In the Stars Without Number Universe, there are many different kinds of ships, that can handle a variety of tasks.
Starship Classes Edit
Basic types Edit
- Fighters are little more than spike drives strapped to a cockpit and a targeting computer. While a sufficiently talented pilot can theoretically make short-range interstellar drills in a fighter, it requires heroic fortitude to endure ten days of meta-dimensional spaceflight while strapped into a fighter cockpit.
- Shuttles are larger, slower craft that still fall within the fighter class of hulls. They are largely intended for in-system interplanetary flight. Short-range spike drills are more practical in shuttlecraft, but few pilots will attempt it outside of direst need.
- Free merchants represent a class of ships optimized for long-distance travel and trade, built off of a frigate-class hull and sacrificing some military utility in order to make room for cargo and personal modifications.
- Patrol boats are largely intended for system defense and customs inspections, built to heavily outgun most of the traffic they might be expected to intercept. While capable of spike drive travel, most patrol boats stay close to home.
- Frigates are the namesake of their class. While slower and more expensive than their cut-down patrol boat cousins, they have heavier armor and more free space for accommodating upgraded spike drives and advanced fittings. Many minor stellar empires are held together by frigates that make regular patrols through territorial space.
- Bulk freighters are rarely found in the modern era. Before the Silence, these massive cruiser-class ships were often found in versions that lacked a spike drive, relying on the psionic jump gates to instantly transport them from one star system to another. In the present day, not many worlds support a sufficient volume of interstellar cargo traffic to justify the expense of running a ship like this.
- Cruisers are often the pride of a modest stellar empire’s battle line. Most fighter-class weaponry is unable to even scratch a cruiser’s plating, while its vast power reserves fuel almost twice as many hard points as a frigate mounts.
- Battleships are the queen of capital-class hulls. Huge, enormously resilient, and capable of mounting weaponry that can swat a frigate out of the sky in a single volley, few frontier worlds retain the kind of industrial base necessary to build ships of this class. Possession of a battleship can often make a stellar empire’s fortune- at least until the ship’s voracious need for men and maintenance drains the empire’s remaining reserves.
- Carriers are a rare and specialized type of capital-class hull, one that sacrifices much in the way of available power grid and resilience in exchange for massive banks of adaptive hardware fittings. Carriers usually mount as many as a score of launch bays for unleashing waves of fighter craft against enemy ships.
Distinct Classes Edit
Spike drives Edit
The essential element of a starship is its spike drive. Invented in 2108 by Dr. Tiberius Crohn, the spike drive uses an integrated fusion power plant to bubble a ship upward through ever-increasing dimensional frequencies. By riding the energy created by the shear of dimensional interfaces, the ship can be propelled at faster-than-light velocities through universes that fail to respect the ordinary laws of physics.
The stronger and more efficient a ship’s spike drive, the more powerful a shear it can surf and the faster it can travel. Still, this travel is not without its risks. The interfaces between the higher dimensions are rife with ravenous energies and vertices of destructive force. An incautious navigator can pilot a ship straight into oblivion by attempting to surf a shear plane too energetic for the ship’s spike drive to control. These dangers are compounded by the fact that the extra-dimensional currents shift slowly over time in patterns that appear to be utterly unpredictable. An interstitial vortex can steadily encroach on a regular commerce line until it becomes suicide to take a route that had been safe for centuries, or a planar storm can clear up suddenly to open a route to a formerly lost world.
“Drilling out” into higher dimensions is only possible at the rim of a solar system. Th gravitic step differential there is necessary to boost a ship completely into the higher dimensions. Once a ship has “drilled out”, it must for the same reason seek another solar system in order to successfully “drill in” and return to mundane space. Because of this necessity, it is impossible to use a spike drive to travel into deep space. All travel must be to and from the edges of solar systems.
Within a system, a starship can still use its spike drive to maneuver, though the ship is unable to drill out completely. This “phased” travel modulates the ship’s dimensional frequency, increasing its velocity and making it partially intangible to mundane perils. Even so, impacts as large as a fighter ship or shuttle can cause damage to an unwary navigator’s ship.
In the years before the Scream, steady traffic among worlds provided an opportunity to map shifting dimensional routes. Navigators were expected to relay their recent course soundings and updated maps of safe paths were compiled and distributed to traders. So long as steady traffic continued, these maps would remain up to date and reliable.
With the Scream and the collapse of interstellar trade, it has been centuries in some cases between visits to certain frontier worlds. The ancient maps are now almost useless with their outdated information, and navigators are forced to blaze new trails through short drills between neighboring stars, feeling their way slowly through long-lost paths.
Many frontier worlds have preserved or redeveloped the industries necessary to fabricate spike drives. While the workmanship does not compare with the pretech spike drives in common service before the Scream, these worlds can build and maintain scores or even hundreds of spaceships. They may not fly with the speed or surety of their ancestors, but they can reach neighboring worlds and revive the old bonds of trade and communication.
Even the simplest starship can require a multi-million credit investment to build and maintain. Those captains who are not in the service of a planetary defense force or star empire’s navy are constantly pressed to earn the credits necessary to keep their ship flying. This tends to give independent captains a somewhat questionable reputation, as many of them are perfectly willing to perform less than strictly legal work in service of their ship’s needs.