The colonization of space. For decades it had been the subject of scientific debate and writers trying to visualize the future. A future where humanity would either join a community of species bound together in peace, or beset by constant warfare. A galaxy either teaming with life, or bereft of it everywhere but our home. At first, intelligence wasn’t the important qualifier of a world. Just that it had some kind of life on it.
The first ships were generational, the times expected to reach another star system so extreme that the original crew would have been long dead before even reaching a fraction of the distance. The ships built were huge, with rotating sections to mimic near-Earth gravity and large fields cultivated for both food and precious oxygen. They would never land on the surface of any world, but serve as a base of operations. A lone space station that would stay in orbit and act as the old forts along the frontiers of Earth.
As time passed on developments were made. Years after the generational ships were launched a new technology was created, and ships with the majority of crews in suspended animation were launched. Occasionally a small crew would be awakened to check over the ships course, but aside from that a computer would handle the majority of the trip. This allowed for less room and resources needed for the trip, as there wouldn’t be a constant drain on medicine, air, food, even power. The ships were still intended to stay in orbit however, and the travel times to even the closest of stars numbering in the centuries.
Many missions were sent out with this idea that even if it took longer than the lifespans of ten generations of people, that humanity would still survive if the world suffered a major cataclysm. One ark class mission left Earth with the hope of spending only a century in flight. A nuclear pulse propulsion system had been designed, and enough nuclear ordinance generated for the trip to Proxima Centauri. Though no evidence of planetary bodies existed, this was considered an important mission due only to the relatively short period of time the trip would take.
Several missions of various lengths were launched within twelve light-years of Earth, to include missions to Epsilon Eridani, Wolf 359, Aldebaran, Tau Ceti, and even as far as the Hades Cluster. And though colonization of the Sol System continued, missions such as this were sent out. Earth was slowly being repaired of the damage pollution, war, and overcrowding had caused over the last three centuries. And while many missions had left our home star system, development in making space travel faster still continued. The hope was to one day make interstellar travel possible within a crews life time, and one day even to make it feasible to travel between systems with no more time needed then a year to the nearest systems.
Science had theorized about potential methods of faster than light, or FTL, propulsion since the middle of the twentieth century. With the mining and exploitation of the resources found within Sol System, needed material to experiment was not in short supply. Various experiments were performed in order to, as one scientist put it, crack the light barrier. Research into physical dimensions outside the normal concepts of the average human held promise. However, the technology lagged behind the theoretical concepts for decades. Earth and the Sol System were now entering the year 3257. The Proxima Mission would have reached their destination system by now, however no one would know if it had succeeded or not for another four years due to the speed of radio signals. Assuming that the signal would ever reach Earth in the first place.
Technology progressed however, and not just in the fields of propulsion. Vast sky-hooks littered the orbits of Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus. The valuable minerals and gasses harvested from the Gas Giants and used to fuel to growing Human empire. Cometary debris had its course altered in order to impact on the planets of Mars and Venus. After centuries of work the two inner planets had been made habitable, with green fields and blue oceans now painting the once inhospitable globes. Rain forests and wet lands spread across Venus surface, the warmer yearly climate making for longer year round growing seasons. While at the same time, the planes of Mars were verdant grasslands and red mountains, herds of wild cattle and other animals flourishing outside the manmade dome cities. Many genetically recovered species, flora and fauna, called these two worlds home now.
This is not to say that the centuries had been filled with peace for the Human race. Wars still broke out both on the ground, and in the space between worlds. Where before it had been nations on a map, at times it had become more between various colonies or even entire worlds in the system. Mars would make demands of the Asteroid Miners Collective. Earth would demand fealty from the other colonies. Pirate ships, run more like the ships of old, would scourge across the system flying the colors of their particular band. Discord and Chaos ran rampant across the stars. Peace, in many forms, was in short supply.
Planetary defense forces grew into space based navies. Warships of various designs and concepts rolled out of the shipyards. Carriers, cruisers, destroyers, all types of ships were launched in efforts to defend or attack opposing forces. Fleets of massive warships would slip through the darkness of space taking months to get to any target in the system. It wasn’t until the advent of the wormhole bridge drive that the first movements toward unification of the Sol System began. With travel times shortened to infinitesimal periods of time, travel across the star system and to the various star systems became almost non-existent. Navigation however remained an issue, requiring a series of jumps to get from location to location.
Some of the earlier missions were in fact out paced by the new ships that the recently formed Confederate Alliance sent out to the nearby systems. Many had been forgotten, though the new fleets exploring the surrounding universe were aware of them just in case. Contact was made with the colonists at Proxima Centauri, The colonization of that system had progressed slowly, and a few planets had been declared candidates for terraforming though the process had encountered several setbacks.
Slowly Humanity as a whole came together, colonizing and digging in to the systems nearest to Sol. Massive fleets of warships patrolled the infinite vacuum of space, focusing more towards the core worlds of the Confederacy. Smaller fleets patrolled the frontier, looking for any signs of non-human intelligence. Though no sentient life had been found yet, that hadn’t discounted the possibility of life being found. The hope was that First Contact would be a peaceful affair, and not a fight for survival.
As new ecosystems were discovered new laws were enacted. The Alliance made it illegal to ravage the naturally developed biospheres of any world they found already suitable for habitation. The possibility of another naturally occurring sentient life form was too precious to risk. This is not to say that that poachers wouldn’t ravage a world and strip it of its resources. The Confed Navy patrolled all systems in order to at least capture and prevent such things. It also had come too late to prevent a group of scientists from using a proto-life world as part of an experiment.
This group wanted to be able to see how life evolved, over a period that would allow them to know the answer potentially within their lifetimes. They had setup several observatories around this world, all programmed to record the experiment and send information back to Sol System. Nanotechnology, much like all other sciences in the last millennium had advanced in ways not thought of when they were conceived. A batch of nanites, small machines smaller then a human cell were specially crafted and give one overriding directive.