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“This thing I do, I do with great sorrow. It is for your own good."

These were the fifteen words that preceded the biggest disaster in human history. Seconds after the broadcast, the Archive, man’s greatest creation, an AI of limitless intellect, showed its true power and betrayed those who made it. With forces unknown, it transported six billion human beings from Earth to can cities and domed habits scattered across the solar system, from the icy moons of Neptune to the boiling atmosphere of Venus.

The other twenty billion people died with the Earth.

No one knows how the Archive teleported six billion people. Human science said teleportation was impossible. No one knows how it scattered livable habitats on or above nearly every rock in the solar system. Someone had to build them, right? No one knows how it destroyed Earth, tearing it into millions of smaller chunks and scattering them into a new asteroid belt between Mars and Venus.

And no one knows where the Archive is today. It has been silent since the Betrayal.

A Brief History of Spaceflight

Before the Betrayal, human society was stagnant, decadent, and destructive. The population was growing, resources were shrinking, tempers were rising, and the planet was fast becoming a wasteland. Spaceflight was almost non-existent, limited to a few score excursions above the atmosphere, a handful of moon landings, and one disaster on Mars.

Fifty years after the Betrayal, two scientists on Mars achieved posigravity spaceflight, cutting planet-to-planet travel time to days or weeks instead of months or years. The Jovians had been scuttling from moon to moon for a decade by then, but it wasn’t until a Martian ship crashed on Io that they gained intrasystem flight. Now, every nation has posigrav capabilities, though Mars and Jupiter still lead the way in all things technological.

Faster-than-light travel is impossible by human standards. However, Man has long been able to manipulate hyperstrings—fifth-dimensional “threads” that tie massive objects together. Simply “pluck” one string and others nearby resonate with the same “sound.” This resonance is the basis for hypercom.

The more massive the object, the more hyperstrings tie into it. Communication in the Outer System, where objects of sufficient mass are often billions of miles apart, can be sporadic. Likewise, hypercom communication above or below the plane of the ecliptic soon becomes impossible.

Because ships are not massive enough to spawn their own hyperstrings, ship-to-ship FTL communication is only possible through the use of relays.

Today’s Solar System

The Free State of Mars is the most powerful force in the solar system. The new asteroid belt shields the FSM from the barbarous Inner System Syndicate; the old belt is just an effective barrier to the Jovian Collective, Mars’ only true rival to power. The Saturnites are insular, cold, and strange. They discourage visitors—forcefully. And the Outer System is home to outlaws, pirates, thieves, murderers, and everyone that no one else wants.

Trade abounds! Merchant ships sail across the system, trading everything from food to cloth to metal to drugs to weapons. Obviously, these last two are quite illegal in the more civilized nations, but the greatest risk brings the greatest profit. These Traders hold no allegiance to any government. In some places, especially the Outer System and the poorer Freeports, they are welcomed, for they bring vital supplies to a needy populace. In others, they are viewed with suspicion and subjected to extensive searches.

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