THE STORY SO FAR

GALILEO, MARS, 2087

Humankind finally becomes a true multi-planet species, with the establishment of a long-term inhabited colony on Mars. Situated at Arcadia Planitia, and operating as a joint venture between American, Russian and European space programs, this achievement ultimately springs from renewed competition with the Chinese, who have already claimed small regions of the Moon. Ambitious start-up Galactic North wins the lucrative NASA contract for regular bulk re-supply missions between Earth, Mars and newly-formed mining ventures in the Asteroid Belt. Space technologies rival Carbon, backed by some of the wealthiest individuals on Earth, begins to trial AI-driven space probes with robotic landers, and sets their sights firmly on the Jovian system.

NORWAY, EARTH, 2142

The intersystem United Worlds is founded in Norway, partly in response to the growing discourse over planetary territorial rights in this new colonial age. With many Earth states now so beholden to the corporations that fill out their contracts, the idea of a citizen feeling more loyal to their chosen corporation and its internal culture rather than a flag truly takes root. The arrival of more compact fusion technology and fourth-generation AI frameworks built on quantum computing advances, means that robotic exploration of nearby systems is finally within our grasp.

SOL, 2201

As a deadly pandemic rages once again throughout the over-populated regions of Earth, companies are extending the opportunity to reach the Sol colonies to the average citizen. Most of these colonies are now fully corporate entities, fuelled by the industrialisation of the Asteroid Belt and findings on the planets themselves. Earth, on the other hand, is still caught up in historic rivalry and political posturing. A new age of prospecting is rife, and barges filled with ores become the most common form of space vessel apart from the AI-monitored robotic probes and helpers.

ALPHA CENTAURI, 2239

Early third-generation AI framework "Hercules" transmits its findings after an initial survey of the Alpha Centauri system. It knows that any response from Sol is hundreds of years away, but time is immaterial to an AI. It begins to fabricate primitive robotic workers from local minerals before moving onto colony structures and an accompanying support network. The first solar system beyond Earth is colonised for humankind, but not at all by human hands. Sibling AI frameworks reach their destinations over the coming century, each very slowly communicating their findings to one-another and to a future Sol.

TITAN INDUSTRIAL SHIPYARDS, 2322

The Galactic North generation ship Starbound is launched, supporting an initial crew of 168 near middle-age individuals chosen for their skills, state of mind and projected fertility. This crew knew they would never set foot on a planet again, and that their primary role would be to prepare the next generation, who would at least see the first exoplanets with their own eyes, even if they would be somewhat advanced in years by then. Competing corporations jumped on this bandwagon, with ever more elaborate generation ships built and launched in the coming century, eagerly laying claims to worlds from the first batch of arriving probe telemetry. Meanwhile, fourth and fifth-generation AI frameworks were exploring more distant systems, with competing corporations programming their probes to act in favour of their interests where possible.

SOL, 2385

A startling discovery seems to come out of nowhere. Most people seem to believe that the most recent AI frameworks are responsible, and this is as good an explanation as any, with several corporations all claiming to have manufactured the first Cascade Core almost within days of one-another. Cascade technology meant that gravity could essentially be negated or amplified per source object, with none of the adverse effects of inertia, and it quickly led to a revolution in human space travel. With most shipyards now situated in higher orbit, vessels were free from traditional restrictions on mass and aerodynamic profile, and coupled with modern ion thrusters for orbital adjustment, cascade-fitted ships represented the dawn of a new era for humankind: the Escalation.

TERMINUS STATION, KUIPER BELT, 2410

Six AI frameworks from across the Sol system collaborate to form and chair their own corporation: Atlas. Financial markets throughout the system erupt into chaos as Atlas immediately dominates its human counterparts, with subdued nations claiming foul play or outright terrorism whilst other corporations turn to thoughts of justified militarisation. But Atlas realised its error in moving out of step with the rest of humanity, reigning in its apparent ambitions in order to achieve its ultimate goals without such hinderances. By the end of the year, the AI corporation successfully ignited the first Cascade Breach beyond the Kuiper Belt, sending a manned vessel to Sirius in a travel time of only two hours. Atlas quietly patented this discovery, and in relative obscurity from then onwards, became the richest entity in the known universe.

ALPHA CENTAURI, 2438

The Starbound generation ship arrives at Proxima Centauri to discover a populated world, renamed Haven. The shocked and elderly crew were introduced to the new cascade technology that could tear through space-time to reach neighbouring solar systems in mere hours compared to the Starbounds' arduous 116 year voyage. Not that breach space was without dangers itself, with a number of ships failing to re-emerge into normal space, or displaying system failures and psychological concerns for those of a weaker temperament. Breach exits could also impact the system itself, disrupting gravity and frying electronic components. Fusion drives seemed especially susceptible, and would ideally need to be shut down for the duration. A similar fate was in store for the crews of countless other generation ships, pioneers no more, relegated to second-rate citizens on worlds largely controlled by opposing corporations.

ANCIENT EARTH, 2491

Stripped of its relevancy in the galactic colonial age, Earth nonetheless remained at the centre of corporate and derivative nation state ambitions. But now it began to be largely devoid of its useful natural resources as well, shifting identity towards that of an ancient world, to be doomed to be fought over by those too consumed by history to see it fade. Corporations moved their principle interests off-world and eventually beyond Sol itself. Citizens flocked to colony ships or signed up for protection duty with their corporation of choice, with private navies quickly becoming more powerful than anything the governing nation states could afford to wield. Left unchecked, the World Wars which had been put on hold for over 500 years resumed anew, albeit with very different players, but very few were paying much attention to the plight of Earth by this point.

PRECIPICE STATION, JUVE, 2524

First operational test flight using a Breach Gate construct. Pioneered by the Galactic North corporation, these immense space structures serve as beacons to incoming ships travelling through breach space. Re-entry to normal space via a breach gate is found to be much safer and predictable, with none of the ill-effects observed previously. Many corporations immediately re-tool their latest AI swarm frameworks towards building a consolidated gate network in the Near Earth Territories, with safe space travel for all very much on the horizon at long last.

AUGUSTUS, 52 LY FROM SOL, 2563

First discovery of potentially intelligent alien life is found. Dialogue is somewhat lacking, however, since this species seems to have died out thousands of years prior to human arrival. Beyond the initial discovery at Augustus, over seventy worlds are found littered with the evidence of a once-thriving galactic race, and corporate scientists take great delight in poring over their relatively well-preserved technological components. What is less clear is in the nature of their space travel, with no identifiable craft of any kind observed in any of the so-called Aga's once-inhabited solar systems.

MOMENTA, 44 LY FROM SOL, 2583

Open hostilities arise between Galactic North and Carbon, leading to the first Galactic War. Despite virtually unlimited colonisation potential in every direction beyond Sol and the Near Earth Territories, fewer and fewer inhabitable worlds begin to be discovered, resulting in an alarming downturn in expansion prospects. Many of the worlds reported back by the AI swarms ceaselessly building gates way out in the Fringe are found to be lifeless or littered with the ruins of other long-dead alien races. Terrestrial planets in the Goldilocks zone are suddenly prime real estate once more, with proxy wars between opposing corporations taking place wherever their interests clashed. An Atlas-backed United Worlds rose to true prominence in the following decades, assembling an impressive fleet of peace-keeping vessels that sought to spread goodwill and shared ideas rather than the close-minded segregation of established corporate sub-culture.

To be continued...

KUIPER BELT, SOL, 2713

Early-warning sentries in the Kuiper Belt detect some unusual mass readings heading towards the Sol heliosphere. All attempts to connect with inner-system relay stations fail. The larger the mass moving through breach space, the larger the impact the resulting breach will have on the exit system. In this case, the gravimetric reading was off the scale, and there was no breach gate to be found on the targets current heading. What followed can only be described by those who survived these events as The Collapse.

This is the point in time where the story of Fragile Existence takes place. Players will take command of the last fleet of humanity, as it ventures out beyond the gated Near Earth Territories and the AI-governed Fringe, through the so-called Alien Graveyard, then out towards the Dead Stars, and yet further still...