Skystations are modular, neutrally-buoyant, free-floating structures located within the micro-gravity regions of commissures and inflection layers.
Purpose / Function
These remote outposts serve as way-stations along common airship routes, providing observation, refueling, resupply, refit, repair, customs, lifting gas reclaimation, entertainment, and scientific roles. Attempts have been made to create 'orbital resorts' as a form of tourist attraction, but it remains to be seen if these ventures will prove profitable enough to continue. As one approaches the international battlefields and unexplored frontiers of the Manifold, one finds that skystations begin to take on more militaristic roles. Private skystations are uncommon and, as many incorporate active propulsion to facilitate relocation, might be better classified as air yachts or cruise liners. Nearly every skystation includes a field office or guildhall for the Navigator's Guild, where the services of skilled navigators can be acquired by airship captains on-the-go. The prices for these services are generally inflated aboard skystations, as the Guild knows that those who waited to hire navigation assistance are running out of options by the time they reach the station. Regardless of intended function, great efforts are expended by military forces to capture and defend skystations along the way during inter-cube and inter-tesseract combat operations. Because a skystation can act as a link in a supply train, an air defenses bulwark, and (in the case of inflection layers) the 'highest ground' in a cube, skystations are always considered critical infrastructure nodes for allied military forces. Skystations will typically not be destroyed except in extreme circumstances, as doing so effectively renders the cube beyond it impossible to hold, significantly hinders inter-cube diplomacy, and may invite sanction by the Navigator's Guild upon the destroying party.
Over time, the fundamental design of skystations has begun to incorporate more redundant and auxiliary systems, especially in terms of power generation and buoyancy; a skystation open to the rarefied atmosphere of an inflection layer can still be useful for crews with the right breathing equipment, but a falling skystation is a disaster for everyone involved.
The most visible portions of a skystation from afar are the lifting gas envelopes; these serve the dual purpose of stabilizing the station's altitude and acting as reservoirs for recaptured lifting gasses to be sold to visitors. Windmill generators, biodiesel processors, and condensers to capture lifting gasses from the inflection layer (where such gasses tend to congregate when released) are also highly visible. Long tunnel latices provide docking space for visitors, Navigator's Guild N3 "Honeyguides," and the station's own airborne security detail. Geodesic glass farming modules full of algae produce biodiesel feedstock, oxygen for auxiliary life support, and meager emergency rations for the crew. Because skystations float in micro-gravity environments, which are known to cause bone loss and other problems for humanoids, stations along more populous skylanes feature centrifugal gravity rings spinning in the plane of the inflection layer. Some stations have as many as 500 people aboard at all times, operating businesses and service kiosks within the habitation ring to serve the needs of visitors. Air compressors convert the sparse ambient atmosphere into a breathable mixture within the confines of the station. Garages along the exterior surface of the station contain specially sealed maintenance auto-armor to keep the station operational.
As the Rostrans were the first to develop aerostats within the Manifold, they were also among the first to construct skystations. These early skystations existed within the commissures of Rostral C cube, as the inflection layers were as-of-yet inaccessible, and used long guy wires to keep the station moored in the centers of their respective commissures. Later, as Voxelia and Petalcap Vale developed aerostat technologies, they too developed primitive skystations in an instance of convergent technological evolution.