As a science fiction series, Tales from the Juggernaut relies on technology to underpin the story. This page explains some of the science in the fiction (and one thing that turned out to be science fact!)


The Juggernaut has been built up over the years like sediment builds rocks. Layer upon layer of old space ships and other technology has accumulated and grown until it can now sustain a population far bigger than anyone suspects. But how can they live and survive here?


There is always some food available on the Juggernaut. Thanks to modern technology, some level of subsistence crops can be grown quite easily. Whether you find hydroponic algae tasty or not is up to you, but you probably won’t starve. Mushrooms are common too, and rats, of course, are plentiful everywhere (just ask Ellie).

Some inhabitants have been able to develop small farms with the help of imported (or stolen) animals like goats and rabbits. And of course, it is a desperate, captive market, so there will always be something available from a passing trader which would not be good enough to sell to the rest of the Commonwealth.


Water is one of the essential components of life. None of us can live long without it. Fortunately, water is easy to come by and easy to recycle, even with the old and tired technology of the Juggernaut. Water is a common element in the construction of most ships larger than a small shuttle, where it sits in the hull providing additional protection from solar radiation.

The hard part is creating the plumbing – the distribution and collection mechanisms that can pass through the many individual structures that make up a community.


Forming communities is one of the most natural things people do. The remnants of civilised worlds which end up on the Juggernaut are no different. Most of the time new arrivals have to acclimate to wherever they landed – that becomes their new home. Sometimes it might be possible to choose, if you made it there under your own power.

Some (like New Haven) are peaceful and work hard to bring a semblance of civilisation to their new home. others are more anarchistic, and put the needs of the moment, and their immediate survival, above building anything better than what they have.

Some are no more than gangs, roaming the city looking for resources to survive, but unwilling to put in the work to build a new home of their own.


Every ship that ever became part of the Juggernaut has its own power source, whether that is based on a freeon-plasma induction core or a common fusion drive. The age of the city means there are hundreds, maybe thousands of power cores available. The trick is keeping them stable and safe. It’s one reason why ship brokers like Nina are so valuable, they can direct scavenger to new cores needed to repair or replace old and failing technology. The future might have some fun toys, but no body wants to live near a fusion reactor operating years past it’s designed lifespan.


Navigation is the key to building a civilisation that can cross stars. It’s one thing to develop the engines to jump from one system to another, but the distances involved are so vast, that event the tiniest miscalculation could throw you so far off course you might never recover.

Beacons (see below) provide the most up to date navigation data available to a ship, but the jump itself still has to factor in mass, velocity and orientation as well as the precise location at the point of origin and the point of destination. The jump equation to bridge these two points must balance. If it is unbalanced, then something has to change to ensure the sum of the jump equation from origin to destination remains equal. Exactly how this equation is balanced out is not in the control of the ship’s crew. Jump physics include some element of chaos theory, or randomness, so that the correction does not have to actually fix the wrong part of the equation – it only has to balance.

So a ship travelling too fast will upset the velocity part of the calculation. The correction could affect orientation or position on the other side, so it could arrive travelling the wrong direction. Or with missing mass, in other words a hole in the ship.

The bigger the error, the bigger the correction, and the less chance of making it safely to the destination at all.


Jump drives are the engines that star ships can use to generate jump points, or wormholes. These drives require a lot of energy and computing power so they are typically only equipped in bigger ships, like freighters or warships. Smaller ships can only travel from one star to another by way of a surrogate. (See The Juggernaut for the scene describing this). There’s nothing stopping a ship opening a jump point anywhere, but creating a wormhole from one point in space to another is a dangerous thing, and the slightest miscalculation can mean a ship is lost forever. Knowing how to jump is only one part, the other involves navigation, and for that you need some kind of beacon.


Beacons are satellite supercomputers orbiting stars at huge distances. They monitor and provide all the data a ship needs in order to calculate a jump safely. Beacons consist of a nexus hub (the supercomputer) around which orbit four satellites. The satellites do the measuring while the nexus performs the calculations and updates any ships that need the information. As one of the calculations in a jump is mass, the beacons also keep track of ships arriving or leaving in their locality.

Beacons operate in pairs, working like bridges to connect one star system to another. Two beacons, one at each end, makes for a very safe and reliable jump. Assuming of course that all the other data is correct…

Science fact: When I was developing the idea of jump beacons I worked out that four would be the smallest number of satellites needed to track any movement between the nexus and each other in three dimensions. So how pleased was I to find out that shortly after this, NASA launched a mission to monitor gravity (among other things) and they came up with the same quad-satellite configuration I did.

So basically I’m a NASA scientist now.


There’s three kinds of weapons in the Juggernaut universe; energy, ballistic and kinetic.

Energy weapons

We all know that sci fi weapons like the Star Wars blaster are the best kind. they look cool, sound cool, and somehow move slow enough to give the heroes a fighting chance. Scientifically accurate laser weapons might be more deadly, but they would also take out the fun. Who can hear or see an invisible laser beam, and be able to react in time? So for the world of the Juggernaut the good old blaster is my preferred weapon. 

Ballistic weapons

This covers projectile weapons like shotguns and rifles which require physical ammunition (rounds). Why would you need these in a SF future? For one, ballistic weapons are easier to make. Secondly, they can be more effective than energy weapons when used in an atmosphere. Atmospheric particles like dust and water can have a big impact on the efficacy of a blaster, and not so much on a metal slug. On the other hand, energy weapons are much safer in space, on ships and in space stations, because they are much less likely to penetrate a hull or ricochet like a bullet.

Kinetic weapons

This includes orbital strikes and mass drivers. Imagine a heavy depleted uranium-tungsten spear, thirty metres long, fired at a planet. With enough mass and speed, a weapon like this could destroy a city, and it would be impossible to dodge.


Small self-powered cubes that can be stuck to any surface to provide a diffuse light. Portable lamps, basically.


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Scifi tablets, but obviously a lot more powerful than your typical iPad.


This is something I didn’t want in the Juggernaut. FTL comms means that a character in one star system can talk to another with no lag. It means inter-system communications can be instant. I don’t like this. It’s not scientifically accurate, and it can remove tension from the story if someone can easily obtain information from light-years away.

So in the world of the Juggernaut, all communcations are limited to light-speed. This means there is a lag on all space comms over big distances, and it means that communications from one star to another have to go via courier drone. These are small automated ships that wait near jump points and collect messages. When a ship departs it can automatically join the jump group and once on the other side it can transmit messages to system relay stations. Now it’s possible to send messages across multiple stars, but it could still take a couple of days to get there. Plenty of time to build story tension. Possibly.