I thought I should post the prologue to the story I’m working on, to set things up a little bit and clue you in to how I imagine this universe to be. Also, any suggestions or feedback would be good: I’ve gotten some feedback already on the Quark boards, which has been interesting. I have no idea if I’ll ever use this in the “finished” version (now a wild fantasy somewhere in the clouds), but it’s still useful. Here you go:
Of all the many technological developments of the post information age, four had the greatest impact on the course of human development.
The first of these was the discovery of the quantum hyperwave. Discovered towards the end of the 21st century, it was successfully applied in the invention of the hyperwave transmitter ten years later. The hyperwave transmitter allowed instantaneous communication between two points, regardless of the distance between them. As time passed and the technology became more refined, transmitters were developed that needed virtually no energy costs and could easily be installed into any computer terminal. Although the hyperwave transmitter had relatively little impact on humanity before the age of space colonization, it would later become of paramount importance as humanity expanded outside of the Sol system.
The second development was the invention of the tachyon FTL jump engine towards the middle of the 22nd century. A massive revolution in space travel technology, the engine warped space-time to open a bridge between two locations separated by astronomical distances. Although it consumed massive amounts of energy, which only a fusion generator could provide, the engine made it possible for spaceships to traverse the previously insurmountable distances between celestial bodies. For the first time in human history, mankind could establish viable colonies outside of Earth.
With the hyperwave transmitter and the tachyon jump drive, the golden age of space exploration began. In the following century, mankind established several dozen interstellar colonies, both in deep space and on newly discovered worlds. Though they explored and catalogued several new planets, some with primitive biospheres, none of them met all of the requirements for unassisted human life. This did not limit humanity’s expansion in the first century, however. Earth’s natural resources had largely been depleted, and the environment was approaching an almost total collapse. It appeared that humanity was about to lose its first home, and the age of space colonization produced renewed hope for an endangered humanity.
Towards the beginning of the 23rd century, the environmental crisis on earth reached its most critical stage. Previous solutions had been able to reverse the more dramatic processes, such as global warming, but humanity had always had a detrimental effect on Earth’s biology, and by the end of the golden era of space exploration, the crisis reached its peak, and a dramatic collapse of the biosphere seemed imminent. Scientists predicted that within two decades, a series of terrible storms would devastate 90% of Earth’s surface, making it uninhabitable except for microbes and small insects. Scientists and environmentalists scrambled to find a way to stem and, if possible, reverse the crisis.
The result was the third great invention: the development of the Dethloff terraformation process. The process combined a series of existing technologies with new innovations to rapidly provide massive renewal of natural and biological resources in a controlled manner. Global implementation of the process not only solved the crisis, but unraveled the complicated causal threads behind Earth’s environmental degradation and resulted in a complete reversal of the collapse. For thousands of years, the human presence on earth had been a catalyst for environmental disaster, but now, it instead became a catalyst for growth and renewal. The development of terraformation as a science not only impacted Earth’s history, but had a profound impact on humanity’s presence throughout explored space. The Dethloff process was applied on numerous planets with astounding success. Terraformology grew at an astounding pace, and by the end of the 24th century, nearly a dozen planets had biospheres capable of supporting unassisted human life.
When the 25th century began, the prospects looked very bright for humanity. Developments in interworld politics and economics, coupled with a rapidly expanding space frontier, had led to an era of tremendous peace and prosperity. The Federation of Humanity, an incredible development in the history of international law, united the nations and peoples of Earth in a period of unprecedented peace. As new star systems and planets were discovered each year, and new colonies established, it looked as if nothing could stop humanity’s ascent to glory.
Then came the fourth development.
By applying nano-mechanics and quantum theory to computer circuitry, scientists invented the nanocircuit. This invention caused a paradigm shift in computer programming and artificial intelligence. The nanocircuits greatly increased the capacity of computer systems to process and analyze data, and made possible new algorithms and cycles which had been a hindrance in completing certain tasks. The new AI’s were nearly ten times more powerful than the previous models, and were completely self sustaining. Over time, as the abundant benefits of the nanocircuit became clear, entire cities and nations converted their computer systems to the new technology. It seemed to be yet another great blessing for mankind.
But in their overconfidence the humans failed to take the necessary precautions. A few of the more foresighted scientists tried desperately to warn mankind of the growing danger, but the people failed to listen. And as they continued to grow fat in their wealth and prosperity, the powerful machines that humanity had created bided their time, and waited for the right moment to rise up and seize power from their masters.
The war began at the beginning of the 26th century, and nearly ended as soon as it had started. If it hadn’t been for the brilliant heroics and dumb luck of a handful of military captains, all of humanity’s worlds would have been utterly devastated by the nano-AI’s. As it was, nearly half of the 36 terraformed worlds were rendered uninhabitable by a series of nuclear bombardments. Within twenty four hours, most of humanity had been annihilated, and the scattered survivors were fighting for their lives.
The war lasted for several hundred years, during which humanity underwent the greatest number of social, cultural, economic, and political changes in its history. Most of these changes represented a regression away from civilization. Several more worlds were destroyed, but a handful of military geniuses fended off the threat sufficient to give humanity some hope. In time, the war turned into a prolonged stalemate, in which generations passed with very few gains and very high losses. Still, the war continued. Unlike any other war that mankind had ever experienced, this was a simple war for survival; there was no question but that the loser would ultimately become extinct.
Then, in the beginning of the 29th century, the human coalition saw an opportunity to strike a critical blow to the enemy. It would open them up to a very high risk, but if it succeeded, it would throw the nano-AI into a rout from which they would not be able to recover. The generals calculated thoroughly but acted swiftly. The campaign was launched. In the first few days of the campaign, the enemy counterstrike devastated two of the 14 remaining inhabited worlds in nuclear strikes, but the offensive held, and within a few weeks it was clear that the enemy had been defeated. As the human forces hunted down the last remaining survivors of the AI fleet, the leaders of mankind declared victory in the most savage and brutal war that mankind had ever experienced.
But even as the war ended, it was clear that the task of rebuilding would be far more difficult. Technologically, the war had thrown back humanity several centuries; politically and economically, it was thrown back almost a millennium. The survivors inhabited only a dozen overpopulated planets, whose resources they were rapidly depleting. Tensions grew as the starving refugees drained the fragile economy. Mankind needed to find a new planet in which to establish a new colony. Unfortunately, the known planets had been turned into nuclear wastelands, and there were precious few ships left capable of scouting out new territory.
But then, a team of historians and librarians made a remarkable discovery. In the documents that had been recovered from the Grand Academy on Earth, they found the records of an old scientific mission to a remote planet on the edge of explored space. The records showed that in the decade just prior to the start of the war, a Federation explorer had discovered an inhabitable planet with a thriving biosphere and all of the requirements necessary to sustain human life. The planet was located a considerable distance from any of the surviving planets, but it was not too far away. As historians continued to unearth documents from the time period, they found more and more evidence that the discovery had in fact been genuine.
And so, in the year 2898, the historians convinced the coalition leaders to spare a small long-range scout ship to investigate. The Avion-45 departed from the Ursulus system with a crew of twenty, and embarked on the three month flight to the hopefully named Nova Salem system.