Sometimes the reason why a region is settled is not because of peculiar features or alien presence. Sometimes it is just because a place is beautiful. Sometimes it is just because the question that matters is why not.
Smyrnia is such a place. Centred around a unique binary temperate-cold world, the eponymous Smyrnia-Silesia twin, the Smyrnia Bubble was originally founded on aesthetic grounds by members of Communal Space who simply wanted to have a different night sky to contemplate. The messy, dispersed colonisation attempt of the Smyrnian Bubble led to a state of quasi-constant Flower Wars organised by the Smyrnian Flux State.
The Serene Sea is an inverted Traverse: a close concentration of stars that is not made of healthy G and F class stars but out of sequence stellar remnants: white dwarfs, neutron stars, planetary nebulae, stellar black holes. And contrary to the Traverse, there is little doubt about the unnatural nature of this region. Someone went here and engineered the local stars.
In the Serene Sea, there are virtually no habitable worlds, except for Draugr, the "vampire planet", an earth-like world orbiting a neutron star, by all accounts a planet that should not exist. The main human settlements are stations installed at the edge of the region, accounting for a few million inhabitants, the vast majority of which are scientists, historians and pilgrims.
Pilgrims, because the Serene Sea is also a necropolis where dead stars neighbour derelict megastructures and wrecks lost in deep interstellar space. This region is the seat of humankind's first contact with what is known under the generic name of the Sequence: the ghostly remnant of what has once been a galaxy-spanning empire, spreading between the stars at sublight speeds for millions of years. Due to a state of constant war with the Sequence the region is under the loose control of Algorab.
The Sequence remnants populate the Serene Stars and make them a strange, unfamiliar but also fascinating place. Ancient Sequence megastructures perturbation or even intercept geometry translations. Enigmatic ships lead incursions against human settlements. Hints at an unknowable history are littered across the region. Both the historical graveyard of an impossibly old empire and low-intensity warzone, the Serene Sea is the closest human space has to a frontier.
Too many stars...
Though it is common to think of globular clusters as oddities relegated to the edge of the galaxy, some of them also dwell in the central bulge of the Milky Way. The Okean cluster is suspended above the Far 3kpc galactic arm, deep inside the galaxy. Much like the eponymous Okean planet, the cluster once flourished with life as dozens of civilisations shared its ten million stars that were easily reachable with sublight ships. As soon as the cluster was discovered by deep space explorers the presence of ancient ruins soon prompted the establishment of an outpost which quickly turned into a small constellation of stations centred around the Okean planet. The waterworld and the region are controlled by an Earth-bound superpower, Laniakea.
Though the hopes of finding a surviving civilisation still exist, the Okean cluster is currently filled with nothing but ruins, hinting at the slow dereliction of whatever interstellar empires existed there in times past. The only surviving remnant of the Okean cluster civilisations is an elusive underwater species. The Vriij, as they call themselves, have willingly forgotten most of their history. Whatever the Vriij were and whatever they did, they prefer to ignore it. It is assumed they played an instrumental role in the demise of the cluster.
The bubble of settled space in Okean only encompasses a very small fraction of the cluster. Even with geometry drives, surveying ten million stars takes a lot of time and the self-replicating probes sent in the cluster have so far only explored an estimated 5% of the area. It will take time and effort to understand, and perhaps reclaim, the troubled history of the Okean region.
It is to be noted that the cluster itself was not deemed a favourable area for settlement by human communes, as the low metallicity and abundance of unstable red dwarfs makes the region unsuitable for long-term human colonization.
The Traverse lies 500 lightyears away from the Sun but was obscured by dust clouds before the geometry drive enabled exploration ships to uncover this peculiar nebula harbouring half a hundred G and F-class stars in close proximity. Their beam-like configuration gave the name of this region, which is also known as the Eloran Bubble in reference to the main inhabited world at its centre. It is controlled by a superpower known as the Eloran Ekumen.
It is little wonder that the Traverse, once charted by Starmoth Initiative ships, was very quick to be settled and developed. Traverse stars have vast habitable zones which translates into an unusual density of inhabitable worlds within this region: at least three Earth-like worlds and a dozen waterworlds ranging from archipelago planets to full deep water bodies with breathable atmospheres. A few fringe theories posit that the Traverse was the seat of ancient terraforming endeavours but according to the Starmoth Initiative such a concentration of habitable worlds is not statistically odd.
In the present day, one hundred and fifty years after the establishment of the Elora settlement, the Traverse is home to two hundred million human beings and vegetal intelligences, making it the second-biggest concentration of population in the Milky Way after Communal Space. It is a well-charted and well-travelled space noted for the sprawling biodiversity of its Earth-like worlds and the originality of its qith-based political system.
This article is dedicated to the geographical region named Communal Space. For disambiguation, visit the article about the polity of the same name.
Communal Space - the heart of humanity!
Well, technically, that is not really true. The heart of humanity is the Earth, which accounts for three-quarters of the human population. In truth, Communal Space, which encompasses the close neighbourhood of the sun, is not a particularly lively or developed place. It suffers from what geographers like to call the "Earth's shadow syndrome". Every single new settlement has to compete with the economy, services and relative quality of life offered by the solar system which is never more than a few dozen translations away. The Earth's shadow is precisely why systems such as Alpha Centauri or Barnard's Star are not much more than small scientific outposts. And more generally speaking it is the main reason for the relatively barren nature of Communal Space, which a witty cartographer once called "an old backyard in your grandparent's house: a familiar place, but a deserted one." Though Communal Space contains two superpowers (the USRE and Laniakea) both of them are Earth-based.
There are a few exceptions to the barren nature of Communal Space. Trappist comes to mind with its incredibly rare planetary configuration: seven habitable or close to habitable planets contained in a radius smaller than Jupiter's orbit. There is also Kapteyn's star, which houses an incredibly old habitable world, the seat of mankind's second encounter with extraterrestrial ruins.
It is to be noted that Irenian stations such as Phi Clio are often attached to Communal Space by convention.