Knights of the Stellar Void
A More Detailed History
A Timeline of a Lost Age
The Classical Age
Little remains of knowledge held before the Empire, save for the works of seven key individuals—Plato, Aristotle, Newton, Einstein…. Details are few, but it appears that Terra was populated by numerous city-states, and that allegiance were based around ethnic bloodlines and these geo-political city-states rather than one’s noble House.
It was a time of great upheaval, with countless wars fought between neighboring city-states over blood feuds and ideologies. Somehow humanity managed to unearth numerous discoveries, though many owed their origin to the military-industrial complex that dominated early Earth’s motives.
Eventually, these nations would unite to form the Republic of Terra, a utopian government that spread across all of Earth and into the stars.
The Republican Era
With the entirety of Old Earth’s resources at its disposal, the Republic set forth seeding the galaxies with slowships, using its bloated population to expand—first to Earth’s moon, then to the planet Mars, and from there, to distant stars. Many early developments resulted in items we now take for granted today, but their three greatest achievements are legend. The most notable of these was the jumpgate.
Imagine entering into a tunnel through a mountain, walking through and emerging on the other side, and you have the general idea of how a jumpgate functions, though the ‘tunnel’ a jumpgate creates worms its way across space and time. The jumpgate makes travel between two points in space a direct route, allowing ships to traverse great distances at vastly faster speeds than slowships are capable of However, one needs an exit hole—another jumpgate—on the far side of the tunnel to emerge from.
This resulted in a slow and laborious process of building two jumpgates, sending one in a slowship off to a distant, habitable planet, having that ship’s colonists emerge from cryo and erect their gate on the far side. Through the use of complex computer calculations, scientists could estimate when the far jumpgate would be completed, as the lack of real-time communication meant there was no way for the distant ship to relay that its gate was complete. Having established both sides of the gate, a ship could be sent through to the far planet in a matter of minutes.
From there, the new gate’s planet would become a hub, where more slowships would be sent forth to establish other colonies off in the distant black. Terra built scores of gates this way, slowly expanding its way ever outward; humanity’s reach was long, but the rewards were minimal—aside from moving its excess population off-world and acquiring more resources to ship back to the Sol system, the costs far outweighed the gains.
The second discovery was that of sentience—passing this gift to our animal cousins, and creating the fusion of man and machine.
- The uplifts were formed from the remains of the most populous mammalian species—canids, ursines, cetaceans, felines, and pithicines—uplifting them in body and mind to be not quite humanity’s equals. At first, they were seen as little more than specialized labor, but time (and several political uprisings) have given them extended freedoms.
- The synthetics began as advances in cybertechnology, and then biotechnology, allowed the flesh to be replaced with more durable substances. Hybrids and cyborgs came first, fusing human brains into mechanical shells for hazardous work in deep-space—a choice offered to paraplegics, the aged, and others, to shed the frailty of body for malleability of form. Another side brought us true synthetics: giving more and more freedom of thought and expression to artificial intelligences. And from another direction, the creation of clones, replicating individuals through advanced cell growth.
The third of the Republic’s great creations was the Mindscape, a vast, interstellar shared conciousness. Humanity had long searched for such a thing, a place outside of space and time to converse and share information as a unified whole. For centuries, it had relied on crude computer matrices and virtual reality simulations to enable ad-hoc fusion. The Mindscape outshines them all; plugging in through the use of a neural interface allows one to enter the mindscape in body and soul.
Its only downside was that it was unable to update itself universally in real-time, and needed Mindscape hub-ships—the Mindjammers—to collect and relay updates. The Mindscape’s benefits greatly outweighed this small burden.
The Hellstar War
These trends—a declining interest in gradual colonization, and the technological advancements in the field of sentience—continued for centuries, until the coming of Hellstar Zarathustra, a sentience built over the shell of a planetoid. We are unsure what the Hellstar’s specific purpose was. Records indicate it was a planning computer of some sort, a logic machine to serve humanity with factory-forges that could spew forth nanomachines to endlessly build and repair. Instead, something changed within the machine—faulty programming, the sentience re-examining its mission, perhaps a disdain for the fading Republic—and for whatever reason, it attacked.
The ensuing war erased much of human history and snuffed out thousands of lives.
It is impossible to understand the magnitude of the devestation. A virus unleashed by the Hellstar disabled the jumpgate network, allowing it to attack system after system at its leisure. Entire systems were cut off; without order, dictators and tyrants sprang to consolidate power, during and after the war. Dozens of colonies were in the process of being established, cut off without resupply and left to their discretion.
The fleets pulled back to defend key hubs—Sol, Cygnus, Altair—and it was over the green hills of Earth that humanity made its final, desperate stand. The Hellstar bombarded earth with neutron bombs, as the mass driver Resilient returned fire from Old Earth’s moon. In the battle, some squadrons of fighters took the battle to the Hellstar, attacking its reactors with plasma fire in hopes of overheating it… which proved to be a dramatic success, when the Hellstar disappeared in a blinding flash.
The bulk of Earth’s knowledge existed not just in datatapes, but in great data warehouses such as the Library of Cygnus, obliterated during the war. We retain many datatapes. Much data was lost on the electronic battlefields of the Mindscape fighting back the Hellstar’s cyber-attacks, or during the cataclysmic bombardment of Terra. What remains was stored on the planet Mars, or deep underground in Old Earth’s defense bunkers… many of which were struck with pinpoint accuracy by the Hellstar’s guns, attempting to destroy the Republic’s leadership.
The Dark Age of Space
The war’s lasting effect was to demolish the utopian structure that was the Republic. Most of its leaders were slain in the battles for Cygnus and Sol; others were stranded in deep space, or like those at Alpha Centauri, were cut off from the fighting as the jumpgates went dark. The Republic’s monolithic command-and-control structure was cut off at the root, and what remained of humanity fell into tribalism—warlords seizing power and embarking on ruthless conquest across planets. New leaders and governments came to power: in one system alone, nine planets boasted ten leaders using six forms of governance.
The war also triggered a relapse of prejudice, and countless synthetics—their minds capable of storing the most minute bits of data from ages past—were put to the sword, for the sin of resembling the Hellstar’s brood. The fearful masses destroyed their own machines, and slew their own scientists, in revenge for unleashing the Hellstar upon the human race.
Hither came Mallory, officer and hero of the final battle. Mallory re-established rule on Old Earth, backed by innumerable veterans left in the war’s wake. From there, Mallory leveraged the power of Old Earth to assert strength over the other fledgling governments: putting some to the sword, allying with others. Twelve banded together to form the Treaty of Twelve, establishing laws for stellar rule and airing of disputes, codifying each ruler’s zones of control, and providing that all signatories would band together again in the face of another threat on scale with the Hellstar. From that solidification of government came the Houses we know today, each one formed by a signatory to the treaty.
It took decades before the Houses emerged victorious and put out the remaining fires of rebellion, trying to save and scavenge what technology they could. Under the rule of Mallory, civilization was reborn out of civil war and decay. Several hundred signatories had since signed the Treaty, and those that have not have been wiped clean from the skies.
The Second Age of Space
The Treaty of Twelve, ended the power-grab in the wake of the Hellstar’s devastation and solidifed the victors’ territory into their own separate demesnes. Noble Houses would rise and fall, growing in number and power, but they were born by the Treaty of Twelve breaking up known space into spheres of geopolitical influence. The Treaty’s grander, more lasting effect was in unifying all—human, uplift, and synthetic—under the banner of a New Commonality, tying the fragmented Houses of Humanity together. The alliances between houses are fragile, prone to intrigues, infighting, espionage, and the occasional border skirmishes, forcing the Houses to bring their disputes to the Commonality Council… yet all rest assured that the bonds of culture and blood will unite them against another external threat on scale with the Hellstar.
And from the wreckage floating out past our moon came scavenged bits of flotsam, revealing the Hellstar’s secret to blinding assaults and daring escapes: the materia needed to build the first ion drive, making faster-than-light travel possible. It took centuries for the remaining men of science to piece together the debris into a working prototype, and then produce it on a massive scale. But with that discovery, the stars have been reopened, and a new age of discovery and trade may enable humanity to finally grow and surpass its faded glories.
The first expeditions using these drives discovered that space was not black—Earth was no a lonely spaceship hurtling through an empty void. Instead, space is populated with hundreds of species and dozens of empires, such as the Hiver and Vrani. Sentient races alien to our ways, new and exquisite minerals and resources, strange creatures that dwell in worlds of liquid methane. And with that, the exploration of the stars triggered a space-rush: houses expanding their power-bases, sending ship after ship into the black to acquire more wealth, fight back the aggressors, and explore the uncharted skies.
History begins at 0 MV, the date of Mallory’s Victory. We know that it is the year 1203 MV. We know that it is the Second Age of Space. We know that the Sol System is over 14 billion years old; we can tell the light of a dead sun from the light of a living star, the distances of space and the tricks of astrophysics. What we cannot tell is our own history, which has been scattered and lost across a million forgotten planets in a sea of a trillion stars.