The Scream and the Silence Edit
In 2665, a massive wave of metadimensional energy washed over human space. Spike drive crafts in metaspace were annihilated instantly, and in the blink of an eye, every psychic in human space immediately suffered the consequences of such a catastrophic psychic burnout. The majority died instantaneously, with the handful that remained raving in the grip of incurable madness.
Later reconstruction of the incident placed the origin of this 'Scream' somewhere in the Veil Nebula, but no records exist of any successful investigation. Too much collapsed too quickly for any sort of exploratory expedition to be sent, and any effort by a ship to venture into unmapped space has resulted in their disappearance. Humanity was suddenly stripped of every psychic resource it had available. Without living mentors, new generations of psychics could not be trained without recreating the entire laborious research corpus of the now erased Psychic Authority. It would take generations to mold functional mentors out of the untrained mass of native psychics.
There was no chance of trying to recreate the necessary training psychics had learned for years prior, given the short amount of time within the scream elapsed. The Jump Gates had died, and the core worlds of human space collapsed with them. Countless colonies that relied on the bulk produce of agricultural worlds were left starving within months, their shipyards overrun by the desperate and the hungry in the crazed, sporatic and convulsive conflicts over the last few remaining spike drive ships. There was no possible way to feed a world of millions with the limited freight capacity of spike drive ships; only the Jump Gates and their massive slowboat freighters could move such masses of cargo, and the slowboats were too big to be retrofitted with spike drives- even if they could have crossed the stars quickly enough to make a difference.
Echoes of the disaster rippled outward. The frontier regions were still too poor and primitive to afford Jump Gates, so the worlds that remained on the edge of human space were forced to supply their own population with food and other basic necessities. Some of these worlds relied on small shipments of vital supplies from the core worlds. These luckless planets died when their motherworlds perished. Others were more self-reliant, but few of these had the necessary resources to build spike drive ships of their own. Those few worlds that were able to construct the ships struggled as their psitech became useless and their shipments of vital core world components stopped. Human space had collapsed into a welter of isolated worlds. Interstellar travel fell to the handful of spike drive ships that could be kept running on scavenged components and half-derelict spaceyards. The Silence had begun.
The Silence Ends Edit
For almost six hundred years, humanity has been slowly recovering from the consequences of the Scream. Many frontier worlds have collapsed into barbarism and balkanized warfare. These 'lost worlds' have sufficient resources to support both agriculture and life, but lack the fossil fuels or the radioactives necessary to bootstrap modern technology. Some have even forgotten their origins or have had them obscured in the haze of legend and myth.
Other worlds have been more fortunate. These planets have been lucky enough to have the resources necessary to sustain a rough and ready level of technology. Their fusion plants are bulkier than the pre-tech that had existed before the Scream, their spike drive engines are slower and more unstable, and the medical technology is working well if it can manage to give the population even a hundred years of good health before death claims them. Still, these worlds have managed to devise methods for doing without the esoteric disciplines of the psychic fabricators and are still managing to slowly ramp up their production of spike drive ships as their techniques improve. This 'post-tech' may be inferior to it's pre-tech counterpart, but after the Silence it can be replicated in a way that pre-tech cannot.
A few worlds have even managed to rediscover the basic techniques of psychic mentorship. The fabulously subtle and sophisticated disciplines necessary for recreating the old pretech manufactories are still long-lost, but these new academies are at least able to teach their students how to channel their powers in relatively safe and useful ways. Some worlds guard these secrets jealously, but others make substantial profit out of training foreign psychics sent by neighboring worlds. A few academies operate without any governmental supervision at all, willingly teaching their secrets to anyone with the money or a compatible ideology. Stellar domains have begun to form around the most powerful worlds. Projecting more than tens of thousands of troops to a neighboring world is far beyond the abilities of most planets, so these domains tend to be loose confederacies of like-minded worlds, or even a sparsely populated colony held under the ruthless control of a vastly larger and more powerful neighbor. Most of these domains are held together by a glue of ideology and trade benefits. The glue however, is not staying, as border skirmishes are becoming more common between rival space empires.
The alien neighbors of humanity have not been idle during the Silence. The Scream appears to have affected psychically-active races as badly as it did the humans, but those species that were not so vulnerable have expanded into human space at several points on the frontier. Some have even gone so far as to seize human worlds for their own.
Now, in the year 3200, the fragile web of interstellar commerce and exploration has finally been reformed. However, countless worlds still remain locked in the ever enroaching darkness of the Silence, awaiting the bold merchants or reckless explorers willing to return to them the warm embrace of interstellar humanity.