Technology in the Bound Keld Universe
From P.L. Sullivan:
I hope you enjoy reading these descriptions of the technology in the Bound universe. There are, no doubt, inconsistencies and failures in the concepts I’ve created. I’d be delighted to discuss insights that you have so that I can improve my ideas.
To do so, please Contact me...
Anyone who reads science fiction is likely to be quite familiar with many of the arguments swirling around the use of faster than light (FTL) travel in stories. Many will scoff and consider it fantasy and not deserving of the label “science” fiction. I don’t imagine I can change anyone’s mind on this subject. I wanted it, needed it, for this story and so there you have it—FTL.
I did do quite a bit of reading on the technological obstacles (and the resources are *vast*). I’ve included links here to a tiny sample of the interesting things I’ve read. Perhaps you will find those interesting. I used my reading to serve as the launching point for a “what if” series of questions that brought me to a solution that fits the needs of my universe and, if you squint hard enough, it has some linkages to current academic thought exercises.
Time Travel? This is an unpleasant side effect of FTL travel, by any means. I’ve thought about the solution to this problem and have thrown my hat in with writer Larry Niven and physicist Igor Dmitriyevich Novikov that the Novikov self-consistency conjecture will prevent anything as nasty as time travel and the associated paradoxes.
Ships use a variant of what is commonly called in science fiction, and elsewhere, the “Alcubierre” drive, named after Miguel Alcubierre’s work.
I’ve elaborated upon that concept a little bit to imagine that the warp drive must be turned off, at least transiently, when proximate to massive objects (e.g., planets) to control your motion relative to the planet and observe the planet around you (or fire weapons). The drive field flickers on/off in those circumstances in a pseudorandom way (much like a spread-spectrum radio communication link).
Portals are large fixed installations that make use of existing (since the beginning of the universe) wormholes.
A variant of this was considered by Kip Thorne, and others (see the links, below). I imagined that an FTL ship could travel to a distant location. Once there, an “appropriate search” could be performed to find an existing wormhole between this new location and your preferred return destination.
A cooperative party is required on the distant end for this search to succeed. Once identified, a given Portal could be used to link to other available endpoints. I’ve assumed that the natural order of things is such that preferential biases make arbitrary destinations impractical.
Tree-like networks of links from leaves (endpoints) link to the vicinity of preferred destinations (the black hole associated with a Nexus).
COM devices are the omnipresent communications means in the Bound universe.
That generic term encompasses various communication techniques, none of which are defined but can easily be imagined to be combinations and extensions of the vast array of already known communications techniques. Personal COMs come in two primary flavors, civilian versions, typically embodied in a bracelet or similar piece of jewelry, and covert COMs.
Overt COMs, worn as jewellry, allow for a larger physical size and with that the ability to support more power, etc.
Covert COMs are used by most Keld and by First Contact Team members when in contact with Prospects. The raw device is very malleable in form and starts out with the appearance of a few inches of silver wire. Once placed on the flesh of a convenient limb and commanded to implant itself, it will insert itself through the skin and muscle and wedge itself up against the intended bone. It is designed to then blend into the bone’s appearance, both as imaged through common sensors and visually (e.g., at an autopsy). COM devices, and especially covert COMs, are very sophisticated technology. They are designed to protect that technology both by concealing its existence and resisting reverse engineering, even by very sophisticated adversaries.
All COMs stimulate and monitor the neural system of the wearer. That direct connection avoids the need for physical displays, microphones, and the like. They provide a modest-bandwidth interface into whatever the available computing infrastructure is near the COM and into the broad network of all other COM devices, allowing one to one, one to many, and many to many conversations. The means of reading/stimulating the nervous system of the wearer is not defined….
High bandwidth displays, and in particular multi-dimensional displays, are implemented using various sizes of display tiles.
Inactive, they appear to be a thin, rigid, flat white rectangle. Active, they project out into the three-dimensional volume in front of the tile. The display characteristics can be modulated to activate the Polis visual system and enable a Polis to perceive multi-dimensional representations.
The Keld cannot visually interpret those modulated displays. Display tiles can sense physical gestures in free space as command inputs and accept commands and requests from COM devices.
Just as in the real world, a dizzying array of weapons exist in the Bound universe. Only a few feature significantly in the story.
It’s science fiction; there has to be an energy weapon, doesn’t there?
I imagine the WMR as a family of weapons that can provide directed energy effects using frequencies from the infra-red through ultraviolet range. The outputs are usually pulse streams. Individual pulses may not be directly visible but can be indirectly visible due to their interaction with air and contaminants in the air.
Small, hand-held WMRs can do considerable damage against unprotected targets (e.g., incinerate a human being).
Much more powerful WMRs are available in platforms, such as a Raven where much more power and cooling capability are available. Many fanciful, as well as many practical sources of information, exist on directed energy weapons.
Flechette weapons are a common trope in science fiction. They are also a very practical weapon in certain applications today.
I imagine the hand-held “gun” to be a simple point and shoot device that does not have a traditional bore. The bore is designed for the fins of the flechette and uses electromagnetic propulsion to launch the projectile. The projectiles are tunable to have different characteristics – armor piercing flechettes would pass through people and other structures without doing much harm. However, they can penetrate low strength shields, such as a personal shield.
Frangible flechettes will break apart upon impact with a soft target with deadly effect but be unable to penetrate a light shield.
Wikipedia credits EE Doc Cummings with the first use of a “force shield” in a story. I’ve happily used this same concept on various scales in the Bound universe (personal, spacecraft/aircraft, and even museum displays and architecture.
My concept assumes that the “shield” contour will (adjustably) hug along the higher density side of a density discontinuity.
For example, when it is first activated, a shield would tend to follow the contours of a person and the articles they are wearing.
They protect against the intrusion of objects and electromagnetic energy. Their behavior is symmetrical; a perfect shield would completely block the wearer from detecting anything on the outside and the passage of physical objects from projectiles to gas molecules.
Someone inside such a shield must have their own air supply and must be able to cause the shield to flicker (pseudorandom modulation of their transmissivity) so that you can see the outside world.
An attacker who can synchronize their attack to your flicker frequency can effectively direct energy “through” your shield.
Similarly, suppose a shield is attacked with a high intensity energy source. In that case, the amount of energy that passes through during the “low” level period of the flicker might be enough to damage or destroy what the shield was protecting.
A shield's transmissivity can be adjusted from high (little protection, stopping only something like blowing sand), to very high (opaque). As viewed from the outside, a shield has a slight UV radiation at high transmissivity. A shield has a mirror-like appearance overlaid with bright sparkles of UV emissions at the lowest transmissivity.
Soldiers need protection from attack and a way to carry weapons that maximizes their mobility. There are always tradeoffs between defensive capabilities, offensive capabilities, mission duration, size, and weight.
I’ve imagined that the next step beyond carrying a specific weapon is carrying a suite of weapons and sensors integrated together—a weapon frame.
These range from the least capable and least obtrusive (similar in bulk to a “bulletproof” vest worn underneath street clothes). These would be worn by Special Protection agents who wish to blend in with the public yet still need an integrated weapon suite.
When concealment isn’t needed, more protection and more firepower can be carried when worn on top of duty clothing, especially when combined with a helmet. Helmets and physical body armor are part of a weapon frame but are secondary protection to the personal shields.
Full body armor provides the greatest physical protection and firepower, but at the cost of the largest weight and bulkiest size. Full armor includes strength amplification for the wearer to compensate for the weight of the armor and give mechanical advantage over any plausible organic opponent.
I chose not to assume that the fantastic abilities that of an “Iron man” suit would be practical. All interaction with the user and the weapon frame is through the user’s COM—a direct neural interface, no displays, no microphones, etc. Only simple failover features are available to allow continued basic use in the event of injury/destruction of the user’s COM.
And this fun YouTube devoted to the Goliath Armor concept from the science fiction TV series, The Expanse.
Wasps are an instance of very small scale mechanisms used for surveillance and attack.
They have rudimentary AIs that provide autonomous navigation, surveillance, and targeting functions.
They can be used as kinetic weapons as well as providing a stun effect at very close range.