The Pegasus Rift was discovered just over a decade ago, and remains an anomaly that many conventional scientific outlets either are completely unaware of, or something that they relegate to fringe science. It is astounding that after arcanotechnology has opened so many possibilities, that there are still minds that are completely closed to them.
To Infinity, and Beyond
Project Infinity is the ambitious program that has been assembled quietly to charter humanity's first extra-solar colony. The key to this is sending large exploration and colonizations ships like the Infinity class through the Pegasus rift, and have them set up colonies on the moons and worlds that they find on the other side.
Recruitment - most of Project Infinity recruitment is going on through low level channels. The Project Leaders aren't looking for the best and brightest in their respective fields, but the sort of people who are willing to give up everything they have, load themselves onto a colonial starship, and take what is considered a nearly certain one way trip through a subspace anomaly to an as yet unknown destination on the other side. The best and brightest aren't always keen on playing 'The Right Stuff' with their lives, and many of them are in various ways and means, duty bound to stay with whatever projects they are working on. This has given the rosters of the project a certain entry level and blue collar level of engagement, which was what was desired.
The Lightyear Institute
The Lightyear Institute, located in the Rocky Mountain Republic, is the central recruiting station for planetside operations. All potential recruits who pass the screening tests and interviews are flown to the Institute, where they undergo basic training for long duration spaceflight, and the sort of challenges that they could potentially experience on the other side of the rift. The Institute is a demi-arco in the mountains, relatively remote, with a zoning emphasis on research technology, and has facilities to handle a small number of shuttles.
On the ground at Lightyear is amazing, there are hundreds of new cadets who've joined the project. There are men and women from all walks of life, nationalities, backgrounds, everything. It is amazing to believe that the Institute is here, with Central Command, and the proving grounds, and there are three ecodomes each simulating a different potential climate for colonizing and terraforming. The shipyard is even here, and it is no joke. The Infinity isn't here, it's almost ready to launch, but there are three more ships on the ground, the Inspiration is almost done. The workers in the cafeteria have mentioned that they are down to fitting personal quarters and doing final diagnostics on the computers, but she's ready to fly. The Insight and the Intrepid are close to being finished. Harve, he's a mecha-welder from the Great Lakes, says that there is another facility, up in Canada, where they do the big work, making the spaceframes and fitting the engines. After that, the ships are moved here and finished at Lightyear. I can't believe how many attractive women have signed up for this, there is such a 'esprit de Corps' in the air. I have passed my exams, have been approved to be a geoforming team leader, AND I've hooked up with three women. Real women, no sims, no bots, but the real deal man. It is an incredible time to be alive.
D1 - Arid
The D1 dome simulates an arid environment, not unlike Mars. There are extensive facilities for teams to work out teamwork, exoagriculture, and dealing with simulated problems like parasites, space madness, and rogue team members.
D2 - Hard
D2 simulates a hard vacuum, resembling the surface of the Moon, and extreme survival conditions. Rather than colonial training, D2 is used for training cadets in the use of airlocks, space suits, and working in said extreme environment. There are three objects of note in D2; the mock up Infinity class ISS Innuendo, a pre-con science center for training, and the Xenoliths. The first two are basic space survival and training, while the Xenoliths are First Encounter training.
D3 - Ice
D3 is an arctic/extreme cold simulation dome, and is used to simulate landing on a slightly habitable but largely frozen world. It's closest parallel is Europa. D3 works with extremely limited resources, and forces teams to work through hydroponics, building with ice matrices, and adapting to extreme cold scenarios.
Colonial Occupation Specialty Training, or 'COS', sorts cadets out into their longterm jobs within Project Infinity. There are a very large number of COS's but they can be broken down into a small number of related COS families.
Ship's Crew - the COS family dedicated to the operation and maintenance of the colonial ships. This is predominantly engineering, technician, and basic operations. The advanced crew COS include navigation, and the ship's officer pool. The crewman COS also has a military police and paramilitary training, in case of mutiny, hostile encounters, and general discipline.
Colonist COS - this COS family of skills represents the nuts and bolts of colonial activity: builders, resource extraction, repair, drone control, robot assembly, life support systems, and so forth. The colonist COSs represent the largest segment of each ship's passenger manifest.
Terraforming COS - the colonists work out how to survive short term, the terraformers work out how to do it long term, and include deep planning, ecological engineers, and planetologists. They are a small, but both highly educated, and highly privileged segment of the project.
Arcanotech COS - the ACOS are tasked with plotting return courses, setting up new dimensional reactors, establishing ansible communications, and other applications of arcanotech in the advancement of the new colony.
Other - Other includes medical personnel (considered more assistant than anything else due to the extensive med-pod bays on the colonial ships, entertainers, record keepers, artists, and other social aspect members of the project.
After cadets have completed their basic training, and their exams, they are ferried up to the orbital home of Project Infinity, Bellerophon Station. Bellerophon Station is a massive O'neal cylinder, over 2 kilometers in length, and housing a potential population of 35,000. It is currently at half that, as the cadets are expected to arrive in waves. Once off earth, Cadet's spend up to two years working at Bellerophon. Part of this is training, part is minding the Infinity fleet including dozens of non-colonial vehicles, and part is position. Ships don't depart for the Pegasus Rift until Earth is lined up for a slingshot trip around Mars to pick up speed for free.
There are a number of anchorages, research centers, and scientific ships in the Infinity fleet. The largest and most important after the Infinity class ships and Bellerophon is Perseus Anchorage, near Saturn. It is the end of the line for non-colonial ships, and the starting line for the great interstellar jump. Perseus Anchorage is smaller than the typical Federation anchorage, but despite their size, the Infinity exploration ships are a fraction of the size of the Federation's Battlestars. There are cargo haulers, scientific observation ships, communications ships, and more associated with the regular operation of these stations and the project itself.
Prior to Launch Day, all non-essential members of the ship's crew are put in suspended animation. The crew of the ship undergo drills and final prep, and the last of fuel, supplies, and final orders are delivered. There is a ceremony, which is recorded for posterity, and then, the ship enters the Pegasus Rift at the mindbreaking speed of 1/10th G acceleration.
The Rift, I can't describe it. It's light and noise, but it's also complete silence and crushing darkness. I have had an arcanotech describe it to me as seeing the entire lifespan of the universe compressed into a few seconds, that it is the Big Bang blending into the heat death of reality, and the birth and demise of everything inbetween. Another crewman said it was like taking a hundred shot of some hallucinogen I've never heard of directly to the optical lobe of the brain.
The Other Side
Passing through the Pegasus rift is not just moving through space, but through time as well. According to ship's chronometers, the passage through the rift only took seven seconds, taking time-space readings via constellation indicate that the ship has arrived at it's destination some 27,000 years prior to the current date. Signals going back to Earth have no response, as civilization on Earth is still working out how to turn stone flakes into tools and weapons, and farming is cutting edge technology.
We weren't first. How many ships did they send? Why didn't they stop?
There are dozens of ships here, and a single massive planet. It's torn and red, with broken mountains, broiling volcanoes, and there are hundreds of thousands of people here. We were supposed to arrive to a pristine world, not one surrounded by a belt of junk. There are a dozen habitats built, and hundreds of settlements on the surface... what in the name of hell is this.
We're being hailed by a ship that isn't in our registry. Her hull numbers are almost seventy past ours, name, Invincible. They are ordering us to stand down and prepare to be boarded, and the front half of their ship is a gravity cannon... we cannot resist, so we surrender.
I can only hope that there are answers...