Background: The Rammer Universe

28 Mar

The Rammer Universe

The first Rammer arrived in Earth’s solar system in 2050 and immediately made contact with the human race. They were not particularly interested in conquest or colonisation, at least not on Earth; they were really interested in trading with the human race. In exchange for permission to claim Jupiter as a refuelling station for their trading ships, the Rammers gave humanity the keys to the stars. Over the next hundred years, humanity slowly joined the galactic community outside the solar system.

Despite endless research programs by the Involved (races interested in talking, trading or occasionally fighting with other intelligent races) there is no form of workable FTL drive in this universe. Rammers are powered by a drive system that draws power directly from the fabric of space itself (vacuum energy). This allows them to travel at speeds up to 0.95C, cutting the time travelling between stars to the bare minimum, but the trip from Earth to the nearest stars still takes around five years. Rammer crews are either very long-lived (through medical nanites or biological immortality) or spend the years in suspended animation. The starships are shielded from the interstellar dust and debris by force fields (if belonging to the more advanced races) or simple ice. It is very difficult to hide an approaching starship from a race that has advanced into space itself.

Humanity has barely started moving into interstellar space, but some races have been travelling the galaxy for thousands of years and are so widespread that they need not fear extermination by natural disaster or war. There are systems that are inhabited by several races whose ancestors have arrived on Rammers centuries ago, where they have learned to live in peace with their neighbours or maintain an armed truce. Some races have encountered primitive races and uplifted them to spacefaring status; others have enslaved the primitives, or chosen to avoid contaminating them with their interference. There is no such thing as a united galactic government. The time taken to move between stars renders it impractical.

What does exist is a limited consensus among most of the spacefaring races about what constitutes proper behaviour. Radio messages sent from star to star spread knowledge and warnings about races that are more hostile to newcomers than would be expected. Attempting to deliberately invade another star system is considered bad form; accidentally sending a colony ship ten light years to an inhabited planet without knowing that it was inhabited is much less serious. Some unified cultures have been founded on such accidental contacts and become the sum of both races. Other contacts have turned to war, or separation between the locals and the newcomers.

As you might expect, there is no shortage of lies and misunderstandings on the galactic network – and some data is hundreds of years out of date. Even the most social and experienced races (or multi-race political and social entities) have problems when it comes to talking across the species divide. The Rammers often find themselves first discovering a new race through its radio broadcasts – and then struggling to make sense of messages that would be simplistic to a native of the new race. Culture shock is common when races meet for the first time – or travellers return home after twenty or more years crawling between the stars.

Technology varies from star to star. Some colonies have been established by aliens (and humans) who want to return to low-tech societies and choose to deliberately renounce the technology that brought them to their new home. Other stars house races that have advanced so far that some of their technology is literally incomprehensible to most of the other races – or have moved on and become energy beings with vast powers. There are rumours that the Elder races (as they are called by the younger ones) have actually mastered FTL travel, but none of this has ever been proved. The way information disseminates itself through the galaxy, as noted above, makes it easy for tales to grow in the telling. Every Rammer knows someone who knows someone who met someone in a bar who talked about visiting the fabulous worlds left behind by Elder races as they departed for a higher plane. Some artefacts from such worlds can bring the wealth of entire solar systems to the lucky finder, if he doesn’t get his throat cut first.

Interstellar warfare is not practical unless one race is vastly more advanced than the other, for the simple reason that the defender will have the resources of an entire star system and several years warning of the approach of an intruder, while the attacker will only have what he has brought with him. It is possible to hit enemy worlds with c-fractional strikes from interstellar distances, but again the defender would see the signs of an incoming attack and retaliate. And it would be considered very bad form by the galactic community.

Interplanetary warfare is more practical and takes place regularly. Few races are truly united politically and there are endless struggles between the homeworlds and their colonies, or encounters between different races in the same star system. Weapons range from chemical-powered rockets to mass drivers, nanotech, antimatter bombs and directed-energy weapons. Most races accept that weapons of planetary destruction (bioweapons, radiation weapons or antimatter) shouldn’t be used within a biosphere. There aren’t really enough life-bearing worlds (however defined) to risk rendering one permanently uninhabitable.

Some races have accidentally wiped themselves out and/or caused problems for spacefaring societies. There is no shortage of tales about races that lost control of their nanotech and seen their entire worlds dissolve like sugar cubes in water (grey goo), or created automated self-replicators (Von Neumann Machines) that attempted to spread their culture to other star systems without realising that they might be inhabited by other intelligent races. One cautionary tale shared by the Rammers is of a race so determined to survive they built self-replicators that took centuries to cross the gulf between their homeworld and the nearest star, often arriving long after the warning reached them and was forgotten – if there was any warning in the first place. Advanced races have little difficulty in dealing with such machines, but primitive races are often destroyed before they can fight back.

The Rammers themselves are a very loose federation of massive trading ships and trading posts spread out across thousands of light years. In one sense, they are a static society even though they bring in new blood from countless races; in another, they are a profoundly shifting and mutable culture. Precisely where the Rammers begin and end is impossible to determine, even for the Rammers themselves. It can be thousands of years before a message from a Rammer starship in one place reaches the Rammers on the other side of explored space. Indeed, the very concept of ‘explored space’ is slippery.

New recruits generally join the Rammers at the trading posts they maintain in star systems and train with recruits from both the Rammer colonies and children born while starships are in transit. Those with racist tendencies or an unwillingness to conform are generally weeded out before they are accepted as part of a starship crew. Once in transit, they may never return to their homeworlds, or return after hundreds of years have passed to discover a radically changed world. Entire civilisation may have risen and fallen while they hovered in suspended animation. It can be a very lonely life.

But some lucky crews see things that no groundhog will ever see.

5 Responses to “Background: The Rammer Universe”

  1. Carl Hempel March 28, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Cool idea, one thing that would also come into affect would be the time dilation of going that fast. I’m not 100% certain on the math, but I think at 0.95c time passes at about 1/3 the normal rate, so a trip of 15 lightyears would leave the traveler only 5 years older instead of 15. This would let the crew of the rammer live 3 times as long as a non traveler.

    • chrishanger March 29, 2012 at 8:52 am #

      That’s another point in their favour.


  2. The Deposed King March 29, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    I don’t particularly like slow drive universe books. On the other hand, with all of that said. You could focus each book on a different individual, system or world.

    One thing I would think of immense value to rammers would be the technology database they have. They might freely spread their beta database and keep all the nice advanced nuggets and jewels to them selves. Meaning even youaverage rock rat might have the sum total of an entire race’s knowledge base, and never be able to mine everything of value.

    Also in a society like this, I would think they would function a lot more on the time share basis. With their contracts being, for instance, exclusive control of saturn and jupiter for the next twenty years. Then only Saturn for the next 80, then they will have built up the gas mining industry, had time to increase their fleet, upgrade their ships, and send out daughter expeditions before moving on to the next waypoint. Hopefully one inhabited (if the group is interested in cultural exporation) or uninhabited (if they are a colony effort looking to settle down for the next five hundred years and develop a system)

    The Deposed King

    • chrishanger March 29, 2012 at 8:55 am #

      It’s a change – of course, a solar system is vastly more complex than it would be in an FTL universe.

      But you’re right – time share would work well.

      I’m still thinking about stories. One would be set on a Rammer ship; another would be more of a cop story; a third would involve an expidition to an acient world.


  3. The Deposed King April 1, 2012 at 2:50 am #

    Well I would go more Intelligence Operative/special forces. Than Cop but that’s just me.

    The rammer ship is cliche but probably good.

    the Expedition… that’s almost entirely in your hands. I can’t predict anything

    have a blast,

    The Deposed King

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