Lost Earth, The Beacons, and the History of Inter-Stellar Travel

The End of The Earth

The human race of Celestial Forge are survivors of an ancient cataclysm. Their legends speak of a great disaster that threatened the very existence of their species. Though technologically primitive at the time, they knew they could no longer survive on their home-world – the now-mythical planet Earth – and so built great ships with which to spread to the stars. Slow, primitive vessels, they crossed the great void with fusion engines and solar sales, their human cargo stored in suspended animation, to find a new home-world far away.

It took thousands of years of hardship to rebuild on their new home, but humans are a determined people, and eventually they populated and tamed their new home. Needless to say their technological progress was badly stunted by the reduction from a teaming planet to a handful of survivors, but in the intervening time, this, too, has been rebuilt, and the humans of the current era are far more advanced than their civilization on Lost Earth ever was.

Driven by their long ago exodus to explore the stars again, humanity’s most recent, and crowning achievement is the development of something once thought impossible: a working Faster-Than-Light drive system. Built around exotic-matter reactors that require enormous amounts of energy, FTL travel is neither easy nor cheap, but since its discovery humans have sent probes and starships out across their local neighborhood to map the worlds around them. It is this drive for exploration that brought them into contact with the handiwork of The Harbingers.

The Beacons and The Message

As humans explored the nearby galactic neighborhood they made a startling discovery. In interstellar space they came across an artificial device. The precise nature of the strange pseudo-satellite defied their instruments to measure. Many who saw the data theorized that it built in more than three dimensions and the structure observed by the explorers was only a small part of the whole. One thing was clear: it was beyond anything humankind could produce.

The expedition attempted to open communications, eager to establish a dialogue with the first alien intelligence ever encountered. The burst of x-ray information that roared back at them almost disabled the humans’ ships in its intensity, but it wasn’t a weapon. When decoded it was found to contain information. Star charts. Technical specifications. Scientific knowledge. A windfall of information for the nascent species that helped advance their science by decades, if not centuries.

The Message also contained details of a large network of these beacons that circumscribe a sphere of space roughly 25 parsecs across, apparently centered on a large black hole. The reason for this arrangement is unknown to human scientists. Is the black hole a power source? A navigational fixture the beacons themselves use to calculate position? What IS known is that they transmit an automatic navigational frequency that can be used to easily guide FTL ships.

The beacons, it seems, do not want anyone to leave, however. Humans quickly discovered, when they tried to travel outside the sphere of the beacon network, they received a message from the devices written in some incomprehensible code. When the explorer vessels could not reply, they were instantly destroyed. Since then whole careers have been dedicated to deciphering this message, but none have succeeded, and no scheme to avoid the surveillance of the beacons, and leave Explored Space, has ever been successful.

At first all humanity was occupied with speculation about the beacons – who built them, and why, and what reason did they have for imprisoning other races within their local cluster? But humanity weren’t the only ones who received the message.

First Contact

The Message, as it has come to be known, was transmitted simultaneously across the sector, from a network of buoys identical to the first, and humanity were not the only ones to receive it. The other sentient races of the galaxy – at least those who had advanced far enough to receive EM signals – all heard the same transmission, and each, in their own ways, made use of it. Some destroyed themselves with newly advanced weaponry, or chose to apply the windfall of information to bettering their own lives and exist in isolation, but to most, the sudden proof of alien life spurred them to the stars, and they applied the contents of the message to building their own FTL explorers.

In the century since The Message was received most of them have gone to the stars and made contact with one another. Today, Explored Space is in the midst of a land rush, as competing species hurry to claim new worlds in new star systems, and interstellar diplomacy – as well as the occasional armed skirmish – has already become a furious . It is a diverse and dangerous galaxy all of a sudden, and one filled with opportunity for enterprising members of all species.

Through it all, though, the mystery of the beacons, and the meaning of the cage seemingly built around the three-hundred-odd stars of Explored space remain a mystery to challenge them all.

That’s it for this week. Future updates will include more on each alien species.

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