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Our protagonists are flying through space in their Cool Ship when they suddenly get into a combat situation. For whatever reason, they quickly realize that hanging around is going to get them blasted into tiny pieces and decide to go to warp speed to escape. This usually involves stars suddenly zipping past like the old Windows screensaver. If the author wants there to be space battles where one side can decisively lose, rather than the losing side zipping off as soon as things start going wrong, they can use a "No Warping" Zone.

In Real Life, this is known as “disengagement by acceleration”; in air combat, it is not uncommon for combat to take place between an agile aircraft of limited speed, and a more unwieldy aircraft that can suddenly accelerate away on afterburner. For example, F-4s vs. MiG-17s in Vietnam, or an SR-71 or MiG-25/31 with any other known jet aircraft. It happens at sea as well. For example, the USS Enterprise in World War II was noted for its slightly higher speed than other vessels its size, as was the Age Of Sail vessel USS Constitution.

With FTL drives that need to charge up before activating, this can lead to a You Shall Not Pass situation when the enemy's still attacking. (Heroic Sacrifices optional.)

See also Blind Jump, because it's even harder for the enemy to track you if you don't know where you're going.

Examples of Hyperspeed Escape include:


Anime and Manga

Film

  • Star Wars did this with the Millennium Falcon. And then Subverted it. And then Subverted it again. And again.
  • The Lost in Space movie. "Anywhere but here!"
  • Spaceballs demonstrates what happens when the enemy ship tries to go even faster to pursue the fleeing ship: first the heroes' Winnebago jumps into light speed, and the villains, trying to catch them, decide to forgo light speed and go straight to "Ludicrous Speed."
  • The heroes of Starcrash try this. Unfortunately, they're tracked by their friction trail.
  • This trope drives the classic "Genesis Countdown" scene from Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan, subverted in that the ship trying to make the escape had actually won the battle not five minutes earlier.
  • In Galaxy Quest, when Jason realizes what big trouble they've really gotten themselves into, he tells the helmskid to press the "Turbo" button and keep it held down. Since the Turbo feature was only designed for short bursts of speed, Hilarity Ensues.

Literature

  • The crew of the Heart of Gold do this when under bombardment from Vogons in one of the Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy books. Almost a subversion in that the ship doesn't move until the last possible second, because it's trying to make tea.
    • Also done later (in a way). Faced with being blown up by two thermonuclear missiles, Arthur activates the Infinite Probablity Drive (the Heart of Gold's version of a Hyperspace drive). It works. Because an unprogrammed IPD can literally cause anything to happen, the ship doesn't move, but the missiles are turned into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias.
  • In the Mageworlds books by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald.
    • The Price of the Stars, while making the getaway from their rather messy kidnapping, star slingshot included to reach jump speed.
    • Starpilot's Grave, played true, after taking down several mageworld ships.
  • Subverted in The Lost Fleet where the titular fleet can't use the typical Portal Network to escape because its guarded by the Syndics. Played straight shortly after when the fleet makes use of the old fashion jump point system to escape even if it just takes them from one enemy territory to another (at least without the enemy fleet). This trope is used repeatedly in the series and just where the fleet escaped to is a source of never ending frustration to their enemies.
  • Happens so often in the Star Wars Expanded Universe that the Empire develops an entire class of ship, the Interdictor, to prevent it. Several higher-caliber tacticians make use of a version that's almost Hyperspeed Advance-In-Another-Direction; a ship jumps from one area of combat, or outside combat, right up next to another ship and gets a free shot in.
  • Viable tactic used often by the Solar Fleet in Perry Rhodan or at worst getting closer to the C speed.

Live Action TV

  • Star Trek. Of course, conveniently-timed Phlebotinum Breakdown keeps it from working out very often.
  • Firefly does this a couple times, notably near the beginning of the pilot. Subverted in the Big Damn Movie where they actually intend the pursuers to follow. This is also considerably less plausible than most of these examples as strictly speaking Firefly has no hyperspace: see Stealth in Space for details.
  • The rebooted Battlestar Galactica.
  • Moya in Farscape.
  • Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis make fairly regular use of this, although in a sort-of-subversion way: they simply jump through the titular static stargates.
    • They play it straight when it comes to starship combat scenes in the later seasons. However, they usually fail to do it, since the hyperdrive almost always goes off-line immediately in the first Star Trek Shake scene.
      • The only problem with that is the fact that you can knock them out so easily while your shields are still up. Realistically when facing an enemy employing hit and run tactic against a vastly superior army... you want to make them unable to run. So what if they manage to take out one of your ships because you didn't blow the weapons - they can't run and repair to come again.
    • The series finale of SG-1 is notable partly because attacks by Ori motherships forced the Odyssey to make Hyperspeed Escapes no less than four times in a single episode. The Time Dilation field generated by Carter is a last-ditch measure only deployed when the Odyssey can't jump out in time.
  • Babylon 5, when entering a static jumpgate or phasing into hyperspace. In fact, this is the Shadows' favorite tactic: Appear, blow stuff up, and jump back into hyperspace before anyone knows what the hell just happened. (Their first appearance in the show lasts 37 seconds due to this trope.)
    • In one episode, two Narn ships try to make a hyperspace escape and fail; the Shadows disrupt their hyperspace jump-points and cause the ships to get mangled as they try to leave.
  • Frequently used in Blakes Seven by both the Liberator and the Scorpio.
    • Only after the Scorpio is upgraded. In its first appearance, it's a barely-functional piece of crap that can't outrun (or fight) anything. After they upgrade its engines, it still a barely-functional piece of crap, but at least it's fast.
  • Cole in Tracker, quite often.

Tabletop Games

  • The Necron fleet in Warhammer 40000 are noted to do either this or phase out after taking significant casualties. The Eldar (and their dark cousins) operate in the same fashion.
  • This tactic appears in Star Fleet Battles using its modern name.

Video Games

  • In the classic game Asteroids (and all the clones and remakes of it) you can teleport to a random place on the screen. This might take you from the path of a rock to safety…or simply into another rock.
    • This is basically the entirety of gameplay in the classic computer game Robots (also known as Daleks or Zombies)
  • In Star Control II, it is possible to escape a battle by jumping into hyperspace (although warming up the hyperspace drives takes a couple of seconds, during which the ship is easy prey for its opponent). One battle in the game can only be “won” this way, as the opponent is a valuable potential ally who you're trying not to kill.
  • Central to Escape Velocity's gameplay for a number of reasons, which can lead to some exciting nailbiters:
    1. Each solar system can only be jumped to from certain other systems, which means you typically need to jump through several systems to get anywhere. (An item in the third game allows you to move through multiple systems in a single jump, assuming you set the route in advance; this effectively allows you to bypass the "one system per jump" limitation.)
    2. You can only hyperjump if you're at least a certain distance from the center of the system.
    3. When jumping into a system, you always exit hyperspace on the near edge of the system, too close to jump, and headed inward fast. Since there's no Space Friction, this means you need to either stop and turn around or fly through to the other side.
      • Not entirely true. You can do consecutive hyperjumps if you hit the right button immediately after arrival. Of course this works only if you have your next target programmed in advance and provided you have enough fuel.
      • Even so, what this does is make the un-abortable autopilot spin the ship around and brake to a stop before jumping… Typically halting in the center of the system, smack dab where most of the ships (friendly or otherwise) are likely waiting.
    1. In order to hyperjump you need to be perfectly still and pointed exactly at your destination. When you want to jump, you must enter an uncontrollable (and un-abortable) mode where your autopilot turns the opposite of the direction you're moving, brakes to a stop, turns toward your destination, and then accelerates to hyperspeed before exiting the solar system.
    2. During all of this, you are completely vulnerable to attack, although the duration of the autopilot's work is lessened if you're moving slower and/or pointed nearly the correct way, it's still quite possible to run into a torpedo during the final hyperthrust and explode at your destination. In a related note, your ship must be moving slowly while over a planet/station to land on/dock with it.
    • Escape Velocity also uses the sublight version: if you don't have too slow a ship to begin with, mashing the afterburner lets you outpace not only most pursuers but most missiles. You can't hide in this manner, but you can get enough of a headstart to perform your jump in safety.
    • Similarly done in X-COM Interceptor, where it's fully possible to die while the ship attempts to engage its hyperdrive.
  • Fans of Wing Commander, particularly its spin offs Privateer and Privateer II, are quite familiar with this tactic. Or, in the case of the latter, frequently the inability to employ it, thanks to the prolific use of random enemies and the limitations on using autopilot or the jump points when enemies are present.
  • Occurs very shortly before the opening of the first Halo game, with the Pillar of Autumn attempting to escape from Covenant forces. Subverted in that the Covenant ships are faster and are waiting for the Autumn when it drops out of hyperspace.
    • The "subversion" part is debatable. Yes, Cortana said that the Covenant ships from Reach beat them to Halo, but the novels and games indicate that the Covenant had standing forces there. It would seem to this troper that this is actually a case of "out of the frying pan, into the fire" rather than a subversion.
  • Also done annoyingly in Freelancer, where the cruise engine, the high speed method of transportation can be frequently disabled by guided cruise disruptors.
  • A good way to run from fights in Eve Online. Be wary though: any semi-decent pirate uses warp disruptors, barring a good escape.
  • In the Master of Orion series, ships generally retreat by opening a portal.
  • Running for a wormhole in Conquest Frontier Wars could get you safely away, for a few seconds untill your enemy followed you though, or blow up the gate blocking their way and then followed you though. What often happens is your ship arrived in pieces after a jump.
  • Escaping into phase space is ubiquitous in Sins of a Solar Empire whenever a force or a unit has to retreat. Phase Inhibitors, obviously, inhibit this, as do several other stunning/slowing abilities. The Vasari are particularly capable of disrupting phase retreats.
    • There is always a cost to phase jumping, however: Making a phase jump under any conditions will remove a portion of a ship's stored antimatter (which powers ship special abilities), although never into negative values. If the enemy you're running from has a starbase established in-system, not only will a ship lose 100% of stored antimatter upon phase jumping out, it will also lose 35% of the ship's current hull points (or 50% if it's the TEC with the proper tech upgrade); this will never outright kill a ship, but it will inflict serious damage.
  • Mass Effect 2: A fairly frequent occurrence in the game (moreso if you purchase the "Arrival" DLC). One example, as the Normandy flees from the Collectors:

 Joker: I can't dodge this guy forever EDI ! Get us out of here!

EDI: Please specify the destination, Mr. Moreau.

Joker: Anywhere that's not here!

EDI: Engaging mass effect core...

  • Star Trek Klingon Academy lets both you and the enemy do this.
  • Ships in Free Space, surprisingly, don't do this very often unless the plot calls for it. The fan-made campaign Blue Planet, on the other hand, has ships automatically jump out after taking critical damage, which makes a lot more sense from a real world tactics perspective.
  • In Sword of the Stars you can retreat from tactical encounters by jumping out. There's a waiting time for the FTL drive to be readied, but by the time you get to lategame upgraded drives the wait can be over before you even get in firing range of the enemy.
  • The X series both plays the trope straight and averts it. The majority of FTL travel in the game is done by means of a Portal Network, but ships can also purchase aftermarket jumpdrives which take you to a given gate in the network. Naturally it can be used for a Hyperspeed Escape, but a jump requires a ten-second charge. Which is ten seconds for your opponents to kill you. Players learn pretty quickly that the drive will not save you if you wait too long to use it.
    • Averted because of one glaring piece of Artificial Stupidity: only ships owned by the player will buy and use jumpdrives (barring scripted plot events). One of several things the AI is not programmed to do that ships in the game are capable of...
  • Early in 'Star Ocean Till the End of Time', Cliff and Mirage escape a Vendeeni cruiser by engaging their gravitic warp engine on Cliff's "hunch" that they will be able to escape the Vendeeni's "No Warping" Zone before getting melted by their cannons. His hunch is vindicated as they suddenly accelerate beyond the reach of the Vendeeni's Beam Spam.
  • In Starcraft the Protoss Arbiter's "Dimensional Recall" ability teleports a group of friendly units to itself. Raynor uses this to keep the UED from capturing Mengsk and himself.
  • Unlike the Star Wars film, X Wing and TIE Fighter play this straight. Enemies move to a specific waypoint before warping out, while the player enters a dead stop before warp. Once hyperspace starts, the ship is out of combat. Starting with TIE Fighter, Interdictors create a "No Warping" Zone, which need to be taken out before escape.
  • In Battlestar Galactica Online this is possible, but there's a severe penalty for the chargeup time needed if you try to jump out in combat, making it hard to do so.
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