A Traveler’s Guide To Toe-Hold Space

Introduction

In the aftermath of the Great Diaspora (2090-2102), humankind spent half a century consolidating its new holdings before the human need for exploration—and for ever increasing profits—took root again. Early settlement in what would become the Core Worlds had been limited to “Earth Normal” planets but the so-called Goldilocks Zone held few useful planets as a percentage of systems explored. Exploration remained expensive, risky, and haphazard.

On October 12, 2152, the governors of the various Core Worlds convened on the station at Delta Pavonis IV to lay the groundwork for the Board of Exploration. The BOE established rules and guidelines for exploration and reporting. They also funded a central database of findings so that interested parties could lease the properties and develop them.

Under the guiding hand of the BOE, exploration became standardized and codified. The system catalog grew at a staggering rate as dozens of explorers took small ships loaded with probes deeper and deeper into the Deep Dark. In less than ten standard years, the catalog of systems grew from a few hundred to nearly fifty thousand. Most of them held no commercial interest for one reason or another—notably those lacking a planetary base in the Goldilocks zone.

In spite of the odds, explorers continued to press outward. Finding a single system with commercial potential could elevate the poorest planetary prospector to the upper atmosphere of luxury if a company leased and developed the find. An Earth normal environment could pay tens of billions. Frequently explorers neglected to record marginal systems, choosing to develop them on their own away from the watchful eye of the Board of Exploration. These systems became stepping stones across the galaxy, locations passed down from explorer to explorer. Each new toe hold in the Deep Dark provided ship services and logistical support further and further away from the centralized control of the Core Worlds and its Board of Exploration.

As exploration flourished, so did the expansion of the Board’s influence. With dozens of new Goldilocks zone findings, the Board funded research developed new technology to exploit those worlds. In 2180, the BOE became the Confederated Planets Joint Committee on Trade and financed even more research and development on terraforming. By then orbital station and ship construction had developed standardized fittings to accommodate a variety of ship sizes and types, guaranteeing that any ship built to that standard could dock and engage in commerce with any CPJCT orbital station. Soon the CPJCT Exploration and Development arm started fielding teams to evaluate and adjust planetary ecosystems for human habitation and exploitation, greatly expanding the numbers of systems available for human use.

Eventually the rapidly expanding human presence in the Deep Dark grew beyond the command and control structures based in the Core Worlds. The CPJCT spun off divisions based on interstellar geography. Three annexes—Western, Northern, and Lower—each have their own locally controlled arm of the CPJCT. Three other regions of space—Eastern, Southern, and Upper—have been scouted but have not yet been formally designated as annexes. They remain under the purview of the Core Worlds.

Under the guiding hand of the CPJCT, mankind’s expansion continued to push into the Deep Dark. Many corporations formed their own research and development arms to foster that exploration while the potential for riches beyond measure continued calling individual men and women to pit their wits and luck against an indifferent universe, to continue seeking out new toe-holds in the Deep Dark.