The Orion Expanse
The Legend of the Expanse
Every species has myths, rumors and superstitions. It seems to be part of the natural evolution of intelligent beings. There’s a part of the thinking mind that dwells, at least on some level, on the things you can’t see in the dark.
But there are very few places in known space that have ever evoked those emotions in every species. The Orion Expanse is one of them.
The Orion Expanse is the nearly starless gap between the Orion arm of the Milky Way Galaxy and the Sagittarius arm, which is the next arm “inward.” Earth, and most of known space, lies near the edge of the Orion arm close to the Expanse. Of course, there are still thousands and thousands of stars in the gap, but they are dispersed so widely, and those stars tend to be so old, that traveling the Expanse is impractical.
It seems, for reasons that are not
quite understood, that the edge of the Orion arm nearest to the Expanse
contains some of the oldest stars in the known galaxy. Many of them are red
dwarfs or giants which have spent nearly all of their nuclear fuel. This
region, just before the Expanse, is known by humans as the
So, why are people afraid to go there? Because many of those stars, billions of years older than our own, once had civilizations. Some of those civilizations, utterly alien and incomprehensible, attained incredible levels of power. They have all passed on, either becoming extinct for one reason or another, or, as some suggest, they “ascended” to another plane of existence that the human mind cannot begin to understand.
But some, it is suspected, did not leave or become totally extinct. For eons, alien species, and now humans, brave (or foolish) enough to explore into the Expanse have reported strange readings, attempted contacts by entities beyond fathoming, ghost ships of immense power, and encounters with seemingly intelligent creatures that make the blood run cold.
The general consensus among many different species is that there were a number of races that reached godlike power in the Expanse. They destroyed each other or, for some reason, abandoned the worlds in the Expanse. But they left things behind…machines, servant races, automated vessels, defense systems, etc. These things are totally alien to most known species, do not understand them, and may take intrusions into their old masters’ domains as an attack.
When other races informed humanity about the Expanse, humans found the tales hard to believe. For one thing, old Earth is on the edge of the Expanse. And humanity had no record of anything threatening from beyond the stars. But soon, human explorers had their own experiences, and so did the ships of the Protectorate.
The Terminus Line
About 10 years after the first war
with the Arkhon, The Terran Protectorate sent an official expedition into the
Expanse. The expedition included a Venture-Class Exploration vessel, a pair of
The Terminus line extends across
the entire border of the Terran Protectorate that “faces” the Expanse. It
stretches from Protectorate territory and between a mostly unexplored region of
space between the Free Colonies and the Expanse, all the way to the border of
the Xintrin Merchant Guild. The opposite side of the
Protectorate from the Free Colonies has so far been devoid of any signs of
habitable worlds or archaeological remnants, and is generally disregarded by
most species. It is also far away from the
The creation of the Terminus, and the ban on colonization in the Expanse, led to most corporations deciding not to fund colonization even close to the Expanse. This was disastrous for what was then known as the Frontier Systems. All investment in their future dried up and they faced economic collapse. The Frontier Systems, angered and desperate, declared independence from the Protectorate and became known as the Free Colonies.
The Protectorate will not recognize any colony founded beyond the Terminus. Furthermore, the Fleet will not respond to emergency hails from beyond the Terminus, nor will the government approve trade pacts or land rights. This has, effectively, killed growth in that area…as the Protectorate wished.
There was fear that the Free Colonies would ignore the Terminus, but so far they have followed the Terran Protectorate’s lead. But this is not true for everyone.
The Lure of the Expanse
The story of the Orion Expanse does not end with the creation of the Terminus. Not all travel into the Expanse has ended. Despite the dangers, both real and imagined, many travelers and fortune hunters voyage regularly into the Expanse. Why? For the same reasons people fear it. Ancient, powerful civilizations may have left remnants of their society behind. Some of those remnants are extremely valuable. And some of the rarest contain such vast knowledge and power that they could change the face of the galaxy.
Whatever cultures once thrived in
Enter the treasure hunters. FACE teams, alien (and human) governments, the Starfarers and Novaslayers, xenoarchaeologists, and even pirates and bandits regularly defy the Protectorate and the Xintrin Merchant Guild (who have their own laws against exploration into the Expanse). They are seeking these lost and fantastical treasures for a variety of reasons. Power, riches, or simply knowledge are the most common.
But the Expanse is off limits for a reason. There are not just superstitious myths involved, but real, tangible dangers that could not only threaten explorers, but possibly all of known space as well.
Many, many explorers in the Expanse never return. Some return, haggard and in far too many cases to be explained, insane. But a very few return with treasures, new technology, and experiences that inspire even more adventurers to take the risk.
The Protectorate and other races have confirmed that there are identifiable threats within the Sea of Dead Stars that are quite horrifying by themselves, even if they do not match the scope and scale of the legends that surround the area.
The most well-known are the Berylan. One of the oldest known species, and one of the few that has mastered forcefield technology, they are extremely alien and hyper aggressive. The Berylan have been raiding both the Xintrin and other nearby species throughout known space for centuries. The races of the Empire of Many Suns blame the Xintrin for “waking” the Berylan by expanding too close to the edge of the Expanse, but the Xintrin believe contact with the Berylan was a matter of inevitability.
Eventually, the Xintrin Merchant Guild fought a full-on war with the Berylan, after the Berylan began
a concentrated war of genocide against the Xintrin
border colonies. The war ends with a Xintrin victory,
but one costly enough to seriously deplete the Xintrin
military for the foreseeable future. The Berylan’s
main fleet was shattered, and the Berylan retreated
back into the
Another confirmed threat from the
Finally, the last “known” threat are a species called the Jotnaran.
The most commonly told tale, from some of the older races, is that the Jotnaran are an ancient servitor race to some long-vanished
godlike species. Their power is supposedly unimaginable, though they are a pale
shadow of the greatness of their masters. There are, remarkably, no recorded
contacts and no visual data on the species itself or its ships. It is believed
that they are of giant stature, and their ships are built on a massive scale.
The Jotnaran ships, each one unique, are very rarely
seen outside of the