Streaker (David Brin)

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Streaker is the name of a fictional starship from David Brin's Uplift Universe. It first appeared in Startide Rising, that tells what happens when Streaker tries to hide from the extraterrestrials in the Ocean of Kithrup. Infinity's Shore and Heaven's Reach continue the saga of the ship and her crew.

In-Universe Description

The starship Streaker is a Human-built interstellar survey ship operated under the auspices of the Terragens Council, the governing body of the Clan Terragen. The Clan Terragen consists of three sapient species, Humans, Neochimpanzees, and Neodolphins. Both the Neochimp and Neodolphin (NeoFin) species are the product of Human uplift projects, the result of a combination of genetic engineering, selective breeding, and probably other processes to raise the intelligence, manual dexterity, and 'consciousness' of the individuals of the species to Human level.

The Streaker has been extensively modified to be useful to its primarily Neodelphine crew. Neodolphins are able to 'breathe' oxywater, water supercharged with dissolved oxygen. Most of the interior volume of the Streaker is flooded with oxywater when the ship is in g-positive environment, which enables the Neodelphine crew to remain at their work stations without risk of drowning.

Most of the work stations operate through direct neural interfaces installed as cybernetic implants in the Neodolphin brain. Lacking true hands, the Neodolphins use direct brain-to-computer connections both to operate the ship proper and to make use of their tools.

Being the product of Terran engineering, Streaker is crude, slow, and ineffective by the standards of the ancient 'Galactic' civilization that dominates the Milky Way and four other neighboring galaxies. The Terragens make a deliberate policy of not making use of freely available alien technologies that they don't fully understand, choosing instead to construct and operate their ships using the engineering knowledge they've developed independently. This makes their ships fantastically crude by the standards of most species, but at least they are understandable to their builders and users.

The Terragens do make a few exceptions, Streaker uses alien technologies of time-flow control ('stasis') and artificial gravity and probability manipulation. However, in both a symbolic gesture and as a backup system, Streaker and most other Terragen ships also incorporate a rotatable environment within which 'gravity' can be created by centrifugal force in a rotating system.

The crew of the Streaker does include a handful of Humans, and one Neochimp. In space this presents no difficulties, because the Neodolphins can operate in an 'air environment', but when Streaker is on the ground they must either use extensive artificial gravity and other highly detectable technologies to maintain a microgravity environment inside the ship, or else they must flood the ship with water for the convenience of the majority Neodelphine crew, leaving the Humans and Neochimp largely confined to a handful of compartments, or else forced to make use of breathing apparatus.

(In microgravity environs, the Neodolphins can apparently operate in air with simple mechanisms to keep their skins moist.)

Streaker carries three smaller spacecraft, referred to by the characters as the 'Captain's gig', 'the skiff, and 'the longboat'. Little is revealed about these vehicles except that the longboat is capable of an interstellar journey on its own with some difficulty, while the smaller skiff is only theoretically capable of it, nobody is sure that it could actually succeed in an interstellar voyage on its own. Nothing is revealed about the gig, which was destroyed off-stage before the novel begins. These ships are stored in a 'garage' in the nose of the mother ship.

Likewise, little is revealed about Streaker's capabilities, though it is revealed that the ship can achieve velocities in excess of 60% of light-speed in a short period (a matter of minutes) without any sense of acceleration on the crew, and in later novels that the vessel can survive for a considerable period in the close environs of a star. The ship can operate freely in open space, Earth-like atmosphere, and underwater, though the limits of the pressures and what chemical compositions its hull can withstand are not made clear.