In 2204, at the University of Greenwich, England, a small multinational group of` physicists investigating the many-worlds physics hypothesis made observations that supported the existence of alternate dimensions and established that that was the means by which hyper-radio worked. Gaining the interest of the newly formed League of Empires Science & Applied Technology Directorate (LSAT) the group made further observations they believed extended the communications concept in a way that might make the use of alternate dimensions usable for travel between the stars. They called the new dimension, where nothing appeared to travel slower than light, tachyon space and started to work on methods of creating artificial wormholes through it in order to link regions of "real space". The results were encouraging and led LSAT to set up the Alternate Dimension Project (ADP).
Cooperating with LSAT supplied engineers and a new director, Nathan Alexander, ADP had, within a year, built a two metre "gateway" the supporting power supplies of which covered nearly an entire laboratory block. Questions were raised in the League council chambers, echoed in the press, about the efficacy, safety and heavy cost of the work all of which were politely dismissed by LSAT directors. Finally, the gateway was complete and a probe was launched into the dimension, all contact was lost as well as with those that followed. Several other major setbacks occurred and, as LSAT support started to disintegrate, it was all that Alexander could do to maintain ADPs focus and funding.
Three years after the start of the project, with ADP on the verge of losing its funding, a signal was picked up from a point in space determined to be nearly two light years away. Less than a month later the signal from another probe was received from farther away in a completely different direction; Alexander and his group were vindicated and increased funding was rapidly granted.
An ageing interplanetary freighter renamed The Quantum Particle, was outfitted with powerful generators and a second gateway and was tested at varying distances from Earth. The freighter allowed Alexander and his group to successfully test the sending of small objects, bi-directionally, even from the far side of the sun where normal communication back to Earth would have been problematic at best. The sending of simple objects through tachyon space had been demonstrated and, better still, was instantaneous, funding for the project was provisionally increased.
ADP commenced efforts to create wormholes to specific areas of "real space" with little success until a young physicist named Eiko Nakamura, daughter of one of Sol system's famous multi-planetary business CEOs and already known for flashes of genius-level intuition, was found to have some special abilities. Not only was she able to make accurate predictions of where a given wormhole and any probes launched through it would emerge, she was able to make instantaneous calculations for the coordinates required to link a wormhole to a specific area of real-space. She was, however, unable to retrieve the probes and it was suggested that could only happen if she was at the return-immergent end of the wormhole. Given her own subproject, her researches led to a wider investigation of similar individuals (especially on some of the colony planets) and she uncovered compelling evidence that, since space travel had begun, a number of individuals had been born altered.
As the second decade opened, a one-man fighter craft, converted to a manned probe, was launched through the tachyon gate to a point several light-hours from The Earth. A weak transmission was received back through normal space indicating that the probe was successful and the pilot, although hungry and nearly out of air, was recovered by The Quantum Particle a few days later. ADP began constructing and testing a new, larger, gate discovering that the gates had a specific relationship with gravity that limited their size near very large objects such as planets, their function over distance and their proximity to each other.
Nakamura's project showed that mutants, sometimes with enhanced mental or physical abilities sometimes with disabilities, had often been persecuted because they were different but some had escaped unharmed because their mutations had not been visible. Nakamura determined that she and some other mutant test subjects were able to mentally reach in and through tachyon space to spaces on the "other side". Mutants could be any age, gender, racial type or sexuality and, as their minds developed, almost all developed barely visible gold flecks in their corneas. Nakamura was able to show that she and many others like her could rapidly predict not only where ships or probes would emerge when launched but the location of what she called fixed loci, places where static doorways could potentially be located.
Continued ADP research into tachyon space revealed an immense problem; the mathematics involved. The problem with using tachyon space especially for travel was that the coordinates, the actual numbers involved, were mind-bogglingly huge and shifted rapidly. Even if the exact destination was known the fastest known computers of the time were unable to solve the equations before the coordinates shifted. Nakamura's team showed that she and other mutants, now more colourfully referred to as mutes, could supply the gate activation and control computers with the relevant coordinates to bring them out in real space wherever they wanted and to do so almost immediately. No one was adequately able to explain how this was done; even the subjects believed they simply "knew" the coordinates. The project had a solution and was immediately granted massive funding.
The project took forced possession of a large part of the Island of Bryher in the Scillies where an industrial sized facility was built. Within the facility, a new gate, a ten-metre "doorway" massing several hundred tons, over fifty metres diameter and forty thick was built and launched to close orbit. Earlier test flights had determined that a specially designed probe would be needed, one that could carry several crew members along with the equipment to build a second gate and so be assured of a reasonable chance of return. With Nakamura onboard to determine coordinates a test voyage was mounted to a relatively nearby star and all aboard recovered only a week later, a huge success for the project. Although keen to continue, subsequent work had to be delayed for nearly a month because Nakamura developed an illness and was briefly unable to continue her work. At the probe crew's insistence, the star was named Ayra after Nakamura's adopted sister.
The results of the Tachyon Space project were published in a leading physics journal in 2213 along with a number of pieces in respected popular science magazines. In one interview with a reporter from The Galactic Mail, Alexander and Nakamura referred to the Tachyon Space Gate, describing the general function of the centrepiece of the newfound technology, only to have the reporter say, "So? Like 'hyperspace' then?" The two scientists disagreed and said so but were annoyed when the reporter published the article under the heading, "Hyperspace Gates to Other Dimensions." Much to the dismay of scientists working in the field, the term stuck.
Nakamura grew more fragile and a link between her deteriorating health and the gates was established. To almost anyone else a gate was simply a doorway, a window to another place that could be easily "stepped" through. To Nakamura, it was a nightmare journey of pain and physical damage. Not only could she sense her travel through tachyon space where normal humans could not but each time a tachyon space sensitive "mute" traversed it they were subject to cumulative physiological damage. Although she remained silent about her experiences in "hyperspace" it was clear that, as the damage increased, a number of extremely severe symptoms were noted. These included serious energy loss, flu-like effects, intense migraines, severe stomach cramp and vomiting & diarrhoea. Further examination revealed immune system malfunction, pre-cancerous masses, tissue changes and shallow life signs. Although it was established that she would recover it was further hypothesised that full recovery might take several years and that not only would further exposure to tachyon space cause more damage but that damage was somehow proportional to the realspace length of a journey. The group hypothesis, later borne out by evidence, was that over exposure to tachyon space adversely affected "sensitives" and would eventually be fatal.
Nakamura knew what this meant for those like her and, passing her research on 'mutes' to a fellow team member developing the new specialism of Mutational Psychology, shifted her team's efforts towards finding alternatives. Over the next two years, her team developed a series of faster and smaller processors that, she hoped, would help to handle the computations involved. It is interesting to note that the fruits of Nakamura's research permeated into every aspect of computing and even affected some of the terminologies for example to "NAK" a computer came to mean an increase in its performance beyond the accepted maximum.
The prototype gate had a number of other uses including allowing physicists to continue testing the nature of tachyon space and feeding back data to ADPs production arm. Although theoretical research implied that a gate could be placed anywhere it was soon clear that there were better and poorer points of placement in a system. One of a system's LaGrange points was a good start since it meant relatively little requirement for stabilisation manoeuvring which in turn meant a reduction in the power and capability of the onboard stabilisation thrusters as well as reducing the required size of the fusion reactor. Physicists also determined that a gate's hyperspatial positioning was important, perhaps even more than its realspace position, since hyperspace had fluxes, eddies and even storms that needed to be handled and that opening doorways into the alternate dimension could actually cause more disturbances. As such the positioning of the gate in both real and alternate spaces was crucial which meant establishing where hyperspace was as calm as possible, where the ideal places in both dimensions coincided came to be known as Hyper-Loci.
Despite the risks to her health Nakamura continued to support the greater ADP aims, shielding herself by the simple expedient of avoiding hyperspace test jumps wherever possible; she was even noted to show slight improvement. Several years later, the first one hundred metre gate was built and placed at Lagrange Point L4, nearly one hundred and fifty million kilometres from Earth. The new gate included a computer system based on the latest quantum processor, the best that Nakamura's team had been able to devise, and was able to maintain a fixed link to another "paired" gate. The gate was tested against a series of smaller test gates throughout the Sol system and was found to work extremely well. If a hyperspace jump gate network were to be implemented based on this system it would mean that every populated system, unless a "dead-end", would need at least two gates. It also meant that a series of permanent links would be established between systems that any ship could, without special generators, use it to travel to another system.
At the start of the second decade, Discovery, the first of a new breed of explorer ships, was launched with the aim of exploring new systems and building new gates. She contained generators to create her own hyperspace portal but required a hyperspace sensitive mutant to calculate her realspace exit points. Nakamura volunteered to join the crew of one of the ships without hesitation.
The five Discovery class ships would, once commissioned, jump to a new system and deploy a pair of temporary ten-metre gates, gates more compact ones than earlier models. One of the gates was connected to an available gate, again requiring the mutant's hyperspace sensitive skills, in the growing hypergate network (almost always in the last system visited) whilst the other was switched into a "ready" mode, waiting to accept a gate connection. If the system hosted uninhabited worlds that were viable for terraforming the ship would deploy a small number of terraforming robots along with storage banks of embryonic flora and fauna, send a data missile back through the connected gate to Network Central on Earth and jump to the next target system. Network Central would then dispatch automated gate builders to build a larger gate from system materials; once the gate was complete and running in disconnected mode, a copy of the temporary gate's core configuration was transferred to the new permanent gate, the old one powered down and the new gate powered up which effectively switched the new, larger, gate into the network. If the switchover was successful the old gate was then mothballed in orbit for possible "emergency" use if required later and the system formally added to "the network". Despite Arya's early discovery the first system to be officially joined to the network was Ross 165 A (Vulpecula constellation) only 35LY from Earth and subsequently renamed Saxonia. Arya, a system fairly close to Saxonia, was the third to be added.
Four of the Discovery class ships eventually returned to Earth. One was mothballed for possible future use and three were sent out again after a six-month refit. One notable modification was the inclusion of a hyperbaric suspension chamber designed to keep an individual in an unconscious stasis for long periods of time and these were used to protect the 'mutes', now two per ship, from the ravages of hyperspatial travel. Only two of those ships returned, one of which is on display at the Florida National Space Museum and the other on Saxonia.
A year after her launch in 2221, The Nakamura was still on her first survey voyage and in the process of building her seventh gate, when the crew found their resident mutant, Nakamura, unconscious, her condition so seriously deteriorated they decided to head for home. Aware she couldn't survive a series of jumps back through the growing network Nakamura was asked to attempt one last jump direct for Earth. The jump proved fatal for Nakamura and disastrous for the ship as the ship emerged in a system never before visited. Although they had the capability to build a gate, without Nakamura, there was no way to link it up to the existing network. With no way of getting home, the twenty-six men and twenty-two women of the crew decided to put the ship in orbit around the planet most capable of terraforming. They transferred everything useful to the surface and, leaving The Nakamura in orbit broadcasting a mayday, formed a small colony which on the world they named Eiko. The colony, on a small planet orbiting Eta Ursae Minoris, was rediscovered nearly two hundred and fifty years later nearly a hundred light years further from Sol but, by then, had adapted socially into a violent tribal society. Whilst no one wanted to leave them in such barbaric conditions but it was judged best not bring them out of their warlike cultural state too rapidly. The Nakamura was recovered and put on public display in the Greenwich Museum of Space Travel.
The growing network of hypergates led to a massive increase in emigration to the new colonies sending waves of alarm rippling through the national governments of Earth and sparking furious cries for action in The League. The colonies, almost entirely self-sufficient and independent until the growing gate system began linking them back to Earth, came under increasing pressure to accede to control from Earth. They resisted.
The resistance, initially local, grew and led to aggressive stances at both the planetary and system scale and several systems began to adapt heavy merchantmen into armed vessels. In the face of the unexpected resistance, seeing their dreams of power slipping away from them, the League and their member governments collapsed in on themselves to form a powerful new nation, The Empire of Earth. In the need of still more support, promising an equal voice in the new nation, the new Earth Government negotiated with the solar colonies and persuaded them that it was in their interest to become a part of the empire. Fleets of heavily armed patrol craft were constructed within the solar system and launched out to police the gates of the new hyper-network. The colonies responded by beginning to build small navies of their own designed to protect their people and shipping against "Terran Pirates".
By the start of the twenty-third century, the network of permanently accessible gates had increased to the point where every major system ('major' generally accepted as a system with a population exceeding one hundred thousand, an elected local government and a permanent spaceport) had at least one hypergate. Emigration increased to a level where the League of Empires decided it was necessary to stop it and gave orders to stop illegal emigration by whatever means even if it meant the destruction of ships bound desperately for the colonies and a hoped for new life. In response, the colonies increased their ship building programs, sending fighters out to escort emigrant packed freighters in from gates as close as one jump away from Earth. By this time Sol system had six gates, each guarded by between two and four heavily armed police patrol fighters, farther out there was usually only one or two and many of these fell victim to rebel colonial ships. The League had no formal military space force and was reliant on its nation members for enforcement of its dictates but, despite EarthGov's aggressive stand, the loss of so many expensive units across the network slowly forced them to reduce the number of units they used to patrol gates.
In Sol system, the practice of pairing gates back to back started as a cost saving measure when a League representative suggested the idea of putting two gates in the same place. The idea was treated with scorn until a senior ADP scientist, when interviewed for a popular science magazine, conceded it was possible if the gates were mounted back-to-back. He was credited with the idea of in-system gate pairing and, once the idea had been tested, gates had started to be pre-built as pairs.
The League remained the organisation most able to field heavily armed, state-of-the-art, patrol ships and few groups were powerful enough to tackle several such craft. However, what couldn't be done alone could be achieved by cooperative action and powerful or disaffected groups acted together to bait the patrolling fighters, to draw them off and distract them long enough for several ships to make headlong dashes for the gates.
The bait ships were usually speedsters hurriedly converted, armed with low-grade ex-mining lasers and kinetic bomblets delivered by simple release from the ship on a targeted course. The patrol craft were left with unpalatable decisions; defend themselves and chase the poorly armed ships that they knew full well were baiting them or stay on assigned position to face the bait ships and an expected rush of ships trying to escape The League's increasingly repressive regime. Bait pilots were often solitary individuals paid by others and given rapid training to destroy or disable the gate protectors long enough for others to escape; some were the disaffected, ready to give their lives for any cause they thought worthwhile, others were promised a future for their families and would do anything to ensure it. The patrol ships tried to deal with the criminals as best they could but, though many were killed or caught and sentenced to summary execution in EarthGov's courts, many more succeeded.
Many of the expeditions were simple migrations with the ships carrying colonists hoping to find new lives on what they considered frontier worlds but some aimed to find new systems of their own. Wealthy disaffected groups could afford many ships, the necessary decoys and terraforming equipment, some of these aimed at areas outside the gate system hiring, sometimes even kidnapping, "sensitives" mutants who were beginning to be regarded to possess almost mystical powers.
Although EarthGov had started to build its first true military space vessels it was realised that the mass emigration could not yet be easily dealt with so, determined to hold on to their power, the old guard gave greater priority to the military expansion program with the aim of maintaining their grip on the rapidly expanding colonies. In response, most of the colonies increased their program of merchantman conversion and systems in what would one day become Saxon and UCS territory began to build small multi-role military vessels.
By the start of the twenty-second century massive numbers of new planets had been colonised and, even with their new military ships, EarthGov struggled ineffectually to govern them. Groups of worlds increasingly worked together through common interest and, further bonded by their hatred of EarthGov, formed more and more unofficial nations of their own. The new nations were mostly reflections of the colonist's ethnic and national heritage and, whilst they would pay attention to and sometimes even bend towards the wishes of their founding nations, they strenuously resisted every attempt by EarthGov to control them.
EarthGov's naval forces consisted of two light carriers, two battleships, four cruisers, nine destroyers and around a hundred patrol ships. Construction was started on more ships that would eventually become the first of several true naval fleets.
As the century rolled into its second quarter, EarthGov announced the assembly of the first true naval fleet comprised of a fleet carrier, three battlecruisers, three cruisers, six destroyers and around forty smaller and support vessels. The First Fleet was built around the idea of carrying out long term missions far from home but would still be reliant on logistical support from loyal bases. Although ships were built earlier and used on separate missions, it took almost twenty-four years to build all the ships and assemble the fleet. As a means of impressing the colonist worlds, The First Fleet was tasked with touring the colonist systems as a means of impressing upon them how serious EarthGov was about keeping control.
The second half of the century opened to rising tension across what humans were calling The Extent. EarthGov, continuing to build more ships, announced the assembly of what it called The Second Fleet and started working on a third. The Second Fleet was significantly larger and more powerful than the first "touring fleet". It comprised two fleet carriers, two battleships, two battlecruisers, six cruisers and eighteen destroyers along with over sixty support ships and smaller protective vessels. Like the earlier First Fleet, it was tasked with a "diplomatic tour" of the colonies but echoing EarthGov's newer more aggressive stance.
Choosing their moment carefully, when the returning First Fleet was passing through an asteroid belt in the Research system travelling between the Sanctuary/Enterprise and Castelo/Sol gates, a large rebel fleet of heavily armed merchantmen carried out near suicidal attacks on the fleet. Although they failed to destroy the Earth fleet it lost fifteen of its eighteen support vessels, most of its smaller military ships, three destroyers, two cruisers and a battlecruiser; the carrier and remaining larger ships were heavily damaged with no easy way to repair themselves. Under constant attack and with badly reduced fighter cover operating constantly the damaged ships of the fleet managed to limp to the Castelo/Sol gate for the loss of only six more ships (including both battlecruisers). The fleet arrived in Sol system to a rising tide of anger both in EarthGov and in the general population.
At the close of the sixth decade, EarthGov announced the completion of The Third Fleet. Of a similar composition to the Second Fleet, tasking it with a "diplomatic tour" of the Apusian colonies.
In the middle of the seventh decade, EarthGov announced that work was immediately starting on a series of new ship classes that would eventually go to form the Fifth and Sixth fleets as well the long-awaited replacement for The First Fleet. Towards the end of the decade, they announced the completion of The Fourth Fleet which was tasked with "diplomatic" missions in the Kochevnik arena.
In 2384, EarthGov announced the completion of The Fifth and Sixth Fleet. The Fifth Fleet was immediately tasked with "policing" missions in the LaVie and Amigan arenas whilst The Sixth Fleet was tasked with a friendly diplomatic tour of the Skean colonies due to their political gravitation towards Sol. Five years later, EarthGov announced the completion of the new First Fleet but, with public paranoia on the rise, decided to keep the fleet at home in the Sol system.
At the start of the second quarter, in the Saxonian system a few light years from Sol, New Albion was rocked by a centre-right-wing rebellion that led to the downfall of the planet's budding democracy and established a monarchy under Queen Iona. Although the Sixth Fleet remained on station in the system, having built Gotham base on one of the larger moons of the system's single gas giant, there was little it could do about local political matters. Fortunately for Sol, the new rulers were equally inclined to a good political relationship with Earth.
As the third quarter drew to a close, nearly fifty light years away, a group of nine systems that informally called themselves 'Colonials' gathered under the banner of the United Colonial Systems and attempted to break free from EarthGov. Their actions were boosted by the broad support offered by the LaVie and Amigans who echoed their general stance for independence. Rather than let control slip from their hands, EarthGov, already engaged in military actions against the LaVie, decided to make an example of the budding alliance and sent the Second and Fifth Fleets, along with some additional support from components of The First, to regain control.
Over a period of two years, the commanders of those fleets carried out a series of heavily damaging space and surface "police actions" but were unable to defeat the colonists. Early in the conflict, continuing to use their earlier combination of guerrilla and near suicidal tactics, the 'colonials' destroyed the two carriers of the Second Fleet along with most of their escorting ships, a victory attributed almost as much to Sol Fleet arrogance as the daring strategies of the defending colonists. Although dismissive of colonial determination and resources the Sol Fleet mission ultimately failed, the size of the territory to be "pacified" involved was simply too large and the logistical issues of supporting so many ships far from home and in hostile territory too great. The remains of the Second and the Fifth, the latter barely damaged by colonial action, withdrew to repair & rearm as well as deal with other issues closer to home leaving the Colonials for a time to celebrate the withdrawal as a victory.
EarthGov's own issues as well their own actions in what historians consider The First Interstellar Conflict made it near impossible for them to oppose existing and new breakaway nations. As a result, in 2484, the new Colonial nation declared full independence and marked April 17th as "L'affair de Laissez" or the "Festival of Freedom".
Following the example of the UCS, the LaVie, Amigan, Kochevnik and Zuìzhōng colonies broke away to form their own nations. Over the next few decades many new nations were formed.
Realising they were powerless in the face of "the winds of change", EarthGov adopted a more liberal style of government not only promoting democracy and seeking closer ties with many nations but also offering their services as a central research and administration hub. The strategy worked and, over the next century, Earth not only reasserted its position within the colonies but also expanded into other areas across The Extent.
In the mid-twenty sixth century, almost a century after The Monarchist Rebellions on New Albion, a centrist rebellion tried to bring down the monarchy, break away from Saxonia's close relationship with Earth and re-establish the nation's fledgeling democracy. The rebellion spread to Mercia in the same system and threatened to spread to other systems. With Earth no longer the unpopular tyrants of old, the rebellion failed due to popular sentiment and a joint system of government called Monarchic Democracy was established. The new system, with the newly enlightened monarchy and democratically elected representatives co-ruling, each with the tacit consent of the other, worked reasonably well and has remained in place ever since.
Having gained considerably in military strength and developed the most impressive naval forces of the time the government of Earth came to the realisation that it had direct control of relatively few planets. They started to build alliances with colonies across The Extent and encouraged closer ones with existing nations to create stronger bonds. Officially recognising the UCS, Kochevnik & the individual Pax nations it allied itself more closely with Saxons to form the Skean Empire with member nations adopting the Saxon Queen Sharla as their symbolic Empress.
In 2610, the UCS purchased Purgatory from the Kochevnik and Haven, in the Aumakua system, officially applied to join the UCS. Twenty years later, the UCS began work on two asteroids orbiting Hades in the Aumakua system under the code name, "Pelagia". The plan was to convert them into a small base and an orbital defence platform in order to protect UCS interests around the Abyssal Void. The first phase of The Pelagia Project was completed within ten years, with the laying down of the launch track within the hollowed-out asteroid intended to be the main UCS base of the Abyssal Void. The second phase began with a similar treatment of a smaller asteroid intended to serve as an additional launch facility for the base and the start of outfitting in the main asteroid.
At the end of the sixth decade, in the Sol System on a free but Skean affiliated Luna, The League of Empires, repositioned itself as a new variant of the old and offered itself as a forum for discussion for problems between colonial nations. Supported by a neutral security force with its own highly secure spaceport, The Federation of Empires was born.
Though incomplete, UCS troops began to move into the Project Pelagia base as the rumours of the facility's name started leaked out, Port McKinley. Admiral Haynes is assigned as commander of Port McKinley, at the same time as the base is officially inaugurated by Second Cardinal Smyth. The asteroid defence platform, a much smaller asteroid than the one used for the base, was completed on schedule.
By the end of the twenty seventh century Skean influence had declined to approach that of a more normal, though reasonably powerful, nation. Meanwhile UCS influence had started to increase and the alliance had started to use Port McKinley as its primary forward base of military operations across a sparse area known as The Abyssal Void.
Joshua Fairchild became UCS First Cardinal after his predecessor was assassinated.