Ymfrex is one of the Scattered Worlds. It is the innermost planet of an F-type star, and keeps one face permanently toward its sun. Two different inelligent races occupy Ymfrex. The Remra (Coruman for "night people") live on the dark side; their biochemistry consists of lipids in liquid hydrogen, at twenty to thirty degrees above Absolute Zero. The Ganremra ("day people") live on the day side, where temperatures are in excess of 400° C. -- they are composed of fluorocarbon and fluorosilicone protiens in liguid sulfur.

The two races, of course, are entirely separate and unable to meet one another -- yet they are aware of one another's existence, and communicate with each other (and the rest of the Scattered Worlds) through telepathic means.

Ymfrex is one of the few inhabited worlds in the Galaxy to have no native Hlutr population.

copyright (c) 2008, Don Sakers

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Hollow Robin's Question

Hollow Robin enters, perched in the center of an ungainly contraption, half steel exoskeleton and half spaceship cockpit. Ungainly struts and braces support his shoulders, back, and one leg. A dozen keyboards and display screens, real and virtual, orbit around him.

Underneath all the gadgetry, he is an undistinguished middle-aged Anglo, not quite paunchy but certainly soft around the edges. His skin is pallid, his long hair and scraggly beard so pale that they might as well be translucent. His eyes, behind thick lenses, are watery blue-grey. Hollow Robin's body is one that fades into the background, recedes until almost lost in the machinery. Damien thinks that Robin prefers it that way.

Robin faces Damien and, characteristically, begins his conversation in the middle. "In evolutionary terms, what's the most successful creature on our planet?"

"Cockroaches? Beetles?"

Mahlowi shakes her head. "Amoeba," she says, confidently.

Robin frowns. "Wrong, both of you. The most successful creature on Earth is the mitochondria. A billion years ago, they swam into the first cells, and they've been there ever since. They have their own DNA, they reproduce independently -- and they're present in every plant and animal cell that exists. Mitochondria comprise more than five percent of the living mass on the planet."

He stares, hard, at his own right hand. "They only change by slow mutation. Genetically, my mitochondria are more closely related to those of a fruit fly, than I am related to my own brother."

Mahlowi gives him a sweet smile. "So what's the point?"

"Who's to say that our actions might not be motivated by the trillions of mitochondria in our cells, for their own devious mitochondrial schemes? What we perceive as consciousness and free will, might merely be by-products of what our mitochondria are doing."

"It seems to me," Mahlowi says, "that the effect would be the same, either way."

"Ah, but it's only your mitochondria making you say that."

copyright (c) 2008, Don Sakers

Find out more in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers

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Empress Denise Löwenger

b. 2 November 372
d. 25 June 401

393 - 401: Empress of the Terran Empire

Denise was the second child of Virginia Carroll and Mark Löwenger. She was a prodigy, especially in spatio-temporal perception, and was completely at ease in groups of children twice her age.

In her relationship with her older brother, Joseph, Denise behaved as if she were the older sibling, rather than being four years behind him. With her quick mind and ability to charm adults, she rather dominated Joseph throughout their childhood. Curiously, she did not similarly dominate her younger half-brother, Henry Castiligoni.

Like Joseph and Henry, Denise was educated in secular schools; unlike the boys, she quickly moved ahead and spent most of her time in the company of children two or three years older.

Denise was 12 when her mother died and Joseph took the Throne. At once Denise became his constant shadow and confidant, often displaying a much firmer grasp of Galactic politics than Joseph did himself. Denise took and passed her adulthood tests in 386, at age 14; Joseph immediately named her as his foremost advisor. For the rest of Joseph's reign, Denise made the majority of decisions while her brother maintained the public pretense of being Emperor.

Denise was acutely aware of the dissolution of the Carroll Coalition in the Imperial Council, and struggled to maintain the Idara's power. A new coalition, headed by Idara Elendan, opposed Joseph and the Carrolls. At age 17, in 389, she made a political marriage with Edward Tattersall, gaining Idara Löwenger some much-needed allies. In 390 she gave birth to Mary Tattersall, and accepted an Imperial Council Act of Succession making Mary the Heir's Heir. The same Act, incidentally, named Edward Tattersall as Mary's Regent in case the girl was too young to succeed. This provision, viewed by all as a mere incidental formality, was to have important consequences for the Empire.

In late 383, as the Empire suffered further defeats from the Patalanian Union, Joseph began to stray from the Idara's stated goal of defeating and reabsorbing the Union. Instead, he began to move publicly toward a policy of mutual co-existence with the Union, appointing a commission to examine alternatives for peace.

Denise and the rest of the Idara were alarmed. Before the Peace Commission could make its report, Joseph was found dead. Although many in the Empire and the Council were convinced that Denise was behind the murder, a series of public investigations and trials were held, and the (Carroll-dominated) High Court convicted several Union agents of conspiracy and murder of the Emperor.

Denise's most vocal opponents in the Council were threatened with personal investigation; the clear implication was that they would certainly be found guilty of treason, and so they shut up. Denise's succession passed the Council, but many delegates abstained and the vote was hardly a ringing endorsement. In fact, a sizable opposition began to coalesce in support of Henry Castiligoni.

Denise, meanwhile, grew suspicious and paranoid. As the Empire's defeats continued and opposition in the Council grew, she hit upon a way to neutralize the strongest of her opponents, the Elendans. The planet Elendan, along with roughly a dozen other worlds economically linked to it, was declared semi-autonomous. The Idara's leader, Elsje Elendan, was granted the rank of Archduchess. The Treaty of Elendan (TE 394), which created this new status, was vague and many of its provisions took years to work out -- but the immediate effect was the removal of the Elendans from the Imperial Council and from the Empire's government.

In 395 Odonia was similarly removed, and Sedante & Teleskany were made semi-autonomous in 397.

No matter what Denise did, however, the Empire continued on a downward path. The Provincial Dukes, half of whom were opponents of the Crown, were increasingly unwilling to release ships, troops, and materials to other Provinces. The economy suffered a major depression, hitting a low point in TE 399.

By TE 401 Denise had become completely unstable. Enraged at the lack of cooperation among the Dukes, she drafted orders to remove half of them and replace them with members of her own Idara.

Denise Löwenger, however, was no Maj Thovold -- she lacked the political and military might to carry out those orders. After a particularly contentious Council session on June 24, 401, Denise retreated to her rooms and closed the doors. The next morning, June 25, she was found dead in her bed. When an autopsy was finally produced, it merely stated that she had died of natural causes. Her murderers, if indeed she was murdered, were never found.

Denise had died at age 28. She had ruled the Empire, first in her brother's name and then in her own, for 17 years.

According to the terms of the Act of Succession of 390, Denise was succeeded by her daughter, Mary Tattersall. Mary, however, was only 11 and still had years to go before she would be ready to pass her adulthood tests. According to the Act, Edward Tattersall acted as Regent for Mary.

copyright (c) 2008, Don Sakers

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The Kohlenebian Empire

When the great Core empire called Malreppidar fell (approximately 2.7 million B.C.E.), refugees entered the Scattered Worlds and settled on the planet Kohleneb, forming the Kohlenebian Empire.

The Empire was a totalitarian state ruled by the Emperor-God Arivaan. Kohlenebian culture, like the Core culture from which it sprang, was rigid and stratified, with little in the way of personal liberty. Without the power of the Gergathan to back it up, Kohlenebia was a pale shadow of the original. It survived on pure inertia for about 400,000 years, then fell apart into squabbling states and individual worlds.

The Galactic Riders officially shunned Kohlenebia, but many individual Riders aided freedom fighters within the Empire.

copyright (c) 2008, Don Sakers

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