The Antares Sector. 600 light-years from Earth, 3 months from the core planets of the Federation at maximum warp, 6 months at cruise speeds. The member planets and surrounding colonies have their own government, the Antares Regional Council. The Beta Antares Shipyards produce ships for the region's defense, as well as experimental designs for the rest of Starfleet. It is a far-flung outpost of the Federation, with its own trade routes and idiosyncrasies, a collection of cultures and colonies in a 100-square-light-year region separated from the rest of the Federation by distance but not by ideology.
The citizens of the Antares Sector are just as loyal to the principles of the Federation as anyone back "home." Some are member worlds who joined the Federation long ago in the first age of expansion, set up their own governments under the principles of the Federation Constitution, and operated independently until warp drive and subspace communication became more advanced. Some are colonies established by members of the "core" races who wished to get away from the hustle and bustle of their homeworlds. Perhaps someday warp travel will shorten the travel time between them and the rest of the Federation; for now, they share the hopes of their distant fellows, tied together by the common dream to "boldly go."
There is one aspect of the sector that is often avoided: the Antares Maelstrom. A huge storm in space, rumored to have a giant "whirlpool" at its center, the Maelstrom prowls the empty spaces beyond the borders of the region. No planets have been settled in the area the Maelstrom usually travels through, nor has life ever been discovered anywhere within its historical path. That path has changed recently, however, taking it first through the system that houses the sector's main trade hub, Starbase 247, and now on to the Beta Antares system.
A strange and frightening discovery has been made about the Maelstrom: the vortex at its center leads not to another section of our own universe, as one would expect from a wormhole, but to another timeline entirely. In this timeline the Vulcans are conquerors, though still followers of logic. Earth was conquered in the 1770's, and Antares has started a rebellion against the "Vulcan Imperium"--or at least against the local tyrranical governor, Commander-General Torvak.
(Continued in 'theme setting2')