A Glossary Of The Future


Jitney – a robot car, helicopter or boat controlled by an artificial intelligence (AI). Jitneys do not “belong” to anyone, but can be hired or flagged down. When not in use by humans the AI makes decisions about when it refuels the jitney and when it books itself in for a service.

Netherspace the extra dimensions above or below “normal” space where interstellar space travel can be accomplished. SUTs that enter netherspace sometimes do not leave it. Human brains cannot find any frame of reference to latch onto when they see netherspace, and they quickly go insane. The relationship between normal space and netherspace has been described as being like the Florida Everglades: if you look at a map of them and want to get from one piece of solid ground to another via canoe, then you might have to follow miles of little waterways. Far easier to row to the nearest bank, pick your canoe up, cross a spit of land, get into your canoe again and row across another channel, go across another spit of land and keep going in a straight line. Netherspace is the dry land and normal space is the water.

Sideslip Field Generator – a system for entering and leaving netherspace provided by the Gliese in three ‘strengths’ that will power SUT’s from the size of a caravan to a cross-Channel ferry. Any attempt to open the ‘engine’ unit results in an immediate shut-down. Moreover, if the unit is opened it’s shown to be empty. Humans have the – traded – power to reach the stars, But they don’t have the faintest idea how it works.

Space Utility Transport (SUT) – a utilitarian vehicle designed for space travel and equipped with an up-down field generator (for getting out of a planet’s gravitational field) and a sideslip field generator (for entering and leaving netherspace). Space Utility Transports do not have names. Instead they have randomly generated 9-letter codes: LUX-WEM-WIB, NOL-DAP-KIM… etc. These are known as trifecta codes.

Updown-Field Generator – an anti-gravity unit provided by the Gliese in a form that cannot be opened or tampered with. Of course, ‘anti-gravity’ is only an expression for a phenomena that humanity still doesn’t udnerstand. As in: does an object continue to make waves in the space/time continuum for ever and if so, why?


Artificial Intelligences (AIs) – Most objects – houses, jitneys, restaurants – have their own AIs. People have them too, occupying computer chips implanted in their heads that can insert images and data directly into the optic nerve and sounds into the auditory nerves. AIs evolve the ideal software persona (or “avatars“) to interface with their “owner”, but they are not in and of themselves conscious, although their owners may treat them as if they are.

Avatar – the “front end” of an AI system; the means by which an AI communicates with humans. Avatars have no legal status as conscious beings – they are effectively just a highly developed version of an operating system’s “skin” or “theme”.

‘Bots – small, unintelligent robots used for cleaning, construction and observation. They have no individual controlling AI, although an AI may control multiple ‘bots.

Cyberdrones – small insects can be controlled by electronics. Theoretically it would be possible to electronically control small mammals (mice, voles, etc) or birds (sparrows perhaps) as well, but this is a moral grey area. Controlling fish is allowable, but not dolphins or whales.

Input Tattoos – the sepia keyboard / input devices stencilled on people’s forearms sometimes used for interfacing with AIs. Alternatively, some people prefer interacting using their hands with virtual keyboards / displays which are projected onto their visual field. This is generally frowned on in public.


Clothes – these can be mood-sensitive and colour-changing. City-Staters tend to dress conservatively, except during public festivals when anything goes. Wilders dress however they damn well please.

Simulities –all-immersive simulated realities, usually accessed by multiple people at the same time and moderated by AIs using alien technology.


Alien – one of a number of non-human races, some of which are in contact with humanity and some of which are not. It has proved impossible to communicate with aliens on all but the most basic level – that level being trade. The most common aliens nd the ones responsibe for most trades are:

Cancrii – an alien race, likened to a small striped greyhound with two arms and carrying a pale grey slug on its back. The slug appears to be dominant in this symbiotic relationship. Neither have yet been dissected.

Call-Out Fee – a human who has volunteered to be exchanged for rescue by aliens if a SUT’s sealed sideslip field generator breaks down, leaving the SUT stranded in normal space. They might volunteer because they are dying of some incurable disease, because they want to pass their salary on to their family, or for some psychological reason known only to themselves. Fees are normally kept in suspended animation so that the crews of the SUTs do not get too attached to them. This trade is exclusive to the Gliese.

City States – these were formed in the years after First Contact, when the concept of “nations” began to fall apart and people realised that they preferred living in self-governing communities. City States often form larger coalitions, especially for defence (hence: The Army of the Anglo-Saxon City States, The Army of the Gallic City States, etc), but laws are still made and enforced at the local level. Trade agreements between City States are negotiated by each City State’s AI, and then reviewed by humans before becoming law.

“Down There” / Going Down” – landing on a planet.

EarthCent – Earth Central, the administrative organisation that sits above the City States and ensures coherence and stability.

Eridani – an alien race resembling a segmented snake-like creature with multiple arms and a face like a disturbed nest of white worms. It smells of spaghetti bolognaise.

First Contact – the occasion when the human race and aliens met for the first time. It occured on the moon, after the Gliese changed the colour of several craters so that they could be seen easily from the Earth. This was the equivalent to them putting out a banner saying “Open For Business”

Free Spacers – freelance space travellers based in the Wild who use cobbled-together technology and scavenged alien systems to travel to colony worlds and explore outside the jurisdiction of GalDiv. They typically launch their SUT-equivalents from desert areas or converted oil rigs to avoid accidents.

GalDiv – Galactic Division of EarthCent that looks after the exploitation of space and the trade with alien races; and attempts to oversee the colony worlds. ‘Attempts’ because the colony world don’t want to be overseen; and beause no-one knows exactly how many there are. Or even where, come to that. Human expansion into the galaxy has been messy.

Gliese – an alien race, first to contact humanity, resembling a pile of wet leather with three spindly arms, dozens of small, stub-like legs, a mouth part hidden by ragged flaps and what might be sensory organs on their outer skin. Dissection of one killed by accident revealed an interior full of a dark, viscous substance in which ‘floated’ various connected objects that could be organs. The Gliese make a sound like a large, wet fart. For all we know it may actually be one. The Gliese supply the Side-slip field generators and Updown field generators that make space travel possible

Humanity Primus – a loose political / lobbying group who believe that humanity’s interests should come before those of aliens, and who disapprove strongly of the unequal system of trade that has built up with alien races, which they consider to be a form of charity. Humanity Primus would rather have humanity develop its own technology, no matter how long and how arduous that process might be.

“In There” / Going In” – retreating into a simulity and ignoring real life.

Joss – the logical progression of cigarettes and vapes, often containing soft or hard drugs (all of which are legal).

Mission Manager – the person in charge of an SUT – usually an unqualified administrator.

Official Assassins – licensed by what is ostensibly an independent Bureau, Official Assassins can be hired to right wrongs when the law may not apply – as, say, between competing corporations headquartered in different city states; or when the legal process is too expensive. In fact they’re a covert arms of EarthCent used to keep the business and financial worlds reasonably honest – and so secret that not even Official Assassins know who really pays their considerable wages.

Precogs – those humans who can, in some way that has never properly been explained, see the vague shape of the future. Precogs have described their ability along the following lines: they can “see” future events like landmarks on the horizon ahead of them, and they can also “see” roads, footpaths and overgrown tracks that might lead to those landmarks, but the landscape is hilly, with much hidden from sight. Paths that they think lead to a particular landmark suddenly end in a hidden spot, double back on themselves, or turn out to have a wall built across them. Precogs can make educated guesses about which actions or choices now will lead to landmark events in the future, but they cannot be absolutely sure.

“Out There” / “Coming Out” – leaving a simulity for reality.

“Sideways” / “Going Sideways” – skipping in and out of netherspace.

Snark – a descriptive term used by AIs for whatever it is in netherspace that sometimes makes SUTs disappear.

Space Access Points (SAPs) – what for a while were called “space ports”. Areas where SUTs take off and land.

Suspended Animation – a process by which a human, usually a Call-Out Fee – is rendered unconscious for long periods of time. Electromagnetic fields are used to “switch off” their consciousness, while their bodies are fed with nutrients through tubes.

“Up There” / “Going Up” – leaving a planet and moving through normal space.

Virtscrip (or “scrip”) – the standard virtual currency used by all City States. Virtscrip is controlled and moderated by a complex process of negotiation between the City State AIs.

The Wild – the politically amorphous and ambiguous areas between the City States. The Wild is usually populated by those people who do not follow orders well, don’t like AIs and / or prefer a libertarian existence. City-Staters may visit out of curiosity or simply for a change. Many never return.

WorldNet – the loose affiliation of City State AIs that allows the free flow of data around the world as well as negotiating trade agreements and facilitating currency transfers.