Interplanetary Dark Age

Nanoswarm Age
Image from Bernd Helfert

The Age of the Technocalypse as experienced in Solsys. The Interplanetary Dark Age, as usually defined, encompassed nearly all of Solsys starting from the end of the Great Expulsion in 641 AT to the founding of the First Federation in 933 AT, during an age commonly referred to as the Sundering. Reeling from the catastrophe that was the Technocalypse and the traumas that followed including the Last War and Great Expulsion, Terragen civilization in Solsys turned inwards, fractured, and competed for scant resources and technology. While a number of expeditions launched from Solsys during the Dark Age, the nascent extrasolar colonies were isolated and left to largely fend for themselves.

It is important to note that historians often disagree about details regarding the Interplanetary Dark Age. This is due to the damage caused by the malware plagues and disinformation campaigns of the time, and the subsequent millennia that have passed since the event. Nevertheless, some records of decent accuracy have survived which, supplemented by archeological research conducted by the likes of the Solsys Organization and Fomalhaut Acquisition Society, can provide a general description of Solsys during this era of passable veracity.


While not as dangerous as during the preceding Technocalypse, the Interplanetary Dark Age was racked by a plethora of maladies. Rogue swarms and infoplagues periodically flared up as dormant malware resurfaced and wreaked havoc. Furthermore, information archives were often corrupted, deleted, or maliciously edited by malefactors. Violence seems to have been commonplace, as suspicious and often desperate groups sought resources, information, and security.


As with other areas, fragmentation was the defining characteristic of Solsys' political sphere during the Dark Age. Fear of infection whether biological, robotic, or cyber coupled with the danger posed by the rogue protowars, plagues, and neumanns that still prowled swaths of the system drove many into hiding. The stability once enforced by the likes of Inner Council members such as the Council of Earth, Cislunar Alliance, and Martian Union had collapsed along with those organizations during the Technocalypse and Last War. Initially Mercury and Venus were rendered all but uninhabited with the exception of some small isolated settlements, such as the Mercurian Joh-Lau culture. However, over the next two centuries new colonists and refugees arrived and began rebuilding. The exiled governments of the former terrestrial nations, then residing in Earth orbit, dissolved one by one as the new reality of their permanent expulsion set in. By the end of the seventh century AT, most of these once proud countries, some of which dated back to the Agricultural Age, had disbanded. In their place, new polities arose in the Bracelet Band including the Theocracy of Yshh, UpperBlossom, and Neomixecon to name just a few. On the Moon, the Lunar States provided a loose affiliation for a number of settlements especially after the final destruction of the Treaty Org remnants in 737 AT. Following the proclamation of a republic in 622 AT, the Martians began the laborious process of clearing and resettling the surface of their planet's ruined biosphere. Known as the Unification Wars, confrontations with other political groups, marauders, and occasionally interlopers from elsewhere in the system lasted until the early 9th century.

Comparatively the outer system fared better than the inner regions. During the start of the Dark Age, the Gengineer Republic in the Jovian system was the single greatest power in Solsys besides GAIA. However, the Gengineer Republic slowly slid into terminal decline as conflict amongst its tweak citizenry, principally between the Genomopher and Mutationist factions, sapped and ultimately undermined the polity's vitality. The downfall of the Gengineer Republic, accelerated by periodic swarm outbreaks such as the Great Shedding during the 680s, culminated in the polity's dissolution in 784 AT. Around Saturn various groups including the Han Hegemony, Warriors of the Western Stream, Children of Kronos, and the so-called Hidden Cities of Dropouts such as Laputa and Valinor remained highly suspicious of and quarreled with each other. While underdeveloped, the settlements of Uranus and Neptune were spared the worst of the Technocalypse and steadily expanded throughout the Dark Age. As one may expect, habitats in the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud remained very isolated throughout this period as detailed in the histories of such disparate places like Directory ruled Pluto, Haloist Mary, and the nomadic Spaceman's League.

Social Developments

In a hushed voice an announcer (a crippled ex-machinist) reminded everyone that this was the first time anyone had entered through the airlocks in over a decade. Once the door was fully open the inspector emerged from the airlock and whispered conversations started throughout the crowd as people tried to make sense of what they could see. "I thought they still retained pre-Disaster tech?" one woman asked her mate. She could be forgiven for her confusion Thade thought; what was now floating down the entrance corridor towards the welcome committee hardly looked like the product of an alliance of habs supposedly decades ahead of Far Rig in science and technology. The crowd was expecting something similar to the ethereal, glasslike bots they used to possess before the Disaster or at the very least well-fed sophonts in gossamer envirosuits. Instead what looked like a giant mechanical crab was laboriously making its way down the corridor. Its movements were jerky; in between the armour-like plates covering its limbs Thade could see actual pistons. Amongst the crowd a man began to chuckle, "Don't you see?" he asked the woman who had spoken previously (drawing the confused attention of others). "It's called 'defensive obsolescence.' That bot or vec or whatever it is looks like it's made from crude technologies because it is; no smart matter, no FITs, nothing to be subverted by goo or malware. It's an example of the anti-plague protocols we've heard so much about." Hearing this explanation the crowd's mood brightened, they hadn't been conned at least.

Presently the inspector reached the welcome committee. Thade cringed as a woman named Betal (an alpha-grade labour logistics manager chosen by lottery for this task) pushed herself forward and recited her speech; "On behalf of the residents of Far Rig hab I welcome you Inspector. I hope that your arrival marks the first step in creating a bridge of prosperity between our people."

"Thank you resident. Let us indeed hope for such a positive resolution," Inspector (it didn't question the title as a name) responded in a flat tone. "Shall we proceed?"

-from The Inspection
The self-imposed isolation of most settlements during the Dark Age led to a splintering of social and ethnic groups. Seeking stability, communities, whether part of a larger polity or unaffiliated, commonly adhered to two paths. The first reverted to older constructs forged during Earth's past. The second fashioned new identities to cope with the harsh reality they now faced. A prominent feature during this time were the Trust Networks, formed to resist the malware and info plagues which could prove fatal to isolated habitats if contracted. These Trust Networks, often characterized as isolationist trading blocs, often operated around other security protocols used by the various polities. As with other periods of turmoil, the Dark Age produced its share of memorable poetry, art, virches and the like, some of which survive to the current era. The works of Luna's Tural Hashimoto are a prime example. However much has been lost over the millennia, and debates about authenticity surround most of the surviving artifacts.

Struggling in the depths of arguably the greatest crisis that humanity had faced since the Indonesian Toba super-eruption of 75,000 BT, many baseline and neb refugees from Earth sought solace in ethnic or religious identities. The Han Hegemony, Expulsos, Hindi Expansion, Natsiya, Bhr?tr?tba, and Swahili Combine are a few prominent examples of ethnic based groupings that arose in the wake of the Great Expulsion. Some of these or their descendant groups would eventually mount interplanetary missions. A number of historians have suggested that GAIA, out of some sense of altruism or historic preservation, aided these groups in their efforts. Unsurprisingly, this notion is not without its detractors and likely will never be verified. In addition, there existed a myriad of clade-centric societies scattered throughout the system be they vec, tweak, cyborg, ai, or otherwise. More often than not, these groups were apt to shun nostalgia for pre-Technocalypse cultures and favored pressing ahead, redefining Terragen civilization free from the influence of Earth.

Religion saw an impressive resurgence during the Dark Age after centuries of decline in favor of atheism and agnosticism. Various Christian organizations and churches operated in Solsys, ranging from tiny evangelical communes like Shiloh Station in the Kuiper Belt to the Restored Catholic Church on Nova Roma (formerly 532 Herculina). The Universal Church, while nearly destroyed during the Technocalypse, mounted an impressive comeback over the next few centuries. Islamic societies were split between such groups as Al Musafirin, the Shia Fellowship, and Al Hujaj fi al Faragh. Over the course of the Dark Age, theological differences diminished and a growing denomination styled the Islamic Unity gained traction throughout the solar system. While most of the other "classical" religions founded during the agricultural age such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religion continued and diversified, followers of newer faiths such as Beneficence, Jobitarianism, Nuagism, Santism, Jovism, and the Kabristaanis dramatically increased in Solsys during the Dark Age. It was also during this time period that the first Archaitheologist religion emerged with the nascent Cult of GAIA. Unsurprisingly, Gaianists were often persecuted and many of their activities were kept underground until the First Federation.


The chaos wrought by the Technocalypse and Great Expulsion and the resulting fear of higher toposophic beings and self-replicating nanotech led many to shun certain advanced technologies. Complex methods and supply chains were so disrupted that they were all but lost. Antimatter production in Solsys crashed after the destruction of its collection centers in the inner system, forcing most to revert to earlier fusion based energy and propulsion. A notable exception were those facilities operated by GAIA that supplied select interplanetary missions with antimatter. Manufacturers often spurned nano-assemblers instead preferring industrial bots or non-sentient printers. Previously banned or heavily regulated technologies such as destructive uploading or slaved ai proliferated where available, as authorities were unable or unwilling to intervene.

Legacy of the Interplanetary Dark Age

Lasting nearly three hundred years and affecting a sizable portion of sophonts then alive, the Interplanetary Dark Age is a seminal event in the history of Terragen civilization. The pervasive danger and uncertainty that characterized the period eventually gave way to the stabilizing First Federation during the 10th century AT. Unsurprisingly, the Dark Age has remained a popular setting for retro-nauts, authors, and virch users. Interplanetary Dark Age studies is a well-trodden academic discipline with untold amounts of research, archeological investigations, and revaluations amassed in the subsequent 9,000 years. However, the inherent ambiguity surrounding the facts will undoubtedly never be fully dispelled.

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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev
modified by Stephen Inniss, rewritten by MacGregor
Initially published on 10 November 2001.

Rewritten December 2018
Additional Information
Fiction featuring the Interplanetary Dark Age The Inspection by Ryan b