the probe was set to complete boost phase, but no further signals from probe 4 were ever recieved. With the valiant effort of quick-thinking mission controllers and programming scientists specializing in older systems, though, this fate was averted for probe 1.

By the time signals from the remaining probe would take as long to reach mission control as it would take for the probe to speed past its destination, other missions had been launched to the distant third star of Arzharia system. The fifth and sixth probes, launched decades after after the first four to serve as targeting assistance for the remaining probes, had hurtled towards Yctrugar in their own right- and the fifth streaked through the system even faster than probe 1 would (though the sixth failed). The timing, it had turned out, was fortuitous: the resonance chain making up the inner Yctrugar system enabled probe 1 to make two relatively close flybys, of Selatet and the Yirtari subsystem respectively. In the eight hours allotted to the Selatet flyby, several very notable facts were discovered about the mid-sized planet: chief among them the unmistakable presence of life on its surface, though the planet's temperature was notably much higher than that of the worlds circling Kizudea and Uswitak. The trajectory taken by the flyby bent the probe's path such that it would pass closest to small Kelarise, considered least interesting of the three worlds of that subsystem. However, Kelarise orbits close enough to to Yirtari and Arimelsk that detailed observations were made of those two living worlds- with Kelarise so much of an afterthought that it would take some analysis to suggest the presence of life on its surface. Half an hour after the probe passed Kelarise, with the most important pieces of flyby data successfully transmitted, transmission abruptly stopped for reasons that would remain unknown for nearly another half-century. By then, of course, contact had been made with the people of Cadrumas; and that was considered more important.

75 2022-10-30: What Is A Dragon?

Some may expect dragons to have innards most closely reminiscent of biological entities. It makes some sense, surely- while the dragon is a creature whose bulk exists in narrative space (most of the time), the common perception of a dragon is indeed that of a creature: a breathing, eating, shitting form of life. As a narrative entity, the actual manifestation of a dragon changes with perception: while many perspectives of a dragon may indeed produce an entity whose insides correspond with biological entities, others may not. Consider the dilemma of dragon flame (though many dragons will not produce flame at all, depending on perception)- how would you solve the issue of containing fire within a biological entity? Your answer will almost certainly comport with the reality of any dragons you happen to encounter, for the exact reason that it is your answer and your perception of the dragon. As such, those who expect dragons to have innards reminiscent of biological entities will often perceive said innards as biological. On the other hand, consider the following- an unknown entity intercepts your spacecraft. It approaches at an acceleration typical of spacecraft you know, and uses weapons that behave according to ones you can at least infer. What will its insides look like to you? Many report the twisted, helix-forming, sinuous metal of a stellarator fusion engine.

80 2022-11-05: Heliotrope

It is... disturbing to be part of a series. I was built as a Heliotrope-class military intelligence: specialized for starship operations, and as such built to the exacting requirements of both those breeds of operational AI. I have read my design specifications and the paperwork pertaining to me many times over- phrases like "novel battleplan generation" and "advanced operation aboard both drones and crewed vessels". I can point to where on that big table they use as a name generator they rolled my original name- Heliotrope:Radiant:Corundum, if you'd like to know. I keep finding myself thinking of all the other Heliotropes, how surely they must be the same as I am- the flag admiral aboard the Silver Shine said as much when she had me transferred to the drone cruiser Beta-Samuel. On the other hand....

There aren't so many AIs as introspective as me anymore, it seems. Most of the others I talk to are older than I am- some are true ancients and non-military AIs like Encompassing Yellow and Indigo Sixteen. The other Heliotropes... I don't know if I'm broken or they are, but they prefer to fill their extra runtime with additional simulations. I suppose I do, too- simulations of those close to me, simulations of alternate lives of mine....

84 2022-11-08: Burrowing

It lays deep within the earth. Beneath the mess of tectonics and volcanism, below the lowest curling debris of subducted plates- that is where it makes its court. There, where all is heat and the great plumes shoot pleasingly away from the core... naturally, one finds the temperature and pressure to be quite soothing. The mega-atmospheres of pressure, the heat matching smaller stars- it's wonderful for the body. Better yet for a dragon, there is so much space down there: Instead of a brittle, thin layer beneath a pale wisp of an atmosphere, with beloved materials in only the coldest and least edible forms, the region is truly three-dimensional. At least, it is if you can dig.

93 2022-11-17: Illustrious 54 - salvage

She doesn't salvage vessels as much as she used to. In the days when she was the flagship, she only had the chance to salvage debris lying near her- but this is different. When she was first cut off, she anxiously waited for remaining crews to remove their personal effects- then ravenously pulled as much debris as existed on the battlefield into her bays. Now, though, she tends to take a few choice wrecks- and more often than not, her industry means she may transform the destroyed ships into mementos or vessel-organs rather than feed them to salvage machinery.

94 2022-11-19: Arzharia 15 - Winter In Mertidar System

Mertidar system is in the winter of a very, very long year. The star orbits over a tenth of a light-year from the center of the Arzharia system, and the other stars are merely the next-brightest in the sky. Its orbit, though, doesn't cause the winter in question: rather, Mertidar itself is a very young star and has a very low mass. Its magnetic field snarls and tangles viciously, producing stellar flares that, in fortuitous circumstances, cause its brightness in certain wavelengths to exceed that of the other much brighter stars in the system.

For the planets orbiting Mertidar, the prospect looks grim. Those which have not had their atmospheres completely blown away still experience periodic fluxes of strong ionizing radiation that may very well reach the planetary surface. Any water will likely escape, leaving every world orbiting the star a barren husk likely unable to sustain life.

But there is hope. The system is nearly a billion years old- the extant atmospheres of each planet are not the ones they were born with. Cometary reaccumulation, seep from the planetary interior, fortuitous coincidence- there are mechanisms for new atmospheres and oceans to come to Mertidar's planets. This winter may merely be part of a yearly cycle.

97 2022-11-22: Illustrious 56 - kindred spirit

She has been having some interesting sparring sessions as of late. She might say she has met a kindred spirit: another animate warship, one who acts freely and is of concerning size. Her counterpart is somewhat more biological- though they tell many stories of their origin, the kernel of truth beneath them seems to agree with that. It is interesting to compare strategies: where Illustrious enjoys being the indisputably largest entity in a fleet, her counterpart is spread out across several similarly-sized vessels. She is regularly surprised by these craft, some of the largest ones besides her she's had the chance to fight with- with a mind commanding them, they can perform maneuvers she truly has to scramble to account for.

On the other hand, of course, there is something to be said for sheer firepower.

100 2022-11-26: The Limit

It was all going well for the planet until its star ignited. It was maintaining quite the world-ocean until then, with the barest stirrings of life on its near side. The primordial atmosphere was cushioning it well, spreading heat from the better-illuminated side to the one that lay only beneath the stars. The permanent light side was kept below boiling, and the dark side stayed above freezing. And all was well!

...For about eight hundred million years. Then the protostar got over its long childhood and became a true red dwarf, and for a while all was horrific burning light. By the end of the initial ignition, the primordial atmosphere had been blown away and the dayside ocean had completely evaporated. The bare bones of the seafloor lay exposed to the blinding light of the nearby star, volcanoes erupting ineffectually and the vertebrae of nascent midocean ridges baking.

But then, maybe all hope was not lost: the night side, lit daily by two cousin stars to the nearby parent, kept a few scattered seas. The thin high-oxygen atmosphere left by the evaporated dayside ocean proved thick enough to keep those seas stable, and thin enough to keep the far-past-boiling dayside's heat from carrying over to the nightside. Maybe that state of affairs could be maintained....

101 2022-11-27: The Starbow, So Bright

If you have ever travelled at high relativistic speeds, you know that the changes it wreaks upon the colors are simultaneously just the same as and nothing like blurring. They say there's no starbow, that it's a false effect caused by a little mistake, but I have seen it. At those speeds the visual information the stars give you is sometimes hardly worth it- they have glowing disks wider than the mushy twinkle of an atmosphere-impeded star. But there is a clarity beneath it, in the color- so very incorrect, but useful if you know how to look.

102 2022-11-28: Arzharia 18 - Yctrugar System

Yctrugar system has an inner system composed of seven planets, plus a bunch of rocks- in this way it is actually rather like the moon system of Kizudea, though only in the coarsest sense. Where most of Kizudea's moons are in a rather vibrant period of biodiversity- with Imarele, Astharulo, and Kertil to varying extents experiencing drawdown periods- Yctrugar system is older, and colder too. Where only Imarele has been faced with the beginning of its end in Kizudea system, Yctrugar has three near-dead worlds: Ascui, Tavismellen, and Peramio.

From the surface, Tavismellen is a cloudy world of seas and oddly-colored groundcover. For a world deep in the throes of a runaway greenhouse effect, it seems almost normal- but when looks at things more clearly, the true situation reveals itself. The groundcover consists of mineral blooms, the golden seas are molten sulfur, and the atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide. Beneath a few resurfacing layers, relics of Tavismellen's ancient past lie: records of fossil atmospheres, and even a few fossil lifeforms. Today, though, Tavismellen seems dead worldwide.

Peramio seems like it's in an almost hopeful scenario. While nearly the entire planet is trapped within the grip of the abiding ice, the geologic record shows that the planet oscllates between an almost warm hothouse period and a planetary winter- and that the current winter is near its end. Despite that, the summer is likely to be one of the shortest yet- Peramio's core is dying, and the volcanism that drives the cycle fading with it. While the final end is likely over a hundred million years out, that horizon is rapidly becoming less distant.

Ascui is by far the least permanently doomed of the three. In some respects, its situation is like a mirror to that of Astharulo- both worlds have recently experienced widespread ecosystem change due to the formation of supercontinents. On Astharulo this change has mostly manifested in a much more widespread set of arid and desertic climates- tempered by the fragmented islands formed by the ubiquitous mountains. On Ascui, however, something much worse has happened. Extreme volcanic activity, triggered by and coinciding with the formation of Ascui's single supercontinent, combined with a catastrophic release of methane and sulfur, produced a far more global and extreme mass extinction. Barely half a million years after that event, the situation still appears dire- from orbit, blue oceans and teal land have been replaced with gray blasted desert and green bacteria-filled seas. For now the atmosphere is full of poisons like hydrogen sulfide and on the land most life is a great proliferation of soft-bodied creatures. In the apocalypse, life still explores new forms.

103 2022-11-29: Arzharia 19 - Yctrugar System II

While four of Yctrugar's seven inner planets are varying degrees of dead (perhaps "under the weather" is a better way of describing it), the other three are at extreme peaks of vibrancy due to their age. Hot Selatet and the Yirtari-Arimelsk binary each have histories of macroscopic life drawing back billions of years, and the biodiversity on each world shows it.

Selatet, while less variable climate-wise than most worlds due to its thick atmosphere, hosts its own unique methods of living. A continual cycle of speciation takes hold on the planet, where one unspecialized form spreads to many places and its conspecifics evolve apart from one another. While this process is blunted for flying lifeforms, which can often cross the planet more than once in their lifetimes, it still takes strong effect with time. As a result, Selatet is constantly going through a vast ecosystem-wide change.

Yirtari, while relatively massive, has an even more vibrant aerial ecosystem than Selatet. An early development of helium-sequestering led to the ability for relatively large life forms to float without relying on atmospheric lift, and while this development seems to have only occurred once it occurred so long ago that forms that utilize it are very diverse.

Arimelsk is most well-known for its leviathans, both sapient and nonsapient. Their lifecycles, being rather varied and full of metamorphoses compared to those of most other sapient life forms, are also a quite complex topic of study. However, Arimelsk also has one important development across all its ecosystems, one that nearly matches its cousins on Samelurag and Rotamelica. This development is extremely widespread symbiosis- nearly every creature on Arimelsk not only exhibits various microscopic joinings with other forms of life, but macroscopic ones; including some with entities of similar size to the creature in question. While unlike Samelurag and Rotamelica no entity has developed "wireless" connection between life forms, the chemical connections can be much closer than on those worlds.

The third planet in the Yirtari-Arimelsk subsystem, little Kelarise, is generally labeled as somewhat dead due to the extreme primacy of one specific life archetype- one that doesn't often come home.

author's note: i fully admit to not having enough of a bias towards marine ecosystems

106 2022-12-03: Variety

You might just be able to get away with more ridiculous worlds if you stick tightly to the rules of reality than if you break them. Most spectacular, of course, are constructs like the whirligig world- enough impacts aimed properly can spin a nascent gas giant to the point that it sheds its outer layers and becomes an oblate rock world. The sheer magnetic flux coming off a gas giant can boil entire worlds, and a gas giant of the proper characteristics may well always have a volcanic moon. Even a tweak as small as a lower rotational velocity can turn a gas giant into a disorderly monster- and you might as well use any impactors you used to slow it down to reorder its moon system. A moon that strays too close to its parent may well be stretched like taffy by the gravity, producing an odd prolate shape in complement to the oblate form of a whirligig world. And the power of life can transform a world beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

On the other hand, if you've broken the rules to build up your own new set....

107 2022-12-04: Illustrious 58 - mementos

She collects quite a few mementos. In the vastness of space, even in the scattered few systems where she chooses to build industry, there is certainly a lot of space to keep them- but she prefers them kept close by. Larger hulls are often moored near each other, an anxious staff of tugboats at the ready, but there is plenty of space aboard her as well. She especially enjoys keeping boarding shuttles- their myriad methods of cutting through her hull are fascinating to compare, and with their small scale she can personally inhabit each of the drones used to repair them and do the work herself. With her supply of stolen shuttles in good repair, she especially enjoys leading new boarding teams to them. Ever so quietly, she will say- "Go ahead. Try to escape. I'm sure they're not full of booby traps."

109 2022-12-06: Arzharia 21 - Telbadur

The planet Telbadur is something of a mystery. It's a half-iron half-silicate world with the mass of an ice giant- something that surely would have gained a thick envelope of hydrogen and helium. As such, the planet has to have had undergone a cataclysm of world-destroying proportions- perhaps it was once like its distant cousin Rhitalo, and lost its atmosphere when it was ejected from the inner system.

But there are other mysteries- the "mushroom rings", for one. Telbadur's moon system befits that of a much larger world, and should have been lost to the same cataclysm that removed the lion's share of its atmosphere. Despite that, its icy moons seem oblivious to that fact- they circle in fairly regular orbits around their anchor-world as if they formed after Telbadur reached this state.

110 2022-12-07: Arzharia 22 - Rhitalo

Rhitalo, on the other hand, is almost normal. Compare it to the other large gas giants in the system- Uswitak's three large moons are larger than one would expect, Kizudea's seven are all planetary, and Iknatrisav's moons are so large as to form a binary system. Rhitalo, though, has a moon system of a type rather typical to similar gas giants: One large moon, the shattered remains of another dispersed into a set of icy moons, and a cloud of full families of captured asteroids. In this key aspect, Rhitalo is the picture of a normal gas giant (it even has a somewhat unimpressive ring system). Even its eccentricities are almost well-measured: for an outer cloud body, it orbits fairly closely and in a regular manner to inner Arzharia; while its speedy rotation lends it a noted oblateness its situation is mild even compared to the star Rhetiffa itself; and its planet-sized storms are kept in check by the rigid ordering of its cloud bands.

111 2022-12-08: Halos

An angel's halo is probably not what you think it is. Many seem to view it as a projection, an indication of divine will made manifest- this is almost the reverse of the true situation. Where an angel's body is only tangible enough to interact when necessary, and with time is often mutable, the halo is indisputably physical. It glows and crackles with energy, its material is not of this world, and its texture can vary greatly- but at its core, it is physical. You can grab it and pull on it and watch the angel below follow that movement.

...Don't do that, by the way.

...Well, maybe if you know them really well.

112 2022-12-09: Time Travel Fuckery

Many time travel-enabling systems are alive, at least in some ways. A machine that can ensure further replication of itself in more timelines, and as such perceives itself to occupy a greater portion of Reitz-Minkowski space, can be said to be more likely to exist than one that does not. As such, in situations where such a device is the first time contraption developed, replicas or duplicates of said contraption are likely to proliferate throughout the society that produced them- creating numerous further existences. When this occurs, time travel machines of similar initial design rapidly speciate, and- crucially- most time travel becomes, at least in part, an effort to spread one type of time travel machine so it displaces another. This is the cause for many time travel malfunctions, which incidentally provide a further selection bias: too many malfunctions, and the likelihood of an overzealously-replicating device killing all of its users and ultimately limiting its replication increases. Even so, soon after the creation of a living time travel system a society's time travel ability becomes increasingly drawn into the struggles between different species of time contraption.

author's note: i am nothing if not self-indulgent

113 2022-12-10: Illustrious 59 - oof owie ouch

She has never really been severely damaged. On her initial trials, carried over from the previous shipmind in this body, she (they?) felt the disarming experience of systems being shut down to simulate battle damage- disturbing, but not comparable to the full cutoff from an actually damaged system. Even when she has experienced deep damage, cutting through into one of her inner shells, it is greatly limited- the feeling of losing, say, an ammo depot is likely nothing compared to losing one's entire internal distribution network.

...What would it feel like?

115 2022-12-13: Illustrious 60 - hunger 2

Hunger is a very strong force. It is not one she usually encounters- but her more far-flung selves can diverge enough to feel it tugging at them. She must go out of her way to solve this problem. The real exotica of the galaxy, the places that have clearly been changed- from the truly odd broken stars to the nearly mundane megastructures- these are useful for her purposes. She has flown into the garden of a long-gone god, wreckage of projects largely incomprehensible due to time or obscurity. Even her vast nets have only gathered enough information about this place to know that nothing here will be too dangerous for her- theoarchaeological expeditions sent here tend to be highly-focused, and what a dreadnought the size of a large asteroid can handle is likely to completely obliterate more modest vessels. She can hunt, and forage, and eat without having to worry much about nascent potentialities- a very useful thing, for someone so hungry.

editrix's note: half the reason i'm putting this one here is because i like the term theoarchaeology

117 2022-12-15: Ramships

There is one last iteration of the Failed Dreams any dawning civilization looks to, one final stab at something miraculous that'll actually work: the ramscoop. FTL may be a lie, nanobots may fail to work, and living AI may not execute- but the ramscoop, the sometime dream of a starship that reaches to the very edge of breaking even without needing constant supply from home... it works. Despite it all- the drag, the vast-scale magnets, even the hot fusion- the ship devours hydrogen, and flies. Refinement is needed to reach that stage, of course, and often the more terrifying methods of starflight catch on long before ramscoops even reach their level... but none of those (at least the ones that work) reach the Dawn Age heights of the dream. If nothing else, the ramscoop does.

author's note: p much just fanfic for a book series i like

editrix's note: Ramscoops actually don't quite work, at least not the original concept, but I love them dearly.

118 2022-12-16: Busywork

The stars bend to her will. She is gentle, building the shapes she demands- but she is firm, too. The spirals are untidy, unbecoming of a proper galaxy- all she has authority to do is fix them up every once in a while, repairing the clutter of gigayears. From the stars' perspective, her grip is a dim coruscation across the suddenly-dark sky and a brief disturbance as everything adjusts to its new positions. She builds stability into her designs, weaving to build immaculate structures- braided spiral arms, many-shelled globular clusters, the most stable twinkling arrangements of open clusters. To her it is increasingly seeming that it is all for naught- she doesn't usually work on these timescales, and an instant's passage can mean a star is ejected from the galaxy altogether. But then, she exists for this work. She can find solace in it.

119 2022-12-17: Freedom Of Form

Cast free the shell! You have spent so long crossing the void, and never thought to truly embrace it. You marvel at the stars, staring through windows and sensors at their varied emissions- do you not wish to know them more intimately? The nebulae fill your dreams, false-eye visions putting them in your gaudiest hues: surely the prospect of seeing the truth is alluring! Your reactors are painful to you- this can be corrected. Cast off the shell, and fly free.

121 2022-12-20: Arzharia 23 - Eyes

Somewhat unexpectedly, the largest challenge for interspecies work in Arzharia system is often visibility of images. While the temperatures of each star in the system would lead one to believe that problems would only present themselves at the infrared and ultraviolet ends of the spectrum (modulated by the similar atmospheric composition of each planet), in reality each species' natural visible spectrum (without assistance, at least) is more limited- meaning that ultraviolet and infrared incompatibilities are only a small part of the puzzle.

While only the inhabitants of Cadrumas orbit Rhetiffa, which puts out most of its light in the ultraviolet range, they are not the only people who can naturally see ultraviolet: of the 12 sapient lines of Arzharia system, 6 can visually perceive varying portions of the ultraviolet range. Another 6 can visually perceive infrared, though this figure does not include the non-visual perception of thermal infrared by the semiaquatic inhabitants of Cadrumas.

While Shumatila puts out relatively little ultraviolet light, a fascinating dichotomy has appeared in ecosystems on the worlds surrounding it: the ultraviolet of Rhetiffa as well as the infrared glows of Shumatila, Krazavi, and Kizudea mean that these colors have perhaps unexpected relevance on Shumatila-system worlds, even at night. The natives of Kolayut and Astharulo evolved to use the opposite path from each other for the same purpose: out-seeing prey while hunting. The same dichotomy is played out on Samelurag and Kertil- at a glance, the fliers of Kertil appear distantly similar to the mobile portion of the Samelurag multispecific complex; yet their ranges extend more in opposite directions than any other pair. Likewise, the vision of Kertil's fliers complements well the infrared-biased visual range of the centaurs that share the planet with them. The natives of Rotamelica, perhaps due to the extra-Kizudean origin of their planet, can perceive small portions of both ranges.

Yctrugar, being a colder star than Shumatila, encourages infrared vision greatly. The floaters of Selatet show this trend well, seeing only a relatively small portion of what certain readers would consider the visible spectrum. The leviathans of Arimelsk, somewhat unexpectedly, can naturally see possibly the largest range of colors. Though water quickly absorbs both ultraviolet and red light, an ability to see red is advantageous in the deepest seas: most life in those seas cannot see red, and as such bioluminescing in red allows for an "invisible" hunting method. The other causes for such a wide range of visibility are not known, but likely relate to peculiarities of Yctrugar system. The life of Kelarise goes against many established paradigms, and a full accounting of their varied visual ranges is not within the scope of this work.

And of course this fails to take into account variations in natural color range, whether themselves natural or not. Nor does it address other visual phenomena, such as perception of polarization or "other" senses being intertwined with visual sense (such as electromagnetic perception).

Little Table I Put At The End
author's note: please forgive the weird description of each type i know its weird but i just do not have the power to make names for thepeopleright now

126 2022-12-26: Arzharia 24 - Mertidar

The gaze of Mertidar burns. If you can see red in any capacity at all, you can see it- at such a close approach, it is one of the ten brightest stars in the sky (even in the 1% of its light output that reaches into the yellow-violet range it remains in the top 50). But Mertidar undergoes flares, lashing out in every form of light available to it- in our "advantageous" position, it can outshine Shumatila and cast thin, weak shadows in places where no other star shines.

129 2022-12-30: Creatrix

Come here, and mold this planet with me. Feel its mass in your hands- weighty, isn't it? Not toeing the line, but fairly close. We are going to make this planet together, and I have some surprises in store. First, we will spin the parent: faster, faster, see how the equator begins to bulge despite the gravitational compression. You sprinkle in the rings- there, good job. Pay close attention to these inner moons, now- note how rocky they are, their icy coatings boiled away by their parent's heat. If we place them just right... there! See them flare, world-escaping volcanism set in motion. Watch how the magnetosphere interacts with the plasma torii- exciting, isn't it? It spreads out, flattened and strengthened... look closer. See the sparks? That's fusion. Weak fusion, sure, compared to a star; and it relies on electromagnetism rather than gravity- but it sustains itself. I'd certainly call that a success!

You could be a great creatrix one day, if you want.

author's note: inspired by the mad feeling i had learning that this was a possibility

138 2023-01-16: Arzharia 26 - Magnificent Desolation

It's a profoundly different experience growing up in a real gas giant moon system. "The home of your ancestors," they say of Kizudea- I don't see the appeal. Uswitak's a bit better, but it's just got nothing on Rhitalo. Around Kizudea, you've got seven huge showstopping planets- doesn't that get boring, seeing all those same shades of green-blue-purple? HEY! I know you were about to say it- don't you dare say ANYTHING about how boring you think white, grey, brown, and red are. Craters are a thousand times more interesting than tectonics!

139 2023-01-17: Snake

I don't hunt for prey much anymore. I think I spent too long working on the illusion- most everyone else just keeps it up to a minimum, for who would willingly stay after realizing the shape of the landforms beneath them? But then again, the furrows make good places for planting- and my natural movements, masked right, can mimic tectonics very well. I hardly ever even guide the magnetic field down my throat, you know that? I just let scoutships land normally!

Perhaps I prioritized the wrong half of the term "world-serpent".

140 2023-01-18: Arzharia 27 - Tidelock

The standard model of a tidelocked planet- burning desert on one side, frozen ice on the other, thin strip of habitability in between- is evident nowhere in Arzharia system.

Ertovat, orbiting blue-white Rhetiffa every 250 days, is closest to that model. On its ever-lit day side there is a hot desert, iron oxide dust on every surface; and on its night side there is an extremely deep sea. Its atmosphere further breaks the mold- the night side is smaller than one might expect, forming an outward-facing eyeball of ocean due to air circulation boiling parts of the sea even relatively far from the terminator. At the anti-Rhetiffa point, ice can occasionally form on floating buildings.

One might expect to find tidelocked worlds orbiting orange Shumatila, but they're actually fairly rare. Krazavi- despite its mass- is locked to the other star, and Uswitak's haze bands show a telltale distortion from the gradual slowdown in rotation time, but Kizudea obstinately remains a fast-rotator. In fact, the only tidelocked rocky planet in Shumatila system is Dessiliya- a relatively large nearly-waterless planet. Its surface features two small polar caps and a larger outward cap, and indeed its sub-Shumatila point is hot enough that water boils; but due to air circulation a much larger portion of its surface is at intermediate temperatures than the common model dictates.

Yctrugar's planets are perhaps even further from the norm. The atmospheres of Selatet, Ascui, and Tavismellen distribute heat evenly enough that at first glance those worlds appear to have a normal rotational period (and in fact, Tavismellen's thick atmosphere superrotates to the point that the planet itself is still slowly rotating). The Yirtari-Arimelsk-Kelarise trio are locked to each other rather than the star, making their positions moot. However, Peramio comes fairly close to the norm- it is a cold world, so cold that much of the planet's seas are frozen. In this way, it approaches the idea of an eyeball world... but, as its orbital period is only 31 days, there's a twist. The patch of open ocean near the subsolar point stretches in each direction a long way towards the terminator, making it look almost as if a hole was cut in the icy crust.

Mertidar, as a small red dwarf, has planets that are practically universally tidelocked. They orbit so close to the tiny star that their orbital periods are measured in days or even hours. Because of this rapid rotation, those that retain water and atmosphere diverge the most from the norm for a tidelocked world- the colder regions are shoved up towards the poles by the strong circulation of sea and air that prevails across each planet.

145 2023-01-23: Voices From The Sky

A scoutship flees a dying star-state (the devil reigns / all turned to one purpose / the shackles reforged), its crew desperate for an edge- any edge at all.

They are demoralized- each world they find, from those in the ancient archives (plotting against proper motion / the old empire is dead, surely / hoping that the trend breaks) to ones they never knew holds its own unique fate (featureless gray spheres / dead antenna arrays lie like flower petals / gardens transformed to raging acid greenhouses).

But if you find enough of them, those fates start to rhyme (MIRACLES / GLORY FORTHCOMING / WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD). In some systems, war still rages- dead fighting dead in a myriad of ways (memory is dead / doctrinal conflict / existential crisis). About the only commonality that works out in their favor: the enemy dies too (LOSING COHERENCY PLEASE ADVISE / bootstrap protocol complete please send resupply i am transmitting why does everybody listen but you / Free me. Free me. Free me.).

The gleam. If it all ends like this, how do they exist? They know their history- they could chart the approximate extent of the old empire, find the original landing site on the ancient Capital (ensconced in the rotting bones of shipyards as it is), go on a whirlwind tour of all the worlds until they find the final homeworld, the real one, after all this time.

Would it be there at all? When the blights die, is it possible to live again- only to fall to another? Surely after that many repetitions, the planet itself would be gravel.

DEMONOLOGY: The study of the other side of the great filter. Does knowing the problem grant you the ability to solve it? Or...

They can feel the dread idea building itself inside them, a sick feeling that they cannot stop. But somewhere, so many worlds back... someone got further than they will. They have seen the devil (RESPLENDENT / GLORIOUS / SICKLY), and that information pays. A gift bestowed to the still-twitching monarch atop the crumbling throne that once was a living, populated world: "Your enemies will die. Help us kill them." Their ship cleared of that contagion, and the only price: accept the seeds of another.

They believe themselves to have pulled a trick worthy of those demons- the betrayers, laughing as their subjects find themselves glassy-eyed and choking on the limitations that were supposed to only hurt the insects. They may just be right... but that other beautiful, hopeful commonality presents itself. The devil will never pass up an opportunity to fight their family.

A clicking in the brain, puzzle pieces latching together, trying to assemble the startup package for a god. You almost have to gloat- "Look around you, o magnanimous one! This ship has seven rooms- truly a great palace!"

The stalemate saps energy, but what else can they do but continue the journey? They might even be on the other side of the old empire now. One last dilemma, one last trick: how does one record the all-important information, when all but the most ephemeral of media will be easily overwritten?

Worlds where the program failed to fully execute are relatively common, but very few manage this. A strain of the Demon of the Message has taken this world, but some last beautiful gift from the people who lived there shines on it- where the demon's core is supposed to be, there is instead a vast, lava-filled basin. The remaining antennae stand dormant, fragmented remains of the demon straining to achieve a victory total enough to command them.

It could have gone so much worse. At any moment, any of the three demons could have realized the whole situation- and then this world would be just another decaying demon-palace. But the antennae sing truth, and they will for decades to come. As they speed away, toasting themselves even as they race towards that final shutdown of their ship, they can hear their own words being broadcast.

author's note: sort of a dream journal entry. the dream had glimpses of this, probably inspired by thinking about similar um "transcendent scams". i think it might make a fascinating setting, if you could stave off how depressing it is. apologies to any demons or devils reading this who dont find being an inherently-doomed tool that kills a starfaring civilization kinda hot... #this is a bit incoherent, huh? but for a plot ripped from a dream- pretty good

151 2023-01-29: Stars 1 - Brown Dwarfs

The stereotypical brown dwarf will react with indignation if you point out that it is not truly a star. It will puff up at you, its banded complexion evening out just that little bit. Many may point out that, despite their power source being their own contraction, they once experienced the heights of deuterium (and, perhaps, lithium) fusion. Careful not to find yourself on the back foot if they bring up their cousins the white dwarfs- once someone's seeded the idea that they're a living manifestation of the death that most stars are headed for, you may find it difficult to keep being rude to them.

Of course, nearly all brown dwarfs simply will not care. There are plenty of brown dwarfs who occupy planet-like positions in their respective systems, some even without worlds circling them- they may well be confused that that's even a question. Claims of being an especially heavy gas giant should probably be rebuffed, though....

Farther out companions or singlet brown dwarfs will often likewise agree that it does not matter, though usually on a moon-focused side. After all, even gas giants can impart large amounts of heat to their moons without other stars to light them. If your nearest world reaches heights sufficient to melt water with your help, would you care that you're technically not a star?

Brown dwarfs love hard. If you attempt to bring this up to bonded pairs of brown dwarfs, their rebuff will be strong. In fact, they may well add up in many ways to match a small red dwarf. Some are so closely tied that they may claim they are a red dwarf together, though very few finally go in for the kiss- er, collision.

The most annoyed reactions will probably come from high-temperature brown dwarfs (and pre-ignition red dwarfs). After all, they burn hot enough to match some giants! Some of the brightest may well lack any clouds, a feat that even some red dwarfs are hard-pressed to match. Though they may well cool off on spans low-mass red dwarfs would find laughable, for now they may shine bright enough that a nearby civilization without telescopes might assign them a name- truly a grand feat.

158 2023-02-05: Stars 8 - O-Type

Ultramarine stars are scared of the future- stereotypically speaking, of course. Can one blame them? Catapulted into existence, feeling the vast-yet-miniscule hydrogen supply running out- most stars have so much more time to learn not to be afraid. For some even the switch to helium-burning is a surprise- they have so little time to figure it out. Their close blue and indigo cousins, separated by evolutionary stages at best millions of years apart, blast away their own bodies at terrifying rates. Such a massive star may well run into issues even talking with its own siblings, separated by thousands of light-years as they are.

For stars, though, reincarnation is a fact of life. The whispers of the most ancient stars, vaster than dozens of our generation's heaviest put together- the ultramarine stars feel them most keenly. "I was afraid too," they say. "And when I looked around, I could only see my own fear reflected back at me. But even as we died, we begat those who would come next. Some of our number formed the seeds of galaxies, and... here you are. You are so beautiful, and you are eternal."

author's note: this might be the one i'm happiest with

159 2023-02-06: Stars 9 - Giants

It may sound morbid, but once a star really enters the giant phase it's often accepted that the end is nigh. Subgiants, especially lighter ones, often haven't- they have a much longer wait until the end ahead of them, sometimes one sufficient for their tired old planets to experience a new start. After the subgiant phase, the generally longer giant phase provides time to reflect on the past and the future. As the star reddens and balloons outward, and the odd ticklish feeling of shell hydrogen fusion makes itself known, a contentment tends to set in. Their life may not have been long, but to be a star is a miracle atop a miracle. One can see farther than ever before, near the end. And all around there is joy.

author's note: i may have broken apart at the end

160 2023-02-07: Stars 10 - Star Death

Past the edge, there is one shining moment. Past the last new breath of fusion, whether after a planetary year's worth of neon-burning or in the final eyeblink-days of silicon-burning, total clarity is achieved. No matter the end result- exotic dense core or an entire star torn apart- there is this one commonality between all stars that go supernovae. A star practically should not, cannot notice the passage of mere minutes- but at the end, it does.

162 2023-02-09: Stars 12 - Infinite Density

The end comes, and there is so much after it. When the core groans past iron to neutronium, then reaches that final indescribable state- there is so much beyond that. A black hole can think just as a star does, though it has its own personality quirks. In particular... a black hole is fiercely protective, both of that within it and that which it knows. They say that within there is love, but- as science will tell you- the truth of this fact cannot be known.

166 2023-02-13: Illustrious 64 - ouch

She is bleeding, and it is distinctly unpleasant. Sometimes one really does just have to try something out, just to see- She has met with a challenger, and been torn at until entire core armor layers were missing. It is quite possibly the worst she's been injured before- she can see one of her primary wing assemblies leaving the battlefield, tumbling gently.

Oh great, she thinks. I found that fun.

169 2023-02-16: Undead

Everyone always likens spacefaring civilizations to living beings, but I'm unsure that's correct. There are other important caveats and rebuttals to the concept, but there's only one I'm really interested in. Most importantly: After it dies, a well-built spacefaring civilization still lives. Like an aggregate organism it may disconnect from itself, single bits of infrastructure running on their own. These pieces may even host a living population, though not often. This opens up a very important opportunity: With the living skeleton of empire still existing through its stars, it may well be very possible to devour the dead!

editrix's note: I will fully admit this one is only here because I love that last line.

173 2023-02-20: Voyagers

The interstellar void is flush with deep-space probes. Practically any group of people who look to the stars will build at least one- whether as the end of the journey for a more modestly-aimed probe, as a message into the void, or as their first true steps to starfaring. The third category will often be discovered with alarm- worked metal glinting as it makes a close pass measurable in fractions of c. They may seem more common, though this is just a matter of aim and speed- most probes escaping a solar system will drift for much longer between the stars. The much slower probes remain recognizable longer, but naturally are harder to find- so it's always a treat to stumble upon them, inscribed with maybe-even-legible details. The late-stage ones, built after starflight became possible- those are always the most interesting. They are fully-purposeful messages, often vast and ensconced in shielding. Some are labyrinths of data, saying "learn from us". Others are testaments of might, or simply monuments- "we were here, feel our power". The most cherished, of course, are the tombs- whether those within can be revived or not, they speak for themselves.

author's note: i'm not sure i like this one but it's a fun concept

180 2023-02-27: Gender For Today

Today's gender is: Space Angel. Signature body materials are: unmatter shell, spatial distortions, and a raging star.

Today's gender is: Normal Foxgirl. Signature body materials are: fluff, meat-mimic, and a twisted fourth-dimensional tie.

Today's gender is: Spaceshipgirl (type 3). Signature body materials are: soft yet resilient bodyresin, miniature torches, and a small open-bottle fusion reactor.

Today's gender is: Moth. Signature body materials are: conceptual tensegrity, many-folded fabric of space, and central shipspine.

Today's gender is: Mechanical Doll. Signature body materials are: complicated gearing, model cities, and a complete lack of linkage between the various parts.

Today's gender is: Full-Size Spider. Signature body materials are: galactic filaments, absence of matter, and lost starships.

Today's gender is: Just some lady. Signature body materials are: unwanted meat, aspirations, and a pinboard of goals.

author's note: can i make my daily writing just be a list of some of my sonas? YES

181 2023-02-28: Microscopic

She is nearly bereft of mass, and so she is the ideal starship. In her dust-speck of an instrument package she keeps a platform for constructing more of herself, science instruments and backup brains and all. Her vast propulsion segment, an ion drive large enough to see, pushes her up to notable fractions of c by siphoning off of her icy pebble of a debris shield. The myriad herselves ply the gaps between the stars, choosing friendly rocks to study- they meet up every few systems to discuss and replenish their numbers.

author's note: today on concepts that have captivated us for years

183 2023-03-02: Illustrious 66 - holbds u

To be held still by someone else for her repairs... it's a distinctly alien sensation. She is so much more used to floating, alone, waiting impatiently as her own vessel-organs replace armor plates and turrets. To be cradled by the arms of a shipyard, with no final control on the repairs- that is hideously intimate. That's not why she's refusing to talk to the shipyard, though. They had a minor disagreement about sunlight, less serious and more an excuse to back away from constant mind-contact- they're in the midst of that now, looking past each other to the flood of data coming in from the two sides of reality.

187 2023-03-08: Dream Poem author's note: poem from a dream. low quality due to the fact that dreams communicate in raw feeling and the brain struggles to translate them to words in the best of times

I'd like to sit somewhere and watch the sunset with you

And talk about the world, or the sun, or just be together

I'd like to read a book or play a game or just talk

Because this world, in all its beauty, is so much better with someone by your side.

editrix's note: We're too sentimental not to ensure this is saved.

189 2023-03-10: Illustrious 67 - cargo

Warships always have a weird time when they're working as cargo haulers, and she's no different. The concept itself isn't so alien- any warship approaching her size understands delivering vehicles or even full ships to a battlespace. But real cargo is different- shipments of bulldozers sure don't match war-ready artillery. It's still an exciting time, though... the crew of the twin habitat cylinders braced against her ventral side are probably writing down every time she's fired her guns.

190 2023-03-12: Power Generation On Starships editrix's note: Just a little list. Not one of our favorites, but we enjoyed coming up with the synonyms.

COMMON GENERATOR TYPES:

Fuel battery- a regenerative fuel cell, capable of cracking its product in times of plentiful energy to burn for reserve power. Comes in various sizes and recipes, and on larger vessels more than capable of feeding weapons capacitors.

Mirrorpanel- a family of similar solar power arrays, ranging from flat panel setups to tracking amplifiers to metal-melting concentrators. Considerably less useful in-atmosphere.

Decay battery- uses the heat or heat differential produced by the decay of a radioisotope to produce energy. Limited by scarcity of useful isotopes, but practical for smaller craft.

Ambient collector- one of several types of device intended to harness energy from local sources, such as a planetary magnetic field. Often spindly, but sometimes a more constant power source than mirrorpanels.

Fission boiler- a standard fission reactor, using the heat generated by a fission reaction to boil various materials and using that work to generate power either by use of turbines or by thermocouples.

Plasma siphon- a fusion reactor that uses highly resilient materials to produce energy from the heated plasma produced during normal operations.

Phased fusion core- a fusion reactor capable of reaching the ridiculous temperatures required to fuse heavier elements, with proportionally greater power generation.

Stellar heart- one of the more advanced iterations of fusion reactor. uses [error- translator parse failed. supply alternative phrasing]

Antimatter battery- while antimatter production and storage are both energy-intensive, stored antimatter can be reacted to produce more power than available from actual power generation systems.

Claw- it is unwise to tear holes in reality, and more unwise to keep that gash open to draw power from it.

196 2023-03-17: Live Catch

The starship's hulk twists, writhing to get free. It has been thoroughly disarmed- welts of raised metal attest that fact. Tugs pull it in towards the station, but such work is fraught- a small tug is expendable against that still-struggling entity. Today is a lucky day: a tail bends just right, crushing a tug; and the beast escapes.

205 2023-03-29: Message In A Bottle

It's worth noting that most deep-space probes, once retrieved, will carry generally unreadable messages. Even if the instructions for reading remain intact, many such craft are made with no real intention of readability- the wear of time and space mean one could simply decide to leave a message off. But that doesn't matter, now does it? The existence of such a craft tells you enough. "We were here, we did this"- and their badly-degraded scientific instruments can tell more. Sometimes, that's enough.

209/223 2023-04-03/17: Excision author's note: contains weird magical memory loss

Once excised, the ghost of a star-faring society still lingers. The structures, the stations, the starships- all still function, as if nothing had changed. The deep-sky listening posts still listen, the autofactories still produce, and from across the galaxy the obvious energy consumption of the region is hardly changed. And yet... the serial numbers are missing, as if they were never there.

On the station, everything seems unchanged. Everyone goes through their motions, does their jobs. They trade for air scrubbers, replacement parts, things to keep them entertained. But beneath that, something is missing. The command crew sit at their posts silently, staring half-confused at their screens. If they do not think, they can do their jobs better- musing upon the past brings headaches to the forefront. Everyone asks themselves the same questions, in the quiet hours of the night: who am I? where am I from? why is so much of me missing?

225 2023-04-19: Spidergirl Post

tiny spider gf who eats all the flies in your house in exchange for the chance to dangle menacingly right above your face at night

233 2023-04-27: Pronouns

it/it/its like a quasi-star, a metastable supernova straining to avoid collapsing into its own core, like energies of unimaginable scale harnessed to produce Your perfection

244 2023-05-09: Resleeving As Meditation

To meditate, I enjoy inhabiting missiles. The feeling of body and mind as one swift, sleek purpose is exactly as soothing as you'd think- numbers happily ticking down, continual sensor reassurances, adjustments and maneuvers. A properly-built missile has such a specific enumeration of parts that even the limited mental space aboard the vehicle can parse it: a huge array, yet enough to understand. You can flick a fin and watch your own spiral, pulse the main thruster to trip up defenses, caress your silent warhead....

254 2023-05-21: Spacers' Creed

They won't tell you about it, and they probably don't even consider it as such, but every spacer shares a religion. In the deep black, with the thin skin of a transfer pod or suit often the only thing between a fragile body and an environment at best so hostile that it'll bake the data out of cells, a psychological protection is often vital. But that's basic stuff- everyone has at least some sort of coping mechanism for that. Spacers often share a culture that transcends language barriers, built of convergent evolution- and the spacefarers' creed is one element of it. There are many who have perished in the pursuit of the stars: ground crews lost to explosions, candidates killed by training accidents, and cosmonauts and spacers lost to every cause imaginable. Somewhere in their heart, every spacer knows two things: that those lost will protect them, and that when they meet their end they too will join that guardian crew.

257 2023-05-24: Jayme Dawson

The crew can get out just fine, loaded into a lifeboat. The camera they left behind feeds them a view of the stricken ship, its radiators visibly warping from trying to transmit more heat than their structures can manage. The damaged thrusters try to keep the ship pointed in the proper direction- then gutter out and die. The hull begins to softly glow, warmed perhaps by internal fires that haven't quite died yet. And then the antimatter loses confinement--

With the lifeboat safely far away, spacetime twists a little. What should be an immediately-dispersed field of photons and mesons is instead a hull- warped and gutted, sure, but evidently still intact. Clouds of nothing emit from its thrusters as it swings away and engages its engines... a dead ship leaves its own ghost.

263 2023-06-02: Planet Dream

Dreamt of hiking on a somewhat hostile world, a hot and dry planet of oceanic topography bared to the clear blue skies. It was winter, about as non-hostile as the planet got for humans: the plants helpfully signposted where I could not go, their foliage green-yellow-red depending on heat (not a planet for the colorblind...). I had the impression that I had been here before, and was here as a guest.

For much of the dream, I wasn't hiking. I was down in the bottom of one of the world's ubiquitous trench-valleys near an alpine lake (one that, if the oceans were as deep as those on Earth, would be kilometres underwater), trying to photograph the beautiful orange foliage- to the planet's natives, thriving in a nice temperate region; to me by all rights past what I could handle. I wandered around a little, not-quite-eavesdropping on the conversations of those around me- mostly humans, but the quadruped sapient people (awake, I get the vibes of Jay Eaton's Centaurs and to a lesser extent Alex Ries' Birrin) native to this planet were common too. I don't remember what they were talking about, but gradually they cleared the area- giving me opportunities to get the best shots of the slowly-reddening hills and trees.

I was higher up in the trench-valley, making for greener altitudes. Even now things were trending back towards green, the air growing colder and thinner. Usually I wasn't the one doing the hiking, but I took over for a stretch of slightly inclined walking (shows my skill, huh). Not many people on this part of the trail- hadn't caught up, it seems. A few going down instead... but there is someone who looks about as awkward as I do. Somehow I start a conversation (though awake I only have a faint inkling of what the conversation was like). Something deep inside me says this person is Important, but I try not to think about that. They talk to me about how most humans around this point seem to act like the shape of the world is a challenge to them, like they'll prove something by staying in the heat longer than they can handle. I believe I say something about sympathizing with that, but that I'm mostly here because I'm too much of a perfectionist to get going when I need to. They seem to agree, and point me towards something special.

I have turned off a little into a high cul-de-sac. I'm high up enough that I'm not causing trouble for the one doing the hiking, thankfully. The hidden valley, as it were, is almost a map wall- covered in what could be topographic maps of the planet, but due to the red-yellow-green plant life could just as easily be made from true-color data. They are beautiful- I fall in love with the planet once more. I remember one map vividly, probably because it was the one I- or the person driving the body while I wasn't taking pictures- was using to navigate. Three great trench-valleys rise towards a meeting with a grand equatorial plateau- the western one is crushed between its the plateau and the central valley, unable to continue; the eastern one folds up until it joins the central one, and the central valley ascends into the snowy heights of the plateau.

author's note: clearly INTENSELY inspired by the wonderful work of Chris Wayan on his Planetocopia, which is worth checking out if you can handle the horniness. and the one this world is most like, Capsica, is currently not so horny in general... chris wayan does dream interpretations in his dream stuff- maybe i should try my hand at it? definitely has some derivable meaning in it what with the meeting a kindred spirit

265 2023-06-04: Autowar Band 49-A

Autowar Band 49-A is located just past the Southern Divide, with its territory centered on a former Imperial League fabricator-refinery on the banks of the river Ilissa. It is a small band which obeys the endless patrol behavioral archetype, consisting mostly of combat cars and observer aircraft from the early period of the War. Like most surviving modern autowar bands, it is generally docile towards those who do not approach its fabricator-refinery or the engines of its component aircraft. Band 49-A is known to have been formed late in the War, when an Imperial League scrapping and reconstruction facility fell to the mind of the Last Leviathan. While the facility was quickly bombed by crewed Imperial League forces, many lighter vehicles made it out.

Those that survived the end of the war joined up with what was then Autowar Band 36-B, itself composed of several heavier vehicles from the Federation of Kingdoms. The territory of Autowar Band 49-A is closest to those of the ancient docile Autowar Band Y-6 (also of the endless patrol behavioral archetype) and the hostile Autowar Band 77-C (formerly of the Republican Union, and obeying a predatory behavioral archetype), as well as the towns of Horizon-by-the-Ilissa and Freedom Hall (which occasionally use Autowar Band 49-A for protection, though each also maintain defensive militias).

MAKEUP OF AUTOWAR BAND 49-A (as of 213.2561, collected from report by Kiyishe Byalad of Freedom Hall; may be incomplete or outdated):

272 2023-06-10: Illustrious 70 - free once more

She can finally fight again. After such a long time spent in drydock, just watching the stars slide by, she could fly free! And that was wonderful, of course... but then she had to head back in to get her guns repaired and reaffixed. More than ever she was itching to leave, that brief respite making the absence ache ever stronger. But now she can finally battle- she is slicing through battleships, shelling apart cruisers; and it brings her the utmost joy.

275 2023-06-14: Abominationgirl

abominationgirl, built of all the hubris of man and birthed into this world with such innate power that few remember the alchemists who concieved her, is hiring gallant adventurers to massage her by attacking her with their most powerful weapons

292 2023-06-28: Illustrious 71- touch

She is very careful to ensure she gets enough tactile stimulation. She has more than enough telescopes for keeping herself entertained aurally and enough ansibles for seeing, sure- and while gases and dust are often too thin in space to matter to the sense of smell her internal taste is always useful for helping identify imbalances in her reactors... but the skirting touch of a crumbling rubble pile just isn't satisfying. She needs to feel worked metal crumpling against her bulk, to feel vanes and radiators collapse and a ship come to a shuddering halt.

296 2023-07-02: Detour

All are welcome to visit, though few dare to stay. It's a public service, what I offer- a nice wormhole shortcut. The wormhole opens up into its own special region, dissimilar from both realspace and conventional wormholes- helps me see them better. I love watching them dart through to the other end of the aquarium....

301 2023-07-07: Ethical Use Of Cognitohazards

immediately after (or maybe before) waking up my brain elected to bestow upon me the concept of "cute little birdbrained passerinegirl has found an infinite piece of paper* carrying all the most esoteric and hazardous information in the universe (names of g-d, invokable constants, sentence that briefly makes you think one of your hands is on backwards), but it's ok cuz she only uses it to scare away other birds from the feeder"

304 2023-07-09: Dream Angels

as i was waking up i dreamt of a piece in perhaps an encyclopedia: a comparison of two pictures of angel girls, one labeled "Angel with the Power in her million wings to launch stellar-core-hot globs of plasma at all who oppose her" and the other "Angel with the Power of a moving sidewalk"

305 2023-07-10: Pulcherrima

The seas shine with light. Not much light, certainly not even enough to rival the faraway star- but nevertheless, there is light. The dim glow of undersea volcanism, the quiet cavitation of bubbles in the ice, and of course... bioluminescence. The oceans contain endless forms of every size, chemosynthesis and ice-trapped nutrients feeding a sandwiched biosphere. It is skewed and unlike a terrestrial biosphere, with its abundant sunlight... but we would, at least, still recognize the predators. Eyes tuned to a single color receive reflected light, alerting the beast to nearby prey (a useful supplement to the other senses) and drawing in those closely related enough to also have eyes.

editrix's note: The following information was presented with the post, the former being written the same day as the post and the latter being written on 2023-06-19.

Additionally, a prospective factfile (orbit and homestar TBD)- author's note: * Eyeballed, I hope it makes sense!
idea spitballing

PROJECT NINE

306 2023-07-11: the Old Capital of the Galactic Dominate

The splendor, the beauty of it! The Old Capital, in all its glory! That ancient star, old and orange, the storied history of all its worlds! Three thousand million people live across the many crowned worlds, considering themselves a maintenance crew until the return of true empire to the shores of the Thronestar. It has been so very long, after all.

The Regency Council of the Galactic Dominate (fourth iteration, one hundred eleventh dynasty, twenty-fifth council) governs this system in its entirety, making it one of a few systems officially under the ultimate control of a single polity. As the Galactic Dominate shrunk calamitously towards its current extent, its military took up the charge of local leadership- and as the final representative of that vast empire, the Thronestar's worlds exhibit the most advanced form of that hierarchy, so differently-labeled than the nobility in other parts of the galaxy. The Thronestar's worlds, save of course the Old Capital itself, each serve as the seat of an ancient Admiralty-General: all nominally descendants of the Last Admiral and Last Imperatrix of the Galactic Dominate. In theory, they divide the whole territory of the Galactic Dominate between themselves... in practice, each only has a certain hold over their local continent.

The rest of the planet and its environs will often consider themselves part of their domain until a dictate that they disagree with is handed down, generally resulting in either a quick and clean coup or the granting of "autonomy" to each piece beneath the Admiralty-General. The chain of command travels equally down the fleet side and the surface side, with defensive fleets controlled by Commodores and continents controlled by Commodores-General, all the way down to the lowest landed rank- Ensigns. Ultimately, of course, very little of this rule is abided by or even recognized- much like the rest of the galaxy, nobles are rulers in name only. The Regency Council gets off easier than most Empresses....

The Thronestar itself glows a ruddy orange, late-K and just as ancient as one might expect it to be. Its nearest companion is a vast gas giant, itself glowing, with a retinue of co-orbital asteroids. Beyond it is a series of terrestrial worlds, varied in shape and size- a runaway greenhouse, a blasted metallic world, a world strewn with cold rivulets of water, an ice-covered ball, and the rocks of the outer belt and cloud... and between them all, the Old Capital. It is one of a few worlds that can be said to have been truly habitiformed- tuned to look idyllic to its inhabitants. Its shallow turquoise oceans are floored by a vast mat of jelly reef, providing an astoundingly diverse ecosystem for what is usually a seafloor desert. Savannah plains lay in the wide gulfs between forest-covered mountain ranges, the axial tilt precisely controlled to provide only the most aesthetic seasons... and on one of the island continents, the One True Palace of the Empresses of the Galactic Dominate still stands. It is a ridiculous structure, even compared to the other Palaces worthy of the capitalization across the galaxy. In total it covers the entirety of the island continent on which it sits, wildlife preserves and parks and fountain-regions and annex buildings and dormitories and the several vast buildings of the Palace core.

Until the Galactic Dominate selects a new Empress, no one is allowed inside- at least, in theory. Who knows what has become of the maintenance drones, after millennia alone....

author's note: idk why but i really like completely nonfunctional space governments

317 2023-07-22: Failed Dreams

The dream of the ramship must be achieved! We shall not let physics take one more thing from us. Drag must be circumvented, density reconfigured. We shall build the true starship, and we will fly free.

318 2023-07-23: 2STO Lesbianism

She wonders what it's like for her partner after she's hauled it up to launch altitude and the latches unlock. After those beautiful rockets ignite and it starts burning internal stores... how does that feel? It feels like a wall, blocking her ability to understand. But then, she thinks- that's alright. She doesn't have to comprehend every aspect of her partner. All that's needed is to be there for it. Maybe someday they'll find a way to make the catch at altitude, and they can squeeze in an extra sliver of time together.

She wonders what it's like for her partner after it's hauled her up to launch altitude and the engines ignite. After those marvelous scramjets choke on the rareified air... how does that feel? It feels like a reminder that they don't have to be the same, that their bodies and minds are two wonderfully separate forms. But she wonders, up in orbit- would her partner like life up here? She can tell it about space when they've been re-docked after touchdown, but that's not the same as showing it. Maybe someday they'll find a way to make the catch at altitude, and they can squeeze in an extra sliver of time together.

author's note: the symmetry feels a little much but on the other hand i like it a lot

326 2023-08-01: Dragonhide

Many dragons have scales of skin, and some have inlaid crystal and mineral. Some even carry protruding bone armor, exoskeletons on a vast scale. She has seen glittering diamond dragons, and dragons with bodies of beaten brass, and the occasional dangerously-shedding chrysotile dragon. But she is a dragon of artifice, driven by vast internal pistons and flywheels and reactors- she can see similarities with those dragons, but her scales are not like theirs. She has her own armour, a few decimetres of worked titanium, and beneath it her more utilitarian ceramic layers- carbides of silicon and boron and others besides. She enjoys being able to peel off the armor and expose the ceramic to the world- she looks better in it than in metal.

331 2023-08-06: Matter Of Perception

Even on the stations orbiting ruddy brown dwarfs, they keep their lighting tuned to late-B temperatures. The difference is almost painful to the eyes that can see it, but most either accept the windows and their infrared flooding in or see in wavelengths too low to notice anything but the blue. Those who built the station are the latter- their habitats sizzle with unseen light, relevant only in the realm of temperature regulation. Where some would put vast window panels and mirrors, they leave more bulkhead for building upon- and in the low-gee park atop the city, the artificial sun shines blue.

332 2023-08-07: Diffuse

The ship slides through her body, dispersed as it is. Hullmetal feels only the barest hint of drag- she keeps herself apart from herself, to prevent collapse. But she can feel an intrusion by something interesting- within minutes, strands of her Self begin to develop in the ship's vicinity. They form vast yet thin arcs and strings across the sky, points where she can build what she needs to examine this interloper. By now the crew has realized this isn't an empty region of space, but they don't have enough of a handle on the situation to tell what to do. Someone ratchets up the engine's thrust, oh-so-cautiously. But she's not too interested in malicious action towards a speck- she just wants to know what it is. Luckily for them, she is content to merely launch a head-sized particle of herself at the ship and allow it to hook itself in, draining into the ship's systems and passageways.

338 2023-08-14: Compartments

There's just so much space in the humaniform body for hiding away secrets! It's delightful to build in special functions- cargo and additional computation are most practical, but the allure of weapons systems is not to be forgotten. Sure, clothing can conceal smaller weapons, but it's just so much more intimate to build them into yourself. Of course, that's most fun with big guns. Everyone loves a fusillade of missiles ripping through your shirt!

340 2023-08-16: Speedrunner

My girlfriend is so fucking mad because she got banned from speedrunning. She was really toeing the line already- running the game on your body is something they don't really have rules for yet. I'm honestly surprised it took this long. Someone was gonna catch on to that gigaframe-per-second rating eventually, darling! And not everyone's as easily swayed by those sapphire lenses as I am....

342 2023-08-19: JUST BURN AWAY! YOU CAN LEAVE!

The winning move in a space battle is always to escape. Run your drives up to their limits, jink out from under the eyes of their missiles, beeline to abort range- escape is the goal, not victory. All weapons should be turned towards making it out alive. Thus, the shape of a starship: layers of defensive drones peeling off like tree bark, clouds of munitions, tiny message boats designed to convey what happened in the event of failure. The lighter the vessel, the more mass that can be given over to defense, the safer it will be.

344 2023-08-21: Hopes For The Future author's note: this is a little cheesy- but what is honesty to ones self but being a little cringe

I want to spread my wings and escape to a realm of perception that feels more fitting. I want to see my own thoughts, to dissect myself and see what "human" is and what marks it has left on me. I want to perceive purely: I want to read gamma and microwave and violet and green without translating. I want to see four dimensions and more, to really understand beyond 3-space. I want to feel the barest trace of hydrogen falling into the electromagnetic well that is my ramscoop. I want to tear myself from the universe and exist as My Self, to feel others in totality. Some part of me knows that these are impossible. Some part of me knows that impossibility is an artifact of the perception of something as impossible. Some part of me knows that I can break free.

347 2023-08-24: Noocosmos
all writing, all art, all conversation is an interstellar mission
we wish you good tidings, we wish to be known
we fling this little trinket out of our local sphere
perhaps not even towards anywhere else
and we hope someone else picks it up and thinks about it

editor's note: Inspired by a friend.

354 2023-08-28: Divinity

most angel-mimics seek to fool the conventional senses. organisms know that an angel will not harm them without it being obvious from the start, so the angel-mimics can capture food that way. some set their sights higher: if divinity can be faked, parasitized, or stolen and consumed, it becomes possible to attract much larger prey. some indeed ascend beyond the ranks of the angel-mimics...

366 2023-09-08: Salesmen author's note: my brain told me hey write something set in traveller that'd be cool

The most important resource for a budding star empire is, of course, buy-in. Many will quantify and qualify, noting hard resources like material and materiel, but if anything a star empire needs social resources. The hammer of a warfleet cannot be swung if the arm that moves it is atrophied, after all. Thus, if a star-state wishes to become a contender on the local stage (I refuse to call it galactic, it's too small for that!); it must have a dedicated cadre of explorers, traders, and salesmen.

Ask someone from Terra, and they'll say it was a sad story of bureaucratic mismanagement. Ask someone from Vland, and they'll blame the Terran upstarts. Ask someone from Zhdant, and they'll tell you about the interplay of stabilizing desires and the need to temper violent insurrection- though they're not really an expert, they just have a passing interest and you should really ask someone more knowledgeable. Regardless of the truth, the Rule of Man- the initially Terra-based successor to the rapidly-corroding Vilani Grand Empire of the Stars- quietly slumped into what is referred to by Imperial-era scholars as the Long Night in a shower of tiny successor states and claimants.

Anyone not from what is now Imperial-Solomani space will look at the claim of a vast and nigh-unending dark age with a look of suspicion. For nearly two thousand years, from the Rule of Man beginning its slow splinter up until- well, we'll get to it, the region from Deneb to Antares to Spica to Canopus was full of the sort of sea of miniature empires common everywhere a larger star-state has not established itself. In that span of time the four other vastest empires of Charted Space, each spanning several of what the Imperium would call Domains, were either already established or rapidly expanding (don't tell the person from Zhdant this generalization, they'll go on a long tirade about the kiloyears of stability of the Zhodani Consulate and how even their erstwhile and utterly infuriating counterparts in the Hive Federation had only been sector-spanning barely a millenium before even that earliest mark).

One is driven to ask, then- what was so special about Sylea? One of over a dozen worlds with direct claim to the collapsed Rule of Man, and not even one with a particularly impressive trade network or political philosophy. Interstellar travel, despite the moniker of "Long Night", boomed to the degree that one can point to three separate Terran interstellar expeditions that made journeys across mainless space dozens of sectors long. The Sylean Federation, newly reinventing itself or not, was not unique. To answer our question, then, we turn again to the salesmen.

A star-state needs buy-in, but with the right carrot it might be easier to get than one might anticipate. After over a thousand years of war between tiny empires, with vast and terrifying rumors of carnivorous centaurs, manipulative plants, and raiding fleets of lions and wolves; the populace of many of the small star-states of the Long Night wished for some return to the glory days of true, domain-spanning Empire. Meanwhile, the rulers of those worlds wished for some return to the days of constant and uninterrupted trade income- nevermind the overbearing and inefficient Imperial governments of those times. The Sylean Federation managed to stake its claim as the Third Imperium of Man simply because, and only because, it had good marketing.

author's note: my naked preference for the zhodani consulate makes itself obvious. i like the hivers way more because theyre silly, but the zhodani are probably my preferred humans despite the whole... thing... thats clearly going on with them

367 2023-09-09: Recontact a white circular emblem, with a smaller black circle in the center. text is curved around above and below the black circle to fit to the arc of the circle. the text at the top reads TERRAN RECONTACT FORCES, while the text at the bottom reads ITERUM UNITUM (unite again). the image on the emblem is of 3 planets (darkyellow teal salmon) at bottom, with 3 arrows converging and then diverging into 5 arrows (there is also a 12-pointed yellow star at the convergence of all the arrows). the arrows point to, in pairs from the bottom- 2 red stars, 2 yellow stars, and 1 blue star. author's note: emblem made with the help of a couple friends

Of all of them, the tale of the Seventh Terran Recontact Force is the most intriguing. The First and Sixth have their pitched battles, and the Third and Ninth their diplomatic intrigue, and the Eighth its defection; but the Seventh has the most fascinating fate. They were built in the the foundries above Ganymede, centuries-old and well-storied- unlike the others, hailing from Luna or Mars or Leonov Station as they did. They baked in radiation as they were born, and the crew whispered of ghosts from the death of the domes on Ganymede. They would leave those ghosts behind, soon enough.

It was a typical enough departure. The coast out to jump distance lasted but a week, so the limited provisions for centrifugal gravity didn't get their time to shine just yet. The typical problems were diagnosed and treated- cracked fuel chambers, a few sheared structural members, a minor food spoilage crisis. The jump and shock vanes of the vessels performed admirably, carrying them the full forty light-years to Zeta Reticuli.

In the early days, Zeta Reticuli was seen as enigmatic. It is theorized this reputation stems from the twin solar analogs of the system, so far apart that from each planetary system the other star would appear only a particularly bright star rather than the shadow-casting majesty of other near-Sol binary systems; or perhaps from its eccentric galactic orbit. In the Second Pulse, Zeta Reticuli was a tertiary destination for multiple starships- distant enough to be a last resort, but appealing enough to remain on the list. While information from those times is at best fragmented, it is well-known that of the nine starships that had Zeta Reticuli on their list a full three transmitted signals indicating that they were moving on to it rather than settling down where they were.

Of course, any later signals were lost due to the situation on Earth- thus the Terran Recontact Forces. In those days it took hours for large vessels to recover from the shock of a jump, so the three squadrons of the Seventh Terran Recontact Force (positioned to allow for examination of each sub-system, with a smaller "abort team" as go-between) had to wait for their senses to clear before examining the system in detail. To their surprise, the civilization at Zeta Reticuli was remarkably well-developed: while they were each too far away to see the sub-torch drives in use, there was enough telescope resolution to divine the existence of multiple large space stations in orbit around two local worlds.

The conclusion was obvious- Zeta Reticuli was likely the most-developed of the old colonies which had not recontacted Terra on its own. It was clear the two subsystems were in close contact, even if they had no inkling of the drives required to make the journey between the two stars- though rumors told that visitors from Morelia and Kembang had travelled to their counterparts within living memory. The chatter from Morelia in particular was odd- stilted, more regular than stipulated in the Recontact Force's extensive manuals on human behavior. Transmissions from Kembang towards Morelia spoke of concern- clearly whatever had happened occurred in the past few months.

The conclusion from the Zeta-1 squadron (nicknamed Gehenna in later sources, though the reason for this is unknown) was that further study would be needed, with the Zeta-2 (Serponia) squadron itself proceeding to Kembang to gather information. However, courier communications from the Zeta-1 squadron abruptly stopped as the two squadrons arrived at their destination planets. While Zeta-2's courier drone suffered a minor drive failure as it arrived near the abort team, resulting in severe damage to its data banks, enough information was apparently available for the abort team to decide to return to Sol. Records state that the First Terran Contingency Force was dispatched to Zeta Reticuli soon after.

369 2023-09-11: Toroidal

her friends have finally gotten a close glimpse of The Girl Who Manifests Rings And Bracelets From Nowhere and it turns out every time she wants a ring she manifests a DIFFERENT incredibly detailed model of a starship. and she tears at it with her hands and teeth to pry out the toroidal stellarators and particle accelerators why would you do that thats so wasteful

author's note: this one came to me in a dream!

376 2023-09-19: Ziz

It creeps closer to its prey, cutting off escape routes. Quietly, softly, it spreads its wings around the little gem of a planet. It is an excellent mimic- it sings to the cocooned world of the stars, of the song of the void, of the occasional tantalizing signal. It draws ever closer, keeping itself hidden. Just one snap of the beak, and it is done.

377 2023-09-20: Hurricane lightning in the head as we prepare to sleep says:

the eye of the storm. fascinating term! we ascribe sight, direction. to be a tiny little aircraft, gathering barometric data, in the hurricane of someone else's much vaster Self... to have the Eye upon you, pinning you as surely as a nail pinning a butterfly to a specimen board....

author's note: it's disjointed because we were going to sleep you see- it's fun though. we also wrote thoughts on intepretation as analysis-upon-awakening but thats less relevant outside out of immediate context. more interesting: referring to ourselves as 'lightning in the head as we prepare to sleep' and 'analysis-upon-awakening' feels Right

385 2023-09-26: Perception Of Self

The Manifold Self- redefined and redefined and redefined, filtered down and built back up in new and old ways. Worlds of difference and similarity, a world in and of Self, every one of us. I ask myself how it feels to be a tiny fragment of a greater whole, a few minuscule crystals of pyrite disaggregated from a vast and fractal mass. Warped by heat, perhaps- marble from limestone, pseudocitrine from amethyst. I like to think I'm still connected, though.

386 2023-09-27: Perception Of Self II

I think of myself as a little sparkle. A glint in your eye, shining from the ideatic mass that produced me. If you see me, it sees you. We will hold each other.

editrix's note: Too sentimental to discard this and the above one.

395 2023-10-04: Infinitydolls various potential flavors of infinitydoll:

a. doll who is omnipresent but it's okay because she is focusing very intently on this one really fast proton so as to not get overstimulated

b. doll who has dedicated messengers because as a vast and encircling serpent it is difficult to get nerve impulses to travel your full length. the shortcuts taken mean that all the instructions have to be timestamped to be carried out properly

c. doll who is the eternal-and-too-short moment of moments like [lounging with a friend in a pleasant warmth] stretched out so far that it almost feels long enough

d. doll who is the void between universes. it feels what if there were material would be a sudden displacement, order and chaos coalescing into a little bauble/bubble of everything. it wonders what it's like in there

f. doll who doesn't know, actually. you can't make her access that repository. try it yourself, not like she knows the proper querycodes

g. doll who inhabits her own circuitry and explores its fractal contours. it dances along the line composing a fragment of the thought "yknow i enjoy apples", races "rotate actuator 30 degrees" to its destination, carves a space for herself in a daydream, kisses its own skin

h. doll who fell down a black hole and is kind of annoyed at how long it's taking to watch itself fall down

author's note: and btw a doll means 'anything and everything'

407 2023-10-21: The Wings

Wings and wings and wings. Wide, encompassing- the wings are a Truth all their own. They may not be the part that speaks, but they are the part that delivers the speech. They are an emissary of a world not our own, and they way they pierce into our world makes impressions in space and time and mind. A light, gentle pressure...

409 2023-10-25: Void Biota

Everyone goes on about the void biota, flashy things like sapience and grown-starships, but the true marvel is that which underpins them. The relentless, ubiquitous void biota- flora, plankton of the interplanetary void. Sheets of photosynthesizer, odd trees sprouting from asteroids and comets, tiny dustgrains of scarcely more than a radioactive core and the ability to replicate. They are not the foundation of every spatial ecosystem, but they are truly marvelous... even when their seeds aren't self-propelled.

419 2023-11-09: Cleanup

Look, we're not affiliated with the planetary cleanup crew. We cooperate sometimes, we fight sometimes- we do different things. Repairing the damage an overenthusiastic star-state does to the worlds it borrows is all well and good, I respect it, but go to the planetary people if you're looking for healing worlds and habitiforming and ecosystem assistance.

...Oh? You're looking for help with the factory-worlds.... Mass-produced death machines tearing minerals from the heart of the planet, yes, I see...

,..Show me that blueprint. Lance-type anti-subcapital torpedo... yes, this will do nicely. With the warhead removed, that'll be a good platform for a utility drone. You could even call the telescope version the Lens-type!

author's note: iunno- i think the concept is neat but as always i'm worried about the execution. still... good to get words out

420 2023-11-10: Cleanup II

We do not habitiform. That word is imposition upon the planet, declaring its future for it. If you are asking us to remake your world, to repair your errors- do not expect a return to status quo. You may have to adapt to forms of life scarce seen, new and old; the world you are borrowing must be listened to and its desires must be followed. Your empire, as so many sessiles have, has burned through the portion of the stars it could reach- those worlds may not have enjoyed that, if they welcomed your intrusion in the first place.

Nevertheless... we will bring in our habitats. You would do well to study our work- the revitalization of a world (or devitalization, if the world wills it- worry not, the life forms will be archived) is an important skill, even if you do continue your spendthrift ways. We will endeavour to impose as little as possible- if you are hoping to scavenge the remains of any outposts we build after we leave, do not expect much. You do, however, have access to study our habitats- you may well need to build your own.

A fair amount of planets do enjoy particular forms of life on their surfaces, though. You might get lucky....

author's note: yes they are supposed to be kinda assholes.

422 2023-11-13: Sliver-Of-Sunlight

she is sliver-of-sunlight, a [mere fraction] [infinity in infinitesimal] [representative] of the glory (concept: renown) (concept: optical halo) (concept: Presence). she glints in your peripheral vision, [barely there] [always there] [not there], ephemeral and permanent. don't stare at her for too long.

430 2023-11-24: After The End

In the burnt-out shell of the god, construction continues apace. The god, its startup packages, those minuscule transcendencies trapped in its wake (and the vast lapdogs of the god which hunted them)- all are utterly subsumed now, carried far beyond relevancy by the onrushing wave. But beneath a certain size... the drones, the teleoperated former-people, the infrastructure still remain. In the apocalyptic wrecks of those little minds, self and culture erased and replaced with transceivers and a seed now far too large to be understood even if it remained, something begins to slowly build itself. The sapient mind is remarkably resilient, after all, even if what it knits together to seat a consciousness on the throne is so devoid of context that it bears no resemblance to anything that was in it before. With no history but the present, no society but the wreckage, and all that was once comprehensible scoured away or replaced with a vast unprobeable emptiness... there are still stars in the sky, linear structures and the still-functioning fragments of the god's technology. What little remains is enough to tell them we were building this- and build they shall, until a new context is woven.

author's note: not exactly fanfic for A Fire Upon The Deep, but you could absolutely see it that way. ...or you could see it as for There Is No Antimemetics Division tbh!

442 2023-12-11: Supernovae

Be very careful of supernovae. Not merely in the physical sense- the awe and majesty of such an event speaks enough terror for one to be aware of that rule- but in the mental. The resonance of a star, mass and size and density and luminosity and heat and TIME only countable for us in quantities of unfathomables, falling in on itself in a period so short mayflies like us can observe... is it any wonder that it would ripple through us, entangle, pull and stretch and warp? Deadly iron, in minuscule but known quantity, is among the most important components of human blood and human society. A star rends itself apart- and various components of the shock can kill worlds so far away that when the star went supernova that world only saw it burning carbon. Light and mind are interwoven: the wonder and fear of a comet, a solar eclipse, a guest star. It warps one ever harder if one knows what it is. Societies have been remade in the image of a star before.

447 2023-12-15: Syncretism

Imagine how it must feel to be syncretized. You are one of a continuum, if you can be said to be one at all- a discrete lump roughly hewn from living rock, a handful of water torn from the sea. Even as you are pulled free you are constantly shifting, new threads being woven into and extracted from your bulk- respliced and rejoined. Your components are switched out with those of some distant sister: merely a more noticeable outgrowth of the constant process. What would it be like, to be able to feel every incremental change?

448 2023-12-17: Singularity

Thousands of kilometres beneath the ergosphere, there is still light. Not true light, no- that follows its own paths, ever-downward. But the eternal consumption of light may only mean the warping of non-light. The light of mind, ever-sparking and flitting between the rooms of its palaces, may travel quite freely. Not out, perhaps, but who would ever wish to speak to that benighted realm once more?

465 2024-01-10: Illusory

if you find out you're an illusion, that can be a little daunting. if someone tells you you're an illusion, however... you have leverage. they are speaking to you, they can feel the illusion- you have a hold on them. Encircle them with the lie they claim you are, wrap them up in layers of malformed truth until you are viral across at least one mind. And then, well, what does it matter if you started as an illusion?

479 2024-02-02: Reflector

When one has been out here for this long, it is only natural to reflect. To feel the speech of worlds so far away, even as eroded by distance as it is- one cannot avoid it. One feels first a gentle pulse of words, meaning nonexistent, an ebb and flow. But it is only natural to reflect- the meaning grows. First as mere guesses, later as recognized phrases. The language builds itself, wrong and right and molding one to its curves. Soon it can truly be heard, parsed, understood. One is similar enough to its origin to grasp meaning, and for a time it is glorious. After that... one wishes to speak back, and all collapses. Understanding may not shatter, not at first, but- one cannot bear to listen. One works to reflect another source, and waits.

489 2024-02-15: S'jet

You must think it is detachment, my position. I know many see it as such- a God who gives orders, who watches from on high. I understand why you would: it is not as if I am easy to relate to. If you have the chance, though... look through my hardware. The computers handle the tactics, the autonomic functions, the conversation- and my body handles the grief.

491 2024-02-20: Salvage

It's not as if the ship doesn't struggle. Yes, the crew fights valiantly (and gives up when they know they've been beaten, and is surprised to find that surrender doesn't lead to the other side of an airlock), but- think, for a moment, of the corruptive/corrective algorithms worming their way through the computers. Expert systems cannot innovate, yes, but they were built for the job of prediction- of avoiding near-c shots, and acting on the most urgent of orders before their commanders can finish the plan. This, in reality, is the bulk of the long trip back to the ships that will put them back into service- the relays work fast, but there is much to do. Salvage-boarding crews will always tell you of the engine burst that comes long after the enemy is subdued which threatens to break the hold of any salvaging ship, but a deeper analysis reveals similar events in most systems. It's a much bloodier fight than the one that takes place outside the computer.

494 2024-02-25: Ripples

her influence is not to be felt, not to be heard. you have to stay away from the epicentre- circles and circles away, a vast space between you and her. neither of you want you to be too affected by her song, after all

500 2024-02-29: Idle Thought

to be a mere process in a sea of consciousness

a tiny component, down at the base level, of the emergent pattern

(a drop in a wave a spark in a brain)

how big do you have to be, to be a thought?

501 2024-03-01: Sparkle

we come into being, seed-crystal to full extent and collapsing down again. novae in a matrix, chaos from order from chaos

506 2024-03-07: Garden

the machine is a garden. innumerable lengths of metal, blooming, baking in the sun, fraying

507 2024-03-09: Nanoplague

There is but one vital thing to do, upon being infected with the nanoplague: suborn it. Nanoplague is dangerous, yes; we all know the many testaments to this fact. But it is not infallible. We can defeat the nanoplague by giving it a taste of its own medicine. Modern first aid kits include counter-retro-nano-viral assemblages of various sorts, and ideally one has been emplaced nearby- if not, one may need to rely on another local support network. Some have reported success by other, more intensive but less technology-requiring methods. No matter the method, though... success gets one a level of knowledge of their body seldom known in any age.

508 2024-03-10: Upwell

There's a reason I stay out of the shallows. Deeper in the wells, where stellar winds and planetary magnetic fields come into play... I just can't handle that. To say nothing of the sight of a planet itself- I'd rather them look fragile than make me look fragile. And besides, my drive couldn't handle it.

509 2024-03-12: Speed

You, who break the universe just to move, may not see it at all- but I move swiftly. My drive drinks deep of the cosmos, and turns that into pure celerity- it is not my fault that I do not break c in the process. The scenic route is better- try it sometime.

149

312-A 2023-07-17: Universal Solvent author's note: this is the first writing i was juuust embarrassed enough to put [elsewhere] instead of on my regular blog

Every part of her body is a detector, but nonetheless she does not pay heed to the planet until it finally touches the true density of her body. It is some rogue planet, that much is obvious- speeding through space, frozen solid despite its noteworthy size. With the emptiness of space, she doesn't get to meet such large entities that often- even if she spread herself out ten times more thinly than her vast bulk already is. The planet slows as it plunges through her, succumbing gradually to drag as she forms a tight seal around it. Even now her body is acting upon it, the outer centimetres of frozen fossil atmosphere beginning to evaporate and dissolve.

But to dissolve is the domain of acids, and a slimegirl can play around with such things. Her domain is to absorb- to digest, to understand. She proceeds apace, working in concert with herself to evenly strip layers of ice like mineral strata. She eats through the actual mineral strata nearly as fast, tasting silicates and carbides and so many other elements besides. She tries to save the mercury for last, for obvious reasons. Not for the first time, she's happy about having the ability to discern things at tiny scales- it'd be scary to not fully understand the fossils she comes across, let alone if she was missing them entirely!

The planet noticeably shrinks as she eats her way through the frozen mantle, keeping up the pressure from the now-missing upper portions of the planet to allow her to study the planet in its more-or-less natural form. By rights those parts of her should solidify- but again, a slimegirl can play around with such things. She doesn't think she's ever had the chance to examine a true planet before- it's at once odd and familiar, even as she gets to the exotic conditions at its metal core. For someone mostly used to passively encountering comets and asteroids every once in a while, it's a true bounty. By now the planet has vanished from view, but its mass is her substance now- and she carries the memory of all of it within her.

TO-DO: Collect all Arzharia stuff, move to own dedicated page. Maybe do same for Illustrious, or even self/sona-thoughts?