Fractal Galaxy

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Do you remember what it was like, that first time we looked upon our world from the outside? What about the first time we made contact with other species? Perhaps the first time anyone discovered darkspace travel? Do you know how to speak Russian or Arabic? Do you even know what they are? If you do, count yourself among the few - the privileged - who can. Much - perhaps too much - went into this achievement, from the dawn of the scientific method until today. Thousands died as a direct cause and millions indirectly, all for one thing: immortality. And for all of our technological might and our ability to implant, alter, and improve the human body and thought processes, nothing is more valuable than the experience of ages. Remember always that even though you were not the first and will not be the last, if you are clever you will be there at the end of time, when the universe goes dark and utters its death rattle of black holes and forgotten neutrons. Remember. You won't be alone. -Dr. Omega

Contents

The Milky Way

Mankind once believed that when they learned to travel fast enough through space that the galaxy and the universe would be divided into simple regions based on the inhabitance of species. They were wrong - darkspace is a dangerous technology, one that has cost the lives of countless pioneers of the various spacefaring species in seeking out paths. The simplest way to travel darkspace was and remains to keep to the routes seemingly laid out between key areas by those long gone - something that ultimately led to the designation of sectors by their connections to other "Obelisks" that marked stars of interest. Indeed, to state that a system is in "Human Space" or "Gray Space" is relatively meaningless compared to saying that a species controls a sector.

Night Between Worlds: The Modern Galaxy

Space Travel

Unlike the universe of Star Wars or many other space-based settings, in Fractal Galaxy space travel for normal individuals is still relatively uncommon, and only after a thousand years of human space access (and much longer periods for some other species) are civilian Galactic Shuttles or Galactic Spacecraft (abbreviated G.S., a common part of the formal title for any spacefaring vessel) becoming numerous. Although public charter and transport between planets, stations, and sectors has had a strong infrastructure for several hundred years, most of the non-military and non-public space travel is limited to very wealthy and powerful organizations (which includes larger mercenary groups; the exception to this rule is pirates and other fugitives).

The main reasons for this remain the question of resources - the systems that drive and link spacecraft and their crew have been revolutionized, refined, and optimized time and time again (most considerably with access to the Darkspace Network and more recently the development of stable and efficient wormhole drives and communications tech), but the means to build and propagate the technology remains expensive, and training - even with artificial intelligence units and mechatroids becoming commonplace throughout the galaxy, natural intelligences and fleshy bodies are more efficient except in special cases.

The Darkspace Network vs Wormhole Drives

“Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.” ― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

Two major technological advancements have allowed the galaxy to become what it is today, and both of these have their limitations. The Darkspace Network is a mathematically complex tech that is still not fully understood, built to last eternally by a long-dead civilization of the galaxy. The basic concept involves destruction and reconstruction of a spacecraft to travel through "dark" alternate dimensions that, due to bizarre geometries will cut the trip to at most a few hours (the same reconstruction process occurs again near the destination, this time in this dimension). Unfortunately, both the lost civilizations and modern scientists seem to be unable to make nodes of the Network more numerous, limiting darkspace's potential future as a means of galactic transportation. While it is suspected that the original builders of darkspace obelisks perished in a great interstellar war, uncertainty in how darkspace travel fundamentally functions is still commonplace and a diminishing amount of research goes into it now that the development of wormhole drives are a sure thing.

Unlike the Darkspace Network, the utilization of a wormhole for travel does not actually transport a spacecraft into another dimension - although it has been experimentally verified that this is possible, if it were ever desired - instead creating a "fold" or "crumble" in space. Some experts have described the action of initiating a stable, controlled wormhole as the implosion of space followed by an "infinite shortcut" where space as it is known is instantaneously absent, while others have likened space to a highly adhesive, unending sponge, with holes ready to open and close at a surge or ejection of energy. Wormhole drives are hideously power-hungry and as a result difficult (and by extension, costly) to construct, making them a rare and valuable capability and as-of-yet failing to make darkspace use obsolete.

Regardless of the method, a journey from one point to the next in the galaxy takes roughly the same amount of time. The primary advantage of wormholes is that they can be made to theoretically end at whatever point those piloting the ship desire. The relative youth and inefficiency of the first generation of wormhole drives however make any jump inaccurate enough to put a ship an average of a few hours from their destination at best (and usually more, as few are daring enough to risk leaving the wormhole inside an object, forcing them to "land" in deep space). This vastly outstrips the speed of using a darkspace lane, as even the most advanced spacecraft still move through normal space at small fractions of the speed of light, making some trips from the darkspace node to the required destination in a system take days (for example, in the Sol system, the fastest ships of the Alliance would take roughly three days to get from the orbit of Neptune where the darkspace obelisk orbits to Earth).

Exploration, Development, and the Size of Space

There is one simple fact that prevents the denizens of Fractal Galaxy from populating every fragment: space is incredibly vast. Even many of the pilots and space-born explorers of every species routinely forget this until they look out on the void from a viewpoint. Billions of star systems wait to be plundered and explored, but the limited lifespans and frail bodies of the spacefaring species combined with the sheer expansiveness of the galaxy leave much of it unexplored. Between all of the spacefaring species in the Alliance and elsewise, perhaps only five percent of the star systems of the galaxy have been visited ("visited" being very loosely applied here, as a visit ranges from anything to colonization to a pass-by while travelling the Darkspace Network), and a tiny fraction of these are inhabited. The dreamers of modern civilizations say it is a hauntingly eerie feeling calling a place that so little is known about home; knowing that at the edge of the star system lies a gateway that could lead somewhere no one has seen before.

As years pass it seems to become increasingly common for various organizations with enough resources to expand far into the uncharted and unclaimed regions of the galaxy to claim systems, planets, and anomalies as their on - and who would stop them? Militaries and security forces already have the daunting task of policing known, populated, heavily-travelled areas, and it would be mad for them to attempt to police a few thousand distant and difficult-to-reach systems when billions more await.

Communications: Global/Stellar Information Networks

Naturally, global and solar system communications established at the beginning of a species' spacefaring days quickly become an essential facet of life; there are few worlds and systems that do not feature some extensive communications network that can quickly and easily be accessed by those who require information. Unfortunately, limitations in faster-than-light technology inhibit the capabilities of said networks to be strung across systems and darkspace nodes (although hope is materialized in the claim that further development of wormhole tech will allow the creation of permanent communications shortcuts). This has first and foremost developed a kind of galactic courier/information service known as the GOS or GCS (Galactic Outrider System or Galactic Courier System, respectively; some others also exist and theoretically any spaceflight mission can serve in this fashion when docking, but the GCS is the most prominent). They are constantly on the move, helping to provide comprehensive knowledge on everything of interest in other star systems as often as possible.

As for local networks, the inhabited worlds and stations in a system all tend to broadcast their own individual hub, which in addition to serving all of the economic, social, and entertainment functions it might be tasked to do, is frequently updated and backed up many times with updates in the status quo of other systems and territories when the respective courier vessels arrive. When a spacecraft leaves dock, it does so normally only after having the databanks of the ship computer updated with the most recent information about the galaxy, and crews are well aware that on long missions away from large outposts or civilized areas at all, the knowledge contained in their database can quickly become outdated. To help combat this on particularly long missions, some groups have utilized specialized mechatroid crew members whose manufacture focuses around massive numbers of simulations with the goal of accurately predicting trends and "unforeseen" events by considering every detail in the database from the tiniest bacterium to the most violently exploding supernova.

More Information

For more details on the setting, click one of the links on the header.