The Humans came from a long way away but they had a thriving colony system around the star called Hamak. It was there that miners discovered the deserted vessel of unknown configuration (now known as the Drifter.) It seems miraculous now that those miners could understand some of the technology that they discovered aboard the obviously alien vessel. More miraculous still that the only salvageable equipment turned out to be the Jump Engines – devices which could easily be wed to Human technology.
The Humans of Hamak were not unaware of the other known races. SETI programs and long-range astronomy had already found the Teth, the Tarn and the Krayce. It took two years for word to reach the known races about the Jump Engines. And radio signals were almost beaten by manned missions as the salvagers learned what they could do with their new toys. While messages had been exchanged between the races, all first contact involved Humans. Mercenary, salvaging, miners – unafraid to risk their lives by turning on alien technology and flipping themselves a galaxy away.
And thus were the Families born – each of the original salvage crew took one of the Jump Engines, cobbling together a crew as best they could with the ships they could find. Each became a Jump Captain – the ultimate trader – able to flit between star systems carrying as much as their primitive JumpShips could carry.
But simple roughneck miners proved not to be the best captains of vessels. The Jump Engines changed hands – sometimes non-human hands. And this proved to be the pattern for some time. To date, no system government has managed to get their hands on a Jump Engine. Opinions vary wildly as to what one of the governments would do if they obtained one. Governments remain the customers of the Families – letting them gain access to the technology would ruin the market.
It has been forty-seven years since the Drifter was boarded. Now the Families are rich – operating out of purpose-built space stations and avoiding contact with any other than their clients. Or prospective clients.