Very early concept art – illustrating the principle of four O’Neill Cylinders revolving around a coil.
The Lifeship itself is much larger than merely the coil and the four rings.

The Ascendancy universe is one in which humanity is a wandering civilization. After taming the entire solar system and establishing colonies as far away as Alpha Centauri and Tau Ceti – human civilization was suddenly and unexpectedly attacked – when some unknown but intelligent force unleashed a magnatar – or artificial sun – hurling it across the settled worlds.

For 1,500 years, humanity has been constantly moving – mining for resources, starting small little outposts, but always moving along. The Fleet – as it is collectively known – contains hundreds of thousands of vessels – some more suited to long term habitation than others. At the centre of this nomadic civilization is the Great Lifeship – a massive fortress vessel that contains the seat of government and power, as well as the closest thing humanity had to a natural environment for centuries – the Four Rings.

From afar, the Lifeship appears much like a carriage. There are four distinct parts to it, all held together by steel cables that can be tight or hang loose between the various parts, depending on whether the Lifeship is travelling through the stars, or resting at some temporary mine drawing resources from a sun, gas giant or rock. Ships connect directly with the cables between the distinct parts of the Lifeship. Anyone is welcome to be part of the Fleet – and no one is forced to be part of the Fleet. In order to enjoy the protection of the Monarchy, the use of its Antimatter Drives, the provisions of its oxygen, water, currency, military and legal systems – one simply must submit to the Law of the Monarchy.

When the Fleet is moving, all the vessels connect to the LifeShip – and they move on the power of the Lifeship. The ship is the property of the Queen – and she has a monopoly on antimatter power. Vessels revert to their own drives and power sources only when the fleet is stationary. When the Fleet begins to move to the next system, ships directly connect to the cables. The Lifeship then transports them to the next destination.

The Realm is a term describing the totality of humanity – the colonies, the laser highways, and the Fleet. At the Centre of the Fleet, and at the heart of the Realm, is the Lifeship itself.

At the very forefront of the Lifeship is a small platform with powerful probes and sensors, and a massive window from where monks gaze into the space ahead of the fleet. This platform is known as ‘The Eye‘ – and while the entire Lifeship is the property of Her Majesty – the Church has been given residence in the Eye. It is one of the major installations of the Church – an organization concerning itself with ceremonial and ritual functions, education, healthcare, human welfare and epistemology, far more than theology. The Church represents not one religion but all human religions. From the eye, senior officials in the Realm’s Church gaze out on what lies ahead of the Fleet.

At the very back is a massive platform containing the LifeShip and Fleet’s Drive, and the Royal Antimatter Powerplants. This lags far behind the Lifeship – and the awesome power it unleashes makes it a dangerous place to be when in use.

The Fortress is the seat of the Monarchy. Within the Fortress, the Queen of humanity lives and rules. Attached to either side are two major platforms – the headquarters of two independent and separate military forces, the Red and Blue Navies. These two forces are kept distinct so that no single military is tasked with human survival. They compete with each other – sometimes even fighting skirmishes with each other. But both are loyal to the Queen. Within the lightzone of the Lifeship, neither Navy dominates – and the Fleet is secured by the Royal Guard instead. The opposing Navies have their headquarters attached to the fortress and know better than to bring their conflict into the vicinity of the Fleet itself.

When most in the Fleet or Colonies speak of ‘the Lifeship’ the actually mean just one part of it – the Four Rings.

Considered mankind’s greatest feat of engineering, the Four Rings are engineered and artificially created environments in which mankind can enjoy some semblance of the home planet that once cradled the species. The four rings revolve around a central coil, providing their interiors with centrifugal gravity and 12 hours of light and 12 hours of night. The rings in the centre are warmer, the two on the edges cooler. Each ring has a distinctive range of climates inside, mimicking various terrains that hint back to Old Earth.

Each Ring is 10,000 square kilometres. Together, that’s 40,000 km2 – roughly the size of Switzerland. Each ring is 40 kilometres wide and 250 kilometres long. Each ring is divided into three territories, with each territory controlled by one of the 12 Noble Houses – from whose genetic lines the Queen is selected and bred.

There are towns, cities and installations in the rings, as well as undeveloped areas of artificial nature, including salt water ‘oceans’ and freshwater lakes.

While every subject of the Realm is entitled to spend one month per year on the Rings, only the nobles, the rich and powerful and those enjoying Royal Merits have the right to live on the Rings.

The First Ring (Portside Outer) is the home of Houses Zoskiar, Namactoun and Aman. Its terrain includes tundra, steppes, woods and forests, terrains, glaciers and artic brushland.
The Second Ring (Portside Inner) is the home of Houses Hataibor, Tesaban and Vlalis. It is a warm ring, and its terrains include desert, semi-arid areas, temperate zones, savannah, grasslands and ‘Mediterranean’ zones.

Between the Portside and Starboard Rings is Central Station – and entirely Urban environment that is effectively the Fleet’s Capital City. People commute from within the Rings and from the rest of the fleet to Central Station every day.

The Third Ring (Starboard Inner) is the home of Houses Hitocae, Santuli and Shanrani. Also a warm ring, it’s regions include jungles, wetlands, tropical zones, monsoon grasslands and swamps. It is as warm as the Second Ring, but a lot more humid.
The Fourth Ring (Starboard Outer) is the home of Houses Bolishia, Daradan and Iopai. A cooler ring, it includes deciduous forests, grasslands, cooler temperate zones, highlands and moutain areas.