Tag: Coke Machine

Marichka Explains Etheric EngineeringMarichka Explains Etheric Engineering

Explain etherics? Hah!

Nobody can explain etheric engineering. Or the stuff that makes it work: aether.

The best anyone can do is describe aether. To our faulty three-plus-temporal-dimension senses, aether is nothing but a dark brownish fluid. It seems to bubble, giving off flashes well into the UV end of the spectrum.

That’s why one’s advised to wear goggles (or install UV-protective mods if you’re likely to encounter the stuff regularly). Relatively cheap, those. Even I have ’em, and you know what my finances are like! If you get the stuff on you (I strongly advise against it!), it tends to adhere.


Is sticky. You don’t want it stuck to you, trust me.

If aether gets loose, you want to corral it fast. Every compartment at risk of an aether spill (that is, any compartment etheric conduit passes through) should be equipped with an aether net. When deployed, it becomes a fine, gauzy web that attracts aether. Not to worry, it’ll draw off whatever’s stuck to you as well as gather up the globules floating in your face. So, no, it’s not a “net” so much as an “attractor.” I’d be happy to argue semantics with you any day.

Don’t get in my face about why it’s pronounced ay-ther in Standard. Open your chem reference, search for (C2H5)2O, and shut up already.

A swril of orange with a black ball at the core, and a bright blue jet

Aether’s the stuff that wormholes tunnel through. So no surprise that aether’s about as safe to play with as your average gravitational singularity. Aether is all places at once. That is, it knows only one where and one when.

The aether in the conduits of my ship is the aether flowing in yours. That’s why our comms people can talk to each other in real time. That’s why skipships don’t get lost, navigating the galactic byways, why the big ships that barge through gate-boosted wormholes don’t crush us as they pass. We’re all floating in the same ocean of aether.

There are…entities…out there who can perceive and manipulate aether directly. Some of them invented devices that make use of it. We lesser beings—humans, our allies, our enemies, our uncanny neighbors—have taken it on ourselves to copy those devices. Nobody knows what happens when you make a mistake copying Ancient etheric devices.

Nobody knows, because nobody comes back from those experiments. I like to think they’re gently transported to a parallel universe, given a kindly lecture on interfering with things they know not of, and sent off to some alt-universe pastoral countryside to learn…I dunno, painting, country dance, noveling, harmless little hobbies.

It’s nicer to imagine that than the alternative. Aether is dangerous stuff. A seemingly innocuous ball of cute fizzy brown goo can happily float straight through your ship’s hull. Try breathing vacuum sometime. Not fun. Not fun at all, no matter how well trained your crew is or how good your mods are.

And that’s just for starters.

So take it from me: don’t mess with aether without proper training. Even then, keep all the tools you might need right handy. You never know when you might need them.

Image Credits:

  1. Detail from cover of “Coke Machine,” by Niki Lenhart.
  2. Artist’s depiction of a black hole at the center of a galaxy. NASA/JPL-Caltech. (Modified for effect)

In certain portions of this timeline, Marichka Zelenskyy (no relation) may be found fixing things at the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy. In other portions of the timeline, she is busy elsewhere.

Marichka Will Fix ItMarichka Will Fix It

Ever since my story “Coke Machine” came out, I’ve been feeling pressure to share more about life in the Truck Stop Universe. Marichka, of course, is the talented engineer who’s at the center of that story.

Just to be clear, she’s not too enamored of rule books.

Here are some rules she knows about that perhaps you’re not aware of. I’m not sure you’ll want to follow her example.

Do NOT criticize the formatting of the Handbook for SkipShip Operators. It has to be cute or nobody will even open the thing. Do NOT mistake cuteness for mild, gentle, tentative advice.


    • All interaction is engagement.
    • (Worship is engagement.)
    • Do NOT do what they tell you to do
    • Do NOT accept “assistance”
    • Do NOT accept gifts
    • Do NOT allow the entity to know you are observing
    • Keep all communication lines open to your shipmates
    • Compare notes with your shipmates
    • Do NOT attempt to reconcile notes; Notes will never agree
    • Surrender all information or objects acquired
    • Erase all records of the encounter
    • By NO MEANS tell anyone else
    • Oh, my god, do NOT tell everyone
    • Leave that to the experts
    • Absolutely, don’t do this
    • Don’t even imagine doing this
    • Don’t believe any suggestions the alien has what you want there