The year is 2263. There is no faster-than-light travel, limiting exploration and expansion primarily to within our solar system.
The Earth-Luna system is heavily populated, as is Mercury, Mars, the Asteroid Belt and the Jovian System. Scattered throughout the system are a large number of independent colonies, often built along the lines of the O’Neill design consisting of a spinning tube up to several miles in length and associated solar panels.
Advances in fuel and technology have resulted in ships that can traverse the system within weeks instead of years. Aided by safe cryosleep, and combined with lengthened lifespans, intra-system travel is common and safe.
Off-Earth populations spiked after The Fall in 2225, when the largest of the space elevators was brought down. Nobody claimed credit, as the results were worse than anyone had thought possible. Resulting climactic changes have made it difficult to survive.
The resulting Earth government, known as the PoE (for People of Earth), attempted to maintain control over the outer populations, but most have claimed their independence. They still banded together to help Earth recover, but made it clear they did so on their own terms. The major governments that have emerged are the Martial Coalition, the Jovian League, the Belter Union and the Coalition of Free Habitats. Luna remains tied to Earth, but there is a movement for independence as well.
Megacorporations have come to the fore, providing key supplies and distribution facilities to help in Earth’s recovery, and funding to secure a voice (at the least) in the newly formed PoE. By far the largest and most influential is Terradyne, which began as a shipbuilding firm which later branched out into weapons and most everything else. The largest of the outer system megacorps would be Aretech, specializing in life-support systems and weapons.
In an attempt to secure the safety of shipping from terrorists and pirates, a joint military force was formed, consisting of personnel and equipment from all participatory governments, including the PoE (although this was strongly protested from some quarters). Known as the Coalition Peace Force, all ships have mixed crews and act against any threats to shipping.
Independent miners, transports, couriers and passenger ships make up the bulk of ships to be found throughout the system. Scientific and research outposts exist throughout the system to Pluto and beyond. Terraforming is well underway on Mars, and just beginning on Venus. Mercury is a primary source of metals and energy beamed outward through the system. There are expensive resorts in the moons of Saturn, providing tours of the rings. Rare heavy metals and chemical compounds are being mined and harvested from Persephone…a distant rocky planet nearly as large as Neptune and more than three times as far from the sun. Most of the mining are done by prisoners in 15 year shifts, 10 of which were spent in cryo in low-energy transfer orbits.
The Deep Explorers are sublight exploration ships sent to other stars. Bussard ramjet drives can achieve a sizable fraction of lightspeed. It takes decades from to reach the few extra-solar colonies and return, but the time is much shorter for the crews, who are almost alien in their outlooks and beliefs.
Are there aliens? It depends on who you speak to. It’s common knowledge that transmissions have been received…but sometimes they stop with no warning. If they’ve been translated, nobody has leaked the information. Are they here? Again, it depends on who you ask.
Psionics began to appear sporadically nearly 200 years ago. It has become a more common phenomenon lately, spreading in numbers and ability. Many are still skeptical, and psionics are unreliable at best.
Lately…there has been something else. Signs of abilities that aren’t psionic, yet still able to affect physical objects and events.
This is the world as it is.