Fringian Dark Age
The eight-century long period that the Voyagers remained within the Distant Fringe region, beginning in 3730AD with the first sightings of Voyagers in the spinward systems of Halcyon Sector, and ending around 4570AD following the events of Slaver Year.
- It was preceded by the Founding Era and followed by the Expansion Era.
- See also: Voluntarily Regressive World
- It is a historical period within Fringian history.
The technology of the Distant Fringe was a waiting banquet for the mineral-hungry Voyagers. Lanthanum-rich starships were a particularly juicy morsel and fusion reactions seemed to draw their attention: space travel of any kind became impossible and interstellar commerce collapsed. Many worlds died, particularly those with hostile environments or those that were reliant on deliveries of supplies. Other systems became barren through natural disaster, by being evacuated, or simply through bad luck. But many systems did survive.
The Voyagers had no taste for base materials such as steel and plastics and technological levels across the Distant Fringe fell to industrial levels or lower – levels that didn’t attract the Voyagers' attentions. Some societies went as far as forsaking advanced technology altogether.
- Pre-Humaniti Era
- Founding Era
- Dark Age
- Expansion Era
- Early Modern Era
- Post-War Era
- Present Day
During the centuries of isolation worlds developed their own unique traditions and customs and linguistic peculiarities, gradually becoming less "Terran". Knowledge wasn’t necessarily lost, but it was hidden safely away until a time when it could be applied and exploited. In many places, advanced equipment and supplies were concealed in deep caches until it was safe to recover them.
The end of the Dark Age began with the events of Slaver Year (4498AD): the last verifiable observation of a Voyager was in 4570AD from the Mengo system (2837 Shadow Rift), on the very coreward edge of the Distant Fringe. The Dark Age was followed by the Renaissance.
The Dark Age
An 800 year long period of destruction, isolation, and technological decline brought about by the Voyagers, an unintelligent spacefaring species with a voracious appetite for rare elements and minerals.
The beginning of the Dark Age is marked by the arrival of the Voyagers in 3730AD. Its end is generally considered to be the last definite sighting of a Voyager in 4570AD. During the Dark Age the Voyagers dominated the Distant Fringe. Their presence made any kind of space travel impossible and any world unable to survive on its own simply died.
The Dark Age is divided into three distinct eras: The Descent, The Dark, and The Departure.
The Descent (3730AD–3750AD)
The period marking the arrival of the Voyagers. It took around 20 years for the Voyagers to spread across the whole of the distant fringe. Although individual human vessels were able to avoid or perhaps fight off Voyagers, the wholesale destruction of shipping, infrastructure, amenities and even entire settlements took their inevitable and fatal toll.
Two or three “Mother” Voyagers, each massing tens of millions of dTons, would appear at the outer edge of a system. They would then sweep in towards the primary star, launching huge waves of “harvesters”, organic missiles typically massing a few tens of dTons and with the ability to ingest minerals, towards any potential resources.
In wilderness areas, harvesters would graze on small mineral-bearing bodies within planetoid belts, ring systems, or Lagrange points, and then return to the Mother. The Human worlds, with their metal-rich advanced technology, represented an irresistible banquet.
Starships, rich in lanthanum, were particularly attractive to the harvesters; Voyagers pursued them relentlessly and soon ravaged the space lanes. Other readily available sources of minerals were consumed, among them satellites, space stations and even surface facilities. Nuclear reactions and the exotic particles that these created quickly drew the Voyager’s harvesters. However, generally, the higher the world’s gravity the less likely Voyagers were to harvest its surface.
Humans were able to take some measures against the menace, evacuating whole star systems to temporary safe zones and even engaging harvesters in space combat to buy time for withdrawals. But it was a losing battle. What started as a disaster descended into a series of tragedies on an epic scale.
Months of Voyagers turned into years and a plague became an infestation. Billions were displaced, many billions more died. Years became decades. Eventually the few remaining human technological havens were overwhelmed and the last starships were destroyed. The Voyagers gorged themselves unopposed on the human infrastructure of the Fringe.
As the scale of events became apparent, far thinking individuals began to cache equipment and resources in deep sites and hidden locations, and ensured that libraries of knowledge and technical specifications were secure.
The Dark (3750AD–4550AD)
About twenty years after the Voyagers first arrival they had visited every star system and consumed almost all easily available resources. Tales of The Dark are filled with hardship, sorrow, tragedy, and loss. They include doomed refugees, heroic leaders, self-serving villains, high drama, and of course the ever present threat of the Voyagers.
Whole star systems died, some very quickly as the air ran out, some more slowly as their vital supplies were used up, still others the victims of unforeseen disasters. Whole populations were denied any means of escape or assistance and they perished. But many worlds did survive.
The remaining inhabited systems dropped to industrial levels of technology. The Voyagers seemed to have no particular appetite for steel, plastics, petrochemicals, or other base materials, instead hunting for rarer, heavier elements. This allowed many worlds to maintain themselves at somewhere close to tech 5 or 6 without drawing attention. Some worlds regressed further, either through lack of resources or through choice. Fear of technology and of the consequences that it could bring became endemic.
Every star system within the Distant Fringe suffered at least one visitation from Voyagers. Some of these visits were mercifully brief, other less fortunate locations saw almost permanent Voyager activity.
Slaver Year (4498AD)
It is believed by many that the so-called Slavers, a mythical race of fantastically advanced aliens, somehow got rid of the Voyagers. Though properly called the Incursion of 4498, the event is popularly known as Slaver Year.
The Departure (4549AD–4570AD)
Watching the stars and the skies was habitual among the surviving worlds of the Dark Age: doing so might give some warning of any approaching Voyagers. Despite the hardships suffered, extensive records of stars, astral movements and other phenomena from the period are fairly complete.
The disappearance of the Voyagers. A general move by the Voyagers towards the blue supergiant star Demon's Eye (1621 Far Home), and then a migration towards coreward. The last verifiable sighting of a Voyager was by an optical observation in the Mengo system (2837 Shadow Rift) in 4570AD.