The Milky Way Is The Only Way: Played straight, given the general uselessness of other experimental fittlers, and since the only reliable form of FTL the universe evidently permits is stargate pairs, the far end of which has to be dragged out to its destination at subluminal speed. Thus, only a veritable tiny fraction of even this galaxy has been explored.
That said, the Elsewhere Society did manage to raise the mind-croggling amount of money necessary to have a stargate pair constructed and its Wandercompagnon lobbed at the Greater Ancíël Whirl (which is to say, the Large Magellanic Cloud) at near-light velocity, but it won’t get there for a long, long time. They’re having rather less success in raising more money to build a second pair and repeat the exercise with Andromeda.
And it’s not like sufficiently powerful telescope arrays can’t see some interesting things going on Beyond The Space We Know, other galaxies included…
Elsewhere Society Deep Probe One.
En route to Greater Ancíël Whirl.
Velocity: 0.9 light.
Mission Elapsed Time (empire-time frame): 1 kiloyear.
The stargate cruised onward through the empty void, its linelayer’s drive shut down after its last major vector change, leaving the galactic disk and acquiring its destination. Against the stars, its motion was imperceptible, with only a few high-energy photons as particles impacted the bow shield to indicate its true speed, a far cry from the foreshock of a lighthugger within the galaxy out here in the dustless halo.
A few lights sporadically glimmered on the habitat modules clamped to the side of the linelayer, populated by occasional astronomers, physicists, a few tourists, and mystics mindcast in for the experience of the void and the view.
No one visited except by ‘casting; while the stargates did compensate for relative velocities, the near-luminal speeds and relativistic distortion this one had achieved while en route already were well beyond their capacity to cope with for transporting mass.
So for the most part, the stargate cruised on alone.
1,000 years elapsed. 200,000 years to run.