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The Reverse

 

Millions of words have been written on why the Reverse took place. Wealth and luxury may finally have poisoned even the Orions, making them discontented and covetous. The Colonies continued to expand, but much more slowly as their sponsors on Rigel grew reluctant to fund such extravagant gestures. Minor differences in tariffs and trade-policy agreements escalalted to full-scale corporate warfare, even near and on Rigel. Paying taxes to Rigel and getting little in return, the Colonies formally broke all relations with Botchok and declared independence, drastically cutting Botchok's revenue. Tax rebellions had little practical effect as the links between Orion worlds depended primarily on trade, which continued in spite of political disturbances. Only a small corps of nostalgic idealists minded the change, but they were prominent in Botchok's most powerful circles, and they begrudged the loss of authority sorely.

The peak of the Reverse was the Time of the Three Emperors. The Botchok Planetary Congress had not been able to restore order or political supremacy using harsh laws and threat of military force-in fact, the ineffectiveness of such measures weakened the BPC's authority even further. Then, several powerful families on Botchok revolted, seeking more power and advocating the use of extreme force to end the Colonies' petty squabbles. The revolt was successful, and the families chose a monarch to save Orion space from its own successes. Under Boyor I, Botchok dispatched elements of the Orion Space Navy to bring disobedient worlds back within Rigel's fold. Doomed to failure, the effort just wasted lives and resources at the very heart of Orion space and disrupted trade at Rigel.

So turbulent was this time that the usually detailed Orion records all but disappeared, and only spotty, secondhand accounts of the era survive. Lasting approximately 400 years, the Reverse destroyed Orion wealth and made Orion expansion too costly and failure-ridden to pursue with prior vigour. Beset by pirates and shunned by peacable alien races, the far-flung Orion Colonies could not maintain the volume of pre-Reverse trade. Colonies began to be abandoned more often than they were replaced or re-established. Some simply ceased to trade, and were left behind in the Outer Dark to manage as best they could.

By Stardate -7/2155, the pride and the arrogance of the Three Emperors' time had long disappeared, and a chastened BPC quietly shifted its emphasis from governing to accounting. Published semi-regularly at 10 year intervals, the Orion Registry was the BPC's successful attempt to restore economic order by listing all the remaining Orion Colonies and their population, trade preferences, and other useful business data. Although compiling the First Registry was a major task and costly in terms of researchers lives, it proved useful and met universal acceptance. Order had been restored and Orion decline slowed. The Orion Registry is still produced by tradition. The 599th Orion Registry was released Stardate 50021.4.

This near-revival of the Orion economy ended bloodily and unnecessarily. As Orion space contracted, the pirates had grown in number beyond all counting as desperate Orions sought some way any way to better their lot in a dangerous time, and piracy, ever attractive to Orions, simply gained some additional allure. The loss of civil order made the pirates bold while the loss of profitable trade made them just as desperate as any dirt-side Orion. The Orion Registry was a godsend to them, showing them where to strike and where to avoid. They formed larger bands, regular pirate fleets, and they began to raid entire worlds instead of ships. The pitiful defence forces the Orion Colonies were able to raise could not guard every Orion world-there were too many pirates and too many hiding places, and far too few ships and men to be an effective deterrent.

Among the Orion Colonies, there was simply no stopping the massive raid of the Tellun system, though it lasted weeks and sacked one of the most productive worlds left to the Orions. The pirate ships outnumbered the defenders, and many Colony crews mutinied to return home, as if they could defend their own communities more effectively that way. When the pirates withdrew, the fear remained and the decline resumed in earnest.

It should be noted that approximate to the sack of the Tellun system, contact was made with the inhabitants of a far flung world the Orion pirate leader christened Rasa'ul, 'Furnace' in High Orion. Rasa'ul is better known as 40 Eridani to Terran astronomers-Vulcan to the layman. As is now known, the Orion pirates were the first alien contact for the Vulcans, and it began quite bloodily when the pirates invited the leaders of the many nations that still existed in that age to a meeting. The resulting bombardment of the meeting site killed all of the major Vulcan leaders, save for Surak, who had only recently been making his concept of C'thia (tr: Old High Vulcan, 'reality-truth') known. In time, after the pirates were defeated at extreme cost, Surak's philosophy would unite Vulcan. But, the prolonged hostility with the Orion pirates provided the impetus for that unification.

About a thousand years before the present, Orion space had shrunk to less than its size during the New Days. Although many worlds had high Orion populations, only those core worlds closest to Rigel remained even loosely federated and cognizant of the BPC. The others had been lost (occasionally depopulated), forgotten, and left to fend for themselves. Traffic at Rigel ebbed; the Outer Dark came nearer each year.