FOLDSHIPS

by Chris Cotgrove

FoldShips form the commercial backbone of the WoP. Without FoldShip technology, the Known Universe would be a much smaller place than it is today. It currently is the only form of practical interstellar travel.

There are many different classes of FoldShip, some only carry a crew of around 10-100, whilst others are miles across and capable of transporting many more as crew and/or passengers.

Every FoldShip is constructed around a standard framework, as massive amounts of Flux (mostly obtained from Flux Batteries) are used to jumpstart the process. Each one is a unique work of art, created by large-scale Dark Lament Science Friction techniques.

The ship 'grows' around the frame – its final appearance depends on the emotional state of the construction crew at the time, and some say the FoldShip itself; it is certain that a large percentage of the construction work is actually done by the vessel as it 'grows'.

Once the ship is fully grown and its personality and sentience fully awakened, an Ebon or Necanthrope is chosen to become the Ship's Navigator.

Navigators, once assigned and bonded to a FoldShip, rarely ever set foot on planets for any length of time. After several Folds, any world seems constrictive and claustrophobic – only the vastness of deep space holds any fascination for a Navigator, as they see a thousand uncharted courses and systems waiting to be discovered.

The bonding process works both ways – the Ebon and their DeathSuit merge with the FoldShip's alien consciousness, and behavioural changes may become apparent – you might find a Navigator silently staring into space, for instance. The design of their DeathSuit also subtly changes to match that of their vessel – both become an extension of the other, as the FoldShip also alters slightly to match the personality and appearance of its Navigator.

The Navigator and FoldShip share sensations and to an extent, memories. There are rumours of very old Necanthrope Navigators who can maintain a mental link with their vessel while it is still in orbit, or remember events hundreds of years before they were born.

These traces remain even if the Navigator dies (or is killed before they turn Necanthrope). When the bonding takes place, the new Navigator is becoming part of a composite personality made up of themselves, the Ship, their DeathSuit and the remnants of all those who previously occupied their post.

Once bonded, the Ship now acts on the Navigator's instinctive commands; instructions can be easily sent through the Ship via Communication (in fact, this amplified Ebb ability its used as a standard form of FoldShip communications). As such the bonding process creates an interface between the intellect of the FoldShip and its crew, in the form of the Navigator.

The remainder of the crew of the FoldShip all operate equipment which amplifies and enhances their natural Ebb abilities – the sensor operator using a Detect Amplifier, the gunners using Glyph Cannons (a large-scale Flintlock).

Some FoldShips are so large that entire families of Ebons grow up on them never setting foot on worlds. Entire generations are born on the Ship, maturing with it, and die here as well, without ever having left. As such, these communities bond very closely to the Ship itself.

Such a Ship chooses itself a new Navigator from its 'family' when its current one dies.

The actual heart of the FoldShip is the Fold Chamber; a perfectly spherical and completely enclosed compartment. The Navigator must Fold into the compartment, and once enclosed, physically and mentally merges with the vessel.

The compartment is inscribed with a number of Glyphs, designed to amplify the Navigators Folding talents (some say that it is the connection to the Ship that amplifies the Ebon's Folding abilities, and not the glyphs on the Chamber – that they can see the paths between the stars much more clearly).

Flux provided by Glyph Pillars goes towards fuelling the reality-spanning folds that the Ship makes. These are regularly cleaned of Ebb Crystal growths, to prevent 'accidents'.

There are old tales of Ships that were lost 'between', having Folded and never reappeared. What happens to these Ships is unknown – some say they are trapped in a limbo between realities, others merely say they have defected to some Soft Company, like DarkNight or Thresher.

The majority of FoldShips are constructed for transport of passengers or for trade purposes. However, on occasion, a FoldShip is created for the purposes of warfare. Then it is called a Force FoldShip.

Corsairs and Soft Company fleets universally fear the Force Foldships. The largest group forms the Static system patrol fleet, but Dark Lament also fields several roaming hunter-fleets for use in distant star systems.

These ships are very old, and most saw action during the closing stages of the Conflict Wars; their memories go back almost to the very beginning of the World of Progress. Given time, one of the larger Force Foldships could lay waste to a planet's surface (and have done so on more than one occasion), their destructive powers are so great.

Almost always, a Force FoldShip will have a Necanthrope Navigator, as Ebons lack the telepathic aggression needed to drive the Ship onward in battle, and many find it disturbing to communicate or bond with such an ancient, alien mind.

USING FOLDSHIPS IN YOUR SLA CAMPAIGNS

It would be all too easy to use FoldShips as a simple method of travel, an alternative to the large and bulky Ion Drive vessels used by Shaktars. However, this would be a waste of their potential.

Remember that when you enter a FoldShip, you are entrusting yourself to a living creature, an entity in its own right with its own memories, as some FoldShip Engineers say, an odd form of personality.

No journey aboard a FoldShip should ever be 'normal'. Perhaps Operatives are troubled by bad dreams, or see things moving in corridors out of the corner of their eye.

Some of them have been around since the Conflict Wars...what might one of these ancient vessels have seen, and remember to this day?

Does a FoldShip dream, and can its inhabitants at the time sense those dreams, tap into them, or be drawn into them?

Can Ebons and Brain Wasters aboard sense the thoughts of the Ship as it moves through space, sens the Flux all around them, surrounding them like a cocoon? Does this unsettle or reassure them?

And little is known of the actual origins of FoldShips – this is protected by a number of D-Notices, none of which are below SCL 2.

Speculators on this subject (some of which disappear, or have mysterious accidents) suggest that perhaps they were once a natural lifeform that existed in deep space, possessing the inherent potential to Fold space, perhaps as part of a migratory pattern.

SLA found them, realised their potential, and altered their development in much the same way that it now alters the Ebons – turning them into its silent workforce, altering young FoldShips from 'birth' into what the Company wants them to be.

At some point, either before or this theoretical involvement, the Ships might have evolved ways of defending the weaker members of their group – creating the first Force FoldShips. They are the equivalent of a Brain Waster, a FoldShip driven by aggression rather than an inquisitive nature.

However, they are not feared amongst their fellows, simply accepted as different. The Navigators of the Force fleets are there as much as Navigators as interpreters, holding their bonded vessels in check...since who knows what might happen if these FoldShips went rogue...not, as Dark Lament says, a FoldShip has ever gone rogue...

When you consider a fleet of FoldShips, instead of just a number of manufactured craft, concentrate on the mental image of something very much like a pod of whales – a group of living, thinking creatures, communicating in ways that not many other species can begin to understand.

Think of the FoldShips, gliding silently across the uncharted, lightless expanses of the World of Progress, singing their mysteries to each other and dreaming things only wanderers through the stars can dream.