The Chronicles of Exile
AD3004, Terra II
The neutral territories have prospered in the last few hundred years, thanks to the final completion of the terraforming process and a good relationship with their Serco neighbors. The system of mechanized farming is now predominately automated, resulting in more free time and a higher standard of living for Neutral people. The advanced technology once required to survive on a harsh planet, now serves to make life easier on the tamed and mild place that their world has become. A small group of restless thinkers forms in one of the larger cities, for the purpose of reviving space travel and exploration. Mostly a haphazard mix of young skyward dreamers and farm-equipment mechanics, they spend much time in study and discourse of old Itani spacecraft plans and papers. Spaceships were never a priority for the Neutral society of farmers, as they had little apparent use to their culture. The few rusted hulks that remain in Neutral territory, dating from the original colonization of Terra II, have mostly been cannibalized and re-used for parts on other, more mundane equipment. Nevertheless, The Propeller Group (taking their name from an archaic Terran method of flight propulsion) begins work on a crude spaceship.
AD3016, Terra II
After a decade of trial and error, mistakes and education, The Propeller Group (TPG) manages to launch an unmanned, remote-controlled probe into orbit. The successful launch results in celebrations in the neutral territories, and greatly startles the personnel of Serco SkyCommand. After some communications with TPG and internal discussions, the Serco officially congratulate the Group on their accomplishment, much to the Group's collective relief. The probe itself proves quite serviceable, its tiny gravitic pulse engine (a diminutive homage to the great Itani designs on which it was based) propels it out of orbit and even as far as the next planet. Successfully recovered after impact in the ocean, the probe is hailed as bringing in a new era of Neutral space exploration. After recovering their probe, TPG goes on tour, passing through the Neutral towns and cities in search of additional funding for a manned mission.
AD3252, Terra II
The last two hundred years have been marked with considerable technological advancements in the Neutral Territories. Since their first faltering steps into space, TPG has grown and expanded into a respected spacecraft manufacturing corporation. Their light, relatively inexpensive craft allow the Neutrals to experiment with a space station in orbit of a planet near Terra II. Experiments are conducted in long-term space habitats, yielding discoveries in artificial gravity and other areas. A self-contained biosphere is built on the station, allowing experiments in space-based farming. Best known of all, TPG holds yearly exploration contests among its ship customers. Contestants strive to return with the most useful and interesting data from distant locales, all of which is assembled and judged at the end of the year. Although there are not many individuals who choose to become professional explorers, the few that do are awarded fame, fortune, and corporate sponsorship. The lives of explorers are difficult, however. They often vanish alone into the stars for years at time, perhaps never to return at all. Despite the perils, these "single hander" explorers capture the imagination of their people, and expand the Neutral consciousness of the universe around them.
AD3419, Terra II
Life has gone relatively well for the Neutrals. The Serco are no longer communicative, and have made it clear that they consider the neutrals' culture to be inferior. Serco borders have effectively closed, but there is no open hostility. The behavior of the Serco is worrisome to a few Neutral leaders, but the gaze of the population is ever skyward. Exploration has broadened the knowledge of their people to a great extent. A new mineral is discovered in the depths of an asteroid belt, many jumps from Terra II. Named Xithricite, it allows the Neutrals to develop metal alloys with incredible physical characteristics. A mining station is constructed in the center the asteroid field, in order to efficiently harvest the green Xi veins. Over time, this station is added to in a haphazard fashion, eventually resulting a vast complex of interwoven stations, each constructed by a different group for varying purposes. This patchwork quilt of xi-rite steel provides a living shelter for thousands of miners and their families, and becomes the home base of the neutrals in space.
The exploration project also fares well, with much that is strange and new coming to the attention of the neutral peoples. Around this period, a navigational error is made by a neutral explorer charged with mapping systems. This minor error leaves a wormhole area off of neutral charts for nearly a millennia, and likely leads to the long-standing lack of contact between the neutrals and Itani.
AD3543, Terra II
The Serco have advanced, but many of the tenets of their culture have remained unchanged over the last few hundred years. The military still retains control, and this fact is considered a great source of national pride. The original military coup is considered a great moment in Serco history. The current Triumvirate determines rulings based on interpretation of the recorded long-term wishes of the first Triumvirate. The power, structure, and authority of the Serco people is considered, by them, to be their greatest legacy. It is a nationally held belief that their nation will survive for a thousand generations. Nationalism to the point of arrogance is taught in the schools and upheld by the leaders.
Technologically, while some breakthroughs have been made in computer structure and organic computer design, the Serco have not progressed as swiftly as one might have expected. Given their efficient government and allocation of funding and brilliant researchers, great things might have been achieved. Alas, their culture became so militarily indoctrinated that the more creative and imaginative aspects of their children were often discouraged. Obedience, honor, and skill were the valued assets of the day. All major celebrities within Serco culture were either their leaders or skilled soldiers who gained fame from prowess in the National Games. These Games had grown from the contests and demonstrations of skill of prior generations into the grand-scale events which now entirely occupied the public's attention. Winners of these games were held up as role models for the next generation, and children were encouraged to compete and find their place within the Hall of Warriors.
A number of areas of Serco research basically stagnated within the last few hundred years, most notably their space research division. The Serco have grown to believe themselves unassailable, and this sense of pervasive military arrogance has infused most of their research programs. Their spacecraft have seen many enhancements and design modifications since the original Nighthawks were launched against the Itani, however their basic premise is unchanged. The small fighter remains practically the only ship in service with the Serco. Little need is seen for larger or longer range craft, since the only practical purpose of the Serco Sky Command is to monitor the now-frequent comings and goings of the Neutral Territories ships. The Serco do not gaze skyward. They have little interest in expansion or exploration; their culture only looks inward to their Games and competitions.
The youth of the Serco of this period are clearly products of their culture. Overly proud and arrogant, they begin to go out of their way to taunt the "lower" people of the Neutral Territories. Scions of a militaristic society, they do not comprehend the Neutrals precepts of pacifism. To them the Neutrals seemed merely weak and foolish, a reminder of the original frailty of their species. Filled with a mixture of disgust and boredom, the young Serco harass outlying Neutral homes and peoples, often going so far as to burn fields or assault those unlucky enough to be wandering alone. These events do not escape the attention of the worried Neutral leaders, who have little luck in getting the Serco government to discipline their errant youth.
AD3609, Terra II
Serco-Neutral relations have gone only downhill. Since the original harassment issues sprang up, the youth have grown to adulthood and brought about full-fledged persecution. Indeed, now new generations carry on the traditions of their parents and grandparents, torturing Neutral people for their amusement. Whole villages are destroyed by laughing Serco and their fearsome "pet" creatures. Most of the Neutrals put up little resistance, fleeing before their oppressors. However, even had they fought, they would have stood little chance against the heavily augmented, militarily enhanced Serco and their frightening creatures. An all-cities meeting is called, including every mayor of every town, to discuss the problem. Refugees of Serco entertainment wait outside the meeting building, hoping that some solution will be forthcoming to alleviate their misery. Within, many options are debated and much information is shared. There has been no luck in contacting the Serco government for help; many of the better-known persecutors are even members of the government. Officially, the Serco Nation chooses to believe that the Neutral Territories do not exist, therefore how can they be oppressed? A few among the Neutrals even propose fighting back, but cooler heads remind them of the immensely powerful war machine with which they share the planet. Eventually, it is concluded that they have little option but to leave Terra II and search for a new home, perhaps surviving in space in the meantime. Their deep space mining and farming stations have proven the idea feasible, but it will take a great deal of time to prepare, time that their people will spend suffering under the heel of the Serco.
AD3692, Terra II
Preparations have been made, and the Neutrals begin to leave Terra II en masse. Their population is not large, not nearly the scale of the Serco Nation or the Itani at their height, but the undertaking is still quite massive. Its execution requires the Neutrals to form a somewhat more cohesive government, mostly composed of a Senate populated with the former town mayors, along with representatives of the major corporations. Most important of these corporations is TPG Corp, now the large and powerful manufacturer of spacecraft. This new, more organized conglomeration of settlers and corporations is named the Union of Independent Territories. The UIT is born.
The people are understandably bitter about abandoning their towns, homes, and lives. While their imaginations may be captivated by the ever-present unknowns of space, most of them were happy living in their small towns and villages, with little desire to brave the starlit voids themselves. Generations upon generations have lived in those towns, dating back to the early domes of earth colonization. However, the people are happy to be free of the ever-present fright of the marauding Serco, and many look forward to the prospect of starting a new home on a distant planet of their own. It is not widely publicized that no such suitable planet has been found, even after the considerable exploration of the last few hundred years. For the moment, the UIT government and corporations concentrate on expanding their network of stations and rocky outposts to meet the needs of their population.
As a final commentary on the perspective of the Serco as the only inhabitants of Terra II, they decide to rename the planet "Serco Prime" in honor of their nation. The UIT sees this as added reason to vacate the planet as soon as possible.
AD3827, Serco Prime and Independent Territories
The Neutrals and their newly formed Union have abandoned Serco Prime (Terra II) and the Sol II system entirely, the last of their ships vanishing through the nearer of the two wormholes about fifty years earlier. The Serco let them go with little trouble and a feeling of "good riddance". The UIT have adapted well to life entirely in space, both logistically and culturally. The elders still lament for skies and seas, but the space-born generations consider such things unnecessary markers of a bygone era. Mechanized environment suits, adapted from the ancient farming and war technology of the Itani, are widely employed to allow the frail humans to easily repair and expand their stations. The Serco remain unchanged. Ever focused inward, their culture stagnates even further. That is, until they detect unknown ships entering from the more distant of the two wormhole areas.