Your Introduction

Why did I ever accept this job? Oh, right. I wanted to make a difference. Now I'm wondering how I ever thought being the Commander of a glorified space yacht would make any difference at all.

It's not that it's a bad job, better than being an Enforcer with what the military is slowly turning us into.… Go from enforcing Portals to trade entirely and you become your own government, or a force to challenge governments. It's not a pretty vid, and it won't lead to pretty results. Everyone wants change, but no one seemed to want to just let it happen. Kind of like a party dedicated to maximum entropy. So I left.

That helps explain what I'm doing on Convoy 1 then. Better than going back to the old days of pirating, and my experience against the Enforcers and FTLL meant that I'd have some idea what they'd be up against. The military service helped, much as I hated it. I still don't know what the Hingari did or why we were fighting them, and I'm not sure anyone does.

But the Convoy…. Here we are in space - well, the lanes, not space - ferrying these diplomats to Base 13. And some vacuum-sucking idiot thought it would remain secret, or even that it could. And to top it all off, they're still having normal passengers. Like they can be sure they're normal, as if these people don't know something is going on when there's at least 5 new vessels in the Convoy and the top five levels of the Commons are off limits. That's enough of a security leak in itself to make my stomach hurt. At least the crew has all served before.

Even the captain. Who scares me. I mean, there is alien, and Alien. And people who hook their lives up to some AI forever - that's just insane. He doesn't even do anything, not even move, just makes sure things run and gives "requests" through the AI. I'm not even sure why he's called the captain when it's really the second and doctor and myself who run everything except the AI. I'm playing nursemaid to optimistic aliens while waiting for the attack.

And there will be one. Too many people out there don't want peace, or the military gone, or have a grudge against someone or some species here. It's inevitable. The AI couldn't even give odds that we'd make it to 13 without trouble. 'Nice, simple job. Like retirement.' I wish. The military has access to the records, men it can hire. Pirates know the Lanes better than most FTLL people. Some nuts could fly a phase ship right into us … and those are just the likely possibilities.

I wonder how being spread out over the Lanes will have a difference to anyone … and just whose side I should be on when the time come.

The Known Universe

The known universe compromises a wide variety of galaxies and species. Aside from spiders, which have been found on every sentient world to date, there is no one overpowering species. The universe is simply too large. (Spiders aren't overpowering, most of them are normal spiders. It's just that no one is sure how they got everywhere …. )

Most of the various organisations of planets and systems in the universe are givne names. The Principality is one of the oldest continuing ones, dating back to the species known as the Hachi. Thanks to the portal system, many of the organisations and governments can exist without being a connection of neighbouring star systems, which not only makes invasion more difficult but also means that politicians gt lots of work.

Things That Everyone Knows

Communities: There are many different alliances and communities of species working for common goals. The Principality is just one of the most famous and oldest. Some species even belong to more than one, depending on what their needs are and how accepting of each other the two communities are.

The Federation: A human-run community, the federation consists of humans who are at war with another neighbouring star system (the Klingon Empire). The war has been going on since the two met and the Federation is continually trying to get other species to join them even as they explore new worlds and new civilizations ... *
* And no, this isn't a joke. They've even got an Enterprise. Of course, since no one knows about Star Trek here the Federation is generally just treated with amusement ... most species are wondering when they'll realise that the so-called alien Kingons are just a species of altered humans.

The Principality: The largest collection of sentient worlds and species in the known universe. It's a very informal body that moderates disputes between member species and doesn't govern. It's primary benefit to the universe was the creation of Trade, a common language that could be spoken (or at least understood) by all species within the Principality and many outside it. The only law imposes on member species is that they allow other member species to travel within their world and do no harm to other member species, or life in general, if it can be avoided. The Enforcers were created to help ensure that species obeyed these laws.

       Enforcers: The Enforcers are a semi-autonomous body within the principality that exist to ensure that the Portals remain open between species in the Principality. They're also authorised to close portals to one species or their home world/colonies if the species violates the law of the principality or a trade agreement with another species. While the enforcers have no official power aside from that, crippling trade sanctions is often threat enough to get species to give them what they want in situations.

       Military: Formed to deal with the presence of the hingari, the military was a strategic alliance between some Principality members (and a few who weren't, according to rumours) to deal with the threat. No one can really say if they've been successful or not but the hingari seem to have gone underground during the last decade. The military - which is given different names by various species - has refused requests to disband, though politely.
The damage it did to many principality worlds and species during the war has angered many, but as it is currently the only and largest army in the principality few have voiced their displeasure openly, just to be on the safe side. The Enforcers have been given more power in order to counter the military as disbandment orders and politics get played by all sides of the fence.

Space Travel: Travel through space is accomplished by means of portals, lanes, or sub-light travel for the most part. An explanation of them is below:
Portals: No one knows who made the portal system but they exist, large warp holes that can tak someone to any other portal if given the right co-ordinates. Travel time always lasts 30 hours within them for unknown reasons and it seems harder to use them to get to closer portals successfully. No one knows who made them, or why, but rumours abound of an ancient interstellar empire (that might use them to, oh, return and invade everyone), the hingari, the gods and, strangely, an intergalactic postal system. (The one about intergalactic florists is considered a joke, as is the one about porn).
Lanes: FTLL ("Faster Than Light - It's Lanes"(TM)) is a company that pioneered lane travel. This FTL system works by using certain lines that only this companies computers can detect. Find the right one and you end up where you want, as long as the other place is along the same line. No one knows what the lines are, or why they work, but travel between them takes at least a week and there are rumours that pirate can jump between lanes and rob other vessels. FTLL has several stop points where various Lines converge, allowing vessels to move from one to another and get closer to their destination. The big downside of this system is that you need an FTLL drive in addition to a normal sub-light drive, whereas Portals don't need a special drive. Fuel is also patented by FTLL and costs a fair chunk of money.
Fast Track: Bought out by the Enforcers, this company had a patented sub-light travel system that came close to the speed of light and allowed almost practical travel between close star systems without too much problems with time. It's the most common sub-light engine for inter-system travel.
Speed Racers: Artificial black hole generators, basically a do-it-yourselfers kind of Portal. Really unreliable but, unlike the Lane and Portal system they can be done within the gravity well of planets and actual systems.

The Present

The Principality is falling apart, to put it bluntly. No one knows what the Hingari wanted, how the Military got rid of them or if they'll be back. The Military is refusing to comment and resisting attempts at being disbanded. The fragmentation of worlds has forced the Enforcers to begin charging vessels for using the Portals they keep open. Failure to do this tends to lead to more problems with pirates that one would expect ... making quite a few people suspicious that the Enforcers are feeding that information to the pirates. Lane pirates have become more common and FTLL has been forced to ask the Enforcers for help in preventing them which is slowly giving the Enforcers a monopoly on travel within the Principality.

Many species want the Principality to remain since it's never (until now) had any true power, outside using the Enforcers to shut down worlds of member species commit truly evil acts by blasting any ships that try and reach the portal, the very thing that (in reverse) the Enforcers were meant to stop. (Setting up weapons by a portal ot blast anyone who enters it was the reason Enforcers were made.)

Exactly what the Hingari are is up to everyone. I have a vague idea in my head, based on time travel from the future and a nasty world.

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