It all began on Earth, though those living in the Fortune’s Fools universe don’t recall now where, exactly, that was. Nor do they know why it was that humanity, lacking any ability to conquer the speed of light at that time, sent out generational ships to all the exo-planets they could find.
“This meant that for the best part of at least two and a half millennia humanity was dispersed and developed its own separate ways across the vast tracts of the galaxy, largely undisturbed by even close neighbours – unless those neighbours happened to share a star system.”
“So we are all descendants of the same people?” Jariq found the idea almost blasphemous to his own caste-based worldview, in which slaves, freemen and nobility were not just of different social status, but essentially different beings.
“All humans – even those with blue feathery hair and vertically elipsed pupils – are from the same stock,” Avilon assured him, “and ironically, some recent research found our original home planet is now just another insignificant and exploited Periphery world.”
There are no other developed, intelligent, sentient beings in the galaxy and the majority of the diaspora of humanity dropped back to more primitive levels of technology for millennia. But not all was lost, one group of planets settled together were able to keep in contact and pool resources to rebuild and reaquire lost skills and technologies and develop new ones. Eventually, they formed themselves into the Central core of a Coalition, which then spread its influence and technology over the galaxy – a process much speeded by the development of a gravitational drive which allowed Faster-Than-Light travel.
“We have three kinds of planets: the Central, Middle and Periphery worlds and the Coalition is an elected oligarchy based almost purely upon commercial interests…
“And, not surprisingly, that makes a culture in which wealth is seen as the only thing to be valued. Everything has a price and can be bought and sold. The people of Central tend to live pretty happy, secure and very comfortable lives, thank you. So they elect the same people to rule them again and again to keep it that way.”
“And what of the other worlds – the Middle and Periphery worlds – what are they like?”
“Some Middle worlds advance enough to be admitted into the golden circle of Central and achieve the status of full Coalition membership. But most are considered as Protectorates – they benefit from the supposedly civilising influences of the Coalition whilst not being expected to maintain the high standards of Central. So they have planetary governments which are of varying levels of corruption and laws which suit their rulers. Middle worlds can be very enlightened or very oppressive – they range from full blooded and fiercely independent democracies which give the Coalition regular headaches, to places like Thuringen where half the planet is under the rule of criminal gangs.”
“And the Periphery worlds?” Jariq asked, very interested now as he knew Temsevar was in that grouping.
“The Periphery is where they get most of the raw resources which keep Central in the lap of luxury… The Coalition extends its grip there not to rule but to exploit. Most Periphery worlds are controlled by one of the big conglomerates as their own private domain – they run the place just exactly as they like and answer to no one.”
Against this grasping greed stands The Legacy, seen by those in the comfortable worlds of the Coalition as a terrorist organisation and by those on the oppressed edges of galactic society as valiant freedom fighters.
“If you are blind you will destroy visual beauty as it has no meaning to you. Only the sighted can appreciate it and only the sighted will work to preserve it. The Coalition is blind and those who live in its shadow, even if born with vision, come to believe that their own eyes are undesirable and should be kept closed – or ripped out. But some people still live with their eyes open.They know the value of that precious vision and they are prepared to fight to keep themselves and their children sighted.
“The Legacy is a torch of hope to those invisible billions of people – and the Strike Force of the Legacy, which I command, is its sword. A sword of defence, a guardian of vision in a sightless galaxy.”