Every system is dependent upon its limitations. They control what happens to that system and they govern the economic behavior of the system’s participants.
Xelium was a defining element that factored in every decision. But the Ellie Transfer Drive changed all of that. Capable of manufacturing Xelium from cheap raw materials fed directly into the drive it untethered everyone from the Xelium cartels and led to the collapse of the Corporations.
History tells us that it was Dr. J. T. Ri who developed it but it was his daughter who managed to get the secret he’d discovered out safely and then into the hands of those who could spread it across the galaxy. The drive was named after her to honor her struggle.
It was her two companions, a hacker and a Regulator who got her hooked up to the network. The secret, encoded within her own DNA all along, was broadcast across all frequencies in the galaxy.
Ships fly today anywhere they want. There are no mining planets because mining is a thing of the past. There are no energy corporations because energy is plentiful. Humans, of course, being human constantly find new ways to create bottlenecks in the civilizations they create. But most of those are by choice and those who live by the parameters these bottlenecks impose have long made their peace with limiting principles and scarcity models.
The rest of humanity is finally free. As ships spread far and wide across the known universe tales have come back through the grapevine. Ships in trouble, helped. Occasional acts of piracy thwarted. The tales speak of an anthropomorphic entity swimming in from space. Helping when help is needed. Stopping acts of aggression by a sheer exhibition of immense power. Then vanishing again.
Nonsense of course. In all the known universe mankind has never encountered alien lifeforms of any kind. Still. The rumors persist. Grown men swear at what they have seen in bars all over the planets and then, they reach for a drink.
Captains are a superstitious lot. They all have emergency beacons set to emit on all frequencies a pre-arranged signal based on Earth’s old Morse:
two dots a dash and a dot
For those whose Morse is a little rusty the signal spells out: SEF.