Setting and Backstory
History of The Sphere
The 21st Century: Posthumans Ascendant
In the middle of the 21st century, ever-increasing bio- and infotechnology heralded the merging of mankind and his machine creations. The next step in human evolution was happening at ever-increasing speeds. In 2038, Time Online featured an entire issue on the 'emerging breed of superhumans'. In 2044 it was becoming abundantly clear that this increasing population was leaving 'baseline' humanity behind. Many conservative voices were raised and a swell of opposition to human-modifying technologies began to grow. In 2048, in what was seen as one part evolutionary leap and one part cyberterror act, the vast global internet and all the processing power connected to it was highjacked and used to bootstrap an artificial intelligence to strong superhumanity.
The Friendly AI project worked. Almost.
While the full details of these chaotic years are a matter for public record, it is worth seperating fact from myth:
- The posthumans did open the first wormholes to nearby worlds as part of their own purposes in exploring the universe.
- The Russian Federation did not almost launch nuclear weapons at a processing node - this myth is the result of repeated exageration.
- The SAI never destructively uploaded people attempting to travel to the colonies.
- Many longshot colonies were created/launched at the request of would-be colonists, not simply by the Posthumans looking for likely candidates.
The '50s and '60s saw tens of millions of people leaving Earth, settling across dozens of worlds. Many of these embraced human augmentation technology, if to a far lesser extent than the increasingly-detached posthumans. By 2070 they had become nigh-incomprehensible to normal humans, ever more cryptic and delphaic. Soon after, they vanished from the Earth entirely, leaving behind their technology to dissasemble itself.
While this had unexpected effects as a huge amount of posthuman-derived technology started to fail, the nations of Earth were not completely devastated by their departure. The reconstruction went as well as expected, marred by only a few small wars, and as the 21st century came to a close the great powers were once again in control of their destinies.
The 22nd Century: Colonization and Conflict
Subsentient AI agents and uterine replicators had revolutionized child rearing; knowing full well that economic and political power resided in a large, well-educated workforce, the nations and groups expanding offworld embraced these technologies with vigour. Others simply encouraged population growth via the old-fashioned way. Children were a surefire way of getting more land and more money on the frontier. Spurred on by pro-growth policies, the Core Worlds went through population growth not seen in the developed democracies for a century and a half.
Unfortunately not everything happening was positive. The economic havoc wrought by the arrival and then dissappearance of the posthumans resulted in a backlash against those who augmented themselves. Conservative positions about how genetics should only be used to cure ills and not go beyond the average human soon dominated policy in the core, a stunning reversal from the heady times a generation earlier. Those who were augmented - which, for the vast majority, meant relatively minor changes - soon found themselves marginalized and pushed ever further outwards.
These and other unresolved issues simmered until late in the 22nd century. Finally, pushed too far by the high-handed, distant and seemingly arbitrary rules of the UN colony commissioners the Zodiac Outworlds Colony Union was formed. By 2180 it had grown from a collection of local militias to a federation that boasted an actual military - the first in the Rim.
In 2187, brinksmanship and failed diplomacy ended in the first true interstellar war in mankind's history. While 'police actions' had been undertaken all across the sphere against smaller worlds, this was the first time genuine warships clashed and the front stretched across multiple stars. The war was brought to an undignified close in December 2187 as the Helium Energy Consortium - the primary and virtually only source of all-important He3 fuel - instituted a full energy embargo on the ZOCU states.
It is now 2194 and the Human Sphere has not gotten any safer.
Regions of the Sphere
The Core is host to the oldest and most populous worlds of man. All were terraformed with posthuman help and settled in the middle of the 21st century by the major nations of Earth. With generous offers and subtle propaganda their populations grew massively over the intervening period and a century later the least had the population of a major Earthbound state.
In the current period the Core is aligned along three major ‘arms’ that lead out to the Rim; the Pac-Am arm, the European arm and the Chino-Russian arm. These three power blocks dominated exploration and mass colonization until recently. Now they are faced with a contained but rising power block in ZOCU and an increasing number of vital states emboldened by the Core’s withdrawal.
After the core was settled, continual population movement soon pushed the limits of contacted human space outwards. It was here in the Expanse the frontier truly developed like it never had in the Core. On those worlds there were no Posthuman cornucopia machines building colony infrastructure out of dirt and energy. It was here that many enhanced humans ended up, settling far from the prejudice of the Core.
Recently the Expanse has seen the birth of the Zodiac Outworlds Colony Union and, as a result, the most widespread war Humanity has seen. Seven years later the lines between the ZOCU states and the Second Stage Colonies are as fresh and as deep as they were they were drawn. Other independent powers both large and small skirt around the edges, seeking their own gain.
Unlike the clear demarcation between the Core and the Expanse, there is no such line between the Expanse and the Rim. Populated by both small colonies sent out during the 21st century and newer ones of people escaping the inner systems, the Rim encompasses more stars than the Core and the Expanse put together – far more.
Still virtually exploited and, in many cases, poorly explored, the Rim has become something of a cold war battlefield between various major powers as they attempt to find the local ally, the resource deposit or the posthuman artifact that can win them some advantage. Far from ‘civilization’, the law of the frontier applies here.