A glossary of factions in the First Earth universe, in rough order of appearance in The While Light of Tomorrow. Many more groups and organizations exists, but these are the ones seen or mentioned so far.
The Universal Church — Designed after the Roman Catholic church of the high middle ages, the Universal Church is one of two major religious powers in Christian space. The UC is particularly interested in restricting access to heretical technologies referred to as Machina, which they believe led to the disappearance of Earth long ago in the event known as the Advent. The UC is led by a Pope and a college of cardinals. Its home is Civitate Dei on planet Bethany.
The Military and Hospitaler Order of Saint John of Jerusalem — The Order consists of militant nuns and priests who serve as the UC’s first line of defense. The Order’s home fortress is located on planet Valetta, on the edge of Christian space and close to Ottoman territory. In addition to being highly trained warriors, the Knights of the Order are also exceptionally skilled medics, maintaining a tradition going back to the original Knights Hospitaler on Earth. The Order has about 3,000 Knights and Sergeants at any time, supplemented by a larger number of lay soldiers who wear the Maltese cross but are not ordained clergy like the Knights.
The Holy Office of the Inquisition — Tasked with enforcing adherence to UC dogma, the Inquisition is also responsible for enforcing the Church’s laws with respect to Machina. They give special attention to the worst category of Machina, called Infernus. Those unlucky enough to be found in possession of Machina Infernus are lucky if they are given a quick trial and execution, as the Inquisition is not afraid to torture its victims to elicit confessions and to extract the names of accomplices. The Inquisition and the Order of Saint John are often at odds with one another, and Inquisitors frequently refer to Hospitalers as ‘Templars’ as an insult.
The Hanseatic League — The League is literally a two-faced organization. On one hand, they are the only mercantile guild sanctioned by the UC and dominate trade in Christian space. On the darker side, they harbor a faction of technophiles bent on collecting and cataloging as much Apex technology (that is, technology from before the Advent) as possible. The ends of this collection effort are obscured behind a complex series of initiation rituals behind which specific knowledge is firewalled. Because the UC needs technicians capable of maintaining indispensable equipment (spacecraft, for example), they allow the League to operate under a special Indulgence, giving it broad protection from the Inquisition.
The Holy Roman Empire — Making up approximately one third of Christian space, the HRE is led by it’s own Emperor, who, at least on paper, owes fealty to the Pope of the Universal Church. In practice, the HRE is a hotbed of Christian reformist movements and often works against the UC, covertly, of course. The UC lacks the military power to fully subjugate the HRE, and during times of war the two Christian groups must form an alliance or risk being overrun by the Ottomans or Khanate.
The Ottoman Empire — A Muslim empire led by a Sultan and a ruling council known as the Divan. The Ottoman Empire is an exotic land with traditions alien to the people in Christian space. They have frequently fought the Christians over a series of barrier planets, and are currently engaged in a major war with the Khanate.
The Khanate — A mysterious power bordering Ottoman space, the Khanate produces fierce warriors, but little else is known about them as their rulers refuse to allow traders and visitors in their space. Every few generations they strike out, usually against the Ottomans who stand between the Khanate and Christian Space.
The Grey Cloaks — Agents of the Holy Roman Emperor. Their aims and methods are little known.
The Corsairs — Ottoman rebels currently engaged in an insurrection against the new Sultan, Osman. The group is believed to be led by a relative of the assassinated former Sultan Abdulaziz.
The Earth Union — The former globalist government of Earth. The EU is responsible for terraforming and colonizing all of the planets on which humans now live. The EU government completely broke down after the cataclysmic events of the Advent, and the colonies had to learn to survive on their own.