13 September, 2017

#DIY30 #12

12. What is there to do when stationed on an interstellar lighthouse?


Interstellar lighthouses became a vital element of the navigation grid during the Third Imperium, when trans-light travel required ships plunging into hyperspace, where gravity wells left faint echoes of themselves, but regular tachyon bursts could be easily detected between the chaotic null-waves of the hyperspace warp. Quantum leviathans would hurtle through hyperspace piercing through lightyears of distance in minutes... but dropping out of hyperspace a second to early or late might leave such a vessel stranded in space for months at sublight speeds to reassume their correct destination. Interstellar lighthouses were placed to ensure accuracy of placement when ships dropped out of hyperspace, carefully triangulated vectors would be drawn from their positioning. Thus it was of utmost importance that the lighthouses didn't drift from their designated coordinates by more than a few thousand miles. 

Regular duties of a lighthouse keeper involve measuring relative angular positions of stars, nearby and distant, then adjusting star charts accordingly, and if necessary activating the ion drives to account for any drift that might have occurred since the last measurement. These are generally automated processes, with procedures enacted every month or so (according to Earth chronology). The whole process could have been automated, but when the first array of lighthouses were set up, there was a deep suspicion among certain religiously inclined advisors that AI was ready to overthrow the biological lifeforms of the Imperium. Economic advosors suggested that to maintain a high degree of employment across the Imperium, each of the 750,000 lighthouses should be maintained by one or more families who would serve a twenty year duty period in exchange for free lodgings in an apartment chosen from a range of worlds, for the rest of their lives. 


During their 20 year service periods, many devout lighthouse families prayed, meditated and tended the crops necessary to their long term survival. Many less devout families ran illicit criminal waystatios between the more organised and patrolled sectors of the Imperium, some fended of regular attacks from rebel systems and intruding forces...some vanished shed without a trace (but few people talk about them). 
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