June 8th 2016
On that fateful day in 2271 when Nick Croshaw folded space around his quantum drive for the first time and broke through the interspace barrier, Humanity changed forever. Suddenly, the potential for our expansion through the stars was limitless. The stars that hung brightly in Sol’s sky were calling to explorers. They were now within reach, patiently waiting for us to discover their secrets.
Who better to help usher in this new age than the company who made space accessible in the first place, RSI. While the earliest brave souls who breached interspace did so with dangerous and risky tweaks to their ship’s quantum drives, it was the labs at Robert Space Industries that took Croshaw’s research and found a way to mass produce the results with manufactured regularity. Albeit expensive and in limited supply, RSI’s QM-Core XII Jump Drive slowly allowed the governments of Earth and a select few adventurous pioneers to head out to the farthest reaches of known space, seeking new jump points and discovering new systems.
With the introduction of jump drives a new passion toexplore sparked to life and the Age of Stellar Expansion began. A generation of children spent their youth pretending to be explorers and dreaming of how great it would be when they got to name the next star system themselves. While most grew out of the fantasy, to a select few it became a calling. What emerged was a tight knit community of amateur explorers who dubbed themselves ‘Jumpers.’ They knew the science, they followed the news, they studied every star chart they could lay their hands on, and they argued for hours the merits of a certain ship over another for traversing interspace. Sadly, the one thing that few of these amateurs ever got to do was actually go explore themselves.
The amount of capital it required to purchase one of RSI’s jump drives was too exorbitant for most lay people to even come close to affording. Typically ships that were equipped with drives were owned by the government, research universities or the large corporations who moved people and cargo between the systems. There were a few billionaires who prided themselves on sponsoring private explorers in the hopes of having a system inherit their name, but for most people, owning a jump drive was completely out of reach. The irony that the same company that sought to make space travel commonplace was now, a few centuries later, ensuring the exclusivity of jump point travel was not lost on social commentators of the time. And though other companies were trying to do the research that would allow them to enter the jump drive market themselves, the status quo remained until two Jumpers, Tara Dilione and Alfonsus Carbrino, decided to take matters into their own hands.
The pair met working as mechanics in a small refuel station near the Croshaw-Sol jump point. Over the course of working late shifts, repairing busted thrusters and cracked fuel lines, they soon discovered their shared love of space exploration. Both had been trying to crew on explorer ships but had had little success. Each of them took the position at the station for the same reason: if they couldn’t be on a jump ship, they might as well be working with them. It was there that they both got their first up-close look at an RSI jump drive.
Most owners would take their ships to an RSI-authorized repair shop when their jump drive needed any maintenance, unwilling to risk that new and expensive tech in the hands of just any old greasewrench who happened to be working that day. So while Tara and Alfon got to look at the drives and poke around a bit while making other repairs, they hadn’t ever had an opportunity to work on one. It certainly wasn’t for lack of knowledge — each had their own well notated copy of the operation manual that any real Jumper had read front to back at least a dozen times, but that wasn’t the same as rolling up your sleeves and diving in hands first. Unluckily for the ship’s owner, a transport ship’s drive failed while it was fully loaded with high paying passengers; luckily for Tara and Alfon, their refueling station was the closest when the drive failed. The owner had invested everything they had into running the transport, and the potential financial fallout ruled out the prospect of flying back to an RSI facility near Mars.
Instead, the ship docked at the station and the owner reluctantly let the two mechanics take a look. It ended up being a simple wiring fix, but Tara and Alfon couldn’t pass up the opportunity. They made up a complicated story for the owner and proceeded to spend the rest of the day inspecting every inch of that component. After their later success, the pair stated that they ultimately apologized for their deception and make a general payment to that unfortunate ship owner for their inadvertent contribution to the development of Tarsus. For it was while inspecting that Jump Drive that they pair realized the jump drive was actually a ‘nick.’
Named after Nick Croshaw’s dangerous experimental methods, a nick was a term in Jumper circles for a modded quantum drive. Considered extreme even for the most hardcore of Jumpers, nicking your QD could get you into a jump tunnel just like Croshaw did originally, but it was so unreliable and unstable that chances were you’d never get back out. The risk all but rendered the technique unusable. Every Jumper could tell stories of people heading out with nicked drives, never to be heard from again, and after a dozen such cases, the practice had fallen off. When RSI had released their original jump drive and it was completely stable, the assumption was that they had made a technical leap in quantum science, but with the component spread open before them, the truth clicked into place. Even after inspecting the manual dozens of times, it wasn’t until they saw it in real life that they realized that the quantum manipulation part of the jump drive, even though it was spread out and arranged differently, was technologically identical to the quantum drives everyone already had in their ships.
They immediately confirmed each other’s conclusion: RSI hadn’t reinvented the drive, they had just perfected the nick. It meant that it should be possible for them to convert their own ships to be jump capable without buying a full new drive. That night they wouldn’t sleep at all as they discussed what they had learned.
It took them 27 months, nearly all their money, and hours of extra “repair time” with any jump drives they could get their hands on at the station, but in the end they had designed a separate module that would convert any quantum drive into a jump drive … at least if you had a ship big enough. The early versions took up most of the cargo hold. After running all the computer sims they could think of, the pair tested the ‘Tarsus’ on November 7th, 2292, a mere twenty-one years after Croshaw’s first jump. In the spirit of the nick, they had named their device after a combination of their first names, saying it was the closest thing to a child either of them was ever likely to have. They settled all their worldly affairs, moved the ship into position, made sure their nav data was loaded, spun up their modded drive, and held their breath as they plunged into the jump point.
Thankfully, the pair emerged safely in Sol, their test successful. Word spread through the Jumper community quickly, and everyone demanded Tarsus modules of their own. Even though they had grand plans of exploring, Tara and Alfon figured they could use the extra funds and put their journey on hold to begin constructing jump modules for their friends. One Jumper, Selma Tontil, a lawyer by trade, realized what the Tarsus would mean when word of the invention broke publicly, and she hurriedly advised the pair to patent their plans. With her help, the Tarsus corporation was established.
Just in time too. Once word spread beyond the Jumper community, the demand was instant. At only a fraction of the cost of the RSI jump drive, ship owners could upgrade their existing quantum drives. RSI tried to sue the fledgling company, but Tontil was able to successfully defend their right to mod the drives. It was a mere six months before RSI began to offer their own jump module.
Tara and Alfon eventually did leave to explore the stars, but their company continued on under the watchful eye of CEO Tontil, who bought out the pair’s controlling shares. Under her leadership, Tarsus moved from just producing jump modules to also producing a popular line of quantum drives.
Over the centuries Tarsus has continued to develop and grow, and though the populace at large enjoys their products, the Jumper mentality is never too far from their core. When Tarsus’ testing division was frustrated with having to use off-the-shelf scanning devices and nav computers, they developed their own to better be able to see how their jump drives performed. The in-house versions become popular with the staff who installed them on their own personal ships, and soon the ships of fellow exploring enthusiasts. It didn’t take long before word got out, and now Tarsus is as well known for their equipment to help you find jump points as they are for helping you navigate through them.
As much as Nick Croshaw gets credit for expanding Humanity’s reach, it is safe to say that our expansion would never had been as rapid or as vast if it hadn’t been for Tara Dilione, Alfonsus Carbrino and their homegrown Tarsus mod. To quote Alfon, “The pieces had all been right there thanks to the hard work of so many others. Tara and I just happened to be the lucky ones who put it all together.”