Voyages of the Solomon Grundy
Where it begins
A mineral crammed rock fifty parsecs from nowhere, aptly named a black-hole in the arm-pit of the universe. Maldiara-4 had two main features, a large penal colony and a planet-wide strip-mining facility worked by the inmates of the colony. In its early days, Maldiara was a wildly profitable venture for the Metua sectorial government. Unfortunately, after 20 years of operation, the easy to get resources had all but dried up and crust instabilities had made it increasingly more dangerous to operate the super-mine. Accidents, dead prisoners, it was starting to get messy—worse yet it was becoming a source of liabilities rather than profits. So, it was no surprise that Metua govs decided to shut down the mine and ship the inmates off to a planet that wasn’t falling apart.
This was a big colony, close a hundred thousand inmates, shipping them all to other penal institutions in regulation prison vessels was expensive. So then, some sharp Metuan bean counter came up with the bright idea of letting freebooters run the inmates as cargo. Put the prisoners in cryosleep, then send them off to their destinations like sides of beef in a meat locker. Brilliant.
The good ship Solomon Grundy is probably the ugliest vessel you ever laid eyes on. Weighing in at a lean 16,400 long-tons when dry, the Grundy is a burly long range freighter and one of the few working in the Metua sector capable of setting down planet-side. With a little over 2.5 million cubic feet of common cargo space and 12,000 tons of load capacity, the Grundy gets more than her share of work. That probably explains the Maldiara job. It’s simple enough—transport a bunch of convicts iced in cryostasis containers to the penal colony on Denar-5. Pay is good for a three hop jaunt that doesn’t take the ship too far off the beaten path. It’s a little creepy to be transporting several hundred frozen criminals, but what could happen? Simple job. Simple delivery. Fat credits. No sweat. Right?
Character Thumbnails of the Cast
Grundy Crew Members
Clive Donner (Crude Brute Security Guard)Background:
Clive is one of the long timers on the Grundy, a mean but honest keeper of the premises peace. He’s a real pre-era throwback, a chauvinist that can get under Hilda’s skin in a heartbeat. The two have learned to co-exist by staying out of the same room as much as possible. It is a bitter peace that has been shattered by a couple of nasty fist fights. Clive usually intimidates others with his sheer mass, when that doesn’t work, a punch or two usually settles the matter.
So I was rough, it’s a rough world with rough people in it. People hurt you—you hurt them back. Simple. Sometimes simpler to hurt them first—let them know who’s boss—know what I mean?
*Clive occasionally operates the loader on the cargo deck on heavy days. He is a poor second fiddle to the folks on board with vehicle or loader rigs.
“So I broke his head, he’ll mend.”
“Square peg, round hole—hammer baby!”
“Damn, get a peek at the rack on that one!”
Hilda Carver (Bitter Lesbian Security Guard with issues)Background:
Hilda is a big girl, and never was really pretty. Once she had a good heart. Unfortunately, it got stepped on by a wife-beating, foul mouthed, cheatin-bastard-of-a-man. She never really could let go of it. A bi-partisan tendency got turned into a full-partisan tendency by women who could “relate” to her problem. She eventually turned to pastimes like martial arts and gun clubs to focus her hostility. Her skill with a rifle was what landed her first job as a security person.
An near-fatal incident in bar-brawl prompted Hilda to take some off-world work and the Grundy was hiring. She could give a fig about that rat Clive, they would get along better if he would just keep his loud chauvinist pie-hole shut. Mercedes is a sweetie even if she is a Synth. Clarisa is nice— love that red hair.
*Hilda has a specially made blaster rifle with integrated smartgun link. She also has a monofilament whip secreted in a thumbnail compartment.
“Men are way over-rated.”
“Stop thinking with your little head, Buddy.”
“Masculinity and femininity are just a snip apart.”
Terrence Goldstein (Clean cut Security Guard)Background:
Terry was one of the first employees aboard the Grundy and a personal friend of Captain Kessel when the man was hired to take command of the freighter. He’s seen many shipmates come and go, and has remained one of the stable core of six personnel who’ve been with the ship for it’s entire ten year tenure under Captain David Kessel. The Captain, the First mate Keth, Johnson, Stokes, McLaren, and himself have all gone rounds at one point or another, but tempers cool and steady camaraderie has always prevailed.
* Terry is a practicing 6th Dan akido master and Tai Chi expert. He is very cool-headed and prefers peaceful solutions to violent encounters. He prefers holds and non-lethal throws to the use of weapons. His chosen method of dealing with opponents has prompted him to purchase some extra toughening up (orthoskin and reflex enhancement).
“Welcome to the Solomon Grundy. Please, mind your manners while aboard.”
“Sir, don’t force me to make you regret your need to express yourself violently.”
“A true man is measured by the depth of his restraint, not the size of his sword.”
Rory Damler a.k.a. Bengal (Gunnery Sergeant Damler retired now Security Guard)Background:
Red Skull platoon—what a hoot. Big bang bang, serious whoop ass, yeah, those were some great times. The war dried up and so did the passion for the corps. Those early days were fun but then it became scrambles to break up food riots, do bug hunts, and guard supply depots… major dragsville. Teens, to twenties, come thirty-somthin it was time to ditch the corps and get with something that had a little variety and some head breaking on the side. Security work on deep space freighter was just the ticket. Just enough hassles from the hungry scabs to keep it interesting. Not much time to keep your skills with the heavy stuff sharp, but you can always stop by Negara base where staff sergeant Perez will let you walk a fence with a heavy Andro. Nothing quite like being on patrol in a sixty ton walking tank. That’s something you can’t get out of your blood.
Bengal has all hardened milspec cyberwear. He is a combat pilot in all forms of landbased infantry support and suppression fire units. His specialty is in piloting heavy andromechs. Quotes:
“Grade A bang bang.”
“You call that a gun? That ain’t no gun. Now, this is a gun.”
Clarisa MacDougal a.k.a. Doc Soft Touch (Emergency Medivac Physician)Background:
You are one of the most recent acquisitions on the Grundy. Your job skills are in high demand and you actually could have taken a berth on any ship, but the Grundy was convenient. It was time to get away from the practice and away from him… he’ll never find you out here… and if he does… you’ll probably get Hilda to shoot him between the eyes. The crew of Grundy were rough when you first came aboard, perhaps too rough. They were using a synth, Mercedes, in a most demeaning way. It took some fighting with the captain but you finally put a stop to it. Now, she’s become rather devoted to you. You never really felt that way about a synth before… but now in close quarters with one, you’ve grown to appreciate the more than human sentiments of these artificial life forms.
* Clarisa has several tailored cyberware enhancements specifically designed for the facilitation of field triage and surgery. These are licensed enhancements and she carries several certificates and seals that allow her to bypass security when they are detected. Just because they are specifically for use in medicine doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have other practical uses.
“If it hurts when you do that. DON’T do that!”
“I swear if I have to suture you up one more time…”
“Ow, that must’ve hurt. There’s a technique in fighting, I believe it’s called ducking.”
Merrick Johnson a.k.a. Callsign:Sabreclaw (Ex-Fighter Pilot / Backup Cargo Pilot)Background:
Twenty-eight years old and you’re already a wash-out. When you were young buck hazing the older guys it never occurred to you, that you’d live long enough to be on the receiving end. It bites. You’re still as fast as you used to be. At least it feels that way. Was that a bone you heard creaking. No, that’s just the teasing echoing in your ears. Forty-six splashed enemies and only a couple smashed up ships… even your shit didn’t stink. Then they gave you a physical… time to fly something slow—something without G-absorbers and afterburners. Damn. Time to do something else… the memory stung.
A couple years looking for work turned up nothing. Then a back-up pilot’s position on the Solomon Grundy came up. The pockets were thin… no more fighter jockey but at least it was piloting… and space piloting at that. Your pride goes down smooth after a couple slugs of hard Metau whiskey.
* Merrick uses milspec cyberware and linkages designed for military aircraft and space vehicles.
“Turn and burn!”
“You take the high side!”
Bennie Stokes a.k.a Fingers (Supply Officer/Materials Expert)Background:
Finding stuff is something you’ve always been good at. Talking people out of their stuff is something you’re even better at. Convincing them that you got something that they want is all part of the working the “deal”. You’ve been working deals, and girls in every port for years. Then a girl—not a deal—went sour—180 kilos of pissed off brother with a big gun sour. It was time to start working a different set of jump segments with a less than stationary base of operations. The Grundy was hiring, and you didn’t have the time to be picky. It turned out for the best, actually kind of fun working with Kessler… being the face man, wheelin the deals and getting a piece of the profits. It’s showtime!
*Bennie has a chipjack and numerous language and skills-softs for speaking the different regional dialects. He uses a cranial computer for number crunching, profiling, and any number of dealing issues. Additionally, he has altered phermones which make him more than popular.
“Lets shake on it.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“You want it, you got it.”
Lawrence McLaren a.k.a Boltz (Aerospace Systems Technician)Background:
Every ship needs an engineer, and you practically designed the Grundy. A longtime friend of David Kessel, when he said that he was getting backing to build a ship you signed on to see it done. The ship, she’s getting a little long in the tooth now, but she can hold her own with newer ships because she can belly flop planet-side when need be. The crew are a motley bunch, but you get along with them for the most part. Your job is to keep her running, fix the odd piece of machinery that breaks, and make sure the captain don’t break her.
*Bolts has been surgically augmented to allow him to operate in void normal space for up to 45 minutes without resorting to a space suit. Note, this is not how he prefers to operate… just that he’s buffered against emergency situations where engineering might need to be vented to void normal on short notice.
“Captain, you mind the flyin, I’ll mind the engines.”
“Are ya daffed? This ain’t broke. Yer damned idjot brain is what’s broke. The on switch is over here.”
“Break it again, laddie and ya fix it yerself next time.”
Mercedes (Backup Emergency Med Tech)Background:
Initially, you were sold to the Grundy as an entertainment and domestic services synth with supplemental pleasure protocols. Essentially, a prostitute in maid’s uniform. Fortunately, you could run some software so that servicing the various crew (male and female) made the task pleasurable rather than demeaning. When Clarisa MacDougal came on staff as the ship’s physician she insisted on decommissioning your use as a pleasure synth and instead making use of you as an assistant in the medbay. There was a sizeable fight over the move, but good emergency doctors are extremely valuable so her will won out. Over the last couple years, Clarisa has purchased upgrades and software for you, and in general has been very kind. You will defend her in any situation.
*Mercedes has the equivalent of a smartgun link that prevents her from directing lethal force at individuals with a ship’s ID insignia on their personal ID chip. Mercedes will not use lethal combat tactics against sentient creatures unless ordered/authorized by Clarisa or someone with a ship’s ID and command access.
“Ride me hard you rigid stud-muffin!”
“Your wish is my command.”
“You’re mistaken, I no longer unwillingly provide that service.”
Felix (Combat Expert)Background:
You’re not really sure how the Grundy’s captain, David Kessel, managed to get your contract away from the special ops military unit in Vostoth territory, but you’ve heard rumors it had something to do with a card game and some debt. The transfer to the Solomon was certainly no hardship for you, synths on active duty in the military (especially the Marines) live short lives. The task is simple, break a head or two once in while, intimidate the people the Captain says to, and do some exploratory recon on occasion. Some of the ship’s crew refer to you as “terminator boy”. For some strange reason they laugh every time you say “I’ll be back”—you haven’t quite figured out the reason for that…
*Felix has the equivalent of a smartgun link that prevents him from directing lethal force at individuals with a ship’s ID insignia on their personal ID chip. Felix will not use lethal combat tactics against sentient creatures unless ordered/authorized by someone with a ship’s ID and command access.
“Your humor perplexes me…”
“I’ll be back.”
Guest “Victs” That Come Aboard The Grundy
Morton Grigs a.k.a Blaster (Gang Banger / Vehicle Theft Expert)Background:
A love of fast women, faster cars (other people’s), and drugs were the perfect chemistry for poor judgment. When added to an association with a hardcore gang of car thieves, finding yourself on the “inside” was simply a matter of time. Of course, you never thought that it would be hard airless time breaking rocks on Maldiara-4. You’d rather suck raw exhaust than go back to that hole.
*Adept at vehicle theft, especially the “hotwiring” of ground vehicles
“Hey, Babe, how do you like the new wheels?”
“Nice ride—can I have it?”
“Wush happnen? Why is the werld spinnin…?”
Bentley Steelridge a.k.a. Patella Pete (Mob Knee Breaker)Background:
It’s always been a job—nothing personal. If people just paid up you wouldn’t have to hurt them. Don’t they got enough sense not to take loans from the mob? Oh well, if they got the body parts to spare…
For years, under the alias “Patella Pete” you’ve carried out your duties without rancor or remorse. It’s lucky nobody ever asked you to kill anyone. You would have done your obligation if told to, but you’d really rather not have murdering some stupid slob on your conscience. Unfortunately for you, your last job (the stupid son of a stupid counsel member) was just a bit too high profile and just a bit too messy. You were captured in a raid and questioned. Suddenly, the bosses didn’t know who you were and you were left to twist in the wind.
*Bentley still has contacts inside the mob, and has Ettiquette (Mob) 5.
“It’s a real shame I have to do this.”
“I hear lemon is good for getting out blood stains.”
“Payment with interest or a permanent limp—your choice.”
Aziko Yamazaki a.k.a. Black Lotus (Yukuza Infiltration/Assassination Agent)Background:
Contrary to popular belief, the Yakuza still exist, and you have the tattoos to prove it. As the handmaid to the boss’ first wife it was your duty to take the blame when it appeared she would be indicted on a charge for drug manufacturing and distribution. Hard time on Maldiara-4 was not the punishment you expected, but you bear it because you are honor bound to do so. Life in the syndicate is all you know, so you will return to your elders at the first opportunity using all the skills you have learned.
* As a hardened and trained soldier of the Yakuza, Aziko is a trained actress. (This is how she deliberately took the rap for her mistress). To get what she wants, she will manipulate men with her beauty and “submissive woman in need” act. She is a determined individual with rigid self control. She is trained to be deadly with thrown objects of many varieties. She is also a consummate escape artist.
“Honor above life.”
“One should respect their elders.”
“Guns are sloppy weapons resorted to by people with no skill.”
Horrace Meade a.k.a. Platinum Shadow (Mob Hit man)Background:
Blood. Yeah, you’ve seen your share. That’s what you do—or did. Dirty squealing chump. That’s what you get, the very first time you let a mark walk. You made sure from the inside that the loose-lipped little freak was made to suck fibrine laced air. Yeah, heard they made his lungs bleed and he choked to death on his own spew. You remember staring at the image of his pale grimacing visage on the e-comm, it made you feel good—for a little while—then it was back to digging. Whatever. You don’t know what happened to the bosses, or your mouthpiece, but you suspect that there’s some other chicken necks to squeeze—if you ever get out of this hell hole.
*Classic cold-as-ice mob hitman. Two-faces, the cold killer and seemingly normal man about town.
“40-40 poly-tipped caseless—my kind of ammo.”
“Yeah, he’s dead—so, you want me to cry or somethin’?”
“Kay, he’s ice. Let’s stop by Ralphie’s for some pizza.”
Hiram Miller (Crooked Cop)Background:
Ten years, you worked your ass off, and for what? Nothing. Drug dealers, pimps, arms merchants, they get rich—you can’t pay the mortgage. A drug deal gone sour, who could blame you for pocketing a little scratch—okay, all the scratch. Hey, it was your retirement! You still can’t believe they put you in general population. It’s a good thing that nobody knows you’re a cop in this territory.
*One impulse, one mistake, heavy price. He’s not a bad guy—just a bitter one.
“Feeling lucky are we punk?”
“Cops got a bad rap.”
“A dozen doughnuts and a large coffee—black.”
Thaames Monroe a.k.a. “The Bat” (Psycho)Background:
People don’t understand your genius. They never have. Neither do they accept your need for blood. Fools. Since the prison med-techs started forcing injections on you, the “spells” went away. The beautiful lucidity of the night was gone like a bad dream. It makes you shudder. Which one is the real you? God’s most wonderful creatures still fascinate you, their shrill cries still echo in your mind. Some day you will be one with them again. Free to fly and feast on the succulent prey of night.
* A serial psychotic vampire killer that uses cyber-enhancements to emulate the bats that so fascinate him. In the past, “The Bat’s” psychotic episodes were suppressed by drugs. However, in the absence of such drugs, anything may trigger an episode. In which case, he will have an adrenal response and the stats in parenthesis apply.
“Ah bats! Of the order Chiroptera in which there are approximately 180 genera, and 900 species.”
“Why am I hanging upside down? Why—I’m not really—sure.”
“Vampire bats are simply misunderstood.”
Nuzio Fabritzio (War Criminal)Background:
War happens. War is inevitable. People die—that’s also inevitable. A government contracted killer is called a soldier and patriot. When the government doesn’t have enough money to pay you year round—you’re a mercenary. When a more powerful government decries some action of your employer’s as an atrocity—everyone associated becomes a criminal. When something goes wrong—someone gets called to task—that’s life. Too bad you didn’t see the deal going bad sooner, you could have run further and hid better. Too bad.
* To some, war is a job. They neither love nor hate killing, it’s just a fact of life. Nuzio is trained gorilla and trench fighter with specific knowledge of setting booby traps and destroying hard targets with ordinance or demolitions.
“Watch your back, it’s about to get messy.”
“I’m sorry son, that nasty sucking sound means you’re gonna die.”
“You’d be surprised how fast you can dig when you’re under fire…”
Dietrick Gunter a.k.a. RTFM (Arms Dealer)Background:
People are always fighting. I don’t force them to buy my product, and I sure as hell don’t make them use it. If I don’t sell it to them, someone else will, and they need to defend themselves, right? Death, yeah yeah, I sell death. If I sold tri-di air time you’d say it was my fault that people are frying their minds on that whiz. People have to take responsibility for themselves. I’m not gonna be their conscience.
* Weapons trade and smuggling go hand-in-hand, as does the ability to demonstrate the merchandise. It really helps to have a milspec cyber control port and connection descrambler for showing of that military ordinance and heavy machinery.
“Doesn’t work, huh? Did you try… READING THE FRELLING MANUAL???”
“30-30 12 shot burst fire with recoil comp and caseless ammo breech. Gonna shoot deer with this, right?”
“Buy two and I’ll throw in a free case of ammunition”
Kevin Hightower a.k.a Money Bags (Corrupt Financer)Background:
You used to have more money than god. So why couldn’t you buy your way out of that last scrape? A war. You financed the wrong side. Damn it. No loyalty. That turn-coat lawyer didn’t help any—you knew how the verdict would turnout when you found out the shyster was banging your wife. Life sucks and then the stock market crashes. The bastards tried to take everything… ‘blood money’ they called it. It was legitimately earned with take-overs sellouts and other quite standard business practices—thank you. If you can ever get off this bloody rock, you might be able to start a new life with the few million you stashed.
* The corporate shark, buy low, sell high… no investment too shady. We don’t do blood, our hands and reputation must stay clean and above reproach at all times.
“You’re walking around blind without a cane, pal. A fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place.”
“The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.”
“I’m talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing.”
Dana Meltzer a.k.a. Silver Spectre (Cat Burgler)Background:
How’s a girl of moderate means supposed to get nice things in this rat race inflationary universe? Why a little five finger discount of course! Not just for me of course, plenty of customers wanting photos, information, jewels—all for a price. The big shots can afford it. A lot of the victims are so crooked they’re afraid to call the cops anyway. It’s not just the money you know, it’s the challenge, the rush of the score—yeah. Anyone, can wave a gun in a teller’s face, that takes no skill—no panache. Getting chased, that’s just part of the fun. It’s getting caught that bites.
* A little shove puts the conscience under the carpet while she goes on an X-treme sports style shopping spree. It’s the adrenaline rush she was really after. It was only a matter of time before the thrill-seeking life caught up with her. Dana is an accomplished gymnast with special physical skills that include wire walking, rope and free climbing, and parachuting
“Dull job like that? Add another zero and I’ll take you seriously.”
“Nothing like a little wire walking without a net to get the blood pumping.”
“Ever pole-sit in a strong wind—? Interesting experience.”
Jelita Anita Bakri a.k.a. Iron Butterfly (OSA Field Investigator)Background:
OSA Metua, Office of Stellar Affairs, Metuan Government up-and-comer, I had potential and I was a fool to throw it away. Okay, some of the shady dealings, orders to look the other way and brush cases under the rug, that bothered me—but I had a life, I had a chance to be somebody. Being in the field is gritty, and being principle investigator is hard—you get lonely. Only excuse I have for letting that sleeze turn my head, why didn’t I see he was using me? Drugs and drug money, I was such a fool. I was so dazzled, government bigshot, handsome, well connected… smooth. I should have realized when things went too fast… I mean—marriage? Bastard. I retired for him, left my cases to green recruit. It all made sense… later. I’m not a total idiot… did he think I was that dumb? Right under my nose, how was supposed to NOT notice or take an interest. More foolish to send his goons. Then it clicked… and I lost it. Biggest mistake of my life. He came home. He shouldn’t have touched me… trying to pretend he wasn’t surprised that I was alive. What did he think they taught OSA agents? Fool. More fool me. I broke his arm and then I broke his neck. I watched him die and I wasn’t even sad… Now, I am…doing time with the people I used to incarcerate…
Some mistakes are hard to forgive, and sometimes years of training can go out the window in an instant. Using the façade of love and marriage to prevent the principle investigator of drug taskforce from finding the real backers—it takes brass and foolishness. It makes for an explosive outcome…
Jelita retired from OSA service as fully decorated officer and retains her government issue cyberware. As a principle investigator for drug trafficking, she has a Phd in toxicology. She has a chemical analysis chip built into her tongue and sinuses, as well as toxin filters. Orthoskin prevents those little “accidental” cuts and scrapes.
“Vice. Yes, they call it that because of the squeeze we put on them.”
“One man’s thrill is another man’s blood money”
“I loved a man once—broke his neck.”
James A. Dougan a.k.a Jimmy Dean (Gun Runner)Background:
Weee…oooh! You want them delivered when? Feller for another ten percent you can have em there with a bow on it. Did yah make sure you wasn’t follered? Them Metuan agents is mighty persistent, makes it hard for a fellar to make a credit. Awww, I know guns is, ya know, contra-versal, but they sure is profitable—and people need ‘em to fight wars and insurrections and stuff. What? No, I don’t supply, I just deliver… fast, fast, fast… that’s my motto… half up front plus a jug. Now, if ya’d kindly direct me to the the goods, I got a schedule ta keep…
Arms delivery, fast ship, flexible morals and all business. Once in while you have to space your cargo to keep from getting caught with your pants down. Unfortunately, dumping the wrong cargo at the wrong time got the wrong folks pissed. Suddenly, the Metuans were on your ass like stink on stinky stuff. You can only run so far and so fast when they got all your accounts and seem to know everything about you… Gawd, like yer mother used to tell ya, some days it just don’t pay to get up…
While Jimmy talks like a hick, he did some serious time in Metuan ground forces where he made his arms contacts as a supply sergeant. He was a unit heavy support anchor specializing in “room sweeper” operations. He has marksmanship and internal body recoil compensation.
“Git er goin!”
“Betsy here, she can git a might onery. I’d advise payin up gentleman like…”
“Time to make sausage!”
Sectors Served by the Solomon Grundy
For the Tech-heads — Expositive Timeline Behind the Grundy Stories
Timeline Behind The Solomon Grundy Episodes
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 nor 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 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 same 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 create 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 Astrum 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 Earth, Metua, Danir, and Oberon.
The human race was finally a truly interstellar species.