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Major historic events of the Trials in Tainted Space lore.
The first light drives were invented in the 2300's. By that point, the Earth was growing increasingly overpopulated and fossil fuels had become a bit of a rarity. The invention of the light drive made the proper colonization of space a real possibility. Sure, the moon had been colonized for a century, but eking out a spartan life beneath the pockmarked, gray wasteland is a much different thing than building a true civilization on a planet where you can grow crops or watch the blue sun set on the horizon.
The first planet to be colonized was [redacted] in the [REDACTED] system. It went without a hitch - something that surprised quite a few cynics back home. Low latency communications were some time in coming, but once efficient and cheap quantum entanglement was discovered by the French in 2500 AD, it suddenly became possible to talk to the colonists without years of delay. In the intervening time, other colony ships had been built and sent to other systems to begin establishing themselves. The original colonists of [REDACTED], however, had grown self-sufficient, and had little desire to submit to the whims of Earth's governments.
In response, the governments of Earth agreed to recognize the sovereignty of the new, planet-nation; the immense price (in time and material) of interstellar war did a lot to motive such a speedy, peaceful resolution. Colonization continued at a rapid pace, fed by the desire to explore and the need to get bodies off-planet. First contact with sentient, alien species occurred in 2900. Thankfully the Ausar turned out to be a friendly species, and rather than war, interstellar trade ensued. These aliens had already created warp-gates in order to connect their far-flung colonies, but they lacked means of instantly communicating over such vast distances. Technologies were exchanged, and together, the two friend species experienced a golden age of exploration.
More and more civilizations were discovered, and after a few conflicts, it was agreed upon that a central, governing body needed to be established in order to regulate trade the various member societies. Earth, due to its fractured nature, actually had far less influence in these proceedings than humanity would have liked, though they joined the new-formed, Unified Galactic Confederacy all the same. Time-keeping was standardized such that all species calendars were essentially 'reset' at the founding of the confederacy. By year 1 AC (After Confederation), Earth reorganized into a central, Terran government, a necessity if they wanted to wield any power on the galactic stage.
The size of the known universe and the varieties of life that mankind knew as neighbors expanded at a record pace, at least, until the war-like Thraggen were discovered. The war that immediately bloomed turned a dozen UGC worlds into smokey, wasted husks before a proper response could be mustered and a military assembled. With a friendly casualty count in excess of 50 billion, the UGC won. It was not a pleasant victory, nor a clean one. To this day, the surviving Thraggen worlds exist in perpetual blockade, closely watched by an army of spy satellites for any signs of hostility.
The Planet Rushes
Colonization beyond known space was suspended by unanimous decision, and representatives from every planet were called in to a closed door session. Three earth weeks later, they emerged with a set of codified laws and regulations, crafted to prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening in the future. The UGC had formulated the beginnings of the first great planet rush.
Henceforth, warp-gates would no longer be sent out at the whims of local governments. Instead, governments would petition the UGC with lists of systems they would like to have gates sent to. Approved systems would have gates sent out in a staggered fashion so that they would all reach their target systems at around the same time (keep in mind, it takes years of traveling at near lightspeed for the far ends of the gates to arrive at their destination systems).
While this may seem like a more dangerous way of doing things, there are a few wrinkles to the planet rushes that are greatly beneficial to the Confederacy. Firstly, systems which do yet possess space travel are classified as "frontier planets", and as such, are eligible to have their resources surveyed and claimed by corporations, individuals, or governments. The great potential of wealth available during the planet rushes essentially offers the UGC free scouts. Secondly, since Confederate technicians are monitoring every gate during the planet rush, they are capable at severing the connection at the first sign of hostility, forcing any aggressor race to undergo multi-year journeys through the void of space in order to make war. In this time, the UGC's greatest generals have plenty of time to prepare for war and even take the war to the enemy preemptively if needed.
Planet rushes are only embarked upon every century or two at most in order to give time for new planets to be integrated and civilizations to join the confederacy. Due to the harsh tariffs imposed on non-member civilizations, it has become somewhat unheard of for any space-faring civilization to decline membership to the UGC. Those that do usually join within a few decades, wanting a taste of the prosperity trade can bring.
There have been thirteen planet rushes since the gate management concord was signed into law. During the times of these great planet rushes, there is a fairly unregulated frontier to be explored. Fortunes are made, small wars are fought, and whole new civilizations discovered. It is a time of great adventure and risk. It is a time heroes and villains are made.
3,027 A.C. and Beyond
The Fourteenth Planet Rush begins, roughly coinciding with the death of business magnate and adventurer Victor Steele. His heir, Captain Steele begins a quest into the frontier in search of the Steele Tech probes.