The aether (or more rarely, the Aether) is a plane of existence common to all varieties of the D-Verse, though it features more in some storylines than others. The aether (or aetheric plane, aetheric realm, astral plane, spirit realm, spirit world, etc.) is distinguishable from the physical plane (or normal space, physical realm, physical reality, reality, etc.) primarily by one characteristic: the aether is a plane of primarily nonmaterial existence, while the physical plane is one of solely material existence.
The aether's reason for existence is to grant things - of any sort; living, dead, or otherwise - a degree of complexity in design and operation, among other things, that extends beyond the physical state.
As one specific example, the aether allows a human being to exist as more than a loosely bundled collection of meat and bone and various squishy things wrapped in a thin leathery shell; it is the location of the aetheric pattern marking the existence of a soul or spirit or whatever one may call the non-physical component of all living things.
Although a separate and normally inaccessible plane, activity in the aether directly affects the physical plane. The reverse is also true, though to a lesser extent; a major disturbance in the aether affects the physical plane a great deal more than a major disturbance on the physical plane affects the aether. This is partly due to the aether's syntemporal existence, but generally speaking it is merely a result of the aether's being designed to augment physical reality and not the other way around.
Magic and the aether Edit
The majority of all sorts of magic requires access to the aether; some types are primarily concerned with the use of the aether itself, while others simply use it as the vehicle for a desired physical effect. In any case, humans who are unable or unwilling to access the aether are incapable of using magic without assistance, usually in the form of a device or artifact which can access the aether on its own.
The primary issue is that the aether must be accessed to create any sort of effect not normally possible (or in most cases, highly improbable) on the physical plane. While it is possible to mimic some effects with sufficiently advanced technology, the strength of magic is that it can be used without resorting to such technology.
Direct access to the aether, or as direct as most can manage, is only possible while inside a Zone. If no Zone is nearby, one must be created for magic to be used.
Travel and the aether Edit
The nature of the aether allows for certain impossibilities (or high improbabilities); careful exploitation of this fact allows individuals to cross space and time (within certain limits). There is also a method of deep space exploration involving the aether that can only be used in the Void itself.
Space travel Edit
Aetheric space travel ('space' meaning physical space, not necessarily the Void) is accomplished in one of two ways. The first is to take a portion of space and transpose it with another in a different location; this requires the formation of an aetheric bubble or container around both spaces in question, which are then switched. Obviously, none of this is possible if one or both spaces are located outside a Zone.
The second form of space travel involves making a two-dimensional physical connection between two non-contiguous spaces, which manifests in the physical plane as a Gate; this method is used in long-term applications, or when the first method would require too much energy (in the case of large-scale matter transportation).
Neither method is without its hazards, as both create small areas of aetheric instability which grow more severe the longer they exist. In the case of the second method, this is mostly avoided with the use of aetheric gates.
Time travel Edit
The aether's syntemporal state of existence makes it appear completely chaotic to the untrained observer, full of past and present and future all at once without regard for physical location. Sufficiently developed aethersight, including that provided by a Third Eye, may allow its possessor to filter out the chaos and view either only the past or a limited amount of the most likely future events.
At any given moment, a mortal's aetheric pattern possesses a certain value of 'present', also known as a marker value, which essentially notes when it last interacted with reality.
- Travel to any time period preceding one's marker value allows only observation, not interaction; the observer is out of phase with reality, neither limited by its laws nor able to interact with it.
- Travel to any time period after one's marker value - if not specified as phased (observational) travel - sets the marker value to the last instance of interaction, e.g., traveling 50 years to the future and interacting with reality immediately sets the skipped 50 years as observation-only since they are now in the past relative to the marker value.
If capable of travel to alternate timelines, a mortal will have multiple marker values, one created for each timeline accessed.
For Deities, time travel inevitably creates alternate timelines which must be properly dealt with, a task almost exclusively handled by Dio.
Deep space exploration Edit
By using the aether not as a medium, but rather as a sort of catalyst, the Void can be traversed at speeds more appropriate for its vastness. This process is accomplished using an aetheric ripper with a sufficient power source, which folds the aether in front of one's vehicle and then punches through it.
The aether is most malleable where no patterns exist to foul up the folding process, which is to say, far away from humans or the aetheric imprints of celestial bodies. (This is a sharp contrast to the more traditional means of space travel, both of which require knowledge of the destination's associated aetheric patterns without which neither process is feasible.) 'Malleable' is a relative term, however; as folding increases in physical size and number of folds, the power required to complete the process also increases.