Diamond Star Lines is one of several ship operators in the Cosmic Era. The company is known for having some of the fastest civilian ships in the Solar System.
The last thirty years in the Cosmic Era has seen a spike in transplanetary luxury cruises. The demand for passage, as well as shipping tonnage has exceeded the carry capacity of the then existing fleet of cruise liners. This lead to a cruise ship race as a number of mega and hypercorps chartered their own cruise line operators. The love child of Union Aerospace and Carbon Star Shipwerks of Eire, Diamond Star was found to not just launch ships and carry passengers, but to carry the honor of having the best and the fastest ships of all the shipworks on Earth.
The Crimson Riband - this award is carried by the ship with the fastest Earth-Mars transit time, with all of the passengers traveling in comfort and not being protected by grav couches, or acceleration dampeners like hydrostatic buffers (the fancy term for putting passengers in water tanks to counter G-accleration).
The Thunderbolt Riband - this award is carried by the ship with the fastest Earth-Jupiter transit time.
The Indigo Riband - this award is carried by the ship with the fastest Earth-Saturn transit time. This is a difficult award to chase as such a ship would have to immensely powerful, incredibly reliable, and would have to carry enough supplies that it wouldn't have to make stops along the way for provisions or to offload waste.
Carbon Star of Eire
Also known as CSE, the company was known for being competent and reliable ship builders. Prior to the interest of UAC, the company had only fulfilled secondary ship orders for the Atlantic Federation and its allies. This was mostly light and medium cargo craft, military transports, and medium sized bulk cargo ships. After its take over by UAC, Carbon Star was restructured, and its production facility near Clyde, Ireland was massively renovated and upgraded.
The new facility was redesigned to build the sub-components of ships, rather than full size ships. These components would be ferried into orbit, to a UAC shipyard, where they would be mated together with the frame of the ship, which was assembled at the yard. This is little different from what other shipyards do, but there was a major difference. The components being assembled at Clyde and the old CSE yard on Earth were passenger modules. The ships that Diamond Star were going to build were to harken back to the golden age of sea travel, and the luxury of those 19th century and early 20th century ships.
A New Era of Decadence
The planners behind Diamond Star intended for the corporation and the ships it would build and manage to start a new era of space travel and exploration while doing so in a level of luxury and comfort previously unimaginable. The new Diamond Star ships would have personal cabins, and the recreation facilities would include displays of space including sports courts, a swimming pool, a grand ball room, at least TWO restaurants, and even a commercial deck of the ship for entertainment and shopping. There would be other architectural tours of force inside the ships, grand staircases, fully transparent viewing galleries, and internal automation so that everything on the ship flows smooth as glass.
Big, Fast, and Flawless
These were the guiding mantras of Diamond Star. They wanted the ships to be big, staggeringly and impressively big. With the chase for the Ribands, they were also intended to be incredibly fast. This required engines to be redesigned, and streamlined, and fought until they could run for weeks at near max power for weeks or even months with minimal maintenance. The previous ships kept their speed by having more engines that they could fire, and keeping a certain number always down and being worked on. The Diamond Star ships would forego these extra engines.
The Orion was the first ship that Diamond Star produced, and it was massive. She had four tremendous engines and was powered by no fewer than 12 dimensional reactors. Being the first ship Diamond Star built with their modular system and new assembly yard over Ireland, it was fairly slow to come together, and there were a number of problems with the ship. Eager to avoid the bad press that swirled around ill-fated ships like the Livingstone Debacle. Crews worked around the clock on the ship to hunt down and fix the small bugs. This would be largely for naught as the Orion was struck by another ship while on a Earth-Mars run, her 5th time on the route. The much smaller light cruiser Hawkins collided with the Orion and inflicted minimal damage to both ships, though the Hawkins was sent tumbling away from the collision. The cruiser, under Quebecoise livery, was towed to the AtFed naval base at Phobos, and the liner Tyrrhenia took Orion's passengers on to their destination, Shiaparelli Station.
After Orion was refit, she was like a new ship, and it seemed that a good knock from a Federation cruiser seemed to 'percussive maintenance' away all of her problems. The Orion would go on to serve Diamond Star for many years, including being utilized in several naval exercises, and being temporarily converted to a troop carrier as it seemed likely that there would be a ground war on Mars between the Federation and the ACPS.
The Antares was built in close timing with the Orion, and the day the Orion was released into full service was the same day that the Antares moved away from the spacedock under her own power, to begin final fittings and shakedowns. The story of the Antares is fairly well known across the Solar System, as the ship was launched to much fanfare. At the time she was the biggest self propelled ship in space, and was even larger than the first generation Battlestars that had just entered service. Much ado was made with a photo op of the battlestar AFS Scorpio being completely eclipsed by the Antares as she started her run for Mars. The mighty Scorpio gave the Antares a 'drag race' start to her run and there was great fanfare as the utterly massive cruise liner left the military warship in it's wake.
Two days later the Antares would strike a dark asteroid, a carbonaceous body, that tore the side out of the ship. The self sealing bulkheads failed, and more than half of the passengers on the ship died. While a tremendous loss of life, it was somewhat mitigated by the fact that many of those who died were criminals, clones, and very poor people escaped poverty on Earth for a chance at earning a new life on Mars.
The fate of the Antares became a zeitgeist item of it's time, with it's bravado and the actions of it's crew as the ship died in black space. The image of the ship breaking along the beam and the reactors breaching was burned into the Federation consciousness.
The Phaeton was launched with much less fanfare than Antares or Orion. It was a somber time as the wounds of Antares were still fresh and bravado was just poor taste. The Phaeton had all of the same fittings, and was a bit smaller than Orion and Antares, and served Diamond Star lines for several decades of excellent, if uneventful, service. It is estimated that over a million people traveled between Earth and Mars on the Phaeton before she was lost.
During the Sino-Soviet war over Mars, one that would ultimately see the red planet fall and become Huo Hsing, the Phaeton was pressed into military service. There was concern that even if the Federation didn't press a ground war for Mars, the ACPS and their sundry allies would attempt to take the Federation moon bases, or strike at other Federation space assets. While Orion was prepped for transporting troops to take the fight to the Chinese if needed, the Phaeton was refit to be a hospital ship. She was painted white and given neutral markings, and would help any who needed medical aide, an unusual gesture by the Federation.
It is hotly disputed if Phaeton struck an orbital mine above Mars, or if it was destroyed by an ACPS warship Gui-She (Ghost Serpent). The ACPS claims that Gui-She was hundreds of thousands of kilometers from Phaeton when she was destroyed and vehemently argues that it was a Neo-Soviet PL-9k mine. This is the more commonly accepted answer as the Eurasian Alliance response was that it was possible that the ship did hit a Neo-Soviet mine, they used them, and that if it was the case it was exceedingly unfortunate.
The End of the Golden Age of Space Liners
The age of the Space Liners ran parallel to the era of the 3rdNet, and many of the great ships still utilized HyperNet technology. The solar system was in a booming period of colonization, and most of the worlds were still wild frontiers, open to those who could take a piece of land and hold it. The damage for passage and cargo capacity was such that dozens of giant liners were built, and for almost half a century the companies battled each other for bigger, better, and faster ships, demanding more power and luxury, and more ports of call. Accidents, and age took many of the ships out of service, and the explosion of hostilities that grew out of the Chinese grab and capture of Huo Hsing, the defection of the Five Metal Dragons, and the revelation of New Seibertron on Ganymede made trans-system travel less appealing.
People were having their identities stolen while they were away from home, often for months or years at a time. There were a number of issues with aging ships failing, and requiring rescue. And even Diamond Star was not immune. With the Antares a black mark in the books, and the Phaeton lost to a mine, they lost most of their available ship tonnage. The Crash of the 3rdNet saw many people lose their finances, and many of the luxury line companies went out of business on that day. When the CogNet was booted, and immersion entertainment allowed people to travel anywhere for a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the time, the liners were doomed.
Of the 47 luxury liners exceeding a kilometer in length built, only three remain in liner service. These are the playthings of the ultra-wealthy, and passage on them exceeds the income most people make in 3-5 years. The passengers on these ships are the beneficiaries of the patrons of the arts. Celebrities, leading industry entertainment content writers, artists, musicians, pornstar celebrities, and more are present, as are government officials, heads of industry and more.
The rest of the ships were scrapped, left in moorings to sit, or were left as derelicts that have since been occupied by space rat 'junkers'.
Secrets of the Diamond Star Line
The Orion and the Antares were switched. The first ship, the Orion, was an unmitigated failure. It's construction was rushed for financial reasons. The builders fought the ship constantly to keep it in operating condition. After the Orion was struck and damaged, Diamond Star was able to berth it next to the Antares. For two weeks they worked to diligently repair the Orion, and ended up swapping the identity of the two ships. The 'Antares', really the Orion with swapped plates, was launched on her maiden voyage will a passenger manifest picked from the dregs of society and people on the outs who all but won a free trip lottery. The dark asteroid strike was planned, and the Antares was destroyed as expected. The insurance corp was almost bankrupted paying out on the lost ship, and most of the blame was shifted from the shoddy construction to the captain's course of action, and the difficulty of tracking dark bodies.
The 'Orion' continued to serve for decades and is one of the three surviving liners, but is in truth the Antares. Only a handful of people know that fact.
The Phaeton was knowingly destroyed by the ACPS. The Chinese were fighting hard to take Mars, and the August Emperor of Jade would not be denied. The Phaeton was the largest medical ship doing humanitarian work above the red planet, so he ordered the ship destroyed. A Chinese ghost ship was loaded with neo-Soviet sourced mines and was dispatched. The mission was successful. The Phaeton was destroyed with significant loss of life, it's hulk burrowed into the red martian soil. The potential that a neo-soviet weapon caused the disaster stressed already tenuous relationships between the Atlantic Federation and the Eurasian Alliance, and allowed the ACPS to win through the day.