Tuesday, March 15, 2016

History: Jumpspace

Jumpspace was discovered in 2137 with the first successful jumpdrive test. Originally, jumpspace was researched as true FTL travel, but once the first tests were successful, it was discovered that the jumpdrives were actually moving through extra dimensions. With their discovery, the future of the universe was forever changed. Humans were the first to discover jumpspace in the Milky Way; the Kchk'Trrs created their jump drives by building off of shared human technology, while the Duul'Tlak created their drive from a reverse-engineered ship they captured.
Known Jumpspace Routes
The dimensions of realspace are usually called x, y, and z. Time adds one dimension, t, and the discovery of Jumpspace lead to R, S, and T, three further dimensions that seem to have at least a passing resemblance to realspace dimensions. Gravity in realspace affects jumpspace in reverse, pushing ships away from planets, stars, and other objects of large mass. While objects in jumpspace do exert a weak reverse-gravitational force on objects in realspace, the effect is so small it is almost immeasurable. Thankfully, this interaction with gravity protects ships from landing in the middle of a star.

"Edges" are volumes of space that are, essentially, jumpspace exclusion zones. While science has yet to explain most of them, there are several working theories. The Tallus Nebula, for instance, is a particularly dense region of space, covered in stars and black holes. The gravity distortions from those stars force ships away. Other edges have yet to be explained; The Edge, a long area usually pictured at the bottom of maps, is almost entirely empty space. There is not enough gravitation nearby to 'push' ships; however, it is almost impossible to traverse in jumpspace. Traveling through that area in realspace, then entering jumpspace, causes the ship to be forced away. It's theorized that The Edge is actually the edge of the universe. The Black Zone is another area of seemingly empty space that, nonetheless, contains an edge. It is unknown as to why this edge exists, and no theories are widely accepted; originally it was thought that the Black Zone was part of The Edge, but recent exploration has yet to find a link between the two. The final edge is that of the Neg Sector, a cloud of dead space and black holes. The entire area is very dangerous to navigate outside of jumpspace. While the Black Zone and the Neg Sector seem to be part of the same edge, scientists are strongly arguing that the two are not connected. Strangely, this edge appears to be moving towards Epsilon Lyrae; the Black Zone is not moving, which supports the theory that the two are not connected. The Black Zone/Neg sector and the Tallus Nebula are separated by what is known as the Dark Corridor, an alternate route from Bardron to the Seginus Cluster and beyond; however, gravitational distortions make this area difficult to map, and thus it is rarely used.

If you know the positions of star systems, current jumpspace maps look very odd. Rather than measuring distance, the planets are separated by travel time. Often, systems that are quite near in realspace are very far apart in jumpspace, while far distant systems take very little travel time in jumpspace. Even then, the maps are only a rough approximation, since jumpspace itself seems to change in relation to realspace.

JPods, or jumpdrive-enabled message pods, are only barely more than a J2 drive and a computer. Most pods are programmed to jump to a designated system and begin broadcasting a "pick me up" signal while recharging. On response, the Jpod dumps its data and jumps back to its original system. The L20 company has set up relay stations, using sets of JPods to transfer information between planets. Use of these stations is free, paid for by L20, in return for trade agreements. Some planetary systems and businesses also run JPod services, both free and paid. Various companies, governments, and individuals have their own private JPods, including the UEA.

Jumpdrives are grouped by technology: J0, J1, J2, J3, and so on. While many J0 drives behaved very differently, other generations of drives are functionally the same.

The First Jumpdrive

Now known as J0 drives, the first jumpdrives transferred an entire vessel to jumpspace; the navigator would move through jumpspace for a few minutes or hours, then exit jumpspace to take bearings. Moving the ship in the general direction of the target in jumpspace allows ships to travel vast distances in hours instead of decades; however, without a map between jumpspace and realspace, the exit point was at best a guess, and at worst completely random. To navigate ships with J0 drives, multiple jumps are required, as is a complete map of star systems. After a short jump, usually no more than an hour, the ship is pulled back into realspace, and the local stars checked against the star chart. Adjustments are made to bring the ship back on track, and the next jump is made. Jump corridors exist between numerous star systems, somewhat like ocean currents; dropping in and out of jumpspace allowed ships to follow these currents and eventually arrive at their system. However, the shortest distance between two points in jumpspace is not even close to a straight line in realspace; the actual routes traversed winding paths, often backtracking, or jumping far off the path, only to jump back again. The star charts required must be incredibly detailed, and actual travel time is much shorter than the time it takes to calculate those jumps.

While fully immersed in jumpspace, the human mind can't grasp what it's seeing, and hallucinates vividly. Reports of smelling colors, tasting emotions, and mental breakdowns from trying to process non-space were commonplace. Most J0 ships closed their view-ports entirely while in jumpspace.

Travel with a J0 drive is very dangerous; the more time spent in jumpspace, the greater the margin of error, increasing logarithmicly. The longest known voyage in jumpspace is 14 hours, 54 minutes, 8 seconds, by the ship's clock. The ship left Earth in 2244, and arrived light-years outside what is now known as Danex Emimus. It took a further 23 years to return to a known world. Most ships that travel beyond 5 hours are never found again; 4 hours is considered the safe cutoff, and even traveling that long can result in being thousands of light-years off course.

Meeting another object in J0 travel is truly impossible; while it may technically possible, objects fully immersed in jumpspace tends to decompose, the atoms eventually converting to energy and radiating back into realspace. The time it would take to find an object lost while fully in jumpspace is millions of years longer than it would take for the object to decompose. Objects lost while fully in jumpspace are truly lost forever.

In 2287, a maneuver known as "slinging" was discovered: purposely steering a ship toward a star or other large mass, then skirting the edge of the gravitational disturbance. In this way, ships could slide along an edge quickly, reducing travel time. This greatly improved exploration and settlement. This allowed the creation of the first jumpspace maps, showing relative distances between systems.

At the invention of the J1 drive, J0 drives were outlawed due to their inherent danger. The UEA, a newly formed offshoot of the United Nations, pushed a highly aggressive drive-replacement initiative. The initiative was wildly successful, perhaps the single most successful initiative in the history of the UEA; no J0 drives remained in service beyond 2568, a mere 16 years after the invention of the J1 drive.

Second Generation Jumpdrive

Known as J1 drives, the second generation jumpdrive was released in 2552, 415 years after the first jumpdrive tests. Rather than travel entirely in jumpspace, the drive only used two jumpspace dimensions, following a single dimension of jumpspace. Thus, J1 drives can only make short or linear jumps – however, since they follow one realspace dimension, J1 drives are much more precise than their J0 counterpart, and require far fewer jumps. Instead of dozens of jumps for a short journey, only three or four jumps may be required. Because of the "cross-dimension" jump, complex calculations are required for the ship to exit jumpspace in the correct location. However, few if any calculations are required during transit, unless the route is unmapped or particularly long; that means that planet-based computers can supply transit calculations, usually for a small fee. Calculations are only accurate for a day at most, though high-quality calculations with built-in compensaters can last for several days.

J1 drives are much, much safer than J0 drives. Visually, J1 travel looks like "hyperspace" from Star Wars, a blurred star field streaming past. In reality, the "star field" is realspace itself sliding past, and could be anything from real stars to dust to stray photons. Meeting another object in J1 travel is possible, though rare; actively attempting to find another ship on a known route in a carefully orchestrated experiment using minimal jump travel is possible just under 1% of the time. Finding an object in space by accident may not be impossible, but statistically, the time required is just over three times the lifetime of the universe.

Third Generation Jumpdrives

The current jumpdrive, J2, was invented in 2737. The drive travels in a way similar to J1 drives, following a single realspace dimension. However, J2 drives "skate" by jumping threads of reality, like a skater moving from one foot to the other, with no need to enter and leave jumpspace. J2 drives rarely need course corrections, and thus are much better for exploration.

Viewing J2 space is very boring; it is black and empty, dark enough to be featureless, but with enough "static" to stave off insanity.

Finding another object while in J2 travel is highly improbable, though not technically impossible; if all existing J2 ships were to begin searching for an object lost in jumpspace immediately, it would be found just before the heat death of the universe.

Fourth Generation Jumpdrives

J3 drives are currently experimental, and under heavy government scrutiny. They actually map and memorize the relation between the three dimensions of realspace and the three dimensions of jumpspace; hypothetically, a J3 drive would be able to travel fully in jumpspace like a J0 drive, or skating like a J2 drive, finding the fastest route from one point to another. While there are a handful of short jumps between points that have been mapped, there is not enough existing data to fully use a J3 drive. Without a full map, a J3 drive is essentially a J2 drive. Viewing J3 space is similar to viewing Aurora Borealis, with shifting lights on the horizon.

Finding an object in jumpspace with a J3 drive is 100% successful, as long as the object is mapped; finding an unmapped object or finding an object by accident is similar to J2 drives.

Fifth Generation and Beyond

Current theories state that J4 drives will be able to use extra dimensions beyond realspace and jumpspace, reaching into parallel dimensions and, possibly, time itself. J4 drives will likely use quantum logic to map the best path in-flight. Travel would be very fast, but the drive requires massive amounts of power to calculate jumps. It cannot use a remote processor, because the amount of time required to transmit the information invalidates the information. If the ships do time travel, the drive will balance travel forward and backward, resulting in no time travel in relation to realspace. If the travel were not balanced, the amounts of energy required would be incredible, on the order of the energy from multiple supernovas.

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