Tales of the Solar Patrol: Class of 2058
The technology of Tales of the Solar Patrol is simultaneously far ahead of the real world and far behind. Space travel is commonplace, but telephones still have dials. A handheld atomic gun can tear tank armor to shreds, but a room-sized computer can barely outperform a modern pocket calculator. The tri-vid projector in the living room can still only pick up a dozen or so channels.
Quite simply, it is the world of the late 1950s with specific technology replaced but without most of the social changes or spin-off effects that accompany technological innovation. If a machine is invented to do one thing better or faster or cheaper, it does so just fine, but this doesn’t create ripple effects or unintended consequences. Life goes on as it always has, with the exception of the specific and limited alterations wrought by the machine.
Look and Feel
The technology of Tales of the Solar Patrol has a distinctive look to it.
Firstly, it’s big, loud, and visible. Nothing has floating holographic controls or flat touch panels covered with colorful geometric symbols. Everything is obviously mechanical and analog. Joysticks, levers, and toggle switches control vehicles, especially spacecraft. Even though there’s no physical connection between the thrust lever and the amount of power flowing to the electron drive, a pilot seeking to get more power out of the drive still shoves as hard on the lever as he can and holds it against the maximum setting. Why? Because it looks dramatic! There are few wireless controls. A captain shouting an order down to the engineering deck uses a large microphone connected to his command chair by a thick black cord.
Everything is riveted, and the rivets are visible. Deckplates are made of metal and clang when the crew walks across them. The bridge has big windows, looking out into space, though some viewscreens may be built into the walls and consoles. Circular screens akin to radar readouts display the results of the scanners, and crewmen turn plastic knobs or adjust dials to control them.
Ships are cylindrical and sleek, and fly horizontally. They are most often finned, both to aid atmospheric landing and to avoid etheric disturbances. Weapons are mounted on the fins, in the nosecone, or in turrets located along the spine or sides of the ship.
Outer surfaces are smooth (other than the rivets). Few projections or “fiddly bits” mar the sleek lines of the craft. Controls are labeled in clear English. A self-destruct button, for example, is prominently noted as such. Checking the readouts on panels of numeric gauges and dials or looking at the seemingly nonsensical patterns of blinking lights can reveal the status of any piece of equipment.
Much technology remains from the 20th century, as the 21st-century inhabitants don’t replace things that work with something else merely because it is new. Pencil and paper remain the key tools of note taking. Office desks sport electric typewriters, though they are capable of making cards suitable for infomat storage from each page. Fire extinguishers, radios, and even telephones are all clearly recognizable, albeit with a few more buttons or some slight stylistic changes.
The Five Key Technologies
Every grade-school student learns that the success and prosperity of the Earth League rests on five technological pillars, five great advances that, together, allow mankind to travel among the worlds and to defend itself against the many threats which dwell among the planets. The five technologies are electron drives, Tesla coils, nega-barriers, atomic guns, and infomats.
The electron drive is half of the secret of space travel. Producing tremendous thrust via accelerated hyper-electrons, it can propel a spacecraft at nearly unimaginable speeds, up to a respectable fraction of the speed of light itself. However, the power required is enormous, so much so that the drive would be a merely theoretical device, were it not for the Tesla coils.
Tesla coils, based on the work of 19th- and early 20th-century supergenius Nikola Tesla, can suck the latent energy out of space itself and use it to power the mighty electron drives. The only weakness to the coils is that as the ether grows weaker, space becomes so turbulent and warped that the coils lose phase and begin to overheat. This limits space travel to roughly the orbit of Jupiter, at least until a reliable means of passing the so-called Tesla Line can be found.
Thanks to other properties of the Tesla coils, a shield of powerful repulsive energy can be formed, protecting the starships of the Solar Patrol from the awesome energies of atomic guns.
Accelerating atomic particles and containing them in fields of stressed etheric energy can produce devastating beams of energy. Atomic guns can shred the strongest alloys as if they were metal foil, or slash a city apart from the safety of high orbit.
Truly the miracles of the 21st century, infomats exist through the System. Always implacable and sometimes terrifying even to the scientists who run and maintain their data stores, the large machines can process and integrate all manner of data, and some can aid mathematicians by performing as many as 10,000 calculations in a mere second!
Of Rayguns and Rockets
When the average layman thinks of the Solar Patrol, two images leap immediately to mind: the atomic gun and the Murphy-class patrol ship.