3090 Solos - The Modern Knights

The rules of war for the modern knights in their heavily armed spaceships.

For almost 200 years, the Sol system has been occupied by Dellian tribes. And for roughly a century, the Reconquista, the effort to reclaim the home system, has been going on. Rebel factions are now active on all celestial bodies and in numerous habitats. The Reconquista is also supported by former colonial systems. However, the various human factions within the system and from outside largely act independently. Collaborations and joint actions are rare.

The Dellian power structure is similarly uncoordinated. In theory there is a hierarchical organization from the protector of the smallest outpost to the protector of the Sol system, in practice individual protectors are autonomous. They are more concerned with maintaining their own power than that of their neighbors or their superior protector. Their own future is more important to them than the overall rule of the Dellians in the Sol system. They form alliances as needed with other Dellian protectors, with factions of alien species, and even with humans if it benefits them.

This was not always the case. At the beginning of the Dellian rule, the vassal system was tightly organized. Back then, the Solar economy was much stronger, and the foreign rulers had interstellar allies. They could use these resources to maintain their governance structures. But now, the economy is declining, and interstellar connections are weak. Both trade and tribute payments from extrasolar Dellian tribes have significantly decreased. And following the failed attack on the Luhman-16 system, the protector of the Sol system lost much of his influence. Time and again, he had to buy the allegiance of other protectors through concessions. For several decades, the title "Protector of the Sol System" has had no practical significance. The "Protector of the Sol System" is now just one of many local rulers. And while the Dellians still control the Sol system, they are no longer a unified power.

Throughout the system, Reconquista forces are active. Some operate overtly, engaging in military actions, while others work covertly. Regional skirmishes are a constant occurrence, with habitats and asteroid bases being captured and recaptured all the time.

Among the solar factions, there is a vast array of security providers, pirates, and mercenaries. While the Dellians employ many mercenaries and humans tend to be on the Reconquista side to liberate the Sol system, in practice, both humans and Dellians can be found on either side.

Conflicts mainly focus on individual habitats and asteroid bases, typically involving small attack forces of just a few ships. Large fleets rarely confront each other. Instead of grand battles, there are only skirmishes between small flotillas. Under these circumstances, the actions of individuals frequently play a pivotal role.

Among the mercenaries, many operate independently, flying solo because small and medium-sized combat ships can be piloted by a single person. The ships are highly automated their pilots possessing various enhancements. Many of these solo pilots are in fact transsapiens, upgraded and directly interfaced with their ships through implants, making the ship an extension of their android form. These individual pilots, known as "Solos", represent the elite of mobile attack and defense units in wartime skirmishes.

Initially, Solos were tasked with defending their homes, their home systems, or their habitats. They supplemented regular military units. Entrusted with the element of surprise, unpredictable tactical maneuvers, and swift changes in strategy, Solos play a pivotal role. In the numerous minor confrontations throughout the Solar system, the presence of a single Solo can tip the balance.

Most Solos finance, outfit, and operate their ships using their own resources. They typically pilot frigates or light cruisers. Especially well-equipped Solos, such as the members of the Presidential Guard of Marduk, may even command heavy cruisers.

Solos hold a unique position their activities being monitored by allies and enemies alike. They are recognized by their names and holo-banners, making their reputation paramount. Their combat achievements are meticulously documented and Solos with numerous victories become celebrities. There are leaderboards factoring in the strength of adversaries, allies, individual accomplishments, and overall performance. While most Solos might dismiss any interest in rankings, they still broadcast their identification, allowing the documentation of their successes. These scores not only serve to intimidate potential opponents but also allow them to command premium fees for their services.

Both sides employ Solos: humans for the purpose of reconquest and the Dellians to uphold the status quo. While most of the Solos are locals, there are also humans from the former colonial systems and members of other advanced cultures who can afford their own ships. Interestingly, even some Neo-Barbarians claim the title of Solo. Though having begun as pirates with stolen vessels, they now take pride in the esteemed Solo designation.

There is a particularly high number of Solos among the ranks of Dellian protectors. For the Dellians, status carries immense weight. Achieving a spot on one of the prominent rankings is nearly equivalent to receiving a knighthood.

Of course, such a ranking is not comparable to a service obligation issued by one of the Solo Guards of large interstellar sovereignties. But it boosts prestige and thus influence, especially if the ranking is high.

Some of the most respected rankings evaluate not just the number of kills, but also the way victories are achieved. Fairness is a crucial factor in these evaluations. Solos are expected to avoid harming civilians and other non-combatants during their missions. Engaging in war crimes or achieving victories that result in civilian casualties leads to a reduction in points. This perspective is consistent with the Solos' core objective of upholding a commendable reputation. They aim to be both feared and respected.

However, some Solos choose not to follow the established code. Many belong to species with different moral systems. Yet, among them are also humans, Kisori, and members of Artu clans. Dellians, who constitute a significant fraction of the solar Solos, possess ethics diverging from human norms. Nevertheless, the combat conduct of the Dellians aligns with Solo culture. While Dellian culture may not embrace notions of decency and honor in the same way humans do, they do value the rules of rankings granting them prestige. Their dominant religion, Uthoism, particularly in its "Special" variant, advocates for mutual respect among peers. This respect extends to opponents, resonating with the Solo's code of honor. The protection of civilians, however, is only addressed in the teachings of "General" Uthoism.

The estimated number of Solos in the Sol system ranges between 10,000 and 40,000, contingent upon the specific definition of Solo status. The distinctions become ambiguous between:

  • Genuine Solo pilots and commanders with additional crews,
  • Commanders of flotillas with escorting vessels and single ships,
  • Fully integrated transsapiens and users of classic immersive command systems,
  • Bios with nano-implants, androids with interfaces, uploads, and entirely artificial infosophonts,
  • Individual normal multitasking-capable sophonts and collective consciousnesses,
  • Independent, self-financed Solos and Solo-like structured fleet parts of larger sovereignties,
  • Solos with ultra-automated self-repairing autonomous ships and Solos with mobile tenders or even fixed home bases,
  • (Monolithic) ships, (drone) swarms, and (microbot) clouds, so-called Cloud-Solos,
  • Officially recognized Solos with genuine service obligations by an interstellar sovereignty, the many others who aspire to it, and the ones who do not seek an official service obligation,
  • Idealists and mercenaries,
  • Active Solos and pilots who are only sporadically active as Solos, former Solos who have retired, those who have disappeared or are MIA,
  • Part-time Solos who engage in incompatible activities, like piracy, and only adhere to Solo rules during conflicts of the Reconquista, and those who always act honorably in one way or another,
  • Supporters of various codes of conduct and competition rules, and those who do not bind themselves to conventions, so called Dark-Solos,
  • Self-proclaimed Solos and Solos recognized by others, those known to the public, those accepted by other Solos, those listed in rankings,
  • Solos who adhere to the code and others who merely exploit the Solo reputation,
  • Shadow-Solos who prefer anonymity, refraining from official combat participation, frequently changing their call signs, altering their equipment, and masking their presence, yet still adhering to the conventions.

Some observers argue that only Solos with real service obligations of territorial sovereignties should be counted. In this case the number of Solos would be between 2,000 and 4,000, depending on which system powers are deemed as relevant territorial sovereignties. Additionally, there are about 5,000 Dellian protectors who, in essence, enlist themselves as Solos for their respective protectorates, thereby pro forma making up a service obligation of a territorial sovereignty.

The most prestigious rankings list between 2,000 and 18,000 Solos:

  • ESL (Elite Solo League): 2,000 accredited Solos with official service obligations.
  • AltSL (Alternative Solo List, originally named Alternative Solo League, and renamed after a trademark lawsuit): The list includes 3,000 Solos without active service obligations, as well as a number of Solos rejected by the ESL.
  • Ren Tso Nuk Individual Combat Performance Comparison Edition Sol, more commonly referred to as the "Rentso": 18,000. This ranking focuses solely on results, without considering factors like compliance, fairness, or the strength of the opponent.
  • VIABELLI documents the conflict behavior of 12,000 Solos across multiple dimensions. Licensees commit to refrain from projections based on VIABELLI scores, especially steering clear of oversimplified, one-dimensional evaluations.

Excluding Venus, Earth, and Mars there are approximately three-quarters of a million habitats and space stations in the Sol system, located in orbits, around the sun, and on, at, or in celestial bodies. In the past decade, about 20% of these have been embroiled in or impacted by combat actions, with many experiencing conflict multiple times. In the outer system, up to half of the settlements have been contested with Solos being involved in many of these conflicts.

When all involved parties declare their actions as adhering to a code, these conflicts are officially conducted under Solo rules. Such a declaration can be made explicitly prior to the onset of hostilities or implicitly if all participants are registered as adherents to a specific rule set.

There are various rule sets available, and during a conflict, parties do not want to debate which set to adhere to. After all, this is war, frequently with fatal outcomes, and the repercussions can be devastating for the impacted communities. The harsh reality always outweighs any rankings or regulations. So, to avoid the tedious process of settling on a rule set, there are established foundational sets—intersections of compatible rules—that are automatically applied, even if the participants operate under different conventions.

In practice, specialized ethics AIs representing the conflicting parties determine the rule set at play. This allows participants to have a reasonable assurance that their adversaries will stick to these guidelines. During combat, the ethics AI notifies the pilot of potential rule infringements to prevent unintentional violations. Having an innate sense of permissible actions seasoned Solos often do not require such input from their ethics monitors. However, the ramifications of certain wartime actions are not always immediately clear. Given that a single breach can result in a lifelong ban by important Solo Guards, many Solos opt to receive these notifications and then make their own judgments. Some even permit the ethics AI to vet their commands, ensuring they remain compliant.

Despite all the sporting folklore, the spectacle of holographic banners, and trivialization by commentators, rankings, and statistics, the core of the matter is still war. As such, most rule sets grant considerable latitude for lethal ingenuity against adversaries. The primary emphasis is on safeguarding civilian infrastructures, civilians, and non-combatants. Some rule sets also curtail acts of treachery or even certain war tactics. Many forbid assaults on defenseless combatant vehicles, such as lifeboats. Some extend the "defenseless" classification to incapacitated warships. Others even count fleeing combatants as defenseless, although feigned retreats for deceptive purposes are excluded in this case. There are many variations.

Here is a list of prominent conventions:

  • Codex Marducis: This is the code of conduct for the Presidential Guard of Marduk. It comes in two versions: Bellum and Exercitium. Codex Marducis Bellum primarily mandates general decency towards adversaries, the safeguarding of civilians, and the recognition of an honorable surrender. It delves into specifics for many scenarios, such as the appropriate timing and conditions for an "honorable surrender". All Solo fighters aspiring to join the Guard of Marduk, or at the very least, wishing to serve in the Marduk Solo Legion, are bound to strictly adhere to this code. Any transgression leads to an irrevocable and indisputable blacklisting. Codex Marducis Exercitium builds upon the Bellum version but adds a prohibition against causing irreversible damage.
  • Official ESL Rules: Issued by the Elite Solo League, these rules are fundamentally in line with Marducis Bellum. However, the Codex Marducis is exclusively tailored for conflicts among humans, explicitly excluding other species. Given the diverse interplanetary nature of the Sol system, the ESL rules expand the Codex to encompass other species. The League has rephrased Marduk's rules into the "Abstract Ethics Framework and Moral System Notation" (AEFMSN). From this framework, rule sets tailored to the cognitive patterns of different species can be extrapolated, ensuring equivalent outcomes. The "ESL Intersophont Ethics Guide" offers authorized interpretations for numerous species, with a particular emphasis on the Dellians, given their significant presence in the Sol system. Terms from Marducis Bellum are translated to fit the Dellian ethical framework. Even concepts that might seem foreign to Dellians, such as the unique status of civilians (referred to in Dellian as the "Luckless"), their assets (civil infrastructure), and concepts unfamiliar to Dellians like "non-combatants" and "surrender", are detailed comprehensively.
  • A Gentlesoph's Agreement: Source unknown. It codifies honorable combat between peers, particularly Solos. The agreement does not account for parties without Solo status or for civilians. While it does not align with Codex Marducis and ESL, it is favored in conflicts among Dellians, especially for fights within the Dellian hierarchy. Dellians fighting under "The Agreement" primarily vie for a Rentso-ranking, which is indifferent to rule adherence and focuses solely on combat prowess and outcomes, regardless of the means to achieve them.
  • The Recommended Behaviors for the Friends of the Wise Dragon: Commonly referred to as the "Behaviors of the Dragon" or simply "The Behaviors", this ancient code of conduct hails from the medieval era of Kisor, dating back over 6,000 years. Its origins are rooted in the early dragon legends penned by the poet-singer Ros Mer Hom. According to legend, these recommendations were inspired by the so-called dragon in Kisor form, the central figure of the dragon legends. The "Behaviors" had become part of Kisor’s tradition, probably at the beginning of the second medieval millennium. They were widespread in the second millennium guiding the interactions of regional lords on Kisor-Beta, both in times of conflict and peace. However, as the third millennium approached, sterner customs took precedence, relegating the "Behaviors" to mere poetic and literary ideals. With the dawn of Kisor's new interplanetary age and the subsequent Interian era, there was a resurgence in the relevance of the "Behaviors". They underwent a modernization process, adapting to govern relations with alien species. But despite the changes of time, some Kisoran Solos remained steadfast in their commitment to the medieval principles outlined in the "Behaviors." The current iteration of the "Behaviors" is approximately 2,000 years old. They are deeply influenced by Alturism, Kisor's dominant religion, and if legends hold true, by the benevolent dragon who spent a millennium guiding the medieval Kisori towards mutual respect and decency. Rooted in this alturistic ethical foundation, the "Behaviors" are considered even more compassionate than Earth's human rights standards. They are compatible with the Codex Marducis and ESL rules, often even surpassing them in their moral directives. Notably, they emphasize the protection of neutral parties from any breaches by adversaries, offer extensive compensation in the event of harm, and impose stringent restrictions on actions that might inadvertently result in collateral damage.
  • Jarura for Regrettable but Unavoidable Conflicts: Often referred to as the Jarura Rules. The Jarura Rules trace their origins to Yaris, where they've been recognized since the dawn of its civilization. These principles were never formally documented, as the Yaris inherently understood and lived by them, considering them both natural and self-explanatory. Central to these rules is the term "Jarura". While it translates literally to "human", its essence captures the idea of being "decent". Jarura functions as an informal inverse reputation currency. Yaris gain and possess more Jarura when they spend Jarura, in other words, those who always act decently are highly esteemed. This concept is intuitive to the Yaris and deeply embedded in their way of life. During Yaris's interstellar age, scientists from various species delved into Yari culture, intrigued by their rapid evolution from the Stone Age to interstellar colonization within a mere 150 years. To assist these researchers, some Yaris documented many Jarura principles. Initially, they used Solar-Hindu-Dharma categories, but later transitioned to the more abstract AEFMSN notation.

Among these codified principles is "Jarura for Regrettable but Unavoidable Conflicts", essentially the rules of warfare on Yaris. The cornerstone of the Jarura Rules is to minimize overall damage and the total loss of life. Instead of exclusively focusing on the protection of neutral parties or dictating conflict methods, they aim to limit negative impacts on society. There are several variants:

  1. Absolute: Focuses on a numerical assessment of the damage.
  1. Renormalized: Uses a logarithmic scale for damage evaluation.
  1. Perceived: Offers a subjective perspective, leaning towards the protection of uninvolved parties.

The "perceived" variant aligns most closely with ESL rules. The ESL-Mod ESJ (Elite Solo Jarura) is available for Solos trying to live Jarura while being ESL compliant.

Approximately half of all military confrontations are documented by prominent Solo rankings. Of these, one-third adhere to officially recognized rules. From this group, 20% employ non-lethal rules, ceasing combat before any ships are destroyed. This means that around 3% of conflicts are conducted under ritualized rules. In these confrontations, opponents gauge each other using all available resources, be it military, logistical, or psychological. They then concede defeat (or acknowledge a "good game" - GG) before causing irreversible damage to their adversaries' vessels. Marducis Exercitium is the most frequently invoked rule set in such scenarios.

But whichever rules apply, Solo combatants' lives are never truly in jeopardy, as they all possess backups. The only way to destroy these backups would be through intelligence operations or cyberattacks on civilian infrastructure, which is not only challenging but also forbidden by the rules. The exception lies with Solos who continue to operate in their original – albeit significantly enhanced – biological bodies. These individuals genuinely have something personal at stake. Such bio-Solos are widely recognized and deeply respected due to the heightened risks they undertake. Consequently, most bio-Solos lean towards ritualized rule sets. However, those who choose to engage without these safety nets, despite the inherent dangers, are the secret stars of the scene.

Here are some well-known and notable Solos:

  • Tanam Ronan Zorang, former Kisori, Infosophont Upload, Age: 730 years real-time, approximately 2,500 years virtual, of which allegedly 1,800 years Solo training in accelerated simulation. Equipment: a swarm of 12,000 drones, each eight cubic meters in size and piloted by a temporary copy of the infosophont. AltSL Rank: 1, Rentso Rank: 15; Activities: 70% as freelance mercenary, 20% Reconquista on both sides, 10% unknown. He prefers to operate under the Kodex Marducis, despite being blacklisted by the Guard due to a code violation in a desperate situation, resulting in the death of 30,000 civilians (4,763 final).
  • Hiltrud Agnes Grimwald vonWieland of Wieland-Orbital/Sterge, Human, Bio-Solo, Age: 141 years; classic control via implant immersion; Archangel v18 Gen-Template with absolute orientation, 7-fold multitasking, and Bullet-Time Savant aspect, tactical intuition sources; former squadron commander of the Gatak-Force, a special unit of the Rama System Armed Forces, active service obligation by the inner defense ellipsoid of Sterge as head of the long-range effects division, fellow of the Marduk Solo Legion with wartime rank of Centurion, honorary member of the Malam Elang (Ice Hawks) of Haumea in the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt; Equipment: monolithic combat platform (600 kt) featuring a massive converter accelerator weapon that accounts for half its tonnage. This weapon's power often requires just one shot for most targets. While the main weapon operates, a multi-layered drone-based defense protects the platform. This design emphasizes quick spatial orientation for rapid weapon alignment but is slow relocating. The setup is not necessarily superior to other configurations. On the contrary, focusing on only one primary weapon limits possible tactical variations. Also, the rather traditional control by a bio-human with implants is certainly no particular advantage. Nevertheless, vonWieland is one of the most successful Solos ever (AltSL Rank: 3, Rentso Rank: 11). Her success is attributed to her self-designed superior evaluation system. While all Solos use automatic systems to analyze combat and suggest tactics, vonWieland's system consistently outperforms others. Post-action analyses often highlight her impeccable target selection and timing. Preferred rule set "Behaviors of the Dragon".
  • Xier Favorite-Apex of the Protector of Sol (Apex: third Dellian gender, xier: neutral pronoun for gender roles that do not fit the Earth's biological scheme). One of the best-equipped Solos in the Sol system. Funded by xier husband, the Protector of Sol. Equipment: Carrier with four fully automated macro-drones in the heavy cruiser class: 2 Marduk Solo Legion models and 2 older Interian designs looted from border depots, Carrier/Drive platform built by RageWare Industries/Deimos; Home base: Isle of Sol III Habitat/Venus; Rentso Rank: 4189; Activities: 20% piracy, 50% Reconquista/Dellian, primarily conducted under the Gentlesoph's Agreement.
  • Four morph-ships from the nanite civilization from Drabapra 81A-H. All identify themselves as independent individuals with their own names and symbols. However, it remains ambiguous whether they truly possess individuality in the way we understand it or if they are merely facets of a larger collective consciousness, only simulating individuality. Typically, these morph-ships manifest as a cloud of microbots, but they have also been seen configuring into linear accelerators for high-speed bombardment. Why the nanites are in the Sol system is unclear, as the ongoing conflict between humans and Dellians should not concern them. In fact, mech civilizations, be they nanites or robots, often unsettle other species due to the potential for unchecked proliferation. While they are generally tolerated when confined to their own star systems, their interstellar ventures are what bio-civilizations dread. Nevertheless, these nanites strictly adhere to ESL rules. They champion the protection of civilians even in conflicts where they are not directly involved. ESL Ranks: 64 - 97, Rentso Ranks: 255 - 421; Activities: 39% Reconquista/Dellian, 41% Reconquista/Reshumana, 20% unknown.
  • Victoria Hugo, originally a NeoDolphin from the Ganges Trench/Valles Marineris/Mars, a transsapient as a Cetacea-Android (Dolphin form) with command interfaces, Age: about 280 years real and allegedly 3,000 years virtual training time, born as an uplift gene-template Poseidon-Omega with natural 3D orientation and 5-fold multitasking consciousness; Equipment: a hyper-agile tetrahedron destroyer; ESL Rank: 2, Rentso Rank: 12; Activities: 70% Reconquista/Dellian, 30% freelancer. Hugo specializes in very dense and fast dogfights piloting a custom-built destroyer equipped with rapid-fire railguns in a tetrahedral setup. This destroyer boasts oversized faster-than-light engines of unknown origin, allowing her to maneuver with incredible agility even in close combat, achieving double digit percent of light-speed at curve radii of mere thousands of kilometers. In 30 seconds, she can execute up to 20 complex loops around her opponents while continuously firing. However, this intense operation quickly exhausts her resources – ammunition, fuel, and converter poles. After that, the fight is either over, or she must reload at her mobile supplier which is stationed outside the combat zone and is reachable in 60 seconds thanks to her powerful engines. After another 60 second resupply and the return flight to the combat area, she is back in battle. Obviously, the supplier is the Achilles' heel of this strategy. If compromised, Hugo is rendered ineffective. Therefore, the supplier must always be on guard, dodging enemy forces. The supplier is piloted by Victoria's sister Marie, who still retains her original Poseidon-Omega dolphin form with conventional nano-implants. The true mastery of a supplier pilot lies in their ability to anticipate threats. In this task, she is supported by the usual automatic battlefield analysis and a so-called "Oracle", possibly a confined singular AI. Singular AIs are not standard technology. Their operating principles are unknown, and they are beyond the capabilities of normal high-tech civilizations. Allegedly this artifact originates from the Colossus of Ifri. This Oracle seemingly foresees threats with uncanny accuracy. Yet, Marie often trusts her innate instincts in critical situations.
  • An unidentified Shadow-Solo who frequently appears unexpectedly in conflict zones, primarily to rescue civilians, interfering especially in conflicts lacking any regulation. The media have dubbed him the "Dark Angel". While there are parallels in his equipment and actions to the Drabapra morph-ships, the Shadow-Solo is noticeably larger. It is speculated that this Shadow-Solo might be a combination of the known morph-ships, merged with a larger nanite mass. However, this remains speculation. The Dark Angel holds a Rentso Rank of 5, with 2% of his activities being code-free but compatible with "The Behaviors". His other whereabouts remain a mystery.

Solos are the modern knights. Yet, while the chivalry of Earth's Middle Ages was rooted in a somewhat informal, morality-based code, the Solo Code is far more formalized having been written down, codified in abstract notations, and even brough to life through specialized AI. Given the vast biological and cultural disparities, such a well-structured system likely to be essential to maintain order, especially when not all entities share the same thought processes and moral systems.

In regions devoid of governance, the Solo Code offers a semblance of order. Public rankings, coupled with the looming threat of bans for code violations, help moderate the methods employed in those countless small wars. While not every conflict involves Solos, the "Solo Code" still helps to prevent the worst excesses promising at least some accountability amidst the chaos.

Compared to other star systems of this era, the Sol system with its well-developed Solo culture, is still in a good position.