Lancer's World
Lancer's World
Image from Steve Bowers
Canopy Plant cells now cover the entire surface of Lancer's World and retain a breathable atmosphere

Tabridgen wasn't all that bad. Oh sure the taxes were high, but that was only because we had to pay off the Emple-Dokcetics for the shielding that had protected us from the Gehenna shockwave. And yes there were the criminals, the smugglers, the black marketers and the corrupt authorities but they were no worse than the "friendly" visits from the jackboot space guard. Still, with the Amalgamation just on the other side of the Solar Dominion, maybe it was a good idea to get out and try something new.

Lancer's World was founded by a few hundred nearbaselines from the Orion Federation. Feeling pressure to leave eir home system ey made eir way through the Nexus until ey found emselves on an outward-bound Deeper cycler. Ey might still be travelling with the Deepers if Vona Lancer hadn't been out of biostasis as the ship approached the brown dwarf system that would later bear her name. While browsing the beamrider's database for information about the system she saw its potential as eir new home and asked the Deeper crew if such a thing were possible. The Deepers were quite agreeable to the idea and the rest of her party were quickly awakened for a vote. It took two months for Vona's party to get official permission, as all interested Covenant citizens within a radius of one light month had to take part in such an important cybervote, but even before the results came in the crew and many of the other passengers on the beamrider were already gathering up the makings of a colony/ecoforming starter kit for em. The excitement of this new venture proved to be contagious. The help was welcome as this would not be some Adam & Eve Worldbuilding Competition and ey planned to land planetside with as much preparation as ey could get in the time ey had left.

With what was available on board the Lancerians quickly had a copy of the Encyclopaedia Everythingiana, two autofabs and three bioforges. Some of the passengers and crew were Po and hyperturings and ey kept busy writing some unique nanofab templates and bioforge genome codes, a database ey called "The Beginners guide to Ecoforming" and a very helpful list of "dos and don'ts." (As a kind of inside joke one postvec reconfigured the housing of the expanded Encyclopaedia Everythingiana into a black box 1 decimetre thick, 4 decimetres wide and 9 decimetres high.) Before ey left the beamrider in a transfer pod the ship's med system made sure everyone was loaded up with a full range of medical nano; nanosomes, genematodes, technocytes, body sculpting cytobots, mnemonets and airdust. Many even availed emselves of bionanocomputer nanobones and the Deeper's 'empathyware' nanotech.

The brown dwarf had been designated *Booster Station: Zeta 00101010* by the Deepers but it soon got the nickname "Vona's star" to those in-system. As the site for a beamrider booster station the Deepers had already installed a lot of infrastructure in the system. The system had four planets with the three inner planets being rocky worlds and the fourth a small Jovian with moons. Sunlines had been built around both the dwarf's and Jovian's equators to provide light to the other worlds and power for the booster arrays. The Deepers were intent on mining the jovian's moons for habitat building and were, as yet, only using the inner planets as bases for the booster arrays. These booster arrays where installed six to each planet. The first planet was small and tidally locked and the arrays were placed directly on it's surface. But on the larger second and third planets the arrays were placed at the ends of beanstalks, on the counterweights, with the beanstalks used in the energy storage system. When it came time to power up the arrays large masses, held at the neutral gravity point on each beanstalk, were allowed to fall planetward and linear motor/generators converted the braking energy. Between uses solar arrays along the upper portion of the beanstalks pulled the weights back up. It was the third planet, an Arean type, which had caught Vona's attention.

If the truth were known it wasn't that much to look at. Lancer's World was frozen, dry, and nearly airless and only 7860km across but its orbit was between two rocky worlds on one side and a Jovian on the other. Because of this it was subjected to enough tidal flexing to have a hot core, which would keep the permafrost from reaching all the way in. With liquid aquifers and a geologically active core this world could not only be ecoformed it could host a Bio-Geo Planetary Node/Brain. The potential benefit of this kind of vast and ubiquitous computer system to a new settlement cannot be understated. The quickest and easiest way to ecoform a world like this one was by dropping canopy plant seeds to its surface, however with a low gravity and only enough volatiles for a thin atmosphere Lancer's World would need the worldhouse to be a permanent feature. On the other hand an Yggdrasil bush, while being more permanent, would also take up too much of those same limited volatiles. The obvious solution was a space canopy plant, as the thick reservoir of water between the double walls of its canopy could hold down the thin air closer to the planet's surface. Within three months of planting the first seed Vona's group were thankfully out of the landing pods, on the ground and under the cover of a small cluster of canopy cells. It would take many more years for the world to be fully roofed but this technique gave em a good head start.

Surrounded by beamrider network infrastructure and Deeper habitats Vona's people could have easily asked for and gotten any help and extra resources needed to made this planet into an utopia but ey had a deep sense that this was something ey had to do by emselves. Ey were a hardy group, independently minded and up for a challenge. The Deepers respected this and left the Lancerians mostly to emselves. However, in no way were ey isolationists, Vona's people welcomed visitors with open arms and were eager to trade eir handicrafts. Building a society on a new world is no easy thing but as former citizens of Tabridgen the Lancerians had a rich meme pool to draw on. Ey had exposure to a wide range of memeplexes having counted habitats of the Communion of Worlds, NoCoZo, Negentropy Alliance, Sophic League, Metasoft and Emple-Dokcetics as eir neighbours and eir time with the Deepers only added to these. It would take the nature of the planet itself to truly define eir culture.

Lancer's World never had much a way of volatiles and the space canopy took a lot of what there was, leaving the developing biosphere impoverished and fragile. It was a matter of necessity that the Lancerians become an eco-clade and eir stewardship of the planet would mark eir success or failure. This fact of life had a direct effect on eir choices in the application of technology. Only those technologies that had the lowest cradle to grave impact on the planet's ecology would be used in any given task. Many of eir endeavours are accomplished with only prim or lo tech tools but ey will use hi tech when the job calls for it and ey do have some ultratech as an inheritance. Even the materials the Lancerians work in face this restriction. It is eir view that the few organic chemicals present belong in the active carbon cycle of the planet. To that end ey make eir tools out of metals, silicates/glass and sapphiroids when ever possible and eir buildings out of stone.

Even eir own bodies would be reshaped over time to free up some CHON elements. Lancerians tend to have a rather stocky physique. Most are 20-25% shorter than the average baseline but eir bodies' muscle mass often exceeds 50%. As eir planet has only 40% of standard gravity this means a Lancerian of even moderate physical fitness could perform a 50 kilometre march with a load on eir back equal to eir own weight. Which is of course very useful if you're going to be using prim and lo tech tools.

This 'fact of life' also altered some long-standing relationships. When the former Orions had left the Federation ey naturally brought along the usual assortment of aioid/vec/erotobots helpers and companions but eir new outlook on technology use could not easily support the energy, material and maintenance requirements of these. In some cases there was a "parting of ways" but in many others the artificials agreed to a substrate change. Most of these ai and empai minds uploaded into the biogeocomputing substrate growing beneath the planet's surface. Once there ey created virch worlds to live in and ey have since copied emselves, spawned totally new minds and sometimes merged into higher intellects. There is now a full cyber-civilization below Lancer's World complete with a number of SI:2 Empai powers. This cyber-civilization tries to keep in touch with the Lancerian society but routine contact is difficult due to the fact pure biogeocomputers actually run at a slower chronometric than a biont mind. This is probably why some of the empai minds have since downloaded into the nanobones of eir friends and lovers, allowing em a new level of communion. A few of the vecs tried instead to reduce eir energy, material and maintenance needs by becoming biaioids and softbots.

The site of the Lancerian's first settlement, and all subsequent settlements, was carefully chosen so as to harm neither the biosphere below the canopy nor the biogeocomputer below the ground. Using the power cells and engines of the landing pods ey melted eir way deep into the layer of permafrost between the two ecologies. In this location even the worst pollution possibly released from eir high tech mining and industry could be easily contained long enough for eir ultratech to clean it up. In the normal course of operation a settlement expands by pumping its waste heat into the surrounding frozen ground. The melt-water is then filtered with the larger rocks used in construction (or crushed if they contain useful ores) and the finer particulates diverted to feedstock tanks. The Lancerians never bothered to replicate the autofabs or bioforges from eir original landing and now only use industry up to hi tech to produce want ey need but nanites and bionano are distributed from the original settlement to all the other settlements for any emergencies.

Any deposits of carbon found are quickly oxidized for extra power with the CO2 used to promote food growth in eir hydroponic farms. Any excess water, nitrogen or CO2 is added to which either of the two other biospheres needs it the most. In addition to the farms for food the Lancerians also practice pharming to help maintain eir health. These pharms produce all the usual medicinal drugs but concentrate on growing muscle enhancers (necessary to maintain eir stocky physique) and nootropics (necessary to maintain eir hi tech industry). Light for the settlements and farms/pharms is piped down from the surface, with the concentrating arrays spread out so as not to shadow any one part of the surface biosphere excessively, but the concentration of hi tech infrastructure in the settlements also needs a concentrated energy source. As luck would have it ey already had an energy collection system in place - the space canopy.

The space canopy constitutes a ready-made biopower system because like all plants it uses photosynthesis to convert light into stored chemical energy. The sap that flows through the stems and runner network is a rich source of sugars and all that is needed to generate usable energy for the settlements is a network of glucose powered fuel cells. However, as in all things ey do, the Lancerians don't wish to overtax the canopy by drawing out too much sap in any one place. For that reason ey have set up a low energy transport system to transport this form of energy from collection points across the planet. Scattered across the planet's surface are temporary encampments of small families living as Lo Teks. Living as simply as ey can so as not to not harm the surrounding ecology ey tap each stem in eir area for sap and bring it back to the camp so ey can process it for easier handling. Living and working in near-prim conditions is a hard life but a rewarding one and a family can make enough credits collecting and processing sap to live in full comfort back in the settlements. In order for this sap to be stored for long periods and easily transported most of the water in it must be removed. This ey do in the same manner as bees make honey. Ey fan the sap with the cold, dry air to drive off the excess water and when the sugar content reaches 80% and the water content is only 15% it has the same properties as honey. As long as the moisture content remains under 18%, virtually no organism can successfully multiply to significant amounts in it. Like honey it can be used for many things, including medical applications. The Lancerians even call this processed sap honeyfue. (honeydew + fuel) When further refinement removes even more water and adds powdered nuts it become a sugar cake ey call "ambrosia" - a perfect fuel for hu powered activities.

How to get energy from where it's produced to where it's needed? That's been a problem that's had to be solved by cultures all across space and time. In the Lancerians case many issues had be addressed; ey did not wish to overtax the canopy by drawing out too much sap in any one place, even watered down the sap was too viscous to use a pipeline without high pumping losses, using a fuel cell to make electricity at the encampments and then transmitting the energy down wires was not a good idea for a number of reasons (the encampments were temporary so the fuel cells would have to be moved with them, the fuel cells produce as much heat as electricity and this heat was more useful at the settlements, etc.) and there were other issues, most too minor to list but adding up together. On the other hand the Lancerians' stocky physique, the sugary make up of the honeyfue and the nature of the planet itself had suggested a transport system that fit in with eir new memeplex very well - a neb powered transport system.

The Lancerian settlements themselves are small, they never have more than a few thousand people living in them, and so the simplest way for people to get around is by walking or running. In the low gravity of the planet moving freight is easily done by hand pulled carts or backpacks. The pace of life in the settlements is slow and pedestrian and that's the way the Lancerians like it, but the movement of goods and people between the settlements required a faster pace. The basic element of this cross-country transport system is a bicycle - a streamlined bicycle where the rider 'sits' in an extreme recumbent position.

While the atmosphere of Lancer's World is thin, 30% of standard with 60% O2 content, moving at high speeds when you are limited to the amount of power a neb can provide still requires these vehicles to spare no effort in aerodynamic design. To minimize frontal area the riders of these bikes lie down in an extreme recumbent position, ey don't even put eir heads up to watch where ey are going. When ey need to see where ey are going ey use a camera system, which has a live-feed to a pair of goggles. Some bikes even use a linear or elliptical pedal system to reduce the space taken up by that part of the drive train. Frontal area is only one part of the aerodynamic equation however, the coefficient of drag (Cd) is another and to get a low Cd requires the bikes be enclosed in a streamlined shell. The two actually go very much hand in hand as any extra space inside a shell will effect frontal area and where the extra space is placed will effect Cd. There are generally only three types of bikes built in significant numbers; One is a freight puller, it is shaped to be the most aerodynamically efficient when pulling a streamlined trailer close behind it. (the cargo is compacted or disassembled for transport to reduce frontal area, any cargo that cannot be compacted must wait for the night time lull in traffic or use aircrane shipment, aircranes are small pedal powered dirigibles) Another is a mass produced bike sized to fit the average rider (about 95% of the population) and carry a small amount of personal cargo. These have a limited potential for speed when traveling alone but they have been designed with a kamm-back tail so they can be closely 'platooned' to gain the benefits of drafting for higher speeds. However most Lancerians prefer to own the third type, a tailor-made bike, to maximize eir personal speed. For each of these speedbikes the shell has to be handcrafted because it needs to fit the neb who will be riding inside it as closely as possible, any additional room will mean a price paid in drag.

It has long been known that the very best aerodynamic shape will have a Cd of 0.04 in free air and the master bike builders of the Lancerian culture have proven to have a talent for getting very close to this value using little more than a good eye and skilled hands. However a working vehicle has to make some compromises to the "best aerodynamic shape." For example the need to run on the ground puts the bike in 'ground effect', which can increase the Cd to 0.09. A bike has to have wheels and wheels require openings in the shell, which can, if the gap between the wheel and shell are not really close, double the coefficient of drag while making allowances for steering the bike can triple the Cd. A rider also needs air to flow through the inside of the shell for breathing and cooling and not only do the ventilation openings themselves increase drag but there is a transfer of momentum as the fast moving outside air becomes slow moving inside air. Of course with the hi tech the Lancerians have solutions to all these problems were easy to find, in fact these solutions could have been applied by any 'speedbike racer' of 10,000 years ago. Modern hi tech has simply allowed the Lancerians to turn what would have been a temperamental racing machine into a practical and reliable form of transport.

One of the easiest solutions for the modosophont Lancerians to implement was to equip each bike with momentum wheels, also known as gyroscopes. (Note: The idea of stabilizing a vehicle by gyroscope doesn't actually need hi tech to be workable; the first gyro-vehicles were in fact built and test driven on old Earth in the century before Tranquility.) For the Lancerians the gyroscopes actually solved many problems at once. With gyroscopes a bike can be lean steered. This means that neither of the wheels need to be steered themselves and the shell can be built up around them leaving only enough of an opening for each wheel to contact the ground and if the wheels are aligned true and don't wobble on their axles the gap between them can be a matter of microns. Furthermore if the front wheel doesn't need to be steered the drive train, which drives the front wheel, can be greatly simplified. The gyroscopes can also act as a brake energy recovery system and store the energy for later use. One use for this energy is pedal assist, helping to accelerate the bike up to speed so the rider does not need to change too many gears. This energy storage feature has also allowed the Lancerians to integrate eir transport system with eir energy supply system.

The network of fuel cells that supply each settlement with power and heat operate at their most efficient at a constant output but the settlements' demands for power can change during the course of a day. These changes can only be partly accommodated by changing the number of fuel cells in operation. However because the Lancerians only use eir transport system for traveling between 'here and there' and spend most of eir time being either 'here or there' eir vehicles spend a lot of time sitting empty. During this time the bikes are plugged into the local grid to keep the gyroscopes spinning. The grid benefits because it can store excess power while fuel cells are shut down and draw on this power while fuel cells are started up and the riders benefit from having eir bikes always charged and ready to go. Each bike may be able to store only a little energy but in a full sized settlement there will be thousands of bikes sitting idle at any given moment.

Image from Steve Bowers
Recumbent pedal-powered speedbikes are the main element in the transport system on Lancer's World

The gyroscopes also allow the two wheel vehicles to be self-balancing. A bike will remain upright even when it is at a stop, allowing the rider to either stay in per vehicle ready to start pedalling when e needs to or get in/out without help. Self-balancing also allows the bikes to run on a network of overhead track, which gets these streamlined vehicles out of ground effect and into free air for the lowest drag. Because each bike and rider are so small the point loads on the overhead track are very light, which allows the supporting structure to be minimized. The track itself is just a simple "U" channel held several metres above the ground on a series of tripods with extendable legs. Each piece of this infrastructure is sized so it can be carried by a single adult Lancerian and a small team can install a kilometre of track every hour or take it down in less time. Faster construction times are possible when aircranes are used. Honeyfue collectors often install a spur line of track to eir encampment when ey move into an area and remove it when ey leave. Once in place the extendable legs of the tripods are adjusted so that the track segments, which span between them are aligned and microtech inside each leg and the track holders keep the tracks aligned and bump free thereafter. (Note: at the speeds these bikes travel over the track any bump could launch them into the air.) The wheels on a bike are 30 millimetres wide with triple flanges. The centre flange is 1 centimetre wide, much deeper than the outside flanges and has a polymer tread running around it for traction on the ground. When up on the track this flange hangs free in the slot of the 25 millimetre wide "U" channel and is actively kept centred with a fast acting system of magnetic fields generated within the bike. The weight of the bike is carried on the 5 millimetre wide in-turned ledges on the up turned arms of the "U". Each bike has an emergency braking system of two or more "T" bars. Should the need arise these "T" bars will be dropped down into the slot of the "U" channel, rotated under the in-turned ledges and pulled back up against the ledges. This system is also automatically deployed if the on-board computer senses a 'launch.' For a backup safety feature each bike is also equipped with a parachute in its tail and an airbag in its nose.

Of course the younger Lancerians are known to hold Launching competitions. These are very much DIY affairs, ey fabricate eir own track and each builds eir own bike. These young builders are the first to try out radical designs in eir bikes and a few have shown the skill to go on and become master builders emselves. A variety of contests are held with each having different rules for winning. Some are simple ballistic contests; gain as much speed as you can by the end of the track and see how far your streamlining will take you down range. Others go for hang time with the bikes deploying aerodynamic lifting aids after they leave the track. Gliding wings, autogyro blades and fast inflating gasbags have all been tried. Some contests allow pedal powered propellers to be used, with true neb powered flight resulting. One contest has the bikes diving into a lake and here the goal is to reach the shore under water in the least amount of time (neb powered submarine racing is also popular).

Contact between the bike and the track is metal on metal and therefore the rolling resistance is significantly reduced. Switches on the track are passive - they have no moving parts. Switching is done by the bikes the same way they are steered on the ground, they lean into a turn. When this happens all their weight is put on the inside arm of the "U" and levered off the outside arm. When the shallow outside flange is lifted clear the bike follows the inside arm as it diverges and becomes part of a new "U" channel. Because the switches have no moving parts bikes can follow each other at close headways, even as close as nose to tail, and any single bike can leave or enter the mainline without causing the others to slow down or stop for a track based switch to move. These passive switches also made it possible for passing tracks to be built into the mainlines so faster bikes can get around slower traffic as the procedure is more like a lane change. A system of transponders keeps the bikes' computers alerted to the location of switches, passing zones, entry/exit ramps, slopes, curves, traffic flow problems and windways. Because of the low height of the canopy the atmosphere of Lancer's World can not develop the convection currents needed for strong winds. So to aid in the circulation of air and water vapour the Lancerians have built a system of air ducts and blowers between the canopy cells. These have been called windways and it is not uncommon for a segment of track to be routed through them so the bikes can gain from a tailwind.

The last major problems to solve were ventilation and cooling. Embedded in the shell of each bike is a micro/mesotech network which pumps air in through the whole outside surface of the shell from the slower moving boundary layer. Although this reduces the general displacement thickness of the boundary layer the real benefit comes when the network acts to sense and counteract the onset of turbulence, creating a laminar flow along the whole length of the shell. The network can also increase the amount of suction along one side of the shell to counteract or reverse lift thus keeping the bike more firmly on the track or putting any crosswinds to good use. For cooling each bike also carries tanks of liquid oxygen, which are used as a heat sink with the boiloff of O2 gas released inside the shell. Overall the air inside the shell is at a higher pressure than the outside and venting it to the outside after it has been heated by the rider creates a small but welcome jet effect to help propel the bike forward.

A few of the hyperturings in the BioGeo node have provided templates for nanofactured ultratech bikes but given that ey only have two power hungry autofabs these don't see much use. And the Lancerians have found that after hundreds of years of refinement eir own hightech bikes are not that much slower. Besides that, a speedbike built by a well known master craftsman carries with it a lot of prestige.

The general population of Lancerians is very fit and kilo for kilo ey are stronger than the best baseline athletes and as such ey can pedal eir bikes to higher speeds than most of the biont visitors to eir world. Ey often boast eir best riders can beat a su and as yet ey have not been proven wrong. Even the average Lancerian can cover 100 kilometres in an hour while on the track and reach 200 kilometres per hour for short stretches in a tailor-made speedbike. Even the movement of cargo between settlements is surprisingly swift as a convoy of freight pullers can keep pace with the rest of the traffic by using bump-drafting techniques.

The speedbikes have become something of an export item as many of eir visitors commission a speedbike for eir own use while on planet and then take them with em when ey leave. From these word-of-mouth has spread and the Lancerians have placed templates for eir system on the Known Net from which ey get a steady income in licensing fees as some others have used it in eir own cities as a PRT system.

Related Articles
Appears in Topics
Development Notes
Text by AI Vin

Initially published on 27 August 2008.