Faster Than Light Travel

Jump Ring Transit System

Jump Rings were, until the arrival of humanity on the galactic scene, the only practical way to cross vast interstellar distances. No one is completely certain any longer which individual race first developed the Rings, and several Races have developed individual versions of the technology before first encountering another species, complicating the issue further.

Regardless of who first created Jump Rings, the idea is a simple one. Two Rings, light years apart, power between them a connection, folding space to create a "wormhole" or "nexus" that can near-instantly take a ship across the vast distance separating the Rings.

Of course, the flaws in this system are many and varied. As the galaxy itself drifts and moves, so to do the Rings, making the calculations for one Ring to target another hideously difficult. Additionally, there are maximum practical limits of distance, and each Ring must be able to 'see' the counterpart Ring it is attempting to forge a link to. Many natural phenomena, including large gravity sources, can prevent a link if they fall between two Rings. This results in the need for the complex Ring Transit System(RTS), that ties all Rings together. A ship traveling from one side of the galaxy to the other may need to make dozens of transits, wait for recurring natural phenomena to pass, or any number of other delays.

Adding to the limitations of the RTS and its Rings, costs for construction of new Rings are extremely prohibitive. In order to provide the best possible visibility for each Ring, they are almost invariably constructed outside a solar system to limit how much of the sky the system's own star will block. This necessitates a sublight journey between local planets/stations and the nearest Ring which can take days, or even weeks, depending on the size and speed of the transiting ships.

Finally, and most problematic of all, is the initial placement of the Ring. Prior to the introduction of the Infinity drive, even unmanned, a new Ring was forced to make sublight transit at roughly 20-30% the speed of light. To reach an unexplored system could take decades crawling along at those speeds, and there was still every chance the Ring would be lost in transit, or find a barren and useless system at its destination. The prohibitive cost of even a single ring, and the danger of no return on the investment, was one of the longest and most universal restrictions on exploration via them. Only larger, more affluent governments could afford to launch them without first surveying a potential system with a scout drone to discover if anything in the system was even worth visiting. All of this, of course, changed when Humanity introduced the Infinity Drive. While the RTS is still the primary method of travel around the galaxy, new Ring destinations can now be scouted quickly and the Ring components transferred at superluminal speeds to promising systems.

Infinity Drive

Despite its massive importance, and impact on the galaxy, the infinity drive is actually the slowest viable method of traveling interstellar distances. Pioneered by Jack Amaril of the Amaril Corporation, this somewhat risky drive technology subverts the laws of physics by converting increases in mass at high velocity into propulsion energy, effectively providing ships equipped with the technology the ability to forcefully accelerate well beyond the speed of light. It also has the side benefit of creating effectively limitless energy at lightspeed and higher to provide ship's power.

That power is important, as this method of FTL travel has been called flat-out madness by many groups and species. Traveling at such speeds, even along carefully charted routes of empty space and with outrider scout drones to provide some warning of possible collisions, is alarmingly perilous. The power provided is one way the Humans have always mitigated the risk, combining it with their unparalleled(out of this very necessity) shield and inertial dampening technologies to survive collisions with small particulate.

Nothing can save a ship under infinity drive if it encounters even a small comet or asteroid, however, and thus this method of travel remains dangerous. Only mildly so in well traveled and cleared spacelanes, but extremely so in unexplored regions of space. Despite this risk, the usage of the infinity drive has vastly sped up exploration efforts in the galaxy, and is also safe enough in controlled conditions to have been employed by both military and private sector interests for rapid in-system travel. More recently, the power provided by the infinity engine has proven able to power short 'Ringless' Jump Ring type jumps. Practical limitations on computational power and Jump distance, among other things, have presently restricted usage of this method almost exclusively to well-funded militaries and major expeditions. These combination drives are often referred to as “Fold Drives.”

Rifts and Rift Energy Ships

Rifts are, perhaps, one of the least understood phenomena in our galaxy. Not that it isn't known what they do, that much is obvious with even the most minor degree of observation. Rather, no one is quite certain exactly what they are. The prevailing theory is that “rifts” are literal tears in the fabric of space, connecting two specific places in the galaxy as if there simply was no physical difference between the two locations.

As for how they are created, no one has a provable theory. It seems, at times, that every scientist has his, her, or its own pet theory on the matter, but not a single soul has ever been able to produce enough evidence for their theory to be considered more likely then dozens of others.

To the frustration of all, a human scientist, Dr. Walter Hamilton, did develop a way to harness the energies, eventually resulting in Stellar Fire Enterprises developing "Rift Launcher" ships. These ships use collected natural rift energy to project small, unstable, directed rifts just long enough for a ship to travel through at speed. The short time frame of stability to these rifts makes them entirely one way affairs and, added to the relative rarity of natural rifts to siphon energy from, this has prevented Rift Launchers from replacing the Ring Transit System as a viable mass-market FTL travel option.

Even so, their sole possession of the single fastest point-to-point technology known to any race has transformed Stellar Fire Enterprises into one of the galaxy's largest and most successful companies. A remarkable feat for a relatively young corporation. Sadly, they have managed all this without actually understanding how the Rifts work, much to the bafflement of the scientific community at large.

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