- Pony Express and Solar Expressredirect here.
In the BattleTech universe, the "Pony Express" concept refers to the method of transferring cargo, passengers or messages from one JumpShip to the next to expedite the journey.
The more common term "Command Circuit" refers to a prearranged chain of JumpShips working together as a Pony Express, i.e. the application of the Pony Express method. However, the two expressions are often used synonymously.
A regular JumpShip has to recharge its K-F Drive for an average of 176 hours, roughly a week, after each jump, and can jump no more than around 30 lightyears at a time. It is therefore not uncommon for JumpShips to hand the DropShips they carried off to another JumpShip that is ready to continue the jump out immediately (or otherwise transfer cargo, passengers or messages).
In this fashion, travel times can be cut down from around a week per jump to a few hours (plus system transit). However, the general scarcity of JumpShips means a Pony Express has to be planned or set up long in advance, and is likely to be very expensive. Independent free trader JumpShips do exist and are sometimes available for pony express travels, but typically charge steep prices.
Pony Express-style couriers were used by the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth in the later stages of the Fourth Succession War following ComStar's interdiction, and even prior to the war courier vessels had been used to distribute sealed orders because ComStar was not entirely trusted.
Following the effective breakdown of HPG communications after the 3132 "Gray Monday" Blackout, Pony Express-style message delivery became the predominant form of interstellar communication. Initially, this was a very ad hoc effort, blossoming by December 3133 but with limited coordination. The signal quality for transmissions to planets was varied, sometimes so poor as to be useless, and early on, there was little set scheduling for data delivery. By early 3134, Paladin Kelson Sorenson and a select group of Republic of the Sphere knights and diplomats had united a disparate collection of cargo lines, free traders and repurposed military vessels into a more organized relay network dubbed the "Solar Express".
A Command Circuit is a prearranged Pony Express-style chain of JumpShips over (typically) long distances that is held in place for some time (whereas most Pony Express handoffs are one-off affairs). Command Circuits are expensive to set up because of the number of valuable JumpShips they tie up for mostly idle on standby, and are thus generally only used by state leaders or militaries.
- Author Ardath Mayhar claims to have invented the Pony Express concept for BattleTech.
- One named Pony Express vessel during the Fourth Succession War was the Kit Carson.