You settle in on the Endeavor as you feel the maneuvering thrusters push you away from Cassini Station. You don’t have to do much except oversee that everything is in order – the state of the art SAI, I.D.E.A. (Intelligent Deep-space Exploration Assistant) has all the mundane details under control. When you reach a safe distance from the station, the zero-G environment decreases as the spacecraft initiates a spin and generates a weak artificial gravity. The main thrusters engage producing light G-forces, but nothing out of the ordinary. What makes this spacecraft special is the extra fuel that has been loaded onboard for an extra long burn time – pushing it and its cargo at great speed toward your destination 11.5 years away.
Two months ago an emergency session was called to discuss the recent appearance of a strange energy reading on the proximal edge of the Oort Cloud. The readings persisted long enough to prove that is was not just a temporary anomaly. While travel to that location will take over a decade, it apparently warranted a dedicated manned mission. A special team was gathered, from those able to respond quickly, while a ship was modified and outfitted for the mission. The crew of the Endeavor needed to be individuals who were specialists in their fields suited for deep space exploration and science, and also have no ties allowing them to drop everything at a moment’s notice for a mission that would take over two decades to return from. This is where you fit in.
It is no secret that NASA and the USAGS has interest in Oort Cloud expeditions. It is obvious they were not really prepared for this mission but when the opportunity presented itself they jumped at the chance to make a claim of their own. With all the competition focusing all their resources on 2098 D2 the chance to make a grab was too good to pass up, even if they had to improvise. Initial readings show a similarity to primordial black holes but a slight difference. It is your mission to discover what exactly it is and stake the claim for your employers.
The Endeavor is now underway and all systems look good. You can now prepare for your long rest in nanostasis. The cyberdoc works to prepare you as you look over and see your waiting nanostasis pod which will be your home for over a decade. Your crewmates that joined you for this mission have already gone under or are about to, the same as you. Your eyes get heavy and your vision blurs as your thoughts slow down. You hope this will be a good rest.
Refer to the Adventure Logs for the rest of the story.
The year is 2100; the future is in the balance. Transhuman Space takes, broadly speaking, an optimistic view. There has been no global nuclear war, no great catastrophe; pollution and global warming, while by no means ended, have been more or less brought under control; resources mostly meet needs. But this isn’t a utopia either. There are still wars, tyrannies, and gross inequalities, and privacy is hard to find. Indeed, new sciences have created new evils.
Most people, in advanced areas at least, have had all clear genetic problems eliminated in the womb, and many are enhanced, some to the point where they are no longer strictly Homo sapiens. Advanced medical treatments can largely eliminate disease (for a price), and lifespans are growing longer – though true immortality remains a dream. Bioroids are synthetic beings, mostly created as servants and lacking some human complexity – but they still think and feel. Biotechnology can also “uplift” other species to near-human intelligence, create exotic farm animals and pets, and synthesize drugs which can modify the human mind to order.
Computers in 2100 are powerful and cheap, though not super- human; processors are embedded in almost every piece of technology. They are controlled by infomorphs, most of which are artificial intelligences ranging from nonsapient “NAIs” – clever talking user interfaces – through low-sapient “LAIs” – versatile, self-motivated, but not-quite-human minds – to fully sapient “SAIs.” It’s also possible to scan a human brain to create a ghost, an apparently perfect infomorph model, but as this destroys the brain, opinions are divided over whether it’s a path to immortality or an expensive form of suicide. Cybershells, the machine bodies which infomorphs inhabit and control, range from industrial machinery and weapon systems, through beautiful “cyberdolls,” to “wearables” and even implants within human bodies. Nanotechnology (micro-scale engineering) is currently limited to “wet nano” – pseudo-biological creations which manipulate organic processes.” Dry nano,” capable of manipulating any matter on an atomic scale, is a hopeful research topic. Portable 3D printerscan manufacture complex objects to order, while microbotsare insect- sized robots which work in collaborative swarms.
Fusion-powered ships can cross the solar system in a few months. Indeed, fusion power is one key to humanity’s wealth, but it depends on helium-3, a rare isotope which must be mined from the surface of the moon or the atmosphere of Saturn. This is one of the major reasons for the growth of space flight. Meanwhile, a Chinese- dominated colony on Mars is terraforming the planet while modify- ing humanity to live there, and space navies, criminals, and bizarre ideologies are expanding through the void. Earth orbit is downright crowded, and may grow even more so when the space elevator cur- rently under construction is complete.
Memetics is a young science of the mind. It sees “memes” (ideas and thought-patterns) as propagating like genes, using minds as their hosts, mutating and adapting as they go. Some people dismiss memetics as either seriously unreliable or, worse, deeply amoral and manipulative. Memetics isn’t magic mind control; rather, it raises the ancient arts of propaganda, rhetoric, and teaching to new heights. Populations are increasingly seen as a memetic battle- ground for radicals, politicians, and pranksters.
The World Powers
There are several Great Powers. China is the largest, though more advanced in some areas than others; the E.U. (European Union), a loose but expanding confederation, is perhaps the most advanced. The USA is still a force to be reckoned with, controlling helium mining on Saturn, but increasingly divided socially. The TSA (Transpacific Socialist Alliance) is a relatively weak confederation driven by a “nanosocialist” ideology which promotes the redistribution of information. It is a major concern in world pol- itics, having fought a war with China in the 2080s and triggered the formation of the PRA (Pacific Rim Alliance) as a counterbalance. India also has the power to make itself heard, as does the Islamic Caliphate, a high-minded theocratic alliance.
Technology determines much about the state of human society. The first great “wave” was defined by agriculture, and the second by the Industrial Revolution; by the end of the 20th century, humanity was riding the third, powered by digital computing. In the 21st century, most of the world experienced a Fourth Wave, based on genetic technology; now, it seems, a Fifth Wave is rising, based on a combination of nanotechnology, memetics, and artificial intelligence. “Fifth Wave” societies are the wealthiest on the planet, but no one can be quite sure where they are heading.