Four centuries after humanity's ascension to the stars, the technological singularity had come and gone. Within the event horizon of infinite progress, the human condition was shattered, and within the crucible of its aftermath, reforged. No apocalypse came. No great destruction sprung from human hands, or from beyond the stars. Mankind realized the limits of its ability, and stepped away from the heart of the furnace, reinventing itself after hundreds of years of bloody conquest through space; a manifest destiny of a history soaked in war since before the invention of the written word, overturned in the space of a cultural heartbeat. In individual pursuit of whatever paradigm could elevate the human spirit beyond the limits of its primitive origins, the old empire became the world of philosopher kings, bending all the power of scientific accomplishment towards exploring the meaning of what it is to be, rather than to seize, consume and spread.
The first species in history to ever do so, at the height of mankind's turmoil, its fate became intertwined with the appearance of another. Not their first contact with alien intelligence, nor the last, but by far the most significant. The entities outside of the world that had long been known, hailing from the one that had only existed in mathematical theory, that came to be known as the Licht, and then all too quickly, the Collective. Formerly ghosts in the fabric of reality, they descended at the apex of human achievement to place their hand directly in the universe of the living, and within years, their representatives - their Armigers - swept explosively across the galaxy, exercising the reality of what it meant to 'complete' science with the purpose of creating the greatest order ever known.
After exploring every planet, surveying every star, cataloging every form of life, and passing judgement on every sapient species, twenty four civilizations remained, with all the galaxy as their garden and their life and history vaunted as the highest form of expression, forbidden from war by power well beyond their comprehension. Though most knew the Collective as their God, or at least the Armigers as their demons, mankind was something special. The one species the Collective ever actively cooperated with ostensibly as equals. What happened between them is lost to history now, as shortly after the Collective sent its seekers outside of the galaxy to bring its designs to the rest of the universe, their great work was left undeciphered, as every single Licht mysteriously disappeared from the face of the world simultaneously, simply known as The Event.
In the single millennium since they vanished, precious little resembles the way it had been left, as a world that depended on the Collective to exist was released into the wild, and their memory passed into religion. Though much remains of them, in the form of a massive, automated empire, exponentially multiplying year after year, sending vast, endless armies into the void for no discernible reason, the Armigers who had been left behind are scarcely seen, and offer no answers, even as everything they had worked for returns to the way it was.
Only a handful of beings remember that they were meant to wait, and fewer still, for what.