The Major Ariane Kedros Novels take place in an alternate universe I call Minoan Space, starting in the Universal Time (U.T.) year 2105. Below are some differences between our world and Minoan Space.
During ancient times, the bronze age culminated in the first "Pax Minoica" (a Minoan peace) when the Minoan culture on islands in the Agean Sea managed to instill a time of peace and trade that extended into the Mediterranean. The Minoan empire slowly declined (not necessarily due to the invaders and volcanoes of our universe) until much of their history was lost in the Greek Dark Ages.
About five hundred years later, Alexander the Great established the second "Pax Minoica" and created the first Hellenic Alliance that spanned most of Eurasia and lasted until he died at the advanced age, for that time, of 73 years. After that, the growth of the Roman Empire and various Latinate cultures were constrained by this alliance. The rise of Christianity, driven from Constantinople, pushed the small Roman Empire even further westward to the Americas.
Although there was a minimal medieval "dark age," several world wars, and various decades of unrest, the human race managed to advance technologically. By the 1960s, humanity had discovered what would later be called the Penrose Fold, the means to transition into N-space. In addition, governments raced to be the first to land on the moon and the winner was the Hellenic Alliance, which put two crewmembers on the surface in 1964.
The aliens arrived shortly after the 1964 lunar exploration, although they never indicated whether space exploration triggered their first contact with Earth. These aliens were named "Minoans" because of their supposed affectation for horned headdresses and robes that mimicked ceremonial art and scenes from ancient Minoa.
It took several decades of chaos, political upheaval, warfare, and strife before the human race could successfully interact with the Minoans. The Minoans worked strictly within human laws and governments, but they expected the same compliance from humans. When they offered the trade of referential engine interfaces that could navigate N-space, they made agreements with what they thought were titled representatives and honored them precisely. However, everything fell apart when individual humans tried to bypass their leaders and make their own "deals" with the aliens.
Minoans do not understand idiosyncratic behavior, or individuals that bend rules or break laws. The concept of individuality doesn't translate, behaviorally or emotionally, nor do individual names (titles must be used). Criminal transgressions met with ruthless "correction," regardless of the severity of the crime. There were spectacular, but always unsuccessful, attempts to assassinate Minoan emissaries. Piracy became lethal to practice in solar systems near Minoan warships. However, the aliens appeared to understand aggression between governments, at least when there were rules for warfare. Eventually, the Phaistos Protocols were hammered out as a way to define "acceptable human behavior," even during hostilities.
When the Minoans arrived, they provided the key to true faster-than-light travel. Their buoys (which humans still don't understand) allow transit to and from N-space (see issues on N-space travel). The Minoans also sold sovereignty and colonization rights for four solar systems to mankind and, at that point, worked out agreements with companies that would eventually become the Generational Ship Lines. Humans began spreading out from those solar systems.
During this time (first half of the twenty-first century), there was a great exodus off Earth. Some people wanted the excitement of space exploration, but there were also many disaffected, disenfranchised, and persecuted groups that fled to space habitats and distant life-sustaining planets. Mankind spread and multiplied, but as more worlds were colonized, the Terran Expansion League started forming. The home planet changed its name to Terra as it benefited from imports and taxes from the colonized worlds, where a saying took root: "Call her by whatever name you wish, but all money still travels back to the mother planet."
In 2061, the Yellowstone caldera blew off in a volcanic explosion that changed the "mother planet." It loaded the atmosphere with ash when it was least convenient: during a low sun activity cycle. As Terra plunged into an ice age (one that was mild, compared to some previous periods), aid came from every colony as residents worked to save first themselves, then other biological organisms in protected biomes. Relocating species was attempted, and rarely successful. Yellowstone was a costly lesson in souls and biomass and ecosystems and species, as well as pride. Mankind learned that their footprints on Terra could never compare to the internal rages within the planet herself.
By 2073, the colonies were taxed onerously and no end was in sight. Many were convinced that all that could be done for Terra, had been done, and it was now a matter of time. Six solar systems (the six "prime worlds") declared their independence from the Terran Expansion League, forming the Consortium of Autonomous Worlds (CAW). The League had to prevent this. The ensuing war split civilized space, system by system. The warfare was expensive but low grade, from the public perspective, because the Phaistos Protocols had strict rules regarding civilian habitats, whether planetary surfaces could be bombarded (that's a no), and what constituted valid targets.
The multi-decade war turned out to be harder on the League than the new Consortium. Under the League's increasingly authoritarian regime, warfare degraded innovation and entrepreneurialism. It gave the League Overlords the impetus to grab power and control more industries, but their economy continued to suffer. A highly controlled health system eventually led to a eugenics program regulated through multi-marriages, pregnancy permits, and legally-enforced birth control implants.
In 2090, the Consortium ended the war by detonating a terrible weapon designed to destroy the sun within a League Colony named Ura-Guinn. Although both sides had developed these temporal distortion (TD) weapons, they had never been used before. The League's economy was about to collapse but instead of responding in kind or capitulating, the League called upon the Minoans to adjudicate whether this was a violation of the Phaistos Protocols. The Minoans took advantage of this to push for peace talks and a long series of treaties under an umbrella Pax Minoica.
During the ensuing peace talks, the Consortium produced data that indicated a weapons production facility had been built in Ura-Guinn, although the League denited it. Since the buoy was destroyed in the detonation, any faster-than-light data from Ura-Guinn is impossible. No one knoww whether the Ura-Guinn sun went nova until 2106, when the light-speed data (or essentially, the light, itself) reaches the closest civilized system. The League has financed a generational ship mission to the system, but it won't arrive until 2109.
Note: Peacekeeper occurs mid-2105, Vigilante as the year changes to 2106, when the light-speed data of Ura-Guinn is arriving and being analyzed, and Pathfinder covers the first half of 2106.
Space warfare is expensive (ya think this is an understatement?) Our world hasn't gone much beyond the idea of killer satellites, which are still beyond most country economies today. Manned space warfare would be horrifically expensive. Most planetary economies couldn't afford the "naval model" of space warfare we see from Hollywood: the space equivalent of the aircraft carriers facing off and letting loose bunches of manned fighters that have no reason to exist other than to shoot at each other (where each space-fighter destroyed carries an economy the size of Iraq, for instance). So the naval carrier model is silly because even planetary-scale economies probably couldn't handle the loss of one of those "carriers".
In Minoan Space, space warfare is additionally hampered by the Phaistos Protocols (see the reason why people don't violate those protocols in The Alien Minoans, below). Planetary surfaces cannot be bombarded, nasty weapons and warships can't be managed remotely, and ship/habitat targets have to be military to be valid. It's difficult to seize an enemy system because the incoming buoy channels are well known and protected. Although three solar systems were seized during the war (one by the Terrans, two by the Autonomists), the takeovers required multi-year planning and a "fifth column" (per General Mola in Spanish Civil War) where internal sabotage and diversions were coordinated by covert rebel forces.
Humans do not have effective beam weapons (laser/particle/plasma beams), because they've developed "smart armor" for ships that can reflect/deflect their beam weapons. In addition to defensive manuevering (still effective and cheap), ships can also put out chaff to disperse beam weapons and tracking devices on missiles. While missiles can manuever better than ships, decoys can work as a defense. Lazers can still assist trackers, measure distances, detect materials, and dazzle or blind both equipment and humans, depending upon the weaknesses of the enemy's equipment.
Important Note: Minoan beam weapons can easily burn through the reflection/deflection capability of human smart armor. Human technology hasn't been able to determine how they can generate that power, nor exactly what type of beam weapons they use. A practical survival rule is never be the target of a Minoan warship.
Civilian hand-held stunners put out a low-energy ion beam to allow the electrical impulse to travel through air (these stunners do not require wires, like our tasers/stunners). Although high-powered stunners can kill when applied continuously, the average civilian version of this weapons is fairly safe: they aren't effective long-range weapons in atmosphere and they don't generally hurt spaceships or equipment (unless the user knows where a weakness in the EM shielding may be). They also shouldn't be discharged in hand-to-hand combat, because both participants usually get zapped. Autonomist (CAW) worlds usually allow anyone to carry a stunner. Some Terran worlds allow this also. Ship crews on commercial transports will often confiscate all weapons, to include stunners, and put into a safe during transit.
Flechette weapons are particularly effective against soft targets (translation: they'll tear up unarmored people and spacesuits, but won't harm ship equipment). The Phaistos Protocols specifically forbid their use against civilians or their use by civilians. When military forces are going against each other, however, flechette weapons can be expected--which is why military personnel are usually equipped with armor.
Space exploration is expensive. However, the Consortium of Autonomist Worlds (CAW) has a finely tuned system for space exploration by 2105.
A solar system is chosen for colonization by a generational ship line (a large company as well as a family/heritage). They put the mission out for bid, trying to interest organizations or governments (the Generational Ship Lines also have their own banks, because they just don't know what shape civilization will be in, once they've completed their mission, so they manage their own currency and sovereignty, operating as independent countries). If they can get the mission financed, they'll order a Minoan buoy, which can only work for the proposed solar system. They'll create or outfit a huge generational ship that can usually push to 0.85 light-speed. Then, the crew will take the ten to a hundred years (the usual definition of "feasible") to haul the buoy out to the new solar system. Once there, for a year or two, the generational ship line will have sovereignty in that system until they hand it over to another government.
Because of time dilation, the "generational" have extremely long lives (in absolute Universal Time). Since babies cannot be carried to term, new crewmembers are usually brought into the world on the ships using in vitro fertilization and are carried to term in artificial wombs and raised communally by the crew. Because of this, the generational are often called creche-get. They rarely suffer from genetically triggered diseases. However, if they are raised to maturity on their own ship, the generational tend to have a naive outlook regarding the capacity of human generosity and cooperation.
Note: By 2105, the Minoans only allow generational ship lines to transport and control their time buoys, which must be designed and manufactured for specific solar systems and locations (they just can't be plunked down anywhere). Also by 2105, the generational ship lines have embassies containing headquarters or localized offices on most of the important Terran and Consortium planets.
N-space travel (i.e., FTL between solar systems) requires the use of delta-tranquilizer, called "D-tranny." Although the D-tranny seems like it just puts one to sleep, it's not the same as sleep. D-tranny prevents a psychotic event for the passenger that would result in permanent psychosis. This is an important safety tip: there's a 99 percent chance that you will end up drooling in a mental ward if you refuse to take your D-tranny--so do you feel lucky today, punk?
Pilots need to operate under D-tranny as well as additional drugs, so they go through yearly physicals and tests to make sure their dosage rates are correct. The training for N-space pilots is so expensive that more than 80 percent of N-space pilots receive their training in the armed forces (i.e., AFCAW) or other governmental service.
By the 1960s, human physcists had discovered the Penrose Fold and sent very small amounts of mass/energy "somewhere." There was much debate about whether they existed in a closed system, meaning whether conservation of mass/energy came into play (for instance, did the mass/energy they put through the fold pop back into real-space somewhere?)
Then the Minoans showed up and helped physicists understand the basics of nous-transit (literally, transit by "pure intellect" or "comological mind," as defined by Anaxagoras). Unfortunately, when one drops into N-space via the Penrose Fold--that doesn't mean there's any nous-transit. To go anywhere and, more importantly, to get out of N-space requires a lock signal from a Minoan time buoy. There's also another kicker: nous-transit requires a lock on another buoy and an awake human mind, yet the human mind can't handle N-space (as indicated above).
But, after years of studying nous-transit and even developing their own N-space comm buoys, engines and ships, humans are no closer to understanding the key to N-space: the Minoan time buoy. What's known so far:
General health of humans is good (depending upon whose health system you're using) and the human life span is approximately 120 U.T. years, not considering time dilation effects a character will have on generational ships.
Genetic modifications to humans can be done, but only before birth. Transplants and re-attachments of limbs have become sophisticated. Organs and tissues can be grown from a person's cells but, unfortunately, less than thirty percent of the human population can accept their own vat-grown tissues or organs--meaning there's still business for black market organ brokers.
The "neural probe" can allow memories to be changed (actually, a well-trained operator can prevent short-term memories from being stored while a less sophisticated operator will merely scramble both short-term and long-term memory--as well as causing brain damage). Even with the advent of this tool, however, there's still no way to effectively "cure" mental illnesses or adictions without permanently changing someone's personality and memories.
Autonomist technology pioneered the ability to implant almost any type of small computer system into one's body, provided there are no synaptic interfaces (forbidden by law due to extreme danger of ending up in the "vegetable bin"). Implants cover the following gamuts:
Basically, humans have learned not to mess with them. The technological level of the Minoans seems like magic, even in 2105. Since they've never allowed humans to visit their home world(s), their level of advancement has been established through evidence gathered during interactions with humans. This much is known: