Faster Than Light: Dobhriathar
by Malcolm Pierce
Copyright 2010 Malcolm Pierce
First the wheel, the horse, and the carriage conquered the land. Then longships, frigates, and cruisers tamed the sea. Planes and helicopters lifted man into the clouds. For centuries, there seemed to be one horizon that could not be crossed. The stars were so vast and so empty that no vessel, no matter how fast, could traverse them.
The Heilmann Drive changed everything. Any distance, no matter how great, could be leapt in a matter of seconds. In the blink of an eye, a ship carrying hundreds could move from one end of the galaxy to the other.
Man spread out across the stars, laying claim to planet after planet. In 2192, there were exactly two planets in the universe known to support human life. In 2195, there were humans living on twenty planets, with at least three dozen more colonizations planned.
Not a single complex alien life form was found in all of the worlds settled by man. Earth was the only planet which fostered multicellular organisms. But as time passed, it did not matter. Civilization splintered as isolated cultures developed on every new world. Within a thousand years, each planet seemed quite alien to the others.
One thing held them together. One thing kept them united as the single human race. The Heilmann Drive. Ships leapt between the planets every hour, carrying goods, passengers, and information. At the apex of interstellar travel, there were over three thousand starships operating at any given moment.