I thought I had posted my helmsman/hyperspace headcanon which I have used in The Exigencies of the Service and Engine Song, but I can’t find it so maybe I didn’t. Anyway, here it is, with the caveat that it’s kinda cribbed from Cherryh’s Alliance-Union-Compact ‘verse.
- Helmsmen are not actually capable of propelling a starship faster than the speed of light using only their minds. That would be silly.
- Hyperdrive works like this: when you are sufficiently out of a gravity well, you activate your hyperdrive vanes (external antenna things, honestly kind of vulnerable which is why they’re retractable) and go into a subuniverse where distances are shorter so you can effectively cross a certain distance faster than light could.
- Within this subuniverse, due to the wonky geometries, sensors don’t work effectively so you can’t do navigation except via dead reckoning. This means that nearly every species known simply points their ship at a known star position and hits “go” and unless your navigator is particularly incompetent you’ll hit that star’s gravity well.
- You re-emerge into normal space as soon as you hit a star’s gravity well (well outside the star’s actual atmosphere, thankfully). There are also non-star masses in deep space where smugglers like to use for meetings. Black holes are also viable targets, but are rather dangerous neighborhoods to hang out in.
- You re-emerge into space going very fast (though not above 0.1c, and therefore not meaningfully relativistic). A very convenient method of braking is simply to activate your hyperspace vanes again; you’ll go into hyperspace, get thrown out immediately, and bleed off velocity as you do. Repeat as necessary until your crew is vomiting all over your control panels or you have decelerated to a safe speed.
- Since humans and other non-troll species can’t change speed or course in hyperspace, lest they get lost, it’s very easy to tell where they’ll come out based on their vector when they went in.
- The thing helmsmen do for trolls is they can use their psionics and the brain-ship interface to sense their surroundings and manipulate the vane settings. This lets them change course safely, as well as get better performance out of their hyperdrive.
- Since the entire ship is at the mercy of the helmsman during flight, it is wise to ensure you can trust the troll you wire into your starship. Traditionally, HIC’s navy accomplished this via brainwashing and torture, but other methods are possible.
- Even troll sensory psionics are limited by lightspeed, so in normal space, radar and lidar are supplemented with “longscan”, which is basically systematized hunches about what ships are doing. Helmsmen typically also make excellent longscan enhancers.
Anyway, that’s what I came up with, because I like kitbashing interesting starship operation procedures. I hope this is useful to something.