My theme this year is ‘world-building’ and for Q I’m going as far as the whole galaxy!
In my Viridian System series, I decided to define the structure of my Milky Way galaxy, just in case my characters decided to locate planets and star systems at any time. It may not be necessary for the story, but I know the four quadrants of the galaxy: the Delta quadrant is least explored by the inhabitants of the Alpha quadrant, who are the ones who think they matter, and then mostly only in the innermost sector, near the heart of the galaxy.
Most of the action is focused on the Alpha quadrant, home to the Imperium, the Federation, and most of the ‘known’ trade and enterprise. The Delta quadrant is home to the Jakochi Alliance, which becomes important to me in Book 2, which also includes a foray into the Gamma quadrant, and a note that there are extraordinary aliens in the Beta quadrant, so nobody goes there much!
Wikipedia gives a lovely account of the Galactic Quadrant system as we have it today, which is geocentric – the sectors are based on observations made from Earth, so have Earth at the centre. I have assumed that in 800 years we have mapped the galaxy from the centre and not an obscure star in an outer spiral arm. My approach has some resonance with the Star Trek approach, but is not identical.
Quadrants are shaped like a segment of an orange, their narrowest edges meeting at the axis of the galaxy. The core of the galaxy is a fifth navigation area, but is generally too dense to allow useful space travel. Each quadrant is divided for navigation purposes into sectors; innermost (primary sector), 6 secondary sectors (equator, medial and pole, each labelled North or South, and usually referred to by letter e.g. NE is north equator). Outside each secondary sector there are nine tertiary sectors with no outer limit, designated by their secondary sector followed by a designation according to position, so, NP1 is one of 12 tertiary sectors that meets on the north axis of the galaxy: Alpha NP1-3, Beta NP 1-3, Gamma NP1-3 and Delta NP 1-3 all surround the northern axis – it is virtually empty space.
Any star system in the tertiary system off the plane of the galaxy – the spiral arms – is bound to be a long way away from anywhere else. The Viridian System falls into this category, although it isn’t far above the plane, and gets a good view of the Milky Way at night. Distances take a long time to traverse, even using warpshift. I made a table for myself of how long it would take to travel various numbers of light-years at different warp factors (times the speed of light). Weeks, months, years, centuries… so there are some useful wormholes around the place, artificial ones that are stable conduits between one part of a quadrant and another. One called The Sleeve provides a short-cut between the Alpha and Gamma quadrants (through the Delta quadrant). It’s not the safest of places right now.
There are also unstable wormholes. They are definitely not safe. Nobody would want to encounter one of those. You never know where you might end up. Possibly in Book 2 of the Viridian System series, being written at Camp NaNoWriMo right now!!