Skip navigation

Sol, that’s us by the way, has the dubious honour of being the only system in Vast Worlds with multiple inhabited worlds. That’s not to say the other systems can not support humans on many planets, but sol is the only one with the population that demands it. With nearly six billon people within the system, spread across four major planets, and with every major stellar body at least home to a few thousand, it is by far the most important location in Vast Worlds and home to every faction.

In space the system is heaving with ships, satellites and various space junk and mission control on Earth is draconic because of this. There is very little room for error in the Sol space lanes, and, with a ship jumping in-system on average every twenty minutes, being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be deadly. It is the heart of interstellar trade, with eighty percent of ships being produced in various orbital foundries, sixty percent of all trade goods are produced there and every military keeps space bourn fleets at constant readiness. Officially this is to reduce piracy, though the more cynical would say that the military is there because all the factions’ militaries are there.

Regardless, Sol fuels the human expansion, with millions emigrating from Earth to both the in the system colonies and those around other stars. The majority of human research is still performed in system (save for biological research but that is a special case), as well as a lot of innovation and enterprise. There are of course cracks in the glittering façade, Earth is slowing becoming obscured by its own satellites for example, and political tension is as high as ever but at this point Sol is still the cradle of humanity, and will remain so for a good many years.

Author’s Comment: Sol is nearly always the centre of the plot, though not necessarily the story, as I try and avoid setting to much within the one system. In part this is because I want to show off the rest of the stars, but also because Earth is in its own curious way, mundane, even in a sci-fi setting. Also me making up worlds means it’s much harder for people to call me on the physics J

Mercury

Mercury hasn’t changed much in Vast Worlds, a permanent research base orbits on the leeward side of the planet, but it is a purely scientific station funded by Radiant Industries and mainly involved with work into solar energy. There is actually some discussion as to what do with the damn place. It is not actually habitable without some serious effort, but merely mining it is impossible as cost to take material off the surface is at this point greater than that on Earth and there are enough of minerals locked in the various asteroids and small moons around the Sol system to last for centuries. There are a few crazier ideas surrounding Mercury, such as attaching a giant solar sail to it and flying it away from the sun, or covering it with solar panels and powering Earth via a huge stellar laser, but none of these get taken seriously.

Random Fact: During the early 2400 Mercury is used to produce one of the End-Time fleets.

Author’s Comment: There’s little to say about Mercury, I’m not even sure it will get a mention in the books as it really is quite a dull place. Oh well, moving swiftly onwards…

Venus

Venus is most definitely inhabited by 2100, and is one of the more multicultural colonies with almost every major country paying for its upkeep in some manner. Venus also holds the awards for being the most unusual of the colonies as the surface of Venus is not actually inhabitable, at all. However, because of the incredible density of the atmosphere breathable air actually constitutes a lifting gas on Venus, and with the surface pressure at around eighty times that of Earth whole buildings can be raised off the ground simply by pumping air into them.

Because of this Venus has developed a myriad of sky cities, none of them are huge, most clinging to the quarter of a million mark, and they drift in fairly chaotic patterns through the atmosphere, trading with each other based on how close they are in any given season. Very little effort is placed into actually controlling the drift of these cities, mostly because it would be rather like trying to hold back the sea, and besides, none fly low enough to hit the topography. There have been a few minor collisions between cities, but most are either avoided by messing with the city wide density, or simply allowing the two settlements simply amalgamate into a bigger city.

The cities themselves have often been compared to mushrooms. At the top there is usually a layer of bio-domes, the actual amount of cropland needed to support a couple hundred thousand people is staggering and the domes stretch across the sky in a yellowed cap, dwarfing the tiny spindle of the inhabited city. The domes themselves inhabit the upper layers of the atmosphere; where the sun is not completely blocked by the clouds of sulphuric acid, and there is a constant battle between the humans and Venus to keep them functional as high winds, collisions and the very fact the atmosphere is acid, destroy the delicate structures. But besides this they perform their function, and a lot of the oxygen produced is pumped into the atmosphere for the terraforming effort.

Bellow the domes is suburbia, (and it is interesting to note that status on Venus is often defined just by how light and high your housing block is, as this is directly proportional to the amount of empty space you have to spare) this is a diverse neighbourhood, with communal parks, council tenements and huge mansions, all jostling for position amid the crowed skies. There are walkways and train lines connecting the various neighbourhoods, though these are more mutable than people would like to admit, and so Venus brings new meaning to being confined to your neighbourhood as it is at the very least inconvenient to go hopping habitats, especially as you can’t be sure they will be there next time you look.

Further down is the commercial district, this is more mundane and far more solid state than the upper rejoins and in the centre it is farily hard to tell you aren’t just in a terrestrial city. Extra terraces and buildings usually just being added on to the existing spire when room is needed for expansion, though it isn’t unheard of a second district being built in parallel to the first. Right at the bottom you have the, literal, heavy industry though this is quite scarce on Venus due to the lack of heavy elements. Most of the foundries are  actually atmospheric, taking in carbon dioxide and either pumping it up to the bio-domes, or splitting it for the carbon.

Mines do exist on Venus, though they are mostly confined to mountains where the entire operations doesn’t need to be so reinforced against pressure, and so most of the metal actually arrives via space and there are one or two captured asteroids in orbit for just such a purpose. Venus also has its own mag-rail launch site, which has been best described as a ring with a load of hot air balloons attached to it. Half a mile down and at the base of two superconducting rails there is the official space port and it is one of the more solid pieces of land on the whole planet as it is reinforced by grav’ panels. When launching a ship the balloons are inflated fully and the station rises into the upper atmosphere, the ship is then fired by the rails, the buoyancy of the station prevents kickback somewhat and, even with Venus’ thick atmosphere, most ships with streamlining can reach escape velocity.

Random Fact: Venus is also using a biological terraforming method where trillions of genetically modified bacteria are released into the atmosphere. These are specially tailored to photosynthesise out the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, exist in low nutrient/high acidity environment and can even alter their own buoyancy to find pockets of moisture. They have not yet reached levels where they significantly affect the planet’s biosphere however.

Author’s Comment: Now, I like Venus, mostly because of the airborne cities and some day I’m going to have to write something set on the planet as it even has room for literal air ships. It is actually quite ironic that for a location I like so much and have put so much thought into that it isn’t really mentioned in any the book plots as of yet.

Stupid Venus. Be more important!

Earth

Earth is the centre of the Sol system, home to roughly five and a half billon people, (which is just over half of the total human population) it is the major driving force behind the Vast Worlds economy and the keystone of human existence.

By 2100 Earth has changed a lot, and very little at the same time, as it is rather like comparing 2009 to 1909. There have been no truly earth shattering events, humanity has so far avoided World War Three (though not for lack of trying), and there is still poverty and destitution, just not the same kind you see today. There have been some large and obvious changes though; five equatorial space elevators thread their way towards geostationary orbit, each owned in part by the major factions. Hypersonic trains lace the surface (which has more or less killed the aviation industry) and the country side has become more and more remote as the cities become denser and global population falls.

You’ve may noticed that 2100 Earth has a lower population than 2000; this is due to several mass migrations sponsored by the various factions and has majorly altered the economics of Earth. For example, farmland is fairly plentiful, this is of course not uniform but the amount of crops required is far bellow Earth’s capacity, and even so there are major orbiting farms providing additional food for anyone who desires. Population density has also skyrocketed; partly this is due to the sheer infeasibility of being a commercial farmer, but also because the exeunt of a good number of workers and the construction of mega-structures such as the London Arcology or the Streets of New York. Suburbia has in many cases, just been moved above the offices, or to the newly renovated inner-city districts, and there are many publicly and privately funded efforts to increase population density as it is excellent for the economy and reduces humanities footprint on Earth.

Speaking of which, our environmental impact has, rather quietly, become neutral. Mass deforestation, landfill and strip-mining, have all become things of the past, though not because of any particular feeling of civic duty, it is just now cheaper to recycle and mine asteroids. This has actually caused some problems for the terrestrial economy, minerals are cheep, crude oil is rarely used and automated manufacturing has been on a meteoric rise for decades, so centring the global market on scarcity of resources is troublesome. There are areas where scarcity is king, stellar imports or just parts for space travel are horrendously expensive, and extremely modern goods, or those complex in concept are too highly priced and prized.

This is probably best summed up as a very sharp poverty gap, goods such as refrigerators, run of the mill cars, even basic housing are all very cheep (comparatively) where as more exotic items are well out of common reach. A roll up computer will set you back a good few month’s wages, for example, and Theemim Ever-Lamps are currently the must have item for the rich and idle.

Politically, the planet is divided into eight blocks, and six major factions. The factions are: America, The British Commonwealth, Russia, China, New Inca and the African Middle eastern Alliance (AMA for short) and the EU and Japan are still in existence, though not on the same level as the super blocks. I’ll go into the details of the politics and such at a later date as it’s its own topic, same for the formation of these powers, but suffice to say that, while each controls a significant proportion of the global economy, none have the power to challenge the others directly. While this is not quite a cold war, there is friction, and where there is friction there is plot.

Random Fact: In 2100 no species on record has gone extinct in twenty years. Give the environmentalists a cheer!

Author’s Comment: This is no where near everything there is on Earth, but there is a finite limit on what I can say before I it becomes its own sub-section. On the too do list is the political situation, average living conditions and a few special cases, such as the London Arcology. Feel free to ask any questions though?

Luna

Luna is the shipping name used for Earth’s largest satellite in Vast Worlds, mostly as calling it, and a dozen other stellar bodies ‘The Moon’ was giving mission control a headache. Actually, its occupants have adopted the name Lunans for talking about themselves in recent years, but mostly because the alternative is Moon Men.

Much to the surprise of many of the extra-solar visitors to Earth, who grew up with the traditional image of the silvery orb, Luna actually has an atmosphere. A thin one admittedly, with completely the wrong mix for human (far too much water vapour and no where near enough oxygen) and a pressure usually reserved for the taller mountains. Never the less, there is a serviceable colony on the satellite, not to mention a few proto-seas, and quite a few corporations, such as Noble Ship Building and The Cray Group use it as a resource extraction site, and in some cases a full ships are built in the lower gravity.

Ironically, one of its biggest uses is also its biggest failing. Luna gravity is about a sixth of that of Earth and this means that for anyone living on the surface, gravity panels are a necessity to stave off all sorts low g’ illnesses. Pre-derelict, this was countered with special grav’ towers, or ‘the whirling terrors’ as they were often known. These days though, people just pay their gravity bill and get on with it which does take some of the mystique from living on a moon. Given how expensive it is to run a gravity panel 24/7 though, not all areas are panelled, and certainly places like farmland and wilderness parks are left to their own devices. There is a small industry on the satellite to develop technologies that will work regardless of the local gravity-well, and several corporations on Altair are kept running by re-designing organisms to work in Luna gravity.

The population is small by Vast Worlds levels, at about twenty five million spread across a large number of smallish settlements, and this has a rather Western bent as the colony is mostly supported by the EU and to a lesser extent The Commonwealth and Russia. Luna is actually a little off the common trade lanes, due to some of the jump drive’s eccentricities you can’t actually make a jump from Earth to Luna, but you can, say, go from Mars to Luna. This leads to it often being ignored on any actual routes as it takes roughly three days to reach, where as the other planets take between a week and a fortnight depending on the positioning.

Random Fact: Luna actually has a rather extensive museum built around the Apollo 11 landing site.

Authors Comment: It is strange, but I can rarely remember just what inspired me to create any particular setting. Luna’s different. It all stems from the wonder of looking up into the night’s sky, and seeing a small blue-green moon.

Mars

Mars is the colony of choice for the Sol system; huge crowds flocked to emigrate to the red planet when it was first offered as a destination, including a surprising number of Americans. It has a significantly lower gravity than is comfortable, but otherwise it is a near perfect blank slate, with ample supplies of materials, water, and to some extent sunlight. There are some problems with getting the deuterium for fusion as water has to be literally mined but otherwise it is just a slightly bouncier Earth.

The terraforming effort progresses slowly, mostly due to it being used as a test case for many different methods. The spectacularly unsuccessful space based mirror, designed to focus sunlight on the poles and so release water into the atmosphere, drained the young colonies’ budget and it has only recently moved to more mechanical methods of changing the climate. These include the carbon foundries, mining, refining, and releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, and the polar furnaces, vast fusion powered facilities that pump heat into the surrounding soil and boil the ice. These gasses travel into the atmosphere, and will eventually raise the levels high enough that single celled life can be supported and this, one day, means that biological terraforming methods can be used.

Until then though, Mars has stopped being the red planet, and, due to the small but significant level of moisture in the atmosphere, is now just the muddy planet, or sometimes the redneck planet. The social structure is rather diverse, with a few large cites, with satellite towns and finally thousands of small domes spread in a fairly random pattern around the equator of the planet. The central government is mostly democratic, with a strong western bent, as American or Americanised residents make up about two thirds of the global population, which is itself about one hundred and fifty million.

Like Luna, Martian cities are all grav’ panelled and there is a strong bent towards heavy industry as it too is an easy gravity well to escape. The rapidly growing population supports massive trade to the planet, bringing finished goods, foods and other vital supplies to the planet and there is some concern that the colony is not actually self sufficient and would starve if cut off from its trade lanes.

Random Fact: Mars is the only planet other than Earth to have environmentalists, and deep in the vaults of several research centres are frozen preserves of the native microorganisms. There is some pressure to stop the planet being terraformed, but this is mostly drowned up by the people who’d like to breath.

Author’s Comment: Not much to say on Mars, it is one of the larger colonies, but so closely tied to that of Earth and Sol that it falls within the same banner much of the time. Not to mention that, as most of my plots take place in interstellar scales, it often gets ignored in favour of Earth as a setting.

The Asteroid Belt

The Belt is far more complex than anyone really gives any credit for. A myriad of mining claims, refineries and small colonies dot the thousands of objects that make up the belt and it is one of the administrative nightmares of modern times. People will generally only go to the belt for three reasons: they want to get rich, they want to break the law or they want to become lost, and sometimes they try for more than one at once.

Mining, therefore, is a risky business, far be it from actually being a simple process anyway and, while the belt is not as dense as some would have you believe, it is sufficiently isolated that most ships run armed as a precaution. The actual threat of being boarded has dropped like a rock over recent years, due to the ongoing war on piracy, but it is traditional for even merchant shipping to own weaponry, though with the control laws so strict, and not having been updated for about twenty years, these guns can rarely penetrate the modern hulls without some ‘modifications’.

The larger corporations have several roving foundries, some larger than the asteroids themselves, refining the detritus in the belt for export, but there is also an old habit of attaching rockets to the rocks and firing them gently into terrestrial orbit, a practice that has been on the way out recently due to the bad PR more than any actual risks. Smaller, private, mining efforts are more traditional, with the classic drill bit method and then carting the rocks for refining, and the corporate vessels form their own local hub for the independents in this regard.

There is a lot of legal preamble that goes along with the asteroid belt and ownership, but I won’t go into that, mostly because I don’t understand enough about law to really model it properly, not to mention it would probably be phenomenally boring. Never the less, there is very much a, it’s mine unless you’re willing to do something about it, attitude among the belters and skirmishes do break out on occasion, though this is much rarer now that it was in the golden days.

Colonies in the belt are no where near as developed as the planetary ones, being purely private funded ventures. They ironically have a far more complete biosphere than the governmental ones, but most would just say a hollowed out cave lined with grav’ panels does not constitute an ecosystem. These colonies are technically independent nations, with no particular ties to any faction, and no faction is particularly interested in them as they constitute no tactical or economic advantage. The larger of these colonies tend to either be aspirational settlements or tax havens and there has been much debate and tension over the latter of these two.

Random Fact: One of the 2100 leads, Gale Paget, is technically a resident of one of the larger asteroids. She’s never actually set foot on the place, and could only just find it if pressed, but technically she is a resident.

Authors Comment: Another area that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves, and most of my out of system Vast Worlds characters haven’t even heard of the place. Maybe I should set some short stories here.

The Giants

Jupiter and Saturn are generally lumped into one category in Vast Worlds, both have large complicated gravity wells, more moons than anyone knows what to do with and in the case of Saturn, a huge ring of space ship puncturing debris. This is why they tend to get ignored by the general populous, some of the moons are habitable and house small colonies, and orbital deuterium refineries skim the surface, but little trade occurs, save for the hydrogen tankers.

Mostly this occurs because the moons make the planets a navigation hazard. Jumping in is okay, usually you can plot a nice safe entry point a good few hours from the planet and then fall the rest of the way. Any closer though is a risk because it is quite easy to overshoot and end up much deeper into the gravity well than you thought. This is rarely fatal though, as most ships carry enough thrust to pull away, or at least push themselves into a sling orbit, but expensive if you mess up. Leaving the planets is much harder, the large central gravity well and multiple orbiting moons makes the jump calculations complicated to say the least, and most ships will be delayed for weeks while they work out the optimum, or they’ll just burn fuel and make the first hundred thousand kilometres slower than light, which is not a preferred option for most captains.

Because of this, bother Jupiter are Saturn are quite isolated, even more so than the asteroid belt ironically, and for any serious interstellar travel people will go to Neptune and Uranus. Thus, most of the assets in-well are corporate, save for a couple semi legal of mining rigs and a few orbiting habitats. None of the moons are colonised except for a few mining and re-supply bases for the rigs, all in all, quite a boring place to visit, though far more exciting and treacherous if you happen to live on said rigs.

Actually, as there isn’t much else to talk about, I might as well say a few words on the rigs. From their name you may infer that they are quite like terrestrial oil rigs, though due to the gap between the decline of the oil industry and the rise of deuterium the old sea based designs were largely glossed over as irrelevant. Ironic really seeing just how much cross over there is, both are a large, isolated, industrial complexes stuck in an overtly hostile environment. Deuterium rigs are a little more complicated as they rely on lifting gasses to keep from plummeting, and need to be navigated to the pockets of the best deuterium, and need to have their own life support systems, but at heart the principal is the same.

Random Fact: Europa is technically a wildlife reserve.

Authors Note: These areas do actually pick up a bit by 2200, with the increased computational power allowing people to jump in and out more easily, but for now they’re fairly boring.

Neptune and Uranus

Commonly used as the interstellar staging ground Neptune and Uranus are the trade hubs for the Sol system, boasting significantly reduced numbers of moons compared to the inner giant and less interference from the suns own gravity well. Also, as gaseous planets, ships can refuel for the interstellar jump, and small refineries dot the planet’s surface for just this purpose.

Again, these worlds aren’t fascinating, as they are for all intents and purposes truck-stops, mostly used by anyone going interstellar, and at this point they have not become busy enough to really warrant their own eccentricities. A few random statistics would not be particularly impressive without some frame of reference, but the equivalent of a modern container ship jumps interstellar from the Sol system on average every hour, and this is about half of the hourly total for every inhabited world. Not all of these vessels actually stop at the stations (Radiant Three and Four respectively), but a significant amount of traffic docks, and the very beginnings of trader bars are visible, though the concept of dingy bar welded to a old leaky outpost wont come to fruition for about one hundred and fifty years yet.

In addition to the slowly sprawling starbases, Radiant Industries also provides a gravitational satellite web, which plots all the various orbits of the local moons, fluctuations in the magnetic corona and the current stellar alignment. For a price this grid can be tapped and vital data acquired, which can cut the jump processing times by days, proving that even in space you can build a road. This grid, and the fact you can use a gravitational sling shot off the various stellar bodies, is one of the primary reasons people come to the outer planets, as it theoretically is possible to do a system jump to thirty AUs or so, and then realign with thrust for the interstellar leap, this does use significantly more fuel though.

Random Fact: Radiant Four is the first location captured in the ‘independence war’.

Authors Note: I promise these will be big some day. City sized big. But for now they are motorway service stations. It’s a shame really, but that’s what I get for setting the story at the beginnings of human expansion, rather than when the infrastructure is more established.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: