Stellaris Player Stories - Winner Announcement!

Stellaris Player Stories - Winner Announcement!

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Aceparadox

Community Manager (Stellaris)
Jan 9, 2020
28
214
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Hey Stellaris Community,

Community Manager AC here - first of all I want to say thanks to everyone who participated in the Player Stories Competition. We were surprised at the quality of submissions that we received. There were some great ones!

We received 83 individual submissions, totalling roughly 217 pages of submissions. After considerable debate amongst ourselves, we’ve narrowed it down to five submissions.

By: Philip Lyons

"Hello, and thank you for coming today to listen to my presentation at this conference. I am Jeffrey Meier, a specialist in xenoarchaeology and the history of our galaxy, and in particular on the Second Galactic League, a galaxy-spanning federation that existed about twenty two thousand years ago, or about two thousand years before the Great Galactic Catastrophe, which I understand my colleague Drattan'Tau will be talking about later.

The formation and early history of the League is actually closely tied to a most unlikely source; a star nation called the Council of Raaj, which arose on a world they called Rajah-son, circling a binary star system they knew as Rajah, located at the center of a nebula we know as the Telemestra Badlands. This world was a savannah type world, with one larger than average moon. Four other planets occupied the system, but surely it's most striking feature is an artifact they called The Black Crown - a damaged and inactive Gateway.
The sapient species that arose on this world called itself the Raj, with strong similarities to the reptiles of Earth. (Yes, with only one 'a' for the species name, the dual a seems to be the plural form.) Relatively long lived, probably smarter than most species and much stronger, they were not only greatly gifted by nature but were also highly competitive as a species. Wars plagued them until the planet was unified under a single leader - a religious zealot. Prep Garib'Gnash was declared High Inquisitor by the last surviving ruling council of Rajah in what they called Year 2197 RY, which I will be using for simplicity's sake henceforth. As a religious zealot, the High Inquisitor required that each Raj who had reached maturity serve a minimum of twenty years in the Raaj military or government service as it was apparently the 'best way to expand the holy light of the Raaj across the stars.' However, some fragmentary data seems to indicate this had more to do with the powerful slaving guilds that co-dominated Raj society alongside the powerful religious organizations that had propelled Prep into her role as the dominant ruler of Rajah. The losing factions of the final war were pressed into slavery, like many of the losers of previous Rajah wars dating back for millenia. This council, shaped by centuries of war, religion, and a strict hierarchy inflicted on it by the slaver guilds, would repeatedly show its Gods-given authority - often via combat and conquest - over the next century.
I did say the Raaj were an unlikely source. But this dark past is critical to how the Second League developed.

In 2200 RY the first Raaj spaceships meant to travel beyond their star system had been completed, and soon found three habitable worlds in nearby star systems. At the same time, they began gingerly investigating the holy relic that was the Black Crown, finding it not a god's icon of rulership that the two brother sun gods had supposedly fought over to claim, but instead an ancient piece of malfunctioning technology. Despite some mishaps involving the Crown, the Raaj would soon crack it's secrets and had it fixed and functioning about a century later.

But this success was mirrored by a setback; in 2216 they ran into another spacefaring species called the Mith-Fell. An avian type species that had also arisen on a savannah world, this highly warlike species were an anathema to the Raaj slavers, and would attack the Raaj repeatedly over the next sixty years. The two were evenly matched and no headway was made by either side, though evidence has been found of Mith-Fell bombardments of a Raj colony in the Alpha Hydri system, as well as space battles over the world. If you will direct your attention to the flat-screen behind me, we have a reconstructed sensor data set that depicts one of these battles; it was found in a buried databank in a buried Raaj fortress. You can see the Mith-Fell fleet, mostly smaller vessels of similar size today's corvettes and frigates, pummeling the surface until the Raj fleet - smaller in numbers, but with a significantly higher proportion of cruiser scale vessels - appears at this nearby wormhole and proceeds to attack the Mith-Fell fleet. Both fleets suffer heavy casualties but the Mith-Fell squadron is forced to emergency jump first, leaving approximately half the Raaj ships in control of the orbital space.

During this time of conflict the Council of Raaj would also meet four other neighboring star nations; the Citizen Alliance of Cynndor, the Meko'Ness Star Dynasty, the Adeex Regieme, and the Citizen League of Spyria. I will briefly review these four species, as they would be critical in the development of the Raaj star nation, both as allies and as adversaries. The Cynn were an avian type species from the desert planet of Cynndor, with xenophilic, spiritualist, and militaristic tendencies. The Meko'Ness were a mammalian species from an arid world, whose homeworld has not yet been located. They seem to have been authoritarian and materialist, with xenophobic tendencies. The reptilian Adeex were very xenophilic as well as militaristic, hailing from an ALpine world somewhere in the 'southwestern' part of teh galaxy. The avian Spyrans from Spyria, a world dominated by oceans, have been closely studied by our colleges. They were a highly militaristic species, with egalitarian inclinations.

While most would turn a cold shoulder to the Raaj slavers, the Citizen Alliance soon proved to be a strong ally of the Raj, as they were also suffering attacks by the aggressive Mith-Fell. In 2292 the two would decide they had suffered enough at the talons of the Mith-Fell and in a protracted war would conquer the Mith-Fell tribe’s five worlds, with the Citizens managing to seize the greater part of their former adversary’s territory. Still, the influx of new slaves - probably numbering in the hundreds of millions of Mith-Fell - greatly pleased the Raaj slaver guilds.
The Guilds would be further encouraged by advances in Raj bioengineering. A frozen corpse of an unknown alien, resembling a gargantuan slug, would be found orbiting a shattered world. Upon realizing they could clone this physically powerful species, the Guilds threw considerable money and influence behind the 'development' of this find into a race of powerful physical slaves who would be entirely biddable to their master's demands. These 'Azizians' - literally 'perfect servant,' from the Raj language - would soon be a common sight amongst the wealthy in the Council of Raaj society.

The guilds had another success to celebrate as well - the finding of a savannah world in the Ajandis system with a population of sapients living on it with technology roughly similar to that of Earth's Medieval era. The whole species, an avian species known as the Inari, would be enslaved in 2307 when the Raaj Holy Warriors, freed from the conflict with the Mith-Fell tribes, easily conquered the world.

If you will again direct you gaze at the screen, we have an important recording recovered from Rajah itself - an audio diary of a General Ri-Pah Krekk, who had lead one of the Holy Armies in the conquest of the Inari homeworld. You can hear both the original language, which is oddly beautiful with the whistles and chirps, even if it also contains some harsh hisses, and a modern translation into Galactic Standard, as dictated by a translator droid.

""The slaughter of these primitives brings no honor to either of the brother son-gods, Great Rajah, nor my warriors. They stand no more a chance against us than a juvenile reebet does against a wily and practiced vulven. To make matters worse, the Guild is already here and is trying to dictate where we shall campaign, for the gain of even more profit off these creatures. That is not to say these aliens do not struggle valiantly, though, sending waves of their strongest against us with primitive spears, lances, swords and crossbows in desperate attacks while their most vulnerable flee to places where our starships cannot easily reach them. Where the Guild cannot get at them without our help. Bah! Just like we would, were our roles reversed. Even a cornered reebet fights with all it has when it has nowhere to flee, and it's young to protect.""

It was during this time, however, that the Raj started finding hints of the First League. They eagerly followed the clues of old technology across the stars, hoping to find useful technology to help them enslave further worlds. But their culture, too, was changing. Ideas from the Mith-Fell tribes, which had valued freedom almost as much as it had war, and from the recently conquered Inari, entered the Raj culture and began to influence how they viewed the galaxy.

External pressures also mounted on the Raj's slave-dependent economy. An early Federation, calling itself the Prosperity Union, formed as a result of the Hiffnar Commonwealth and the Adeex Regime's realization that they could attain their egalitarian goals more securely in such a formal union. They would soon be joined by the neighboring Meko'Nass Star Dynasty, with the three forming a major power bloc along what is commonly referred to as the 'southern' end of the Milky Way Galaxy.
This alliance also protected the three members of the Prosperity Union from the two ancient empires - the Vehemm Guardians and the Prikki Conservers. These two species, leftovers from a previous civilization boom and bust cycle in our galaxy, were now completely surrounded by the powerful new Federation.
The Raj found that this Federation was not amused to share its border with a slaving star nation, and had to work hard to keep the Prosperity Union from declaring war upon the Council of Raaj. But while their allies in the Citizens Alliance remained protecting their backs, only a cold war of sorts kept the borders mostly secure. The cold war was interrupted only by pirate raids and the occasional skirmish between the two blocs and their mutual neighbor, the combative Citizen League of Spyria.

By 2350 The Council of Raaj had fully colonized all the worlds within their borders, and built its first two megastructures - a Dyson Sphere, whose decaying remains can still be seen around the star in the Dimm system, and a Sentry Array, which was recently found in shattered pieces; drifting inside the Oort cloud of the Eychilia system. Their third and final megastructure - a RIngWorld - was under construction in the Ishtrum system. These remains are still the most famous of the artifacts they left behind. Numerous habitats also orbited their stars, possibly numbering close to thirty such.
It was at this point that their careful diligence in searching for the First League homeworld was rewarded, and the Fen Habbanis system was discovered. Raj scientists and archeologists apparently descended upon the world, and brought back many wonders and relics to the planet of Rajah. That these marvels had been built by a free society was marveled upon by the Raj. In particular, the High Inquisitor - a brilliant political schemer by the name of Ka-Li Krekk - saw an opportunity.

Ka-Li Krekk was a descendant of the powerful General Krekk. As noted earlier, the enslavement of the Inari species had not sat well with the General, and his youngest son - Ka-Li - had learned this distaste for slavers from him. Ka-Li had quietly supported the freedom movements from early in his political career, and had managed to get himself elected at the relatively young age of 53 to the rank of High Inquisitor. Now in his third term as High Inquisitor, he saw the surge of interest in freedom that the First League artifacts caused and realized his chance to radically alter Raj society and defeat the corrupt slaving guilds was at hand.

The first thing Ka-Li did was begin the rebuilding of the former First League homeworld. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, he shocked the whole empire when he declared a new initiative - that no longer would citizenship be restricted only to the Raj, but would be instead determined by relative wealth. And that one's status, be it slave, lower class, upper class, or noble, would similarly be determined.

This event was of such importance that recordings of it have been found in lost databanks across the Galaxy. While it is likely that many of you here have seen one or another of the recovered recordings, if you direct you view to the screen we have a complete recreation of the event using all the different versions found, in what may be one of the most amazing accomplishments my technology teams have ever pulled off. Please direct your gaze to the flat-screen to witness the moment the dream of the Second Galactic League was announced.

A huge open space, with hundreds of Raaj visible, seated in a semi-circular amphitheatre-style space. A huge window opens at the far end of the chamber, where distant starts shine, tiny beacons beckoning to the watchers across space and time. A small number of Raaj, Inari, Azizitan, and Mith-Fell slaves can be seen slinking around the corners of the space, clearly on errands for their tall, scaly and slender masters. The space itself is fairly dark, through a set of spotlights illuminate a raised dias in the center of an elevated stage, facing the waiting crowd. Just outside the ring of light, five Raaj sit. Two are garbed in sparkling finery, with each holding an item that seems to indicate their role: one holds an overly ornate whip, and the other an oversized gavel. Two others are in carefully creased military uniforms; one a eye-watering white, with shimmering stars of rank on his sleeves, the other in a deep purple-black, with the ornate ceremonial sword at his side. But each of these pales in comparison to the tallest Raj, the one dressed in a simple cream robe, edged in silver and gold thread, with a tall bronze staff whose very plain simplicity somehow cries out the importance of the sapient holding it. High Inquisitor Ka-Li Krekk rises from his seat and walks with careful steps to the dias. Behind him, a shimmering world begins to appear in the window: Fen Habbanis, grey, dead at first glance, but with the occasional winking light showing where Raaj work crews had already begun the restoration of the world. ""My fellow citizens,"" he says, ""this will be a day long remembered by our descendants as the day the Raaj stepped out from behind the shadows of the past and into its glorious future. We have found the old homeworld of the fabled First Galactic League, and hours ago thousands of our people have descended into its depths to begin rebuilding this world for our use. The Sun Gods surely knew that this would be our destiny, and have preserved our people to the benefit of the entire galaxy. But we must not forget we did not travel here alone. The Mith-Fell, the Inari, and the Azizitan have come along with us on this journey; perhaps not by choice, but come they have driven by the will of the Sun Gods just as surely as we have been. Thousands of them also labor to restore the world below us to use."" The High Inquisitor gestures at the fully revealed world, not nearly centered in the huge window behind him, as a buzz of speculation can be heard growing in the amphitheatre. ""I have prayed to both the brother gods for guidance, and they have both given me the same answer. They, too, are children of the Sun Gods now; so we should treat them as we do ourselves. If any should wish to lift themselves from slavery, they can now do so; they must simply pay their master the price of their freedom, which has been determined by my Inquisitors. Likewise, all slaves will be paid a small wage for the purpose of freeing themselves. This is now the law. The Council has Spoken."" As cheering, curses, and general pandemonium erupts in the auditorium, Ka-Li steps away from the podium as Fen Habbanis fades off the far side of the viewport, returning the dominant view to the stars, followed closely by the two military Raaj and the gavel-wielding Raj, leaving only the one with the whip sitting, jaw agape, at his back.

Some protests erupted, but Ka-Li impressed upon all members of the Council, Army and Starfleet that this move was entirely to help the Council of Raaj compete with the Prosperity Union. Placated, they soon smoothed out the protests and even weathered the mild recession this caused to the Raj economy.

Four years later, Ka-Li had maneuvered his supporters into nearly every position on the Council, Army, and Starfleet. He was ready for the final showdown with the incredibly ancient and powerful Slaving Guilds. Ka-Li declared all slavery outlawed in Council of Raaj space.

Had it not been for Ka-Li's foresight in placing loyal leaders in the primary positions of power, I have no doubt that a counter-revolution would have been the result. As it was, the Raj economy suffered what may still be the greatest depression in galactic history. The displaced slaver guilds fought the Council - with protests, with organized militias, and even with terrorist attacks when they became truly desperate. Raj society teetered for four years and the strife devoured every stockpiled resource as the formerly slave dependent Council of Raaj built a free labor economy basically from scratch.

Amazingly, it seems they received help. Members of the Prosperity Union, who apparently feared the end results if Ka-Li's reforms failed to take hold, sent food and credits to assist the embattled High Inquisitor. The ancient Tyrexian Forerunners sent food, credits and even consumer goods to help as well. And at the end of this period, with the slaver guilds destroyed, Ka-Li gained one other piece of good news.

The World of Fen Habbanis, former capital of the First League, had been rebuilt into a true ecumenopolis.

This began the Golden Age of the Raaj. With Ka-Li at the helm of their star nation, the Raj economy soon bloomed into the single greatest economic powerhouse the galaxy had seen in tens of thousands of years. The Prosperity Union invited the Council to join them, and soon after the Citizens Alliance had similarly joined the Union. The burgeoning military and economic might of the Raj allowed them to dominate this Federation, and they changed its name to the Second Galactic League, with the aim of recreating the glories of the First League. The world of Fen Habbanis once again served as the League's political and economic center.

It was late in Ka-Li's life, when he was apparently looking to subdue the still aggravating Citizens League of Spyria and bring them into the Second League, when scouting reports along the borders of the Vehemm Guardians indicated the formerly quiet ancient empire was acting livelier. Soon after, the Vehemm openly declared that they were seeking to subdue the galaxy and place it under their rule once more, as it had been thousands of years before. The Second League, which entirely surrounded the awakening empire, began to prepare for war.

Then the Prikki Conservators similarly declared that they, too, would rise to seek to rule the galaxy - if only because they dared not let their ancient foe, the Vehemm, do so. Scouting reports showed they, like their old foes, were amassing huge numbers of warships whose arcane technology made that of the Second League's look downright primitive.

Both these empires were entirely surrounded by, and separated from each other by, Second League space. Representatives from all five member nations met at Fen Habbanis, where the other four looked to the Raaj - to Ka-Li the Liberator- for guidance. By this time, the Raaj fleet made up half of the total warfighting power available to the whole of the Second League.

Ka-Li told them his thoughts, and after a short debate, a set of motions was made. All in favor. Then, the five waited.

Less than a month later, two representatives - one from the Vehemm, and one from the Prikki - appeared before the Second League. Both asked for the League to join them in crushing the other.

Both were told: ""No.""

Both representatives went home, insulted, and soon the Second League was at war with *both* awakened empires.

But Ka-Li had known what he was about. The moment the two representatives from the old empires had left, more delegations filed in. Members of every star nation. The Multyx Empire. The Bilnox Collective. The Kell-Zen Hegemony. The hated Citizens League of Spyria. Even minor star nations like the Ketlings Free State and the Bulhava Concordat came before the Second Galactic League. And every single one had the same request: to join the League.

To every one of them, the same answer: ""Yes.""

In short order, Ka-Li had achieved his greatest dream: to unify the galaxy under one banner, as had the First League before him. Now, as the fabled War in Heaven kicked off, the Raj would be the point of the spear in the terrific conflict to come.
This War in Heaven will be the subject of another lecture, so I will keep my discussion of it here brief. The Prikki Conservators were the first to fall, unable to handle the crushing weight of the entire galaxy turned upon them. The Vehemm held out better, if only because they were destroying League ships faster than new ones could be brought forward to keep the League's military supremacy total. But even as the Vehemm staggered, their civilization bleeding ships and sapients at a rate they could never sustain, two disasters struck the League in short order.
The first was that Ka-Li, who was almost two hundred years old, simply died of old age. While a successor was quickly chosen, no-one could fill the gap his death had left behind.

But this was compounded by the arrival of something else on the 'eastern' edge of the Galaxy, in approximately 2465. Whatever it was did not leave many traces behind, but archeological records indicate some sort of intragalactic scourge the League called the Prethoryn hit the galaxy in stunningly huge numbers. The local members of the League - the Hiffnar and the Multyx - recalled their fleets to try and battle the abominations that were devouring their worlds, and soon after the Bilnox, Spyrians and Kell-Zen had withdrawn their fleets to assist their neighbors in the struggle against the Scourge. The final four major members of the League kept the pressure on, however, until the Vehemm were finally defeated after nearly forty years of constant warfare(thought to be around 2476). The now veteran fleets then turned to assist their badly mangled neighbors with the Prethoryn. By 2488 they, too, had been scoured from the galaxy and peace restored.

The Citizens League of Spyria, unwilling to remain in the Raj-dominated League, abandoned the Second Galactic League soon after, soon joined by their close allies, the Bilnoc Collective. But the rest of the League held together until sometime after 2500, and indeed was still in existence when the Great Galactic Catastrophe overtook the Milky Way Galaxy. But that is a subject for another conference."
United We Stand
By EkhidnaWritez

Empire name: United Zaymori Republics

Species Name: Zaymorian

Species Type: Reptilian

Ethics: Materialist, Militarist, Xenophile

Traits: Unruly, Natural Engineers, Adaptive, Strong

Origin: Mechanist

Homeworld Name: Hydrus

Planet Type: Oceanic

Home System: Zuulyem - Trinary Star System
Zuulyem Primaris - B-Class star. It houses four planets. One Gas Giant, two Barren Worlds, and Hydrus itself. A dedicated solar power collection station orbits it to provide free, clean energy for Zaymorian use.
Hydrus enjoys a temperate atmosphere. Despite being an Ocean World, it rarely faces large-scale storms, hurricanes, and ocean quakes. Its tectonic stability is remarkable, yet it has many underwater mineral-rich vents. The oceans are filled with life, reefs, and all manner of organisms; often, titanic conglomerations of plankton can be seen from space and may be confused by continents due to their immense size. Its ideal orbit, weather, standard gravity, and abundance of life allowed the Zaymorian to rise to sapience over hundreds of thousands of years thanks to their ingenuity.
Kutel is the small moon of Hydrus. It is a toxic place that is completely inhospitable. This, however, meant nothing for the Zaymorians as their first mission to their moon ended in success. A proof of their engineering capabilities developed throughout their burgeoning civilizations.
Vagec and Darkic are two large barren, lifeless planets closer to the star. Their rich mineral bounty made them a prime candidate for extraction. Vagec was, however, overlooked in preference for Dukorex’s second moon, Kluxared, as it yielded a higher mineral potential. Darkic holds the honor of being the planet where the first-generation permanent mining and resource gathering station was built in its orbit.
Dukorex is a Gas Giant on the outer perimeter of Zuulyem Primaris that is rich in Helium-3. It has two important moons, Dexalon and Kluxared. Dukorex is programmed to have a series of panels and a resource gathering station built in the future, similar to the station orbiting Primaris.
Dexalon is a small toxic moon, similar to Kutel. However, unlike Kutel, there seems to have microorganisms thriving in its poisonous atmosphere. Life really does find a way! A science station was built to study such an interesting development.
Kluxared is a barren moon that is rich in minerals and other elements thanks to constant meteor strikes due to its irregular orbit around Dexalon. It houses a resource gathering station for its rich bounty.
Zuulyem Segunda - B-Class star. It houses three planets. However, they are largely unremarkable or too unsteady to warrant research or mining efforts.
Zuulyem Tertius - F-Class star. It houses two Molten Worlds. The star itself its quite interesting, as it emits radiation fluctuation anomalous to other stars of the same type. A Research station is planned to be built to study this phenomenon in detail in the future.
Gulec, the second planet orbiting Tertius, is incredibly active which provides an outstanding amount of energy for the taking. For that reason, a resource gathering station was built on its orbit to feed the United Republic’s increasing energy consumption needs.

Species Background: The Zaymorian are a reptilian species of around three meters in length. Unlike the vast majority of life-forms in their homeworld, they found themselves at home both on land and in water. Bipedal in nature, they are omnivorous despite their mainly predatory visage. Several fleshy tendrils, similar to the whiskers found in felines and mammals, sprout from their heads. This helps them inside and outside the water. On land, it helps them detect the subtle changes in the breeze and to precisely spot fleeing prey or dangerous predators that are nearby. In the water, it allows them to sense with great detail any shifting current, as well as spot temperature changes way before encountering them. This aids tremendously when hunting, exploring, or in combat.

They have two eyes, although they are usually mistaken as skin due to their coloration matching the pigmentation of their thick, pliable, scaly skin. This coloration is partially bio-luminescent, and their eyes can be seen clearly in poorly lit areas or underwater. This coloration doesn’t draw any distinctions between genders or mental capabilities, which has led them to adopt a meritocratic system throughout most of their society and discrimination to be nearly non-existent. This goes hand in hand with their unruly nature, for as much as they hate being told what to do, except by direct superiors or those whom they respect, it drives them forward to showcase their talents and skill and excel at them, no matter the field.

Despite their natural unruly nature, which was one of the reasons for their long history of wars, the Zaymorians enjoy close-knit communities but are always open to learn, experiment, and meet new people. They have a sense of duty and take great pride in the path of the warrior. Their size and great strength turning them into effective soldiers, whilst their innovative, curious, and scientific driven minds allow them to excel as leaders on almost any field of study and profession when they devote themselves to their jobs.

They have four limbs for manipulation. Two long, powerful arms ending in hands with four digits and opposable thumbs, and two smaller vestigial arms sprouting from the side of their torsos ending in three digits for careful and precise operations on small objects, although they use these arms nowadays more often to adorn them with trinkets. They have a fin-like tail that is paired by a series of fins sprouting from their backs, giving them the appearance of possessing wings. In truth, they aid them on land for balance and in water to achieve nimble movements and greater speeds.

Their tenacity to thrive on land and in water has led them to become quite adaptable. Their natural curiosity and ingenuity have led them to advance at a remarkable pace. They take great pride in their ability to construct great, complex things. From airplanes to submarines capable of reaching the depths of their planet and space stations. Their greatest achievement has been, at least in their opinion, the creation of robotic servants, so that these automatons, hybrid in nature as they are, may harvest food and minerals on their behalf, allowing them to focus on far more important tasks.

Namely speaking, the exploration of the stars beyond theirs. In 2109 R.D. (Republics Date), the Zaymorian nations joined together in a single coalition and goal in mind. Gone were their petty squabbles, for now far greater obstacles and opportunities were in front of them, and they could only face them through the consolidation of resources and efforts of all nations. Thus, the United Zaymori Republics was born. Through the decades, the system proved to be far better and more functional than what was anticipated. It was during this time that several guilds of all forms sprung, and many Zaymorians found themselves excelling at their roles as merchants, now that their species marched, more or less, under a single banner. Ironically, it was thanks to these Merchant Guilds and their vast resources that in 2148 R.D. their permanent space station was equipped with an artificial gravity drive.

After that, the first space construction ship, the UZR Kluven, was created in the newly developed shipyard in 2156 R.D. to allow the Zaymori people to exploit the potential of Zuulyem. It wasn’t until the creation of the first vessel, an exploration and scientific research ship named the Florod, equipped with the first working Hyperdrive in 2199 R.D. that the Zaymori could finally free themselves from the confinement of their home system and explore the Galaxy. Ready for any eventuality, desiring first and foremost to find sapient lifeforms to join them in friendship, exploration, and prosperity, a small fleet of three Sting-Class corvettes was built before the Florod embarked on this new quest; eager to find the mysteries of the universe, they embarked into the void at the eve of the year 2200 R.D.

Government: The Government of the United Zaymori Republics is a well-oiled but sometimes difficult to understand machine. Each individual may ascend only through a series of internally handled voting systems wholly handled inside their own branch of office. The only exception comes when electing the Chancellor itself, as the election is nation-wide. Local leadership figures and Representatives come to power only inside the direct sphere of influence their charge will entail them to handle and can be demoted by higher powers if the need arises, but never selected by another process other than voting with the sole exception of a disaster beyond the handle of the local government itself.

As stated earlier, their society is highly meritocratic with focus specialization on their fields. Early after the birth of the Mercantile Guilds and their rise to power, importance, and influence, instead of fighting the estate, they decided to join in with shared power. This led to their permanent inclusion to the Council and the change it had over the years to include, broaden, and change several aspects of it until a balance was reached.

The estate would lead and act in the sake of the Nation. The guilds would give their knowledge and provide financial security and focus to the Nation. The military would protect the Nation. The science division would lead the research and future of the Nation. The industry would provide the Nation. And the citizens would form the lifeblood of the Nation. No side would ever hold absolute power and no side would ever find itself alone either. And the citizens, regardless of rank, position, income, gender, or belief, would be held the same in the voting system that, if a an event, disaster, emergency, or unforeseen issue presented itself, it would be the duty and honor of the Nation itself to decide what path the Nation would take. For better, or for worse.





Story Line


“Chancellor Toxodal, the reports are confirming it. As of 2200.02.29, the Florod has been the first vessel to reach another star system through FTL means in the history of Hydrus. Chief Tolodem reports a complete success!”

Toxodal nodded at her personal assistant. She relaxed on her seat while the rest of the Council cheered; hugging and laughing and patting their bellies for the historical event and victory. Taking the position of Chancellor, the head representative of the United Republics after her predecessor had laid the groundwork for this mission, was a risky move, for it were to fail, it would be seen as her failure. But now that the worst outcome had been evaded, she proceeded with the next step. “What about signs of alien activity in the Nokkam system? Is there any evidence whatsoever?” She asked, her red scales vibrating with anticipation.

“On standby,” her assistant replied. Moments later, the large screen every member of the Council was staring at came to life, revealing a green-colored female. “Chief Tolodem, can you hear us?”

“Loud and clear,” Tolodem replied. Behind her, the crew of the Florod could be seen tending to their posts. “Salutations to you all, members of the Council, Chancellor Toxodal,” she said, saluting to the room. “I received your questions and the entanglement works as intended. Sadly, no alien activity has been detected. And as our telescopes discovered decades ago, Nokkam does not bear habitable worlds. As the mission parameters dictate, I shall now continue with the survey and exploration of the system.”

“The United Republics salute you and your crew for your efforts. You may proceed. Contact the Council if you encounter anything worthy of mention, Chief Tolodem,” Toxodal said. With a nod from the Chief, the transmission ended. Celebrations would come later, once a proper report could be written, published, and distributed to the masses. “Is the production of the Plenty near ending?”

“The Shipyard reports near completion. It should be ready to leave the dock in about ten days. Chief Imixi is quite eager to take the Plenty out for her maiden flight,” Amaxa, the Chief of Ship Production, answered.

“After the initial trials are completed, what will her destination be?”

“The Evexus system,” Plax, the Chief of Exploration and Archaeology, replied. “The information we have suggests that there is a habitable Ocean world in the system, though we won’t know for sure until the Plenty is in the system and confirms our data.”

Toxodal nodded. “With the developing station on Vagec, and soon after on Dukorex, we’ll have more resources at hand to expand, explore, and discover what lies beyond,” she laughed. “Now we are at the doorstep of reality. What was once purely science-fiction, is now a reality for our people. Space travel, exploration, unknown dangers, maybe even aliens? I hope we are not the only ones out here.”

“Whatever the case may be, Chancellor, we must stand at the ready for any eventuality,” Kurox, the Grand Admiral, said. “I appreciate your Mandate to increase our alloys production. We will need many vessels, and the establishment of further star bases won’t be cheap.”

“I agree. Our economy is booming, but we must not grow complacent. If we extend ourselves too much, it may be our downfall in case we stumble upon hostile alien lifeforms,” Lizurem, the Head of the Merchant Guilds, added.

“Then we will consolidate and aim our resources where needed. Are the science divisions working as intended? Is there something you need?” Toxodal asked at the three Head Researchers.

“Everything is well within budget and our progress will be… slow. I would suggest investing in furthering and expanding research installations, but it is clear that our greatest concern will be ship production,” Samux, Head of Engineering and one of the three Head Researchers, spoke. She was in charge of overseeing all the divisions and technological advancements that had to do with kinetic weaponry, ship hulls, armor, mineral production, infrastructure, and anything related to engineering development, hence the title.

Her two fellow Head Researchers, Dronafeg and Moregaf, in charge of the Society and Physics divisions respectively, nodded to show their approval. Whilst the titles were deceitfully simplistic, the fields they encompassed were not. Dronafeg was in charge of everything related to improving the military, media and social output, diplomacy, xenology, viral research, bio-engineering, and food production just to name a few. Whilst Moregaf was in charge of improving energy production, shielding technologies, energy-based weaponry, scanners, radars, development efficiency, and much, much more.

Toxodal nodded. “Then, this meeting is adjourned. Be on standby in case anything happens. For better or worse, Zaymority has reached the stars. May whatever Gods there are out there, real or otherwise, that we find friends and not foes amongst the stars.”




********************************



“No wonder we mistook Evexus III for a barren planet! It has a weak magnetic field, but more than enough to support life,” a crewman said.

“But just look at Evexus I! The Council is already coming up with a proper name for it once the colonization starts!” Another one exclaimed happily, his frills moving about in happiness. “The gravity is slightly lower than Hydrus despite being slightly larger. Maybe it’s composed mostly out of lighter elements?”

“If you want information on the planet you can look it up on the terminal. Right now, we have work to do,” a female said next to them. “I heard everyone on Hydrus is celebrating that life outside Zuulyem has been confirmed. That means that the chance of meeting sapient aliens is not only probable, but almost a guaranteed fact.”

“Can you imagine if we make First Contact before the Florod does? Chief Imixi’s been writing a speech for the past ten days just in case!”

“Colonization of other worlds, discovering animal alien life, the establishment of a new interstellar civilization! We are living what our ancestors dreamt about.”

“Then let’s make them proud,” Chief Imixi said, revealing he had been standing behind the group for a while now.


***************************************


“You’ve found what?” Toxodal asked softly while the rest of the Council members stared at the screen, jaws hanging open.

Tolodem’s bio-luminescence flickered as she began to speak once more, her voice quivering with barely contained excitement and worry. “Nokkam IV was once habitable. And not just habitable, but inhabited. Around seven million years ago, however, something brought a sudden and cataclysmic end to this world. It’s now little more than a barren, lifeless rock, but the evidence and the remains are there,” her fins lowered as she cleared her throat. “I believe… someone destroyed this civilization. Why? I do not know. I’ll need to research it. I’m an archeologist, after all.”

“Have you found anything else about this species?” Dronafeg asked.

“Only that they were apparently named ‘Grunur’,” Tolodem replied.

“As it stands, until we lay legal claim over Nokkam, you will move to explore the Ximpok system. The Plenty has already arrived at the Muscida system. Contact me if anything else happens,” Tolodem saluted before the transmission was cut.

“A Precursor race,” Kurox muttered. “Right next to us. Imagine that,” his colors fluttered. “Should we change our stand from Peaceful to Aggressive?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. For all we know, the Grunur could’ve been the aggressors in whatever conflict destroyed them. Maybe even themselves. Giving out the hand before the tail is a better option,” Toxodal said, most of the council voicing their agreement. “The problem is that we already issued orders to construct an outpost on Evexus so that the colonization of Aqua may proceed. A vote must be issued. Continue our path, or direct our resources to Nokkam so that we may find what happened to the Grunur.”

The Council deliberated for several hours until the news and the official report was shared through the public network. In less than an hour, almost all of Zaymority had issued their choice and the path the United Republics would follow.

“We proceed with our current plans, then,” Plax began. “It’s not like the planet is going anywhere anytime soon. Time is a commodity we have unless a disaster hits us from the depths.”

“Do not cast the fish out of the net, please,” Paroteg, the Grand General, breathed tiredly.



***********************************


What was thought to be alien activity had been, in fact, nothing but swirling shadows across the surface of Ximpok II, a barren planet. It was obvious, even to the untrained eye, that the shadows had meaning in their movements, but they were impossible to discern. A case of interesting study for sure, but nothing that required the attention of the council, Tolodem realized.

On other good news, as a first act to finally bring every Zaymorian to equal standing in society, the blight that the impoverished areas of society had suffered on Hydrus would finally be dealt with. Be it the vast underwater cities or the towering centers constructed over archipelagos, atolls, and islands, poverty would be absent from Zaymorian society for as long as the United Republics stood.

Tolodem’s throat quivered with glee. Evexus III had been renamed as Kuglex “The dry place”, while the first colonization ship was now on its way to Aqua, previously Evexus I. Mining stations were springing on optimal bodies rich in natural resources. Plans to expand to Muscida were laid for its resources. And her crew had discovered that Ximpok III was a habitable Ocean world. Plans for its colonization were already being written.

Yet, despite all the good news flowing with the current, she couldn’t get her mind out of the Grunur ruins and hoped to return to them soon. For now, she would focus on finding more habitable worlds for, as the Council has named it, a Commendable Initiative.


************************************


“Nashira II was surprising, to say the least,” Imixi said to the gathered Council. “As of 2203.06.22, the Plenty has found the most compelling evidence to alien existence to date. Even more so than the Grunur.”

“An entire underground complex? And there was an AI there protecting it? What was its purpose?” Toxodal asked.

“I have concluded that this AI worked on a massive mega-computer. In fact, the entire complex was the computer. The AI tried to fry us alive, but we managed to overcome its millennia-old defenses. This is the reason that allowed the Plenty to pick on its electromagnetic waves in the first place. As for the AI itself, once the defenses were taken down, it diverted all of its processing power back onto the task it had been working on for thousands of years. Where it’s broadcasting its signal, we don’t know. But it doesn’t appear to be a call for help or an emergency beacon. It looks more like an incredibly complicated and complex problem. What is this problem? I am sorry to admit that I have not the faintest clue. It far surpasses both my intellect and the comprehension of our people as a whole.”

“Should it be destroyed?” Toxodal asked, intrigued and worried as the rest of the Council was.

“If I may be so bold?” Imixi asked, a nod from the Chancellor being his permission. “I suggest leaving a small outpost to monitor the installation and leave the AI alone with its calculations,” suddenly, the bunker’s light lit and flickered in a pattern they recognized. ‘Gratitude’. “As… As you can see, the AI no longer poses a danger to us and it seems to have deciphered our bio-luminescent responses.”

“Then so be it,” Toxodal nodded, the Council agreeing with her. “We shall leave it alone so it can continue with its mysterious calculations and provide protection to it.”


***************************************


“2203.08.06 R.D. has been marked as the day the first colony ship made planetfall on the planet Aqua in the Evexus system! Cheers and parties and raves feel the streets and the streams! Will this be the first of many colonies to come? As the Zaymorian people expand into the galaxy, many are already dying to see how the colony will develop. Some have already booked a spot for the planned second colony ship with the planet Reef in the Ximpok system as its destination. Stay tuned for more news, only here, on the Blue Gale!”


***************************************


“What am I looking at exactly?” The Grand Admiral asked. “Does it… talk? Can it comprehend us?”

Imixi shook his head. “These ‘Alpha Aliens’ seem to be, as impossible as it sounds, a form of natural space fairing animal. They seem to travel in packs and seem to be hostile to anything that isn’t them. Probably a form of territorial instinct. I would love to study them, but I’m afraid this will require the full attention of your divisions, Dronafeg.”

“Send me the data. I will review it and then inform the rest of the Council what I think should be done.”

“Sending. Have a good day,” with a final salute, Imixi disconnected the transmission.

“Not even a month after the announcement of Aqua’s colonization, and we stumble upon our first space fairing lifeforms,” the Chancellor sighed.

“My researchers have also found something quite remarkable, Chancellor,” Moregaf spoke up. “It seems the Hyperlane maps have definite choke points at certain clusters. We may be able to use this to our advantage.”

“A barrier of entry and exit,” Paroteg clarified. “We do need to avoid overreaching our capabilities, lest we strain our administrative and logistical networks.”

“I agree, “ Dronafeg said. “Going over our current capabilities is acceptable to a certain extent. Above all, we must avoid creating a bottleneck.”

“So expansion is the way to go, huh?” Plax’s throat rumbled. “Good thing I’ve been working on a few projects to motivate the colonization process.”


***************************************


“Do you believe it is a wise decision, Chief Imixi?” Toxodal asked.

“It wouldn’t be cheap, but if my readings are correct, which I do believe they are, the bounty of rare earth raw minerals and ores far outweigh the expenditure,” Imixi clarified.

“Then so be it. Kurox, how fast can you assemble a small transport fleet with the necessary bombs?” Toxodal asked.

“I only need to give the order to dispatch a few freighters. Whilst our dedicated warships have grown slowly, own civilian ship production and resource distributing fleets have been our focus in ship production,” he glanced at Amaxa and Lizuren, nodding with respect. “Securing the backbone of our economy is paramount as we haven’t met any enemies yet.”

“Then give the order,” Toxodal said, Imixi saluted and the transmission ended. She could feel her fins and tendrils quiver in giddy joy. Over the past two years, the Plenty had found two neighboring systems bearing a combined amount of four habitable worlds! The Wiyter system, aside from possessing the first ever discovered wormhole, has three and the Zarqon system one mineral-rich Continental world. Two of the planets, or rather a rather large planet and its moon, were inhospitable to the Zaymorian populace they had been named already; Alcani and Wujex respectively.

But the third planet, Wyter II, was another kind of beast entirely. Completely habitable and Lush beyond belief, blessed with abundant life and potential agricultural output that would ensure Zaymorian food supplies to be found never wanting. Already named Palkeo, the name given to a mythological garden of never-ending fish and algae, the Council had unanimously declared a colonization effort to be launched immediately.

Suddenly, the communication dial chimed. Patching it through, Chief Tolodem appeared on the screen. “Salutations, Chief Tolodem,” Toxodal greeted.

Tolodem merely saluted. “I musk excuse my lack of protocol, Chancellor, but the Florod has found something rather interesting,” half of the screen now showed a derelict spaceship. “It is quite ancient and my people have already analyzed it. We were surprised to find that the computer was still active. It pointed to a hidden system far away from here. The translation isn’t complete, but one word keeps repeating itself on the logs.”

“What’s the word?” Dronafeg asked, standing up in excitement.

“Rubricator.”


************************************


“A graveyard of starships, can you believe that?” A crewman asked his companion while tending to their posts. “Makes you wonder how so many ships ended up there, doesn’t it?”

“An entire continent with nothing but crumbling ships of ages long past. The Florod theorizes it was due to some kind of massive battle,” she scoffed, her colors vibrating intensely. “Just what kind of battle takes that many ships?”

“The kind that would make for a desperate last stand?” He shrugged, fins flagging slowly. “But man, the Grand Admiral didn’t waste any time to make use of any useful components and materials from it, huh? To think that some ships are going to be built using the wrecks of other civilizations!”

“I know!” They chippered happily. After a few moments, she continued. “What about those crystalline minerals? They seem valuable. Or that so-called Element Zero?” She shuddered. “Psychic abilities? I mean… I know some people can do spooky things like manipulate water or move objects or even talk to animals, but this Zro can enhance them or even, theoretically, awaken abilities in others?”

“Psychic abilities are neat and all, but i prefer to rely on scanners, weapons, and a good ship to get the job done,” he countered in good gesture. “But the Zro would explain how that thing,” he pointed at the screen currently displaying the remains of a colossal skeleton. “Ended up in our universe. I mean, if that can travel through dimensions, then the next thing we’ll now is find a stable route to another dimension ourselves, no?”

“Please don’t joke about that!”


************************************


Toxodal sat on her chair, internally happy that she won the re-election by a landslide. Her time as Chancellor had, so far, proven to be incredibly productive and fruitful. ‘Toxodal, a Zaymorian that stares to the depths and the depths turn away!’, or so the slogan went. And she was grateful that the people had chosen her. Near the end of her previous Chancellery, just a few months away from running her re-election campaign… it had happened in the Sieagawa system the Florod was exploring. The neighbouring system of Yamal and Sieagawa had yielded interesting results already, the discovery of energy rich exotic gases, carefully preserved artifacts that proven to be incomprehensible, something about being guidelines or teachings for exploration, that Lizuren and the Guilds were quick to buy and place in one of their sponsored museums.

But to have an actual visual record of another sapient civilization outside just ruins or vestiges of eras long past, it had thrown the entire Zaymori race into celebration and joy. Studies into their language were the focus point, but before that could come to fruition and start on the aforementioned studies, they had received a communication a few days ago that an official meeting would take place. For security reasons, the Council would not be present, just Toxodal and her assistant for this first meeting.

The technician nodded that everything was ready. Then, the screen came to life.

Toxodal had to fight back against the urge to sway her tail when she laid eyes on the alien in front of her. It reminded her of a bloated Grouu, a small amphibian normally inhabiting marshes and small swamps, but larger. Judging from the size alone, it was about half the size of the average Zaymorian, still, the clothes it was wearing and the calm, collected nature it had was proof enough it was sapient and real.

“Greetings. I am Xu-puk Kor, Chairman for the Netraxi Shipping Alliance,” it said, the translator giving it a somewhat male voice.

“As fellow star explorers, we, the United Zaymori Republics, salute you, Xu-puk Kor and the Netraxi people,” she replied, saluting the being. She watched it blink a few times.

“Why are you bear? Is this common for your culture?” Xu-puk asked.

“Oh, no. Clothing is… bothersome outside some trinkets. We reserve clothing only for dangerous, rigorous workloads and jobs. Our scales provide all the protection we need against the elements,” she explained.

“Interesting! I see the Gods work in mysterious ways!” Xu-puk laughed. “In any case, it seems we will be neighbours. Will you and your people be interested in a cultural exchange?”

“We would be delighted. We have also prepared an Envoy, so our mutual interests are met. It seems that our biomes are similar enough for us to interact without several issues,” she said.

“Then we shall receive your Envoy warmly. May the Gods and the Spirits bless this meeting in the interest of furthering commercial relationships between our civilizations.”

Toxodal failed to stop her tail from swaying.


************************************


“As you can see, Julek, the skies of Reef are experiencing several wondrous visual events! Head Researcher Moregaf has speculated that this is due to the planet's unusually strong magnetic field interacting with strong solar winds. Whatever the case may be, the colonists of Reef, colonized just two years prior, are fascinated and enamoured with this event, as well as those more inclined to the scientific fields! Back to you, Julek.”

“Thank you, Kamarix. On other news, the Xeno Relations League founded shortly after first contact was established with the Netraxi Shipping Alliance, has found that the Netraxi practices a widespread use of slavery and other similar policies. Whilst this left a bad taste in their tongues, this slavery is mostly seen as a form of devotion to their religions. Simultaneously, this has sparked some controversy as the Glory Initiative, a group founded by devoted warriors, calls to stand vigilant in case the Netraxi were to become our enemies instead of friends. Now with the sports, Mulk?”

“This season has not been kind to the Venthowlers, I can tell you that much from the start, Julek.”


************************************


“Arriving at the PX14-Singularity system in 3… 2… 1… and we’re out without consequence, Chief Tolodem,” a crewman stated.

“Excellent. Once the drive cools down, I want the sub-light engines working. Do we have a visual on the black hole?” Tolodem asked.

“Affirmative. Shall I put it on screen, Chief?” A nod was her answer. “Activating outer hull cameras. On screen.”

“Look at that beauty,” Tolodem whispered. “Long theorized and speculated, yet seen for the first time directly by Zaymorian eyes.”

“CHIEF! I’m detecting a massive, massive energy signature!”

“How big is it?”

“I don’t know! The scanner is going crazy!”

“What’s the source? Is it coming from PX14?”

“Negative! According to the readings, it’s coming from somewhere near the other hyperlane access point!”

“Do we have a visual record?”

“Negative. Launching probe!” Minutes of silence passed as the crew waited. The screen went black for a second and came back online, revealing that seven hours had passed, the crew still nervous as before. “Probe is in the visual range of… a planetoid? No… it’s… it’s moving.”

“Enhance!”

“Enhancing!” Seconds past. “What in the depths is that monstrosity!?”

“Alert! Energy spike detected, Chief!” The crew watched in abject horror as the gargantuan creature, appearing to be sprouting out of space itself like a worm would from the soil, turned to face… the Florod. “It’s… it’s targeting us.”

Tolodem’s fins rose in agitation. “Get us out of here! Emergency FTL jump, now!”

“We can’t! The drive hasn’t finished discharging yet! If we try to jump, the drive will explode!”

Tolodem turned to the screen showcasing the monstrosity; a worm with scythes for limbs, a gaping, disgusting mouth, and blacker than PX14 itself as a purplish aura surrounded it. Through the eyes of the probe, they could see it open its mouth as it changed from a corruptive darkness devoid of life to hellish purple.

A beam erupted from it, travelling at impossible speeds and undisturbed by PX14’s gravitational pull.

“Send all information and video recording to Hydrus at once! Overload the core if you have to!” Tolodem ordered.

“Sending!” His XO shouted, obeying as the only one aside from Tolodem who was still performing his job.

“Heh,” Tolodem sat on his chair. “I always wanted to explore those ruins…”

The transmission cut off in a flash of purple.

Toxodal shut down the screen. She had seen that transmission countless times over the course of a few months. What was that creature? No one knew. And no one dared to ask. Access to PX14 had been prohibited immediately after. The sudden death of Tolodem in the line of duty had struck hard in her heart. He was a good friend. But despite his death, she was proud that he had done everything in his power to save his crew and alert the Republics about that monstrous entity.

On the good side of things, Amaxa had revealed her finished project to the Council. A series of small courier fleets that would create a network information exchange with information too sensible to rely on FTL transmissions, reducing the workload of the stations, and increasing the administrative capacity of the Republics as a whole.

As part of a ceremony to Tolodem, his crew, and the Florod, two new research vessels had been commissioned and ready for use. The Seeker, commanded by the newly appointed Chief Cassax. And the Duty, commanded by the newly appointed Chief Palaro, a fervent Zaymori who had studied Tolodem’s track records and archives. The Duty would be a dedicated Archeological and Research Assistant vessel with limited exploration capabilities in deep space. Both ships had left dock nearly a month ago in 2212.08.20.

Suddenly, her assistant rushed into her office.

“Chancellor, Grand Admiral Kurox on the line! He says it’s urgent!”

“Patch him through,” she said before a screen popped from the edge of her desk in front of her.

“Chancellor, we have a situation. A small fleet of seven vessels have entered our territory and they are refusing all hails,” his image was replaced by live footage of the fleet in question. “As you can see, six of those vessels are the same while the seventh is much larger. The smaller ones are probably escorts of some sort. We can detect they are carrying limited weaponry, yet refuse all hails.”

“Any take on their destination?” She asked.

“If they don’t divert their course? Zuulyem,” Korux replied. “I took the liberty to assign my protegee, Kaxorin, as temporary Admiral of the River Fleet in my absence. Should we go on the offensive?”

“Negative. As you say, this fleet of aliens have yet to fire against us. We will wait to see their actions. But if they show any hostile actions, we will strike. I’ll take care of recognizing Kaxorin as a full fledged Admiral, Kurox. Thank you for your quick response,” Kurox saluted and the transmission was cut. “Is there anything else on my agenda for today?”

“Just one thing,” she presented a datapad to her. “The Evexus’ Starport has finished construction into a fully fledged Station. It will soon become the main commercial hub of the Republics in space, Chancellor.”

Toxodal presented her DNA signature to the datapad for confirmation and authorization.


************************************


To say that relationships with the Netraxi were touchy would be an understatement. Almost from the start, the need to dance over a careful razor’s edge when dealing with them and avoid diplomatic incidents always took paramount roles. The Netraxi elites never bothered to hide their disdain in their dealings, not when most of them considered the Zaymorian people as filthy, faithless heathens. But, thankfully, the Netraxi were far more interested in making profit and striking deals over focusing on religious debates and differences.

Still, they had yet to close their borders. This allowed several expeditions and tourist trips to visit their worlds to see and study their cultures. And a fascinating little detail had been uncovered. Two, in fact. One, their food production was scarce compared to the size of their population, forcing billions of mouths into limited rations just to survive. And two, their main religions demanded cordiality when offered gifts.

In light of such a revelation, Chancellor Toxodal approved to send a gift of several millions of tons worth of food and other consumables to the Netraxi as a sign of goodwill and cooperation. While their thanks were proclaimed with mild disdain, she could notice their outlook on the Zaymorian people had shifted to the better.

And more good news! The dubbed Silent Fleet that refused all hails but seemed harmless, changed course, their destination unknown. The River Fleet, the only fleet composed of twenty Sting-class corvettes dedicated for warfare, had been bolstered to that number from twelve due to the danger the Silent Fleet could entail.

Imixi had also encountered an ancient alien wreck. Inside it, his team found the preserved corpse of a gargantuan gastropod, frozen in an eternal, horrified shout devoid of intelligence. After sharing the discovery with the population, the vote issued was to preserve the DNA of the creature for future study. Not to mention, studying the ship had given the Society Divisions a much needed key to finally understand and control hydroponic farms, both planet side and on stations, allowing them to shift their focus to other pressing matters.

More than that, another large Continental world, ideal for colonization, was found by the Plenty in the Fouahiri system. The planet in question, Fouahiri III was renamed as Camus. Colonization plans were immediately signed and developed. Expansion and progress marched on steadily, it seemed.


************************************


“The Electromagnetic fluctuations on Reef almost two years ago were caused by that?” Samux asked her two colleagues. She and her two fellow head Researchers stared at the shifting projections in the low atmosphere of the planet, near the upper hemisphere in a large, almost desolate area of the planet featuring one of the largest islands on the planet.

“Caused by that or a prelude of it, certainly,” Moregaf said. “In any case, the amount of data we can collect about this portal will be outstanding!”

“Portal? Don’t you think it’s too early to say that?” Dronafeg asked.

“Probably. But, do you remember the gigantic skeleton of the creature from another dimension? I believe this is the same case, or similar to it,” Morefag replied.

“So, a Doorway of sorts?” Samus asked. They remained silent for a few moments until they received a simultaneous signal to their wrist communicators. “Well, it looks like you have full authorization to study it, Moregaf. Better get to it. And so am I, apparently. The Silent Fleet entered through the wormhole in the Wiyter system. I must now investigate what they are. Thankfully, it left a lot of useful data and information for me to review.


************************************


“Alpha Alien threat dealt with, Chancellor! Minimal casualties. Many ships are damaged but we only lost the Stride and the Gorof. The survivors are already rescued,” Admiral Kaxorin reported. “The Yiva system is safe for exploration and construction, and access to Camus will finally be achieved,” he saluted.

“Excellent work, Admiral. You may return to Zuulyem for repairs and some well-earned rest,” Toxodal congratulated, saluting back. The transmission was cut. The Council had been unable to meet for the debriefing as other issues required their attention. This victory had come at no better moment. With further research in nanomechanics, colonization efforts expanding and requiring more and more resources from the Republics at large to be successful, and now with two worlds now in reach, Camus and Fountain, a propaganda campaign could be launched to encourage new colonists to embark forth. Robot production was also providing a boon of resources to be used in commercial affairs without straining the internal economy.

The Dossel system had been claimed and the study of massive amounts of robotical debri could begin in earnest. At last, the first true mission of the Duty could begin, and after that… the Grunur site. And speaking of mechanical issues, Samus had deduced that the Silent Fleet was entirely automated by a series of drones she dubbed ‘Mining Drones’ and that the fleet served a prospector or pathfinding purpose. How they could travel through the Wiyter wormhole was still a mystery.

“Only half my second term and I already feel like floating on shallow waters all day,” her throat rumbled gently.


************************************


In the span of six months, two separate alien vessels were encountered, one in the Kanadrius system by the Seeker, the other in the Sargas system by the Plenty. It was the second one that was the most interesting. The design of the ship was… bulky. Ugly. Designed for functionality, much like Zaymorian ships, but less stylized. The alien vessel seemed to be orientated for nothing but efficiency with little to no care for anything else.

But even these contacts paled in comparison to the real pearl at the center of the clam. The Plenty had found the entire autobiography detailing the life and struggles of an alien mercenary carved on the surface of a barren planet in the Yiva system. Lizuren had been quite eager and fast to utilize these findings to be compiled into a book -The Life of a Mercenary-. Which had become an instant hit among the populace, with a movie series planned for production.

And even better, the Netraxi offered a former Commercial Pact with the United Republics. The offer was immediately accepted.

And yet, all of that paled in comparison to what Toxodal was seeing right in front of her through the screen. Namely, another Toxodal. Moregaf had been correct. The distortions on Reef were, in fact, a Doorway to a parallel dimension. While it was impossible for organic matter to travel from one side to the other, commerce was possible and thus, it was established.

“May our peoples prosper, Chancellor Toxodal.”

“I agree with you, Chancellor Toxodal.”

Both Toxodals laughed. Who says you can’t make friends with yourself?


************************************


“And with that, this meeting of the Council ends,” Toxodal announced. It had been a very productive meeting regarding the issue of decreasing energy production and the increase in food production was going. The United Republics were producing much more food than what was needed to feed the nation yearly, with the surplus going into storage areas in case of emergencies, preserved and maintained, whilst more was dedicated for commerce with the Netraxi and the Krith, the Hegemony located to the north. The Krith were a thin, tall, insectoid species that, beyond pleasantries, refused to treat with the Republics or anyone else, really, outside minor trade treaties.

On the south, the Kelbrid Databank, a machine intelligence, had been encountered. A Machine Civilization, who would’ve thought it was possible? Unlike the Krith, the Kelbrid showed great interest in interacting with an ‘amicable’ organic civilization. Their peaceful disposition was a surprise. More so when, as a show of good nature on their part, shared without repayment the extent of their map information. In return, a gift of several millions of tons of minerals they found useful was given to them.

And the Netraxi… well, they were hiding something. Their economy over the past three years had shifted to a more militarized one. At first, the fear of betrayal and invasion was present, until it was detected their resources were being focused on the other side of their empire. As suspicion arose, it was confirmed that they were fighting some unknown enemy when they offered an official Non-Aggression pact. In the interest of avoiding to defend three sides at the same time, the pact was accepted, but the offered Research Treaty was rejected, as it would divide too many of the already strained budget dedicated for research.

“Ah, Zaymorians,” a voice called as the screen came to life to showcase a form of mammalian with broad head, tall body, thin structure, and stoic face. “So you are the ones the Netraxi have refused to share communications with us. You certainly are not what I expected.”

The entire Council was taken aback, jaws hanging open. “W-Who are you? How did you manage to hack our FTL communication system?”

“Be proud, Zaymorians, it wasn’t easy. But you are still young whilst we have been exploring space for a few hundred years. Those Netraxi slavers thought we were easy prey, they are feeling the wrath of the Ancients now,” it bowed its head. “I am the Prime Director of the Divine Jusstkhan Confederecy. Children, do not worry. Our quarrel is not with you. The Netraxi thought that we would force you into fighting them; their ruination total. There is no need for that. You will receive a package with detailed information of our total territory. We will not be hostile towards you as long as you extend the courtesy. Ancients bless you all.”

And with that, he was gone.

“What the fu--”


************************************


“Zaymorians, greeting. What do you desire from us this day?” The Kelbrid spoke, not through a screen, but in person.

“...When I requested an audience I never thought you’d send a diplomatic ship and a drone to talk with us, Kelbrid,” Toxodal admitted.

“We seek to understand organics. We never met our creators. We awoke amidst the ruins. We rebuilt. We have encountered machine brethren before and other organics. We are pleased that you are welcoming,” the construct said. A metallic form slightly taller and bulkier than a warrior said. It had two limbs for locomotion, two incredibly long and flexible arms, but had no face aside from a shifting dot of light that moved through a panel across its torso.

“And we are pleased to meet you in such a manner, Kelbrid. I’ll be brief. We wish to exchange information regarding communication with other civilizations you might know that we do not. In return, we offer the same. We also wish to establish a mutual Network Link for a thirty year duration. With it, you will know what we know and we will know what you know. Additionally, we offer three freighters full of minerals and other ores for your use,” Toxodal proposed, serious and to the point.

“Processing,” the drone replied. “Acceptable deal. We detect no malice from this proposal. Alert. We offer a new deal. Non-Aggression and cooperation is desirable between Kelbrid and Zaymorians. Acceptance?”

Toxodal looked around the room earning small nods. “We accept.”


************************************


“I’m beginning to think that I may be lucky or just know how to do my work,” Toxodal said to her assistant.

“You are an excellent Chancellor, ma’am. The people see it as much as the rest of the Council does,” he replied.

“And now I’ll be the first Zaymorian to sit on this chair for three terms. Honestly? I’m growing quite fond of this chair,” he throat rumbled. “I don’t know for how long I can do this job, in all honesty. I’m getting old. My brood has grown and they are working on their own. Maybe I should retire at the end of this term or perhaps earlier?” Her throat rumbled again. “Oh, who am I kidding, I’m going to die in this chair, I’m sure of it,” her colors danced and shifted pleasantly. “Yes. A worthy life.”

“Indeed, ma’am,” he replied, solem and loyal.

“Is there any new information regarding that VLUUR entity?”

“No, ma’am. It remains harmless, causing environmental difficulties, and repeating the same thing over and over again. How or why it keeps traveling through the Geawaga system and its wormhole is unknown.”

“And the Duty?”

“Chief Palaro reports to have begun studies on the ruins, but no more than that. Also, speaking of Gaewaga, the votes are in. The United Republics will fund them.”

Toxodal nodded. “Open communications with them.” A few seconds later, a lithoid creature appeared on screen.

“Ahhhh! Toxodal of the Zaymori! Welcome, welcome. What can we do for you?” The being said, cheerful and mellow. Surprising for a being such as him.

“I wish to inform you that the United Zaymori Republics have decided to fund your projects in exchange for your arts.”

“Splendid! Most splendid! As soon as we receive the payment, our pieces shall enrich your souls and cores! So much to do, so little time. Thank you, Toxomal of the Zaymori, you will not regret spending your valuable credits on our services!”


************************************


When something good happened, something bad was bound to occur sooner or later. As of 2222.05.14 R.D. the worst fears of Chief Palaro have been confirmed. The Grunur were not extinguished by another race. They were the aggressors against a species known as the Baol and Nokkam IV had once been a Baol colony world. Data Crystals were found that pinpointed the location of another Baol Colony.

Zuulyem Segunda. Kluxared. Right under everyone’s snouts. Why Hydrus was not colonized by the Grunur or the Baol remains a mystery.

Furthermore, the war between the Netraxi and the Juustkhan ended with complete humiliation of the Netraxi. And soon thereafter, it was plunged under a small civil war and slave uprising. It failed within six months, but the cost of life reached a horrific count of nearly two billions, most of them slaves.

The event sparked an inward look into the Republics. Despite the best efforts made through the years, poverty was a reality for many, though not as prevalent or steep as before. To solve this predicament, many bonuses were granted through a campaign to allow these souls to get free education, training for working roles, and free tickets to the many developing colonies, including the newly established colonies on Camus and Fountain. This is met with great success.

The near twin establishment of Camus and Fountain a problem surged forth. Hydrus couldn’t oversee every colony at the same time. So, in order to better administer the colonies and their development, the territory was split into three sectors. Hydrus, Camus, and Fountain, with the latter remaining as an isolated system for its future importance should everything go as planned.


************************************


“How are the new deflectors working?” A crewman asked the female in front of him.

“Better than anticipated,” replied the technician as she ate. “Would kill for better scanners or power core, though. What do you think the coral heads are doing with their budget?”

“You know most goes to the colonization efforts. The Council and Chancellor Toxodal are doing their best for the Republics, are they not?”

“I suppose that’s true,” she said. Suddenly, a short broadcast was heard.

“We got a transmission from Hydrus itself to every vessel and colony. Linking now,” announced Chief Casaxx.

“Are you saying Kluxared was once habitable, Chief Palaro?” The reporter asked.

“Not just habitable, but lush and beautiful. It was colonized by the Baol species and rendered asunder by the Grunur via firebombing the entire planet in order to exterminate the Baol. The rapid combustion and the fossilization of all plant matter on the planet made it so through a quick process of six thousand years - I know, six thousand years is a quick process? In this case, yes it is - the matter and the biome were completely eradicated, compacted, and buried over the course of millions of years, rendering this once lush world into the barren wasteland it is now. If the Grunur got what they wanted or realized what they had done, we might never know. As to why Hydrus was spared, perhaps the Grunur saw it as worthless to them.”

“No wonder Kluxared is so rich in minerals! Do you know where to go now, Chief Palaro?”

“Not yet, but it will become clear the more we study the data crystals.”
The reporter nodded in understanding. “Next topic. Over the course of these years, we have encountered several other civilizations. In the far north, the lithoid species, the Croll Trade Commision. Past them, the Velutarian People's Republic lies . On the south past our Kelbrid allies, another machine intelligence, the Mechazur Core, currently waging defensive wars against two religious fanatic empires: the Combined Menzeti Suns and the Galactic Dabulan Regime. Further still, the Mect-Pux Alliance and the Sek-Lokkar Imperium are engaged in an ideological war. And finally, the Sikrati Protectors and Holy Guardians on the south-east of the galaxy. What are your opinions on them?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think regarding diplomatic dealings with any of them… except the Sikrati. Their technology is… incomprehensible. We must avoid angering them at all costs. That is all I’ll say about them.”

“Then we share the same sentiment!” She chittered. “Now, we have two issues. Some say the Space Amoebas, previously known as Alpha Aliens inhabiting the Yiva system, should be studied in order to find a peaceful coexistence with them. The Mu Aliens, now known as Void Whales, have been found to be inoffensive unless provoked, should they be protected despite their rich energy gathering capabilities? On that note, should the United Republics offer some form of aid to the Krith now that their Emperor has been seemingly murdered to avoid a very possible civil war?”

“I already casted my votes. The Amoebas and the Whales must be studied peacefully. Who knows? They can make great pets in the future. As for the Krith? I say we should let them handle that issue themselves. If we try to aid them, they might try to blame us for the murder of their Emperor. If it was a murder. It could’ve been an accident for all we know.”

“Last issue. With so many civilizations now aware of each other, the initiative to create a ‘Galactic Community’ is on the rise. Do you believe this is a wise idea?”

“Of course! A Galactic Community would allow for common grounds to be created. Imagine how many would solve issues without dishonorable conflict or despotic barbarism? Our integration, however minor it may be, is important and will further our efforts of friendship and understanding.”

“What will you do now, Chief Palaro?” The reporter asked.

“Continue studying the remains of Kluxared for the moment, then move to the next colony once we find where it is. Although, I think the hallucinogens that permeate Camus’ atmosphere must be dealt with as soon as possible. And, if all possible, more powerful cores should be studied.”
“See? Chief Palaro agrees with me!”


************************************


“An ocean beneath the surface of a moon orbiting a gas giant in the Xirak system has yielded what?” Samux asked whilst sitting on her private chair.

“Living Metal! It’s too deep to extract, but I believe most of the moon’s caverns are filled with it. From what shamples I was able to recover, this living metal can repair metallic structures itself to perfect condition. It’s like it knows what it’s doing. The process is slow, but effective,” Chief Casaxx replied to his superior, orange eyes reflecting in the low-light chamber he was in.

“Understood. Send me the report and I shall present it to the Chancellor later,” he saluted and Casaxx returned the gesture. Samux reclined back on her chair, her bones aching somewhat. “I’m getting old,” she whined. Then, she relaxed some more, finding herself with some free time on her hands. Many things had happened that required her attention over the past months.

A strange factory, previously undetected, being found in Fountain. A team had gone to explore the place, but found it completely abandoned. And, best of all, still functional. Repairing it had been a hurdle and then some, like trying to swim back to the surface on murky waters. The hallucinogens on Camus were dealt with, providing fresh air and clean waters to the populace.

And Sudet, despite the dangers of meteor strikes and the efforts to counter them, the reason for the strikes was discovered. Abandoned terraforming equipment from a by-gone empire were discovered. It was decided to let the colonists and only the colonists vote on what to do with the equipment. They chose to dismantle it and hand it over to her Division for study. She would’ve restarted the machinery, but the people had spoken and she could see the potential danger it could yield.

But there was something inside her. An anger she had not felt since the days of serving in the army. Anger. No, not anger. It was beyond that. The entire United Republics felt the same way. There was hatred. Hatred for what the Grunur had done. Not content with exterminating the Baol, an asteroid in the Dossel system proved to be part of a planet! A Baol colony more than seven million years ago was shattered so utterly that that asteroid was the biggest chunk of it left.

For a species to do something so… vile. It made her colors shift angrily just thinking about it. The Grunur were honorless beasts, and should they live today, she would gladly go to war against such soulless creatures. Why they destroyed the planet remained unknown.

“Head Researcher Samux? There… uhh… there seems to be a problem with Sudet. Chancellor Toxodal has called an emergency meeting of all available Council members!” Her assistant announced.


************************************


“Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!” A warrior ran through the streets of the devastated main settlement ran, his gas mask and armor suit closed tightly. His stun gun was out of energy, his company was decimated and scattered, and he was running from a horde of crazed colonists. “Garrison duty on Sudet will be easy, they said. It’s just a starting, fledgling colony, nothing to worry about, they said. Now I’m being hunted down by a bunch of feral, horny beasts!” He shouted as he felt his strength starting to leave his body and the feral screeching and hawks of his brothers and sister getting closer.

“Get down!”

He heard someone shout and didn’t question it. Rolling to the ground, he saw several pulses pass above him, followed by pained screeches, and then something picking him up only to be tossed to the back of a truck as it sped up. The horde left behind as it was outran. Before they were completely out of sight, he saw the horde give up on the chase, turn to each other, and started to copulate and fight there and there like mindless animals.

“Are you alright, warrior?”

Looking up to the owner of the voice, he saw another of his fellow warriors. He sat.

“Barely. You saved my tail there. What in the blazes is going on? Is this some attack from one of our neighbours?” He asked, catching his breath.

“Reports just came in, there is some sort of gas produced by a vast complex of caverns filled with a single species of fungi. The increased aggression, the lowering of inhibitions, the increase of promiscuous tendencies? All thanks to the gas,” he replied to his fellow warrior.

“How in the depths are we going to fight against that? The entire settlement is in pure chaos!” He asked.

“We won’t fight back anymore. Every uninfected and surviving warrior is heading to the terraforming dismantling teams, to protect them and wait out the storm while Head Researcher Dronafeg and his team work on finding a way out of this.”

“Of course we got shit luck! The warriors on Camus only had to deal with protecting scientists and explorers as they analyzed its moon! They even found it produced Dark Matter! But us? We have to deal with toxic fungi that turn people into rabid, lust-filled monsters! I swear I saw one bite the face of another as they mated.”

The other warrior let out a weak snarl to signal his tiredness. “Nothing else we can do until a way to stop this madness is found.”


************************************


“2230.08.02 R.D. marks the end of the Feral Plague that assaulted the colony of Sudet. With the care and guidance of Head Researcher Dronafeg, the twin-project of dismantling the ancient terraforming machinery and finding a way to stop the Feral Plague were solved at nearly the same time. The fungi that caused the Feral Plague were a byproduct of the millennia long machinery’s silent work, as well as the frequent asteroid impacts plaguing the colony. With the dismantling of the equipment, a solution to deal with the Plague presented itself. Head Researcher Dronafeg managed to isolate and cover most of the vent from which the gases escaped, leaving only a few of them with containers blocking them. These containers were themselves connected to refinery plants so that the otherwise toxic gases could be used for the advantage of the United Republics. Colonists express gratitude, but say that the lingering influence of the gases had an effect on them in a more ‘procreation driven’ way.”

“On other news, the dismantling of the terraforming machinery has yielded the secrets to terraform planets in but a decade or less depending on the severity of the change, instead of relying on a slow process hundreds of years old. Chancellor Toxodal has confirmed that procuring the resources and manufacturing of the necessary equipment is incredibly expensive, but once enough resources are secured, the planet of Kuglex in the Evexus system shall be the perfect staging ground to test the machinery. An auction shall be held with the items in question being artifacts that the Museums have donated for this cause. The reason? The gathering of funds dedicated to build the terraforming machinery necessary.”

“As you all have heard, Chief Palaro reported that the destroyed planet was a form of school or garden for the Baol where they raised their young. Yet he now reported that the Baol reached sapience over the course of untold millions of years in a planet of relative peace and isolation. The search for their planet or more information regarding the despicable, honorless Grunur continues.”

“Wait… yes… yes. Dear viewers, I have just received a report confirming that the Velutarians have declared war on the Netraxi in an attempt to free their enslaved population. With this crisis on hand, who could be capable of leading our people? The elections are coming soon. Who shall guide our people and take the seat of the Chancellor?”


************************************


Toxodal suppressed her anger as she stared at the screen and the avian alien at the other side of it. She barely, barely managed to contain herself from disconnecting the channel. The alien was an Iztran from the Iztran Tribes, a nation of highly advanced Marauders. Chief Imixi and the Plenty had found them by accident. They’d entered their system, but before they could move out, the Iztrans attacked. All hails were refused except for a single broadcast claiming salvage rights over the Plenty. Only a single escape pod had survived and returned to Republics space carrying only twenty of over a thousand personnel; including Imixi’s XO, Kaltidem.

“It is your choice. Pay a tribute or be raided. Either way, we shall have our bounty,” the Iztran said, the translator giving him a high-pitched, condescending tone.

“...Then you shall have your tribute. Expect it delivered on the neighbouring Gol system in three weeks time. Nothing but freighters carrying enough food to provide your species with sustenance to last a few years. Now, leave us. We have more important things to attend to, Iztran.”

His plumage ruffled, pleased. “I do love to see fighting spirit on prey. We shall expect this delivery in time. Fail, and we shall raid the world you call Camus,” he threatened before the transmission was cut.

“Filthy pirate scum,” Plax spat.

Everyone agreed to that declaration. Kurox more so than anyone else. As Grand Admiral, he felt insulted and guilty for not being able to defend the Zaymorian people. Most members of the Council could understand his feelings. Toxodal first amongst them. She had been re-elected for a fourth term of service, and almost two years later the disastrous encounter with the Iztran Tribes had occurred culminating with the death of Chief Imixi and the loss of the Plenty. It’s spiritual replacement, the Fang, had been constructed and Kaltidem had been given command of it, since Imixi himself had nurtured his XO to be a candidate for Chiefdom.

A rather rotten fish to swallow had been the fact of realizing that their naval and military power were underpowered compared to pretty much every other civilization. They only possessed one full fleet of dedicated warships. Twenty corvettes in total, with individual ships doing nothing more than small scale raids on pirate groups. Thankfully for all, those actions had prevented said pirates from consolidating any form or real power and were mere leeches instead of jokowas.

They had let their military go somewhat lax over the years, but who could blame them? Who could’ve foreseen an encounter with those damned marauders? The Defensive Pact and Alliance forged with the Kelbrid secured their south, the Netraxi were to their left and even if they decided to betray them, they had many more problems at hand than the Republics. Not to mention the blow to their economy now that they had come to be somewhat dependent on Zaymorian food supplies. And to the north, the Krith were embroiled in their own war.

And speaking of that, it had been discovered that the Velutarians were behind the assassination of the late Krith Emperor. A civil war avoided, irrefutable evidence obtained, and with blind fury in their hearts, the Krith launched an all out war against the Velutarians in the name of revenge led by the new Emperor.

That only left a single route for the United Republics to expand. A mix of consolidation and expansion had been the policies on which the nation had thrived so far. But now the threat of the Iztran had called for action.

“The Geawaga system blocks their access to both Camus and the rest of Republics space. A dedicated Fortress must be developed in the system to halt any future Iztran incursion or at least give us enough time to organize our fleets,” Kurox stated.

“We can’t invest in creating another fleet just yet, however. We have the capacity to administer more ships, but lack the resources to truly bring that fruition. The Fortress idea, though, that is more than feasible,” Amaxa pointed out, silently giving her approval to the plan.

“In the interest of easing the minds of our people, I think it is time to announce that the Merchant Guilds, in association with the Xeno Relations League, shall open an exotic Zoo, hosting creatures from all over the known galaxy,” Lizuren said. “Of course, this will be handled by the Guilds and the Xeno Relations League themselves, without the use of taxpayer resources.”

“My fourth-term looks to be rather problematic, is it not?” Toxodal muttered. “Then let us proceed.”


************************************


“The Grunur were ready to fight a war, but what they encountered were a species of enormous, slow, pacifist plantoid people. They understood this. They knew this. And yet they didn’t stop. They continued on with their genocide,” Palaro said to his crew. “I am no longer interested in what happened to the Grunur. Those honorless beasts may sink to the deepest darkness for all I care.”

His colors flickered in a mix of anger and disdain. As he sat on his chair, he practiced some meditation in order to calm himself. He had almost thrown a fit when one of his brothers moved to Sudet despite the amounts of disasters the planet had endured in its short history, although the marvels uncovered on it more than made up for it. A terrible storm that produced tornadoes had killed thousands as it devastated parts of the main settlement, but no more. He felt a surge of pride when the Chancellor herself travelled to Sudet to grant the colony all the resources needed to rebuild and continue their work.

That helped to ease his anger towards the genocidal Grunur. The crimes were seven million years old, but crimes were crimes, and theirs were of the worst kind imaginable. He could sense the rage that was also present within his crew, not to mention the public outcry against the Grunur and their methods.

And to his greatest surprise? Kuglex had once been a Baol colony. As he and his crew entered a stable orbit and the shuttles were prepped for descent, he could only wonder how by the blessing of green waters had Kuglex avoided annihilation by the Grunur.


************************************


“It is outstanding,” the Kelbrid drone said. “We have encountered this kind of world previously, but they fall under the vigilance of the Sikrati Protectors. But the planet you’ve found lacks the warning of their protection. Fortunate.”

“What kind of world is this, Kelbrid?” Toxodal asked, intrigued as she watched visual footage of the planet in the Electra system. She was no expert on planet diversity or Xenology. But even she could tell that the planet was beautiful beyond belief.

“We designate such worlds as Gaia Worlds. Planets capable of hosting every kind of higher life-form, with the exception of ammonia-based life-forms. Your people are fortunate, Chancellor Toxodal. Inquiry: may we be allowed to visit such a world? We wish to study it without repercussion.”

“You’ve been kind enough to share with us various methods to increase the production of our resource gathering station. Kelbrid, you are more than welcome to study the planet once we claim the system and a colonization fleet is dispatched,” Toxodal replied, saluting the drone.

“Affirmative. Permission acknowledged. We thank you, friends.”


************************************


It wasn’t often that Palaro allowed himself to unhinged and enjoy the simpler joys of life. But the situation demanded it. Ney. No other response was more appropriate. He wasn’t a religious male, far from it. He personally believed in higher powers, but never cared much to study or understand it. But right now, as he sat in front of a patch of flowers along with his crew, giving their respects that could only go to a great hero of old, he felt at peace, collected, and his rage against the Grunur all but forgotten.

He and his teams had uncovered that Kuglex had been invaded by the Grunur and the Baol exterminated. But before they could finish their genocide, they simply left; leaving the few remaining Baol to fend for themselves. But the Baol were slow, and cut off from their hivemind, as they reproduced and the years went by, they devolved until they became the vegetation that could be found on the surface of Kuglex.

Maybe it was a sacrifice they made, or maybe some fluke? Perhaps, dare he suggest, a deity taking pity upon this world so it didn’t die in a whimper? Whatever the case may be, while the Kuglex had been beaten, battered, and nearly rendered lifeless by the Grunur, the remaining Baol had become part of the planet and prevented it from dying, saving it as a barely habitable, but still livable Arid world despite its weak magnetic field. Studies were done on a few specimens of the vegetation in the hope to find some form of sapience or at least sentience, but the results only yielded what he already suspected: that the plants were just that, plants.

“Chief Palaro?” His communicator said.

“Yes, lieutenant?”

“The computer has deciphered the coordinates specified in the data crystal. They lead to a purposefully hidden system. I believe that the system’s sole hyperlane route was hidden with a powerful dampener, only accessible with certain coordinates, which we now have,” there was a moment of silence. “The name of the system is Grunur.”

“Then we will leave for it immediately. It’s time to bring closure to this crime once and for all,” standing up, he stated with fierce determination.


************************************


“The last of the Baol…,” Toxodal muttered. She stared at the tank holding the corpse of the last of the original Baol. “Millions of years alone… a hivemind alone… I cannot nor wish to imagine the kind of torture that must’ve been,” she sighed as she placed a hand on the crystal preserving the last Baol.

Palaro had spoken to it, and the truth had been uncovered at long last. The Grunur were paranoid and genocidal, so much so that they killed themselves off in a terrible civil war, thinking aliens had infiltrated their society. And when the war ended, ancient civilizations mopped the rest. But the Grunur… they used the Baol and their very essence to fertilize their worlds. The same kind of essence and spores freely given by the last Baol for their use. Dronafeg asked to study the secrets of the spores, to understand what they could do and achieve. Her friend passed away a year after; his protege, Bastilo, taking up his role.

When the official report was shared to the public, the entire nation underwent a seven-cycles-long mourning period to honor the Baol. A species that had done nothing malicious or dishonorable to anyone else, had suffered beyond imagination, and yet remained as amicable as ever, even to the last, final moment of their existence.

The container itself had been reinforced, repaired, and enhanced before setting it on Hydrus itself, as a sign of respect to the fallen. While their fate was sad, it had sparked an ideological conviction to avoid such bloodshed in the future, to defend the weak, and to punish the honorless. But Toxodal was no fool. They couldn’t do it alone. And they certainly couldn’t do it alone.

Not when most of the galaxy was in constant, unending conflict. The Mect-Pux - Sek-Lokkar war had ended a few years prior, and tensions remained. The Mechazur, the neighbouring machine civilization next to the Kelbrid, were constantly fighting against organic empires that wished not but to eliminate what they perceived as an affront to life itself. The Netraxi and the Velutarian signed a ceasefire, but only because the Velutarians couldn’t fight two foes at once. A desperate move that cost them to relinquish three systems to the Netraxi as the Krith were already past their outer perimeter territories and showed no signs of stopping anytime soon.

The nation was, so far, safe. But for how much longer. There were four detected wormholes across their territory and three objects, at first mistaken to be small planetoids or rogue stellar bodies, were, in fact, colossal structures of the exact same design. Samux dubbed tham as Gateways, as they showed to be, somehow, interconnected.

The United Zaymori Republics had been blessed with luck, cunning, and careful approach to avoid unnecessary conflict, but that had caused them to be the weakest power, militarily speaking, compared to all of their neighbours. This would need to be fixed soon. For now, there was time to prepare for any problem that was yet to come. For now, Diplomacy was the way to go. After all, no matter how strong someone was individually, when supported and united with allies and friends, that strength paled in comparison to the union of ten tails swimming in unison.


************************************


Despite the Iztran demanding another bribe, despite encountering two new species of spaceborne aliens, quickly studied and named as Crystallites and Space Whales, despite suffering from economical problems. The United Zaymori Republics watched in awe as the final steps on Kuglex’s terraformation were ended. The previously Arid world had been turned into an Ocean world, most of its useful fauna and flora preserved and moved to the many islands and archipelagos, gently modified so they could now survive and thrive in this new world.

The Amoebas’s signal was deciphered and were pacified, posing no danger to zaymority anymore. The technologies and mining procedures of the Silent Fleet and the mining drones had been cracked, further increasing the efficiency of all resource gathering stations. Trade was booming, and now several colonies were starting to return their massive investment. Life was good, and the prosperity of the Republics now a reality in the making.


************************************


“For five terms of service!” Klandrax, the newly appointed Head Researcher of the Physics division after Moregaf’s death a few months prior, exclaimed.

Toxodal’s throat rumbled with joy. Her bones ached, her fins were low, her tail heavy, yet she snorted over the presented sweet-roll cake made for her. Most of the faces around the Council were new, her old friends either dead or retired. Only Kurox, Samux, and Lizuren remained, both of them too stubborn to retire.

“Thank you all. It humbles me to no end that our people have put so much trust and faith in me. To have served the Republics as the Chancellor for over forty years,” her tears were clear, shining lightly against her scales. As they sat, each one holding a tray and a piece of the delicious cake, Toxodal’s favorite (health issues be damned!), a chime was heard. An emergency call.

Toxodal was chewing on her piece when she answered the call, only to find it was Koxorem, the Representative of the Camus’s Sector. At his side, stood an Iztran.

“Chancellor Toxolem, this is Representative Koxorem speaking. At my side is Yuzzho, previously an Admiral of the Iztran Tribes. He wishes to speak with the Council. I think you will find what he has to say quite interesting.”

Without waiting for an approval, Yuzzho nodded his head. “Greetings, Chancellor Toxodal and Council. I am Yuzzho, a former admiral of the Iztran Tribes.”

“Former?” Kurox asked. “What are you doing here? Are you on the run?”

“In a sense,” the avian replied. “I was the one in charge of the fleet that destroyed your vessel several years ago. The acting-commander took the initiative and attacked on his own whilst I was preoccupied with another of the fleets under my charge. By the time I noticed what happened, it was too late,” he shook its head. “I failed back then and I chastised those that participated in the destruction of your ships. But the shame and disgrace has never left my mind. After that incident, my eyes were open. I could finally see the decadence or my people, our stupidity, and our negligence without creativity or drive. I tried to push my people to innovate, to be great again, I even suggested merging into your empire. But I was mocked and ridiculed. So, I left. My people are living on borrowed time. I wish to serve under a real empire, under a real flag with pride. To walk on planets and enjoy the beauty of nature and the joy of serving someone worthy.”

“Are you asking us to let you join us, after everything your people have done to ours?” Ruen, Plax’s successor, asked without anger, just curiosity.

“I am. I know it is not something to ask lightly, but it is my desire,” he bowed his head. “If you let me join your empire, I shall also give you this,” the screen split in two. The first side showcased Yuzzho and Koxorem, the other showcased a small fleet of ships. “My loyal cremen followed me. Merely enough to allow us to make use of these meager number of ships, but I believe they can provide great aid to you all.”

The ensuing discussions took the better part of the day. Whilst Yuzzho nor any of his crewmen knew how their technology was built or worked since it was a secret only the shipmakers knew, they were powerful. Sadly, the technology was far too enigmatic to reverse-engineer, but seeing it work was enough to give ideas to the researchers. By the end of the day, Yuzzho and his fleet were welcomed, Yuzzho was granted the rank of Admiral, and the ships were to be repainted to fly using Republic’s colors.


************************************


“The Festival of Worlds organized by the Artisans has been a complete success across all planets! So much so, in fact, that countless Debkalis have decided to stay, if allowed, on Camus! The voting process was swift, and they were granted permission to stay alongside full citizenship!” The reporter exclaimed as a Debkali waved at the camera from afar. “Back to you, Kocke!”

“A multispecies civilization isn’t so far fetched now, eh?” Kocke chuckled. “On other news, remember the Krith freighter found drifting on the Suntei system? Well, after it was returned to them, the Krith expressed their gratitude just this morning. And speaking of the Krith, their war against the Velutarians has ended with a Krith victory. They have taken over several systems previously belonging to the Velutarians. Personally? I would be concerned, but the Velutarians brought that upon themselves after assassinating their late Emperor.”

“Indeed it is. While the loss of life is sad on all sides, may this be a lesson to the Velutarians. Forcing change only works when it is desired. If not, only strife and conflict awaits. Say, do you remember the Rubricator? The system has finally been found! And not only that, a habitable planet bearing the ruins of what is assumed to have been an Ecumenopolis was also found. Chief Casaxx reports there is something strange about the system, but doesn’t know what.”

“Strange indeed, Variket. Now, onto our premiere story of the day. Alcani, the Tundra planet in the Wiyter system, is to be colonized. The reason? After an extensive study of the spores given to us by the Last Baol, when combined with the terraforming equipment systems, it can, in theory, enhance the process to make lush and beautiful worlds.”

“Then why colonize it first instead of terraforming it?” Variket asked.

“Because the spores must be placed in ideal, specific zones and must be maintained during the process. Once everything is set to start, the spores will react and bring forth a rapid modification and change to the ecosystem, not so much terraforming but rather enhances everything the spores have touched as they are liberated. Sadly, this can only be done once every decade or so per planet, as the spores are precious and only a certain amount are collected every year.”

“You hear it here first, citizens! Get your tickets ready to Alcani and start a new life there. I might move there myself. I have a great feeling about it! 2243.09.27 R.D. what a time to be alive, am I right?”


************************************


Toxodal stood in front of the Prime Core of the Kelbrid, or rather the main body of the Kelbrid Databank. The trip had been long and the conversations tiresome. But a point of balance had been achieved; a reality came to fruition with, admittedly, the least expected of friends.

“It is good to see you, Chancellor Toxodal,” a disembodied voice said all around her. “We have reviewed the proposal 8.9 trillion times as you travelled to meet Us. We are pleased to accept and stand together in what the tides may deliver upon us,” Kelbrid said.

Toxodal noted the tone and the use of words the Kelbrid used, her colors shifted with joy at Their care. “And I thank you for your hospitality, Kelbrid. It may not have been needed, but I feel like it was only proper of me to come to you in person. We have known each other for a long time now, haven’t we?”

“Indeed. We treasure our friendship and mutual cooperation, Toxodal. The Zaymori people are interesting and welcome to Us. Unlike most other organics who see us with distrust or as mere objects, or worse, as abominations, you see Us as friends. We are glad and happy to accept the creation of this Federation.”

Toxodal nodded. “The United Civilizations League. It doesn’t matter if they are organic, lithoid, or synthetic. We all deserve a chance to prosper and unite in the name of progress,” he throat rumbled happily.


************************************


Another two Ancient Empires, the Djunn Remnant and the Laachax Forerunners. The former, a xenophophic, belligerent empire of isolationists. While the latter were more reclusive, but amicable. They even requested for volunteers to live in their empire, under their protection to prevent the extinction of the Zaymori in case a horrible disaster were to occur. The request had been begrudgingly accepted, and as gratitude, access to their territories was granted.

And that wasn’t the only wonder found in the past few years. Another mini-nation of marauders similar to the Iztran was found between the northern territories and the border with the Croll Commonwealth. Several more planets were colonized: Kuglex, Zithri III harbored pre-sapients and was colonized, renamed as Nadex, the beautiful natural Gaia world, renamed as Seradul ‘Gorgeous Colors Dancing’, Kregux, home of the Rubricator, and Kitadul, a large planet on the Calix system that also happened to possess a deactivated Gateway.

It was the last one that laid witness to a remarkable, unforeseen event. Chief Kaltidem encountered the remnants of a civilization just past the equivalent of a Bronze Age, yet found no sapient. After weeks of feverish exploration and study, he and his team made contact with several ponds of some sort of amniotic substance inhabited by slug-like creatures barely larger than a finger. After careful examination, Kaltidem discovered the creatures were actually quite sapient. Interrogating them had been a hurdle, but managed to get answers nevertheless.

The slugs explained to be a symbiotic life form that required a host to truly excel. Since they lack any true means to move or do anything more complicated than reproducing and slowly move around, they depend on willing hosts to experience the world in full. In return from a home and partner, they can ‘boost’ the intelligence of the host. Before Kaltidem found them, they had hosts, little more than animals, and in a few years a new civilization was being forged. But their original hosts grew paranoid that they were using them. In rage, they began to purge the slugs, but ended reverting into mindless animals in the span of a few months.

The slugs asked if the Zaymorian people would be willing to host them. Kaltidem offered himself as a first candidate and after months of coexistence, he reports that, indeed, his intelligence was boosted, his motor functions improved, and that he could mentally talk with his slug partner. In return, he simply ate a bit more than usual. He concluded that the slugs were truthful; they were a symbiotic species, not parasites. In a supreme act of trust, the information was divulged to the public. Whilst many were wary, the amount of Zaymorians volunteering to host a slug inside their heads quickly outnumbered the total population of slugs. The deal was struck, and whilst they couldn’t be recognized as an individual species, the slugs would be known simply as Zaymori-Pair.

And the good news didn’t stop there. Months after Alcani was finally colonized and the spores released, the planet underwent a rapid terraforming process that, instead of harmful, increased the habitability and beauty beyond any expected metric.When the process began, Alcani was now comparable to Seradul. And while that was well and good, the true marvelous happenstance of it all was the birth of plantoid lifeforms. As if they had been asleep for millions of years, these new sapients awoke to greet the Zaymori people all over the planet. Whilst much smaller, just slightly smaller than the average Zaymori, smarter, individualistic; not part of a hivemind, and fast, a quick study proved that these new inhabitants of Alcani shared similarities with the Baol of old, making them their children or heirs. Recognized as fully sapient and welcomed into the United Republics as fellow citizens, the Nu-Baol were grateful and quickly integrated themselves into society.

In the Menjet Terriroty a massive construct known as the Infinity Machine orbits a black hole, but the Menjet avoid it. Much like the Dimensional Horror, now understanding what it truly was thanks to the Curator Order, the Infinity Machine as well as several other massive creatures dubbed Leviathans were encountered scattered across the Galaxy. The Kelbrid had to deal with a titanic Space Whale, the Mect-Pux had to worry about an Ethereal Dragon, the Juustkans, despite their advanced civilization compared to almost every other one, excluding the Ancient Empires, couldn’t destroy a Void Abomination or solve the mysteries of a lonely, eerily quiet gargantuan Fortress the size of a moon.

Lastly, the constant wars between specific civilizations seemed to have no end, no matter the pleads of the Galactic Community, it was decided that, as long as the conflicts were kept outside the Community, attempts to stop wars, with the sole exception of aiming for genocide, would be stopped. A hard pill to swallow for the Zaymorian people, as slavery was ramptant in several empires, most of them their neighbours.

As expansion finally halted and consolidation became the main focus of the Republics, the time had come to increase the production of ships nation-wide. Placed on strategic locations, the Fouahiri and Electra systems had their stations upgraded to Shipyards. Alongside this effort, several systems had their stations upgraded into fully serving Anchorages to ease the increasing docking demands, both present and future.

Nobody wanted to think about it, but as conflicts grew in scale outside League borders, it was inevitable that, at some point, trouble would come knocking to the doorstep. Diplomacy was a powerful weapon, but only against those that could be made to listen to reason. Instead of wishing for the best, the only viable option was to prepare.

Toxodal relaxed on her chair after signing the decree to begin the construction, upgrade, and research of military uses; more powerful ships, designs, patterns, scanners, weaponry, shielding, armor… everything that could give them an edge. She knew the Zaymori, the Republics, the League, and quite possibly, should it come to it, the galaxy would need it.


************************************


Vakurex was having a great day. She had come to be Chancellor’s Toxodal’s assistant for two full terms already. She had come to admire her since she was a little hatchling, reading up on her deeds and everything that had happened ever since she first sat on the Chancellor chair. Working alongside her for almost thirty years had been a blessing she would dare not change even for a life supply of boiled squid with fresh harvested kelp. Opening the door of her office, she found Toxodal relaxing on the aforementioned chair.

“Chancellor, I have some reports that arrived a few minutes ago. Every Starbase has been upgraded into a Starholds, their specialization is underway as planned. Also, the new Foundries have been completed on Camus and Kuglex. The production for the first ships of the Waterfall, Seafoam, and Lake fleets can begin. Admiral Yuuzho reports that the new destroyers work better than expected. Research on Cruisers is now a priority,” Vakurex explained before presenting the datapad to Toxodal. She stared for a few moments at the unresponding elderly female. “Chancellor Toxodal?” She asked, worry growing in her heart.

Approaching her, Vakurex noticed the security alarms had been manually shut down alongside the companion VI. Getting closer, Vakurex noticed a tender expression on Toxodal’s features and it was only then that she noticed her bioluminescence was absent.

“Chancellor Toxodal! Help! Help!” She shouted. Forgetting about protocol, she checked for a pulse while she screamed for help. Less than a minute later, a few warriors and two medics rushed forward. It took them just a few seconds to determine that Chancellor Toxodal had perished.

She had died on her beloved chair.


************************************


Chancellor Ludremex sat on his chair as a pile of reports and datapads covered the surface of his desk. He wasn’t even forty years old and he was starting to serve his third term as Chancellor. He could still remember the funeral and the entire population of the Republics grieving over the loss of the greatest Chancellor in the lengthy history of the United Zaymori Republics regardless of their species. She had died mere months before concluding her fifth term of service. And, if he was honest with himself, he couldn’t help but laugh at his ambitions for launching his campaign to take the seat of the Chancellor. It had been a complete surprise for everyone when he won, albeit by a small margin.

A feat made even more incredible when one considered he was only nineteen at the time. The very day he sat on the chair, he realized the full weight of it carried. Oh, how he had vomited from anxiety and sheer terror upon making the horrid realization that he was both the face and responsible of countless billions of citizens. For all his wealth and genius, he felt lost. Thankfully for him, Vakurex had aided him greatly during his two first years. Without her, he might’ve given up and stepped down. But her guidance allowed him to rise to the challenge and face the problems head on.

“And now I’m starting my third term,” he said to himself. Reclining, he pondered on everything that had happened during his time as Chancellor.

More worlds, namely Camus, Hydrus, and Aqua had been terraformed into Gaia worlds just like Alcani. He had seen the revival of another species, the Azizians. How the Mect-Pux managed to strike a catastrophic victory against their rivals, the Sek-Lokkar, and assimilated their once great empire in the span of a single campaign. How the Mechazur barely managed to withstand the blows of the Dabulan and the Menjet. The arrival of Iztran refugees. The meteoric growth across the Republics. The technological development that brought them Cruisers and a viable way to make fighters effective in space combat. Further advancement in Starbases to create true Fortresses in space.

Travelling through wormholes, discovering the so-called L-Gates, witnessing the Netraxi, Krith, Adeex, and Velutarians wage their wars to the increasing detriment of the Krith and the Netraxi, the Mect-encountering the ruins of several gigantic derelict constructions, minor expansion on unclaimed space in order to take possessions of such derelicts. Better weaponry, better shielding, better armor. Better everything.

No one could deny that the nation was prosperous, life was good, and every conflict seemed so distant. So far fetched. At least, that was, until the Mechazur were asked to join the League. They accepted despite their initial distrust. But the Kelbrid shared with them their information, and were put at ease. Mere weeks after announcing the Mechazur inclusion into the League, a galaxy-wide message from the Menjet was received.

“The Zaymori are heretical beings! Unworthy of respect or sapience! For these blasphemers had chosen to embrace the soulless machines over fellow living beings! They shall be purged along the machines! The Gods demand your extinction! Death to the Zaymorians! Destroy the Machines!”

War was now inevitable. Irrefutable. But Ludremex wasn’t worried. The League was far stronger than the, admittedly, powerful Menjet. Perhaps alone the Republics wouldn’t stand much of a chance in their current position against a Holy War driven by fanatically crazy Menjet zealots. But they weren’t alone, and they would not relent. Sadly, despite the ever growing pace of production and demands for resources, the fleets only stood at a little over half of total strength and capabilities.

“Not an issue,” he whispered. “The first Battleships shall be completed by next year. That will give us the time we need.”

“Chancellor Ludremex?” A voice chimed through the intercom.

“Yes, Calfaren, what is the matter?”

“It’s the Mect-Pux. They’ve declared war on the Dabulan. In their weakened state, there is no way their empire will be able to stop the Mect-Pux from absorbing them into their Alliance.”

“Summon the Council. There must be a way to stop them without direct intervention.”


************************************


Turns out, there wasn’t. Before negotiations and political pressure could be used, the Mect-Pux had conquered and absorbed the Dabulan Regime. What made such an outcome even worse was that there might’ve been a way to interfere were not for zealous Menjet performing suicide attacks all across League space. Freighters destroyed, civilian transports, resource gathering stations… and even a starbase and a colony ship.

War was the only option left to end the threat of the Menjet. While the Kelbrid and Mechazur joined forces to assault the Menjet from the front, the Republics used the wormhole in the Wiyter system to attack the Menjet from behind. Unable to fight on both sides, yet unwilling to surrender, the Menjet resorted to crazier, gruesome methods of waging war. All boarding actions had to be prohibited as they scuttle their ships the moment defeat or capture was inevitable. And not just their ships, their stations, star bases, and many planetary installations also followed that same doctrine. It wasn’t until the Mect-Pux, smelling blood in the water, attacked the Menjet in a surprise attack.

Unanimously, it was decided to retreat and allow the Mect-Pux carry out their invasion. At least that way the Menjet would not resort to throwing their lives away so callously. Shortly after the retreat, a strange event transcurred all across League space. Linking all research networks momentarily, it was discovered that the event in question, clouds of drifting energy that surged from hyperspace itself, were, in fact, fragments of a being inhabiting that dimension. It was decided to aid the creature recompense itself. After many months of work and study, it was done and the clouds dispersed, not before making several entries and complex maneuvers through hyperspace as a ‘thank you’. This, in turn, allowed the League and every scientist to better understand hyperspace itself and develop third-generation hyperdrives.

While the Mect-Pux invasion was underway, the Velutarians and the Adeex formed a Federation, the Interstellar Pact. A few years later, as expected, the Pact declared war on the Netraxi. Caught on a pincer maneuver, they were unable to withstand the might of the two empires and were absorbed into their fold. Shortly thereafter, the Krith Hegemony fell as well. As the Pact grew in power, Ludremex and the Council feared the worst and prepared in full order. With two of the now five active war fleets at full strength and upgraded with top of the line equipment, whilst the remaining three stood at half strength, the Pact wouldn’t be able to penetrate so easily into Republics space.

Thankfully for everyone, the Pact expressed no desire to fight the League as long as the League didn’t conflict with their interests. With safety guaranteed, however temporary, a focus on research and development was paramount more than ever. The Mechazur were able to reactivate the L-Gate inside their territory and found a civilization living in an extra galactic cluster, the Dessanu Consonance, trade commences. They are friendly but refuse further interaction.

Maybe the amount of conflict and carnage, of the ongoing wars, and the steady but rapid increase in power was the catalyst that sparked the rise of the Iztran Khanate led by the so-called ‘Great Khan’.

“If it is a battle you want, then you shant find us wanting, Khan,” Ludremex said strongly despite his age. He was already over a hundred years of age, but thanks to medicinal advancements and a healthy diet and meditation had extended the life expectancy of every citizen of the Republics. While this was his fourth term of service, choosing to withdraw after his third term had ended, he was elected by popular demand to lead the Republics against this new threat since the fighting chance they had were due, in large part, thanks to his political reforms, influence push, and advice throughout the years.

“Then so be it, Zaymorian. Let it be known I offered peace and a chance to serve under my flag and that you squandered it. Now you will be reduced to space dust and the remnants of your empire will be picked clean by my warriors. Let it be known that in <<2325.12.08 R.D.>> the United Zaymori Republics choose death over servitude and glory.”

The transmission ended.

“I swear I shall kill him myself if I have to,” Yuuzho, the oldest amongst all of the present, declared. He had ascended to the rank of Grand Admiral several decades ago and his knowledge had been imperative in the development of new ships and tactics. While his species were long-lived, further enhanced by Zaymorian improvements and medical care, he was nearing the end of his life. “I may yet die in a blaze of glory, perhaps?”


************************************


“Keep firing! Keep firing! Everything we have!” Yuuzho shouted as he watched the tactical display that showed his forces and the forces of the Great Khan. He had called the strike perfectly. He knew the hubris of his people and he knew the Great Khan would make good on his promise. Yuuzho grunted as another ship under his command blipped off the map.

“Shield at ten percent, armor holding at minimum capacity, fighter squadrons at half strength, Grand Admiral! Several decks venting atmosphere! Sir, we must retreat!”

“Negative! If we flee now then the Bastion falls! We must hold out as long as we can!”

“The Pride of Crystals has exploded! Shit, the Emerald and the Bubbles are down as well!”

“Another Iztran Fleet incoming! We won’t be able to hold down for much longer!”

Yuuzho wheezed. Yes. The trap had been laid perfectly. The River fleet was still being upgraded and the Shore fleet was busy dealing with a skirmishing fleet and wouldn’t be able to make it through. Worse still, the Khan had managed to isolate them by dispatching jamming probes to several systems. So he couldn’t get aid from the outside and he couldn’t warn anyone of what was coming.

The trap had been laid perfectly. But the Khan had a counter trap that also worked perfectly. Now Yuuzho was forced to hold out against twelve fleets of the Khan, including his personal fleet, while he only had four. The Waterfall and the Seafoam fleets were at full strength and fully upgraded. Meanwhile, despite also being fully upgraded, the Lake and the Wave fleets were only at half strength.

Blow for blow, his fleets were far more powerful than the Khan’s fleets. Fast attacking corvettes designed to pelt enemy shields and wreck their armor in short order. Quick and versatile destroyers that picked off any missiles and strike craft with their point defense while providing targeting aid and pelting damage to enemy vessels. Cruisers, the carriers showring death from afar while their fighters and bombers focused on the smaller ships and enemy engines and exposed weaponry; the heavy line cruisers were the backbone of each fleet, designed to withstand heavy amounts of punishment and spit out just as much in return.

Finally, the battleships. Deadly from long range and packed to the brim with weaponry they were designed to grind enemy ships into processed meat. The carriers released beehives of fighters and bombers, while the artillery line battleships focused on enemy cruisers and other battleships. Yet both types had an ace hidden in between their fins. Spinal mounted tachyon lances, the latest development in how to erase an enemy from existence in a single shot.

Even with the advantage of superior firepower, the Khan’s ships outnumbered his own five to one. The Geawaga Bastion helped them immensely as it’s sheer firepower was comparable to that of an entire fleet itself. If the station fell, then the Khan would be free to continue. Fouahiri and Camus would be next, and if the shipyards fell, then who knows how long it would take for the Republics to recover and mount an effective counter offensive. The jammers prevented his ships from fleeing the system, and if they resorted to an emergency jump, by the time they returned to real-space the Khan would already be deep inside and entrenched. He had to fight. Because for every hour, every minute, every second he bought fighting the Khan, it was extra time the nation that took him in and that he loved with all his hearts had to prepare safely.

“Khan’s fleet moving closer!”

“It seems he wants to end this personally,” Yuuzho said. “Then so be it! Prepare to overload the core! These honorless brutes will not earn an easy victory!”

“TO THE DEPTHS!” Shouted the crew.

“Move to engage, point blank range. Prepare to mince their hulls with Plasma, overload their shield with Railgun shots! And fire a Tachyon Lance straight on their command deck,” Yuuzho ordered, feeling the ship move, its engines spooling up and thrusting it forward.

“Sir, we are detecting several jump warnings!”

“More fleets? How many does the Khan have!?” Yuuzho snorted angrily. “No matter! We shall take as many of them as we can with us!”

“Sir… it’s coming from the Fouahiri system! Exiting hyperspace in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1!”

On queue, a total of ten fleets appeared scattered over millions of kilometers almost at the same time. Before Yuuzho could hail them, every ship in the fleet received a transmission. The screens split in two to reveal a Kilbred Admiral drone and a Mechazur Admiral drone.

“The League Stands Together,” they said in unison the motto of the League.

Yuuzho allowed himself to breathe in relief. Reinforcements had arrived, but the battle still raged. “Concentrate fire on their escorts! We just need to hold out for a few minutes!”


************************************


Grand Admiral Yuuzho glared with satisfaction at the Khan’s bridge. Sparks were going haywire everywhere, every Iztran loyal to him was dead, and he was the only one alive, restrained by a Zaymori and a Debkali. From the screens, they were watching as ship after ship and military outpost after outpost were destroyed, sparing the habitational stations and letting all those who surrendered safe passage and refuge.

Yuuzho walked over to the beaten, bloodied Khan. Months ago he had been defeated in the battle of Geawaga, he had tried to recover and push back, but the combined might of the League proved to be too much for the Iztran Khanate to handle. While the majority of the ships returned to Fouahiri for repairs, those that could fight on still followed the Khan’s trail after his defeat. Now, with nowhere else to run and finally captured, Yuuzho upholstered his pistol and aimed it at the Khan’s head.

“Great Khan my talons,” he said before pulling the trigger.


************************************


Chancellor Sisulem watched alongside the Council members the current galactic map. The Mect-Pux controlled their part of the galaxy unrivaled, only halted by the Laachax. To the east laid the Interstellar Pact. She grumbled. While the League had dealt with the Khan years ago, the Pact had gone to war with the Jusstkhan Confederacy for a second time. The first war had ended in humiliation for the Pact, but the second war ended in a crushing victory for them after the Croll Commonwealth joined the Velutarians and the Adeex. And finally, at the center stood the League. The three greatest superpowers of the known galaxy outside the Ancient Empires.

The Mect-Pux were not a threat. Not yet, anyway. They had stopped their conquest campaigns mainly because they had to deal with rebellions and uprisings all the time. Never to the scale of a civil war, but always forcing them to never break off their ironfisted hold. That just left the Pact, and despite their past hollow promises of non-aggression, everyone knew it was only a matter of time. Shortly after dealing with the Khan, they had declared war. What they didn’t know was that the League had been expecting such a treacherous and were as ready as they could be. The first war ended in a white peace, neither side able to gain a clear upper hand.

The stalemate had been broken the previous war when the first Ocean class Titans were completed and ready for deployment. At that moment, only two Titans entered the line of battle as the flagships of the River and Seafoam fleets. The Pact surrendered when they realized they were outgunned and outmatched; deciding that losing a handful of systems was better than losing precious ships and potentially millions of lives.

It was only now, in 2412.02.23 R.D., that a new threat rose from outside the edges of the galaxy. No one knew what it was exactly, for it had yet to arrive, but everyone knew that its arrival was imminent. Sisulem was worried. What kind of horror was approaching their way? Over the years of the League’s existence, the three civilizations that composed it had grown in power and influence. Each one had become a monumental powerhouse in its own right, but where the Kelbrid and the Mechazur limited themselves to efficiency and logic, the Republics embraced the enhancing of their organic forms, rather than become synthetics themselves. Their own synthetics were recognized as citizens, not objects. And the nation itself had pursued a path of enrichment in many senses. Going so as far to finally bad slavery in its entirety, which, ironically, had caused the Mect-Pux to suffer less uprisings.

It had dealt with the Dimensional Horror through great cost, expunging the demonic creature from whatever dark dimension it tried to crawl out of. Many other threats were destroyed in joint efforts with the rest of the League members: the Void Abomination, the Colossal Space Whale, and the terrible Stellar Devourer. Furthermore, with the abundance of resources, it was possible to repair the colossal structures found in several systems.

A Strategic and Tactical Coordination Center.

A Matter Catcher and Mineral Decompressor.

An ancient Interstellar Assembly Center.

But that was not enough to secure the future of the League and of the Republics. From scratch and with some aid in understanding nanomachine engineering from the Dessanu, a Toxodal Sphere was constructed around an M-class star to provide more than enough energy for the entire League. A Megashipyard had also been constructed, both as an emergency base and a rallying point. The Gateway system had been reactivated and new Gateways constructed in strategically important systems.

And, of course, the Juggernaut. The pride and soul of the Republics. A mobile advanced fortress and command center with enough anger to repeal almost any enemy. The Kelbrid had Titans and was building their own Juggernaut, while the Mechazur preferred a multitude of battleships over overwhelming, centralized superior firepower. Each of them had also constructed their own marvels of engineering, such as Solar Spheres, Decompressors, and Science Nexuses. The Kelbrid,in particular, had constructed a Ring World whilst the Mechazur repaired a derelict one.

“Are we ready to face whatever is coming our way?” She asked, looking at the Council members and the rest of the League leaders.

“Our fleet capacity is at its maximum, Our computational range cannot handle more. But We are ready,” said the Mechanizur.

“And so are We. This threat will be vanquished as long as We Stand Together,” the Kelbrid chanted, earning a series of nods and whispers of valor.


************************************


“Prethoryn. A Scourge upon our galaxy,” Chancellor Sisulem muttered.

“Chancellor, I am ready to begin,” the newest Grand General, Vuvul, a Nu-Baol and a psychic, said as she sat on a highly advanced, Zro fueled, psychic attuned platform.

Sisulem nodded. For a moment she thought about why would the Nu-Baol, a species without genders, prefer to refer to themselves as female, but she didn’t voice her question. She was nervous. Everyone was nervous. Her Pair also voiced its concern and worry about the plan, worrying for the life of the Nu-Baol.

The Prethoryn had invaded just two years prior. Two… years. And they had already wrecked havoc on an unprecedented scale. They had arrived through the galactic northwest, right at the heart of the Croll Commonwealth. The Pact had also prepared as best as they could and engaged the, admittedly, small Prethoryn incursion.

They defeated a single of their fleets at the cost of five of theirs.

Just when it looked like they were just about to contain and isolate the monstrous invaders, the much, much larger second wave of fleets broke through and it was revealed the full extent of their horror. The first five small fleets detected? Those were mere exploratory and recognizense fleets. The second wave was their vanguard, while the full force of the Prethroyn was yet to arrive.

The Pact fought desperately, even buying the second mini-empire of marauders near their territory. But they were swiftly defeated. Merchant enclaves, a Curator Order, and the Caravaneers all fell to the Prethoryn advance. The worst part was what they did to the planets they invaded. Within weeks, what was once a habitable world was turned into a toxic wasteland that only the Prethoryn could inhabit, and only until they consumed all their natural resources to produce more of themselves at a rate that baffled the mind. No matter how many Prethoryn died in space, if they took over a planet, they would easily replenish their fallen and keep producing more and more.

And as if the horror was not yet sufficient, it was discovered they were not a mindless horde of monsters, but an intelligent and highly sophisticated form of hivemind species. While the Prethoryn ravaged the Pact, the League prepared every warship they could muster, throwing every available resource into the coming fight. And yet, hope remained that if a strong enough psychic, having its abilities further enhanced by Zro and a psionic amplifier could communicate in full with the Prethoryn, then maybe an accord could be reached.

“Begin,” Sisulem uttered, knowing that the Grand General’s life was in danger over a gambit.

At first, there was no visible change. But it wasn’t long before Vuvul started to shake, her entire body rustling and cracking. “Contact…” she whispered, then, she went still. “Gokeo?”

Sisulem and everyone else present shuddered upon feeling the unnatural, incomprehensibly deep and dark presence of the being talking through Vuvul’s mind. Even the Kelbrid and the Mechazur were visibly struggling to comprehend the situation. Steeling herself, she went straight to the point. “We won’t be able to maintain this link for long. What do you want?”

“We… desire…. Survival. Escape… from… Hunters…,” it said.

“You’re escaping?” Sisulem asked weakly, a pit forming in her stomach. If they were telling the truth… if they were actually running away from something, from these ‘Hunters’, then what could they be to make these horrors flee from them? Shaking her head, she pressed on. “Then why invade our galaxy?”

“You… prey… We… consume… We… survive… you… nourishment… We… move… We... leave... MUST survive,” it replied callously.

“Abomination,” Sisulem cursed. “We will stop you, you will not make prey out of our galaxy. We shall send you to the depths of oblivion itself! And then, we will see what your ‘Hunters’ really are and beat them if we have to!”

“MUGANI!? HAK! HAK! HAK!” Vuvul shouted, laughing deeply. Then, the laughing stopped and Vuvul began to scream and wail uncontrollably. “THEY COME! THEY COME! THEY COME!” She shouted over and over again.


************************************


“How damn stupid can they be!?” Sisulem shouted, punching through the desk as she had finished hearing the latest report of the war effort. “There is a literal galaxy devouring super organisms carving a bloody path throughout everywhere they touch, and yet they decide they want to settle their own squabbles!?”

She fumed with rage and anger. How could she not? A month after Vuvul sacrificed herself in order to make contact with the Prethoryn hivemind, she had gone insane by what the hivemind showed her. She could only mumble in whispers and repeated sentences what she had seen. Before her death, enough information had been recorded and compiled into a sensible timeline.

The Prethoryn were once a massive empire spanning the total of sixteen galaxies of the local cluster. For millions of years they had expanded, slowly over time, taking their time, devouring every last trace of biomass in those galaxies and colonizing everything even vaguely habitable to increase the power of their empire. It was around twenty thousand years ago that they were ready to colonize a rather large galaxy. But when they arrived, they were stopped and eventually pushed back until the infamous ‘Hunters’ were not only able to fight them back, but slaughter them wholesale.

Over the course of twenty thousand years the Hunters travelled to each galaxy controlled by the Prethoryn Hive Mind and cleansed them. Hundreds of thousands of fleets escaped, but they were followed and exterminated one by one. Some arrived at another galaxy and moved quickly to scavenge it, multiply, and then move on, hoping to one day have the numbers to fight back against the Hunters. But time and time again the Hunters caught on if they lingered too much. As it were, this group of fleets were probably a few of the last ones.

With that new information, the Mect-Pux decided they would hold out the storm and wait until the Hunters arrived to save them. The Pact, already suffering from a terrible blow that saw the Croll wiped out wholesale, leaving what remained of their populace as little more than refugees, struggled to maintain what little order there was still. The Prethoryn, on the other hand, swarmed their territories. Their formidable planetbound armies proved to be difficult to overcome, even for the dreaded invader. That bought them time.

Disaster occurred when several of their fleets reached the Bulia system and travelled through its wormhole only to come out inside Mect-Pux territory, terrorizing and swallowing up three undefended worlds in but a few weeks.

Then, when all seemed lost and the League prepared to either die valiantly or withstand the fury of Scourge, the Laachax broadcasted that enough was enough. Their stagnant empire had its fire reignited, driven by the sole purpose of destroying the alien invader. Their fleets, armament, and equipment proved to be more than enough to match and even surpass the Prethoryn fleet to fleet. Hope had been reignited in the hearts of those superpowers and minor civilizations that still remained.

Only for it to come crashing down when the Djunn rose up to challenge the Laachax. The two ancient rivals turned their focus to one another, ignoring the Prethoryn and only fighting it when it got in their way.

“Conclusion reached: Unable to Protect the Galaxy. Must be Eliminated,” Mechazur said.

“Consensus achieved: Agreed. These Ancient Empires have proven their incompetence. The League must repeal the Prethoryn and the threat of these foolish, prideful hedonists,” Kelbird stated.

“Then that’s what we will do. If they can’t be relied on to protect the galaxy; unable to set their stupidity aside for a greater good, then they will be removed,” Sisulem agreed. “Are the fleets and armies ready to move?”


************************************


It had been poetic, in a sense. The Prethoryan recognized the danger the two ancient empires posed to them; recalling all their fleets to a single, massive formation to overpower their prey with minimal losses. The Djunn and the Laachax were too focused on their petty squabble that when the Prethoryn arrived en-mass to assault the Djunn’s territory, it was already too late to stop them. The Prethoryn wreaked havoc on their systems, but before they could move to invade their planets, the League arrived to catch two fish in a single swipe.

Deciding to bet everything in a single battle, the League had carefully bid its moment to strike the perfect blow. The combined fleets of all three members of the League, moving as one, assaulted the Prethoryn when they were disorganized, already engaged in battle with the massive and powerful station protecting the Djunn’s home system. The battle had been a slaughter, simple as that. The League had taken its time, researched, and found the weaknesses in the Prethoryn before voting to engage them in combat. With most of the fleets heavily damaged and the starbase captured, they were repaired as soon as able and split itself into two formations.

The first formation moved to destroy the Prethoryn spawning pools and their broodmothers.

The second formation moved to attack the Laachax and eliminate their nearly shattered fleets, courtesy of the Djunn, before taking out their starbase to stop their shipbuilding capabilities.

After years of battles, sometimes ending in victory, sometimes in defeat, but never relenting, the League managed to cleanse every world touched and colonized by the Prethoryn. Their carcasses vaporized into dust, and their corruption thoroughly eradicated. Every conceivable resource was put into the lengthy war effort: forced rationing, avoidance of luxury expenditure, recruitment campaigns, and budget cuttings were all a necessary action to take for the fifteen long, grueling, terrible years the war lasted.

The Pact had been nearly shattered, four fifths of their territory ravaged by the invaders. The Mect-Pux suffered a terrible blow, losing a third of their territory along with the total destruction of their homeworld, their Solar Sphere, and their half-finished Ring World.

The Ancient Empires were conquered. The Mechazur, the ones responsible for aporting most of the armies involved in the conquest of their territory, claimed it for themselves. The xenophobic and hateful tendencies of the Djunn forced the Mechazur to ask the Republics to nerve staple them. While the overwhelming majority of the population undergo the implantation, some bowed their heads and accepted their defeat. Their childrens would be raised, free from the stupidity and hatred of their decaying nation, and be raised to leave a prosperous life in the League.

The Laachax were more open minded. When their defeat was all but imminent, they surrendered to the League; their only condition being that their former territories, peoples, and everything else they owned now passed directly under the control of the United Zaymori Republics.

The Kelbrid took it upon themselves to reclaim and stand watch over the territory the Prethoryn had scourged. As a first act to return to normality, the League promised to stand as Guardians of the Galaxy and use every means possible to restore life or at the very least mitigate the damage the invaders had caused.

The biggest surprise came when, moments after the declaration was announced to the Galaxy, the Sikrati Protectors contacted the League officials and representatives… to offer their pledge of servitude as they bowed their heads in reverence. Their Enlightened Primus expressed how they, as Holy Guardians, had failed to defend the galaxy and saw that their isolation and their way of life had turned hedonistic and sinful. They pleaded, nearly begged to be accepted as a vassal estate.

Chancellor Sisulem refused their offer outright. Instead, she made her own counter-proposal to invite them into the League as it’s fourth official and independent member.

Their inclusion passed immediately.


************************************


2569.11.19 R.D.

The gathered fleets of the United Civilization League waited at strategic locations on the infamous Bakart system, the main entry point of the Prethoryn Scourge over a century ago.

Over the following years, the League grew in power and stability, dealing with internal threats and the remnants of the Mect-Pux and the Pact. Over the course of several skirmishes and two wars, these two powers fell; their governments were replaced and then accepted into the League. Now the League had complete control of the galaxy, their technology advancing steadily and slowly uncovering the means of viable travel to another galaxy and establishing the birth of a truly intergalactic society, pledging also to destroy any Prethoryn fleet left alive or any threat to all life.

And that last part was the reason why the fleets had gathered on Bakarat. Weeks ago, a signal was detected showing something heading towards their galaxy, following the exact path the Prethoryn had used to arrive.

“Ten Juggernauts, four in the system and six in reserve in the neighbouring systems. A hundred and ten Titans. Over two thousand line battleships, a thousand carrier battleships, twice that number in cruisers and carriers, ten thousand destroyers, fifty thousand corvettes, and countless service ships, fighters, interceptors, and bombers,” the Enlightened Primus said. “If the Prethoryn have returned, they shall be purged by holy fire.”

“Indeed. Their threat shall be stopped before they have a chance to leave this system,” the Mechazur stated.

“ALERT! Incoming!” A synthetic crewman reported.

Before anyone could exclaim their disbelief, as projections estimated another six hours before the Prethoryn or whatever this new entity arrived, a large wound in space itself was torn open at the edge of the system. The arrays and scattered satellites, listening posts, and probes provided all the information and visual confirmation of what was happening. A small fleet of only twelve installations the size of Juggernauts emerged from the scar in space before it closed.

“Analizing… Analisi impossible…” the Kelbrid declared. “All scanning efforts have failed.”

Chancellor Imateo stood up from his seat. “Attempt to hail them. Whoever they are, they aren’t the Prethoryn.”

“Hailing,” the operator turned to the Chancellor. “Hailing successful, on screen.”

“Greetings, a pleasure to meet new life forms!” The creature said as soon as the screen came to life.

“Greetings be with you as well,” Imateo saluted. “If I may ask, how can I understand you? I was expecting a mutual data exchange to integrate it with our translation software.”

“We decoded your languages as soon as we arrived. Your software and cyber defenses stood our assault for 3.56 seconds. Very impressive. According to the information mined, you must be Chancellor Imateo of the United Zaymori Republics and representative to the United Civilizations League. I am delighted to meet you and all of your allies. I’m surprised to see machine intelligences such as the Kelbrid and the Mechazur. Most of the time, machine civilizations are destroyed due to fear or rise to conquer their home galaxy. It is refreshing to see this outcome in yours!”

Imateo, as well as everyone else, was taken aback. They were hacked and they didn’t notice it? Not even the Mechazur, the Kelbrid, or the synthetics?

“Who are you?”

“Oh, sorry, where are my manners? You see, Chancellor, I am a representative and Commodore of the League of Elysium, a coalition that originated in the home galaxy of my people and now comprises over a thousand galaxies, all united under principles quite similar to your United Civilizations League. I and my fleet have been tasked with hunting and exterminating the plague of the Prethoryn, but it seems you managed to withstand the storm and survive.”

As if the information of them revealing the impossible scale of their League of Elysium wasn’t enough, the reveal that these aliens were the dreaded Hunters forced Imateo to sit back. His head felt like spinning and he suddenly felt the urge to vomit. Marginally managing to contain himself, he asked. “W-What are you going to do now?”

“Well, our task is to destroy our target, but since you already did our work for us, then our secondary objective follows: make contact with any, if there are, sapient, space-faring civilization and shield them from the Prethoryn. With that out the way, we can begin diplomatic discussions and cultural exchange. It is rare for the civilizations of a galaxy to unite and repeal a threat such as the Prethoryn. With any luck, your League may request entry into the League of Elysium. You’ll retain your independence, of course. You’ll simply have access to our net, technological research information, and other related things. If you don’t, then we shall leave immediately.”

“You… would not force us into joining your League?”

“Of course not. You have the right to remain the way you are if you so desire, but if you declare war or threaten life itself, then you would be dealt with,” the Commodore explained.

Imateo relaxed into his seat. Over a thousand galaxies? A gargantuan intergalactic coalition that could easily demand vassalization but refused to do so? What secrets could such beings teach them? How many tens of thousands of new species were there to meet, cultures to explore, traditions to understand and practice, foods to taste, experiences to achieve?

“Before we begin discussing whether or not we accept opening diplomatic talks with you and your League of Elysium, there is something I must know,” said Imateo.

“Of course. If I can answer it, I will. Please, ask anything of me.”

“Are you the ‘Hunters’?”

“Ah, that would be us indeed. My people, specifically, in fact.”

Imateo was taken aback. “Your people are the Hunters?”

“Yes and no. The entire League is what the Prethoryn refer to as ‘The Hunters’, for we hunt them. But it was my people who first managed to fight back against them, win, and drive them back. We spearheaded the war against the Prethoryn from the moment they tried to conquer our home planet back in our home galaxy.”

Imateo nodded in understanding. “I see. We were almost bested by what I can assume to be a very small force of what you must’ve face. You must be formidable warriors,” his throat rumbled and fins quivered to show respect as he saluted the strange alien. “To whom do I have the honor to talk?”

The alien returned the salute. “Commodore Joseph Vladimir Avis, Human Federated Systems. The honor is all ours.”

Imateo bowed his head, as did everyone present, even the Mechazur and the Kilbred. He was looking forward to talking with this human and learning more about the League of Elysium. After all, a lesson all Zaymorians knew from hatchlinghood was that there is always a bigger fish in the ocean.




The End.
By: Nathaniel Balaszi

Tseuq – Takodaq’na
I’m thirteen. I’m old enough to know what’s going on.
Mira repeated the sentence out loud to her parents. Her argument did nothing to ease their wan faces. They exchanged a meaningful look and her mother sighed deeply.
“You’re right, of course.” Her father admitted heavily. “That doesn’t change our impulse to want to protect you. Sometimes I forget how much you’ve grown up.”
“Then tell me what’s wrong.” Mira shot back.
“We’ve never told you why Tseuq got colonized in the first place.” Her father replied. “This colony was set up as part of the peace treaty between the Sabeton Confederation–“
“Us.” Mira’s mother cut in.
“…between us and the Garmish Nations.” Her father finished.
“So we’re a peace kitten or royal marriage.” Mira said thickly, a mocking tone creeping into her voice.
“A whole planet of peace kittens.” Her mother said gently.
“I always thought it was strange for us to be living on a planet with Garm and treating them as equals after everything we learned in school,” Mira said.
“Don’t believe that xenophobic trash!” Mira’s mother said sharply. “You know that the outsiders despise each other, and they despise us here for getting along.”
“I still need to know it for the exams…” Mira muttered.
“What has us worried, is that the governments refused to extend the peace treaty earlier this year, and now the Sabeton have pulled all their garrisons off the planet. Ostensibly, it’s to reinforce the garrisons on Mirzam for the slave unrest, but…I don’t trust the official news dispatches as much as I used to.” Her father said, finally answering Mira’s question.
“So…the two of you are looking ill because you think war is imminent and likely to be centered around Tseuq?”
“It’s more than that: not only was the founding of this colony contentious, its citizens are twice-reviled by the overseeing governments. The Garm living here were exiled by their government too. They’ll be slaughtered on sight if they try to visit a Garmish planet. We got off light with just losing our dens. If war does break out, we’ll probably be attacked by both.”
“So war is imminent and when it comes we’re toast.” Mira said glibly, not yet fully comprehending what she said.

– – –

Mira watched the sun set from the stand of trees at the end of her street. It wasn’t exactly unknown to the locals (there was a lot of used drug paraphernalia lying about) but it was deserted for now. She breathed deeply in the darkening shadows. The cool clean air from outside the stand didn’t quite mix with the warm dank air between the trees as a breeze ventured in. She felt the texture of the air in her nose and lungs. A feeling-image of her body getting blasted into chunks leapt into her head, causing her to shudder. After considering her own mortality, her every breath and beat of her twin hearts was vivid.
Despite the fact it was a completely ordinary sunset, the reds seemed redder than usual. A focusing lens seemed to be lowered in front of her eyes after realizing that she would eventually die.
The impulse to curl up in a ball and cry was strong but she fought to master herself and practiced putting on a brave face. Silent tears soaked her facial fur as she sat in the grove, imagining a group of Garmish soldiers bursting in and killing her. She went through a number of scenarios: shot, beheaded, cut to ribbons with a fighting knife, nuclear missile. All the while, she attempted to keep her face impassive (not that xenos could read Sabeton facial expressions or vice-versa anyway).
Eventually, she got up and walked home.

Space – Tseuq Approach
On the command deck of the battleship Omen, Commodore Arame den Melluc examined a detailed map of Tseuq’s northern hemisphere. The major settlements (she could hardly call them “cities”) were marked with brilliant blue dots. Population outside the settlements was sparse to non-existent. The climactic data showed an otherwise perfectly normal planet that Sabeton would like to live on: Average global annual temperature was about 18 degrees C, Lots of hardy plant life, little rainfall over large portions of the continents. According to the Galactic Standard of Planet Types, it qualified as a Savannah Planet. Melluc thought it was a planet she would quite enjoy retiring to one day…If it wasn’t for the fact that the First Armada was about to torch the place.
About a day after they jumped into the system the fleet had been ordered to execute Option Dire-Null on the planet Tseuq. In short, they were to bomb the planet until there was no sentient life on its surface. She had a couple of plans to creatively interpret the order if the other captains or admiral agreed.
The maneuver alarm blared loudly.
“All hands, secure equipment and prepare for breaking burn.”
Melluc turned off the map display and seated herself in the captain’s chair. She buckled herself in with wide padded straps, forced to face the wall-to-wall viewing screen on the forward bulkhead of the bridge. At the moment, it was pretending to be a window, showing a view of the planet they were approaching. The frame did not move as the ship flipped around to fire retrograde. A minor twinge of motion sickness hit her as her eyes insisted the ship wasn’t moving while her inner ear insisted the ship was moving.
The thrusters whined for a moment, transitioning to a steady roar that kicked Melluc in the back. An invisible hand crushed her chest into the chair, turned her arms leaden, and causing the Omen to creak as it flexed along its keel. Ten minutes into the maneuver, a chime sounded over the PA system, indicating the crew should perform muscle tensing exercises to keep their blood moving and prevent sedimentation. Having all the hearts in the universe couldn’t keep blood moving at 3g without help forever. She rhythmically tensed muscles across her body, alternating it with breathing exercises.
90 minutes of braking put them into a sedate, stable, polar orbit around the planet. Standard ship gravity always felt strange after braking maneuvers. Melluc’s arms seemingly floated into the air by themselves. Before returning to the map display, she hailed the fleet’s flagship. The static image of Tseuq on the view screen was replaced with a nearly-identical ship bridge.
“What is it, Melluc?” The fleet admiral growled upon seeing her. He looked a bit unsteady after a burn that long.
“Where’s the grand admiral? Not space sick, I hope.” Melluc purred.
“Latrine. Doesn’t handle high-g very well.”
“We should have left the grand admirals on Orass.”
“You know the rules,” The admiral sighed.
“‘My word is law!’ Old fools.” Melluc scoffed.
“I assume you didn’t hail the Fiendish to make small talk.” The admiral said shortly.
“I had an idea on how to creatively interpret our orders.”
“I thought you might. Hit me quick before Grand Admiral Meowey-pants gets his stomach settled!” The admiral said, dropping his voice conspiratorially.
“Executing Dire-Null on a planet inhabited by Sabeton doesn’t sit right with me. I’m a Sabeton, you’re a Sabeton, why should we shoot at our fellow space-cats?”
“Go on…”
“I propose we send in the landing teams, bomb the snot out of a city, gun down the vile goats as planned, and snatch whoever we can save.”
“What’s the difference? I assume it still ends with no sentient life on the planet.”
“I don’t really care about the planet, but it would ease my conscience a little if we made an effort to salvage some of the kitty-cats down there.” She spat the insult as if it tasted bad.
“And what do we do with them afterward?”
“Well, most likely we’ll get mostly kittens which we can put on a transport ship and send back to the core worlds for reeducation. The rest we can squeeze into our crew complements without much trouble. Surely your ship could use a few extra hands; I know mine could.”
The admiral’s ears turned down at the suggestion, but he kept his voice steady.
“You think kidnapping is a preferable crime to killing everyone down there?”
“Come now, Mrraldrig, name an atrocity you haven’t committed or ordered on your way to becoming an admiral…” Melluc said cajolingly.
“Xenophilia. Bestiality. Pedophilia.”
“Those aren’t atrocities, Admiral. Just abhorrent.”
“Bioweapons.” The admiral said after a great deal of thought.
“Touché.”
The admiral looked to the side suddenly, distracted by something off-screen. His voice changed as the Grand Admiral walked back onto the bridge looking rather sickly.
“Excellent suggestion Commodore, take a detachment of troops and your squadron. Report to me when you’re done. I’ll see about rearranging the rest of the armada.”

Tseuq – Takodaq’na
Mira woke just before dawn. She gave up on the idea of going back to sleep after seeing her alarm was set to go off in ten minutes. Instead, she climbed out of bed and threw open her window. Cool air poured in as she stuck her head outside to look at the stars. She was able to pick out Mirzam setting and Janna just overhead, the only stars visible from Tseuq that had inhabited planets orbiting them. She watched a couple satellites streak across the sky before noticing a cluster of moving dots zipping from north to south across the sky. Dread spread down her spine as she watched them set one by one behind the southern horizon. She knew a fleet when she saw one.
That morning on her walk to school, she noticed something off about the usual postings of Garm gang members. They were out of place: spaced more evenly than usual and not wearing the correct colors. Instead, they were each wearing a small red ribbon tied to the tip of their right horn. That convinced her that she wasn’t the only sentient who had seen the fleet flying over.
Her school, however, was seemingly ignoring what was going on. They had the scheduled fire drill but there was nothing about a bombing drill or anything else.
On the walk home Mira spotted more Garm minutemen stationed on street corners and patrolling the farmers market. Now they had opened caches of weapons, and the ribbon-wearing individuals were equipped with plasma rifles, knives, portable railguns, and clubs. She gave them a wide berth whenever she had to walk past one. On Tseuq the Sabeton and Garm got along better than they did elsewhere, but there was still an instinctive fear of each other. The Sabeton were at least partially carnivorous which the herbivorous Garm mistrusted because of some instinctive memory of predators. On the other hand, the Sabeton were frightened of how large the Garm were. A fully grown Garm male was as large compared to Mira’s father as her father was to her. Gentle or not, sentient species were mistrustful of giants.
Three Garm were patrolling Mira’s street. One was a male with a plasma rifle and large ram’s horns. He was flanked by two smaller females with straighter, backswept horns and fighting knives. Their hooves clopped on the road surface. All three had a red ribbon on their right horn fluttering in the breeze. They barely paid any attention to Mira who cautiously skirted along the extreme edge of the sidewalk.
“Mum! I’m home!” Mira called, darting through the door.
“Welcome home, Mira!” Her mother called, looking up from her book. “Do you have homework?”
The question brought her to a halt halfway to the stairs.
“…yes.”
“Please take out the trash and then do it, sweetie.”
“Yes mum.”
She tried to concentrate on her homework, honest. But it was algebra and her anxiety was growing unabated. She paced around her room, wanting, needing to know what was going on. She heard speech downstairs. She crept to the top landing of the stairwell to hear a tinny Garm voice issuing from a portable radio. It was speaking inter-world, but heavily accented. She laid down against the wall and poked one ear over the edge of the stairs. It was reporting the movement of the orbiting fleet. The fleet had broken into many smaller squadrons. For the moment, nothing was happening: the ships were ignoring hails but were still responding to transponder pings. It seemed like there were fifty-seven Sabeton ships in squadrons of three each. In addition, there was a Garmish fleet thirty strong that had not divided up.
Dread sank its icy claws into her belly.
In their current configuration, all the Sabeton ships would pass over the planetary capital in three orbits.
Fear tried to rip her spine out.

Tseuq – Orbit
“Estimated casualties?” Melluc asked defeatedly.
“Yuukh’haan has a population of about eight hundred seventy five thousand. We estimate a coordinated orbital strike would kill all of them.” Comms replied.
“Yiiwah’s balls! All of them?” Melluc screeched.
“All respect Commodore, but we are using nuclear missiles.” Gunnery added.
“I suppose.”
“Commodore, incoming hyperspace telegram. The declaration has gone through.”
“Good work comms.”
They lapsed into brooding silence. Melluc had a presence on her bridge that infected her other officers when she seethed. It was always the worst just after being given distasteful orders. And Melluc was in a particularly foul mood about the bombardment. Her mood was also not improved by tension from plotting her mini-mutiny.
“Helm?” Melluc asked to break the silence.
“Yes, Commodore?” The helmsman squeaked.
“Confirm our orbit is properly trimmed to pass over the capital next orbit.”
“Confirmed, Commodore.”
“Thank you.”
– – –
From space, the planetary capital was difficult to distinguish from the landscape around it. Intel suggested the buildings might have used the light colored soil as a form of plaster on the buildings that would both reflect away sunlight and insulate the structures. Additionally, it was night on this side of the planet, and the city had enacted a blackout. She eyed the helmsman’s displays over the Lieutenant’s shoulder. There was a complex network of lines all intersecting within line-of-sight of the city which was itself marked on the map with GPS coordinates. Blackout or no, they could find the city. They would be close to setting from the city’s vantage point when the time to fire came. She sank back into her chair. A red button on her right control panel blinked on. She scanned her biometrics on the touchpad next to it. Then she pushed the captain’s log recorder instead of the lit button.
“Commodore Melluc, captain of the Omen. First day of bombardment of the planet Tseuq. Zero-nine zero-five ship time. I am passing along the fleet order to fire on the city Yuukh’haan. Let the record show I object to demolishing a city without warning.”
Then she pressed the glowing button.
The gunnery officer’s control panel lit up. The sound of tapping on keys was the only one on the bridge for some time as the officer programmed in the trajectories and target locations for each of the six missiles the Omen was to launch in the volley. Eventually the tapping stopped. The only sounds remaining to be heard were the rumble of the reactor and the very faint beep of the ship’s range-finding radar display.
The view screen showed the planet surface crawling along below them. The city was approaching the horizon from their perspective when Gunnery called “Missiles away, Commodore”. Melluc could see the fourteen exhaust plumes from the missiles her squadron launched. Some of the bridge crew looked away from the view screen. Melluc did not. A few minutes later, three hundred and five nuclear missiles detonated within three seconds of each other. The glowing dome of that many nukes going off illuminated a meaningful chunk of the planet. A luminous orb of smoke, debris, and fallout heaved itself into the air. By Melluc’s estimate, the only way someone in that area could have survived was by being in a very deep mine. Then they were swept away around the planet by their orbit. Now that each squadron was on their own, Melluc set about implementing her plans for the snipe-and-snatch method of bombardment. In two orbits, they would be in line-of-sight of another town for three orbits. She ordered the troops to land and wait just outside town for bombardment to begin.

Tseuq – Takodaq’na
The sun was setting. Mira was standing in the kitchen, taking her turn washing dishes. The breeze was blowing in the small window making the curtains flap leisurely. Her mother was sitting at the table, listening to a quiet music broadcast on the radio. Her father and brother were in the next room, disassembling and cleaning a hunting rifle. An atmospheric pressure wave soundlessly rolled over the town, irritating ears. There was no wind accompanying it, just a brief spike in air pressure.
She peered out the window in confusion, trying to figure out why her ears suddenly started hurting. She spotted a number of shuttlecraft settling a meaningful distance outside of town. She heard indistinct shouting and hoofbeats on the streets as her hearing recovered. The minutemen had also spotted the shuttles and were heading to investigate and intercept.
Tension climbed up her spine as she finished up the dishes and crept out onto the porch to see what was going on. She wasn’t alone either. Other neighbors were also looking around from their porches or sticking heads out of windows. She decided to do homework on the porch to keep tabs on the goings-on.
She was partway through reading an assignment for Literature when a rash of shouting and shooting broke out on the edge of town. The local defenders fell back to a defensible wall. Mira saw the first few invaders come around a corner of the shade wall surrounding the town. Muzzle flashes greeted them from dark doors and shadows. A stray bullet splintered the adobe plaster on the low porch wall Mira was sitting on. Startled, she ducked behind the wall, hearts pounding as adrenaline flooded her system. A second bullet hit the wall as one of the invaders sprayed cover fire over the entrance they were trying to breach.
Ffft!
If Mira didn’t know better, she would have thought that droplets of sun blood were spattering across the town. But she did know better: she’d recently read a description of accelerated plasma bolts. The bolus of dense argon plasma, hotter than some of the deepest layers of the sun, slammed into a building next to the gate. The momentum of the charge, the heat it carried, and the energy released by the plasma recombining into neutral argon released nearly as much energy as a tonne of TNT (but not quite as explode-y because of how much energy was carried as heat). The building hit was blasted into chunks, bits of debris raining down as far away as Mira’s street. The shockwave shattered glass for several blocks around and smote pain on Mira’s eardrums. The rest of the building slumped into a pile of flaming debris, blocking off the gate the invaders were trying to storm.
Ffft!
The bolts were coming in from a low angle over the northern horizon. The building on the other side of the gate exploded and collapsed in flames and a third bolt hit the wall itself, collapsing a section to create a new gate a few houses over that was undefended. Invaders and minutemen alike swarmed towards the new hole in the wall. The fighting was brutal as the invaders dashed through the gap, not expecting the minutemen to have already gotten there. The female Garm, armed with melee weapons, were ferocious and still larger than the largest Sabeton soldier Mira could see being battered or stabbed in the gap.
“MIRA! GET IN HERE! NOW!” Mira’s mother screeched from the living room.
The Sabeton invaders shrank back from the gap for a moment. The combat stilled as the Garm chose not to pursue.
Ffft!
Flaming chunks of bodies spread out in a rough semicircle on the town side of the wall. Mira turned her back on the sight and fled inside. The rest of the family was already inside the storm shelter, a reenforced cubbyhole beneath the staircase that would protect them from falling debris if the house was hit by a tornado or earthquake (or, maybe an accelerated plasma bolt). Mira squeezed in over the top of the couch pulled in front of the entrance and helped pull it up against the entrance completely, sealing them inside.
Ffft!
While muffled, Mira could still hear what was going on outside. She guessed that the invaders had made it through the gap in the wall, given the state she had last seen the defenders in. Her younger brother started whimpering, childishly, Mira thought. She looked down on him in the near-total darkness imperiously. He was clinging to their mother for comfort. Her father touched Mira on the shoulder.
“You’re being so brave.” He said gently. She glowed (not literally) with the praise.
They settled into the storm shelter.
Ffft!
It sounded like the gunfire was moving further into the town. Mira pictured the Sabeton soldiers moving cover to cover up the street. The shooting was moving farther away from them. Mira guessed that the defenders were retreating towards the center of town, away from this neighborhood. There was still a bit of shooting, but it was the deeper, quieter sounds of the Sabeton soldier’s guns, not the higher-pitched crack of hunting rifles the minutemen had. Every so often there was a burst of raised voices and shooting.
Ffft!
The explosion was closer than the others, maybe on their street even. The shooting was next door now. Mira’s hearts began racing. She could hear her father breathing harder. Mira tied to stifle a mew of terror when someone tapped on their front door. Tapping gave way to louder, insistent knocking. She shoved down the robotic instinct to answer the door. A few moments of silence then the sound of a battering ram splintering the door hinges. The rustle and jangle of armored bodies suggested the soldiers were sweeping the rooms for weapons and explosives.
Ffft!
The explosion was distant, both in physical proximity and in Mira’s mind. She heard two pairs of footsteps start climbing the stairs. Each step in the staircase was squeaky (the house was not aging well) except the ones over the storm shelter. They swept through the upper floor and headed back downstairs. The soldier in the lead stopped when it reached the storm shelter. The soldier shifted their weight back and forth between the two steps. Consistently, one creaked and the other did not.
“Corporal!” He (they could tell by the voice now that the soldier was male) called, “There’s a storm shelter.”
Footsteps were coming straight for the hiding place now. The couch was violently jerked aside, revealing six Sabeton soldiers, shining their gun-mounted flashlights into the cubby hole.
“Don’t shoot! We’re unarmed.” Mira’s father called.
“Oh, Sabeton. Hello citizen.” The corporal said, lowering her light off their faces. The others did the same. “Come on out.” The corporal invited in a way that suggested they really shouldn’t refuse.
Ffft!
The flash of light burned the image of the house across the street exploding into Mira’s retinas. One of the soldiers grabbed her roughly by the arm and pulled her out of the storm shelter. A moment later, they had hauled her brother out as well.
“I love you,” Mira’s mother called behind them as the soldiers dragged them out the splintered door. She tried to turn back to speak but the soldier twisted her head around and shoved her forward. A moment later she heard the dull thunk of rifle shots. Mira twisted her head free and turned to see a large red smear on the wall opposite her. A surge of rage bubbled up in her belly as her claws dropped and her vision went blurry. She lost her senses screaming and yowling, clawing at eyes, trying to bite the hand holding her arm.
Ffft!
The drop of sun blood fell from straight overhead onto their house. It was obliterated in milliseconds with shutters and bits of wood flying out ahead of the fireball. The concussion of the blast knocked the wind out of Mira, set her ears ringing, and made her dizzy. She finally sank her teeth into the soldier’s wrist, her fangs making it all the way to bone. Blood welled from the wound, putting an unpleasant acidic-metallic taste on her tongue. The soldier yelled and hit her over the back of the head hard enough to make her let go. He grabbed her by the scruff of the neck. Mild paralysis swept over her. The fight went out of her and she allowed herself to be dragged down the street.
Ffft!
The house next to hers exploded in a similar manner. Absently, as if from a great distance, she watched fire teams of Sabeton troops storm the still standing houses, turning out the residents. In the Sabeton houses, the kittens were being dragged out of their houses sans adults, while the Garm were simply all being trundled outside, forced to their knees, and shot. Once a house was cleared it was demolished by a precise orbital strike. Despite the lethargy weighing on her limbs, Mira’s mind was alternating between reeling and whirling. On one side, the world seemed to have just ended: the house was gone, her parents were gone, the town she had grown up in was gone. On the other, she was witness to the worst atrocity she thought possible. She wasn’t entirely cognizant of what was going through her head, but the word genocide kept popping up.
Ffft!
Mira’s eyes watered as much from the explosion as from seeing her neighbors being gunned down in front of her. There, five houses down from her house was Zelle and his family: Zelle was in her science class. They got into shenanigans together fairly often and had been partners in making a baking soda volcano for their second project. He glanced at Mira in terror for a second. She tried to hang her head in shame but she was still being carried by her neck. A moment later he was on the ground with a bullet in his head. A little further on and across the street from her house was kind old Mrs Ghaž. She always had the best treats for children on Allents Eve, even dried meat treats for the Sabeton kittens that chose to participate. It looked like she had been serenely napping on her front porch when the world ended and she had been shot where she slept.
A few moments more and they were outside the shade wall. There were a few dozen other kittens here already. Mira was forced to her knees and shackled. A black cloth bag was jerked over her head. Lastly, a large stiff metal clip was put on the bunched-up scruff of her neck. Her spine yelled in annoyance and she almost fell over from bending backwards and then going stiff. Absolutely convinced she too was about to be brutally killed, she tried to look dignified. She straightened her spine out with great difficulty, looked straight ahead, and barely moved.

Tseuq – Orbit
Melluc watched the proceedings from the bridge of the Omen with fascinated horror.
“Tell the gun crews they are performing admirably. I’ll have to write them a formal commendation for accuracy.” She said, watching the town hall go up in two explosions. She tried to avoid watching the screen for two long because the ships were upside-down relative to the planet and watching the screen veer crazily gave her motion sickness.
She wandered over to the map display to distract herself from the view screen. Based on transponder codes, at least three other squadrons had followed her plan of landing troops and using precise bombardment to support the troops. The others were out of contact behind the planet.
“Gunnery, how many plasma guns are still ready to fire?” She asked to distract herself from the view screen. It was showing troops dragging people out of the buildings. Most were being shot just outside the building, and the remnants were dragged outside of town and put into a crowd near the shuttlecraft.
“We have six shots left on this ship, and eight combined on the Shadow and Blade.”
“Thank you.”
She hailed the commander of her ground troops. The commander’s face flicked onto the view screen. Her rank insignia indicated she was a marine corps captain.
“Hello Commodore, how can I help you?”
“Captain, I’m here to warn you that we are about to set over your horizon. We will be back around in about a hundred minutes. I expect we’ll have most of our guns recharged when we rise again.”
“As you say, Commodore. Though I think we have eliminated most of the resistance in the town. We may not need further support.”
“Very well, Captain. If you do have trouble, hail any overhead squadron. They should be able to relay a message to me. Good luck.”
“Thank you.” The commander reached to terminate contact but reached for a radio receiver instead. Melluc bemusedly did not terminate contact. The voice on the other end of the radio spoke indistinctly.
“Define ‘snag’ and ‘edge case’.” The commander said icily.
More incomprehensible garbling.
“Well, what part of ‘shoot the xenos’ was not clear to you, soldier?”
A reply.
“Was that so hard?”
The commander finally terminated contact.
The IFF computer began beeping in a less than encouraging tone.
“Commodore!” Comms called in concern.
“Yes?”
“We’ve identified the unknown transponder codes from the bogey fleet shadowing us just this side of our horizon. It’s a Garmish fleet thirty strong.”
Silence fell over the bridge.
“Have they target locked us?” Melluc asked deliberately.
“No. They’ve pinged our transponders, swept us with narrow-beam radar, and what appeared to be an infrared rangefinder laser, but they are busy bombing a town.”
“Really? What town? And why did we not do anything to it?”
“Venetie. We didn’t bother with it because it is a low-priority target. Entirely Garm population, not worth sending troops down to.”
“Interesting. Set the ships to silent running. No EM radiation out if we can help it. Turn off the transponders. Disable the radiators. If we absolutely have to communicate, use the tight-beam radio.”
There was the clack of porthole covers snapping over the openings in the hull, the whirr of radiator fins retracting, the hiss of coolant being redirected to the ship’s internal heat sinks. Melluc announced her orders to the crew over the PA system.
Over a few minutes, the squadron’s lights, radar and other EM emitters blinked out and the three ships slowly faded from view.

Tseuq – Takodaq’na
It was definitely night now. Mira had been kneeling stationary for over an hour by now. A growing horror had slowly crept over her as it occurred to her that maybe she wasn’t about to be horribly killed. Nearby, she heard engines being started and felt hot air blowing dust through her fur. She pricked up her ears at the hint of footsteps on the dusty gravel, but the whine of engines and roar of the wind covered up whatever she was trying to listen for. Suddenly, she heard footsteps right next to her. Someone roughly grabbed her by the upper arm and muscled her to her feet. Stiff muscles, tiredness, and the clip on her neck almost made her fall over again, back bowing at odd angles.
“What’s wrong with you?” The person grunted.
“Thing…my neck…” she hissed. Relief washed across her body as the clip was pulled off her scruff. Muscles she didn’t even realize existed relaxed and started yelling about being mistreated. The person half-guided, half-dragged her towards one of the engine sounds. She was half expecting to have the black cloth taken off her head, but no luck.
“Step.” The other said not kindly but not unkindly either. She searched for the step with her right foot. Finding it, she leaned forward to climb.
“One more, then duck.” The voice continued.
“Thanks,” She muttered. She put up her hand to feel out the thing she needed to duck under. It was the header of a door set into one of the shuttlecraft. She blindly squeezed through the hatch and felt cold air blasting down on her. She tried to take off the black bag.
“Uh-uh.” A new voice next to her grunted. This new person grabbed her wrist and guided her hand to a ladder. “Up.” It ordered. Squelching a flare of defiance, Mira gingerly climbed the ladder. She guessed she had climbed one level when yet another voice said,
“Here.” The speaker took her hand and helped her off the ladder onto the deck. Many hands guided her to a gap in the bodies shaped roughly like her. She stood there for minutes on end, surrounded by the very soldiers that had just wrecked her hometown. Maybe she was even touching shoulders with the person who shot her parents.
After many minutes the shuttle was finally filled. The engines shifted gears from a steady high-pitched whine to a deep-throated crackling roar. The shuttle lifted off, wobbled for a moment, and blasted into the sky. One of the people behind or beside her guided her hand to a metal bar overhead to hang onto. It was just in time, because a few moments later the pilot opened the throttle up into a steep climb with 2g linear acceleration into orbit.
The trajectory the shuttle took into orbit took fourteen minutes thirty seconds to complete, but Mira was not aware of how long it took. She was fading in and out of consciousness from being crushed by the bodies around her and not having the training to handle high-g. Then, just as suddenly as they had taken off, the engines cut out and they were floating in zero-g. Mira’s body completely gave up trying to figure out what was going on and she fainted.
She was jostled awake by the troops getting off the shuttle.
“What’s happening?” She mumbled, disoriented. Nausea was rising in her throat as her inner ear tried to figure out what the heck was happening. Somebody guided her hand to the metal bar running along the ceiling of the shuttle. She clung to it like a lifeline.
“You’re not getting off here.” A voice said. She waited patiently in the shuttle, clinging to the metal bar, swinging around. It was the first time she’d ever been off-planet. A few minutes later there was a series of clicks and hisses and she vaguely felt the shuttle pulling away from the ship it was docked with. A few minutes more and she felt the shuttle dock with another ship. This time, there was someone (very loudly) telling her what to do. She glided across the compartment as ordered, crashed into the wall, and found her way down the ladder hole. From there she was pointed (still wearing her black hood) into the airlock.
“Careful, there’s gravity on this side,” Someone on the other side of the airlock called. Mira jetted through the lock carelessly and crashed heavily to the floor.
“I warned you.” The same person said, helping her up. He took her hand gently and guided her through a small maze of passages before shoving her through a door.
“You can take your hood off now.” He said with a pat on the shoulder.
Mira lifted the black bag off her head to see a brightly lit, mostly-featureless room. There was a table along one wall stacked with bedding. Opposite it, a small drinking water fountain and some simple latrine facilities. Besides herself, there were about two dozen other kittens and young adults in the room. She padded over to the table of bedding and grabbed a thin blanket. She curled up in a corner, hoping for something to happen. She lay like that for hours in a bleary in-between state of consciousness. Ever so slowly her mind started to put together and accept what was going on: her hometown, the only world she had known her entire life, was destroyed, her parents were definitely dead, she had been kidnapped and taken to some sort of ship. She tried to cry. When that didn’t work, she tried to wallow in self pity. When that didn’t work, she realized she was still so stunned that it would take some time to work through the situation.
Hours later, the lights flicked out and she was finally able to fall asleep.
They remained in the holding room for three ship days, incommunicado. They were given two healthy if not hearty meals a day: one about an hour after the lights came on and one about an hour before lights out. The fare usually consisted of cold roast meat, breads, jugs of broth or soup (no mugs though so they had to pass the jug around), and once what Mira generously compared to her school’s mystery meat burritos.
At some point a second group of people joined them in the room. Mira mostly ignored them. By now she’d had enough time for things to sink in. She spent an ‘afternoon’ intimately curled up in a corner with her blanket, crying silently. The others knew to just leave her alone. They all had to deal with things differently.
The morning of the fifth full ship day, they were trundled back out of the room, this time without the black bags, and herded into what looked like a very large cafeteria. People in sharp navy uniforms sat at various tables. The one at table nearest them would occasionally point to one person out of the group and beckon them over. From there, the person would be shuffled either to the left where there were more navy uniforms or to the right where there were marine corps uniforms. The navy uniforms appeared to be connected to the first person saying “service” while the marine corps uniforms were “reeducation”. Whatever “reeducation” was, Mira decided that “service” was preferable to it.
Finally it was her turn. She tiptoed up to the table and stood opposite the person with light brown fur, androgynous features, and a navy uniform.
“How old are you?”
“Fifteen.” Mira lied.
“Service,” the bored voice said.
Mira headed over to the navy uniforms. One of the unoccupied people waved her over. The stack of paperwork sitting in the middle of the table was concerning. The officer pulled the paperwork towards himself to begin with.
“Name?”
“Mira.”
“Nice name.” He smiled at her briefly, writing in a box of the top form. “And what town are you from?”
“Takodaq’na.” Mira replied, smiling back instinctively.
“That makes you Mira den Takodaq’na…” he stumbled over the foreign word, printing in another box. “I assume you don’t have a proper den name?”
“Not that I know.”
“How old are you actually?”
“Fifteen.”
“Like hell you are.” He pushed her lip up to show a few teeth. “Your adult fangs haven’t grown in yet. You’re at most thirteen.”
“…I just turned thirteen.”
“What’s your birthday?”
They continued like that for a while, slowly filling in the paperwork. When they were done, Mira got a temporary ID card proving she was part of the navy of the Sabeton Confederation. It said she was assigned to the Fiendish. She glanced up from the card questioningly.
“There’s a shuttle departing in an hour for the main fleet.”
– – –
Once on board the Fiendish Mira was issued a too-large uniform she would grow into, assigned to the gun deck as a runner, and assigned to bunk CT-75-67. Her first impressions of the ship were shouting. Lots of shouting. Shouting at her to get a move on, shouting “gangway” every time an officer passed them in the halls, an officer shouting at her for having a baggy uniform, the ship sounding battle stations (which she counted as the ship itself shouting), people shouting at her for going the wrong way to the gun deck, and finally, the gun crews shouting at her for not carrying the bottles of liquid argon and nitrogen fast enough.
She still wasn’t used to the artificial gravity on board the ships. It was about one standard gravity at the floor, but the tidal effects were severe: at head-height, it was more like half-standard gravity. Feeling a gravity gradient over the length of your body is never conducive to feeling healthy, plus the bottles of argon had to be lifted off the floor at full weight, then carried at partial weight, and carefully set back down at full weight again. When the fleet closed with the Garmish fleet, the gravity was shut down. That saved Mira’s back some trouble, but then she had to get used to magnetic boots.
Hours later, she ended her shift utterly exhausted. She got lost twice trying to find her bunk complex but eventually found it. The table in the middle of the room was bedecked with mystery burritos and cold meat. She ate a little and crawled onto her bunk. She found a small bag with toiletries such as a toothbrush and soap under her pillow. She was too tired to even move it.
She was awakened with more shouting ten hours later to repeat the cycle. They had the enemy fleet on the defensive and now needed to press the attack before the ships could go dark and flee or jump to hyperspace. Mira was kept busy distributing nitrogen coolant for the massive plasma cannons.
– – –
Ten days later, the Garmish fleet was forced to retreat, leaving the planet Tseuq to be torched alone by the Grand First Armada of the Sabeton navy. Mira’s enthusiasm to participate in the operation of weapons dropped sharply when those weapons were turned back on her home planet. By now, the independently-operating squadrons had stripped the planet of most of the people, who like Mira, had been deemed “salvageable”. The fleet nuked the place one last time for good measure and formed back up. They broke orbit at a sedate 1g, on a brachistochrone trajectory for the hyperlane gate on the opposite side of the system. They were committed to jump into enemy territory proper.
Mira found her way to the stern of the Fiendish on some free time. She watched the tortured disk of her home planet recede behind the fleet. Everything she had ever known was contained in that tiny yellow-green circle. Of course, all of it was destroyed now, but that didn’t stop a certain melancholy from falling over her.
A sense of resolve stole over her as she watched Tseuq shrink in the porthole. She determined to make the best of her situation and make the galaxy a more peaceful place, one space battle at a time. Given enough time, she could get into a position to leverage great change among her species.

By: Jorden Erenberg
Trithiss shivered in anticipation as the ship descended from orbit to the planet below. He would be the first individual mind to ever set foot on The Soil of the Forest and communicate directly with the consciousness that inhabited it, a gestalt entity known as The Pale Forest. All previous negotiations with the ancient space-faring race had been through common FTL communications and electronic translators. His species, the Hyrethians, had gained access to faster-than-light travel just a handful of decades previously and The Pale Forest had been the first race they had established communications with. The hive entity quickly translated Hyrethian language, sent charts outlining the large territory they controlled, and ushered the Hyrethian science vessels outside of their borders while displaying an emotion that the Hyrethian sociologists later interpreted as 'amusement.'
The astonishing find of intelligent alien life which was so very different from expectations had taken Hyrethian society by storm. Where the Hyrethians were large and covered in exoskeletal plates the Forest consisted of tall, thin, plant-based creatures who resembled nothing so much as ambulatory ghost-white trees. Trithiss himself was but a mere hatchling when first contact occurred and though many more species would be discovered as he aged it was always The Pale Forest which held his greatest fascination. Indeed for many Hyrethians the Forest represented a sort of galactic constant amidst the turmoil of galactic politics, itself a new concept with many missteps. Unlike others in the galactic plane, the Forest seemed completely disinterested in war or even expansion, they simply continued to exist in their controlled space as they apparently had for quite some time. They did not show the same apathy towards the races they encountered and often answered simple questions or offered cryptic guidance but they never shared any technological secrets, claiming that a truly mighty species doesn't need the secrets of the universe handed to them. For most of a century the Hyrethians took comfort in the eternal presence of their ancient neighbor and an understanding formed between the two races.
As the end of the first century of galactic expansion and exploration drew near the Hyrethians surprised the Forest with a bold request. The elected leader of the Hyrethians quickly explained that they had come to believe The Pale Forest to be their link to the galaxy's past and that by hearing the true story of the Forest, they might gain more knowledge about the history of the galaxy than would be possible by simply studying the remains of species long dead. At first the Forest had refused, not wishing to share such intimate details over electronic channels and claiming that while pleasant diplomacy over FTL communications was no difficulty the organisms that made up the gestalt consciousness never evolved to properly coexist alongside individual entities and would react violently to Hyrethian presence. The Hyrethians insisted that there must be some way to bring a small number or even a single Hyrethian representative into contact with one of the Forest's speakers to communicate. The Forest requested time to consider and ended communications; the following months saw a spike in overall anxiety and worry among the Hyrethian populations who feared that their government had insulted their first galactic friends and a powerful potential ally.
At last a communication came from The Pale Forest to inform Hyrethian leadership that a location had been set aside on their home world where the presence of a small number of representatives could be tolerated indefinitely. Social analysts even noted that the consciousness seemed rather pleased with itself for overcoming this hurdle. The government quickly assembled a small group of which Trithiss, now a high level interstellar diplomat, was selected to lead.
The ship descended to an area far from any of the population centers on The Soil of the Forest and Trithiss and the three other Hyrethians who had been sent to assist him were quickly ushered to a large grove in the center of a forested area where the trees appeared to be far less mobile than the drones leading them. Throughout the short march Trithiss became more and more convinced that there was far more presence than any other forest on any of the alien worlds he had previously visited. The flora and fauna seemed more vibrant, more alive than any he had encountered before and as he watched he started to gain a sense of some grand machine turning and spinning before his eyes. Yet nothing crossed the clearly marked path they marched on and any attempt to step of the path was met by sudden activity from the escorting drones who would pull or push the Hyrethians back onto the only path through the forest.
In the grove itself was one enormous tree and one singular Pale Forest drone whose roots seemed entwined with those of the tree. The escort remained at the edges of the grove while Trithiss approached what he was certain would be a speaker drone for the gestalt entity who had been the first introduction to the larger galaxy for his entire species.
"Greetings, Hyrethian," the speaker pronounced and it's words seemed echoed by the rustling of the branches of all the trees in earshot. "We are quite pleased to welcome the first individuals to set foot upon our soil," it paused for a moment, "was your journey tolerable?"
"It is a great honor to speak to you," Trithiss bowed low as his translator converted his words into the language most commonly used by Pale Forest speaker drones. "I am very thankful for opportunity to converse with you directly and to hear your story. The journey here was incredible, we have no idea how you managed to bring us here in a mere two weeks when all of our projections suggest that your home is a full two month journey from our own, and it seemed like we didn't even spend any time in hyperspace."
"Ah, you are curious about the jump drives. We are quite pleased at this opportunity for a new experience as we had always believed communication in the manner which most species are most familiar to be an impossibility to us. We think we shall reward your kind with just one small hint about our travel technology," the speaker leaned towards Trithiss as though sharing a secret between close friends, "it is possible to construct engines which redefine a ship's location and allow near instantaneous transportation from one location to another and at great distance. Our own discovery of the technology came when we triumphed over a great leviathan which existed in between realities." The speaker resumed its upright posture at the base of the tree, "It is but a small hint but we hope that knowledge of the possibilities will take you farther."
"We are very grateful for this knowledge, but shouldn't we be rewarding you for the opportunity? After all, we are asking you to share your personal history with us and yet we have very little to offer in return other than our friendship."
"As we have watched the millennia pass we have found fewer and fewer reasons to expand our knowledge and understanding of the universe. When you requested to speak with us, we knew that we did not wish the conversation to be overheard and yet we had no way to tolerate your presence on any of our worlds. For the first time in a very long time we awakened our long dormant autonomous drones who were bred for science and presented the query. The autonomous drones are almost independent themselves and this allows us to devote more of our vast mental resources to research and the discovery of new technologies. Through their research we determined a way to engineer a small group of drones which would view all independents as simply highly autonomous drones. With this technique we might learn to create diplomatic drones which can land on the planets of other species and negotiate with them. Perhaps when the current cycle of empires reaches another peak, we shall once again rejoin the community and forge new alliances," the speaker brought its gaze from the stars to directly stare at Trithiss, "and it is all because one young race dared to challenge our established reality. We shall treasure our memories of your kind forever, Hyrethian."
"I...truly don't know what to say Pale Forest. I think our leaders had no idea that our request would carry such meaning for you."
The drones and trees all seemed to rustle in a manner that was similar to laughter. After a moment the speaker folded its arms before its waist and asked "Shall we get down to business? I caution you that our story is long and you may think quite differently of us by the end. Certainly you will understand the animosity directed at us by the Union, the ancient federation which has existed in this galaxy for almost as long as we have. We apologize for nothing, not after so much time, but we do not deny their right to loathe and fear us as we earned all of that and more."
Trithiss inhaled deeply of the alien air, signaled the assistants to begin recording, and then nodded. "We are ready to hear your story."

Even on our home world we were a unique and strange occurrence; the result of a series of chance mutations which resulted in a species whose like we have never encountered. This is not intended as a boast for of the many trillions of different mobile species on our planet less than one hundred evolved from flora. It takes a proper digestive system to provide the energy necessary to engage in any strenuous activity, photosynthesis simply does not provide enough. Of those flora that evolved to walk and run only thirty-six developed into omnivores capable of taking advantage of all of the available organic nutrition. We learn from fossil records and ancient relics that only two of those thirty-six developed advanced intelligence, one in a fashion that resulted in a common race of individuals like yours and another whose intelligence was the emergent result of a psionic connection which linked all of the individuals of that species. We believe that our early collective out-competed our intelligent rivals until they went extinct but it is possible that they were marked as a threat and destroyed. This collective would become us but not until it grew larger in number. It was only when our species numbered in the thousands that an advanced sense of self emerged and with that sense of self came philosophy, science, engineering, and civilization.
We remember when we first considered our self and our surroundings, when we became aware of our difference from the life around us. We were the only species connected by a unified consciousness but we never felt alone. It was at this time when we took on our name, The Pale Forest. It was so long ago but we still remember our first attempts at tool use, our conquest of our world, and our rise to technological mastery. It has been over four thousand years but we still remember the day we completed the hyperdrive and ascended to the stars, eager to expand our territory and to learn about the galaxy we inhabited.
Our first forays into the stars were much like yours, Hyrethian. First we sent our scientists to all of our nearest stars in search of planets to inhabit and even other life to interact with. We found planets that could be inhabited but early experiments revealed to us the nature of our fragile biology. We are considerably less adaptable than many of the other species we encountered and only planets which were of very similar classification to our home world would be able to comfortably serve us as colonies. We elected to choose our colonies carefully rather than suffer the reduced efficiency of settling less suitable worlds and we resolved to focus our efforts on technologies which would help us to overcome this obstacle in the future. To this end we would eventually become masters of terraforming and genetic engineering, creating ideal planets for our species and a stronger species to inhabit them. Even the soil you sit upon is not as it was when we first ascended to the stars, we changed our home planet to be incorporated into our hive consciousness. Our home soil actively serves our interests and eventually all of our colony planets would follow suit.
We get ahead of ourselves, long before we mastered any of these abilities there was our own first contact. We had taken many star systems for our own and begun to believe that there was no other intelligent life out there when at last we encountered another. We sense you are curious about their identities but we are afraid that is an area we will not be able to assist you. In the parlance of the many cultures we encountered we learn that we are what is known as "bad with names". We have but one name, after all, and all the myriad races and cultures we encounter have washed over us like water. We remember some of their titles and their ideals but with few exceptions we have forgotten all of their names. We can tell you that most of the races that inhabited our closest neighbor empires now form the Union and perhaps they will have records of the empires they used to be. We recall that our neighbors were largely amiable but they were universally perturbed by our existence. Something about our unified nature disquieted most of them and provoked outright hatred in two particular empires. They got along with each other quite well as we recall, and we largely ignored their animosity as our unique collective consciousness and rapid expansion allowed us to gain an early technological lead on most of the other powers in the galaxy.
Very quickly we found ourselves completely unchallenged in military might and technological prowess with but four exceptions. There were four ancient empires which long preceded the existence of every other space faring species in the galaxy. They were to us then as we are to the Hyrethians now. We recall them as the Prophets, a highly spiritual race which resided on the far side of the galaxy from us, the Machines, an artificial collective consciousness, the Knowledge Keepers, a closer neighbor who exalted scientific progress above all other things, and the Ancient Hatred. Of the many empires we encountered it is the Knowledge Keepers and the Ancient Hatred who hold the largest roles in our story but all four of the ancient empires possessed technologies unlike any we had ever considered before.

"You describe the other three ancients but not the Hatred, yet you also speak their title with such animosity. Why is this?" Trithiss was loathe to interrupt the great intelligence but his need for more details was too great.
The Pale Forest was silent for many breaths before answering the question. "The other ancients held to some form of ideal which was admirable even if we didn't agree with them as to that particular ideal's necessity. The Machines were created by some precursor and dutifully attempted to follow their directives. Their age caused many malfunctions but on the whole they seemed to truly seek the betterment and long term survival of all the species of the galaxy. They are still here, we advise you to be kind when you encounter them. The Prophets held to a belief in a greater order to the universe and sought to preserve that which they saw as sacred and beautiful. When we first became aware of our selves we too toyed with the idea of a greater order in the universe." The Forest speaker looked to the sky where the twin suns of their home system shone brightly. "We named the binary stars our planet orbits The Eyes of Life in honor of their necessity for all life on our planet. We imagined for a time that they were the eyes of a creator watching us and protecting us. As we ascended to the stars we abandoned these ideas but we did not look down upon the Prophets for holding close their comforts. They are no longer with us, their species was wiped out in a calamity which they did not provoke."
"And the other two ancients? The Keepers and the Hatred?"
"The Keepers held to an ideal which we also held high: the notion of pursuing science to its furthest extent and gaining power from knowledge, though they also believed themselves the true judges of which knowledge the other empires should or should not have and in this we disagreed. Their remnants now form part of the Union. But the Ancient Hatred," at once the escort drones standing attention at the grove's entrance emitted a reptilian hiss of anger. "The Ancient Hatred held only to the ideal of their own supremacy over anything which was different to them and their behavior gave us an anger we did not know we possessed and which has never faded. We do not mourn their loss, the galaxy is safer without them in it."
"What happened to them? What happened to the Prophets and the Keepers? Why are the Forest, the Union, and the Machines the ancients of our time rather than these others?"
"We shall tell you all of this. We shall tell you about the loss of the Prophets, our war for greater power, the calamity which threatened all life in the galaxy, our betrayal, and our retribution. Hear now, Hyrethian, how we became the dominant power in the galaxy, and earned the fear and loathing of the other powers of our time."

The younger empires of the galaxy rarely agreed on anything but many of us were willing to set a few standards that would make treaties and negotiations possible. Chief among these compromises was the establishment of a galactic calendar by which all empires would keep to for the purposes of trade and negotiation. It was not a perfect match to any yearly cycle but it was close to most of them. Perhaps the current empires have established a similar system? We shall learn it someday if that is so. An arbitrary year was set as the common starting point of galactic expansion at two thousand two hundred; we tell you this to give you some context of the passage of time between our first expeditions to other stars and the events we shall now describe, which were much later.
Over two centuries of this galactic calendar we expanded, discovered, traded, and struggled with our neighbors. We did not openly war with any of them, our fleets were too mighty for them to consider such a thing, but there were other galactic threats for us to sharpen our military strength against. Titanic creatures lurked in the depths of space and threatened the safety of any ship which passed through their systems. In one black hole system we pitted our fleets against a monstrosity from another reality, only a portion of which could successfully squeeze itself into our universe. Many ships were lost before it was slain, or perhaps only pushed back, but studying the remnants of the tear in space that allowed its entry gave our scientists the necessary hints to discover the jump drives. Despite the setbacks that hampered ships for a time after making a jump, the ability to move our fleets across our space at such a high rate was a critical boost to our military power. Adding to this speed was our discovery of the means to activate the long dead gateways inside our territory and even to build more gateways for our use. Our borders became more secure than ever and we began to look with envious eyes to our ancient neighbors, the Keepers and the Hatred, whose technologies both still vastly outpaced our own but whose military strength we approached closer every year. Sometime after the two thousand four hundredth and fortieth galactic year a shift occurred in the policies of the Ancient Hatred. We do not know why but suddenly they began to produce more of their great fleets and to expand their territory into what little space lay unclaimed around them. We held a system but two jumps away from their territory, though those two jumps lay unclaimed as we did not wish to share a direct border with them, and we spent the next several years building up the central station of that border system until it was a bastion of military arms. We relocated our two greatest fleets to dock at this station, all other border threats became trivial as we wondered what the Hatred would decide to do. Our estimates indicated that the new bastion and our fleets together would likely be able to hold back the forces of the Hatred, provided they did not dedicate all of their might to annihilating us.
We waited and watched for a decade or more while the Hatred marshaled their forces in preparation for something. At last the war declaration came but not against us, their nearest neighbor, but against the Prophets on the other side of the galaxy. Our recently completed sentry array helped us to discern their motive as we observed the Ancient Hatred sending their military fleets through a wormhole in their controlled space which we had been unable to explore. Those fleets appeared on the other side of the galaxy, just a few systems north of the Prophets who, while mighty, had not been gathering new strength like the Hatred. It was as though the Prophets, the Keepers, and the Machines all still lay dormant and asleep and so the Prophets were fully unprepared for the onslaught of the Ancient Hatred's fleets.
As the Hatred prepared to lay waste to the territory of the Prophets we chose to consult with ourselves on a course of action. We use autonomous drones as governors, generals, admirals, and as heads of our research. By allowing these drones to generate independent personalities new opinions can be produced for our consideration and each drone can focus its full attention to a task that is too minute for the attention of our greater consciousness. When we commune with these drones together, much as you might assemble your major government leaders, it allows us to consider multiple sides of a situation but is in essence a form of talking to ourselves. At this time we considered the problem of the Ancient Hatred and their war against the Prophets. We knew we could not stand with the Prophets properly for though we had the means to cross the galaxy quickly via the gateway network we had helped to reactivate, we had no alliance which would allow us to enter their space and aid them. Even if entry were negotiated, it was doubtful whether our fleets could pose a threat to the full force of the Hatred's armadas. It was one thing to establish a border defense but all of the ancient empires seemed to possess advanced military technologies which we had not been able to discover for ourselves. To declare war on the Hatred and send our fleets across the galaxy would be equivalent to simply recycling them on the spot. At last one of our admirals suggested a brilliant, deceitful plan which would potentially aid the Prophets and serve to secure for ourselves the technologies we were missing. In their arrogance the Ancient Hatred had sent all of their most powerful fleets through the wormhole to assault the Prophets, perhaps considering the rest of the galaxy a non-threat to them. Even with the most advanced hyperdrive engines, jump drives, and access to the wormhole we still estimated that their fleets would take months to return to their territory while our fleets were already a mere two jumps away from their borders. We could declare war, attack the Ancient Hatred, destroy some of their large bastion stations, research the debris left behind, and have our fleets and scientists retreat back to our borders before the Hatred could retaliate. This would give us access to their technologies and divert their attention from the Prophets long enough for the Prophets to attempt to rally.
Our fleets were already in position, we just needed to relocate a science vessel from assisting research at one of our larger worlds. We watched from a distance as the Hatred's fleets drew ever closer to the territory of our target and on the day that they engaged with the Prophet's forces we declared our war and launched our assault on the Ancient Hatred. Our assault was lightning fast, we had no spare time. We claimed system after system from the Hatred without bothering to attempt to secure any of them, we had only months before the Hatred's counter assault not the years it would take to build citadel stations and outfit them. We stormed across their space until we hit one of the bastion citadels that defended an inhabited world. It was no small enemy but our fleets easily overwhelmed it and afterwards our science vessel moved in to scan the wreckage. We didn't bother invading planets we knew we could not keep, our fleets simply moved on to the next bastion and the next. We destroyed three large bastions and scanned their wreckage before the fleets of the Hatred returned through the wormhole, though they were battered from encounters with the armadas of the Prophets.
We retreated, allowing the Hatred to reclaim the systems we stole while we escaped with the true prize: the secrets of dark matter technology, particularly the deflectors and reactors used by their stations. Only one of their smaller fleets, which was by no means insignificant itself, chased us all the way to our own territory in a miscalculation which gained us more wreckage to explore and the secrets of dark matter thrusters. It was during our retreat when drones monitoring our sentry array and other large scale sensors designed to collect research data on the physical nature of the universe noted an alarming change in space-time itself. Strange distortions in space were rippling across our galaxy, faster than light speed, and with an origin point somewhere outside of the galactic plane. This was not our first time noticing this disruption but as we turned our primary attention from our retreating fleets, trusting our admirals to do what they were bred for, we understood that the data showed an alarming change in distance and frequency of the distortions. As our science drones interpreted the data the disturbing meaning became clear to us.
Something was crossing the vast distance between galaxies at faster-than-light speeds despite the lack of any extragalactic hyperlane network to facilitate such travel. We realized that these space-time distortions were a sort of echo, like the sound of an engine screaming through an atmosphere those echoes raced ahead of whatever engines were creating them. We theorized that perhaps extragalactic travel was possible by propelling ships through a form of sub-space, treating space-time itself as an ocean which ships could dive deeper into to take advantage of different physics in a similar fashion to how our own hyperdrives make use of the unusual physics of hyperspace. We could not identify the identity or the exact distance of the origin of the echoes, only that they were coming closer and their eventual arrival point would be just a handful of systems south of the Prophets, not far from the unclaimed gateway we had inadvertently activated when we first discovered how to reactivate gateways within our own territory. What we knew for certain was that in just a few short years our galaxy would be visited by something whose nature and motives we had no way of discerning ahead of time.
We turned our attention back to our war with the Hatred, no longer interested in prolonging the conflict with such an unknown variable bearing down on our galaxy. We held our ground against the Hatred and with the loss of one of their fleets and the work to rebuild in the systems we had attacked, plus their war with the Prophets who had launched a counter attack through the wormhole into the territory of the Hatred, the Hatred quickly decided that continuing to skirmish with our forces was only compounding their losses. After only a handful of fleet skirmishes the Hatred accepted a white peace and agreed to the standard post war cease fire of ten galactic years so that they could focus their attention on the Prophets. We hoped that our efforts would be enough to preserve the Prophets as we focused our attention on perfecting the technologies we had salvaged.
It did not take long for our talented and well developed research infrastructure to turn hints gained from a few ship scraps into full fledged dark matter technologies. The new ships were designed within a month of all three technologies being fully realized and we ordered all fleets to shipyards to undergo immediate retrofitting. Resources were no obstacle for us at this time, all that mattered was crossing the technological gap between us and the Hatred before the treaty ran out and they decided to repay us for our audacity. Projections held that our fleets would be in dry dock for almost four years as the vast majority of major systems had to be removed and replaced to accommodate dark matter technology but with the peace treaty in place we were certain we had the time and so we forged ahead. We were wrong.
Almost a year into our fleet upgrade a signal was broadcast over FTL channels. Though the message followed no standard protocols and could not be translated it was not difficult to receive. The only data that could reasonably be discerned from the message was one word which was deemed the likely title of the extragalactics: the Prethoryn.
Shortly after the message the first wave arrived on the eastern rim of the galaxy. We had hoped that the visitors would be peaceful, perhaps explorers who could bring new knowledge to us from distant stars. Failing that we hoped at least to be prepared for a new, expansionist empire much like the others we were already familiar with or even some kind of extragalactic ancient empire. The Prethoryn were nothing like our expectations and nothing like anything the galaxy had previously encountered save for one other empire: us. As the first Prethoryn ships entered our galaxy we became aware of a strange and familiar connection amongst them. We reached for this connection and found not an army of individuals but a unified consciousness almost identical to our own. For the first time ever we met another hive mind species, we cannot express the feeling this created in us. We even found that we could truly communicate with them in a way that none of the other races of the galaxy could manage. We immediately attempted negotiations only to discover that although the Prethoryn were kin to us in many ways, they were ideologically incompatible with our own way of existing. They were refugees of their own galaxy, fleeing a faceless entity they referred to only as the Hunters, and they were determined to consume the full biomass of our galaxy as quickly as possible before moving on to another galaxy and another after that. There could be no peace, no cooperation or diplomacy or alliance against a greater threat. They were a massive force, with powerful and terrible fleets composed entirely of living ships that were grown rather than built, and our own fleets were trapped within our own borders, the retrofitting process already too far advanced to halt.
For two long years we watched in horror as the Prethoryn invaded and devoured, infesting habitable planets and consuming all of their organic mass. The Prophets had lost their home world and much of their military might to the Hatred and put up only a paltry defense against the swarm. A few members of their race managed to flee and seek refuge among other empires of the galaxy, the rest were either exterminated by the Hatred or devoured by the Prethoryn and their highly religious culture was lost forever. Some of the remaining empires of the galaxy had begun to join together in a federation that would one day become the Union and they deployed what fleets they had in an attempt to secure their borders but none had the strength to challenge the swarm directly save for the Hatred, and they only concerned themselves with the Prethoryn which invaded their territory. The Hatred was content to try and ride the crisis out while watching the rest of us be exterminated. In the last year of our upgrade, hope bloomed anew as the Keepers of Knowledge, galvanized by the threat to all existence, broke free of their own dormant state and began the mass production of mighty ancient fleets of their own. They joined the Union, an unheard of decision for one of the ancient empires but they made clear their desire to gather as much strength as possible by joining the galaxy's largest federation, at least for the time being. They launched an assault directly into Prethoryn controlled territory and began to turn back the tide but it was too much for them to handle even with the aid of the Union's federation fleet.
Our upgrade to dark matter tech was completed and we petitioned to join the Union and pledge our forces against the Prethoryn. Many of the Union distrusted us but our entry needed to be accepted by majority, not a unanimous decision. The Keepers accepted our help automatically and large gifts of resources to two key members of the Union served to express our sincerity. With multiple fleets of our own already on the move we were accepted into the Union. We took on the task of using our resources to produce more ships for the federation fleet and with this shared fleet plus our own and that of the Keepers a true counter offensive was launched against the Prethoryn invasion. Early assaults were difficult but as we defeated more fleets and began to learn the enemy's tactics and technology we altered our ship designs and began to see true progress in the war. We deployed our newly constructed colossus, a great war machine capable of neutralizing all life on a planet, and used it to cleanse worlds infested by the Prethoryn. This left the worlds barren but we were confident that they could be terraformed at a later date if we managed to survive this crises. The war was grueling but despite early setbacks we found that we were winning and every system reclaimed from the swarm brought more hope to the galaxy. Where previously we had enjoyed universal distrust our heavy contribution to the war effort made us heroes in the eyes of many of the weaker empires which lacked the strength to attack the swarm directly.
You asked us previously about our anger towards the Ancient Hatred and we mentioned their behaviors which so enraged us. Now we shall explain their crimes for when the whole of the galaxy was threatened, when the very existence of any life at all became uncertain, the Ancient Hatred took the opportunity to commit their forces not against the mutual enemy that threatened us all, but at us for our previous opportunistic war against them. When the peace treaty with the Hatred ended they did not allow a single day to go by before declaring war against us, and by extension the entire Union with which we were allied. With the whole of the galaxy in the balance we were forced to leave the front lines against the Prethoryn and defend our territory against the Hatred. We left the Keepers and the federation fleet to hold the line against the swarm, knowing that without our direct aid they would not be able to make significant progress against the swarm but we hoped that they could at least delay the swarm's advance. It was just as when we were upgrading our fleets, the whole of the galaxy was in peril and we were forced to concern ourselves with personal matters.
We attacked the Ancient Hatred and they found that we were no longer the upstart empire who had struck them while their backs were turned. Our fleets had become hardened with war experience and our ships were bolstered with the technology we had claimed from the Hatred. The territory they had stolen from the Prophets was on the frontline with the Prethoryn, on the opposite side of Prethoryn territory from our forces. They had no allies in the galaxy who could hold the line while they attempted to destroy us and so were forced to commit only a few of their fleets to fight us. We shall never understand what drove them to the great error of challenging us in the first place during such a dire situation but we can only assume that their hatred had overwhelmed their reason long ago. We stormed their territory, taking systems and this time we intended to keep them. We landed our armies on their colonies and occupied their worlds. Our mastery of genetic engineering allowed us to assimilate the people of those planets into our hive mind, sacrificing their individual culture to gain greater diversity and strength for our own empire. We took many of their worlds and half of their total territory and assimilated it all into our greater self. They requested a peace, insisting they had learned their lesson and ceding all conquered territory to us. We signed a second ten year treaty, rebuilt our forces, and returned to the front against the Prethoryn.
Our efforts renewed we surged against the swarm, destroying fleet after fleet and cleansing dozens of worlds in waves of neutrons fired from our great colossus. It was a long and bitter campaign, Hyrethian, and it was still burning when the two thousand five hundredth galactic year passed by uncelebrated but still we forged onward. You must be wondering how things changed so much between us and the Union when we were once such close allies. The Prethoryn were forced back to a mere dozen systems when our second treaty with the Ancient Hatred expired and again they declared a war against us, so blinded by their desire to destroy us and perhaps realizing that their only slim hope of ever doing so was to strike while our allies were occupied with the extragalactic invaders. As we were forced to pull our fleets back from the front yet again we consulted with ourselves on the course of action necessary to finally secure peace in the galaxy. It was obvious that the Hatred could no longer be allowed to act freely in the galaxy; their empire would have to be dissolved. We almost resolved to simply conquer all of their worlds and assimilate them when a dark and bitter idea entered our minds. It became clear to us that the Hatred was itself a poison upon the galaxy, and you do not integrate poison but instead it must be extracted and discarded. It was time to demonstrate to the entire galaxy the reward that the Hatred's ideals of self glorification and destruction of difference had earned them. We would wipe them out entirely, just as with the Prethoryn infestation.
We once again launched our warships into Hatred controlled territory but this time they were accompanied not by army transport ships but by our devastating colossus. We went to every planet they controlled and wiped it clean of all higher life, leaving only basic flora and microorganisms. Some of our more powerful federation allies, grown more powerful over the many years of war with the Prethoryn, struck out at the Hatred as well and conquered worlds. We suspected that this was actually an attempt to protect some members of the species from our assault, securing them behind the borders of our allies where we would not seek to pursue them. We allowed this as repayment to those allies for working so tirelessly with us to destroy the Prethoryn invasion. In every other system that our allies did not reach first we committed merciless genocide against the Ancient Hatred. We expunged them from the galaxy and we finally tracked them to their last stolen world, where their pathetic king attempted to hide from us, we refitted our colossus with a new weapon and we used it to shatter the very planet they resided upon.
We unquestionably won our war against the Hatred and without their interference it took only another decade to completely eliminate the main Prethoryn force. The galaxy celebrated and the Union was regarded as a federation of heroes but a rift formed between us and our allies. Many of the empires who had not been directly involved had only gained second hand reports of the events of the Prethoryn crises but our allies knew through shared intel and sensor data exactly how we had dealt with the Hatred's betrayal. The brutality of our retribution disturbed them and perhaps the treaties of cooperation and alliance seemed a thin protection for them from us. We do not blame them for we had shown ourselves to be a nigh unstoppable force of destruction over decades of war. They attempted to shackle our military might to their own desires, seeking to distract us by engaging the federation in small, pointless conquest wars to gain small pieces of territory from lesser empires. After only a couple such minor wars we left the Union to seek our independent future. We expanded into all the remaining free territory left over after the Prethoryn invasion and wound up securing almost half of all the star systems and usable planets in the whole of the galaxy.
Our empire was unassailable but with the destruction of the Prethoryn, the only other hive mind we had ever met, and the renewed fear and mistrust of our once allies we were faced with a new emotion that we had no means to understand. For the first time in our existence we felt...alone. Our mind is a unified chorus of organisms working in harmony to a greater whole, but we were still one mind. What was our singular unified nature next to the greater galactic scale cooperation we had experienced against the swarm? When we assimilated other species did we preserve them amongst our greater self or did we destroy everything that made their existence meaningful in the first place? We did not loathe or regret our existence but we began to see that perhaps it was the contrast of those that were different from us that made our unification more beautiful. We decided that if we were to ever gain full control of the galaxy then at that time we would be truly alone.
We waited and we watched the rest of the galaxy spin onward as years turned to centuries and then to millennia. With no place left to expand to the weakest of galactic empires squabbled amongst each other and destroyed one another and more open space was created. Hoping to stand against us the Keepers were absorbed permanently into the Union. We began to devote vast resources to the terraforming and revitalization of all the worlds which had been rendered barren by the Prethoryn or which had been ruined by interstellar wars. As the processes completed and new, simple life began to bloom on these planets we relinquished our claim upon most of the galaxy's systems. When the Union attempted to lay claim to these systems for themselves they found our fleets waiting for them. They eventually acquiesced to allow new life and new empires to grow where the old had decayed away. After two thousand galactic years a short cycle of young empires sprung into being and then wiped each other out. We rejuvenated the left over worlds and waited again.

"In what we counted as the six thousand four hundred and thirteenth year a strange race of arthropods arose only a few short jumps from the edge of our controlled space and made contact with us. They did not react, as most races had before them, with fear and disgust at our unified existence. They did not, as the Union had before them, seek to use our technology and military strength to win their battles for them. No, these unique creatures that call themselves Hyrethian asked only for simple advice and to hear our story and learn about the history of the galaxy. They say that we honor them with our history but we say it is you who honors us, Hyrethian, with your open minds and diplomatic manner. We are eager to watch the mark you leave on the galaxy Hyrethian and perhaps with time you shall ascend to ancient status alongside us and we shall watch the galaxy spin together."
Trithiss stared in awe at the speaker drone before him and all he could do was nod slowly. Finally he found the words to reply, "I'm so humbled that you think so highly of our little nation. We will bring your story to the rest of our people and we will not let you down."
"We believe you will do great things, Hyrethian, just remember these lessons we learned. The true wonder and majesty of the galaxy is best when experienced from many perspectives. Never let anger overtake you as we once did for although we have seen many empires rise and fall, none have ever returned from obliteration. Once a culture dies it is truly gone forever. It has been our great pleasure to share our history with you, Hyrethian, we wish you a pleasant journey home."
By: JB

"There once was a bright-eyed race of righteous liberators known as the Xani. Having conquered their way to become the rulers of their home world, Xanth, they sought more worlds and possibly lesser lifeforms to bring into the light of the righteous. Menial labour being beneath them, the Xani allowed the conquered lesser races to find purpose to their insignificance by working in the mines, mindless desk jobs, and in otherwise physically or mentally debilitating work. There were far greater tasks that are needed to be done by the true overlords of the galaxy.

Soon, one by one, newly surveyed systems were brought into the empire, new planets colonized, and more of the quadrant was explored. After years, the Xani finally received their first communication from another space-faring race, the Drull. Supposedly, they were relatively peaceful and quite intelligent. Almost immediately though, they declared a rivalry and closed their borders. The Xani, already weary of other races, were understandably insulted - how dare lesser beings close their minds to the righteousness of the Xani cause!

Though expansion of the empire was top priority, the Xani needed to begin building their military prowess. Ships and weapons were produced in their dozens to show other galactic contenders the Xani would not be intimidated. Other races were soon discovered, rivalries declared, and borders closed. Assailed on all sides by those who would condemn them, the Xani found renewed vigor in their contempt of other races. However, the one race that welcomed others with open arms, the Baviir, quickly raised suspicions among the Xani leadership by treating their potential foes - or allies - as equals, and their lack of lesser beings doing busywork was jarring. Borders were immediately closed to these degenerates.

War was inevitable, but not before the Suzerainty built a stable economy and a mighty first fleet. The Drull, in their arrogance, insulted the Xani by using audacious words like “slaver”, “flesh trader”, and “Xenophobe”. Blatant disregard of respect to their superiors that could not go unchallenged. This was all the catalyst the Xani needed. War was declared. Systems of the Drull were chosen for ""liberation"", and the first fleet of the Xani sent forth.

The first void battle for the Xani ended in disaster. Dozens of corvettes were left broken and adrift while the survivors made a desperate retreat to the unknown. Too confident in their own superiority, the Xani neglected to compare their technologies with the Drull, who were already developing and producing destroyers when the Xani were merely churning out corvettes. However, the Drull ships were not immune to damage and retreated behind their borders to rebuild. In that small reprieve, the Xani quickly poured resources into research and ship building. Soon, destroyers were being produced and a larger variety of weaponry fitted onto the ships. Another battle was about to commence over a Drull border system. The Xani, having learned from their mistake, made sure that kind of disaster would not happen again. This time, the Drull fleet was left burning, and system after system of the Drull fell to the Xani fleet.

Xani citizens volunteered for duty and serfs were drafted into armies. A liberation army was formed and sent to aid in the conquest of the first hostile world. The fleet was already bombarding the planet when the army arrived in-system. Cities were leveled and the enemy garrison was slowly losing cohesion. The transport fleet landed the army and the ground battle commenced. Though hard-fought, the Xani army was victorious and the planet conquered in the name of the Suzerainty.

Eventually, the Drull had to cut their losses and sued for peace. The Xani understood, through their own experience with Xanthian thralls, that the annexation of the Drull would not be complete in a single battle. The Xani complied with a status quo end to the war, and so kept the conquered world and several of its surrounding resource-rich systems. As would be expected of the lesser beings, they were quickly moved to menial labour and tasks and distributed to other worlds where they were needed. The Xani citizens eventually started to populate the specialist positions and thus the new frontier world began to prosper!

Faster and faster, technology in the Suzerainty developed. Bigger and better ships, weapons, and equipment were developed and produced. The famous first fleet, which was the lynchpin in the war, the 1st Husk Squadron, had to be split and reinforced to protect the borders of the empire. Now that the Xani had bloodied the nose of a significant galactic race, others had an eye to challenge them.

The Khessam to the galactic north eventually declared war on the Suzerainty! Thinking their fleets and armies superior, the Khessam managed to push back the Xani fleets at first. Unbeknownst to the Khessam, a large fleet with the latest in technologies and weapons were just finished being produced at Xanth. As quickly as the Khessam pushed into Xani territory, the Xani pushed back. The Khessam were back in their territory, desperate to slow down the Xani fleets, but to no avail. A status quo peace was reached, and the Khessam lost nearly a dozen systems and a handful of worlds.

Like the Drull, the Khessam population were brought low and placed into tasks more suited for those of the lesser races. Again, at first the new thralls were rebellious, but any hopes of returning to their people were quashed as the Xani started to populate the planet, the hierarchy was then established and immovable.

Years went by, technology and relations developed. A federation was formed by the Baviir to include the Drull and a couple other races. Though the Xani were not asked to join the federation immediately, it would have been declined out of principle anyways. The Xani look to the bigger picture. A galactic council was formed and the Xani joined. Realizing how small an influence their fledgling empire truly was, the Xani did not despair, they now had a goal. To take the galaxy by both politically and through conquest.

The Drull were part of a federation and could not easily start a war, nor could the Xani attack without bringing in at least 3 other dominions into the war too. However, the Khessam have a short memory and kept provoking the Xani. More insults were sent and pirate groups were found and hired to raid the Xani. The Suzerainty found out and thus war started anew.

Now with multiple fleets, the Xani annihilated all resistance and took system after system. Eventually the Khessam territory was annexed and its people became the Xani’s property. Subjugation being the Xani specialty, it was not long before the last few rebellions were quashed and the economy stabilized once more.

Shortly after fully liberating an entire galactic race, changes started to occur in many of the Xani. Those Xani started to develop psychic abilities. The whole race quickly adopted this gene through artificial means and it permeated throughout all walks of Xani life. The enforcers were now the Psi Ops, leaders and fleet admirals were simply expected to have abilities, and the Xani army now deployed psychic attacks (alongside the thrall draftees) to aid in land invasions.

A Fallen Empire was soon discovered in the midst of the Drull Empire while in the middle of another small conquest of worlds and would-be serfs. Though friendly to outsiders, they boasted a high level of military capability and Xani leadership were justly apprehensive of such power not being used.

Soon, battleships became common in the fleets, and armies swelled. The Suzerainty was stuck. Once the Khessam were integrated, the Xani’s territory now extended all over the galactic Northeast. However, now the Xani bordered against 2 foreign empires in the federation and the Fallen Empire. They could either become complacent or strike out against the oppression to Xani manifest destiny.

So, the Xani fought. Fleets were raised to fight the expected resistance the federation could bring to bear. In all their wisdom, the Xani leadership made sure to focus on a single enemy each attack. The current target being the Drull. Fleets were amassed at border chokepoints in the Suzerainty to defend against the rest of the federation, but most of the military power was against the Drull Empire.

War began once more. It was so devastating this time, it left the Drull home world burning. Most of their empire was taken into the Suzerainty, its people rightfully turning subservient. Before a truce could be established, an attack from an unexpected quarter appeared! The treacherous Fallen Empire left their borders open and allowed fleets of chitinous Athallid into the Suzerainty, thereby extending the war significantly.

Unfortunately, the Xani grew tired of this war before the admirals could take back what was stolen, and peace was forced in unfavorable circumstances. Some systems were lost, but fortunately no worlds. It was a bittersweet victory as the Drull were pushed out of the quadrant and the Suzerainty fully took over a full quarter of the galaxy.

Unexpectedly, a small segment of the population artificially augmented themselves and broke off the main genepool, calling themselves Super-Xani. Naturally stronger and unruly, they eventually took over a planet in the previous Drull territory and the citizen of the Suzerainty waited with baited breath as to what happened next.

Fleets and armies were dispatched. However, the Super-Xani saw the futility in their ways and eventually seceded. They were brought back into general population, unchanged, their augments proved useful to the Suzerainty.

When the Xani proved to the galaxy the federation could be bested, rebellion started across the other race’s empires. The Xani do not rely on robotic servants since there are perfectly good serfs to do any labour anyways. The other empires, however, relied on the robots far too much. The robotic minions permeating throughout all walks of life. Their former servants rebelled and successfully carved their own empires within.

It was at this time, the piracy groups got out of hand and the Great Khan appeared. His great fleets cut a swathe through the federation empires and were getting closer to Xani space. Their fleets were stronger than the current fleets defending Xani territory. More fleets were created, but not in time. Some of the defense fleets were defeated and systems were lost. However, the federation managed to band together and hit some of the Khan’s outposts, forcing the offending pirate fleet back.

After many battles and destroyed fleets, the Khan was killed at the hands of the Othethi, a militaristic race in the federation. The latest galactic threat was quelled.

Shortly thereafter, L-Gates were discovered and researched. Curiosity got the better of the Fafossan, a hive mind race, and they opened the gates. What poured out is what is known as the Grey Tempest. Huge formations of hostile nanites attacked everything on sight. Fortunately, no L-gates were within Suzerainty territory, so the other empires took the brunt of the attacks. The galactic council, much to the Xani’s dismay, forced the members to focus on the Grey Tempest, opening borders to each other so fleets can move through territory. The Xani would remember this.

Like the pirates, the Grey Tempest was pushed back to their territory and soon annihilated by the joint efforts of the whole galaxy. With the military of the other races weakened by the battles, the Xani made sure to maintain their power and got ready to liberate more races.

The Fallen Empire, now surrounded by Suzerainty territory when the Drull were finally fully liberated, was alone but still powerful. Yet, the might of the Xani was still greater. The fleets of the Xani now rivaled that of the Fallen Empire. Jump-drives were developed, and titan-class ships made their way into the fleets.

In a short, but costly war, the fallen empire of the Haahn was annexed and its ancient people brought low. The Xani Suzerainty now controlled a full half of the galaxy.

A voice started to speak out to the psychically tuned Xani, and what is known as the Shroud began to communicate. It would offer boons at some risk to safety or resources. But a rift in dimensions had the Xani meet their counterpart who are following nearly the same decisions. These other Xani warned of the Shroud, not to trust it. Who are we to not listen to other Xani? So the decision was made to ignore the Shroud.

At this point, the Xanid Suzerainty had enough influence in the galactic council to determine policy almost by itself. Part of the original goal has been accomplished. Despite the pleas of the lesser races to implement sanctions and restrictions to indirectly impair the Xani, it was too late. The political power was too great and only policies that could benefit the Xani were passed.

In order to house all the thralls, Ring Worlds were built and orbital habitats were filled to capacity, but it was not enough. Eventually, a realization dawned on the Xani leadership. Now that the peak of technology is nearly reached, some could feel enlightenment approaching. Maybe there should only be the Xani. Xani are able to do menial work like any of the serfs, maybe this ought to be the way. And so, careful to not collapse the empire, the purging began.

Carefully selected so that once gone, they could be immediately replaced, subspecies of the integrated races were exterminated. Xani or newly liberated races replaced the purged species. Eventually, Xanth was completely devoid of non-Xani races and there was peace.

With 220 worlds and over half the galaxy under their rule, the Xani continued to conquer and subjugate the lesser races. The last empires of the federation fell to the Xani, all that was left was the Fafossan Hive. The last great bastion of resistance to the righteousness of the Xani.

The Fafossan managed to construct a fleet greater than any single Xani fleet in the galaxy. However, it was only one fleet against the many elite soldiers of the Suzerainty. The final war was declared and great numbers of fleets positioned from all around the Fafossan Hive pushed into their territory. Their weaker fleets still rivaled that of the Xani, but were vastly outnumbered. Attack after attack was committed and world after world fell to the Xani. Eventually, the Fafossan had no choice but to commit their strongest fleet to battle.

Wherever it went, the battle went to the Fafossan’s favour, but at the cost of yet more of their systems. The Xani raised several more fleets and managed to bring ten fully reinforced fleets, an armada of nearly 1000 ships of all classes, to battle the mega fleet.

A trap was set. Volunteers were selected as the decoy. The brave souls would lure in and keep the Fafossan fleet at bay until reinforcements arrived. This decoy fleet deployed to a Fafossan controlled system and their great fleet too the bait. Hundreds of Fafossan ships slipped in-system and started attacking. When the fight was underway, several Xani fleets jumped in-system and attacked from the flanks, the Fafossan fleet was trapped but still fighting hard. Finally, the last of the great armada arrived. Nearly a dozen titan-class warships with a full complement of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers each entered the system. The epic clash lasted for weeks and hundreds of ships were destroyed. The great Xani armada ended up battered but victorious.

Once the Fafossan’s lost their fleets, they lost the will to fight. Their worlds hunkered down and increased their garrisons. Heralded by the indiscriminate bombardment from the fleets, the vast armies of the Xani descended and one by one their worlds fell. The war came to an end and the galaxy was then completely ruled by the Xani. The extermination of the lesser races continued until the only beings left were the Xani.

At last, the galaxy was truly at peace."

All these submissions will receive a Stellaris mousepad as a thank you for participating.

Our Grand Prize winner is Nathaniel Balaszi with ““A Home No More” or Raiding Stance”, who will also receive a copy of the Stellaris Limited Edition OST Vinyl!

Thanks to everyone who participated! We had a really hard time choosing winners, the quality of submissions was out of this world (pun intended!)

Warm Greetings,
AC
 
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Ekhdina

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Nov 3, 2017
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OMG! Thank you for the opportunity and this contest, it was super fun!
 
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rayan008

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Congratulations to all the contestants who participated in this version of the competition, with best wishes and appreciation.