Thursday, January 15, 2009

Maelstrom: Aether

Imagine light flowing out across a two-dimensional plane like fast-flowing mists, rainbow hues that stream outwards from the sun to spiral around the planets; a cross between dry ice and the aurora borealis.

This is the appearance of aether, the gaseous mixture that fills the interspace within the confines of Maelstrom's solar system. It sustains strange and varied forms of life, propels crafts between worlds, and with practice can be used to see across heavens with the naked eye. And that's just the beginning.

All aether emanates from the sun. In the end- usually over the course of half a year or so- most of the aetheric mists are drawn into the one of the four gas giants in the system. Indeed, the gas giants themselves are thought to be composed of aetheric mists accumulated over countless eons. The mists also gather around the upper layers of all the worlds that orbit the gas giants, obscuring their surface to outside viewers with a one-way iridescent veil.

That one-way nature is a product of Aether's interference with the light flow. Our eyes perceive objects by taking in the rays of light that reflect off them. But the aetheric gases gather and bend light; an aetheric current may look like a shimmering stream when viewed from outside, but when inside a current, you can "look upstream" like a periscope; with practice, you can train your mind to sort out the signal from the interference and perceive further and further upstream. Someone who's never gone offworld can still do this by gazing into the sun- after all, the only reason they perceive the sun as coming from the direction it does is that that's the angle from which the aetheric current flows into their world's atmosphere. This is also the reason why inexperienced explorers perceive the skies of other worlds as opaque even at night; their eyes are trained to perceive through the interference characteristic of their homeworld and their homeworld alone.

Learning to look through the aetheric lightflow is a key skill for explorers in Maelstrom. It affects the interspace tactics of men and exotic lifeforms alike, in the same way that a predator in our world avoids approaching their prey from upwind. Of course, there are many other things one must learn to explore the untamed regions of interspace. . .

Art Credits: I'm *fairly* sure "j4m3sb0nd" is the original creator of the above image.

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