Voyage of the Daedalus Seven, Part 2

Daedalus Seven Interior

The Daedalus Seven is a massive generation ship that I originally designed for Episode #34 (“World-Building: Generation Ship”) of the weekly Hourlings Podcast Project, currently projected for a June 12th release date (we record episodes well in advance of their release dates).

In short, this is a world-building exercise for a spaceship large enough to warrant some serious world-building effort. Part 1 discussed the general setting, the generation ship itself. Part 2 (this entry) details the situation in which the Daedalus Seven finds itself after an extraordinarily long voyage. Specific world-building exercises will be detailed. Part 3 will leverage the world-building to develop feasible plotlines. It will also provide some additional background on megastructures and useful references, including SF works that have prominently featured generation ships.

If you have not read Part 1 (or viewed the podcast), then please read Part 1 before continuing.

The Longest Voyage

Daedalus Seven was built during the 24th century and launched on its journey in 2321. At the time, humans had spread out through the system, and space habitats were common, though not as common at the scale of the starship’s individual habitats. Several other generation ships had previously left the system, but the Daedalus Seven was the last and largest to leave before a system-wide war demolished much of the system.

The solar system’s tech level, economy, and infrastructure were easily advanced enough to build a vessel like the Daedalus Seven. The war also explains why nobody ever came after the ship or tried to find out what happened to it. They were too busy surviving and then rebuilding a technical civilization. It wasn’t until more than a thousand years later that archeological research revealed that the Daedalus Seven had even existed (by then, the ship had long since sailed past its original destination).

The Daedalus Seven took severe battle damage upon leaving the outer system under solar sail. Its in-system pulse engines were effectively destroyed. The crew habitat was catastrophically breached and the ship’s bridge was destroyed. Compounding this, certain political elements among the passengers rebelled and attempted to take over the ship. Surviving crew members removed or spiked any space suits available to passengers, isolated the primary habitats by opening connecting tubes to vacuum, and locked down access to all computer systems in the habitats.

Summary of ship damage and wide-ranging issues:

  • Crew Habitat breached.
  • Bridge destroyed.
  • Pulse engines destroyed (no non-solar thrusters).
  • No connectivity between Habitats (connecting elements are open to vacuum).
  • No availability of space suits within the large Habitats.
  • Computer systems do not respond to people within the large Habitats.
  • Habitat 4 was breached and the spindle was damaged. The breach was naturally plugged by ice and debris, but occasionally ablates away and then replugs itself. The Habitat is at 0.3g and about 40% of Earth’s sea-level air pressure. The Habitat is slowly but steadily losing resources to space.
  • Habitat 2 spindle was damaged and the Habitat is not spinning at all. Effective gravity is zero-g.
  • All of the Habitats are structurally linked at top-and-bottom. Habitats directly across from each other spin in the opposite directions to offset gyroscopic effects. With Habitat 4 spinning slowly and Habitat 2 not spinning at all, all habitats are periodically experiencing very minor temblors. Habitat 4 and Habitat 1 are experiencing minor quakes. Habitats 2 and 5 are experiencing occasional major quakes.

With all of the damage and the lack of sufficient trained crew, Daedalus Seven long since sailed past its original destination and is now simply sailing through the darkness while its systems gradually degrade and fail.

It is now Mission Year 12,257 – Day 172.

Habitat Operational Details

Some operational aspects of the Habitats are automatic. Examples include:

  • Cylinder Rotation: Automatic, subject only to damage or degradation that may have occurred.
  • Water Circulation: Water generally collects in a ring lake at the back of each cylinder. From there, some of the water is pumped to the front of the cylinder, where it is released to flow back into the cylinder. Even Habitat 2 has some front-to-back circulation of water, despite the general zero-g.
  • Erosion Control: Like water, soil erodes and is washed to the back of the cylinders. Sludge is pumped to raised outlets within the lateral area of each Habitat, where it forms hills (sort of like a mud volcano).
  • Sun-Tube: The sun tube is automatic, and defines the day/night cycle as well as modestly differentiated seasons for the Habitats.

Cylinder rotation effects have already been defined. However, for each Habitat, after twelve thousand years, there may be some degradation in some of the other capabilities, as well. Those effects are at the discretion of our team of world-builders.

Your Mission

Clearly, I’ve done a lot of world-building already, simply by defining the core setting…the Daedalus Seven. But if you really examine at details of the setting, there’s still a lot left to do. The starship is meant to spawn ideas for stories, but stories really can’t come alive until there are people to engage with. The real question is…

What is life like on the Daedalus Seven?

Especially after drifting through the lonely darkness for over twelve thousand years. The ship has been lost in space for four times as long as our current recorded history.

This is where you come in.

You get to define what civilizations still survive aboard the vast ship. You get to decide whether these poor people, or their descendants, are doomed to die in the darkness when the ship finally suffers some catastrophic failure, or whether they might be able to someday rescue themselves from their never-ending journey. Only you can figure out whether the surviving civilizations might finally meet each other after all these millennia.

It’s all up to you.

No pressure.

Seven Challenges

These are seven areas where life has survived on the Daedalus Seven. All of these areas require significant world-building:

  1. Habitat 1: Minor quakes.
  2. Habitat 2. Major quakes, mostly ameliorated by zero-g. The general effect is the propagation of pressure waves through the atmosphere. Things to consider: 1) adaptations to zero-g, 2) births (both animal and human) in a zero-g setting, and 3) weather. Note that there is a slight downward thrust toward the back of the cylinder thanks to the slight acceleration of the solar sail.
  3. Habitat 3: Temblors.
  4. Habitat 4: Minor quakes. Spinning slowly, gravity is at 0.3g. With air pressure 20% less than the other habitats (40% of Earth’s sea-level air pressure). Also had the most water.
  5. Habitat 5: Major quakes.
  6. Habitat 6: Temblors.
  7. Crew Spindle: The Factory and Storage areas are inhabited.

Here are some factors to consider in your world-building efforts.

  • The proportions of water and land differed between the habitats, with Habitat 4 having the most water.
  • Each habitat could contain Earth creatures from different ecosystems or even genetically engineered creatures (since the tech level was enough to support this when the ship left).
  • The “Island Effect” is an effect in which an isolated population concentrates potentially unusual traits, or eeven mutations, over time, such as albinism, dwarfism, gigantism, etc. An Earthly example of this is the Melanesians of the Solomon Islands, in which dark skin, blue eyes, and blond hair are commonly seen together.
  • Each habitat may be subject to differing environmental degradations, such as reduced water circulation, parts of the Sun-Tube not working anymore, exposed sections of hull material no longer covered by dirt, reduced erosion control, etc.
  • Inhabitants of the Crew Spindle could theoretically have some degree of technology and education, thanks to access to computer equipment. However, they are unlikely to have anywhere near the population of the large habitats. They are also the only people likely to have access to spacesuits, though even those may be very degraded after so much time.

Next Steps

Part 1 of this world-building exercise provided the details of the setting, the vast generation ship known as the Daedalus Seven.

Part 2 has defined how the badly damaged spaceship continued its voyage through interstellar space, having long since overshot its original destination. It has also provided world-building opportunities for the surviving civilizations, ecosystems for each habitat (and some other portions of the spaceship), and other key details affecting the ship’s probable fate.

Finally, Part 3 will focus on potential plot lines leveraging the world-building that has been completed for the Daedalus Seven. Useful references and literary recommendations will also be provided.

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