ysabetwordsmith: Jump gate showing diamond ring of light (blueshift)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Here is the bonus material for the January 7, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl reaching the $300 goal. Enjoy some background for The Blueshift Troupers project.


As humans slowly ventured through the Orion Arm, they stumbled across some mysterious relics of an alien civilization. One of these was an enormous ring floating in space -- the first jump gate, later named Unity. Passing through this gate brought them to a hub near the galactic core, which they named Pharos. This opened up much of the galaxy to human exploration.

The jump gates connect with each other in a system which links (more or less) habitable or otherwise useful planets and some other locations spanning the galaxy. Gate transit is nearly instantaneous, although depending on the location of the gate relative to the planetary destination, there may still be travel time of hours to weeks at in-system speed. Sometimes the gate orbits the planet at a typical lunar distance. It may rest at a Lagrange point in relation to a planet/sun or planet/moon pair. Other times the gate occupies a more planetary style orbit around the sun, in which case it may lie quite some distance from the habitable planet(s).

Patterns of gravity influence the position of a gate in relation to its proximate destination, the places within the galaxy where a gate may be placed, and the other gate(s) to which one may connect. Some gates connect to many others, especially in the Annula encircling the core of the galaxy. Those with the most links are called hubs. Most gates in the Laceum, the middle band, connect to several others. Gates in the outer fringe of the Fimbria may connect to only one or a few.

Travel paths do not cross the core of the galaxy, a region of dense gravity and stars surrounding the galactic center. Traffic therefore circles around the Annula, whose ring defines the inner edge of navigable jump routes. Long-distance jumps may go directly from one end of the galaxy to the other, passing through multiple gates; this is fast but risky. It is safer, though somewhat slower, to move in stages. A ship can travel from one gate to a second, exit, then re-enter to reach a third, and so forth down the line.

A typical jump gate looks like a big ring hanging in space. Based on alien biotechnology, it is a living creature and not an inert machine. So the gate has an organic appearance, rather resembling a spine curled into a circle. When a ship passes through, the rim lights up, and a flare occurs on one side of the ring. If you imagine a map of the galaxy superimposed over the gate, the flare occurs on the ring in the direction the ship is traveling. The visual effect looks similar to the "diamond ring" of a solar eclipse. Often it's so bright that people can see it from the planetary surface.

The jump gate at a hub consists of a vast central ring surrounded by a number of other rings. Each of those rings can operate independently and access a different destination at the same time, thus allowing faster and better traffic flow. Transits to or from a hub gate tend to produce a scatter of closely packed lights, like "Baily's beads" instead of the single diamond ring. This is more pronounced within the hub gate itself when it connects to another gate, but a lesser version usually appears at the far end also. The dramatic light show of a jump gate in action is one of the iconic images of galactic civilization.

One drawback is that the system is old, alien, and therefore erratic. The highest traffic gates rarely if ever misbehave. These include the hubs, the rest of the Annula, and the inner part of the Laceum. Other gates may be less reliable, especially out in the Fimbria. Transit mishaps include the gate refusing to function at all, destroying ships, sending them to the wrong destination, sending them down a one-way lane, and/or transforming people in bizarre ways. Wildcatters still search for -- and sometimes find -- new gates. Going through an unknown gate is a total crapshoot.

Jump gates permit ships to travel, but block out debris. The gates may recognize inorganic ships, but these have a higher rate of mishaps during transit. The most common problems are transit refusal and ship destruction. Living ships perform much better. Some hiveships have bonded with a human crew and usually have inorganic modifications to facilitate human comfort. Others have not bonded and tend to remain wholly organic. Both unmodified and cyborg hiveships experience fewer difficulties in transit when compared to dumb machines. When something does go wrong, it usually involves an alteration of the destination or of the ship/crew.

Nobody knows for sure how the jump gates work. There are lots of competing theories, some of them are downright freaky, and people argue about them all the time. Folks talk about newly released articles the way some fans talk about sports. The function has to be something sustainable because the jump system was abandoned for ages; nonrenewable fuel would have run out. So far the possibilities include cosmic-wind mills, spacetime waterwheels, dark matter heat pumps, and hyperspace solar cells. In actuality, this is biotech and so the gate system runs on some kind of true-life process rather than a mechanical energy source. Biotechnologists and engineers often cooperate in taking care of the organic and inorganic components of contemporary galactic equipment.

Humans still tend to think in terms of mechanical technology. The alien biotech is alive, and therefore includes personality. It has moods and preferences. It can like or dislike people. Sometimes it wants to be helpful; other times it plays pranks. Although a jump gate does not use words that humans understand, it can communicate some concepts in other ways. The hiveships have adapted to human companionship and can learn to speak.

Some people feel a strong affinity or aversion to jumptech -- and that's plain old biochemistry like humans falling in love or hate with each other. This influences who can or can't tolerate travel via hiveship and jump gate, and higher affinity indicates a better chance of being able to do those and other things. Shapeshifters and other people with strong body modifications also correlate with a higher affinity. The people who are getting the leaps forward are the ones with more inclination toward thinking organically. The most popular tech is a blend of organic and inorganic, alien and human aspects. They just like each other, and they're willing to put real work into the relationship, so of course it goes better.

This also explains why the first exploration team who found an outlying gate got routed straight to the biggest hub accessible. It wasn't random chance, which looks bad in science fiction. It wasn't just the physical aspect of Pharos being where the largest number of routes connect. It was because the jump gate was lonely and wanted to be helpful by sending its new friends to where they could find access to the rest of the system.

The jump system is alive and alert. Like a hiveship, there is some individual and some shared consciousness. The jump system has a job to do. It thinks about how to do that job. However, now it's working for people who are very different from its makers, and they can't always communicate clearly. Some of the gates may have gone insane during their long abandonment; they can contact each other, but it's not the same as having people around each gate for company. Most of the gates are healthy and friendly ... but they just don't think the way humans do.

This makes for interesting times.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-01-18 12:47 am (UTC)
thnidu: blank white robot/avatar sitting on big red question mark. tinyurl.com/cgkcqcj via Google Images (question mark)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Good background/foundation.

Thinking this through as I read it:

Long-distance jumps may go directly from one end of the galaxy to the other, passing through multiple gates; this is fast but risky.
In one jump?

the flare occurs on the ring in the direction the ship is traveling. The visual effect looks similar to the "diamond ring" of a solar eclipse.
So the imaginary map is in the plane of the ring, perpendicular to the ship's direction of travel. What if the destination is straight ahead or astern?

Both unmodified and cyborg hiveships experience fewer difficulties in transit when compared to dumb machines.
A Dr. Whom-ish opinion here: I'd prefer "when compared to" to "than". It's a lot more compact, and I'm used to comparative constructions taking "to" or "with".

Afterthought: And I consider "prefer" to be comparative, so definitely not:!
* I'd prefer "when compared to" compared to "than".

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-18 04:49 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Hmmmmmmm! Sentient jump tech. Plot bunnies galore. :)

Yes...

Date: 2014-07-18 05:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Very much so. Feel free to request more in any relevant prompt call.

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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