Their worlds as bright and burning as the stars, humanity spread across the galaxies thanks to the portals—colossal constructs that folded space-time and transported ships more quickly than one could measure. Resources were abundant, endless, as was humanity’s potential.
Suddenly, violently, the portals collapsed.
Everyone knows of the Great Collapse, but everyone remembers it differently. All knowledge was stored, distributed, across computing systems throughout the galaxies, decentralized, so no one node was critical. But when the portals collapsed, all that was left behind was gibberish, the cloud of information dissipating into meaningless code fragments. Without the portals, galactic systems lost all contact with one another. Without the resources they were dependent on, entire worlds died.
But not all. Some clung to life, fighting against the dark age, passing knowledge by word of mouth, desperately adapting the remaining technology to return to the stars.
The first to succeed was the home-system of a great family, the remnants of a bygone corporation that would become a royal dynasty when the patriarch, Belarius the First, declared himself emperor. A brilliant physicist, he was responsible for developing the Belarius drive, the first faster than light drive that could power a spaceship.
Belarius was motivated by more than a desire to return what had been. A massive network of drones, which had enforced basic law, mined, and transported resources, still remained after the Great Collapse, although those who could control them had been isolated like everyone else. Lacking any central instruction, the drones carried on with their set tasks. They reacted in violent defense against anyone who ventured near, stripped planets of their resources, and became as the bane of surface dwellers and starship captains alike. Belarius hoped that finding the system that was home to those who could control them would help him stop their rampaging.
He found other systems first. Some had entirely devolved, returned to a primitive state, and these people treated his arrival as that of a deity. Others were stronger, had learned to travel space once more, if not the vast distances between systems. These kept their independence.
In the end, he found the system for which he was searching, ruled by a one-time corporation that had followed his inspiration and instead become a royal monarchy. The Dracortes.
His hopes were nearly dashed. The Dracortes couldn’t reprogram the drones—the technology had been lost in the Great Collapse. But they could issue temporary, basic commands, and with those, they had maintained control over the vast resources the drones had gathered, making the Dracortes the only credible threat to the Belarius Empire. War seemed inevitable.
The Great Collapse was to be offset by the Great Decision: rather than go to war, the two families pledged to support one another. The Dracortes shared the secret to re-routing the drones in the Belarius system and granted extremely favorable trading rights for their resources, securing Belarius’s power and preeminence both in their system and across the galaxy—but only in return for the Belarius drive.
This brought on an age of colonization, discovery, and brutal warfare as other systems and families sought to establish their own independence and alliances. In time, balance was established when the major royal families formed the Kings’ Council, with Belarius at its head as the ruler of an empire, and the Dracortes as their right hand. Some say this empire remains only in name, and a war of dominance can’t be far away. Others feel the centuries of peace will never be threatened.
Outside of the reach of royal plots and politics, at the edge of the known reaches of the galaxy, a single planet has endured, kept its way of life, and survived by harvesting the most powerful and volatile source of energy in all the systems. The planet is Alaxak, and they fish for Shadow.
And Shadow is about to change the galaxy.
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