Contrary to what many had expected only a few decades earlier, humanity was doing very well in the mid-21st century: While global tensions never completely ceased and commercial interests continued to dominate politics, strong economic ties across national borders caused most of the large remaining conflicts to be resolved peacefully.
In this environment, great progress in areas like medicine, energy, technology and agriculture was achieved, leading to an unprecedented level of global wealth. The world population had not grown for quite some time and remained stable at around 9 billion people. All in all there was little reason for colonizing space.
Yet just at this time, the planet killer was discovered: An asteroid that would hit the Earth 100 years later and destroy the planet including all life on it.
The general feeling of panic caused by the announcement was brief. After all, the majority of the world’s population would not live to see the impact. Yet all over the world, work commenced on a plan B for humanity. Or better: For a select few elites and lucky individuals.
While the world’s most powerful nations viewed the escape from Earth as a logical extension to their territorial claims and hoped to live on in the new worlds, the large multinational corporations saw it as a welcome opportunity to rake in massive profits: The construction of the generation ships that would ferry a few hundred thousand people to the exoplanets several centuries away would soon become the largest industrial project in human history and reach an unimaginable global scale.
Despite a strong drive on part of the elites that could afford a seat on board of one of the ships, it quickly became apparent that no country and no corporation could tackle this task alone. Research and development, planning, supply chains and production, personnel and materials: All of this had to be coordinated between thousands of parties. This need for coordination fueled the development of A.P.E.X., the “Advanced system for the facilitation of Production and Exchange for the eXodus of mankind”, a central information and trading system which made global cooperation in production, transport and trade of materials as fast and easy as never before.
After the generation ships had left orbit and received the final signals from earth, the passengers continued to engage in intensive research and development to increase their chances of reaching their destination, but also to prepare for the challenges they would face in the new worlds. A.P.E.X. was of use during this phase as well, mostly to share blueprints and scientific findings between the ships. Since different countries, corporations and other groups had sent their ships to different star systems, some messages took years to reach the whole fleet. Contact to some ships was lost completely. Despite such setbacks, some groundbreaking theoretical discoveries were made, among which was a viable theory for a propulsion system that would allow faster-than-light travel.
After the arrival it took many decades and great losses to gain a foothold on the new planets, but the settlers succeeded in establishing at least ten stable colonies, some of which had grown large enough to realize the technological discoveries they had made during their travels. With the development of the first working tunnel drive the colonies opened a new chapter in human history: Once bound to a single planet, mankind not only made several new worlds their home, but they were also able to travel between them at will.
And humans did, what they had always done: They started to trade again.
APEX is an abbreviation and stands for “Advanced system for the facilitation of Production and Exchange for the eXodus of mankind”.
The technical predecessor to APEX was the bidding system installed by the Exodus Council to organize the allocation of surveyed systems in the new worlds to interested parties. Consequently, all factions were participants in the system and for practical reasons, it evolved over time to support a large range of commercial applications well beyond its original purpose. As such, it was renamed to APEX and became the de facto standard platform for the exchange of resources, information and currencies among most of the world’s large corporations.
Today APEX hosts a plentitude of subsystems. One of the most commonly used modules is its integrated trading platform. It allows 24/7 access to all participating commodity and currency exchanges in the new worlds. The powerful fleet management subsystem allows a company to track all the activities of its ships, even including positions during faster-than-light travel. Robust contract and communication systems allow for instant and universal transactions between all system users and a wide range of databases provide high-quality information about anything ranging from systems over planets to commercial entities.
Today, even the smallest company that wants to participate in trade and commerce essentially has to do so through APEX. To access APEX one requires a so-called console and the network itself is accessible to anyone with a valid console licence. These need to be purchased for any registered company and usually have to be renewed every 30 days using a APEX Licence Keys.
At the time the planet-killer was discovered, early colonization efforts on Mars had just started to bear fruit. Not quite self-sustaining yet, the young colony had to decide whether to focus on making Mars habitable, accepting the risk of unknown consequences caused by a total destruction of earth, or to divert resources to the exodus project. The population was divided over the topic and eventually, the Antares Initiative split off to pursue a cost-effective way to reach the new homeworlds. Their technology is very basic and makes use of whatever was available on Mars at the time. They were among the first to leave and did so with many small, autonomous ships. Due to their sub-standard propulsion systems they only arrived very late in the colonies.
Castillo-Ito Mercantile is the result of a merger between the Ito Robotics Corporation, a world leader in robotics and automation technology, and the Castillo Group, an international holding company dealing in just about everything including minerals, energy, transport and financial products. Combined, the company’s net worth easily surpases that of most smaller European countries combined. They entered the exodus project early on and had a clear strategy in mind from the get-go. Carefully selecting promising planets in strategic locations, they assembled a fleet of reliable generation ships, all of which successfully made the trip to and landfall on planets in 4 neighboring systems. With access to many crucial resources, they plan on fueling their ambitions plans to become a major force in the new worlds.
After initial attempts on part of various nation-states to get programs to build generation ships off the ground, it quickly became apparent that private entities were a lot faster in achieving this goal. In fear of losing control over the process, well-connected politicians and other individuals of influence used their networks to force any company that planned on leaving for the new worlds to join the newly founded Exodus Council which oversaw the allocation of surveyed systems to interested parties. The original bidding system designed for this purpose later turned into the omnipresent APEX system used for everything related to transnational and later transplanetary trade and commerce. As the Exodus Council made money with more or less every transaction related to the exodus project, they came to enormous financial resources. Combined with the intelligence at their disposal they were able to launch generation ships themselves. They were by far the fastest and most advanced models sent out and despite leaving relatively late, were among the first to reach the new systems. They picked a single well-located star system along very likely trade routes to all other factions to found their colony. Instead of colonizing the system's planets they transformed their colony ships into one big space station known as Cibola Station.
NEO Charter Exploration
NCE started out as one of the first space-based mining corporations. A charter granted by a European monarchy allowed them to exploit the name-giving near-earth objects between Earth and the Asteroid Belt. When the news of the exodus project broke, they already had the necessary infrastructure in place to start construction of a large generation ship right away. For this purpose, they captured a small asteroid, hollowed it out and used the excavated minerals to manufacture most required systems in place. All of this happened in relative independence of Earth, but NCE still opted for participation in the APEX system to gain access to funds and components that were only available on Earth. After their arrival in a mineral-rich star system, they parked the generation ship on an orbit around one planet and quickly sent smaller ships to make landfall on a second one.
Before the exodus, South America had become the breadbasket of the world and the countries and corporations of the continent had their mind set on becoming the same in the new worlds. Coordinated by the Insitor Bank, a cooperative owned and controlled mostly by agricultural and bio-tech companies, they opted for a monolithic approach, building a single huge, completely self-sufficient generation ship with more greenhouse and livestock capacity than any other design pursued by other factions. To satisfy the enormous need for resources, they pushed their governments to nationalize most of the private mining companies. Their colonization target was a very fertile planet they christened Promitor.