The Southern Approaches

The Southern Approaches is a stellar region located some 12,000 lightyears away from the Solar System, in the Perseus Arm. It is accessible through a loosely mapped stellar route that begins in the Smyrnian Bubble. It is defined by alien presence -- specifically, the Ropes, a network of half-derelict Krasnikov tubes that are believed to be the only physical remain of a pre-Sequence species codenamed "the Open Chain" by the Starmoth Initiative. The region itself is defined by the known extent of the Ropes, creating a rough bubble, five hundred lightyears in diameter within the inner layer of the Perseus Arm. Human exploration of the Southern Approaches dates back to the first cross-arm travels, half a century ago, but permanent settlement of the region only occurred thirty-eight years ago when Gondwana Port was translated out of the Solar System and into the Perseus Arm. The Southern Approaches are scarcely populated as far as official records are concerned -- Gondwana Port accounts for half its registered inhabitants and is home to a little over a hundred thousand people, Humans and AIs alike. However, multiple independent settlements endeavours have been engaged in the past two decades, most of them directed towards research and investigation of the Ropes, and independent evaluations suggest the Southern Approaches account for up to ten deep space stations and a million inhabitants. This population is scarce and the Southern Approaches are effectively devoid of trade or passenger traffic; movement is further complicated by the presence of still-active Krasnikov tubes, as geometry drives often refuse to translate in their vicinity in order to avoid the creation of closed timelike curves.

The lack of a clearly established translation route in the image of the Sagittarius Run or the Orion Arm Crossing means that travel between the Solar System or the Traverse and the Southern Approaches is long and grueling -- in average, six months for a deep space vessel, which can go up to a year for navigators who do not wish to go near Smyrnian out of political or economic concerns. The surroundings of the Southern Approaches are badly charted, which everywhere else in the galaxy would be a non-issue for transit, yet poses peculiar problems due to the influence of the Ropes. The distance and delay prevent convenient transport of information or goods from the other regions of human space; as such, Southern Approaches settlements are self-sufficient in almost all respects excluding ship building and heavy manufacturing.

No violence or unexplained disappearances have been reported in the Southern Approaches and the travel advisory issued by the Starmoth Initiative is the generic deep space requirement of a spaceship capable of independent fuel, propellant and basic supplies production ("wilderness refuelling"), self-actualisation of relative navigation data ("wilderness ranging") and an effective unassisted translation range at or exceeding twenty lightyears.

Nebula illustration by BS4711 under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 license.

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