Space Opera Universe
"Space Opera Universe" refers to a parallel reality conforming to a role-playing campaign run by Crack of Doom, apparently in a number of universes, including the Dark Sentinels Universe, before and during the early years of that superhero organization. The specific universe referred to by the term would technically be the one first visited by System Four in the course of its investigation of an accelerated entropy phenomenon circa 1990, and revisited two years later. However, the term is often broadly applied to universes of substantially similar characteristics and timeline, especially the one repeatedly visited by members of the Dark Sentinels between 1990 and 2010 (local time) to facilitate technology exchange and other collaboration with the Höhenschar Reich.
The Space Opera Universe is set in the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way galaxy tens of thousands of years in the future of modern Earth. While human-dominated culture is established across thousands of worlds, it has progressed and collapsed many times over the centuries. No comprehensive history exists, though substantial elements of culture have endured from the long-lost Old Earth.
The United Systems Federation (“USF” or “Federation) is the largest interstellar nation by physical volume, and is more-or-less central to currently known space. It is surrounded on its spinward side by a number of other predominantly human nations, such as the Höhenschar Empire, Unified People’s Directorate (“UPD”), and the Imperium, amid substantial friction. To trailward it somewhat more peacefully borders various non-human nations, such as the Arrhraggln Confederation.
Humans are currently the most numerous intelligent species in known space. While the racial distinctions of Old Earth have largely been muted by interbreeding, new races have emerged owing to radiochemically induced mutations, and likely implementations of genetic engineering, coupled with long periods of isolation. Terran-derived plant and animal species are likewise ubiquitous throughout space.
Some also debate whether Earth-like species may have developed on other worlds prior to Old Earth's development of space travel, pursuant to theories of Panspermia. The existence of significant populations, and even nations, of intelligent species with obvious kinship to Terrestrial non-sapients (e.g., the canine Ruwaar and ursoid Arrhraggln) are alternatively explained by such theories, or by active dispersal and “uplift” by intelligent races now believed extinct.
All such intelligent species are technically outnumbered by the life form generally known as the “Bugs”. These horse-sized arthropod creatures, who make liberal use of cybernetic enhancement, have been found across much of the Milky Way galaxy since before the dawn of human civilization on Old Earth, spending periods of sometimes thousands of years in a state of dormancy and seeming non- or limited sapience. Periodically a bug world (or more frequently many multiple worlds) will “swarm”. Not only do they become dramatically more active, and multiply on an enormous scale, but they construct faster-than-light space craft and weapons of mass destruction, with which they destroy all other species they encounter until they lapse into dormancy again.
The last such “swarm” was apparently sufficient to reduce all intelligent species in known space to primitive anarchies, from which it took centuries to rebuild (a period of time known as the “interregnum”). Fragmentary historical accounts indicate that there have been multiple bug swarms of varying severity stretching back many millennia. The few dozen bug-inhabited worlds scattered across known space are typically quarantined, and visited sparingly by researchers, for fear of triggering even a limited swarm.
Technology in the Space Opera Universe is spottily advanced. Faster-than-light starships travel at speeds up to tens of light-years per day, such that developed worlds are generally only a few days apart, though travel between core systems and the fringes of a major nation might take a month or more. “Subspace” technology permits faster-then-light video and data transfer, though this is not quite instantaneous, since maximum subspace range is only a few light-years, and chains of relay stations link major worlds. Latency can therefore extend up to several minutes, making real-time communications impractical over the longest connections.
Local technologies vary considerably in advancement, leaving great mercantile opportunities for those interested in hustling to help bring locally lagging economies up to date, or looking to exploit minor technical advantages in places where they are still competitive.
Artificial intelligence somewhat lags what might be projected from a 21st century Terran perspective. Large starship or industrial computers are believed to possess borderline sentience, limited by their function and perspective. True machine sentience remains elusive, with the Dark Fold's controlling Great Mother machine intelligence being an apparent example whose designers have been gone for likely thousands of years. Höhenschar researchers have been rumored to have achieved machine sentience but, depending on the rumors, have either kept is secret for intelligence use, or have outright suppressed it for reasons of their idiosyncratic ethics.
Artificial gravity and contragravity technology exists, in fairly wide use, but requires substantial power expenditure, such that wheeled and tracked vehicles, and conventional aircraft, remain in productive use. Nothing along the lines of "force field" technology is known, though applied gravitics can achieve some similar effects.
Psychic powers, though rare, are known to exist and are both studied and utilized. Telepathy is common enough for technologies to exist for obstructing it (though probably less common than the marketers of those technologies would prefer consumers to believe).