Spacecraft & Spycraft
The primary modes of transportation between the stars are the enormous Torch Ships and the Fuji (or more precisely, Fujimoro) Gates.
The Free Cantons of Mercury are the sole manufacturer of Torch Ships. They launched the first exploratory Torch Ship 150 years ago and have preserved a competitive advantage ever since. Torch Ships weigh an average of 500,000 tons and come in three configurations, Exploratory, Commercial, and Colonial. They get their name from the million-mile trail of glowing ionized plasma produced by the engines. All Torch Ships use a city-grade fusion engine for propulsion and power (a minor consideration compared to the propulsion needs). The ships are capable of acceleration and deceleration at a steady 0.1G for up to 20 years (depending on the amount of fuel available).
Of the three designs, the Commercial is the easiest to build. It also has the advantages of being the only design that receives regular maintenance and has a large well-trained crew. The standard Commercial Torch Ships have 100 first-class suites, 1,000 second-class rooms, 10,000 steerage cubicles and a vast space for cargo. The number of people to occupy any of the above spaces is determined by the ticket holder. A one way ticket costs roughly as follows: $200 for a Steerage cube, $2,000 for a Second Class room, $20,000 for a First Class suite. The Commercial Torch Ship can also carry up to 200,000 tons of cargo.
No Colonial Torch Ships are being built at the moment, although that may change in the next few years. Most people feel that humanity can barely handle occupying the current worlds, much less adding more to the total. These ships have no dedicated crewmembers, only colonists who have been trained well enough to make a one-way trip to another planet. Colonial Torch Ships never makes more than one successful trip because they are dismantled by the colonists to form the technical basis of the colony when the voyage is complete. Each ship carries a small fleet of shuttles, miners, and scout ships. Up to 75,000 colonists and an enormous amount of equipment can be carried. The cost to get passage on a Colonial Torch Ship varies tremendously with the goals and resources of would-be colony organizers.
All Exploratory Torch Ships were built at the same time, between 2120 and 2150. None of the giant ships are in use at this time and are in parking orbits near Saturn because humanity hasn’t been able to use all the planets that have already been discovered. The Exploratory Torch Ship travels to another star via normal space carrying a Fuji Gate. The ship is composed of the following pieces; a giant fuel tank and engine, 100 highly trained survey specialists in cryogenic sleep tubes (crew quarters are considered primitive and cramped by today’s standards), and the Gate. It also carries a deactivated AI and a large number of drones and unmanned survey vessels for exploratory and maintenance purposes. The crew is awakened when the ship arrives at the destination; they survey the system, activate the Gate and travel back home via the Gate. Regardless, of the value to humanity (or lack thereof) the Gate stays active in the system against the possibility that somebody would like to travel here in the future.
The Earth Alliance limits the number of Torch Ships in action and has established stringent measures to prevent the use of these ships as weapons. So far they have succeeded, but there are rumors of several close calls and the crew of the “Adam Smith” destroyed their vessel to prevent it from being used during the Eden Secession.
The Fuji Gates utilize the most dramatic result of the Fujimoro Effect: interstellar travel and communication. Although the Effect is not well understood outside of astrophysical and scientific circles (it is not well understood within those circles either), it essentially allows a ship to travel infinitely fast (or infinitely slow if used in reverse). A lag time of roughly 1 day per light year traveled is not understood at all and although many explanations have been put forth, none can reasonably explain all the known data. The Gates are unmanned and are controlled from the colony they serve or from Earth if there is no colony. They are provided with their own robot ships to gather hydrogen for their fusion generators.
Well-traveled Gates are attended by so-called “Outstations.” These permanently manned stations serve as hotels and warehouses for people and goods waiting to board the Torch ship bound for their destinations. Outstations typically have a crew of 1,500 people and can have anywhere from a few hundred to 30,000 visitors, depending on the amount of time until the next Torch Ship is sent out. Outstations are typically administered by a combination of local and EarthForce personnel; relations between the two groups can be anything from near-mutinous to cordial, depending on the relationship between the commanding officers. All outstations maintain a Control Level of 6.
The Fuji Gates perform two functions: they can warp space temporarily (at an enormous energy cost) to allow a single ship to travel between the stars, or they can transmit information to each other in a manner similar to old-fashioned microwave communication towers. The cost to transport a ship to another star is the same regardless of the size of the ship being transported. The sending gate usually requires a week to recover enough energy to send another ship. Economics dictate that each ship should be large enough to be worth the energy cost so only Torch Ships regularly travel between the stars, although they frequently carry other ships as cargo. Communication essentially costs no energy but is subject to the same time lag as ship travel.
A typical interstellar voyage involves a one to three week transit from the planet or colony to the Fuji Gate plus the FTL transit time plus a one to three week transit from the Gate to the destination planet or colony.
Although all the Fuji gate connections originated at Sol, other systems are now building their own to communicate and trade with systems other than Sol. So far Sol has shown no sign of discomfort with losing its place in the center of the human universe.