Dec 08, 2019 1:40 PM
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Lord Nekros considers the benefits of continuing to talk to this infuriating person versus making his underlings do it, and decides he'd rather have the underlings do it.

"In that case, I'll have my techs on this line to discuss the details, since they're so important to you."

And away he goes, and in his place: much more polite and professional technicians!

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The general passes the technicians back to Lieutenant Tzirakis, who immediately starts explaining jump drive technology and why it makes no sense for ships to just spontaneously appear out of the void. They will have such a productive conversation.

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They will! They excitedly learn about jump technology, and then they fetch their lead technician to explain hyperspace.

Lieutenant Kyrell gets an okay from Nekros to explain the basics of hyperspace (because their hyperdrives are not working, anyway, and maybe they can find some way to get them to work again) and then she explains them! Ships spontaneously appearing out of the void is the standard operating procedure, but the ships have to navigate around celestial bodies and if their nav computer misses a calculation, everyone on board dies horribly. Thus, hyperspace routes are not actually specific routes one must travel, they are the specific routes that one does not die travelling.

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Jump routes, on the other hand, are specialized phenomena, like a literal path in space from point A to point B. There is complicated math governing where they usually hang out relative to the other contents of their star systems; it's usually possible to think of a wormhole as being approximately stationary relative to its local star, but they do wobble around in ways that pilots need to adjust for.

In order to transit a wormhole, one needs a functioning jump drive - items which require incredible precision manufacture - and a functioning jump pilot, a person with particular brain structures who has had the expensive neurosurgery necessary to install pilot implants, and these two things need to communicate with one another via compatible intermediary hardware and software, and then your pilot can take you through a wormhole and out the other side. If you are missing some piece of this puzzle, you won't successfully enter the wormhole; if some piece is present but subtly damaged, you won't successfully leave it.

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If something goes wrong with a hyperdrive while a ship's in hyperspace, the ship might make it out of hyperspace in the fashion of 'being smeared across several systems,' but their technology has a lot of safeguards, so that a hyperdrive will not activate unless it's going to be able to finish the trip safely if left to its own devices.

Travelling through hyperspace also takes time. It's faster than not travelling through hyperspace, of course, but sometimes ships can spend weeks travelling to their destination. Travel times vary greatly depending on how long the distance to travel is, and what's in the way. Traveling from one planet to another near the galactic core, for instance, is notoriously long. A greater number of celestial bodies all clustered together makes detours a necessity, and detours add quite a lot of travel time. Asteroid belts are more dangerous than one would think, because the asteroids in it are so numerous that they make it impossible for computers to predict without something constantly surveying the asteroid field and sending out astrogation charts.

Kyrell is a little caught up by nerd excitement. So many new things to learn! So many things to explain! She does not over-explain and keeps it professional, because she's heard of information security, but gosh she wants to nerd.

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The presence of celestial bodies along a wormhole's path barely even makes sense as an idea and certainly doesn't interfere with their use, but the presence of celestial bodies very close to either end of a wormhole tends to destabilize them; there is a galactic standard for how far out of a system's orbital plane a jump point has to be before it's considered reliable.

Hyperdrive sounds like a really interesting and useful technology! Does Lieutenant Kyrell think it could eventually be shared with the planets of the wormhole nexus?

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Lieutenant Kyrell is very diplomatic about it, but: she does not think Nekros would be willing to share this technology in the immediate future without a very good reason. Being the only ones that can pop out of nowhere in space is a very nice advantage that she suspects her boss will want to keep on lockdown for a while.

She is not allowed to mention that all of their hyperdrives are mysteriously not functioning, so she doesn't mention that.

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Lieutenant Tzirakis is diplomatic right back, in a what-a-shame, why-must-the-higher-ups-be-like-this sort of way.

He also, however, finds a very diplomatic way to summarize certain aspects of local history: wormholes collapse sometimes, that happened to Barrayar once, we spent six hundred years isolated from the galaxy and lost most of our technology, when the galaxy found us again we were promptly conquered by the eight-planet Cetagandan Empire which also happens to be the richest civilization in the wormhole nexus, and then we kicked their asses off our planet and established an interplanetary empire of our own, isn't that an interesting bit of trivia, now let's get back to comparing FTL technology.

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Lieutenant Kyrell is professionally amused with Tzirakis and his diplomacy, and agrees in a what-a-shame, why-must-the-higher-ups-be-like-this sort of way right back.

Gosh that is some interesting trivia! She talks more FTL technology before getting into interesting trivia of her own.

The Sith Empire hid in the unknown regions of space for a thousand years, gathering power, and then they showed up in the main galaxy to conquer it, and conquered half from the major galaxy-ruling power known creatively as the Galactic Republic. They had signed a peace treaty at the halfway mark, but recently it's been broken (by both sides) and they're back to full-fledged war. The ultimate goal of the Sith Empire is to rule the entire galaxy, though perhaps not this one. With subtle preference toward her recommending not this one.

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Lieutenant Tzirakis returns the conversation to the subject of FTL technology without openly responding to this interesting historical anecdote.

But copies of the recording of this conversation definitely make their way upstream.

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Lieutenant Kyrell surely doesn't know anything about copies of this conversation being sent anywhere in particular, and Lord Nekros won't argue with the Barrayarans learning about the glorious history of the Sith Empire.

FTL technology! Fascinating stuff!

Eventually they're interrupted by a Lieutenant Adara, who is here to attempt to negotiate a better way for the Sith and the Barrayarans to talk to one another than by long-delayed message broadcasts. Are the Barrayarans willing to attempt to figure out a way to do this thing? Lord Nekros would like to meet some Barrayarans in person.

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FTL communication is not possible in this galaxy except by physically carrying messages through wormholes. So unless Lieutenant Kyrell is permitted to share that interesting 'hyperwave' technology with the Barrayarans...? No? What a pity. Barrayar will have to send a delegation to meet with Lord Nekros's fleet. The more important the person they want to meet, the bigger the associated escort will be; it's a prestige thing.

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The Sith quite understand these sorts of things, and would like to cut straight to the chase and have a fairly important person to meet with so they can get to discussing relevant information without wasting too much time.

Are the Barrayarans willing to send someone important and in charge of stuff?

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Lieutenant Tzirakis dutifully forwards this request up the chain and waits for the response.

The response: Prime Minister Admiral Count Aral Vorkosigan is available to lead such a delegation.

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That sounds sufficiently important for Lord Nekros! He's so pleased!

Would Prime Minister Admiral Count Aral Vorkosigan like to discuss the specifics of this meeting via holomessage?

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He would prefer to postpone that conversation until his delegation is close enough to Lord Nekros's fleet that the lightspeed delay is no longer significant. It should be approximately half an hour.

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Lord Nekros's envoy says that will be agreeable. Nekros himself is highly impatient, he's not accustomed to waiting like this for no reason other than 'It takes a while to talk to someone.'

When they're in range for the solved lightspeed delay, though: there is Lord Nekros. They've cleared up image quality since he was here last. He's a tall, broad shouldered man in decorated armor that looks surprisingly practical, despite its cape. He looks - sickly is not the right term, he looks perfectly healthy, and sleep deprived does not quite do it justice. There are dark circles around his eyes, and the veins in his face show up near-black against too-grey skin. It looks sort of like something's been draining the life out from him, and in its place, putting something... else.

"Greetings, Vorkosigan. Is the lightspeed delay to your satisfaction?"

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Messages are delayed less than a second at this range, hardly even perceptible.

"Yes," he says calmly. "Greetings, Lord Nekros. Before we discuss arrangements for our meeting, I should ask: are you or your people in need of anything? Food, medical attention? I'm told your arrival in this system was unplanned, and I'm prepared to offer aid if you require it."

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"We are equipped to travel in hyperspace for months," says Lord Nekros with a hint of frost. "We will have no trouble."

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"I'm glad to hear it," he says with untroubled sincerity. "About the meeting, then. Would you prefer to visit me here on the Prince Serg, or receive me aboard one of your ships?"

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"We would be happy to receive you on my flagship, the Storm's Fury."

He's suddenly all smiles. This man: not great at subtlety.

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"Very well. My shuttle will depart the Prince Serg presently."

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"Excellent. I look forward to meeting you."

The line cuts out, in a suitably dramatic fashion.

... And then someone else takes over to relay exact instructions on docking procedures and how they're handling the different types of ships with their different airlock types and associated necessities.

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The techs handle that conversation. Aral trusts that the appropriate information will be relayed to his pilot.

He also leaves the Prince Serg and its escort of three lesser ships with orders about what to do in the event that Lord Nekros attempts to capture or kill him, which he thinks is fairly likely. Not a guarantee, or he wouldn't be risking it at all, but the possibility is definitely in his thoughts.

Into the shuttle he goes, and then over to the Storm's Fury, where the Sith and Barrayaran personnel cooperate wonderfully to arrange a pleasant docking.

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Docking takes a little while, their force shields are not equipped to handle letting in such a foreign ship without being completely shut down, and this means they have to drain the hangar of air, but it takes less time than one might expect. Soon the Barrayarans may leave their ship and be escorted to a meeting room.

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