# December 2021 Archives

## Imperial numbers and measurement: Distance/length

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Imperial measure owes nothing to any Earth system of measurement. The Imperial system was designed in an already scientific and technological era for much the same reasons Earth's metric units were designed - to simplify a complex system of historical measures.

The numeration system is base sixty - 3 times 4 times 5. This makes numbers more easily manipulated than previous systems. It works upon the same positional basis as our Hindu-Arabic system, and the same concepts apply, with multiples of 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 (and 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30) having intermediate importance in thought between the unit and the system base of sixty. For all units, the digital places are described thus:

Prime: 60 times the base unit

Square: 3600 times the base unit

Cube: 216,000 times the base unit

Fourth: 12,960,000 times the base unit, and so on.

For fractional numbers, iprime is 1/60th of the base unit, isquare is 1/3600th, ithird is 1/216,000th, ifourth is 1/12,960,000th, and so on. If there's an 'i' in front of the multiplier, it relates to a fractional number.

For situations requiring more precision than a single digit, the spoken convention is to specify the magnitude of the leading digit, and following digits are presumed to be immediately decreasing in magnitude. "Two minutes thirty" can be two and a half minutes of time, or two and a half light-minutes of distance. "Seven ithirds fortysix fourteen" would be seven 216,000ths, forty-six 12,960,000ths, fourteen 777,600,000ths of the relevant units. If the relevant digit is a zero, the zero is spoken, so "seven ithirds zero fourteen" would be seven 216,000ths, zero 12,960,000ths, fourteen 777,600,000ths of the relevant units

Most of the time, measures are context sensitive in translations to English. For instance, a range is assumed to be given in distance units, a mass or weight in terms of mass units, and so on. In Technical, the fact of what you are measuring requires the units of measurement to match, and this has, over time, leaked over to conversations in Traditional as well. In Mindlord, everything is context sensitive anyway, and nobody uses Concept for technical or technological purposes, as the 'language' is entirely unsuitable for that purpose.

Distance/length

The basic unit of length is the light-second, called the "second". This being the case, everyday measures are pretty much universally in terms of partial light-seconds.

second 510,000 km 316,900 mi
iprime 8500 km 5282 mi
isquare 141.667 km 88.03 mi
ithird 2.361 km or 2361.11 m 7746 ft or 1.467 mi
ifourth 39.3518 m 129.1 ft (43.04 yards)
ififth .6559 m or 65.59 cm 25.82 in or 2.152 ft
isixth 1.093 cm 0.4304 in

minute 30.6 million km 19.014 million miles
hour 1.836 billion km 1.14 billion miles
week 110.16 billion km 68.45 billion mi

Area/Volume

The Empire tends to think more in three dimensional, and less in two dimensional terms than we do. Their worlds and living spaces are defined in terms of layers and height as much as length and width. The entire concept of owning from the center of the planet outwards to infinity, like Earth nations and real estate, is alien to them. From length, you have to add an interim concept for area, two interim concepts for volume, as the ratios between (for instance) square ifourths to square ithirds is 3600 to one (not 60), and for cubic measure, the ratio is 216,000. So the terms of prime and square are brought in as interim concepts, compounding the basic measure, multiplying them by 60 and 3600, respectively. Prime is used for both area and volume, square for volume only, as a factor of 3600 brings area up to the next base unit.

isixth squared = 1.1946 sq cm .18524 sq in
ififth squared = .43020 sq m or 4302.0 sq cm 4.6311 sq ft
ifourth squared = 1548.6 sq m (.15486 ha) 16,667 sq ft (.38262 ac)
ithird squared = 5.5743 sq km 2.1521 sq mi
isquare squared = 20,070 sq km 7749.3 sq mi

isixth cubed = 1.30575 cubic centimeters 0.079729 cubic in
ififth cubed = 282171 cc (282.171 liters) (.282 cu m) 9.966 cubic feet
ifourth cubed = 44,181 cu meters 1,560,200 cu ft
ithird cubed = 13.161 cu km 3.1571 cu mi

## Excerpt from The Man From Empire

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No matter what the song says, it does rain in southern California. All the damn time in March of El Nino years.

The most recent storm had finished blowing through earlier that evening. I didn't like working after dark, but the compliance reports just couldn't wait any longer. My boss, "Call me George" Martinez, had informed me that the EPA was crawling all over him and that if the hazardous usage and disposal reports weren't completed by the time he got to work in the morning, I would be joining the ranks of the unemployed. In blue state basket case California, in the middle of the worst economy of the last eighty years. Jerk.

Overall, Riverside's not a bad town. I've got a small apartment not too far from the UC campus. The complex is full of students with a smattering of old fogeys too poor and too stubborn to leave, and working class stiffs, not to mention hybrids like me. The ones I've talked to were alright.

But this wasn't there. The warehouse sits in a commercial district near where the 91 dies and turns into the 215 at the 60 merge. There are some rough people nearby, in the old twenties and thirties housing they threw up back before tract housing. Tiny lots, old decaying houses, ancient plumbing and wiring, never updated. Paint cracked, chipped, and peeling. Calling them Craftsmen would be implying a level of charm that simply didn't exist. Streets jammed with old junker cars. Chain link fences, neglected lawns, junk left wherever someone dropped it because it was too much effort to clean up. An occasional abuela put in a few flowers that just made the rest of the neighborhood look even more pitiful. Rough people, mostly poor hispanics with the occasional white trash or black, human refuse that just didn't have what it took to get ahead in the world as it had become. Some were disabled, most simply never applied themselves much. Get a second or third generation in there, and you got some real gangbanging. Easy path to see, damned near impossible to make it work into a real life worth living. Enough to make me appreciate my parents, who escaped that world and made sure I knew enough not to fall back.

The gangs had been cooped up inside most of the previous ten days. El Nino storms came through one after another. Maybe they wouldn't drown or freeze you, but they were cold, wet, and miserable - at least by the standards of California weather. Nobody came out when it was raining without a good reason why they had to be out there and then, but once it stopped a light jacket would keep you warm, and the hoodies would be out looking to burn off some energy. It's not like they had anything better to do.

And here I was, a 28 year old woman leaving the building all by myself in the dark just after eight-thirty with no one around. Just bad luck the four guys in jackets walking up the other side of the street at the exact wrong time. No key to get back in - damn "Call me George" to hell. I picked up my pace. If I could get to my car - beater that it is - and lock the doors there was a chance I'd be able to drive away.

Mistake. The hoodies started to run. Now there was some effort in it for them, things were looking worse for me. Cell phone, you say? I could grab the phone and push the number to dial 911, but it wouldn't do me a bit of good. Typical response time was thirty minutes. By the time the cops showed up, it would be long over. I was about to do it anyway when it happened.

I swear on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that this happened. He looked like an Angel of the Lord, minus the wings. Hanging up there in the air. Well, not hanging - he was falling, though not like he was getting pulled - more like he was riding an escalator that wasn't there. At least six five, thin as a rail, with a softly glowing sword of all the improbable things. Wearing what looked like some kind of uniform, dark with lighter trim, cut like nothing I'd ever seen.

I don't know what he did to call attention to himself, but all of a sudden the 'bangers noticed him. Not just the 'bangers, but everything's attention was wrenched towards him as if someone grabbed our heads, sunk hooks into our eyeballs and made us look. Right down to the rats in the dumpsters.

That was enough for the 'bangers. They hauled out their guns and started banging away. The visitor looked puzzled for an instant, then the sword vanished, and I saw a flash from him. Something in his hand - didn't did get a good look at what it was. The gang members fell over so fast it was over before I could twitch. Damn! The guy was fast. I'd never seen anything like that even in the movies.

One look showed four lifeless bodies with blood starting to pool. The visitor lit with catlike grace, apparently as unconcerned as if nothing had just happened. I had a decision to make, and I did. I jumped in my car and got the hell out of Dodge. I didn't want to be anywhere in the neighborhood when the cops finally got there. I didn't stop to say thanks, I definitely didn't talk to him, I just jumped in and went. I didn't slow down until I was home. I might have run a red light or two; I really couldn't tell you with any certainty.

I pulled into the parking lot, and spent a few minutes having a quiet attack of the shakes. The steering wheel was a nice solid reassurance of the familiar world of everyday life. Things like that just did not happen. Bad enough to come that close to being raped or maybe worse. I lived in the real world, and things like that happened even though you don't want them to. But you do not get six and a half feet of impossibly fast man walking down out of the sky to kill your enemies every day, or any day. Maybe in fairy tales or fiction, not in Riverside.

It was close to nine-thirty by the time I pulled myself together enough to get out of the car. I locked the door of the old blue Hyundai and walked through the gate, up to my door, went in and locked the door, then collapsed into my old vinyl chair - just in time to see him step into my field of vision. Where the hell did he come from, how the fuck did he do that? I'm sorry, my Mama raised a lady, words like that did not come out of my mouth, but they definitely went through my mind that time. I started out of the chair, then caught his gaze and froze. As in could not move, gazing into those eyes. I don't know how long - but it felt like an eternity.

In the light, I could see he was dressed in a deep sapphire blue with golden trim, a few pieces of decoration I didn't understand here and there - not any military uniforms I'd seen, or police, but of that nature. He himself looked like nothing I'd ever seen. His skin color was a deep bronze - If I had to guess based on that, I would have said "Cuban" because most of them have some black ancestry, and his hair was that dark brown shade of almost black of many hispanics, but his facial structure was pure north European aristocrat - aquiline nose, hawk sharp face. The rest of his body was even thinner, if that made sense, and just as tall as I'd thought at first. At five-four, I barely came up to chest high on him. Obviously greyhound fit, though. I'd expect to see someone like him at the Olympics on TV, pole-vaulting or maybe running hurdles, not killing gang members on the side of a nondescript office building in Riverside, the armpit of Southern California. His eyes? They were steel grey, unlike anything else I had ever seen, and just as hard as that implies. Not unwelcoming to me, personally, at that moment, but I got the impression he would have no difficulty staring down the entire world if he thought it necessary. Age? Outside the eyes, he looked younger than me - I'd guess 25, or maybe younger. He was a young vibrant powerful man, not a boy. The eyes were older - way older.

## Imperial numbers and Measurement - Circular Measurement

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Basic:

Imperial measure owes nothing to any Earth system of measurement. The Imperial system was designed in an already scientific and technological era for much the same reasons Earth's metric units were designed - to simplify a complex system of historical measures.

The numeration system is base sixty - 3 times 4 times 5. This makes numbers more easily manipulated than previous systems. It works upon the same positional basis as our Hindu-Arabic system, and the same concepts apply, with multiples of 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 (and 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30) having intermediate importance in thought between the unit and the system base of sixty. For all units, the digital places are described thus:

Prime: 60 times the base unit

Square: 3600 times the base unit

Cube: 216,000 times the base unit

Fourth: 12,960,000 times the base unit, and so on.

For fractional numbers, iprime is 1/60th of the base unit, isquare is 1/3600th, ithird is 1/216,000th, ifourth is 1/12,960,000th, and so on. If there's an 'i' in front of the multiplier, it relates to a fractional number.
For situations requiring more precision than a single digit, the spoken convention is to specify the magnitude of the leading digit, and following digits are presumed to be immediately decreasing in magnitude. "Two minutes thirty" can be two and a half minutes of time, or two and a half light-minutes of distance. "Seven ithirds fortysix fourteen" would be seven 216,000ths, forty-six 12,960,000ths, fourteen 777,600,000ths of the relevant units. If the relevant digit is a zero, the zero is spoken, so "seven ithirds zero fourteen" would be seven 216,000ths, zero 12,960,000ths, fourteen 777,600,000ths of the relevant units

Most of the time, measures are context sensitive in translations to English. For instance, a range is assumed to be given in distance units, a mass or weight in terms of mass units, and so on. In Technical, the fact of what you are measuring requires the units of measurement to match, and this has, over time, leaked over to conversations in Traditional as well. In Mindlord, everything is context sensitive anyway, and nobody uses Concept for technical or technological purposes, as the 'language' is entirely unsuitable for that purpose.

Circular measure

The Empire uses a system of degrees, minutes, and seconds much like Earth. The major difference is that the imperial circle is 60 degrees, not 360 like Earth. There are still sixty arc minutes to an arc degree and sixty arc seconds to an arc minute This makes circular measure an easy, straight-forward conversion of six to one. In mathematical graphing, zero (and sixty) is straight up, not to the right. In navigation, zero (and sixty) is straight ahead, thirty is directly behind. The convention is to use the current orientation of the ship or observer to establish a 'horizontal' axis, which is stated first and measured in degrees minutes and seconds left of current direction faced, so fifteen degrees is directly to an observer's left under current orientation, fortyfive is to the right. If the measurement is negative, it's measured to the right of current orientation, so for example, directly to the right can also be expressed as minus fifteen. The vertical axis is established in the same way, and measured the same way. Note that unlike Earthly spherical coordinates, this gives four acceptable solutions for a direction, although degrees left by degrees up is most standard.

Some common Earth angles, and their imperial equivalents:

180 degrees = 30 degrees imperial
90 degrees = 15 degrees imperial
60 degrees = 10 degrees imperial
45 degrees = 7 degrees, 30 minutes imperial (usually spoken as "seven degrees thirty" or "seven thirty" if context and magnitude is established)
30 degrees = 5 degrees imperial
15 degrees = 2 degrees, 30 minutes imperial

(Only mathematics can hope to describe eleven dimensional work such as Interstitial Vector. Technical and Mindlord both handle it reasonably well, but no Earthly language can be anything approaching both clear and accurate in this regard, so I'm not going to try)

## Units and Measurement in the Empire of Humanity - Time

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Basic
Imperial measure owes nothing to any Earth system of measurement. The Imperial system was designed in an already scientific and technological era for much the same reasons Earth's metric units were designed - to simplify a complex system of historical measures.

The numeration system is base sixty - 3 times 4 times 5. This makes numbers more easily manipulated than previous systems. It works upon the same positional basis as our Hindu-Arabic system, and the same concepts apply, with multiples of 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 (and 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30) having intermediate importance in thought between the unit and the system base of sixty. For all units, the digital places are described thus:

Prime: 60 times the base unit
Square: 3600 times the base unit
Cube: 216,000 times the base unit
Fourth: 12,960,000 times the base unit, and so on.

For fractional numbers, iprime is 1/60th of the base unit, isquare is 1/3600th, ithird is 1/216,000th, ifourth is 1/12,960,000th, and so on. If there's an 'i' in front of the multiplier, it relates to a fractional number.

For situations requiring more precision than a single digit, the spoken convention is to specify the magnitude of the leading digit, and following digits are presumed to be immediately decreasing in magnitude. "Two minutes thirty" can be two and a half minutes of time, or two and a half light-minutes of distance. "Seven ithirds fortysix fourteen" would be seven 216,000ths, forty-six 12,960,000ths, fourteen 777,600,000ths of the relevant units. If the relevant digit is a zero, the zero is spoken, so "seven ithirds zero fourteen" would be seven 216,000ths, zero 12,960,000ths, fourteen 777,600,000ths of the relevant units

Most of the time, measures are context sensitive in translations to English. For instance, a range is assumed to be given in distance units, a mass or weight in terms of mass units, and so on. In Technical, the fact of what you are measuring requires the units of measurement to match, and this has, over time, leaked over to conversations in Traditional as well. In Mindlord, everything is context sensitive anyway, and nobody uses Concept for technical or technological purposes, as the 'language' is entirely unsuitable for that purpose.

Time

Imperial time units are recognizable to Earth. They have seconds, minutes, hours, etcetera. The one irregularity is that a week is sixty hours separated into four fifteen hour days. A year is sixty weeks, intermediate 'months' of four, five, and six weeks are also used but not formally encoded or legally enforced unless formally encoded as such in a contract or memorandum of understanding. The 'standard' Imperial workweek is fifteen hours, but few people adhere to such regularly and almost nobody with any sense of legal rigor. Work arrangements are typically individual between employer or contractor and their employee or sub-contractor.

The basis of the system is the second, all other units being defined in relation to that.

1 Imperial second = 1.7 Earth seconds
60 seconds = 1 minute = 1 m 42s Earth time
60 minutes = 1 hour = 1hour 42m Earth time
15 hours =1 day = 25.5 hours of Earth time
60 hours = 4 days = 1 week = 102 hours, or 4.25 days of Earth time
4, 5, or 6 weeks = 1 month
60 weeks = 1 year = 6120 hours, 255 days, or .698 years of Earth time
60 years = 1 prime = 41.89 years of Earth time
3600 years = 1 square = 2513 years of Earth time
216,000 years = 1 cube = 150,800 years of Earth time

1 earth year = 1.432 imperial years

1 earth century = 143.2 Imperial years (spoken as "Two prime twentythree point twelve" i.e. two sixties, twentythree units, twelve sixtieths)

## First Draft Excerpt from Gifts of the Mother

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It still lacked a couple minutes of ten when I arrived at my office, whistling tunelessly. RaDonna was nowhere in sight; I asked the receptionist - Dolores - to let her know I was in, and went back to check on John.

"Hello, boss! Did you hear the head of IKEA was elected prime minister of Sweden?"

"No."

"He's assembling his cabinet."

I groaned, but it was closer to modern workplace decorum than most of his jokes. Maybe Mollie was having an effect on him. "Did you get my instructions from RaDonna?"

"Oh yes. I've got my recommendations done for the upcoming appointments, along with the documentation. The files are right here. You're going to need to replace that eight hours you missed fast - your licenses are coming up for renewal next month. I ordered you a MacGuffin course for the difference."

I groaned for an entirely different reason. MacGuffin courses were a useless time-consuming pain in the ass, but sometimes you had to bite that particular bullet to get your continuing education hours in. If I had to do CE, I wanted to learn something, and MacGuffin courses were notorious for lacking that feature. "Let me know when it arrives."

"It's online and should be in your email queue. Basic American sent round their latest group of prospectuses. I'm going through them now."

Basic American was a large reliable mutual fund house, mostly too diversified for top of the market returns. When you've got over four hundred holdings in a single mutual fund, that's too many. Their main advantage was for older clients, past their peak earning years, who that insulated to a degree from bear markets. "Thank you, John." Their prospectuses would be boring white bread, but one of us had to go over them in case something important changed, and John had a lot more time than I did right now. "By the way, Julie and I are getting married."

"Wow, that was fast! Told you she was a keeper!"

He didn't know anything about what had happened since then, but that was probably for the best. "What can I say? You were right." I waved and headed off to my office.

RaDonna was waiting. Soon as I closed the door, "I haven't heard back from great-grandmother about what I asked, yet. I'll let you know when I do. Tell me what happened!"

Ra' was an old friend. I'd known her even before I met my first wife. She looked like a taller black woman in her late thirties, just enough weight on her to have curves. What she'd just recently revealed was that both she and her husband were of mixed human and elven blood and she was really in her early sixties. The elven genes had started human but been twisted in giving them elemental powers, and they had difficulty conceiving without a magic ritual given to them by The Mother, a sort of Earth goddess. That ritual had been perverted and polluted by the Mad God's cultists, but evidently their demise had had an immediate cleansing effect on the ritual because Ra' thought she was pregnant now. "Well, Sunday afternoon Julie comes to me saying she's pregnant. You know I'd ordered a ring from Tom, but that kind of short-circuited my plans. One thing and another, she accepted my proposal. Didn't even fight it, hardly. She says she thinks a small private ceremony would be best for right now. Will you be my Best Woman?"

"I can't be the fertility blessing?" she teased. She did have that glow pregnant women sometimes get.

"Well, even if that was part of our tradition, it does seem a little redundant given she's already pregnant, too."

"Of course I'll be your Best Woman, Mark. I'm just so happy to have finally caught I want to flaunt it while I've got it. Now tell me about what else happened."

So I told her the story of the arrest and what happened after.

"Sounds like the Mad God alright. Seems like he doesn't hardly do anything without some dramatic touch like blowing out the lights. I'd be right careful were I you."

"Just avoid crowds. I know, difficult in L. A. But it's all I've got."

"It would be nice to have some kind of weapon to fight back, or at least a shield for Julie to defend herself. You think Old Zeb could set me up?"

"I heard Old Zeb is tryin' to cut a swath through the Owens Valley social scene. The Star Elves taught him to make himself younger. He still looks like an old shoe and smells worse'n an open sewer, but that's not stoppin' him."

I chuckled. "Sorry Ra', I know it's not funny to you, but the image of Old Zeb hitting the rural bars looking for women and thinking he's God's Gift is hilarious to males."

"Wait'll he hits on Julie."

"She will have my sympathy, but it's still funny. I thought people bathed regularly when he grew up."

"I don't know. Maybe a hundred years mostly alone in the desert changed him. Alright, Mark, I'll see if Roland will contact him. You know he's going to want payment?"

"Maybe if I just skip the middleman and offer him some good liquor." I wasn't a connoisseur but Johnny Walker and Jim Beam were pretty sure hits. Find out if he liked beer or wine; I could keep finding new good beers and wines for him indefinitely.

"You know, that mightn't be a bad idea. Of course, liquor isn't all that he buys."

"We'll see what he wants when I offer him a case of Johnny Walker Black."

"That might be casting pearls before swine."

"Wait until he tastes it. I think you might be underestimating him." Underestimating Old Zeb might be easy - if you didn't know he was a two hundred year old former slave who'd escaped, learned magic, and paid his former master for his family's freedom with fairy gold he'd made himself (It had been a deliberate choice; he could also make the real thing). He had to be tough enough to give lessons, and not exactly the dimmest bulb around, even if his grasp of modern realities wasn't what it could be. But to be fair, Old Zeb's way of wooing women would make for a lot of underestimation by those women. He'd grown up in the first half of the nineteenth century, and things were different now, but he wasn't.

"Just be careful with him; he's one of the stronger human mages. He may not have great-grandmother's mastery, but you have no defenses at all."

"Ra', this is me. I'm going to be completely upfront and truthful about everything. He could still choose to take offense, but it won't be because I was asking for it by running a con on him."

"Just the voice of experience. After a certain amount of time, some men get set in their ways. They like what they like and they want what they want. 'Better' doesn't enter their thinking."

"If he wants cut rate rotgut, cut rate rotgut is what I'll give him. But I think it's worth trying to give him a chance to see if he likes the good stuff."

"If it pays off, more power to you. Just be careful. I got to go talk to Frank about something. We'll give Old Zeb a signal tonight." And with that she was out of the room.

## Excerpt from The End Of Childhood

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Soon as everyone was through and the portal collapsed, Asto made a general announcement, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but the long way home has become the certain way. This last Gate was a rush job, and I'm no longer certain I know the exact displacement to either Tastimuno or to Instance one fortythree twentyone twelve. But the Empire has beacons established to determine position when we get closer to the Imperial Home Instance."

"Can we not retrace our Gates back to Industry Fractal, sir?" Annoying as the question was, he had to admit Yrka was sharp to have asked it.

"Certainly I can. But then we'd have to deal with the Elemental Lords on that last world, and the planetary scale eruption I'm sure the remaining energy of our Gate triggered. Then there's Industry. The Fractal Demon nobility uses Gates like we walk. Soon as we Gated into Industry, they'd be all over us. Do we know that Planetary Surface forces are holding any point on Industry currently? Do we even know if the initial assault was successful?"

"I can still get you home. It's just going to take a little longer. But the further we get from Industry and the closer to home, the friendlier the choices get. Look around you - isn't this a better place to be?"

It was a better planet. They were at the edge of a clearing, leading down to a lake of perhaps fifty ifourths by forty. Behind them, fronds of fern-like plants grew thickly enough to prevent seeing more than a few ififths into the growth. Primitive trees with thick, round leaves not unlike iceplant grew in clumps to a height of six or ten ififths. Grasses grew in-between everything, yellow-green blades anywhere from isixths to nearly four ififths in height. The temperature was warm, and the oxygen content in the air was fourteen iprime. Both perception and suit analysis said the atmosphere was breathable.

Asto cracked open his helmet to test it. "Give it ten minutes to be certain, then we can all breathe natural air for a while." Guardians were the natural test subjects - any allergic reaction or trace poisonous element to the air, they could heal themselves through it. It wasn't precisely a pleasant smell; the air was hot and humid and contained enough sulfur and other organic compounds to smell like rot. But it was breathable, which would give their suits a much needed rest after two days of continuous use. After charging weapons, everyone shut their suit siphons down. They trampled the grass down in an area thirty ififths across, and took turns sleeping while a few stood watch. It wasn't the most comfortable sleep any of them had ever had, but after better than a day of heavy action none of them had any difficulty sleeping.

Life was young on this world, which circled an orangish yellow sun. Plant leaves were primitive, ferns and succulents. Hexapodal lizardlike creatures the size of dogs scurried about, but their legs splayed to the side, rather than underneath, and their appendages included vestigial fins, still partially adapted to water. Nothing flew except small buzzing insect analogs, no bigger than a mosquito.

Nobody saw any creatures bigger than about forty prime in mass - not nearly large enough to feed a large predator, despite the log entry noting them. "Whether that's in a different area or they're simply rare in this locale, keep your eyes open on watch," Asto warned, "If there are pack hunters present, they don't have to be large individually to be dangerous."

Hynaria asked, "What about suit endurance? Aren't we going to be stretching the siphons and converters beyond their design limits?"

"What caused Talamasa's suit to fail is conjecture, but I'd bet it was extended use close to or even over the rated limits. They're designed to last, but we've been using them hard. With breathable atmosphere and the much smaller probability of firefights burning energy to recharge weapons, they should last much longer. Nor is there any maintenance issue we cannot fix here among us with five Guardians. It's just difficult to make such repairs while the suit is in use. Do a full check on your suits - visual inspection, electronic diagnostics, output tests. If we bring the maintenance up to specification while we've got a breathable atmosphere here, we can repair anything that might be getting ready to fail. I downloaded several alternate paths back to the Empire for use if it came to it, and we can make a beacon detector as well."
Senior Private Jumar asked, "Don't our advanced bases have beacons?"

"Yes and no. There are beacons fully equipped starships can use in combination with an ephemeris to find the base, but they're nowhere near the base itself. If you were the Merlon, would you want a beacon your enemies can use right on top of your forward base?"

"I hadn't thought of that, sir."

"The Merlon and many others in the Imperial staff are paid to think about things like that. Not to mention base commanders and anyone else involved."

"We're still going home," Private Ambosta said, "It's just going to take a little different path to get to the goal."

"Exactly, Private. We're still going home. It's going to be a long journey and not very exciting, but we'll get there."

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