The other day a workmate who has read Linesman and Alliance asked me, “How do the lines eat?”.
I don’t think fast sometimes. “I don’t know,” I said.
But the fact is, we do know. Sort of. We don’t know right down to the specific detail, but we know roughly what makes the lines tick.
Here’s my attempt to explain it out loud
First up, lines don’t eat as such. They are bands of energy and will take on energy to strengthen their own bands. If you like, you can think of it as adding electricity to a battery, but a better analogy would be amplifying a wave in phase so that the strength of the wave increases.
The extra energy comes mostly from the void. There’s a reason for that, but since we haven’t mentioned that reason in the books yet, I can’t say why.
When the lines aren’t going through the void they can supplement with energy from the Bose engines. Humans think the Bose engines are only required to get them through the void. They’re not. They’re also needed for line health. The engines on the alien line ships provide this energy much better than the human-built Bose engines do, so the lines on a healthy alien ships will always be stronger than those on an equivalent human ship.
But what about sentience?
The sentience of the ship is symbiosis. A line ship’s sentience depends on the people travelling with them, and the emotional strength of their interaction with each other. The lines need sentience around them to become aware.
Awareness comes from interaction with other sentience. The more a ship is around other intelligent beings who interact with it the more aware it becomes.
Note the emphasis here. Human line ships are sentient, but interaction is often one way. Humans don’t think of their ships as sentient (or they never used to, not unil Ean came along), so they didn’t interact with it.
Except the captains, who bond to their ship. In a way they become an extension of the lines and the lines extend them. That’s why ships always sound like the captain.
Repairing the lines
We haven’t touched on repairing the lines. That’s a subject for another blog.