Slip Space Travels
It has been a thousand years since mankind has started traveling among the stars. Fractious as ever, humanity has spread far and wide in the galaxy. And we are not alone. In the millennia since mankind has reached the stars, we have settled on and colonized more star systems and planets than all of the other known races combined.
Humanity left their homeworld of Terra a wasteland. Most of the over-populated cities are either protected from the toxic atmosphere by a dome, or are built one sealed layer inside and underneath another sealed layer. Most plants and animals have long since died out, those few remaining being found in zoos or very expensive private collections. Traveling to other planets and stars was the only way for humanity to survive a slow self-suffocating death.
Travel is made possible by regions of space where the laws of physics don’t always work. These regions, commonly called “slip space” are easy to detect, if one knows what to look for. Interestingly enough, these regions of slip space do not move; they are static, allowing the various celestial bodies to move through them.
There are constant conflicts of varying size and magnitude happening within the known areas of space. These range from minor skirmishes involving just a few soldiers, to full blown wars covering entire solar systems. There are many ways in which these conflicts are fought, all depending upon the resources and philosophy of the warring sides, and the training and equipment of those actually fighting.
Traveling through the Galaxy
For a long time, each race believed that nothing could move faster than light. This meant that to travel to even the nearest stars would take years. The resources to build ships large enough to hold the crew, and all of their supplies, for such long flights were rarely, if ever, available. Some of the races tried to build such large ships, with varying degrees of success. Others contented themselves with simply colonizing the various planets of their own solar system.
Slip space was eventually discovered by each race, usually by accident. Slip space are regions of space where the laws of physics don’t always work. These regions, commonly called “slip space” are easy to detect, if one knows what to look for. No one knows what causes these regions, or why they allow the standard physical laws to be bent, if not out-right broken. But it is the large areas that allow spacecraft to travel significantly faster than the speed of light. A single light year can be traveled in a matter of days.
About five hundred years ago a large group of the most brilliant scientists, scholars and technicians, with billions of Trade Credits in funding and several decades of research and experimentation, invented the jump gates. These large structures dwarf even the largest of capital ship. The jump gates create a path of “hyperspace”, in which ships can travel several light years in less than a day. These paths only exist between jump gates, and only when activated. Each jump gate is controlled by a very wealthy and powerful individual. To travel through the jump gates requires the permission of both the “departing” and “arriving” jump gates, which can usually be acquired by paying very large fees.
The team that created the jump gate technology mysteriously disappeared while en route to build a new jump gate. They, their ship, and all of the crew were lost. New jump gates have since been built, using the plans of the previous jump gates, but no one really knows how they work. Theories abound, but so far, no one has been able to unlock their mysteries. The greatest mystery of all is the fate of the scientists. Several people have tried to track them down, or discover what happened to them. So far, those who have returned from their searches have found nothing.
Interstellar communication is also possible with slip space. There are hundreds of communication relay stations scattered throughout the known galaxy. These stations, sometimes part of larger space stations, have special equipment that can accelerate transmissions to beyond the speed of light, once they encounter slip space. These communications stations are usually operated by the ITC, but many are also controlled by the Motul Empire and the Zoicid Collective. A transmission can travel a light year in just a few minutes.
Governments & Organizations of Note
It is important to note that most interstellar governments do not claim empty space. There are almost no lines drawn on a map of the galaxy dividing one group from another. Instead, governments and other interstellar organizations usually claim individual planets, based upon their own needs. Two or more species can, and often do claim separate planets within a single solar system. Often, these planets have relatively good relations amongst themselves. However, having several groups in a single system can also lead to all manner of strife. Disagreements between individual planets can easily lead to armed conflict, and can easily escalate further as governments send soldiers and material to the contested area.
The Interstellar Trade Confederacy is the closest thing there is to a galactic government. While individual planets and systems each have their own laws, the ITC is in charge of creating and enforcing standards of commerce, interstellar travel, and interstellar communications. The ITC has also set standards of time, which is actually very close to human standards, the only exception being that a year is 360 days.
Galactic Security Enterprises is the premiere corporation for all things dealing with security and warfare. Over the past several hundred years GSE has developed the most advanced weapons, armors and military spacecraft of their time. Their soldiers have the best training possible, the best equipment, and routinely have the best leaders. GSE has a variety of contracts with all manner of entities, from governments of various sizes, to down to individual shopkeepers who simply want a security guard for a few hours a day. One of GSE’s greatest strengths is the sense of teamwork and camaraderie among its personnel.
MediTech is the largest pharmaceutical company in the galaxy. Over ninety percent of all medical products come from MediTech, either through research and development, manufacture, or sales. MediTech also is one of the leading companies in the area of cybernetics and bionics. It has been rumored that their medicines and bionics are actually much more advanced than what is available on the open- and black markets, that their greatest advancements is reserved for their highest level of corporate executives, and for their corporate security forces.
The Zeta-Beta Shipping Company is the largest single shipping and courier service in the known galaxy. The ZBSC will deliver almost any package to almost any location, guaranteed. Their rates can be somewhat high, but the service that they provide is well worth the expense. The safety of their packages is also guaranteed, so their ships tend to be well armed with top-notch crew. Very few criminals will knowingly attempt to waylay a ZBSC ship, for to do so will most certainly bring forth a fleet of warships in retaliation.
The Theocratic Union is a solar system with a binary star at its center. There are over a dozen habitable worlds in this system. Early in mankind’s exploration of space a truly unique and totally unexpected thing happened. The leaders of several religious organizations met, and jointly decided that it is better for people to believe in something, anything, than not believe at all. The various religions, and their sects, set aside their differences, pooled their resources, and colonized the planets around these twin suns, which were named Jovah and Allah. The general attitude of the Theocratic Union is “Convert the nonbelievers, and then our (heathen) neighbors.” Interestingly, a small contingent of Motul has joined the Theocratic Union. They believe that their people originally came from Terra, and thus the same deity created them. This belief is considered blasphemy within the Motul Empire, and espousing it brings down a very stiff penalty.
The Motul Empire and the Zoicid Collective are both governed from their respective home worlds. The Xacatun have decided to adopt the human concept of each planet or system being an autonomous entity. The Farna are quickly spreading throughout the galaxy, claiming and colonizing planets that other races have chosen not to. The L'chaic'ih have yet to colonize any of their own worlds, but are content to make their homes upon the planets of other races.
There are many other space-faring races in the galaxy. The thirty foot tall monstrous D'Kath, the aquatic Shree Kree, the cannibalistic Mata, rock-like Aliatalo, and the arachnid Patuu'amil are just to name a few. Most of these races claim only a handful of planets, but are common enough in most ITC stations and colonies.
Working against all of the various rules and laws is the Tan Man. His real identity is a mystery. The Tan Man is the most wanted individual in the galaxy, and the leader of the largest criminal organization ever known. While he excels at smuggling, is a superb drug cartel leader, makes use of racketeering and gambling, and has been known to kidnap and murder, what he is best at is covering his tracks. No one living knows who he really is, and he has thwarted every attempt to trace his cash flow. The person who brings him to the law will receive the largest bounty ever known, but will have very little time to enjoy it.
There are various types of technology that exist within the known galaxy that should be explained.
Power is commonly acquired by nuclear fission or fusion, with anti-matter reactions being reserved for large ships and cities. Fission units can be as small as a large backpack, and one such can provide power for a regular home for years before needing to be replaced. Fusion units are much larger, and provide more power. They are typically used to power buildings and medium sized spacecraft. When given the option, many people prefer to use fusion power, since it can also produce small amounts of harmless material during its lifespan, as opposed to fission power, which produces small amounts of radioactive waste that must be further processed to become nonhazardous.
Anti-matter reactions generate the most energy of the various types of power sources, but are also the most dangerous. When matter and anti-matter interact, both are annihilated, releasing vast quantities of energy. Even introducing a few molecules of anti-matter to a like amount of regular matter can produce enough energy to power a large spacecraft for months at a time. The majority of any anti-matter reaction system consists of special shielding to keep the anti-matter from interacting with regular matter, and special storage cells to contain all of the energy that is released. Should there be an uncontrolled introduction of anti-matter to regular matter, the resulting explosion can destroy even the largest of capital ships and space stations.
True artificial intelligence has not yet been developed. Most robotic machines have a relatively simple droid programming that allows the robot to perform routine tasks, and make simple decisions and solve simple problems based upon the programmed task. One example would be an automated taxi that can choose or change a route based upon traffic, construction or weather. The most advanced droid intelligences are used by some military organizations in unmanned fighters.
Cryogenics is the science and technology of placing persons, plants and animals into a type of suspended animation. This is usually for the purpose of long spaceflights. While in this state of suspension, the body’s processes are slowed to a tiny fraction of normal. The process usually involves injecting a body with chemicals and lowering the body’s temperature to an extremely low level. While going into a cryonic state can be accomplished quickly, coming out of it can take up to several hours.
Artificial gravity is a common technology throughout the known galaxy, but only the Zoicidians truly understand it. They have allowed small amounts of this technology to be used by the other races, but the most that even the most experienced and gifted non-Zoicid can accomplish is to make minor repairs and upkeep. Still, the technology is ubiquitous. Almost all spacecraft from shuttles to capital ships have this technology. Artificial gravity can also be used to propel a ship through space. This is done by creating an area of gravity in front of the ship. The ship will move towards the source of gravity, effectively “falling” in that direction. Conversely, an area of anti-gravity can be created behind a ship, causing the ship to be pushed away from the area. Artificial gravity fields can also wreck havoc with another ship’s weapons systems, since even light, charged particles and fast moving missiles are affected by gravity.
Spacecraft are divided into four different types. Fighter class craft are small, with a crew of only one or two, sitting inside of a cockpit. Fighters are usually fast and nimble. While called a fighter, many interplanetary courier services use this type of craft to make deliveries. This class is also used for racing, and are also often purchased by people who are rich and bored.
Shuttles are larger than fighters, and slower. They are used for all manner of duties, from hauling cargo to patrolling an area of space. Shuttles are usually large enough to hold several people. In combat, shuttles can mount heavier armor and more weaponry than fighters, making them small gunboats. Other common uses of shuttles is ship to ship transportation, or ship to planet and back again.
Frigates are large spacecraft, and are the most numerous interstellar craft. Frigates are used for any and all types of duties, from cargo, to personnel transport, to combat. They have the space needed to house the larger power sources and engines needed to make interstellar travel at least semi-comfortable. Larger and heavier than shuttles, they are not as maneuverable, but can suffer more damage.
Capital ships are the largest of spacecraft. Even the smallest of capital ships will have a crew counted in the tens, while the largest can have a crew of around a thousand or possibly more. Only governments, military organizations and the largest of corporations can afford to build and maintain even a single capital ship.
Travel from one star to another can be dangerous. Wars, pirates and natural phenomenon are only some of the threats to spacecraft. For this reason almost all ships have some sort of weaponry mounted upon them. This can anything from a single light laser cannon to whole batteries of heavy ion cannons and racks of missile launchers.
In a more defensive role are a ship’s shields. There are two types of shields: energy and particle. Energy shields will protect a ship from energy based weapons, such as lasers, and will also protect against random energy phenomenon, such as solar flares and being too close to a pulsar. Particle shields protect a ship against physical attacks, such as from missiles and rail guns. Particle shields also protect a ship from spatial debris, such as micro-meteors, space dust, and other physical impacts. The major problem with both types of shields is that they cannot both be active at the same time. Trying to do so produces a feedback that shuts down both shields for a couple of hours.
The ITC classifies spacecraft both how large they are, and also on what type of work it is designed for. This is mainly to determine docking fees, or whether a ship is allowed in certain areas at all. Docking fees are based upon the size of the ship and the its duty, and generally must be paid per day.
Cargo ships are designed to haul inanimate objects, such as medical supplies, machinery, ore, mercantile products, or even live animals, but not people. For a ship to be classified as a cargo ship, at least of it must be cargo holds or storage rooms. Cargo ships generally have the lowest docking fees, but the ship’s captain must generally verify the contents of the cargo, and make sure that it is legal to be transported.
Transport ships are made to move people from one place to another. ITC standards require that at least of a ship’s interior be quarters, staterooms, cryo-pods, or “coffins” in order to be classified as a transport ship. Luxury cruise ships fall into this category. It is the duty of the ship’s captain to check the legal status of all passengers prior to departure. Failing to do so has no penalty, unless a passenger is a wanted felon, in which case the captain and the crew could be arrested for aiding and abetting a criminal. Transport ships have the second lowest docking fees.
Science vessels are built for research. They have a variety of laboratories and generally have advanced sensors, advanced life support, and the best gravity systems available. Depending upon how it is built, a science vessel can be used for any kind of scientific research. Hospital ships fall into this category. Science vessels generally have high docking fees.
Ships that have a large number of weapon systems compared to their size are categorized as warships. Many orbital or space stations will not allow warships over a certain size to dock. Those that do will charge very high docking fees.
Planets of Note
Most planets in the known galaxy can be broadly classed as either terrestrial planets, or gas giants. Terrestrial planets are basically giant balls of rock, sometimes with an atmosphere, while gas giants are simply extremely large clouds of gas, with enough mass to have it’s own gravity. But there are a few planets that are unique in the known galaxy.
Bermuda III is the third planet of its solar system. Several of the other planets in the system are terrestrial planets with a warm, comfortable climate. Most of these planets are used as vacation resorts. Bermuda III, however, is a gas giant, of blue and green gases. Every once in awhile a ship in or near the planet will disappear, leaving no sign or trace of what happened. This happens only to solitary ships, and the largest ever reported missing was a large frigate. No one knows what happens to the missing ships. Research ships have studied the planet, and have sent entire fleets of automated probes into the gas giant. Other than an occasional faint ghost of an image on a sensor screen, nothing of note has ever been discovered.
The Labyrinth is a ball of rock about three times the size of Terra. It has no atmosphere or note, no known native flora or fauna, and no inner core. The planet is riddled with holes, tunnels and caves, some large enough to fly a capital ship into. A couple of these caves go all the way through the planet, but not all have been fully explored. The Labyrinth is popular with dare-devil pilots and those wishing to hide. There are a few space stations in orbit around The Labyrinth.
The planet called Tangle is about 75% the size of Terra. No one is sure of its early geology. Now, however, it is nothing more than a plant or vine. This plant has grown to monstrous proportions, so much so that the original planetoid that it grew out of is buried beneath miles and miles of plant matter. Tangle somehow slowly grows by sending tendrils from near the tips of its branches, or vines, into older parts of its own body. In essence, it is a parasitic life form that is feeding upon itself, but is somehow growing. No structure will survive long upon Tangle, for the vines will shift, and any cutting, digging or drilling will attract tendrils, which will attempt to imbed themselves into any machine, structure or being that is near the site of the disturbance. This reflexive behavior suggests that Tangle has some level of intelligence, and that there may be more to this planetoid than a self-cannibalizing gargantuan plant.
Warfare in the Known Galaxy
While the races of the known galaxy are certainly advanced, they are not necessarily civilized. Territorial boundaries, mineral rights, cultural differences, business rivalries and simple disagreements can often lead to violence. Warfare in the known galaxy can take a variety of forms. There is no one way to fight that is used by all races and organizations. From espionage and assassinations to continent spanning land battles, warfare comes in all shapes and sizes.
Battles are fought for a variety of reasons, for any number of purposes. Different goals call for different measures. To take a city away from the enemy usually requires large numbers of soldiers, while destroying a single factory or research station can cripple an enemy. In space, hijacking a cargo ship can hurt a group’s efforts, while sabotaging or destroying a transport ship full of soldiers will hopefully save the lives of one’s own soldiers.
Building an army of thousands of soldiers, all armed alike is one way to fight. Large numbers, while unwieldy, can bring a great amount of firepower, and can easily control territory. Organizations that do not have a lot of resources for the production and specialized training required for power-armored units can easily afford to train and equip larger number of soldiers.
Units of soldiers wearing power armor are more durable than basic soldiers. Each suit has its own power source, so energy weapons that it carries have effectively unlimited ammunition. Suits of power armor also have strength-enhancing exo-skeletons, and many have some sort of flight capability. A small unit of power armor can hit harder and faster than regular soldiers, but the expense of building the suits, and the extra time and resources required to train the soldiers can make this option not very viable for some situations.
A small covert team of commandos can cause untold havoc for an enemy force. With the proper training and equipment, even a single commando can disrupt communications, disable vehicles before they are deployed, kidnap or rescue an important person, or sabotage manufacturing facilities. Commandos are best used for surprise and stealth, striking when and where the enemy is not expecting any trouble. However, should things go wrong, the small team can be easily overwhelmed.
In space, similar principles apply. Hordes of small fighters can attack a target en masse, using sheer weight of numbers to take down larger foes. Even capital ships can be destroyed by properly equipped fighters, although the casualty rate among the small vehicles will likely be high. Shuttles can mount larger and more powerful weapons than fighters, and can sometimes have multiple weapons turrets, allowing them to attack two different targets at once. Frigates can be armed with even more weapons than shuttles, and with their heavier armor can survive longer. Capital warships can bring an amazing amount of firepower to bear upon a target, or can attack dozens at a time. However, their sheer size makes them easy targets, and their ponderous lack of mobility means that if a battle goes poorly, they may be the last to escape, if they escape at all.