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1-4 - Hurricane Harvey posts
5 - Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan The Branan systems were separated by lightyears of space, but they were linked together by the lightspeed networks that allowed communications across their far-flung colonial holdings. It may have taken them years or decades to send transmissions back and forth, but the networks were filled with Branan heroes and leaders of the past. These Second Life Branan kept all of Branan civilization from balkanizing into a dozen different smaller civilizations with nothing in common. And they had their own Second Life Colonies as far as a hundred years transmission time from their homeworld, but they were mere years from their nearby neighbors. We Contacted a lively civilization over two thousand years old, spanning two hundred lightyears of space, as well as the biological and electronic worlds. It was an eye-opening experience for everyone involved.
6 - Jack - Sunnydale I spent over a decade flying out of Sunnydale. I was one of the last Cowboys to arrive back in January of 2309. Got to enjoy one last Christmas and New Years on New Earth before I left. Oh, the stories I could tell. But Sunnydale? Sunnydale was a whole different world in every way one could imagine. It’s one really bright and hot sun surrounded by five major rocky worlds, one asteroid belt, and a single gas giant. There’s a lot of planetoids further out, just like most systems have, but that’s the primary inhabited real estate in the system. Though calling some of those areas habitable is a bit of a stretch of definitions if you ask me.
7 - Charles - The Hyades Cluster There are rules to interstellar warfare. It is slow. Every system is separated by vast interstellar gulfs. There is no such thing as calling up for reinforcements from another system and having them arrive in time to save the day. You have to bring everything you need with you, or you do without. The Hyades Cluster violated all of those rules, and the Chinese had used that fact to smash almost every Alliance system they could find within a hundred lightyears of the cluster. Considering that Earth is only 150 lightyears from the Hyades, that was a disturbing amount of the stellar real estate available to mankind. The Hyades was a fortress in the stars, and as long as the Chinese held it, they had the advantage. We had to crack it.
8 - Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan One thing that kept the disparate parts of Branan civilization linked was the easy communication between the physical and electronic worlds. The Second Lifers could of course speak with their meat-bound relatives in the physical world via anything from basic speakers to advanced robots. And the First Lifers could visit the electronic world of the Second Lifers through the use of various virtual reality gears. Many First Lifers actually gained the money they needed to live comfortably in their Second Life by working inside Second Life systems. Money flowed freely back and forth between the physical and electronic worlds, and many First Lifers spent their time learning about and experiencing the worlds they intended to visit once they entered their second life and could travel the stars at lightspeed.
9 - Jack - Sunnydale I first put my feet on Sunnydale in January of 2309. That’s the planet, not the star, or I wouldn’t be writing this fun little story right now. It was a bustling colony of three million people back then, though the ten million or so Alliance military personnel in system had created a bit of a population boom. And not just on account of us coming from all over the Alliance. We had to organize a rather impressive shore leave schedule, let me tell you, just to keep us from overloading the local capacity to handle visitors. But the locals were always happy to take our money. And let’s just say that Sunnydale had the highest birthrate of any Alliance colony world throughout The War and leave it at that.
10 - Charles - The Hyades Cluster The Hyades Cluster was a truly complex and difficult region of space to navigate. Depending on where you assume the exact core is, there were around forty star systems within ten lightyears of its center, and nearly a quarter of those were giants or subgiants. There were in fact around twenty star systems in total that contained giants or subgiants within fifty lightyears of the core. And every single one of those massive stars complicated stellar navigation, whether in normalspace or hyperspace. There were another three hundred or so star systems within fifty lightyears of the core, and over a 1,000 star systems within a hundred lightyears. That is far more stellar real estate than all of humanity had colonized when the Peloran made Contact, and navigating it was not an insignificant affair.
11 - Medron - September 11 We were recovering from one hurricane a week ago. Now we are being hit by another. And this is September 11. It is amazing the confluence of events that can happen on any of the three hundred and sixty five days in a year. Going back in time, we can see so many things that happened on so many of them. Every day is special in its own way. Every day has an event to remember. Or many events. What defines us as a culture, a society, and a nation is how we remember them. How we listen to the lessons they teach. How we go forward in the wake of what happened before. Today is September 11, and I remember what came before. And I will always go forward.
12 - Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan The real trick to understanding the Branan is to recognize the fact that they’ve had fully developed physical and digital worlds living side by side since before Caesar crossed the Rubicon and took over the Roman Republic. Earthborn humanity grew up without advanced digital worlds, so has a common misconception that the electronic world is artificial, false, made up, virtual, or at best alternate. The Branan have lived with the electronic worlds for over two millennia. Every type of world is real to them. Every place exists. So never make the mistake of treating a Second Life Branan individual or world like they are less real or alive. It is a supreme insult to their entire civilization.
13 - Jack - Sunnydale Torchdale was the primary fleet base in Sunnydale during our buildup for the attack on the Hyades Cluster. She’s a gas giant with three major moons, dozens of minor ones, and a veritable motherlode of heavy metals and other fun stuff that starships love to munch on when they’re feeling peckish. There were always ships coming by for a quick topping off of their raw or refined material storage. Many smaller ships chose to go atmospheric diving to pick stuff out of Torch’s upper atmosphere, and many more had to than wanted to. We had the best refineries on Torch’s moons, but were still tapping out their ability to keep up with the demands of a fleet full of fabricators at full production. It takes a lot of heavy metals to build the kind of spare armor plates, replacement fighters, and extra missile reloads a fleet expects to expend during a major offensive, and we were burning though them at an impressive rate. Very few systems could have handled that demand. Sunnydale did.
14 - Charles - The Hyades Cluster The Chinese and their allies had nearly scrubbed us from the over one thousand star systems within a hundred lightyears of the Hyades Cluster. It was the greatest prize humanity had found in the stars, a fortress of interconnected star systems, and the Chinese could accept no challenge to their control. We could have sued for peace, and the Chinese would have accepted it. But they would have forced us to pay a ruinous bill for the honor of peace. Money. Systems. Supremacy. We would have had to accept their domination of the stars from their base in the Hyades. The Western Alliance would have become a third rate power, while the Chinese ascended to the throne of mankind they have always believed they deserved. But they would have let us live. They would have stopped the killing. We could have ended The War a decade early if we were willing to live with that. We were not. And that is why the Hyades was so important to us.
15 - Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan The Second Life Branan have many superficial similarities to our own artificial and cybernetic intelligences. But do not assume they are the same. Artificial intelligences are inherently artificial, coded by a living human to perform a task or group of tasks. The best of them can be mistaken for having true sentience, but they do not. Even fewer have transcended that state and become sentient. They are cybernetic intelligences, and even the oldest of our kind recognize that we were once artificial. But the Second Life Branan were never artificial. They were physical, biological Branan who were born and raised to adulthood like any biological human. And then their body died. But their mind was saved and copied into the digital networks were they will continue to live for as long as they want to, for as long as the networks survive. It is their version of immortality, and they guard it with great care.
16 - Jack - Sunnydale The joker who named the planetary bodies of the Sunnydale system was in rare form when he named the three major moons of Torchdale. Char, Sear, and Toast are about as habitable as their names suggest. But after a liberal application of gravtech, the Western Alliance built some very comfortable settlements for the local workforce. They weren’t large enough for the quarter-million or so naval personnel in orbit to have easy shore leaves, but I did manage to spend some time there. Imagine a two or four kilometer square central park surrounded by housing and refineries for the fifty thousand or so people who lived on each moon. They weren’t much bigger than small cities planted in the middle of old impact craters, but if you stayed inside those cities, you could walk like normal and see the blue skies of a planet when you looked up. In a galaxy full of worlds ready and waiting for us to live on, we brought Earth to three airless hunks of rock on the outskirts of a star system at war. There are times that human ingenuity amazes me to this day.
17 - Charles - The Hyades Cluster The Hyades Cluster is not native to our region of the galaxy. It has been traveling for eons, from some long ago birthplace where heavy metals were more common. The star population is different, and the very interstellar dust and debris around it are foreign to our region of space. It is an intruder, and there is a gravitic bow wave around the Hyades that interferes with how the very fabric of gravity works. That is why it was so difficult for us to learn how to navigate it. But that is also why it was so valuable. We learned much from the Hyades once we penetrated its outer defenses. And the closer we got to its core, the more we realized we did not know. We had thought that the Chinese wanted it for its heavy metals and its defensive properties, and that had been enough for us to decide we had to take it. But the deeper we penetrated, the more we began to understand the truth. That the Hyades Cluster was more valuable than we had ever guessed.
18 - Medron - Forge of War
19 - Betty - Branan Many consider the Branan to be a warlike race. The truth is that they are no more warlike than us. They just don’t hide that fact from themselves. We publicly decry war while waging it on many levels all of the time. The Branan accept that war is inevitable and wage it to the best of their ability. Many surmise that is because the Albion created them to be soldiers in the first place. Whatever the reasons, the Branan have earned the nickname that most people call them. They have earned it by being implacable enemies and relentless allies across the vastness of time and space. They are Thunderbirds.
20 - Jack - Sunnydale The original surveyors designated Sunnydale’s sole asteroid belt with the ironic name of Cobbledale. Most locals call it the Cobbles, and leave it at that. They aren’t very rich with heavy metals, or anything else for that matter, but asteroid belts are large places and even small amounts of ore are easy to find and mine. That is why the Cobbles are home to an impressive number of mining operations, both small and large. They are also home to several large asteroids that were hollowed out, laced with gravity plating, and pressurized to allow humans to live comfortably. I’ve been in them, and I question any definition of comfort that applies to them. I’ll grant you that I grew up on a wide open planet Earth, so I’m certainly biased, but just stepping inside those tiny little tunnels made me feel claustrophobic. But tens of thousands of people somehow live inside those rocks and swear they love it. I think they might be a little bit insane, but I’m no shrink, so take my verdict with a healthy grain of salt.
21 - Charles - Cheyenne Mountain Theta Tauri. Phaesula. Chakumuy. 77 and 78 Tau. HD 28307 and 28319. HIP 20885 and 20894. The stars of Theta Tauri have many names from many cultures and scientific listings. But that multiple star system is the core of the Hyades Cluster. The center. The Heart. The gravitic nexus of a cluster of over two hundred stars migrating through our sector of the galaxy from wherever it was they were formed. The War ended there. We fought for the future of humanity there. And I do not exaggerate. Either the Chinese would rule Earthborn humanity, or the Western Alliance would emerge as the predominant power in our sector of the galaxy. All of that was decided by one, final roll of the dice at The Heart of the Hyades Cluster. We named it Cheyenne Mountain.
22 - Betty - Branan An interesting point to be made about the Branan is that they are born with six limbs. Arms, legs, and wings. The problem is that their brain can only handle four limbs, so most Branan have their wings removed. But there are numerous Branan offshoot cultures that don’t do that. Some leave all the limbs in place, and simply train their children to use the ones they need. Most others remove their legs so they have fully functional wings and arms. Those Branan can fly without any technological assistance. Some even remove the arms so they can walk or fly. But considering the usefulness of hands, those are rare. The point is that you can see Thunderbirds with any combination of limbs, though only four of them will ever work. There are rumors of some progress towards successful six-limbed Thunderbirds in recent years, probably thanks to Contact with the Seraph, but those rumors have not yet been confirmed.
23 - Jack - Sunnydale Asteroid belts are nothing like what most of us have seen in the movies. They cover a large amount of stellar real estate with a comparatively small amount of actual solid matter. What that means is that individual asteroids tend to be tens, hundreds, or thousands of kilometers away from their nearest neighbors. The fantastic race through asteroid belts, dodging left and right to avoid rocks and random laser bolts from enraged pursuers, while asteroids smash into each other and rain pebbles all over the daringly piloted ships is pure fantasy. Almost as realistic as those nice young space Viking ladies wearing strategically-placed bits of silver plastic meant to look like old Norse armor. Yeah. Where was I? Oh. Right. Asteroid belts. The Cobbles are a little thicker than most belts I’ve seen, but still nothing like the movie version. It’s rather easy to chart a course and not have to deviate from it for hours at a time to avoid some random rock. What was that? Oh. That’s Betty telling me if I think it’s easy, she’ll let me do it next time. So I think I’ll avoid calling it easy from now on. Unless you’re a skilled navigator and then you make it look easy. Yeah. If you can see her rolling her eyes at me right now, you know her well.
24 - Charles - Cheyenne Mountain Cheyenne Mountain is generally considered to be a quadruple star system. Two giant stars orbit a common center of gravity, and each of them has their own companion star. There are other stars in the area, of course. The Hyades Cluster’s core is rather crowded when looked at from the perspective of the outside galaxy. But most scientists agree that those four stars are the system. There are planets and asteroid belts and other detris left behind by the creation of a star system in there as well. That is where most of the people live. But the reason people live there is far more important to humanity. It’s appropriate that we ended The War there. Because The War started there as well. The first shots were fired at Earth, yes, but it was at The Heart of the Hyades Cluster that the Shang and the Chinese chose to fire those shots.
25 - Medron Pryde - Angel Flight
26 - Betty - Weylan The Weylan are one of the younger Races of Humanity. The Albion began working on them after perfecting the Peloran supersoldier. They’d long wanted a humanoid airborne soldier, as their failed work with the Branan shows, and the Peloran project had taught them much about how to program brains. So they began work on what would become the Weylan, using the Peloran as the base genetic model. They hoped that would result in an impressive upgrade to the basic Peloran model and spurred the new project on with an impressive amount of resources. The first and most important hurdle they had to pass was being able to program a human brain to easily control six limbs. That was a not-insignificant task, but the Albion had a plan, an impressive amount of experience with tweaking the human genome, and one very strong inspiration. War was coming, and they needed every weapon they could create.
27 - Jack - Sunnydale Frostydale is a debatably-habitable frozen ball of rock nearly four times as far away from Sunnydale as Earth is from the Sun. She’s significantly larger than Earth, but has a much thinner atmosphere at sea level. Those seas are frozen solid over the vast majority of the planetary surface, though the balmy tropics of the equatorial zones at least keep them in a liquid state most of the time. Now I’ve swum in Minnesota lakes in spring, right after the ice melts, and I may have even done a Polar Bear Plunge a time or two in my life, so I find those equatorial seashores to be rather refreshing. I bit like coming home, you might say. But my conscience requires that I warn anybody from warmer States like California or Florida against enjoying them. You will not enjoy them, and you will probably freeze off various body parts that you dearly do not want to lose.
28 - Charles - The Hyades Cluster One thing to understand about the Hyades Cluster during The War is that there were no uninhabited systems. It is a common myth amongst most people that there are thousands of systems were nobody goes just within a few hundred lightyears of Earth. That is less true than people think, but also partially accurate. Most systems are inhabited by probeswarms and the relatively small industrial bases they generate. They have long kept watch over our flanks, so it is more accurate to say that there are thousands of systems near Earth where no biological human lives. This was not the case in the Hyades. Every single system, every star no matter how minor, had people there. They were watching for us. Waiting for us. Ready to send word of intruders at a moment’s notice. It was impossible to penetrate the Hyades Cluster without being discovered. That is why we did not try.
29 - Betty - Weylan Because the Weylan were based on the Peloran model, they received all of the gifts those supersoldiers boasted. Increased strength, impressive regeneration capabilities, mental acuity, combat instincts, and limited precognition to name a few. And since they were the size and shape of normal humans, they could use standard human weapons and armor with only minimal modifications, if any were required at all. The one difference was the third pair of limbs they were designed to use. Wings. The Weylan’s brains were wired from the start to use all six limbs, and they managed what the Branan never did. Fully functional flight, walk, and tool using capabilities. Many people consider them to be the most ambitious creation the Albion ever managed. Many people have not seen everything I’ve seen, but they are right to a point. The Weylan really are impressive.
30 - Jack - Sunnydale One of the primary reasons people live on Frostydale at all is “because it’s there.” Being totally honest. “Because it’s there” is one of the most common reasons for why someone has gone anywhere on old Earth or in the galaxy at large. Human curiosity is almost as infinite as human stupidity, and the willingness of many to go to impressive lengths to get away from others is in the same league. That is the reason most people move to Frosty. The other reason is that Frosty is one of the richest worlds out there when it comes to rare earth minerals. It is very solidly in the top ten percent in the known worlds. The only reason Frosty isn’t more heavily inhabited than it is, is because Scorch, Sunny, and Torch are nearly as rich, which tends to split up the various colonization programs to the system. Most of the people who chose Frosty come from the Scandinavian Nations. There’s also a surprising number of Russian ex-patriots who love going on about how good winters breed strong men and loving women. I have to admit that I rather like both the place and the people, though I come from Northern Minnesota. So your mileage may vary.