Designer's Note: We're covering all three games in the Master of Orion series in this narrative, as well as the vast backstory that binds them all together into a whole galactic history (complete with workable time line). Know going in that this background story is a constant work-in-progress between now and publication. And while it's an ambitious story, it is one that has to be told to put into context the events portrayed in Master of Orion III: The Fifth 'X.' We welcome your comments on the MOO3 discussion boards.
Whatever its inhabitants of yore named their solar system has been long forgotten. Today, historians clinically refer back to this origin point of galactic civilization as "Center One."
Center One consisted of an ancient solar system located near the Galactic Core in a somewhat unstable area of space. Several of its more habitable planets held dense populations of multilingual civilizations whose exact origin is still unknown. These bustling residents were diverse in language, culture, government and ethic identities, making one suspect that they arrived at Center One through the nexus wormhole located in this system. Besides the (future) Orions and the Antarans, who dominated the local populace, there were approximately ten other important civilizations that added to the cosmopolitan mix thriving in this puzzling star system circa ñ3300 GC.
Visitors wandering through the wormhole into Center One found returning home impossible due to incessant fluctuations in this portal. Many saw this random act of fate as their opportunity to settle down somewhere within the thriving Center One system and easily blended into its ever-growing cosmopolitan society. Others felt trapped there and eventually departed in hopes of finding their way home. Unfortunately for them, this meant they were effectively exiled to unexplored parts of space.
The Center One system's ruling oligarchy seemed to have run quite smoothly. It rarely had to deal with political or social upheavals because any serious opposition disappeared soon after rising up (for reasons that are still debated). Circa ñ120 GC, however, dissent grew (many conjecture this was due to the "closing of the frontiers" within the Center One system; others believe that there was some underlying economic cause).
The wormhole offered a quick solution to the most vexing problem within the Center One system, dealing with system's increasing numbers of troublemakers. Eventually, those in power took full advantage of this phenomenon to 'mercifully' dispose of criminals and other undesirable groups to parts of space unknown. Center One society was thus purged of elements that hindered their pursuits by providing these 'unwanted guests' with a non-transferable one-way ticket out of their solar system. It wasn't subtle, but it was apparently quite effective.
The Center One star became unstable within about a century (i.e., one hundred Galactic Cycles) after this policy of exiling large numbers of "undesirables" through the wormhole began. While astrophysicists surmise that these two events may be linked, data from Center One indicates that a generation passed from the time of this discovery to the time they expected their star to go nova.
Evidence suggests that sometime around -45 GC, scientists around Center One discovered the instability of their star, but there seems to have been remarkably little effort put into moving the affected population out of harm's way. The reason for this could be found in the elitist government, which viewed these scientists as dissidents attempting to cause the collapse of the regime. The government brought in its own experts in an attempt to discredit these scientists. Those groups who chose to believe in "The Nova" were viewed as undesirable and, if they wished to help subsidize their own exile, they were encouraged to do so and sent on their way. There is also some evidence suggesting that some independent scientists were secretly working on some sort of anti-nova device that would save their sun, though we cannot know how close they might have come to success. When the nova did come though (exactly as originally predicted), Center One became a vast funeral pyre to a society whose leadership had effectively willed itself out of existence.
That portion of the populace, which did escape during this pre-nova period, went through the wormhole. This is because it provided the only viable means of escape before the star went nova due to the slow STL (Slower-Than-Light) travel available at that time.
Those who left on this exodus did not stay together, either (whether by choice or design). They became known as the "Traveler Tribes" or simply the "Travelers." Each tribe represented a tough, tight-knit community with a common attitude of skepticism toward government and a willingness to prepare for survival. With the destruction of Center One, the only hope for the future of its once great civilization would be the successful emigration and reestablishment of the heterogeneous Travelers.
The Galactic Calendar
It was during this epoch that the galaxy's common calendar was set. The time period for a Galactic Cycle had evolved based on the combination of the orbits of Center One and of its primary's companion star. Whenever the planet was aligned directly between the stars, a "high summer" ensued, which was the basis of the original calendar. Since the companion star's orbit was highly elliptical, this period ranged in duration from approximately one to two Earth years. Astronomers developed a highly accurate means of determining the actual length of each year well in advance, and these formulas were carried into the galaxy by the Tribes. The Galactic Cycle for the nova of Center One's sun was redesignated as Cycle 0 (0 GC). The cycles prior to that were simply numbered negatively. Thus, the year before 1 GC was 0 GC, and the year before that was -1 GC. Other terminology remains relative. A "decade" is ten Galactic Cycles; a "century" is one hundred; and a "millennium" is one thousand.
The Slower-Than-Light Cycles
Due to the massive energy released during the first nova and disruptions caused by subsequent novas and supernovas in the galactic core, hyperspace travel was precarious during this period and probably remained so, to an ever-lessening degree, right up through modern times. Wormholes themselves became quite unstable, which caused a number of shifts in their exit points. As a result of this instability civilizations throughout the galaxy were solely dependent upon available wormholes for any kind of FTL (Faster-Than-Light) travel, but no one could be one hundred percent certain just where they would be deposited.
The STL transportation used by the Tribes significantly limited their ability to expand and develop colonies within the galaxy during the first millennium (i.e., from 1 GC to 1000 GC), unless they were lucky enough to discover another usable wormhole.
Unfortunately, fewer than twenty of the Tribes that left the Center One home worlds survived long enough to develop and utilize STL transportation around their new home solar systems. The other Tribes are presumed to have died during the exodus or shortly thereafter due to any number of reasons. (This remains a subject of much conjecture.)
NEXT IN THE BACKGROUND FICTION: "The 'Ancient' Orions"