As the 27th century draws to a close, six great Civilisations occupy a volume of space in the core of one of the spiral arms of the milky way galaxy.
The Earth Empire, inheritors of Humanity's homeworld, proud, progressively feudal and pious.
The Federation of Humanity, former revolutionaries, now the ultimate expression of objectivist capitalism.
The Co-Operative, the fringe element of the human race. anarchist groundbreakers, egalitarian glory hounds.
The Many. an arthropodic species with a religious drive to expand their civilisation throughout the universe
The Collegiate Assembly of the Tribe of Zebulon, a society of reptilian hominids for whom knowledge truly is power.
The Distributed Process, a non organic civilisation exploring the boundaries of space and thought.
Each is dependant on the exotic element ardanium for trade, travel and war. with ardanium a ship can bend spacetime and traverse the gradient thus created, defeating the circumstances limiting normal velocities to 300000 kilometers a second.
But ardanium is rare, and while each civilisation has many commercial and civilian ships, and maintains a modest military fleet, stockpiles are dwindling. less and less is found each year, despite concerted survey efforts on all fronts.
Now, though, the newly discovered world of Reddeluto looks set to change the balance. A shaky treaty, signed by all six Civilisations, prevents all out war, and limits exploitation of the planet's mineral resources to on-foot, old fashioned prospecting and the staking of claims. Because Reddeluto is thought to hold many, many times the amount of ardanium so far gathered by all six Civilisations combined.