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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Traveller Tuesday: Idyll Hands

This is a rumor that I frightened my players with last game session....

The following is all rumor and hearsay, told by spacers in dive bars and by computer users on forums and newsgroups alike. It's about as believable as the theory that Lyme disease was bioengineered in the 1950s  at Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York by former Nazi Eric Traub to be a weapon against the Soviets during the Cold War, i.e. there's no way to substantiate any claims, but the data seems to line up.

The Ship

According to the legend, there is a ship that trawls the spacelanes between Regina and Sol, collecting and transmitting data. Known as the Idyll Hands, it is a 10,000 dton Aquemna-class Fuel Tanker that was bought by an eccentric information broker. Completely automated, the ship requires no crew and carries only the owner himself. Given the massive amounts of fuel it carries, it can perform four Jump-2s before needing to replenish. Between this long range, and its capability to perform frontier refueling, the Idyll Hands disappears for months between check-ins.

And check-in it does; when it makes an appearance, it is nearly always within a system that is an Xboat hub. Failing that, it chooses a high-tech, high-population system with a good commnet. There, it sends out an information-dense burst transmission -- in much the same way Xboats do when arriving in-system -- and then refuels and departs. It is assumed that during this time the Idyll Hands is downloading data, but it has yet to be confirmed.

One would think that an automated tanker like this would be easy prey for pirates, but one would be mistaken.  For one, it travels at 4 Gs of thrust. For two, its sheer size (10,000 dtons equates to 66 hull and structure points) means that a single pirate ship will be unable to bring it down for the same reason that a single harpoonist cannot bring down a whale, and pirate armadas are shockingly rare outside of Vargr space. For three, it has almost certainly been up-armored and armed, because if you're an eccentric that is automating a capital ship, why not pay more for survivability?

It is worth noting that the ship never docks. Never. It jumps into a system, transmits, and then either immediately leaves or it hangs around for a bit (possibly refueling) as it uploads, and then it leaves.

No one knows how it takes on supplies or gets repairs. The general theory is that since ships of this class come with a 20 ton launch, perhaps it is being sent to port for supplies. Given its size and non-existent crew, it could theoretically go for years without needing repairs if sufficient supplies were laid in.

Or possibly the Idyll Hands has a tortuga port somewhere.

Or perhaps everyone on board ship is dead, and it's run by an AI that thinks it's human.

The Owner

Immediately after the burst transmission, posts from someone known as True Tomas pop up. If you have ever been a member of a mailing list, forum or website that has been in existence for years, you know that there is invariably one member of the "old guard" present, who has seen all of the newbie questions so many times that he has the FAQ set to auto-reply and can shut down most flamewars by his very presence? That's True Tomas, and he's on nearly every one of them that is dedicated to what you might call "useful information".

Conspiracy theories, war nerdery, political forums (of all manner of orientation), and the various gray- and black-net sites of legalities ranging from "dubious" to "a lifetime in prison,", True Tomas trawls them all. He rarely posts, mostly just aggregating data... but as the rumor goes:  If you need to know something, and you have information of equal or greater value to exchange, and you say his name, he will contact you and arrange a trade.

Sure, there are plenty of people who say they've had dealings with True Tomas, but none of them have offered any proof of their dealings.  It's generally believed that any who have information worth trading also have the good sense to keep their mouths shut about what was traded, and that the big mouths are just posers.

Sometimes True Tomas will post. It is VERY rare, and it is usually happens when someone is impugning his reputation. It is a data slapdown, done with all the grace of an @nuke (think of how 4chan deals with people it doesn't like), so destroying that person's reputation (both online and real) such that they have to find another planet on which to live.

No one knows how True Tomas manages to get all of his information. (The storage and aggregation isn't an issue -- a stock Aquemna has a Core/4 computer with a 50 Rating, more than enough to hold yottabytes of data.) Rumor has it that True Tomas owner is an ex-Scout who somehow managed to retain his access codes to their information network, but that rumor is... troubling... because this particular ship has been in existence for over one hundred years. 

And there are records that True Tomas has been around even longer...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #9

I'm guest host on this week's Gun Blog Variety Cast because WizardPC's wife had a baby! Congrats, Wizard family!

So naturally, this means that I bring up the topic of cute little cartoon ponies... and I get it on record that Sean Sorrentino approves of "Epic Wub Time."   ;)

Don't worry, I also do my usual Blue Collar Prepping segment as well.

You can listen to the podcast here, and the show notes may be found here.

Sunday, Pony Sunday: the Pony Cast

Yeah, I haven't done one of these in a while. I decided to get back into the habit.

Friday, October 17, 2014

SHTFriday: Apocabox Unboxing #2

Go over to Blue Collar Prepping and view my second ever YouTube video. Hopefully I've learned a few things and corrected some mistakes.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Doctor Who: Flappers in Space

Once you see spoilers, you have 66 seconds to live.

     Well, after last week's excursion into bad science, the series is back on track (oh, ho, ho) with nothing less than a classic Universal Horror monster on a train flying through space. I'm going to jump right in, because the script does the science a great service in this episode. Little throwaway lines here and there to explain things. How does a train fly through space? Well, as the Doctor mentioned, it's a little bit wider, which could easily account for propulsion, atmospheric systems, insulation, and other various and sundry things that would be required for safe space-flight. The mummy's tech is fairly well-established in science fiction as well, and was in fact handled better here than even on the venerated Star Trek: The Next Generation.

     If you'll cast your mind back some decades now (yikes, it has been a while), Star Trek: The Next Generation had an episode called "The Next Phase". In this episode, the Enterprise comes across a crippled Romulan ship that had been experimenting with a phase-cloak. Geordi and Ro Laren beam back after attempting to assist, but are lost mid-transport. Turns out they're knocked out of phase with the Enterprise, and spend the rest of the episode being chased around the ship by an angry phased Romulan. They can run through walls, but don't fall through floors. Any oxygen transported into phase with them would have long since been exhausted. Never mind how the angry phased Romulan is taken out by being pushed through a bulkhead into space.

     But here, the mummy is initiating a phase transport that's only slightly out of phase, say somewhere between the dimensional phase its using and the one we're in, so that the victim is still visible and (maybe) tangible, explaining the victim's blurry vision. The victim is only alive for 66 seconds after being taken out of phase, so hardly time to use up any phased oxygen and suffocate. The mummy doesn't need to worry about oxygen, as it's life-support tech is already fully capable of keeping dead and rotting flesh mobile and animated, and it's clearly completely out of phase, made obvious by the shiveringly gruesome sight of its hand reaching right through the Doctor's head. All in all, this is some refreshingly solid science fiction premise, especially after Kill the Moon's giant space butterfly hatching from the moon and laying a new moon immediately after birth. 

That woman's name is Foxes, and she's appearing courtesy the BBC

     Story-wise, I like where this episode is going, too. It's setting up some real character conflict for Clara, who (BTW, can she rock a flapper's gear or what? A far cry from her normally conservative wardrobe) has been experiencing more character growth in half a season than past companions have in 2 year's time. She clearly has an addictive personality and, despite her anger with the Doctor's actions previously, she can't bring herself to quit him. To quit her adventures. Even after she realizes that this wasn't just a peaceful “final trip” she gets mad for a moment, then outright lies to him about her and Danny's discussion before eagerly begging for another hit.

     And I can't help but feel that, had he not had that row with Danny a few episodes back, The Doctor might well not have made it out of this one alive. When he realizes that the mummy is a soldier, it marks the first time he treats a soldier with respect in this series. Surrendering, then relieving him of his duties. And finally, the touching moment at the end when he comes clean. He's a man who makes hard decisions, and has to live with the memories of those hard decisions. Which is why he so rarely looks back, because if he did, he'd see so much regret and pain that he may not ever look forward again. Capaldi really carried this scene, proving himself adept at handling the quiet moments as well as the manic, shouty ones we've grown quickly to love him for.

     Please tell me I'm not the only one that caught the First Doctor's tie, the Jelly Babies in the cigarette case, and the “Are you my mummy?”

Next week: I swear, I have that tiny TARDIS sitting on my shelf.

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