Astrographer’s Notebook – The Broken Strand

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… Well it was in a distant galaxy, and, in some senses, it was a long time ago, though the timeline gets more than a little wibbily-wobbily along the way. For clarity, I will refer to this world that will become Earth as Oikos. The parting of the ways between Earth and Oikos will occur sometime not long before 5000 B.C. in a day that will live on for centuries in the oral traditions of many cultures as, “The Changing of the Skies.” None of these stories seems to have made it into the surviving written record, although there may be some seriously garbled mythology based on the event. In any case, “The Changing of the Skies,” didn’t happen on Oikos. Eventually this made for some big changes.

To some degree, it’s hard to tell what differences were the result of all those pre-literate butterflies that had to have accumulated after such an early point of departure. While early Mesopotamian, Chinese and Egyptian cultures arose roughly when and where they did in our own history, the details were different and timings began to diverge considerably. I will apply names from our own world to some of the cultures and locations based on proximity to geographically analogous elements. The further we go from 5000 B.C., the less resemblance these cultures and histories will bear to our own world, though the physical geography of the world will remain largely similar to our own. I will clearly note the larger differences in the geography and geology of Oikos as those divergences occur.

The first really obvious difference in the geography of Oikos would be the failure, around 1600 B.C. of the island of Thera to catastrophically erupt. This would allow the Minoan culture to spread out from Crete to much of Greece, Asia Minor, and, with the decline of the third Mesopotamian Empire, much of the eastern Mediterranean. Minoan culture will have a significant effect on the Israelites as they migrate from Egypt to Philistia to escape slavery. Centuries later, the greatest survival of Minoan language and writing will be the Judaic culture of Ethiopia. Their monotheistic religion will also retain syncretized elements of Minoan spirituality otherwise lost to Oikos. Over the next millennium, the Minoan culture will wax and wane to be overcome by the Persians and later by the heavily Minoan- and Persian-influenced Macedonian Empire.

Although the Macedonian Empire grew, declined and ultimately fragmented, its cultural influence would spread out to dominate the Mediterranean, northern Africa and the whole of Europe. The Macedonian culture in ever-changing form grew and prospered so that by 1000 A.D. they were beginning to re-unite into a peaceful confederation with some of the first elements of a democratic republic. This confederation would span from the steppes of Frygian Russ to the fjords of Keltic Skandia, from Gallic Iberia to the seas of Araby. The Macedonians engaged in a profitable trade with a China, which at this point would be the  most familiar place on Oikos to a time-traveller from Earth. Clocks and fish and grain, milled in plenty by the power of wind and water, flowed east, while silk and tea and fine porcelain made their way west, enriching Chinese and Macedonians alike as well as the many fragmented kingdoms of central Asia. Not to be outdone, the Turkic people of central Asia fed the growing Macedonian and Chinese appetite for opium.

The first Macedonian ships were sailing across the Atlantis Ocean to trade with the wealthy kingdoms of the Mechika and Inka continents. Chinese voyages of discovery had built an empire that extended from Ceylon to Kamchatka, with colonies on the land known on Earth as Australia. Chinese sailors had set foot on the coast of Denalia, although no one yet knew that this land was contiguous with Mechika.

It was from a place at the center of Mechika that the end of a golden age would come. A volcanic hotspot, known on Earth as Yellowstone caldera, known on Oikos, much later, as the Doomsday Lakes, would erupt. While not necessarily a worst-case Yellowstone event, this eruption essentially depopulated the continent of Mechika and smothered much of Inka and Eurasia in a crop-destroying blanket of ash. The destruction of Inka and Macedonian crops would essentially collapse civilization across Europe, Africa and Inka. China fared little better and the empire quickly fragmented into a cluster of tiny squabbling warlord-states.

For many years after the eruption the northern hemisphere experienced cold, often snowy summers. This climatic phenomenon Macedonian and Chinese civilization into further decline, marked by starvation and disease. Extending and worsening the climatic impact, the absence of summer melt led to the re-establishment of cordilleran ice sheets in western Mechika and Skandia. Frygian Russia, central Asia, Siberia and much of China are ravaged by consequent droughts.

By about the year 2000 A.D., the glaciers are starting to recede again. Civilizations are beginning to sprout from the ashes. A coalition of Chinese kingdoms in India successfully united the subcontinent under a single emperor by 1600 A.D. and were beginning to move into Persia and Siam. The Judaic tribes of Ethiopia had united under a council of Judges and had rebuilt the Temple in a city near what is known on Earth as Mogadishu around 1800 A.D. The Crimean Renaissance is usually dated to around 2000 A.D. to coincide with the earliest works of Cimon of Euxinia. Cimon was a brilliant polymath working at the Library of Yalta, located near our city of Sevastopol. Cimon would come to be seen as something like a cross between Galileo, Newton and Da Vinci. Cimon almost single-handedly set off a Crimean cultural obsession with recovering the intellectual brilliance of Macedonian civilization. Throughout the 21st century, the Cimon’s Lyceum would produce many of the great minds of Crimean civilization, such as Filip the Astronomer, Artor of Skandia and Kiran of Gall. After an explosion of activity the mechanical sciences would languish, with intellectual activity being diverted to biology, chemistry, and applied engineering.

In the meantime theorists would devote their greatest efforts to applying scientific thinking to the needs of growing a just society. The philosophies of politics, ethics and economics would become extremely sophisticated over the next two centuries as Crimean prosperity expanded to encompass all of the old Macedonian realms and much beyond, including most of Africa.

Trade resumed with China, India and Inka and the Crimeans began to plant colonies on the increasingly pleasant shores of Mechika, bringing them into conflict with some of the more powerful kingdoms of Inka.

The Great War of about 2300 A.D. was fought between Crimea and several Inkan kingdoms, using sailing ships, black powder cannons and muskets. By the end of the war, only twelve years later, Warships and dirigibles were propelled using coal-fired steam power, artillery was expanded by the use of rocket-propelled manned gliders dropping bombs. Soldiers were also routinely armed with breach-loading cartridge rifles.

Although the war was originally fought between a few Inkan kingdoms and some of the larger Crimean states, the rest of Crimean civilization would be dragged into the war by the complex network of alliances between those peoples. China and India would use the war as a pretext to settle their own conflicting claims on the Australian continent and the islands off southeast Asia.

Faced with the immense wind- and water-powered industries of Crimean Europe and Africa, the Inkan kingdoms try hard to develop their own industries. Although they begin by emulating the Crimeans in their use of wind and water, they find their enemies have too much of a head start. Inkan engineers make the innovation of applying steam power, formerly used only for transportation, to powering their factories. The innovation proves successful in enlarging Inka industries, but the Crimeans are also able to use steam power and practically bury the Inkans in war materiel, bringing a relatively quick end to the war.

The Crimean Confederation won major territorial concessions in Mechika as well as reparation payments from the Inkan kingdoms. The war between China and India was less decisive. In the end the colonies in Australia declare their independence from both empires and attempt to create a new society based in part on political ideas learned from the Crimeans and certain Inkan ideologies. Support from independent aboriginal states, trying to get two powerful and expansionistic empires off their backs, forces the Indians and Chinese, already exhausted by their war with each other, to accept independence for their former colonies. Indians and Chinese will continue to intrigue for the return of their former colonies over the next several decades, but will eventually turn their efforts to maintaining their hold on the islands off southeast Asia.

The post-war steam revolution was relatively painless for the Crimeans. They already had a long-standing industrial society based on wind and water power and saw little need to continue expanding their use of coal in industry after the war. For the other societies, especially the Inkans, their economy broken by the war, development of a growing industry powered by coal-fired steam was far more attractive. The Inkans became famous for their dismal smoky cities and increasingly filthy countryside. It was during the 24th century that the cliché of, “black Inkan cities,” became popular, because it described them perfectly.

Faced with an ecological disaster, and still very much the preeminent world power after the Great War, the Crimeans worked to help the Inkans, and to a lesser degree, the Chinese, Indian and Australian societies, to build industries along more renewable and less environmentally degrading lines. They also worked to develop an economic theory based less on eternal growth than on the maintenance of a continuous state of sustainable prosperity. The efforts at developing sustainable industry prove remarkably successful for India, China and Australia, and they greatly reduce the environmental degradation of Inka. Unfortunately, the Inkans remain dedicated to a program of continuous growth in the hopes of eventually getting revenge on Crimea. Because of this, environmental issues will remain a problem for the Inkans.

During the 24th century, the old Chinese and Indian colonial states and most of the native states in Australia unify under a largely-democratic federation. They are often in conflict with the Chinese and Indians as they try to aid independence movements throughout the southeast Asian islands.

Also during the 24th century the Crimean Confederation launches the first manned missions to the moon from a pad off the Biafran coast. The Inkans, newly unified under an authoritarian, expansionistic empire begin a space race in an effort to regain their national dignity. They launch a manned moon shot of their own and begin construction of solar power satellites to help them power their increasing industrial might.

Even with the power given them by the solar power satellites, tidal power and ocean thermal energy converters near the Inkan coasts, the immense growth of Inkan industry still requires destructive reliance on fossil fuels. They begin to pump oil from wells off the southern coast of Mechika, leading to more conflict with the Crimeans.

Nuclear power is developed by Crimean scientists working on the moon. Within a few years Crimeans use an Orion-type nuclear pulse drive to fire a fast manned mission to the nearest planet. The Inkans begin a crash program to develop nuclear power and the pulse drives. They succeed in launching a manned NERVA-type nuclear rocket to the nearest planet within ten years, and they have their first pulse ship five years after that. Australian scientists express fears that nuclear pulse technology could have warlike applications. For the most part these warnings get little attention at first, but the idea of what a nuclear pulse could do becomes an increasingly general fear.

With prosperity on Oikos and well developed colonies on the Moon and the nearest rocky planets, the idea of war seems to be an unthinkable anachronism until an Inkan oil well off southern Mechika has a massive spill in the early 25th century, leading to immense environmental damage. Mechikan Crimeans demand that the Inkans close the wells so close to their own coast. These demands meet deaf ears, and many Mechikans demand action to close the wells, by force if necessary.

After a well-armed group of Crimean-Mechikan civilians seizes a well in the Gulf of Mechiko, the Inkan authorities blame the Crimean Confederation for the attack. Using the terrorist assault as a pretext for war a well-planned invasion is mounted against an oil-rich region of southern Mechiko.

Although the Second Great War seems to go well for the Inkan forces on the ground, Crimean-Chinese allied forces quickly destroy most of the Inkan space-borne forces and all of their unmanned satellites. After a 24 hour warning, Crimea fires a surgical kinetic bombardment of several important military facilities in Inka, as well as carpet bombing Inkan invasion forces away from populated areas in Mechiko.

Orbital bombardment breaks the back of Inkan invasion forces, who are forced to withdraw to Mechikan cities to wage a long urban guerilla war. They are ordered to fight to the last man, a command they take to heart.

The Inkan government surprises Oikos with a threat to use nuclear pulse bombs mounted on orbital launch rockets to destroy Crimean and Chinese cities if there are any further orbital bombardments of any Inkan forces or facilities. They also demand return of all remaining Inkan space facilities including removal of Crimean occupation forces from manned Inkan stations. They prove their capability by destroying a major city at the site of our Dakar.

Angry at the destruction of “Dakar”, Crimeans direct a small asteroid original planned to enter Oikos orbit as a source of mineral resources, to plunge into a major population center on Inka. Crimeans promise to redirect the asteroid if the Inkans capitulate; they also promise to use a nuclear device to break up the asteroid for maximal damage to Inkan targets if their demands are not met. The Inkans are given a week to respond before the asteroid’s path can not be directed to miss Oikos. The world holds its breath.

An attempt by Inkan forces to launch a commando assault to take and re-direct the asteroid goes poorly. The nuclear device is fired breaking up the asteroid prematurely and making its impact with Oikos inevitable. After the failure, the Inkan government fires every launch rocket they possess at orbital, Chinese and especially Crimean targets. In response, Crimea carpet bombs every major Inkan military or industrial asset with orbital kinetics.

The effects of Oikos’  first nuclear and space war are at least as great as those of the Doomsday Lakes event. Not only does nuclear winter grip both hemispheres, but significant parts of Africa, Eurasia and Mechika are contaminated with deadly levels of radiation. Because of the Inkan empire’s heavy reliance on nuclear fission for power, Inka is also heavily contaminated, as the power plants were targeted for orbital strikes.

The interchange destroys the industrial and military capacities of all of the combatants as well as causing grievous damage even to neutral states such as India and Australia. Many of the space colonies of all sides are destroyed, survivors find themselves cut off from Oikos. They will have to find a way to survive on their own.

Modern society on Oikos was as dependent on a global network of interrelationships as it is on Earth. If not more so. With transportation and communication networks across Oikos terribly damaged and disrupted, the Oikomene people find themselves dependent for the first time in a long while on local resources. The long period of specialization and global interdependence makes this harder as does the enormous damage to most of the assets and resources on which they have come to depend. There are many lean years on Oikos as its people slowly build up their local resources and deal with the awful environmental repercussions of the war.

The new centers of Oikomene civilization are those states that took the least damage in the war. These were also the weakest and least influential states in the pre-war world. India, Australia, and to a surprising degree, Mechiko, were able to pull themselves out of the ashes with enough surviving technology, knowledge and coordination to retain a tenuous grasp on civilization. The humans still surviving in space also, by necessity, managed to hold onto enough technology to survive and claw out a continuing existence.

Although the damage to Oikos and to the cultural institutions of its people was greater than that dealt by the Doomsday Lakes Eruptions, the recovery was much faster. India, Australia and the Mechikan colonies retained enough of the old technology to maintain their grasp on civilization and, after a few very bad years, keep their people sufficiently fed. The Spacers worked to rebuild the communication satellite network over Oikos and were able to recontact those people on the world who still had access to communication gear. This meant that though the three surviving states on the planet’s surface and the Spacers were largely out of physical contact, they could still share information and maintain a semblance of diplomatic contact. India and Australia were close enough to rebuild a limited transportation network between the two states, which helped them to handle some local problems together. Although the surviving states were able to maintain, repair and replace their existing technology, too much of their intellectual power would be dedicated to recovery, survival and putting out metaphorical fires(and sometimes literal ones)over the next several decades to put any effort towards advancement. Socially, this was a time of tough independent people with their feet firmly on the grounds and their minds firmly on the problems of the moment.

By around 2650, the Spacers have recovered to the point where they can start working on regaining the ability to reach Oikos physically. Some materials needed to maintain their own infrastructure have proven too difficult to obtain off of Oikos, so they decide that a regular surface-to-space launch facility will be needed.

Simply landing a ship in a gravity well as deep as that of Oikos with enough fuel to return to orbit would be prohibitively difficult, especially with the Spacers still limited resources. Instead, the Spacers work with a state on the surface to build a launch capability, sometimes sending down required tools and very occasionally advisors. These advisors knew that they were trapped on Oikos until they could successfully help to rebuild a space launch capability. After several years of hard work, they launch the first rocket into space since the war from the Chesapeake Bay region of Mechiko. This signals the beginning of a new period of resurgence in the history of Oikos known as the Mechikan Renaissance, though it rapidly spreads to India and Australia.

The 28th and 29th centuries were a hotbed of development on Oikos. The Spacers successfully rebuilt colonies on the two nearest planets to Oikos(referred to here as Minerva, closer to Oikos’ sun, and Ares,  farther out) and rebuilt the solar power network in Oikos’ orbit. Safe nuclear fusion power was developed although it wasn’t heavily used on Oikos as the SPS system provided sufficient power for most people’s needs. By the start of the 4th millennium, humans had set foot on every solid-surface planet in Oikos’ solar system and work had begun on terraforming Minerva and later Ares.

During the mid 4th millennium, Oikos launched the Great Exodus. Giant nuclear-pulse driven starships were launched to the nearest stars with known habitable planets. Later, faster ships with Bussard ramjet drives were used. Dozens of worlds were colonized by the 38th century when the first FTL drive was developed on Oikos.

With faster than light transportation, the people of Oikos and its neighboring systems were able to maintain closer contact and explore farther into space, eventually making contact with alien species. At first they only find more technologically primitive peoples, but by the time they explore the major part of their galaxy, they discovered dozens of species with their own interstellar capabilities, either FTL or STL, and scores of less advanced races. Habitable planets without sapient life are far more common, though, and Oikomene humans plant colonies across the galaxy.

At first, fast transportation allowed the whole of the human race to remain in contact with each other. By the 6th millenium however, the bounds of human space expanded beyond even the capacity of the now very long-lived humans from Oikos to maintain contact with each other.

Faster transportation and the invention of the ansible, an FTL communication device, allow recontact of the many separated branches of humanity throughout the Oikomene galaxy by about the year 60000 A.D. Presumably, by this time there have been many independent periods of advance and decline, successes and setbacks in various regions across the galaxy. There was time and space for a multitude of adventures during this time, but hundreds of pages could be dedicated to just touching on some of the events of this long and far-flung time. For our purposes, we’ll skip lightly over this.

Taking advantage of faster communication and transportation the Sunflower Community, a loose federation of multi-system polities begins to re-unite a large fraction of the humanly-populated galaxy in 63000 A.D. By 65000 A.D. the entire known galaxy is unified under a single political structure beginning the Galactic Era.

In the year 10,000 G.E.(75000 A.D.) at a research station on the now somewhat obscure backwater world of Oikos, a group of scientists work on a project that will be of great significance to Earth and many other worlds. They are funded by, and mostly adherents to, an odd religious organization dedicated to averting the heat death of the universe. This is a goal that requires violating the laws of thermodynamics, a tall order even for  the science of the 751st century. They believe they have found a way to cheat thermodynamics by essentially channeling entropy through a sort of time conduit to the Big Bang. They believe in doing so they will not only insure the immortality of the universe, but will trigger the Big Bang itself. Ordinarily, ethical scientists would avoid attempting such a feat on an inhabited planet, but these people are fanatics and most main-stream scientists consider them harmless crackpots. Interestingly, the geographic location of their facility is on the continent of Evropi, roughly in the center of the LHC on Earth.

There’s no way of telling exactly what happened on Oikos itself. The planet is in a galaxy several millions of light years away and the light has only had about 7,000 years to get to our galaxy. Even the advanced FTL technologies of 751st century Oikos could only travel a few kiloparsecs before needing to relax in the gravitational field of a star-sized object. Given that, it’s fair to say that no form of communication known to Earth or 751st century Oikos could possibly get a signal across that gulf of space.

We don’t know what happened on Oikos itself, but we can tell you something of what happened to the timeline of Oikos history. The best way to explain this might be to use an analogy. Imagine that the history of Oikos is a coiled rope extending from the floor which is the spatial universe of the present up to where it is anchored on the roof, presumably representing the Big Bang. The individual strands of Oikos timeline separate sometime before the formation of the planet, first into individual planetesimals, then into rocks, then dust, then maybe individual atomic strands leading off to the stars and nebulas from whence they came. Maybe those strands re-separate and form new knots as we move backward in time, all coming together with all the other strands of the universal timeline at the Big Bang. Anyway, by analogy, we can say that the experiment on Oikos in 75000 A.D. somehow cut that strand somewhere along its length.

As the strand of Oikos’ spacetime fell through time it adhered in appropriate locations materializing copies of Oikos and some portion of its environment at those points. These places where copies of points in Oikos history were duplicated were places where, at the moment the strand passed through, the energy environment was similar to that enjoyed by Oikos at that point in its history.

This had the fortunate effect of causing most of Oikos’ echoes to appear within the habitable zones of stars. This doesn’t always work out so well. Sometimes an echo might come into being at a place near a supernova where the insolation was instantaneously appropriate, only to be baked lifeless within moments and then left to freeze as the supernova abated. Or an echo may have materialized around a flaring red dwarf star only to freeze to death as the star returned to its normal insolation. Sometimes an echo may form close to a neutron star with the appropriate quantity of incoming radiation, but with its life being fried by far too much x-ray and gamma radiation(such a planet would also be quickly ripped to shreds by the tidal force of its new primary, anyway).

These echoes seemed to vary not only in where they landed, but seemingly at random, some of them materialized with the moon still in its customary location while others came into being suddenly without a moon. Tidal stresses released by the absence of a moon could cause fairly drastic seismic effects.

Without a moon, obliquity variations seem to be faster and more extreme. I don’t believe that would render a planet uninhabitable, but it would certainly cause drastic changes to the echo’s climatic regime.

It also appears that the process of materialization of an echo leaves the planet under a great deal of physical strain. The later in time the echo is along Oikos’ timeline, the greater that stress would be. Some worlds, particularly those nearer to the 751st century on the timeline, were prone to release so much pent up stress that they literally broke apart soon after forming.

Our Earth appears to have been very fortunate. In 5000 B.C. we materialized in a system orbiting a star very similar to that of Oikos. In spite of being relatively close to the “event” on Oikos’ timeline, Earth slid into place with barely a whisper of tectonic stress. The only changes brought about in the geography and internal structure was the explosion of Thera about 3,000 years after The Changing of the Stars, the failure of Yellowstone Caldera to erupt catastrophically 6,000 years after the “event” and continued strong activity of the Red Sea/African Rift Valley spreading zone, which fizzled on Oikos right about the time Yellowstone erupted.

Scattered about our galaxy are numerous similar echoes from various time periods in Oikos’ history, giving us all manner of different worlds inhabited by various human cultures or dinosaurs or wooly mammoths or whatever. Maybe there are some echoes from later in Oikos history trying to dig out from under the rubble of their own, more stressful, Changing of Stars, or even the aftereffects of nuclear wars or giant eruptions.

There you have it. A world, in itself, with lots of opportunities for adventure. Some fun stuff for our own galaxy, with a wide open future.

I also filled out a sort of basic map to give a general idea of where things are. This has also led to some minor improvements in the nomenclature: Mavrigi for Africa, Nantudi for Australia, Yindi for India, Poluo for the Philippines, New Guinea and the East Indies.

A hand-labelled map of Oikos.

In spite of the immense verbiage here, I think there are a lot of opportunities to flesh out the cultures of Oikos. What were the Minoans of Oikos really like, or the Chinese? How was Judaism different from our own world; how was it similar? I have almost nothing here on the peoples of Mechika and Inka. The Mechikans, whatever they were like were essentially destroyed by the Yellowstone eruption, but there was some contact with surviving cultures and they seem to have been a vibrant and advanced society. The Inkans, though I had them develop into a kind of unified crapsack society, were formerly a collection of diverse and hopefully interesting cultures. What about the cultures that never existed on Earth: the Macedonians, the Indian Chinese, the Australian Chinese, the Crimeans, and the cultures that grew up after the Great War? In spite of the fact that I used the names of peoples and places from Earth, there is no reason why these would have any more in common with their Earthly “namesakes” than rough geographic location.

And, uh… if it seems ridiculously verbose, at least I excised two pages on Cimon, the Crimean librarian…

Thanks for takin’ a look,

The Astrographer

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One Response to Astrographer’s Notebook – The Broken Strand

  1. Prof.Pedant says:

    An interesting start.

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