It was the year 2358. The nations and people of the planet Earth were finally united in peace and celebration as scientists had just developed a method to reverse the endless string of environmental catastrophes that had plagued their world for centuries. This powerful technology, based on decades of intense research and development of an extraterrestrial power source discovered in the Arizona desert a century earlier, promised to reduce the energy output of Earth's sun by nearly 10 percent. Once and for all putting an end to the sweltering heat, terrifying storms, and constantly rising oceans that had been destroying numerous cities and ending countless lives for hundreds of years.
On that fateful day, all of humanity watched with a sense of both hope and wonder as the scientists' plan was put into action. As the countdown neared zero, and the launch vehicle penetrated the sun's atmosphere, nothing much happened at first. The people of the Earth held their collective breath. For a moment, time stopped, as all eyes watched for any sign of the promised change. Any hint of salvation from their misery.
Then, almost imperceptibly, the sun began to grow ever so slightly dimmer...and then a little more dim...and then a little more...as if it were gently passing behind a small wisp of cloud. Suddenly, a roar erupted...a great and thunderous roar from every corner of the Earth as the planet's 50-billion inhabitants raised their voices in unison. "Success! Success!", shouted the holovision announcers, "The world is saved! The world is saved! Praise the Gods! The world is saved!"
As the skies gradually grew darker and darker, the cries of joy and unbounded happiness were only matched by the sudden and deafening silence that followed it...as the blazing noonday sun quickly, quietly, and quite unceremoniously, collapsed into a small but stable black hole.
...and for the last time, darkness descended upon the Earth....
Chapter 1 - WTF???
It pays to check your homework. Especially when that homework involves shooting an alien device that you barely understand into your solar system's sun. It turns out that the translation of the instruction manual discovered with the alien device was not entirely accurate.
As it turned out, the alien characters the human scientists thought meant "Solar Output Reducer" actually meant "Interstellar Wormhole Generator". They also thought the bright red flashing warning label on the side said "GREETINGS! USE THIS ON YOUR SUN!". Of course, as everyone now knows, it actually said "WARNING! DO NOT USE NEAR STARS!". People have since learned to not throw random pieces of advanced technology into stars, no matter what they think the instruction manual says. It's best to just leave the friggin' stars alone, ok?
Chapter 2 - The Great Migration Of 2359
The story of the abandonment of Earth and the conquest of the galaxy
The year of chaos that followed "The Collapse", as it came to be known, was beyond anything experienced in recorded history. All animals and crops died within a matter of weeks as the Earth quickly cooled and began turning into a dark slushy ice cube. Famine and pestilence ravaged what was left of society. It was only out of sheer desperation for the survival of the human species itself that some were able to avoid certain doom... Moving underground and living in small bands.
Finally, a decision was made... There was really only one choice...
...Abandon Earth, and find a new home...
The great migration led to the fragmentation of human society due to the vast distances and initial struggle for resources (fuel, food, air, etc). This led to a rapid regression to a more clan-like type of life where small bands of people (usually extended families, or groups of families) would fight with each other for control over the limited resources.
Alliances between like-minded clans eventually led to larger clans being formed, and ultimately to the consolidation of all the clans within the five Secret Societies.
Chapter 3 - Would You Like Freeze With That?
But not everyone participated in the abandonment of Earth....
The story of the Popsickles
A generation of desperation arose in the beginning of the 21st century. The people of Earth, having been promised rocket packs, jet cars and pleasure robots for decades through popular mass media, became disillusioned with the present. Aibo, Roomba and Realdoll just didn't stack up to the expectations created by Robbie the Robot and Pris the skinjob.
In the wider society, wars and terrorism ravaged the world of the common man and the economy turned blacker every day with each headline shouting the news of shortages of fossil fuels, water and the milk of human kindness. Hope wasn't quite dead, but it was laying in the street getting its teeth kicked out.
Out of this dark time came a group of scientists and social leaders who began to envision that the answer to getting past the bad times was as simple as just outliving them. Engineers and entrepreneurs built solutions along 2 main lines:
1) Gigantic mega-terabyte data storage facilities and computerized personality-transference interfaces that allowed people to transfer a copy of their consciousness to a huge networked computer system, basically enabling them to live forever on the Internet. This was the path chosen by the very rich, who could afford the phenominal cost of the procedure and storage fees.
2) Cryogenics. For the poorer citizens who wished to fast-forward their lives to a time when their children's children would have solved all mankind's problems, paid all society's bills and stopped all war and crime, Cryogenic suspension was an economical and attractive option. Startup companies sprang up in Russia, Finland and several former Eastern Bloc countries that offered facilities that made cryostorage cheaper by locating cryopods underground in places where the permafrost never melted.
You are one of those who chose the affordable path of cryogenics, opting to have yourself frozen for a term of 50 years. Through circumstances beyond the control of Smirnov Cryogenics however, your time in the ice turned out to be much, much longer than that...
Luckily you chose to travel coach class into the future. Your frugality saved you from the fate of the spendthrift rich, who paid exorbitant sums to have their personalities transferred to optical storage banks which were quickly hacked into and wiped to store some teenager's porn and pirated movie collection. Your choice to be frozen paid off when the successful prevention of global warming plunged the planet into a centuries-long ice age, sealing you in for a long, long sleep as the earth was abandoned by humanity during the great migration to the stars in 2359.
There you remained, with hundreds of thousand of others who were frozen by choice or were frozen by default when the planet's economy finally collapsed and nobody could afford to pay electric bills anymore.
Finally, in 2966 a new unifying political force came to power. Backed by the neutrally-aligned Order of The Amaranth, the great statesman Jim Norton declared himself Galactic Emperor and made the plight of those left cryogenically suspended on Earth his core mission. Deducing that tourism could bring the economy of mankind's home planet back to life, Emperor Norton started a program to revive and re-integrate the "popsickles" (as they had come to be called) into the mainstream of galactic life. His program was wildly successful and now a steady stream of popsickles are thawed every day and released into Earth's last remaining city to be gawked at by tourists from all the known worlds.
Chapter 4 - The Origin Of The Secret Societies
Throughout history, the landscape of the galaxy has been shaped by the centuries of dreamers and pioneers that expanded as mankind outgrew its homeworld and spread out among the stars. Dreams can be guided and pioneers can be organized and directed to certain goals, and the groups that most efficiently guided the largest and most devoted cadre of adherents became the strongest.
Secrecy is very efficient, and power inevitably pooled into the hands of men (and eventually women and transgendered and ungendered as humanity became more enlightened) in smoke-filled back rooms of the bar in the basements of Masonic Lodges. Humans in Fezzi driving miniature hovercars in parades soon held the reins of true command over humanity. These beings exerted subtle control over the doings of Prime Ministers, Presidents and Kings through the exercise of mystical arts, intimate knowledge of the workings of the universe and frankly, also through benevolently targeted violence.
Consolidation also lends to efficiency, and soon the thousands of Secret
Societies coalesced around 5 basic schools of thought on how the affairs of the galaxy should be directed. They are:
At that point, secrecy became moot because pretty much everyone knew the score and had chosen which side they were on. Enlightenment came to the human race because of the frightening efficiency of these organizations and the game was on... Who would win?
- The Illuminati (alignment: good/order)
- The Society of Oddfellows (alignment: good/chaos)
- The Order of the Amaranth (alignment: neutral/neutral)
- The Order of the Eastern Star (alignment: evil/chaos)
- The Triad Cabal (alignment: evil/order)