Background – Cast Adrift Universe

1 Jan

(And also testing the new blog poster program)

Cast Adrift Background

The universe is a very old place.

No one really knows who founded the galactic community, the vague set of rules for interactions between the various sentient races.  Races come and go all the time, playing a role on the galactic scene for a few short millennia before … going away.  The shifting nature of multi-dimensional space (multispace, the only way to circumvent the light barrier) ensures that entire sectors fall slowly in and out of contact with the rest of the universe.  It’s quite possible that a shift in multispace will lead to a treasure trove that will boost its finder to the very highest levels … or unleash a deadly threat that will devastate large sections of the galaxy before being stopped.  Galactic history is a little vague.  Recorded history is nowhere near as reliable as historians claim.

Races within the galaxy are divided into four categories, based on their technological level when they’re discovered by the rest of the community.  First, low-tech races; they have no rights at all, beyond what their patrons choose to grant them.  (At best, they’re treated as servants; at worst, they’re outright slaves.)  Second, spacefaring races lacking FTL; they have some rights, but not that many.  Third, FTL races (Galactics); they have the right to do pretty much whatever they like, at least as long as it isn’t to one of their peers.  Fourth, Ancients – transcendent races.  It isn’t actually clear if the latter exist – there are plenty of rumours, and stories passed down from race to race, but little hard data. 

The most advanced races rarely share their technology with their inferiors.  Galactic tech, therefore, is somewhat confused – some races have very good tech, others are barely superior to pre-conquest Earth.  Some races beg, borrow or steal technology, without any clear idea of how to use and maintain it; others, more practical, try to push their development as fast as they can, reverse-engineering every scrap of advanced technology they can find.  It’s unusual for races to work together, in the constant battle for technology.  Whoever gets an edge, even a slight edge, has an advantage over their peers. 

The local sector – Earth’s sector – has been dominated, for the last two thousand years, by the Alphan Empire.  (Humans call them the Alphas.)  The Alphas are a third-level race of spindly humanoids with green skin, bulbous eyes and so much genetic engineering worked into their biology that they are practically immortal.  Their society is odd to human eyes – a strange combination of democracy, corporate dictatorship and socialism – and works, at least in part, because of their advanced technology and a sizable lower class of client races who do much of the grunt work.  The Alphas are quite arrogant, as their detractors would happily tell you, but they do have much to be arrogant about.  There was a time when they were the biggest kid on the galactic block.  Everyone bowed to them.

Those times are now gone.  The combination of two wars, economic fallout from the fighting and a growing apathy amongst their population has been taking a toll.  They are still powerful, but they don’t have the will to impose themselves any longer.  Worse, they took heavy losses in the war and they haven’t (yet) had the time to replenish them.  Worst of all, their client races – including humans, who fought in the wars – are demanding greater rights, if not outright independence.  The Alphas are caught in a deadly trap.  They cannot make concessions, for fear of losing everything, but they cannot do nothing either.  The majority of the Alphas cannot see it, but those who can are terrified.  The wolf is at the door.

It was a sad little irony that the Alphas were already in decline when they discovered and conquered Earth.  If they had been more active, they might have realised that humanity should really have been classed as a second-rank race; as it was, the Alphas decided that humanity’s pitiful space program was nowhere near advanced enough to qualify as a real space program.  The invasion itself was fought and won practically overnight – the Alphas had no qualms about bombarding human positions from orbit, flattening organised resistance before landing troops – and they set about knocking humanity into submission.  It took time, but a combination of advanced technology, orbital bombardment and cold ruthlessness quashed most human resistance within fifty years. 

Humans rapidly became a vital part of the empire.  Humans were invited to settle their own star system, then a handful of others near Earth.  Humans were found to be very good at ‘terraforming’ planets the Alphas had classed as marginal, worlds that were simply too uncomfortable to attract Alphas settlers.  (They only arrived when the worlds had working infrastructure.)  Others were hired to work for alien corporations, or serve in the alien military; two hundred years after the invasion, humans made up the majority of groundpounders.  Humans proved themselves useful, in so many ways, that Earth became a centre of industry … although it was never as advanced as the Alphas themselves.  A number of technological tricks were never shared with Earth.

In hindsight, it should have been clear that humans would never have been content with permanent second-class status.  It took some time for grumbling to come into the open, but when it did it spread rapidly.  The casual exploitation of human workers, and the glass ceiling preventing humans from rising past a certain point … all causes that the majority of humans could get behind.  The Alphas made things worse, more or less by accident, by a number of insensitive decisions, encouraging humans to study law in their universities, for example, and then declaring that human lawyers and judges could not sit in judgement over Alphas (or other third-rank races).  It wasn’t that humans wanted independence – apart from a relative handful of rogues – but they did want equality.  And the Alphas could not logically give it to them.

Earth, three hundred years after the invasion and conquest, is a strange place.  Some parts are highly-civilised, with advanced (by pre-invasion standards) technology and a high standard of living.  Other parts – mountainous regions, in particular – are regarded as outlaw territory, home to people who continue to defy the law.  There are massive human settlements on the moon and the rest of the solar system, as well as hundreds of asteroid settlements and gas giant cloudscoops scattered throughout the system.  A relatively small number of aliens live on Earth itself.

The planet is effectively governed by the Assembly, a ‘consultative’ body set up by the Alphas after the First Lupin War.  This was envisaged as a reward for humanity’s service during the war – the Alphas did not consider that it might have any real power – but it rapidly grew into a major headache for them.  The Assembly was not, at first, dominated by pro-human factions, but it’s mere existence gave heart to those who wanted equality (or independence).  It also found itself being forced to widen the franchise after protests from people who, originally, were denied a vote.

The two main political parties within the Assembly are the Imperial Conservatives and the Humanity League, the former being loyal to the Alphas while the latter seeks equality or independence for humanity. 

Humanity’s opinion of its masters is somewhat mixed.  Many factions are grateful for what the Alphas brought to Earth.  Others are all too aware that they wouldn’t be so powerful without the Alphas, or that there are worse masters out there.  Still others, however, resent being treated as third-class citizens (if that) and feel that humanity can do better for itself alone, either forming an empire of its own or taking over the Alphan Empire.

Matters were made considerably worse by the Lupin Wars.  The First Lupin War was a series of skirmishes as the wolf-like aliens tested the Alphas, launching a series of tiny invasions and incursions to see if the Alphas would react.  The Alphas replied with a measured deployment, using human troops (and human-crewed ships) to hold the line … unaware that they were revealing far too much about their technology to their foes.  The war ended in a truce, somewhat to their relief.  They hadn’t realised that their enemies wanted time to study what they’d learnt.

The Second Lupin War was far more serious.  The aliens still couldn’t match the Alphas ship-for-ship, but they had a lot of ships.  The Alphas rapidly discovered that they were in serious danger of being out-produced, as it took them far longer to replace their losses.  They were lucky that, again, they could throw humans into the gap, allowing them to hold the line long enough to break the enemy and win the war.  However, it came at a grave price.  Losses were so high, particularly during the final battles, that the Alphan Empire was seriously weakened.  With other powers sniffing around, scenting weakness, it will not be long before there is another war …

One Response to “Background – Cast Adrift Universe”

  1. Warren The Ape September 4, 2019 at 11:30 pm #

    This is for another series of books you are writing?

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