Interstellar travel in Antares

Following demand, Tim Bancroft put together some background on the details of interstellar travel through the Antares Nexus. These were collated into three articles, all of which are collected below.

In general, it can take a few days to travel to and from the Antares Gate in a system. In our our system, the gate would be around 40AU distance (just about outside Pluto), but for dimmer stars, the Gate Horizon is much, much closer and for brighter stars, further away – so the system-side journey takes longer.  Despite the Antares machine, travel between the stars is still a lengthy, and sometimes dangerous, process: travel within the gate can take anything from hours to weeks or even months (though fixed for each gate), and then travel over the Antarean surface to the destination gate can take hours or days – with an elapsed time over 10 times longer in the real world than the traveller experiences!

Part 1 – The Holiday of a Lifetime

Interstellar travel using the gates of Antares is both fascinating and dangerous. The sentience that is the Antares transdimensional engine tickles the imagination of any vaguely curious citizen of the PanHuman Concord. The simple fact is that anyone can board a starship at their local orbital and, within weeks, be tens of thousands of light years away – and perhaps tens of thousands of years in the past, as well.

If an individual has an adventurous outlook the IMTel will happily feed the individual’s curiosity and encourage such a trip. After all, anyone brave enough to face the surface temperature of an altered, giant star and travel at noticeable fractions of the speed of light is someone who may be of particular use to the Concord, its Mandarins and the pan-galactic nanosphere that comprises the machine intelligence that is IMTel.

To answer questions about what such interstellar travel entails, it may be worth following one such traveller as he satisfies his curiosity and uses such a means of travel. In our case, the subject is Dorun Metarl, a young man on his first trip through the Antares nexus from his home system of Salah to a neighbouring system, Neyala. Both stars are deep in the heart of Concord territory, so are safe worlds from which star travel is, perhaps, the most risky endeavour a young citizen can undergo.

Salah is a G5 star with an average quota of rocky and dwarf planets as well as a trio of gas giants. One of the planets, Salah III, sits in the star’s goldilocks zone and is a delightful paradise. Dorun lives on a large orbital lying in Salah III’s L6 Lagrange point as it orbits its host.

Dorun grew up being fascinated by Antares, learning all he could about the ancient machine. In the Salah system, Antares can be seen around lying at -11° to the plane of the ecliptic. Like everywhere else in the galaxy, Antares appears to be  red giant sitting around 550 light years from Salah and approximately 800 times the size of Salah itself.

The facts, however, are very different. Antares is 258 standard astronomical units (SAU) in circumference and roughly 41 SAU in radius, more than ten times larger than its apparent size suggests. In getting to grips of interstellar sizes, Dorun automatically uses the ancient term ‘SAU’, though he is aware the fact that an SAU is thought to be based on the orbit of one of the original planets of humanity. Indeed, the IMTel encourages the use of that and other terms that bring stellar measurements into the grasp of human understanding.

Dorun packs everything he needs into a small compression case, knowing that what he does not take can be quickly fabricated by the fabricators aboard the ship. Before boarding his passenger liner, he stares at it from one of the orbital’s viewing chambers: the liner is a brick-like slab around 5km long by a kilometre high and 1.5 kilometres wide, though surface features and docked vessels make it resemble a heavily cratered asteroid.

The liner is dual purpose, having both a permanent citizenry and crew as well as a little cargo and passengers on holiday.  Its name is displayed clearly along its flanks in hundred-metre high lettering: The Holiday of a Lifetime. Dorun cannot help but be amused by the ship’s primary AI demonstrating a sense of humour.

Dorun boards via an orbital transmat, just like everyone else. It has to be one of the more powerful orbital transmat stations as neither the ship nor the orbital wish to be too close to each other. Once on board the Holiday, he has to be guided by the IMTel to his ‘cabin’. Despite the 1.5 million passengers, residents and crew on board, his cabin is a spacious apartment with plenty of storage space: after all, compression fields keep everything out of the way until it is needed.

But Dorun does not sit in his apartment and makes his way to one of the forward observation lounges. There are not as many here as might be thought: there are still those who feel that accelerations of 160G and cruising velocities of SOL 10 (1/10th of the speed of light) are dangerous. But our adventurous youngster is confident in the proven capabilities of the liner’s gravitic annihilation drive and the bubble of protection it projects around the ship. Further, the IMTel’s insistence that such liners do not exceed SOL 10 in-system means that the GAD field is barely stressed and the kinetic shields can easily cope with almost any stray particle they may encounter.

The ship kindly announces they are on their way – a necessity as acceleration is an anticlimax, the ship reaching its full capability within moments and with no one feeling any change in the gravity onboard. This is because the GA field is deliberately misaligned to project a single gravity perpendicular to the liners deck alignment, a common feature on all human vessels.

The liners course takes it slightly below the plane of ecliptic to avoid the crowded inner system. Dorun has to ask the ship to point out the other planets as they pass through their orbits, the ship reaching its maximum permitted velocity in a little over five hours. The ship will cruise at this velocity for the best part of two days as the gate horizon is just under 36 SAU away from the Salah primary. Further, before entering the gate it has to decelerate to the Gate Transition Velocity, the speed at which an Antarean gate will permit a ship to enter the trans-dimensional tunnel that transports the ship to Antares itself. Compared with the ship’s cruising velocity of SOL 10, and top intra-system velocity of SOL 13.6, the maximum Gate Transition Velocity of SOL Decimal Zero One (SOL 0.01, or 1/10,000 the speed of light) seems pedestrian though is still almost 108 thousand kilometres per hour.

Dorun’s ship will enter the gate at approximately SOL Decimal Zero Zero One, both for safety purposes and to ensure its passengers get the best view of a transition into an Antarean tunnel. The ship sends the entry key and the gate appears, a void of dark in the background of stars. The gate pulls the ship into the tunnel and the stars are replaced by a bright sheath of swirling and coiling colours and light around the ship: the inside of the tunnel itself. The Salah tunnel is short, only around 30 hours long, but there is little to see other than become mesmerised by the ever-shifting patterns and light. Dorun has little to see or do but make use of the many entertainments onboard – it is a liner, after all.

Dorun is once more in the viewing lounge when the ship exits the tunnel onto the surface of Antares. The transition is sudden: from the chaotic swirl of colours and light in the tunnel to the orange, yellow and white of the surface of Antares. Immediately after exit, the ship accelerates to the maximum safe, Antarean surface velocity, also SOL Decimal One, and Dorun thinks he can see the plasma flows as the wash around the ship, kept at bay by the GA fields and heat shields. The temperature outside is somewhere around 3,000°, slightly cooler than might be expected of a real star the same size that Antares seems to be, but the surface gravity of the star-cum-machine that is Antares is less than a thousandth of a single gravity.

For Dorun, this is where things become interesting. He has been travelling for almost 85 hours in real time, though the time dilation effects of the trip to the gate horizon meant it was around 18 minutes less for him. Within the Antarean Nexus, however, time is slowed considerably: for each hour Dorun travels towards the Neyala gate, 5.7 hours will have passed in his home system. Neyala is an average Antarean surface distance away, or 14 million kilometres, so the journey will take only thirteen hours from Dorun’s perspective. In Salah, however, roughly three days will pass for these thirteen hours and on his return, Dorun will have missed almost a weeks worth of news.

The same is true between all 2.4 million gates currently on the surface of Antares. Ships travelling between gates on Antares’ surface may seem to have a journey of a few days to a nearby system, but will find that a round trip has taken several months or so. The deeper a ship travels beneath the surface of Antares, the more this becomes a problem: not only are gates further apart but the time dilation effect is even more acute, perhaps even as high as 11:1. More strangely, ships can travel vertically at higher velocities than they can laterally – an artefact of Antare’s positional sensors, no doubt – which means that a dive to the depths adds little to the lateral journey time. However, travel to the depths is necessary as there are another 3 million gates in the strange, extended photosphere that is the warped, Antarean star-machine.

Dorun’s journey continues when the Holiday enters the Nayala gate, and he is once more in the forward lounge to watch the transition. There are fewer watching, now, as many were disappointed with the lack of drama on the original gate transitions. The tunnel to Nayala has a long transit time of around three days (just over 70 hours). Luckily for Dorun, there is plenty of space, learning and entertainment opportunities and he takes advantage of them all.

Once again, Dorun is in the observation lounge when the liner exits the Nayala system-side gate. Like other, he marvels at the different constellations in the stars around him and has the ship throw up information on each planet as they pass its orbit. The trip from the Gate Horizon to Nayala II, the habitable planet, takes just over 50 hours with the ship conforming to the IMTel’s strict safety limits.

It scarcely matters whether or not Dorun disembarks at Nayala II or not as he has taken his first giant step into the universe: he is around 6,700 light years away from his home on Salah, and can only see his home star through an orbital telescope. As far as he is concerned, his total travel time has been approximately 217 hours, or about nine days, as compared with the thousands of years the trip would have taken in real space. However, despite the nine days travel time Dorun experienced, the best part of two weeks will have elapsed on Salah. Normally, this would not be of concern to anyone, but Dorun intends to return to his homeworld and, when he does so, it will be as if he has travelled five days into the future.

Dorun’s return this far inside Concord space is as uneventful as his outward journey. For now, though, the IMTel remains patient, waiting to see if Dorun’s wanderlust has been satisfied. If he takes to the time-lapse and the strange nature of interstellar travel, the IMTel may even recommend he tries out as an interstellar crewman, perhaps an explorer or even train to be a trooper in the elite defensive force that is the Concord Combined Command. Dorun’s vacation on the The Holiday of a Lifetime may well lead to a new life.

But only time – and the IMTel – will tell.

Map of Antares surface
Political map of Antares surface

Part 2 – Concord Survey and Synchronisation Services

We’ll continue with Dorun’s later career, a few years after he has joined the survey corps of the PanHuman Concord. He has been trained in exploration techniques, sensors management, shipboard maintenance, piloting and interstellar navigation, the perils and science of Antares and has finally been given command of a small survey ship. His task? Lead his small, 5-person crew to search for new gates – shipping hazards – within the boundaries of the PanHuman Concord’s sphere of influence on the surface of Antares.

Exploration and scouting of new gates is a necessity, both to defend against the emergence of possible enemies and for ideological reasons – that is, to bring new citizens into the embrace of the IMTel. It has only been 1,300 years since the Antares started rebuilding the gate network but, in that time, gate scientists estimate it has reconnected over 5.5 million gates: an average of over 4,000 a year.

These gates can be created anywhere, not just on the ‘edges’ of the Concord’s sphere of influence as the Antares machine itself does not recognise the existence of artificial borders – though there are areas, ‘voids’, where gate creation is sparse. To ensure the safety of travellers, survey ships have to patrol the regular routes across Antares surface so that any new gate can be identified and, if necessary, have IMTel reroute the traffic between existing gates.

There is a subtle difference between scouts, or the survey, and explorers. The survey’s scouts are those who track new gates, check they are viable and then determine what lies beyond the gate. In contrast, Freeborn or Boromite explorers go much further into a new system in an attempt to determine if it is worth exploiting. In contrast, Isorian and Concord explorers are merely the first wave of the IMTel’s efforts to bring a new system under its protection – the Concord Cultural Normalisation Service (CCNS) and the Isorian’s more sinister Senatex Stabilisation and Inculturation Corps (SSIC).

For now, Dorun is a survey scout commander. This involves travelling around the accessible Antares photosphere looking for the broadcast signals of new gates. Here, ‘accessible’ is the key word as the Antares photosphere is very different to many other giant stars, extending at least 2 SAU (standard astronomical units) below the surface. Gates can be found anywhere in the photosphere, but are always spaced so they do not intertwine with the twisting tunnels of other gates. The tunnels’ effect on the fabric of Antares being seen as ghostly trails leading up (or down) into the heart of the star-machine.

It is well-known that gates broadcast a faint signal to advertise their location, so at the higher depths a new gate is relatively easy to find, though its signal does not travel far before becoming drowned in the noise of other gates and the background static of Antares itself. For convenience, however, gate scientists have divided the depths at which a gate resides into 16 levels below the surface, each around 150,000 km (30ky) deep. Level-1 is the highest whilst Level-16 is the deepest at around 2.4m km beneath the surface.

There is a problem in exploring gates at the lower depths. The feared critical depth starts around level 9, though in places can start much deeper than that. Not only are the plasma flows and storms more dangerous and erratic at the deeper levels, but the gates are spaced further apart. So whilst there may be around two and a half million gates on the surface, Level-16 is thought to only play host to a few thousand. The advantage, of course, is that with fewer gates their signals can be detected further away; the disadvantage is that a ship may be destroyed before it finds a new gate.

The key to opening the gate is a well-known variation on the signal it broadcasts to announce its whereabouts. But when a survey ship like Dorun’s finds a new gate, its crew does not immediately transmit the signal and enter the tunnel. The problem is that each tunnel has a different transit time that varies from a few hours to many days – or perhaps forever. It seems that some tunnels loop back on themselves so that a ship may enter the gate only to find itself forever travelling along a tunnel that never seems to terminate. No one knows if such tunnels may, eventually, spit out their cargo but, on the other hand, no one really wants to risk their life on such a venture.

So Dorun’s first task is to launch a probe or two through the gate and wait for it to return. The gate probes are fairly intelligent drones equipped with basic sensor equipment and some thrusters. The probes’ task is to pop out the gate at the other end, determine if no immediate threats are in the vicinity, then return through the gate to hand over their newly-acquired data to the scout ship.

If the gate seems viable, Dorun will take his 120 metre long scout ship through the tunnel and into the target system. At 120m long, his ship is quite small but it only has space for five crew (the larger explorer ships are up to 175m with orbit-to-ground shuttles and exploration vehicles). What takes most of the space on such scout ships is not just fuel, provisions and a battery of probes for extended voyages, but also extensive sensor arrays, powerful gravitic annihilation (GA) drives and additional shielding and armour to protect the ship on its journey at all depths around Antares.

Having arrived in a new system, Dorun has his crew make an extensive survey, trying to detect any signs of intelligent life and tracking any major asteroids and planets in the system. The position of known signal stars are mapped. The ship’s machine intelligence then tries to match up the system with an extensive database of systems from previous ages and, very often, the system is identified as one that has been ‘reconnected’ to the network. Occasionally, however, a completely new system is found and the crews of survey ships are often given the privilege of naming the new system – with the advice of the IMTel, of course.

It would be a very rare occasion for Dorun to pilot his survey ship further into a system but, occasionally, it might be necessary. Some gates, for example, connect to systems that have giant stars at their core: in such cases the gate can be hundreds of SAU away from the star so a closer look might be needed to identify the system or find signs of life – it is at times like these that the survey ship’s fast GA drives are most needed to shorten the journey times. Other gates may connect to complex binary or ternary star systems, in which case scientific assessments need to be taken for later follow-ups by scientific research and exploration teams. Nonetheless, Dorun spends very little time in each system he discovers (or rediscovers). As soon as a survey ship finds a system, it has to take the news to the local IMTel for dissemination across the Concord. This, of course, may take months, perhaps years, but locally the map of each gate is as accurate as the Concord can make it.

Dorun loves the travel, however, and does not mind being on his own – traits first identified by the IMTel years ago on that first cruise. His own scout ship is called the Holiday Horizon, a name some find somewhat corny but which has a special meaning for Dorun. The Horizon is 120m long. It has an IMTel-connected machine intelligence (MI), of course – its controlling, electronic ‘brain’ – as well as a range of buddy drones. It also has excellent, comfortable facilities to ensure the small crew remain sane and well looked-after. The ship carries a huge historical, astronomical and archaeological memory bank as well as an array of compacted scout probes.

We have already mentioned the ship’s defences, most of which are meant to protect it from gate travel. However, the ship’s GA drive fields and massive acceleration (up to 200G on Concord scouts, 220G on Isorian) is a useful protection, allowing a safe velocity of almost SOL 13 along a system’s dangerous, ecliptic plane, but the fields and enhanced, anti-asteroid kinetic shielding can also function as defence against attack if the need arises. Offensively, however, the ship has only a few automated plasma weapons which can also function as anti-asteroid defences when the ship is drifting system-side of a gate and performing sensor sweeps.

Periodically, of course, the ship has to call in to a known Concord maintenance depot for refueling and taking on convertible mass for its small fabricators. At such times, the drives and armour are also checked to ensure they can continue to withstand the storms of Antares: being a scout is a risky job but the IMTel does not wish it to be more dangerous that it has to be.

Overall, though, Dorun is proud of his ship and its crew and has a good relationship with its AI. Concord scout ships have far better drives than Algoryn (at 150G and SOL 11) or Boromite (100G and SOL 9). Further, his scout ship can quickly outrun any Ghar he encounters – though he is highly unlikely to encounter Ghar so deep in Concord space – as the fastest Ghar ship tops out at 55G and can only be run at SOL 8 along the plane of ecliptic before its GA fields risk being breached.

For Dorun, though, all this is academic as he operates far from the Determinate and its empires and petty kingdoms: his only real risk is rediscovering an ancient system that might just still play host to a dangerous civilisation – any Ghar left from previous ages are likely to have exhausted and polluted the system’s resources. So Dorun’s exploration activities are relatively safe, fascinating and exciting. For him, it is the perfect life, a career recommended to him by the IMTel.

Dorun knows the IMTel has his needs at heart.

Part 3 – Too Many Stars to Count

During his service on the survey, Dorun will have encountered a huge variety of the Concord’s own ships but has also been close to the Isorian Senatex and the troublesome area known as the Determinate. Here, he has encountered some of the ships mentioned in the upcoming Antares supplements and short stories (all categorised under ‘Fiction’).

Antares Surface Map, Icohex format
Antares Icohex Surface Map

As far as Dorun can tell, there is no standard design for Concord ships, each system producing them through their nanoconstructors as required for their own needs or whims.  The Concord Survey shard is something else: it has a fleet of scout ships, shuttles, maintenance stations and auxiliaries that roughly match the same, core design specifications.

The same holds true for the Concord Combined Command: there are a wide range of core ship designs that helps the IMTel plan its defence and know just what it can expect from each ship class. Beyond that, however, each system has its own twist in terms of design variants, look, feel and specialised capabilities: the variance depends on just how differentiated the shipyard’s shard was from the core C3 nanosphere when the ship was built (nanosphere differences being quickly ironed out once the ship travels to different star systems).

Of course, some factions have distinct design elements. The Algoryn have a tendency for boxy, angular designs as seen in the vehicles (there is no truly civilian, Algoryn ship) and tend to have larger ships in a given class because of their Ghar-resistant design parameters. The organic feel of the advanced Isorian design is reflected in their own ships which, like the Concord, are also heavily controlled by advanced machine intelligences and artificial minds.

Whilst they normally use Freeborn for travel and cargo services, some Boromite clans possess functional ore carriers and clan ships that have been passed down through generations. Indeed, a Boromite clan ship is constantly upgraded and modified, sometimes considered as much a home to the clan as a Freeborn’s Home Fleet is to them. A few Boromite clans have small, dedicated mercenary transports but, on the whole, it is far more convenient and cost-effective to charter or hitch a ride on a Freeborn vessel to travel to their destination.

The Freeborn, of course, use whatever designs they can trade for, often choosing the most efficient (from their perspective) but modifying them to ensure the final product can take whatever merchandise may turn up. Even within the Senatex and Concord, freeborn ships travel between systems providing everything from mail services to ore carrier and passenger travel. In such roles, an individual Freeborn captain is likely to refurbish an older ship as being a more economically efficient solution – until the maintenance costs mount up, that is. It is worth noting that the Freeborn offer scheduled and chartered inter-system travel far more than any other civilisation, frequently offering space on their own liners and carriers to roving workers such as the Boromites or even to travellers like Dorun.

So whilst there are overall design tendencies and aesthetics for each faction, there are no typical ship designs. The most efficient design, however, is one that matches the shape of the drive field: an oblate spheroid (think of an American football or rugby ball). This means that there are a large number of ships that are wider in the centre and which taper off to sensor masts, thrusters or narrower bodies at the end. But this is not a limiting design factor as the drive field can be flattened to support ships that have a brick-like shape. Further, some ship designs do not bother using all the available space within a drive field as the designers often have more than enough space to ensure that flimsy or easily damaged parts of the ship are left out of the design or are well protected.

So, almost anything goes as far as ship designs go. We can, though, group ships into general classifications and look at what they are capable of in terms of travel – that is, after all, what Dorun is most interested in.

Starship Capabilities

We already know Dorun’s own scoutship is of a general survey class around 120m long (24 yan) and is equipped with an exceptional sensor array as well as a large number of compacted probes. Slightly more capable explorer ships of up to 175m long are sent in to take a closer look at systems that scouts have identified, and their crew is around eight strong, though they can take a few passengers at a pinch. Both the scouts and explorers have gravitic drives capable of around 200G acceleration and can reach SOL 15 within the plane of a system (15% of the speed of light) without having the drive field dangerously penetrated by debris. Again, IMTel prefers to stay well within the safety margins and limit such ships to SOL 10.

There are faster ships in Concord service, however. The C3’s forward interceptor ships can reach acceleration of up to 220G and almost SOL 16 in the plane of ecliptic. The latest design equivalent ships of the Isorian Senatex peak at 240G and around SOL 16.6. Both ship types considerably shorten the time from the gate horizon to an inner-system planet. The equivalent Algoryn ship is larger and more powerful, but tops out at around 145G and SOL 13.

Such speeds are almost meaningless until they are compared with the most common foe: the Ghar. The drives of the Ghar are far less efficient than those of humanity, especially as they do not (cannot) rely on complex machine intelligences to control the fields and drive output. Combat vessels of the Ghar Empire can only support acceleration up to 40G (55G for their fastest scout vessels) and just over SOL zero seven  in-system. Ghar transports and auxiliaries are even slower, seldom reaching SOL zero six and incapable of anything above 30G acceleration (which is still three to five times more than it would take to kill a human without some form of GA drive). This means that the ships of the human civilisations could even overtake a Ghar vessel they are pursuing to reach an inner-system planet before the attacking Ghar reach it – providing they can get to the gate within a few hours of the Ghar, that is. Even an old Boromite clan ship or mercenary vessel is almost twice as fast as a Ghar combat vessel!

Even at their slowest, such incredible velocities and accelerations show why combat is normally focused on gate horizons and planets or objects of strategic importance within a star system. Space combat at such velocities is considerably slower, at a maximum of gate transition velocities and often even orders of magnitude slower at SOL decimal zero one (1/10,000 of the speed of light – still incredibly fast). The ‘objects’ on which such combat is focused could be dwarf planets, TORs (Transient Observation Reports) of almost any description, residential orbitals, strange asteroids, or artefacts of alien or Builder origin.

Sample Ships

We’ll move on to a few ships that are used in the fiction to demonstrate their capabilities and size. These range from scout ships of a little over 120m to large liners and home fleet ships tens of kilometres long.

There is a distinctive class of frigates in Concord service that are much-loved by some Freeborn Houses because of their extensive holds and cargo capacity. One of these in Delhren service, the Shamasai Dust of Delhren, is around 300-350m long. Such trading frigates are closer to the Age of Sail ‘cruiser’ concept with marines, such as vardanari, domari and ferals, as well as a regular crew and cargo hold.  This particular frigate has a primary spinal lance as well as plasma- and mag- secondary batteries and X-rails: launchers for a variety of missiles and kinetic spikes. The main problem from a Concord viewpoint, is that the Freeborn’s missile payload is highly variable, such frigates being re-equipped with the Freeborn’s fabled fabricator machines.

There is a rumour about an an Isorian attack drone carrier ship. Though having four machine intelligence cores on board – three in each of its carried combat drones and one in the core carrier, it also has around ten crew. At around 250m long, it looks bulky with all three combat drones onboard as each is around 120m long and capable of carrying a widely varying weapons payload.

We’ve already met the Concord cruise liner The Holiday of a Lifetime, a ship carrying a million or more permanent residents as well as crew and passengers. At approximately 5km long by 1km high and 1.5km wide, it looks a bit like a soft-edged brick with sensors and protrusions all over its body. Freeborn liners might be similar, though would vary in size from 1km upwards depending on how many Freeborn families live permanently onboard and the type of work the ship is expected to undertake – never mind the smaller cargo ships used, perhaps, to transport Boromites, mercenaries or other workers to their new contracts.

The Holiday, though, is nothing like the huge TOR 563. This ancient wreck is rarely seen but drifts through Antarean space, being pulled into systems when it encounters a gate. Its drives have long-ago been disabled by a terrible weapon blast but it is still 20-25km long by about 5km in diameter – a truly gargantuan vessel that just fits into the Antares tunnels.

Such a vessel is dwarfed by the home fleet vessels of the Freeborn vardos. Such ships have some drive capability to keep them in orbit (or to shift their orbit) but can never travel through the Antares nexus, being too big to fit through an Antares gate. The Radiance of Delhren, a diplomatic host vessel, is a lozenge over 40km long by roughly 8-10km square, though its surface features make it resemble anything but a simple brick. Within such a ship are not only living quarters for many different factions and alien species, but also manufacturing plants, repair facilities, space docks and trading spaces as well as gardens, parks and sports arenas.

The Radiance is accompanied in its orbit around the star Delhren III by its even larger host ship, the Vard of Delhren, a ship which provides living and work spaces for the vard, the major Delhren domas, extensive manufacturing plants as well as acting as the home for millions of Delhren. Both the Vard and the Radiance are not so much ships as orbital habitats with some motive power, Freeborn being wary of a state of immobility.

There are even larger ships in and around Antarean space, some being little more than orbitals, whether round a planet or star. Whilst many have artificial gravity, that gravity can be provided by the old-fashioned spin or via low-power gravitic annihilation drives that provide an artificial ‘down’ as well as being able to move the ship or orbital (slowly!) should an emergency crop up.

But what about Ghar vessels? These are built on far more basic principles, avoid suspensor webs and tend not to vary so widely in size. Two troop transports onto which Shaltok was posted, the Bearer of Triumph over Humanity IX and XIV, are from 500m to 1km long and carry a variety of combat landers and dropships. Another heavy cruiser he encounters, one in the Imposition of Triumph class, is somewhere between 2.5-3km long and packed with Ghar quantum generators, missile batteries and disruptor weaponry – this, though, is at the limit of Ghar technology and is almost certainly a vanity vessel, built by the now-deposed Karg.


This is merely the briefest of introduction to starships and spaceships in the Antares universe. The vast expanses of the Concord and Isorian Shard support massive variation of designs. Even the Freeborn houses and Boromite clans vary widely in the type and size of ship they use – the only commonality being that Boromite clanships are designed to travel to their workplace whilst the massive ships of the Freeborn home fleets typically orbit a star. The only faction with anything like a consistent set of designs to its ships is the Algoryn Prosperate, the needs of its military conflict against the Ghar forcing some form of consistency in design.

Even here, though, the need to keep ahead of the Ghar means the Algoryn are constantly looking for new designs, new techniques and new weaponry to give them an edge against their ancient foe.

The ships of Antares are as varied as the millions of gates that make up its universe!

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