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Nebulas and Quasars

If one travels for an incredibly long time in the flow, eventually the phlogiston begins to thin, and soon becomes useless for pulling a ship along in its currents. At these times, normal wildspace speeds are the norm. Several bizarre spacial phenomena exist in these empty areas.

Nebulas

    Due to some bizarre quirk of space (or perhaps some natural process that is not yet understood), the substance of the phlogiston sometimes turns in upon itself. Whether this is an effect of the thinning of the phlogiston or a cause is unknown. This process, when closely examined, shows very small clouds of phlogiston (one inch across or less) beginning to spin, eventually contracting to a small point (about the size of a grain of sand) and assuming the properties of a solid. This process tends to occur over a wide area, usually at least several days of travel (by wildspace speeds). This solid phlogiston decays into the gas form when exposed to normal phlogiston (i.e., if it is brought back into denser gaseous flow), is not combustible, and very hard. The solid form also has gravity.

    This large cloud of "flow-dust," often called a nebulas, can have almost any shape, but it tends to become denser in the center, forming a small sphere which slowly grows and changes color as time goes by. This sphere is unmovable by any known method (including attaching it to a ship and trying to tow it). After several thousand years, when the sphere has become as large as a size B planetoid, it rapidly expands. During this expansion, the sphere loses its gravity, becomes a gray color and hollow: a new crystal sphere has been created. This sphere does not have any naturally occurring portals, for the interior is being organized by whatever cosmic or divine beings lay claim to it, and they usually do not wish to be disturbed.

    [Richard J. Pugh's addendum to original article: "Sean's flow nebulae is a great way to set up a new crystal sphere. To expand on this idea: In most cases, these result in a small to medium-sized crystal sphere, like Realmspace. However, if two or three of the 'flow pellets' form in close proximity, they may fuse together when one of them becomes unstable enough to expand into a sphere. While it expands, it absorbes the other pellets in the area, and adds their mass to its own. This could be the origin of large crystal spheres, such as Greyspace. It could also be that more than one pellet expanded at about the same time. This could result in a handful of small spheres in a cluster, with some of the remaining nebula gas drifting between them."]

Quasars

    The celestial body known as a quasar is actually a form of nebula. Instead of expanding when it reaches a certain size, the nebula's heart continues to gain mass and slowly grow. As the heart becomes larger and larger, the pressure increases on the heart's interior, which causes the center to try to expand as it normally would, resulting in a hollow core extending all the way to the giant phlogiston-heart. This core has all the normal properties of wildspace, including possible entrances to other planes (which otherwise would be closed in the flow).

    The pressure inside the core is so great that normal matter (air, earth, fire, water) is quickly shunted back through any portal that opens to those planes, but pure energy is hardly affected. Openings to the Positive or Negative Material Planes exist in the core, and release bursts of energy, which become conducted through the solid matter of the quasar and are emitted. After a time, these pulses begin to occur at regular intervals as weak parts of the quasar-shell pass near a particular opening to the Positive or Negative Plane. Once the pattern of these positive and negative energy bursts is known, the quasar is easily recognizable.

    The area immediately around a quasar is often inhabited by bodiless undead (shadows, wraiths, spectres), for they can enter the core and pass through the shell. They rarely venture far from the quasar, however, since they lose their extradimensional link when they pass more than a few hundred feet from it. They usually flit about on the surface, occasionally becoming vaporized as a burst of positive energy makes its way to the surface. This threat of destruction keeps the undead population low (the smart ones stay away and the stupid ones get caught).

    Ships that get too close to the quasar run the risk of getting hit by a burst of positive or negative energy. Positive energy does a variable amount of damage, depending on the size and strength of the burst, while negative energy can deal damage or drain levels (again, depending on the burst). Each can also damage magical and mundane items on the ship.