2956 A Feudal Conspiracy

The last independent habitat cluster is taken over by Dellians.

Xiao Chu is a cluster of orbitals and cylinder grid habitats in the asteroid belt with 30 million inhabitants. By skillfully acting within the Dellian feudal structure, Xiao Chu was able to maintain its independence for a very long time. However, in the year 2956 the self-government ends. The ruler of the Solar system gives Xiao Chu as a fiefdom to one of his vassals. Until then Xiao Chu was the last independent territorial sovereignty in the Solar system.

Before the Solar system was occupied, Xiao Chu was the market leader in the business of maintaining high-tech infrastructure and equipment. Many companies located at Xiao Chu had specialized in remote maintenance. Xiao Chu offered few technical products on its own. Its companies were primarily operation service providers for technical equipment of other manufacturers with a focus on industrial high-tech, high-performance systems:

- Synthesizers for nanostructured metamaterials,

- Mass spectrometric separators for resource mining,

- Massively parallel molecular beam printers,

- Power plants with fractal induced fusion,

- Converters for vactube power conduction,

- Assemblers and adjusting devices for FTL converter poles,

- Industrial high-precision autofabs,

- High-energy field screens for radiation protection,

- Ultra capacitors based on nuclear charge separation and gluon color charge shift,

and many others.

The technologies that Xiao Chu manages for its customers are very complex and prone to failures. Almost all of them use high power densities, some in the range of terawatts per cubic meter. This generates serious problems with mechanical stress and waste heat. Yet, the devices have to keep their spatial arrangements precisely to perform their advanced functions, some at attometer dimensions, the thousandth of an atomic nucleus diameter. Such systems also comprise many components, each with its own error profile. The aggregate problem of many possible error sources and the high probability of individual component failure means that modern high-tech systems cannot operate reliably over the long term on their own. Only special techniques from the field of operational science (OpS) make it possible to operate these systems in a profitable way.

The system behavior of modern hardware is complex. It is often almost in the realm of chaos. It is called quasi-chaotic. Classical measures based on the principle of analysis-action-effect do not work in this case. These systems are only controllable by very advanced methods, such as prospective maintenance management, topological reduction of the chaotic phase space volume, and real-time simulation at GUT level. These techniques are the specialty of Xiao Chu. Xiao Chu is also known to combine the management of quasi-chaotic systems with differential performance improvements to optimize the system output.

In the takeover of power in the Solar system, first by Leccian hordes and then finally by Dellian tribes, the highly specialized and networked interplanetary economy was severely disrupted. During this uncertain period, many companies ceased to exist. Supply chains were interrupted and service providers disappeared. This also affected maintenance service providers that could manage quasi-chaotic systems.

In general, technical facilities are maintained and operated by AI systems. AI also masters the basic principles of OpS and standard procedures for quasi-chaotic systems. So, the basic machinery of the Solar system continued to work during the takeover. However, operating high-tech equipment time and again needs specialized knowledge of the original manufacturer.

That was the domain of Xiao Chu. The people of Xiao Chu had specialized in operating, maintaining, and repairing high-tech systems as outsourcing service providers on behalf of the original manufacturers. Much of the knowledge of operating high-tech equipment in the middle Solar system was concentrated at Xiao Chu. To this end, Xiao Chu was also a leader in knowledge management, the art of organizing know-how, to store, enrich, combine, and transfer knowledge.

Xiao Chu was not directly affected by the Leccian coup. At the time, both Jupiter and Saturn, being the center of Leccian action, were on the other side of the system. Even later with orbital positions changing over time, the habitat cluster remained independent. With their independence, the specialists of Xiao Chu were also able to preserve their know-how. Preserving operational knowledge of technical systems was a key objective for the Xiao Chu leadership. This even went so far that Xiao Chu carried out commando raids to preserve data of collapsing know-how holders like companies, people, databases, and AI throughout the Solar system.

Even under the new Dellian rulers of the Solar system complex technology continued to be operated. The consulting firms of Xiao Chu became important service providers for the new rulers. Xiao Chu was thus indispensable, both for the living standards of the Dellian rulers and for their wars.

The Dellian Bilsass, the "Protector of the Solar system", understood that the independence of Xiao Chu was important to preserve its know-how. The knowledge in question lies with companies and with individuals, humans and AI. Networks between knowledge holders are also essential. These networks were organized by the consulting firms of Xiao Chu. Bilsass was aware that a disruption of these structures would lead to the loss of Xiao Chu as a strategic resource. Following the takeover everywhere in the Solar system knowledge clusters had disappeared. So, Bilsass intended to avoid this mistake with Xiao Chu. He therefore placed Xiao Chu under his personal protection instead of awarding the habitat cluster to one of his vassals.

High profit distributions directly to Bilsass are also an important argument for direct control. Ultimately, this is an additional money flow from the other protectors to Bilsass. This side effect is also a reason for dissatisfaction among the other protectors. The Dellian feudal system is not an absolute rule from above. It rather is a delicate balance between rights, duties, and power of all protectors. Many of the other protectors believe that a strategic resource like Xiao Chu should not automatically fall to the head of the feudal system. Like all resources, it should belong to another protector so that it does not directly support the power of Bilsass. They see an imbalance in the direct control of Xiao Chu by Bilsass. And of course, there are some who want to gain control over Xiao Chu themselves.

Time and again, Xiao Chu's independence was at stake. Sometimes the power of Bilsass was able to maintain the status quo. Sometimes a one-time payment or equivalent benefit from Xiao Chu to individual protectors was sufficient. Not only Xiao Chu's importance to Bilsass protected the habitat cluster, but also the skillful play of the cluster leadership in the feudal system. The chairman of the cluster council is informally a protector in the Dellian hierarchy in his own right. Even though he is democratically legitimized internally.

As a protector, however, he is also a target of intrigues and conspiracies. Until now, the leadership of Xiao Chu has mastered these challenges well, but in 2956 Xiao Chu falls victim to a conspiracy that is actually directed against Bilsass.

A few months earlier, the Dellians of the Solar system attacked the Luhman 16 system 6 1/2 light-years away. The interplanetary civilization of Luhman successfully resisted and repelled the attack. The solar ships retreated suffering heavy losses.

Many solar protectors had answered Bilsass' call to provide ships for the invasion fleet. Many had taken upon debt in hope of rich booty. But the campaign did not go as planned. There was no booty, only losses. The participants in the campaign were suitably dissatisfied.

They regarded the poor FTL performance of the attack fleet as the primary reason for the failure. Many protectors accuse Bilsass who led the attack.

In fact, parts of the fleet suffered from poor mobility in the operating area. Struggling with engine problems many fast assault units were not able to participate efficiently in coordinated maneuvers. The reason for this problem was a mismatch between the mission profile and the technical operating parameters of their FTL drives. A mistake for which Xiao Chu was responsible, because Xiao Chu held the general contract for preparation and maintenance of the FTL drives of the fleet's fast assault units.

The units had performed the final high-speed approach from the staging area to the war zone perfectly. Their first attacks at defensive installations were equally precise and successful. But the longer the battle lasted and the more the attackers encountered resistance, the more problems arose with the FTL drives. Until finally most FTL capable combat units failed as a tactical component. This meant that they could no longer protect the sub-light carrier platforms leading the main attack. Subsequently more and more carriers were neutralized by highly mobile defenders. So, the attackers had to retreat.

The FTL drive configuration was indeed unsuitable for the mission. They were adjusted for a different mission profile. Xiao Chu had used the wrong profile.

The preparation of all the FTL engines in the attack fleet had been an enormous task. Xiao Chu was the general contractor. They had had only a few months' time to analyze and adjust thousands of engines. Much of this process is automated and standardized. One employee can care for hundreds of such systems. However, time being short, Xiao Chu had to cut corners, skip checks, and rely heavily on AI.

The order to Xiao Chu had come from Deimarsax who was responsible for all FTL combat units. Deimarsax also was the protector of large shipyards on Mars' moon Deimos and in Mars orbit.

In preparation of the campaign, various attack plans had been worked out. Each plan had specialized operational profiles for all parts of the fleet.

The mission profiles of FTL combat units differed greatly, depending on their role in the attack. Xiao Chu used a plan in which FTL units would primarily carry out high-speed attacks to eliminate the static defense infrastructure the main requirement being high FTL speed for a long duration, a so-called bombing profile. In deviation from the bombing profile, the FTL units then served primarily as mobile escorts for the carrier platforms. They were adequately armed for this purpose, but their engines were not adjusted for many short maneuvers of a dogfight profile in close quarters combat with other mobile units.

Deimarsax had sent Xiao Chu the wrong mission profile. He had thus deliberately sabotaged the attack. His goal was to make the attack fail in order to weaken Bilsass, the protector of the Solar system, and at the same time discredit Xiao Chu. Deimarsax himself had invested a lot in this campaign. He had indebted himself and had made sure that this was publicly known.

Now he is demanding compensation. He has the other aggrieved protectors on his side. Being on the defensive Bilsass is now seeking a face-saving way out.

Two months after the failed attack on Luhman 16 a new conflict arises between two vassals of Deimarsax at the Mars ring. This is part of the normal competition between protectors for resources and territories. These minor conflicts are carried out both economically and militarily. Superior protectors allow such conflicts between their subordinate protectors as long as they do not disturb their interests.

In the course of the conflict, one of the adversaries tries to exert pressure by cancelling the credit line of the company Corebridge Energy (Mars Ring) at his bank, First Vortex Holdings. Corebridge is a provider of high-performance capacitors. The company had to equip a great many ships for the Luhman 16 campaign. Like Xiao Chu, Corebridge spent months preparing for the campaign. Among the many protectors who had their ships equipped in the attack preparations, some had not immediately paid for the service. Nevertheless, Corebridge Energy had to carry out the tasks in order not to jeopardize the armament efforts and thus get into conflict with the protector of the Solar system. Therefore, a gigantic credit line had been set up for Corebridge. Even months after the failed attack, huge sums are still outstanding.

Corebridge Energy is a tera-player, one of the market leaders. High-performance energy storage being a capital-intensive product Corebridge routinely moves very large financial assets. The credit line is guaranteed by a consortium of wealthy protectors. Nevertheless, the fact that the credit line is cancelled puts Corebridge into trouble. In this dire situation, Deimarsax announces that his shipyards will re-tender the order for ship capacitors. Corebridge thus faces the prospect of losing its largest customer which contributes 20% of its business. Since this is public knowledge other customers hesitate to make down payments. Lacking an active credit line, Corebridge reports payment difficulties.

Several Xiao Chu companies are maintenance service providers for Corebridge Energy's products. Their customers become increasingly worried that a collapse of Corebridge might threaten the supply with spare parts. Some customers demand that Xiao Chu secure the blueprints of Corebridge products. So, Xiao Chu decides to conduct an information extraction operation. Seeking approval for a covert operation from protectors at the Mars ring they get the permission from Deimarsax.

A week later, Xiao Chu commissions Gra-Nun-Sec, a security company based on MaGNet, the Mars Geostationary Network, to support the operation. Xiao Chu sends several employees by laser as info-sophonts to the Mars ring. Among them are experts for the Corebridge products and info-war specialists. Physical access will be provided by Gra-Nun-Sec, while Xiao Chu's personnel and AI will locate and extract the data.

In preparation, Gra-Nun-Sec manages to obtain an access code for the administrative area of Corebridge Energy from the black market. This is not unusual. At any time, many codes are available for physical and info access. It seems like a lucky coincidence that an appropriate code for Corebridge Energy is being offered. This allows for a non-violent entry into the protected area.

On the day of the information extraction Gra-Nun-Sec switches the sensors in the entrance area of Corebridge Energy to a fake stream. After opening the airlock of the administration module with the purchased code the commando team enters the module. The Gra-Nun-Sec people wear light stealth armor. Xiao Chu personnel are hosted by camouflaged micro-mechs provided by Gra-Nun-Sec. The team advances. The premises are well known to Xiao Chu personnel. They identify a shielded network node providing info-access to the industrial fab's database. Only a titanium plate and eight steel bolts are in the way. An obstacle that can be easily removed with eight micro cutting charges. That is supposed to be noiseless and vibration-free because the cutting charges are equipped with compensators suppressing external mechanical effects by controlled counter-explosions.

When the team ignites the charges, a huge explosion tears apart the Corebridge management module and adjacent habitat modules. The nearby sales center of the Deimarsax shipyards is severely affected. There are 1353 casualties in total, 867 of which are final. The mission team is also completely wiped, but not final.

Suddenly, the net is full of secret details of the failed info-extraction operation by Xiao Chu and Gra-Nun-Sec. Xiao Chu bearing the blame for the catastrophe in the public opinion, Deimarsax demands compensation from Xiao Chu and thus from Bilsass. Deimarsax condemns the irresponsibility of the humans, their incompetence, and in general the fact that humans dare carrying out secret operations without Dellian supervision. He demands that Xiao Chu be better controlled.

Bilsass, who has been struggling since the botched campaign against Luhman 16, finally gives in to pressure. He is able to restore his authority in one fell swoop by renewing the relationship with the protector of the Deimos shipyards. Deimarsax publicly commits himself to unconditional, uncritical loyalty. In return, he receives Xiao Chu to give it as a new fiefdom to one of his own vassals.

Thus, Xiao Chu loses its independence.

The true background about the wrong mission profile for Luhman 16 and the complex details of tuning FTL drives for maximum performance in different mission profiles is completely ignored by public reporting.

Nobody knows that the conflict between the two protectors at the Mars ring that lead to First Vortex Holdings refusing new loans for Corebridge Energy was intentionally started by Deimarsax.

Re-tendering the ship capacitor contract, which finally put Corebridge in a dire spot, is looked upon as regular business proceedings but the timing was no coincidence.

The favorable circumstance that an access code for the Corebridge administration module was available on the open market retroactively appears in a different light.

The fact that eight micro-cutting charges cannot actually destroy several habitat modules is lost in the resulting chaos.

Xiao Chu cannot prove that it obtained the required permission for the extraction operation because the data set has disappeared from the database.

Bilsass suspects that the chain of events was deliberately brought about. But his newly established position is all that matters to him.