Post Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:18 pm

Historical Background


The nutshell of the times…
The year is 2591A.D. or 227 P.S.D (Post Stellar Drive). Humanity is still alive, much to the surprise of the nay-sayers over the centuries. No matter how hard we tried to wipe ourselves out, with dogged determination we managed to maintain a core civilization on mother Terra. With the bulk of the human population now outland, Humanity’s home world has staggered off the battlefield of life, an ecologically battered hulk that is only now starting to make a comeback after decades of efforts to clean up the skies and oceans, and restore the critical biomasses that maintained natural life. While the Terran Confederation has not exactly flourished, it has managed to plod forward with the same single-minded violent human-centric introspected short-sightedness that has been the race’s shortcoming since the discovery of fire. In short, little has changed: people are still greedy, they still kill one another, the poor envy the rich, and most people are either very happy or very depressed…

First star to the left and straight on til morning…
In 2364 the first stable and reliable interstellar navigation system went into production. The highly optimistic trekkers of the 20th and 21st centuries never got their wish for fancy warp drives, force shields, phaser beams and teleportation. Instead, a plague of regional conflicts, social and economic issues, guerilla and bio-terror dragged down the development of inter-system space-flight capabilities for decades. Several space-stations did get built in orbit, becoming home to such mundane industries as zero-gee ball-bearing production. Doomsayers were disappointed throughout the 21st century as several nuclear incidents managed to kill lots of people but failed to touch off Armageddon.
Technology proceeded apace. Genome research continued and by 2085 had finally conquered all congenital defects and diseases. Viruses continued mutating and killing late into 22nd century, modified and employed by bio-terrorists who introduced them uncontrolled into human populations in several incidents that cost millions of lives. Fuel cell technologies and their derivative technologies caught on and began a steady evolution in miniaturization, efficiency, and output. Without room temperature super-conduction, fusion power remained an elusive goal throughout the 21st century. Particle mechanics and phantom matter research developed into vacuum-breech-conductance (VBC) and zero-resistance-gap-transfer technologies that when combined with the refined containment technologies created the first “beyond break-even” fusion power plants. The first commercial fusion power facility went on-line in 2139, after its plasma containment, security and terrorism countermeasures received final government approval. It had been a nine year battle to hammer the legislation through the vociferous resistance of power manufacturing lobbies and misguided environmental splinter groups.
Computers continued to evolve in speed, size, and memory capacity. By 2091, the average consumer communications appliance had more computing power than an entire 20th century data-center. The entire scope of human knowledge consisting of the significant literature, photos, sound-clips, maps and coordinating data could be contained on a single two-hundred terabyte data disk costing three GMUs (Global Monetary Units) or credits. After decades of inconsistent results, the first networks based on HSMT (Hyper-accelerated Solid Medium Transversal) room temperature faster than light transmitting protocols broke the sustained one-terabyte per second switched point-to-switch-to-point speed barrier over four threads of shielded HSMT coax. Evolutions in miniaturization, bone-substrate cpus, digital-to-neural bus topologies, and NRRNG (Non-rejective/regenerative nerve grafting) [or N-Ring technology] made the ‘personal PC’ a truly ‘personal’ appliance that could be either worn, implanted, or grafted directly into a subject. In several landmark cases, research by the Reeves Neurological Institute using D-to-N buses and N-Ring surgical techniques restored full mobility to patients with 3rd and 4th vertebra full-spinal discontinuity (below the neck paraplegia). Refinements in this technology later became the basis for government and private sector research into neural performance enhancement (colloquially known as being ‘wired’).
As the 22nd century started, population pressures, dwindling resources, and poor results in ecological regeneration prompted renewed interest in off-world resources and colonization. Several lack-luster manned missions to the outer planets had failed to generate a serious grass-roots investment in the value of space flight and colonization. With an influx of private and government monies the multinational think-tank GAIIA (Global Aerospace Initiative for Interstellar Access) foundation was formed and began work. GAIIA, like its 20th century ancestor NASA was neither particularly efficient or cost effective, but a steady progression of patentable space-related technologies involving materials, fuels, food-production/miniaturization and cryonics kept the operation solvent. As always, solving the problem of creating a propulsion mechanism with a satisfactory long-term power-to-weight/acceleration ratio was the proverbial nine-hundred pound gorilla to defeat. Several forms of ion and particle derivative thrust mechanisms were developed and tested, but that line of research was fraught with problems concerning fuel components, byproducts, and a need for simple brute power. Fusion plants were resisting miniaturization and plans for space-born reactors ran into numerous technological setbacks and safety issues.
The GAIIA foundation formed many smaller task forces that explored dozens of alternatives that ranged from innovative to outlandish. Based on the success of HSMT the physics of faster than light momentum mechanics were challenged yet again with less than stellar results. The power-to-mass conundrum continued to thumb its nose in the face of the global scientific community.
In 2216, Shaffer Bernard demonstrated a prototype thrust mechanism based on efficient micro-antimatter conversion inside of a shaped containment and reflection field. It wasn’t the fictional warp drive, but it was an engine that was relatively lightweight and produced significant directional thrust as well as a usable clean thermal byproduct. The “Bernard Drive” would take twenty more years to evolve into a hardened technology, and twenty more to see significant refinements in miniaturization and thrust potential.
By 2260, Bernard Drive equipped ships were making regular interplanetary hops to the inner planets and several unmanned research probes had been slingshotted out of the system on various missions. Asteroid and comet mining became viable and cost effective industries.
Meanwhile, star-drive technologies were still being researched. Gravimetric (mass/inertia) research was finally starting to see some quantifiable results. Containment field projection was improving and the mass of the projectors was finally starting to become a semi-portable technology.
In 2293, the space curvature development group of GAIIA began hailing its first major significant breakthrough in interstellar space propulsion. Two researchers by the name of Tulley and Ingels had managed to push solid matter into a transitive “realm” beyond physical space. The “Tulley/Ingels” effect sparked huge interest in the scientific community. The problems was—matter went in—but nobody knew where it was going or how to get it out. Electronic signaling devices pumped into “hyperspace” went out of communication range. After four years and several billion credits, the project’s failure to produce anything usable caused opponents to declaim it as the world’s most expensive garbage disposal.
Ten years after the initial discovery of the Tulley/Ingels effect, researchers aboard the deep system mobile barge Faraday made a tremendous discovery. The space barge, then positioned at the L4 orbital Lagrange was a platform for a number of low gravity experiments. A group of scientists lead by Siggurd Johannson passed a specific particle of isotope into and out of two Tulley/Ingels “Disposal” gates. As the theory went, without the effects of a planetary body exerting magnetic and gravimetric skew, it was possible to create a “path” or tunnel between two precisely positioned generators.
Subsequent replications of the experiment caused tremendous resources to be focused on the development of this near-instantaneous (to the outside observer) point-to-point travel mechanism. Development continued and it was learned that the larger the mass passed into transition space the more the gating was subject to gravimetric skew. As knowledge of the effect grew and the objects passed into and out of transition space grew, more and more was learned about the nature of “hyperspace” and the understanding of sub-space drift and skew. It was theorized and later proven that specific “weak points” already existed in normal space, and that by applying a specific vectoring of the “Tulley/Ingels” effect, a mass could be “jumped” between a finite number of neighboring weak points along the intersecting folds of space.
As testing and experimentation continued it was discovered that while each jump-point had a finite number of destinations, predicting which would be the result of particular phase vector was not possible. Thus began Johannson jump-point vector mapping program.
Fixed gateways were only of minimal use to star travel when the opposing ends were located in the solar system. For a stable, predictable pathway between systems to exist another gate had to be positioned. Getting one to another system was the problem.
By 2312, full scale unmanned mapping of the jump points was underway. The Sol system only had 4 neighboring jump points, each with approximately 20 vectorable drops. Literally thousands of probes with pre-programmed entry and return vectors were pumped into hyperspace in hopes of stumbling on a set of “Tulley/Ingels” vectors that would result in a successful round trip between some distant part of the universe and the Sol system.
One year later, the first round trip jump path was named the “Metus” jump point which in latin meant fear, dread, reverence, or awe. Metus became the launching point for another series of probes that gleaned yet more viable paths through sub-space.
Throughout the mapping period, larger versions of point-to-point jump gates were under development. Also, new discoveries in jump theory made a new derivative technology possible—the device, called a “mobile jump point generator”, was able to created an artificial jump point with which a ship could interact. The problem with these new “artificial” jump points was that the destination was even less predictable than the ones that occurred in nature. It wouldn’t be for another hundred years that enough understanding of hyperspace would develop that mobile generators would become of any particular use except as means for mass garbage disposal.
By 2340, manned jump-ships were making forays through hyperspace and learning hard lessons about the pitfalls of jump travel. The Metus and Alpha interstellar mapping installations were brought on-line and manned.
By 2364 enough was known about jump travel that it was opened to civilian traffic. Fully automated point-to-point jump gates had been installed between Sol and three other planetary systems.
The human race was finally a truly interstellar species.