The Chronos cluster, NGC 6885, is an outer middle Regions volume in Vulpecula, about 1970 ly spinward from Sol, near Cygexpa Space. It encompasses some eighty star-systems and five interstellar objects. It is a huge area, still largely uncolonised. At the height of colonization, thirty-two of the systems were inhabited, and another twelve had extensive commercial operations based at them. At present barely six small star systems remain
The first system to be settled within the cluster was Orwell, at the time officially Chronos 16. An outbound far-probe had done a fly-by a few centuries earlier and judged the system fit for colonization, but it wasn't until 4502 that a fully funded colonization program arrived at Orwell. The name is said to have been a criticism on the part of the colonists against the stifling bureaucracy of their homeworld, Criw-Ta. One might think that the Version War would have had greater impact upon the cluster. However, it was not until the ComEmp period that the cluster got its single, quite minor, wormhole link.
Once Orwell had been colonized, the system became a natural stepping stone for further expansion into the cluster. Orwell quickly secured a position as the cultural and social center of the cluster. It would retain this status throughout the early years and well into the local Expansive Era. It's first extra-system presence was achieved by the acquisition of Stevenson mining colony from Avatar interests. After Orwell, Avatar was the second system to be colonized. Avatar was colonized by human and provolve races. Mostly, they were a slightly malcontent lot, seeking to distance themselves from the more all-powerful AIs of the Inner Sphere. Understandably, those on Avatar did not take to kindly to the next wave of immigrants.
The great AI influx, as historians came to call it, was a result of some unspecified purge within the Inner Sphere. Those that came were most reluctant to talk about it, and immediately settled systems that were rich in energy and minerals, but inhospitable for the average biont. They participated in system affairs to some degree, but as interests diverged, the all-AI worlds started to find themselves isolated. Needless to say, avatar interests played an instrumental role in this isolation. Meanwhile, Ikaros and Veritas were settled, along the same principles as Avatar, and with backing from that system.
A bi-polar order began to emerge towards the end of the early years. On one side stood the AI-worlds, calling their imposed isolation nothing more than self-chosen non-interference. In the middle stood Orwell, with its mixed population, uncertain of its course. The final important event of the early years was the settlement of Duktig, a fully diverse society cautiously applauded by Orwell, as it might herald a trend towards integration within the cluster.
Expansive Era: 5800 to 6200
The AI-bio controversy finally came to a head in 5810. An Abbadonian research mission to the Tesla anomaly was attacked, probably by Avatar or Ikaros interests. The AI systems immediately began arming themselves for war, and the bio systems followed promptly. In the middle of this, Orwell and its protégé system Duktig arduously held on to their neutrality, trading with either power and giving no advantages.
The first battle was fought by relativistic vessels over Avatar. Managing a successful defence, Avatar and Veritas forces quickly executed a raid on Astaroth, crippling the system and thus killing over eighty million sapients. The war was in full swing. After several less glorious battles, where neither side could gain a strategic advantage, the government of Orwell managed to call a peace conference on Stevenson. At the conference the head of state of Orwell, Amanathi Dehl-koran made a startling revelation. After expending massive amounts of time and resources on intelligence gathering, Orwellian intelligence had uncovered a conspiracy. Avatar, Ikaros and Veritas had been pawns of Inner Sphere AI:s. By allowing the malcontents to immigrate, the AI:s had effectively set up a mouse trap for the later exiled oppositional AI:s. Two birds in one throw. The argument and its corroborating evidence were quite convincing. A peace accord was signed, and recall codes for the retaliatory fleets issued. Orwell enjoyed a brief but pleasant status rise. In the years following the war, Balder was settled as part of a great reconciliation program. It later became a great tourist attraction for those interested in the war.
With the war out of the way, people looked to the future, and started colonising the cluster at a brisk pace. First of these were the cyborgs of Moore. Striving to create a perfect society founded upon the blending of biological and machine, they quickly degenerated into a Plutocracy based upon the cybernetic upgrade market. Narnia, another attempt at creating paradise, fared a lot better. Here the colonists, all avid history enthusiasts, recreated a multitude of archaic societies. Apart from building a very adequate and profitable industrial base for their experiments and exploits, the Narnians became an automatic tourist attraction without even trying.
At this time, Orwell faced a disheartening scenario. Its role as the cluster's leading system was being hacked away by several regional centers. The government of Orwell, having experienced a notable drop in talent since its war-time glory, saw only one possible solution, expansion. With this, the Orwell Colonisation Effort began.
Within forty years, four new systems were colonised. The government spared no expense, and let sub-contractors take care of the actual colonisation. A subtracted court battle, laughed upon by the rest of the cluster, played a key role in the naming of one of the colonies. The company initially slated for colonisation in 6420 became technically insolvent, and was scrubbed from the mission. As a result, the 6420 mission was handled by the next-cheapest contractor in line. The original company, whose name was Quasar Holdings, fought its way out of bankruptcy with teeth and claw, however. Vindicated and once again solidly financed, it sued the state for half the treasury. The state eventually, after several humiliating experiences, agreed to settle out of court. So it was that Quasar Holdings got its contract to colonise Orwell 2.1. The company also made a fortune from the publicity generated by the case, but that's another matter.
The other systems realised what Orwell was up to, and started their own joint colonisation drive as a result. These missions had somewhat less funding, and the systems they colonized were not ideal for the immigrant's needs. In short, they became the slum of the cluster.
The Orwell expansion gusto eventually turned on itself. The government, having spent copious amounts on colonisation, had neglected trade and domestic affairs. Swept away by an election that bore more than a few resemblances to a coup, Orwell system turned inwards for a century or so. Their colonies found themselves all but abandoned by their mother-world, and resentments quickly grew. Around 5900 all of the Orwell-worlds had gained independence from home system, peacefully or otherwise.
At the same time, other more low-key and successful colonisers went about their business, settling large tracts of the cluster. But the Expansive era had drawn to a close. Nearly all desirable property had been claimed by various interests, and there was more profit to be found at home than on the frontier.
Consolidation and QDG era 6200 to 8300
It was a time of relative wealth for the cluster. Industry was booming with a few exceptions (Common Effort and Co-operation) and science made worthwhile advances. A small export market inwards opened up as the nature of the clusters services and goods reached ever higher quality.
It was now that the Quasar Dynamic Guild emerged. Originally an Orwellian holding company and a mining trust, the two unlikely components merged to form a powerful trading company, that eventually stretched throughout the cluster.
The QDG was first and foremost an economical entity. It bought and sold goods and services at profit as its core function. As it evolved, however, it came to assume other functions as well. Its system of internal corporate law for example, soon became standard trade law within the cluster. While it never was a nation-state in the true sense of the word, the QDG's powers went far beyond those of a single system or even a group of the mightiest.
At the beginning of this period contact was made with the Daharrans.
Daharran Contact and the Modern Era
In 6259 contact was made with the xenosophont Daharrans. While the rest of the cluster had long been aware of powerful non-random signals emanating from the system, the location of the Daharran home system at the galactic northern edge of the cluster had meant a fly-by had not seemed economical until this point. After first contact was made the rate of colonization slowed to a halt in the Chronos Cluster. An agreement was fashioned to set aside the remaining uninhabited systems, mostly M star or metal-poor, for the time being to have them for potential colonization expansion later. The Daharrans quickly embraced the technology and ontology brought by the ComEmp mission, and wholeheartedly sought to integrate themselves into the greater cluster's commerce and information flow. This increased assimilation led to the founding of the Daharran Unity, a hybrid Terragen-xenosophont civilization, in 7702. The Daharran Unity was dominated for the next two and a half thousand years by dynastic rule, with Daharran and Terragen lines commingling through the mutual practice of adoption. The Daharran Unity remained internally focused and confined to the home system, with little evidence of expansionism.
In 9200, after a historic attempt at democratization, the Advance Party won a landslide election and upheld their campaign promise to isolate The Daharran Unity. After this move not much is heard from them for over a century. In 9343 the primary star, Daharran Prime, suddenly vanished. Knowledge of this event was delayed for several years due to light speed limitations. Only late in the 94th century did long range investigations determine that the Advance Party of the Daharran Unity had converted Daharran Prime into a black hole.
At the time when Daharran Prime went out, QDG stake-holders were debating whether to attempt to gain a foot-hold in the Inner Sphere or to establish subsidiaries along the rim as a long-term strategy. The discussion proved extremely divisive and so there was some procrastination over this issue. Along with concealed Daharran infiltration, this has been cited as the main cause for the fall of the QDG. The protracted default in the later half of the 9300's was a wide-spread insolvency among QDG's subsidiaries, which eventually caused the QDG itself to fall short on its loan payments. This made many creditors go to court in order to get as much of their capital back. If not for the fact that the QDG had written the laws under which it would be declared bankrupt, the transition might have been smoother. As it was, the entire cluster suffered several decades of economic meltdown. Several former subsidiaries of the QDG broke off and became independent holdings; the most notable of these is the Quasar Dynamic Fleet.
By 9430, the Quasar Dynamic Fleet came face to face with their original target, the Daharran home system. There they were the first to confirm previous observations that the entire system had been converted into a huge black hole and the system mostly abandoned. In the meanwhile The Daharran Advance had taken advantage of the economic chaos surrounding the QDG collapse, and begun to expand throughout the Chronos Cluster. Their intent was not to hold these new possessions but systematically eradicate everyone and everything with the ultimate goal of collapsing neighboring star systems into black holes. The fall of the Chronos Cluster was mercilessly swift. Within a short time only a few star systems remained, having been judged as to small to bother with by the Daharran Advance. Among the survivors was Jek-Lon-Kal, a Daharran/Human colony founded before the Daharran Advance had come into power. Also, the religious retreat of Ascension was unscathed, causing an upsurge in religion among the cluster's other survivors.
By the time the Quasar Dynamic Fleet returned back to their own worlds in the Chronos Cluster, the Daharran Advance had come and gone. What unfolded over the next four centuries was a legendary chase through space involving multiple fleets under the control of the Daharran Advance and the Quasar Dynamic Fleet. Not until 9829 did the Quasar Dynamic Fleet catch up with, and in the ensuing battles destroy, the major branch of the Daharran Advance. Though the main threat was gone, it took until the 10200's for the Quasar Dynamic Fleet to annihilate the Daharran Advance. The Chronos Cluster is still undergoing reconstruction from these events, and remains the focus of humanitarian aid by a number of institutes and organizations.
In the early years, the rapid expansion and charting of new frontier gave wind to a variety of denominations termed Horizon faiths. They were mainly focused upon exploring and discovering. The study of Tesla and Hollerith became very popular during this time, and a few insights were made into the phenomena, but they were never fully explained. During the expansive era, the cluster got its first VR-world, Duktig. This sparked a violent controversy within several Horizon faiths, regarding the validity of striving to explore a "false" existence. Eventually the disagreements subsided, along with the popularity of Horizon faiths, as the transition into the consolidating era began.
Under the QDG hegemony, a secular air settled over the cluster. Profit and wealth were central goals now, and only two or three of the Horizon faiths retained any following worthy of note. Several greed cults started to take hold on the more developed worlds, urging their members to milk life to its fullest extent. Then the Mammon incident occurred. A shipment of some three million sapients en route to Duktig from Mammon was smashed upon receipt. The immigrants had been VR enthusiasts who had banded together to pay their shipping-costs. Investigation showed that the largest greed-cult, Diminishing Return, had sabotaged the shipment. The motive was, not surprisingly, greed. By killing of the immigrants, the cultists hoped to catch some demographical and inheritance-related windfalls. As soon as the truth got back to QDG headquarters, decisive action was taken by a conglomerate of AI:s within the intelligence and PR sections of QDG marketing. Within a decade, the greed cults had all been thoroughly discredited and dispersed.
8500 and onward saw an upsurge in more traditional, AI-centred, religion. These "Gods" were mainly nanotech hardware AIs on the brink of ascension into higher planes. On Revival, settled by groups of Neoancient-kabbalists, religion became an organized industry. Its central deity, Name-Giver, offered a multitude of paths towards material and spiritual satisfaction. The controversy between spiritual and material matters was nullified, a very advanced cultural development noted by several research entities beyond Tianzi. In 6806, Name-Giver offered its business plan (in QDG terms) up for sale, announcing its intent to leave the system. Sixty years later, the bidding-war was held on Revivals largest orbital, an event that gave rise to numerous dramatizations and VR-enactments.
After fierce opposition from QDG-owned religious franchises, An independent religious conglomerate, Hogaddah, finally bid a sum equivalent to Cooperation system's net worth. Spending the next decades travelling, Name-Giver finally showed up again on Moore, scraping together a lavish colony mission in record time. Departing in 7992, Ascension outpost was settled in the numerologically auspicious year 8000.
The demography of The Chronos Cluster during its more than six thousand years of history is both diverse and complex. Here follows some notable developments. During the early years, the Cluster population was nearly all bioid, with the subsequent addition of a large number of software AIs running on nanotech-grade platforms. During the AI war, both sides pursued rapid expansion policies, creating over-population problems. This was partly solved by the rapid expansion following the end of the war, but also by migration to those worlds that had remained neutral during the conflict.
The legacy of the rapid growth policies proved beneficial to the numerous colonization efforts undertaken throughout the expansive era. Family/dependent structure was in a state of constant flux. As the consolidating era approached more and more people opted for smaller dependency structures. At the height of the consolidating era the three most common dependency structures were, in descending order: 1) Provider-dependent(s) 2) Trinity providership-dependent(s) 3) Corporate crèche.
At the height of development, the 5 core worlds of the Cluster accounted for 30% of total Cluster population. Income and real wealth was distributed fairly evenly on the system-scale, with slight advantages to Orwell and Duktig, and equal disadvantages to Common Effort and Co-operation.
Employment during the early and expansive eras largely centred around terraforming and other colonization related industries. The religious and VR markets soaked up much of the work-force during the slow but sometimes painful transmission to Empires.