Worldbuilding: The Orion Arm

The galaxy where Aquarius Ascendant takes place is a tremendous ocean in which humanity has to date only swum out a little way. Humans have not even explored a tenth of a percent of its stars, and occupy an infinitesimal amount of its space – even when you count the planets that belong to humanity’s sentient peers and partners. Despite these limitations, human starships and captains have pushed out the frontier to distances unimaginable by their 21st Century forebears, and the human race has successfully relocated itself for the most part to another world, allowing its battered homeworld time and space to heal. On Earth there are only a scant few hundred-million humans remaining; counting the populations of all the human worlds, though, humanity comprises a few tens of billions, one of the most numerous sentient species in the galaxy.

Our galaxy holds mystery, wonder, and horror beyond imagining – a setting truly fit for great heroines and heroes.

The Orion Arm

The Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy is the primary setting of Aquarius Ascendant. Originally thought to be a small spur, the Orion Arm is actually a very long “bar” of stars across the galaxy some 3,500 light years across and approximately 10,000 light-years long. There are approximately 200 billion stars in the Orion Arm, and an estimated three million of them have or have the potential to develop intelligent, spacefaring life. One of those stars, Sol, is the ancestral home of the human race.

The fastest modern starship would take nearly a full year to traverse the width of the Orion Arm and over three years to traverse its length, if it did nothing but travel at its highest possible warp speed. The Orion Arm is an incredibly vast place full of adventures and dangers, of alien tyrants and human warlords; of allies and foes alike.

“If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it’s not for the timid.” – Q, “Q Who?”, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Beyond roughly 1,000 light years from Sol, knowledge of the galaxy grows slenderer. The homeworld of the Qina lies somewhere beyond this perimeter, toward the spinward reaches of the galaxy, toward the intersection of the Orion arm with the Perseus. Humans mostly people planets within a few hundred light years of Sol, preferring to be in a galactic community where it takes at most a few months to reach another friendly outpost, but again this is not a certainty – there are humans living in hermitages as small as a single person and a handful of caretaker droids, parked in a starship with a habitat dome orbiting some lonely star.

The species known to humanity live within a roughly 300 light year radius, where several stars with life-bearing planets developed species with technological societies that aspired to and attained interstellar reach within a century of each other. Within those over 114 million cubic light years are thousands of worlds with the right conditions that for whatever reason didn’t develop intelligent life. Many of them now host thriving populations of humans, entuens, kt’tcha, sarisans, terril and others.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, “The Chance for Peace”

Conflict brews between the largest star nations of the galaxy, and mighty navies rattle sabres in their scabbards, putting to space tremendous, mighty warships bristling with more guns and missiles than ever. It is yet to be seen if the scourge of the Second Alliance-Terril War and its cold, dark aftermath will revisit the galaxy, or if the return of the horrors of war can yet be averted.

The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged. It’s now time to see if you can dance.

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