It is impossible to say when humanity first raised their eyes to the stars and longed to reach them. Ages before Galileo pondered the light he saw through his telescope, countless others had surely dreamt of reaching out to the heavens; to explore, discover and conquer.
In 1920, Robert H. Goddard published his works on rocketry, which included theories on sending a solid-fuel rocket to the Moon.
His ideas were ridiculed worldwide.
Forty nine years later, humanity set foot on Earth’s only natural satellite.
It was not a scientific society of explorers that made it possible. Rather, it took two world conflicts and a nuclear cold war to polarize government resources toward the research that culminated in the splitting of the atom and escape from the Earth’s atmosphere. It was not righteous dreams of scientific discovery; but the cold calculations of lethal intent that spurred the leaders of humanity to collaborate on the greatest scientific discoveries of the twentieth century.
This trend would continue in the centuries to come.
In 2038, after having already produced a nobel prize for discovering the Higgs Boson; a new research experiment was conceived at CERN to be built along the Large Hadron Collider. The experiment would be named after the man responsible for hypothesizing the radiation the project hoped to study. It was called the HRD, or Hawking Radiation Detector. After five years of construction; the experiment was inaugurated, and high energy collisions hoping to create stable black holes began. The first tangible forays into Dark Matter burgeoned.
Meanwhile, a resource and energy crisis loomed. In 2040, the wealthy western world fell victim to its own decadence. Alliances forged a century prior teetered on the razor edge of economic instability and energy shortages. Western superpowers, bloated on the profits of petroleum, were loath to relinquish the resource in the face of technological advancement in fusion power generation. Self-starved, they went to war when their markets collapsed; citing casus belli in the breach of trade agreements broken by fusion powered countries that refused to invest in crude.
In the midst of the conflict, a new horizon in warfare emerged in the form of manned orbital combat. Advances in electromagnetic projectile launchers lead to an arms race in the form of orbital kinetic weapons. Soon, the constraints of launching the heavy components from earths surface became a limiting factor in the size of the weapons platforms. To overcome this, lunar construction facilities were established where gargantuan devices were constructed. Hastily fabricated manned trans-lunar strike-fighters were designed and produced to intercept and disable these weapons of mass destruction; countered by uncannily similar craft from the opposing force. An entirely new form of combat tactics had to be designed for the trans-lunar engagements.
A weapon emerged from the dark matter research. The device was never completed, chiefly due to the motivation it instilled to defeat its host nation before it could ever become operational. Codenamed Excalibur, it was colloquially known as the World Eater; condemned as a folly of man that, if fired, would have caused unspeakable destruction. The blueprints of its inner workings were all thought to have been destroyed. However, twelve years later in 2061, dusty files were discovered that detailed its reactor; a series of Kerr ring singularities that were designed to fuse atoms of any kind at low temperature. The scientific community was shocked that such a technology existed and a team was tasked to build the device.
Though cold fusion had already existed to some degree, the low energy nuclear fusion of the Ring Reactor technology enabled a wholly different phenomenon: transmutation of any element on an industrial scale. The combination of transmuting technology and powerful three dimensional printers made projects possible that were previously thought to be out of reach.
In 2069, a project at CERN’s lunar facility proved the Woodard effect, a discovery that spawned an industry of fluctuating mass drives; known as Flux Drives. The technology provided propellantless, constant-g propulsion and opened the heavens to humanity.
By 2075, production of the flux drive was at maximum capacity. Spaceflight was becoming a commonplace activity. The colonisation of Mars and Jovian moons had become a very real possibility, and hundreds of private corporations began planning to colonize the resource rich solar system. Governments tightly controlled the Ring reactor’s transmutation technology, meaning the majority of organizations still had to get their resources the old fashioned way; pulling them out of cold rock.
A mere fifty years later, what seemed like endless space became a relatively crowded solar system. The turn of the twenty second century saw a drastic rise in conflicts between the inner system and outer system populations. The outer system resource extraction population became increasingly resentful of the inner system aristocracy who made it illegal to own ring reactor technology. In turn, the corporate inner system was ever more prejudice toward their blue collar counterparts. There were conflicting reports as to who fired the first shots, all that was certain was that one question would soon be answered: Could the transmutation reactors keep up with an outer system embargo?
Within a decade, in early 2136; each side had amassed an impressive fleet of warships. The inner systems had even gone so far as to build a flagship around the legendary Excalibur; fitted with the prototype Dark Matter weapon system that was destined to shift the tides of history.
The majority of both fleets had amassed in Jovian orbit at the culmination of the hostilities. Both sides were trying to deny each other the gravitational advantages of the gas giant, as it was a gateway to slingshot anywhere within the solar system. The fighting had already been raging for hours when the World Eater was unleashed. It was Wednesday, November 21st, the year 2136, at 18:35 UTC. The Excalibur flagship erupted, a flash of light consumed a massive area before dissipating to a pinprick; having left nothing behind. The energy field was so large it took with it a sizeable scoop of Jupiter’s atmosphere.
The ships engulfed found themselves disabled and damaged; some beyond repair. Those who could reboot their systems soon discovered the navigational faults. They were no longer in the Sol System.
The gravity of the situation was obvious, and a harsh reality quickly set in; there was no way to return home. The struggle was now to survive. Months later, after analyzing what data could be gleaned from the Jovian event, engineers discovered a synergistic property to Dark Matter and the ring reactors that powered their ships; a revelation that allowed for the construction of an interstellar drive. Though unable to safely or accurately jump much more than a dozen light years; the Dark Drive allowed the colonists to expand beyond the system in which they arrived. Soon, the colonists found themselves not only surviving, but beginning to thrive.
In 2186, fifty years after their unintentional departure, some form of normalcy had finally returned to the lives of the colonists. Wartime ship captains had become community leaders. Capital ships had become orbital stations; their cannibalized hulls refitted as homes for budding families. The future of this pocket of humanity seemed much less bleak.
Not all of the survivors had the choice of the high road. Entire battle groups were lost in deep space, their crews forced to do the unspeakable to survive. Their actions forged a torn people, willing to cast off any shred of humanity for another breath. For years these groups ran feral on the outskirts of systems plundering what they needed, and fencing the remnants for their own benefit. Over time, a rapport was built between these greasy cogs, and an organization began to form, taking the old name “Silk Road”.
These machinings were not clandestine to all. A charismatic leader known as Maximillian Reinhardt saw the coming storm and, convincing the people of his colony, rallied a fleet to stamp out the pirates before they could fully organize. With the momentum of victory in his home system of Aegina, his fleet travelled onward to neighboring colonies with the promise of protection; vowing to wipe out the pirate threat. Reinhardt’s Aegian fleet soon grew as it gathered the support of other systems.
It is now present day. Just over a million people eek out a rough existence across dozens of star systems. They farm the austere alien worlds to feed growing populations. They mine the moons, planets and gas giants to feed the hungry markets that have sprouted like tendrils between the colonies. Traders buy and sell cargo, facing the uncertainty of interstellar travel and the ever present danger posed by the pirates that threaten to undo what progress has been made. All the while, the colonies fend for themselves, organizing ad hoc security forces who do their best to bring some semblance of order amidst the chaos.
Somewhere unseen, lies another menace altogether; stirring from an ageless slumber…