There are only two corporations which build inter-planetary spaceships. This was no duopoly, however, as the first corporation, Lorain’s Unconventional eXplorations, or LUX, unabashedly “stole” or copied anything it could from its only competitor, Interplanetary ShipWorks. If it could afford it and couldn’t steal it, LUX would license from ISW.
This was excellent news to Shoryu, Evelyn, and Peeta. This was the kind of fortune that rarely stumbles into a group of up-to-no-good friends. Shoryu, computer hacker, programmer, and aspiring artist. Evelyn, recently retired ISW thruster engineer, new founded wealth and boredom. Peeta, PhD hopeful of Chemistry looking for a new thesis after their previous failed research projects, dabbling interest in astrochemistry and optics.
Shoryu gleefully explained that with Evelyn’s intricate knowledge of the piss-poor security aboard ISW, and by extension LUX, ships, he was able to gain control over several critical functions of all ships. This included their prize, the fuel mixing and thruster temperature controls. Evelyn had been describing how she designed the engine to take in a wide-variety of fuel types and mixtures so that, if a better thruster reaction could be invented that would fit the existing nozzles, a simple software patch could mean much faster travel for all ships currently in space.
Lastly, was Peeta’s sudden insight: the typical X7 800MP Thruster left a distinct chemical trail behind it that was configurable. Every thruster technician operating on a ship knows that trail must have a certain composition, and glow, to indicate a full and efficient reaction. Typically, this trail was no more than 25 feet before the dispersal made getting accurate readings impossible.
Peeta and Evelyn were describing to Shoryu most ships had enough material on board to greatly lengthen the chemical trail, to potentially hundreds of kilometers or even thousands, if enough “waste” material were injected and straight out of the engine away from the most turbulent exhaust plumes. This was done through a combination of waste-product such as tritium, phosphorous, and a huge list of exhaust by-products that Peeta was boring the group with.
Now, this chemical trail couldn’t normally be seen more than a few kilometers out. This was where Shoryu, admittedly with more showboating and false-modesty than necessary, had also hacked into the gamma-ray laser interplanetary communications satellite network; because of course he had. He quickly glossed over that he couldn’t, yet, read all correspondence, but he could control the laser bursts, their frequency, and direction.
With just the right frequency, known destinations and a fair guess at their routes, the satellites were able to sweep very high-energy bursts into the paths the ships had taken. Now, Evelyn had to lay the smack-down on some head-splitting mechanics of interplanetary flight, orbital mechanics, and thrusters, but the basic gist was that the chemical trails were moving away from wherever the ship was accelerating towards.
She took over for Shoryu and wrote the aiming code for the satellites to hit at where the exhaust trail would be after the gamma rays crawled through space at light speed and the chemical trails flew away from the ship’s path.
To the delight of anyone watching with some powerful telescopes, and especially this little trio, the paths of the many spaceships slowly moving around through the Sol system were visible as faint green glowing lines. Massive arcs, omega-like shapes where ships flipped around and burned in the opposite direction to cancel out their velocity to meet up somewhere, the sudden changes in direction as captain’s spotted nearby asteroids of value, missing paths as moons and planets passed through the trails.
Eventually, someone put together a 3D VR experience that went viral so anyone could explore the solar system through the traced out paths of the ships in the dark void above. While the trio had pulled a prank of interplanetary scale, many that watched this spectacle were awed by the great lengths and travel Humanity had endeavoured in for its longest epoch, the Space Age.
Shoryu had the foresight to leave his little “surprise” such that future generations could further be awed by the increasing buzz of traffic as the number of spaceships increased by orders of magnitude throughout the SOL system.