Star Drives

A Star drive is essentially a large, controlled fusion reaction used to power a ship's flight through space. There are several types and sizes of star drives, from very small thermonuclear reactors to superdense Neutron core drives. The larger the reaction is, the further and faster ships can fly. The reactions are controlled and contained by powerful magnetic fields.

Standard superdense star drives such as Neutron star drives or Strange-core drives require extremely large ships with vast distances of empty space between the reaction and the crew. Such ships are capable of crossing the galaxy by mere brute force Newtonian and Einsteinian physics, taking thousands of years and carrying whole civilizations. These ships are generally built for extremely short range trade routes to neighboring star systems, one-way trips to start a new colony on a distant planet, or to rid a planet of an undesirable population.

Extradimensional star drives, however are much more robust. By placing the entire mass of the reaction in the second-tier spacial dimensions (4th, 5th, and 6th) and propelling the exhaust mass into these dimensions, the speed of light is broken. Small ships capable of crossing the galaxy in only a few years can be built at a fraction of the cost. XD drive ships don't have to park across the solar system from an inhabited planet to avoid disrupting its orbit, nor do their super structures have to be the size of a small moon to keep from collapsing in on its self, buckling the crews' knees, or blasting them to cinders with radiation. Catastrophic containment failures no longer mean the total annihilation of every star system in a five light year radius. And since the propellant mass and thermal radiation are expelled into undetectable dimensions, XD drives achieve something that has frustrated military scientists for centuries: stealth in space.

Unfortunately, navigating through real space by propelling one's self through extradimensional space is still a complicated and imperfect task. Imagine you have no sense of up or down, and you are traveling from the north pole to the south pole by tunneling through the Earth. The two points are connected in a much shorter distance across a dimension you cannot conceive. You cannot see or feel that dimension until you've traveled through its corners, ripples, curves, and waves. The rippling nature of extradimensional space is not very predictable, thus it is much safer to make a series of short jumps than one long one, which reduces fuel efficiency.

Most of the major trade routes across the galaxy have been mapped and are available across Q-Net, however some remote locations have never been visited in all the history of time. Heading off in uncharted directions without proper mapping or probing will more than likely result in your not ending up anywhere near where you wanted to go, if you don't end up in the middle of a star or someone's beach house.

Traveling through extradimensional space can be a strange experience. You may not seem to move at all for most of your journey. When you finally do arrive, an outside observer will see you appear as if you were painted on the side of a faceted crystal drinking glass and the glass was turned until you were in front of them, and this is photographed with a long exposure so it looks like one long streak. Aboard the ship, you experience the universe distorting; sometimes contracting, sometimes expanding, often both at once. Worse, though, is the wild emotional ride one goes through. Current theories suggest that the second-tier dimensions are somehow tied to specific emotions or psychic events. One experiment linked travel through the fourth dimension with a feeling of giddiness, which tended to ripple through the subjects along the same spacial waves they were traveling through. Another study has tentatively linked the fifth dimension with moroseness and depression, but the results were deemed inconclusive when the lead researcher and half the study group committed suicide after only a month of travel. No one is sure what the sixth dimension is all about since the research team assigned to it ended up involved in a drug trafficking scandal and all research materials were confiscated.

Time travel, is, of course, a natural result of the superluminal velocities achieved by the XD Star drives. This has resulted in a sort of temporal barrier to the future for the galaxy. Anyone who needs to go anywhere ends up going backwards in time, so galactic civilization does not really exist much past a certain point in space-time. Q-Net ties most of inhabited time together, though, and technology and civilization advance in what has been deemed "meta-time," that is, time outside of space-time that can only be measured by the a-temporal nature of the galactic collective conscious.

The most common solution for anyone who wishes to return to their home era involves various flavors of cryogenic hibernation. There are artificial wormhole systems that can return one to the future, but they must be created in that future and linked to the past, and the toll gates demand outrageous prices. Creating wormholes to connect the present to the future have been deemed impossible. The only known option to travel to the unknown future is to find a natural wormhole from that future, but the odds of that are nearly nothing and a sane sentient being does not simply wander into strange wormholes.

The distant future is presumed to be fairly boring anyway. As all stars die off and distances become extraordinarily vast, ancient computers and civilizations orbit decaying black holes thinking the same thoughts and repeating the same actions over and over again for millions of years until at last all is dead, quiet, and dark. Hopefully, there will be at least one good restaurant.

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