The Cartoran Empire
is the largest and oldest humanoid government
in the galaxy
. It once encompassed an entire arm of the Milky Way galaxy
, and has existed for at least 190,000 Terran years
. It operates under an imperial
government, where absolute power lies in the hands of the Empress
at the pinnacle, though she can often be swayed by bribeable advisor
s and must still bow to public opinion
at times. The Empire is a capitalist
society, containing a number of powerful corporation
s whose influence can sway the Empress's directives. The aristocracy
is composed of several noble houses
, which jockey for position and prestige. In the "modern
(that is, when most of the Proxima
stories are set), the current ruling dynasty is that of House M'deihaien
, which has ruled for just over 2000 years.
The Empire is also notable for having fought the longest war in known space. The Sundering War is thought to have lasted, on and off, for the last hundred to hundred and fifty thousand years. In this war, the Cartorans have been fighting an alien race known as the Gestalti, even though the reason for the war is lost to history. The Gestalti still prosecute the war mercilessly, however, whenever they come upon Cartoran worlds. The Gestalti once very nearly succeeded in destroying the Empire, only to have it slowly regrow and rebuild its defenses.
The Proxima Centauri Consortium is closely allied with the Cartoran Empire in matters of trade, mutual defense and cultural exchange. After initial teething troubles in the relationship, the two cultures exist fairly happily together.
"...What comes to mind when one hears the name of the Cartoran Empire? Tradition
, first: two hundred thousand Terran year
s of tradition, ceremony
, pomp and circumstance
. That tradition moves hand in hand with the pride of royalty
, with noblesse oblige
as well. Power
, yes, vast fleet
s and mighty economies
and strong, charismatic leader
s. Most of all, though, the Cartoran Empire is big and slow and old and, ultimately, a slave
to the Consortium
'A slave?', you ask. 'The largest interstellar government in the known galaxy? The same government which, at its peak, ruled our Galactic Arm absolutely? The Empire of a Million Suns? The one that fought a war lasting a hundred thousand years? The one with a space navy of ten thousand ships? That Empire can surely be slave to no one and nothing.' But it can: for all its power, for all its resources, for all its pride and tradition and nobility, the Cartoran Empire is helpless without us. I'll explain why in a moment, but first -- a little background.
Dynamism, sideways thinking, life, predation, hunger, ambition. The Empire lacks these qualities. It is a monolith, and monoliths are heavy and unwieldy, lacking the internal impetus to move and flex, to stretch and grow in new and different and weird ways. Such things are simply not survival characteristics for imperial dynasties. Internal competition is under no circumstances encouraged: the Duchess of the Third Bright must never, ever, ever contemplate taking the place of the Empress: such ambitions are treason, and thus utterly forbidden.
The Proxima Centauri Consortium is a different matter. Here we have an intensely competitive atmosphere, driven by our upbringings and our economy. We are taught from birth that we have the capacity to be better than everyone else; we just have to learn how to use our abilities, to guzzle knowledge and to hoard information, to hone our reflexes and free our minds. Ambition and original thinking are the only things that lead to success in the Consortium, socially, economically or politically.
So it's no wonder that when the Empire tried to take the Consortium through military force, the attempt was an utter failure. Every single Cartoran expected a mighty space battle, with Proximan innovation eventually overwhelmed by Cartoran numbers and expertise, followed by a lengthy siege in the Asteroids and on the surface of Proxima II itself. They were rather looking forward to it, really: a good, rousing war would do the Empire some good; things had been a bit boring the last few thousand years.
When their weapons powered down, when they lost control of their ships, when their communications networks went silent, when their cities lost power and their economies collapsed, they were shocked. Terrified. Not just because we had done the impossible, but because we were unsporting -- we fought dirty, ignored the rules. Yet we didn't kill a soul, didn't fire a shot. We won the war. When we responded to their claims of annexation, announcing our intent to stand our ground and fight, they were expecting yet another race of warriors. They didn't realize that we are a race of hackers.
And the worst thing is -- the Empire knows that we can do it again any time we want to. Just press the button and down they go. So they treat us politely, even though our Lords and Ladies of the Economic Protocol Council aren't really nobility. They're even coming to appreciate us, as we share our more vibrant lifeblood with them. But they're still our slaves; their fear of us, justified as it is, makes them so. They are trapped between us and their Gestalti bogeymen.
The Empire is on its way out, I fear. It is a beautiful, proud, majestic animal, but it has reached an evolutionary dead end. Its only chance for survival is to cross itself with the Consortium, as it has been doing, and let us breathe new life into its clay body..."
-- From an anonymous posting to the 001net newsgroup sci.xeno.polisci.cartoran, Fifthorbit 17, 250 YAL (December 3, 2304 CE, old Terran date)
Approx. 200,000 BCE
-- Cartorans achieve space travel, colonize their system and start mining their asteroids. About a century and a half later, some bright person builds the first Slipdrive
, and the universe lies wide open. The golden age of the Empire begins.
Approx. 190,000 BCE -- The Cartorans have by this time encountered a number of intelligent races, and have either subjugated or allied themselves with them. Numerous attempted coups or revolutions have taken place, and occasionally succeeded, but little actual change occurs. Just means a new House on the throne. They're pretty damned arrogant, by this point, and when they run into the Gestalti at around this time, they get into real trouble. A war promptly ensues; no one knows who started it, exactly, and no one knows why either. The war snowballs into a War.
Approx. 190,000 BCE to 100 BCE -- The Sundering War. The Cartoran Empire, which formerly encompassed an entire spiral arm of the galaxy, has been torn apart. The locations of inhabited systems are fiercely-guarded secrets, to prevent the Gestalti from discovering them. Much of this information is lost when Cartora itself falls in the year 112 BCE. The war has not been a steady conflict, of course, and there have been "breaks" of as long as a hundred years. It is during this time that the current Imperial House is slaughtered, the empire thrown in chaos.
10,000 BCE -- Terra is colonized by a primitivist group. A Cartoran immigrant sparks the legend of Astarte in Sumer.
112 CE - New Cartora is founded by House M'deihaien, exactly two centuries after the fall of both Cartora and the old House M'dirath. House M'deihaien takes advantage of the scattering of the Empire to hide from the Gestalti, who eventually give up and go looking for other prey while they wait for the Cartorans to set off one of their probe-traps. Technology on New Cartora is very low, for a while, as space travel is discouraged. During this time, biotechnology flourishes.
113 CE - Construction of the Luminant Palace on New Cartora is completed.
447 CE - Empress Gelle sa-ne-Mdeihaien declares that the Empire shall be rebuilt, and commissions the tattered Imperial Space Navy to seek out the worlds with which contact was lost during the Sundering War.
1408 CE - Princess Lyvara travels to the outer worlds of the Empire, lives with the people for a time, and commits ritual suicide in the face of her task.
1420 CE - One of Princess Lyvara's bohemian friends, the playwright Gessan J'larea, writes down her story, and eventually publishes it under a thin gauze of fiction.
1851 CE - Princess (later Empress) Merydithe sa-ne-M'deihaien, Lady Ishtar's mother, is born.
1942 CE - Merydithe succeeds to the title of Empress of the Cartoran Empire, after her parents are killed while directing skirmishes in the 109th War of Internal Dissension.
1973 CE - Princess Ishtar sa-na-M'deihaien is born on New Cartora.
2130 CE - First Contact between Proximans and Cartorans. By some random chance, the Proximan starship Majesty encounters the Cartoran Imperial Space Navy ship Mares on her maiden voyage. The Majesty returns to New Cartora with the Mares, and treaty negotiations begin with the Cartoran Empire. An instant friendship forms between the Proximan ship's crew and the heir to the Cartoran throne, Lady Admiral Ishtar sa-na-M'deihain, daughter of Empress Merydithe and commander of Her Imperial Majesty's space navy. This proves helpful in 2132, when Empress Merydithe, attempts to annex Proxima by force - and is given a demonstration of the capabilities of the dormant, but not dead, PGPnet when Proximan hackers take control of the Cartoran military and civillian data networks. Ishtar later solidifies the relationship between Proxima and the Empire, since she simply cannot abide a mess.
2135 - As the Proximan Exploratory Fleet and Cartoran ISN combine their efforts to locate the lost worlds of the Empire, and perhaps some new ones, a new golden age of exploration begins for the Empire.
2153 - The worlds of the Proxima Centauri system, as well as the newly colonized worlds of Tau Ceti III, 40 Eridani IV and Vega IX, are united as the Proxima Centauri Consortium. New treaties are signed with the Cartoran Empire.
2167 - Several lost worlds of the Empire are contacted, including Ikkan (25 Centauri IV) and the world settled by the Mn'hssi (genetically engineered life forms created by the Cartorans as living computers, to help figure out Gestalti technology, during the Sundering War).
2170 - The Cartoran Empire embarks on a joint construction venture with the Proxima Centauri Consortium. The Empire will build and operate one of three new starships, of a type and scale never before seen. The ships are unique - cylindrical, ten kilometers in length and two kilometers in diameter, and powered by a radical new invention from none other than Lady Rigel of Bespoke: direct mass-to-energy converters, otherwise known as the Reflex Drive. They are a showcase of the latest technologies - a fully self-aware human level artificial intelligence system built by Shinma Industries, Version Four slipdrives, Van Allen field generators, full artificial gravity, an artificial ecosystem and an entire city built into the core of each ship. The crew of each Deep-Exploration Starship (as the new ships are referred to) numbers about 15,000.
2180 - The first Cartoran DES is commissioned as the shi'Mdeiha.
2180 - 2350: The Cartoran Empire enjoys the benefits of its partnership with the Proxima Centauri Consortium, and a series of treaties tie the two ever more closely together both politically and socially. Some believe it is only a matter of time before the Empire is subsumed into the Consortium. Ironic, since it was the Empire that tried to annex the pre-natal Consortium in 2132.
Part of the Proxima Shared Universe -- concept by Bjorn Townsend.