In the neighborhood of Sol, there exists about one stellar system for every 320 cubic light-years of space.
About one in 25 stellar systems will include at least one habitable world; that is, a planet or other large body which supports a complex ecology, capable to giving rise to tool-using sentient life and eventually a high-technology civilization. On the other hand, very few stellar systems will include more than one habitable world. Thus, there exists about one habitable world for every 8,000 cubic light-years of space. The average distance between habitable worlds is on the order of 20-25 light-years.
At any given time, about one in 500 habitable worlds will support a high-technology civilization, capable of (e.g.) radio astronomy, nuclear power, and space flight. Thus, there exists about one high-technology civilization for every 4 million cubic light-years of space. The average distance between the home-worlds of high-technology civilizations is on the order of 160-200 light-years.
Left to its own devices, high-technology civilization is almost invariably self-destructive. It “burns out” within a negligible amount of time on the galactic scale (no more than a few centuries). The steady state of one such culture per 500 habitable worlds assumes that a higher culture intervenes in at least some of these cases. In the neighborhood of Sol, that higher culture is an interstellar civilization called the Khedai Hegemony.
The Khedai Hegemony is relatively old as such cultures go. It has been active on the galactic stage for about eight million years. Its current center is in a star system about 560 light-years from Earth, in the general direction of Sagittarius. It controls a rough sphere with a radius between 550 and 600 light-years, which includes roughly 2.5 million stellar systems, 100,000 habitable worlds, and 200 high-technology civilizations. Earth is on the outer frontier of the Hegemony’s sphere of influence, its immediate vicinity only lightly explored, with wilderness space beyond.
The Hegemony intervenes to annex a new high-technology civilization once every 25,000 years, on the average. All member species in the Hegemony normally go through the same process of inclusion, development, and decline:
- Client Species: A species under the direct rule of the Hegemony, with limited autonomy. The khedai apply a long selection process, guiding the biological and cultural evolution of the clients, rendering them “fit” for long-term survival on the galactic stage. The participation of client species in Hegemony institutions is strictly limited, and they are normally not permitted significant colonial expansion. Most client species remain under direct rule between 20,000 and 50,000 years, depending on how long it takes for the khedai to be satisfied with their progress.
- Member Species: A mature member-state within the Hegemony. Member states are permitted to govern their own affairs, subject to the strictures of Hegemony law (the so-called Praxis). On the average, this phase lasts about four to six million years.
- Active Member Species: A few particularly dynamic species become active members of the Hegemony. Most of the Hegemony’s exploration, colonization, commerce, and Praxis enforcement are carried out by the active member species, under the supervision of the khedai. Such species are considered junior partners in the Hegemony, and have high social status. Active species normally remain in that status for no more than a million years or so, before becoming passive members.
- Passive Member Species: Most member species within the Hegemony are quiet and insular, remaining monumentally stable over millions of years. Even active members of the Hegemony tend to “settle down” after a while, entering this status. Passive member species colonize few new worlds, travel very little, and leave commerce and diplomacy to others. They remain full members of the Hegemony, with all the rights and privileges of that status, but they keep to themselves and are rarely seen outside their own spheres.
- Retired Species: A species that no longer interacts with its colleagues to any significant degree, and is in sharp demographic decline. All member species of the Hegemony enter this stage of development at some point, although the reasons for this are not clear to “young” client species such as humanity. This phase normally lasts only a few thousand years, and ends in species extinction.
© 2016 Jon F. Zeigler