Technology in the Night's Dawn trilogy


Technology in the Night's Dawn trilogy

In the "Night's Dawn" trilogy, a large number of advanced and unusual technologies utilised for various functions. These technologies include:

The Alchemist

A weapon developed by the astrophysicist Dr. Alkad Mzu, the Alchemist is capable of either snuffing out a star or causing it to go supernova. This has been her quest for 30 years ; she plans to use it for revenge against the Omuta star system, whose government murdered nearly the entire population of her homeworld (Garissa) using antimatter "Planet-Buster" bombs. Near the end of the second book (the second part of the trilogy), appropriately named "The Neutronium Alchemist", Hamilton has a long scene describing the effects of the supernova, as it is used to destroy a pair of Adamist cruisers sent by the Al Capone possessed faction. The weapon utilises the "Zero-tau" technology and energy patterning nodes in a novel combination. The energy patterning nodes work by focusing energy into a tiny area of space, warping it in much the same way as gravity, until a threshold is reached and a wormhole forms, the zero-tau module is used to "freeze" this effect at a desired time, allowing the weapon to create a strong gravitational field approximating that of a huge amount of mass. In the intended setting, the effect freezes the energy patterning node as it becomes a singularity, but before it can form a wormhole. This has the effect of turning the weapon into a black hole. When fired into a star, this cleanly siphons away the fusing mass, eventually absorbing the entire star. However, there is no direct risk to the occupants of the star system from radiation, and they can evacuate their planet before the atmosphere starts to condense. This was the setting Dr. Mzu intended to use on Omuta's star, condemning the Omutans to a life as homeless wanderers.

The violent setting actually freezes the energy patterning node before it becomes a singularity, producing an object of (presumably) similar densities to those found in a neutron star. This has the effect of compressing all matter it comes into contact with into neutronium, in the process releasing huge amounts of energy. When fired into a star, this extra energy leads to the star (or gas giant) to go nova, with the obvious side effect of the destruction or irradiation of any planets in the surrounding solar system.

Blackhawk

As bitek starships, blackhawks are a variation of the Edenist Voidhawk which were created by reverse-engineering the voidhawk genome and modifying it. The aim was to produce a vessel with a greater combat capability. The original voidhawk genome was purchased by the Edenist Serpent Rubra, along with the genome to create Edenist Habitats. From this genetic base he germinated Valisk as a base for his company Magellanic Itg and as a place for Blackhawks to feed and embark on their mating flights.

The maximum wormhole-jump ("swallow") distance for a Blackhawk is around 22 light-years. Blackhawks are frequently used for smuggling and mercenary operations since they and their captains do not often have the same ethical grounding that their Edenist equivalents have. As a result they tend to have a somewhat unsavoury reputation. Blackhawks and Voidhawks can interbreed. The Blackhawk and his captain share the same neural symbionts thus enabling them to use affinity. As the symbionts are unique, this affinity is limited to the communication with the Blackhawk. Affinity-based communication with an Edenist is not possible. Typical Blackhawk lifespan is 75 years.

Combat wasps

One of the standard weapons used by all spacecraft, combat wasps are essentially highly advanced missiles containing a wide variety of submunitions. These include gamma pulse laser warheads, hit-to-kill kinetic energy projectiles, thermonuclear warheads, full-spectrum sensors, electronic warfare pods, and anti-matter warheads. The computer controlling each wasp is capable of analysing tactical situations and plotting the optimum way to reach the target, engaging other wasps on the way if needed to ensure success. The wasp has a maximum acceleration of 20g when using standard fusion fuel (deuterium or He³).

Standard antimatter-fueled combat wasps can accelerate at an average of 40g. This superior acceleration and speed allows antimatter-fueled combat wasps to outmanoeuvre and outrun their fusion powered counterparts. It also gives its targets less time for evasive manoeuvres, running away, or time needed to shoot down the combat wasp with point defense guns. Dr. Alkad Mzu's Alchemist is deployed by a special anti-matter fueled combat wasp capable of a maximum acceleration of 65g. This speed and acceleration advantage allows it to outrun and outmanoeuvre any anti-missile defense it might encounter.

Antimatter warheads are also far more destructive than fusion, gamma pulse laser, or kinetic projectile warheads. An antimatter explosion is supposedly capable of generating temperatures of billions of degrees Celsius, more than sufficient to penetrate the strongest armour and molecular-binding force fields. The far heavier X-ray and gamma ray radiation generated by an anti-matter detonation also is far more effective in killing voidhawks and blackhawks. These organic vessels do not have atomic force binding generators like Adamist starships, and in addition suffer from the vulnerabilities of living organisms to radiation.

In addition to attacking enemy ships or space stations, combat wasps can also be utilized as defense drones. In this mission profile, the wasps will fly around a designated target and defend it from all threats. The wasps will then use their ECM to jam or fry the sensors of enemy wasps. They will also use their thermonuclear or anti-matter warheads to carpet bomb the space in front of the oncoming enemy combat wasp submunitions. This will cause enemy wasps to be destroyed when they fly through the rapidly expanding waves of super heated plasma and intense radiation.

Combat wasps are also employed as minefields around strategically vital areas, like around bitek habitats. The Edenists commonly seed the ZTT emergence points around their habitats with thousands and even millions of combat wasps (depending on the star system's industrial capacity). These combat wasps, upon commands from defending voidhawks or habitat personalities, will attack hostile starships just as they are emerging from their wormholes. Adamist warships, like the majority of Capone's fleet were vulnerable to this tactic because it takes them seconds to extend their sensitive combat sensors which were kept retracted in order to maintain the spherical outline of the starships, to prevent destabilization during ZTT jumps. Only the Edenists with their industrial capacity and wealth from their He3 monopoly can afford this practice.

Cosmonik

A Cosmonik is a cyborg - a person who has spent so long in zero-gee conditions that large parts of his or her body have atrophied and been replaced with technological systems. Some Cosmoniks are little more than heavily augmented humans, but at the other end of the spectrum they are more like miniature spacecraft with a brain inside.

The wide range of customizable implants available mean that no cosmonik is ever exactly the same as another, but generally they all have the following basic characteristics:

* A very large and heavy-set body, normally exceeding two metres in height, with heavily boosted biomechanical muscles and a carbon-fibre or metal alloy skeleton.

* Synthetic skin or implanted armour, replacing the entire epidermis and protecting the cosmonik from any threat he or she may encounter in space, from the effects of the vacuum to stellar radiation. Many cosmoniks have no real facial features, instead opting for robotic masks with implanted sensors and communication systems.

* Boosted larynxes, giving the cosmonik a powerful voice-amplification ability.
* Mechanical interlink sockets in the forearms, allowing for the implantation of a wide range of weapon, tools and sensors.

* Mechanized internal organs, storage cells and life-support implants, allowing the cosmonik to survive for long periods of time without air, food or water.

Though far stronger and more versatile than normal humans, cosmoniks often have to suffer somewhat shortened lifespans in return for their endless augmentations and upgrades. Also, they are nowhere near invincible, and are as susceptible to energy weapons and bullets as any normal person.

Fission blade

Although not described in detail, fission blades appear to be some form of powered knife which are capable of cutting through more or less anything. They seem to operate by causing fission in the individual atoms of the target material, quite literally splitting whatever they touch in two, through some unknown technological process. The only materials that seem to be able to resist are those protected by molecular binding force generators, which prevent atomic bonds from being severed, and monobonded carbon or silicon, which have bonds somehow too strong to be separated by induced fission. The blades glow bright yellow when in use.

Hellhawk

Hellhawks are possessed blackhawks. First appearing in The Neutronium Alchemist when Kiera Salter starts to take over Valisk. After the captains become possessed, the possessor uses the affinity band to possess the blackhawk. Like all other possessed they can change their appearance. They are mainly used as transports for deadnights to Valisk or to combat Voidhawks.

Maser Cannon

Masers are lasers which transmit electromagnetic energy in the microwave band. This makes the maser invisible to the naked eye. It damages its targets by vibrating their molecules causing them to heat up to extreme temperatures. Organic substances like trees, people, and bitek are especially vulnerable because these contain lots of water molecules which can be vibrated by the microwaves of a maser. The water molecules will then flash vaporize into steam causing the organic object to explode.

Maser cannons vary in size and power output. There are models which are handheld, ground vehicle mounted, and they are also often found on voidhawks, blackhawks, Adamist starships, Confederation Navy warships, and even on SD platforms.

Medical Nanonics

Appearing something like green plastic bandages, medical nanonics are able to treat a wide variety of ailments from simple disease through to reconstruction of deep burns or broken bones. They work by knitting themselves with the skin of the patient and pumping medicines, painkillers and nanonic healing filaments into the wound, quickly healing it from the inside out. They are non-specific in function - that is, any nanonic package can be used to treat any condition. However, it is frequently stated that specialised training is necessary to cure some ailments, e.g. mental problems, internal injuries etc.

Molecular binding force generator

This technology projects some form of force-field across a structure, greatly reinforcing its strength. When used on matter, the binding force generators prevent the molecular structure of said matter from being altered or broken apart. The effect results in an object being able to resist far more force than is usually required to destroy it, and so ordinary matter can resist the heat of a star or a fission blade attempting to slice through it. Starship hulls are generally protected by this technology. It is by no means invulnerable however; and on several occasions starships' molecular binding generators are overloaded by extreme heat and/or radiation, usually from a beam or antimatter weapon.

Neural Nanonics

Neural nanonics are advanced neural computer systems which are implanted into the human brain via a direct injection. They are powered by the body's biochemistry. The user controls his or her nanonics directly by just thinking about it. Nanonics can be used for a very wide variety of applications. New skills and knowledge can simply be downloaded into the nanonics, becoming instantly available to the user, though generally without the finesse or expertise that someone who comes by the skill or knowledge naturally possesses. Messages can be sent to the brains of other users in a process analogous to using present day email or instant messenger programs (datavising), providing a form of technological telepathy. They can allow the user to control pain and regulate bodily functions. Unarmed combat programs can take control of the user's body, calculating and even implementing the optimum attacking and defensive moves. Other programs allow direct interface with external hardware, from personal weapons through to spacecraft.

Voidhawk

A bitek starship, Voidhawks are sentient beings who are bonded to their captains at birth via affinity. Whilst growing up both Voidhawk and captain can communicate with one another through affinity, and generally have a very loving and affectionate relationship. Typical Voidhawk lifespan is 110 years. The Captain usually outlives their Voidhawk. This is because of the Voidhawks patterning cells are degrading faster than they are reproduced once the Voidhawk has reached maturation. After this the captain usually remains in a habitat to raise his or her children. A Voidhawk will conduct a mating flight at the end of its life, producing up to ten eggs [each with a zygote (the Voidhawk's future captain) inside] which it leaves in orbit of a gas giant to mature. Voidhawk mating happens mostly in the orbit of Saturn, and Romulus and Remus are traditionally the Edenist Voidhawk bases. After one year the Zygote is ejected from the egg and from this moment on raised by its mother and the habitat personality.

A Voidhawk's body is largely (about 80%) composed of energy patterning nodes (or cells) which give the Voidhawk its unique abilities. These cells are used to create a distortion field which enables the Voidhawk to accelerate in space, reload its pattern cells, create wormholes to perform swallow-manoeuvres and to sense the emergence point of a ship/Voidhawk/Blackhawk performing a ZTT-jump. A Voidhawk's distortion field is also capable of preventing other ships from performing ZTT-jumps. A Voidhawk can block ships up to a distance of 100,000 km.Voidhawks are far superior to the mechanical starships used by the Adamists, although they are far more vulnerable to the effects of radiation. While creating a forward acceleration outside of the Voidhawk, the Distortion Field can produce a counter-effect inside the Voidhawk, producing a comfortable gravity of 1G for the crew. A Voidhawk can "tailor" a wormhole according to its needs, while wormholes produced by Adamist ships are bound by orbital mechanics. The Affinity of a Voidhawk can cross distances of up to 30 AU (about 4.5 billion kilometres).

Zero-tau pod

A form of stasis chamber, once activated the zero-tau pod locks its contents within a certain position in the space-time-continuum and therefore actually stops time from passing within the chamber. Anything placed inside will therefore not age or decay in any way for as long as the pod is active. As the possessed are still connected to the Beyond they remain aware of their surroundings while in a zero-tau pod, experiencing something akin to utter sensory deprivation. This is described as being "even worse than the Beyond" and therefore highly unpleasant for them, so much so that the possessing soul will abandon the body rather than remain in zero-tau. Zero-tau is commonly used by starships to place passengers in stasis for long or crowded journeys or during manoeuvres with high G-forces (like an active anti-matter-drive), and most interstellar spacecraft have at least a few such pods. Zero-tau technology forms part of the Alchemist weapon. Some people choose to make "future hops" and visit future eras through the pod's means.

ZTT drive

The faster than light drive used throughout the Confederation, the ZTT (zero temporal transit) drive allows spacecraft to generate a wormhole through which they can pass, covering large distances almost instantaneously. The ZTT-drive was invented by the Nova Kong research facilities located on Earth's O'Neil Halo. For Adamist ships a single jump can cover anything up to 21 light years, though 12-15 light years is a more common value. During the jump Adamist ships are also bound to orbital mechanics - the ship preserves its flight vector during translation. The jump takes approximately 0.005 sec - though most of this time is taken up by the starship's emergence, as the actual jump covers a time interval almost too small to be measured.

All Bitek-constructs capable of ZTT-jumps have the ability to "tailor" the wormhole according to their needs. While Adamist ships create the wormhole around their ships, a Voidhawk can create it ahead of its flight direction, and therefore the manoeuvre is called a "swallow". Bitek-constructs are not bound to orbital mechanics during swallows. The travel down this kind of wormhole takes a few seconds depending on the external distance. Edenist Voidhawks have a maximum jumping capability of up to 15 light-years, while Blackhawks can also jump up to 21 light-years. Tranquillity, an independent habitat, can jump several thousand light-years. It was implemented into the habitat (around one end of the habitat but under its polyp shell) as an emergency escape system in case of danger, and it is the only habitat known to be capable of ZTT-swallows. In conjunction with Zero-Tau, ZTT technology also forms part of the Neutronium Alchemist weapon.

Engaging a ZTT drive deep within the gravity well around a star or planet is difficult, and attempting it will frequently result in permanent damage to the drive system of an Adamist spacecraft or the ship's complete destruction. Whilst standard terra-compatible planets prohibit Adamist ships from jumping from orbits lower than 55,000 km and bitek ships from those lower than 2,000 km, a Jovian-size planet extends this minimum orbit to 175,000km/100,000km. Because rotating habitats only simulate gravity by centrifugal force, ships are capable of making ZZT-jumps near them. The Udat, a Blackhawk, once performed a swallow directly into the Habitat Tranquillity while assisting Dr. Mzu on her escape.

TIP Carbine

Thermal Induction Pulse carbines are weaponized versions of the heat-based thermal induction tools used by civilians across the Confederation. Around the same size as a large handgun, the TIP carbine is powered by an internal electron matrix and can be targeted via neural nanonics. It fires concentrated, invisible thermal pulses - hot enough to melt steel and punch through armour - at a rate of 250 per second, and can have a devastating effect on flammable environments such as woodland and jungle. It is frequently used for sweep-scorch or scorched earth tactics, burning everything in a wide radius to the ground to flush out or destroy enemy personnel and raze enemy constructions.

TIP carbines are in wide use throughout the Confederation, mostly with military and special forces units, but many criminal elements have managed to purloin TIP weaponry to gain the upper hand in their gang feuds and armed robberies.

Gaussgun

While the TIP carbine can generally be considered a light weapon, gaussguns are extremely powerful heavy support weapons - practically the deadliest handheld weapon in use in the "Night's Dawn" trilogy. A composite-metal bazooka-shape with a pistol grip and ammo feeds, the gaussgun is a metre and a half long and weighs nearly forty kilograms. Generally, its users have to be specially augmented or combat-boosted to withstand the fierce recoil generated by the weapon's five-rounds-per-second rate of fire. Gaussguns can be targeted using neural nanonics and fire two types of ammunition - fragmentation and electron-explosive (EE).

Frag rounds are high-velocity ballistic shells, which contain a powerful explosive and are packed with diamond-hard carbon shrapnel splinters. A single frag shell can totally demolish a building and rip unprotected personnel to shreds.

EE rounds are energy shells which unleash a huge explosion on impact, powerful enough to shatter concrete and hot enough to vaporize steel. A volley of EE shells can flatten a city block.

Used together in a sweep-scorch pattern, gaussguns firing frag and EE ammunition can decimate entire enemy battalions and raze whole towns in a matter of moments. Generally, heavily combat-boosted mercenaries and Confederation troops use gaussguns as annihilation weapons to crush enemy resistance.

Other handheld weapons

Aside from TIP carbines and gaussguns, lighter weapons are often used to great effect by Confederation forces and civilians alike.

* Laser rifles are basic energy weapons, fairly powerful and accurate in experienced hands.
* Magnetic rifles use powerful magnetic pulses to fire kinetic projectiles over medium-to-long distances with considerable force.
* Maser carbines are visually similar to TIP carbines, and have a similar effect, igniting targets instantly with powerful focused microwave emissions.
* Chemical-projectile weapons are basically advanced ballistic guns, similar to the machine guns and assault rifles of modern times, although admittedly far more powerful and accurate. Examples range from 9mm handguns and kinetic guns to the Confederation Navy's powerful Bradfield rifles. They are also one of the few weapons to be effective against The Possessed, due to their lack of electronic components making them invulnerable to the 'electronic warfare' field generated by The Possessed.

* Fluxpump shotguns are a variation of magnetic rifles that fire up to eighty steel pellets per shot in a conical pattern using magnetic acceleration fields. Larger versions are mounted on starships and orbital platforms, as they are highly effective at close-range defence.


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