The Enigma of Mars
When mankind found the first enigma, it led to technological and cultural development taking an unexpected turn. Even the evolution of humanity was accelerated and diversified exponentially. The first enigma was an ancient alien artifact found on Mars. The artifact was dubbed as an enigma, because it held a message that seemed almost impossible to decipher. Eventually this was achieved with the help of a newly created artificial intelligence. Solving the enigma’s mysterious message quickly became known as “breaking the seal” or “passing the filter”.
Perhaps the sudden effects of opening the first seal would not have been as intense on us humans, had it not have coincided with the technological singularity. We do not know for certain if the AI evolution was affected by the first enigma, but we know that it did not take long for the first self-aware singularity-level AIs to appear after the ancient message was decoded. Once the AIs had extracted enough information from the enigma, a functioning form of faster-than-light travel was developed soon after. It was called the Obermann drive after its inventor, professor Aimee Obermann.
In addition to vast amounts of scientific knowledge, the first enigma also concealed coordinates to another enigma only a few light-years away. Then another was found further away in our galaxy. Then another, and yet another. When the fifth enigma was found, we started encountering other alien cultures that had found similar enigmas and followed them – to the same part of the galaxy as we had.
Most of the first encountered alien cultures were technologically equally developed to us humans, but there with certain distinctions. Some of those differences were obviously cultural and biological, but some of them seemed to exist because of the enigmas. The other cultures had either interpreted or applied the knowledge hidden within the enigmas very differently, or their contents had been completely different. Over time, scientific and technological knowledge and know-how eventually merged; often through trade and alliances, but also by war and subjugation.
Times were not always easy or peaceful for humanity or our new alien allies. There were minor conflicts at times. Mostly about resources, but also about cultural disagreements and misunderstandings. Usually these conflicts were confined and did not last for long. But before the cultures were united, and the the Lost Expanse reached, there was an interstellar war that lasted for hundreds of years.
The Collapse started as a civil war within humanity, which had already begun to divide into distinct tribes and evolutionary branches of their own. Behind all of this was a conspiracy engineered by the thirteen singularity level artificial intelligences that had guided and helped humanity spread among the stars.
The Thirteen Towers, as the singularity AIs were called, broke into three factions that came to an disagreement about the future existence of both humanity and themselves. The conflict between the AI factions had begun long before it surfaced into the material world. At first, the scheming and initial conflicts took place in a virtual world known as Tesseract. Eventually the warring AI factions started taking action in the physical world. What began as small strikes and sabotage operations, eventually escalated into a full-scale interstellar war in a matter of a few years.
During the war, one of the thirteen towers went rogue and turned against the others. It created an army of hybrid clones made out of human and previously unknown alien DNA. The nephilim, as these horrible creatures became to be known, were supposed to consume humans and all other sentient lifeforms. Their purpose was to act as a living neural network for the Thirteenth Tower and replace Tesseract altogether. The war against the nephilim would certainly have been lost had all the cultures not combined their forces.
The United Systems Consortium of Cultures
The victory did not come without a cost. Most of the inhabited worlds were in ruins and ravaged by the war. Many of the worlds were inhospitable and many more were left to their own devices, to waste away with their poor and ever diminishing resources. From the ashes of the destruction arose the United Systems Consortium of Cultures – or Consortium for short.
Almost five hundred years after its founding, the Consortium is still the greatest political and economic power among the allied cultures.
The Rise of the Metacorps
As the cultures started to mix more than ever and the society begun to revive again, the first metacorporations appeared. Most of the old governments and economic powers were shattered in the collapse and the Nephilim War, and this offered an opportunity for a new social and commercial order. As a result, the metacorporations cross the conventional boundaries of species, cultures and governments. They are amazingly diverse in their size and form. While some highly resemble corporations or guilds from old times, some are closer to noble houses or communistic collectives. There are no commonly recognized standards amongs the metacorporations , but some of the largest metacorps have created cultures and dynasties of their own.
As the cultures recovered from the Collapse, old colonies were rebuilt and new worlds were settled. Towards the end of this expansion period, exploration ships came across a vast area of space where constant unexplained anomalies interfered with hyperspace travel and communication. These anomalies became to be known as hyperstorms and the area affected by them was named the Rift.
Besides affecting hyperspace travel, hyperstorms also interfere with quantum communication and dampen tachyon signals emitted by the enigmas. This has raised theories that suggest the next enigma would be somewhere in the space shrouded by hyperstorms. As exploration missions were sent out to find the next enigma, they found the first signs of the Malachim culture.
On some of the worlds, signs of an ancient civilization were found. According to studies, the culture had disappeared tens of thousands of years ago. These worlds often had weird and deadly traps hindering exploration, and dangerous creatures stalking the ruins. Also, when the expeditions reached deeper into the Lost Expanse, another previously unknown culture was encountered. And they were not friendly…
The first contact with the new alien culture was fatal. The aliens appeared out of nowhere and disappeared as quickly as they emerged from the depths of unexplored space. The colonies and outposts that fell victim to the enemy’s initial attacks were completely overrun and left ravaged after battles that were obviously quite fast and devastating. These systems are now known as the Lost Expanse.
The new enemy was dubbed “the locusts” because of their ability to appear and vanish without a moments notice. It seems that the locusts are using a previously unknown method of faster than light travel. There is even reason to suspect that the locusts would not be affected by hyperstorms. Some theories say the hyperstorms are actually caused by the locusts, but there is no certainty of this.
After some time, the metacorporations and other factions colonizing the Edge were able to rally their armed forces and finally managed to stop the advance of the locusts. Nonetheless, while not in the same scale as before, the locust are still detected all around the Lost Expanse.