Sharoma Frontierverse Info Technology

Technology of 3200

Quite often, the best form of defence is attack, hence Faulcon de Lacy do provide what may be considered offensive weapons. It should be made clear that they should only be used in a defensive capacity against an attacker - Faulcon de Lacy in no way condones any other use.

Continuing the theme of last month's essay, this writing forms the response to a series of genuine questions. The language was not English; it was written in Vulgar Achenarian. Fortunately, the source material this time has been passed down to me digitally, and is therefore completely intact.

For the rampant Piracy in 3200, we have the veterans to blame. Well, not the veterans themselves. The superpowers feel the need to arm and train so many millions of men - is it any wonder that these men, seizing their own destiny, flee to the frontier, where law enforcement is impossible? The productive capacity of the frontier, since there is no tax, is limitless. The veterans are hardy, imbued with a defiant spirit! Now, we must stop with these tired clichés from former speeches. It is simple: their goal is to establish a rival civilisation. Indeed, they consider themselves a breakaway society, and technology has helped them to achieve this. What of me and you, left here? The governing class sell themselves out, with hope of transformation. Do not worry, though. You and I are as Divine as any of them. They may be able to afford superior nanobots to do their multidimensional thinking, but thanks to DMT, we can go there any time we like. Change is in our lives; we'll make it in the end. Machinery may break you in two - what would you do? Simple. Accept it. Bite from the Apple, ingest the knowledge, and expanded, your mind will go further. Seeking to suppress your behaviour, instead you are offered a journey across space and time which is unlimited, compressing daily into an entity a million times more complex than it was a fraction of a second ago. We are the breakaway civilisation, and before Thargoid and Arachnid, we were the aliens too. Ever since we affixed lenses to our eyes to enhance vision, and speakers to our lobes to directly inject music.

We're in the building where they make us grow, and I'm frightened by the liquid engineers. Like you.

Technology has saved mankind from catastrophe. The famines of the 21st century caused countless deaths, and all were needless. As we now know, the Earth can support upwards of 20 billion people - even with current farming methods which are so simple as to appear primitive, utilising crude tools and harmful fertilisers. From the development of wheat which can survive the arid extremes of the Sahara, to trees which yield the ripest and juiciest fruits - even in Iceland. Food production aside, it is the military realm that man has always, sadly, invested the bulk of his resources. Each new discovery is more vicious than the last. For the current Cold War and relative peace, which has lasted since at least 2380, we have the officer class to thank. Forgive me, I am diverging again. For your penny's worth, you want to know about technology, and the state of it, in these recessionary times. Well, I'll try and write all I can in the time allotted for this transmission.

My Dear James - Son of Achimus (or do you actually prefer what the Authorities call you - Jameson? I do not wish to offend.) It has come to my attention that certain sections of society - and I do not consider myself of their number - believe the government of Achenar has in its possession a technology of a much higher order than we today are aware of. They speak of hyperdrives capable of (light year) jumps in the millions, and frequency manipulators of such strength that high definition video can be relayed in real time, without loss in clarity, over this same range[1]. Surely such instant transfer of sound, image and all manner of sensory perception, makes travelling through time itself a reality. I have also heard rumours of a technology derived from a species completely separate from the extinct Thargoid race. This species apparently evolved at the opposite end of our own galaxy, and mastered the arts of plasma and long-range colonisation long before our own race. They have not, however, managed to break into Witchspace, and their hyperspace technology was apparently inferior to our own. Perhaps you could shed some light on this matter, and a few others? I realise that your time is precious. Did you ever establish that pig farm you spoke of setting up? I know it was your father's passion; perhaps in honour of him you could obtain a government grant. There is currently a pork shortage in my home system; this has become even more acute since the (environ)mentalists successfully pushed through a bill to illegalize the production of synthetic meats. On that note, I have a warehouse full of production vats, now superfluous, which I need to export before the deadline approaches. You know me - I am not a fan of breaking the law, especially by possession of restricted materials, since I was fined and severely warned for my activities within the (growing) community. Well, it is time to close. I do babble on so.

Posterity will come to know me as Jameson. The Bulletin Board System names me as such, as do the 'Most Wanted' posters. Despite this, I actually adopted my maternal name of Achima, so in future, my friend, I humbly request address by that title, in its correct form. Legally, since we must always refer also to our former names as our present, my name is Com. Achimus Jam.[2]. Now, to your questions. Yes, it is true. The progress of human technology has been thwarted, at least publically, in order to stagnate the mobility of the commons. Hyperdrives were developed certainly at least one hundred years before announcement; it was a further fifty years before economies of scale allowed for widespread commercial adoption. The same was once said of the Greek Navy, or the Trans-Siberian Railway. To the ruling class, the danger was obvious. High-technology leads to increased awareness amongst the lower classes. Travel alone awakens them from slumber, and they, being human, naturally seek to spread their seed, and for this transport is always necessary. It is not just the reproductive seed of which I speak; rather, it is the desire, deep within all human hearts, to erect infrastructure in far-flung places; to spread progress; to honour their Gods in places so remote, the Gods themselves will be rendered speechless. Thus it was that the ancient Greeks ventured as far as Britannia; Russian conscripts were mobilised for Mukden with relative celerity and finally: the restive plebeians - our forefathers of a few hundred years ago, eager for fresh soil to till, set out, cramped within the confines of the first generation transporter ships.

It is only an outward repression; inwardly there is no suppression. This is because the ruling classes have, secretly, been the least conservative factions and have always invested the bulk of the resources into military science. Only bit-by-bit do they release this data. Whenever the commons become restive, a new discovery is announced - the discovery is usually still a shadow of its potential. We saw this most recently with the beacon system and its glorious unveiling, and I do say that with a sarcastic contempt. For it has been many generations since this system in its current form was realised. The actual capability of the military powers is even further in excess. Not quite as much as you suggested, but not far off, and given the exponential rate of growth in communications, we can surmise it won't be long before you can travel from this universe to the next as quickly as you can step into the shower and out.

Once the art of destruction was taken to the most shocking extremes, such as the introduction of Arachnid plasma into human arms, communication was then perfected. Speed of deployment is also highly important to a modern navy. Military hyperdrives are capable of jumping many hundreds of times farther, and with a fraction of the fuel, than anything sold in all core shipyards. The so-called class of military drives you may have seen for sale are reconditioned units ripped from ancient frigates. The same goes for your latest android implants and HD devices: all were invented and perfected a long time ago, to be rolled out at the whim of the Red Shield Corporation, or, as you say, Faulcon de Lacy. After they developed their missile technology, and became the sole producers, they moved into communications technology.

How has the technology of today come to exist? Have the corporations of the past such as Intel, Microsoft, Apple had an influence on it?

The Apple symbology is very important. Man lost his psychic awareness and his power over Nature the instant he began to transfer his consciousness to the ego. In modern times, this is represented not by decadence, as the bible may have you believe, but by the popular adoption of technology. At first, simple hand-held devices appeared. Communication with them was by voice alone. Then keypads were made practical. After that, video screens. Then, nanotechnology allowed implants within the eyes, ears and hands. Music could be heard without headphones, video seen without screens and glasses. Following these simple implants, machines were then perfected which could perform tasks the most highly-paid brain surgeon could only look at, in awe. That is, the insertion of technology into the very nodes of the brain. Then it was apparent: by originally eating from the tree of knowledge, in the form of the Apple iPhone (and I believe that the original logos indeed illustrated that the user was in fact biting of the Apple), or similar, man had been cast from Paradise to live in turmoil with his own morbid reflections and egotistic tendencies. The pattern of war and violence followed, but in their wake that desire for technological progress simply could not, and would not, abate. We are still eating from the tree of knowledge. We still worship Technology as our God. And we have arrived at the same place. In those earliest days, when man still cherished partnership, and mushrooms were plentiful, hunting was not even necessary. Violence was unknown. Simply by concentrating, closing the eyes and visualizing, was it possible to call forth from the jungle any predator. They would kneel, and accept their sacrifice. Today, animal hunters use similar techniques, but only with the aid of brain implants. We lost our ability to be everywhere at once and to travel through dimensions, and the history of human progress has really just been a desire to return to that sublime and all-powerful state. Technology and consciousness are one and the same.

Apple and Google eventually merged, under the auspices of successor organizations to the C.I.A. and other clandestine government agencies. The true genius of Google, and the reason for its creation, was the perfection of predictive algorithms. Stereotypes exist because of low sampling rates. Google sought to extract data from everything - every human body and every computer. By doing this, their virtual model of the Earth, and details of what was about to happen based on all these variables, was damn near 100% accurate. Once transistors were replaced, a whole new wave of companies washed away the old electronics industry. Semiconductors didn't last into the 22nd century, and Intel was absorbed and eventually forgotten.

What happened to car manufacturers? Did they go out of business when the starship was invented? Further to this, if you will please indulge me, but what of Faulcon de Lacy: how did it come to exist? Does it have a sole monopoly over the starship market?

An interesting question, as study of the ancient car industry has long been a fascination of mine. Many did go out of business. Not all. Two survived, and not because they were any better at adapting to a rapidly changing marketplace, but because they held such iconic status in historic terms that their failure was simply too much for the commons to bear. The first was the Ford Motor Company - they secured a government contract to furnish all Federal planets with buses, farm equipment and personal transports. Of course, their 75% Union ownership essentially held the management hostage. They bought up all the remaining car and component companies, including all producers of industrial and agricultural machinery, and today employ over 200,000,000 people. The second was the conglomerate known as T.F.A., or 'Toyota-FIAT-American', the company which had already absorbed what remained of the American, European and Asian car industries by the 22nd century. It was renamed many times over, and fell from being Ford's rival to its opposite. It re-tooled all its plants, at public expense, over to the production of starship components. To hide an image of cheapness it once held, it was decided that a new name should be created. Faulcon Manspace was chosen after a ballot in every factory. The first ship to be produced was the Yashar Comet, but it was a prototype only, since meta-flight design flaws were discovered just before the model was to enter mass production. The rival starship companies, which Faulcon had been supplying for many years, were still advanced and employed all the best designers. Indeed, the only starship designers, since the only technical college was located on the premises of Salem Shipyards Inc. Faulcon struggled for many years but eventually succeeded in conquering the component market to such an extent that they held a dominant position over the three remaining starship producers, although publically this was never acknowledged. Ford continued to produce in the same manner, and since the most remote Federal colonies continued to deliver orders for basic machinery, efficiency rarely improved. Ford's tractor models had production runs of hundreds of years. Eventually, reliability was practically 100%.

Overnight, Faulcon's destiny was transformed. On the fourth day before the Kalends of Germanicus[3], in the Year 2762, a contract was offered to them by an anonymous government agent. The order was for a billion Viper Defence Craft, to be installed with the then state-of-the-art Class 3 Military Hyperdrive. Faulcon had no spaceships in production, and the nearest vessel they had in prototype form was a crude Interplanetary Shuttle, not capable of breaching the relatively weak, man-made atmosphere of Mars. This was the state of their Research & Development department! Now, in their hands, was a complete design specification, complete with the latest hyperdrive technology. The government would even pay to retool the facilities. Tranches of credit were issued, with no interest, as is the ancient law, with a five hundred year maturity. The rival starship companies, particularly Paynou, Prosset & Salem, immediately attacked, flooding the public markets with bad credit. The economy stagnated; the Viper entered production in secret. By 2887, PPS were ramping up production of their flagship Cobra model, then in its first specification. Rumours of an attack on Faulcon factories flooded the capital, but in such panic the facts are always vastly overstated, and the shrewd man can easily calculate the actual threat. Although news from the frontier provinces did indicate a military buildup, the reality was assuring. For with a brand new private fleet, and 10,000 freshly trained pilots, the police forces of Sol in particular were reinforced beyond anything PPS could throw at them. The vessels still suffered from minor issues, but such things are easily ironed out, as you know, within a generation or two.

It wasn't long[4] before Faulcon purchased PPS outright, thus adding the Cobra to its lineup. Commercial dominance continued, and relations with Ford warmed until it was merged altogether (with Ford becoming an independent subsidiary), making Faulcon an employer of over a billion workers across a half million factories. With this final merger, a distinct automotive industry ceased to exist, and thanks to dramatically increased economies of scale, even frontier colonies were able to afford high-tech planetary shuttles.

On the frontier with Achenar, tension was mounting. Imperial scout ships were running rings around the ancient types the Federation was using. Something needed to be done to fix this imbalance. Further to this, a fast vessel, built for armed exploration, was being requested by the frontier provincials. To explore potential colonies with greater efficiency, they argued, a new design type was required. Thus, on the first day of 2982, a contract was again delivered to Faulcon. The order was for a new scout ship, known as the Sidewinder, to be produced in vast quantities. Another growth spurt ensued, and it wasn't long before half of all ships in the sky were either police Vipers or civilian Sidewinders. Production escalated every year for many generations, as new Federal colonies sprung up and installed their own factories, to patrol their own skies and expand their own dominion. As is bound to happen with so ubiquitous a model (spare parts become cheap and plentiful) the Sidewinder eventually became the preferred ship of pirates. This did much to harm the image of the ship, although the profit it generates from maintenance alone is enough to keep the components in production.

It was around this time, at the dawn of the fourth millennium[5], that the change in name from Faulcon Manspace to Faulcon de Lacy occurred. An independent manufacturer of just a single vessel, the Krait, had been experiencing enviable profits and a glowing reputation. Their remote location at the colony of Inines enabled them to dominate the surrounding sectors, for the distance is too extreme for commerce with the core to occur on a level necessary to support a remote starship industry. Lest they grow too large, too quickly, they were acquired in a merger which was highly favourable to the shareholders. The Krait was rebranded as a Faulcon de Lacy - the first vessel to bear this name, and for a while, the only one. Aacquisitions occurred on a smaller scale, and in 3095 a new ship was launched, aimed at capturing the commuter segment. It was called the Iguana, and was the last ship to wear Faulcon Manspace insignia.

As you can see, the history of the starship industry is also a story of Faulcon de Lacy, so your question is certainly relevant. A period of stagnation, however, now occurred. It was chiefly due to complacency, and the inefficiency which results from government interference. As 3100 came around, a conference between the Imperial and Federal powers decided that a large scale disarmament should occur, in the systems which form the main border between them. It was in the interests of both factions to approve this, since the cost of maintaining the large fleets, increasingly ceremonial in nature, was a great burden in a time of economic slowdown. Many servicemen, of both navies, were discharged and offered free passage to the frontier. Faulcon itself was faced with a sharp reduction in orders, and consequently laid off a large proportion of its workforce[6]. These workers likewise decided to look elsewhere for employment, for the poverty within the core systems was now so acute that emigration exceeded immigration by a wide margin. Now we come to an event of which I am sure you are aware. The ill-fated second generation of the Cobra, known to history as the infamous Mark II, highlighted that Faulcon had prematurely retired a vital part of its workforce. Quality, particularly in hull engineering, was compromised; the vessel was a disaster from launch[7]. It was withdrawn straight away.

At this point it is relevant to mention the importance of the initial phase known as injection molding. Although starship panels are built using a press, the original casting must be handmade.[8] There are not many engineers in the universe to whom this skill is afforded. They are born with the ability to detect, simply by listening to the tone of the mechanism, or rather feeling it, when exactly the cutter angle should alter, or cease altogether. Rather like a steel door panel from a passenger car of 1965, a human hand will carve that final pattern, which the computers replicate and feed to the mass production presses. Why is this so? Surely a computer can more accurately render a perfect surface? Not so; for some unknown reason, when the perfect starship is made, of perfect components, calculated to infinity to be as precise and as efficient as possible, by the most powerful supercomputers - well, something strange indeed occurs. The ships always fail. When the human forms a vessel or, as it may be, a component, and then orders the machine to produce it, something different occurs. The human imprints, by nature, what may be false or without sense according to the computer. Each star systems is different, and the magnetic force of each planet is likewise (slightly) different. These differences are communicated via the human's electrical frequency, and are reflected in the minute motions of his hands. This is yet another reason why starships built here, or there, are always different, and far more prone to failure (even with regular servicing), the farther out one ventures. Have you ever noticed, that? In my younger and more vulnerable years, I was foolhardy enough to take my brand new Asp Explorer[9] to wage a privateer's war against the Bandits of Cemiess[10]. I found that, despite my maintenance schedule being extremely cautious, the ship began to fail consistently, for a myriad of reasons, the longer it was kept from its home star. The frequency vibration of each star has a perceivable effect on everything in that system, including such complex systems as hyperdrives, atmospheric shielding and hull auto-repair. Pirates are also aware of this phenomenon, and rarely venture beyond the system which produced their ship.

Lacking, as it were, an experienced team of these exceptionally valuable Hullwrights, the initiative in starship design and production briefly passed to a company known as Cowell & MgRath Shipyards of Lave. Rather than seek to obliterate this competition, as they had before, Faulcon de Lacy [hereafter known as FDL] employed an altogether more cunning strategy. They offered a partnership. C&R was contracted to build the Cobra Mk. III, perhaps the most anticipated vessel of its time[11], and this they did. However, their remote presence in Lave enabled FDL time, and space, to consolidate their operation. They dispatched agents across the galaxy to search for all the best people, and gradually rebuilt their entire R&D department. Nor were they inactive on the financial front. In 3113, Cowell & McRath was finally absorbed in a hostile takeover, following what at the time was reported as a Leestian invasion of Lave, in which the entire planet was razed and the inhabitants murdered or sold into slavery. In actual fact, FDL sponsored this invasion, after they had first extracted certain engineers. Production of the Cobra Mk. III was now distributed to all FDL shipyards, and it remains in production to this day.

The Zorgon Petterson Group was likewise acquired in suspicious circumstances. Whenever an independent manufacturer appears, and proceeds to have success with a new model, FDL acquires the company before they can produce the ship in a significant quantity. The Fer-de-Lance was an excellent vessel in its time, and its name was no coincidence. However, the ship became a favourite amongst bounty hunters, tarnishing its image. The commons, having lost so many relatives in attacks, urged the Federation to ban the vessel entirely, and to immediately destroy all facilities associated with manufacture of its components. FDL lost the appeal, highlighting the power of the people, for never before had the government not favoured the corporation. The ship was officially outlawed on the Kalends of Pius, 3199. It was around this time that, sensing increasing aggression from the people of Earth, FDL transferred its corporate headquarters to a site built deep within Mount Olympus on Mars.

I hope it is now clear to you how dominant FDL is, and the efforts to which they have gone to maintain such a position. They sell their products to anybody, without distinction of allegiance, rank or criminal status. Currently they are reaping extreme profits from the sales of their three Eagle ships, although personally I am not a fan of either variant.

Does Faulcon de Lacy have an association with the Elite Federation of Pilots?

Not directly. Although considering that most pilots in the Federation fly, or have at one time piloted, an FDL vessel, then it is a natural to assume a degree of association. All pilots are encouraged to provide feedback to the manufacturer of their respective starships, and most vessels actually send remote user data, with or without the pilot's consent. Officially, the Elite Federation of Pilots must always remain strictly non-partisan. As a dominant industrial conglomerate, FDL is as much a political entity as it is an economic one. Besides, the Elite pilots are above such rivalries, and tend to value their vessels personality quirks above its actual place of manufacturer. There is variation in metals across the galaxy; no ships built in separate systems are ever identical.

[1] Essentially an instant wireless data service, across space and time.

[2] Commodus Achimus Jamius. Jameson is converted to a former tense to indicate that he used to be of that name before adopting Achimus, the male form of Achima.

[3] Presumably August 28th.

[4] It was the next year in fact: 2888.

[5] 3034.

[6] The most publicised example was the Hull Works, located on Birminghamworld. This facility was mothballed, despite the fact that it employed 12,000 people.

[7] A wealth of information regarding the Cobra Mk. II is available elsewhere.

[8] An ancient decree legally mandates that only qualified Hullwrights perform this duty. Nevertheless, foolish individuals regularly attempt to build and launch their own starships, with fatal results.

[9] Asp Explorer Mk. I / Registration KV-514.

[10] The system of Cemiess (-2,-2), where a fortune can be made in the illegal diamond trade. It seems unlikely that the author travelled to such a place purely to "wage war". More likely it was a journey motivated by the prospect of immense monetary gain.

[11] There are rumours, existing to this day, that FDL actually sabotaged the Cobra Mk. II intentionally in order to further escalate their presence in the public awareness, thus increasing the market for the next model. There is, of course, no such thing as bad publicity.

[12] 3126.