Wednesday November 12, 2003
Book 4: The Blackness Between — Part III: Trouble in the Outjack
Kevyn's statement about events taking place "simultaneously" while "light hours apart" may give itching fits to those familiar with Einstein's General and Special Relativity. If the speed of light is the maximum speed of propagation of information, then there is no frame of reference in which events light-hours apart can be meaningfully said to have occurred simultaneously.

As Kevyn himself can tell you, however, the speed of light is not the maximum speed of information propagation. Hypernet nodes can relay information across the galaxy instantaneously (assuming proper configuration, no user-serviceable parts inside, past performance is not an indicator of future results, your mileage may vary) and gravitic sensors can detect the distortions of space and time caused by concentrations of mass before those distortions can ripple through Einsteinian space.

Consider an observer in a room full of people. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, two of those people several meters apart pull down their pants. Simultaneously. At these distances and on this scale, the observer's frame of reference is the same frame as that of the events (pants pulling-down), so simultaneity can be described in a meaningful way. The observer can quickly conclude that he/she is in a frat-house, college dormitory, or sans-a-belt slacks convention.

Now consider the same observer in a system full of starships. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, two of those starships several light-hours apart pull down their... umm... pants. Yeah. Whatever. Stay with me. If this was observed via electromagnetic radiation, the observer's frame of reference is the only frame in which these events were simultaneous. But (and this is the important part) if the observer was using gravitic sensors, or hypernet-equipped sensors a few hundred meters from each ship, his frame of reference becomes the SAME frame of reference as that of the events in question, and the events are simultaneous in that frame.

Oddly enough, with the right clocks and a good A.I., this common frame can be established even when one of the ships is moving at relativistic speeds. The pants just come off slower. Or faster. Whichever.

The profound, causal absurdity of a universe in which a single frame of reference can be used to describe events light-years apart pales in comparison to the absurdity of a universe in which starships remove their pants at the speed of light. Fortunately, Schlock Mercenary is not about starship pants, and is therefore no more absurd than it needs to be.


Kevyn: It's simple captain. Something invisible to all our sensors is shepherding these stations from time to time.
Kevyn: This something appears to be capable of generating point-sources and gradients of gravitic energy up to hundreds of thousands of gees, maybe more. Oh, and it can do it simultaneously in dozens of places light hours apart.
Tagon: So there's a fleet of invisible battleplates loose in this system somewhere?
Kevyn: Please tell me you haven't heard military gossip about a fleet of invisible battleplates.
Tagon: Nope, no such thing. It'd make a great rumor, though.