Category Archives: Star Noir

Star Noir: Xìngyùn


Xìngyùn (Fortune) was a Chinese mining colony, built to take advantage of an enormous precious metals deposit. It earned its independence from Earth-side China during the Market Revolution, which otherwise saw the Communist rulers suppress the Capitalist reformers.

Xìngyùn still relies on the export of precious metals, and is the primary source of specie used in interstellar trade.

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Engine Technology

When I wrote Starships, I avoided talking about the engine technologies. Real-life rocket engines work by throwing mass out of the back end of a ship, and the fuel-to-payload ratios are too high to zip around like we do in Starships. Near term, real life combat is going to be an exchange of laser fire, and combatant survival will be based on the old Bayushi principle of “Strike First, Strike Last.”

Currently, the only alternative is the propellant-less drive. The general idea is that the engine takes some form of light and bounces it off a mirror in such a way as to generate thrust. The concept is the same one that applies to a solar sail. The difference is that you’re carrying along the laser, or microwave generator, as part of the engine.

Hence the reason why I refer to the drive as propellant-less, instead of reaction-less. There’s still a reaction, and therefore possible. It might need a large amount of power, but that’s a different problem. The initial experiments into the concept have produced conflicting results, so I might need a new technology if I revisit Starships in 2025.

The other elephant in the room is a faster-than-light drive. It doesn’t make much of an impact in Starships, only existing to carry the combatants to the area of operations. If I had to pick one (and I will for scenario six), it would be the Alcubierre drive, as refined by Sonny White. Its worst requirement is the existence of matter with negative mass. Such exotic matter is mathematically possible, but might need to be artificially created in a collider. (That it might be a form of anti-matter creates other problems.)

So that makes me happy as a designer. What doesn’t make me happy is that White’s design requires a big, fat ring to surround a ship. I can’t imagine that weapons fire would miss the thing, especially if the target was showing a flank.

Different Invasions

As the invasions of Xìngyùn and Ascension were presented, there does not seem to be any difference. Both invasion forces made their way to the ground, but the invasion of Xìngyùn failed, while the invasion of Ascension succeeded. What made them different?

The Communist Chinese invasion failed primarily because of poor intelligence. When the people of Xìngyùn cast their lot with the Capitalists, they expelled all known loyalists back to Earth. (More accurately, Moultrie freighter captains persuaded the rebels to let the loyalists leave.) These loyalists told a tale of a small band of rebels that had all the weapons and who had cowed a passive populace.

This understated the actual challenge facing the Communists. When Moultrie agents tried to negotiate based on real facts, the Communists laughed them off. The landing force was designed for a short action against a force that should be overwhelmed by light tanks and aerospace support.

We’ve seen what happened to the aerospace support. The armor didn’t fare much better. While the Xìngyùni didn’t have any armor of their own, they did have heavy industry built around their mines. The invaders lost most of their tanks to mobility kills and were unable to advance past their landing zone.

In contrast, Ascension was politically divided, and almost evenly split between the Independence Party and the Unity Party. Instead of invading outright, the Earthlings supported the formation of a fifth column over the course of a decade. When the time came, the invasion fleet was the capstone on a foundation of smuggled arms and exported propaganda.

The complexity of the plan allowed the nascent Moultrie spy network to figure out what was going on, but the Moultrons acted too slowly to intercept the invasion fleet. It was the final factor in the UN’s success, but lead to Moultrie’s aggressiveness in the decades that followed.