A large portion of the 21st century is nothing more than an age of myth and legend to modern historians in 2300, due to what has become known as Twilight. The exact events of Twilight are unknown, but some facts are evident. There was a general, yet limited, nuclear exchange that occurred sometime in the period 2020–2030, with heavy damage occurring in much of Europe, Russia, North America, China and India. France managed to stay out of the majority of the conflicts, securing oil supplies in North Africa and effectively sealing its borders. With the advent of the digital age all important data was online by the end of the second decade of the 21st century, and creating new paper books and records was nearly a lost art. Cyberwar, electro-magnetic pulses, and the physical destruction of network hardware and infrastructure. This destroyed data even prior to the start of Twilight, and knocked back human technological, social, and economic development around much of the globe. Little is known of the exact history of this time, and the survivors seemed to have little interest in recording events for posterity.
The causes of the nuclear exchange are a mystery, although there is apocryphal evidence to suggest that it may have included terrorist incidents that caught several countries by surprise and possibly led to a more general military nuclear exchange. Records from this time are effectively non-existent and even the French, who maintained some semblance of records throughout the period, are silent on the issue of who started the war.
Twilight included a world-wide influenza epidemic and several other pandemics, especially in the years following the nuclear exchange. There is considerable evidence that at least some of these plagues originated in the bio-weapons labs or one or more of the belligerent nations. Years of mass famines followed due to the destruction of national economies, the breakdown of world-wide shipping, and temporary climate change effects. In many ways, the nuclear exchange itself was far from the worst event of Twilight. However, all of the other events flowed naturally from the use of weapons of mass destruction.
The destruction of the world’s transportation network made it difficult for many countries to recover, as for a time they lacked the heavy industry to rebuild the ships. Only Japan retained a viable merchant fleet, and it dominated world trade in the immediate postwar years.
An age of recovery is not necessarily an age of unrelieved famine and despair. During recovery, populations worked hard, building for themselves and for their children. In the 2050’s, America was still recovering from its three-way civil war, Russia was waging a low-key war with Germany, India and China had virtually disintegrated and most nations had undergone some sort of fragmentation into smaller areas that were easier to control without advanced communications.
The French Peace
Into the power vacuum which followed Twilight there stepped the only Western nation that had not been ruined by the fighting That nation was France. In 2051, France began launching a constellation of small communications satellites and earth observer satellites. They also regained control of the remaining geosynchronous communications satellites and NASA’s deep space telescope. While all of this activity was going on overhead, France was making overtures to the other nations, offering access to the communications and weather satellite arrays in exchange for cooperation and renewed trade. With its numerous and far-flung territories on the African continent and in the Pacific, France reestablished a commercial interest in peaceful world trade and calm international relations. French power was projected to resolve disputes among quarreling nations, but French national policy was not overtly imperialistic. By 2060, the French were politically involved in virtually every region in the world, and French military forces imposed peace in those regions, albeit sometimes a very uneasy one. This became known as the French Peace.
With the destruction of the transportation infrastructure during the years of Twilight, the demand for petroleum products plummeted and the nation-states turned towards more readily-available sources of fuel, usually natural gas or, increasingly, hydrogen. At the same time, oil was still necessary for military uses and heavy transportation, what little there was. During the establishment of the French Peace, France, along with Britain and fragments of other European nations, seized control of the Arab peninsula, deposing what was left of the Saud dynasty. This gave them control of the vast oilfields but bought them decades of terrorist activity until the oilfields were exhausted in the mid 2100s.
Space and the Melbourne Accords
France continued to lead the return to space in the 2060’s with manned missions By the end of the century, near-Earth orbit was cluttered with solar power satellites and orbital factories. The conquest of space naturally produced disputes concerning territoriality, access to orbits, and the appropriateness of specific targets in conflicts A continuing international discussion culminated in a series of treaties and agreements collectively known as the Melbourne Accords (first signed at Melbourne, Australia in 2099). The Melbourne Accords bound signatories to its provisions only with respect to other signatories Many smaller nations signed immediately; holdouts among the major powers included France, Bavaria, Britain, Azania (all four cooperating as the European Space Agency), and Canton. Canton signed in 2108 while the ESA did not sign until 2163
The Melbourne Accords had three major provisions: certain orbits around Earth were demilitarized, power satellites properly operated and certified were classified as civilian targets (rather than military targets) and other worlds (at that time the Moon, Mars, Mercury and the Jovian satellites) were declared open to colonization by all nations, with limits being placed on such colonization. The Melbourne Accords bound signatories to its provisions only with respect to other signatories. Many smaller nations signed immediately; holdouts among the major powers included the ESA (France, Bavaria, Britain and Azania, the successor to South Africa) and Canton. Canton signed in 2108 while the ESA did not sign until 2163.