Appendix One: The Long Night and the Suns of Man

The fall of Night:  In the later days of the Old Era, the Earth was governed by a collection of balkanized nation states and large merchant conglomerates: hundreds of petty despotisms, a few dozen wealthy powers and a handful of empires.  They practiced a variety of social, economic, and religious systems and existed in a more or less constant state of war.  The most powerful typically espoused the ancient practice of capitalism, the unrestricted flow of resources under the control of a ruling caste.

            Among the largest of these dominions were the American states, then known as the United States of America:  vast in size, wealth and influence.  Though short-lived among the nation-states, it rose to prominence at the end of the Second World War, being the first to harness and weaponize the atom.  A rival to supremacy soon appeared in Russia, then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  This odd struggle is referred to as the “Cold War” since the forces of these nations never came into direct confrontation.  With each having the power to incinerate their tiny world many times over, it was deemed an excessive risk.

            The contest was settled after many decades of small-scale conflicts, primarily through dependant proxy nations, economic manipulation and espionage.  In the end, Russia was bankrupted and America took its place as the supreme power on Earth; for a time.  In truth, the victory was a pyrrhic one; massive expenditures in weapons development and military spending left its governing institutions beholden to industries that provided them.  Like the clergy of the deep past, government became an administrative backwater for the lesser sons of the aristocracy.  The merchant class used its fiscal dominance to exclude all others from policy making and systematically dismantle all regulation of their activity.

Wealth loves power and none are more easily led then the faithful.  Understanding this, the monetary class formed close alliances with the growing religious movements native to their regions.  The flames of nationalism and piety were fanned to solidify this monopoly of power.  Doubt became dissidence, all resistance labeled insurrection. Technophobia and religious extremism were churned in the wake of inequity, overpopulation, and homogenization.  As the influence of this union of god and government grew, conflict with extremists from the undeveloped world, long exploited for its resources, became inevitable.

 

By the close of the twenty-second centaury of the Old Era, humanity had reached-out to a dozen nearby stars, beginning the arduous task of colonization.  A brief renaissance of science and cultural openness seemed to be dawning, but the slow fusion of god and government had laid deep roots.

            Unable to match the increasing demands of the home planet, those colonies not established by business interests were soon absorbed or abandoned to their fate.  The unrest of huge swaths of people, completely disenfranchised and perpetually on the brink of starvation, combined with widespread environmental damage from unregulated industry, gave rise to ever-increasing unrest, xenophobia, and fanaticism.

No one can say, with any degree of certainty, who was responsible for the first nuclear explosions of “The God War.”  Some claim it was Muslim terrorists; others say the Americans, still others the Chinese, seeking to exploit the conflict and establish themselves as the dominant power, or the Russians attempting to regain lost prestige.

What is known is that dozens of these weapons were detonated over the following years, causing a complete breakdown in the production of food, fuel, and goods.  Left to fend for themselves, the colony worlds began to die out from over-specialization and lack of supply.  Earth reverted into a state of anarchy and barbarism that lasted more than two centuries in which billions died of starvation, disease, climate instability, and tribal violence.  This period has come to be known as The Long Night.

 

Rise of the Free Trade Federation:  Those with the necessary resources to endure the Long Night were the very corporations who were instrumental in causing it.  It was during this period that the first of the great archologies were raised atop the ruined cities that survived attack and flooding; massive structures that could house millions, shielding them from heat, cold, and radiation.  They were places where pure food, water, and air were to be had and technology loss was kept to a minimum.

            Slowly, they began to reclaim the Earth, rebuilding its infrastructure and reestablishing commerce.  In time humanity again set out for the stars and a great boom of exploration and colonization followed, but the human appetite for wealth and power remained undiminished.  The institutions that emerged from the ashes of the Old Era began once more to see one another as rivals, and in due course, war erupted.  After a century of sporadic conflict, resources again became sparse.  Starvation and turmoil threatened to plunge humanity back into the abyss of The Long Night.  Worse still, a growing movement to restore the abandoned practice of democracy, and the chaos that went with it, began to emerge.

            In response, the controlling boards of the major business interests met and drew up the charter of the Free Trade Federation, a body that would enforce contracts and control standing military forces.  One by one, the worlds of the colonized galaxy, now numbering over a hundred, fell under the influence of the FTF and its military arm, the Federation Defense Force.  Today, only the violent backwaters of the Fringeward Expanse and the pirate infested March worlds remain free of Federation dominance.

 

The Riftward Marches:  A group of 12 populated star systems grown from long established pirate and mercenary bases galactic southwest of the core worlds.  The first colony, Nova Antigua, was founded in 314 of the New Era by a collection of criminal groups retreating from the expanding Free Trade Federation.

The twelve colonies are guarded by Scylla, a 4.5 solar mass neutron star that lies at their boarder.  This body, along with a number of giant stars surrounding the area, makes it extremely difficult to navigate.  Federation space is reached by traversing The Narrow Way, a string of five stars that form the safest hyperspace route.

The original Rogue Stars, as their previous homes were called, date back to the earliest days of interstellar travel.  It was not until this secure homeland was established, however, that a true society began to form.  Shelter encouraged the pirates and mercenaries to make a proper home of these worlds instead of mere staging grounds for criminal activity.  Over time these outposts began to attract a growing tide of refugees and exiles from the core worlds; within two centuries their population exploded to nearly 30 million.

            Early days on the colonies were fully dominated by the whims of the pirate crews that established them.  This began to change within a few generations, as the general population grew to outnumber them.  It was the corsairs that first started to organize themselves along democratic lines and the colonial population followed suit.  Conflict between these factions has continued throughout the history of the Rift.  The colonies were permitted to establish local constabularies to maintain order but all military functions fell under the purview of the corsairs, who were only subject to narrowly defined local jurisdiction.  Since the fledgling worlds of the Rift were dependant on the corsairs economically, an uneasy peace was established.

As a people whose livelihood comes from starfaring, Rifters have always placed a high value on education and learning.  Corsair culture, and through it that of the March in general, is based in great part on a selective filtering of history for things that fit their fierce sense of independence and naturally anarchic leanings.  Two periods in particular have great appeal:

Firstly, the Golden Age of Piracy, the 16th through the 18th centuries of the Old Era.  The concept of the democratic pirate vessel stems from this period, though the corsairs openly assume a “cherry-picking” approach to their interpretations, taking what they like and leaving the rest.  This carries over greatly into matters of dress and shelter which are based on a somewhat cinematic view of the period.  For example, the tricorner hat has become a symbol of the Rift corsairs; each ship producing one with its own heraldry, despite that it is not really naval in origin.  It is in keeping with their thematic approach to life however and looks especially dashing with a long coat.  Much of their music and terminology is also derived from this period, or at least modern interpretations of it.

Secondly, the Electric Age (comprising the 19th through 21st centuries of the Old Era) provides a wealth of cultural pilfering.  The art, literature, and films of this period are extremely popular throughout the Rift, often acting as a lens for their view of earlier periods as well.  This area of history is where mass-media arises and much of the ultra-structured remnants of the classical and romantic periods are cast off.  It is the age of the avant-garde; of impressionism, free verse, and rock and roll.

Adding to its mystique, the mid-20th century is where most official records begin to vanish back in the core worlds.  The rise to power of the corporate caste can be traced to this period and their early allegiance with extremist religions has caused much of what survived the Long Night to be suppressed.  Separate from the general population since before the Federation’s founding, these chronicles were carried by the nomadic inhabitance of the Rogue Stars to their new home.  Because of this, Rifters see themselves as caretakers of this lost history.  The period is further romanticized by inhabitance of the Rift as the last breath of free and independent expression, with virtually all artistic endeavors afterward based purely on commerce.

 

The Fringeward Expanse:  A rough collection of 21 star systems galactic-east of the Federated Core Worlds toward the trailing edge of the Orion Spur.  A balkanized region contested by numerous political factions originally settled during the Long Night by refugees wishing to escape war and starvation.  At first well-removed from the core systems, over the centuries the Federation has begun to encroach upon them.

Dozens of groups command territory in the Expanse.  Most control cities or continents and have little influence outside their own star systems.  A few dominate entire worlds, including many criminal elements that want no part of the egalitarian constraints of the Riftward Marches or the primitive conditions of the Northern March.  A handful of entities dominate multiple star systems though they are in a constant state of warfare, continually agitated by the FTF who seek to undermine any potential rival.

 

The Spinward Marches:  One of the most recently settled areas of the Orion Spur; the Spinward Marches is made up of fourteen minor colonies located galactic north-east of the core worlds.  The first of these, Mithra, was settled less than a century ago by refugees of the Orcus Prime massacre of 461, during which the Federation Navy killed over a million individuals in response to a local referendum to declare independence from the FTF.

             Also called the Northern March, it is a rough and tumble place getting by with only the most primitive technology.  Its people have a reputation for being hardy, independent, and fiercely distrusting of outsiders.  During the last two decades numerous indi pirates have begun to operate from these systems, preying on local and Federation shipping.

 

The Riftward Expanse:  The Riftward Expanse is a vague collection of systems galactic south of the core worlds.  The region is noted for being home to several natural Terran worlds, attracting its first settlers some three-hundred years ago.  Well-removed from the core worlds, these agricultural worlds rely on only basic technology and little to no off-world commerce.

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