Sunday, March 21, 2021



The People's military planners do not, as a rule, view space (and especially space beyond Low Home Orbit) as a very important theater.  Second-generation manned reconnaissance stations are useful but hardly worth expending enormous resources to protect.  To some extent, this is because most decisionmakers have embraced a singularly bleak approach to nuclear deterrence.  In the face of a catastrophic threat, a defending polity will detonate dozens nuclear bombs buried on the leeward side of mountains.  With yields between 50 and 100 megatons, these bombs would be sufficient to collapse Home's fragile biosphere and starve the entire population.

This grim reality has freed up many resources previously devoted to maintaining a robust ballistic missile-based nuclear deterrent for exploration efforts.  Incidentally, colonizing the other (much nicer) inhabited worlds provides for continuation-of-government (and civilization) in the event of an apocalyptic nuclear war on Home.  

Military activities in space provide a safe way for polities to posture and bluster without unduly threatening their rivals.  Among cultures with rich traditions of solving problems with low(er)-stakes ritual violence, this is an appealing state of affairs.  ISRU platforms and transport ships are expensive targets, and while nobody has pulled the trigger yet, the ability to threaten surface colonies, space infrastructure, and the posturing leading up to an attack are regarded as an important tool.  

Increasingly critical is the ability to carry a nuclear deterrent to Emerald and Sapphire.  While the People's small colonies on those worlds are not big enough yet, allowing continuation-of-government/culture on those worlds is unacceptable.  In the meantime, the People's colonies are critical prestige projects that justify some measure of protection.

All told, there are only nine vessels that can fairly be regarded as dedicated "warships" split between several major polities.  These ships are all broadly similar in performance.  Each mounts a handful of autocannons and carries between 6 and 16 nuclear missiles (this is surplus ordinance shipped into orbit).  These ships are generally on patrol or based on or near one of the Eye's smaller bodies but they steer well-clear of LHO to avoid a sucker punch from a surface-launched antisatellite weapon.

As yet, there has not been a shooting war and the economic boom and optimistic mood triggered by major colonization efforts has reinvigorated cultures exhausted from a decades-long period of brutal conventional warfare and healed some old wounds.   


e pi'i Gbi -- the Shining Basin Polity's first warship, named for the 
first Person to set foot on Sapphire shortly before the Cataclysm.   

Shining Basin Polity (SBP): 2 dedicated warships, armed transport, one armed research vessel

Great River Polity (GRP): 2 dedicated warships, one armed research vessel

Western Highlands Coalition (WHC): 1 dedicated warship

Equatorial Valley Polity (EVP): 3 dedicated warships, 2 armed transports

Southern Alliance (SA):  1 dedicated warship, 2 converted HLV boosters, one armed research vessel


Saturday, March 13, 2021




In a shocking twist, I am writing non-MoSh content on my blog! Cargo Cults is a hard-SF setting/worldbuilding exercise in a setting that's perfectly suited for low-tech space exploration.  Obviously, coming from somebody who's mostly writing for TTRPGs and doing art, this is a setting that's at least somewhat 'playable' as an RPG (though that is not the focus) and that produces interesting art.  


Cargo Cults is set in the orbit of a large gas giant called The Eye orbiting in the habitable zone of an F-class star.  The original human settlers terraformed three of the moons in the system before regressing into primitivism.  


The smallest inhabited moon in the system, with an orbital period of about 200 hours.  Wracked by tidal forces and covered in towering mountain ranges, Home has a surface gravity of about .5g and a thin oxygen atmosphere with a considerable quantity of trace volcanic gasses and CO2.  Originally settled by humans engineered to survive on a paraterraformed Mars, the lowlands would be marginally habitable for a baseline human (with supplemental oxygen).  Due to long days and nights and aridity, Home experiences 40-degree C temperature swings between noon and midnight. The midlands are demanding even for Homo Sapiens Martinensis, and the highlands require a full pressure suit.  Historically, Home's inhabitants were confined to a single large basin in the Eyeward hemisphere by impassible mountains but technological developments have enabled Home's inhabitants to settle other isolated lowland areas.

The People represent a significant departure from ordinary humanity.  They are covered in thick white body hair and have blue-black skin (coloration is due to a combination of melanin and various transgenic plant-derived pigments such as athrocyanin).  They are well suited to tenuous atmospheres and extreme swings in temperature and maintain a relatively constant bone density in between 1g and microgravity.  Extremely low sex dimorphism and appalling infant mortality rates into the Early Modern period; the original Martian settlers' genetic tweaks assumed that they would have access to modern medicine.  

The People are a grim bunch defined by a uniquely demanding environment.  The presence of two beautiful blue-green worlds in the night sky has inspired the belief in many cultures that they are a cursed or a damned people.  Funerary cannibalism is common in Southwestern cultures and involuntary human sacrifice persisted in some cultures into the Urbanization Period (voluntary sacrifice persists into the present day).

Urbanization Period -- The People developed crude pressure suits along with gunpowder and the printing press.  The early modern period was characterized by small-scale mountaineering expeditions, which discovered several other habitable basins.  Due to the desperate scarcity of fuel and lack of pack animals, early modern polities developed rocket artillery instead of cannons.  The early modern period was characterized by a protracted conflict between several southwestern super-polities and the development of major land improvement projects such as dams and irrigation megaprojects that made large scale urbanization viable.  Most southern cultures were also shaped by clashes between large rural landowner/hunters and urban polities. 

Early Modernity -- Characterized by the development of electricity and the large-scale use of volcanic natural gas in industry and near-constant.  Electric railroads enabled polities to mobilize armies without marching them overland and large-scale military conflicts disrupted smaller-scale ritualized warfare that persisted well into the Urbanization Period.  The tail end of this era was characterized by the development of early liquid-fueled ballistic missiles, semiautomatic firearms, and the radio.  The use of ballistic missiles The first space exploration efforts were launched at the end of this era.  These missions used clusters of ballistic missiles to carry a capsule and a photographer into orbit.  Pilot recovery was at best an even chance but these missions made a compelling case for space travel and validated many critical technologies.  

Cataclysm -- First manned expeditions to other moons begin.  The first missions were one-way trips to Sapphire with a satellite in orbit to enable explorers to relay their messages to Home.  Success rates are low but some explorers survived and made contact with other humans.  Emerald remained out of reach.  Early analog computers developed and liquid fueled ballistic missiles carrying large chemical and conventional warheads are a mature technology.  Major efforts to colonize isolated basins in the anti-Eyeward hemisphere begin to bear fruit thanks to massive high-altitude rail projects.  The first airplanes developed (almost 70 years after the first Person in space).  Short term orbital reconnaissance stations.  Persistent tensions in the Southwest come to a head in three major wars that reduce the global population by almost 30%.  Destruction of major railroad, power, and irrigation infrastructure in missile attacks shifts balance of power to the anti-Eyeward colonies and natural-gas rich Southeastern polities.  Major social reforms but a major technological and economic backslide as a result of famine and small-scale conflicts.   

Present Day -- Major religious reforms unify Southwestern polities for the first time in nearly 300 years but precipitate conflict with ethnic minorities and client states.  Southwestern extended adoptive family structures spread globally into legal analogs to corporations but the balance of power continues to shift East and anti-Eyeward.  Rural elites and low-level ritual violence experience a resurgence but the first nuclear weapons dramatically reduce conflict between large polities and usher in an era of relative peace.  Rebuilt infrastructure and mature electrical generation herald in an age of optimism and relative plenty, at least in larger polities.  First microprocessors developed.  Major space exploration efforts based on the findings of the first explorers of Sapphire begin again after a decades-long hiatus and most major polities maintain permanent settlements on Sapphire and Emerald supplied by nuclear thermal shuttles and ISRU outposts harvesting propellant from minor bodies.  Those non-spacefaring societies begin to experience major social disruption as a result of the People's imported culture and technology.  Conflicts over these two remarkably rich biospheres and their inhabitants simmers but has not boiled over.  Most large states and some powerful non-state actors manage multiple yearly RHLV launches.  The largest polities manage 5-10 RHLV launches per year, enough to support robust orbital ISRU infrastructure, several large stations and OTVs, and a small defensive military presence. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021


 The 13 item challenge again but for the two aliens that are likely to carry enough stuff with them to do this challenge.  


  1. Utility footblade: strapped to the front left foot.  Wind mostly uses it to to dig for arthropods and process tubers but could kill and maim a human if used in anger.  
  2. Rattle charm necklace; seed pods filled with irregularly-sized balls of metal and wood; creates a distinct and appealing rattling sound as Wind walks and denotes that they are a merchant.  
  3. Devotional tongue-stick: grooved bumps and notches carved into it store written information.  Human xenoanthropolgists initially mistook these for dental implements.  This one contains Wind's favorite religious parable.
  4. Grooming pin; used to reach where the neck can't quite.  Like most luxury tools, it is made of lacquered wood and carved to create interesting tongue sensations.  Being blind, the White Feathered Species are not usually interested in precious metals and shiny things except for their ductility.
  5. Leg satchel; made of rugged local plant fiber and fastened with a patch of velcro that was (at some point) purchased from the humans.  Wind loves pulling the patch open and closed in idle moments.  The pouch contains fiat currency from a local merchant polity (backed by steel), several dissolvable beads of narcotic sap, and a small tongue knife.
  6. "Saddlebags;" made from the hide of a large grazer and very well cured.  Contains. among other things, various trade goods, flint and steel, a used human matchbook, a manual chainsaw (requires two people to use), a fluffy bedroll, jars of pickled arthropods, a bag of dried grain, a copper cooking pot, and a foldable wooden chin rest for sleeping.  
  7. Tape player and a large unopened package of batteries; bought from human traders.  Wind has a few tapes of bizarre human music but they have convinced some of their traveling companions over the years to sing into the the tape recorder. Wind has a respectable bootlegged collection of music from all over the World.  These tapes would be a priceless anthropological resource to human researchers.
  8. Scarf; a human knit this for Wind out of real animal hair (which is apparently quite hard for humans to come by) and gave it as a gift.  Wind is informed that the scarf is "blue" and suits them very well.  It's also agreeably fluffy. 
  9. Boot/gloves; sturdy construction for travel but soft enough to allow fine manipulation with the toes.  Well cared for and frequently patched.  These boots have lasted Wind almost a half circumnavigation of the Terminator.
  10. Neck ring; heavy cast copper ornament; denotes family relationship to a minor branch of a merchant house on the far side of the world.  The weight is a symbolic reminder of family obligations.
  11. Wound dressings; Wind's back left leg was cut on a sharp shrub running from a bandit.  The wound is covered with a poultice and bandaged.
  12. Fireworks; Wind knows that these are children's toys for humans but they have impressed some uncivilized peoples that don't walk the Terminator and gotten them out of a few scrapes.
  13. Poking stick; a ten-foot cane made from a long reed.  Light enough to be used with the tongue and neck to assess the terrain ahead where echolocation fails.




Jump drives aren't cheap and long-range jump drives are especially not cheap.  As a practical matter, there are almost no sensibly-sized Jump-3+ ships other than a handful of specialized corporate survey vessels.  Relatedly, jump routes are very valuable trade secrets and stable Jump-3+ routes require several orders of magnitude more computing time.  These routes are fiercely guarded and if the secret got out their discoverers would be financially ruined.

All this leads to the jump cycler, a space station with a fusion engine and a colossal jump drive.  These ships generally weigh between 500kt and 2000kt and carry at least 100kt of payload.  Some of that payload is in the form of simple shipping containers, which are ejected when the cycler enters a new system and magnetically decelerated.  Cyclers also carry smaller freighters and ship-less passengers.  These ships may hitch a ride and cast off to make a shorter jump as soon as a cycler reaches a destination or they may stick around a bit longer and save on fuel costs (since they only have to make a deceleration burn). 

Most cyclers follow predictable routes, visiting 2-5 systems per year, stopping at gas giants for more deuterium fuel and completing their loop in a year or two.  Many cyclers carry a permanent population of service workers, traders, and technicians who often develop their own local cultures. The largest cyclers are cities and major habitats in their own right

A cycler is equal parts truck stop, casino, trashy cruise ship, and market; most are big enough to protect their passengers from the effects of jumpspace; you don't need to sleep through your jump and can instead spend your money, do business with other spacers, and stretch your legs.


LENGTH:  1.8km
SHIP BERTHS: 15 medium, 3 large
DEFENSIVE COMPLEMENT:  32 interdictors, 1 frigate
PASSENGERS (AVG):  ~10,000

The Lenin's Tomb is not a communist ship; quite the opposite, in fact.  It is so named because it is where communism goes to die (the midlevel executive who thought of this is still quite pleased with themselves).  It is an average-sized Jump-3 cycler which connects a handful of Outer Core systems with Prospero's dream.  The Tomb follows a 3-year route, stopping at nine systems in its loop.  It picks up rather more passengers than many other ships, especially on its inbound leg.  

Tempest is contracted to provide security aboard the Tomb by the corp that owns the Tomb.  Generally, the Tempest detail enforces the same type of law they are accustomed to at home.  Serious offenders may be detained (or frozen) until the ship gets back to the Dream and they can be tried by combat.

The Tomb also houses a full resleeving facility (new sleeves sold at a 200% markup) and a miniature shipyard (repairs at a 400% markup but done quickly and well).  

Passengers without a ship are expected to pay the Dream's oxygen tax (in lieu of a fare).  Anyone whose vessel has paid a docking fee is excused.  Security is usually a bit more forgiving of people who lose their sticks (you can buy a new one at a steep markup instead of being spaced).


  1. Albatross.  The Tomb's fanciest cocktail bar.  Prices are reasonable compared to many other plainer establishments but the cover charge is not.  Tempest officers drink free here and if you need to do business with them this is where you'll meet Corrin, Tempest's chief of security.
  2. The Dive.  A pressurized tube running the length of the ship and an unusual bit of green space.  When the Tomb is under acceleration you'll slowly fall down the length of the tube at about .01g.  Bring a set of wings.
  3. The Market.  At the core of the Tomb's hangar complex you can buy quite a bit of speculative cargo from other crew.  The Market is the site of many informal games of skill and chance and regular duels (permitted if precleared by Tempest).  A good place to find passengers, sell those drugs you're carrying, or poach somebody else's chief engineer. 
  4. Red Scare.  The Tomb's most popular dive bar.  Stunningly violent but pick a fight with the wrong person could go badly.  Pool tables are free; shooting pool with the local Coriolis effect is a skill.  Don't play the locals.  Beer is expensive and not very good.
  5. The Pool.  The Tomb has a real Olympic swimming pool in its swim section!  Such an extravagant waste of mass isn't cheap; everyone must pay admission.  A real novelty for spacers. 


Monday, February 8, 2021


 This is a good challenge.  I like it; I'm all about letting trinkets doing the heavy lifting.


1.  Seidel 805 Tapecomp With Direct Neural Jack and Portable Keyboard

Uses standard high speed 32MB micro tapes.  Also reads standard analog video and audio tapes.  She has the complete discography of Truly Neon (pop rock; painstakingly recorded from the radio), Scream of Peace (alt-idol pop; bought with honest money), and Paradise Precepts (industrial lullaby; her sleeve's favorite).  She also has various standard issue Rhombus meditation tapes (occasionally used) and the complete collected works of Sergei Yang-Witte.  


The official motto of Rhombus' Paranormal Response Unit on an inverted triangle.  On the left shoulder (secured by Velcro).  Patch also depicts a grinning Werewolf skull with glowing green eyes. 

3. Patch: "Eating for Two"

Natural pregnancy is either an alternative lifestyle for the very rich or or something left to the underclass.  Regardless, patches like this are mostly bought ironically by sleeve operators not expectant mothers.

4.  Lioness MPR1150-XL Automatic Smart Rifle

Smartlink to 230 pin neural jack adapter.  Cut down barrel and laser sight on the right-side rail for short range use.  She's modified the fire selector to fire two round bursts instead of three.  18 round drum magazine with hand-loaded 11.5mm depleted uranium rounds; doesn't trust her ammo to Management.  Regular optics and a paper windage table in a pouch in her pack.  

5. Ultralight Electric Kettle

Uses a standard cutting torch power cell to heat liquids and pipe them into a space suit (or into space to de-ice coolant lines).  She drinks black tea mixed with powdered bone broth and a little bit of artificial sweetener.  Silke is a monster; she drank this when she had a regular human body too. 

6.  Ventworm Extract Skin Cream in a Vacuum-Sealed Foil Bag

A combination beauty product/topical anesthetic/anagathic.  Undersea drug cartels on Last Fathom kill each other over this stuff.  She got hers off the cooling corpse of a midlevel executive who had good taste in beauty products and the bad judgement to play with dangerous alien artifacts. 

7.  Compressed Gas Knife

30cm rondel-style dagger designed to pump 10 liters of carbon dioxide through the tip (that's about 1.7 regulation basketballs worth according to the promotional material).  It's enough to blow somebody's guts out of their mouth and freeze the wound.  Company policy says it's OK to use this on people but she still doesn't.  

8.   Technical Manual (Vintage Pressurized Sports Rover)

Restoring vintage lunar rovers is just a hobby but reading a manual is a good way to pass the time when things are quiet.  

9. High-Density Chimera Rations

Compressed bricks of colorless goo and synthetic protein in individual plastic packages.  Tastes like lard mixed with marrow.  Salty with a kerosene nose.  Her sleeve loves them.  Can be squeezed through a tube to be eaten in a vacsuit.

10.  Plate Carrier Vacsuit

Anti-flash white.  Sized for a 2.2m tall chimera.  The suit was a custom job because her sleeve was a runt; Silke is always the first person down the horrible tunnel.  She's decorated the back side of her plates with elaborate mandalas in grease pencil.  Wards of this sort have been empirically proven not to do anything but she's not taking any chances.

11.  Brass Medallion (St. Christopher of Lycea)

St Christopher is depicted in the Orthodox manner as a warrior cynocephalus and carried in a small Velcro pouch where her heart would be if she were a human.  The broken chain has been replaced with  paracord.  Shares the pouch with extra-strength breath mints (loose) and a single 2x1 brick from a popular brand of modular construction toys. 

12.  Notepad and Pencil

Strapped to her left wrist on the outside of the vacsuit.  Pencil has been sharpened with a claw.  Front page has a rough calculation of her yearly union dues, a conversion from Rhombus scrip to real money, and a shopping list (gum: organic beef stock flavored, caffeine pills, marrow bones, primer caps, soup dumplings (frozen), fresh flowers, laundry detergent (unscented), food-grade paraffin wax, nail polish (clear), new exfoliating brush (metal), and a reminder to visit the company pharmacy for more sedatives.   

13.  Wireless Satellite Phone

Most recent text message is to a friend from school.  Second most recent is a message reminding her that she has 10 more in-plan texts this week.  

Sunday, February 7, 2021


When writer's block strikes, make lists of random stuff!


  1. "Whywolf" (confused chimera)
  2. "WARNING: contents under pressure"
  3. "Feed me Seymour!" (Verde tourism board swag)
  4. Fangs and eyes in the dark
  5. "Butcher, Faker, Policymaker"
  6. Make More Mans logo
  7. "You're a fucking monkey!"
  8. "Longshoreman's Local 4906"
  9. "Memetic Hazard"
  10. Obscure obscene hand gesture
  11. Your phone number
  12. "No More Tears" (stylized nuclear warhead)
  13. "BAD"
  14. Slide Rule
  15. VX nerve gas molecule diagram
  16. Symbol of Shamash (obscure Solarian icon) 
  17. Black silhouette of an ibis on a white triangle
  18. Aviator sunglasses
  19. "Hello, My Name Is: [REDACTED]"
  20. "Bonk!"
  21. "It's not me, it's you"
  22. Eyeball looking through gunsight 
  23. "CPR Certified"
  24. Local pirate radio station patch
  25. Cartoon Neanderthal
  26. "Everyone loves a farmer!"
  27. Stack of gold bars
  28. Little green man
  29. Chessman (queen)
  30. "Fuck the repo man" (grim reaper crossed out)
  31. Monomethyl hydrazine molecule
  32. Screaming man (Edvard Munch) 
  33. Checkmark
  34. "RTFM"
  35. "Eyeball Fryer" (stylized laser mirror) 
  36. Elysian mantis tiger
  37. Fluorescent blue radiation symbol
  38. An asteroid
  39. "Plastique Surgery" (brick of C4)
  40. "Having a bad day yet?"
  41. Random Merit Badge
  43. "Somebody's Daughter"
  44. "The Drink That Shall Not Be Named For Copyright Reasons" (picture of a latte)
  45. Dodecahedron 
  46. "Look Alive!" (zombie)
  47. Juice box and straw
  48. "RIP"
  49. Random sequence of binary that spells gibberish
  50. Stylized coat of arms

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Angels


An angel is to a chimera what a ballistic missile is to a bow and arrow: the logical conclusion.  Such a dreadful tool is beyond the reach of all but a handful of the most powerful and secretive actors.  And of those who could even bring such a thing into the world only a handful dare try.  Usually there's no point.  The category of problems that can be solved with an Angel is almost entirely coextensive with the category of problems that can also be solved with a thermonuclear warhead at a hundred-thousandth of the price.  But sometimes the only solution to a problem is a walking basilisk hack broadcasting arcane formulae on every auditory and electromagnetic frequency.  It isn't using the magic: you are and the only safe way to handle arcane formulae is to use them without thinking about them . . . .  

Angels are very secret (and rarely leave survivors to tell tales).  The least of them can work alongside specialized chimeras.  The greatest are a localized extinction event given shape.  

Angels are highly intelligent but barely self-aware.  Like every chimera, there is a human brain somewhere inside but anything resembling humanity is long gone.  You can talk to one if you like; it can understand you (and also read your mind).  But what would such a creature have to say to you?

An Angel is big -- far too big for reality to fully contain.  The world twists and contorts to accommodate them.  Much of an Angel's bulk resides in hyperspace. The physical body is nothing more than a puppet.  The puppeteer is elsewhere and the destruction of its physical body is a minor nuisance.  As with any hyperspace conduit in or near a gravity well, Angels tend to leave fertile ground for the Gaunt for decades after their use.  If you have a problem that requires an angel, this is usually regarded as an acceptable sacrifice.

When an angel is not in use, it sleeps.  Housed in enormous golden sarcophagi micro-etched with arcane formulae and helium-chilled to three degrees Kelvin.  Surrounded by triple-redundant magical white noise generators.  Organic components drugged into a stupor with neurotoxins.  Strapped to a weaponized warp core should any of those other forms of containment fail.  

This is Humanity's last line of defense.  Never used lightly.


Lesser Angels are the only sort a player could conceivably survive.  Greater Angels do not require stats -- you wouldn't try to engage Cthulhu in gunfight. 


A low drone in your head. A visceral dread at the back of your throat and deep in your stomach.  A n infrasonic roar; loud as a jet engine but barely audible.  Awe.  Electronics announce its presence and bend to its will.  The sensation of a phantom presence just out of your sight. 

K-24η is an unusually precise tool currently in the possession of Rhombus Technical Services.  As Angels go, it sees frequent use.  K-24η cannot be directly observed and cannot be attacked unless it is indirectly observed.  This exposes the indirect observer to the Angel's attack.

It is physically present next to everything within 250m. It usually appears behind all intelligent beings unless faced with a credible threat.  It always appears behind a target it has directly attacked.  In theory it can  target all indirect observers regardless of distance.  In practice K-24η is limited by lightspeed lag and can only effectively target indirect observers within 1 light-second.     

SPEED:  The Angel is always adjacent to you.  All of you.  Always.
HITS: 4 (2MDMG)  The Angel will regenerate in 1d10 minutes.  Immune to ordinary damage.

Attacks against any target within 250m 1/round:
5d10 against 3 targets
OR FEAR save or panic.  The Angel may pick a second target.  That target saves at [+].  The Angel always knows who is most likely to break and always targets that person.

Attacks against all indirect observers:
1d10 damage to FEAR  (SANITY for half)
1 point of stress (no save), ability cannot be controlled, affects friendlies 
AND 3d10 against any 3 targets

  • Cannot be directly observed.  Can only be attacked if viewed with an electronic sensor (you may attack any instance of the angel within 250m)
  • May control any electronic device within 250m (or, if observed, any electronic sensor within 1 light-second).  Use of this ability limits the Angel's power but can protect it from detection or orbital bombardment.

Angelic Censor (requires slicksocket, 1 slickslot) -- functions in a similar manner to an ANI; protects against stress caused by K-24η and allows safe indirect observation.  K-24η could easily turn a censor off if it wished.  Unique item used to enable friendly operators to work alongside the Angel.