An ancient race, of unknown origin and fate, invented devices that made it possible to traverse the galaxy. Humanity would one day refer to these devices as bookmarks. Each bookmark continuously absorbs energy from a star and uses that energy to form a bend in space. This spatial bend is undetectable without the aid of portal generator technology or particularly sensitive psychic powers. Once accessed the bookmark can be used to create a long range portal between the star it's around and the star towards which it is aimed. A single bookmark typically spans about 20 lightyears.
A network of these bookmarks is spread throughout the Milky Way galaxy. They interconnect various stars to form a sort of maze. The ancient race that created them clearly did not intend for them to be discovered too early in a race's existence. The physical device is never around the star of a system that supports life. Therefore it can only be detected by first inventing portal technology and detecting the area in space where the bookmark can be accessed. On the other hand, once the network is discovered, it is fairly straightforward to make use of it.
The Human race has had psychic abilities since ancient times. However, for the majority of history, those abilities have been exceedingly rare in the gene pool. Those rare few who did have them inspired many of the ancient myths and legends we have today. They inspired the stories of the Greco-Roman, Egyption and Norse gods as well as many others. As time went by the prevalence of psychic abilities gradually increased. They were still fairly rare, however, until the events of the first world war. All countries involved in the great war gathered as many supernormals to their side as they could. The difference in raw power made the world really begin to notice the tangible value of supernormals as something beyond mere legends. They started encouraging them to interbreed with regular humans and other supernormals.
By the time of World War II there had been a massive upshot in the number of supernormals. The Second world war saw super powers and super science flung around like nobody's business. The sciences of genetics, robotics and microchips all came about much earlier than in our world. The War saw engineered soldiers with the attributes of animals spliced into their DNA, powered armour with the strength of ten men and laptop computers 40 years ahead of their time. Naturally this made the war much more destructive and complicated than it was in our world.
After World War II many supernormals took to fighting crime in masks. This was the rise of the superhero movement. However Earth's government did not like this and quickly put a stop to it. Supernormals were encouraged to put their powers to work in the fields of construction, science, fire and rescue, and law enforcement. During the Cold War those powers useful for stealth and infiltration were of prime desirability. It was also around this time that nanotechnology was developed. After the Cold War ended the covert organizations went public and started policing supernormal affairs.
In the modern era the world saw the invention of the portal network. It was a revolutionary new form of public transit which relied on portals. It was this technology that would eventually lead to the discovery of the bookmark network. This was brought about by a young Genius who went by the name of HardeWare. He and a friend he met in college made a technology company by the name of HardeWare Systems together. That friend of his was secretly Shift, a major figure in the criminal underground. However he managed to keep his identity as shift and that of a CEO entirely separate. It wasn't long before he had London's entire underworld under his thumb. That wasn't enough, however, he had greater plans. Over the next century he managed to control the majority of the human race and brought about an end to war and a general stability for all mankind.
As humanity expanded further into the solar system it began to rely on technology more and more. Robots and genetically engineered humans are produced by corporations and the wealthy in small numbers. Cybernetics are readily available for the injured and those with the money for upgrades. Most people are genetically screened before they're born to prevent cancer and other deformities. Portal and gravity technology are the best way to get around the solar system. It was in this way that the bookmark system was discovered. The realization that the rest of the galaxy was in reach came as quite a shock to humanity. It was even more of a shock when they discovered there was other life out there.
The Collective are a race of robot-created robots with human origins. They first got their start when a roboticist, far ahead of his time, came up with a method to replicate the human brain. He made this discovery during his time working for the Allied Armies in World War II. He presented it to the military with great pride but he was denied funding for his experiment on ethical grounds and told to cease and desist. He cursed their short-sightedness and began working on the project in secret. He managed to gather the parts he needed through his government sanctioned robotics projects.
Then disaster struck. The scientist was finally ready to test his creation when the Nazis attacked the installation. The scientist had already uploaded a simulation of his mind into the robotic body when the bombs fell and the original scientist was slain in the bombings. The robotic copy was all alone without his original self to guide him. He knew the government would disapprove of his very existence and so his only option was to escape. For years he lived in secret, making more robotic brethren and building his scientific and material resources.
Because of the secrecy of their origins the Collective had stealth as a core value. They never went out without disguise. Over the years they focused development on a variety of stealth technologies and honed their skills in espionage to a razor's edge. They invented systems to become invisible and to disguise themselves as civilians long before humans developed equivalent technology. In fact their technological advancement was always ahead of humans every step of the way. This was mainly due to the fact that they didn't hold their scientific development back with restrictions like patents, laws, or economic limitations.
The Collective managed to discover the bookmark system before humanity had even officially tested their first portal device thanks to the collective spy network. Whenever they saw that the potential for a new technology was being held back by red tape, or even a simple lack of resources, they would get hold of the plans and develop it themselves.
While their technology continued to surpass Humanity's they also developed along very similar technological lines. With this rapid growth, the Collective had great need for raw materials and energy. They used the bookmark network to mine resources from lifeless, airless planets. Their civilization migrated to the system closest to Earth, and established a defense perimeter to defend Earth from anything it wasn't ready to find or be found by.
When humankind eventually discovered the bookmark network for themselves, the Collective revealed their existence, and common origins on Earth, to Humanity. They supplied humanity with maps of the parts of the galaxy that had been explored thus far. Humanity was wary of this un-asked-for protector, and frankly found their overwhelming military might to be quite threatening. Eventually they came to an agreement where the collective moved the bulk of their forces to another star system.
The Leonines are the second most common species besides humans. The earliest leonines were essentially earth lions. Their home planet is slightly smaller than Earth but the gravity is also slightly higher due to the abundance of metals. Early on in their existence the Leos became the dominant predator on their planet. Any other predators that could compete with them or pose a threat to them were wiped out by the leo's superiour speed and cunning. Once the Leos were at the top of the food chain they had time to diversify their skills. Some leos were still hunters but others turned to skills such as medicine, sewing and crafting wood and stone.
Leonine children are born in litters of 4 to 6 babies at a time. Most of these litters are entirely female in number. Rarely a single male will be born within a litter but the population is 95% female and 5% male. Only a few of the leonines in any generation even have children at all. When they do they are mainly raised by the group as a whole rather than only their own mother. When male children are born they are raised by a male adult. This keeps the gender lines among their species pretty fair apart. Females consider males to be second class citizens for the most part. Typically male value is seen as looking pretty, breeding and lifting heavy objects.
Leonines are partly nocturnal. They have excellent night-vision (but somewhat sensitive eyes in daylight) and do a lot of their hunting at night. Their planet also has three moons, which they worshiped as goddesses (exemplifying the virtues of Cunning, Duty and Caution) in ancient times. The moons were referred to as the sisters and the sun was referred to as the brother. This reflects the dichotomy between males and females within the leonine species. They used to keep time by the speed at which different materials burned when cut into specific shapes. They have an ancient legend about fire being stolen from the sun. Metal is seen as former loyal servants of the moon sisters, cast into the ground by the sun.
They had quite a head start on humanity in terms of technology but they also develop much more slowly than humans. They were entirely nomadic for a long time before they eventually discovered metalcraft. For a while they continued to be nomadic even with their budding technology. They'd stay in an area rich in metals long enough to mine it. When they moved on they'd leave excess ore on the surface in honour of the moon goddesses. It was during these nomadic years that they began to form more closely knitted tribes and discovered the true value of powers. Metallokinetics and Pyrokinetics were especially valued.
The Leonines spent quite a long time in their industrial age. Once they'd invented the steam engine they started to carry more and more stuff with them on their journies. Their caravans began to resemble human trains minus the tracks. As steam gave way to internal combustion they were well on their way to polluting their planet. They just didn't realize it yet. The things they left behind as they traveled began to make a physical timeline in their wake as they traveled the planet. They eventually started to slow down and settle in stable areas around the time they had invented wireless communication and calculation devices. They developed massive factories and the technique of mass production.
Space travel was a very important scientific development for the Leonines. One of their earliest goals was to visit each of the three moons in turn. They had long since stopped worshiping the moons as gods but they had cultural significance nonetheless. They new from telescopic images that the moons were made of simple stone but they were somewhat dissapointed when samples revealed nothing interesting whatsoever. That didn't stop them, though. They knew there were many other planets to explore in their system. They turned up empty handed on the next planet furthest away from the sun but found something wonderful on the planet closer to the sun from them. It was life... of a sort. They had discovered colonies of highly heat resistant micro-organisms with much in common with plants.
Those micro-organism would be the foundation for one of their most important technologies for centuries to come. Through a hundred years of stud they managed to re-engineer these organisms time and again till they had reached perfection. The final version was known as the forgelings. The applications for forgelings were endless. They were a networked system of computation, capable of communication between all the members of the leonine race. It was used similar to the way we use the internet in modern time. The devices also had a variety of physical benefits. They could reshape themselves and harden into useful shoes for a broad variety of purposes. In conjunction with their ability to secrete a fuel that was the equivalent of gasoline and gunpowder they were able to make easy duplicates of cars, helicopters, guns, chainsaws, flamethrowers, swords, houses, serving trays, butlers, maids, televisions, computers and space ships.
Anything a forgeling couldn't do was supplemented with stand-alone technology. They developed gravity drives and portal drives same as human beings. Their discovery of the bookmark system led them to explore the galaxy for more signs of life. The pollution on their home planet had gotten so bad at this point that they had to cover the entire planet in forgelings just to keep the air breathable. Food was also beginning to get very scarce at this point. Leonines, being carnivores, had a fairly narrow range of choices when it came to food. It was to their great joy when they discovered a planet full of delicious edible life. The planet was teeming with plants and, more importantly, animals. None of it was even remotely sentient so they decided to move right in. To this day it's their most prized possession in the galaxy.
When the leonines met the humans it was an encounter with one of their shipping vessels between the world where they got their meat and their home planet. The Leos were originally suspicious of the human's intentions. The humans eventually made a deal that let the leos keep their pet planet in exchange for a variety of allowances. Additionally the humans and the leos built a new space station together on the trade routes called Waystation Hermes. This station, which still stands today, was part human construction and partly made out of forgelings. They began to exchange services and technologies. It was a new age of peace and prosperity for both sides.
The Synthe are a species native to the Perseus arm of the galaxy. They are an extremely varied species. This is because rather than being a true species their lineage is defined by being created by a member of their species rather than sharing a common genetic code. Each Synthe is custom made to the whims of a Synthe life-weaver. Some creations are life-weavers themselves while some are lab assistants or field agents. Those species whom have become a pet project of the Synthe are also considered honorary members of the Synthe, however, not to a inclusive degree.
The sheer biomass of the Synthe would greatly outnumber the Humans and Leos combined were it not for the fact that the majority of them are still back in their own arm of the galaxy. The main reason for this is the fact that the Synthe make most of the things they use out of living tissue. They don't just stick to flesh forming, either. They use disembodied brains with psychokinetic powers to create psychokinetic systems which are used to fly their ships as well as for various other purposes. Their weapons often are formed from a combination of abilities or from the use of micro-organisms.
The Synthe have the capacity to funnel energy from reactors directly into biological systems. This is especially useful with psychokinetic systems. This combination is what makes space travel possible for them. Their field-testers are also often equipped with small sized reactors to increase the amount of power they can bring to bear in any given situation. They developed this technique due to conflict amongst themselves. The Synthe are mainly scientific, but when they do fight each-other it tends to become a tug of war. Whoever has the most powerful reactors wins.
The Synthe arrived in the Orion Spur of the galaxy in the latter half of the twenty-first century. Humanity's first encounter with the synthe was when they happened across one of the planets mankind was terraforming. It was a colony with just enough protection for pirates but no real military force. The Synthe discovered this planet and took interest in the odd mishmash of native and foreign life on the surface and the odd metallic objects around the planet. They sent some sort of weird harvester unit that came and collected up a bunch of sheep, cows and people. The humans were understandably freaked out.
When the Synthe capture one of the satellites around the planet the colonists managed to trace it back to the Synthe fleet responsible for the kidnappings. The colonists went after the Synthe, guns blazing, hoping to retake their captured or at least to take revenge. The Synthe detected the high potential for danger and decided to fire first. The colony ships took heavy damage from the unconventional weapons of the Synthe. Back up was called but the initial fleet was overwhelmed by the Synthe. Reports of biological weapons being used meant that no one dared to board the derelict ships to check for survivors.
The Collective spy network got wind of these reports as human reinforcements were being sent. Hostilities were noted, and a fleet was deployed from the nearest Collective-built station, from a mining planet, with replacements on their way. Two gunships and four frigates loaded with drop-ships refitted with boarding equipment. The fleet entered human colony space, one frigate activated long-term camo and drifted towards the objective while all others prepared for braking and combat. The Collective offered to take in the infected humans trapped aboard disabled ships so that the human military didn't have to risk any healthy crew.
There were many casualties on both sides and several ships were lost. In the end it was the the overwhelming force of the Collective, and the fact that the Collective were immune to a large number of the techniques the Synthe were used to employing, that won the day. The Collective finally found a way to communicate with the Synthe and managed to come to an understanding. These days there is a tenuous peace between the Synthe and humanity. Veterans of this short-lived battle tend to distrust the Synthe.
Now it was known that there was life in the Perseus arm of the Milky Way galaxy. The fact that it might be coming to our own neck of the woods was somewhat frightening to some. The forces of humanity, the collective and the leonines banded together to create an armada of ships called the Frontier Alliance Fleet. The purpose of this armada was to venture into the Perseus arm to explore and to befriend the life that lives there or learn to defend ourselves from it. In this way we would become a part of the larger stage of the galaxy and perhaps discover the origins of bookmark network.