Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Tag: science fiction

There Can Always Be New Beginnings

November 11, 2022
General Susan Ivanova:
Babylon 5 was last of the Babylon stations. There would never be another. It changed the future and it changed us.
It taught us that we have to create the future…or others will do it for us.
It taught us that we have to care for one another; because if we don’t, who will? And that true strength sometimes comes from the most unlikely of places.
Mostly, though, I think it gave us hope that there can always be new beginnings. Even for people like us.

— “Sleeping In Light” – Babylon 5, Season 5 (1998)

To Fire Or to Water

September 13, 2022
Galen:
The answer is still “no.”
Dureena:
I didn’t say anything.
Galen:
That was the look you gave me the last time you asked me to teach you what I know. The answer was “no” then, and it is “no” now.
Dureena:
Why?!
Galen:
Because there is a time and place for everything, and right now is the wrong time. You want to learn for the worst of all possible reasons: the need for revenge.
Dureena:
The Drakh killed my entire race! And they will do the same to yours…and you don’t want revenge?!
Galen:
(sternly) When you have reached the end of the road, then you can decide whether to go to the left or to the right—to fire or to water. If you make those decisions before you have even set foot upon the road, it will take you nowhere. Except to a bad end.
Dureena:
I don’t understand.
Galen:
That’s why I said “no.” When you have grown out of your rage then we will talk. Not before.

— “Racing the Night” – Crusade, Season 1 (1999)

To Be the Best, You Have to Face the Best

September 4, 2022
Walker Smith:
That’s what the game is all about. To be the best, you have to face the best.

— “TKO” – Babylon 5, Season 1 (1994)

The Real Power of the Dark Side of the Force

August 22, 2022

[Count Dooku] called upon the Force, gathering it to himself and wrapping himself within it. He breathed it in and held it whirling inside his heart, clenching down upon it until he could feel the spin of the galaxy around him.

Until he became the axis of the Universe.

This was the real power of the dark side, the power he had suspected even as a boy, had sought through his long life until Darth Sidious had shown him that it had been his all along. The dark side didn’t bring him to the center of the universe. It made him the center.

He drew power into his innermost being until the Force itself existed only to serve his will….

Oh, [the two Jedi] were certainly energetic enough, leaping and whirling, raining blows almost at random, cutting chairs to pieces and Force-hurling them in every conceivable direction, while Dooku continued, in his gracefully methodical way, to out-maneuver them so thoroughly it was all he could to do keep from laughing out loud….

They didn’t even comprehend how utterly he dominated the combat. Because they fought as they had been trained, by releasing all desire and allowing the Force to flow through them, they had no hope of countering Dooku’s mastery of Sith techniques….

They allowed the Force to direct them; Dooku directed the Force.

He drew their strikes to his parries, and drove his own ripostes with thrusts of dark power that subtly altered the Jedi’s balance and disrupted their timing. He could have slaughtered both of them as casually as that creature Maul had destroyed the vigos of the Black Sun….

Revenge of the Sith, Chapter 3

Author’s emphasis is in italics. Mine are in bold.

There Are Still Wonders in the Universe

July 8, 2022
G’Kar:
There are things in the universe billions of years older than either of our races. They are vast, timeless…and if they are aware of us at all, it is as little more than ants. And we have as much chance of communicating with them as an ant has with us. We know; we’ve tried. And we’ve learned that we can either stay out from underfoot, or be stepped on.
Catherine Sakai:
That’s it? That’s all you know?
G’Kar:
Yes. They are a mystery. And I am both terrified and reassured to know that there are still wonders in the universe—that we have not yet explained everything. Whatever they are, Miss Sakai, they walk near Sigma Nine-Five-Seven, and they must walk there…alone.

— “Mind War” – Babylon 5, Season 1 (1994)

Creed of the Anla’Shok

July 5, 2022
Marcus Cole:
I am a Ranger! We walk in the dark places no others will enter! We stand on the bridge, and no one may pass! We live for the One! We die for the One!

— “Grey 17 Is Missing” – Babylon 5, Season 3 (1996)

What You Give Up to Your Adversary in the Feet Is Everything

June 25, 2022
Connor MacLeod:
Duncan, what you give up to your adversary in the feet is everything.

— “Highlander: Endgame” (2000)

Strong and Subtle, Restless and Powerful

June 22, 2022

“You need one more thing,” Elric said.

“I can’t fit another thing,” Galen said, turning to face Elric.

Across his open palms, Elric held a staff. Given during the welcoming ceremonies that ended the convocation, a staff or other gift of magic was a teacher’s acknowledgment that his apprentice had become a mage. Elric nodded.

Over four feet long, the staff was a lustrous black, with golden etchings of circuits in finest filigree. It fit perfectly into Galen’s hand, warm and smooth and balanced, as if a new limb had sprouted there.

“Associate,” Elric said.

Galen looked to the chrysalis on his table, found that it was missing a small piece from the end of its “tail.” Elric had incorporated it into the staff, making the staff a part of Galen, an extension of him. The staff was a combination of the advanced tech of the Taratimude, which powered the staff and connected it to him, and the technology currently within the power of the mages, with which various tools had been built into the staff.

Galen closed his eyes and focused on it, visualized the equation for association.

It awoke, echoing his equation. A subtle vibration of energy slipped into him. The vibration was echoed back by the implants, echoed again by the staff. The echoes came faster, growing stronger and sharper, reflecting back and forth like the ringing of a bell in a bell tower, swelling in rapid reverberation. His mind raced. He didn’t know if he could control it. Wild energies could escape. Elric could be injured. Elric could be disappointed. Galen must figure out how to prevent that. Galen must not allow that….

And what was happening to him?

The energy from the chrysalis had combined with the undercurrent from the implants to produce a surge of nervous anticipation, as if he’d been injected with adrenaline. He’d read of this effect—parallelism, they called it—and knew that mages became accustomed to it, over time.

He recited the prime numbers, silently, deliberately. The orderly progression echoed back to him, calming him. The vibration remained, yet its intensity lessened.

The staff was now a part of him, a new limb. A menu of options appeared in his mind’s eye, reflecting the more traditional part of the staff’s technology. He studied the possibilities. It could control, hold, and channel energies. It could observe; it could record. It could destroy itself, if he deemed necessary.

He closed his eyes, carefully visualizing the equation to dissociate. The connection broke, the vibration died. His limb went to sleep.

Yet the undercurrent of energy from the implants felt stronger than ever. Galen realized he had begun to grow accustomed to it. Now that he was attuned to it, he began to realize how truly strong it was, a resonance more intimate and subtle than that with the chrysalis, one that was quickly becoming a part of him. It was restless and powerful, quick to respond. No wonder mages got in so many fights. He must control it, always.

“In time, you will feel more comfortable with the staff,” Elric said.

Galen nodded, holding the smooth, sleeping surface away from his body. “Thank you.”

“You will find it unnecessary under most circumstances. Yet it can be helpful when a sophisticated channeling of energy is needed.”

Casting Shadows, chapter 7

Emphasis mine.

All Non-Hominids Are Psykers

May 25, 2022
anthropomorphous adjective. Shaped like a human being.

I have been giving thought to defining the Rhydin solar system. As Rhydin is a cross-genre campaign world, its solar system is likewise. So science fantasy. I am starting my definition from the science end of the spectrum (e.g., space is a vacuum) and “softening” the science with fantasy only as needed.

The first detail I am working out is how non-anthropomorphous aliens participate in a world adapted by hominids (e.g., humans, elves, dwarves, etc.) for themselves?

While fictional worlds may include non-anthropomorphous species, they are structured like the real world: reshaped by intelligent anthropomorphous beings for their own benefit. Hands with opposable thumbs begot tool use and the literal reshaping of the world. Speech communication via a voice box begot mutual understanding and information sharing from one person to many.

Fantasy worlds can utilize the mythological trope of magical animals that can talk and/or use human objects. Snakes do not have voice boxes, so sentient snakes cannot speak as hominids do. Spiders do not have hands, so sentient spiders cannot use hominid tools. How can either sentient species construct spaceships to travel into outer space?

They do have minds. They have psychic abilities inherent to the entire species. (Space magic.)

Telepathy need only be broadcasting to clone speech communication.

Telekinesis would need to clone both the physical strength of the hominid arm and the finely-controlled manual dexterity that fingers are capable of. Also needs the ability to manipulate two objects at once.

This line of thought means that psychic ability is nearly universal. Only in the anthropomorphous would it be optional—they are the exception to the rule.

‘Woke Up’ Has Always Been an Anthropomorphism

May 4, 2022

Harb stared at [Dr. McCoy]. “Moira?? You’ve got my Games machine hacking into strange computers and stealing data??”

“Harb, Harb! ‘Borrowing.’ ”

“But you cannot do that, Doctor,” Spock said, looking rather distressed. “I am not speaking in the ethical mode, but in terms of possibility. The Games computer does not have outside access, does not have any of the access or authorization codes you need, does not have—”

“Spock,” McCoy said, “there’s one thing this computer definitely does have. A personality. And you know who put it there.”

Sarek looked at Spock, very surprised. “I did not know you were doing recreational programming, my son.”

Harb looked from Spock to Sarek. “I asked him to, sir. It’s easier for me to work with a machine that has some flexibility in its programming ability. The ‘personality’ overlays have that: they’re effectively self-programming. I had a personality program in here before that was a great joy to work with—the For Argument’s Sake personality generator—but it was a little limited. So I asked Spock if in his spare time, he would add some memory to it, and increase the number of associational connections.”

Sarek looked at Spock. “You surpassed the critical number, did you not? And the machine—”

“‘Woke up’ has always been an anthropomorphism,” Spock said, a little defensively, “and at any rate there is no evidence that—”

“The point is that a computer that’s had that done to it acts alive,” Jim said, “and some of them have created problems. That way lies M5, for example.”

“I would never do any such thing,” Moira’s voice said reproachfully, “and you know it. My ethical parameters are very stringent.”

“Not stringent enough to keep you from calling a system that should be locked up tighter than the Bank of Switzerland,” Jim said, “prying it open, and yanking out reams of confidential material that—”

“It was the right thing to do,” Moira said. “Dr. McCoy explained the situation to me. And he is my superior officer, Captain, after Mr. Tanzer. Programming requires me to obey a commanding officer’s orders. So I asked the bridge computers to handle the downlink, and as for the satchel codes, they appear in various altered forms in my own programming, because it was Spock who designed them—”

“From my algorithms,” Sarek said, very quietly, paging through the printout.

“Yes, well, Father, they were the best and most complex available—” Spock looked nonplussed….

Spock’s World, Chapter 7

Everyone Lies

February 2, 2022
Michael Garibaldi:
He’s lying. I can tell.
Jeffrey Sinclair:
Everyone lies, Michael. The innocent lie because they don’t want to be blamed for something they didn’t do, and guilty lie because they don’t have any other choice. Find out why he’s lying; the rest will take care of itself.

— “And the Sky Full of Stars” – Babylon 5, Season 1 (1994)

Blinkblades

September 22, 2021

He swung his fist at my head.

It seemed the wild thrash of a desperate man, but it was not impulsive. I had fought, and been schooled in fighting, enough to read the blow, and the fact that it was not telegraphed. There was no micro expression of warning, of prior tension or bracing. It just came, expert and fluid. Just as fast, I dipped down to avoid it. But even as I did so, I was puzzled, for it was not a blow that anyone would strike with the hand, especially not a man who was clearly proficient. The move was more a sword-stroke, aimed at the side of my neck. Why strike so, with a fist?

All this I relate now in a hundred, perhaps a thousand, times the instant it took for the blow to come. It was fast, and I barely avoided it.

And in avoiding it, I found my answer.

A sword’s blade missed my head and buried itself in the side of the old clavier. It buried itself deep. The impact shook the instrument, and knocked over the glasses of amasec standing along its top.

There had not been a sword in his hand a half-second before. There had not been a place for him to conceal a sword. It had just appeared in his grip….

…His sword, which had come from nowhere as if by magic, was a blinkblade. I had never seen one, but I had read of them…. They were blades held in scabbards of what I now know is called extimate space. Bidden by their masters, they appear in corporeal reality, conjured from pocket-space….

Penitent, Chapter 16

Dreamers, Shapers, Singers, and Makers

September 21, 2021
Elric:
…We are dreamers, shapers, singers, and makers. We study the mysteries of laser and circuit; crystal and scanner; holographic demons and invocation of equations. These are the tools we employ, and we know many things.
John Sheridan:
Such as?
Elric:
The true secrets. The important things. Fourteen words to make someone fall in love with you forever. Seven words to make them go without pain. How to say good-bye to a friend who is dying. How to be poor. How to be rich. How to rediscover dreams when the world has stolen them from you….

— “The Geometry of Shadows” – Babylon 5, Season 2

The Weapon That Could Not Miss

August 14, 2021

T’Thelaih woke up cold and alone. “Mahak?” she said, confused, and sat up on the couch, looking around for him. There was something wrong at the other end of their bond: he was upset—then she froze.

Sitting at the end of the couch was the Lady Suvin. She looked at T’Thelaih, and the look was cold and terribly pleased. “You are a foolish child,” Suvin said, “but it does not matter. I have what I want of you.”

“Madam,” T’Thelaih said, holding on to her manners, “what do you mean?”

“The child,” said Suvin. “This will be your home now: you need fear no interference from your own house, poor thing though it be. I much regret that Mahak may not join you again until your confinement is done. But you will be given every care … so long as you take proper care of the child.”

T’Thelaih felt her head beginning to pound. “What good can our child do you?” she said.

Suvin leaned closer, looking even more pleased. “Fool. You have the killing gift. Imperfect, at best: you did not kill my grandson, for some reason. I suspect it is the usual problem, that one must feel her life to somehow be threatened. But did you not know? His great-grandmother had it as well. When two with the gift in their blood, so close in degree, engender a child, it will have the gift as well.”

TThelaih shook her head, numbed. “A weapon,” she said at last.

“Such a weapon as none will be able to defend against,” said Suvin. “Trained with the Last Thought technique, raised under my hand, obedient to me—those who resist me will simply die, and no one will know the cause. How much simpler life will become. I have much to thank you for.”

She saw T’Thelaih’s glance at the table. “Forget your little bodkin,” she said. “You’ll not lay hands on yourself: if you try, Mahak will suffer for it. I shall see to that. Resign yourself to your confinement. It need not be uncomfortable.”

“Bring me my husband,” T’Thelaih said. “Now.”

Suvin’s eyes glittered. “Do not presume to order me, my girl. You are too valuable to kill out of hand, but there are ways to punish you that will not harm the child.”

The pounding was getting worse. “My husband,” T’Thelaih said.

“Folly,” said Suvin, and got up to go. “I will talk to you when you are in your right mind.”

And from the courtyard below came the sound of swords, and the scream.

“T’Thelaih!!”

And nothing else…except, in T’Thelaih’s mind, the feeling of the bond, the connection, as it snapped, and the other end went empty and cold.

“My husband,” she said. Suvin turned in shock, realizing what had happened. An unfortunate accident—

She realized too late.

T’Thelaih was getting up from the bed. The pounding in her head she had felt before, at her first binding, and remotely, in the heat of plak tow, at the second. Now she knew it for what it was, and she encouraged it. Yes. Oh, my husband, yes

“Old woman,” she said to Suvin, getting out of the bed and advancing slowly on her, “beg me for your life.” Suvin backed up, slowly, a step at a time, coming against the wall by the door. “Beg me,” T’Thelaih said, stepping slowly closer. “Bow yourself double, old lematya, let me see the back of your neck.” Her teeth gleamed. Suvin trembled, and slowly, slowly, began to bow.

She didn’t finish the gesture: she came up with the knife, poised, threw it. T’Thelaih sidestepped it neatly and replied with the weapon that could not miss: slid into the hateful mind, cold as stone, reached down all its pathways and set them on fire, reached down through every nerve and ran agony down it, reached down into the laboring heart and squeezed it until it burst itself, reached down into the throat and froze it so there should not even be the relief of a scream. From Suvin she turned, and her mind rode her gift down into the courtyard, and wrought death there, death—left minds screaming as a weight of rage like the whole universe collapsed onto them, in burning heat, pain, blood, the end of everything. Her mind fled through the house, finding life, ending it, without thought, everywhere.

Finally the rage left her, and she picked up the little knife that Suvin had taken, thought about it … then changed her mind. “No,” she said aloud, very softly: “no, he is down there.”

She went to the window. “Child,” she said, “I am sorry.”

The fall was too swift for there to be time to start an argument, even with a ghost.

Spock’s World, Chapter 6

The Dominance and the Crease

June 14, 2021

There were two terms Master Thomas had taught her in her first week of training. “The dominance” and “the crease,” he’d called them. The “dominance” was the clash of wills, the war of personal confidence fought before the first blow was struck to establish who held psychological domination over the other. But the “crease” was something else, a reference to the tiny wrinkling of the forehead when the moment of decision came. Of course, “crease” was only a convenient label for an infinite set of permutations, he’d stressed, for every swordsman announced the commitment to attack in a different way. All fencers were taught to look for the crease, and competition fencers researched opponents exhaustively before a match, for though the signal might be subtle, it was also constant. Every swordsman had one; it was something he simply could not train completely out of himself. But because there were so very many possible creases, Master Thomas had explained while they sat cross-legged in sunlight on the salle floor, most swordmasters emphasized the dominance over the crease, for it was a simpler and a surer thing to defeat your opponent’s will than to look for something one might or might not recognize even if one saw it.

But the true master of the sword…was she who had learned to rely not on her enemy’s weakness, but upon her own strength. She who understood that the difference between the salle and what Honor faced today—between fencing, the art, and life or death by the sword—was always in the crease, not the dominance.

Honor knew she’d taken longer to grasp his meaning than someone with her background should have. But once she had, and after she’d studied the library information on Japan, she’d also realized why—on Grayson, as in the ancient islands of the samurai—a formal duel almost always both began and ended with a single stroke.

David Weber, Flag in Exile, Chapter 29

Emphasis mine.

There Is No Pain

June 14, 2021

Honor watched [her opponent] with the eyes of a woman who’d trained in the martial arts for almost forty years, and the hard-learned, poised relaxation of all those years hummed softly within her. She felt her weariness, the pain of broken ribs, the ache in bruised muscles, the stiffness of her left shoulder, but then she commanded her body to ignore those things, and her body obeyed.

David Weber, Flag in Exile, Chapter 29

Zakal the Terrible

January 16, 2021

Zakal spent the first half of the night coughing up green-black blood and listening to the wind hurl sand against the side of the mountain fortress. The cavernous chamber was windowless and dark, save for the feeble light emanating from the initiates’ room, but Zakal had seen enough sandstorms to picture this one clearly in his mind’s eye: a huge, vibrating column of red sand that blotted out the sky until nothing remained but moving desert. Any creatures foolish enough to venture unprotected into the storm would be found the next day, mummies leached of all moisture, their skin crackling like parchment at the slightest touch.

Around the middle of the night, the stains on his handcloth changed from dark green to bright, the color of a d’mallu vine after a rare spell of rain. Shortly thereafter, the healer left him, a sign that there was nothing more to be done, no more easing of pain possible; a sign that he would be dead before sunrise. The relief on her drawn face was all too evident. She was not of the Kolinahru, and had attended her charge with a mixture of loathing and terror. For this was Zakal the Terrible, the greatest of the Kolinahr masters, with a mind so powerful he had twice used it to melt the skin of his enemies into puddles at his feet.

He said nothing to stop the healer from going, merely closed his eyes and smiled wanly. It was fitting to lie here and listen to the roar of the storm on the last night of his life. Eight hundred and eighty-seven seasons ago, he had been born in a storm like this one, and so his mother had named him Zakal: the Fury, the Desert Storm.

He was drowsing off when an image jolted him awake. Khoteth, lean and young and strong, furling himself in his black traveling cloak, his expression severe, brows weighed down by the heaviness of what he was about to do. Khoteth was crossing the desert, Khoteth was coming for him. Zakal knew this with unquestionable surety, in spite of the three initiates in the next room who stood guard, not over his aged, dying body, but over a far more dangerous weapon: his mind. Even their combined efforts to shield the truth from him could not completely sever his link to the man he had raised as his own son. Khoteth had sensed his master’s impending death, and would be here well before dawn.

The new High Master was risking his life by crossing the desert in a sandstorm…and oh, how Zakal listened to the wind and willed for Khoteth to be swallowed up by it! He tried in vain to summon up the old powers, but fever and the continual mental oppression caused by the initiates made it impossible. Zakal contented himself with cheering on the storm as if he had conjured it himself. Even so, he knew that Khoteth would complete his journey successfully.

So it was that, a few hours later when Khoteth’s soft words drew Zakal from a feverish reverie, they brought with them no surprise.

“Master? I have come.”

Outside, the wind had eased, but still moaned softly. Zakal kept his face toward the black stone wall and did not trouble to raise his head. The sound of his former student’s voice evoked within him a curious mixture of fondness and bitter hatred.

“Go away.” He meant to thunder it with authority, but what emerged was weak and quavering, the ineffectual wheezing of an old man. He felt shame. Could this be the voice of the Ruler of ShanaiKahr, the most powerful and feared mind-lord of all Vulcan? He had known more of the secrets of power than the rest of the Kolinahru put together, but fool that he was, he had entrusted too many of them to the man who stood before him now. He turned his head—slowly, for any movement made him dizzy and liable to start coughing again—and opened fever-pained eyes to the sight of the one he had loved as a son, had chosen as his successor, and now despised as his mortal enemy….

Star Trek: The Lost Years, Prologue

Emphases mine.