Monday, September 21, 2015

Stepping Out

Last time we did some pretty broad strokes on galactic culture as a whole. What we are now faced with is a setting where mankind has spread out among the stars and fractured. Large corporations often have more power than the local government, and opportunities abound for those who are will to exploit the general isolated nature of deep space. Before go further into what this means on a smaller scale, though, it's time to look at some of the history I established in my notes for Tale of the East Wind and build upon it based on recent ideas.

Somewhere around present day plus one hundred fifty years, humanity was on better footing that is has been in a long time. Advances in terraforming technology has stabilize Earth's climate and kickstarted a renewed push into the solar system. After NASA and the European Space Agency collaborated on the first long term habitat on Mars, mankind was ready to truly expand beyond their little corner of the universe.

The success of the mining of near earth asteroids has led to the creation of Bifrost Station by several corporate interests with the backing of the European Space Agency, NASA, the Russian Federal Space Program, and the Chinese National Space Administration. It was to serve as space station beyond the orbit of the moon capable of acting as a shipyard for the various Earth nations to construct new deep space fleets meant to explore past mars. The first ship to set out for the outer solar system was the ESA's Hermes, and when it crossed into the asteroid belt things changed forever.

The first sign that something was off was what seemed to be a malfunction in the sensor equipment, which began to constantly give inconsistent read outs. Then, after a spacewalk to attempt to repair the sensor array, a strange illness began to sweep through the crew of the Hermes that started as a piercing headache before progressing to a fever and chills. Even after recovering, a small percent of those who fell sick continued to report strange phantom sensations. The final event was the finding of the Archive.

According to the sensors and on board cameras there was no Archive, but it was clear to any crew member who looked out a window that the Hermes had just found the first proof of intelligent alien life. Outside those windows was a massive cylindrical ship covered in strange shimmering symbols. The crew wasted no time in trying to gather more info on the ship to little effect. They may not have ever discovered any of the Archive's secrets if not for Lila Utegbe, a French citizen born in Nigeria.

Lila would later describe the process as using an arm she didn't realize she had before. To her fellow crew members there was a noticeable but subtle wave of force that began to emanate from her and her eyes gave off a glimmer of light. The Archive's structure shifted and stretch until it connected to the Hermes via a thin umbilical.  Lila passed out as soon as the connection formed over the airlock.

There were no alien life forms, but the ship had obviously had a crew at some point.  Instead the crew found, bays upon bays of computers the crew was not able to access as well as countless books and manuals. The crew transmitted their findings to the ESA then set about cataloging their findings. When the order came back, it was to abandon the original mission and tow the object back to Bifrost.

The long process of towing the Archive back to a semblance of Earth orbit was a tedious affair, but it gave the crew more time to dig into the contents of the books they had found. There were no linguists aboard, but those who were fluent in multiple languages began to piece together several clues. The biggest was that the tomes seemed to be in multiple languages repeating the same passages. The series always started with the runic script that had covered the Archive's exterior, then continued through what appeared to be at least four distinct other scripts.

Once Lila recovered enough to return to duty, she discovered that she was able to decipher a substantial amount of the rune like script intuitively. Some of the concepts she wasn't able to properly articulate, but it gave her enough of a working knowledge to make an interface with the Archive's computer system. With a connection finally establish, the Hermes began downloading data and transmitting it back to Earth,

The data from the Archive was dense and difficult to decipher, but what the ESA was able to understand changed everything. There was a force out there that was both the key to wonders like FTL, but wasn't fully understood by whoever had actually made the Archive. Just the knowledge that there was intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy drastically shifted the plans for the space agencies.

Plans were adjusted. The exploratory fleets were retrofitted for first contact scenarios. Defense contractors began working on plans for weapons and defense measures. Mankind was going to the stars, and they were going to do so with as strong a footing as they could muster.

With the Archive in orbit, more hands on research continued. Lila and the rest of the crew was kept in quarantine aboard the Archive/Hermes, but that did not stop the sickness that marked the onset of Lila’s powers from reaching out to affect the population on earth. Some showed the intuitive ability for a wide breadth of powers, while others were capable of much larger feats in a more focused area. Mages and Talents had come to mankind.

The chance to revel and explore this new power did not last. Knowledge and the key to galactic civilization were not the only things the Archive brought with it. It also brought the attention of the Masters of the Deep. Their attention was not a kind one.

The first attack came in the form of a rock like projectile launched from somewhere around Jupiter’s orbit that crashed in the center of the Atlantic Ocean. Like the archive it had failed to show up on any of sensors developed at that point. The impact caused tidal waves that destroyed much of the American East coast and the European West Coast. The next strike tore through the Archive before smashing into the Indian Ocean. The third hit the Pacific just north of Australia.

The Earth governments were not prepared for the onslaught and the chaos that it invoked. When the planet’s oceans turned against them things only became worse. The water turned a sickly yellow green from the impact points that spread out slowly. The discoloration soon shifted to a thick toxic fog that would become known as the Miasma. When the Miasma reached the shore, mutated monsters crawled out and began waging war.  It was obvious the Earth would soon be lost.
 The corporate interests that had come together for Bifrost Station began launching their shuttles to the station as quickly as they could. Families were separated in the exodus. Supplies that the ships might need were crammed into every available space, including two prototype terraforming machines. The fleet in orbit did the only obvious thing they could do, they set out as those who could not get away were destroyed by the monsters.
It wasn’t long before the fleet fractured. Ships began to peel off and flee, hoping to find a means to survival out in the void. In the chaos, one of the terraforming machines was lost. Approximately half of the ships were still near the orbit of Mars when relief finally came. The now common sight of a flash of light followed by it collapsing into solid form heralded the arrival of the Klarish Combine.
So what we now have is a humanity that is being ushered into the idea of galactic civilization by an alien based corporation, a terraforming machine that can help them establish a new home world (if the aliens allow it), and several other interests who are going about their own path without that alien guidance and may also have their own machine to make a different home world. This seems like a pretty good history to me for having humanity spread out, but still around on a galactic level. 

Next time we are going to continue the history spit balling and figure out exactly where these two forks of humanity ended up. Hopefully that leads to a good starting point for out main characters and their immediate surroundings.

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