The Strange Future of the 36th Century: Legend of the Galactic Heroes
“In every time, in every place, the deeds of men remain the same…”
In the Year of Our Lord 2039, in a galaxy much like our own, whole cities and entire nations were wiped out in what came to be called the Thirteen Day War. No one knows who fired first, but aftermath of the nuclear dark ages that followed would have far-reaching consequences. By the year 2129 AD, the United Earth Government was established in Brisbane, Australia, bringing together the shattered remnants of civilization. For the first time in history, all humanity was unified as one species, especially as people sallied forth into the Solar System and beyond. The oneness of mankind however could only go so far before human nature and history once more came into the picture. In due time, the burgeoning space colonists grew restless with United Earth. Tensions and calls for independence soon escalated to outright conflict on an interplanetary scale. This in turn reduced the homeworld of mankind’s significance altogether as power moved to Sirius and the other colonies. Centuries of further bloodshed and upheavals followed before the colonial states forged the Galactic Federation in 2801 AD, ushering in a golden age for mankind.
All that is in itself history now. Know that it’s the year 488 of the Imperial Calendar, 797 if one follows the Universal Calendar. Those still abiding by the Gregorian one and its secular offshoots would recognize it as 3597…not that it matters these days. Over more than a thousand years, the human race has expanded to settle a sizable portion of the galaxy, thanks in part to advances in terraforming and FTL engines. In all that time, societies have come and gone. Yet the cosmos remains at war as two dominant powers vie for supremacy and humanity’s future: the Galaktische Kaiserreich and the democratic Free Planets Alliance.
The Galaktische Kaiserreich, commonly known as either the Reich or simply “the Empire” is an absolute monarchy that rose from the ashes of an increasingly decadent and crumbling Galactic Federation. As the aforementioned golden age turned pear-shaped over time, an ambitious man by the name of Rudolf von Goldenbaum rose to power, proclaiming himself Kaiser in a manner not too dissimilar to a certain megalomaniac from old Europe. Perhaps influenced by der Fuhrer however, he sought to base the new realm on various Germanic influences, particularly Prussia. Yet while most people were initially supportive of his campaign to restore order it wasn’t long before he enforced a grandiose “Master Race” and eugenics program that made the Holocaust seem almost trivial. But while the ghost of Nazism faded away since the death of the ruling Dynasty’s founder, his legacy remains very evident to this day. The vast majority is of at least partial German/Nordic ancestry and overwhelmingly "white." The predominant culture could be best described as Prussian with elements of other European, mainly German customs from the 18th-19th Centuries AD. A repurposed version of Norse mythology has long replaced Christianity as the main religion, though piety is not particularly emphasized outside from the constant references to Odin, Valhalla and Valkyries; coincidentally the Imperial capital world is also called Odin. Meanwhile, feudalism has once more become the order of the day, further strengthening a decadent aristocracy run by conniving, self-absorbed nobles rather than the handful of houses still upholding reform and Noblesse Oblige. Coupled with the caste system established by Kaiser Rudolf, this has served to keep the status quo nigh constant for the past centuries, even at the cost of encouraging incompetence and entitlement over actual talent. Still, this is a state where honor, order and tradition remain highly regarded, at least in theory.
The story behind the Free Planets Alliance, also known simply as the “Alliance” is noteworthy as well. Its origins could be traced to around the 150s IC. Arle Heinessen, a brilliant activist and political figure was said to have escaped the frontier labor camp he was on with thousands of others. Finding an isolated spot off-world away from Imperial eyes, he and his growing number of supporters built a fleet with which to leave the Reich altogether in search for a new home. It would be years of hardship and near-failures though before these pioneers and their descendants found a habitable world that would be named in his memory. They in turn forged a republic that soon came to be known as the FPA. Unlike the Imperials, its people retain the Universal Calendar system of the old Galactic Federation, of which they hold direct legitimacy from. Its populace is a melting pot of different ethnicities old and new, many descended from the original pioneers; when contact (and conflict) was made with the Empire in 640 UC however, a mass influx of Imperial exiles and other “undesirables” ensured a population boom like no other. In terms of culture and politics, their society is very reminiscent of the United States and European Union from the era leading up to the Thirteen Day War. While in light of its principles as well as the nature of FTL travel, federal autonomy prevails over many Alliance worlds. Yet while democracy is non-negotiable for Alliance citizens, all is not well. Though exceptions still exist, the ideals and dedication behind the government in time gave way to corruption and rotting bureaucracy. Combined with the strains of war and growing uncertainty, it seems to outsiders as just barely functioning. Nonetheless, they would rather have all those flaws than lose their freedom, equality and fraternity.
Between them, most planets in the known (“settled”) universe, if not all are under either power’s control, with the nominally Imperial world of Fezzan serving as a kind of neutral buffer, though its opportunistic merchants and corporations may have other plans. Across stars and around orbital spaces, whole fleets of starships wage battle over ranges, scales and even casualties dwarfing anything their common ancestors on Earth could even imagine. Then again, technology hasn’t advanced all that much since the days of the Galactic Federation or even United Earth. Energy weapons have since become commonplace, though haven’t replaced old-fashioned solid ordinance and even melee weapons; following a botched attempt at creating fully automated armies at some point in the past, AI never really caught outside of computers. Neither have languages significantly changed; the German and English used in the Reich and FPA respectively (or at least their formal versions) would still be recognizable to someone from 1500 years in the past if somewhat “mangled.”
Thus for well over a century, these two interstellar powers, each with their own ideals and visions of a just society, have struggled over mankind’s future. While the use of nuclear weapons remains taboo, many lives continue to perish in a seemingly endless cycle of violence on and off-world. But changes, if supposedly small ones are coming. A talented nobleman by the name of Reinhard von Lohengramm has risen up the ranks by his own hand to become one of the youngest admirals in the Reich’s history; he and his comrades however have much larger plans for the Empire at the expense of the still-ruling Goldenbaums. Meanwhile, Yang Wen-li, a reluctant historian-turned military officer and his network of allies in the Alliance military grow increasingly influential to their growing concern. Already these two individuals are (directly or otherwise) shaping the course not just the war but possibly human civilization itself. Perhaps, as some are suggesting, a new Götterdämmerung may very be upon the universe in these Wagnerian times.
All the while, rumors abound from a certain backwater planet in the original Solar System. Humanity’s homeworld had long slid into obscurity after the collapse of United Earth. No one’s really certain, but those who remained after the bloody fall either left for greener pastures or splintered in an orgy of constant fighting…that is before a strange faith known as the Terraist Church emerged and “unified” the survivors. Combining various religious beliefs, warped memories of Earth’s former glory and the repurposed symbolism of the “Pale Blue Dot,” this cult has managed to establish branches in both the Empire and Alliance. While the specifics elude both sides, it’s evident that these would-be fanatics have their own designs for the human race, along with a vested interest in what some now call the “Galactic Heroes.”
Elsewhere though, in a nondescript estate in Odin, such conspiracies and events fall by the wayside as an albino Imperial officer pays his respects to an unmarked monument; it is the only time in a year that this otherwise boisterous embodiment of the Reich's principles does so. Hidden underneath are a pair of long-broken glasses, a rusting Iron Cross and a rotted flower, all encased in special glass. Their symbolism is lost to time...but not to this man. He had after all seen history unfold on Earth. He was there...