A Family Affair
Even though the star cluster is called “The Nine Sisters,” there are only two main star systems in the old Star Empire – the worlds of the Torch, and the worlds of the Jewel. Even though both systems have plenty of planets, moons, and other celestial bodies, their cultures diverged significantly.
The Jewel: A Sprawl
The worlds of the Jewel are plentiful, and filled with a sprawl of humans, near-humans, and aliens that successfully intermingled for thousands of years, enjoying open borders and well-established trade routes and a robust Jumpgate system. The Capitol acts as a major Jumpgate hub, while other planetary systems exchange fewer Jumpgate paths between them, but few planetary bodies are truly isolated. The Jewel enjoyed a robust, freewheeling expansion period that came to an abrupt end when a surprise attack from out of the system destroyed a swath of Capitol. The attackers disappeared as fast as they appeared, but an indelible mark was left on the psyche of the Jewel’s culture and the aftermath caused a cultural shock that changed the starmap forever.
The Torch: Trapped By Hubris
The empire in the Torch experienced a different fate. An early terraforming disaster caused a cloud of debris and radiation that polluted the orbit of the Jumpgate hub when it destroyed the planet in that orbit. The disaster stranded the human settlements on the only habitable planet at the time, whose Jumpgate only leads to an empty orbit at the edge of the system. The planets in the Landfall orbit (Landfall and its four moons, and two smaller planetesimals at LaGrange points L4 and L5) are the only habitable spaces the empire can reach. With overcrowding on the main planet and a toxic combination of class inequality and genetic drift affecting the population, the human empire of the Torch is running out of room to expand, with no pressure-release valve in sight.