Human ingenuity and alien technology have created the means to traverse the incredible distances between the stars. Gravity’s tricks are ours to master. Without the boundaries of light’s speed limit to bind us, the stars are ours to explore. Millions of stars shine in our galaxy, and we’ve only begun to test the Milky Way’s depth. White dwarfs, red giants, blue supergiants, pulsars, black holes, white holes -they’re out there, waiting for us to find them.
Orbiting these stellar bodies are worlds that defy our comprehension. Sheltered in our solar system, guided by our experience of only nine planets and a single sun, we can’t conceive of the strange combinations of the laws that matter, energy and chance have produced. The universe seems to delight in surprising us, challenging our understanding of its laws and origins. Scientists and archaeologists routinely discover astonishing new life forms, incredible time and space phenomena, and scattered hints of ancient life in the ruins and artifacts of alien worlds. Under the light of a million suns, the diversity of the galaxy can dazzle us all.
Science gives us the tools to get there. Ships of all sizes, shapes and purposes navigate through space and drivespace to travel between worlds. Fortress ships, veritable cities in space, are the expensive and indomitable peacekeepers of the day, ferrying vessels, protecting trade routes and projecting military force. The proliferation of interstellar travel has produced a wealth of independent traders who buy, sell and trade the wealth of the planets.
Life abounds. As astronomers discovered at the end of the 20th century, planets are common near distant stars. Life appears on other planets more often than today’s most optimistic projections. Planets strange and dangerous to human life have become home to organisms that meet most if not all of the defining qualities of life: assimilation, respiration, reproduction, growth, development, movement, secretion and excretion. Complex lifeforms find the narrow path to survival and evolution. on a few lucky worlds, sentience emerges.
As the 26th century opens, we’ve made contact with dozens of alien species. A few have become familiar brothers and sisters after centuries of interaction. Others are new friends we’ve just come to know. No matter what our relationship, each species comes to us with its own millenia of history. Each species has been shaped up by its own trials and successes on the path to civilization, on a world completely unlike the one we know. After all, they’re called aliens for a reason.
As the centuries have passed, the governments and cultures of Earth have fallen away. Their legacies have seeded the stars and given birth to new powers of human space, the stellar nations. Today, these nations extend humanity’s control of space, currently spreading out across more than 1,000 light-years. Each nation is the product of a unique origin and culture, and their national goals often differ widely. All of the stellar nations remain locked in struggle.
Only a few years ago, the stellar nations ended a century-long war, the second fought between the young spaceborne powers. The Second Galactic war was a terrible conflict, resulting in the death of billions. In the end, the nations agreed to peace not because of any smashing victory, but out of simple exhaustion. While some nations now strive to forge a lasting peace, others scheme to increase their power and widen their sphere of influence. The threat of another great war looms shockingly near.
Humanity itself is changing. For centuries, men and women have lived on worlds far from earth, slowly mutating, adapting and evolving to local conditions. Simultaneously, technological integration and body modification has allowed those motivated by professional ambition or personal desire to augment themselves with cybertechnology. Medical science has opened the path of genetic engineering on both the individual and societal scale. Engineered humans, and even mutants, are growing more common. The continued rise of extraordinary mental powers among human beings is even more inexplicable. More than ever, society must address the question “What does it mean to be human?”
Whether you’re an explorer peeling back the edge of the unknown, a diplomat in pursuit of international leverage, a trader hunting down a few extra Concord dollars, or a soldier defending our new homes in the stars, you can hear destiny blowing her trumpet. It will fall on the shoulders of a few scattered heroes to make the difference in the years to come.
Nowhere is this struggle more exemplified than among the distant stars of distant frontier regions of the galaxy: The Far Reach, the Orion Frontier, and especially the Verge. The Verge was cut off from the rest of civilization during the War, and this sector of space has only recently been reunited with the galactic community. Here, in a handful of star systems, the rivalry of the stellar nations flares into espionage, raids, skirmishes and even deadly combat. Some fight the wars of the past, others strive to keep the freedom they won during the years of isolation. More troubling to the denizens of the Verge is the destruction of the Hammer’s Star colony, a small outpost at the farthest edge of explored space. Rumormongers and prophets whisper of a dark and terrifying enemy that wiped out the settlement. Life in the Verge is tough, and soon, it may get a whole lot tougher.