The dark magic at the heart of the new world is engineering.
Life on Earth-that-was sounds so simple, to be honest. There was dirt and sky and water and things grew and then you ate them. I know it wasn’t exactly that simple but it was still the place we were supposed to live. The place we evolved for and adapted to so well we ruined it.
Space, on the other hand, is the ultimate in population control. The vacuum waits behind every mechanical error or human mistake. It shapes our society, our economics, our life expectancy. It clips our wings and trims our potential. An old video series used to say “space is the final frontier,” but I feel like that comparison is selling it a bit short. There’s no such thing as a regular-ass person grabbing their family, constructing some sort of spacecraft, popping off into the dark, and somehow making a living. It’s impossible unless you have the requisite years of training, study, and resources. And the only place that can really happen is at the Academy of Technicians and Engineers.
In the early days, there was no guarantee of know-how when you worked with a mechanic or engineer. You might be getting a long-tenured starship officer repairing, your boat or you could have some station owner’s half-wit cousin with the wrong-size wrench. Considering the life-or-death importance of the craft, the wandering masses welcomed the formation of the Union of Technicians with open arms. Fixing things became a lot more expensive but a lot less deadly. And out of the Union was born the Academy, by which the Union makes sure that the future of space travel remains firmly within its well-oiled machine.
The Academy is surprisingly democratic. Anyone can be intelligent (in theory), so restricting admission by birth or wealth might make room for a new subclass of self-taught engineers to emerge, watering down Union control. Instead, anyone can apply to the Academy at any education level. If you pass the test, you’re in, all expenses paid. But you best be ready to kiss your family and friends goodbye because once you’re in the pipeline, they own you.
Sometime between five and ten years later what comes out the other side are Union Technicians (generally referred to as Techs by laypeople), one of the most powerful non-military or political titles one can carry in the Dark. Any real Union Tech can be trusted to bring a ship from scrap to sailing with their own two hands, a feat that requires an astounding breadth and depth of knowledge across several different fields of science and engineering.
Piss one off and they can kill you quietly, poking holes in your ship you won’t know are there until it’s two months of drifting too late. Piss off the Union and watch the military and government, heavily dependent on their deals with the Techs to keep their boats and stations airtight, turn on you in a heartbeat.
They’re okay people, in my experience. Standoffish at best and arrogant and vindictive at worst. Whatever they go through at the Academy must be pretty… holistic. Sure they come out smart but they also seem a bit less human. I’m not saying they’re bionic or anything crazy I just think the intensity of that environment seems to have a pretty profound effect on their personalities. That said, it seems that most who pass the test decide it’s worth the risk. Techs are, almost without exception, rich (07.AOC). They are largely responsible for the survival of the human race and have made sure we pay them for the privilege.