Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

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ZedF
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Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by ZedF » Mon Oct 08, 2018 7:50 pm

Game Setup:
- 160 star sphere, Alliances enabled, Econ is 150 cash 50 research.
- Player is 1x 1PE Humans, vs. 2x 1PE Hard AI Hivers and 5x 1+1PE Hard AI Zuul.
- Mods and customized setup are in effect, primarily affecting Humans and to a lesser degree Hivers, for scenario-related purposes.

Feel free to guess at and/or comment on mods that were used for game setup. This TAR's setting borrows a lot from the usual SotS-verse, but is not entirely congruent with it. It should be possible to infer some of the mods via careful reading of the story.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by ZedF » Mon Oct 08, 2018 8:00 pm

Preface

"Whoa!" Gary Landauer exclaimed to his colleague, quickly wheeling his chair over the orbital lab's tile floor, from the table at which he'd been sitting to a computer connected to a bank of instruments. "Did you see that?"

"No, I didn't see anything, but I think I felt something," Alphonse Tremblay replied, putting a hand to his chest and massaging, as he glanced over at his colleague's sudden movement. The lights in the lab flickered momentarily, as if in response, and the bearded scientist frowned.

"Come take a look at this! Have you ever seen a gravimetric wave that strong?" Gary tapped with the back of a pencil on the monitor. He started opening more windows on the display, quickly scanning further data from other instruments. "These are some really strange readings..."

Alphonse quickly strode over and looked over his colleague's shoulder. "Whatever it is, it's not a point source. It's alomst like it's coming from all parts of the sky at once, which should be impossible. And the parallax is all wrong; if I were to take that at face value, whatever we're picking up isn't coming from more than a light-year away. But if there were anything out there that close by that could generate anything close to these kinds of energy levels, we should know about it already."

"It doesn't make any sense," Gary agreed. "I'd give my left arm to know what Sol would think of this; even without considering their vastly better tech base, they've got an interferometer the size of Terra's orbit. But if this really is a local event then even with their better equipment, they won't find out about it for decades. We'll send them our data by laser as we get it, of course, but that won't get there any faster than the wave itself." Gary opened up yet another window on his display as he launched the communications program.

"I'm more worried about what we'll tell the colonial administration," Alphonse fretted, stepping away from the computer and beginning to pace about the habitat. "We've got enough orbital infrastructure and automated construction equipment up now that if there's anything out there that could be a navigation hazard, they'll want to know about it yesterday. The last thing we want is equipment getting jostled off course and risking a Kessler Cascade."

"Um... yeah," Gary replied abstractedly. "You know what else is strange, I can't get this commo program to cooperate. It won't focus the laser on Sol for some reason and is doing some logical backflips instead. It keeps going into reset mode. Did you notice it doing anything flaky during our last dispatch window?" He paused, but no reply was forthcoming. "Alphonse?"

"Merde." Gary looked up and over at his partner. Alphonse was standing at a porthole, white as a sheet, gripping a handhold tightly for support, while waving for Gary to join him. "I can see why the computer is having trouble."

Gary got up from the desk, alarmed, and rushed over to the window. He nearly fell over in shock. "But... that's impossible!" he exclaimed. The planet overhead remained unchanged, thankfully, but everywhere else he looked, the stars were different, and there were far too few of them. The Milky Way's disk, absent from the sky. Even the closest familiar stars, other colonies, Sol itself... all missing. "Where did it all go?"

"Maybe a better question," Alphonse answered hoarsely, "would be, where did WE go."
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by ZedF » Mon Oct 08, 2018 8:01 pm

T000

Director Julian Ibany, head of the Proxima Space Agency, was reading over the latest briefing from his team in orbit, when Admiral Cory Stephens was shown into his office. He stood and shook her hand, then offered her a seat and a drink; she accepted the former and declined the latter. "These are some crazy times. Here I am, now an admiral, and we don't even have any kind of a navy yet. I might say this is purely a political appointment, if I didn't know of your plans. But what's this I hear about another delay? You aren't still working out the kinks on those scanning rings you insist our ships need to mount, are you?"

Julian waved that potential concern aside. "No, we think those should work about as well as expected. I know you don't like the mass requirements, but we've already detected no less than four gravimetric anomalies inside the star system. We don't know how dense they might be in interstellar space, and we can't risk losing crews and ships to preventable accidents. They should be easy enough to avoid if you know where they are, and any scans you make of similar phenomena will doubtless help to characterize them."

"The delay isn't about the scanning rings, it's about the propulsion systems," he continued, smiling, "but I think you'll be glad of it in the end. We could start building ships within the year, but one of our engineering teams has come up with a prototype for a modified engine that delivers thrust in pulses rather than continuously. Exactly how it works isn't that important for your purposes, but according to our models, over long distances it should be much more efficient. That means you'll be able to accelerate longer and get up to higher fractional c velocities in the interstellar medium -- in fact we predict up to 0.4c. We'll need to increase the anti-collision shielding to cope with the faster speeds, of course, but savings in propellant mass should make up the difference."

Cory's eyebrows shot upwards at this news. "If you can double our ships' speeds without much other sacrifice then I'm definitely interested. How long do you estimate it's going to take for this engine redesign? And should I be concerned about further delays to make additional improvements, if we start down this path? There aren't that many stars in what's left of our observable universe, and I'm still keen to get started exploring them as soon as reasonably possible."

Julian raised his hands to counsel patience. "For the engine redesign, you'll need to hold on for a few years longer, I'm afraid, but not so long as you won't more than make it up in travel time. As for other possible delays... well that's up to you. I do have a few proposals sitting in my files from various sources in the scientific community, ranging from higher frequency laser weapons to plans for putting colonists into suspended animation, rather than having a ship's crew and the colonists be one and the same. We could fit a lot more people on a ship if someone could get that to work safely. And who knows what we might encounter out there, since we seem to be throwing a lot of our old assumptions out the window these days. But we don't have the resources to pursue a lot of these scientific programs at once, and any one of them could take at least as long as the engine refit. I'd definitely wait for the pulsed fission project if I were you, but otherwise, it's your call."

"Very well, I'll take your advice on the engines at least," Cory sighed. "Thank goodness for rejuv; I want to see this through myself rather than being forced to retire by something as treatable as old age. But you mentioned that there aren't enough resources to pursue multiple research projects... I know it doesn't directly concern me, but what about your megastructure project?" she queried curiously.

"Oh, well that's not research, it's strictly engineering," Julian answered reassuringly. "When you're starting from scratch in a new star system, it's a daunting amount of work to be sure, but we've made a good start by building several launch loops to get our surface-to-orbit costs down to a fraction of what they once were, and we've known how to build space facilities for a long time. The megastructure project is humming along alright, although it's still in its infancy, and I don't expect to see any real fruit from it for quite a while yet. But it's almost all automated, so all it takes is time for the assemblers to make enough more assemblers, and then the real work of stellar engine construction can begin. I'm not sure how much orbital housing we'll wind up needing; that depends on how many people want to live in space. But as far as solar power collectors and fabrication facilities go... the sky isn't remotely the limit."

Image
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by ZedF » Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:00 pm

T023

"Do we have to do the safety inspection in person?" Gary complained as he suited up. "This is going to take days of work that's tedious, repetitive, and potentially dangerous if we slip up. That's exactly what the waldos and cybernetics gear are meant for. It would be a lot less of a chore if we could just pilot a few bots over the outside of the habitat shell and monitor them from here."

Alphonse just shrugged as he finished suiting up, before turning on his suit radio to continue the conversation. "We were explicitly given instructions not to rely solely on automatics. Command is still not happy with that last software 'upgrade' we got for the manipulators, and we need to actually test the seals, not just look at them funny. Besides, it's just for the prototype. We won't have to do this again."

Gary grunted sourly in response, but he finished closing the last fasteners on his suit, and stepped into the airlock to join his companion. The air cycled, and they stepped out into the blackness of space. Since the sun was currently occluded by Proxima, most of the feeble illumination came from the other 159 stars in the sky -- at least those that were visible from this perspective, as the massive habitat looming above blocked out a significant fraction of them as well. It still felt incredibly lonely to him, but he knew there were plenty of kids on the planet's surface who'd never known anything else.

The astronomer shook his head, then braced himself to begin to jet across the hundred-meter gap between the station and the habitat under construction. Glacing over at Alphonse, though, he noticed his partner was not doing the same. Instead he was looking at his wrist commpad. "Shall we get this over with?" Gary queried.

Alphonse looked up briefly, then back down at his wrist. "Eliza's picked something up. I'd suggest you tune in."

The distraction was a welcome reprieve, and Gary broke into a grin as he moved to touch his own commpad. "Saved by the bell, as it were! Eliza, voice mode on. What have you got for us?"

"Alert. Incoming signal detected," the synthesized voice replied over Gary's radio. "Classification unknown."

"An unknown signal?" Gary mused, all thought of habitat inspections now thoroughly banished. "Point of origin?"

"Origin does not correspond with trajectory of outbound exploration vessels, orbital vessels, or planetary surface.
Preliminary indication suggests origin is gravitic anomaly designation Node-Delta Orinis," the computer system declaimed.

"Confirmed," Alphonse agreed with some surprise. "That seemed unlikely enough that I checked for backscatter from the atmosphere and a few other things that might have fooled Eliza, but it seems she's spot on. We're getting regular gravitational wave pulses being emitted by the anomaly between us and the Delta Orinis system. None of the other anomalies are doing anything unusual, they're just sitting there, seething like normal."

"Checking into it now," Gary noted, typing clumsily on his wrist pad, before continuing in an abstracted tone. "Wish they wouldn't do that. Seething, that is. Plays merry hell with trying to take observations of other star systems."

"Tell me about it. We've got all these exploration ships outbound, and what can we tell them about where they are going? Not much. Most of our best long distance analysis techniques rely on background illumination or gravitational lensing. There isn't much of the former and the anomalies' variable curvature screws up the latter. At least we've gotten some useful clues about planetary atmospherics in the closest star systems, with which to advise the colonization program planners. But I hate that for anything else, the best we can say is 'good luck, you'll find out when you get there.' Makes me feel like we're failing to do our jobs somehow."

"I know what you mean," Gary agreed. "Well hopefully we can figure out what this is; maybe it'll help somehow."

"Whatever it is, I don't think it's random noise; the patterns are too regular. It's going to take a bit of analysis, though. I want to get to a proper keyboard; let's get back inside," Alphonse suggested, reopening the door to the airlock and clambering in.

"Thought you'd never ask." The next couple minutes were occupied by cycling the airlock and stripping off helmets and gloves, before the pair made their way back into the main section of the orbital lab, and their computer stations. While Alphonse began running a Zipf analysis, Gary took another approach. "Hm, it looks like we've got at least a couple hours of recordings to go on here. Eliza just didn't inform us until it had ruled out the obvious possibilities. It appears there's two parts to the signal, a less dense part at the beginning and a more dense portion following it. I think I'll look at the beginning part first... hmm."

"Do you think it might be some kind of primer? Could this be an alien language? My Zipf plot is definitely shaping up to suggest that this is some form of intelligent communication," Alphonse observed. "Gonna run a Shannon entropy analysis next."

"It's never aliens, Alphonse," Gary admonished. "But you're right that it is intelligent communication. I thought that preface bit looked familiar, I think it's ancient Morse code! I haven't seen that in ages, but I think it's in our database here; I'll get Eliza to run a translation."

"Morse code? That can't add up, can it? Who could be sending us a signal in Morse code? One of our exploration ships should have arrived at Delta Orinis a few weeks ago, but Delta Orinis is light years from here; we won't actually get a laser comm dispatch from them confirming their arrival for another 7 years! How could they be influencing this anomaly from that distance? And even if they can, how can we be detecting it and receiving information now, instead of 7 years from now? And even if that's the case, how can it be true without breaking causality??" Alphonse practically shouted, growing more and more incredulous as he considered the ramifications.

"I don't know, Alphonse," Gary admitted. "I don't know, and I don't know. What I do know, is it's happening. That Morse code message is real. It's telling us that our ship in Delta Orinis is indeed the originator of the signal, and that the second part of the message is a video recording, and how to process the signal for playback. Once we're able to process it, the video contains a recording of what our ship has found in Delta Orinis, including the means by which this message was sent, and... you're kidding."

"And what?"

"I just said it can't be aliens. You just said it can't be causality violation. Apparently it's not either of those things; it's both of them."

Image
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

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Re: Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by ZedF » Sun Oct 14, 2018 2:34 pm

T044

Director Julian stood up from his desk as a knock at the door indicated that Admiral Cory Stephens had arrived to collect him for their informal meeting over lunch. He tossed a folder on his desk as he collected his jacket. "I've skimmed your staff's report, and I think I get the gist of it. What I don't see is what you expect me to do about any of it," he remarked as he walked out the door and fell into step alongside the Admiral.

"When you agreed to my request regarding the development of rocket pod technology, I thought you had finally come around on the need to bolster our defenses. But in order for those to be useful we need to actually deploy them on ships, and it's come to my attention that no new ship designs have been submitted for review, much less been built yet. I'd like to hear your reasons for this," Cory queried as the pair made their way to the office's exit and out onto the colonnade. The sidewalk was busy with all sorts of government personnel scurrying about on their business, or sauntering off to lunch. Cory's brisk pace forced Julian to lengthen his stride a bit to keep up; the brusque tone of her statement similarly brooked no patience for nonsense. He signed mentally and tried to be diplomatic with his answer; clearly this was important to her.

"Cory, I agree with you that some prudence about defending ourselves is warranted. And you are correct to suggest that I could have had some preliminary design plans for a new ship class drawn up. But there is no reason to build ships here, as soon as possible, when we need those defenses to be at our colonies, light years away, not here at the capitol. By the time anything we build here could make it to the frontier, those worlds will all be more than capable of building their own defenses. Even our newest colonies will be mature by then. So we have some time before a design needs to be finalized and ready for production."

Cory glanced at Julian skeptically as they turned a corner onto a quiet side street en route to the restaurant. "If that's your position, then I should imagine your research teams would be be concentrating on additional technologies with which to further bolster our ships' capabilities, before the design needs to be finalized. And I should imagine you would be consulting with my office of the timetable for that effort. So I find it curious that no such timetable exists, and that other research projects appear to have taken priority over my requests for better armour and point defense. Nor are your teams even considering improved warheads for these rockets we've developed."

Julian held up one hand to forestall Cory's argument. "While I'm still of the opinion that warheads can be replaced relatively easily, and we should adopt a just-in-time approach to funding that research, I've taken your points about armour and point defense into consideration, and for what it's worth those are high on our priority list."

"Just not quite at the top," Cory added, eyes narrowing a bit.

"Well, no. Before we prepare to fight our enemy, I think we should first understand him," Julian replied. It might have sounded philosophical if his expression didn't clearly indicate he was trying to make a point.

"What's to understand?" Cory asked crossly, not following. "These swarm robots obviously like to mine asteroids for resources, and their ability to spread to any system containing them is definitely problematic to our own colonial expeditions. I shouldn't need to remind you that we have an asteroid belt in this very system, and if the swarm were to come here..."

"I'm not talking about the swarm," Julian added quietly, but firmly.

Cory blinked, nonplussed, as Julian glanced quickly about to make sure nobody was close enough to casually overhear them. "Explain," she demanded impatiently.

"Alright, but this is need-to-know only. We are not yet ready to go public with this, and I think you will understand why shortly. First, you need some background. You will recall that a lot of attention has been paid recently to setting up FTL trade consortia with the worlds of our commonwealth. We can't trade physical goods with one another due to the immense distances involved, but using the node points as communication relays, we can exchange information. That exchange of cultural, economic, and scientific information binds our commonwealth together. Intellectual property is wealth, and that wealth is taxable."

"Which was your justification for deferring weapons development as long as you did, yes. I've heard this story before," Cory remarked, somewhat sourly.

Julian nodded. "It turns out that communication using node points is not limited strictly to the node point pair linking two adjoining star systems. Rather, there are echoes of that communication on other node links between other systems, if you know how to look for them. It's as if every pair of node links touches upon some common underlying substrate, which we don't fully understand yet. More than that, any significant energy source in the vicinity of a node point, even if it's not trying to communicate deliberately, can nevertheless generate distinctive echoes that are detectable at our local node points."

"So what are you implying?" Cory asked, curious now despite her earlier annoyance. "That you can generate some kind of energy heat map, beyond what optical sensors and radio telescopes can tell us? One that operates using whatever mechanism the node points use to enable FTL communication? And... that our FTL communications networks might not be secure?"

"Not quite where I was going, though you're thinking along the right lines. We can indeed get effective FTL sensor data at every world where we have a ship and within a certain distance of all our colony worlds, using these techniques. And we probably do need to re-evaluate our use of cryptographic techniques to ensure that at least our military communications are still secure, even when using FTL communications. But it's more than that. FTL comms are like a giant party line telephone. While monitoring our own communications, we've been picking up hints that we aren't the only ones communicating this way."

Cory nodded in understanding, or so she believed. "The other shoe has finally dropped. You've found the makers of those asteroid forts we've run across."

"Actually, we think not, but we did find someone else. Rather, we think we've found several groups of someone else, we think they're in competition amongst themselves, and they do not appear to be the types to play nicely with one another. For the last year and more we've been trying to decipher their language. Recently we've made some key breakthroughs. Their FTL comms aren't really that secure either, and they don't seem to care. They call themselves the Zuul, and they know we're out here, if not exactly where. I don't think they'll be any friendlier toward us than they are toward one another. Apparently one of their factions just murdered a colony from one of the other factions to force their surrender. It appears to have worked, too, so they probably will have no compunctions about killing any colony of ours they come across."

"Bloody marvelous!" Cory exclaimed, trying to keep her voice under control so as not to draw attention. They were approaching the restaurant -- which should probably put an end to the conversation for the moment, she reflected -- and was bursting with questions that would mostly have to wait. However, she wasn't about to let this drop without asking the most pertinent one. "That news isn't making me want that armour and point defense any less. Any clues as to their capabilities?"

"Some," Julian replied quickly. "I did revise my thinking on what kinds of ship designs we should be thinking about and what weapons mix to include on them. But the biggest mystery is that the Zuul aren't just sending information via FTL. Their starships are somehow also traveling at FTL speeds. I have no idea how they are pulling it off, but believe me, I am very curious to know."

Image
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by ZedF » Wed Oct 17, 2018 3:28 am

T067

"I'm going to miss this," Julia remarked wistfully to her brothers, as she walked down the forest trail.

"What, walking in a forest?" Earnest asked with a grin. "Shucks, sis. They aren't planning to tear up the entire forest belt, are they? There's plenty of other preserves scattered about; I have a hard time imagining that they won't add a bunch of this one to the parks system."

"I'm going to miss being able to escape to somewhere five hundred kilometers away from civilization," Julia clarified, with some asperity. "This is one of the last large undeveloped regions on all of Argelius. Taking a hike in a government-maintained park ten klicks across is NOT the same."

Ulrich shrugged, and kicked a stone down the path. "I agree, but it has to be done. The spaceport has to be expanded."

Earnest glanced at his brother in surprise. "Funny, I'd have thought you'd take her side. You love it out here. And didn't you say those schematics we got piped from Proxima for upgraded warheads made all the difference when you were up there, defending our orbit from those alien beasties, whatcha'callem? I thought we were supposed to be safe."

Image

"They're called Zuul, bro, and sure we're safe, for now. And those warheads did make a big difference; our ten destroyers took barely a scratch from that incursion. Good thing too since they don't have much in the way of armour to speak of, though the point defense lasers do help. But everything I've heard and read suggests these guys aren't going to give up trying just 'cause we kicked their tails once, and that was just an exploration fleet," Ulrich explained. "Now that they know where to find us, they'll be back, and with a much bigger fleet."

Image

"Which means the whole planet needs to be industrialized as much as is practical, so we can build more defenses," Julia sighed. "The asteriod belt too, for that matter; we need as much shipbuilding production as we can get. So while I don't like giving up all this wilderness, I understand the reasons and they make sense. Actually, from what I've seen in the admin building, we've been lucky this forest has remained untouched as long as it has. Building those destroyers took so much of our production capacity, there just hasn't been much left to focus on city building or industrial development. But now that the immediate threat has passed, that's all changing."

"You really think they'll be back? How soon?" Earnest asked, stopping to sit on a rock, concerned.

"Well," Ulrich temporized, as he picked up a short stick and started scratching a rough map in the dirt and pine needles of the forest floor. "I don't know exactly how soon they'll attack here again, but take a look at this. We already know the same faction that attacked us here has another exploration fleet on the way to Hydra, here. They control this region of space here, best we can tell. There's well over a hundred hostile ships in that volume, just counting the ones we can see moving."

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"And that's just one faction," Julia noted, as Ulrich continued to expand upon his map. "The one that call themselves 'The Righteous.'"

"Right," Ulrich continued. "On our commonwealth's other borders, the same sort of thing is happening. The Zuul are sniffing around the edges of our space, claiming territory. In a lot of places, they're occupying systems that directly neighbor ours. But their ships travel much faster than ours, at FTL speeds, which pretty much means there's not a lot we can do about it. Any ships we tried to send to interfere would take way too long to get there, and would just find themselves flying into an ambush. So we're stuck on defense, and we need to be prepared to defend everywhere."

Earnest frowned. "I didn't realize our situation was that precarious. Defending everywhere sounds like it could be tough, considering how long it took to get our first few ships built."

"It won't be cheap," Julia agreed. "And a lot of the other worlds in the commonwealth are kind of in the same boat we are -- just now beginning to become self-sufficient and able to build up something in the way of defenses. But you know, the folks at the capitol on Proxima have a lot of industrial knowhow that they have been sharing with us. Overall, the commonwealth's finances are actually pretty healthy. So if the government at Proxima needs to subsidize defense efforts at the frontier, I expect they'll be willing and able to do that."

Ulrich, finished with the map, dropped the stick and spread his hands. "That's ok as far as it goes, but it's only good as a delaying tactic. Ultimately, if we only defend, we lose the war. Not that I'd want to leave home, but I do wish we could figure out some way to hit back."

"Well, it is an exciting time to be a theoretical physicist," Earnest replied, modestly.

Ulich waited a moment for his brother to continue. "You have something to share? Go on," he prodded.

"Okay, I wasn't going to mention it until I had something more concrete to tell you, but I've recently started collaborating on a team that's trying to reproduce some old results about the propagation speed of gravitational waves."

Julia cocked her head quizzically. "Reproducing old results doesn't sound very exciting..." she observed.

"Ha, well, no, if we are indeed able to, then it won't be very interesting. But here's the thing; the speed of gravitational waves tells us something about the number of possible dimensions in spacetime. If we measure the speed of gravitational waves and they come out at the speed of light, that would be consistent with 3+1 spacetime dimensions. And the experimental data backs this up. The thing is, all the literature and experimental results on this are from before the rest of the visible universe vanished. So if we measure the speed of gravitational waves and find they don't exactly equal the speed of light, then those waves have to be gaining or losing energy as they propagate. And the only place they could be gaining energy from or losing it to would be additional dimensions of spacetime, beyond the usual 3+1 we are familiar with," Earnest concluded, animatedly.

"Huh, ok, so I guess then you're hoping you aren't able to reproduce the old results," Julia reasoned, "but how does that help?"

"Does this have anything to do with the node anomalies?" Ulrich queried, making an intuitive guess.

"I'm glad you asked, and yes, we think it might," Earnest continued eagerly. "If we can demonstrate that gravitational waves don't travel at exactly the speed of light, then it's possible other dimensions exist, and might be accessible. There could, for instance, be another dimension that seems compressed, relative to the normal 3+1 spacetime dimensions. Such a compressed dimension would seem to offer FTL travel of information to an observer limited to the usual 3+1 dimensions, even though signal propagation within that dimension would still obey the lightspeed limit. This could give us a theoretical basis for understanding why FTL communication works the way it does... and for how we can potentially get matter, not just energy, up to apparent FTL velocities. It would completely rewrite string theory!"

"That does sound exciting," Julia smiled.

"It does," Ulrich agreed, "but it also sounds like a lot of work. I'm guessing that there could be lots of other things scientists might start questioning, that had previously been thought settled."

"True, on both counts," Earnest admitted, "but to be honest there's been a lot of that already. The simple fact that Proxima is now in a completely different stellar neighborhood to what it was when founded would have been a jolt, never mind all that's come since then. So this is more like just one step on a ongoing journey, than the start of something completely new. But yes, if we're right, then rewriting string theory from the ground up will be a massive undertaking. And you should see the math involved in multidimensional physics..."
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by ZedF » Thu Oct 18, 2018 11:09 pm

T074

The debates between the scientific community, the captains of industry, the admiralty, and the political leadership resulted in compromises that satisfied nobody. New engines were commissioned, that did not live up to the potential of which the scientists had dreamed. The dimension known as Nodespace was still understood only imperfectly and approximately, and trials had proven navigation to be treacherous. Manned ships equipped with fission-based drives and redesigned node scanners were indeed able to travel twice as fast as apparent light speed, but this was well short of theoretical maxima; the complex mathematics required for safe navigation without extreme G-stress proved too taxing and time-consuming for available shipboard systems.

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Nevertheless, the engines were standardized regardless, because they were desperately needed and time was of the essence. New Zuul incursions had opened attack routes to multiple commonwealth worlds; it was imperative for security purposes that some means of securing border systems be obtained. In addition, although the commonwealth economy continued to grow by virtue of long-term investments in megastructure projects, both in the capitol system and at now some of its oldest colonies, this growth was relatively slow, and the possibility of settling further worlds with improved biotechnology beckoned. So, while the agreed-upon design was clearly limited, it was better than nothing. It was thought that a smaller, safer energy core might perhaps leave more space for enhanced computer navigation systems, but that was a project for the future.

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An alternative proposal, which could be implemented much more readily, was to equip smaller non-crewed spacecraft with a simpler computer capable of FTL telemetry, and a large warhead. This would greatly alleviate the G-stress issue in Nodespace, and allow speeds of up to quadruple apparent light speed, resulting in a relatively inexpensive, expendable and fully directable sensor plaform and strategic bombardment weapon. It was hoped that such weapons could help keep Zuul incursions at bay until sufficiently weighty formations of manned FTL ships could be constructed, and the border regions secured indefinitely...

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Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by ZedF » Thu Oct 18, 2018 11:20 pm

Approximately 10 years after the development of Node travel, the existential threat to the commonwealth effectively ended.

This was not primarily due to any human accomplishments, however. Node travel, combined with the development of cruiser-based command and colonization ships, had allowed the commonwealth to begin expanding once again in this pocket of space for the first time in decades, but this expansion remained frustratingly slow. The extensive border areas had remained under threat from large numbers of exploring Zuul fleets; several squadrons of new ships had been built to try to keep these under control, but the possibility of a major Zuul strike yet loomed large, such as the Second Battle of Hydra. The relatively meager FTL speed human defenders were able to manage prevented them from venturing very far away from any colony that might require their protection, and necessitated spreading defenses thinner than was preferable, even considering the healthy commonwealth economy.

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Since human manned vessels enjoyed only limited success taking and holding contested territory during this period, and since node missiles were expendable and had twice the FTL speed, they became the preferred tool of exploration and territory denial. Where one or a few node missiles came across a newly founded colony, with little or nothing in the way of defense, the result was typically the colony's destruction. At strongly-held enemy worlds, the node missiles could at least retreat expeditiously and relay limited surveillance data. They fared less well at neutral worlds, however, where they were typically forced to engage, though even in these cases they were generally able to at least damage some enemy ships. Even so, these attacks were generally insufficient to prevent the Zuul from massing large fleets with which to retaliate.

Development of fusion power sources would have improved travel times to some degree; nevertheless, the human scientific community remained convinced that the biggest bottleneck to further engine development was with respect to computer systems, moreso than power technology. The calculations required for safe traversal of node space at high speed demanded a quantum leap in computer power, space-efficency, and algorithmic complexity. Research into artificial intelligence techniques had blossomed, not with the intention of installing AI into warships, but with the intention of developing self-improving computer systems for R&D purposes: children of the intellect, whose inherent understanding of mathematics and algorithms would allow them to partner with their human parents, thereby facilitating development of shipboard expert systems of the required calibre necessary for safe pathing through nodespace.

Nevertheless, these research efforts had not yet borne fruit when the fateful day arrived. The Servants, who were the largest and most dangerously close of the Zuul factions neighboring the commonwealth, had a newly established colony at Mintaka destroyed by an exploration fleet from a rival faction, the Seekers. This Zuul faction was smaller than the Servants, and its centers of power much further distant from human space; nevertheless, the Servants quickly submitted to their rule, and all traces of Zuul activity across the majority of the commonwealth's border regions soon subsided. It might have been a different matter if the Seekers had instead surrendered to the Servants, but such was not to be.

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Commonwealth leadership immediately took advantage of this development to construct and deploy additional node missiles with which to survey the newly quiet border regions, and destroy the nascent Seeker colonies occupying the ruins of formerly well-defended Servant worlds. Within a handful of years following the downfall of the Servants, the Seekers would go on to lose over a dozen immature colonies to node missiles, and commonwealth defense squadrons and colonization fleets would begin the occupation of former Servant space. The commonwealth would still face threats on other borders, most notably from the Zuul faction calling themselves The Righteous, but the percentage of human colonies at risk from Zuul incursions had dropped by over 50%, and the threat was considered much more manageable. Simultaneously, developments in AI technologies began to bear fruit and stimulate the commonwealth's economy to new heights. Moreover, a new group of insectoid aliens had begun to make their presence known on the borders of commonwealth space, and the possibility of an alliance against the Zuul appeared to be in the offing.

Given these developments, it seemed highly improbable that the commonwealth, taken as a whole, should fail to prosper in the coming decades. New developments in fusion power, and the unlocking of the full potential of Node pathing, were thought to be just around the corner. With these, and a handful of other improvements to warship design, a new era of offensive operations against Zuul strongholds would begin to unfold.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

ZedF
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Re: Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by ZedF » Thu Oct 18, 2018 11:48 pm

And that's the risk I take using Zuul as my main opponent in a TAR; having the Servants suddenly vanish removed all the challenge from the scenario. Well, sometimes the Zuulmass threatens the player, other times it is the one threatened, when the faction that surrenders is too near the player. I could have put them all on one team to prevent this, but then I probably would have had to use fewer of them and given them more bonus colonies, in order for a potentially scary Zuul faction to emerge. Maybe next time.

Here's the scenario I was running:

Code: Select all

Concept:

- In the conceptual multiverse, 2 universes bump against one another. This forms a new bubble universe, with some stars from each parent universe trapped inside. Different laws of physics apply.
- 1x 1PE humans, 2x 1PE hard AI hivers are from a universe with no FTL; 5x 1+1PE hard AI Zuul are from a universe with FTL. Econ is 150 cash 50 research, Alliances enabled, 160 star sphere. Humans have asteroids in home system.
- Humans/Hivers can slowly build Dyson swarms, Zuul do not. Humans & Hivers get substantially better sensor distances, and caps on overdevelopment are massively increased. Humans are considered to have knowledge of all stars within 20 LY of home system (but in fact acquire this knowledge through modded ultra-fast ships only usable for this purpose.)
- Hiver gate capacity pre-Amps is 33% less. Gate amps requires Translate Zuul & Antimatter. Farcaster cost doubled.
- Humans think node points are astronomical hazards initially and include scanning rings to avoid them. Without node focusing, node speed = sublight speed. However they are better at missile technologies and energy beam weapons due to more focus on conventional propulsion systems.
- When Humans meet Zuul, translate their language, and see evidence for node travel, they realize they've mischaracterized node points. At this point they can research node focusing, but this is new & not well understood; research cost is greatly increased. Focused node speed is 2 with Fission, 3 with Fusion, 4 with AM. Engines for crewed ships with Node Focusing are much more expensive. Node missiles are speed 4, cost much less to research & build, have bigger AoE but do much less damage; they are more oriented toward hitting dense swarms of ships and less toward hitting large single targets.
- Math for pathing in node space is very complex - humans develop AI to figure it out more easily. Node Pathing requires Fusion instead of AM, but also requires AI. Initial AI research will not trigger rebellion but is substantially more expensive. Pathing is 100% tech; node pathing engines are less expensive as humans finally begin to master node technology.
I liked the idea of taking a colony of humans from a harder science fiction setting and plunking them into the softer science fiction setting of the SotS-verse, from a conceptual and story-telling point of view. From a mechanical point of view, it's got some drawbacks; there's a reason Hivers get gates, after all! I had to give myself a boost exploring nearby worlds just so I would be able to colonize anything in a reasonable amount of time, or be able to have any secure trade sectors via FTL commerce. Additionally, more of this game was sitting back and pressing next turn than I would ideally have preferred. I had all these enemies prowling about my borders and my instincts kept screaming at me to do something! But it's hard to be proactive at 0.4 LY per turn.

The megastructure building projects never really became a big factor, which I was a little disappointed with. I had this idea that maybe I would get surprised by a big enemy fleet and be able to say, 'well I can't reinforce from neighboring systems, but that's ok, I can build a huge fleet really quick right here!' But the only colonies at which I ever got attacked were too new to have any overdevelopment bonus. Still, my homeworld did get to be pretty impressive toward the end and had quite the income, especially when the AI techs kicked in for good measure.

Anyway, the modded files are attached in case anyone is curious.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

Dragar
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Re: Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by Dragar » Fri Oct 19, 2018 9:03 am

Were you using fire control and dumbfire missiles? I've done that before - it's kinda amusing.

ZedF
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Re: Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by ZedF » Fri Oct 19, 2018 10:31 am

I have done that before too, in an unmodded game. But there is a funny thing about dumb fire missiles: unlike every other weapon, their accuracy range brackets don't align with their max range. It looks to me like their range was originally much shorter and when their range was increased, someone forgot to stretch the accuracy bands to match the new max range. Or possibly the converse. Anyway the result is a weapon that's effectively got a very extended max range accuracy bracket, and has only got the expected accuracy at very short ranges. For this game, I messed with DF racks a bit; part of that was to change the range brackets to what it seems like they ought to be given their max range (by comparing with other ballistic weapons like mass and AP drivers). I skipped the fire control noses; I had other priorities for research and they were less necessary anyway.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

Dragar
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:32 pm

Re: Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by Dragar » Fri Oct 19, 2018 2:13 pm

That does explain their complete inability to hit anything smaller than a dreadnought at sensible ranges, without fire control noses, in vanilla games!

I sometimes field them against Morrigi cruisers, as they are so flat and easy to hit from above/below.

ZedF
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Re: Micro-TAR: They Came From Dimension X

Post by ZedF » Fri Oct 19, 2018 8:15 pm

I actually like DF racks a fair bit as a potential competitor to AP drivers for ballistics-loving races. They do have several downsides in comparison, so AP drivers is generally the safer bet, but if you can get in close and stay there, with good warheads, then the rockets actually pack more punch. Still, the need for fire control does hold them back, especially given how many other ballistics options require fire control to work well.

If I ever were to publish a mod for general use, the changes I made to DF racks in this game would probably be in it.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

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