When I started to write Empire of Dust I didn’t really know much about my setting. I didn’t build my universe first and then people is and dream up stories. The people came first, and along with them a predicament.
A woman is on the run from a corrupt and dangerous ex-lover.
A man who failed once is given a second chance.
A cult leader wants to lead his followers to a place where they can make a fresh start.
An official of a huge corporation sees a way of benefiting the company and advancing himself, and isn’t too bothered who he has to step on to achieve his aims.
Those themes could fit into almost any setting: Al Capone era America; the South Sea Bubble; present day Delhi; the English Civil War.
I chose to set my story in outer space, five hundred years in the future. Then I had to start building not just one world, but several. Central to everything are the psi-techs, implant enhanced telepaths with a diverse array of other ‘mind’ skills from navigation to manipulating machinery telekinetically.
Cara (a Telepath) and Ben (a Navigator) live in a future in which mankind has learned to travel through the Folds via jump gates. Commerce is king. Megacorporations such as Alphacorp and the Trust are more powerful than any one planetary government, even that of Earth, which is now ruled by the Five Power Alliance. The megacorps race each other to gobble up resources across the galaxy, seeding and controlling new settlements.
Platinum is the vital catalyst required for every jump into and out of foldspace. With each jump a small but significant amount of platinum is lost. Scientists and engineers are working hard to fix the problem, but until then platinum is vital to the operation of interstellar trade. And it’s rare. Super-rare. (All the platinum ever mined throughout the history of our world amounts to less than 25 cubic feet!)
To keep the jump gates open and trade running, the megacorps are constantly searching for more and more platinum. It’s a cut-throat business, sometimes literally. A platinum find can make you rich beyond your wildest dreams – as long as you can stay alive long enough to collect on it.
So that’s the basic set up. Over the next few blogs I’ll be going into the details of how everything fits together in my universe, starting today with the power structure.
The Five Power Alliance
When an incoming meteor broke up and simultaneously destroyed the southern USA and large parts of China/Australasia, the breakdown of those countries (and many others that had not been directly struck due to the catastrophic rise in sea levels and dust in the atmosphere) in the resulting Meteorite Winter that lasted for decades a new power structure arose. The Five Power Alliance became a global government consisting of Europe, Africa, Soumerica (led by Brazil), Western Asia and Sino-Russia. Though the megacorps have an economy that outstrips that of Earth, mankind’s mother planet is still the largest centre of human population in the galaxy.
How did the megacorporations become so powerful in the first place? You only need to look at what’s happening in the world now to see the seeds that might grow into something closely akin to the megacorps in my books. The changing rights of corporations in the USA is fascinating. Extrapolate from there. The corporations which jumped on the space bandwagon early (before the impact) made enormous profits, firstly from research and then when colonies were established, from exploration and trade. In 2210 the Tanaki Dominion Trust (later to be known simply as The Trust) financed the first out-of-system gate between Earth and Chenon (settled by a slower-than-light mission). They used Chenon as a staging post for gate expansion and colony exploration. There has always been intense rivalry between megacorporations, especially in terms of the number of colonies. Takeovers still abound and jockeying for position is rife. The Trust, Arquavisa, Alphacorp, Ramsay-Shorre, Eastin-Heigle etc. play dirty tricks and use whatever advantages they can to establish and keep their position. All megacorporations and aspiring corporations rely on psi-techs, not only in space, but on Earth and in the colonies as well. Each megacorp has its own psi-tech training facility.
The Trust’s headquarters are just north of Durban in South Africa, one of the most prosperous nations on Earth with its virtual monopoly on Earth’s remaining platinum resources. The Trust’s board of directors is led by Chair and CEO John Hunt, but Victoria (Tori) Le Bon is a rising star. The sub-sections of the Trust are located off-planet, all in different, but well-established colonies. Colony Operations is located on Chenon.
Just a whisker behind the Trust in terms of wealth and influence (and always trying to catch up) Alphacorp runs all its operations from Earth (though they have offices on many colonies). Headquarters is based in Sandnomore in the Saharan Rainforest. CEO and chair of the Board is Akiko Yamada. Alphacorp’s Special Ops unit (run by Ari van Balaiden) is situated in York, England.
Next time: The Psi-Techs.