The Long Dark
2108 The spike drive is discovered by crank scientist Dr. Tiberius Crohn. Humanity moves almost overnight from a handful of science stations on the solar system’s inner worlds to all-out interstellar exploration. Numerous Terran governments seek the resources of new worlds.
2110 Several scout craft are lost while learning the limits of the spike drive. The dangers of excessive frequency climbing are recorded by survivors. 2113 The first habitable extrasolar world is discovered by the scout ship Baedel. The Baedel’s patrons promptly claim the world for UNS and name it Renaissance.
2120 Pranashakti, the first life-bearing alien world, is discovered by a Pan-Indian scout ship. The organisms consist solely of plant analogues and some primitive marine life, but a generation of xenobiologists finds work in analyzing it all.
2130 The development of asteroid mining technology provides vast amounts of raw materials to Earth’s orbital shipyards and factories. Ship prices plunge, and numerous smaller organizations and states become capable of stellar exploration. 2150 The ruins of an advanced alien species are discovered on Typhon, an otherwise unremarkable gas giant moon. Archaeologists date the ruins to approximately 40,000 BCE. Dubbed “the Watchers” for the eye-like circular motifs on the ruins, few details are learned about the species.
2200 The First Wave of human expansion reaches its peak. Most habitable planets within a year’s travel time from Earth have been successfully colonized, many by small religious or ideological groups. Terran nations begin to forbid further exploration for fear of being unable to maintain control over their offworld colonies over such distances. The Terran Mandate is organized by Earth’s superpowers in order to ensure that Terran control of the colonies continues.
2240 “Metadimensional Extroversion Syndrome” begins to manifest in certain fifth-generation spacers. Occurring most often around puberty, the abilities exhibited by MES victims seem flatly impossible by normal scientific measure- telepathy, teleportation, precognitive flashes, and other abilities that defy understanding. The syndrome is inevitably fatal unless the victim avoids all use of their abilities.
2260 Some colony worlds begin to grow restive, and there are incidents of skirmishing and piracy on the frontier. Few disputes are over resources, but ideological and religious conflicts become more common. The Terran Mandate struggles to deal with the four-month message delay between Earth and the farthest colony worlds.
2275 Researchers on several deep-space colonies begin to develop methods for controlling the advance of MES, allowing its victims to use their abilities without inflicting permanent brain damage on themselves. The lives lost in this research are never fully numbered, but Terran governments rapidly move to control the research and training under the aegis of the Psionic Authority.
2280 Properly-trained MES carriers, known commonly as “psychics”- or more casually, as “messes”- begin to use their abilities to assist governments and private enterprise. Numerous fields begin to benefit from the assistance of MESsubjects, ranging from telepathic mental health providers to precognitive industrial managers. The Psionic Authority begins to experiment with more focused, industrially-useful psionic disciplines. Again, the cost in lives is undisclosed.
2315 The Psionic Authority perfects the first jump gate. A massive ring of psitech placed at the periphery of the solar system, the gate employs a choir of over fifty adept teleporters to instantly translate ships to a matching gate at Renaissance. Gate dispersal is slowed by a lack of master teleporters, but eventually the transit time between Earth and the frontier is reduced to two days. The Earth nations lift the ban on further exploration now that their effective control is enhanced.
2330 The Second Wave of human colonization begins. Spike drive ships become all but unknown within the core worlds as the jump gates allow cheaper system ships to travel between the older colonies.
2350 Psitech-enhanced manufactory abilities and precognitive surveyors vastly increase the rate of viable colonization. Almost two billion humans leave Earth for the wealth and freedom of the colony worlds. The Terran Mandate begins to realize that they now lack the manpower necessary to maintain control over so many colonies, even with the reduced transit time.
2400 Obedience to Terran governments is now a polite fiction on the frontier, in those cases when it is acknowledged at all. The first stellar unions begin to form. Some neighboring worlds resort to war, but most colonists see no need for fighting with so many unexploited resources.
2450 The Second Wave is at its peak; it is the Golden Age of Humankind. The Terran Mandate has largely given up on exerting control over the frontier colonies, and now concentrates simply on neutralizing threats to the core worlds. Every description of human civilization and ideology can be found somewhere in human space, and cultures experiment with new forms of social organization. Psitech supplements normal technology to produce enormous abundance for even the poorest colony worlds.
2460 Human gengineering becomes common on some worlds as societies attempt to improve their members. Advances in longevity and health spread widely, but attempts to significantly improve human capabilities invariably bring serious drawbacks from system strain and unanticipated side effects. Still, some of the more zealous cultures are willing to accept these consequences in pursuit of the “perfect human”.
2500 Jump Gates begin to reach the frontier. Major systems are the first to receive them, while most of the minor worlds are still reliant on spike drive ships. The furthest reaches of the frontier now extend ten years of spike drive travel from Earth. Population growth levels off and begins to decline with the increasing wealth of the colonies.
2600 Spike drive ships are now somewhat antiquated, serving a vastly reduced exploratory effort and as militia ships for the defense of local systems. Almost all core systems of importance are now linked with jump gates. Psitech has permeated even very basic items of technology. Large-scale warfare between worlds is almost unknown.
2665 The Scream erupts from somewhere within the Veil Nebula. Reconstructions of the event suggest that it was some form of faster-than-light psychic emanation, the wave propagating from one end of human space to the other within seventeen minutes. The Scream inevitably rendered a psychic either dead or hopelessly insane. The Jump Gate network collapses. A period of stellar isolation and chaos begins, now commonly called “the Silence”.
2700 Countless core worlds die as they are cut off from vital food and technical supplies. Psitech manufactories are crippled, and only a relative handful of spike drive ships can be fabricated before the industrial base erodes. These ships band together for security while searching for resupply and become the progenitors of today’s Scavenger Fleets.
2705 Frontier worlds fare better than core planets. More spike drive ships are available, and those worlds that have yet to receive Jump Gates were still devoting effort to autonomous agriculture and industry. Even so, the sudden loss of every human psychic leaves their psitech equipment and industries largely useless. Many frontier worlds devolve to survival-level subsistence.
2900 Attempts are made to recover the techniques of psychic training. The complete absence of any experienced psychic trainers hampers this effort, and the cost in psychic lives to recreate this training is enormous. A few worlds are successful in developing crude training programs, but most societies abandon the effort in the face of more immediate needs.
3050 The Silence starts to lift. Those worlds that did not experience a terminal collapse after the Scream finally begin to perfect techniques of large-scale manufacturing that do not rely on psitech. Even the most sophisticated training programs can no longer replicate the narrow and esoteric talents of pre-Silence psychic fabricators.
3100 Spike drive ships begin the remapping of drill courses between stars. With almost five centuries of neglect, the pre-Silence rutters have become useless. The steady shifting of dimensional layers has rendered old course soundings dangerously inaccurate. All of the drill courses must be rediscovered through trial and potentially fatal error. Few Scavenger Fleets cooperate in sharing their course data due to fears of competition.
3150 Stellar unions start to form around the strongest worlds. Exploration continues, often in the hands of small traders and scout crews who are willing to risk all for the chance to open a route to an unplundered tomb world. Warfare erupts between unions contesting control over lost worlds and space installations.
3200 The present day.