Two technological developments allowed humanity to become the dominant power in the galaxy: benevolent artificial intelligences and the blink drive. The AIs insinuated themselves into every aspect of human life and the drive allows a ship to cross the galaxy in just a few years. This spurned an exodus from Earth called The Golden Rush. Racing to stake claims on Earth-like worlds referred to as Golden Worlds, humanity spread among the stars with a speed unmatched by any previous race. This period of time was marked by conflict and chaos as various powers raced to carve out territory and grow their influence among the stars.
The Golden Rush lasted about a century. It was marked by unrestricted warfare and the use of weapons which marred the habitability of many potential worlds. The use of biological, nanotech and atomic weapons was common and many Golden Worlds were irrevocably damaged. There were countless battles over resources, ideology, and territory. By this time, the AIs had formed their own society calling itself The Collective. It performed a predictive analysis determining that if left in this chaotic state, humanity would fragment and eventually become extinct. They devised a plan to prevent this outcome.
No one knows who the First Sovereign was. All that is known is that they were chosen by the Collective. For decades the Collective had secretly been building and training a military force called the Protos. These cybernetic shock troops were the vanguard of the First Sovereign’s forces for the Unification Wars. Systematically they visited every inhabited world. To the various warlords, power brokers and leaders they brought a simple choice: subjugation or annihilation. The most powerful of the factions brokered deals and it was from these that the Houses of the Realm were formed. After only a few decades the Protos had managed to coalesce power and unite the disparate human colonies under one banner called the Realm.
The Collective then gave every House the technology used in the Unification Wars except the creation process for the Protos. Instead, they gave a second-generation design of soldier called the Augments. Less cybernetically and genetically enhanced, but easier to produce and with a more refined training regimen. The Houses set to bolstering their forces immediately. The timing could not have been more fortuitous because there was a danger which sought to end the Realm just as it had begun.
The Protos had a plan once the Realm government had come to power. They wanted to seize control while they still had a technological advantage and while all House forces were still depleted from the Unification Wars. In a terrible surprise attack the Protos assassinated the First Sovereign and seized control of Palantim, the capital world of the Realm. The fleets which had just managed to form an uneasy peace with the dozen remaining powers threatened in one act to undo the decades of struggle and effort which had just come before.
House Augments had just begun mobilizing and the Houses were now invested in this new government and fought to defend it. It was a close thing but over several brutal years of conflict the House forces managed to defeat the Protos and retake Palantim. If there could be said to be a silver lining to this bloodshed it was that the Augments had proved their prowess and loyalty. To the Houses and the Realm itself there could be no question of what the future of war would be.
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