The garden of earthly delights will be reserved for the meek, and those who would eat of the tree of knowledge must be banished. What a banishment it will be! Beyond Earth, in all directions, lies limitless outer space, a worthy arena for vigorous growth in every physical and mental dimension.
- Hans Moravec, Robot

During the first decades of the 21st century fusion power became an economic reality. It was a boon to an energy hungry humanity that wanted an energy source, but the reactors demanded Helium 3. Lunar mining and distillation became profitable, and a major space colonisation initiative began. As the basic infrastructure was created, other industries followed suit: solar power generation, vacuum foamed metals, ultrabandwidth communications, secure genetic engineering, cryotechnology and so on.

In the 2020's fusion powered spaceflight had become cheap and efficient enough for powering interplanetary craft, and in the climate of optimism and space enthusiasm many began to think about a manned expedition to the stars. Gradually several independent project proposals coalesced into the TerraNova project. In 2036 the first colonisation ship was sent on its way.

Over the next years several other colony ships were launched. As the technology was refined the ships became significantly faster and cheaper, and what once required the capital of all the major world powers now required just a modest investment from a dedicated organisation. At the same time orbital biospheres became feasible. The first, O'Neill I, was constructed 2035-2040 and became a milestone. Just like the colony ships the habitats became cheaper, and using lunar and asteroid material habitats soon became a more efficient way of creating a small world suitable for one's group. The interest in interstellar colonisation waned as people instead began to colonise the solar system.

At the same time as space technology advanced, digital technology caused "The Final Revolution" in the 2040's. Earlier information technology had transformed many of the western industrial nations and challenged traditional rulership in most of the world. Now the full impact of global high-bandwidth communications became felt as the old national states and megacorporations began to dissolve at a quickening rate when the economy and politics stepped from being merely international to global. Ordinary individuals achieved capabilities that once had required huge organisations thanks to the Net, flexible automated manufacturing, smart software and new social structures. The turmoil and confusion caused many to believe a great cataclysm was at hand, and motivated the launch of the last colony ships bound for Pi3, Gaia and Jerusalem, as well as a diaspora of independent habitats.

What really happened was a profound transition worldwide to a networked global society. The details were unclear to the colonies since they experienced the news at a compressed rate, but apparently the last half of the 21st century was spent "relaxing the sociostructural net" through massive movement, ideological competition and several incidents of digital guerrilla warfare between different "memetic attractors". The habitats evolved in radically different ways, and a major exodus of people from the uncertain Earth into space created a boom of new habitat and social styles. A beginning of an adhocratic federation, "The Cocoon", between many habitats emerged and eventually came to absorb most of the societies. During this time many of the transmissions to the colonies ceased as the institutions handling them disbanded or changed beyond recognition; for a while they were manned by volunteers or enthusiasts, but in the end they fell silent.

Deductions made by the colonies and hints from Sol suggest that eventually the Cocoon suffered a second "final revolution" as widespread AI, interplanetary communication and trade caused the transition from an interplanetary society to a "system society"; deeply integrated but at the same time extremely free and diverse. The events surrounding this transition are uncertain. Since then Sol has changed unrecognisably, and the inhabitants are no longer traditional humans.

Meanwhile the colonies were settled and began to develop on their own. Among the first steps after arrival was building or unfolding a large antenna complex for interstellar communication, both with Sol and other colonies. The original vision of an interstellar society fell, since Sol dropped out, but several of the colonies managed to establish rudimentary transmissions to each other. The news of the alien Trahans and Filigree for example travelled across human space, although in most cases the delays were too long to sustain contact. In the absence of external input, they developed their own cultures, often highly divergent. The earliest colonies were the most mixed and often developed many "nations", while later colonies often remained single societies but with drifting philosophies.

When FTL technology appeared on the scene in the 24th century the disparate colonial cultures were forced to meet each other. Some matched well, others were clearly antagonistic. Trade exploded, supported especially by the Atlanteans, New Americans and Novas. Cultural and scientific exchange flourished as Arcadian biotechnology encountered Trahan metaphilosphy and design science, Dionysian and Gaian mental techniques and Penglaiese megatechnology.

In 2346 the Mothers were encountered by an Arcadian expedition to 51 Pegasi, where they discovered an alien research station in orbit around the planet Crazy Horse. After complex study and mutual translation attempts communication was achieved. The Mothers turned out to have an extensive and diverse sphere of activity, and several clans of Mothers began trading or communicating with the humans.

The early FTL period was a time of optimism, exploration and confrontation. Few expected the threats that would change the destiny of mankind.