The 200 years between the fall of The Tyrant (Emperor Ming) and the rise of the Galactic Administration to its current all pervasive status saw large changes in the structure and dispersal of human societies.

The fall of Ming released an explosion of creativity which lead to a new, if short lived, blossoming of science and the arts. Politically the situation was very fluid with the complete breakdown of central authority, and the balkanisation of the old duchies. Shifting alliances, border wars and self-proclaimed empires - each smaller than the last - sprang up all over the galaxy.

Starting a few years before the end of the Ming rule Earth had waged a struggle against the remnants of the Martian Empire, who used a number of techniques, including time travel and hiding bases in Hilbert space. This struggle intensified after Ming's demise, and it was against this background that what became known as the 'Constant Catastrophe' struck.

The techniques of manipulating time and space, used by both sides, precipitated the crisis as Earth discovered once again, to its cost, that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

What happened was that the bleeding of temporal and Hilbert energy into normal space caused a subtle shift in the values of the universal constants that govern the physical laws of the universe. Fortunately for life, it was an infinitesimal shift. A little more and all life - indeed the very existence of matter - would have been rendered impossible.

But the shift did have an impact on the laws of physics. The hyperspace links on which interstellar travel depended were rendered inoperable. Interstellar commerce became impossible because of the transit times in normal space. The result was varied, but there was mass starvation on some worlds, and a general decline in technological standards. Colonies reverted to more primitive ways of working - ways that were sustainable from local resources.

It was fortunate that the same shift in the universal constants also destroyed the capacity of the Martians to bring war into the home system. As far as is known they are currently confined to their bases out on the rim of the galaxy.

It is only recently that new theories and new devices that permit the operation of modified hyperspace links have become available. Until recently, the link facilities were only available to military and exploratory forces of Earth, but they are now open to commerce, and more star systems are being linked up all the time.

The Galactic Administration used the Interregnum to consolidate its hold over the Solar System, taking charge of the inevitable rationing, and gradually assuming more and more functions of the old Ming state. It remains to be seen whether, with the opening up of interstellar commerce again, the bureaucracy will be able to retain its grip on society.