The Tylium Age
Colonial industry and population across all Twelve Colonies had reached critical mass in the second mid-century BU (~150 BU); industrial strength was now growing ever faster and faster, fed by the demands of a rapidly expanding population base (estimated at between ten and twenty billion across all twelve worlds). It was in this climate of rapid growth that tylium was first purified on Libris to 99.999% purity as part of an attempt to satisfy scientific curiosity regarding the properties of this strange substance. While tylium had been officially listed as a mineral ore for centuries, little was known about it. There was some anecdotal evidence regarding its unusual properties, but despite numerous attempts, nobody had been able to purify the mineral to levels sufficient for study. The amounts produced in this attempt were vanishingly small, but it cannot be understated how important tylium is to the course of our civilization’s history; no single discovery, barring FTL, changed the fortunes of the Twelve Colonies as much.
The potential of tylium was more or less immediately realized after its purification; the first recorded tylium reaction occurred during an experiment in which the ore, seemingly inert to virtually all sorts of manipulation, was subjected to intense heat. The resulting detonation of 50 nanograms (or 0.0000000000005 grams) of purified material, essentially uncontrolled as the scientists had no idea what they were dealing with, left a small crater where the fusion smelter had been installed on the grounds of the Sanctuary of Apollo on Libris. Without going into the physics and chemistry of the reaction, it was quite obvious that a potential new energy source more powerful than the best fusion reactors had become available; fusion was now an obsolete technology.
From there, it took only ten years for practical applications for tylium to appear. Caprica, a world already starving for power to fuel its industrial growth and to keep its citizens warm, licensed the technology for tylium purification from Libris (rumored to be at an astronomical cost) and commissioned the first combined fusion/tylium reactor in 122 BU. Within three decades, fusion/tylium reactors had replaced virtually all the older straight fusion reactors on all Twelve Colonies.
Though tylium now provided an affordable, efficient, and relatively safe source of energy, the effects that it wrought on the economies of the Twelve Colonies happened in space and not on the surface. The construction of FTL drives almost seven hundred years after Colonization began was now vastly easier and cheaper; the industry and technology had been in place to support space travel on a larger scale for decades, but the problems of fuel costs and efficiency had dogged attempts to bring FTL to the masses. With the advent of tylium reactors, the remaining barrier to widespread space travel evaporated. Over the course of the remaining century (some six decades), tylium-powered FTL ships replaced the older fusion-based models. Commerce and trade between the Colonies exploded, and more and more people were taking to the stars firstly as tourists, then permanent settlers. The first fully functional and autonomous space habitat, the Achaea habitat, was completed in 72 BU. Industry was quick to exploit the new frontiers opened by tylium, and where industry went, the scientists also followed.
The expansion of the Twelve Colonies from planetary civilizations with extraterrestrial origins into a true pan-solar civilization sparked the establishment of the first interstellar defense forces by each of the Twelve Colonies. Caprican military dominance, but by no means hegemony, was established by 50 BU. While these forces were ostensibly for defense purposes, and were little more than glorified anti-piracy establishments, the growing power of the various Colonial Navies inevitably resulted in rising tensions. Skirmishes around the edges of each Colonial sphere of influence (the Colonies never attempted to delineate common borders along their frontiers, a totally useless exercise in space) were common, but rarely resulted in outright hostilities.
This period of relative peace and calm ended in 37 BU when Piscean forces launched a strike inside the Sagitarrian sphere of influence in an attempt to eliminate pirates operating out of the Thanatos Area on Sagittaron. Perceiving this as an impingement upon its sovereignty, the Sagitarrian fleet in turn launched a retaliatory strike. It was a grave error by the Sagitarrian Government in more than one way. The Piscean Navy, while not as large as the Caprican defense forces, was nevertheless formidable. They were the most well armed and trained of the twelve defense forces; even Caprica hesitated to begin a confrontation with Picon. The Piscean response to the Sagitarrian attack was savage and swift; the Sagitarrian Navy was swept from space. With control of the immediate Sagitarrian space in their hands, Picon shocked the Twelve Colonies by landing a ground force against light opposition. Sagittaron was subjugated in little more than a week, before the other Colonial Governments could even deliver official protests to the Pisceans for their apparent aggression.
The occupation of Sagittaron proved to a pivotal point in history. No longer were armed confrontations, wars, and occupations, previously inconceivable by Governments and the people alike, the province of those on the fringe of the political landscape and mad doomsdayers, but cold hard reality. Picon had opened Pandora’s Box by proving it was possible, and once the concept was introduced, there was no turning the clock back. Every Government now feared attack and occupation by the others, and an arms raced ensued. Meanwhile, Sagittaron remained under Picon military governance while the legitimate Government reconvened as guests of Caprica. Picon was viewed with universal discomfort, and became a pariah of the Colonies until the Articles of Colonization were signed.