There is a detailed time line in the Universe Guide, but the following overview provides a brief introduction to the important events in each era.
First Age – The Prime Imperia
Following the discovery of the Terran gate human fleets began to explore the Antarean surface. Human settlement soon spread out from the Terran system and the first contact was made with alien species. As explorers discovered more about the Antares nexus Builder technology began to be understood and adapted for the benefit of humanity.
This period of initial exploration and settlement is called the great diaspora or the spill. The First Age ended following a series of bloody inter‐human wars leaving many worlds in ruin. The Earth was destroyed and the inner planets of the Terran system reduced to an asteroid belt circling the sun. As the wars of the Prime Imperia subsided, the Antares nexus suffered the first of what would prove to be a regular series of periodic and catastrophic collapses.
Following the first collapse all of the worlds settled by humans became isolated for many thousands of years. Most of Earth’s settlements were destroyed or substantially depopulated and reduced to a level of barbarism. Isori, the first human colony to attain independence, was one of the worlds that maintained a high level of civilisation throughout this time. This was in part due to the amazing resources of the Isori system, but also because it was the oldest and most established of Earth’s original colonies.
Other worlds that survived and even made significant advances during the collapse include Alzantha, Xon and KayTen. These are worlds that would continue as important centres of civilisation throughout the coming ages.
Second Age – The Renatal Ages
As the Antarean gates began to regenerate, explorers from the most advanced human worlds eagerly sought each other out. They soon discovered that gates could no longer be found in the locations they previously occupied on the Antarean surface. Human worlds that were once clustered around Earth’s gate were now scattered all over Antares. For this reason it took hundreds of years for some worlds to reestablish contact even once their own gates had opened.
Many worlds made important discoveries for themselves, settled new planets and developed their own unique cultures before coming across other advanced human groups. The Second Age saw a flowering of human civilisations across Antarean space, with societies scattered across the surface of the Antares nexus and free to grow and develop in different ways. It was an age of countless independent worlds and small federations and one where many of the Builder technologies that were to become so important in later ages were first discovered.
Transmat technology was perfected during this time and, most significantly, structural suspensor technology based on nanospore envelopment. The second collapse was the first to be recorded and appears to have taken place in a gradual fashion over a few hundred years. Gates near to the poles were the first to withdraw beneath the Antarean photosphere. Within a few decades it was obvious that the region of collapse was not confined to the poles but was steadily expanding. Worlds began to prepare for a repetition of the previous catastrophe. At this time it was unknown whether the collapse would not be a permanent one. Many small and marginal settlements were deliberately abandoned and humans took shelter upon the most established and better‐protected worlds.
The Second Collapse
This time the duration of total collapse during which no gates were functional was less than before, perhaps lasting only a few hundred years. As with the first collapse, regenerating gates re‐opened in locations that bore no relationship to their previous position on the Antarean surface. This was to be a consistent pattern over the following periods of collapse and regeneration.
The Third Age – The Lost Age
Of all the recorded ages of Antarean space the Third Age saw the lowest total re‐population of gates and it lasted for the shortest time before the onset of the third collapse. As such it is known as the Lost Ages. For many worlds of Antarean space it was entirely lost in so far as their own gates never opened at all! The Third Age was in many ways more a brief regeneration of a small number of gates during a longer period of isolation that would not end until Xon Times.
None the less, for a few worlds it offered vital centuries during which newly discovered technologies could be exchanged and contact re‐established. It was during this brief age that humans first encountered the aliens called the Vorl.
The Vorl had apparently been present in Antarean space in previous ages but it was not until the Third Age that contact was made with humans. Unlike most of the aliens of Antarean space the Vorl proved to be a voracious, intolerant and entirely predatory species.
Many human worlds were attacked and destroyed during the Vorl wars that dominated the Third Age and which only really came to an end with the third collapse. The collapse came unexpectedly and suddenly. Less that half the gates known to have existed during the previous age had regenerated by the time of the new collapse. Many important worlds of human space remained in isolation throughout the Third Age.
The Third Collapse
The third collapse came almost without warning, beginning with sporadic gate closures across the whole Antarean surface. Gates that normally extended into the upper reaches of the Antarean photosphere suddenly retreated back into its depths. Once it began, the process accelerated rapidly and within five years the entire nexus had collapsed. By the time that the next phase of regeneration began many human worlds had endured a period of isolation lasting thousands of years.
Despite this, advanced civilisations survived throughout the time of collapse, including on the populous worlds of Isori, Xon and Hamaze. Upon countless other planets it was a different story. At least half the human worlds of Antarean space were either depopulated entirely or reduced to the most primitive of states, reverting to a condition not unlike the pre‐historic cultures of Old Earth. Other worlds survived with some semblance of civilisation but with a low technological base that precluded space flight.
The Fourth Age – Xon Times
The Fourth Age began as had the Second with a gradual but steady regeneration of the Antares nexus. Once more the positions of gates on the Antarean surface would bear no resemblance to the distribution patterns of previous ages. Worlds found they suddenly had new neighbours. These were often previously undiscovered worlds and sometimes planets inhabited by aliens who were equally surprised to find humans on their Antarean doorstep.
The Fourth Age is known as the Xon Times because it saw the emergence of the first of the great Antarean Empires: the Empire of the Xon. The Xon were a NuHu dynasty of mixed ancestry that had come to dominate the planet during the period of isolation following the third collapse. Xon itself was a world with a history of advanced civilisation going back to the first age. During their isolation the people of Xon had developed a distinct culture of which the NuHu were the undisputed masters. The society of the Xon was rigidly segregated, highly ritualised, and ordered in the most strict and formal manner.
The Xon Emperors portrayed themselves as divine beings beyond the censure of ordinary humans. The Xon came to dominate human space and pretty much every human world either became part of their empire or subservient to it in some way. There were some exceptions; worlds whose gates remained hidden deep with the Antarean photosphere or who allied themselves with aliens for their own protection, but the dominant force remained the Xon.
After several thousand years of undisputed domination the Xon divided, at first into two rival Empires under different claimants to the Xon throne, and eventually into dozens of smaller Xon successor states each with its claim to rule. Wars between these states weakened the Xon grip upon Antarean space. Once more the Vorl would take advantage, attacking and destroying thousands of human worlds. Amongst those worlds was Xon itself, although by then the Xon Emperor wielded only a fraction of the power of his forebears.
The Fourth Collapse
The fourth collapse was brought about by eccentricities in the orbit of Obureg. Obureg is the tiny green star that circles Antares and performs an essential – still imperfectly understood – role in its functioning. At the end of Xon Times Obureg’s fierce light dimmed and was almost extinguished, the normal interaction between Obureg and the Antarean photosphere ceased, the photosphere of Antares itself gradually faded, and the gates slowly withdrew under the surface. Once more the worlds of Antarean space were separated and all travel between them ended.
The Fifth Age – The Warring Ages
The Fifth Age is often known in retrospect as the Warring Ages. Amongst the worlds of the newly emerged Ascendancy it became, rather poetically, the Time of a Thousand Suns. To the Isori it was simply the Dark Age. To others, the Fifth Age was a time of conflict and bloodshed, characterised by almost constant warfare and mass movements of human populations throughout Antarean space.
The gates of the Antares nexus emerged slowly following the fourth collapse and – as usual – scattered apparently at random over the Antarean surface. The long centuries of intervening isolation had reduced most human worlds to a state of barbarism. Many had entirely succumbed to natural disasters, disease or war, leaving nothing but ruin. The gradual reconstruction of Antarean gates meant that worlds were often free to explore and build up their colonies for centuries before they encountered other humans. It was a situation that produced thousands of small empires over several centuries.
These rivals found that years of isolation had wrought many changes upon human populations. They no longer spoke the same languages or shared common cultures. Many were surprised to discover that their new human neighbours did not appear entirely human at all. As usual the Isorians preserved a great deal of their civilisation intact.
However, the Isorian gate was especially late in regenerating. By the time the Isorians returned to Antarean space a state of perpetual warfare already prevailed. Wars between rival human societies raged across the nexus. The Vorl rampaged from pole to pole attacking every world they could find human, alien and – in many cases – other Vorl. Alliances were made and broken, empires rose and fell, and many human worlds were destroyed entirely. The Isorian Senatex retreated behind its defences.
Eventually several thousand worlds formed themselves into a federation they called the Ascendency – a region of the Antarean surface their fleets endeavoured to sweep clear of enemy shipping.
The Fifth Age was unique in so far as it is the only age during which the technological culture of Antarean space made no progress – in fact it probably declined overall. During previous ages worlds would trade and exchange knowledge, explore Antarean space and settle new colonies. Wars would be fought and rivals struggled for control of neighbouring gates, but overall this would do little to impede what had been millennia of progress.
The Fifth Collapse – Isorian Null-space?
The Fifth Age was a time of unremitting warfare that ended only when the next collapse came, putting an end to all enmity and rivalry, casting worlds once more into isolation. The occasion of the collapse is not well recorded but appears to have happened suddenly and without warning.
The fifth catastrophic collapse was long in duration and followed upon the anarchy and depredations of the Warring Ages. As a result the loss of advanced human and alien civilisations was unprecedented. This could have been exasperated by what the Isorian records refer to as a transdimensional shadow cast from their collapsing system gate; a cloud of null‐space that should never by rights exist within primary space‐time.
The Sixth Age – The Trisapient Age
The Isorians were the most advanced trans‐dimensional engineers in all of Antarean space (and remain so to this day). It is therefore likely the events they recorded also took place elsewhere without anyone becoming aware of the fact. The cloud of null‐space released into the system gradually spun into the star Isor itself, but its presence caused considerable disruption to nano‐based technologies producing widespread system failures that almost destroyed the Isorians. NuHu were personally affected and practically wiped out, unable to endure this period of dissonance within the nanospore environment. The Isorians were eventually able to overcome these difficulties, but the chances of other less technically able societies doing the same would have been slim. When the gates began to regenerate it was apparent that practically ninety per cent of previously inhabited worlds were now bereft of human population. Many others harboured only savages.
The Sixth Age began from a low base of worlds spread thinly over the Antarean surface. Amongst them were Isor, Alzantha and NuXon – three worlds that had endured the intervening collapse and survived relatively unscathed. Because their gates were widely separated in Antarean space they evolved as separate centres of civilisation and regeneration.
Very quickly there developed three large, very different empires: the Isorian Senatex, the NuXon Empire, and the Human League centred upon the Alzanthan Federation. These three civilisations expanded across Antarean space, encountering and often allying with alien worlds whilst at the same time making and breaking alliances with each other.
Wars between the three powers – or Trisapients – often set them against each other, but rarely did these interrupt the general progress of Antarean civilisation. The League, a looser alliance of worlds dominated but not controlled by the Alzanthans, suffered from intermittent wars within its boundaries, especially towards the end of the Sixth Age.
For thousands of years it was believed the Vorl had fallen extinct during the Antarean collapse following the Warring Ages, but towards the end of the Sixth Age they appeared again and began to attack human worlds indiscriminately. The Trisapients responded by locating and destroying a number of system‐side gates around Vorl planets.
The Sixth Collapse – the Trisapient Catastrophe
This was the first time actual gateways had been successfully attacked and destroyed using a dimensional‐manipulation technique developed by the Isorians. The unexpected consequences would be disastrous for all of Antarean space, triggering a cascading collapse of the gateway system and bringing a long period of prosperity and technical achievement to an end.
The most recent collapse between the Sixth and Seventh Ages (also known as the Trisapient Catastrophe) is generally reckoned as ending with the opening of the Isorian gate after approximately three thousand years of isolation. Other gates are known to have opened earlier.
The Seventh Age – The IMTel Age
As always it is impossible to know exactly when many gates regenerated. It was only when gates were discovered by spacefaring civilisations that their existence became known about. As with previous collapses many worlds were either depopulated or reduced to a primitive state during the interval.
The Isorians with their long tradition of endurance emerged not only unscathed but having made considerable advances in near‐light speed space drives. During the Trisapient Catastrophe they had explored and settled several star systems close to Isor in local space.
During this period of real‐space colonisation the Isorians developed a self‐perpetuating nanospore‐based data retrieval and analytic system, which they called Integrated Machine Intelligence or IMTel. This was initially developed as a way of spreading knowledge and expertise within the far‐flung Isorian colonies. When the Seventh Age began the IMTel spread throughout Antarean space, uniting the greater part of humanity into the PanHuman Concord.
Following a long real‐space war with an alien race called the Tsan Kiri, Isorian IMTel developed hybrid alien‐human characteristics that caused a schism within the PanHuman Concord. The Isorian portion became the Isorian Shard or Isorian Senatex.
The Seventh Age c.1300
Today most panhuman worlds belong to one or other of these hugely powerful IMTel societies. It is now more than thirteen hundred years since the beginning of the Seventh Age and Antares is once again densely packed with gateways leading to millions of worlds. However, even today fresh gateways continue to emerge from the photosphere leading to trans‐dimensional tunnels and worlds both ancient and entirely unexplored.
Thousands of human worlds of ages past have still not been rediscovered, including some of the most prosperous Sixth Age worlds: Alzantha, Jarain and KayTen. Perhaps their gates opened millennia ago and the planets they once led to are no longer home to people capable of space flight. Explorers might discover them one day, though it is impossible to be sure. Other gates no doubt remain closed whilst the great transdimensional engine that is Antares slowly rethreads and rebuilds the millions of trans‐dimensional tunnels that comprise the Gates of Antares.