Prayer Drive The year is New Calendar 2999, over ten thousand years into the future. Human civilization has expanded from earth and now inhabits a vast area strung around the circumference of the milky way galaxy. For over three millennia, a single government, the Unity, has maintained human space, ensuring internal peace, and without external challenge. Too many, it seems the third millennium promises a continuation of the seemingly never ending and almost unchanging golden age of human-kind.
Others however see something else: that over the long term, the only constant is change.
According to the Unity, history ended millennia ago. The perfect code and philosophy have been created: The Codex: a vast body of case law has been built up, results of records of judges and courts all across history faithfully recording each and every judgement they made, so those who follow may know there Wisdom. That this body of knowledge should form the basis of government was agreed upon in The Concord, created by the great and powerful of the galaxy at the Unity's birth.
The officers of the Unity are responsible for maintaining the laws of the Codex which bind human space together. While local areas are allowed to govern themselves mostly as they wish, they must respect the Laws of the Unity, and seed to it control over space. In return, the the Unity maintains the vast trade fleets and interstellar gateways which allow even the farthest flung reaches of human habitation enjoy luxuries drawn from all across the galaxy. It's fleets maintain order and prevent atrocities by local governments, or rogue corporations and the development of violent separatist movements and other terrorist elements.
While a few grumble about the Unity's prerogative to override local leadership if its officers deem it necessary, and the vast number of secretive cliques which pervade it's structure, there was little serious opposition to the Unity until five years ago, when the SALDAC organization (Sagittarian Alliance for Liberation, Democracy, Autonomy and Cooperation), a radically autonomist and geographist group who believed that entities should have the right to their own laws, free of the Union's influence, began an open military campaign in rebelled against the Unity. SALDAC's initial strike, using forbidden memetic weapons to subvert several of the Unity's expert systems within its sphere caught the Union Space Forces and ground side garrisons by surprise, and many were wiped out in savage surprise attacks. After the initial surprise the Union reorganized its forces and while initial two years of the war saw bloody fighting between SALDAC and Unity fleets in deep space, the war has now ground to almost a stalemate, with mostly guerrilla raids and espionage being conducted and little movement from either sides main fleet forces.
It remains to be seen whether the war will end in a negotiated settlement, or erupt into a bloody new phase when the two sides have rebuilt their combat forces, which were decimated in the war's early engagements.
One of the most powerful research corporations in the Unity, the Nirvana Corporation is active in numerous areas of high tech research, including exotic particle physics, gate design, jump drive research, the creation of artificial life forms and the trade with alien beings. More recently it has become involved in the creation of PRAYER skills and augmentations. An extremely old and powerful organization, Nirvana has existed in one form or another almost as long as the Unity. The vast trusts that stand behind Nirvana corporation are more interested in long term stability than short term gain. Some have charged however that these trusts have something different than either technological advancement or profit in mind for the resources they sink into Nirvana.
Recently though, a cloud has fallen over Nirvana, as an investigation has been begun by the Unity over a slew of accusations, including trade with SALDAC, the violation of human and alien rights, and trafficking in forbidden technology such as memetic weapon. It is said that the powerful Hymnal clique of the Unity has set its sights on destroying one of its largest adversaries within the Unity's power structure.
The Nirvana Corporation is the PCs current employer, whether it is temporary or long term.
PMC groups, such as Grey Crescent, Phoenix Corporation, Inductive Logic or the Telmor Group, are a common feature of galactic affairs. Many of these groups support an army and space fleet larger than that of most planetary governments. With little need for standing forces, these governments would rather contract PMC groups, especially large ones, than maintain their own army which only eats into state budgets.
Most PMCs take small contracts as well as the more glamorous military ventures, such as providing police, SWAT or investigative services, or even bounty hunting.
The Hymnal Foundation are one of the most powerful Unity cliques. A staunchly conservative group, the Hymnal Foundation goes as far as to reject the creation of new technology or the continued advancement of augmentation or PRAYER technology for fear of destroying the balance of the Unity. Their relationship with technology and research corporations like Nirvana are at best tense, and some have even accused them of backing terrorist or black ops groups in attacks against them, media smear campaigns and the like.
These accusations are strongly denied by both Hymnal and the Unity, who claim that no Unity official would ever stoop to such action, but many are not so sure.
The Hymnal Foundation are at the forefront of the Investigation into Nirvana, and the War against the SALDAC organization.
The Omega Church
The largest religious institution in the galaxy is the Omega Church, believing that eventually humans or other beings will build god, with access to all time and space, and the ability to resurrect all those who have ever died in a Paradise, while punishing those deserving of it. The Omega Church is neutral in most political disputes, and has stayed out of the current SALDAC/Unity war, often acting as an informal channel of diplomacy. It is also something of a technology sponsor, which has earned it some ire from groups like the Hymnal Foundation, but the vast political resources of the Church has generally shielded it from harm so far.
The Church is controlled from the Jerusalem Spire on old earth, where the Pope and his inner council reside.
While most vessels possess an individual jump drive, these are too slow for anything but local travel. Instead most trade and commerce flows through the great Unity gate network, a vast array of structures which allow instant travel between them. Originally the creation of some long forgotten alien race, the Unity's mastery of the technology to build gateways is one of the primary forces behind its dominance of the modern era.
The second pillar of the Unity's dominance is it's control over so called Expert Systems, specialized AIs of incredible processing power. These Expert Systems guide humanity in numerous respects, preventing economic crises, perfecting new drugs and medical treatments and managing important galactic infrastructure such as communications and traffic flow.
Human augmentation of various kinds is a fairly common technology, though one regulated by the Unity, but most humans have not been become transhuman beings in the way some might have envisioned. Rather, humans of 2999 are stronger, faster, more intelligent and generally better looking than their counterparts of previous ages. Artificial life including androids and bioroids are extensively used, as are freestanding AIs, though most of these are so alien as to be impossible for a normal human to grasp. The most advanced of these are the Unity's Expert systems, built throughout the galaxy and controlled from the vast central processing citadel at Thoth.
A second avenue of human advancement is the PRAYER system. Users of PRAYER use augmentations or special training to access other information and power sources from other universes and dimensions, allowing them to access vast power and sometimes even bend physics to their whim within a defined zone. The powers and mystique of PRAYER users has come to fascinate many members of the public, and they make up an elite group within many governments, armed forces and corporations.
Both ships and people protect themselves with energy fields, usually mounted in a small broach for people and use energy weapons and missiles as weapons. Infantry combat has changed relatively little over the years, though in space, most groups deployed agile combat frames in support of star ships. Long range sensors are unreliable due to modern ECM, which hampers all but visual targeting, its self hampered by use of thermoptic cloaks, metamaterials and other shroud technology allowing for small fighters and combat frames to close rapidly, without having too much to worry about from guided weapons.
Humanity has encountered over a hundred separate alien species, and found them all to be largely incomprehensible and often uninterested in humanity. Earlier predictions about the dominance of oxygen breathing life with similar biochemistry to earth have been proven completely false, and sentient aliens vary completely from humanity in size, biochemistry and the like. Given the size of the galaxy and the different environmental niches of humans and aliens there has been no conflict over territory, and on some planets humans and aliens even live side by side, ignoring one another (for instance, human cities on land and aliens living in the deep layers of a planetary ocean).
Alien artefacts and vessels are protected from interference by Unity law, though this is as much for the protection of humans as aliens, as some species will strike back hard if provoked. There is limited trade with some alien species, mostly in the form of the exchange of novel mathematically formulas and information on natural sciences.
Unity Mandated Expedition Two Two Seven Eight One (UME22781), has been dispatched coreward down the Sagittarius Arm to inspect a star in that area, designated Sif AB-91. Sif AB-91 was up until recently an unremarkable main sequence star. Now however it appears to be collapsing with alarming speed and unknown reason. With its resources strained by the ongoing war, rather than deploy a military expedition, the Unity has contracted a flotilla of Nirvana Corporation's Fifth Exploratory Division to investigate this phenomena and determine if it poses a threat to Unity space.
Intelligence suggests that a SALDAC fleet has also been dispatched to investigate the same phenomena. The race is on to get there first.