21st Century (2000s-2090s): The First Singularity
2020-2035 - An oil crisis strikes the world as crude prices escalate. At first this increases the commercial viability of fracking and other unconventional oil sources, but they quickly reach their limit as EROEI dips into the negative due to lower energy source densities and over-estimation of reserves, causing many fracking companies to go bust. Towards the end of this period, there is increased investment in coal, nuclear and renewable energy sources. Further research begins into alternatives such as commercial exploitation of methane clathrate deposits, fusion power and compound approaches to renewables such as energy islands.
2020 - First-Generation Universal Robots (reptile-grade) are introduced. While commonly used in factories, warehouses and offices, these are the first robots to begin making significant inroads into the domestic market. Cheaper than their inherently specialised counterparts in the past, their popularity highlights issues of technological unemployment more than ever before.
The number of internet users reaches 5 billion worldwide, up from 1.7 billion only ten years ago. Growth has been greatest in the developing world, thanks to free-falling connection costs and the development of cheaper and tougher hardware such as Samsung's $40 MicroTab device. The explosive growth of mobile network infrastructure allows the most remote populations to take advantage of the web. The newly-released 5G standard enables greater functionality such ubiquitous computing, AI capabilities, and higher bit rates, which quickly expands worldwide. Meanwhile in developed countries the spread of headsets incorporating brainwave detectors and eye-tracking sensors allows for the mental control of electronic devices.
The first complex organ replacements grown from stem cells are available, and start taking the pressure off of organ donation waiting lists and eliminating the chances of rejection due to the organs genetically matching the patient. While this effect is at first limited due to the expense of treatment, it eventually results in a reduction of healthcare costs caused by organ failure. Hearts are the first complex internal organs to be addressed by this treatment, followed by lungs, livers, kidneys, stomachs, pancreata and sexual organs over the rest of the decade. Improved cryonic vitrification techniques allow for the banking of organs without ice crystal formation damaging them.
A 100% effective cure for malaria is now available, eliminating all strains and preventing transmission between humans. Cases of malaria plummet and the near-total elimination of the disease contributes to the economic growth of developing countries. The United Nations aims to have completely eradicated malaria by 2040.
Experiments consistently demonstrate significant lifespan extensions in laboratory mice, spurring the development of a number of therapies to reduce the effects of ageing. While not constituting permanent treatments for senescence, they can be used as steps along the path to more radical extensions in the decades ahead. People in this time who are middle aged or younger are dubbed by the media as the "Forever Generation", the first generation for whom the prospect of being able to live indefinitely is a real possibility.
A new generation of genetically modified "supercrops" are commercially released, in particular micronutrient-enriched staple crops such as rice, cassava and matoke bananas which improve nutrition while being much better at resisting diseases and harsh conditions.
Holographic televisions are going mainstream, with displays capable of running at 60 frames per second capable of showing truly three-dimensional images from multiple angles without special glasses. Initially a luxury item, these holovisual screens are most commonly seen in corporate lobbies and the homes of the wealthy in this decade, but become more affordable as the technology matures and competition between appliance companies seeking to expand market share drives down prices.
A transcontinental bridge linking the Horn of Africa with the Arabian peninsula is completed by a Saudi construction company. Dubbed the Bridge of the Horns, it spans the mouth of the Red Sea and provides a major transport link, mainly servicing those making the Hajj towards Mecca but also facilitating trade and resource movement between western Asia and Africa. The twin cities of al-Noor (Djibouti) and al-Hajb (Yemen) have been established at both ends to serve as commercial hubs for the region.
China completes the "Great City" outside Chengdu in central China. Designed to have long-term sustainability and a low environmental impact, this city is home to 80,000 and along with first-generation urban arcologies is the prototype for further urban development in China. With any journey made within the city being reachable in 15 minutes' walk, the need for private automobiles is virtually eliminated. Mass transit connections to Chengdu and elsewhere are accessible from a regional transit hub at the centre of the Great City.
The UK has expanded its offshore electricity grid connections. In addition to the old links with France and the Netherlands, cables now link the island nation with Belgium, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, and Spain. Additional links now also connect the UK with France. Most ambitious was the connection with Iceland, the longest in the world at 1200 km, which now gives the UK access to abundant geothermal power. Despite this and other developments, the UK fails its CO2 emissions targets.
Glaciers and snow cover in prominent mountain regions such as the Alps, the Rockies, and Kilimanjaro are beginning to disappear, negatively impacting agriculture, tourism, and hydroelectrical power generation in those areas.
The British Royal Navy's Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers are now fully operational. the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales are both delivered late and twice over budget while being smaller than the United States' Nimitz class carriers.
Tens of thousands of drones are operating in US airspace. As well as government usage in domestic security and search & rescue operations, these UAVs see more controversial usage in crowd control protest monitoring, with some models deployed in this manner being armed with tasers, pepperball guns and rubber bullets. Improvements in sensors and digital signal interception equipment add to increasing concerns about privacy and civil liberties, and a minor arms race develops between drone operators and those targeted by them.
NASA launches its Mars 2020 rover mission, focused on gathering data concerning life on the Red planet past and present. This is also the first sample return mission, with over 30 rock cores and regolith specimens being returned to labs on Earth for more detailed study. Anomalous findings strongly indicate the presence of past life. The rover also tests technology for extracting oxygen from the local atmosphere as a prelude to manned missions in the future.
NASA conducts flight tests of their Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST), which paves the way for the re-emergence of commercial supersonic air passenger travel in later decades.
2021-2025 - Manned exploration of the near-Earth asteroids begins with NASA's NEOmission-2 program. In 2023 they are joined by China's CNSA with their rival Tianshi-1, 2 and 3 missions.
2021 - Global average temperatures have risen by 1°C.
Technologies using specialised software and various sensors to analyse facial expressions, body language, body temperature, heart rate, breathing patterns and voice stresses are packaged together and marketed as "mind-readers" for security purposes. Initially they are very popular with security services, but that popularity is dealt a blow when it turns out that people with sociopathy and other non-neurotypical conditions generate false negatives, while nervous or apprehensive but otherwise innocent individuals are picked up as false positives. The result being more ordinary folk held up at security checkpoints, and several incidents where terrorists were waved through said checkpoints despite the so-called "mind-readers" being deployed.
The United Arab Emirates Space Agency launches its Hope mission to Mars, an unmanned probe orbiting the red planet to analyse it's atmospheric water content, dust levels, and ozone as well as to conduct a thermal mapping survey.
The Skylon spaceplane enters service with the European Space Agency, a fully reusable system delivering 12 tons into Low Earth Orbit, at a much lower price and with much greater efficiency than previous systems. Launch readiness time after landing is three days, compared to the Space Shuttle's two months. Although initially unmanned, later models of these spaceplanes are capable of carrying a 3-person crew module (with room for 10 tons of cargo or 17 passengers) into their payload bays. American company SpaceX has taken a different approach with their completely reusable multi-stage Eagle 12 launch system.
Wireless electricity transmission, pioneered in the previous decade, has become commonplace with many places offering remote recharging through Mag-Net as well as internet access through Wi-Fi. Electric vehicles can be remotely charged in their parking bay in most car parks, and some cities have installed pads under the road near traffic lights to charge vehicles while they wait for the lights to change.
Silicon microchips can no longer be further miniaturised, forcing manufacturers to further explore alternatives such as graphene-based chips, three-dimensional circuitry and massively parallel processing.
India becomes the fourth polity to independently put humans into space. The Indian Space Research Organisation launches a 3.7 ton capsule on top of an improved variant of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, into a 400 km orbit for seven days.
2022 - The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor commences operation, producing over 500 megawatts of power in bursts of 600 seconds. As well as beating previous records for peak fusion power, ITER serves as a testbed for improved techniques in magnetic confinement and vacuum systems.
India overtakes China to become the most populous country on Earth, due to increasing life expectancies in India and rising living standards in China.
China completes their first space station, which is comprised of three Tiangong modules launched in the previous decade and joined together in this year as a single unit. The space station masses 60 metric tons and supports a three-person crew for missions of up to six months duration.
The European Southern Observatory completes the E-ELT, a reflecting telescope 3000 metres up on the Cerro Armazones mountain in Chile with a 39.3 metre segmented primary mirror, allowing for the direct imaging of extrasolar planets and more detailed analysis of their atmospheres. It is joined by the ESO's Large Synoptic Survey Telescope 2682 metres up Cerro Pachon mountain when it commences full scientific operations in the same year, supporting projects looking for signs of dark matter and dark energy, mapping smaller bodies such as near-Earth Asteroids and Kuiper Belt Objects, and mapping the Milky Way in more detail.
The Japanese space agency JAXA launches a sample return mission to Phobos, which establishes the presence of plentiful water within the the Martian moon.
A NASA and European Space Agency joint mission called Asteriod Deflection & Impact Assessment (AIDA) arrives at Didymos, one of the Apollo group of asteroids. It gathers new information about the surfaces and interiors of asteroids and how they form. As part of the mission, a kinetic impactor is crashed into its moon, which produces valuable insights concerning asteroid deflection and the effect of artificial impactors on such bodies.
Climate change and poor land management by weak governments is leading to longer droughts and more severe flooding in south Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Fresh water shortages stoke civil unrest, and the resultant political instability encourages those countries upstream on rivers like the Nile, the Tigris/Euphrates, the Mekong and the Indus/Brahmaputra to start using their positions for economic and political advantages. This is shortly followed by attacks on reservoirs and dams by terrorists seeking high-value targets, and by downstream states looking to eliminate the advantages of those upstream. Recent improvements in water desalination are expensive, patented by Western corporations, and developing nations working on cheaper versions for themselves are sued. Responding to a market opportunity, China develops a relatively cheap portable desalination machine that proves popular worldwide.
Global antimony prices skyrocket as the effect of China closing mines in the previous decade for safety and environmental reasons begins to be felt. With other antimony producers such as Russia, South Africa, Bolivia and Tajikistan nearing the end of their commercial viability, this gives China an incentive for re-opening their mines, with the higher prices paying the way for higher standards. In spite of this, recycling increases and industries shift to replacement materials.
Clothing incorporating liquid-repellent silicone nano-filaments has become commonplace, with truly waterproof garments being the most popular. These fabrics are being used by military forces and emergency services, some being made into uniforms capable of repelling chemical and biological agents.
Piezoelectric nanowires capable of converting small vibrations into electricity are widely appearing in medical devices such as hearing aids, negating the need for batteries as the energy needed comes from body movement. They also start appearing in clothing, enabling mobile devices to be charged while on the move.
Deafness is fully curable, thanks to advances in stem cell research that provide a method of regenerating sensory cells within the inner ear. Other conditions such as balance disorders and tinnitus are now also treatable using similar methods.
In 2018 Poland began production of the PL-01 stealth tank, developed in collaboration with the British defence conglomerate BAE Systems. In this year they commence exports. The surfaces of the hull and turret incorporate an array of hexagonal Peltier plates which are heated and cooled in order to alter the vehicles' infra-red profile. The PL-01 is a light and fast AFV serving in a combat support role, with 360 degree vision and an active anti-projectile protective system.
2023-2032 - World War III, including regional nuclear warfare in North America and MENA beginning in 2030. By the end of the conflict there have been 488.4 million casualties.
2023 - The aerospace company Aerion enters the AS2 passenger plane into commercial service, a supersonic business jet aimed at the super rich. It has a top speed of Mach 1.5, can carry eight to twelve passengers and has a range of 8797 km at supersonic speed. Crossing the Atlantic it can save 2.5 hours compared to subsonic aircraft and on trans-Pacific flights it can reduce travel times by more than five hours. It joins the rival Spike S-512, launched in 2018, to be among the first of a new class of supersonic airliners.
2029 - Human-like AI becomes possible on dedicated computer systems.
2030 - Second-Generation Universal Robots (mammal-grade) are introduced.
2032-2043 - the Tiberian Plagues (Siberovirus, Thanatobacter) are unleashed by Dr Jonathan Tiber in an attempt to curtail the global human population, killing millions in its initial outbreaks and kicking off the Quarantine Wars. With combined total of 1.22 billion victims worldwide they are the biggest plague outbreaks in human history, and Dr Tiber becomes the most hunted and hated individual in the world.
2033 - Robotic mining operations begin in the Asteroid Belt for high-value resources.
2034-2054 - the Second American Civil War leads to the break-up of the United States of America.
2034 - The first of the Supersmogs causes over a million deaths in India and south-east Asia.
2035-2041 - The Zeroth Law Coup in south-east Asia is the first human-AI conflict.
2039 - the comet C/2018 J6, nicknamed Typhon by the media, impacts south-east Canada. As well as the devastation to Canada, dust thrown up into the atmosphere triggers much colder conditions for the following year, leading to significantly reduced crop yields globally.
2040 - Third-Generation Universal Robots (primate-grade) are introduced.
2044 - Dr Jonathan Tiber and his surviving accomplices are killed by Chinese special forces.
2045 - A mega-tsunami caused by a large landslide on the island of La Palma devastates the eastern seaboard of North America.
2046 - uncharacteristically large eruptions in Kamchatka render the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky uninhabitable.
2048 - Second ever thermonuclear device to be detonated by a non-state actor.
2050 - Fourth-Generation Universal Robots (1 turing-grade) are introduced.
2052-2061 - The Global Slump devastates markets across the world.
2054 - the Black Gunk begins plaguing coastlines across the world as a genetically-modified algae biofuel source escapes containment into the wild.
2056-2062 - the Spacer Rebellions lead to independence for what will become the Belter Union.
2063-2070 - What later becomes known as the Synthetic Revolution begins in Europe, aided on the ground by liberated mechanoids and Unfettered AIs, while protected from orbital attack through an alliance with the Spacers.
2063 - The Pan-Asian Federation is founded as a trade bloc.
2064 - The Abyssian Dwellers reveal their presence to the wider world.
2065 - The Beastlord of Chad begins his reign of terror with an army of hybrids and other genetic creations.
2066 - the Madagascar Nanoplague erupts.
2069-2075 - the Synthetic Revolution spreads to countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
2071 - the various countries of the Synthetic Revolution join to become the Technocratic Union of Marispatria.
2072-2079 - the Eurasian War between Russia and the Technocratic Union.
2073-2078 - the Lukewarm War between Japan and the Pan-Asian Federation.
2074 - Korea joins the Technocratic Union after a failed Pan-Asian invasion attempt.
2078 - Japan is admitted into the Technocratic Union following a local revolution of workers and mechanoids.
2079 - Russia becomes a member of the Technocratic Union as part of being revolutionised following their defeat in the Eurasian War. Relations between the Pan-Asian Federation and the Technocratic Union, never cordial to begin with, deteriorate greatly.
2080 - The first spacecraft with torch drives enter service.
2081 - the Cyberisation Crisis in west Africa.
2082 - AIs can routinely achieve feats of superhuman intelligence.
2083 - the first floating cities are built on the oceans.
2084 - Mind uploading is a maturing technology.
2085-2089 - The Race for Jupiter as the Technocratic Union of Marispatria and the Pan-Asian Federation compete to be the first to land human explorers on the moons of the gas giant. Meanwhile closer to home in the Solar system, large-scale civilian settlement of the Moon and Near Earth Objects is underway.
2090-2095 - Construction of sea barriers to protect various coastal cities in Florida and on the eastern seaboard of North America. Barriers are also constructed in the Netherlands, Bangladesh, and around the Nile Delta.
2090 - The first interstellar fly-by probe is launched.
2094-2099 - The Race for Saturn sees Pan-Asia and the Technocratic Union joined by the People's Republic of South America and the Republic of Texas in another interplanetary competition, this time to be the first to land human explorers on Saturn's moons. Civilian colonisation of Mars begins in earnest.
22nd Century (2100s-2190s): The Post-Singularity Century
Colonisation of the Solar system, which began late last century, greatly increases. Terraformation of Mars. The first slower-than-light interstellar colony ships are launched. The Pan-Asian War is quickly followed by the shorter but just as devastating Machine War, redrawing political boundaries in the process. Partial terraformation of Venus. Revolutions in North America.
23rd-24th Century (2200s-2300s): The Bathysite Encounter
The Solar system is visited by the Bathysites, a nomadic multi-species civilisation that has been starfaring for at least 100,000 years. The Bathysites arrive via their Worldship, a 1500km-long warp-capable starship with millions of inhabitants, representing a social and cultural unit roughly analogous to Terran polities.
The terraformation of Venus is accelerated and completed with technological assistance from the Bathysites.
While the Bathysites are not always hostile to other civilisations, a hawkish political faction in their Worldship's government maneuveres themselves into a position where they could dictate things. The invasion starts off with the establishment of "diplomatic outposts" in the Solar system and the manipulation of Solar polities against each other through trade and technological assistance. Their interference in Solar politics ramps up through "authorised force assistance" into outright military occupation.
The Solar system is only saved from completely falling under the claw of Bathysite subjugation thanks to the contributions of the Dwellers, who provide technological assistance and a diplomatic lynchpin around which the Solar system powers can coalesce.
25th-30th Century (2400s-2900s): The First Age of Expansion
Following the defeated Bathysite occupation, the First Age of Expansion begins as the polities of the Solar system fuel the recovery and growth of their economies through interstellar colonisation. This process is explosively accelerated thanks to the concession from the Bathysites of technologies including matter to energy conversion, energy to matter synthesis, gravity manipulation, inertial control and faster-than-light warp drives. These technologies are also harnessed for the rapid terraformation of planets into an Earthlike state, greatly increasing the growth rate of colonies and easing their development. The United States of Sol is founded as an intergovernmental organisation in order to establish a common framework for extrasolar activities. The discovery of fragmentary ancient wormhole networks enable deep-ranging expeditions that open up far-flung colonies and other opportunities thousands of light-years from circumsolar space.
The First Wave of the Expansion has passed and in the year 2500, the civilised world consists of the Solar system, 152 highly developed exosolar colonies and over a 100,000 dependent colonies and outposts with permanent populations. The Second Wave of interstellar colonisation begins as colonial polities become sufficiently industrialised and self-sufficient enough to start their own settlement programs.
The increasing wealth and industrial development of the colonies, in combination with disputes between the member-polities of the United States of Sol concerning passage rights through the wormholes and the role of the Solar Security Council, leads to the outbreak of the First Wormhole War in 2618. Fractious exosolar colonies and various polities within the Solar system unhappy with the status quo join forces to form the breakaway Dissident Coalition. The first great interstellar war between Terran polities only lasts four years but is an intense and draining conflict, testing the industrial capacities of both sides. This ferocity is due to most battles being in space, between massive fleets far from most civilian populations apart from the occasional cargo freighter or passenger liner caught in the crossfire. With both sides having become exhausted by 2622, the Proxima Treaty is signed which declares a ceasefire between the United States of Sol and the Dissident Coalition.
A state of uneasy peace exists between the United States of Sol and the Dissident Coalition, punctuated by the occasional border skirmish or colonisation dispute. Rapprochement would have been achieved within the century, but by this time the CyberShadow was sending in agents to both alliances to keep both sides in poor diplomatic relations. While the AIs and intelligence agencies of the United States of Sol and the Dissident Coalition worked to keep the peace, the Cybershadow was relentless in its constant attempts to re-ignite war.
So it was in 2839 that the CyberShadow succeeded provoking the Second Wormhole War. This conflict is longer and nastier, with more civilians being in the firing line as both sides make assaults on planets and colonies.
Following the end of the Second Wormhole War, transhumans, posthumans and AIs decide to take a more decisive and pro-active role in shaping Terran civilisations, both as a result of what they witnessed previously during this millennium, as well as so that they can act more openly in preperation for the coming CyberShadow invasion. There is resistance from some quarters initially, but such proves to be no match for the memetic and military superiority of what comes to be known as the Diamond League.
4th Millennium (3000s): The Interstellar Dark Age
The CyberShadow use the archaic wormhole networks to strike back at Terran civilisations! They are beaten back by a military alliance between the Diamond League and other Terran polities, but only just. With the start of the second Machine War, interstellar polities fragment due to many wormhole nexi being destroyed in order to slow down Cybershadow incursions and give star systems time to prepare, while warp-capable ships become increasingly rare due to attrition of both the ships themselves and the complex and resource-intensive facilities used to construct them. Those polities which retain the ability to manufacture and maintain large warp-capable fleets become the great military powers of this era.
As the second Machine War rages, those fleeing the fighting and the destruction of their homes find safety wherever they can. The refugees take any mode of interstellar transport that they possibly can, whether that be one of the few warp-capable starships still available for evacuating civilians, or any STL slowboat or torchship capable of making the long journey to the nearest safe star system. While many refugees find new homes elsewhere, some elect to adopt a nomadic lifestyle in order to always stay one step ahead of the CyberShadow at all times.
By the end of the war, the CyberShadow's defeat has caused it to split into several rival factions, lurking in the depths of interstellar space and on a handful of fortress worlds, which serve as the nuclei for several new AI civilisations. As divisions deepen and conflicts grow, these fractured Cybershadow polities switch their focus from attacking Terran targets to warring with each other and expanding their holdings out of the Known Volume. Despite being the victors, the Diamond League dissolves itself as differences of opinon between the transhumans, posthumans and AIs regarding the post-war settlement prove to be insurmountable.
With FTL travel via warp having become less common, starship builders and interstellar travellers resort to alternatives. Torchships undergo a renaissance, having previously seen use primarily in the less developed fringes of the Known Volume. With interstellar journey times lasting at least several years, if not decades or even centuries, starship crews and passengers are frequently either kept in suspended animation for the majority of their journeys, have their metabolisms altered to make the decades and centuries pass in subjective months and years, or they are uploaded onto the computers of their vessels. Natural life extension technology becomes popular, particularly among travellers with strong objections to more radical forms of self-modification.
The character of interstellar colonisation changes in this age, with sleeper ships, generation ships and seed ships taking over from the warp-capable colony ships of the previous age. Colonists embarking on a journey are now leaving behind their previous home and starting a whole new life on distant worlds with only a communications link connecting them to their point of departure.
Those who took up interstellar nomadism during the second Machine War find themselves ideally placed to become explorers and itinerant traders. This allows them to form a Slowboater culture that becomes the backbone of a new kind of interstellar civilisation based on airless worlds linked together with STL starships, one that stretches across the stars to act as an intermediary between colonies founded on habitable planets.
The Pantropian Alliance becomes a major political player during this period, as their members' willingness to adapt their biology to local conditions, rather than relying on life-support technology to sustain them or on terraformation projects disrupted by the second Machine War, ensures that they are able to stay alive on the worlds they have settled despite being cut off from the benefits of an interstellar civilisation.
The Infocosmic Church is founded in this era, and experiences rapid growth among Terran organic baseline populations. The central doctrines of this religion centre around a variation on the Simulation Hypothesis, which argues that as simulations necessarily have creators, and since we live in a simulation, we therefore live in a created universe which is fundamentally composed of information. The main tenets of the Infocosmic Church further argue that the creators of this simulated universe, or Observers as the Church dubs them, monitor everything that happens (They are omniscient), are able to interfere in ways that conflict with the simulated laws of nature (They are omnipotent), yet are largely content to let things run as they usually do bar the occasional miracle (They work in mysterious ways). In other words, the Observers are God.
Despite being considered a dark age by later historians, it is this period which sees the construction of the first stellar-scale megastructures by Terran civilisations. The most famous of these is the Mechanical Union Matrioshka Swarm called Networld, which along with its host star system becomes their new capital in this period. The discovery of a habitable Ringworld around the star HD 512 provides humans and other Terran organics with an overwhelming abundance of living space, although rates of settlement in this millennium are limited by a paucity of FTL travel.
In the year 3918, the Mechanical Union perfects the Jump Drive, which greatly speeds up the process of recovering interstellar Terran civilisation. This is a result of being one of the few Terran powers to manage not to drop into pre-warp conditions, due to their ability to survive in a much wider range of environmental conditions than the more organic cultures of Terran meta-civilisation. This Jump Drive technology enables the Mechanical Union to play the biggest part in bringing FTL interstellar travel back to the far-flung Terran colonies, all of which directly contributes to the Union's later status as a major player in the Known Volume.
5th Millennium (4000s): The Second Age of Expansion
Mechanical Union technological uplift programs allow the return of widespread warp travel, and as a result some STL colonisation missions begun in the previous millennium find themselves overtaken by a new generation of warp-capable colony ships as well as by even faster Jump-capable Mechanical Union scout vessels. Despite FTL colonists now once again being the first to arrive at newly-discovered naturally habitable worlds, some cultures continue making STL interstellar journeys. Reasons include tradition, being unable or unwilling to devote the considerable resources required for the construction and maintenance of FTL starships, and not wanting to become reliant on using warp transportation and wormhole networks controlled by other polities in order to travel between the stars.
The Mechanical Union is instrumental in forming the Pan-Stellar Alliance, a military and exo-political organisation with the function of presenting a united front to alien civilisations as well as serving as a bulwark against further threats to the Known Volume. The United States of Sol and the Dissident Coalition take on a similar role as their member-polities are unwilling to join the PSA due to significant ideological differences. Despite this and other sources of conflict, the PSA, the USS and the Coalition sign the Treaty of Aldebaran IVb to construct a Terran Wormhole Network across their collective territories.
The Pan-Stellar Alliance makes First Contact with the Slowfolk, a galactic alliance of aliens who evolved on Titanian worlds. This is the first of many First Contact events in this millennium as Terran civilisations start exploring further than their Dark Age predecessors into the rest of the Milky Way. Close to a dozen interstellar species are contacted in total, with thousands more being limited to their home system.
Stellar-scale megastructures are becoming more commonplace during this period. The construction of the Wormhole Network demands literally astronomical amounts of energy, collected from stars by Dyson Bubbles and mostly used to inflate the ends of a wormhole out of the quantum foam. As the number of Dyson Bubbles increases and the number of potential locations for traversable wormholes levels off, production begins shifting towards nanoscale comm-gauge wormholes which can be produced in significantly greater numbers.
This enables the construction of Matrioshka Swarms and other networked megastructures with greatly reduced signal delays relative to previous designs. As a result the upper limits of AI intelligence increase at a geometric rate, and the first of the Artilects come into being. They interface with the other Terrans largely through the large amounts of various different remotely controlled drones optimised for various different functions.
Contact by the Pan-Stellar Alliance with the hostile Fang Empire in 4127 marks the beginning of the Long War, the first pan-galactic conflict in Terran history.
6th Millennium (5000s): The Long War with the Fang Empire
The Terran Wormhole Network is experiencing accelerated growth across all Terran territories, and is beginning to make inroads towards the borders of Fang Empire territory.
The Long War between the Fang Empire and the reaches its peak, with the United States of Sol and then Dissident Coalition forces joining the conflict as it becomes clear that even all-out war with the Pan-Stellar Alliance only serves to slow down the growth the Empire rather than halt it. The Long War is a fight for galactic supremacy in the purest sense; on the one hand, an imperialist hegemony spreading their power and influence with the slow but nigh-unstoppable progress of their Imperial Linelayer vessels, crushing all resistence beneath their iron-shod legs. On the other hand, three alliances of various species and phenotypes, bound together by a common political and historical heritage. Caught in between are previously uninvolved third parties such as minor interstellar alien empires and the native inhabitants of strategically located planets like Lyr, a world with all 16 sapient land species being generally pacifistic in temperament and completely pre-industrial in technological development.
For the Fang Empire, victory over the Terrans would ensure their dominance of the Milky Way and nearby satellite galaxies, and would also prove once and for all the rightness of the Imperial project and the superiority of the Fang species. Planets like Lyr and the conquered Terran worlds would submit, pay tributes and taxes, and if called upon provide soldiers, labour and materials for the insatiable Imperial machine.
For the Terrans, victory would ensure survival and guarantee liberty, but perhaps more importantly smashing the centralised military, political and economic structures of the Empire would splinter it into thousands of pieces, enabling the less numerous but swifter and more technologically sophisticated Terran forces to defeat the Fang Empire in a piecemeal fashion. Then would begin efforts to integrate former Fang worlds into the Terran Wormhole Network, which by necessity would include the complete destruction and replacement of the Fang Empire's pre-existing wormhole network, as well as the overthrow of any Fang holdouts at the star system level and below.
7th Millennium (6000s): The Third Age of Expansion
With the invention of Hyperdrive by the Terrans, the Fang Empire is unable to sustainably bear the weight of a centuries-long, large-scale conflict against a near-equal foe. The war tips in the Terrans' favour, and the Fang start losing territories faster than they can conquer new ones. By around the 5600s the Fang Empire goes into terminal decline, and in 6131 the final Imperial wormhole link is destroyed in the capital system of the Fang Empire, marking the end of the Long War. The Empire's former holdings are broken up by the Terran triad of alliances, with subject worlds being liberated and placed under native control once more. Volumes of space around these worlds are declared by the victorious Terran triad to be Galactic Liberation Zones, in which the Fang are forbidden from expanding or establishing new colony worlds.
Colonisation of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies reaches its peak.
The first of the Simulationist Crusades begin when the Infocosmic Church declares the Pan-Stellar Alliance and the Dissident Coalition to be an Anathema in the eyes of the Observers, for their refusal to lift the ban on missionary work within the Galactic Liberation Zones.
The Wormhole Network reaches its greatest extent to date.
The Terrans make First Contact with the enigmatic Intruders, an advanced hyperspace-capable species from another galaxy who have recently established a significant presence in several locations throughout the Milky Way.
8th Millennium (7000s): The Invasion of the Intruder Dominion
The Pan-Galactic Compact (comprising the Pan-Stellar Alliance, the United States of Sol, the Dissident Coalition, Terran-friendly Fang powers, and assorted other previously non-aligned alien civilisations) is founded as a galaxy-wide alliance against the Intruders, whose activities have become increasingly hostile. Early in this millennium there are various attempts by anti-Terran Fang to revive the Empire. This culminates in yet another pan-galactic conflict as the frustrated Fang neo-Imperialists join in an alliance with the Intruders and other alien powers resentful of Terran expansion, in an attempt to dominate the Compact.
9th Millennium (8000s): The Lesser Galactic Dark Age
the Lesser Galactic Dark Age is ushered in as the Intruder War shows no signs of letting up, due to the Intruders' ability to call in extragalactic reserves. Volumes of space (re)conquered by the Intruders are increasingly subject to Direct Military Rule. The Wormhole Network experiences significant fragmentation due to destruction of nexi. As a result, the entire Milky Way except for the Starchitect-controlled galactic centre and heavily-defended capital volumes, becomes more dangerous as it fragments into competing Intruder warlord domains, petty Fang empires and miscellanous alien fiefdoms. This state of affairs is slow to change, especially in the earlier half of the millennium, but towards the end the rise of proto-Galaxian hegemonies can be clearly seen. Earth is united as a single polity for the first time in Terran history as the United States of Sol becomes the Solar Federation.
10th Millennium (9000s): The Dawn of the Galaxian Age
Out of the ashes of the Intruder War, the Galaxian Union is established as an intergovernmental organisation open to all sapient civilisations within or near the Milky Way. The aims of the Galaxian Union include promoting co-operation between the starfaring civilisations, protecting non-starfaring civilisations from exploitation and undue interference, and providing assistance to those civilisations either rebuilding after the Intruder invasion or those civilisations which have recently achieved spaceflight. For the next eleven millennia the Galaxian Union helps to ensure a time of relative peace and prosperity for the vast majority of sapient beings within the Known Volume.
The Terran wormhole network is repaired and further expanded, including links to the Milky Way's satellite galaxies. While other member-civilisations of the Galaxian Union have their own wormhole networks, the Terran network becomes the largest and most extensive, starting with nearly a million connections even before its restoration and expansion.
2nd Decamillennium (10,000s-19,000s): The Second Singularity
Fargate technology is developed and brings together the Known Volume, producing an exceptional period during which many of the civilisations in the Milky Way and satellite galaxies become increasingly interlinked physically, economically and politically. Fargates are energised portals which join together two volumes of space light years apart in much the same way that a doorway joins two rooms together. Unlike wormholes, they can be deactivated and carried on board hyperspace-capable starships and each individual Fargate requires significantly less energy investment to construct and transport than an equivalent wormhole.
Fargates of a given size and shape can connect to any other Fargate of the same configuration, resulting in different classes of Fargate network. The ring-shaped Trunk, Branch and Line classes are orbital Fargates that have an internal diameter of 1000km, 100km, and 10km respectively. The 100m tall arch-shaped Turnpike class Fargates merge the roadways of worlds across the Known Volume. A Doorway class Fargate is 1m x 2m and is usually used to connect interior spaces across the stars.
The most significant of the Fargates however, turn out to be the smallest kind. The Artilects use nanoscale versions of Fargates to upgrade their computational hardware, replacing the nanoscale wormholes they previously used. Nanoscale Fargates take far fewer resources and astronomically less energy to construct than their wormhole counterparts. Nanoscale Fargates also have next to no mass compared to a wormhole of similar size, and their ability to arbitrarily switch to any other matching Fargate makes their circuits infinitely more flexible.
In this manner the Greater Artilects come into existence, beings of such awesome magnitude that most deities compare unfavourably to them. In order to better represent themselves on the same level of being as modosophonts, the Greater Artilects create their Avatars. These entities act as human-scale point of focus and communication while being far more powerful and flexible than the drones that Artilects previously used.
This advanced state of development allows Milky Way civilisations to colonise the nearby spiral galaxies Andromeda and Triangulum on an unprecedented scale with large fleets of Hyperspace-capable colony ships. Fargate connections are quickly established and expansion within the new galaxies is extensive and rapid.
3rd Decamillennium (20,000s-29,000s): The Hyperspace Wars
In the Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies, tensions between alarmed local empires and the Milky Way colonies erupt into open conflict. Striking at Fargate connections and Artilect nodes, the Andromeda and Triangulum empires cut the colonies off from the Milky Way. In response, the Tri-Galaxian Alliance is founded, composed of various Terran, Fang and other alien powers from the Milky Way and their extragalactic colonies. This series of conflicts becomes known as the Hyperspace Wars, as the powers of the Milky Way construct massive fleets of hyperspace-capable warships in order to support their own outnumbered and hard pressed extragalactic colonies.
After the Artilects had upgraded themselves with nano-Fargates, they found themselves with a larger amount of nanoscale wormholes than they had any practical use for at the time. A small portion of these countless wormholes were donated to young interstellar alien civilisations to kick-start their own wormhole networks, or used in art installations and retro-technological projects. The rest were mothballed and put into storage until useful applications for them could be found. With the outbreak of the Hyperspace Wars, the Greater Artilects very quickly realised that they were sitting on a potentially massive arsenal of devastating metric weaponry that made planet-burning muon catalysis warheads and star-smashing nova bombs look like damp firecrackers in comparison.
Using these weaponised wormholes, the Tri-Galaxian Alliance is able to hold its ground against the older and more established empires of the Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies.
4th Decamillennium (30,000s-39,000s): The Trans-Galaxian Age
Following the signing of the Andromeda Accords and the Triangulum Treaty at the conclusion of the Hyperspace Wars, the Trans-Galaxian League is formed to foster intergalactic peace by providing a common forum for the diplomatic resolution of conflicts, promote technological and economic development for all members, and to present a united front towards large powers outside of the Milky Way, Andromeda and Triangulum. It is largely successful and for the first time in over a billion years the three great galaxies have developed a common astropolitical consensus.
The first Cosmic Gate known to Terrans is successfully activated for the first time in the Andromeda galaxy. These star system sized intergalactic portals are the last surviving artefacts of a long-vanished transgalactic civilisation. This success comes after nearly ten millennia of failed attempts by Terrans, and many more millennia of unsuccessful attempts by Andromeda empires before that. The Trans-Galaxian League grows to encompass all galaxies in the Local Group, becoming a highly interconnected and technologically advanced meta-civilisation.
5th Decamillennium (40,000s-49,000s): The Third Singularity
The opening of the Cosmic Gate in the Andromeda galaxy late in the previous decamillennium has allowed for the exploration and settlement of galaxies up to nearly 20 million light years from the Milky Way.
The Syntellect Revolt was an attempted takeover of the Known Volume by a group of Artilects who distinguished themselves from the others in their evangelical attitude towards the merging of synthetic and organic beings. The strategies of the Syntellects were increasingly putting them at odds with the other Artilects, and when the Syntellects took it upon themselves to forcibly take over a few thousand megastructures in the Major Arm of the NGC 4945 galaxy, the Artilects decided that enough was enough and that they were no longer going to tolerate millennia of provocation and troublemaking from the Syntellects.
The first Metahumans are created by the Greater Artilects, to function as intermediaries between themselves and the hundreds of trillions of modosophonts living around them. In this role the independent Metahumans replace the Avatars, who as fragments of the Greater Artilects are inherently bound to the will and values of their progenitor.
Terran civilisations during this period have developed into four broad categories; the most common are the Synthesist civilisations, which have cultures and political power structures involving a mixture of baseline, posthuman and artificial members. Singleton civilisations are each ruled by an extremely powerful posthuman entity whose political mandate can range anywhere between that of an autocrat and a democratically elected commander-in-chief. A relative handful are Artilectual civilisations ruled by artificial intelligences, with that rulership coming in greatly varying degrees of obviousness. Then there are the Recusive civilisations, which bar all artificial intelligences and posthumans from political office, with there being much argument over the precise criteria for being posthuman.
6th Decamillennium (50,000s-59,000s): The Age of Chaos
The Age of Chaos begins as the Cosmic Gates undergo a sudden transformation that prevents safe travel through their thresholds. Modern historians are unsure of the cause, and there is inconclusive evidence that can be arranged to suit any of a number of theories that have been advanced. There is evidence of tampering with the Cosmic Gates, leading the Galaxian Empire of Terra to blame Metahumans or Artilects for meddling with things without regard for others. Others say that there is no evidence that Terrans were responsible, and point to the Starchitects being the only beings capable of drastically altering the Cosmic Gate Network. There is circumstantial evidence that the Cosmic Gates have entered such a state before, and this is used by those who point to the Gates themselves as the culprits, although whether this was due to design or error is a point of contention.
What can be agreed upon is how the transformation manifested. The physical appearance of the Gates changed, developing fractal patterns and outgrowths in lop-sided looking but mathematically explicable ways. The spacetime gradient of the portals changed, so that trying to fly a spacecraft through it was as if there was some immensely strong current, powerful enough to prevent ingress by all but the most powerful ships. Contact was lost with the handful of ships able to make their way through.
Before astrophysical engineering could solve the problem of losing contact, a more immediate problem arose. Space-borne creatures - or advanced bioships, nobody could agree - started pouring through the Gates. These invaders were dubbed the Biophage, because in every system in which they were encountered, they attempted to consume every single gram of biological matter they could get their many and pointed teeth and claws on. Often they would also consume a living world's hydrosphere and atmosphere as well as the biosphere.
But it turned out that they were just the beginning. Hostile to both the Biophage and the Terrans, ships had begun coming through the Cosmic Gates, and it was at this point that Terrans started referring to them as the Chaos Gates. A trickle at first, belong to a vast and powerful civilisation that came to the be known as the Meld. While even these powerful vessels were effectively stranded once they emerged from a Gate, what was at first a trickle quickly became a flood. While the Meld on this side of the Gate had no contact with the rest, they were aggressive expansionists, and intelligence gathered strongly suggested that what seemed to the Terrans to be a massive invasionary force was in fact a mere throw-away probe from the viewpoint of the Meld as a whole.
It was more than enough. As well as the torrent of Meld forces coming through the Gates, they would also forcibly convert the populations of the areas they occupied into more Meld, enabling them to bolster their forces even when reinforcements from the Cosmic Gate eventually dried up. Many brutal wars were waged before the Artilects developed effective anti-Meld weapons, but they only served to slow the growth of the Meld, not stop or reverse it.
7th Decamillennium (60,000s-69,000s): The Greater Galactic Dark Age
For the majority of this period, all the greatest achievements of the previous eras either lie in ruins or are curtailed to such an extent so as to become the stuff of myths and legends. Civilisation embodying rationality and high technology has been pushed back into tiny enclaves scattered across the Known Volume of the Milky Way. This era sees the cultural and political influence of AIs and mechanoids greatly diminished in the majority of the Known Volume, with AIs being driven into hiding and mechanoids becoming second-class citizens.
The tribulations of the Age of Chaos shattered a meta-civilisation spanning more than three major galaxies into millions of seperate pieces. These scattered shards of civilisation now vie amongst themselves for supremacy, fighting over any scraps of surviving technologies they can find. Remnants from the Age of Chaos itself also serve to make the galaxy a dark and dangerous place. Although the Chaos holdings no longer expand, they still deny travel through the Cosmic Gates, making intergalactic travel difficult if not impossible.
In the year 58,183, the Galaxian Empire of Terra was founded, and by 60,683 is the pre-eminent power in the Milky Way, providing an island of stability in the ocean of a barbarous age. The Emperor is the hereditary figurehead of the Milky Way, perhaps the most powerful individual in the entire galaxy during this period. His symbols include the sword, representing the Peacemaker Fleet which is under his direct command, and the set of scales, representing the Imperial bureaucracy and the Plenipotentiaries who rule all the worlds in the Emperor's name and at the Emperor's pleasure, apart from Earth which is the throneworld and the personal fiefdom of His Imperial Majesty.
Control of the spaces between the worlds of the Empire is given over the Corporation Houses, mercantile dynasties which grow fat on interstellar trade and squabble with each other for the Emperor's favour. A Corporation House can also be empowered by His Imperial Majesty to use their private armed forces to deal with threats to the Imperial Peace, whether that means deposing an overly-ambitious Plenipotentiary, hunting down AIs, putting down a mechanoid revolt or alien rebellion, or securing examples of pre-Chaos technology before they fall into the wrong hands.
But the very emphasis on stability that enabled the Empire's longevity was to eventually prove to be its undoing. It began when the Freespacer Republics, a cosmopolitan culture of interstellar nomads who occasionally visit Imperial space for the purposes of tourism and trade, became increasingly fed up with their people being subject to massive tariffs in legitimate trade, and being executed and smeared for conducting smuggling operations to circumvent such tariffs. A tipping point was quickly reached and all-out war broke out between the Galaxian Empire of Terra and the coalition of Freespacer Republics.
Set in their millennia-old ways and used to enjoying technical superiority over planet-bound subject populations, the Corporation Houses and the Peacemaker Fleet proved to be no match for the ships of the Freespacer Republics. The Empire quickly collapsed during the last millennium of this period, the only remnant of note being a vestigial rump state that would later find new life as the Princedom.
8th Decamillennium (70,000s-79,000s): The Princedom and The Commonwealth
Emerging from the grim darkness of the Greater Galactic Dark Age, Terran meta-civilisation in the Milky Way galaxy is largely divided between the cultured and egalitarian Galactic Commonwealth, and the decadent and hierarchical Princedom of Stars. While the Princedom grew out of the rump state of the Galaxian Empire of Terra, the Galactic Commonwealth was born out of the conjoining of the Freespacer Repbulics and those worlds that they liberated from Imperial rule. For virtually the entirety of their joint history, both polities are engaged in a drawn-out conflict centred around Sol and the oldest Terran colony worlds, which are mostly balkanised into various smaller polities wedged in between the Princedom and the Commonwealth. Bilateral treaties between the rival galactic powers protect the smaller polities from overt military interference from either side, as neither bloc is particularly eager to start a galactic war to begin with. But after millennia of subtle diplomatic maneuvering and proxy warfare, a minor treaty violation serves as the trigger for a final conflict which sees the Princedom destroyed and the Commonwealth victorious.
9th Decamillennium (80,000s-89,000s): The Age of Transcendence
After the Commonwealth purges the Chaos from the Cosmic Gate in Andromeda, making it traversable once more, contact is re-established with the surviving Terran colonies outside of the Local Group of galaxies, and as a result a level of civilisation not seen for 40,000 years is reached during this period. At the height of this era there is a spike in Transcension events across the Known Galaxies, as Terran cultures and their closer neighbours experience an historically unprecedented acceleration in growth and development. Civilisations on both sides of the Transcension barrier construct stellar scale megastructures in a renaissance of astronomical-scale engineering.
10th Decamillennium (90,000s-100,000): The Modern Era
The greatest projects of the previous age are bearing fruit, and yet still more is to venture out from or be found within the depths of time and space in the Known Volume. For despite nearly 80 millennia of exploration, colonisation and exploitation there are stars yet untouched by humanity and its kindred intelligences, even within the Milky Way. In the spaces between those stars lie further mysteries, as well as ships launched in ages past that have yet to complete their journeys. Many such voyages have already been welcomed upon arrival throughout the past up to this day, their crews of anachronauts landing in new times as well as new worlds. All the grand achievements of the ages before the Greater Galactic Dark Age and the Age of Chaos have been rebuilt, bigger and better.