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Now bear with me a moment, I’m about to start explaining a FTL drive here, so first leave your disbelief at the door and settle down, this may get a little confusing.

Put very simply, the Jump Drive acts as a vector multiplier, meaning that you are effectively going a multiple of your original direction, and so will arrive at the same destination as if you hadn’t turned it on, just a lot faster. Sounds reasonable? Good. Now come the complications. No one actually knows how the jump drive works[1], so the multiplication factor is rather high, estimated at something like 109 or above, and, paradoxically, the only way of reducing this is to pump in more power. Now imagine that after a certain point this actually causes ships to spontaneously combust so going at anything other than breakneck speed is impossible, and this means you have no way of avoiding any obstacles out there, you’ll begin to understand why jump engineers are generally considered to be some of the smartest people in the galaxy, or at least, the ones that pay the most attention to detail.

The typical Jump will take place in about .5 of a microsecond, which is actually somewhere bellow the level of human perception, and even a supercomputer would have a hard time doing anything meaningful in that time. Hence, Jumps are meticulously planned, and occur at the highest level of acceleration as going slower would at best buy you a millisecond, which still isn’t good enough to do anything if you miss-jump. Because of the law of vanishing returns[2], the high level accelerations mean that the least amount of fuel is expended, and this can actually be quite a lot given it takes an small fusion power plant to even fire one up[3]. On shorter, in-system Jumps, the acceleration will be dialled down a number of notches so that you don’t overshoot by a couple of light years, but the core principals are the same, and ironically, the time period.

There are a few other quirks of the Jump Drive. First, you never actually go faster than light, but nor do you bypass the intervening space. This has baffled just about everyone who has ever used a Jump Drive, and even with some of the most delicate equipment known to man, it was impossible to ascertain any change in perceived velocity, or even acceleration[4]. Now, this leads to a few interesting effects. Firstly, it is fully possible to crash into something, though this is unlikely as space has quite a low density. If this something smaller than the mass within the field impacts, it either passes into the field if extremely small (diatomic molecules is pretty much the limit here) or is converted into energy for larger objects[5]. Secondly, anything with no mass can enter the field with impunity, so the field tends to gather any light that happened to be going the same general direction as you pass through space tends to congregate at the front of the field. It can not escape, as every time it does the ship overtakes it and it immediately falls back into the field, and this leads to a ‘Jump Flash’ after a interstellar trip, as all that light is released in a single bust[6]. Finally, the Jump Drive is not limited to being used in specific areas, only being used carefully. This pretty much annuls any chokepoints you could get in space, and means that interstellar travel is theoretically impossible to control, as all the required technologies are on the open market.

To actually make a jump, you have to consider a massive number of factors, namely:

  • Your velocity
  • Your distance from other local objects[7]
  • The local gravity well/wells
  • The masses within the solar system
  • The masses between you and the destination
  • The masses around the path to your destination[8]
  • The speed of the solar systems, both your arrival and destination[9]

Depending on how far, where and how often the jump is made by others, commercial jumps can take anywhere from a week to a month to plot, and that’s including the time to reach the edge of the system[10]. Jumps will generally be plotted from an orbit, mostly to save fuel, and, as the value of acceleration is not changed, while speed is, you will exit orbit immediately[11].

Random Fact: Jump drives, and in fact most of the derelict technologies, do not obey the standard laws of thermodynamics. In this case, the energy fed into the jump drive is not emitted after use. It appears to simply vanish into the ether.

Authors Note: Ah, the jump drive. Probably one of the oldest ideas in Vast Worlds, and I’m fairly sure I just came up with the function on a whim one day. I’ve never actually been able to find a source of inspiration for it, or for its manner of function so I might be so bold to say that I came up with it with no inspiration, though I might at least have known about the already established methods ;). Actually, there are three different FTL drives I’ve come up with for Vast Worlds, the jump drive for the humans, the ram drive for the derelict makes, and the drift drive for the Ewts, though the Ewts never actually develop such a thing in the canon. Anyway, the drive is the corner stone of nearly every event in Vast Worlds, from trading empires to the interstellar wars and without it the book would be very slow and dull.

[1] Given the amount of tinkering that has occurred to make it function, it’s debateable if the Derelict makers would understand how it works. A fact not widely known beyond the Jump Engineers and one they would like to keep quiet.

[2] This is a concept that has only been around since the invention of the Jump Drive, as the more energy you put in, the slower you go. This itself would force most physicist to tears, but they have long since given up on the Jump Drive, every since it was proved you could jury-rig it into a perpetual motion machine if you happened to fire it up in the right place.

[3] As a clarifying point, the Jump Drive does need some power to operate at all, and this is disturbingly high by modern standards. This is one of the many reasons that civilian ships can get away with carrying nuclear power plants onboard.

[4] There is a lot of hand waving here (not by me, by the cannon) about relativity. Suffice to say, such laws probably don’t apply when your observable acceleration could be measured in mega G’s and velocity some enormous multiple of the speed of light.

[5] This is less fatal than it sounds from the basic E=MC2 equation, due to the rather hard to model effects around the Jump Field/real space, boundary. Still, anything above a ton or so is enough to start breaching hulls, and people generally take offence if annihilate their satellites.

[6] This also causes physicists to sob, as it is taking energy from a low density area, and concentrating it into an area of high density. In other words, an anti-enthalpy device.

[7] Because at jump accuracies, even objects with as weak a gravity as satellites can throw you off by a few kilometres.

[8] This increases in inaccuracy as you attempt to jump further, and beyond about twenty light-years the only way you can ascertain this is an educated guess. With fuel consumption, it is one of the major limits on jump travel as longer jumps require exponential amounts of computational power.

[9] The speed of the galaxy should also have an impact, but this effect is mitigated by the amorphous jump bubble form being strongly affected by the local objects, and so relative solar velocity is one of the more important factors.

[10] As the jump is rarely directly away from the local sun, it is wise to jump as far away from the mass as possible to limit the distortion it has on your trajectory. A jump to outer planets is generally used to overcome this complexity.

[11] Theoretically this means it is possible to jump through, though not from, a black hole’s event horizon. No one’s been nuts enough to try this, nor is there a significantly large enough black hole in the Vast Worlds area of space to test it on.


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