Thursday, 2 June 2011

[OuterZone] A Frellig's Guide to the Outer Zone

Noaqha valik! Dorik alarqha, mukhazno - what, you don't speak Qharidian? In the Black Reaches? Frell me. Where the drek did you spin up from?

Earth? As in dirt? As in a planet? Never heard of it.

Qhara, this frellig's grazhom primitive. Spin me up another Draneerian brandy while I tell her - him? it? them? - how it is.

So you managed to scramble off your perfectly nice, if exceptionally primitive, dirtball, and make your way into the Great Expanse?

I've got news for you, frellig. You should have stayed home.

You Are Here

Alright, so you're here, in the outer reaches of the western spiral arm of the galaxy - you are from this galaxy, right? You're not sure? Drek, it doesn't matter. Basically, you're in the Outer Zone, friend, and that means you're outside what the Engineers call civilisation: the Web of Worlds...

...but not for long. This waystation - this whole system - is next on the slate for the Web, and that means the party's over soon. With the Web comes trade, tourism, industry, and the Enforcement Directorate. Those Engineer dreks love their Enforcement Directorate, and they're going to stamp their boot all over this part of space. No more free traders. No more psionicists. No more Salaacian spice and no more bad jokes about how many Engineers it takes to change a sparktube.

You see that family of Quineric grubs slobbering over all their worldly possessions over there? They know which side their ticket is punched on. A while ago, the Quineric states decided to stand up to the Engineers and keep the Tunneling Directorate away from their worlds. Engineers didn't like that. They infected the Quineric homeworld with artificial tubeworms that literally ate the planet, then they brought in an interdiction field that prevented the refugees from spinning out. Let them all starve in orbit around Quineria Prime, then trucked off the remains to use as construction material.

That's why people like me don't want to get caught up in the Web. We like flying free in the Great Black, even if it means the occasional pirate attack or Vagyr raid. We like planets that haven't been stamped out of the same Engineer mould, we like xenosex and psyborgasms and blowing our minds out on Salaacian spice, and we like not owing our livelihoods to a transstellar Directorate that might suddenly decide our whole planet is redundant and have it broken down for component minerals. We are the Unbound, and if we ever end up in the Web you might as well slice us in half with a Krazon sword.


Who are the Engineers? There's three things to know about Engineers: first, they're ugly as frell. No-one's even worn the basic bipedal frame as poorly as they have. Fat, scaly, ridged, and ill-tempered, they're the last thing you want dancing on your tabletop. More than that, they're constantly sick with one ailment or another - at least when they're outside their precious immuno-controlled Web. Physically, they're a half-evolved race who should never have climbed out of the swamp - no match for a Krazon with a quick sword-arm or a Quineric warrior-wyrm.

Secondly, they hate chaos. Unpredictability and disorder are like thorns on scraping their thorax - they can't tolerate it. You want to upset an Engineer, challenge them to a game of chance-cubes. This is why the Enforcement Directorate stamps out freedom so conclusively - it's not within their psyche. You can't excrete drek in the Web without having your activities triple-checked against the Excretement Directorate's internal drones.

Thirdly, and most importantly, though they may be smart drekkers, they're completely psi-null as a species. They can't pilot spin-ships or master psionic arts, and they'll never bend a spoon - they need to hire other species to do it for them. Of course, it also means that mindwitches can't get inside their head, offer suggestions or twiddle with their thoughts. This is why they built the Web - a network of spin-gates completely independent of any sapient control that any idiot could use.


You want to know more about psionics? Drek, I'm a mercenary, frellig, not a wizard. I'm not crazy enough nor focused enough to get into that stuff. Here's what I know: there's a world beyond our own. Maybe more than one. It's not like ours - it's more like, I don't know, some kind of negative space where all is one and one is all. You ask ten Dynock monks and they'll give you ten different answers. Let me pour myself another drink.

Basically, all sapients exert some kind of force on this... negative dimension. Psionicists learn to tap into it, to connect through it, to bend it to their will. Some of them can read your mind. Some of them can send thoughts across half a galaxy. Some of them could life up this table without moving and tear it half, or do the same to your internal organs. I once saw a Dynock monk stop a raging Krazon warrior without lifting a finger. Wasn't pretty.

The most common use is piloting spin-ships. Somehow, with the right technology and the right design, you can spin a whole vessel through a negative into the psychic maelstrom, and fly it between stars in the time it takes most species to spit. In fact, small, well-designed spin-ships can even be piloted by people who haven't taken the full-on crazy pill it takes to become a serious psi-wizard.

The crazy pill? Oh, you have to be a special kind of crazy to be a psionicist - the obsessive, focused kind that becomes a monk or a genius scientist. You have to give up the things in your life that tie you to this world to become more immersed in the other, or something along those lines. I really couldn't tell you why, but only the truly intense become psionicists, whether through faith or philosophy or sheer self-control.

Thing is, though, the Web's changing all that. The spin-gates exert such enormous force on the psychic maelstrom that they lock it down - not just for psionicists, but for the rest of us. Living in the Web is like living in place where all your sensory organs have been dulled. Lights are dimmer. Pleasure is less pleasurable, and pain is less painful. You smell that Draneerian brandy? Wouldn't have half the scent on a Web-world. It takes a drekked powerful psionicist to drive a spinship through a Web system, and they don't come around every day. Mind you, that's the way the Engineers like it. Psionics is like a cancer to them - a challenge to their well-ordered universe.

I hear they're building a spin-ship that flies itself, though, but rumours float like kretch-flies in this hole. My ship's leaving in five centrons. I suggest you take the next spin-ship out of here too.

1 comment:

  1. See, a small spin-ship that's been properly "balanced" along its fourth-dimensional axis can be flipped into N-space with only a light psionic "push", whereas a larger vessel requires more serious consideration.