Trope-a-Day: Space Station

Space Station: Lots of them, as residence, lab, factory, outpost, city, farm, cageworks, starport, skymall, border station, and just about everything else you can think of by way of uses.  After all, in the modern day, three out of every five Imperial residents lives in space, not planetside.

The gamut runs from the venerable Oculus Station, a by-modern-standards tiny Skylab/ISS style tin-can habitat – large by the launching standards of early space programs, but then, they were using Orion launchers – preserved as a museum, to the Conclave Drift, which at 36 miles long, eight in diameter, and nearly 10 billion tons gross mass is not the largest ever constructed any more, but by population, diversity and reputation (as the seat of the closest approximation to galactic government and an awful lot of its business) is the unchallenged queen of the orbital habitat community.

Trope-a-Day: Coolest Club Ever

Coolest Club Ever: The best known (and with, therefore, the largest Wannabe Line in the Empire) is the Aleph, on Baranithil Station; the most popular would be the Polythalience, on the Conclave Drift; the most exclusive would be the Floating Meme – wherever it turns up next; and the most infamous would have to be the Transition, on Nepscia (see: Wretched Hive).

Trope-a-Day: City of Spies

City of Spies: Many spies, of course, hang around Nepscia (Galith Waste) and its red market, both because many secrets find their way there, and because a city with no rules (see: Wretched Hive) makes an excellent place to play intelligence agencies’ rougher away games.  Likewise, the Conclave Drift contains a lot of spies, simply because it’s where everyone is, and where a lot of top-level diplomacy and politicking goes on, with the obvious concomitant to it.

Nonetheless, the true City of Spies remains Eilan (Eilish Expanse), the capital world of the Free Eilish Confederacy, a doggedly neutral power friendly to the world, conveniently central for most of the Great Powers while not being – unlike the Conclave Drift – too convenient for any one of them in particular, and as such, the absolute favorite location for people’s intelligence away games.  Absolutely crawling with agents for absolutely everyone.  They don’t quite have carpooling for the tails, but it’s certainly not unheard of for two tails on the same agent to end up having to shamefacedly exchange name, address, and insurance information after a flitter collision…

Trope-a-Day: Capital City

Capital City: Of the Associated Worlds as a whole, that would be the Conclave Drift, the giant habitat in which the Conclave of Galactic Polities is situated.  It’s also a major commercial and cultural hub, it being – due to the room it sets aside for every polity in the Accord to build its own little mini-city – one of the few places you can find everyone together, and its markets are one of the few places in the Worlds where you can rely on finding just about everything that it’s legal to buy anywhere.  (The Empire had this in mind, of course, when they donated one of their star systems to build the thing in.)  It is slightly subverted inasmuch as not all that much freight gets transshipped through it; it would be rather out of the way.  But a surprisingly high percentage of the actual deals get made here.

Other candidates for major commercial centers would be Mer Covales, on Seranth (Imperial Core), which houses several major commercial exchanges and which does play host to a great deal of manufacturing and transshipping; and the worlds of the Free Eilish Confederacy, whose policies of neutrality and openness make it a favorite spot for business – and also a favorite spot for back-door politics and for galactic intelligence agencies to host their away games.  Neither of those, of course, are political capitals of anything.

Of the Empire, that would be Calmirie (“center of order”), which is both the political capital of the Empire, and a significant commercial (somewhat overtaken by Mer Covales) and cultural (somewhat overtaken by Delphys (Imperial Core)) center.  It plays it essentially straight.

Subtext

“Well, firstly, we’re a civilization of dozens of different species with hundreds of races and clades each.  Given the sheer number of shapes we come in, why would you possibly assume that we’d be invested in your morphological bigotries?”

You’re idiots.

“And even if we were inclined to be, it would have to be a more significant one than hue – even if cross-linked with historical accident.”

You’re petty idiots.

“And even if you had a good reason to refuse to ever deal with these so-called inferior people, that’s what you’d do; refuse to deal with them, build fences, live separately.  Not go out of your way to be appallingly unpleasant for no adequately defined reason.”

You’re malicious petty idiots.

“And you don’t have one, because even if you were right, game theory tells us that defaulting to cooperation is always superior in the indefinite-iterated game, and the law of comparative advantage tells us that you’re better off doing so even if you’re better at every single thing ever.”

You’re self-defeating malicious petty idiots.

“And frankly, you’re not right, because in the light of all this, your self-described intellectual and cultural superiority isn’t looking so good, either.”

You’re hypocritical self-defeating malicious petty idiots.

“So I don’t really think there’s a terribly good basis for an alliance of mutual interest here, I’m afraid.”

Your mothers.

– overheard and underheard in the Crescent Bar, Conclave Drift

Trope-a-Day: Big Dumb Object

Big Dumb Object: Oh, plenty.  Leaving aside those belonging to elder races – and thus little known due to the ability to enforce the Do Not Taunt rule – the Empire has a partially completed Dyson Sphere in the works at Corícal Ailek (it’s where the Transcend keeps its brain; and it’s the swarm kind, not the shell kind) and another at Esilmúr (a primary antimatter production facility; the solar-wind-inflated-bubble kind), and the Photonic Network has at least one under construction somewhere in its interior.  Then there are assorted Stellar Husbandry Arrays floating over Imperial stars and keeping them running nice and smoothly and for rather longer, in theory, than they otherwise would.

Some spacedocks/construction slips probably qualify in the minor leagues due to the sheer size of a fleet carrier/grapeship megafreighter, as does the Conclave Drift drift-habitat that houses the Conclave of Galactic Polities, and I suspect that the manufacturer would strongly contend that the Ring Dynamics, ICC Interstellar Stargate (Mark III), a.k.a. the big framework/space station/support machine that wormhole ends get wrapped in, absolutely counts for these purposes.

And there’s more…

Always The Gap

“Welcome to the 60° Line.  This station is Lip Shuttleport.  This is an express Stem train, terminating at Docks and Locks, calling at Outer Interchange, Centerpoint, Underwater, Inner Interchange, Conclave Mall Axial, Hydrogen Habitats, Station Control, Manufacturing Hive, and Reactor.  Please note that stations between Station Control and Reactor are accessible to authorized personnel only.  Docks and Locks is our last station stop.  Passengers, please mind the gap.  Mind the gap.  The next station is Outer Interchange.  Change there for League of Meridian, Silicate Tree, and D!grith Association Enclaves, First Distributed Cryptobank, Ellore Modular Industries, the Nebula Club, Rithka Arcology, meridian transfers and local routes.  Please stand clear of the closing doors.”

– maglev announcement, Conclave Drift

On the Drift

The Conclave Drift. The jewel at the heart of the Associated Worlds, it is the heart of the Accord community; the seat of the Conclave of Galactic Polities, the most comprehensive center of interpolity diplomacy in the Worlds; an unofficial cultural, commercial and financial capital for hundreds of species and star nations; and the most tightly packed polyspecific community anywhere in the known galaxy.

Located very close to the center of the Worlds – just one gate away from Eliera, Palaxias and Cinnaré by arterial – in the Accordance system, the Conclave Drift is also at the heart of Imperial space. While system security is provided by detached units of the Imperial Capital Fleet under Conclave authority, the system is legally neutral territory open to the passage of all; the diplomatic vessels of even the Empire’s avowed enemies are permitted free passage to Accordance, in peace or war.

(The Drift owes its location to the willingness of the Empire both to provide an otherwise empty – except for a few support facilities – star system to house it, to accept the principle of free passage to and from the Drift, and to defray by far the largest part of the construction expenses and operational overhead. Much of this, in practice, was paid for by private interests which foresaw the advantages of such a hub, and indeed, the Empire’s commerce has reaped considerable benefits from playing host to the Conclave and its hangers-on.)

The Drift itself orbits 52 million miles from the hot, white star Accordance. It is the largest drift-habitat ever constructed (excluding the hexterranes at Corícal Ailék) at 36 miles long, a gleaming, fluted flame lily against the void of space.

The stem of the lily hosts the drift’s microgravity infrastructure, a short mile-long stalk.  Most visitors to the Drift will dock here, at the far end of the Stem, and take a transport pod to their intended destination.

Abutting the utilitarian Stem is the Conclave Mall, a wide habitat ring clad in shimmering gold cerametal plating.  It contains the heart of the Drift’s official functions; the offices of the various organizations attached to the Conclave, embassies and offices from the various polities represented in it, offices of the largest starcorporations, and a few restaurants, shopping districts and private residences for the Worlds’ elite.  While most of the Mall is maintained as a compromise mid-range oxygen-breather environment, of note are the Alternate Environment Sectors between the 40 and 160 meridia, for the use of species preferring ammonia, halogen, methane, sulphide, or hydrogen environments.  The spin gravity is maintained at a third of standard (“just enough to keep your feet on the floor”), in deference to the aquatic and aerial members of the Conclave, and the simulated day-night cycle matches Imperial Standard Time.

But with a few exceptions (such as the Crescent Bar – one of the galaxy’s largest hotels, with an open-air bar which crosses the entire width of the Mall, which most of the unofficial business of the Worlds passes through at some time or other, and which still maintains a welcoming atmosphere, an excellent cuisine, and an unmatched drink selection – opposite the Conclave Chambers at the 180 meridian), the businesslike and relatively ascetic environs of the Mall are not the reason why travelers for pleasure should visit the Drift.  The excitement happens in the Petals.

The “flower” of the Drift, the Petals, curves outwards in a single sculpted megastructure 32 miles from the ring of the Mall to its open end, its polished silver cerametal coating gleaming white in the light of Accordance.  While the structure of the Petals itself contains transport systems and other low-level infrastructure, within it is the true bustling city of the drift, the Enclaves. Every polity associated with the Conclave is permitted to claim an region within the Petals, which it may then develop as it sees fit; a bustling throng of miniature cities in myriad architectural styles and environments, home to nearly 20 million embodied sophonts.  The Enclaves never sleep – following an early-established custom, there is no alternation of day and night in the Petals – and at any time of the cycle, business is done, entertainments are to be found, meals to be had, and there is always something to do.

While there are tens of thousands of places to visit in the Petals, here are some of our particular favorites…

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Conclave Drift

Trope-a-Day: Ascetic Aesthetic

Ascetic Aesthetic: Used in a few types of places:

Unprogrammed virtual reality, as a baseline to build on.

Areas principally given over to industry or other automation, where simple, polished geometric shapes, curves, and suchlike (see: Alien Geometries) work well for the local AI; they don’t care about the lack of decoration, and it can still be kept adequately, for which read exceptionally, clean and shiny-bright.

In some areas, like the Conclave Mall – the central area of the habitat that houses the Conclave of Galactic Polities – intended for heavily polyspecific use, as a reasonable compromise to avoid having to try to satisfy everyone’s differing aesthetic tastes simultaneously.  An equally sparse minimalism is about what can be managed by way of fairness.

The Imperials generally don’t go much for it at home, except maybe in pre-customization prefabs.  They prefer their elegant-baroque art deco style and its offshoots.