Armageddon???? (Part Fifty Up)

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Post by JBG » 2008-04-14 04:03am

"Okeraphluxos had seen the destruction of the last of his garrison at the barricade and knew it was all over. The humans hadn’t even bothered to ask him whether he wanted to surrender and it was pretty obvious that they weren’t about to. There was a trident hanging on the wall, not the run-of-the-mill cast one, a Tartaruan trident that had been forged with care by Belial’s best craftsmen. It could hold a charge better than the normal ones and its prongs would stab deeper and break less. It would be a good weapon to die with."

The inference that I took from this was that Belial had a superior method of trident production, not that he merely chose the best out of an "average" for Hell production run, though the converse proposition is not ruled out by the above quote. Just more unlikely.

Then the clear reference to Belial's court preferring those with skill in making armour and weapons rather than simple macho toughness reinforced my impression that Belial's production technology is probable superior to that employed by the great mass of Hell's armourers. It is only the degree of such superiority which is not clear/not stated.

Belial was recovering from a "fall from grace" so needed to carve out a niche. The niche was weaponry. He could become a mass manufacturer or, given his lowly, pitifully weak and precarious status, a maker of higher quality weaponry. My feeing is that Stuart et al are suggesting the latter.

So he may be able to reliably produce, though in small quantities, better weapons. A real problem is that if no-one else is really trying then there is less competition for better weapons and rare chances to properly test "better" weapons against other "better" weapons to see who is on the right track.

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Post by Surlethe » 2008-04-14 06:59am

kdahm(the same one) wrote:
Darth Wong wrote:The laws of probability are mathematical. This is like saying that the demons could alter the value of pi, or change the rules of addition.
Well, considering the topography of Hell, there is a possibility that pi in Hell does not equal pi on Earth.
No, there isn't. Mathematics still works in Hell, so pi is still pi.
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Post by Darth Wong » 2008-04-14 10:46am

kdahm(the same one) wrote:
Darth Wong wrote:The laws of probability are mathematical. This is like saying that the demons could alter the value of pi, or change the rules of addition.
Well, considering the topography of Hell, there is a possibility that pi in Hell does not equal pi on Earth.
Do you understand that pi is defined mathematically?
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Post by NecronLord » 2008-04-14 11:00am

This different-Pi thing seems to be something of a bizzare fantasy staple (why, in the strange universe of the Bible, it's three) but people don't seem to consider what it would actually mean; do they seriously think it is impossible to draw a proper circle in these alternate dimensions with different Pi? What about a straight line?
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Post by Beowulf » 2008-04-14 11:14am

I think how it's supposed to work is the topology of hell is different. Kind of like how all the angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees. Such a statement fails when the triangle is drawn onto a sphere, where it can add up to much greater than 180 degrees. There's another shape with negative curvature, such that a triangle would have less than 180 degrees. Possibly much less than 180 degrees. Pi equalling 3.1415... is only true with Euclidean space, which Hell is apparently not.
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Post by Gerald Tarrant » 2008-04-14 11:22am

NecronLord wrote:This different-Pi thing seems to be something of a bizzare fantasy staple (why, in the strange universe of the Bible, it's three) but people don't seem to consider what it would actually mean; do they seriously think it is impossible to draw a proper circle in these alternate dimensions with different Pi? What about a straight line?
I think the confusion arises when talking about how Hell deforms lines.

“The dimensions are all screwed up.”
Captain Keisha Stevenson was watching the mechanics take the dust filters off Alpha-Alpha-One and take them away to the cleaning area. The building they were in was a garage large enough to hold all four Abrams tanks with room to spare. It was pre-fabricated, the parts flown in using one of the massive Russian Mil-26 helicopters and then brought through the Hellmouth and assembled. It was one of four such buildings in the complex with more to come. At the moment, Battle Group Alpha was the only portion of the US Army permanently stationed in Hell. A lot more was coming in and out, but Alpha was the only unit that actually stayed there. Once again, she thought, her unit was ending up as the sacrificial goat. She was beginning to regret blasting that angel, the act that had brought her on to General Petraeus’s radar. The she thought about the scene in the hut and decided that she didn’t regret firing that canister round at all.

“The beacon worked though?”

“Sure, but it was weird, we were steering straight line, not deviating a degree, but we could see the beacon behind us slide slowly away to one side.”

“It’s not just bearing, it’s range as well. We took the data out of your navigational computer and analyzed it. The speed you were doing, the time you took and the distance you covered don’t add up. I needn’t tell you the problems that causes the artillery boys. It’s not just you, all the other units are reporting the same thing. Bearing and range are all out of whack.
We’re going to have to find something to pound on in order to see how significant it all is. Before that we’re going to establish another beacon, about 30 miles out from this one. Get a cross-bearing and navigation will get a lot easier. Also, we can compare our data with the on-the-ground data and that’ll give us a handle on what is going on. If there’s a mathematical relationship, we can program the navigational computers to handle it.” Major Warhol didn’t look that convinced. But then he hadn’t been on the Thunder Runs and didn’t appreciate how disturbing the distorted dimensions were to crews who wanted to get back home. That was one reason why he was here, to see how the real conditions of Hell compared with his simulated Helljars.
I don't think the implications are as bad as some people are suggesting. But you have the prospect of drawing (what seems to be) a perfect circle, and then measuring it's circumference/Diameter ratio and getting not_quite_pi. I'm pretty sure this is not the same as pi changing, rather our imperfect perception of distances in Hell may make some measurements suspect.

As a random aside, maybe the changing (apparent) dimensions a circle (or some other shape) could give a rough measure of the local "wonkiness" of hell.

edit: maybe some variant of the Michaelson-Morley apparatus could be used to measure deformation?. A simpler more immediate solution is probably just to broadcast radio signals from scouting vehicles (for bearing purposes) and then have the scouting vehicles travel in straight lines, then have the receivers watch how the bearing changes.

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Post by Surlethe » 2008-04-14 12:09pm

Beowulf wrote:I think how it's supposed to work is the topology of hell is different. Kind of like how all the angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees. Such a statement fails when the triangle is drawn onto a sphere, where it can add up to much greater than 180 degrees. There's another shape with negative curvature, such that a triangle would have less than 180 degrees. Possibly much less than 180 degrees. Pi equalling 3.1415... is only true with Euclidean space, which Hell is apparently not.
Pi is defined in Euclidean space; just because C/d might not be pi for some circles in differently curved spaces doesn't mean that pi itself changes. It's also worth pointing out, as above, that Hell's space is locally flat, so locally C/d = pi.
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Post by Illuminatus Primus » 2008-04-14 12:56pm

This is amazingly stupid. HUMANS ARE WALKING AROUND. If they draw a circle, the ratio of its circumference to its diameter will be Pi. Do you really imagine otherwise? I thought we couldn't possibly find the most retarded of sci-fi tropes and goofs on SDN, but I guess I thought wrong.
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Post by Surlethe » 2008-04-14 01:12pm

Illuminatus Primus wrote:This is amazingly stupid. HUMANS ARE WALKING AROUND. If they draw a circle, the ratio of its circumference to its diameter will be Pi.
The point you are making is sound, I think, but this is not necessarily true in non-Euclidean spaces. For example. take a great circle on the surface if the Earth; its circumference is precisely twice its diameter, so the ratio C/d is actually 2, not pi. But this doesn't change the value of pi; it simply means that the space (in the example, the surface of the Earth) is not globally flat. And, moreover, in small circles C/d will be very near pi, because the space is locally flat.
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Post by Darth Wong » 2008-04-14 01:22pm

Surlethe wrote:
Illuminatus Primus wrote:This is amazingly stupid. HUMANS ARE WALKING AROUND. If they draw a circle, the ratio of its circumference to its diameter will be Pi.
The point you are making is sound, I think, but this is not necessarily true in non-Euclidean spaces. For example. take a great circle on the surface if the Earth; its circumference is precisely twice its diameter, so the ratio C/d is actually 2, not pi. But this doesn't change the value of pi; it simply means that the space (in the example, the surface of the Earth) is not globally flat. And, moreover, in small circles C/d will be very near pi, because the space is locally flat.
Since a circle is defined in 2d space, it is always assumed that any real circle is projected onto 2d space for the purposes of classifying it as a circle anyway. So when you project a circle onto an uneven surface, the circle still has the same ratio of circumference to diameter. It's just that its 3d projection does not. The 3d projection is not, itself, a circle.
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Post by Starglider » 2008-04-14 01:51pm

Darth Wong wrote:Since a circle is defined in 2d space, it is always assumed that any real circle is projected onto 2d space for the purposes of classifying it as a circle anyway. So when you project a circle onto an uneven surface, the circle still has the same ratio of circumference to diameter. It's just that its 3d projection does not. The 3d projection is not, itself, a circle.
A curved 2D space is still a valid 2D space, regardless of whether it's simpler for humans to think of it as a 3D space or not. The actual definition of a circle is not tied to Euclidean space; it is simply the set of all points a given distance from the centrepoint (though of course the definition of pi is, and the humans intuitive notion of a circle is formulated exclusively in Euclidean space along with all our other intutive notions). Surlethe's summary is correct; the ratio C/d may vary over large distances but this isn't a factor for localised processes (and can't be, since said processes still work normally).

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Post by Surlethe » 2008-04-14 01:53pm

Darth Wong wrote:
Surlethe wrote:
Illuminatus Primus wrote:This is amazingly stupid. HUMANS ARE WALKING AROUND. If they draw a circle, the ratio of its circumference to its diameter will be Pi.
The point you are making is sound, I think, but this is not necessarily true in non-Euclidean spaces. For example. take a great circle on the surface if the Earth; its circumference is precisely twice its diameter, so the ratio C/d is actually 2, not pi. But this doesn't change the value of pi; it simply means that the space (in the example, the surface of the Earth) is not globally flat. And, moreover, in small circles C/d will be very near pi, because the space is locally flat.
Since a circle is defined in 2d space, it is always assumed that any real circle is projected onto 2d space for the purposes of classifying it as a circle anyway. So when you project a circle onto an uneven surface, the circle still has the same ratio of circumference to diameter. It's just that its 3d projection does not. The 3d projection is not, itself, a circle.
The 2d space in my example is the surface of the sphere; the great circle is not a projection of a circle into 3d space, but the locus of points equidistant on the circle between two poles. The measurement of distance along the surface of a sphere is different from the measurement of distance in flat space, which is why the ratio C/d is different on a sphere.
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Post by kdahm(the same one) » 2008-04-15 12:14am

Starglider wrote:
Darth Wong wrote:Since a circle is defined in 2d space, it is always assumed that any real circle is projected onto 2d space for the purposes of classifying it as a circle anyway. So when you project a circle onto an uneven surface, the circle still has the same ratio of circumference to diameter. It's just that its 3d projection does not. The 3d projection is not, itself, a circle.
A curved 2D space is still a valid 2D space, regardless of whether it's simpler for humans to think of it as a 3D space or not. The actual definition of a circle is not tied to Euclidean space; it is simply the set of all points a given distance from the centrepoint (though of course the definition of pi is, and the humans intuitive notion of a circle is formulated exclusively in Euclidean space along with all our other intutive notions). Surlethe's summary is correct; the ratio C/d may vary over large distances but this isn't a factor for localised processes (and can't be, since said processes still work normally).
I apologize. I was lazy and misposted. The pi in my statement was C/d, as it was originally defined, not the later forms decribed in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi.

The resulting discussion did highlight my point, though. Simply assuming that C/d behaves in the same manner as on Earth, even though straight lines aren't in Hell, is a first order mistake. Saying it's mathematical, therefore it can't change is also naive. Check your assumptions at the hellgate.

It actually wouldn't be too hard to get some preliminary approximations for curved space in Hell. Simply get a Army COE survey team over there, establish some benchmarks on about 1000 foot distances, then measure everything. Don't forget the backsights - it's possible that the distance traveled one way is not the distance when traveled back. For that matter, drive a couple of M1 platoons out, park them 2000+/- yards apart, then use the targeting system to get ranges and bearings. Crunch the numbers, and see what pops up.
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Post by Stuart » 2008-04-15 08:49am

The problem with hell is that (like heaven and various other places) its a Klein Bottle, a three dimensional moebius strip that has only an interior, it doesn't have an exterior. So, all the dimensions are warped to fit within the Klein Bottle paradigm. Also, that's the reason its so polluted, its an enclosed system with no "out" (the noxious effects of living in hell are entirely pollution, there's nothing mysterious there. Its just like Beijing on a really bad day.

To give you some idea of what Hell is like from a navigational point of view. Imagine a map of earth and you head North existing over the top edge of the map one inch to the right of the top left hand corner. You'll re-enter the map one inch to the right of the bottom left hand corner. Now, the same map of hell (Surlethe's drawing one now) you do the same thing, head north and you leave one inch to the right of the top left hand corner. You'll re-enter the map one inch to the left of the bottom right hand corner.

Now, the implications of that are interesting; for example, if a perfect circle exists, pi will be the same as on Earth, but in Hell circles are also slightly distorted by the same effect. For small circles, the effect is negligable but if really big "circles" exist, the would be distorted into an ellipse that is "twisted" slightly. However, that also means that if very high precision circles are required, for example gears in machine tools, it cannot be made in Hell - hence their lack of mechanical advancement.
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Post by Darth Wong » 2008-04-15 09:04am

kdahm(the same one) wrote:
Starglider wrote:
Darth Wong wrote:Since a circle is defined in 2d space, it is always assumed that any real circle is projected onto 2d space for the purposes of classifying it as a circle anyway. So when you project a circle onto an uneven surface, the circle still has the same ratio of circumference to diameter. It's just that its 3d projection does not. The 3d projection is not, itself, a circle.
A curved 2D space is still a valid 2D space, regardless of whether it's simpler for humans to think of it as a 3D space or not. The actual definition of a circle is not tied to Euclidean space; it is simply the set of all points a given distance from the centrepoint (though of course the definition of pi is, and the humans intuitive notion of a circle is formulated exclusively in Euclidean space along with all our other intutive notions). Surlethe's summary is correct; the ratio C/d may vary over large distances but this isn't a factor for localised processes (and can't be, since said processes still work normally).
I apologize. I was lazy and misposted. The pi in my statement was C/d, as it was originally defined, not the later forms decribed in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi.

The resulting discussion did highlight my point, though. Simply assuming that C/d behaves in the same manner as on Earth, even though straight lines aren't in Hell, is a first order mistake. Saying it's mathematical, therefore it can't change is also naive. Check your assumptions at the hellgate.

It actually wouldn't be too hard to get some preliminary approximations for curved space in Hell. Simply get a Army COE survey team over there, establish some benchmarks on about 1000 foot distances, then measure everything. Don't forget the backsights - it's possible that the distance traveled one way is not the distance when traveled back. For that matter, drive a couple of M1 platoons out, park them 2000+/- yards apart, then use the targeting system to get ranges and bearings. Crunch the numbers, and see what pops up.
No, pi itself doesn't change. Mathematics itself doesn't change, so your earlier post is still full of shit. The application of mathematics to a real environment can produce different results than we expect, or (as in my case) one can forget about another possible complication, but since mathematics is a self-defined self-consistent system of thought, it would be the same no matter where you were, or in what universe. Remember that mathematics is not physics; physics applies mathematics to real situations, but mathematics itself is a completely made-up, self-defined system.
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Post by Darth Wong » 2008-04-15 09:08am

Damn you, Stuart! I saw that you posted and I thought you might have added another chapter!! Stop teasing us, man!
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Post by DarthShady » 2008-04-15 09:17am

(Surlethe's drawing one now)
We get a map? :D

Man i cant wait for the next chapter.

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Post by tim31 » 2008-04-15 10:10am

Darth Wong wrote:Damn you, Stuart! I saw that you posted and I thought you might have added another chapter!! Stop teasing us, man!
Even DW's a junkie for it now :lol:

Last week I came in here to post something along the lines of STOP STALLING AND GIVE US THE GOODS and discovered to my pleasant surprise that we had another chapter. My hands stopped shaking immeadiately.
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Post by Chris OFarrell » 2008-04-15 10:54am

Stuart wrote:The problem with hell is that (like heaven and various other places) its a Klein Bottle, a three dimensional moebius strip that has only an interior, it doesn't have an exterior. So, all the dimensions are warped to fit within the Klein Bottle paradigm. Also, that's the reason its so polluted, its an enclosed system with no "out" (the noxious effects of living in hell are entirely pollution, there's nothing mysterious there. Its just like Beijing on a really bad day.

To give you some idea of what Hell is like from a navigational point of view. Imagine a map of earth and you head North existing over the top edge of the map one inch to the right of the top left hand corner. You'll re-enter the map one inch to the right of the bottom left hand corner. Now, the same map of hell (Surlethe's drawing one now) you do the same thing, head north and you leave one inch to the right of the top left hand corner. You'll re-enter the map one inch to the left of the bottom right hand corner.

Now, the implications of that are interesting; for example, if a perfect circle exists, pi will be the same as on Earth, but in Hell circles are also slightly distorted by the same effect. For small circles, the effect is negligable but if really big "circles" exist, the would be distorted into an ellipse that is "twisted" slightly. However, that also means that if very high precision circles are required, for example gears in machine tools, it cannot be made in Hell - hence their lack of mechanical advancement.
So your saying in hell, a lot of the 'laws' as appreciated on Earth become much more in the way of 'approximations', that on smaller scales the differences really are not that great? Sort of like Newtonian vs Einsteinian physics when you start to play around with speeds closer to C, as opposed to speeds closer to zero?
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Post by Darth Wong » 2008-04-15 11:00am

Chris OFarrell wrote:So your saying in hell, a lot of the 'laws' as appreciated on Earth become much more in the way of 'approximations', that on smaller scales the differences really are not that great? Sort of like Newtonian vs Einsteinian physics when you start to play around with speeds closer to C, as opposed to speeds closer to zero?
Apparently, they're great enough to prevent the fabrication of high-precision parts in Hell, although you can apparently fabricate them here and then take them there, and they will work fine.

I'd imagine that if you whipped out your dick in Hell and looked at it, it should have a slight curve now.
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Post by GrandMasterTerwynn » 2008-04-15 11:49am

Stuart wrote:The problem with hell is that (like heaven and various other places) its a Klein Bottle, a three dimensional moebius strip that has only an interior, it doesn't have an exterior. So, all the dimensions are warped to fit within the Klein Bottle paradigm. Also, that's the reason its so polluted, its an enclosed system with no "out" (the noxious effects of living in hell are entirely pollution, there's nothing mysterious there. Its just like Beijing on a really bad day.
Hell seems to be a really volcanically active place. It also seems to be lacking in large oceanic masses of water. One could explain the chronic pollution and high levels of dust on those merits alone. Take a look at what the Mars rovers have imaged. That place is chronically dusty (polluted, as it were,) in spite of having 1% the air that Earth does, and doesn't have the excuse of existing in a Klein bottle. Venus closely resembles Hell. Except for the part about the whole atmosphere being principally CO2 and surface pressures being 90x Earth's.

Earth is an enclosed system. It's not like the pollution we produce escapes the atmosphere and flies off into space. Not in any appreciable quantity. Earth is just wetter. It has oceans and ice and a diverse array of biological processes to lock away pollutants. It also has plate tectonics which rearrange and recycle the crust.
Now, the implications of that are interesting; for example, if a perfect circle exists, pi will be the same as on Earth, but in Hell circles are also slightly distorted by the same effect. For small circles, the effect is negligable but if really big "circles" exist, the would be distorted into an ellipse that is "twisted" slightly. However, that also means that if very high precision circles are required, for example gears in machine tools, it cannot be made in Hell - hence their lack of mechanical advancement.
The Australian Aborigines had no appreciable technological development for nearly 40,000 years after arriving in Australia. Homo Sapiens as a species had no appreciable technological advances beyond cave art and increasingly sophisticated stone tools in the first 192,000 years of its existence. Homo Neanderthalesis, in spite of having brains as sophisticated as our own, had only minimal technological advance over the timespan of their entire species. Technological stagnation doesn't need peculiar spatial geometry to explain.

Given the stupendous lifespan and physical advantages exhibited by demons, compared to the humans they prey on, (they have immense strength, sharp claws and teeth, the ability to generate electricity. Some have specialized into fliers and swimmers and have other peculiar adaptations,) a mindset where "change" is a foul, foul word is almost expected. For that matter, the extremely hostile atmospheric conditions in Hell would be enough to discourage technological development beyond the early Bronze age. Their best tools and equipment would wear out quickly due to excessive contamination (all those silica particles finding their way into the bronze forges aren't good for the resulting bronze's bulk properties) and wear due to atmospheric particulates and chemicals. And given what iron does to them (The ferromagnetism apparently gives their heightened electrical senses the screaming willies,) they'd have little imperative to advance into the Iron age, let alone the Industrial Revolution.

Given all that . . . the fact that the demons are in the Bronze age, instead of charging into battle equipped like African bushmen or the Aztecs (and even then, they'd still win against most Human armies up to the invention of firearms,) is impressive by itself.

And there is the problem that sophisticated machinery with tight tolerances apparently works just fine in Hell, once you have means in place to deal with the atmosphere. If the degree of distortion of circles is insufficient to prevent an tank or a UAV from functioning, then the peculiarity of Hell's geometry would be similarly insufficient for preventing demonic technological advance. They already have enough excellent, non-geometric, reasons for being a bunch of backwards Bronze Age barbarians.

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Post by Darth Wong » 2008-04-15 01:13pm

It's worth pointing out that extremely long-lived creatures should be extraordinarily rigid in their thinking, because they've done the same things over and over and over for millennia. Based on what we know of the brain, this should create a force of habit that is almost overwhelming.

Of course, one might argue that the fast-healing environment of Hell allows the brain to unlearn things and keep itself more flexible, unlike our brains. Mind you, that also means they should forget a lot of details, which probably makes sense too (really, how much clarity of recall should you have of your life, if it has spanned thousands of years?)
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Post by Stuart » 2008-04-15 01:19pm

The Phlegethon Bridge, Dysprosium Highway, Hell

“Well, its not boiling blood.” Captain Keisha Stevenson looked at the scene through her electro-optics. It was one of almost pastoral beauty, the angry, gray and red sky, the yellow-green river, the blackened-red grass, the shining black demons on guard around the bridge. Thinking over the definition of pastoral beauty, she decided that she had an unexpected talent for irony.

“Will you look at those mothers. Never seen anything like them before.” Baldy was using his gunner’s sight to look at the scene. “Big, aren’t they?”

“Big.” Stevenson spoke agreeably. “As big as the ones who started this whole mess off. That means they will take a battering before they go down. How many hits did that one outside Moscow take?”

“Most of a tank battalion so I heard. But then they didn’t know what we know now.”

“True. Hokay. Load HEAT.” Stevenson flipped over to her company command net. “All Alpha vehicles, we have some new baldricks ahead of us. They look like the warriors we’ve been whacking to date but these ones are about 40 feet high. Force count is nine, one of their squads by the look of it. Alpha and Bravo platoons, we’ll attack them, nothing elaborate, straight at them shooting as we go. Charlie section, keep your Bradleys here, once we’ve cleared the big guys, you go straight over the bridge and lay that group of buildings to waste. Don’t leave anything standing. Then, get back this side and we’ll blow the bridge. Understood?”

The acknowledgements came over the radio. Stevenson flipped back to her intra-vehicle comms. “Right Biker, take us down. And try and keep it smooth, we’re a long way from home to be wasting ammo.”

Five thousand meters away, Sanskiworlanaskim was bitterly annoyed at being told to guard a bridge. Perhaps, guard was the wrong word, control might be a bit closer. There were rumors that the humans were raiding into Hell itself, their Iron Chariots ranging over Dysprosium, destroying everything they found. The stories were incomprehensible, the humans weren’t trying to seize anything, they just came, destroyed and left. The accounts had to be those of terrified refugees, some of a steadily increasing stream that were coming back from the settlements on Dysprosium. That was why his unit, a part of Satan’s own private guard, were here on this bridge. The last thing His Infernal Majesty needed at this point was to have a load of cowardly refugees spreading their panic-stricken stories across Hell. His orders were quite clear, turn them back and if they wouldn’t go back, kill them.

“Turn Out The Guard!” the cry jarred Sanskiworlanaskim out of his reverie. He took an appalled look across the ground, there were eight clouds of dust moving towards the bridge. For a brief second he thought they were more groups of refugees but that didn’t last for more than a second. At the foot of the cloud, moving terrifyingly fast, were the squat shapes of Iron Chariots, the odd rectangular shape on top already swinging in his direction. Then, another cloud of dust, an odd one like a ball in front of the Chariot, and a red streak leaping out towards where the bridge guard was waiting. Sanskiworlanaskim saw it hit one of the guardsman square in the chest, rocking him back on his feet as an orange fireball erupted in front of him.

This was unthinkable, His Infernal Majesties own guard under attack? This was just not permitted, to disobey one of the Guard, let alone attack them was punishable by the most horrible death Satan could imagine. Sanskiworlanaskim admitted to himself that Satan really did have a vivid imagination in such things. In the brief second that the reflection had taken, the stricken guardsman had dropped to his knees, purple blood pouring from the gaping hole burned deep into his chest. More fire-lances struck around them, the ground erupting where they impacted. The humans were missing? The whispered rumors from the destruction of Abigor’s Army were that the human fire lances never missed. Or was that the Seeker Lances? Or both.

Then, a burning, agonizing pain in his leg. Sanskiworlanaskim looked down, the wound was a slight one, just a line slashed through his skin but it burned as if he was in the lava pits of the depths. Then, he understood, the wound was from a fire-lance fragment and the fragments were made of iron. Demons and iron didn’t get along very well. That’s why iron was forbidden in hell, another rule the humans were too treacherous to obey.

The Chariots had closed still further so Sanskiworlanaskim dropped to one knee and aimed his trident carefully. He could feel his body pouring magic into it, felt the energy surging through him and depositing in the shaft of the trident and boosting its power up higher. Then, when it could hold no more, he pushed the haft forward so that it made contact with the copper core of the weapon and the magic discharged in a brilliant lightning bolt that left the three tines and streaked across to hit one of the Iron Chariots.

“Wow, that smarts.” Stevenson had felt the electric shock in her seat, the tank’s frontal armor was non-conductive but enough power had leaked through to give the crew a bad shock. “You guys?”

“I thought the electric chair had been declared unconstitutional?” Crabs sounded aggrieved.

“Fire control computer went down Hooters. Its coming back up now, the Tempest hardening worked fine.”

Stevenson nodded to herself and flipped to the Company net. “Anyone else cop a burst like that?”

“Bravo-Three Ma’am. We took one as well, lost the fire control and engine control computers for a second. Back up now, no apparent damage. These guys throw the big bolts.”

“Sure do, take them down.” There was another crash as her tank’s main gun fired. The shot was wild, heading over the river to somewhere else. “All vehicles, slow right down and make aimed shots only.”

In the guard post by the bridge, Sanskiworlanaskim was trying to understand what was happening. The post itself had gone, fire lances had hit it and it had flown apart with the impact, dissolving in the red balls that marked the fire lance’s anger. Six of the guardsmen were down, their wounds bleeding purple and stained with copper. That was something else Sanskiworlanaskim could not understand, how did a fire lance blast copper so deep into its victims. One thing Sanskiworlanaskim did understand was that he too was dying. A fire lance had hit him low down in his stomach and he could feel the burned tissue deep inside him. The copper was inside him as well, he could feel it grinding at his guts as it turned solid.

Out front the Iron Chariots had stopped and were standing off, firing their fire-lances into the wreckage of the bridge. His sight dimming, Sanskiworlanaskim saw another fire lance coming straight for him. He never got to see the explosion.

40 minutes later. The Phlegethon Bridge, Dysprosium Highway, Hell

“I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“We’ve got new engine filters and there’s an experimental coating on the blades. We’ve lost a lot of performance but we can fly. Just keep it slow and steady.” The Osprey pilot looked at his cargo being unloaded. “And don’t overload the bird.”

“So we’ve got to stay here?” Stevenson’s voice was disbelieving.

“That’s right. This is the new forward base. You should see Hell-Alpha, there’s work all over. Even building a runway. Oh yes, Petraeus asked me to give you these.” Captain Mark Sheppard reached into a pocket and gave Stevenson a small box, one that contained two gold oak-leaves. “Congratulations Major. The General asked me to reassure you that as soon as you’re relieved here, you’ll be going back to our world. I think he has a battalion waiting for you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to base before the engines seize up.” He looked fondly at the Osprey. “I surely do love this bird though.”

Overseer Barracks, Kubelethakka Drift Mine, Tartarus

"We are done here. Take it away, bring me a fresh one."

The overseer gave a sharp tug on the brass chain connected to the human's collar, jerking the still slightly dazed creature off its feet. Lakheenahuknaasi sighed. She had long since ceased to be amused by such petty cruelty, but the lesser demons never seemed to tire of it. Still, it might be uncreative, but every little torment contributed to keeping the humans bleeding out precious spiritual energy. Euryale's quotas were strict though and she wasn't going to let this simpleton make her miss it.

"Now!" Lakheenahuknaasi hissed, baring her black poison-tentacles at the overseer, who grudgingly stopped kicking the fallen man and backed off. The human managed to regain its footing, only lightly gashed by the rocky floor, and was quickly dragged away. Within seconds a new human was shoved into her niche. This one had skin the color of sulfur. After a few centuries in hell it took a lot to scare a typical human, but Lakheenahuknaasi's stare was enough to reduce most to gibbering. It wasn't so much her bronze-scaled face or slitted golden pupils as the writhing cloud of black and red tentacles that surrounded her head, each tipped by four spines and a single unblinking eye. This particular specimen was kept whispering "Yato-no-kami, Yato-no-kami!", whatever that meant.

Six ought to do it Lakheenahuknaasi thought, gauging the human's body mass. A pair of the red tentacles idly trained themselves on the prey, and with a wet crackling noise a flurry of spines leapt from their tips to embed themselves in the man's shoulders. He screamed and writhed, futilely seeking some means of escape. The venom worked quickly however and in less than a minute his struggles had subsided into docility.

She shifted back on her haunches, considering what history to give this one. "What is your name?"

"Hijikata Katamori"

"You lived in Tokyo. It held for many weeks but it was eventually reduced by the legions of Merafawlazes."

"No, I lived... wait... the forces of Yomi assaulted Edo? What became of Shogun Ieharu?"

"All the humans were slaughtered. Their defiance bought them only ruin. Their iron chariots killed many demons but they could not save them in the end."

"Iron chariots?" asked Katamori, "That sounds impractical."

Lakheenahuknaasi slapped the human roughly across the face. Her claws left deep scratches on the man's cheek. "Listen carefully. You watched the fire throwers on the city walls kill many of our cavalry, but once they revealed themselves they were destroyed by our fliers. You ran from the walls as they were scaled by our infantry. The lightning from their tridents cut down humans to your left, to your right, but you found shelter."

Katamori was nodding vaguely, beginning to get into the fantasy. "I hid behind an overturned cart. The lightning set it on fire."

"You tried to hide but it was hopeless."

"We hid in the ruins but they had magic that could track us unfailingly!" Katamori could see the scene vividly in his mind.

"You were caught and executed."

"They ate the children, as if they were delicacies! For a moment I thought I had been spared, but then flying beasts swooped down and set the whole city aflame! One passed over me... and... I was burned alive..." he sobbed.

And that's enough of that thought Lakheenahuknaasi. This one must be a peasant that he knows nothing of the iron chariots, probably died in a house fire, no sense wasting more time on him. Now for the finishing touch...

This time it was a black tentacle that loosed a pair of spines, which bored straight into the human's neck. Again the man reeled, trying to scream but this time no sound would come. Euryale had discovered this particular technique and instructed all the gorgons in its use; a moderate dose of poison delivered directly to the brain would scramble the human's memories just enough to imitate a fresh arrival, which were almost always slightly crazed. As a side benefit it tended to hide the flaws in their stories.

Lakheenahuknaasi's forked tongue flicked out and licked the traces of blood from her claws. "This one is done. Next!"

Base Camp, Outer Ring, Seventh Circle of Hell

McElroy was running the handcrank on the universal charger when kitten's voice penetrated his thoughts. Corporal McElroy, are you there? May we speak now?

Sure thing, my dear. McElroy smiled, despite himself. How've you been? Are they treatin' you OK?

I'm fine, and I've been treated very well.

Well, that's great to hear.
McElroy stopped charging and lifted the lid on the laptop. It was a military-grade device, built to withstand just about anything you'd expect in a hostile environment. It booted to life quickly. Shall we get down to business?

Yes, please.


McElroy went over his notes. This appears to be a rural region of Hell. Based on the information contained in the laptop here, it'd be extremely difficult to hook up with any of the current cells of the PFLH. I've observed no geographical features or landmarks that match anything described or photographed by those cells. I have been photographing my surroundings and attempting to map my location, though I never was much for computers.

kitten was quiet for a moment. Acknowledged. Four your information, you are now the Hell’s People’s Liberation Front. Have you established a safe base of operations?

Affirmative. We've taken up residence in a cave which is deep in a forest. If the colors weren't all wrong, I'd say we were up in the Catskills or somethin'. Looks like the divider between two circles.

I'm sorry, did you just say 'we'?


Affirmative. I've pulled seven U.S. soldiers out of the river of lava. Well, they pulled themselves out. I blasted the baldricks trying to chuck them back in. As an aside, please pass my compliments along to whoever designed the rifle you guys gave me. This sucker'll put a hole in a baldrick the size of your head!

kitten's tone was vaguely amused. I'll be sure to do that, Corporal. They're asking for the names and service numbers of the personnel you freed. Could you get them for me?

Yup, one sec...damn computers. OK, here we go. First is Private First Class Arthur DeVanzo. Service number... and he rattled off the rest of the names, before concluding, We got one other fellow, too, but he's Japanese, and not exactly military.

Oh, I see.
A pause. If you'll give us his name and as much personal information as you can, we'll try to locate his family.

Ah, well, that might be a touch difficult. He's, uh, been in Hell for a while. He's a Samurai, and from what he's told me, he's a warrior from the Ashikaga shogunate, and from what I can remember from my college history classes, that puts him anywhere from five to seven hundred years old.


kitten was silent for a moment, then said, Understood. So that makes nine of you?

Correct.

The people here are curious: how is it that you knew the people you were rescuing were U.S. military?


McElroy laughed out loud. I didn't. I just hung by the same stretch of river that I was in. It's like they're stacking us up like cordwood; the more recently you die, the further downriver you are. Or, at least, that's what the baldricks in this particular region are doing. That's why I was surprised when Ori showed up; he told me that he'd been flailing around blindly in the river for a very long time, so I guess he managed to swim a good distance away from where he was put in.

And how are you communicating with him? Does one of you speak Japanese?


McElroy shook his head, before realizing the idiocy of such a motion. This telepathy stuff sure did mess with your mind. Nope. We just talk. He seems to understand us. When he talks, we understand him. It's like with the baldricks. When they speak, we understand what they're saying, right? But how could they tell, just from looking at us, what language to speak? There's somethin' funky goin' on here, kitten. I wish I could tell you more, but I'm just a Tennessee hillbilly at heart. I mighta gone to college, but I got a liberal arts degree, for G---for Asshole's sake. Pardon my language.

McElroy could actually hear kitten's laugh in his mind. It felt like someone had tickled his brain. Well, another item on a long list of things we'll investigate.

Alright, kitten. I guess that brings us to our final item: resupply.


There was silence in McElroy's head; like someone had left the mic depressed by accident and was flooding the two-way with dead air. Finally, kitten said, You won't be being resupplied for at least four weeks.

You're shitting me.
McElroy would've kept the anger out of his tone, as well as any vulgarities, were he speaking, but he couldn't conceal it within his mind. Four weeks? How am I supposed to continue operations here? What's the holdup?

I am,
kitten replied. I'm the only one who can do this, and opening a portal causes me great pain, and I simply can't take supplying seven separate cells all at once. I'm sorry, Corporal.

McElroy cringed. Oh, kitten, I'm, uh, no. No, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have... please forgive me, it’s real crappy of me to blame you. Look, we owe you everything--we all owe you everything, and nobody ever thought what it must be costing you! My daddy would whale the tar out of me if he knew what I’d just said. Please, accept my apology.

I accept, Corporal. I would've told you earlier, but, well, it shames me that I can't push myself harder to keep you all supplied. It's just...it hurts a great deal...


McElroy blinked back tears. I won't hear none of that! We're all managing as best we can, and I cannot bear the thought of you suffering on my account. We'll get by just fine. And you tell the brass that I want my next allocated portal window to go unused, so that you might have a respite.

Thank you, Corporal.
McElroy could hear that kitten was flattered. But it is matter of personal pride that I work as hard as I can. I've been able to see into Hell for a long time. I know what goes on there. I want to do everything I can to end that evil.

Well, fair enough, kitten.

So, as a final matter, what is your current armament?

Well, we got a mess of tridents from the baldricks. All different designs. I photographed each, so you'll be able to study them in further detail later. Oh, when you do get a portal to us next, can you send a sword for Ori. He doesn’t approve of guns. Talking of which, we got the one rifle, twenty total rounds left. Nine are reserved.

Reserved for what?

One for each of us. If things go south, I'm not going back to that river. None of us are. We'll take our chances with oblivion...or super-Hell, if that's what's next.


kitten was silent for a moment. Understood, Corporal. I'll do my best to get you fresh supplies in four weeks' time. In the mean time, we'll continue with our scheduled briefings.

Acknowledged, kitten. Thank you for everything. Be well, we'll speak next week.

Thank you, Corporal.


McElroy closed the lid of the laptop and sighed. "Four weeks, guys. Can't use the rifle anymore, except in emergencies. Looks like we're going to be strictly recon for a while."

The others gathered around him in the cave groaned. "Look," he continued. "They got this poor...girl doing all this shit on her own. It damn near kills her when she opens a portal, even for a few seconds. I ain't gonna ask her to go through that. Are you? Look, it'll get better soon, I'm sure. If one person on Earth can do it, I'm sure others can. It'll just take time to find 'em and train 'em."

"Got another one!" Private Tom Walsch said from the mouth of the cave. Holding the rifle in one hand and a charred human in the other, he and Corporal Juan Menendez dragged the half-sensate creature into the cavern and dumped it onto the floor.

They were all used to this by now, and McElroy took point. He kneeled down next to the trembling figure and asked, "Name, rank?"

"Puh-puh-private Joanna Cassidy, USMC," the figure croaked.

"Huh, first marine! Well, Private Cassidy. You're among humans, among friends. We're part of the resistance here in Hell. You feel like kicking some baldrick ass?"

Cassidy opened her eyes, revealing half-formed, half-seeing blobs of pigment and ichor. "You bet your ass I do."

This was met with a chorus of approval by the assembled people, even Ori. "Alright, Private," McElroy continued. "Take a breather, grow back your skin." He looked up. "DeVanzo, grab a couple tridents. I knew there was a good reason to collect those things. I want to check out what's beyond the north ridge."

Before he left, he set a rifle round aside with the other nine.
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Post by Darth Wong » 2008-04-15 01:32pm

Yes! Another chapter! Great work, Stuart.

PS. How can they tell the passage of time in Hell? There's no Sun, so no way to tell day from night, correct? Or does McElroy have a timepiece that he's using?
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"It's not evil for God to do it. Or for someone to do it at God's command."- Jonathan Boyd on baby-killing

"you guys are fascinated with the use of those "rules of logic" to the extent that you don't really want to discussus anything."- GC

"I do not believe Russian Roulette is a stupid act" - Embracer of Darkness

"Viagra commercials appear to save lives" - tharkûn on US health care.

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Post by El Moose Monstero » 2008-04-15 01:55pm

EDIT: Another chapter. Huzzah! I've not commented before, but it really is a most excellent and one of the more addictive stories I've had the pleasure to read.
GrandMasterTerwynn wrote: Hell seems to be a really volcanically active place.
On this subject, do any of our resident experienced geologists have any thinking on volcanism in hell? I can't remember what we've seen so far apart from molten lava lakes and lots of ash in the air.

My plate tectonics knowledge is rubbish; what is needed for plate tectonics? A sufficiently strong convecting, spinning core underneath and water on the top to create thinner regions of crust which are more deformable to create the first plates? It's been 5 years since 101.

If hell is a sort of 3D mobius loop, and since magma has to come from somewhere, could it come from whatever interface exist between the rock and the dimension? (I'm not even remotely aware of the intricacies of this dimension, spatial stuff, so there's probably something conceptually wrong with that) With sufficient energy, could you have convection cells forming in this strong enough to drive tectonics?

If you have some form of tectonics, then you can presumably have whatever volcanic features you like. If there isn't plate tectonics, then shouldn't things be fairly homogeneous throughout hell? Lots of large shield volcanoes growing to similar sizes to Olympus Mons if hotspots remain fixed in one location. Lava lakes requires low viscosity magma, especially if humans can be immersed in it rather than just lying on the top burning. If hell is homogenous, this rules out massive explosive eruptions like Pinatubo, Krakatau, and larger, which can generate gigatons of fine ash and eject it high into whatever passes for Hell's stratosphere.

I suppose if there were lots of hotspot style eruptions on a continuous basis, rather than the long time scales between mantle plumes you get on Earth, then maybe you could have very large fissure/fountain style eruptions, bigger even than those of Laki in 17xx, which managed to get ash from Iceland to Scotland (about 500 miles or so). Multiple mantle plume based volcanism would also pave the way for absolutely massive outpourings of lava. But the low viscosity might not let you bombard cities with volcanic bombs.

None of this is really my forte, I'm working and still learning about volcanic ash alone at the moment, but it's an interesting little exercise that more experienced geologists (Chewie?) might like to get their teeth into.
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