Michael: A vicious five year civil war. Imperialist forces defeated the Parliamentarians. Their holdings are annexed to the Imperial House and their titles are stripped. Their leaders are executed or exiled and the Krypteia (secret police, Inquisition) is formed to root out future sedition. What few Parliamentarians survived relatively unscathed or fled abroad have developed a hatred of the Imperial House . But they’re constantly watched. The Krypteia is everywhere. Anyone could be a traitor.
Dan: Krypteia. Love that name.
Michael: Ten years later, the plot begins. The Emperor lives in technological opulence, touring his estates, from rural manors to gleaming skyscrapers in luxurious horse-drawn train carriages, indifferent to common concerns. The Sidereal Eden Heresy may or may not be a Republican invention. The Krypteia is investigating a black-listed nobleman whose rival’s daughter has just been attacked by a band of southern brigands.
Dan: The Sidereal Eden Heresy. Another good name.
Michael: What would be cool is that the environmental controls are getting fritzy. There are places where lightning storms go on for weeks, destroying crop yields. Hurricanes, blizzards, localised earthquakes and suddenly active area denial weapons of all sorts. The aristocracy sees this but honestly can’t do anything about it.
Dan: Yes, some weird natural disasters would be fun to write about. Unnaturally long lightning storms. Varying gravity. Maybe a heavy conveyor system starts shuffling around huge chunks of real estate. Or if the biological environment is technologically mediated, you could get forests instructed to turn into grasslands or tundra, or set to kill encroaching humans ala Miyazaki’s Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke.
Michael: Yup. Walking through a shattered forest that fell on a small town and now people are salvaging what’s left. Or maybe it blew up like a fuel-air bomb because the plant life started emitting flammable gas and the grass is sparking in the wind. Or the water in a navigable lake becomes non-Newtonian. Or the geometry in a certain area becomes non-Euclidean with the gravity turning into an Escher drawing where down may be the wall or the ceiling.
Dan: There will be some lovely images there. Wonder and terrible danger. An excellent hook.
Michael: They’ve never been able to access regional climate controls and can’t account for the disassembler clouds even if some of them could call a particle beam down on your head.
Dan: Perhaps because the access port is located in a dangerous jungle (if you want a jungle-exploration story) or because you need several ports simultaneously and some of them are in enemy territory (if you want a war and conquest story).
Michael: That could work. I’m picturing more of a cloak-and-dagger story with some troop movements as well.
Dan: In that case, perhaps the McGuffins you need to fix the world are artifacts scattered in various temples, which the main characters must steal. They can see and fix crazy environment stuff as they travel from place to place, and then get mixed up in an army for the climactic ending.