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The history of the 'Verse, as far as most people are concerned, begins with the terraforming of the Central Planets. People don't have a real sense of the history of Earth-That-Was, nor do they much care. Not with the pressing concerns of the present weighing them down. Some cynics don't believe much of what is written about the past, thinking it to be the propaganda of an oppressive government.
Earth, has long since faded into legend and its relics are now priceless. Depleted resources, overpopulation, and a compromised ecosystem forced the population to abandon "Earth-That-Was". Instead of erupting into all out war, humanity united in finding a new home. Scientists had found a star system with dozens of planets and hundreds of moons, almost all of which had enough mass and solidity to be templates for new earths. Through giant atmosphere processing plants, terraforming technologies, gravity regulation and the introduction of every known form of Earth life, each could become habitable for a human population. As a result every person willing and able to leave the Earth migrated to the new system in a great exodus.
They set out in enormous ships they referred to as "arks." Without "faster-than-light" capability, the journey to a new home was long and taxing. One full generation was born, lived, and died without ever leaving these space ships. The initial excitement of the voyage quickly faded into the monotony of keeping the ships moving, keeping the life-support systems intact, and perfecting the technologies that would give future generations good lives on new worlds. Although some expected to encounter extraterrestrial life, the only signals on the scanner were the natural static found in space. So far as people know, mankind is alone in the universe.
With so many different people of all nationalities and races inside the space ships, the old ethnic and political barriers began to blur. People learned the native languages of their fellow ship dwellers. Subsequent generations would come to speak fluently the two dominant languages, English and Mandarin, and phrases from other cultures.
During the exodus, some people lost hope along the way in accidents and malfunctions. If an ark lost life support, thousands died. The arks became their coffins, forever drifting in space. But for every person that lost hope, hundreds were there to keep it alive. Each day brought humanity closer to their new home and eventually...there it was.
The Age of the TerraformersEdit
These new worlds were ready for habitation (despite the odd quirk of nature or miscalculation on a few) and civilization began to rebuild. Even after continued refinement, the process of terraforming a moon or a planet takes decades. Terraforming requires atmospheric processing plants, the regulation of gravity, environmental adaptation and the introduction of creatures great and small brought from Earth - everything from algae and bacteria to insects, birds, and mammals. The power to make such changes is still not without its limits. While most all terraformed worlds are suitable for human life, each has its own quirks.
The work of terraforming had started on the two largest, most central planets, Sihnon and Londinium. On Earth-That-Was, the two ruling powers were the United States and the People's Republic of China. Though these nations remained separate, the two powers worked together throughout the colonization process and as so many had, their cultures melding at many levels. Londinium, named after the Roman name for England's capital (a country long before annexed by the US in a somewhat ironic reversal), represented what was once the United States. Sihnon ('SEE-non,' a bastardization of Sino, the English word for 'Chinese') was the new China. These two powers, still working in harmony, grew at once into the most populous and advanced societies in the new civilization. They became the center of culture and business throughout the system. The governments of these two planets took an enlightened view of civilization. They worked to maintain order, but also encouraged diversity of language, ethnicity, religion, and expression of thought.
These were enlightened cultures, with respect for all non-aggressive religious beliefs (though the main religion on both was Buddhism, usually of the Mahayana tradition). Literacy levels were at 94%. Average lifespan was 120 years. Public Service was not law - it was simply an ingrained part of the people's ethos. Certain social mores had evolved beyond our modern conceptions. As, for example, sex. Prostitution as we understand it had long since been abolished by the legalization and strict federal regulation of the sex trade. Throughout the central planets, Companion houses were set up. Rules were made so that no man could ever run a house and no Companion could ever be coerced into accepting a client. Companions were extremely well schooled and trained in all the arts. They lived not unlike Nuns, worked not unlike Geishas, and often rose to political or social prominence when they retired.
All of this is how life on the central planets was. Among them Sihnon, Londinium, and Osiris. On the outer planets, things were a somewhat different.
Even though there were enough worlds to go around, there were not enough resources and people didn't slow down procreating. Despite all the best efforts and intentions of the original colonists, the problems of the common man did not go away with the formation of new worlds. People are restless, always looking to find greener pastures somewhere else. The outer planets, the worlds and moons that hadn't been chosen to house the new civilization - they were the destination for the poorer, more extreme. These pioneers left the crowded cities and traveled out to the most newly terraformed worlds, hoping to build a better life for themselves. They traveled out to the nearest planet someone hadn't claimed yet and started literally turning their space ships into houses; building off whatever the land had been shaped to provide them with. Some of these people were brought near to savagery by the conditions they encountered and some were just hard-working, independent people who didn't want their lives mapped out for them before they'd lived them. Some were orthodox in their religious beliefs to the point where they were not comfortable among other faiths, and wanted whole worlds where they would not be slowly homogenized into a different society. And some were people on the run from the law.
There were troubles, such as famines and even wars. As mankind spread out, he brought with him his usual miseries: greed, corruption, crime. Things were definitely more peaceful among the Central Planets, but that peace was bought at a price. Nothing resembling totalitarianism, but still a certain regulation of existence that would not sit well with many others. And even among these planets, conflicts over resources, trade, and political influence strained the civil relations of sister nations. A movement began in the oldest, most stable planets to form a unified parliamentary system of government that would work to regulate such matters and keep the peace. The popular idea was quickly ratified and in an effort to unite and quell this conflict, the Central Planets formed the Union of Allied Planets, a governing structure that unified them all under one governing body, the Parliament. The few members represented each planet, and worked in genuine harmony to fulfill each planet's various needs, economically and politically.
The Alliance was started out of an idealistic belief that a strong central government that controlled every aspect of a person's life, from cradle to grave, could provide that person a better, safer, and more secure life. Although some people in the Alliance truly believed this and they dedicated their lives to bringing this about, others merely saw this as a chance to grab power for themselves.
The Parliament formed a Military Council that acted quickly to quell any unrest among the Core planets and their neighbors. Maintaining order meant keeping tight control over the populace, and that led to the creation of many secret programs. Their hope was to make people obedient, complacent, compliant, and outright "better" by the government's definition.
The Parliament ruled over people with fairness and intelligence, but also with a strong military and a wary eye toward any insurrection. The Military Council worked under the Parliament to deliver swift, effective control of any real unrest among them or their neighbors. And even beyond the knowledge of the Military Council were other bodies, secret bodies involved such things as human experimentation, espionage, assassinations and secret schemes up to the highest level, to get people to behave and improve.
The Alliance feared the Core worlds were going to be corrupted by those who lived on the Border and Rim worlds. These worlds were self-governing, outside the limits of Alliance control. Each world had its own set of laws and rules that suited its own particular needs. People living on these frontier planets had been forced to be self-reliant in order to survive, and they had come to be free-thinkers who saw no need for a lot of government intervention. The Alliance considered such independence a threat to civilization. They also considered that a lot of valuable resources and real estate were outside their control. Partially out of a desire to see life improved there (and it was often unnecessarily barbaric), to bring all the planets into the fold of enlightenment, and partially out of a simple imperialistic wish for control and need for resources off-limits to them, the Parliament - and the Allied planets as a whole - decided that every planet should become part of their program. Every planet, they decided, should be an Alliance planet, whether it wanted to or not.
Believing that everyone would want to live on a safe and civilized world where people are cared for, idealists on the Core planets thought this was a great idea. The movement for Unification spread like wildfire through dry brush. The leaders on the Core thought they had only to open their arms in a wide embrace and those on the Rim would be eager to join the Alliance. Instead, they went to war against the Alliance.
The War for Unification was the most devastating war in human history. Outer planets, including Shadow, Persephone, and Hera, mustered forces and formed an alliance of their own - the Independent Faction (known as "Browncoats," because of the brown dusters their soldiers wore). The Parliament of the Alliance instituted a draft to build its forces while more than half of the Independent forces were composed of volunteers - to stop what they felt to be nothing more than imperialist hegemony. The Alliance (known as the "Purple Bellies" for their style of dress) had the manpower, the ships, technology, and the weapons to overcome almost any foe. But they never expected the kind of resistance the other planets could provide. They did not expect so many men and women to still consider freedom worth dying for.
The war raged for just over five years, taking place on land, sea, and in the dark of space. The war tore into the planets between the central ones and the rim worlds (fighting never reached Sihnon and Londinium, except in the odd protest or terrorist act). The largest space battle in terms of scale and human cost was the Battle of Sturges, one in which countless ships were destroyed, creating a massive graveyard preserved in the vacuum of space. The largest land battle, the one that brought about the end of the war, was fought on the planet Hera in Serenity Valley. This battle raged on for seven weeks before the Independent High Command surrendered. Even then, some of the Browncoats continued to fight on for two weeks after that. Those soldiers who continued to fight even after being ordered to lay down arms were captured and held in camps for a short time. Ultimately, the Alliance released the soldiers and officers as a peaceful gesture to those outer planets now under its rule. The stain of criminality never left those few thousand - but in some quieter circles, the legend of their tenacity made them heroes.
Since the battles were mostly fought on the Border and the Rim, the Core planets escaped unscathed. To this day, many outer planets still remained damaged. Shadow was effectively destroyed, and it remained uninhabitable seven years later. Major cities on Athens were bombed. Several key land battles were fought on Persephone. Moons that had no strategic value, such as Whitefall, Beaumonde, and Jiangyin, were untouched, but they still suffered as a result of the disruption of trade. Supplies had been hard to get as it was, and the war made it harder. Almost every person living on those planets saw their homes leveled, their businesses fall into ruin, their loved ones killed or maimed - all in the name of making their lives better.
The Here and NowEdit
At least on the surface, life has returned to normal. In truth, no one has forgotten and few have forgiven. The Alliance now has jurisdiction over every inhabited planet in the system. The Alliance does not fully control everything within its far flung territory. In reality, the Alliance only has full control over the Core planets. On these worlds, the eyes of the Alliance are everywhere. Federal police can be called at a moment's notice, and cameras record every citizen's every move. The Core worlds have the best comforts that money can buy. However, every citizen pays for such security and comfort at the expense of much of their freedom.
The outer planets were meant to be kept under the same level of strict control, but the Alliance is short on manpower and ships. They just don't have enough people to keep a proper eye on things. They hire security firms to help enforce their laws and maintain order. And they send their hulking patrol ships out to remind everyone who is in charge.
Still, the cracks in the system are large enough for folk to fly a Firefly-class ship through. Slavery for example, although outlawed by the Alliance government, exists as something of an open secret among terraforming companies, mine owners and the wealthy on the Rim. Every so often, the Alliance will bust one of these owners and free the slaves because it looks good in the media from a public relations point of view, but then it's back to business as usual. It is the same with indentured servants. Indentured servitude is also not legal, but most people on the Border planets accept it as a way of life. If a person is desperate for the money and they have nothing to offer up as collateral except themselves, then that is what they will do.