History of Space Flight in the Third Millennia
Humans didn't really start exploring space until the third millennium. They pottered about in their own gravity well in the 1960's and 70's but nothing much came of it.
The Wonder Years
Rockets existed in the 20th century, Ion drives and Fusion drives came in to their own in the 21st. A few long-range space probes were sent out, the solar system was fully explored, Mars and Titan were colonised for a laugh. Everything you would expect to happen, did.
Thing kicked off around 2268 with the invention of gravity wave generators in India. Before the end of the 23rd century there existed working anti-gravity devices. Inertia was finally proven to be the combined effect of the gravity waves from the surrounding universe. The anti-gravity drive could reduce the effect of inertia allowing ships to travel at up to half the speed of light. The first deep space probes were built in 2285 and the first manned ships left earth in 2289. The inertialess drive, which allowed objects to come within a hairsbreadth of the speed of light, was developed within 32 years and the first colony ships left earth soon after. The light barrier was still thought to be impossible to break until a bunch of Dutch cosmologists discovered subspace.
Subspace is another universe formed at the same time as normal space (and hyperspace , but more on that later). Subspace is very similar to normal space except that it contains far less matter and energy and as a result the speed of light is considerably faster.
The subspace theory languished in the journals until some bright spark decided to try to measure the speed of light in subspace by reproducing it on Earth. After a couple of accidents, the experiments were moved into interstellar space. Eventually, in 2391 it was discovered that a field that matched the characteristics of subspace could be reproduced and that if you made a strong enough field you could break the light speed limitations. In 2392 all the cosmologists became immensely rich and the first Dutch FTL spacecraft left Earth.
There was a brief and exciting period of mapping and charting, soon followed by a somewhat more exciting period when all the other nations ganged up on the Dutch and took the secrets of the FTL drive for “the good of all humanity”. As humanity began to expand across the galaxy there were a few territorial disputes and a couple of wars (including the famous 24/7 war in 2407). Then a few treaties got violated, there was another couple of wars. All the usual stuff that happens when people get rich and nations try to take their cut. Eventually, by 2440, the core worlds had been defined and for the next 140 years things settled down to standard imperialist expansion.
The Cygnan Empire
Then the Cygnans showed up. The “Evil Cygnan Empire” was a collection of the local galactic players of that time, technological alien races in the southern reaches of the Cygnus spiral arm. The first species encountered were an artificially created race of semi-sentient creatures that the Cygnans used to reform worlds to their liking. Because of the creature’s helpful and curious attitude and their habit of mimicking the colonists the human colonists got on astonishingly well with these creatures. They soon set the creatures to work building human colonies. The fact that these creatures, called ‘Hogs’ by the humans because of their vague resemblance to Armadillos (go figure) were found on several different planets didn’t bother the colonists as much as it did the nations and colonial authorities who didn’t have daily contact with them. The authorities launched an investigation and discovered the Cygnans.
The major Cygnan races consisted of;
The Hogs - A race of semi-intelligent armadillos with prehensile hands.
The Lattice – Creatures composed of silicon and radioactive materials. They grow like a giant fungal root system across the surface of whatever planet they inhabit. Their physiology acts, roughly speaking, like a giant semi-conducting computer chip. There is usually only one to a planet.
Rourke’s Spiders aka Rourkes - A bed-sized species looking roughly like “two headless tarantula spiders connected by a leather bag filled with bones”. Rourkes are a carbon-based species covered in a woody carapace. As you may imagine, first contact did not go well. (Especially not on Jack Rourke’s farmstead.) Rourkes don’t do science, relying on the co-operation of other species for their technology. Rourkes compete with humans for territory and resources. Individual Rourkes commonly display phobias about Tumbleweeds (see below).
Slugs – Giant slugs the size of a pickup truck with prehensile fronds at the front. A highly technological species, they also developed a subspace field drive. Slugs don’t communicate; they just do what Slugs do. The Rourkes hitch-hiked on Slug ships until they met the other species.
Tumbleweeds – A perambulatory tangle of thorn covered wire with a central root-like stalk. Tumbleweeds are constrictors and are composed of shape memory metals that they can bend and flex at will. They are roughly the same size as tumbleweeds although on their home planet there are similarly formed non-sentient predators that can grow to the size of hippos. Tumbleweeds are most like humans in terms of psychology, reasoning and technological development. They obtained space flight technology from the Slugs and shared it with the Rourkes.
There were other races but they mostly stayed at home.
The Cygnan War
Anyway, the humans came into contact with the Cygnan civilisation in 2581, about 700 Ly from Earth. The Cygnans had a slow deliberate policy of expansion. They would set some Hogs down on a planet and let them decide which species the planet was most suitable for. The human corporations started settling worlds with Hogs on them. Since they didn’t recognise them as a sentient species, they also started digging up Lattices for resources and to clear their settlement areas of radioactivity. The Lattices demanded action; some Tumbleweed scientists undertook a study of human colonial culture and quickly came to some very accurate conclusions. The Cygnans started arming for war.
Diplomacy didn’t work because Tumbleweeds concluded that the Rourkes (nightmarish spider-monsters) would be a really good choice for ambassadors. The Slugs just ignored everything and continued their colonisation efforts - mostly onto planets already containing humans. Diplomacy eventually failed partially because the Rourkes tried to negotiate with individual human nations and partially because the Lattice demands for reparations were impossible to meet. War broke out by 2584.
During the war the humans developed jump drive technology and the Tumbleweeds developed Mass Thrust Drive technology. When the Americans and Dutch got a hold of both they developed Star Flight technology and promptly bombed the Cygnan civilisation into oblivion. The Lattices were wiped out and three major species of Slug were made extinct. The Rourkes lost their entire fleet of vessels and were thus trapped on their homeworlds and only the Tumbleweeds made it out with some semblance of an empire, having been restricted to a few core planets.
Star Drive Technology takes the starship out of normal space and places it in either a wormhole, subspace, or hyperspace depending on the type of drive.
After the war ended in 2610 the humans, using the huge surplus of military vessels, slowly began to spread across the galaxy. Then, 20 years later, the Hyperjump drive was developed just in time for the post war baby boomers to colonise the galaxy. Each generation after that followed a distinct pattern. Colonise a world, have babies, babies grow up and don’t just leave home, they leave planet to set up a new colony elsewhere. Within a couple of centuries, the colonists going clockwise were meeting colonists going anti-clockwise. And fighting about it.
Several political systems developed in this time. The old earth nations couldn’t keep up with the administration of all the new colonies. New star-spanning nations developed and follow the colonies around the galaxy. The old Cygnan Empire and the United Nations bureaucracy left to watch over it were cut loose from the Earth colonies. This was due to cutbacks and ‘resizing’ as the Earth nations tried to re-focus on the new colony worlds. The UN/Cygnan areas became an independent territory which is still known as the United Nations Protectorate. The various Cygnan races were finally granted access to the stars and being somewhat alien, they didn’t bear a grudge.
The colonists going clockwise around the western side of the galaxy encountered a few more alien species. The colonists either ignored them, dealt with them or were dealt with by them. Friends and enemies were made but no more star-spanning races were found. At least none with Hyperjump technology, that is. The colonies were too busy surviving to make war with each other and a loose trade federation formed.
Over on the anti-clockwise, eastern side of the galaxy no alien races were discovered. There was plenty of archaeology, but not much in the way of living beings. This was hardly remarked upon because the colonists didn’t really care. Then The Throne was discovered by a colony scout called John Braxen. Who did care, and had done his archaeology homework.
The Throne is one of three artefacts Braxen discovered. It is a star faring city, a command centre and a throne room all in one. It has a dome 2 miles in diameter. Inside the dome are a city and the only hyperspatial jump drive known to humankind. One side of the dome has a concave section missing, slightly under a mile wide. In the concave section at the back, facing the opening is a throne. Whoever sits in the throne can control every function of the artefact and the function of the other two artefacts Brabxn discovered. The throne is more powerful than the entire human fleet of ships at that time. The second artefact is a giant crystalline starship / weapon. It was lodged on the surface of a dark star in the centre of the galaxy. The third is a device that manufactures permanent wormholes.
So Braxen used it to carve himself an empire and make himself an emperor. Braxen went to war against the rest of the galaxy and only ended when one of his Empresses assassinated him and took the throne herself. Braxen found the device in 2702, formed his empire, and then went to war in 2777. He was killed in 2780 and the Empress Astrae’a declared the war over and informed the victors of the terms of surrender she would allow them to impose on her. She seems to have discovered the secret of longevity as well as she still rules 220 years later.
The war with the empire galvanised the western worlds into forming the politically solid Federal Alliance. Each world in the Alliance is given the status of Independent, Dependant or Colonial. Independent worlds get a say on the council, Dependants get to lobby via the Independent world they depend on and Colony worlds don’t get a say but tend to turn up for the arguments anyway.
The Groombridge Accord
The war with the empire also led directly to the development of the subspace (warp) drive by the Earth nations. Once the war was over, the Earth colonies used this new technology to start hassling the Federal Alliance over territory and the Earth colonies that signed up for the Alliance. The Alliance, showing typical colonial independence, capitulated immediately. This bought them enough time to obtain a number of subspace vessels from the United Nations Protectorate. The Federal Alliance then sent copies of the ship designs to every one of their planets capable of building one. Within two years (in 2785) the biggest war fleet the galaxy had ever seen sauntered down to the border zone and re-liberated all their colonies, along with any others who expressed an interest in joining. The Federation got the Empire, the Earth colonies and the U.N.P to sign up to a galactic treaty (which co-incidentally left them with the biggest piece of the pie.) The Groombridge Treaty holds at least to the eve of the fourth millennium.
Hyperspace is another universe, similar to ours just after the big bang. It is a place which can be tapped for near unlimited levels of energy. And while it is just as large as our universe, the distance between two points is far shorter.
The Federal / Imperial Treaty
The Empire busied itself with expanding anti-clockwise around the galaxy, where it came into contact once again with the expanding federated treaty zone. Mucho violence and special effects ensued until, in 2992 the two sides settled down and hammered out the Treaty. The treaty called for no military presence in the treaty zone except for a multilateral force called the Space Rangers, who would uphold the treaty and enforce common law. All four groups of the Groombridge accord can train and provide rangers. The rangers are only answerable to the Treaty Oversight Committee.
Incidentally, no-one on the Federal side is sure why the Empress stopped the war. Her stated reply was “Oh I couldn’t be bothered any more.” Rumour has it that her forces met with an alien presence in the treaty zone that she couldn’t defeat.