July 2013


Interstellar Statute 24 § 38 prohibited police actions against “sovereign worlds” without the consent of the Council. Seemed simple enough, but as always the devil lies in the details.

As it happens, Interstellar Statute 977 § 119 set a minimum size limit for sovereign worlds. Because grandfathering was strictly prohibited by IS 48 § 12, the lower limit had to be small enough to recognize tiny worlds that had already been settles and recognized as sovereign like Charon and Ceres.

Pirates and ne’er-do-wells quickly seized on the loophole implicit in the spaghetti of case law: they located planetoids just above the legal minimum size, fitted them with engines, and operated them as pirate havens protected as “sovereign worlds.”

That’s how Quaoar Station came to be, and why pilots like Chuck were always sure to triple-lock their spacecraft when they docked.

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Sit tight, child, and let me tell you the tale of the Masked Queen.

No one could say where she came from, what noble family or poor line of farmers, but whispers of a female warrior of peerless skill and outstanding fairness spread in the Rosca Woods long ago. Long oppressed by the cruel and arbitrary kings of the great riverine city of Seven Isles, the people of the Woods flocked to her banner. After the defeat of the King’s men at the terrible Battle of the Fords, she entered the city in triumph and was pronounced its leader by acclimation.

A curious turn of events, as none had ever seen her face. Nor did any know her name.

The new queen of the Seven Isles was always berobed, and always wore a mask. In her early days it had been wooden, but the only luxuries that she allowed herself in latter days were masks of ornate silver and robes of fine silk. She would choose different masks for different occasions, to express pleasure or displeasure, as her words were always perfectly free of inflection.

The Masked Queen, as she became known due to her refusal to give her true name, was a fair, just, and equitable monarch. By the time of her passing, the Seven Isles had expanded its territory a hundredfold; an elected Duma ran most affairs, and the Queen’s Code regulated the formerly chaotic and despotic lands over which she ruled.

Upon her passing, the Duma removed the Queen’s mask and robes, curious to see at last the form of she who had been their guide for so long. To their great and lasting surprise, there was no face at all beneath the mask, and no body beneath the robes.

There was, instead, only a tangle of brambly branches, grown weak and wormy with age.

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“Okay, I step forward into the municipal dump, keeping an eye out for the assassination contract,” said Arimo Warraven.

“Roll a d19 to see if you notice anything,” said the game master, Kotak Bravequest.

Arimo let his d19, hand-carved from dragonbone, fall to the table, where it rattled the miniatures and the piles of oily rags representing the dump. “2. Gods and their pasty asses!”

“You see nothing amiss,” said Kotak, grinning. “Sirne?”

Sirne Strikerider tapped his brow thoughtfully. “I throw a water balloon into the dump using my slingshot.”

“Okay, give me a d19 to see if you hit anything, and a d7 to see how much splash damage it does if it hits anything.”

“Is there anything to hit?” asked Sirne, his dove-white brows knitted in concern as he rolled. “17 and 1.”

“You’ll know soon enough.” Kotak leaned back in his chair, hand-hewn by his grandfather from the God-Tree of Elddir. “That’s a miss. Your water balloon doesn’t hit anything…but the splash alerts the garbage dragon that was hiding in the mound of refuse. It attacks with its sewer-gas breath! Roll to save against odor-based attacks.”

“Did you ever stop to think that, with all the garbage dragon and file cabinet kobald and gas station goblin attacks, the people in the Papers & Paychecks would never have survived long enough to get back to their apartments, much less create a civilization that’s hundreds of years ahead of our own?” said Arimo.

“It would probably be a lot like real life, with 90% of what they do being serf-work or studying for Scholam Magicum exams,” added Sirne.

“And that would be boring as hell, wouldn’t it?” Kotak replied. “Just for that, the sound of the dragon attracts two garbage Army Rangers from their patrol. Roll initiative.”

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The following is a selection of “notable quotes” deposited by a spambot. They appear to have been translated from English to Chinese English, and they are delicious.

    People who help make peaceful emerging trend impossible is likely to make violent trend expected.
    John Fahrenheit Kennedy

John Fahrenheit Kennedy: the temperature at which Marilyn Monroe burns.

    A person’s someone, regardless of the way tiny.
    Dr. Seuss

Can’t argue with that.

    Resist significantly. Observe minors.
    Walt Whitman

Okay, that’s just a little creepy there, Walt.

    Thou shalt dilemma everything; there’s nothing preceding difficult task.
    The minute Commandment involving the almighty Galen

I had no idea that the physician Galen (129-216 AD) was worshiped as a god, let alone that he issued commandments!

    University boards these days get on them selves to increase his or her assignment well further than knowledge.
    John Gary Roberts, Gigantic Court docket

Don’t mess with Justice Roberts or his Gigantic Court. They will crush you.

    Nine Mine Citadel : Consequently all around getting neat, it can be alarming.
    Coalition In Opposition to Institutionalized Little One Misuse

Far be it for me to disagree with the Council and be accused of supporting institutionalized little one misuse, but I have no idea what the Nine Mine Citadel is. Maybe it’s a secret nexus for underground, and institutionalized, little one misuse?

    In the modern society in which it is a moral offense for being totally different from ones neighbors your merely avoid is never to let these learn.
    Robert Some Sort of Heinlein

I’m not sure what Robert was onto here, but I do agree that he was some sort of Heinlein.

    Practically nothing to all the entire world is a lot more hazardous than honest lack of knowledge along with careful silliness.
    Dr. Martin Luther Master, Jr.

Cold, calculated, careful silliness is a thousand times more hazardous than the ordinary kind, for sure.

    The man whom says very little is best knowledgeable compared to guy which flows only newspaper publishers.
    Thomas Jefferson

Yeah, it seems like newspapers publishers aren’t flowing much of anywhere these days, unless you count bankruptcy court.

    Of bad men spiritual bad men include the toughest.
    C. Utah Lewis, This Sterling Silver Lounge Chair

Wasn’t This Sterling Silver Lounge Chair that version of The Silver Chair modernized for the fast-paced world of the 1970s?

    Meaningful indignation: envy which has a halo.
    H. G. Water Wells

Not to be confused with his cousin H. G. Oil Wells.

    Folks really should not be scared of their authorities. Governments needs to be worried of these folks.
    V Regarding Vendetta

It’s like a folksy take on this story set in Maybury with Atticus Finch as V.

    In no way credit to help malice that will which may be sufficiently discussed by means of battiness.
    Hanlon’s Electric Shaver

Pretty sagacious for a piece of personal grooming equipment.

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The teacher announced his arrival by slamming the door hard enough to rattle Sirrap Community College’s exterior windows. Thirtysomthing and well-built, he sported thick black eyeglasses and an ill-fitting tweed suit coat with a Starfleet arrowhead as a tie tack. With the chap air conditioning struggling–and failing–to hold back the bitter South Carolina July raging outside, sweat beaded visibly on his dark features.

“Greetings. this is ENGL 127: Introduction to Creative Writing, and I am your instructor.” The pose he struck, legs spread and arms clasped behind his back, was textbook military. “Some of your husbands or fathers may know me as Drill Sergeant Poindexter from the base just up the road. They probably do not know me as a published author, perhaps because all my writing has been published under various pseudonyms! But if any of you have ever read The Girdle of Mistvale, credited to Swain Longbottom, or The Asteroids of Megas-Tu, credited to Jackson Roykirk, you’ve read me.”

There was some murmuring among the students but no reply.

“Repeat after me: “This is my pen. There are many like it, but this one is mine.”

Dutifully, fearfully, the students squeaked out the phrase.

“My pen, without me, is useless. Without my pen, I am useless. I must guide my pen true. I must write straighter than my enemy who is trying to critique me!”

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The message of the Servant was thus:

Let it be known that you can never fathom the motivations of the Godhead any more than the insects beneath your feet may fathom your own. It will manipulate and intervene in your affairs as it wills, whether for good or ill by your standards, all in service of goals that will never be aught but inscrutable. It considers itself to be acting in the best interests of all, but you well know that the farmer who drowns an anthill has the same opinion of his actions.

Unlike the ant, though, you are presented with a choice: live with the Godhead’s intervention and see your lives and world shaped according to its plan, or refuse its intervention. To refuse is to forever foreswear the Godhead’s intervention; you will not suffer its wrath but neither may you invoke its aid.

This choice is offered to you freely in trust to your peoples. You may consider it for one year. And, should you regret it, the choice will be offered anew a thousand years hence.

No chronicle or history records the decision of the Elders of old, whether they forsook the Godhead or acquiesced. But the thousand-year deadline approaches, and the question must again be asked, and answered.

And this riddle has defied the great sages of this time, or driven them mad with speculation and doubt. If the sages of old spurned the Godhead, leading to the disasters of the past thousand years, should its aid be invoked? Or, perhaps, were the horrors of those years the work of a divine hand, which should therefore be justly cast off?

No one knows; indeed, no one can know. And the hour of decision draws near.

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“I’m worried that Mitzy will keep growing,” said Maybelle-Sue. “She is already near the hard upper limit of 5’4″ for legacy sisters of Lambda Qoppa Delta.”

“Of course,” replied Yvette-Olivia. “That’s always the nightmare.

“And beyond that, if she gets much taller there’s a chance she could do…” Maybelle-Sue suppressed a shudder. “Sports. Sports other than cheerleading.”

“I had the same worry with Maddy.”

“But she is a perfect 5’3″!” cried Maybelle-Sue. “And your husband is 6’5″! What’s your secret?”

“Why, Stop-Gro™, of course!” Yvette-Olivia laughed.

“Stop-Gro™?”

“Most certainly. Mix a little in with everyday meals when Mitzy is within an inch of her ideal height, and it’ll stop her dead! All the Lamb Qops use it…didn’t you ever wonder why they were all exactly the same height despite a wide range of backgrounds and body types?” Yvette-Olivia handed Maybelle-Sue a tube of the stuff. “Hair can be dyed, lipo can be suctioned, rhino can by plasty-ed, but only Stop-Gro™ will get you that all-important perfect height, just above midget and well short of giraffe.”

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