The journey of mankind from a world defined by national polities to the modern Earthly Imperium, where those ancient political units prevail only federally and culturally, took less than 150 years. Those years began in fire and destruction and are ending in dust and decay. For context we must travel back a little further; to Danziger’s Golden Age. This is where the modern period really began.
If the children of Earth learn of only one historical figure associated with the 25th Century, over 200 years ago, that name will surely be Danziger. Professor Filip Danziger revolutionized the sciences with a series of extraordinary theoretical breakthroughs. His equations transformed the world, causing explosive growth in industry, medicine, space flight and more. In short order, no facet of human life would be left untouched or unimproved. For the people of Earth, and especially their struggling Martian colonists, a Golden Age dawned. It would prevail for some sixty years.
Much of the technology still extant in the known galaxy is built to a pattern perfected in this period. This “Golden Age” technology is only now being eclipsed in some areas; notably robotics. Indicating not only the dramatic advances of the time, this regrettably highlights the ensuing periods of stagnation and drift.
Mankind erupted into the galaxy. Near Earth, the Martian concessions were consolidated and new outposts established. Manned missions of interstellar exploration revealed dozens of worlds suitable for habitation. Extrasolar colonies were founded and a wealth of new materials, flavours and sensations began to flow back to Earth. Perhaps this is where the problems began. Was it all just too fast?
Seemingly intoxicated by this relentless change, mankind developed an insatiable appetite for variety in all forms. Strange new religions, social movements and creeds swept the world. The political structures of Earth, still defined by nation states, tottered. Some lashed out. Ancient alliances were activated and new ones rose to oppose them. On Earth, Mars and the moons of Saturn, and the dark plains of space between them, the terrible Interglobal Wars began.
Mankind battled itself for beliefs and freedoms: the old, the new and the contradictory. There was no victor. After years of fighting, the three war weary alliances remaining finally came to terms and agreed to abide by a charter. This would define their respective rights for perpetuity. In urgent need of a neutral arbiter, and under pressure from the one remaining area of Earth with a functioning economy, the alliances appointed a constitutional monarch. They would unite under one figure, albeit a ceremonial one. The ancient nation states of Earth became federal regions of the Congress of Earth.
The economies of Earth and Mars were rebuilt. New outposts on distant worlds were established. Some prospered. Others perished. One made first contact, then perished.
Earth has been fighting the Lonely Ones since the extermination of Altair Colony, 143 years ago. Battles have been won and lost but the war is a debacle. The origin of the alien threat remains unknown. If they are aware of Earth, the Lonely Ones seem to lack the confidence or means to assault it. Dark rumours hint at more subtle plans: agents, spies and human beings corrupted by love for the alien menace.
In truth, little is known about the enemy. Their technology is unfathomable; their ships strange and crewed by inscrutable slave races. No commanding intelligence has ever been encountered directly, giving rise to suggestions the Lonely Ones are not one race at all, or that they are very few in number. There are no alien fleets. Not that they need them. Their vessels are immense and powerful, with dozens of stabbing energy weapons; a match for a dozen human warships.
Pitched battles have long ceased, yielding to chance encounters and desolating raids. Outlying human colonies occasionally wink out of existence; their supply ships arriving to discover meals still on tables, but the population gone. Lurid tales describe their mysterious fate. Sometimes it is the supply ships themselves that are found drifting in the void, their crews missing and their memory banks purged.
War with the Lonely Ones changed everything. While politicians dithered, royalty acted. It was a time when Emperors gave speeches; unthinkable now. An infamous plea, a tear streaked royal cheek and a rousing royal tour made a dramatic contrast with equivocating politicians. Earth was not even at war before there were nine divisions of volunteer royal infantry. Congress made an announcement. The second announcement described new powers for the monarchy. Further announcements were dictated by the Emperor.
In these moments the Earthly Imperium was born. It sprang into life as soon as army commanders, despairing of their bickering political masters, began heeding royal advice. This offered at least some prospect of co-ordinated retaliation. The distinct military heirarchies of Congress would never have achieved the requisite level of co-operation alone. An intermediary was needed. The Emperor simply stepped into the vacuum.
Four monarchs have come and gone since then. Each has twisted the royal vice, gradually consolidating power over every sphere of life. The transformation of Earth to an absolute monarchy is complete.