The Cosmic Treadmill
Warp drivesPut simply, warp travel is a form of faster-than-light travel that is only possible through the use of warp drives. A warp drive allows one to bend space-time. By expanding the "fabric" of space-time behind a vessel, and compressing the fabric in front of the vessel, a ship can be pulled through the void, reaching its destination far sooner than previously possible. Technically, the vessel isn't even moving. It's completely stationary, only giving the illusion of travel due to its ever-changing position. It's as if the universe moves around the vessel, completely indifferent to the vessel's existence. Not only does it give the illusion of travel, but it also technically shrinks the distance between a vessel and its destination. The value of the technology is unparalleled. In a universe filled with so much empty space, a means to close the gap is essential. There are some drawbacks to using the technology. In order to operate a warp drive, one must be capable of supplying an enormous amount of power consistently over a period of time. Fusion technology provides a means of doing so, however, it doesn't provide the power needed for other systems on a vessel during operation. This means all systems must be powered down during a warp drive's operation, limiting the amount of time one can use it before life support needs to be turned back on.
HyperlanesHyperlanes are needed to use warp technology with the highest level of safety. They come in two forms, depending on where you are. They are either heavily patrolled sections of space between two destinations, or the space between two massive rings left behind by a long dead civilization. The rings do the work themselves, but without the rings, hyperlanes must be routinely cleared of any debris and constantly surveyed to ensure celestial bodies don't interfere with incoming vessels. I imagine it's quite uncomfortable to warp through a star. Generally speaking, hyperlanes without a ring are temporary, the math being done constantly to predict exactly when it's no longer safe to use. Hyperlane rings can't be used with warp travel, as in many ways, they function as external warp drives themselves, altering the fabric of space-time to allow for faster travel. Warp drives circumvent the need for hyperlane rings, and allow for more flexible hyperlanes that can shift depending on your destination. It's a give an take. The pros and cons are plentiful. When it comes to which technology to use, it's up to a ship's designer. Retrofitting a warp drive is ill-advised, as a ship must be reinforced to withstand the strain on the hull. If one is not careful, their ship can be torn apart, the wreckage scattered across several hundred lightyears of space.
Warp travel can be extremely uncomfortable. Many report a sensation like restless leg syndrome, but felt across their entire body. The massive changes present in the environment are likely to blame. This is made worse when you consider how warp travel is only possible if done in complete darkness. The entire ship will be pitch black, and you will be flying blind as the sensors will be offline as well. This makes Interdiction the most dangerous threat to a ship in warp. Interdiction is easy with warp drives. By cancelling out the changes in spacetime, a ship at warp will be completely stationary, and worse, they will be completely unaware of that fact. Many ships will be destroyed without ever realizing they were under attack. Numerous countermeasures have been put in place to prevent this, such as battery operated sensors that act independently of the ship. Regardless, it takes a crew with incredible skill and discipline to restore a ship's functionality after being interdicted.