We have a lot more options on the table if we are including alternatives like artificial intelligence too, but for today we will assume you’d need regular old humans on-site or in proximity. While it might not be a big hub for actual living, the value of a colony near the Sun, if you can successfully build it, is so huge that it would rapidly come to dominate the entire system economy.
Even if it only takes a skeleton crew to operate some of these immense machines, so that it was like one person working inside a large modern warehouse, when industrialized you could have trillions of people working there, supplying untold billions of megatons of raw materials and trillions of gigawatts of power to a growing solar economy. There is nothing in this solar system that the Sun doesn’t have more of, except empty space and lower temperatures.
From the Sun we can run giant energy beams out to distant energy-hungry colonies (more on that in a moment), we can use it to maneuver and accelerate spaceships, we can harvest it for huge amounts of hydrogen and helium as well as heavier elements. Beyond those, you can use surplus power to run a giant ring shaped supercollider… which is also basically an orbital ring… to turn lighter elements into heavier ones. You could potentially even be making anti-matter or kugelblitz blacks holes to store energy or use as spaceship engines.
Whenever we talk about fully harnessing the Sun for power I get asked what we’d do with all of it, around 20 trillion times humanity’s total power consumption, and these are just some of the examples of what you can do, but in a nutshell, if you’ve got trillions of times the energy and matter, you run trillions of times the industrial output.
“Trillions of times the industrial output.” I can see the Imperial Megacorporations drooling already!
So, you get a number of possible variations:
- The Imperium, alone, has a profitable star colony. “Exactly as it says on the flag.” This makes Sylea/Capital – the location of the star colony – extremely, even overwhelmingly important in Charted Space. I suspect the main reason this Imperium hasn’t just eaten the other star empires is because it’s just so huge and heavily populated… and just doesn’t see the need to do so (ie: Ming China).
- The Imperium is dedicated to bringing one man’s dream to life: Emperor Cleon’s desire to build this star colony around Sylea’s primary star. It has taken over a thousand years to build it up, and the population of the star colony is only now hitting a billion, but the sheer cost of the project — inspired by Cleon, directed by the Vilani, and funded by the Solomani — is finally beginning to reach the point of exponential growth (and exponential profits)…
- You can have these colonized stars the sole source of the miniature, kugelblitz black holes needed to power starships. Or, if you are going to stick with canon tech, use the kugelblitz black holes to power up the terrifying weapon systems of the Imperial Capital Ship.
“Finally! Building literal Star Destroyers for His Imperial Majesty’s Navy!”
- The Star Colony project is even older than this, with the original one founded around Vland’s star system, a new one at Sylea’s primary, and a third one – still incomplete – around Terra’s star, Sol.
“The Imperium is 98% about building star colonies, arranging starmining operations, and setting up Dyson Spheres: again, Exactly as it Says on the Flag. As for what the lesser races do with the other 2% of the universe… do you think the Emperor really cares? At all?”
“Praise the Sun!”
The Church of the Stellar Divinity could be very useful to such an Emperor.
An Emperor who, perhaps, is already half-way changing his preferred title to Pharaoh, as the spiritual link between the Generous Star Gods, “the source of all life, power, and wealth in the cosmos”, and the Grateful People. Emperor would be the title he takes up as the commander of the multi-billion-starship strong Imperial Fleet.
Not-so-incidentally: at such high levels of technology, the Emperor, the Nobility, and maybe even a large section of the general population are
immortal ageless. I don’t believe in the possibility of sentient, self-aware AI, but such things are within the Canon Traveller universe…
(Wonders when Grandfather will show up… and if such an Emperor would openly laugh at him, if he does.
Quite likely, if psionics is in any way scientifically reproducible and transferable, such an Emperor would most certainly grab as much as he could… or, like the real Pharaoh of Moses’ day, have his own set of mighty magicians on-staff.)
“So, you said variations of Traveller’s Imperium.”
“Yep. Different, upgraded flavours of the same beast. And they’ll all end up with the same storyline, too.”
“All empires fall.”
“You don’t like the Imperium, don’t you?”
“I like Imperia that know their place. Uppity governments become idols, and idols exist to be toppled.”