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THE Big Setting Thread 
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 THE Big Setting Thread
This setting is based on an unspecified future time frame.

Mankind has begun to expand their reach to the vast emptiness of the space around their home, starting industrial colonies on the moons and planets of the solar system and nearby systems. For long-distance space travel and high-end military craft, hyperspace technologies have been developed to create vehicles which defy conventional physics, allowing faster than light travel and inertialess maneuvers at high speeds. These hyperspace generators take enormous quantities of energy compared to conventional craft, though. Energy usually produced by nuclear reactors which have been developed to be much smaller and safer than previously thought possible.

For travel which does not require FTL speeds or completely inertialess maneuvering, or for crafts that simply lack the necessary energy output to employ hyperspace, the Inertial Field Generator is utilized. Developed before hyperspace, to aid exploration and later colonization of the solar system, the Inertial Field Generator, or IF Generator for short, locks matter in a high energy stasis field while a ship accelerates to close to light speeds, keeping its occupants safe from the dangerous forces of the acceleration, not to mention keeping the ship itself in one piece. The same force protects the ship and crew from stress when the vessel decelerates back down to reasonable speeds or performs high-speed maneuvers. Both are feats which would not have been possible without the IF Generator, prior to the development of the hyperdrive.

The downside to IF Generation, though, is that while the generator is active, the ship, including the generator and crew are essentially frozen. To control how long the field remains active, the system is designed so that only a limited amount of power can be fed to the generator at a given time and after the power is expended the generator shuts down. Some older spacers tell horror stories, which have become urban legends, of early IF crafts who’s generators malfunctioned, staying locked in an active state, their crew locked in stasis, floating senseless in space for all time. Even in the early stages of the technology this was engineered to be impossible though, so this is only an urban myth. Equally frightening, however, was the early crafts which misjudged the amount of power necessary for a jump, or encountered a complication, making the generator shut off prematurely. The results of such a mishap were not pretty, generally ending in the total molecular disintegration of both craft and crew. Luckily, such mistakes are largely a thing of the past.

The highly advanced technology used in all of these ships is still fairly large and bulky, as are the weapons used to protect such vessels. Simply put, when gravity is not an issue to consider, size is rarely an issue either. As all governmental space programs have long since given way to privatized ventures, there isn't a lot of remaining regulation to the travel of the great black void above. For a price comparable to a moderately priced yacht of old, you can be the captain of your own vessel capable of traversing the limits of known space. Not a pricetag most can afford, but low enough to ensure that there's plenty of metal in the sky at any given point. And, when given a certain population in any area, some will inevitably make less than popular life choices. Both criminal organizations and hostile foreign powers threaten the passengers of extraplanetary vessels, where help is so very far away.

The technology that made these ships possible, or even conceivable, is not only used abroad, however. Terrestrial vehicles now sport a number of new innovations, from drive systems based on anti-gravity technology and vectored-thrust and IF Pulse craft capable of stunning aerial acrobatics, to craft which use the earth’s own magnetic field to hold them aloft, much like ancient bullet trains. Some vehicles used mostly in military operations have even evolved to serve multiple roles, converting from aircraft to ground vehicle or watercraft for different operations.

Interplanetary communication is accomplished by one of three means: quantum routed data network, hyperspacial transmission or modified x-ray burst (XBurst) transmission. Quantum routed data networks operate instantaneously through the property of quantum entanglement to transfer data along a sort of internet backbone, however the devices needed for the network are extremely delicate and extremely expensive to manufacture. All quantum networks are housed in secure government or corporate facilities and all use is monitored meticulously and useage is charged for rapaciously. Hyperspacial transmission is extremely fast, sending information transmissions along at several times the speed of light, able to reach to the core systems from far flung fringe world in a few months. Generally speaking due to the smaller, more focused hyperspatial distortion used for a transmission, they will travel somewhat faster than a hyperspatial ship, so it's possible to beat a ship to it's destination with a message. The high power cost of operating a hyperspacial field makes such communications extremely pricey though. X-Burst can take a matter of weeks months for long-distance communications, as its information only or travels at slightly faster than the speed of light, but the low cost of use makes it adequate for almost all transmissions within a solar system, taking only a few minutes or hours to reach from planet to planet.

With the expansive and adaptive nature of the human race, many worlds not exactly like Earth have managed to be colonized. Some have higher or lower oxygen levels, atmospheric gas levels, disparate gravitic levels, or even wildly different global magnetic levels. Some worlds are also home to dangerous and voracious wildlife, hungry to taste the flesh of their homeworld’s invaders. These differences have created a variety of disparate human subspecies. These men and women display characteristics bred in from having lived on these harsh worlds for several generations, both from natural adaptation and artificial genetic manipulation.

Humans from a ‘heavy’ world (a planet with higher than Earth gravity levels) will show denser body structures and higher than average strengths and stamina. Humans from low-oxygen worlds would often display higher-than-normal lung capacities and stamina levels as their bodies have adapted to need less oxygen than the average. Then, those from low-grav or high-oxygen environments would, obviously, be the reverse. There is some prejudice towards human subspecies in certain areas or social circles, though they are not normally viewed as anything other than human by most.

With technological advances humanity has at its disposal the means by which to enhance and even surpass its own limitations. In fact, most people, even the poor, are not usually without some sort of cybernetic augmentation or repair. Many common augmentations are required by jobs and demanded by the modern lifestyle. Enhanced control of the human body, on a cellular or even molecular level has also increased the ease of the surgery required for such prostheses, as well as vastly decreasing recovery times. Implantations and surgeries most 20th century folk would consider horribly invasive are now generally outpatient procedures, some done with only local anesthetic.

Most cybernetic technology employed by the poor and the lower spectrum of the middle class is bulky, heavy, and generally obvious to any onlooker. The better off of the middle class and those of the wealthy elite have no use for such garish accessories. Their cybertech is cutting edge and those who sport it are often nearly indistinguishable from those who don’t. Those corporations with need for enhanced operatives and the money to create them often enhance and modify their operatives’ bodies to the point of total replacement, leaving their bodies now more technology than humanity. These agents can far surpass the abilities of any unmodified human, but the toll in maintenance and cost, not the mention the psychological impact of losing all semblance of humanity, deters many of those who would attempt such conversion. Even then, the consideration of owing your employer a fairly costly mortgage on your very body thins out the hopefuls even further.

Other advances in medicine make it possible to alter the biological with man-made tissues and organs, or even to rewrite a person's DNA, creating an agent with abilities beyond human, without relinquishing their grip on the humanity that comes with still being flesh and blood. Altering one’s delicate body chemistry and function is not without risks, though. It is also even possible to regrow lost limbs and organs in the lab, not to mention an entire body, cloning someone from just a DNA sample.

With modern nueral interfacing techniques, even the mind can be cloned or transplanted, allowing some wealthy elite to play at immortality. Of course, this does not come without substantial risks. Such mental transfers, due to the sheer amount of data accessed are, however prone to corruption. The sheer volume of data in such a transfer often sees failures in transfer, resulting in a partially damaged transfer, which may not be discovered until later use.

Much cybertechnology requires melding man with machine on a level the eye cannot observe which led to further advances in the field of nanotechnology: robotic tools smaller than the eye of a needle, capable of operating inside the body of a patient. With medicine’s advances in these fields, military applications became apparent, as weapons, combat effectiveness enhancers, and as tools useable in the field.

To facilitate these advances in technology, the computers used in the design and implementation of these devices also increased in complexity and power while decreasing in size. In all but the poorest areas almost every electronic device sports prodigious computing power and is linked in to some network by wires or by waves. The galaxy is a wired community. The air around its citizens buzzes with information.

Some people still access this dimension through the keyboards and mice of the ancestors and some still rely on outdated virtual reality rigs, but the interface of choice for most is Direct Neural Interface, or DNI. This is accomplished either through cerebral implant or electrical induction headset. Headsets are unreliable and take up space, while the implant is affordable, safe to install and safe to use, making the implant is the popular method. The implant is installed in most people during childhood, making those without stand out more than those with, to the point that being without a DNI implant is almost seen as a disability.

Some high-end industry and most military applications use a newer technology, Complete Neural Mapping, or CNM. This coordinates all centers of the operator’s nervous system with the functions of the machine. This technology is vastly superior to DNI for complex functions. For many civilian uses it would be completely unnecessary, as the invasive implant can cause hazardous feedback in the operator if the rig malfunctions. This is much less common in DNI implants, due to their more modest amount of connections to the user's nervous system, their lower power requirments and their slower response rate.

Not all advances have been focused on implants and human augmentation, though. Newer hardware can now create machines capable of re-writing their own programming to compensate for unforeseen complications. Such machines are still not capable of full sentient thought, though they are a large step in that direction. Once in a long while, technicians succeed in creating a machine that seems to display the ability to think on its own, usually by lab error, yet no single experiment has yielded any reliable or duplicatable results to this end. And even in cases of this random occurance, the resulting AI’s are generally unstable and dangerous.

10-25% of inhabited worlds are known as Core Worlds. They are corrupted, crowed worlds because people are, in nature, rather complacent. They will stay on and continue living and procreating on a world until it’s basically filled to capacity. Then, there’s the general cost of picking up and moving, space travel, and the danger of trying reestablish yourself in a new environment away from your friends, family and familiar places. The situation on these worlds is fairly bleak and saddly, the majority of humankind resides here.

The economy, now based on more technology-based markets relies more heavily on the well-educated than the menial laborer. With the labor end of the market being almost entirely performed by machine or automation of some sort, the economy’s division has expanded. The ranks of the poor have swollen, however both the middle classed as well as the rich have both contributed their own to that shift in numbers. This has left the rich a vast minority while the numbers of the middle classed, once the majority, struggles to equal the numbers of the poor.

However, this influx of poor has somewhat changed what being poor means in practice. In a way, the poor have fragmented off and become a society of their own. Slum and ghetto areas of cities have grown, almost into cities in their own right, while the more well-to-do areas have shrunken, but continued to increase their luxuries and amenities. Most cities are characterized by small, technologically advanced areas centered around the rich elite with vast, surrounding expanses of dirty, run-down communities.

As the ranks of the poor have increased, however, the numbers of the homeless have stayed roughly the same, if not decreased. Those who would have been poor before, based on their income comparative to the average, are merely the middle class of a new lower class society. They struggle less to continue their existence, their communities and their lives are now bolstered by others of their status, all living in close proximity to each other. They have their own markets, their own dwellings, their own way of life. Some would call it their own civilization.

The middle-class are now the ones struggling, if anyone is. These people continue their lives mostly unconcerned with the plight of their fellow man, much as it is today. They are vaguely aware of the problems of their society, as much as the media judges to inform them of, however they maintain a sense of distance from such menial problems. Their bigger concern, though, is the constant obsolescence of their positions as their rich employers continuously find ways to do their job by automation. Most of them foster plans to somehow become part of the managment and increase their position or fortune to the point of escaping this rat race. Very very precious few ever do, though.

The rich know all too well how society operates, using this knowledge to foster their footholds in the ranks of the wealthy and powerful. The middle-class are their workforce and their crop. They make their products, they buy their products and when it comes time to cut costs, they are only too ready to separate out the chaff to throw to the ranks of the poor.

In this society, the government has long ago lost is foothold as the controller of nations and takes the role of ‘referee’ to the massive and powerful corporations that control the technologies that make modern life possible. They have little time for things as meaningless as crime and punishment and the corporations generally maintain their own private arcologies, anyway. Separate and regional governments still exist and there is still a measure of politics and war involved in their relations, usually brought about by some economic or corporate crisis, generally fought in terms of rights to sell materials to certain corporate sectors, or the rights to tax movement of goods and services from those corporations.

Territory and location is no longer the delimiter of many governments, following the advent of faster transit, space travel and informational technologies that make the 20th century's internet advances seem primitive. Many governments, adapting to these changes, operate more as unions or organizations, protecting their members and their assets from others. This leaves these industries in a singular position with which to manipulate their environment to their whim. Most of them employ their own fighting and police forces to protect their workforces and consumer communities in arcologies and communities centered around their holdings.

In the corporate arcologies, crime is nearly non-existant with the advent of new surveilance and security technology, as well as having small corporate police forces able to quickly move and strike against criminals in the tight-packed arcology architecture. Outside the arcologies, in the less fortunate surrounding communities the crime rate has risen while the funding of privatized local law enforcement has dwindled. The police focus now on controlling the larger, more devastating crimes, rather than bothering every small time crook. The police do not completely ignore such elements, but their lack of manpower and funding often leaves petty criminals with a license to prey on the poor as they will. These lesser criminals usually only see law enforcement in the form of modernized raid teams, sporting advanced weaponry and powered armor.

These raid teams utilize scouts and undercover agents equipped with covert, sometimes implanted, recording and surveillance devices to catch criminals in the act. They move through the cities in a nomadic fashion until a criminal element is detected. When it is, they call in a sting, striking hard and fast to incapacitate and capture these criminals who will be carted off to prisons to await trial. The teams are not hesitant to resort to deadly force, if necessary, and more than one sting operation has turned into a bloodbath. Generally the criminals end up on the ‘cold and dismembered’ side of these encounters, as they cannot compete with the corporate-sponsored teams' advanced, military-grade weaponry and armor. Some criminal group still decides to try, every so often, though.

Speaking of the criminal element and their armaments, they rely mostly on less modern weapons, with only minor improvements in quality and effectiveness over 20th century weaponry. More technologically advanced weaponry exists of course, however its increased cost in purchase, ammunition and maintenance limits its use mostly to the wealthy. Regardless, for the uses of most criminals, these newer weapons would be overkill. Even somewhat archaic bullets do just fine at killing unarmed and unarmored civilians.

Apart from the ultra focused, super efficient military grade weaponry and the super affordable, easy to use civilian arms, eclectics and specialists have available to them a new breed of weaponry. Archaic weapons with a twist of technology. These hi-tech blades and hand-weapons are capable of disabling even the most heavily armored of foes. These toys aren't necessarily more effective than older weapons and they're seldom as effective as new military weapons systems, but, these weapons are often the calling cards of powerful criminal organizations. Rather than being powerful themselves, these weapons are a symbol of the power that wields them.

There are places that exist outside of this hellish rat race of the Core Worlds. The remaining worlds are classed into three other categories: Interim Worlds, Fringe Worlds and Frontier Worlds. Interim Worlds comprise the majority of the non-Core Worlds. These planets have populations closer to what was normal at the start of the 21st century, and the economies are somewhat similar as well. Most Interim Worlds will, someday, become Core Worlds themselves.

Beyond the Core and Interim Worlds are Fringe Worlds. There aren’t many Fringe Worlds, but "not many" is a relative term. Colonized space is comprised of several hundred planets, moons and asteroids, so there are still a quite a few Fringe Worlds. A Fringe World is characterized by a rustic mix of non-tech and high-tech. Fringe Worlds are usually only colonized by the extremely adventurous, the exiled or those in hiding. Once a Fringe World reaches a population and comfort level high enough to be considered the bottom rung of an Interim World, the population quickly rises. People rush to the new world, trying to escape the menial existence they endured on their Core Worlds. These mass migrations inadvertently doom their descendants to the same fate though, as the steadily advancing population soon creates another Core World.

Frontier Worlds are the last remaining habitable places that are either unexplored, unmapped, avoided, uninhabitable, or simply uninhabited. Once someone finds something worthwhile on these planets, like a valuable mineral deposit or a tasty new delicacy, they will usually become Fringe Worlds, but there aren’t many people looking anymore. Travel from the Core Worlds to the edges of Frontier space is a long-term trip even on a powerful hyperspace vessel, taking a number of months to reach your destination.

Mon Dec 21, 2009 12:29 am
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