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Inner night

Wed 14 Nov 2001 by mskala Tags used: ,

Transportation must always follow geography. Conventional water-boats travel over rivers, lakes, and oceans, and the cities that grow fat and prosperous on the strength of boats are those that are well-situated for their loading and unloading. Railways have their own logic of grades and directions, the open spaces and the convenient passes for the tracks, and the cities feel the benefit at intersections of major routes or where it is convenient to transfer goods to other modes. Air transportation has fewer constraints, but given that you will build an airport near some given city, you bet you're going to think hard about where to put it. You want to avoid (if I may make so bold as to mention it) having planes fall apart just after takeoff and drop pieces all over high-density population areas. On purpose or by accident hardly even matters to the people it lands on.

The schooners of the inner night, which travel through the fifth dimension on the winds of the universe's expansion, require only modest docking facilities. Most ports consist of just a concrete slab or two, carefully tilted at the precise angle against local gravity to set up a weak point in the field, and kick up an eddy for the sails to catch. The ships nestle into the dip like puppies into a basket, then slip out again when they depart and fly away on gusts of aether so light that it properly does not exist at all. No locks to tend, no launch pad to clean. The hard work is done by the ships themselves, and they're good at it. Often there is a post office and Customs station near a dock; sometimes there is a great tank of UniPetCo Dimensional Suspension Oil to top of the ship's supply; and sometimes there is not. Accidents affecting the normal-space neighbourhood are virtually impossible, and docks may be located (in normal space) virtually at the harbourmaster's whim. Of course, that means that no city will ever become famous for its spaceport - interdimensional docking facilities become merely a background item of every town square.

The inner night is like a calm clear sea with a perfect steady breeze. It's a shame no human being will ever sail it. It is doubly shameful that some captains find it necessary to live by piracy. On the worst nights, you can see the aether running opaque with the plasma blood of their victims from thousands of miles away, as the pirate ships fan out, their crews laughing, searching for fresh victims and dreaming of the pleasures of the black star-markets where they will sell their gains.

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