It is the year 2260 of the Eighth Cycle. Humanity’s golden ages are past. Millennia after millennia of collapse, resurgence, and collapse have spread the seeds of humanity far and wide, diverging beneath alien suns to forms strange and wonderful – though, as far as some are concerned, “human” lost its meaning in ages long forgotten.
Humanity – or, rather, posthumanity, occupies all corners of the Orion Spur. Their realms are as disparate as they are similar, boasting curious amalgamations of culture, technology, and the many starfaring races that inhabit the Spur.
By and large, the technology of the distant future is arcane and strange, worlds of glittering gold and shimmering silver beneath fields of infinite stars. From the agrarian, slow outworlds of the Shallows to the hypertech metropoli of Cradlespace, technology, their wielders, and the strange other-place of the Wild Mesh intertwine and blend, producing the strange techno-force known as exologia.
Travel between the stars was once instant – a relic of the Age of Miracle, scattered remains of the star-bridge gates and their support manifolds and structures still littering the worlds they once serviced. Few gates remain operational, largely confined to the worlds of the Core that survived the collapses best. Elsewhere, travel takes time. Light-skippers, great golden vessels capable of bearing the strain of drifting through the Tide itself, ply routes of commerce and trade.
ORION SPUR – the home arm of ancient humanity. Numerous posthuman and xenoform civilizations inhabit this region, making it a quite literal crossroads of interstellar culture and trade.
PERSEUS DRIFT – the thinning of stars to the galactic west of the Orion Spur, towards the Perseus Gulf that separates the Spur from the Perseus Arm. Sparsely populated, largely unexplored. Numerous xenofauna, no (confirmed) sapient xenoforms.
CENTAURI REACH – the region to the galactic north-east and corewards of the Spur, home to the Cavican Hegemony. Largely explored, very bright.
OLD CORE (CRADLESPACE) – the sixty lightyears surrounding Sol, sporting some of the highest populated worlds in the Spur. Has the largest number of Skipper lanes and routes in the region.
THE WOUND – a relic of wars immemorial, this region is scoured. starless, with drifting wrecks and forgotten relics
IBREAN WASTES – coreward side of the Perseus Arm, contains various splinter posthuman states and satellite xenoforms. Largely empty.
THE SHOALS – rimward side of the Spur, curiously calmer infraspace currents. Makes travel easier, sports large numbers of agricultural worlds and high food exports.
GLITTERSHOAL – artificial nebula within the Shoals seeded some twenty thousand years ago. few go in, fewer come out.
FAR SPUR – the far eastern end of the Spur, contains the posthuman state known as the Ovellian Collaborate. Stars are relatively distant from one another, large clouds of interstellar dust.
SAGITTARIUS HIGHLANDS – rimward side of the Sagittarius arm. Unexplored and unsettled.
CARINA GULF – coreward side of the Spur, contains the loose federation of states known as Lashan. Old colonies, deep roots.
“It is, perhaps, the most notable aspect of the Human – their predisposition to acclimation and adaptation, to overcome hazards by simply outlasting them.”
Over the untold millennia, humanity has diverged. Whether due to local climactic or gravitic pressure, genetic projects of various scope and goal, or simple time, the “standard” human no longer exists. Numerous types occupy the Spur, along with many others not listed below.
- “Baseline” humans – ancient, Terran standard humans. Acclimated to 1G standard gravity on average, remarkably resilient and adaptive. Found across the Spur and beyond. Many subspecies, from aquatic to arboreal.
- Bioframes – living tissue with a silicate vertebral core. Inhabited by posthuman consciousness, functions much as any other body would. Physiology varies wildly and is often tailored to personal preferences. Relegated to relatively high tech regions of the Spur, require specialized maintenance.
- Synthframes – less organic than bioframes, usually retain a semblance of humanoid shape and aesthetic. Usually. Can hold a resident posthuman or an AI comfortably.
- Cavica – techno-mystics seeking to conquer the Wild Mesh and bend it once more to human wills. Powerful wielders of exologia, the Cavica are a formidable player on the interstellar stage, and managed in an age past to create great Tide currents to dissuade errant vessels from penetrating their region of the stars.
- Ovelle – these were once human, but no longer. Ovelle exist within realspace as ruin-dwelling bronze and marble-masked colossi. Their history is unknown, but it is believed to be tied to the earliest arcane experiments by the Cavican void-witch covens – though, naturally, the Cavica refuse to elaborate, and the Ovelle remain silent. Visitors to their ruin-worlds return with stories of whispers in the dark.
- Savhara – designer “pet” bioframes from a cycle of decadence past that have established themselves as a population all their own. Largely exist in the older parts of the Spur, though a large number exist within the Shoals.
Few true xenoforms have ever been encountered. The ancient Alissids are one race who in cycles past interacted with humanity, but they, as many things do, passed into memory in the First Collapse – as did the Turiga, and the Unari. Many others, however, still exist – and can be found across the Spur, if one knows where to look.
Hujia – vast interstellar dust collections granted sentience by chance and gravity. Communicate over vast distances with as of yet not understood means. Recycle starship wrecks, often found in orbital junkyards and battle sites.
Teshiko – squat, subterranean humanoids often found within asteroid habitats or mining firms. Build great inverted cities on worlds they colonize.
Sanachar – mesh-spawned xenoforms, resulting from a faulty node interacting with local fauna over many millennia. Stronger connection to it than most.
THE WILD MESH
In the heights of the Fourth Cycle, humanity created the Mesh within the very shallowest layers of the Tide – a superluminal information network that spread as they settled the Spur, new nodes stretching its reach further and further with successive additions. It functioned, by and large, as the information nexus of humanity, being linked with the analogues encountered xenoforms created when encountered. Successive cycles added to this network, and as it spread, it began to… change. Strange currents flowed through the Mesh, echoes of users long-dead and users yet-to-be. Latent power, awakened by time, and distance.
Today, the mesh beyond the explored and documented portions – or beneath them – is known as the Wild Mesh, a vast sea of information both tantalizing and perilous. The sections pinned down, papered over, and carefully catalogued and categorized, in comparison, are the Living Mesh, posthumanity’s largest repository of ancient knowledge and insight. This functions, more or less, like any other network.
The issues arise, naturally, when such a network is left alone for millennia – festering as nodes drift, corrupting beneath the harsh glare of uncaring suns and lonely space. Beyond the civilized spaces – explored, mapped, studied beneath the eyes of posthuman scholars and self-titled explorers, the Wild Mesh is as dangerous as any untamed frontier, making accessing it at all a gamble.
Earlier cycles documented an odd affinity some humans and xenoforms had for connections to the Mesh – an inability to achieve total cessation of connectivity, a strange push and pull their minds seemed to find within the endless depths of the Tide. Dubbed the Malakev Effect by a long-forgotten researcher, these individuals were marked – but, as the Tide itself was calmer in the distant past, their effect was limited, and largely unnoticed.
The Mesh of the Eighth Cycle, however, is anything but.
Some, attuned to the Wild Mesh and the cosmic fabric better than most, developed the ability to exert their will upon it, bending reality and unreality alike to their whims – and, thus, were branded sorcerers. Witches. These are the Exologia, the mages of a future unimagined. Kaln Tevyaga’s misbegotten crusade of antiquity sought to wipe the budding exologia from the stars, seeking to exterminate the covens of Cavica and the arcane colossi of the Ovelle, but only found death and disorder in their wake.
So, too, has the future been marred by those who wield it – great tyrants and warrior kings, prophets and madmen – this is the mark of the exologia, and the curse it bears.
Seeking to understand their connection and driven mad by Tevyaga’s crusade, the Cavica sealed their region of the Centauri Reach long ago – but, occasionally, Cavican star-witches appear across the Spur, in pursuit of some arcane goal or another.
THE TIDE, DEPTH UNFATHOMABLE
The first Cycles delved into the universe greedily, without caution, without practice. Clumsy steps into their skies, the stars, the worlds beyond and beneath.
In no place is this more evident than the depths of the other-space, the unseen ocean that underflows every planet, every soul, the Tide itself. Travel across the stars beyond light’s reach is only possible because of the Tide’s currents, caught on gossamer star-sails and solar engines. Great waves and storms wrack its depths, damning floundering ships and sparking tales of terror in hushed tones across the Spur and beyond. Cycles past tried to tame this tempest, and were rebutted utterly and wholly – relics from forgotten wars and misbegotten attempts at dominion beyond the reaches of realspace occasionally resurfacing where the Tide grows shallowest, washing up upon the shores of the Real as drifting wreckage.
The shallows of the Tide are safer, calmer, and as a result are where most travel within it takes place. While relatively slow, taking days to traverse mere dozens of lightyears, for those requiring the journeys it is functional, and effective. Consequently, however, further afield systems and star-polities tend to be by and large self-sufficient for goods and produce.
The variety of star-ships of the Eighth Cycle is vast. Great skimmer-ships ply the Core routes, ferrying cargo and passengers, gossamer-threaded lightriders skim across the depths of the Tide as dragonflies across still water. Great machines of war ply the depths, forgotten relics of wars unnamed – and, along the fringes, their rarity makes ships valuable.