Last time I went over the history of the Dark Horizon setting and today I’m back with more! Since the last post was so long (#selfpromotion) it might surprise you that there were zero humans in the whole thing. Even discounting the long history of the galaxy before this timeline begins, there is nearly eight hundred years of setting events before we even get to humans. Since you all are humans, though, you might be interested in what happens after that happens.
Humans were contacted by the heirs of the Vincularium about seven and a half centuries after the Network Collapse. This was the first confirmed case of these species contacting aliens which were not part of the Vincularium, unknown entities in this new age of expansion. After centuries of semi-romanticized speculation about this prospect, the reality turned out to be rather underwhelming. Humans were behind the modern technology curve by several degrees, being nowhere near creating their own Singularity Gates and barely expanding beyond their home star system. Colonization ships were sent out before contact to the nearest star systems but as they were already well on their way they were actually the last humans to hear about contact with alien species.
The governments of Earth quickly banded together to meet this new force, forming the Earth Council to present a united front. Behind that front, of course, all the old rivalries and enmities still boiled and the glimpses of petty infighting cemented a view of humanity in the rest of the galaxy of a provincial species with nothing to offer. As the Earth Council continued to be sidelined by the corporations and governments of the Interstellar Systems Coalition, millions and then billions of humans left through the Singularity Gate to see the rest of the galaxy. As they spread, they assimilated into the greater population of the galaxy. Now, after some seven generations, humans are thoroughly part of galactic society but they still are shadowed by this initially weak appearance.
Battle of Kireth-Sanakti
In the decades after contact with Earth, the Earth Council convinced the powers-that-be in the Interstellar Systems Coalition to send Gates to reconnect the human colony ships that set out before contact. Ships bearing Singularity Gates set off from the Ross 248 system (from which the original Gate was sent to the Earth system) were sent to the other systems in the near volume, taking decades to reach the humans in Barnard’s Star, 61 Cygni, Alpha Centauri, Luyten 726-8, and Lalande 21185.
This last system, known as Kireth-Sanakti to astronomers in the ISC, was the most dramatic contact by far. When the ship carrying the Gate was just entering the icy fragments at the system’s outskirts, they sent a signal confirming their arrival back to ISC vessels in the Earth system. Minutes later, they transmitted chaotic warnings of engagement with hostile forces then the Gate was destroyed and live signals ceased.
It was assumed that every ship in the convoy was destroyed but no one knew for sure until the final, garbled signals arrived by light speed in the Earth system, eight years after the battle was done. Most troublingly, they sent some incomplete scans that resembled the wardrones responsible for the Network Collapse all those centuries ago.
Combat ships sent out immediately for Kireth-Sanakti, sent to end this threat to the connected systems and the new wormhole network. The attack force was huge, but still over half were lost in the battles and all the rest sustained considerable damage. The wardrones were destroyed, though, and the Gate-carrying ship, following about six months later, connected the system to the broader network. There was no sign of the human ships that had set off for this system (no surprise, they hadn’t transmitted anything new in decades) but this conflict reminded the newly-reconnected systems of the galaxy that the threat that destroyed the Vincularium was still poorly understood and still out there, waiting.
Over the past forty years since the Second Battle of Kireth-Sanakti the system has remained under quarantine as ISC combat forces and liaisons from other governments search for clues as to the nature of the wardrones. This isn’t the only contact with the mysterious enemy but it was the first and that makes Kireth-Sanakti something intriguingly sinister in the minds of the galaxy.
The TomarrSeht Summit
In between the two Battles of Kireth-Sanakti, the Central Assembly of the Interstellar Systems Coalition announced a summit in one of their border systems for all interested states. After centuries of ad hoc alliances following the example of the Treaty of Guraset, they wanted to set standardized agreements for certain matters. Though they said that this wasn’t instigated by the findings in Kireth-Sanakti, no one believed that the reminder that the wardrones were still out there and active had no bearing on the decision. At the same time, other governments were just as concerned so no one wanted to be left in the cold.
- Recognition of Identification: While regional authorities like the Trakherium and the ISC reviewed the identification encryptions of sovereign, it wasn’t until the TomarrSeht Protocols that other regional authorities officially agreed to respect those reviewing processes. This paved the way for free movement throughout the wormhole network without the need to go through days of biometric reviews to confirm identity.
- List of Controlled Substances: While disagreements abounded at TomarrSeht, a short list of controlled substances was agreed upon by the delegates. Antimatter warheads, synthetic plagues, and weaponized nanoswarms are all on the list of seriously powerful weapons which were flagged as necessary to keep out of the hands of common citizens. Of course, government agencies were not restricted.
- Independence of the Gatekeepers: While most governments had made an effort to protect the Gatekeeper facilities in their systems, the TomarrSeht Protocols made it an official policy across the galaxy. Those that had co-opted facilities reluctantly released them (partially because co-opting Gatekeeper facilities only seemed to lead to a totally lockout of the computer systems) and the Gatekeepers regained their status as an inter-governmental neutral party.
- Joint Task Forces: A number of joint operations were agreed to, some of which were canceled rather quickly but many of which were continued. The Network Safeguard Task Force (NSTF) is the most well-known, searching all systems for signs of the wardrones and also working on countermeasures in case of a renewed attack. The Frontlines Command (FrontCom) is tasked with coordinating between all forces facing off against the Questos Dominion or other forces but since it has only an advisory role it is in a difficult position. Other task forces tend to be highly localized against specific threats in one system or a few connected ones and the Protocols have provisions for making new task forces as they become necessary.
Armistice at Bendak Losanna
The conflict with the Questos Dominion comes down to one oft-quoted statement by a Trakherium commander: “We’re fighting to stop them and they’re fighting to win.” Alone among the major powers of the galaxy, the Questos Dominion subjugated the Gatekeeper facilities in their domain with their databases intact. Through torture and horrific mental probing they were able to crack the encryption of a good portion of these databases through the centuries. As a result they expanded at a rapid pace and with agendas that fit the militaristic government of the Dominion rather than the precepts of the Gatekeepers. On the other hand, the incomplete and inexpert construction of Singularity Gates has led to some truly terrifying failures on behalf of Dominion engineers and it means that their Gates must be transported even more slowly so that they don’t collapse.
Still, the Dominion thought of the wormhole network as a tool for conquest while their enemies thought about it as something to protect and preserve. The Trakherium, the Chell Protectorate, and other volumes surrounding the Questos Dominion were on purely defensive footing from the start of the conflict, refusing to put their wormhole networks in jeopardy with the chaos following the Network Collapse so fresh in the populations’ minds. The Dominion, on the other hand, maintained and still pursues a policy of victory at all costs. Following the precepts of the cult of personality which their founder created, the Dominion military forces consider conquest inevitable and so destroying Gates and destabilizing wormholes were just more methods of warfare to achieve those goals.
This is a major reason cited by historians for the length of the Gate War, the reason that the Dominion continued to put up a fight for centuries despite being outnumbered on all sides. Another major reason was the lack of coordination between their enemies but as the Chell Protectorate and Trakherium connected their networks and then both were connected to the Derallic Independency, that all changed. Eventually the Dominion was forced to take stock and they reluctantly agreed to an armistice. No alliances were made and the Dominion studiously refused to sign on to the TomarrSeht Protocols, but they agreed to stop sending Gates to deliver antimatter bombs to unsuspecting systems and so that was a plus.
In the twenty-five years since the armistice not much has changed and the Dominion refuses to let any ships through their wormholes and into their space. At the same time, they have political representatives with their major neighbors and the Varosin Halo remains semi-accessible. In the end, it is a cold war with no signs of shifting and twenty five years of planning that could explode at any moment.
It should come as no surprise that not every system which was severed from the Vincularium made it through to the present. Many, in fact it might be most, of those systems which were once part of that great interstellar civilization are now merely ruins. The stories are as varied as the systems themselves but several trends have been identified by those exploring the ruins.
- Victims of the Collapse: Some systems were so overcome by violence during the Network Collapse (rampaging wardrones or opportunist forces) that they also fell to pieces and destroyed themselves. Others survived the initial assault but without external support they died within a few months or years. These early failures often have the most relics in them since they didn’t have time for things to really destroy Vincularium technology following the Collapse.
- Victims of Civil War: Without a connection to the Vincularium to provide a pressure valve, many systems saw their internal conflicts slowly build over the years until they exploded in civil war. Those wars that grew too large or costly collapsed the system and led to a general destruction of society. Some modern systems were altered by civil war but survived to be reconnected while others were not so lucky. Now the rest of the galaxy can only pick through the ashes and hope something useful is left.
- Victims of Hubris: Those systems without Gatekeeper facilities weren’t always content to sit and wait for a wormhole to rescue them. They had problems and they wanted to find solutions to them. Many modern technological wonders are a result of this desire to rebuild on their own but other systems tried solutions which failed catastrophically and destroyed the system in the process. While many Vincularium technologies are destroyed in these events, the dramatic technological advances they made in isolation might still yield some treasures.
It’s not usually a complete mystery as to what happened to a mausoleum system; they still often had light-speed communications after the Network Collapse and could send updates and messages to the rest of the galaxy. They were delayed, of course, but systems still stayed in contact while the wormhole network slowly grew. One day signals would just cut out, a sign that when the last message left the system decades earlier (depending on separation) something terrible happened and nothing was left afterwards. If it was a war or growing issue there might be panicked messages marking the beginning of the end but no one sits there sending letters while the world burns so the exact events are mostly unknown.
Still, mausoleum systems are connected to the wormhole network frequently. They are a lower priority than systems known to still be occupied but even when a system has gone radio silent there may still be thousands or millions of people there who could be helped. Worse case scenario, there are raw materials that could be sold and used to rebuild. Those adventurous explorers willing to go into an empty system and survey an astronomically-sized tomb are known as Recontact Teams and in the Interstellar Systems Coalition they are usually under contract. Other governments like the Trakherium and the Eriptych send official teams into mausoleum systems for the first survey but they may hire independent Recontact Teams to assist. Either way, it is a specialized but highly profitable line of work.