Interstellar Communications

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In this time of strife, many people seem to be communicating with friends, family, superiors, and the like off world - so some discussion of the three basic means by which people do so would be worthwhile.

  • Parcel Post: Most non-essential communication between planets is posted; it gets written, put in cargo with a lot of other post, and shipped to the appropriate planetary destination by the Charioteers. It is not, as a point of fact, very quick; most Charioteer starships stop at every world they come across, so it typically takes two-three IC weeks per jump. This is, as you can imagine, a long time.
  • Flash Traffic: Most time-sensitive communication is sent via flash traffic - roughly, it is encrypted and then radioed to a ship at the jumpgate, who then jumps through, passes it to another ship going to the next jump in the leg, and so forth and so on until it passes from ship to ship to reach its destination. This is much faster - hypothetically, it could get to its destination in minutes, and even as a practical consideration it usually takes 1-3 days to get just about anywhere. The problem with this is that despite encryption it isn't very secure. Intelligence agencies love flash traffic, and there's a constant game between signals intelligence experts to encrypt and decrypt better messages - and the honest truth is that one way or another, someone is probably reading your flash traffic mail.
  • Courier: Finally, there are courier vessels, which are unquestionably the most secure way to post a message: but they do not have a negligible cost, unlike the methods above. The cost of a courier depends on how exclusive it is - is it carrying just your message, or all messages bound for a particular destination - and how well-traveled the route it is taking is. Typically, this ends up meaning a courier-posted letter costs between 20 and 200 firebirds per jump, and will take roughly two weeks to reach its destination. It is, however, the only way to send a message that isn't incredibly slow and remains secure.