The Catastrophe

About two hundred cycles ago, civilization was destroyed. No one knows why.

Before the Catastrophe

Sometime around 1700 PC (Galactic Coordinated Time), serious space colonization became a realistic prospect for humanity. Old Earth’s largest and most powerful political entity, the Consortium, launched a sustained program of expansion, rapidly reaching even the outer limits of humanity’s home system, Sol.

Unprecedented riches flowed as a result. Knowledge grew at a dizzying pace. Space mining boomed amid abundant reserves of precious minerals. With it, a new post-scarcity civilization was ushered in for the first time in human history. Further frontiers beckoned.

Soon enough, with the advent of wormhole stabilization technologies, they were within reach. Alpha Centauri was humanity’s next destination. Mass emigration gathered pace and, in time, humanity counted many further systems as home. But as the Consortium’s reach grew, its control and coherence faltered. In 594 PC, a rival affiliation emerged in Alpha Centauri: the Gaule Protectorate, based on the old Earth entity of the Franco-European Protectorate.

A delicate power balance ensued as humanity continued its spread through the galaxy driven by two competing entities. Although trade disputes, local skirmishes, and intelligence wars between the powers were common, the threat of major conflict was kept at bay as humanity’s horizons grew. The universe held more than enough riches for everybody.

But the blessings of this era were short-lived. The adverse effect on human skills, borne from cycles of technological over-reliance, rendered the species ill-prepared for any unexpected shocks. And when the shock eventually came, it was a big one, coming to be known simply as the Catastrophe.

The Catastrophe

About two hundred cycles ago, civilization was destroyed. No one knows why, though there are many theories. Humankind was viciously attacked en masse in an event known as the Catastrophe. Planetary defense systems were turned on the planets they were defending. Stations across the galaxy had their air vented, life support systems shut off, and databanks purged. Reactors went critical on ships. Humanity, across the galaxy, was driven to near-extinction within a few hundred segments. Then the attack abruptly stopped, for reasons unknown. By the time things stabilized, many stations had lost most, if not all, of their populations.

Today, few survivors of the Catastrophe remain. Those that do offer diverse testimonies of the varying disasters which befell their stations, but there is always a common element: death and destruction, on an incomprehensible scale, returned to haunt a species which thought it had left suffering behind once and for all.

The Aftermath

In the aftermath, planets were unreachable by those remaining few who were sprinkled out among the stars. For every station with survivors, there were many more without. Most human knowledge was destroyed. Books were an anachronism, so the databank purge wiped out most of what humanity needed to continue surviving, as well as the records of the past. Those survivors with skills were quickly called upon to spread their knowledge, but their expertise was piecemeal. Without the massive databanks, human technological advances came to a halt. There were even been disputes about the current old Earth year, believed to be roughly in the mid-2600s.

Gradually, despite confusion and hardship, the Consortium re-established control of Sol System. Nouveau Limoges, the lone Gaule station in the system, cut off from its government in Alpha Centauri, relinquished its affiliation in return for assistance.

But without the knowledge developed over preceding centuries, no one knew the entirety of how to build a starship, or how to construct one of the massive wormhole jump gates that many star systems have. Simple repair and reactivation of existing gates took time and required many scavenged parts from dead stations or ships.

The Accords

In cycle 91 A.C., jump gate contact to Alpha Centauri was finally re-established, but lead to a deadly meeting between a Consortium exploratory fleet and a Gaule battle group from Alpha Centauri. Miscommunication, paranoia, and outright rage sparked a quick and deadly firefight which led to the near destruction of the small Consortium fleet. This incident, commonly referred to as “Dominion’s Folly”, after the Consortium frigate accused of firing first, prompted a full-scale Consortium Naval response. The Gaule Fleet withdrew and consolidated its forces. Several small skirmishes ensued, but both fleets withheld from general engagement. Seemingly in a stalemate position, negotiations began.

Eventually, though Gaule suspicions about the cause of the Catastrophe were never completely quashed, both sides agreed to a cease-fire. Diplomats took over. A treaty was later signed by representatives of both affiliations at Nouveau Limoges, which had been ceremoniously handed back to the Gaule Protectorate as a measure of good faith. This treaty is known as the Nouveau Limoges Accords, which outlined terms for expansionism, claims to stations, and trade.

Under the Accords, the Gaule Protectorate and Consortium agreed to combine their efforts in producing and repairing ships, exploring the galaxy, redoubling the effort in recovering surviving stations, and answering the great question of what caused the Catastrophe.

This is humanity today. Most history has been lost. Existence is a hardscrabble lot, as the few left try to recover and simply stay alive. Humankind's reign has been reduced to a 40 light-year sphere, centered on Sol System. Contact with the planets and most of the other star systems have been cut off. Humans are slowly rebuilding their stations, in hopes that one day, they can regain our former glory, while also answering the important questions of who attacked humanity and why.

History

Once upon a time, humanity will spread out through the galaxy. They will create massive jump gates to travel between star systems and will tunnel into enormous asteroids to populate with their millions. An era of prosperity will come about, where we want for nothing. In an instant, it will all come crashing down around us. Read on to find out more about the Catastrophe…

“I do not know why I was spared. I watched my mother be wrenched from my father’s grasp, her breathless form somersaulting out to the stars. We clung for our lives to an old water pipe, my father shielding me from the debris that was pulled past us. I saw everyone we knew ripped from the station. And then, just as quickly as it started, it was over.”

– Elena González, Catastrophe survivor

The Age of Post-Scarcity

After breaking free from the confines of Earth, humankind spread throughout the galaxy, setting up colonies on distant planets and hollowing out enormous asteroids for use as space stations. A golden era of post-scarcity was attained. Millions lived among the stars, packing the streets of the cities within the gargantuan rocks, wandering carelessly below glittering towers and flitting about the star systems through massive interstellar jump gates. Humankind wanted for nothing, and no corner of space seemed beyond our reach.

However, once mankind had everything it wanted within its grasp, the desire for striving and achievements melted away under a blanket of apathy. Where once we reached for and conquered the stars, humanity now sat complacent, stagnating in decadence, corruption, and excess. Scientific innovations came to a stuttering halt. Expansion through the universe stalled and the advances and leaps of intuition we were once known for fizzled out. Why struggle when you want for nothing? Mankind was at a pinnacle, a rotted golden age, and saw no reason to go any further.

In an instant, that all came crumbling down.

The QED

“Love those who seek the truth; beware of those who find it.”

Marcel Proust (attributed).

Recent reports indicate that a secretive new branch of Benevolent Dynamics has begun researching the events surrounding and attributed to the Catastrophe. Read on below for a full brief.

The QED

This newly formed ‘think tank’ as the Benevolent Dynamics PR department is calling them, has been named the QED. They, allegedly, seek only to answer the mystery behind the Catastrophe in order to finally understand what caused the near extinction level event and, presumably, avert such a situation from occurring again in the future.

Whilst Benevolent Dynamics operates outside of governmental jurisdiction under the auspices of an independent technocracy, both governments have expressed alarm and suspicion at the formation of this group and their investigation. While neither government has the authority to impede this investigation in any official capacity, they have both declared that any citizens offering aid will be viewed as potentially criminal and may be subject to interviews.

Lending weight to governmental suspicion is the fact that the QED seem to operate on a highly secretive, if not clandestine, basis. Benevolent Dynamics refuses to divulge any names connected to the group nor have they released any reports of findings to date.

Field Operations

It has been reported that while the core members of the QED are comprised of scientists and researchers with varying areas of expertise, the bulk of their initial investigations are handled by field operatives who are out-sourced by Benevolent Dynamics. These operatives are, allegedly, vetted via an analytical process that quantifies various CORETECHS acquired metrics that pin-point certain characteristics above others. This, no doubt, also troubles the governments as they see such tactics as ‘fast and loose’ as such operatives cannot be tracked and reported on. It is highly likely that anyone identified as a field operative for the QED will most likely be detained and questioned at length.

The Catastrophe

From a logistical standpoint, it does, perhaps, make a certain amount of sense to investigate the Catastrophe at this time. Infrastructure, economy, and even society to a degree have started to regain a foothold. However, the event that wiped out over nine tenths of our species remains unknown. We know it happened, we roughly know how long ago it occurred, but beyond that, we have no more information. The thought, or perhaps the absence of it, looms over the collective consciousness of humanity like a pendulum from an ancient torture device, waiting to swing back down from the darkness where we saw it swing up into.

Some may fear that the QED are delving into knowledge that should best be left alone, or that what they discover may open up a colossal can of space worms. But perhaps this is the fear of the unknown that our species has always struggled with…

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. H.P. Lovecraft

Notes

  • Originally, the Catastrophe was set 200 years ago, rather than 200 cycles
  • A cycle is 100 days, so 200 cycles is less than 55 years

Additional information from the storyline

Mentioned to me the first time by Fellie Norbush (CORETECHS Calibrations).

The time before The Catastrophe was mentioned by Mikel as Before and the Omni Reality Engine could well provide us with some valuable insights (Ready Player Everyone).

Recogrete is a cement mixture of rocky material from the asteroid itself as well as leftover rubble from The Catastrophe, used in construction, such as in the Government Center Capital Government Center at Tau Station (A Rude Awakening).

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