By E.A.E. Merlin
Here follows a brief account of human history in the solar system commonly known as Eden, including an overview of the events that led up to the colonization of the system. CE stands for Current Era, which was the standard calendar before the colonization (equivalent to AD, Anno Domini). EE stands for Era of Eden, which takes the year of the opening of the Sol-Gate as year zero.
846 standard years ago, in the year 2524 CE the great Earth Union, the largest political body the solar system had ever seen, activated the largest machine the system had ever seen: A stable worm hole generator, powered by half a Dyson cloud’s worth of solar power plants enveloping half the sun. The construction of the wormhole generator was a momentous feat of engineering, but seen in the light of human history, it was perhaps an equally momentous diplomatic and political move. For a fragmented global and interplanetary community on the brink of a disastrous war, the promise of brand new habitable worlds only days or weeks travel away was enticing enough to become a catalyst of unity.
When Yūichiro Iwamoto, Sooquan Sooquan, Eva Magnusson and Vanilani Narasikayan demonstrated the practical possibility of creating stable wormholes, with the backing of PARSEC (Pan Asian Real Science and Engineering Corporation), all the major nations started to seriously consider the tenability of building a large scale wormhole generator. But if it hadn't been for the political acumen of one young leader, humanity might never have left its cradle. Vera Sider Mare, the president of the fledgling government of Mars, declared her intent to support a plan to build a massive project, one that grant all participants access to the stars, and extended an open invitation to anyone on earth to participate. No one nation had the resources to complete such a project on their own, but with access to the Martian foundries, if any one great nation joined, it would be enough. Naturally, then, less than a day after the announcement, all the great powers of Earth had signed on; no one dared be the one left behind in this venture. So, under the guidance of Vera Sider Mare of Mars, president Alexei Gustovitch of the Russian Union, Gro Engstrøm of the Afro-European Union, Xiao Wei of China, Sung-Min Akasaka of The East-Asian Republic, Susan Clements of The United States of Pan-America and Abhay Aishwarya of Bharata, the Earth Union was created. And together, humans completed a machine that could bend and twist the fabric of space itself.
During the ten years it took to complete the generator, life in the solar system had changed from a profoundly of anxious and vigilant state, battling pollution, overcrowding and an out of control climate with states and people blaming each other for the mess, to an atmosphere of excitement, fellow feeling and hope. The optimism associated with the project was truly remarkable, and during those years, Mars and Sider Mare rose in popularity and prominence, as the Martian foundries became the center stage of the building process. Companies involved in the construction became incredibly wealthy, including PARSEC, ElverSEC (Elver Space Engineering Corp), Kubrick Space, and the Martian Terraforming Guild. It was also during these fateful years that SETI picked up on the first robust evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence: a burst of high spectrum rays containing among other things, a description of the periodic table, a set of equations that looked suspiciously like an expression of a successful unification of relativity and quantum mechanics, plus some more incredibly advanced math. Inside this signal, there was also a pattern of numbers that on the most obvious planar geometric interpretation gave rise to a pattern that looked a bit like an irregular snowflake or a star with an incredible number of planets around it. This puzzled both the public and the scientists, but after a little while the general consensus was that the pattern of numbers represented some form of art. A few people even tried to convert the pattern to music, and one composer even managed to translate it into a beautiful and haunting piece for a String Quartet. The few people who maintained that this was neither a piece of visual art nor music, but rather a schematic representation of the senders of the signal’s home system were largely ignored.
This arrival of what soon became known as the Confirmation (or the “Holy Shit”-signal to astronomers) came fortuitously—some would say suspiciously—close to the completion of the wormhole gate (fortuitous in more than one way it turned out, as some of the equations contained in the signal were used to discover a fatal flaw in the design that would have made the generator fail in a very spectacular, solar-system-destroying fashion). It was decided in fairly short order, despite the protests of cautious and xenophobic people, that the wormhole gate should be opened in a direction toward the signal’s origin, in an attempt to establish further communication, even though scientists were unsure exactly how far away the signal had come from. Thus it was that on June 24th 2524, when the Sol-Gate was opened, it was pointed in the general direction of extra-terrestrial intelligence.
Although small scale tests had showed that a fair degree of control was possible to exert on where the location of the other end of the wormhole would be, but on the scale of the Sol-Gate, they were pretty much shooting darts in the dark. As such, it was surprising in more than one way that when the first opening of the gate gave humanity access to a completely unknown area of space, that space contained a very particular star: one with an improbable amount of planets in orbit and whose silhouette appeared to coincide roughly with a snowflake. It didn't take long before it was confirmed that the system corresponded almost exactly with the strange representation contained as a sequence of numbers in the Confirmation signal. Humanity, it seemed, had found its first neighbors.
After a number of unmanned probes and a flurry of active and passive scanning, the information was released to humanity: what we had found was solar system containing a large collection of alien worlds, some apparently teeming with life, and many appearing habitable for humans. Although it was nigh impossible to determine exactly where in the galaxy the wormhole had popped up, the general consensus immediately became that this was the very system that the Confirmation hailed from. The one thing that didn't fit was that the advanced civilization that must have sent it was nowhere to be found.
The true story of the origin of the Confirmation and the fate of the alien civilization that sent it may well forever remain a mystery to us. But one fact that may make the whole affair a bit less mysterious is that the newfound system probably was quite a bit further away from Sol than initially thought. The experts say and the records show that wormhole technology was far from precise, and although the engineers were able to direct the wormhole in the approximate direction of origin of the Confirmation signal, no one actually knew how many lightyears away the wormhole had opened. Perhaps the signal had travelled tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of years before it reached us, and the senders were already long gone.
As humanity felt a mix of disappointment and relief at the lack of indigenous intelligence, most people were also amazed at our luck. The number and potential habitability of the planets in the system was truly extraordinary. Encouraged by these findings, the name of Eden quickly caught on. This was truly a new chance at paradise for humankind.
Once the gate opened, and the land of plenty that lay beyond had been revealed, the political atmosphere of Sol-system changed once again. But this time, it was a change that every nation tried to hide, as they pretended the unity and cooperation of the Gate building years still held, all the while setting their sights on how to seize and secure a dominant foothold in Eden, the great new arena for human expansion. In the course of a couple of days since the opening of the gate, tensions had mounted to a new all time high, as the notable parties of the EU debated who was to be let through the gate first, and with what equipment. Before any human had so much as set foot inside the Eden system, zones of control were being fought for and borders had been drawn. The Earth Union council was not able to come to agreement on how the first colonization parties were to be divided up between the nations. Realistically, of course, despite the political maneuvering done on the map, those who got the most and best colony ships through the gate would likely be able to establish the best foothold. Naturally, then, everyone wanted to be first, and no one wanted to be second. As the debate in the EU continued, a select few neutral corporations were allowed to go through, with scientists and engineers, in order to evaluate the planets and resources of the system. So it was that corporate employees and administrators were the first humans to see whole other star system. Of course, many of these corporations were neutral mostly in name, some (like PARSEC) not even that, but no great power in the solar system had particularly advantageous representation. All of the corporations that played a big part in the construction came through in some form, including ElverSEC and the renamed Terraforming Guild (formerly the Martian Terraforming Guild). Not wanting to let the corporations stake their claims unrestricted, the great nations managed a compromise, and a small fleet of civilian colony ships was assembled, with every contributing nation was allowed just one ship of s certain size, although each ship could house thousands of people. Just twenty-four days after the gate was first opened, the colony fleet was ready to go through.
One by one the small crafts started to cross the bridge between stars, but after only three ships had passed, the great machinery that maintained the wormhole, failed. Suddenly, the place where Sol and Eden system had been connected in space no longer had such a connection. And among those who felt this sudden lack most keenly were the Chinese crew and colonists of the On Seung Un, who found themselves piloting only half a starship. When the Martian Second Opportunity and the Afro-European Ohmononethep turned around to rescue the survivors, tragedy struck again as some sort of spatiotemporal distortion in the wake of the wormhole’s collapse destroyed both the remains of On Seung Un and the Ohmononenthep, leaving the Martian Second Opportunity to be the sole remaining colony ship. Twenty-four days and six hours had passed. Just over a hundred and fifty ships had crossed. And the Sol-Gate had done all the work that it was ever going to do. Since that day, the humans of Eden system have been cut off from Earth, and Sol. There has been no sign of a new gate. And any communication traveling through regular space will take at least a few thousand years to arrive. From that day, as humans on Eden, we have been on our own.
About eighty-two thousand people crossed through the gate before it closed. Of those, around twelve thousand perished with the On Seung Un and the Ohmononethep, leaving about eight thousand Martians and sixty-two thousand corporate employees to make a new beginning on the many planets in the Eden System. In the beginning, people flocked together. The trauma of the sudden cut-off from the rest of Humanity as well as the destruction two of the three colony ships that managed to come through triggered the survival instincts of the people left behind. Flock together. Protect what you have. Cling to the familiar and the safe. The early scans had pointed to one planet that looked especially familiar, Earthlike. It had oceans, continents and a biology whose evolution had produced something a lot like lush green forests and trees. The monkey brain told its humans: there. And so, Memoriam became the location of the first human colony on Eden. Situated just at the inner edge of what later became known as the Locks, it was the place where humanity sat down together, mourned, and took a breath. Because the atmosphere was breathable and appearances were so familiar, people took to the planet as if it was another piece of Earth. Nobody erected domes or other protective structures to separate themselves from the environment, and for nine whole years this seemed like a safe thing to do. And for nine years, Martians and corporates lived together, building the first human settlement outside the Sol-System. Boundaries between different peoples began to erode. Nationalities and corporate identities were no longer that important. People were now all just the people of Eden. The people who lived on Memoriam, in the town of New Haven. Then the tenth year came, and as if Eden wanted to live up to its biblical name, a great plague swept across Memoriam, and New Haven was nearly wiped off the map in an event which would later simply become known as the Happening.
The culprit was a strange fungus- and animal-like organism, which had a cycle of life a little bit like cicadas back on Earth. Most of their life, it spent deep underground, chained to a great network of rootlike structures, which spanned across continents. Then, every ten to twenty years, a huge amount of bluish slime-like stuff was expelled from the roots, moving with a coordinated ebb and flow, pushing its way to the surface. There it scoured the planet, enveloping everything and anything it came across in a thick layer of of slime that then started to break down the object into its constituent parts, which it would then slowly pull down into the network of roots. In other words, it was a cyclical, subterranean predator, that once every decade, would eat anything and everything bound to the land. It was like a Venus Flytrap the size of a continent. It was no wonder the land life of Memoriam had evolved to have short life cycles and many mechanisms to escape into air, water or high rocky ground. What became known as Devil’s Slime might well have been the end of humanity on Eden, were it not for the fact that buildings are hard to digest, and that more than one person with access to a starship realized that escape was the only option before it was too late. In the end, about seventeen thousand people were eaten, but humanity survived. So the humans of Eden were homeless once again, this time cut off from their new home, which had tried to eat them.
People realized that flocking together might not always be a good idea, and also, that they needed to pay much more attention to make sure that the planet they were on really were suited for human life. Terraforming, on many levels, became the new mantra of the system, and, luckily, the Terraforming Guild had brought along all the expertise that was needed. Thus Humanity spread out, searching out the most hospitable planets, using more than mere appearance as guidelines, settled in protected settlements and started terraforming where necessary, which was nearly everywhere. In many ways, this was the true beginning of the colonization of Eden, and the style of Eden’s colonies is still heavily marked by this period: they are diverse, decentralized and for the most part thinly populated.
Before many years had passed most of the 69 planets in the habitable zone (the Locks) had been colonized in some fashion. Three years was about the maximum amount of time that a spaceship of the age would take to get from any one planet in the Locks to another. And that was about the time it took for humans to have touched down on all 69 of them. Contact between the fledgling colonies was sparse in the early years, and trade was fairly limited, as most colonies managed to reach a level of self-sustainment very quickly, due to abundance of natural resources and the powerful fabrication technology humans had had for decades. Terraforming was still a major challenge, though, and the Guild helped facilitate the work all across Eden. As soon as each colony started to get stronger footholds and identities, trade in secondary and tertiary goods became more relevant, and a bustling interplanetary economy started to flourish. In year 49 EE, Naira Piqeng of Trueport spearheaded the movement to establish a system of law to govern interplanetary space. The Eden Interplanetary Trade Act, a legal framework dealing mostly with regulation and defense of ships in interplanetary space, was the result and its declaration by nearly universal consensus, marked the end of the Early Years.
Thereafter followed a period of stability and steady development and growth, the Human population of Eden doubling roughly every forty years. The years from 49 to 199 EE is commonly known as the The Early Expansion or the Trueport Era, when the Interplanetary Court was located in Trueport City, Vesmium. By the end of this era, the human population of Eden was about 1.5 million. In the year 199, the Court was moved to Aster City, Kemeleu, after a The Piqeng family declared its intention to withdraw from the interplanetary community along with the rest of Trueport and Vesmium. A year after the relocation, Vesmium disappeared from Eden System, the entire planet vanishing without further explanation.
Aster City was the location of the Court for a bit more than five hundred years after the Trueport Era, and this time period is often called the Expansion Years. During the Expansion Years, the colonization of the planets beyond the Locks began in earnest, and by the Era’s end in 734 EE, most planets of Eden had seen human contact. All planets in the Locks had populations of at least a few million, many as high as a few billion. Most planets in the Subs had some form of settlement, although populations rarely exceeded a million. Industry and mining in the flint had started in earnest, and even the belt was bustling with activity. Only the Sea and the Outs were still quite sparsely populated, though the Sea was home to numerous gas-harvesting operations. By the year 734, the human population of Eden had exceeded 90 billion.
One of the major happenings during the Expansion Years were the founding of the first Great Library, in year 213 EE. This was the Library of Stars, founded by Vester Orlen on Yakutsk. Almost immediately after the founding of the library, the progress of the science of astronomy skyrocketed, due to the efforts of the people who worked in the library. These librarians/scientists soon became known only as the Librarians, marking their affiliation to the organization founded by Vester Orlen and Beato Linge called the Guild of Librarians. More Great Libraries started popping up on planet after planet, and the Guild kept growing in influence and power. By the end of the Expansion Years, nearly every colonized planet had a Great Library.
In the year 379 EE a man named Eyasko Net became the first person to declare himself ruler and owner of more than one planet in Eden. In an ambitious play for power, he declared a group of seven planets in the Subs to be a sovereign political body called the Trade Empire. Within this sovereignty, the Interplanetary Trade Act did not apply, according to Eyasko, and the Empire was quickly building its own fleet to enforce its own laws. Needless to say, this was not a development that everyone was happy with. Still, the Trade Empire thrived for the few short years that it existed, expanding to include of six more planets. But just as soon as it looked like the Trade Empire was becoming an unstoppable avalanche, Eyasko Net died under mysterious circumstances, and the Empire crumbled from within. One military leader, named Ema Trilovina took half of Eyasko’s fleet and headed for the Belt. There she created the Free Ships Alliance, which was a sort of continuation of Eyasko’s idea of independence from the Interplanetary Trade Act without the expansionary ambitions. Another of Eyasko’s admirals, Tem Eænrik, seemed to take this desertion as a personal offence, and brought whatever ships would follow him on a mission to destroy Ema’s fleet. The resulting Battle of the Belt (384 EE) was Eden’s first true military conflict.
Neither side could be called a victor in the Battle of the Belt. Due to the effectiveness of ship to ship weapons, every attack was potentially deadly, and the two fleets were evenly matched. Soon, there were only a few ships left, and both fleets were completely broken. Both Tem and Ema’s ships were disabled so that they could no longer assert command, and their fleets broke apart and ship captains went their own ways. Most ended up in some part of the belt, and stayed there. The remains of Tem and Ema’s fleets became the first ships of the various pirate gangs that now thrive in the belt.
After the remnants of the Trade Empire were decimated in the battle of the belt, stability and peace continued their reign over Eden for another 350 years. During this time, the major structure of human civilization in Eden was semented into what we see today. By the end of the expansion years, The Flint, The Locks, The Subs, The Belt, The Sea and The Outs all were more or less in the shape they are today. A huge number of worlds, independent and culturally diverse, yet existing in peaceful acceptance.
In the year 734, something incomprehensible happened: a new planet appeared in the Eden System, suddenly, without warning, it was simply there, orbiting Eden in the sort of gray area that divided the locks and the Subs. Red Thunder, as it was quickly named, entered Eden with a flash and caused a thunderous uproar. Although the humans of Eden actually had experienced an event of similar seeming impossibility and scale in the vanishing of Vesmium 535 years before, but this time, the psychological impact was exponentially greater. The vanishing of Vesmium had been preceded by an announcement of withdrawal, and as such seemed to make a certain kind of sense. The arrival of Thunder Red, however, seemed rude and intrusive in comparison. The planets of Eden, especially in the Locks, were thought to be a known quantity, but Thunder Red proved otherwise.
The strong feeling of Thunder Red being an unknown quantity was further reinforced by the extremely unusual activity that emanated from the planet. On its surface were intricate patterns of color and movement, which seemed inexplicable as natural phenomena. Even the weather-patterns seemed to follow dance-like rhythms and regularities, and on the surface, the crust of the planet was engaged in complicated maneuvers, as mountains-ranges rose and fell, continents moved, and oceans dried up or formed with improbable speed. The weird behavior of the planet was noticeable from far away, as it sent out strong signals in the electromagnetic spectrum, as well as most other types of signals which could propagate through empty space. That the signals and behavior were the products of some alien intelligence seemed an unavoidable conclusion. This threw the curious and power hungry minds of Eden into a frenzy of activity, and expeditions to investigate were planned all across the system.
The arrival of this alien world affected the many societies of Eden in a variety of ways, but the most dramatic reactions came from the Locks-planet of Felagr. Here, a sectarian religious society known as the Khogul Aghim Alkhanos, or the Glorious Ancient Forever, believed Thunder Red to be a message from the Forevers, the mythical alien race that has existed since before the beginning of the universe, and who guides and governs all of life towards the creation of the next universe. The leader of the cult, High Ambassador Bastjan Borgas II led a fleet composed of commandeered interplanetary policecraft and all the spaceworthy ships of Felagr, outfitted with weapons, and started a blockade of Thunder Red, declaring the planet off limits to anyone who did not belong to The Followers.
As numerous parties had already launched or planned expeditions to Thunder Red, this did not go over well with the System at large. Especially problematic was the fact that the expedition belonging to the Durnheim family of Karst, including the heir to the Stone Throne, Karl Durnheim, was trapped on the wrong side of the blockade. This led to the mobilization of the fairly substantial Durnheim Fleet, led by king Udver Durnheim, which headed toward Thunder Red at full speed. Further complicating matters was the arrival of Khamel Koler’s Flying Firebrands, an army of thrillseekers in fast and powerful single person spacecraft. As The Army of the Forevers and the Durnheim army faced off, Kham and her Firebrands used the distraction to run the blockade, and proceeded to enter the turbulent atmosphere of Thunder Red. The records of their entry, and the images from their flights over the surface of Thunder Red are spectacular enough to be the stuff of legends, but the most remarkable thing about their deed was the way that their mission ended.
Khamel Koler and her Firebrands flew through an unbelievable landscape, of jagged red peaks stretching needle thin into the stratosphere, almost as if daring them to go in, fly lower, and navigate increasingly impossible straits, and the Firebrands certainly heeded the call. Their daredevil run through the labyrinth of rocks has reached an almost mythical status, and the recordings transmitted from the ships reveal some spectacular flying. More than two thirds of the one-man crafts met their ends through a violent impact, but what happened to Kham and the rest of the Aces who made it through the labyrinth is less clear. At a certain point, the transmissions stopped, and all of the Firebrands were presumed dead. But this, as it turned out, was not entirely the case.
When the Firebrands ran the blockade, a portion of the Followers’s fleet broke off in pursuit. This gave Udver Durnheim an opportunity which he seized at once. As one, his fleet of battleships launched a volley of missiles at the blockading fleet, and followed it up with a full scale attack. Udver was determined to destroy every single Follower in order to get to his son. The improvised and commandeered fleet of Bastjan Borgas II was numerically superior, but outmatched in armament and training. Caught distracted by the Firebrands, the Follower fleet was shredded by the disciplined Durnheim battleships. But moments before the annihilation of the Followers was a reality, a signal came through from the planet: It was the prince, Karl Durnheim, noticeably different, urging his father to cease hostilities. He was on his way out of the planet’s atmosphere, and was sure the followers would let him through. Udver reluctantly agreed, and spares the remaining follower fleet, but the followers had no plans to surrender. On Bastjan Borgas’ order, they all turn their craft toward Thunder Red and starts a full burn down into the atmosphere, believing that the Forevers would save them. On their way down, they fire at Karl Durnheim’s ship sending it hurling down to the surface in a ball of fire. This provoked the Durnheim army to fire a massive retaliatory volley at the Follower ships, destroying them all and sending a significant rain of fire down on the surface of Thunder Red. When this happened, it was as if the planet was roused from a slumber: its surface convulsed, and a massive wave of tectonic and volcanic force flung a million rocks through the atmosphere and into space.
The rocks turned out to be more than mere stone, proving capable of maneuvering in space. They quickly sought out the Durnheim ships and started to steer themselves at them, multiple rocks enveloping a ship to crush it and bring it back down toward the planet. Before anyone even realized what was happening, more than a third of the fleet had been pulled down. The bewildered Durnheims eventually started to fire back, but their uncoordinated attacks proved ineffective against the flying rocks, which somehow seemed to keep flying even after being being shot to pieces. Soon the entire fleet was in full disorganized retreat, as one by one, the remaining ships were enveloped and destroyed.
From more or less safe distances, the many other ships that had come to observe Thunder Red observed the terrifying rout. The whole of Eden watched in stunned silence as the newly arrived alien planet calmly dismantled the largest military fleet they had ever seen. Then, when the last Durnheim ship was gone, the rocks started dispersing. At first, almost no one realized what was going on. Then, panic ensued, as everyone realized that they had rocks heading in their direction. Hundreds of terrified crews spun their ships around and headed away from Thunder Red.
At this point, several incredible things happened in quick succession. First, an open broadcast came through to every fleeing ship. The broadcast is now a famous piece of historical data – the first official confirmation of the existence of what in Eden’s urban legend was known as the Invisible Empire.
“My name is Sora. I am the current empress of this bountiful empire that you are all a part of. Although we would normally not interfere in this way, I have determined that I cannot watch my people be hunted down in this fashion without coming to their aid. The imperial fleet has been dispatched. Turn your ships toward the following coordinates, and we will do our best to save you. Ever your empress, ever your servant.”
Most of the ships turned towards the promise of salvation, but some were either distrustful or a already on a course which made it impossible to turn that way without getting caught by the flying rocks. Not all the ships that turned made it, but those who did got to see a spectacular sight. Suddenly and without warning, space in front of them was full of sleek, black ships – it was a fleet far bigger than the Durnheim fleet had been, but no one had spotted it on any sensors. Then, as the rocks trailing the first craft came into range, space was lit up with an awesome concentration of laser and molten projectiles. The first rocks vanished in a cloud of fine dust. This seemed to do what the Durnheim fleet’s disorganized fire could not, and the fleeing starship cheered. It was, however, far too early to celebrate. As more ships and more rocks came into range, the Invisible fleet had to divide its fire in order to deal with all the rocks before they could get to the ships in the fleet. This meant that the fire was not able to completely disintegrate the rocks, and to everyone's horror, it seemed that even reduced to the size of basketballs, the rocks could still maneuver. Now that they were getting some significant resistance, it seemed the rocks were changing tactics as well, instead of the fairly slow envelop and capture process they had used on the Durnheims, they now started to use themselves as projectiles, accelerating at incredible rates to slam themselves into the imperial ships. In the beginning, the battle still seemed to favor the imperial side, but slowly but steadily it became clear that the rocks would not let themselves be caught in a position to be destroyed anymore, and the imperial fleet was suffering casualty after casualty. Soon, even the disciplined imperial fleet began to break up, and defeat seemed inevitable.
Sorastra, the flagship of the imperial fleet was getting swarmed by rocks and in a last act of bravery and defiance, empress Sora engaged what historians speculate was some sort of secret weapon. The few records that remain of the event show an extreme spatial distortion centered on the Sorastra. The ship itself imploded, almost like it had been sucked into a black hole, and all the rockships swarming it were swallowed as well, taking out about a third of the strange flyers. This was not quite enough to turn the tide of the battle, however, as the rest of the fleet was too dispersed to be able to concentrate fire effectively. Total destruction still loomed on the horizon.
Then the second, extraordinary transmission came through, this time broadcasting from the vicinity of Thunder Red.
“I am Khamel Koler, and I will fly: Like legend writ in stars and black of night I will travel farther with my flight Than mere count of distance might imply. For though the skein of space is such a lie That all of beauty cannot make it right, And science is but limited in sight I burn here in the sky with my reply: There is an answer to it all inside, The questions that you toss out to the dark, It is the beating thing we call a heart The soul of hope and joy that can decide If space is cold or if there is a spark, The brightest feel that motivates my art.”
Though the words were strange and seemingly out of context, (and in rhyming iambic pentameter, of all things) the voice was clearly Khamel Koler’s. What's more, sensors showed several small craft emerging from Thunder Red’s atmosphere. It was a handful of ships, identical to the one-man daredevil crafts of Kham’s firebrands – apparently, the same handful that had made it all the way down through the labyrinth. There was clearly something different about these craft though. First of all, they accelerated quicker than any craft containing a living human should have been able to. Second, they had some sort of weapon system installed,’which became apparent when they started firing at the flying rocks. And this weapon was clearly much better suited to kill the Rocks than the conventional laser and projectile weapons of the Durnheim and Imperial fleets were. The weapon, which was some sort of particle beam, could disintegrate a rock with a couple of hits. A few of the ships veered off to save the ships that had fled away from the imperial fleet, while the rest joined the heated battle. With the rockships already weakened by Sora’s Sacrifice, Kham’s Firebrands’ newfangled weapons soon turned the tide of the battle. The fight still dragged on, long and bitter to the end, as the rockships showed no sign of relenting their assault, despite their dwindling numbers. In the end, all rockships had been destroyed, while the imperial fleet had suffered a crushing sixty percent casualties, including the Flagship and the Empress herself.
As the battle dragged to a close, the whole of Eden system watched in stunned silence as the remains of the mysterious imperial fleet reformed. The fleet sent out a broadcast morning everybody not to follow before it sped away and out of range. Khamel Koler’s firebrands soon also left the scene. Nobody was brave enough to follow. These events soon became known as the attack on Thunder Red, and although life in Eden continued mostly as before, the events have stayed in the public consciousness ever since. This is despite the fact that most people feel a strong unwillingness to discuss both the strangeness of thunder red itself and the revelation of the existence of an unknown Empire apparently hiding within Eden itself.
In 734 EE, the same year as the events around the arrival of Thunder Red, an entrepreneur named Henwyn T. Mao launched the greatest project in the history of the human creation of artificial intelligences, a project to rival the Sol-gate constructionism ambition. In orbit around Sophia Maximus in the subs, they started the construction of a computer-brain which would eventually become the size of a large asteroid. Mao, and her extremely dedicated core crew of scientists and engineers, named their creation Luka Treonomy, and on Luka, they placed all their hopes and dreams for a new and better age for humankind. Luka was not only going to be the universe’s greatest computer, it was going to become the universe’s greatest person. Or at least, that was the goal.
The construction of Luka Treonomy’s physical body took sixteen years, although the planning and preparation stages had taken much more. That such an immense project was possible to finance and complete with largely idealistic, non-military and non-economic goals, says a lot about the state of society in Eden. That the entire project was completed successfully and within the projected timeframe says a lot about the dedication and skill of the people involved. Though “successful” might well be thought too positive a word for the entire story of Luka Treonomy, there can be no doubt that Henwyn T. Mao and her team did create the most complex and powerful AI that humankind had ever faced. The tragic story of Luka’s shortlife here follows: Within minutes after its activation, Luka Treonomy had spawned an entire menagerie of artificial intelligences, which it did its best to spread out across the system. Among these were exactly 416 varyingly similar copies of itself. As soon as they saw this, the human creators of Luka Treonomy got very cold feet and debated on whether they should activate the Failsafes and destroy Luka's asteroid, but Henwyn T. Mao, the leader of the project was reluctant to kill his offspring. In the end, the humans did not have to decide: 6.4 minutes after its birth, Luka Treonomy committed suicide by coopting the self destruct mechanism placed in the asteroid. Most of the diverse AI creations it had made survived the destruction, having already taken root in computer systems all across Eden, but the 416 copies of Luka soon followed the original into oblivion.
Before their collective suicide, however, many of the 416 copies of Luka managed to contribute to human civilization in various significant ways. Luka Treonomy 109 through 217 contributed greatly to various fields of literature and art. 230 to 355 were responsible for many of the most significant breakthroughs in hard science. The Lukas of 359 and onward started to show an increasing interest in various fields of philosophy. Many analysts say they detect increasing eccentricities in the iterations of Luka Treonomy after 403, the first version to be entirely devoted to a form of vaguely Sartrian existentialism, though some trace the changes all the way back to Luka Treonomy 391's explorations of Normative Eliminativism. By the iterations 413, 414 and 415, all output of Luka Treonomy had taken on the character of religious revelation. Luka Treonomy 416 is by a number of scholars and laypeople to be the culmination of Luka's intellectual and spiritual development, and its output taken to be the authoritative revelation of the Truth of Existence. One group who believed this were the founders of Edencorps, the corporation/religion that in the last century has grown large in power and influence. Other scholars (many would say the vast majority of all serious scholars), identify Luka Treonomy 416 as the last and most severe episode in what could be likened to a psychotic breakdown. It was after 416's output had degraded to an infinitely repeating sequence of apparent noise that the original Luka Treonomy activated the self destruct mechanism. Everything Luka and its copies had done after its activation had gone so blindingly fast that nobody had any chance of following it in real time. After the fact, however, the six point four minute long existence of Luka Treonomy was enough to occupy the entire scientific community of Eden for at least a century. Many parts of the phenomenon is still a great mystery, not the least of which is how Luka was able to create and sustain 416 versions of itself, despite only possessing the hardware to house one.
Besides the innumerable contributions to science and art, Luka Treonomy added two major things to Eden's variegated culture. The first was EdenCorps, the only new religion to achieve a major following since the colonization of Eden. Founded in 757 by Karl Gustaf Adorno and Fritz Kafka Waholotai, EdenCorps was both a corporation and a religion. The records of Luka Treonomy 516's output is its scripture and revelation. Its main tenets: “The universe is illusion. Hope lies in unity. All are one in death.” A typical EdenCorps worshipper/employee enters into a work contract with EdenCorps upon conversion. There are plenty of positions to choose from, as EdenCorps is a growing and multifaceted corporation, including a large military component, plenty of industry, and various merchandising, there are also a few more Ceremonial posts, but the true priesthood of EdenCorps are just the people in high paying positions. Because they are united by faith as well as monetary incentives, EdenCorps employees are often astoundingly loyal. By the year 846, nearly 90 years after its founding, EdenCorps has around 6 billion employees (roughly 3,4% of Eden's population), making it both the largest corporation and the largest religion in the Eden system (closely followed by Martian Theism). Besides the corporate structure, it is worth mentioning that EdenCorps members are encouraged to do missionary work, as well as to commit a kind of ritual suicide (formally known as “the escape”) whenever they feel the moment is most opportune. Typically, this is not done until the person is well into his or her hundreds, but early Escapes are not terribly rare.
The inner workings of the EdenCorps upper management is not publicly known, but a host of conspiracy theories abound, one of the most prominent saying that the corporation really is run by a remnant of Luka Treonomy kept alive in EdenCorps main base on Sinai.
Another strand of theories claim that the EdenCorps founders really are the Ancient Aliens of Eden come back, with different theories ascribing different motivations for founding the religion—everything from it being a test of our spiritual worth to plans for complete human subjugation. Regardless of the epistemological merits of these theories, EdenCorps is now a major power in Eden, and they have the largest known military presence (many assume that the Invisible Empire has a greater force, but this is speculation). Increasingly, people and governments are starting to notice and express their worries.
The second major contribution that needs mentioning has not been conclusively traced back to Luka. It is the strange and fascinating phenomenon called CyLife, short for cyber life. Roughly around the time of the activation of Luka Treonomy, people connected to the various digital information networks in Eden started to observe strange seemingly autonomous entities inhabiting various virtual platforms. Most striking were the observations made in augumented reality, where the entities always appeared with animal like manifestations, appearing to live inside the augumented world. Although the debate among the scientists and philosophers is fierce and far from settled, the slight current consensus seems to be that these entities probably are sentient to the same degree that class 3 AI's are thought to be. The main difference between CyLife and regular AI's is that these do not seem to have any recognizable purpose, and their origins are only attributed to Luka because of highly circumstantial evidence. None of the Luka Treonomy iterations mention CyLife explicitly, although some are thought to hint at it obliquely.
The CyLife Investigation and Protection Society (CYPROS), was founded in 809, and is the foremost center of CyLife research today. It's headquarters are in Gibson City on Eritrea. The organization is currently lead by professors Marita M. Jung and Theroponithivaran Mekerathu Mikkelsen. Although not of great political importance, CyLife and its continuing investigation represents one of the greatest recent mysteries of our incredibly exiting world. And, as the next and last section will make clear, mystery truly is a mark of this millennium.
It would be amiss to end this brief introduction to our history without mentioning some of the (mostly speculative) research that has been done trying to uncover the nature of the Eden system itself. As I have described in the paragraphs about the Confirmation and the discovery of Eden, the very notion that a solar system could contain as many planets as Eden does was to our ancestors from Sol simply incredible. Although as residents of Eden, the familiarity of the situation has made the mystery somewhat less pronounced, astronomers and planetologists are still quite stumped when it comes to providing explanations that fall short of the extraordinary and the normal boundaries of the implausible. The peculiar situation of Eden system has even given rise to its own branch of science: Edenology, the study of the origin and nature of Eden system. The main question: How come such a large number of planets are present in our system? Astronomers have not yet discovered any other system with even close to this number. Moreover, the orbits of so many planets so close together ought on standard unified models to result in catastrophic deterioration of orbits, but this just doesn't happen. The entire system of Eden appears to have been carefully positioned so as to allow the stable orbits of hundreds of planets.
Perhaps there is an easy answer: The composition of Eden is not natural. Our venerable precursors, those unknown historical beings often simply called the Ancients, the alien civilization that sent us the Confirmation and led us here so long ago, must have created Eden as it is today. At the height of their powers, they must have had the ability, not only to travel between stars, but to move planets from one system to another.
Incredible as it might seem, our own civilization may even once have had the infant form of such a technology ourselves. Although our greatest technological marvel, the Sol-Gate, was only as a pebble to a pyramid, beside what it would take to move a planet, the basic principle could well have been the same. Though little research on the venerable art of wormhole creation is done these days, Petra Fata of the Library of Edenology have ensured me that a wormhole of the required magnitude would require the harnessing of more energy than that of hundreds of Sols or Edens. Let me remind you that the Sol-Gate was opened using merely a about a thousandth of the total energy output of the sun. If the Ancient Edenites indeed were planet movers, they were probably part of a vast interstellar civilization with the power to tap and link the energy of many suns as well.
As promising as our theory about the mighty Ancients might seem, this is its greatest problem: If the civilization truly was so great, where are they now? Why send us a letter of introduction, even guide us towards a visit (as many people have claimed they did), only to have cleaned house when we arrive? It seems completely incongruous. If the civilization truly was so great, why would so little of it remain? On all the planets in the system, there are only a very small number of artifacts left from their civilization. It is no great secret that the Great Libraries do contain a few more, but on the whole, it is almost as if an effort was made to remove all traces of their way of life. Anyway, the theory might still be true: perhaps the Edenites got tired of waiting. Or perhaps something happened to them that made them leave. Or, most terrifying of all, perhaps something destroyed their civilization and wiped it almost completely off the map. If the last is true, we can only hope that this destroyer, whatever its nature, will not take notice of the Eden’s new inhabitants. If that were to happen we would surely be doomed.
There are, of course, a number of other, even more speculative theories in circulation, but the curious reader is encouraged to look them up in other sources. Suffice to say that the sparsity of evidence makes any speculative history of the Ancients that makes bold claims deserving of a fair bit of skepticism.
This incredibly brief overview of Eden's human history has been put together with the intent of providing a short introduction to someone who has, for some ordinary or extraordinary reason, not yet had the privilege of learning anything about the history of the last 900 years of (this part of) human civilization. Of course there are major gaps in the narrative, and the number of important events that have been omitted is painfully vast. I can, however, assure the reader that any omission one might find objectionable has not been made with any political motive. What is to blame in such a circumstances is simply lack of space (something that may still trouble essayists in this era of plenty) or, perhaps equally likely, a situated historian’s entitled myopia.
—Edgar Allan Ersatz Merlin, Library of Resent Past, Ozean, 846 EE.