Authors and filmmakers like to talk a lot about the ships in their space opera offerings. We want to know about the Enterprise, Galactica, and the ships of The Expanse. We don’t talk a lot about where those ships stay when they’re not out traversing the cosmos. It’s established in “The Magic Root” (formerly The First One’s Free) and Gimme Shelter that colonies generally have a single orbital station tasked with managing traffic in an undeveloped world’s sky and running its sole hypergate. But what about the core worlds?
Austin and Okada both mention “networks” of hypergates surrounding Earth, Mars, and the major worlds outside the solar system. I seem to have created the impression that Tian is almost all orbital dry docks. Even its sister worlds within the system – namely the gas giant Zeus – are nothing more than masses of orbital stations and dry dock frames for the ships of the Compact. But Tian is described as Earth-sized with a moon roughly the size of Mercury (though less massive than Earth’s moon.) Austin’s first depicted interaction with Burke is on Tian in an office with a mountain range in the background. But where do the ships go?
If you look at sea ports, no two are really alike. Oh, there are the familiar gantry cranes seen in places as diverse as New York City, Savannah, San Francisco, and even Cleveland. But the ports themselves, their piers, their layouts, even those same dinosaur-like rows of cranes differ from port to port. I envision the Compact being even more diverse. The Challenger is first seen attached to a giant wheel with other ships similarly docked. Yet over Nereid, the almost squarish moon of Neptune, has at least one of the lattice-work docks familiar to Star Trek fans. Much of this is determined by the purpose of each dock. The big one over Tian is a general purpose dock, at least for the Navy. The one over Nereid is for a single ship and over a lightly populated body. The whole purpose of bringing the Challenger to Nereid is to put it somewhere out of sight of prying eyes. If we follow the model of The Expanse (which the Compact Universe unintentionally parallels in regards to Earth and its environs), there are a lot of prying eyes over Jupiter and Saturn and in the rocks between them and Mars.
One thing I haven’t really envisioned, despite certain scenes in Broken Skies, are the big commercial docks. I suspect there are several over Earth and Mars that are visible in the night sky, as well as over Tian, the Caliphate, and Bromdar. They might even be enclosed structures like the one shown in Star Trek III and the later TOS Treks.
I should probably do a bit more around the docks. There is a whole world separate from those on the surfaces of planets and moons. The Wire, set in the present day, did an entire season around the blue water port of Baltimore. It’s a vastly different world from Baltimore’s inner city. And Baltimore’s port was a vastly different world from the rest of the city.