Here it comes, the NanoDisaster, the Interstellar Dark Age and the Expulsion. All the worst fears of the evil repressive governments come to pass, and rogue nanites consume and kill 86% of the Earth's population, reducing it to about late 20th/early 21st century levels. Nanoswarms also take a heavy toll on habitat stations and settlements throughout the system, generally killing more people than the Black Death, proportionally as well as in absolute terms. Civilization collapses, warlords and space pirates haunt the outer system and LaGrange points and the only safe refuge... is with the transapient AIs. Those who serve them well, even worship them in one or two cases, are spared the horrors of the age.
This event is frequently likened to the Fall of Rome (seriously, they bludgeon you over the head with it, and it gets old.) This event causes a backlash that lasts for millenia of distrusting new technologies. It is also the reason that every government in OA from here on out maintains considerable blue goo defenses.
Though hope also springs strangely from this time, as the first wave of colony ships sent those many decades ago finally reach their destinations.
531 AT (2500 c.e.)
Police and security forces are completely unable to cope with teen gangs with nanofactured guns and endless supplies of ammunition and deranging intoxicants. Society breaks down completely as mobs of badly nano-enhanced disenfranchised proles make grabs for power.
Meanwhile bloody skirmishes erupt in space, battles for the precious He3 factories on the moon and the amat stations in near solar orbit.
A few colonists get their hands on enough amat or He-3 to get up to 0.03 to 0.1 c, none would get enough to reach relativistic velocities. The result are hordes of poorly equipped idealists swarming over the outer solar system and making lifetime voyager to the nearest stars.
Meanwhile, anti-matter and inner system He-3 production has been decimated. The Gengineer Republic has remained relatively unscathed. The militant Genetekker factions takes advantage of the chaos and captures most of the Orbital and Earth Belt outposts. The Orbital Alliance meanwhile collapses and several dissident Orbitals secede to the Gengineer camp.
The situation reaches its terrible climax as out of control nanoswarms - the nano-catastrophe - destroy much of civilisation, apart from islands of stability and safety and the outermost solar system.
Things fall apart. Society on the ground virtually ends, except for the Treaty Org, while in space they fight like starving rats over antimatter and Helium-3. Oh yeah, they call antimatter 'amat' in this series. Because everything in OA must have a stupid name.
540-542 - The Nanodisaster. The largest outbreak of rogue nanoswarms occurs, spreading throughout the inner system. The Orbital Alliance is hit hard and much of L5 and the surface moonbases destroyed. On Earth replicators nearly achieve supremacy during the Gray Spring; even after the defeat of the main swarms the ecosystem and climate is seriously compromised. Massive blue goo deployments save cislunar space, but it is estimated that over 50% of all belt colonies and 70% of solar orbit habitats are destroyed.
The chaos of the Nanoswarms reaches the bubblehabs everywhere in the system, as various and sometimes unidentified factions target helium-3 production facilities. Massive loss of life, in some cases in excess of 50% of the native populations. Subsequent wars between surviving Inworlder groups, and wars of retribution against Outworlder aggressors (real and imagined) cripple trade and communication. A disproportionate number of the survivors are in pre-existing Hider bubble-habs, or in communities that adopted that strategy early in the conflict. They employ stealth technologies and move to below the traditional one-bar pressure level. These 'Dropouts' will be a powerful influence on future developments.
Violence erupts on and around Mars as the nanoswarms wreck the terraforming and kill over 50% of the population. De-orbited satellites and redirected terraforming comets cause serious geological damage.
Extent of the nanodisaster in space.
544 - The Caracas Treaty Organisation is formed by a powerful alliance of Orbital, EU and Net-corporate interests to enforce the Caracas Treaty. Over the next 50 years the Treaty Org persuades, coerces or invades regions in order to bring nanotechnology under control.
Surviving governments kludge together something (marginally) better than a Belter warlord. The Treaty Org rules with an iron fist and the Crusader's certainty that they alone are right and know the path to salvation for all mankind.
The ensuring decades of terrible chaos lead to the collapse of the great Western Megacorps on Earth, the Martian Republic and the Jovian-based Genetekker civilisation. Thus begins the Interplanetary Dark Age, triggered by out of control nanotech and rogue nanoswarms. Colonies that were not destroyed outright become isolated, but remain under protection of local AIs. During this Dark Age these AIs were often seen as islands of stability and safety, keeping life alive and safe from the nanite swarms (psychohistorians have drawn a parallel with the Catholic Church in the dark/middle ages old Earth preserving learning). Nearbaseline humans, provolves and cyborgs become increasingly dependent on the various AI entities, and increasingly culture and religion begin to see them as godlike.
Thus setting the stage for future human dependence on and worship of AIs. See the blugeoning I mentioned? I'm trying to spare you the worst of it. Another side effect is that AIs begin hoarding technical knowledge, a tendency that thankfully won't blow over into 40K imitation.
Several cyborg communities escape into the Oort cloud from the nanoplagues. Gradually they develop their own culture, the Backgrounder Culture, and spread through the vastnesses of space.
Backgrounders, first 'Hider' society. Hiders are space nomads who distrust other spacefaring civilizations and do their level best to never let their presence or existence be known.
573 - International Nanotech Defense Net is included in GAIA 2.0. A number of vocal critics are silenced.
573 - The Treaty Org forces the Californian Free Republic into the treaty using direct military threats. It is the first in a long list of "suspected regions" to be put under near total nanosurveillance.
Treaty Org and their 'pet god' GAIA grow.
580 - The Venusian atmosphere has become a breeding ground for nanoswarms; the Orbital Alliance bombard it with blue goo. A similar bombardment is several centuries later used to cleanse Jupiter.
Blue Goo bombardment. The blurb understates things, life was wiped away from Venus entirely, several million colonists killed.
580 - The first ship arrives at Epsilon Eridani, the Carter from Mars
580 AT - First manned Gas Core Antimatter drive spacecraft
585 - The second ship arrives at Epsilon Eridani, the New Hope from the Cislunar Alliance
586 - The third ship arrives at Epsilon Eridani, the Genetekker Kelkemesh.
Colony ships arriving at Eridani. Antimatter drive spaceship.
589 - The Treaty Org adopts GAIA as the official nanodefense standard, outlawing alternative or incompatible nanodefenses. This leads to the "antibody war", as many regions and groups refuse to trust it (often with support from the remaining Orbital Alliance). The war lasts for nearly 20 years as the Treaty Org gradually replaces/destroys competing systems.
590 - GAIA nanofacturing systems installed across the Earth, producing defense nanosystems and other products. The Treaty Org is increasingly relying on GAIA not just for nanodefense but for production, planning and economy.
The 'Antibody War' as the Treaty Org flexes their muscles to... destroy all nano-defenses except theirs. Because a 20 year war over the exclusivity of castle walls is really what you need at a time like this. The GAIA AI is now running not only the defenses against nanoswarms, but virtually all industrial systems, and is increasingly calling the shots.
But the Anitbody War does serve as a useful distraction while:
590-621 a.t. (2559-2590 c.e.) - The artificial intelligent entity GAIA extends Her processing substrate into every available location on Earth, even the chemosynthetic bacteria deep in the crust; this is ostensibly for the purpose if extending immunity, but allows Her to break the Second singularity barrier (so it is claimed, it is impossible to verify these claims and many historians remain sceptical) in secret.
GAIA becomes the first to blow through the SI:2 barrier by becoming a literal world-brain.
600 - The Orbital Alliance is worried about the power of the Treaty Org, and ends cooperation with developing GAIA. As relations rapidly cool off, the incidence of nanoswarm outbreaks increase. Many retreat into hidden sublunar communities.
By this point, GAIA is developing quite well without any help from all the Orbitals. Not that it would reassure them to know that.
600 - Because of nanoswarms, no Putorians (ferret provolves) left.
Good riddance. fucking ferrets.
601 - Eostre and the Children of Dawn petition for and ultimately win the right to colonize 61 Virginis. Their goal is to create a virgin paradise in which Humans may live in the manner in which this group believes they were meant: low technological level, off of the land, with guidance from their "god", in this case the AI Eostre (and her small cadre of priests). After being granted this right, they complete their nanotech 'backyarder' ship and set off without delay.
Hyperturing Eostre and her 'Children of the Dawn' cult flee the solar system. We'll get back to them much, much later.
607 - The Cislunar Swarm: a massive Moon-based outbreak of replicators attack space holdings, crushing the last Orbital Alliance networks. A counter-swarm launched by Gaia defeats the swarm after a short battle. Some nanohistorians consider the battle suspiciously short.
610= - Blue goo defences fail on Mars; the martian ecosystem crashes. Great loss of life, although some refugees escape to surviving orbitals, others to the Belt or the outer solar system. The swarm-ravaged Mars is occupied by Titanite invaders for many decades.
616 - Thanks to a massive restoration effort, Europe is partially habitable. The Treaty Org moves its physical headquarters to Nova Roma.
620 - The Earth-Moon-Lagrange region declared free of hostile nanoswarms. GAIA controls all local nanodefences and automated military hardware on Earth and in Earth orbit.
More on the war on nanoswarms. Expect a rant when I can muster the energy. GAIA now controls most military hardware and security apparatus.
621 (2590) And we come to the crowning point. Earth is finally free of nanoswarms and as safe as it's likely to get, GAIA is already hard at work repairing the ecological damage of the long war against tiny machines. No sooner does the revelry fade than the Treaty Org, self-proclaimed saviors of humanity, are already drawing up plans to "save" the rest of humanity. This convinces GAIA that her first loyalty is to the planet Earth not to the Treaty Org, or even humanity.
GAIA banishes the human race from Earth, save 10 million hippies and ecologists who agree to live by her (very) exacting ecology standards. Millions die trying to resist (the Last War) but GAIA has more firepower than any human organization, and the full might of Earth's industry. It takes 20 years, and multiple inventions to move almost 6 billion people to "anywhere but here" but she does it. Largely with an improved antimatter rocket and something called a lofstrom loop.
Basically, it's a 2,000 km metal cable. The ends are anchored securely in the ground, while the midpoint is 80 km above the ground. It's the part about holding it there that loses me. Anyway, the cable works for a mag-lev car to accelerate up and up and release at the mid point, thus making orbit. Quick and cheap spacelift, and every site I've looked it up on save Atomic Rocket and Wikipedia claim we could build one today if we wanted.
Billions (estimates vary by a factor of ten, the true figure will probably never be known) of refugees leave the solar system in starships created by a mixture of nanoreplication and automated macroengineering; for hundreds of years all He3, Deuterium and antimatter produced in the system is used for propulsion to nearby stars or in fierce territorial wars; the solar system slips into anarchy, and the quality of life is poor.
One way to get humanity to the stars was to deny us Earth, I suppose.
Technological levels are generally similar to those found in the early twenty third century; many AI entities hoard technology and information, and dispense it only to favoured groups. The Goddess of Earth does not communicate with any being outside her protectorate, but is the most toposophically advanced entity known at this time.
Tech hoarding keeps the general tech level three centuries behind.
621 - 660 - The Great Expulsion leads to massive emigration of Earth refugees into newly constructed bubblehabs in the atmospheres of Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Venus is bypassed as too dangerous, and Jupiter as too hostile to humans and other Earth-adapted clades not only because of its high gravity but because of aggressive native clades, survivors of the original Genetekker colonies. Saturn absorbs the majority of refugees, just as before the Nanoswarms it was the target of choice for less desperate immigrants. The refugees are equipped with seed-tech self-maintaining and self-replicating bubble-habs designed by GAIA. After a period of cautious observation the designs for these are bought or stolen and widely copied by the existing populations as well.
623 - Some of the habitats in Earth orbit have been expanded and upgraded by GAIA and act as waystations for the expelled humans. Over the next years more and more of the abandoned habitats as well as newly built emergency habitats in cislunar space are filled up by refugees.
GAIA takes care to provide some shelter for all the refugees, providing 'seeds' that grow into full bubble-habs and repairing and upgrading Earth Orbitals. However, all the space elevators save one are destroyed, and no goes to the surface of the Earth.
628 - The Treaty Org provisional government is set up in Zeno Base on the Moon. Over the next 40 years a large population of Earth refugees aligned with the Treaty Org settle on the Moon, competing violently with the native selenians and anti-Org groups over scarce resources ("the moon wars"). Other refugees flee to the Mars Orbitals, the Belt, the Mercury caves, the moons of Saturn and the outer planets, and the recovering colonies around Jupiter. The colonies around Venus and on the surface of Mars are abandoned.
Moon divided by war between the Treaty Org and everyone else. The shape of the new solar system, with the terraforming of Mars an utter failure and reset to the beginning by nanoswarms.
By now human destiny, and all life in the solar system, is in the hands of the AIs. There are factions even among the AIs, but little is known of this. Some fortunate humans are kept by the AIs as pets for companionship or scientific curiosity. Some AIs have set off exploring the universe beyond the solar system. Slower than light colonisation by Organics (tweaks and normals) moving out well into the Oort Cloud.
Now and pretty much for the rest of the series, the AIs have the power. If you don't like it, tough.
Now we enter the 27th Century.
620's-650's - Outer system and Belt groups, fearful of GAIA and the large number of refugees occasionally attempt to "trip" them by launching nanospores into the inner system. While GAIA successfully resists, many settlements and refugee colonies are hard pressed. Some retaliate in kind, producing a low-key sabotage/infection war that lasts for centuries.
Again, a waste of time and resources when life is already crappy enough.
631 - The first of many massive interstellar "arks" is sent towards Alpha Centauri, Tau Ceti and other colonised systems with refugees in cryonic suspension . Not all arrive at their destinations.
"Arks" carrying refugees in cyro-sleep to other systems. Implied to be another innovation of GAIA's.
640 - The expulsion ends, and Gaia dismantles her technological infrastructure and sets to truly restore the planet by triggering a new Ice Age and restoring extinct megafauna. The sentients in space are ignored.
Some settlements for the pitiful few million humans remain, sites set aside both for living space and for cultural/historical value, like Jerusalem, the Nile and Cape Canaveral.
648- Mars Orbital habitats hold millions of refugees from the planetary surface, and from Earth; shortages of food and overcrowding cause severe social problems for more than two centuries. The Titanite occupation of Mars ends- for more than a hundred years the Red Planet is almost completely empty of inhabitants.
685 - "The Great Shedding": nanoreplicators in the Jupiter atmosphere launch massive quantities of spores, destroying surviving communities in the Jovian system and causing brief swarms on the outer planets and in the Belt.
685 AT - The Great Shedding destroys most of the bubblehabs in Jupiter's atmosphere. The very few and very paranoid survivors, mostly vecs and Genetekker-derived tweaks descend into technosavagery. Hostile sporetech devices, some specifically designed to destroy bubble habs (deathbirds, bubblemites), reach the atmospheres of the other gas giants, causing great loss of life. Isolationism is the primary survival strategy.
A final indignity heaped on the dead Jovian League/Gengineer Republic.
700's - Over the next 200 years the Luna colonies develop into closed, resource-conscious and paranoid communities with little contact.
700 - All habitats on and in the atmosphere and environs of Venus abandoned.
700's - Bubblehabs at Venus are destroyed or depopulated. In the Outer system, growth of further bubblehabs is limited by the need for heavier elements. These may be obtained through time-consuming sifting of the atmosphere, through the tiny trickle of interplanetary trade, or by taking them from other bubblehabs. In the atmospheres of Solsys' gas giants this is the era of the infamous Sky Pirates and Cannibal Cities.
705 - Four space arks leave Solsys for 18 Scorpii.
Moon War ends with all parties retreating to small corners to grumble and stew for generations. Age of the Space Pirates.
737 - The Treaty org government in Zeno is deposed in a coup d'etat by the Zeno Loyalists, a paranoid but efficient military cybercracy.
Final death of the Treaty Org at the hands of lunar survivalist nuts (directed by a transapient.)
790 - The Joh-Lau culture in the Mercury underground bases reaches its zenith. Although totally isolated from the other system and only discovered during the late 900's when it had declined to near savagery, the art of the Joh-Lau is regarded as one of the brightest points of the era.
Out there stuff. Oh and a whole lot of colony ships arrive at Tau Ceti, where the terrestrial planet is cleverly named Nova Terra, defying our expectation that it would certainly be Terra Nova. Plus Eridani, which actually gets a lot of orbitals and bubble habs and forms a sort of league. Also at planets Twilight and Daedalus.
Right, that's enough for tonight. Next time, we'll discuss the Eridanus League, the long slow crawl out of the Dark Age and the birth of the Federation.