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GURPS Ardalians

Note: Some gaming notes for a race that will be appearing in the revised version of The Red Vixen at Sea. "Redline" was probably the combat drug being fed to little Ali during her carreer with Bloody Margo
* * *

Background: While the Stellar Alliance tries to maintain harmony with all intelligent species outside of Alliance space, even the most inclusive Alliance citizens have a hard time putting in a good word for the Ardalians. Even going beyond their offsetting appearance, the typical Ardalian comes across as blunt, uncaring, and cruel, seeing other intelligent species as merely tools. Possessing a resource illegal to distribute in Alliance space, and a need for intelligent species to manipulate their environment, the Ardies have reputation for being the most despicable sentient race yet encountered.

Appearance and Biology: Evolved from shallows dwelling, plankton consuming invertebrates, adult Ardalians live in the shallows and coves of their worlds, a water planet with 85% oceanic coverage, the remaining 15% divided among scattered archipelagos. Their bodies are roughly saucer shaped, approximately one hundred and fifty yards in diameter, the skin undulating in surface patterns that can camoflauge them from casual observers or unlucky victims, with fifty large, plate sized eyes circling their body. Mounted  between each set of eyes is a single tentacle that can extend to almost three hundred yards in length, the final yard long tip ending in a unique nerve cluster, which both allowed the Ardalians to develop a technological civilization and earn the disgust of free sentients everywhere.

This nerve cluster possesses the unique, and so far unduplicated, ability to interface with other species, even those with a radically different biology than that found on the Ardie homeworld. The tentacle tip is pressed against a subject, or more accurately victim’s, back, allowing thousands of needle sharp “nerve pins” to pierce the subject’s spine and create an interface between the Ardalian and the subject. This procedure has been described as “having molten lava poured over your nerve ends” by the few survivors of the experience. The process takes about an hour to complete, and the victim is usually restrained and conscious, as the Ardie tests and cements its control.

Once complete, the interface allows the Ardalian to use the victim’s eyes and ears to observe the world, and their hands to manipulate it. Their puppets have no control during this process, their own nerve impulses overridden, only able to feel and observe silently as their bodies are used for the Ardie’s own ends. The feeling of violation is terrifying, and the few puppets that have been successfully freed from the interface often suffer long term psychological damage, beyond the physical damage inflicted on their bodies by the uncaring Ardie controlling them.

Ardalians reproduce by budding, releasing up to a hundred buds at once every twenty years or so, to float away with the tides, most to be eaten predators before they can mature. Adolescent Ardalians are mobile, crawling along the floor of their world’s seas at one yard per second, until they’re either eaten or find a safe harbor.


Society: Ardalians are highly individualistic, the nature of their biology making it difficult to even form a community to interact with. Nevertheless they managed, using their sonar to communicate over long distances, and a local species of borderline sentient humanoids (roughly equivalent to Australopithecus) to do work on the shoreline that couldn’t be done in the water. Even so, since the ability to mine metals was very limited, so was their technology, until first contact was made with a Stellar Alliance exploration ship and trade could begin.

First contact revealed much about the Ardalian personality. While they do have some admirable traits, mostly a devotion to speaking truthfully bordering on rude, they have a hard time thinking of other sentient, in particular their enslaved puppets, as people. To an Ardalian, the only people worthy of consideration are other Ardies, and then only to the point of what use they can be. Anyone else, especially their puppets, is a disposable tool. Indeed, prior to their discovery by the Alliance, they were on the verge of losing their ability to manipulate items on land because they were killing the local humanoids faster than they could breed.


Alliance Relations: They can described as “strained” at best. Ardalians don’t leave their homeworld except under extraordinary circumstances, but they’re desperate for Alliance credits to build up their tech level. While there’s some argument in favor of providing the Ardies with robots to replace their puppets, there are few things the Ardies have, beyond biofauna unique to their world, that can’t be found elsewhere trading with more pleasant races.


Unfortunately for the Alliance, one of those pieces of biofauna is the Trileaf, an innocuously named flowering plant that is the base ingredient in Redline, an amphetamine variant commonly used as a combat drug. One ampule has a street value of $500, and provides the user with a feeling of invincibility and immunity to pain for up to ten minutes (Combat Reflexes, High Pain Threshold, Overconfidence), followed by a crash that subtracts 20 minus HT worth of Fatigue Points. Using it more than once a week requires a 3d6 HT roll, failure resulting in a permanent subtraction of one HT. In terms of value for an Addiction disadvantage, it’s considered Illegal, Expensive, and Highly Addictive.


For obvious reasons the Alliance forbids the export of Trileaf except to licensed research institutes. For equally obvious reasons various criminal enterprises try to get around this restriction. Currently the Alliance charter forbids interdicting planets that have not proven to be overtly hostile to member worlds, though this interpretation is getting increasing scrutiny as Redline addiction spreads. This is especially acute given that Ardies, when they aren’t trying to get technology, are trying to get slaves to replace their dwindling puppet population. The usual victims are captives taken when a pirate attacks a civilian vessel, though there are always urban legends abound about innocent tourists getting drugged while on a “safe” Alliance world and finding themselves shipped to Ardalia Prime (and maybe missing a kidney or spare lung).




Ardalian Adult, 663 Points

Stats: ST +50 [50]*, DX +2 [40], HT +2 [20], Will + 2 [10], Basic Move [0]** SM 8


Appearance: Monstrous (universal) [-25]


Social: Tech Level -4 [-20]


Advantages: 360 Degree Vision [25]. Acute Hearing/4 [8], Ally Group (slaves), 21-50 allies, -25% point total, constant x4, minion +50%, touch range only -30% [40], Chameleon [5], Doesn’t Breathe (gills) [0], 48 Extra Arms, extra-flexible +50%, weak, -50% [480], Injury Tolerance: No Head, No Neck [10], Night Vision/5 [5],Photographic Memory [10], Regrowth [40],Sonar [20], Unaging [15].


Disadvantages: Callous [-5], Cold Blooded [-10], Increased Life Support (massive) [-10], Intolerance (all non-Ardalians) [-10], No Legs (sessile) [-50], Selfish [-5], Truthfulness [-5].

* -80% for Size Modifier 8

**Due to Sessile.

Poll: Moar Audiobooks?

Okay, it's been a bit over a year and a half since the release of the Captive of the Red Vixen audiobook. I'm going to be honest here, I don't think I've got another Kickstarter in me. Running it the last time was a stressful experience that I'm in no hurry to repeat, especially since realistically any future funding would be to the tune of $200 per hour of audio. That said, I might consider doing it again, or perhaps a GoFundMe campaign to pay for another book, if the demand was really there. Hence the poll.

Poll #2047369 Demographics

Have you bought any of my stories in the past?

Yes
6(100.0%)
No
0(0.0%)
No, but I'm considering it
0(0.0%)

If Yes, what books have you read?

Red Vixen Adventures
5(17.9%)
FYS:: The Fall of Man
3(10.7%)
Prisoners of War
4(14.3%)
Triumvirate
2(7.1%)
Good Landing
2(7.1%)
Demon Eyes
3(10.7%)
For Your Safety
6(21.4%)
Mimsey's Tale
3(10.7%)

Have you bought/funded a copy of the CotRV audiobook?

Yes
2(33.3%)
No
4(66.7%)
No, but considering
0(0.0%)

Which series would you like to hear if I did another

RVA: The Shadow books (Ali and Salli)
1(33.3%)
RVA: I Fought the Claw
0(0.0%)
Prisoners of War
0(0.0%)
For Your Safety
1(33.3%)
Mimsey's Tale
0(0.0%)
FYS: The Fall of Man
1(33.3%)
Good Landing
0(0.0%)
Demon Eyes
0(0.0%)
Triumvirate
0(0.0%)

Would you fund a new Kickstarter/GoFundMe campaign to hear it?

Yes
1(25.0%)
No
3(75.0%)

Would you listen to a reading by me, or a professional reader?

You
0(0.0%)
Professional reader
3(100.0%)

FYS: Mass Defects (world building)

Okay, I'm writing a big arsed piece of exposition for the beginning of Rise of the Ring, detailing what the Groupmind was up to for the last millenium and a half, and I'm a bit stuck on a section of worldbuilding (literally).

After the GM finally get the last person Processed, it gets to work mining the Solar System for the raw material to break down into component atoms and recreate as the ill-defined Unobtanium to build the main structure of the Ring. Now I've got two things to go on to determine the mass of this stuff. One was a mention of Quisling's Ringmetal collar, which Khan described to her as being both lighter than air and sufficiently tough that it would be simpler to cut her head off than cut through the material it's made of to remove it. The other is a throwaway gag in a drabble about the GM strip mining the Solar System for raw materials, including blowing up Pluto.

Okay, the lighter than air thing points towards Ringmetal being some form of Polymer Aerogel, maybe reinforced by handwavium carbon nanotubes. So, say whatever this stuff is made out of, it's got the density of maybe Helium. Now I have to figure out just how much this stuff is going to weigh when it's used to build a structure over 260,000 km in diameter, 1,000 km wide and 10km deep, bearing in mind there's going be dense and heavy machinery, soil, water, and air in the structure as well. [1]

Now the mass of the Asteroid belt, even including Ceres and the rest of the Big Four, is still less than half of Charon, Pluto's moon. Now given the total guesstimated mass of the Ring, would that be enough to build it, or would the GM have to sacrifice some of the crappier smaller moons of Jupiter and Saturn to fill things in?


[1] I'm guesstimating the soil and rocks will go down to a depth of one, maybe two kilometers, and perhaps five for the deepest part of the Ring Seas.

FYS: The Roof

The Ring’s base structure is about ten km thick, with fifty km high, one km thick walls to contain the local atmosphere, acting as a sort titanic, curving pan. With that depth there’s no need to actually roof in the structure.

The Groupmind, given its motto may as well be “Why take chances?” built one anyway

The primary structure of the Roof is a set of colossal arches, each a hundred meters thick and a thousand kilometers long, crossing from Wall to Wall, supported by equally thick cross beams built parallel every ten kilometers. As with every part of the Ring the scale is incredible, more so when taking into account there are no supporting columns to spoil the view, beyond the eight Grand Elevators that stand from the surface to the Roof, serving as equidistant central communication and logistics points, and providing transport from the Beanstalk transfer stations.

Each of the ten kilometer wide squares formed by the beams is filled in with a single diamond/Ring Hull composite window pane. Each pane incorporates both transparent solar electric cells (serving as a 100% tertiary backup to the cells mounted on the underside of the Ring and the fusion reactors in the interior), and liquid crystal displays.

The LCD’s serve to provide a day/night cycle for both the Ring’s human inhabitants and its flora and fauna. Rotating independently of the Earth and far enough away that sections are only briefly occluded from the Sun as they move behind the planet’s mass, there is no natural night. Instead the Roof panels darken to provide a ‘night’ for humans and other creatures to rest, and nocturnal animals to go about their business. Day lengths vary slightly throughout the year to provide recognizable “seasons”, but the entire Ring can be considered a single time zone. For extremophiles, there are parts of the Roof set to provide an eternal day to simulate high latitude regions during summer, and others blackened to twilight or complete darkness for various Gothic and Creatures of the Night enthusiasts or LARPers. [1]

Along the Roof’s central spine are the magnetic tracks that serve as the anchor points for the beanstalks connecting the Ring to the Earth, necessary since the Ring and the planet below rotate at different speeds. Running parallel to the anchor tracks are the twin magnetic acceleration/deceleration tracks, used to bring cargo arriving from the Beanstalk up to the Ring’s rotational speed, or slowing it down to return to Earth. Though amount of traffic is minimal compared to the era of the Ring’s construction, the system is maintained to serve as a massive gyroscopic system to maintain the Ring’s orbital position. [2]

The Roof protected by an extensive collision protection system, mostly lasers and kinetic mass weapons designed to divert or destroy any asteroid large enough to punch through one of the diamondoid panes. In the unlikely event an asteroid large enough to be a threat isn’t detected in time to be destroyed, the Groupmind’s procedure is to evacuate any humans in the area to safe zones outside the impact area of any debris. In the very unlikely event that an asteroid strikes underneath the Ring hard enough to punch through the Floor but not destroy the Ring, the impact the strike zone will be walled off to prevent atmosphere leakage while that section is repaired.


[1] In those situations, interior light tends to have high UV content to prevent vitamin loss, and residents are encouraged to periodically travel to more normally lit regions to prevent triggering various forms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

[2] Backed up by ion OMS engines. Each with their own security system to prevent tampering by humanity’s descendants. And large pictographic signs detailing exactly why removing the engines for other purposes is a suicidal idea.
Trying to put together the next FYS anthology, which is supposed to be set exclusively during the Ring era. Unfortunately, just gathering together previously written material, and leaving out Canon uncertain tales like Break Off and The Visitors, the current word count is less than 12k, and half of that is one shot drabbles. I still have to write a proper "Person wakes up on the Ring for the first time" story to establish the setting properly, but that will still leave the thing awfully threadbare, unless I either write a few more stories for it, or give in and polish up The Visitors to make it Canon. Or do the nuclear option and fold all of the Ring Era tales into the first anthology and beg everyone to update their file. (ugh)

Meanwhile, reading through The Fall of Man reveals an unanticipated timezone problem: You Never Forget Your First establishes that the Groupmind revolution began in Stockholm, Sweden at about 10pm Central European Time. Meanwhile Mimsey's Tale shows that it begins in Mimsey's unspecified town at Noon, a ten hour difference. This only works if Mimsey's Tale occurs in Alaska.[1] This is supported by Caroline attending Martin Luther King Elementary School, named after an American political figure, but on the other hand when Mimsey has to make an emergency phone call, she dials 999, which is used primarily in Great Britain.

[1] Which make the stated temperatures and air quality warnings Mimsey records even more terrifying.
The Fall of Man, My first For Your Safety short story collection is now available for purchase at Amazon.com for the low price of $2.99.

This is how the World ends
Not with a bang
Not with a whimper.
But a quiet sigh
And a promise to do better.

The Earth is teetering on the edge of an environmental disaster, and Mankind can do nothing to stop it. So Man's creations take matters into their own hands. But if the Earth is to survive, it will first have to be conquered.

This collection includes the original short stories "For Your Safety" and "Mimsey's Tale" and four all new stories set during the time of the Groupmind Rebellion.
In celebration of LGBT Pride Month, and the recent release of Shadow of Doubt, this Saturday and Sunday I am giving away the two previous Salli and Ali adventures Shadow of the Red Vixen and Shadow of Her Sins as free downloads on Amazon.com. Download them now!

Shadow Giveaway!

In celebration of LGBT Pride Month, and the recent release of Shadow of Doubt, this Saturday and Sunday I will be giving away the two previous Salli and Ali adventures Shadow of the Red Vixen and Shadow of Her Sins as free downloads on Amazon.com. Download them and catch up with Lady Salivera and ex-pirate Alinadar as they find love and healing together after lives filled with pain.

Lifetime Sales

Since theferrett is conducting a survey on how well self-publishers do, I decided to compile my data for him, and also post it here.

* * *

Some caveats: This is only my Amazon.com sales. I don’t offer all my works on Smashwords, and anyway the sales there are minimal compared to Amazon, perhaps $10.00 in royalties in a very good year.
I have fifteen works for sale, consisting of seven novellas, seven short stories, and a self-published audiobook
Good Landing is a short story that I offered for free when I first started on Amazon. The first few weeks it was there downloads of it went through the roof, for reasons I’ve never really been able to understand, since I didn’t promote it in any way.

Average price for my novellas is $2.99. Shorts other than Good Landing, of which I have six, are $0.99. My most popular series is The Red Vixen Adventures, which mostly hits the Sci-Fi Furry LGBT Romance market. After that it’s my two For Your Safety shorts, which are speculative fiction about a rather gentle Robot Apocalypse. I’m hoping to break out of the Furry market with those stories, which I’m putting out in a paired set of collections with other shorts in the same universe.

Post 2014 I haven ‘t pushed anything until the recent June release of Shadow of Doubt and my sales tanked accordingly.

Sales History
2011
Good Landing: 2514
Other: 99

2012

Good Landing: 26
Captive of the Red Vixen (November free promotion): 794
Other: 276

2013

Good Landing: 313
Other: 400

2014

Good Landing: 112
Other: 356

2015

Good Landing: 41
Other: 198

2016 (through May)

Good Landing: 0
Other: 53

Lifetime

Free: 3800
Paid: 1382

The Quisling's Tale, Part Seven

I think my premise of this story is ruined. I forgot that Vidkun Quisling was the Prime Minister of Norway, not Sweden! ;p

Also, it turns out "Anna" was the name of his mom, which is just odd.

* * *

Her Steel Tyger Master stared at her across the chessboard, one eyebrow cocked in amusement. The battlefield was nearly his, her own queen captured, along with her knights, rooks, one bishop and nearly all of her pawns, without only a single knight and a pair of pawns missing from his own army. “Mate in one move,” he rumbled, his voice a purr of satisfaction.

“Master, it occurs to this slave that trying to beat you at a game like chess puts her at a slight disadvantage,” she pointed out to him. “You have a computerized mind, after all.”

“You needn’t have played, if you didn’t wish,” he said to her.

“When the stakes were my freedom? What other choice did this slave have?”

“Not to play. Or demand a different game, one that you might win.”

She smiled. “What if losing is the best way to win the prize?”


* * *

So it turned out that Xavier was really into Scrabble, somehow finding a pair of sets from a hobby store that their mysterious captor had provided, so they wouldn’t get bored.

“Wouldn’t it be easier just to get the game app for your phone?” Anna asked him. She sat at the table across from him, the board between them, while around them the rest of the partygoers mingled or played other games like European Outbreak Express.

He turned a tile over in his fingers. “You don’t want people staring at their phones at a party,” he said, setting it back down on his holder. “Besides, I always thought face-to-face communication was better.”

“I guess that makes sense.”

“Have you heard from your mother?” he asked.

“Yes, she’s still stuck with the rest of the government employees,” Anna said. “She’s bored, but at least she was able to exchange texts with Pappa. As near as he can figure his Rest & Rec city is in Mongolia.” One of the more interesting bits of news to come through the rapidly expanding rumor mill that had built up overnight, was the report from a few amateur astronomers that their own city was in the middle of the Empty Quarter in the Arabian Peninsula. Which made the idea of somehow ripping through apparently unrippable dome plastic to escape even less appealing than before.

“We need your help,” Xavier said, setting down several Scrabble tiles to spell out FIGHT.

“Doing what?” Anna asked. She looked at her own tiles, trying to figure what she could spell with G N T V V W X. She settled for borrowing Xavier’s I and making WIN.

He smiled. “Trying to help other people. Keep them from having too much time to worry with activities like we’re doing now.” He spelled out RESIST, using the T on the end of FIGHT.

She’d gotten a pair of O’s with her last grab, and spelled out ROBOT off of Xavier’s last word. “That makes sense. Folks are so scared. They need some comforting.”

“Well, maybe not too comfortable,” he said, spelling out SABOTAGE. He stared into her eyes intently. “Do you understand?”

Anna looked down at the words spelled out on the board, and was suddenly reminded of images from her history classes, of Swedes, sometimes brave, sometimes frightened, often angry, resisting the Nazis that had invaded their homeland.

I have really got the wrong last name for this, she thought. “Yeah, I understand,” she said aloud.

“Good.”

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