It was quite humbling when humans figured out that Earth was not the center
of the universe but instead what in fact just a small planet around a minor star
in a particular galaxy. In the early 22nd century when humans learned that there
was not only other intelligent life forms but that they had been traveling in
space since before human civilization began, that was really humbling.
In the beginning of the 22nd century when the first contacts with the Arcean
Empire arrived via one of their interstellar probes, the first reaction was
excitement. But later dismay and concern arose over just how long other
civilizations had been traveling through space. It was also a bit discouraging
that intelligent life was so rare. Unlike popular science fiction of the era
that envisioned the galaxy teeming with thousands of different aliens, it turned
out that there were only a half dozen or so space faring civilizations in the
entire galaxy - spread out at that.
The Galaxy at large
From the Arcean probe humans learned about subspace communication and other
technologies that would allow humans to interact with other civilizations. The
first sobering discovery is that interstellar travel was nothing like humans had
hoped. There was no method to just instantly travel anywhere in the galaxy.
Instead, the powers had developed star gates. A star gate was an immense city
sized structure that used massive amounts of energy to fold space and allow a
star ship to travel from point A to point B. And both sides had to be a star
gate. A star gate's expense is incredible. Their mass so immense that
moving them, even with the inertia of the vacuum to make doing so easier, was
quite an undertaking. It cost the equivalent of billions of US dollars to
just use one a single time. Needless to say, they were not used often.
The net effect was that you had roughly 6 galactic civilizations (counting
the humans) who had very little contact with one another beyond sub-space
probes. But at least there was no war. If someone tried to invade, you could
simply turn off your star gate and ensure that nothing came through. But trade
also could never be achieved either nor could any real political
understanding. Subspace communication was very limited in that it still
took many months for communications to arrive and the longer the message, the
longer it took to receive.
The first 15 years of communication with the Arceans was mostly taken up by
the transmission of plans of how to create a star gate. What is today (2178) a
matter of debate is whether the Arceans sent us the plans to aid us or to
conquer us -- their star gate plans had no mechanism to turn it off. But given
recent events, it's all moot anyway.
The star gate plans confirmed many theories by scientists. And the new field
of alien anthropology was trying to imagine what civilizations like the Drengin
and Arceans (to name two) which had been traveling the stars for tens of
thousands of years might actually be like. The Drengin, for instance, had
achieved nuclear fission over 100,000 years ago. Yet their government was a
dictatorship and there was some speculation that the emperor wasn't even a
Drengin. To put things in perspective, the Drengin had nuclear power while
the humans were still well in the stone age in East Africa.
I mention anthropology here for a reason, human society seems to be quite
different. The United Nations world government (made up of dozens of
technically sovereign states) was based largley on private capitalism with the
government providing only basic services. This seemed to be quite different than
what we know of the various races - though our information is quite limited.
This is what probably led us to achieve Hyperdrive. Hyperdrive which would
create a brave new universe was not a government project but instead created by
United Terra Dynamics Ltd. Basically, hyperdrive allows individual ships to fold
space and travel great distances very quickly. In fact, Hyperdrive is literally
10X faster than a star gate.
For the past few years, private corporations have been allowed to trade bits
of technology with other civilizations via subspace. This has brought many
benefits to our lives as we all know. Unfortunately, the ramifications of
Hyperdrive really weren't well understood until it was too late. Trade of the
basics of this technology with other civilizations went like most other trades.
Since it wasn't a weapon, it wasn't heavily regulated. Unfortunately, within
months after sharing this technology, all communication with the other
civilizations ceased. We have not heard from them.
For the past 2 years, we have heard nothing from any of the civilizations. To
make matters worse, with the entire world considering that situation that Earth
is in, things are a bit grim. For example, we have finished building the
first colony ship - the Santa Maria. The ship is massive in size and holds 10
MILLION people in it. It took 2 years to build and that was with the
entire planet focusing just on it. But we don't know where any "Class
15" or better planets are. But the other races, who have sent out probes
for eons, know where they are. This is a major disadvantage. As if that's not
bad enough, we don't even know where the other civilizations are. We don't even
know where Arcea is located. But they sure know where we are and they know we
have few defenses.
Our first priority has to be "spreading our seed". Get humans out
onto other planets. Explore the galaxy, build up defenses, learn how to trade
and learn about galactic diplomacy. Then we can decide what to do next. It sure
is a brave new universe...