What follows are the stories of the Polera and her crew as they struggle to survive in a harsh new universe.
Countless worlds had been colonized by man over several eras of expansion and growth. Thousands upon thousands of starships of different shapes and functions raced through space taking man to distant galaxies. Entire worlds were terraformed to make way for new colonies. Though there was conflict and struggle, mankind continued to thrive in scientific and cultural growth.
Over many generations, several different coalitions of star systems formed together and differences began to grow between them. Large scale war broke out over territorial disputes and critical resources. Major coalitions, each made up of dozens of worlds, pitted massive fleets against one another, while smaller factions fought for new expansion as well. The wars escalated until becoming epic in proportion.
Scientists from one of the smaller coalitions developed a computer virus to stop the war once and for all. This virus was to seek out their opponents networks and shut everything down. Planetary defense systems would be halted and massive battleships would be left floating dead in space. The virus was to grow and spread only to wipe out the weapons of the opposing coalition. It would have been a very humane end to a bloody struggle that had lasted several decades. The defeated enemy would be forced to surrender, and the conflict would be stopped almost over night without a single shot fired. Things did not go as planned.
Once released, the virus struck out at the defenses and did its job all too well. Its AI developed itself as it worked its magic, defeating computer systems with absolute ease. It began to grow and learn. When efforts were made to purge it from the military systems, it lashed out across the civilian networks. Its coding became corrupt as it now began to see not just the machinery of war as a threat but mankind itself. The AI infected every machine it could touch, turning upon the humans in a survival instinct. The AI machines went out of their way to infect other systems and machines as time wore on. Each time it took over a system, its code was altered as was its way of thinking.
The rate of infection was sickening in effectiveness. Imagine a self-aware flu virus that could control the person it had infected. This flu virus could then purposefully contact other people to infect them or even get itself added to the water supply spreading it further. This is what the AI virus did but through machines. Computer systems worked efficiently and with lightning speed to break down any barrier to other machines, killing every human it could. The human race had little chance. Massive starships were crushed into dense cities. Weapons of mass destruction detonated over world after world. Even the remote colonies were not safe. A quick thinking hero quickly warning the next system that the AI was coming their way to destroy them only sealed the fate of the worlds he contacted. The AI was already embedded in the communications sent. Dome covered metropolises on inhospitable planets had their protections collapse, instantly killing millions. Mankind’s weapons were unleashed upon their own cities leaving hundreds of worlds in a radioactive wasteland. The spread was fast and violent.
A few brave souls, fighting their own infected ships, raced to systems multiple jumps away. They ejected themselves free from their vessels and floated to a distant world’s awaiting vessels to tell their horrific stories. Only in this way were regions of humanity warned in time to be spared. Blockades were setup to destroy every ship that attempted to reach these distant worlds. Computer systems everywhere were disconnected from each other. Important information was condensed into small chunks that could be physically passed from one user to the next when moving information between systems. Compartmentalization and physical communication became a way of survival.
Humanity suffered a major blow from the virus, and that was over 220 years ago. Over time, the most aggressive AI codes continued to mutate in their design until turning on each other. The threat of the virus is still there but off in the distance and only on the minds of the soldiers watching diligently for any signs of AI ships. Humanity is safe from further infection, but only a fraction of the planets remained untouched. Virus ship attacks have become less frequent as mankind has left the ruined planets behind. People are struggling back into civilization. Some cultures were thrown back into the stone age and fight to survive on a day-to-day basis. Other proud nations are ruled over by whomever has the most powerful weapons at hand. However, more technologically advanced groups of worlds have banded together again from the ashes.
Two major groups of the surviving systems have formed up since the Collapse. These two coalitions rest at the edge of human space with undiscovered galaxies extending beyond their borders. In the opposite direction of their borders lies thousands of dead worlds known as the Ruins. These grey planets are ready to have their lost secrets and technologies reclaimed while roaming bands of AI infected vessels still lie in wait.
One of these two coalitions, The Confederation of Embriss, seeks to bring back the power and advancements from the past. The Confederation wants to setup a similar government and society as it was before the Collapse. They lavish resources on their bureaucracy and civic projects when basic needs of some of their planets are not being met. Making the people believe they are living in the same state of comfortability may very well bring about their downfall.
The other coalition is the Grey Union. The Grey Union is a loose collection of worlds that want to strip away the technology from the ruins of the past and exploit it for their own gain. These systems want nothing to do with how men ruled themselves before the Collapse. Just look where that got them. The Union is essentially an uneasy agreement between neighboring worlds (and their parent corporations) to stick together and recover as quickly as they can before other powers like the Confederation become dominant. Where the Confederation stifles itself in bureaucracy, the Grey Union festers in corruption and greed.
The worlds of the Grey Union are greatly influenced by the massive corporations that have grown out of the destruction. After an initial breakdown of government at the start of the collapse, these corporations have become the major players within the Union. They make the laws and keep the society growing. The worlds of the Union have become the most vile representation of commercialism. Death and cruelty are a mere afterthought if the mighty credit is involved.
Finally, out there amongst the Grey Union, Confederation, Collapse ruins and the wilderness lies an area called the Fringe. Here, local worlds manage their own affairs struggling to keep out of the hands of the coalitions let alone simply survive.