When I set out to write the game you’re now holding in your hands I had a simple goal. Create a game about a future that might be. One where humanity has overcome the technological limitations of our time to voyage through the stars. I wanted to imagine adventures the observable universe. What follows is a vision of the future based on current scientific understanding. Dreaming of the day when the Alcubierre drive becomes a reality. Picturing a time when solar sail propulsion replaces chemical rockets. Envisioning a place where humanity has solved the issues of air and water recycling, bone and muscle atrophy, and interstellar communication.
Humanity Reaches to the Stars
There have been a number of scientific advances since the 21st Century. The ability to travel through the stars required a number of theories turning into reality. What follows outlines some of the more significant inventions that have helped launch humanity out of orbit and into the cold reaches of space.
One of the biggest technological stumbling blocks has always been energy production and storage. Alcubierre Drives alone require massive amounts of energy to operate. Most ships utilize multiple production systems to ensure continual operation. Ships primarily use either Fusion or Hydrogen Reactors but augment their power needs by using a combination of Artificial Photosynthesis, Concentrated Solar Nantennas, Photovoltaic Systems, and various Biofuels. The real solution however wasn’t to achieve greater output however, but to increase efficiency.
While the reactor cores are capable of producing more power than humanity had ever dreamed of the real viability of interstellar travel arrived when scientists could ensure a 99.99% efficiency of the ship’s systems. By providing only enough energy to power a system, and capturing any byproduct energy produced by the system, ships requires less total output to maintain operation.
The most important invention was the practical application of the long theorized Alcubierre drive, allowing mankind to achieve faster-than-light travel. Ships fitted with Alcubierre drives create an energy-density field lower than that of vacuum. The effect is that space in front of the vessel contracts while the space behind it expands. Effectively shifting space around the vehicle instead of traditional forward acceleration against physical distance.
While useful for long-distance jumps the Alcubierre Drives still have a number of problems. Their energy consumption is astronomical, limiting their usefulness to larger ships that can generate enough power for a jump. Even in the most efficient ships — with the highest power output — the use of the Alcubierre Drive renders non-essential systems non-operational for several hours. It can take several days to store enough energy to repower the drive, making back-to-back jumps impossible.
The drives also generate massive debris fields that can obliterate planets if improperly aimed. Ships must jump outside of a system and then use more traditional propulsion methods to venture to various planets. While the Alcubierre Drives have helped Humanity across immense distances, travel is still a long process often resulting in several months spent between planets.
For mundane propulsion, and fine maneuvering between Alcubierre shifts, there are Solar Sails. Chemical rockets required too much fuel to be effective for sustained travel or exploration. By using a combination of natural solar radiation and microwave powered propulsion systems, ships with Solar Sails require considerably less energy to move a ship at speeds capable of exploration.
Solar sails use radiation pressure from stars to push large ultra-thin mirrors to high speeds. Since radiation pressure affects all spacecraft, whether in interplanetary space or in orbit around a planet or small body, the effects were already being accounted for in trajectory planning. It was a simple step to move from accounting for radiation to utilizing it as a propulsion system. With few moving parts and use no propellant, solar sails are capable of begin used thousands of times before mundane wear requires them to be replaced.
Laser Communication Relays
All of this movement is worthless if a ship can’t communicate with other ships, control stations, or planets. Which brings us to the Laser Communications Relay, which allow drifters to transmit data hundreds of times faster than 21st century methods.
Since humanity took its first steps into the solar community they have built thousands of relay stations. Every ships is fitted with LCR transmitters that utilize a vast network of buoys to capture and send messages across space. The network has grown large enough that, unless a ship is exploring a considerable distance from discovered human space, communication is instantaneous.
Artificial Gravity Producers
Being able to cross great distances and talk to each other would all be for nothing if inhabitants of the ships couldn’t survive the journey. The lack of gravity, or more accurately the reduction to microgravity, wreaks havoc on a person’s body. Bone mass and muscle density atrophy, blood volume dips, even a person’s sense of balance is altered.
Smaller ships handle these issues with specialized exercise equipment, such as circular exercise tracks upon which drifters peddle bikes in circles to simulate gravity’s effect on their muscles and bones. Alternatively, short term trips can be augmented with specialized medications and treatments instead of exercise equipment so they can continue to be done in near-weightless environments.
Larger ships and space stations are fitted with Stanford Torus Engines, Centrifuge Accommodations Modules, or Magnetic Generators to simulate various levels of gravitational force. STEs are most common on space stations, CAMs are seen frequently in large traveling ships, and MGs are used in mid-sized vessels.
Air & Water Recycling
Artificial gravity may prevent decay but it doesn’t sustain life. Luckily all ships are fitted with air and water recovery systems to minimize waste. One of humanity’s first achievements was to develop air recovery systems that would filter, extract, and restore a ship’s atmosphere with near-perfect efficiency. Often times linking the system with Food Stock systems to feed plant as well.
Water treatment proved slightly more difficult but recycling of urine and waste waters in specially designed microgravity distillation units have come a long way. All ships are fitted with water reservoirs that require occasional refilling. The size of the crew often determines the size of the water storage and the efficiency required for its water treatment. Smaller ships often opt for better treatment and smaller tanks while larger ships simply carry more water.
Microgravity Grown Food
Finding room inside a ship to bring along all the supplies needed to sustain life has always been, and will continue to be, a challenge. A breakthrough in microgravity grown food has helped ease the burden, but most larger ships still carry vast stocks of food to sustain prolonged trips.
Aeroponic crops are grown from genetically modified seeds, suspended in a plastic frame instead of being planted in soil. The aeroponic process actually helps plant life absorb minerals and vitamins at a higher rate than soil grown food, meaning these plants tend to be more nutritious.
The other key advancement was with stem-grown meats that can account for a drifter’s protein needs. Most ships, regardless of size, have a laboratory dedicated to growing strips of muscle tissue from animal stem cells. Pork being the most common but larger ships often have beef, chicken, or even lamb labs.
Epoch Time and Atomic Clocks
Distance is a common problem in space travel mathematics, and an essential component in calculating that distance is time. Navigation systems require super-precise clocks in order to accurately calculate vast distances. The answer came with the Deep Space Atomic Clock Network, a series of miniaturized, ultra-precise mercury-ion atomic — accurate to within a trillionth of a second over a 60-day period — clocks that are kept in perfection synchronization via the LCR network.
Of course, time zones don’t exist in space either. In fact, Earth time means very little when operating in a non-Sol star system. For now, most drifters have agreed on continued use Epoch, or Unix, time, which number of seconds that have passed on Earth since the beginning of 00:00:00 UTC Thursday 1, January 1970.
Humanity Encounters the Stars
It was not long after Humanity left their terrestrial orbit that they first encountered Hæc (Pronunciation: H-ay-k). Thus far, Humanity has encountered six species identified as Hæc; Altorum, Maiusculus, Exterioribus, Ingens, Ineffigiatus, and Serpentem. While they are clearly different species, originating from vastly distant worlds, they have formed an inscrutable hierarchy of, possibly religious or political, cohabitation. Human scholars believe there are more species super-servient to the Hæc Hierarchy that have yet to be encountered.
Thus far, encounters with the Hæc have been either benign or disastrous. While some fringe drifters will tell tales of Hæc aggression and hostility, there have been no scientific encounters to confirm these fables. Instead, the truth is much sadder. The Hæc do not seem to notice, or care, about Humanity. During the occasional encounter that has resulted in the loss of Human life it appears to be from the same casual carelessness as Humans regard insect life. Occasionally swatted when venturing too close to their domains, but more often simply stepped on by inattentiveness.
The Altorum are anthropoid creatures with greyish-green skin, white bellies, and scaly backs. Their non-blinking prodigious bulging eyes, palpitating gills, and webbed paws indicate an aquatic homeworld and have earned them the nickname of “Fishmen.”
For locomotion the Altorum are fiendishly fast swimmers but exceptionally awkward when outside of water. They tend to hop when on two legs, though they seem to prefer moving on all four limbs.
They are capable of speech — some drifters even reporting hearing them use Earth languages — by utilizing a croaking or baying vocalization reminiscent of Earth frogs.
The Maiusculus are non-anthropoid creatures of assorted dark colors. They roughly resemble a bulging barrel with five rough ridges that break laterally to reveal thin stalks. Between the ridges the Maiusculus spot fans — possibly wings —that act to visually double their size.
For locomotion they scuttle upon their lower stalks, using their wings for increased speed but never reportedly flight. Despite their appearance they are capable of moving exceptionally swiftly, though often toddle around at a much slower pace.
They appear incapable of speech, or at least nothing on any sound length detectable to human ears or common audio equipment. It is clear that they do communicate with each other, and other Hæc, as they do coordinate movement.
The Exterioribus are non-anthropoid creatures with pinkish skin. Their arthropod bodies end in a convoluted ellipsoid covered in fleshy rings and antennae considered to be a head. Along their body they sprout numerous paired appendages and from their backs grow membranous bat-like wings.
For locomotion they crawl upon the land using large foot-talons and, despite their wings, do not appear to be capable of flight in any environment with a gravitational field. However, in microgravity environments they can use their wings to propel themselves at terrifying speeds.
They are fully capable of human speech and are, to date, the only Hæc that has spoken a human language directly to a scientific Human crew. The recording of Exterioribus we have on record speak English, in a peculiarly Vermonter accent, or unaccented Tibetan. They are also capable of speaking with every other Hæc species regardless of if the other species use vocal or nonvocal communication.
The Ingens are non-anthropoid creatures of yellowish-red complexion. Their con-shaped bodies rise to a point which sprouts four appendages that can extend or recede at will. Two of their appendages end in claws, a third with a sucker or trumpet like end, and the final appendage ends with a globe of three eyes, flower-like sproutings, and numerous tentacles.
Locomotion is achieved via expansion and contraction of a grey, rubbery layer at the base of the conical body. As this is a slow, and inefficient, form of travel they are often assisted in movement by other members of the Hæc.
They do not speak a verbal language, but communicate with a series of sharp clicks of their flaw appendage. They are capable of producing numerous tones and durations of click in ways that Human scientists have yet to uncover the mechanism for.
The Ineffigiatus are massively non-anthropoid creatures of purplish hues and greenish pustules of light. They have no discernible or consistent form, instead they are massive congeries of protoplasmic bubble with myriads of temporary eyes and maws forming and unforming along their hideous tube-like bodies.
For locomotion they twist or oscillate their bodies similar to the slithering of a snake. They often move at an incredible speed and are not slowed by uneven terrain.
There have been no indications that the Ineffigiatus are capable of communication themselves, but they do understand and follow direction from other members of the Hæc. Human scholars think the Ineffigiatus may be a slave race, possibly engineered by the Hæc, as they have shown no sense of free-will.
The Serpentem are non-anthropoid creatures with reptilian, or more accurately snake-like, bodies. Their skin ranges from browns to greens, often with red or yellow accent marks. Near the back of their bodies they have two human-like arms and an arrangement of cobra-like sensory organs.
When they move the back part of their bodies are lifted from the ground, tail moving ahead of the torso and head. They achieve locomotion via a combination of expansion, contraction, and oscillation that allows for exceptionally quick but precise movement.
The Serpentem have a verbal language of hissing snapping noises, but seem to communicate more commonly by twitching their tails in rhythm.