History of Dark Horizon – Part 1

Last week I gave you a short list of things that you could expect from Dark Horizon, something to give you a sense of what the basics of the game are. Today I’m going to go a little more in-depth, showing you the history (well the first part) of how the galaxy got to where it was today. We had some interesting questions last time so maybe this will illicit some more!

The Vincularium

The general consensus in modern society is that the Vincularium was a paradise. This, of course, probably comes as much from more than nine centuries of myth and celebration from those surviving in its ruins as it does from reality. Politically, the Vincularium was something like an anarchic coalition on a truly grand scale. The famous interpretation from modern historians is that it was a government that “was never designed so much as evolved.” No real records exist about the Vincularium’s founding and establishment but later records indicate that it grew out of necessity because of the realities of the wormhole Network, but whether the Vincularium developed because of the Network or vice versa is unknown.

It seems that most star systems were independent governments set up according to local custom and necessity. Whatever the local government was like, they had a representative sent to the Congress which functioned as an ad hoc agency, sometimes meeting as a local volume and only occasionally as a full assembly. The Congress made rules which governed matters affecting large portions of the Vincularium, particularly rules for movement and trade, but there are other examples of the Congress overruling a local government on something important. There is a myth that the whole thing worked like some altruistic machine but this has been continually challenged by historians throughout the modern Network, particularly with newer finds of data caches in mausoleum systems.

ui-58ef0ea631f0c4-40010278
Image by RADDB

Independent from, but in cooperation, with the Congress were the Gatekeepers who constructed and maintained the Singularity Gates. This guild, almost religious in its mindset, was secretive about the technology and kept the secrets of building and sustaining Gates in tightly controlled computer systems. Presumably, the technology was more widely spread at one point but the civil war that nearly destroyed the Vincularium five centuries before the Network Collapse showed everyone the need to keep a tight control on the means of faster-than-light travel.

The Network Collapse

It’s still uncertain what happened. Some historians are sure that the attack came from one direction while others say that there were several fronts coordinated or otherwise. The truth is that records from that period are hopelessly fragmented and those that survive are confused and often contradictory.

What is known is that Singularity Gates started failing throughout the Vincularium and that the crisis spread far faster than most systems could respond to. In many cases, the first sign of trouble was garbled signals coming from the far side of a system’s Singularity Gate and seconds later a swarm of war-drones spewing from the wormhole’s opening. Once they were through, or at least once a significant number were, they began to tear apart the Singularity Gate. These were protected, of course, but the defenses were not optimized for such small targets and the swarms seemed uncannily good at hitting the weakest parts of the gate. The Gates didn’t need to be completely destroyed, after all, since even damage that was slight overall could easily rupture the wormhole’s surface and cause a collapse.

Some Gates were destroyed by explosions or debris coming through the wormhole, never actually seeing the war-drones, while others were able to hold the swarms at bay but cascading failures caused a collapse within hours anyways. In some cases the swarms went dormant once their target was destroyed or they plunged through other Gates in the system, but in other cases they continued to ravage targets until every war-drone was destroyed. It is a long-standing argument among historians whether the encounters were actually so varied or whether this is part of the fragmentation of records.

It hardly matters in the end. One by one, the wormholes of the Vincularium were severed and star systems found themselves cut off from the rest of the galaxy, a suddenly lonely island amidst a dark sea. In some cases, local defenses were powerful enough to stop the swarms early and small patches of interconnected systems were left (most notably the clusters that would become the Trakherium and Mercantile Combine) and in at least one case (the Eriptych) the Gate was voluntarily severed to stop the threat. Even in these cases, however, only a half-dozen systems remained connected which was a far cry from the tens of thousands that were joined before the Collapse. The Vincularium was shattered and it would not be returning.

Sombrero Galaxy
Public domain image from NASA/ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team

Reconnection

Each system responded to the Network Collapse in their own way. Some turned inward and forged a new normal in the face of the disaster. Others looked outwards and sought ways to connect with their neighbors, at least through lightspeed communications. More than a few seem to never have recovered from the chaos of the Collapse and, whether still battling war-drones or succumbing to pre-existing internal conflicts, were destroyed before they could truly make a plan. Even for those who tried to start over success was far from certain and many who survived the first few decades after the Collapse had only a long, drawn-out death to look forward to.

The systems with the clearest goal, perhaps, were those influential systems which had Gatekeeper facilities in the days of the Vincularium. These star systems had the means to create new Singularity Gates and potentially build a new Network to bring the light of civilization once more. The problem was time, on a number of different fronts. First of all, Singularity Gates are not devices to be mass produced and a system could make only a few at a time if they could even start construction right away. The process is delicate as well and could take as much as five years for a single Gate. Add to that the preparation time to rebuild infrastructure and take stock, to gather the many different materials needed working under the veils of secrecy that most Gatekeepers still maintained, and organizing work forces that were skilled enough to avoid creating an artificial black hole by mistake… all in all it was two to three decades before even the speediest of Gatekeeper facilities completed their first replacement Gates.

After this, time reared its head once more in the transit time between stars using sublight engines. The realities of this sort of travel are known to all in the era after the Network Collapse but it was not fully appreciated at the time and many local governments were shocked when they realized it would take decades to reach their neighbors traveling at top speed. The delicate Gates would take longer to transport as well, so that the trips actually took anywhere from 80 to 200 years depending on the distance. Those with the means to do so launched as quickly as they could, sending one of each Gate pair to inhabited systems to reconnect them.

Once a new system was hooked up to one with Gatekeepers making Singularity Gates, it could be used as the staging ground for the next step as parts were sent through the narrow wormhole and assembled at the far end. These new Gates then were transported at sublight speeds to the next closest system as the process started over. All in all, over the more than 900 years since the Network Collapse we are now able to reach some 32% of the systems that were previously part of the Vincularium.

The Guraset Summit

Wormhole
Photo by Kristof Wesely

After the Trakherium had successfully transported a Gate to the Guraset System they were surprised to find another expanding group already there. The Mercatorian Combine had beaten them to the system with a Gate of their own about two decades previously which meant that the Guraset system could serve as a bridge between the two regions of connected space. The two governments sent representatives to Guraset’s capitol world (also called Guraset) for a summit to work out the details of transportation and trade. It was an important moment for both governments, the first time their systems had participated in something like the old Vincularium since the Network Collapse. The resulting set of documents, collectively known as the Treaty of Gusaret, established the template for all future treaties between powerful governments that both the Trakherium and the Combine worked out… which is to say, all the treaties in the connected galaxy.

Enemies and Allies

Not even two decades after they made contact with the Combine, the Trakherium successfully connected their Gate network with another interstellar power, but this contact did not go as well as the first. The Questos Dominion hadn’t worked with its Gatekeepers to forge new wormholes and reconnect systems, it captured and tortured them to force the technology from them. The scientists working for the Autarch Questos created Gates that were crude by comparison with the rest of the galaxy’s but were able to connect different systems. These connected worlds were not offered a place in some new version of the Vincularium but were crushed by the warships of the Autarch and occupied by his armies. The Trakherium proved to be the first power that the Autarch couldn’t push around but the battles to decide this took vast resources on both sides and also saw the first recorded destruction of a Gate since the Network Collapse.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the growing network, the Mercantile Combine made contact with an interstellar power called the Eriptych. This did not create a bloody conflict as the Trakherium-Dominion meeting had, but it could not be wholeheartedly declared successful either. The Eriptych had retreated considerably in the centuries since the Network Collapse and their technology and culture was very different than other portions of the former Vincularium. A relationship was established and treaties were negotiated but the sort of ecstatic flurry of activity that marked the connection between Combine and Trakherium was absent.

A Growing Network

During the next two centuries the connected galaxy grew by leaps and bounds. The first big advance after the Eriptych and Dominion was the connection between the Kesaris Holdings and Mercantile Combine. The Holdings had advanced very slowly in the centuries since the Collapse because of incomplete and damaged databases at the available Gatekeeper facilities but once contact was reestablished with the Gatekeepers in the new wormhole network the Kesaris Holdings began to expand dramatically. They increased the number of systems connected to their portion of the network by 15% in the first five decades after contact with the Combine and this large-scale advancement and competition soured what had started out as a positive relationship between the two.

Several decades after the arrival of the Kesaris Holdings, the small and beleaguered Vorrich Empire connected their wormhole network with the Eriptych. They found the biosculptors just as difficult to work with but through them were able to travel to the rest of the connected galaxy and better direct their expansion in other directions. Shortly after, the expanding Kesaris Holdings contacted the SenTillesni Union and began working closely to further their own independent expansions.

Jellyfish Galaxy
Public domain image from NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center

Some time after that the Mercatorial Combine and Interstellar Systems Coalition both arrived in the Besalliureq System more or less at the same time, connecting the growing number of connected interstellar powers with the wide but fractured region of the ISC. As the Trakherium continued to wage a cold war against the Questos Dominion, it became connected with several of these new players as well, expanding the number of connections in the new wormhole network but also strengthening the grid against isolation due to sudden collapses.

An important connection took place when the Chell Protectorate made contact with the Kesaris Holdings after working their way around Questos Dominion space and the Vorrich Empire connected to one of the outlying systems of the Aurout Guildspace. The Combine successfully connected with the Talsokinnta while the Trakherium made several near-simultaneous connections with the Derallic Independency, opening another front in the conflict against the Dominion and relieving pressure on all neighboring states. Other connections occurred during this period, becoming almost mundane as the connected galaxy grew ever onward, but the biggest news came a century and a half after this with the first contact between former Vincularium states and a completely alien species: humans.

Next Up!

On Tuesday you’ll get more information, including how humans fit into all this mess. For now, write a message at the bottom with any questions or comments you have so far. This is an open working project so you could affect the final outcome. Let me know what you think!

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5 thoughts on “History of Dark Horizon – Part 1

  1. About how big are the gates, or what approximate size ships can they take?
    It seems it should be possible to make a capital ship or mobile station that has a gate stored internally to provide unlimited supply while traversing inhospitable regions like between star systems.
    Can gates be made smaller? If so, it might be possible to make a gate linked ship that can go through a gate. I’d probably guess crossing the manifold would disturb the ships gate (wormhole terminus) and cause it to collapse, possibly even dramatically. (How dramatically? Explosion, Implosion, Transplosion? Just throw everthing in a pi * gate diameter out of this universe? Disintegrate it into incoherent phased particles? It could get really weird if it doesn’t work.)
    Ok, that’s enough random babbling for now.

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    1. Well you can expect a whole post about this in the future but here are some answers…

      1. How big are the Gates? Larger diameters make the internal surface of the wormhole less stable (just like it’s harder to blow a big bubble or lift a big pie crust) so the Gatekeepers tend to make them smaller. A ship like the Millennium Falcon wouldn’t have trouble anywhere and even something like the Raza from Dark Matter would be fine. The Enterprise and star destroyers, though, are too big.

      2. It seems it should be possible to make a capital ship or mobile station that has a gate stored internally… In theory yes, and Gates are moved into place by ships to begun with. The wormhole doesn’t actually cut through space so the ship would be fine. To caveats here, though. First, this isn’t terribly efficient. You could move a capital ship into position and then launch wings of fighters but from a centralized Gate you can do that to with a dozen locations in the system. This is probably a tactic they use but it’s a corner case.

      The other issue is gravity. The Gates require spacetime to be as flat as possible so a ship would risk Gate failure every time they went by a planet. They also can’t go at top speed between stars since at relativistic speeds the Gate itself becomes a big mass and can destabilize its own wormhole. Lastly, at Gates there is a team of engineers constantly maintaining things and that’s at a stationary, stable location. A ship zooming around would need a ton of support and a whole department of engineers to deal with the constant shifts in gravity.

      3. How dramatic is a wormhole explosion? Pretty dramatic. The reason gravity disrupts a wormhole is that it’s essentially a huge gravity well carefully tricked out of becoming a singularity. If it fails there’s a backlash of energy in a big explosion and then a black hole. It’s not a permanent singularity but any ships that escape/survive the explosion can still be sheared apart as spacetime essentially has a tantrum.

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