1 hour ago
Monday, August 4, 2014
Drive boxes or drive cubes are highly sought after artifacts of the Archaic Oikumene. They are sometimes salvaged from the wrecks of old ships. These cubes vary in size, but most are around 12 cm. When inactive they absorb virtually all the light contacting their surface, and so appear black like a void in the universe. When activated, a box will turn translucent and sometimes pulse with color. At all times they are cool to the touch and the texture of smooth plastic. They're heavier than they appear, but usually can be carried in one hand of a standard-muscled baseline.
Drive boxes are so named because they are used to control starship reactionless drives. Like most devices of the Archaics, drive boxes contain hypersapient ai with no sense of self, dedicated to the operation of the drive. The boxes are "plug and play" to the extent that they contain the knowledge necessary to build a reactionless drive, given a link to a fabricator and the necessary raw material. The box will then integrate with a ships systems to run the new drive. It will not upgrade structural deficiencies in the ship that will would lead to a catastrophic failure if the drive is activated, but it will warn of these sort of issues and will not activate the drive.
Attempts to hack drive boxes are always thwarted by the box's mind (who is able to mimic self-hood for lower intelligence beings). A drive box can be destroyed utterly, but attempts to physical disassemble one only trigger a catastrophic reaction in it's presumably femtotech circuitry that leads to it fusing into a block of inert matter.
Spacers' legends tell of drive boxes, deranged by long disuse that do develop senses of self and become sadistic and even murderous. More than one "ghost ship" story begins with the initialization of a new drive from an insane box that dooms the crew to an endless flight.