Sunday, May 5, 2013

Traveling the Strange Stars

Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Archaic Oikumene is the hyperspace travel network. Though the means of the network's engineering—even much of the basic science science behind it—has been lost, current civilization is still able to make use of it to travel the stars faster than light. The rediscovery of a lost node is a major find, potentially introducing uncharted systems to interstellar civilization.

In the present era, the topology of the network appears to be much simpler than in ancient times. In most cases, nodes only connect to one or two neighboring nodes. The technology behind the nodes is at least partially psionic in nature. Specially trained psi-sensitives (or specially gengineered sniffer animals) can detect inactive nodes. Re-activating one requires brute-force hacking and psionically transmitted passcodes. Experts in hyperspace net architecture believe there is a quantum encrypted strata that at one time connected individual worlds—maybe even individual citizens. This higher end network is inaccessible in the current era.

Active nodes have exit and entrance gates fitted to them and terminal stations, located a safe distance away. Most of these structures date back centuries; a few even to the Oikumene. In civilized areas (particularly those once under the control of the Radiant Polity) tolls are often charged for network access and every ship passing through must have an identification transponder. So-called “black gates” exist, hidden in out-of-the- way systems that provide access without going through the public nodes. Military controlled gates sometimes exist, built near and accessing public nodes, but are given priority.

The conduits through the hyperspace are like latticework tubes of exotic matter. The distance between two points in normal space has very little to do with transit time through hyperspace. Instead, congestion and poorly understood conduit properties ("bandwidth") play a greater role. Terminal traffic control authorities try to manage congestion, but nodes deliver faster travel times to other destinations regardless—and this can vary over time.

While starmaps tend to represent the network as composed of simple lines between nodes, the internal workings of the network are considerably more complex. Most cultures rely on advanced computers to perform the rapid and complicated computations necessary for navigating hyperspace, though, some cultures have engineered biologic minds with intuitive abilities in these areas.

The poorly understood relationship between psi and hyperspace has led to more than a few fringe and paranoid memes, as well as legitimate scientific inquiry. So far, no theory is satisfactory. Psi-sensitive individuals tend to find hyperspace travel a bit uncomfortable. Many report the strange sensation of being watched.


The Angry Lurker said...

These would be the first astropaths?

dervishdelver said...

Trey, these space travel posts are fun. They really get me thinking about different approaches to the subject. It's interesting to realize how difficult it is to come up with a fresh angle on the subject of space travel, when you start researching it. Science and SF have looked at this from every angle. But I think the theory of relativity has most emphasizing speed and distances instead of time. Time is usually used as a simple measurement for covering distances through space at certain velocities. I have not read many novels where space craft design depends on exiting and entering the dimension of time. Could it be that is what's happening in the nodes?

Trey said...

@Fran - Heh. possibly.

@dervishdelver - Thanks. Yeah, it is hard to do "something different" with FTL--which may be why a lot of games just don't worry about it. Interesting theory, there. I confess my many idea here was to have a metaphor for FTL that I hadn't seen before. We've got ships, and highways, and tunnels, but I don't think anyone (that I've read) has really played up the network topology aspects. I figured I would do that and leave it all a bit mysterious, too.

Anonymous said...

Makes me think of Andromeda: "Slipstream: It's not the best way to travel faster than light, it's just the only way." — Dylan Hunt

Detailed maps of the network, especially one showing dark routes, and analyzing speed and such must be an important black market trade item.

Alex Osias said...

Andromeda wasn't that bad. Enjoyed the early seasons.

But I like the FTL solution you've got. Adds to the setting's mystery. And I like mysterious SF settings.

Unknown said...

Your hyperspace travel network sounds a lot like a network of Krasnikov Tubes.

As you imagine them, how large would the 'mouths' of these conduits be?

Kilometers across?

Seems to me: unless ships are slipping in one at a time, the entrances/exits -- along with the conduits themselves -- would have to be many kilometers wide.

Trey said...

In a "practical" sense, certainly not much.

The mouths would tens of kilometers, if not hundreds, yes, though the art I've used doesn't typically support this, I realize. They would vary, from place to place.