Prologue: The Spread Of The Many Children of Earth
  • Kylia Quilor

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    7200 years ago, History tells us, Humanity left the cradle.

    For thousands of years, tens of thousands of years, humanity had lived on one world, and one world only: Earth. A small, unimportant world, orbiting a small, unimportant star. But eventually, humanity left Earth. There is so much that has been lost or distorted over the centuries since, hidden in the darkest corners of some archive somewhere, or simply gone forever. The Colonial Wars, the fall of the First Empire, the Kishrath Wars, the Fall of the Second Empire - these wars, and a thousand crisis, plagues, disturbances and more, have all stolen so much of the details of our history from us. We know that mankind had great pioneers of space - Neil Armstrong and Yuri Gagarin, great scientists, like Albert Einstein, Deepak Chopra, Marie Curie and Enrico Fermi. Great rulers and leaders - Elizabeth II, Augustus, Barack Obama. Great monsters and villains - Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin.

    Or so some versions of the histories say. Others say other things, but that is all immaterial, ultimately.

    Humanity spread across the stars. We know that humanity interacted with many aliens at the time, that the hyperspace lanes brought humanity into contact with strange races - few names survive to us. Some, do, however. Blorg, Chinorr, Maweer, Jehetma and Kel-Azaan. The details are lost or confused, but we know that humanity in the stars was dominated by the Commonwealth of Man and the United Nations of Earth - but over time, many smaller human nations were settled, free from these great powers.

    It was in -3950 (or so - all dates are approximate for this period) that the great Colonial Unification Wars began - the United Nations of Earth and the Commonwealth of Man went to war to decide the future of humanity. Soon, all of mankind was drawn into the war, and it was a war that was costly not just to humanity. For the war left the other aliens without aid when the ancient empires that had come before went to war, what we know as 'The War in Heaven'. A great genocidal conflagration that passed humanity by, consumed as it was by self-destruction. Billions, maybe even trillions of humans died. Earth was turned into an unlivable rock, as was the Commonwealth's homeworld - the name lost to us now. In the end, neither the CoM or the UNE won, but instead, the Empire of Three Crowns, a union of several smaller monarchies. Through clever diplomacy, ruthless coups backed by master spies and simply having an intact fleet after decades of war, the Empire of Three Crowns, ruling from the world of Black Rose, united all humanity in the Empire of Man.

    The age of The First Empire of Man, as it is known now, was the Golden Age for mankind. Technology ran free, and in the aftermath of the War in Heaven, there were no fallen Empires to police the lesser races. Humanity was one power among many, but unified, numerous and well-governed, humanity grew to dominate most aliens, to one degree or another.

    The First Empire of Man is when the many genetically modified offshoots of humanity were made. Some were merely local changes to deal with hostile environments, but others were far more extensive, becoming whole new races of Man. Few remain today, but some have lasted the ages, even in great numbers. The long-lived Elvhen, the short, bearded Durgon - experts in Industry and finance, adapted for heavy gravity worlds. The hardy and warlike Orcs. The Psilons, victims of alien experimentation that left them even more inhuman than other offshoots but possessed of low-grade telepathy.



    Author's Note said:
    (Profligate and Universal are Traits from mods. Profligate gives you +30% Consumer Goods Upkeep and -10% Habitability. Orcs were adapted to Arid worlds, and less so to other ones, and their bodies consume more resources in all sorts of ways. Universal is a flat +5% from all jobs. The Psilon's low-grade telepathy lets them do collective tasks much easier and more efficiently.)

    All good things must come to an end, however. The First Empire fell to a great combination - first, the alien Skreeth, long enemies of humanity, unleashed the tailored bioweapon on humanity known only as the Ravening in -2710. The Ravening consumed world after world, but eventually it was stopped on the world of Corris Prime. The world was bombaried to ash even after all infected had died, but quarantined for all time. There was to be no risk of a return of this great plague.

    But soon, invasion by opportunistic aliens - led by the Skreeth - and ambitious local factions and governors tore at the weakened First Empire. For three hundred and six years, the First Empire fought desperately to live. The Skreeth were destroyed, as were several of humanity's alien allies. But this was all made worse by the changes in hyperspace - the Hyperspace lanes linking worlds began to change, shift. Some worlds were cut off from each other entirely, lost to all known space, others were connected in new and dangerous ways. Countless worlds and systems were lost, including the Sol System itself. The First Empire was doomed, but still it fought to the last against the Entropy of History. It was a beautiful, tragic struggle, immortalized in untold countless works of fiction.

    It took the final destruction of Black Rose in -2313 by a Colossus weapon at the hands of an alliance of renegade governors to finally end the First Empire... and then the victorious governors fought over that great Colossus, destroying it and nearly all human civilization in the process. Brought down to the local level, many planets starved and withered at the vine, either literally or metaphorically.

    But mankind tries again. After every collapse on Earth, mankind rose again, and the same held true in the stars. After two thousand years of darkness, constant low-grade warfare and constantly shifting hyperspace currents, in the year -571, four star-Empires formed an alliance. It was at first merely an alliance of Xenophobia. The powerful Dwamak Empire was a threat to all four states, all populated by Humans or Human-branched races. The League of Argoss defeated the Dwamak, and even destroyed their homeworld in nuclear fire.

    It was over the ashes of the Dwamak Homeworld that the League found a new mission - to rebuild the First Empire. To restore humanity to its greatest heights, to protect Mankind from the alien menace. It took centuries of war, of political and diplomatic dealmaking and massive expenditures of blood and treasure, but eventually, in 1, the Second Empire of Man was formed. The name was a misnomer - the royal family was a figurehead, selected based on supposed links to the dynasty of the First. All power was concentrated in the fractious Senate, and even more so, at the Sector level - the Second Empire was far more of a Confederacy.

    But the Second Empire was also more Xenophobic. Any child of Humanity was welcome - any alien was not. Countless species were exterminated or driven into small, quarantined worlds or isolated corners of space. Some fled in generation ships beyond the reach of the Hyperspace Lanes, or did the same via wormhole or Jump drive, escaping into unmapped portions of the galaxy. But the Second Empire thrived, and by 418, all known space was controlled or dominated by the Second Empire, one way or another. That, of course, only meant the 3000 or so star systems connected by the hyperspace lanes known to man at the time, but still.

    The Second Empire, strictly speaking, never did know absolute peace - there were always small grade brushfire wars and rebellions - but it did now general peace and it did know great prosperity. Lost technology was claimed, great megacorporations were founded, religions flourished, art and culture and so much more.

    But even the Second Empire, mighty and secure and confident as it was had to come to an end. The Second Empire too, fell to a compounding of events. Its weakened political structure doomed it when the Kishrath invaded. An extragalactic menace, a consuming hivemind that could add all sentient life it captured to its collective, the originally insectoid Kishrath were a great diversity by the time they invaded the Second Empire in 1098.

    The Second Empire should have been able to defeat the Kishrath. They had great armies, great fleets - and mighty hosts of machine soldiers even. But even as the Eastern Reaches were attacked and under threat, Senators and Governors in other parts of the Empire resisted providing aid, expending resources - the Empire was strong enough to defeat the Kishrath, after all. Why bother raising taxes, instituting conscription? Everyone claimed to need their local defense fleets for anti-piracy, rebellion suppression, maintaining overwatch on small, surviving alien powers.

    Even as the East burned, the Empire dithered. Seeking to end the deadlock, generals launched a coup, destroying the Senate - and with it, all semblance of Unity. Even in the midst of invasion and the impending threat of Genocide, the regional governors, local planets, great interest groups and factions big and small remained focused on their own concerns. The Gynoids, the most numerous and strongest of humanity's machine soldiers - made, as the name suggested, to look like human women, they were nearly sentient each, all but fully AI. Impossible to assimilate, let loose by the collapsing government, the Gynoids conscripted worlds for resources, and forced the Kishrath back. But the rest of Humanity was now at war. First the generals against the governors, but then the generals began to bicker with each other, the governors accused each other of all holding back, wanting to let their allies bleed for them. It was is Entropy bred more Entropy.

    Even the news of the final defeat of the Kishrath after the decade-long battle of Elteris Prime in 1131, which saw the hivemind's remnant survivors flee the galaxy and the Gynoids destroyed did nothing to end the fighting.

    Everyone had an axe to grind against their neighbors. Even as everyone looked on, watching the world collapse, everyone fought. Many claimed genetic modification was the cause, dividing humanity into too many competing families. Other blamed capitalism, individuality, godlessness, religion, technology, weak institutions... everyone had a solution, it seemed, and everyone was ready to kill to force that solution on the galaxy.

    War bred War. As trade collapsed, more planets were lost simply to refugees fleeing, to a lack of resources, Specialized planets were hurt the most, but every world suffered from the collapse of trade, of communication, of travel. Piracy and worse rose across known space. Whole sectors were lost to any sort of unified government.

    By 1350, the Second Empire had even nominally ceased to exist when the Hyperlanes began to shift again, isolating the Throneworld of Argoss from the galaxy. The final collapse into darkness was settled by 1439, with all remnant claims to the throne, to even sector-level power lost to the entropy and decay of collapse. There was virtually no trade, beyond what nomadic peddlers brought. Communication between worlds ended.

    Centuries passed. Worlds were lost. Worlds died. Worlds were destroyed, by themselves or by outsiders. Alien menaces returned but were cut off by shifting hyperlanes. New, primitive races threatened to rise to space. Marauding alliances of lost aliens formed, plundering. But surviving worlds adapted, changed, grew ready for the new order. New models of organization were tasted, planets unified, planets formed new governments. Some were determined to bring about a Third Empire. Some simply want to exist, thrive and survive in a new galaxy.

    But all know that sooner or later, there will be a Third Empire.

    But with the chaos in hyperspace, the weakness of all these powers... nothing could happen yet. But hyperspace calmed, new warships and starbases were built.

    But by 2200, things stood poised to change. Across the galaxy, the known hyperlanes connecting some 1300 star systems in a network that would serve as the backbone for the eventual Third Empire.

    But there are threats on the horizon to all sentient life, to all the Children of Earth, to the possibility of new, growing civilization and a Third Empire. Internecine warfare is not the only danger.



    The Gynoids survived, in small numbers, on Elteris Prime, unknown to most. Over the centuries, their programming corrupted, and now all organic life is understood to be part of the Kishrath, the war not over yet. The Kishrath must still be defeated, and if that means exterminating all life that is part of the hivemind? The warped machine intelligence of the 2118th Gynoid Infantry Division, with fleets at its command is ready to make that sacrifice.



    In a once-remote system, the Ravening has evolved, escaping quarantine during the fall of the Second Empire and found a new form. A sentient virus that controls its hosts, the New Ravening is a hivemind swarm, bent on devouring all life, all biomass, into itself.



    On Ulger, robots invented to catalogue and preserve all knowledge assimilated their creators, and now seek to preserve and catalogue all knowledge - and all who hold it. If they assimilate all life, there will be only stagnation. The Archivist Angels are a threat to the hope of the Third Empire.

    And beyond known space, other, darker threats linger. Pislon Oracles speak of the legendary Shroud and the entities contained therein. They speak of another dimension, home to strange devouring energy beings. They are laughed at, ignored.

    Archeologists warn of suggestions of a great, hidden machine empire out there, ready to exterminate all life - a contingency gone awry. Proof is scattered, discounted, unsure.

    And astronomers watch a galaxy slowly vanishing into dark space, and notice that hyperspace itself seems to be bending at the outer edges of the galaxy. Something is coming. To the Kishrath come anew, or does another invading swarm come? Is this all just an overreaction based on an absence of data?

    Humanity stands at a crossroads. There will be a Third Empire... or perhaps there will not. Will Humanity fall to its own hubris, to its own struggles with itself - or will it fall to some greater threat beyond it?

    And if there is a Third Empire, what form will it take? Will it favor only one vision of Humanity, only one of its many subraces, or will it be a unity of all of Earth's Children?

    No one can say. But we will see. We will see.

    Programming Note said:
    Animated Synthetic Portraits Extended Reborn seems to be... not entirely functional. Several tests have shown that they just don't seem to force spawn properly and in the process the mod seems to screw up all machine empire spawning. So there's gonna be a few changes to the appearance of the Archivist Angels and the Gynoids in-game, even if, lore-wise, the above images are what those races are *supposed* to look like.
     
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    Administrative Interlude #1 - What's All This Then?
  • Kylia Quilor

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    Okay, so this is an AAR I've been toying with for a while. I was hoping to wait until Elves of Stellaris was updated, as well as a few other portrait/race mods, because I had ideas for more offshoots of humanity I could make using them, but I decided screw it. And now, with 2.2. I have even more ways to make this a fun and diverse experience.

    I've made 35 distinct Empires. Some share races, some are localized offshoots of humanity, some are barely human, nominally so at best. I will not be sharing all 35 now, but I will be sharing the six I'm considering playing as - and it will be open to you all to suggest who among them I play. Several of the 27 were not created to be played (such as the three 'Menace' Empires above), at least not for this AAR by me. Races not of the six or of the Menaces will be introduced in more detail as they are encountered.

    The mods I'm using are several, however:

    • Homeworld Ethics (2.2)
    • Advanced Ascension
    • Animated Synthetics Portraits Expanded: RebornMod Nonfunctional
    • Cybrxkhan's Assortment of Namelists for Stellaris
    • Diverse Basics
    • Diverse Federation Names
    • Ethics Colors
    • Exigency
    • Extragalactic Clusters
    • Fleet Cap Percent 2 (Repeatable Tech)
    • FutureCorp
    • More AI Personalities
    • More Galaxy Sizes
    • More Home Systems
    • Nacho's Extra Civic Point
    • New Civics and Traits Mod for 2.2*
    • Origins Civics
    • PJs Extra Civic Slot
    • Repeatable Genetics and Robomodding
    • Traits: Better Refineries - Mod Nonfunctional
    • Vassalization Rebalance - Mod Nonfunctional

    This is not my first AAR, but it is my first Stellaris AAR, and the first one I'm posting here. I'm not even sure the forum I shared my first AAR (a short-lived Khazar CK2 run) is even still around, so I won't dig it up and link it here.

    I'll be spending a lot of time on the narrative and lore of the universe, and probably some recurring characters, so expect in-universe documents and probably discussions between the various leaders of my Empire. I may use the console a few times to keep the story interesting and moving forward, but I won't be giving myself help simply so I can curbstomp.
     
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    Dramatis Personae
  • Kylia Quilor

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    Dramatis Personae
    Production Note said:
    Will be updated as appropriate as people die/Are Hired/Appear in the story. Not all leaders or named characters in the story will show up on this list, just the important recurring ones.
    Production Note #2 said:
    When I started the AAR, I had notions that involved a slightly higher character focus than I ended up doing, with more narrative scenes and in more depth provided to them. The Dramatis Personae will not be updated or maintained with much regularity going forward, beyond adding entries for each successive Divine Monarch.
    God-Empress Ashal Tychos
    (b. 2155, d. ? r. 2187- 2241)

    45 Years of age in 2200, Ashal Tychos is the 7th Divine Monarch to ruler over a unified Vanerra, and the 10th of her line to claim Imperial Dignity. Charismatic and with a drive to see the unknown galaxy mapped once anew, she enthusiastically approved the proposal to explore the Hyperlanes once it was known they were beginning to stabilize. It would be an expensive process, but one that could only further the divine mission of her family.

    Driven and determined, she will let nothing stand in the way of the pursuit of Unity of the Many Children of Earth.

    She died in 2241 as a result of complications of a heart attack two years before.

    God-Empress Ishem Tychos
    <IMG Awaiting>


    (b. 2175, d. ? s. 2241 - ?)

    The firstborn daughter of God-Empress Ashal, her father a member of the Imperial Harem, Ishem was always assumed to be named Saint, and was trained accordingly - given a top flight education, and then, at the age of twenty, she was put in charge of a mining district in the southern hemisphere, where she oversaw an increase in production with minimal increases in costs, and an increase in the quality of life among the miners. At 22, she began to oversee the same with the state-owned Kelp Farms near the equator. She remains keenly interested in mining and agriculture, and constantly pushes her mother to provide government aid to further agriculture and mining projects.

    During the last two years of her mother's reign, as the Impurity War began to rage, Ishem took over primary management of Empire, especially the war, and it was her more cautious ideas about how best to wage the war that saw the Puritans break themselves in Neston three times.
    ------------------------------------------------

    Supreme Chancellor Thanie Velis
    Supreme-Chancellor.png

    (b. 2153 d. ? s. 2188 - ? )

    The Supreme Chancellor has long been the second only to the Divine Monarch themselves. Charged with the day to day minutia of running Vanerra, leaving the Monarch to their higher duties, the Supreme Chancellor is the primary vehicle of the Throne to make policy to the Assembly of Higher Minds, an semi-legislative body that represents the most telepathically gifted families of the Empire.

    Thanie Velis is a close friend of Ashal, since childhood, and has steadily risen through the ranks of the Imperial Bureaucracy as Ashal grew older and shortly Ashal's ascension, Ashal appointed her to the position of Supreme Chancellor. Thanie is a vigorous athlete, engaging in a variety of sporting activities in her off-time. Such as it exists as her responsibilities expand.

    ------------------------------------------------

    High Explorator Ezo Caes
    1-High-Explorator.png

    (b. 2157, d. ? s. 2199 - 2247)

    The position of High Explorator is a new one, created by Ashal, to be the one in charge of all missions of discovery that leave the Forni System. Ezo Caes was an accomplished Astrophysicist and Hyperlane expert, known for popularizing the expression "Measure three times, cut once, measure again." A meticulous and detail-oriented man, he led the team that proved once and for all that the hyperlanes were beginning to stabilize, and would stay stabilized for centuries to come.

    His reward was to be appointed to command the ISS Nerdyn, the first hyperlane-capable science-ship to be built at the Forni Shipyards in many centuries.

    ------------------------------------------------

    Explorator Pell Impos


    (b.2158, d. ?, s. 2208 - ?)

    Cutting his teeth as a computational scientist for Karis Energy Solutions, Pell was recruited to join the first Voyage of the Nerdyn, where he proved his worth by identifying a number of useful waveforms that would be studied more thoroughly later and used to improve a great deal of the Empire's computer and energy-production technology. His discovery of Cybrex artifacts on Lishval Ia is what propelled him to command of the ISS Rinyhai, which was set out to first round out some of the work of the Nerdyn in the south, before going off in pursuit of the Cybrex - though whether his mission was one to find them for reasons of scientific curiosity, or religious destruction was still unclear.
    ------------------------------------------------

    Explorator Sapen Calto

    Explorator-Sapen-on-Doppleganger.png

    (b. 2186, d. ?, s.2223-?)

    A member of the crew of the Rinyhai that joined for the Second Voyage, Sapen made her name as a scientist before joining the crew through her work in biology, pioneering several methods to deal with the hostile fish life on Divine Providence that threatened the farms being stocked to feed the population. Skilled in lateral thinking and quite detail-oriented, she was given command of the renamed ISS Doppelganger when the Rinyhai was copied by a strange dimensional pocket.
    ------------------------------------------------

    Imperial Saint

    <FILE AWAITING UPDATE>

    ------------------------------------------------

    High Cleric Acin Nars
    (b. 2137 d. 2225 s. 2178 - 2225)

    The High Cleric is the second-most important religious position in the Empire, after the Divine Monarch themselves. Acin Nars is an elderly Psilon, and not known for being very flexible in her thoughts. She supports spreading into the galaxy, as it is essential as a means to spread Tychea's Unity, but she is nonetheless adverse to most technological solutions to problems - Mind must take precedence. The thought that science could be used to advance the Psilon's understanding of their telepathic gifts hasn't even occurred to her.
    ------------------------------------------------

    High Cleric Maito Kep
    (b. 2175 d. ? s. 2225 - ?)

    Appointed after Acin Nars's death, Maito Kep is a far more liberal and open-minded cleric, well aware of the Church's need to submit to the authority of the Divine Monarch and the broader needs of the Empire and the Divine Mission Tychea has set for it. Maito has already set to reinterpreting the holy texts of both Tychea's faith and the Moshtaran Energon Church.

    ------------------------------------------------

    Characters Aboard The ISS Nerdyn
    Expedition Commander: High Explorator Ezo Caes
    • Captain and Chief Navigator
      • First Voyage: Murrok Vohn (Male, b. 2144), Former Asteroid Mineral Surveyor
      • Second Voyage: Cain Picon (Male, B. 2157), Imperial Navy​
    • Chief Biologist Arta Zeln (Female, b. 2164), Academic
    • Chief Chemist Calli Mas (Female, b. 2164), Academic
    • Chief Sociologist Walem Tek (Male, b. 2168), Ministry of Culture
    • Chief Archeologist & Historian Terra Aque (Female, b. 2151), Academic and Famous Author
    • Chief Physicist
      • First Voyage: Pell Impos (Male, b. 2158), Formerly Employed by Karis Energy Solutions Inc.
      • Second Voyage: Ahto Kes (Male, b. 2160), Academic, Formerly Pell's chief subordinate
    • Chief of Security/Tactical Officer - Major Arete Zelda (Female, b. 2165), Imperial Marines
    • Ambassador Marto Kross (Male, b. 2150), Former deal-broker in the Assembly of Higher Minds, brought on to represent the God-Empress once other Children of Earth or alien civilizations are encountered.
     
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    Chapter 0: As The Goddess Wills It, So Do We All
  • Kylia Quilor

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    Chapter 0: As The Goddess Wills It, So Do We All

    Holy-Vanerran-Empire.png


    Forged in the dark days after the fall of the Second Empire, the Holy Vanerran Empire has ruled a unified Vanerra for 279 years. The House of Tychos, descended from the goddess Tychea herself, has been charged with the divine mission of governing the world in her name - a right they have defended against all comers as they took over the planet and held it. But even more - Tychea demands that all the Many Children of Earth be brought under her blessed rule. Human, Elv, Durgon, Orc, Psilon and more. And she has chosen the House of Tychos as her instrument.

    For centuries, the hyperlanes have been ever-shifting, ever unstable. Travel between systems has been risky and arduous at the best of times. But now, my people, our best scientists have discovered that not only are the Hyperlanes across the galaxy stable, they will remain stable for centuries to come - as long as we remain of unified will and purpose. For it is of no surprise that the Hyperlanes began to change after the fall of the First Empire, during the fall of the Second Empire.

    If all the universe is one conscious will, and we are all linked by being made of common starstuff, then of course the links between systems would be affected by the chaos of the galaxy.

    We will bring Unity on the Many Children of Earth, all under the House of Tychos, all under the Holy Vanerran Empire.

    The tale of the establishment of the Third Empire of Man begins now, my friends. Will you join me, will you join our God-Empress!?


    -Supreme Chancellor Thanie Velis in a speech to the Assembly of Higher Minds, 11.1.2198.


    Palace.png

    12.23.2199

    Imperial Palace, Vanerra

    Ashal Tychos, God-Empress of Vanerra and, by the Grace of Tychea, the Rightful Ruler of all the Many Children of Earth looked out from the balcony of the Imperial Palace across the ocean that lay before her. The waters of the Emerald Ocean shined their characteristic green in the light of Forni, the star that gave life and light to Vanerra. It was a beautiful, stunning, calming sight. It always centered her will, connected her back to the constant hum of her people's minds ever linked.

    "How soon until your ship is ready to leave the system?" Ashal asked, before turning to the High Explorator Ezo Caes

    "As soon as I return to my ship, we'll be ready to leave for the hyper-limit of the system in a week, your Divine Majesty."

    "And what do we know about the galaxy you will enter into?"

    "Very little," the High Explorator admitted. "Visitors are scattered and infrequent, after all. We know that there are at least twenty other worlds developed enough to build hyperlane-capable ships connected to the current network. We know that there is a space-born collection of marauding aliens out there, a threat to all who dare to come near their space. And we know that Space Amoebas and Tiyanki exist as beings alive in the stars, and that there are a few roaming bands of ancient mining drones, possibly dating to the First Empire, that have long since gone rampant."

    "Such is the curse of Thinking Machines," the Grand Cleric Acin Nars muttered.

    "Perhaps, your Holiness," Ezo agreed noncomittally. Ashal readied herself to hold up a hand to stem the inevitable debate between her scientists and the Grand Cleric about Thinking Machines. They didn't need it to happen.

    Again.

    All said and done, she agreed with the Grand Cleric that Thinking Machines were a sin against Tychea, against the manifest Will of the Universe. They could not be linked by psychic powers, could not contribute to the collective conscious will of all life. They were empty, a waste of intellect.

    But the Grand Cleric, like most before her, went too far, condemning computers and machines that by no means were thinking, by no means were a danger to the Will of the Universe.

    "But regardless," Ezo went on, "we know only scattered reports, and we aren't even sure what of these things are where. Humans, Elvhen, Durgonians and Orcs are absolutely among the Children of Earth we will find, but beyond that? There's always been a plethora of localized changes. Not to mention alien life."

    Ashal tensed a little at the mention of alien life. Yes, they would encounter it. And it would be up to her to decide what was to come of them. Ultimately, of course, they too were made of the same starstuff that made the Children of Earth, that made Psilons, that made her own physical form. And yet, the thought of peacefully co-existing with such beings? Beings that were not of Earth?

    It was a discomforting thought. She held no inherent hatred for the idea of them, and she suspected it would come down to individual response - those that were a threat to the Empire would be dealt with, those that were not... they could be friends, perhaps even let into the Empire. The records said that the First Empire of Man had many alien citizens living within it, and that, despite what the official claims of the Second Empire had been, they had not been any more disloyal than the Children of Earth had been during the First Empire's fall. Or so was the prevailing interpretation of the available sources by Vanerra's leading Academics.

    "We just don't know what is out there, beyond a general outline. We can expect that there will be no powers vastly more technological than ours, at the current state of things. Regression was nearly universal, after all, not just our corner of the galaxy."




    "Well, there will only be one way to find out, I suppose." Ashal replied. "By the time you return, I suspect you will find the Empire much changed. There is much left to do to the worlds that orbit Forni. Stations to be established, ships to be built."

    Forni-System.png


    "And of course, changes planetside. Our population is growing, we have slums to clean up, farms to build, solar plants to establish... there is much to be done, when the resources of the stars pour in," Ashal continued.

    Close-in-on-Vanerra.png

    Vanerra-Close-In.png


    Author's Note said:
    As far as I know, there is no official ruling as to how many people one unit of population counts as. I'm going to go with 1 Pop = 200 Million people, as a general rule, albeit newly settled colonies may not work like that, same possibly with Habitats and Ecumenopolis worlds. Therefore Vanerra is currently home to 4.8 Billion people.

    "I pray that I return to a happy and prospering system, ready to bring Unity to all the Children of Earth," Ezo said, bowing his head as he clasped his hands to his shoulders in the traditional pose of supplication."

    "So do we all," Ashal agreed, and her words were echoed by all who were assembled in her office. "Go. Return to your ship, and discover what awaits us in the Galaxy beyond our star."

    Ezo nodded, bowed at the waist, and left, his eagerness at the chance to finally leave the Forni system rolling off of him, leaving a pleasant aftertaste in the minds of all left in the room.

    "What else is there to report," She asked her assembled Ministers. "The Cohybin Fleet has taken station at the Forni Shipyards, I am aware. We will need to expand that fleet when we have the materials, but for now, it will do to police the system against what little threat of internal crime may exist."

    "Frozen Shason," the Minister of Space Extraction began, speaking of the fifth planet orbiting Forni, "has been found to have significant reserves of valuable minerals, while Ciapho's geothermal reserves can be tapped, if we establish proper operations in orbit and on the surface." The nearest world to Forni was a mass of boiling magma, but if power could be extracted from it, it would be worth the effort. And the minerals from Shason could be used to create new, mass-agriculture fields on Vanerra, or to fuel the production of alloys needed to create starships."

    "Then we shall make ready to establish proper mining and extraction operations over both worlds," Ashal nodded. "Anything else?"

    "Bearen has been found to have some extremely curious electrical patterns in its atmosphere that could bode well for our research into improved power generation," The Minister of Science commented, speaking of the sixth world around Forni, "and one of the moons of Faepha," the eight world, "Dianho," the Minister said, after consulting his notes, "has some interesting silicate formations that could be of use to the research of improved warship armor."

    "They too could be of use, then. But I'm afraid, Minister, that priority will need to be given to Shason and Ciapho. In the long run, we need more energy and minerals, so we can make use of what our science can give us,"

    The Minister of Science's expression fell but he nodded. "Of course, your Divine Majesty."

    "And our reserves of food? How do they fare?" This she asked her Minister of the Interior.

    "Excellent, your Divine Majesty. I know there were some concerns of localized famine in the Northern Archipelagos last year, but that turned out to be a false alarm. The fisheries have been carefully regulated to ensure there will be no overharvesting, the surface and ocean bed farms are well in hand."

    "Very good. Anything else of note?" She looked around the room. No one spoke up.

    "Dismissed. Chancellor, remain." Ashal watched as everyone else bowed, making their way out of the room. From their minds, she tasted mostly concurrence with the goals as laid out - the Minister of Science was disappointed, and the Grand Cleric was, as always, bitter, but most were hopeful. This was what her people had been building for ever since her House took their rightful throne

    The skepticism and caution from Thanie was of course, a distinct taste from it all.

    "Ever the skeptic, Thanie? Even now?"

    "It's why you keep me around, Ashal," Thanie offered with a small smile, chuckling. "Someone needs to keep your most holy self grounded to Vanerra as you go haring off to unify all the Many Children of Earth." She sighed. "Is this really going to work, do you think?"

    "The Goddess blesses our efforts, Thanie," Ashal replied, the statement nothing but pure truth, matter of fact.

    "I do not doubt that, Ashal, you know that. But the Goddess helps those who help themselves. The Universe leaves the hard work to us, as it always has. But the Children of Earth have done this before. The First Empire, the Second Empire. Twice now, we've unified, and twice now, we've collapsed. If you and your heirs succeed in the mission Tychea has imparted to you, and create a Third Empire... will it even last?"

    Ashal turned back to the view of the ocean, resting her hands on the railing of the balcony, "Nothing lasts forever, Thanie. Entropy is our constant companion, it always has been. On Earth and after. Even here, on Vanerra, my House had to fight tooth and nail to secure our rightful throne. We were a unified world, once, during the Second Empire. Even a Sector Seat. And then, when the Dark Years came, we divided. It is what the Children of Earth do - we divide, we unite. We create, we destroy. Should we give up just because things end?"

    Thanie smiled again, the corners of her mouth ticking up ever so slightly as her eyes sparkled with amusement. "No, I suppose not. But still... are we ready for this? There is so much unused space on Vanerra alone. Land that could be dedicated to farms, to mines, to housing, to geothermal power, solar power... do we need to reach for the stars now? Do we have the resources?"

    Now it was Ashal's turn to laugh, "Thanie, asking obvious questions doesn't really count for much when it comes to being my Court Skeptic. We need more minerals than we can get from here. The Asteroid Belt has been tapped out completely... the Forni Shipyards never did stop, even during the Dark Years, and prospectors have drained it dry. Shason will only do so much for us."

    Amusement flared off Thanie, but the taste quickly then trailed into hesitation. "There's something I've been meaning to ask you for a while now... before you tasked Ezo and the University of Ishkayos with surveying the hyperlane status five years ago... you had a meeting with the High Mystery of the Oracles." Ashal could pick up concern, worry... an undertone of fear coming off of Thanie.

    It was a sour taste on her mind.

    "What did he tell you?"

    "Many things," Ashal said softly. She took in a breath, let it out, and stared over the expanse of the Emerald Ocean. As a result of their changes by the Skreeth, at the true direction of Tychea, Psilons generally required high ambient moisture in the air for optimum health, making ocean worlds the most comfortable to them. Still, some primal part of Ashal, dating back to Earth itself, perhaps, felt lost at the dizzying expanse of the ocean before her.

    I want to see a desert someday before I die. I want to visit one. Either an entire desert planet, like legendary Allure, or a desert on a more temperate and varied world. She'd have to be careful on it, yes, or only stay a short time, but still.

    But even if we find such deserts, I can't really travel offworld for an extended period...


    Such was the price of her Divine Duty.

    "He told me many things," she repeated. "The Oracles forsee great times of trouble for the Children of Earth. Many planets will suffer shortages, plagues, death, bombardment, invasion, before this is done. Billions, trillions, even, will die. Perhaps not at our hands, but at the hands of many of our own kin. Bloody-minded monsters, barely civilized barbarians... but even more. He warned of something worse. That there would be something else... some great crisis, from beyond the Children of Earth, that could destroy us all, if we weren't ready for it."

    The fear coming off of Thanie only intensified. Ashal wished she could reprimand her, but when the High Mystery had detailed the full extent of his order's visions, she had nearly lost control of her bladder, sharing in just the outer taste of what those visions had done to his mind.

    "You feel terrified, Ashal."

    "I am. The crisis could take many forms, he said. But the one he worried off most was of some... hungry force, clawing at the walls of our reality. Hungry, demanding, pure evil. Something... unbidden, unwanted. It would enter, without invitation, and destroy us all, if we were not ready for them. That is why I ordered Ezo and his team to look at the Hyperlanes again. We must unify - at least more. We must spread, so we are not vulnerable to so few worlds. You know how many colonies must have died off completely since the fall of the Second Empire. We nearly did ourselves, before new farms were established, before asteroid mining began."

    Ashal turned, "we must prepare. Build up our reserves. And make ready to survive against unspeakable odds. We must have more resources - and as many of the Children of Earth as possible must be unified under a common banner."

    "You make it sound as if we are preparing for Armeggedon," Thanie forced a laugh, obviously hoping she could make light of it. That Ashal would tell her no.

    "We may well be," Ashal murmured. She sighed once more. "I believe we can face it, if we prepare. If we expand, if we raise resources, reestablish lost technology and rediscover the great ways of our ancestors. There was a time when every known star system had at least one terraformed world for settlement. When Dyson Spheres were being built across the Galaxy. If we can even recover a quarter of the glories of the First Empire, we will succeed, I know it."

    Thanie laughed more genuinely now. "There is the hopeful optimist I've always known."

    "It is no virtue to expect the best when you do not know there will be hard times ahead," Ashal pointed out. "But knowing that we will face hell... and knowing we can make it through to the otherside, Goddess willing? Believing in her blessing, in our Unity? That is the true virtue."

    As Ashal gazed on the horizon, the sun began to set, painting the sky and water in many colors.

    The sun is setting on the age of ignorance and despair that came before. Now... now we may face a time of chaos, but it is also a time of hope. The House of Tychos will create the Third Empire. The Many Children of Earth will survive all that comes to threaten us. From within, and without. Someday, the Third Empire may fall to Entropy, but we too, will be known for not going quietly into that good night, and we will be remembered for the good works we did.

    As the Goddess wills it, so do we all.
     
    Last edited:
    Administrative Interlude #2 - AAR Objectives.
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    And so it begins. I should have the first gameplay post up by Sunday Night, if not sooner.

    I have set a series of self-imposed 'Victory Conditions' for this AAR, which have narrative value:

    The House of Tychos will have succeeded in their Divine Mission and will be able to inaugurate the Third Empire if they achieve the following:

    • Defeat All Three Crisis Invasions (I will be using the console to activate them sequentially)*
    • Control approximately 66% of the Galaxy, either directly or through Protectorates or Vassals, as well as 66% of the galactic population of the Many Children of Earth, again directly or through Protectorates/Vassals
    • Defeat the Three Menaces (The New Ravening, The Angelic Library, The Gynoids)**
    • Defeat all three Marauder-States***
    *This does not mean they have to single-handedly defeat, or even perform the lion's share of the work. The Crisis Invasions just have to be stopped and turned back completely.
    **See above - as long as all three Menaces have been wiped from the galaxy, it counts
    ***Hordes that are civilized parts of the galactic order may remain, as long as they do not dominate too many of the Children of Earth under their alien authority.

    Of course, ultimately the objective here is to tell an interesting story and do a heck of a lot of fun worldbuilding and play a fun game of Stellaris, so the above is just sort of narrative framing.
     
    Chapter 0a - The Forni Shipyards [Lore/Worldbuilding]
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    Production Note said:
    I have played a first session, covering all the material that will go in Chapter 1 - the ISS Nerdyn's maiden voyage, exploring all the systems that connect to the Forni System, as well as all domestic occurances that happened in that time. It will probably be released as Chapter 1a and Chapter 1b, but turning the screengrabs and my notes into a readable narrative will take a few days. In the meantime, enjoy this bit of worldbuilding I threw together at work and on the bus from work

    The following is an excerpt from the transcript of a documentary released in Vanerran Holo-Theaters in 11.21.2199 entitled "Forni Shipyards: The Forgotten Story", featuring pop historian and planetary heartthrob Caton Vall.

    <CLOSE UP of the Forni Shipyards through the viewport of the shuttle as they approach the station. The Station is massive, but with its outer wings showing signs of disuse, no power and utter disrepair, at best. Only the core, central areas appear active, in good repair and powered, and the exterior of the station is busy with small freighters and intrasystem vessels going too and fro, while the three (comparatively) massive corvettes of the Cohybin Fleet are loom at the outer edges of the view.>

    CATON VALL (V.O.): It may be a surprise to look at it now, but once, the Forni Shipyards were home to about 3 million people, and not just Psilons - people from all over the Second Empire lived and worked on the station. Vanerra was a Sector Capital in those days, so a great deal of trade moved here - either on its way to various planets in the then-Carelas Sector, or leaving the sector for other parts of the Empire. So in addition to the millions that lived on the station itself, hundreds of thousands or more would be coming and going at any given time.

    Of course, back then, the entire station was in use - there were hanger bays for space superiority fighters, more docks for traders to arrive, even an office of the Imperial Stock Market. Today, only the heart of the station, the Shipyards and one of the trader docks, remains in active use, and even those areas are a relative ghost town compared to what they once were - a census in 2195 showed that only 97,361 people lived there, and while that number has increased with the construction of the Cohybin Fleet and the God-Empresses new initiative to explore the stabilizing Hyperlanes, we're still only talking 120,000 or so at most.

    <Camera shifts back to Caton. Caton is a light-purple skinned Psilon, with large, expressive eyes and a figure that is obviously well-muscled, but lithely so under his casual clothes. By Psilon standards of male attractiveness, from his slender, long fingers to his eyes to his build and the length and quality of the sensory tendrils on the sides of his head, Caton Vall is very much considered a looker.>

    CATON VALL: Of course, with so much empty space, expeditions into the remainder of the station are not uncommon. The risks, of course, are extensive - with minimal power in those areas, many have no oxygen at all, and others have air that's been there for centuries or more. But they continue to happen - legally and illegally, academics and salvagers go out into the outer portions of the station on a regular, if infrequent, basis, sometimes returning with artifacts and useful historical data, and sometimes returning empty handed. If at all.

    ----------------------

    Excerpt from Chapter 12 of "A History of Modern Vanerra, 1750-2175, 7th Edition", the standard textbook on the subject in most Vanerran High Schools during the late 2190s and early 2200s.

    ... but it wasn't until the early 1820s when exploitation of the Asteroid Belt where Forni II ought to be really got started once more that the Forni Shipyards really became relevant again. Though they had remained occupied and even in extremely limited use the entire time since the collapse of all semblances Imperial Authority in the system, the population had dwindled to a mere 6,000 souls by 1817. Enough that even the limited hydroponics facilities on the station could provide the inhabitants - descendents of those who had lived and worked on the station during the Imperial days, mostly - with enough food for themselves, needing few imports from Vanerra except as luxury items.

    But with the mineral demands on Vanerra growing, and with the Asteroid belt largely unexploited during the Imperial days, anyone who could put a crew on an old intrasystem ship they might still have realized there was a real opportunity. A boom economy quickly rose up in the Belt - small enclosed mining stations were created, but they were the bare essentials, and often puttogether in extremely slapdash and jury-rigged manners in the early days. Dangerous and volatile, they could hardly provide all the needs to the miners and their survey and extraction ships But it was obvious there was really only once place to go to repair vessels, restock on essential supplies and other needs - the Forni Shipyards weren't even that far from the asteroid belt. Closer than Vanerra itself, certainly.

    And the Shipyards had another advantage - enough space that could be reconverted into ore processing facilities. For a hundred years, the Shipyards were where mining interests brought their ore to be processed into a useable form before it was (usually) shipped back to Vanerra for planetary use.

    In 1828, an incident between two miners on a furlough and a local resident of Forni Station, however, exposed some of the risks of this wildcatting and uncontrolled behavior. With Vanerra still caught up in chaos as the House of Tychos fought to protect its newly established rule, there was little law and order this far from the planet.

    Davos and Mero Khal, drunk on local moonshine, cornered and raped a Hydroponics worker on her way home after a long day at work, Kisrae Nor. Kisrae was able to escape before they could kill her to cover up their crime, but when she reported it to the proper authorities, the Khal brothers had already fled onto their patron's ship and were on their way back to the company-station that served as their home while they mined.

    Kisrae, popular and well liked, came to be held up as a symbol for all the residents of the Shipyards - she hadn't been the first victim of rape or assault by miners or other visitors brought by the Asteroid Boom, but her case was the one that brought the entire issue to the fore. In protest of the Khal brothers escaping justice - and being protected by the wealthy mining magnate that employed them -, Barl Kade, the most powerful telepath on the station and thus its ruling Archon, ordered the Shipyards closed off to all miners - whatever magnate they worked for, whatever their connection to the Khal brothers. A total strike of all mineral processing, furlough visits, and even repair and construction of ships and shuttles and equipment.

    The standoff lasted for three months, and brought the fledgling economy in the Astroid Belt to a screeching halt, but finally, the Magnates agreed to abide by a number of rules of conduct in regards to behavior of ships in space, as laid down by Barl Kade and his Advisory Assembly, turn over anyone accused of a crime on the station for trial on the station, and to pay a duty fee for all docking on the station - it was a small one, but it provided a real stream of revenue for the Shipyards, which was immediately poured into expanding the cramped living spaces, as the residents of the Shipyards had been forced into less and less space as more infrastructure on the station had failed.

    The Khal Brothers, of course, were also turned over, and sentenced to twenty years hard labor in the engineering underlevels of the station. Davos died seven years into his sentence after an accident with a power transfer station, but Mero would serve his time and actually go on to be a respected citizen of the Shipyards, a reformed and redeemed man.

    The agreement, known today as the Treaty of the Startrawler, named for the ship it was signed on, marked the first time in centuries there was any sort of rule of law in the space of the Forni system...

    ----------------------


    Selected data from the 2202 Census of the Forni Shipyards
    • Population: 127,541.
    • Average Age: 28
    • Unemployment: 3%
    • Largest Employer (Public Sector): The Imperial Naval Yards - 15,312
    • Largest Employer (Private Sector): Dockworkers Guild - 4,189
    • Gross Station Product: 171,231,000,000 Imperial Thalers*

    Author's Note said:
    An Imperial Thaler has, roughly speaking, the purchasing power of a 2018 US Dollar. But that is very rough, as inflation and deflation of countless goods, services and prices make any sort of useful comparisons broadly meaningless. I'm hoping to finalize how many Imperial Thaler = 1 Energy Credit, but I haven't decided what makes the most sense for what I want to do with the Thaler from a lore/worldbuilding standpoint.
     
    Chapter 1a: The First Voyage of the ISS Nerdyn (2200-2208)
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    Chapter 1a: The First Voyage of the ISS Nerdyn (2200-2208)

    On 1.1.2200, the ISS Nerdyn, under the command of High Explorator Ezo Caes, departed from the Forni system. It's mission - to explore every system that had a hyperlane connection to the Forni system. All available hyperstellar data suggested that those six systems could be navigated in a great almost-circle, going south and then clockwise around until returning back to the Forni System. It wasn't clear how long it would take, but it wasn't expected they'd be completely out of resupply range - even as the Nerdyn left the system, hyper-capable cargo ships were being built to be able to resupply the Nerdyn if need be, and of course, the Navy was on standby to respond to any threats to the science team.

    On 2.28.2200, the Nerdyn arrived in a system that was quickly identified as the Napuqiunohn system, based on old star chart data, stretching back to even before the First Empire. Over a year was spent scanning the several planets and asteroids and moons in the system, but there was little to show for it, on a pragmatic scale. The scientific community on Vanerra would go frenzy over the data found in the system, yes, but Ezo and his team knew they needed to find resources or planets or something useful, to justify this mission to the God-Empress, to aid their greater mission.

    Each member of the crew was devout, like almost all Vanerrans. The science staff were far looser in their interpretations of scripture, as was common among scientists, especially those on the cutting edge like them, but each of them believed in Tychea, and in the House of Tychos's divine mission.

    Which meant the failures in Napuqiunohn were frustrating, despite its utility to astronomers, planetary research specialists and other, very obscure academic disciplines. The Empire needed resources to fuel its expansion, and apart from limited stellar energy bleed that could be collected from the system's star, there was little to make the system of use.

    But when the Nerdyn then moved on to the Saentheng system, once a frontier system in the First Empire, based on their old charts, they found something very different. Coasting into the system immediately picked up two habitable worlds. One, Saentheng I, was an Ocean world* not much unlike Vanerra itself. It was smaller, but could easily be settled and inhabited by Psilons.

    Production Note said:
    The Exoplanetary Institute on Black Rose during the First Empire formally categorized all habitable worlds into 11 somewhat arbitrary categories - Arid, Desert, Savannah, Ocean, Continental, Tropical, Alpine, Arctic, Tundra, Gaia and Tomb. Though this metric remains rough at best, it remains the standard for casual use today.

    The other, however, was a Gaia world. It's said that Chief Archeologist Terra Aque, the only one who initially realized what they were looking at, when they scanned Saentheng III further, dropped to her knees in prayer as they scanned the planet.

    Saentheng-III-to-be-colonized.png


    Saentheng III was brought up on the holo-display. It was a world even smaller than Saentheng I, but still, it seemed habitable - plenty of water, the atmosphere was free of any detectable concerns, the climate appeared to be quite reasonable across the world.

    "There's something in orbit over the north pole," Murrok pointed out, gesturing to the display, and Ezo followed his gaze. Sure enough, there was a small - relatively speaking - metal object orbiting over the north pole.

    "Can we get a better read on that?" One of his aides directed one of the survey-drones to move in closer to the object. Out of the corner of his eye, Ezo say Terra's eyes widen, her face pale, and then she let out a low, reverent whisper:

    "Goddess,". She looked at her tablet again, then back at the holo display. "It's a Gaia World. They're real."

    What? No. That - that was just a story.

    "Gaia? That's a myth, a grandmother's tale," Pell rejected immediately, shaking his head. "A story that came out of the Second Empire. The magical paradise world where everyone could always be happy and get all they needed for no work."

    "That story is a load of utter hock, yes, but that's not what Gaia is, you uncultured vatraig*!" Terra snapped at the Physicist. Everyone on the Bridge turned to stare at her, and Terra swallowed a little, realizing just how many sets of eyes were looking.

    "Terra, that was uncalled for, and you know it."

    "Sorry," She muttered, then, "The Gaia Initiative was a real project undertaken by the First Empire. The only question has ever been if the success of Gaia itself was replicated. Since this isn't the Rhea system - the star is giving out all the wrong energy waves, if I'm looking at these comparisons correctly, then this is proof they did replicate Gaia."

    "You are correct about the system, obviously." Ezo agreed, pulling up the limited data they had on the Rhea system and comparing it to the readouts of Saentheng's star, just to double-check. The old stellar charts said nothing about 'Gaia' though. "Clearly we're missing something, so why don't you enlighten us, Terra?" Ezo's tendrils shook a little, and he could taste the light embarrassment and shame of Terra quickly shift into confidence once more. Terra was always quick to change emotion. It was sometimes enough to make your head spin.

    "In the days before the First Empire, before the War in Heaven, the old Empires, the Ancient Ones, were able to create perfect worlds - Gaia worlds, human explorers would later call them. Perfect worlds - at every level of habitation, every knowns species could find plenty of room where they'd be absolutely comfortable, without needing to worry about specific climactic or geographical concerns. They were like standard Continental worlds in that respect, but... perfect. In every sense. No inclement weather, no... anything bad. At all. The First Empire tried to replicate that technology in the Gaia Initiative. It took a long time, but the result was the Gaia Seed. Unfortunately, even at its height, the First Empire could not rival the technology of those Ancient Empires, even if they had departed after the War in Heaven."

    "Gaia Seed? How could that possibly work?"

    "Do I look like a terraforming or habitability expert to you?" Terra snarked at Arta. "I don't know, but it did. The considered opinion of the entire historical community back on Vanerra is that a barren world in the Rhea system was selected as the test case for the first Gaia Seed. The problem is... Gaia Seeds, thanks to their lesser technology... took nearly a hundred years to work. It was such a success that after completion the Empire ordered dozens more Gaia Seeds made and distributed to barren worlds in strategically located systems across the Empire. But that success... it took place in -2714." She stopped at the mention of the date, looking around, searching for recognition.

    Even someone with only a High-School education in history could realize what she meant.

    In -2710 the Skreeth unleashed the Ravening. In -2710, the fall of the First Empire began.

    "High Explorator, data is coming in from the survey drone at the object in orbit," his aide said, and zoomed the display in on the object in question. It was a half-mile long, hollow shell, like a starship that had been cracked open and scooped out. But the display rotated slightly, Ezo saw the words, written clear as day in Imperial Common, capital letters shouting out what the ship had been.

    ISS GAIA SEED #21, IMPERIAL GAIA INITIATIVE

    "Hock, you're right. Gaia... Gaia is real." Ezo shook his head. "Or at least... we have to be sure." He turned to Terra, "Do you think there's any chance that could-"

    Terra shook her head, cutting him off. "Not a chance. That's just a shell. The Gaia Seed itself is spent. It's been thousands of years. But... this world. It's perfect, the perfect world to be colonized. There's so much historical information the shell could provide. We have to salvage it, study it. Study this world. Goddess... that the hyperlanes would give us a Gaia world, so close to Forni..."

    She made the sign of the goddess - an inverted triangle drawn from upper right corner counter clockwise - before her.

    "It is a sign, and a blessing. It must be."​

    Author's note said:
    "Vatraig" is an insult in the Vanerran-dialect of Psilon (old Imperial Common, which itself a hybridized mix of English, Spanish and Russian, + a lot of Skreeth loan words and various drift over the centuries) that roughly translates to 'goddess-forgotten' or 'universe-blind'. A grave insult on Vanerra.

    The discovery of a Gaia world would send religious scholars, historians, planetary habitability scientists and biologists into a tizzy that would not be resolved for well over a decade, as the ramifications of it - and the fact that Gaia itself, the old legendary world that had sent millions searching on wild katizyi chases during the Second Empire, was real.

    It spurred a whole series of books, holo-vision shows and movies over the next decade fictionalizing the rediscovery of Gaia - and usually featured Vanerrans saving the technologically regressed - and usually baseline human - inhabitants from some menace or another. The most famous here was the (in hindsight) alarmingly precinct choice to use renegade Gynoids as the villains in the movie "Synthetic Sunset Over Gaia".

    It was a cultural phenomenon.

    The rest of the Saentheng System was found to have useful energy reserves and some minerals that could be used to fuel and fund the colonization efforts of Saentheng III and, presumably later Saentheng I. Even after all the terrforming (normal terraforming) of the First and Second Empires, habitable worlds were uncommon. Finding two, ideal and nearly ideal such worlds so close to the Forni system was taken as yet another sign the truly were blessed.



    The Ethiuq system, reached in 3.13.2203 proved to be of little interest, though it's neutron star gave off potentially interesting waveforms that Pell Impos suggested could be of interest to his former employers (Karis Energy Solutions Inc.) and indeed, all energy companies.

    The Kabenin system, reached in 5.8.2204, was more interesting. Scans would show significant energy reserves in the system that could be used to help finance the Empire's continued expansion, as well as a rought, high-gravity world. Kabenin III was the kind of world that a Durgonian would love, but to a Psilon, it was too cold, too dry, and far too geologically rough.

    But the world still produced some interesting survey data that was supplemented by a brief planetside mission - the planet possessed an invasive exofungus that even Chief Biologist Arta Zeln could not identify the origin of - it was not from Kabenin III, but it was slowly overtaking more and more of the planet. Samples taken did provide some useful anti-amino peptides that the Medical establishment later made use of to develop a series of medications and vaccines.

    Kabenin-Exofungus.png


    Two Ocean worlds, both larger than Vanerra, were next found in the Cipollan system, reached in 4.28.2205. Cipollan III and Cipollan IV. Cipollan IV was even found to possess explosive motes in extensive caverns just barely detected on planetary surveys. These particles were the key to a great deal of higher industry, and as of yet, Vanerra had yet to develop - or, redevelop - a cost-effective way to mass produce them synthetically, making Cipollan IV a high-priority target for colonization after Saentheng III.

    Dust-Caverns-of-Cipollan-IV-2.png


    Both worlds showed signs that they had had largish settlements (population between the two worlds totalling some few hundred million) during the First Empire, but that the settlements withered on the vine or were evacuated during the great wars that consumed the First Empire. The infrastructure was also completely decayed and rusted, and would serve little use to future colonists but an obstacle to be torn down.

    After detecting unusual structures on Cipollan VI from orbit, a several month space and planetary survey found something interesting - a First Empire amusement park. Though Cipollan VI was without breathable atmosphere now, it had once been a planet frequented by visitors from across the then Kotob Sector, numbering in the millions over the course of a year. Taking advantage of the planet's lower gravity, the rides at "Weightless World" had been of impressive height and could take great risks most amusement parks could not.

    Cipollan-VI-Amusement-Park.png


    The survey was able to discover a lot of the construction techniques used, including the artificial gravity generation used in the living areas, and also further details of the history of the place. In -2518, after the Cipollan system was cut off from the rest of the galaxy by war and shifting hyperlanes, the local humans tried to adapt some old terraforming equipment to improve their power generation to help them synthesize the resources they would need to survive, cut off from tourism as they were.

    Unfortunately, they failed miserably, and the explosion of the terraforming equipment would begin to thin the planet's atmosphere - within a year, it had become utterly unliveable, and some 150,000 humans died, lacking any ships they could use to escape even to the Ocean worlds all but next door. It was an inevitable death made even worse by continued food shortages and indeed, a shortage of almost every kind of essential good.

    The tragic tale would later be immortalized in the docudrama series "One Year of Air", drawing on the still-intact electronic journals left behind by the lost residents of Cipollan VI to construct a narrative that managed to be quite historically accurate while also a compelling work of fiction.

    After completing the extensive survey in 10.2.2206, the Nerdyn moved on to the Lishval system. There, they found a First Empire mineral survey marker, a planet that had been found to have rich veins of minerals, but the First Empire had never gotten around to extracting it.

    Mineral-Survey-Marker.png


    But it was on 8.1.2207 that perhaps the greatest discovery of the first voyage of the ISS Nerdyn was made:

    Pell looked at the data readings they were picking up off the moon of Lishval I. They were unusual, suggesting some sort of beacon of some sort, but it was proving difficult to turn the data into useful information.

    "Are you getting anywhere?" If they could figure out where the beacon was coming from, they could send a team down to take a closer look, but so far, the goddess-damned signal was proving to be maddeningly hard to...

    "I think so..." One of his staff suggested, then, "yes. I think... Pell, tell me I'm looking at this data wrong." She sent the data to his tablet with a single swipe, and then Pell looked at the readings.

    They looked familiar... like language. Mathematical language, but -

    Hock.

    He recognized that language. Pell was, ultimately, a computational physicist, ahd had spent most of his career in computer science. And any computer scientist recognized Cybrex. So much of the computer systems of the Children of Earth were based on reverse-engineered Cybrex artifacts found by the United Nations of Earth millennia ago, during its earliest days of exploration.

    Cybrex artifacts were only infrequently found since, but each one had led to leaps and bounds in computational science. The secrets of true AI were currently lost to Vanerra, but it had been Cybrex artifacts that had been used to create the Gynoids. It had always struck Pell as a terrible idea, given that what little was known of the Cybrex beyond their technology suggested they'd tried to exterminate all organic life before being pushed back to their still unfound home system, Cybrex Alpha...

    But then, the Gynoids did save the galaxy from the Kishrath, so perhaps it had worked out.

    But still...

    On the one hand, Pell was elated. Whatever was at the other hand of the beacon could be vital to the computational science of the Empire, and perhaps could (one could dream) point to still other Cybrex artifacts...

    On the other hand... well, once the High Cleric got wind of this discovery.

    "Terra?" Pell called over to the historian, who was working on the other side of the bridge. "I'm going to send you some data. Please tell I'm somehow not seeing what I think I'm seeing."

    "I'll try," Terra said. They'd long since gotten over their dispute in the Saentheng system, and even regularly played Chess - Jolnar rules. Terra looked at the data, at the Cybrex language, and muttered several obvious curses. He watched her show the data to her staff, check information in the archives, then shake her head five minutes later.

    "Everything checks out. It's Cybrex."

    "Hock," Pell repeated, this time aloud, his tone heav with a snarl.

    "Why are you so upset? You should be thrilled. Imagine what this could mean." Terra - and all his and her staff - were visibly cringing at the anger-frustration cocktail he had to be giving off right now.

    "Right now, I'm imagining the conniption fit the High Cleric will get into when she gets wind of this. She's only gotten more insufferable since the God-Empress started to build that massive Cathedral for her a few months ago."

    "Oh fuuuck," Terra murmured as she realized he was right. "Cybrex artifacts, this close to the Throneworld? She'll want the whole moon bombarded from orbit."

    "I don't think her Divine Majesty will agree, but she'll have to throw that primitivist bitch a bone of some kind," Pell theorized. "I can't imagine what it will be."

    "Still. We have to go down and get them. Think of what we could learn - goddess knows there's almost nothing we know about what the Cybrex did, beyond the vaguest of outlines. And I know you want to go down there too."

    "Yes... but..." Pell nodded. "I do. Goddess, I really really do. But I am just dreading what will come next."​

    Cybrex-Artifacts.png


    The discovery of Cybrex artifacts did in fact send then High Cleric Acin Nars into what could be politely called a conniption fit, but it would also lead to the launch of a second scientific mission to the southeast in pursuit of more Cybrex artifacts when the ISS Nerdyn went north on its second Voyage in 2209.

    The Lishval System, would turn out to be perhaps the third most valuable of the six systems scanned - Saenthen and Cipollan were of greater use, yes, but the minerals on Lishval III as well as the rare waveforms coming off the systems star would be quite useful to the Empire in the coming years.

    Lishval-System.png


    On 7.3.2208, the Nerdyn returned to the Forni System to great fanfare, the date declared a national day of celebration - almost all nonessential government offices were closed, as were many businesses, and a number of impromtu fairs and festivals and parties were held to celebrate the return of the much-celebrated scientists and surveyors.

    Ezo Caes and his crew, for their part, were eager to leave again, and immediately began restocking as they met with the God-Empress and her inner council, as well as the Assembly of Higher Minds and various leaders in Academia over the next few months.

    The First Voyage of the ISS Nerdyn had made some impressive discoveries, but there was still so much more left to find in the stabilized hyperlanes.

    The-Empire-And-Explored-Space-After-The-First-Voyage-of-the-Nerdyn.png

    The State of the Empire and of Explored Space when the Nerdyn returned to the Forni system
     
    Last edited:
    Chapter 1b: "Expansion Is The Future" (2200-2208)
  • Kylia Quilor

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    Chapter 1b: "Expansion Is The Future" (2200-2208)

    On the same day that the ISS Nerdyn left the Forni system, the God-Empress ordered the construction of a mining station over Shason - the station served as an anchor for extensive planetside operations, refining the raw materials before sending it on to Forni. This was followed by the construction of an energy staion over Ciapho, and research stations over Dianiho and Bearen, allowing the full exploitation of the native resources of the Forni System.

    As all this was happening, God-Empress Ashal also formally decreed what many had expected for a long time - her eldest daughter, 25 year old Ishem, was formally named Imperial Saint, and thus the heir that would replace her mother when her mortal coil passed and she rose to join the Goddess. Ishem, known for her keen interest in agriculture and mining, was favored by the workers in those industries, but also by anyone with a significant financial interest in those sectors, thanks to her experience in managing mining and farming districts as part of her training before being appointed Saint.

    Heir-Ishem-Ashal.png


    With the byword of the day being Expansion into the hyperlanes, Empress Ashal gave an hour-long speech entitled "Expansion Is The Future" to the Assembly of Higher Minds on 10.8.2201.

    Expansion-Tradition.png


    Excerpt from "Expansion Is The Future" said:
    "...when man first left Earth, it did so for a manifold of reasons - the thrill of discovery, the wanderlust of a people long caged to one world, the overcrowding of billions, the desire to ensure that even a cataclysm could not destroy their civilization... and of course, naked expansion, the basic need for resources.

    It is a fundamental fact, unfortunately, that the Children of Earth, like all life, consume materials - food, energy, minerals of endless varieties. And there is only so much one world, even one system, can provide. Vanerra can still provide more - there is still room for more farms, especially as we clear the slums and industrial wastes on the Kaplos Isles, and room for more mines, more housing. 4.8 Billion is far from enough to crowd our people out. But the fact remains - we need more. We have long exploited our asteroid belt, and the Gas Giant Vanerra orbits for resources. We have more to do in this system, but we must go beyond.

    We need resources - to provide for the common good, to make all our people able to live healthier, wealthier, better lives. But we also need them for the Divine Mission. It is time to strike out, claim the stars, and begin the establishment of the Third Empire. To do that, we need more of everything, and space is the future for that.

    To that end, over the next few days, I will sign a series of decrees, offering 50% subsidies to all private interests that extraction operations in the Forni System, and beyond, to cover all costs incurred for the next ten years. And the profit of said operations will be taxed at 75% the normal rate for the same time. The time to move out into space and begin exploiting the rest of Forni, and beyond, is now.

    Furthermore, it is in the interests of our Empire that we continue to..."

    On 11.18.2201, Admiral Icea Zash, an expert in logistics, was formally named the Admiral of the Cohybin Fleet, and Lord Marshall - that is, the military officer second only to the God-Empress herself. Icea had already been the de facto runner of the navy for several years, after she'd suppressed the last remnant of space piracy in a battle in orbit of Bearen in 2195, but this made it and her status official.

    With minerals pouring in from the rest of Forni, especially the new mines on Shason, a expansion of mining and power generation facilities on Vanerra was ordered, and shortly following that, the first starbase outside of Forni was built, in the Saentheng system in 8.9.2203 - the colonization of the Gaia World Saentheng III was immediately ordered, and this led to an ad campaign shortly after (11.6.2203), sponsored by the Throne, called "Colonization Fever", which served to encourage many to seek a new life on Saentheng III and future colony worlds.

    Colonization-Fever.png


    Orbital stations were built in orbit over Saentheng, Saentheng IV and Saentheng Va, collecting valuable data, minerals and energy, and providing jobs to the colonists of Saentheng III once they arrived.

    On 3.22.2204, the clearing of the Kaplos Isles, long a haven of crime and poverty, used as dumping ground for toxic waste and criminals during the 1900s and early 2000s, was begun - the Supreme Chancellor ordered the Isles' slums redeveloped into more modern housing.

    Along the way, a Retrofit of the Fleet was ordered, as the three Corvettes were folded into the new Interceptor Class, while plans were laid for a Missile-class to follow it, and several Missile-class Corvettes were to be made.


    Interceptor-Class Corvette


    Missile-Class Corvette

    When asked by the Assembly why the Admiral was using Interceptors at all when the missiles of the Empire were capable of more destructive power than any lasers or mass drives, the General staff released a memo that outlined a number of the failings of Second Imperial Corvette Doctrine, which were the key inspiration behind the split design.

    Excerpt from the Naval Memo to the Assembly said:
    "...during Dwamak wars and the Wars to establish the Second Empire, the Second Empire's fleet doctrine was built primarilly around missiles, torpedos and Battleship-Carriers. It was a potent combination, built around the Corvettes coming into knife-range, firing their payloads while close enough to the enemy that they could not dodge, and strike craft from the battleship-carriers exploiting the cracks in the defensive line. Destroyer artillery and Ship of the Line Cruisers would mop up what was left.

    This doctrine served the Second Empire well for centuries, but during the Kishrath War, itsd glaring weaknesses were shown in broad daylight - the Kishrath were masters of point defense. Even their Corvettes had it. It is this glaring weakness that really allowed the Kishrath to push so far into the Second Empire during their initial wave. The internal weakness of the Empire only made it worse, but had the Second Empire, at the start of the Kishrath War, had a fleet that wasn't so vulnerable to point defense rendering its core tactics inoperable, the invaders may have been held at bay at the Eastern Rim.

    The Navy has plans, once the Shipyards are properly prepared to be able to handle Destroyers, to continue this diversification of ship design with..."

    Finally, on 1.13.2205, the ISS Neme made planetfall on Saentheng III, officially founding the colony of Holy Promise. At first, the colony was a net drain of resources for the Empire, of course, as food had to be imported until farms could be established, few goods and services could be made, and extensive housing had to be built, though the use of the hull and frame of the colonization ship itself did allow a certain amount of the work to be done cheaply and quickly to start things off. In four years, the population of Holy Promise would rise to approximately 200 Million*

    Author's Note said:
    At the moment, my policy is going to be that while 1 pop = 200 million, on worlds that still have the 'colony world' modifier, that number will be halved, for lore purposes.

    But the Empire could not rest on its laurels - to help finance the development of Holy Promise, a starbase and a series of mining stations was built in the energy-rich Kabenin system starting in 5.13.2205.

    In 12.10.2205, a comet passed Vanerra, and was immediately claimed as a sign of a blessing by the High Cleric. A series of sermons she gave over the next few days saw several hundred thousand volunteer to be colonists on Holy Promise or to enter various space-based jobs. The High Cleric also pressed the God-Empress to build Grand Cathedral to commemorate the event. In the interests of keeping her on even keel, the God-Empress agreed, and plans were laid to begin such a project shortly.

    Comet-Sighted.png


    Following on the High Cleric's sermons, on 3.6.2206, the God-Empress decreed the 'A New Life' Initiative, formally granting tax breaks to any family on a colony world - Holy Promise or future colonies - that had three or more children.

    A-New-Life.png


    Finally, fulfilling her promise to High Cleric Acin, on 2.1.2207, Empress Ashal ordered the construction of a Grand Cathedral in the city of Apatosi, to serve as the new center for the Faith of Tychea.

    Capital-Cathedral.png


    Author's Note said:
    One of several ethics-themed buildings that mods have given me that will be ending up on the capital as things go on. While I'm going to need to make some civilian fabricators first, we'll also be getting a Holy City structure, which I'll show when we get that far.

    Following on from this, with the boom in money coming in from all the energy being collected - and the tax on it, even discounted as it was by the God-Empresses decree from six years ago, the Empire was, on 8.15.2207 able to spare the funds to begin to clear the extensive toxic waste dumps on the Kalpos Isles. Though it would take time, eventually, that destitute, filth-ridden region would become a productive and prosperous part of the Empire.

    Though no contact with other stellar powers had yet been made, there was a concern about the possibility of further threat - especially from the North. In order to prevent that, or at least guard against it, on 9.20.2207, the Ethiuq system was claimed to provide early warning against arrivals from the north and coverage to the Forni system from threats coming in that direction.

    The Empire had done nothing especially flashy while the Nerdyn was gone on its first voyage, but it had done well for itself, and begun to expand into the stars and expand it's industry, trade and power.

    The future looked bright for the Empire, and the Goddess's blessing seemed assured.

    The-Empire-And-Explored-Space-After-The-First-Voyage-of-the-Nerdyn.png

    The State of the Empire on 7.3.2208
     
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    Chapter 2a: First Voyage of the ISS Rinyhai (2208-2215)
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    Chapter 2a: First Voyage of the ISS Rinyhai (2208-2215)

    The discovery of the Cybrex artifacts in the Lishval System, and the realization of a few systems near explored space that were too close to leave unchecked proved that there really did need to be a second Explorator vessel going out into the galaxy - with the primary mission of looking for Cybrex artifacts.

    There was much debate as to who would lead the mission, but finally, it was decided that Pell Impos would be assigned to the new ship as soon as it was built. And in 9.9.2208, the ISS Rinyhai was completed - supplied and crewed similarly to the Nerdyn, the Rinyhai, under Explorator Pell Impos's command, first went south to the Izlenek system, just south of Saentheng System.

    The system also had several habitable worlds - namely, two Tropical worlds. Pell was noted to have said 'if we ever find an Elvhen, they'd like this system', noting the preference Elvhen have for the warm, muggy environs of tropics on any world, but especially worlds such as they to.

    In 7.7.2209, while surveying Izlenek IIIa, what had been thought to be merely clever, tool-using animals were found to be something much different - pre-sapient life. Much like the last ancestors of Man - something called Austrolapithocus, these beings were possessed of an abnormal cunning and were indeed capable of using extremely limited and primitive tools. But, if left alone for another million years or so, these creatures could develop full intelligence.

    The First Empire had encountered similar such species before, and uplifted then, and it was theorized that the Empire could do the same to these creatures. Dubbed 'M'elldao' meaning 'Shocking' in Vanerran-Psilon, as a reference to their strange ability to collect and store large amounts of static electricity, debate on what to do about these creatures would circulate through the new Ministry of Xeno Life for quite some time - the means to mass-induce epigenetic triggers into the M'elldao in order to uplift them simply didn't exist, but it could come. At that point, what was to be done with them?

    Pre-Sapients-of-Izlenek-IIIa.png


    In 8.7.2209, Exotic Gases were found on Izlenek III - once they could be safely harvested, there were a number of scientific applications they could be used for.

    In 10.25.2210, a small scouting vessel, the Nefri's Pride, dating back to the Second Empire, was found - it had belonged to one of the sector governors and his rebels against what little central authority had been left in the Second Empire during its later days, and those rebels had come to this system in pursuit of the Xvan Labs.

    The Xvan Labs, like Gaia had once been, were long thought to be a Grandmother's Tale, a story of the hubris of Man, of the horrifying potential Man had to try and destroy one another. But they too, like Gaia, were real.

    Xvan-Labs-part-1.png


    Though it seemed obvious the rebels did not find the powerful weapons they sought, Pell did order that they pursue the trail of the labs, extracting the location from the ship's computer. Upon finding the labs - hidden in an asteroid on the outskirts of the system - on 5.7.2211, the Rinyhai team sent to the labs found the place empty, devoid of weapons and of even corpses - the why was soon learned, however, when the securty footage was found - the Labs had been experimenting with some sort of organic-eating bacteria, and the rebels had released it, killing themselves and leaving their bodies to be consumed. The bacteria had then gone on to eat itself, leaving only silicon deposits that, when studied, suggested some promising value for the development of advanced supersolid materials.

    Xvan-Labs-Part-2.png


    After thoroughly exploring the Izlenek system, and creating some long-term conundrums for the Empire, Pell took the Rinyhai to the Ella-b'e system. There, scanning the many planets, moons and asteroids of the system, Pell found two things of interest:

    Nanite-Lattices.png


    On a moon of the tenth planet of the Ella-b'e system, a series of strange structures, almost looking like skyscrapers, made entirely of inert nanintes of a technological sophistication that seemed to outstrip even the First Empire. The best guess that the Rinyhai's archeological team could come up with was that it was some form of ancient alien art - at the very least, however, the study of the Nanites provided some useful scientific data.

    Ship-Graveyard.png


    More historically interesting, however, was a First Empire ship graveyard in orbit of Ella-b'e VI. Most of the useable technology had been extracted from the ships a long time ago, but it seemed as though this area had once been a wrecking yard, where the skeleltons of retired First Empire ships were torn up into base components to be recycled for other needs. Plans were made to rebuild the wrecking and repurposing facilities in order to allow for these ruined ships to be recovered, studied and then repurposed.

    Finally, in 6.5.2215, Pell was able to begin what he'd been seeking to do from the start - pursue the trail of the Cybrex.

    Unfortunately, shortly after entering the Rothiaiarotho System, just past the Lishval system, Pell's ship was hailed.

    "Let's start with that planet there," Pell ordered his navigator, pointing to a vessel on the display. "And then-" he blinked. There was something in space near the system's star. Something that was not a natural formation.

    A station. And it was giving off active power readings.

    "Full stop!" Pell ordered. "Get me the Ambassador, now," Like with the Nerdyn, a diplomat had been assigned to the Rinyhai, in case contact was made with another power, and Pell was quite certain that was about to happen. Hock.

    "Exploator, we are being hailed. Imperial Common,"

    "Onscreen!"

    Pell swallowed. An image of an Elvhen Man in some sort of ceremonial military garb appeared on the viewscreen.

    First-Contact-With-Moshtar.png


    "Captain Lasgoleis Tarvios to unknown vessel - you have intruded on the territory of the Divine Mandate of Moshtar. Identify yourself or we will be forced to dispatch fleets to destroy you."

    "Looking for all references to 'Moshtar' in our historical databanks," Pell's 2nd in command murmured, as Pell gestured to the Comms officer to transmit his words. Good man, if they got out of this alive, he really should suggest to Ezo that his number 2 should be promoted, or at least given a raise. He'd been invaluable this entire trip.

    "Greetings Captain. My name is Pell Impos, Explorator in service to God-Empress Ashal Tychos of the Holy Vanerran Empire. We did not intend to intrude on your space. If you will give it a short time, there is a member of our Diplomatic Corps onboard that can speak for the Empire more properly," Pell got the words out quickly, but hopefully comprehensively. Virtually all Vanerrans were bilingual in both Psilon (the Vanerran Dialect, anyway) and Imperial Common, but Pell had always been a bit sketchy in his command of the language.

    "Transmitting a map of all claimed Moshtaran systems to your systems now," The captain replied. "Your ignorance of our claim is understandable, Psilon, but obviously you will not be able to make that mistake again."

    "Of course." Pell nodded.

    The Ambassador finally arrived on the Bridge and Pell stepped aside to let him talk.

    Over the next few hours of somewhat tense negotiations, an agreement was made that the Rinyhai could refuel at the local starbase, rather than relying on scooping stellar matter, which was always a messy business, even if necessary when on exploration missions. Further, extensive cultural and social databanks were to be exchanged between Moshtar and Vanerra, and the Rinyhai dropped a subspace probe in the outskirts of the system, which would link the communication networks of both empires together, allowing Vanerra and Moshtar to speak directly.

    "The Empire has no designs on your space," the Ambassador told the Captain. "Our peoples are all of the Many Children of Earth. Unity is better than division, but peace with those who are peaceable is better than war."

    "The Second Empire's 'Unity' did little to save our people from great destruction, Ambassador," the captain remarked cooly. "The Energons do not protect based on high ideals, but on practical realities - if they so will. But we do not seek war with your Empire either. Your vessel is welcome to remain in our space for the time being, but do not linger simply for no reason."

    "This is a peaceful mission of scientific exploration. We will leave shortly, I assure you," the Ambassador said with a small bow, hands clasped to his shoulders. "May I ask - the Energons?"

    "The gods of energy and power. It is their capricious will that ensured our people survived the radioactive destruction of Moshtar. Placation of their whims and the development of further energy structures are at the heart of salvation."

    "I see," the Ambassador nodded.

    "You are Psilon. Pantheist, of course, I imagine," The Captain said. "Or so suggest our oldest databanks."

    "That the universe has a manifest will cannot be in doubt, I believe, yes. But that will has a name - Tychea. I will not argue your Energons are false, for I cannot say what else is true of the Universe's will." The Ambassador chuckled, "I am a devout man, but I like to leave the particulars of such to the theologians."

    "There is much merit in that approach," the stiff-necked captain agreed, cracking a small smile. "Go with the Divine, Ambassador."

    "And you as well, Captain."​

    Knowing that there was little use in continuing to scan for Cybrex relics in Moshtaran space, Pell immediately set out north, to pursue the trail of the machine intelligences there.

    Moshtar-Borders.png


    Unfortunately, he made Second Contact shortly thereafter, on 9.28.2215.

    Second Contact was not quite as friendly as first contact.

    Kram-col-First-Contact.png


    A Durgonian state, the League of Kram'col, contacted the Rinyhai. They were non communicative, disinterested in discussion, and ordered the Rinyhai to leave immediately, after transmitting basic maps to ensure the Psilons knew where to not go.

    Kam-Col-Borders.png


    A few attempts at contact gleaned little else - the people of Kram'col seemed entirely disinterested in communication with outsiders, even other Children of Earth. But four days after contact, as Pell was moving to the edge of the system to try and leave as directed, the Kram'col dispatched armed vessels to destroy them, declaring that the Rinyhai was not leaving 'quickly' enough.

    Kram-Col-Border-Closure.png


    Left with no choice, Pell was forced to make an emergency hyper-jump out of the system, rating Forni as his destination.

    The First Voyage of the Rinyhai, which had begun with much promise, had had an odd sort of success at the end, but honestly, it tasted more like ashes to Pell as his ship drifted through the currents of hyperspace on its trip back home.
     
    IIS Dossier: Divine Mandate of Moshtar
  • Kylia Quilor

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    IMPERIAL INTELLIGENCE SERVICE BRIEFING DOSSIER
    CHILDREN OF EARTH DEPARTMENT
    DOSSIER: DIVINE MANDATE OF MOSHTAR


    A cursory briefing for the Assembly of Higher Minds. No classified Data not authorized for Assembly viewing is contained therein.

    Moshtar-Dossier.png


    In mid-2215, Explorator Pell Impos made contact with the Divine Mandate of Moshtar. Though not exactly greeting us with open arms, these neighbors of ours seem to be willing to exist peaceably, and were open to a sharing of cultural and historical data. Based on the information provided, and what our own stealthed scouting vessels are attempting to provide, we can provide some information on the Divine Mandate.

    Moshtar In the Second Empire

    Moshtar, in the Trukkav was one of the seven Viceroyalty seats, the highest administrative subdivision of the Second Empire. Technically, the sector that Vanerra was part of was responsible to the Viceroy on Moshtar, but in practice, Vanerra and the Forni system, and indeed, the entire sector, was functionally independent and had been for centuries by the time the Kishrath invaded.

    However, the Viceroy of Moshtar was unique, when the Second Empire began to collapse, as being the only Viceroy to support the coup on Argoss that destroyed the Senate. Long frustrated by the Senate's failings, the Viceroy had always lobbied for greater support for the Kishrath front, but had constantly deadlocked out of being able to do anything.

    Unfortunately, very few of his subordinate governors - the ones that still nominally reported to him - as well as his neighbors did not like that. Outnumbered and outgunned, Moshtar was able to hold off invasion of the Trukkav system for a surprising 35 years, through fortification and hit and run tactics. However, he could see the handwriting on the wall - he lacked the resources or population - Moshtar, being primarily Elvhen, simply lacked the sheer number of people other worlds could throw at the problem - to fight forever. Seeking to ride out the chaos, believing that the Second Empire could survive the war, eventually, the Viceroy had ordered the construction of vast underground bunkers on Moshtar, to allow his people - or at least, many millions of them - to survive the coming devastation, regardless of what happened on the surface.

    Some 37 years after the coup on Argoss, the enemies of Moshtar bombarded the world to radioactive ash over a six month period. And, based on everything we can tell, the adhoc alliance immediately began fighting itself, as Entropy continued to seize at all parts of the galaxy.

    The Dark Years

    The Dark Years were not kind to the Elvhen of Moshtar. The vaults were a complete and utter failure - despite the best efforts, they did not hold back the radioactive devastation of the aftermath of the bombardment, spreading mutation and death throughout the vaults. After a century, efforts to solve the problem were successful, and the power core of the vault system was adapted to power energy shielding that held off external radiation, but by then the millions of survivors had dwindled to merely a million, and cancer and various other illnesses and physical problems ran through them.

    Even more unfortunately, it seems that the power core was simply not designed for this sort of output. Over the centuries, many things in the Vaults had a habit of shutting off at random, seemingly, being restarted, and then other things shutting off. The people of Moshtar centered their entire lives around this faulty power core, trying to keep it running, studying it and the energy shielding it created, and in the process, eventually created a religion out of it.

    The 'Energons', as imagined by the Moshtarans, are a powerful group of beings that command all energy and power flows across the galaxy, and they are a capricious group that must be appeased through 'rituals' of 'maintenance' and 'fueling'. Rather than allowing technology to simply be, motive and will has been ascribed to every fluctuation of every generator and power coupling across Moshtar.

    Modern Moshtar

    Moshtarans returned to the surface around a century and a half ago, adapted to the radiation. Their internal organ structure is a bizarre mess - they still look externally Elvhen, but it is the belief of our xenobiologists that were a Moshtaran Elv to donate blood to a more normal Elv, or an organ was transplanted from the former to the later, the 'normal' Elv would die a painful, radioactive death in a matter of hours, if outright biological rejection on a mass scale did not kill them first.

    Regardless, they returned to the space of their system, and like us, have taken advantage of the stabilization of the hyperlanes to spread out into the stars .

    Moshtar-Home-System.png


    Moshtar-Borders.png


    Moshtar today is led by a Tribunal of Clerics, who are also rather skilled physicists, specializing in power production and energy shielding, as appropriate with the faith of Moshtar. They interpret the will of the Energons, based on the fluctuations of the Moshtaran power grid and, most importantly, the fluctuations of the original vault power core that began all this.

    In practice, the longstanding dogma of the Moshtaran Energon Church, as the mainstream orthodoxy is known, has been that it is their obligation to ensure that no one ever hurts their chosen people again, that Moshtar is safe and secure. And beyond that, that safety and security is brought to all they can bring it to. What exactly that might mean for us is unclear. They too obviously seem to seek a birth of a Third Empire, if you read between the lines of official dogma, but will they seek it in unity with us, or in opposition to us?

    That much remains to be unclear.

    The power of the Tribunal appears to be relatively absolute - they are not questioned, legally speaking, when they make a a decree. However, each member of the Tribunal names their successor in their will when they die, which seems to have tended to keep the Tribunal divided between three factions historically - a technologically progressive faction, a regressive defensively-minded faction, and a radical faction that has a few times, promoted using cybernetics to become more in tune with the Energons and the energy they produce. This has been debated more than once and it seems unlikely to happen, as this faction is the smallest, but it has continued to exist throughout, and often controls the swing vote between the other two.

    Moshtaran Culture

    Moshtaran society centers around music and audioplays, rather than holovision. The Vaults holo-communication system was one of the first things to fail, while the audio communication system remained functioning without interruption almost universally. This led to a culture of 'radio' - not actual radio waves, of course, they didn't regress that far, but of centering their entertainment and culture around the medium of video-less sound being transmitted. They enjoy a variety of channels from which to choose, and appear to have a vibrant opera scene.

    Moshtaran cuisine tends to the bland and flavorless, which appears to be a religious imposition dating from when the food in the Vaults couldn't have flavor. That, and few spices or flavorful foods seemed to have survived on Moshtar or redeveloped in the face of the radiation. If Moshtaran dignitaries ever visit, it is advised we do not feed them the cuisine of the Arcyoc Isles.

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    In the long-term, it is unclear what our relations with Moshtar will be - their religious beliefs could be made compatible with ours, if their ruling clergy can be made to accept the primacy of Tychea within their system, but achieving that would require a great deal of work. Further, their emphasis on security for all, on defense at the expense of everyone else, seems to make clear that sooner or later, they will seek to expand, and perhaps even create a Third Empire, in rival to our own efforts.

    In the short term, it is suggested we leverage our joint religiosity to forge an alliance in the face of the hostility of the Durgonians in the League of Kram'col. Beyond that, if we can establish full military dominance, it might be possible to convince them to submit to our authority peaceably, in exchange for defense and security.
     
    IIS Dossier: League of Kam'col
  • Kylia Quilor

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    IMPERIAL INTELLIGENCE SERVICE BRIEFING DOSSIER
    CHILDREN OF EARTH DEPARTMENT
    DOSSIER: LEAGUE OF KRAM'COL


    A cursory briefing for the Assembly of Higher Minds. No classified Data not authorized for Assembly viewing is contained therein

    Kram-Col-Dossier.png


    Following contact with the Divine Mandate of Moshtar, Explorator Impos moved north and reached the League of Kram'col. This Durgonian empire appears to be xenophobic and insular to the extreme, with little interest in outside powers. They ejected the ISS Rinyhai from their space with prejudice.

    Later contact has given us some small insight into their government and society, as has spying on their communications with stealthed scout ships. However, much does remain unclear.

    Origins in Exile

    The League of Kram'col's origins go back to the Kolabaytos system, which appears, based on intercepted Kram'col communications, to no longer be linked to the hyperlane network. This trinary star system was unique in having five inhabitable planets - a result of being the beneficiary of extensive First Empire terraforming. One world, an Alpine world, was populated by Durgonians, and the other four worlds - Continental, Tropical, Arid and Ocean were dominated by a mix of Elvhen and baseline Humans, as well as some Humans specially modified to survive better on the Arid world - albeit they were not as extensively modified as say, an orc.

    The Durgonians, however, were on a poor, small world, and constantly sold themselves into debt slavery in the rest of the system, as the Dark Years offered them no recourse beyond the borders of the system. Mistreated, oppressed and periodically run out of this or that district by xenophobes (or people blaming them for their economic woes) a collection of Durgon clans hatched a plan to steal several ancient hyper-capable ships and launch an emergency FTL jump, that would take them into hyperspace regardless of the instability of the hyperlanes.

    The trip lost many of their number, but in the end, the vessels reached the world of Kram'col, in the now-named Rothca system, some three hundred or so years ago. Apparently, the world was filled with extremely rough terrain, even for an Alpine world, and a complex bureaucracy arose to address those problems, even as the Kram'col Durgon also became radical egalitarians, abolishing the old clan hierarchies - they had failed them over and over in Kolabaytos, after all.

    Kram-col-Home-System.png


    Modern Kram'col

    The League of Kram'col is a Presidential Republic, with a President elected for ten year terms, advised by an Assembly of State, which appears to apportion representation by population and region. The Assembly's legislative authority is checked the President's executive, and vice-versa.

    The League is served by a vast and powerful bureaucracy that structures much of its society, and carries out a variety of laws and directives, passed by the Assembly and created by themselves. In practice, the bureaucracy seems to be capable of independent action, and is almost a second government to the League. However, the President's ability to hire and fire without restriction within the Bureaucracy allows him to exercise a certain amount of crontrol, usually through a certain amount of crony hiring. Or so the Kram'colian press seems to suggest, based on intercepted broadcasts.

    What Kram'col wants at any given time tends to shift with whoever is in power, from the sound of it, but largely, they seem interested in being left alone, and prosperous. They don't appear to be particularly aggressive if they are left alone to their own devices. Obviously, this cannot be sustainable forever, but it exists for now.

    Kam-Col-Borders.png


    Kram'col Culture

    Kram'col Culture has many of the Durgon hallmarks - a strong emphasis on thrift and hard work, a taste for travel and a focus on larger family units. The political power of the clan has been broken, but as a cultural institution, remains quite powerful.

    Kram'col diet centers on fungi, hardy goat and sheep derivative herd animals (their milk, cheese and meat) and on Durgon Ale, made from a combination of the milk of a Trochag (a creature native to the original Durgon homeworld of Khoriddon (still lost to hyperlane shift since the end of the First Empire, by all accounts) and a specific breed of fungus native to that world as well. The Durgon have been experts at transplanting both organisms to nearly every world they settle. Non-Durgon tend to find Durgon Ale toxic, or at the very least, sickness inducings. Orcs are a notable exception.

    In terms of the arts, the Kram'colians seem to have a fondness for elaborate public art, and have a vibrant holo-vision sphere, if one enjoys shows that center around a moral and ethic about the value of work or the equality of the Durgon by their hardship. The narratives don't quite reach to the level of propaganda, but there is a definite 'moral of the story' and 'entertainment with proper social value' operating under their system of writing.

    IIS Recommendation

    In the long-term, Kram'col cannot be allowed to retain their independence, obviously. And they seem unlikely to be able to convinced entirely peaceably that joining with us in unity to craft a Third Empire - a Third Empire where Durgon will share all the equality of all Children of Earth. Conquest of some sort appears to be the only option.

    In the short term, until a clear path can be found to their space (or negotiations with the Moshtar ensure we will likely have a clear path through their space to get to the Kram'col throughout the war), they must be left alone to their own devices, but we should build up our military assets and develop our weapons capabilities further.
     
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    Chapter 2b: Second Voyages of the Nerdyn and Rinyhai (2208-2220)
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    Chapter 2b: Second Voyages of the Nerdyn and Rinyhai (2208-2220)

    When High Explorator Ezo Caes returned to Vanerra, there had been much debate as to where he should go nex - in what direction and why. Ezo, however, had his heart set on moving north, towards the nebula called the "Charnel Citadel". It was his considered opinion that the hyperlane network would be denser there, but that it would also be more likely to encounter starfaring powers in that direction.

    There were, however, some personnel changes by the time he was finally allowed to leave on 9.15.2208 - Pell Impos, of course, had been assigned to the ISS Rinyhai, but further, the captain and chief navigator - Murrok Vohn - retired. He was, by that point, over sixty years old, and not a naturally adventurous man. He had no interest in setting out on yet another voyage.

    Replacing Pell Impos as chief Physicist on the Nerdyn was his former subordinate Ahto Kes, while the new captain was a naval officer named Cain Picon.

    Planned-2nd-Voyage-of-the-Nerdyn.png


    Upon setting out, Ezo filed a flight plan for the systems he planned to explore and survey on his way north.

    From 12.23.2208 to 10.9.2210, the Loritia system was scanned, and found to be largely unremarkable from a scientific standpoint. However, the rings of the fourth planet in the system were found to contain an unusual amount of gold dust*, and the moon of the first planet, a molten world, was in fact so hot that it had melted together a number of useful minerals into a naturally occuring productive alloy.

    Author's Note said:
    I had to come up with a reason why the planet just arbitrarily created trade value

    The Enoldpolenthi system, scanned from 12.28.2210 to 7.10.2212 also possessed little of scientific interest, but the asteroid RCT-1421 was found to be largely made up of valuable gems and crystals on its interior, that if extracted, could be worth a reasonable amount of money - these crystals only had decorative, rather than industrial value.

    Ezo Caes is reported to have remarked that while yes, there was useful scientific data being found in these planets and worlds, the sheer monotony of the routine, especially when compared to the reports of what Pell Impos was finding on his own voyage, was enough to drive him to drink. And indeed, Ezo did take up drinking quite heavily during this period, but it never seems to have developed into an addiction or even a significant inhibitor to his ability to do his job. Or even damaging to his health, at this point.

    On 1.1.2214, the Driakenkeh system's fourth planet was found to have rare crystals - ones that had scientific and industrial value, that could be used as powerful lens focusers and for data storage and energy transfer.

    Rare-Crystals.png


    Nothing of scientific interest was found in the Arbatraeus system, but finally, in the Faghihinejad system, on the third moon of the second planet, a gigantic skeleton was found, billions of years old, but there was no reason that the skeleton should be there.

    Giant-Skeley.png


    The beast, whatever it had been, must have been the size of a mountain but Faghihinejad IIc had never supported life, certainly not 3.4 billion years ago, as the skeleton was dated. Plans were drawn up to study it more intently, but it was around that time that Pell Impos, having reached the Forni system, reported in and set out on the Rinyhai's second voyage, arrived. In the interests of continuing his own charted voyage north, Ezo handed the skeleton and the data off to Pell, who stayed behind to study it more intently.

    On 8.13.2217, Pell was able to discover just what had happened to bring the skeleton there - it was an extradimensional being. Trace elements that simply should not exist were found around the body, and when more carefully examined, they were found to be the remnants of an interdimensional doorway. There was no way to reopen the door now, but interesting data about the physical laws of such a dimension were found, and put to use on improving hyperdrive engines later.

    Giant-Skeley-Studied.png


    More interestingly, but also mysteriously, the High Mystery of the Oracles also requested and received a copy of the data, though for what reason is unknown. It is interesting to note, however, that a few months after receiving the data, the High Mystery, a reclusive man at best, like all his order, had another closed meeting with the God-Empress.

    Ezo, for his part, moved north to the Yunak system. While scanning the Yunak system, however, he encountered a derelict vessel, filled to the brim with minerals. He was planning to recover it and salvage it, for use by the Empire, when the expedition team aboard it made an interesting discovery.

    Lost-Moshtar-Ship.png


    "It's what!?"

    "It's Moshtaran," Terra replied over the vid-link. She panned her camera to show the Moshtaran sigils all around the bridge. "And their computer systems are in a dialect of Elvhen*, and their records show that they are a Moshtaran vessel."

    "How in the name of the goddess-cursed void did a Moshtaran ship end up all the way over here?" Any such ship traveling through the conventional routes would have had to pass through Vanerran space, would have been detected. This was no stealth scout ship, this was a cargo vessel carrying bulk goods.

    And why would Moshtar even send a ship out here to begin with?

    "Looks like they made an emergency jump to hyperspace in the face of an attack by space pirates, something went wrong with the hyperspace barriers and everyone was killed by the exotic particles of hyperspace."

    Ezo cringed. Sheering a hole between this reality and the dimension that was hyperspace released a lot of exotic particles, most of them lethal, forcing extensive sheilding to be set up when travelling through hyperspace. That's why it was so important to properly spin up your drive rather than make emergency jumps, and to follow the hyperlanes, where the exotic particles were less severe.

    "So... do we continue with salvage operations? This is a lot of raw material... though either way, we should return the bodies to Moshtar, or at least arrange to have them returned." Terra pointed out.

    "If we take the minerals and Moshtaran stealthed scout ships find out about it?" Ezo shook his head, "This is way above my pay grade." He turned to the comms officer. "Do we have a clear line back to Vanerra yet?" the officer nodded. "Raise the Empress. She's going to have to make the call."​

    author's Note said:
    The world of Saykori, where the first Elvhen were modified into existence, was populated primarily by people that, if you went back far enough, were largely of Chinese or Irish extract (an odd combination to be sure.) And their Imperial Common was heavily flavored with Chinese and Irish, and so has Elvhen remained such.

    In the end, with the Empire's own mineral production and reserves well in hand, Ashal decided to return all of the minerals, as well as the ship and the bodies aboard it, to Moshtar. This would later bode well for negotiations with the Elvhen state, as she sent word of the decision immediately, but it took the better part of five years for the shipwreck to be brought all the way to Moshtaran space.

    On Yunak VII, wrecks from an ancient battle, at least 15,000 years old, were found. It appeared that a large number of fighter craft, from two distinct alien races had contested the skies of this frigid and uninhabited world. Both sides, however, used blue lasers - laser weapons of a stronger frequency and wavelength, capable of channeling more energy into the blast. The Empire had already been developing a cost-effective way to power such lasers aboard their corvettes, but now, suddenly, the way to do it was lain bare immediately by these wrecks, and the data was transmitted back to Vanerra immediately.

    Blue-lasers-Yunak-VII.png


    It was impossible to translate the information in the wrecks or to identify what alien races had been involved in this fight, and why, despite repeated efforts to do just that by Terra Aque and her team.

    While Ezo considered that so far, he'd done little of true interest on this trip, the Empire as a whole benefited most from his discovery of the Blue Lasers on Yunak VII.

    Meanwhile, with north the only continued direction for expansion and exploration at present, the ISS Rinyhai continued on its way, finding the remnants of a ship in the Worchetassay System that had crashed into a planet while still in hyperspace - something that all science since before the First Empire had thought was impossible. Studying the impact provided some interesting insights into the nature of warp drives - it appeared that this vessel had been built without any sort of safety mechanisms, which was bizzare and unthinkable.

    Hyper-Impact.png


    But the most interesting of the Rinyhai's discoveries was a First Empire gateway in the Ucrichi system. The gateway system, originally dating back some hundred thousand years, had been rebuilt and expanded by the First Empire, linking countless systems across the galaxy directly, allowing instantaneous travel from one end of the galaxy to another.

    The Second Empire had been able to repair a number of the First Empire's gateways, but they did not build new ones, and it would seem this was one the Second Empire missed entirely. Repairing the gateways was currently beyond the capacity of Vanerra, but in time, the Gateways would be critical to Vanerra's progress.

    First-Empire-Gateway.png


    Gateway-Zoom-In.png


    By the time 2020 had begun, the Empire's scientific expeditions had reached no natural endpoint, but had been, for now, constrained to one single direction. However, interesting discoveries had been made, and useful avenues for annexation had been found. If the Empire was to be able to stand against the League of Kram'col and the Divine Mandate of Moshtar, it would need the resources of this region of space.
     
    Chapter 2c: Reaching Beyond The Stars (2208-2220)
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    Chapter 2c: Reaching Beyond The Stars (2208-2220)

    On 10.6.2208, plans were drawn up to annex the Lishval system and construct the appropriate mining stations - population was flooding offworld, to all these various extrasystem jobs. Each mining and research station could hold up to ten thousand people, in terms of workers, engineers, support staff and their families. Even small system outposts - nothing like a full sized starbase or shipyard - could hold fifty thousand or more, in theory, though for now, nothing even close to the full capacity was filled. Each such outpost, after all, had patrol boats, repair facilities, docks to move goods and people coming into the system onto intrasystem ships, and goods and people coming out of the system to interstellar ships.

    In furtherance of these continued constructions, on 12.5.2208, the God Empress gave a public address to the Empire that was transmitted across the wavelengths to every colony and every station. This address, entitled "Reach for the Stars" urged the people of Vanerra and her growing stellar holdings to be ambitious, to always seek to improve themselves:

    Excerpt from "Reach for the Stars" said:
    "...Ambition has long been decried by many thinkers throughout history as evil, as malicious. The great philosopher J.K.Rowling even damned the ambitious to her snake-filled hell of Slytherin, it is said. To be ambitious, to have ambitions, is to label yourself, in this view, as one who has no regard for others, who would step on others in pursuit of their own aggrandizement.

    But that is not merely what ambition is. Ambition is the desire for more, and the urge to strike for it, the drive to succeed. Ambition is the dream! The writer who seeks to create that great novel that captures the imagination of a planet, the entrepenuer who creates a successful business and provides for their family and community, the farmer who goes beyond mere subsistence and sells their produce at a profit, expands their far and grows more - they too are ambitious.

    To have drive, to seek for more - that is no sin. Hard work, clever work and following the law and will reward you. As an Empire, we are reaching for the stars, now. I now urge you all, every citizen of Vanerra, to reach for the stars. To dream big - for yourselves, for your families, for your home! We must all, together Reach for the Stars! Only then, can we claim them as our own.

    "As we go on, marching forward..."

    Reach-for-the-Stars.png


    On 1.02.2209, Holy Promise reached 200 million residents, and massive farms were ordered built on the fertile planet. Being far more land than Vanerra itself, the agricultural products that came out of Holy Promise would diversify the diet of the people of the empire quite significantly, and as a result of Holy Promise's farms, for example, the price of wheat-based breads dropped significantly, no longer just a luxury for the wealthy grown on a few small islands.

    Holy-Promise-Settled.png


    Furthering the empire's reaching for the stars, the Napuqiunohn system was annexed - it had little to offer, but it did round out the systems mapped by the Nerdyn's first voyage, and at least the energy bleed off the system's star would allow for the maintinence of the local, little-used starbase to pay for itself, overall.

    In time, the system would come to be used for Fleet exercises, as there was very little traffic, but it was also close enough to the Home system that a sudden attack could be responded to quickly. The Napuqiunohn system also developed, however, a reputation for a great place for smugglers and criminals to meet and exchange goods, and in the mid 2250s, the Empire would have to shut down a dozen such bases and hideouts and and even a White Stardust manufactory and warehouse that had set up shop in the system.

    In 4.19.2211, to ensure that the empire remained well linked together, the Assembly of Minds, with the support of the God Empress, created a courier network to tie all its holdings together. Instantaneous communication across vast stellar distances, when supported by proper comm-buoys, was a technology that dated back to the first Empire, and Vanerra deployed it to great effect, but an efficient system of couriers and courier-stations allowed for high-profile officials to move quickly, as well as sensitive packages and information that could not be risked on the easily hackable long-range information bands.

    Courier-Network.png


    On 5.1.2011, the God-Empress ordered the colonization of Cipolan IV, as the new colony of "Divine Providence".

    "Are you sure? The expense of setting up a second colony, while Holy Promise is still barely self-sufficient?" Ashal looked at Thanie, shaking her head. "That seems... unwise."

    "It will cost us, yes, but the fact of the matter is, population is only going to grow so fast per planet, no matter how much we encourage more births. There's only so much infrastructure so many live births at a time, anywhere, and only so many people on a given world that will be in a position to have children, and will want them, financial incentives or not. More planets mean more space, which means more choice which means more opportunities, and that means more people. If there is one thing we need right now, Ashal, it's people. More people means more labor, which means more raw materials coming in, which we can turn into more advanced alloys, more consumer goods for the colonies, more trade, more support for our scientists, and more."

    "Besides, with Holy Promise now past 200 million, some of the initial costs are gone," the Minister of Colonization, newly appointed to his job just a few months ago, pointed out. "For the moment, at least, they're feeding themselves entirely on what's grown there, and pretty soon they'll be exporting food, at this rate."

    "Besides," her Minister of Public Information added, "it will put the shine back on everything - the public information broadcasts of all the work we were doing to establish Holy Promise did excellently for the approval numbers and in turn, helped fuel more colonization. With Holy Promise taking care of itself, we don't have any more of that inspiring footage, of hardscrabble people taking their first steps on a new world and building their new life brick by brick, as it were."

    "Wait, we built something out of bricks on Holy Promise?" Ashal cocked her head to the side in a motion of confusion. "Since when do we do anything out of brick?"

    "Okay, poor choice of words," the MoPI shook his head, waving a hand dismissively. "But you take my meaning, correct?"

    "Of course. And you're all in agreement that this is the proper course to take?" Her ministers nodded. "Then I see no reason to stand agaisnt the proposal. Put it to the Assembly, and make sure they know it has my full support." The Assembly would not reject a proposal that explicitly had the 'full support' of the God Empress. It was part of the arrangement of things - the Empress 'consulted' the Assembly and they ensured her will was done. And, granted, they had a great deal of autonomy when dealing with minor concerns beneath her notice. It worked out well for everyone, mostly. Though there was always the occasional malcontent.

    But malcontents in the Assembly could be dealt with, as they could anywhere else.​

    The Izlenek system was annexed, and a research team to monitor the M'elldao and their progress was set up, as the Empire continued to debate what to do with them.

    On 11.12.2212, the ISS Nyrn made planetfall on Cipollan IV and the colony of Divine Providence was formally inaugerated

    Divine-Providence-Colony.png


    In 2213, the Loritia system was annexed and brought into the empire, though the gold in the rings of Loritia IV was left alone for now, as debates raged over just who had the rights to the profits from its extraction - and the God Empress chose not to weigh in.

    Early in 2214, during her monthly address to the Assembly of Higher Minds, Supreme Chancellor Thanie Velis declared that the empire's Ambitions must be Galactic in scope and scale.

    excerpt from the 1.12.2214 Speech to the Assembly said:
    "...and as such, we must not think 'oh, what will this idea do for this planet, for this system. We must think about the entire sector, about the entire Empire. We must be aware of what those ambitious will mean in five years, ten years, fifteen years, fifty years. We must have Galactic Ambitions. We must think on the scale of all of known space, all the Many Children of Earth.

    Interstellar Dominion is to be our future, and the way to achieve that future is through our drive to succeed, our drive to fulfil the divine mission upon which Tychea has set us, and our drive to prosper the Empire for the betterment of all our citizens!"

    Galactic-Ambition.png


    Interstellar-Dominion.png


    On 4.5.2215, in furtherance of the process that had begun with the Grand Cathedral years earlier, the Empress formally announced that the city of Apatosi was the Holy City, the heart of the faith of Tychea, the place outside of her own person wherein the Goddess's influence would be forever most felt.

    The-Holy-City.png


    Author's Note said:
    Another unique building from the mod that gave me the Cathedral. These are capital-only buildings, and while I contemplated not building them now, I decided I wanted to get them done and out of the way now, and that they made a certain amount of sense from a lore standpoint anyway.

    On 6.13.2215, shortly after first contact with the Moshtar, a series of long-distance visual communications with High Cleric Panorin Adxala and the rest of the advisory Tribunal saw the formal development of relations between Vanerra and Moshtar, and the exchange of ambassadors and the opening of the two realms to trade and travel - as things stood, there didn't seem to be much just yet, but perhaps there would be in time. Regardless, a Moshtaran Embassy was established on Vanerra several months later, and the five hundred and change Elvhen that made up the Embassy, its staff and its security were the first non-Psilons to live and work on Vanerra in many centuries.

    In recognition of the fact that the ambient radiation on Moshtar would kill or at the very least, seriously sicken, a Psilon, the Vanerran Embassy to Moshtar was set up on the starbase for the Trukkav system, wherein Moshtar rested.

    In recognition of the need to shore up her political flanks in the Empire, Ashal founded the Alliance of Spiritual Redemption, to rally the most hardline religious conservatives of the Empire under her banner. To appease them, she finally formally banned the use of robotic workers - machines could perform labor, not as people, fulfilling tasks that had to be overseen by people.

    Alliance-of-Spiritual-Redemption.png


    Not that there were any robots to worry about, but it made the conservatives happy and raised her political capital.

    The Enoldpolenthi system and the Ella-b'e systems were annexed to the Empire over the next few years, adding several habitable planets, but none quite as desirable as the ones in the Saentheng and Cipollan systems.

    As 2215 drew to a close, the Supreme Chancellor formed a new faction within the Assembly to shore up the Empress's support among more secular, government-minded men and women, the Peace and Order Movement, to gather support for the God Empress as she prepared to stand against the hostility of the Durgon in Kram'col and to better leverage relations with the Moshtar. Following on from this, a scientist-turned Assembly member formed the so-called Battle Brethren, calling for a more aggressive policy, and for expansion of the fleet to allow the Empire to stand against all powers.

    Peace-and-order-Movement.png


    Battle-Brethren-Founded.png


    In response to the developments, and fears regarding the Moshtar and Kram'col states and ambitions, work was put into strengthening the hulls of the Empire's corvettes, and in developing improved blue lasers - or at least, making the known technology cost effective with the available materials.

    Improved-Corvette-Hulls.png


    Blue-lasers.png


    On 11.01.2216, Divine Providence reached 200 million people, and it too became a largely self-sufficient member of the Empire. Meanwhile, the Empress ordered the annexation of the the Arabtraeus and Driankenkeh systems to the Empire, further expanding the borders. It was in pursuit of that expansion, and in the deepening of control over the Empire that the Domination Initiative, designed to deepen domestic control - especially in subtle ways that were not noticeable by the mass public - to ensure the full resources of the Empire could be mobilized against external threats.

    Domination.png


    Author's Note said:
    While as a tree in of itself, the Domination Tree remains as desirable - arguably even more so, actually - as it was before 2.2, I don't think the name Domination makes any sense whatsoever, as it is entirely about domestic order and control, not domination of others. It really needs to be renamed. Okay, grumping over.

    In the seventh month of 2217, construction of a a commercial multiplex was begun on Holy Promise as the planet reached 500 million people, to better serve the needs of the people. This multiplex served as a central clearinghouse for goods entering and leaving the planet.

    It was in 2218, shortly after the God-Empress ordered the return of the lost Moshtaran ship that three years diplomacy and relations between Vanerra and Moshtar finally culminated in a secure border between the two empires, and the signing of a mutual pact of non-aggression. The goodwill generated by the returned ship was vital in assuring to Moshtar that Vannera's intent was good, and they would keep their word.

    Moshtar-Lost-Ship-Returned.png


    Moshtar-Non-Aggression.png


    Cipollan III was colonized as the colony of Sacred Justice, planetfall made on 7.12.2219, while on Divine Providence, strange weather phenomena led to significant concerns when a bizarre, if small, doorway to another dimension - or through another dimension - was found on the planet. A project to study the doorway and ensure it could be no threat to the colony or to the Empire was begun.

    Dimensional-Door-on-Divine-Providence.png


    At the dawn of 2220, the Empire had expanded, in size and in population, quite precipitously compared to twenty years before, but there was still more work to be done. The expenses incurred by expansion were threatening to drive the Empire into bankruptcy if new revenues were not found - though the Empire had deep reserves of minerals which could be sold to better finance things if need be - and there were two neighboring powers which had closed off expansion and exploration to all but one direction for the Empire. Still, the future looked bright, or at least, very far from dim.

    State-of-the-Empire-2020.png

    State of the Empire 1.1.2220

    All-Our-Neighbors.png

    Known Space, 1.1.2220
     
    Lore Interlude #1 - Religions & The Memory of Old Earth
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    What do the various human and post-human civilizations of the galaxy remember of the old world and the First Empire? Do they remember anything about the religions of our time? Are there any followers of said religions left, or have they all gone the way of the ancient Greeks?

    As we shall see, there are many religions that survived the old world, though often in corrupted form. We haven't found any of those powers.

    Technically, many Durgon in the League of Kram'col follow what could probably be deemed an offshoot of Christianity, but it isn't a major part of their daily life. Another human empire out there has what could essentially be called a 'Third testament' and has created a sort of 'post-Christianity', in much the same way Mormonism or the Ba'hai faith do to Christianity and Islam respectively. (full disclaimer, I am not an expert on Ba'hai). and a various Empires that are not explicitly religious (that is, don't have the spiritualist ethic) have many religions - some based on or drawn from Christianity, islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Shintoism, etc, and others based on 'religions' derived from people like J.K. Rowling (as alluded to above). Or religions made since coming to space (the Church of Artea, the pantheism of the Xathea, etc).

    Lots of things are remembered from old Earth, but between the Colonial Unification Wars, the fall of the first Empire, the interempire period, the fall of the Second Empire, the Dark years - every planet has a corrupted memory of Old Earth, oftentimes varying significantly. Historical records are missing whole chunks, and fiction and history get conflated a lot. On one world during the Second Empire, for example, the history of the first half of the 20th century on Earth was understood to have gone the way the "Timeline-191" books by Harry Turtledove outlined, rather than what actually happened. So much of the details have been lost - not just from Earth's destruction, but the loss of the Sol system to hyperlane shift and countless databases being destroyed, selectively purged, straight up lost, etc, etc.

    On Vanerra in particular, they have a pretty solid understanding of the broad outlines, though many specifics are mixed up. They are aware of a number of Earth Religions, and they even have a copy of the New International Version Bible (printed in 2135 A.D.) in a special preservation case deep in the Imperial Library. (it has had an interesting history, passing through many hands in preserved state, before being given to the then Governor of Vanerra in the middle years of the Second Empire as a gift). It's just that Psilons have a strong tendency to Pantheism, thanks to their psychic awareness of the universe beyond them, and on Vanerra, that manifests further in Tychea.
     
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    Lore Interlude # 2 - Dating and more on the Memory of Earth
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    Is anything remembered from antiquity (i.e. the Hellenistic world, Rome, ancient China)?

    Some. On some planets, more than others. In the second Empire, one of the four star nations that founded the League of Argoss that became the Second Empire was the Imperium Astrorum Romani - that is, the Empire of the Stars of the Romans (Roman Star Empire), which modeled itself off of Rome and spoke Neo-Latin as its local language (almost all Children of Earth are bilingual - Imperial Common and whatever the language spoken on their planet is - at this point, however, most local languages are pidgin hybrids of many human languages).

    In terms of the broad picture, most worlds know the general idea, at least if you're a Historian or interested in Earth history - Sumeria, Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, "Dark Ages", etc. Same with China - dynasties and reunification and so on and so on. But we are talking over 7000 years ago, and so even more than people with Rome today, say, it's a question of 'how important is it?'. Some of the seminal works of history are still more or less intact - Livy, a large portion of Plato's work, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Tao Te Ching, etc, although on some worlds various books and sources get muddled and mixed together (just as, for early Arab students of Ancient Greek philosophy, a lot of the philosophers got folded together into the person of Socrates or even Aristotle, when you read some of their accounts of it, before they got access to better sources)

    During the Second Empire, a great effort was undertaken to collate a lot of the various accounts of Earth and its cultures from all the various worlds and try to weed out the obvious falsities, cross-referencing available information to try and get at the truth. Over time, that will happen, both on a private and public level, and a hypothetical Third Empire will presumably sponsor such efforts across the board to come at a collected truth, albeit how much a final accurate count will percolate throughout the population is an open question (how many historical mistruths do the average American still hold onto?)

    Just to be clear, how far into the future are we? The first post says that mankind left Earth 7200 years ago, so if mankind left in 2200 A.D. (going by when Stellaris begins), that would make the year 9400 A.D., but I might be wrong.

    More or less, it starts around 9400 AD. Except, not entirely. You'll notice that Stellaris uses a 360-day year of 12 30 day months? In-universe, I'm justifying that with Black Rose having had a 360-day year of 27.3 hour days, so the Imperial Standard Year (which the current dating relies on) is 5.242 days shorter than an Earth year (except that it isn't actually quite that number because the days are 3 hours and 18 minutes longer). so technically, the 7200 years number in the first post is wrong, but I didn't feel like doing and then explaining the math differential, even if it does probably add up to a lot. because then I need to figure out exactly when the authorities on Black Rose set things to 1, and so on - we know when the second Empire set things to 1, which is why the current year is 2200 when the game starts (and, spoiler alert, when a Third Empire is declared, that too will be year one of the new calendar, albeit still using the Imperial Standard year)

    So call it 'roundabout' 9400 AD until/if I come up with a more definite timeline. In reality, it's probably at least a century later, AD-wise

    Has any Earth media survived (film, etc.)? On that note, what about Earth languages? Does anyone still study English like how we study Latin or ancient Greek today? And what about those languages; are they still studied at all?

    Some, but again, with thousands of years of art being created since, and recreated, you're more likely to find, say, the 47th reboot of Star Wars than the original version of the trilogy, or something like that. Or you'll have bits and pieces of stories that are threaded back together in ways that the original authors may not have envisioned, if they were even together at all (see: the Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, etc). Think about Ancient Greece - before the mid 500 BC, we just have... very little. We have Homer and Hesoid and a few fragments of the Pre-Socratics preserved by Diogenes Laertius and Aristotle, and that's about it. There were obviously more stories told - some of which may have been preserved in some of the later works, but we don't know how much artistic license was involved (as we don't with whoever wrote down Homer and Hesoid, which assumes there was ever truly one 'Homer' or if 'Homer' is just the guy who finally wrote the Illiad and Odyssey down)

    The influence of the art that came before can be found, but we're always still creating, and older and older stuff gets lost or forgotten. Hidden deep in the archives or electronic databanks of countless worlds are probably all kinds of texts, but moving through that many Zettabyes (and well beyond) of information is nearly impossible, even with assistance, and there's a lot of worlds. Plus, yes, actual books still exist, but the oldest ones are hidden in museums and private collections behind layers of preservation tech and so on.

    English can be studied, more or less in the same vein as Greek and Latin, but honestly, English is more like Sumerian, really, in terms of how wide its study is. Imperial Standard was never just English, although English was pretty core to it.

    As for Latin and Greek - depends on the world. Some have enough knowledge of those languages to make them studyable, others just know they existed.

    Sorry for so many questions, I just find these scenarios in the distant future very interesting.

    No, it's fine, ask away. In general, the answers are going to be 'it varies by planet', because Humanity are a fucking bunch of litterbugs and we've dropped our culture in pieces all over the freaking galaxy.
     
    Narrative Interlude - The Faith of Politcs, the Politics of Faith
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    11.19.2219
    Assembly Building, Vanerra

    "Financing this much military buildup is going to require selling off more and more of our other assets to purchase the necessary alloys. Especially if we hope to continue to expand into unclaimed space," Varro Qun pointed out. "Can we really afford to sell off our stockpiles? Especially as the government is running a deficit for the first time in over a century?"

    "Can we afford not to do this? We need more warships, and we need more capacity to support those ships. By all accounts, both Moshtar and Kram'col have superior fleets to ours, at least somewhat. That means we need more vessels. But we also need more resources, and the only way to do that is to keep expanding. Energy can best be collected from stellar mining rather than planetside generators, at this point in time. We simply don't have the manpower to staff the larger, if more useful, mass generator facilities on planets," Thanie pointed out.

    "Maybe," Varro agreed. "But we are running short of alloys, and consistently so. Can we really go to war like this?"

    "We're hardly going to go to war yet. We have no clear path to Kram'col space, and the God-Empress has every intention of honoring her non-aggression pact with Moshtar. But we must be able to compete with them on equal footing, and that means we must expand and we must arm."

    "So an arms race, then. Because historically, those have always protected the peace."

    "Peace is the destination, but not the path we take to achieve it," Thanie pointed out. "Tychea teaches that the path to peace is paved with battle."

    "Thanie, you're the least devout Supreme Chancellor in the history of the office," Varro snarked, his amusement rolling off of him. It tasted almost like sweet candy against her senses.

    "I'm no atheist, Varro," Thanie pointed out. She didn't know a single Psilon that was - it was impossible to be. Not with the constant hum of the universe in the background, always at the edges of her senses, always at the edges of her consciousness. Not all Psilons, even on Vanerra, believed in Tychea, though those nonbelievers kept things quiet, as they rightly should.

    I may have my doubts as to how much Tychea intervenes, how much Tychea specifically urges us in the now, but I have known Ashal all my life. She is Divine, she is a true descendant of the Goddess's avatar, of the first Psilon. Thanie was a skeptic and cynic of many things in her life, but of that, she was absolutely sure, and always would be.

    "Aggressive expansion is the future," Thanie repeated the party line. And it had to be. After learning more details from Ashal in recent years as to what the High Mystery of the Oracles was warning about, of the dark threats that loomed on the horizon...

    Kram'col and Moshtar... small fish in a massive ocean. We must band them together, by force or by choice. It was the only way to stand against the forces that threatened the Children of Earth. If the Oracles were to be believed, and she could only do it, based on the outer edges of their visions that had been shared with her...

    "The Assembly will of course support the Empress's initiative, but they will want some assurances." She didn't even need her telepathy to take his meaning. There was a way things were done in the Empire, after all.

    "Of course," Thanie agreed. "But first," She reached behind her desk and pulled out two rapiers, tossing one to Varro lightly. He caught it by the hilt handily, and Thanie raised her weapon.

    "En garde!" She flicked her blade out towards him, and they clashed over her desk. Thanie took a leap, jumping over the desk in a bound and driving towards him again - once more their blades met.

    "What language even is that, 'en garde'?" Varro asked as he stepped back to evade another one of her swings.

    "Something from Old Earth. Spanish, I think? You know, the language they spoke on that peninsula shaped like a boot."

    12.8.2219
    Imperial Palace, Vanerra

    "I'm telling you to read the Moshtaran Holy Technical Manuals, and come up with ways that we can assure them that their Energons are blessed intermediaries sent by Tychea to protect them in their time to need," Ashal ordered the High Cleric.

    Acin Nars had been old when High Explorator Ezo Caes had first left, and she was only getting older now. Withered, with skin that was tinged with grey and eyes that were going milky white, the damned woman just refused to die.

    Conservative, stubborn and determined to hold her own against Imperial Authority, Acin was nothing but a headache for Ashal, even after she had constructed the Cathedral, designated the holy city and even founded the Alliance of Spiritual Redemption.

    Almost every other major figure in the religious hierarchy was on her side. Acin, on the other hand, was stubborn and refusing to cooperate.
    "You want me to lie as to Tychea's will for your political agenda!"

    "It is Tychea's agenda." Ashal snapped, holding back, refusing to let her anger flow off of her, holding the emotion back. Acin was doing the same - it was unusual for Psilons to utterly close themselves off like this, never allowing any emotional flavor to spread, but for the two of them, it was par for the course.

    You idiot!

    "The Goddess desires Unity, and we can best achieve Unity with the Moshtarans if we convince them that their beliefs are one with Tychea's truth. And the fact of the matter is, it has always been true that the Manifest Will of the universe could take other forms, lesser, than Tychea herself."

    "And you think - you think these 'Gods of Power and Energy' are among them?" Acin snapped, her tone flat, but the sarcasm was still dripping off the words.

    "Of course not," Ashal replied coldly. "They're utter nonsense. No manifestation of the Will of the Universe would be bound so closely to technology rather than to the minds of living beings. But they don't need to know that. They believe in their Energons, no less fiercely than the Cult of the Dead Carpenter believes in their god." The Cult of the Dead Carpenter - known by many names - went all the way back to Old Earth, well before space. Even on Vanerra, it had once been a faith, though none of its worshippers remained. But it was one of the bigger religions in the Second Empire, in all its myriad forms, and reports suggested those Kram'col Durgon who were religious also followed some variation on that faith.

    "I will not lie as to the goddess's will."

    "The Goddess's will is not in dispute - she wills us to bring Unity to the Moshtarans under my leadership, you know that well. Or do you deny our Divine Mission?"

    "I deny whether or not you truly know the best way to achieve it, Empress," Acin spat the words. "You are merely mortal, whatever your divine heritage."

    "Your treading dangerously close to treason and heresy, High Cleric."

    "And what are you going to do about it? There are never any records of our meetings, and I am the one person on this planet you cannot summarily arrest."

    "I could always have you killed."

    "But you won't. You'll think you can wait me out, and you will. I will die before you, of that I have no doubt. You will see to it one of your cronies replaces me. But you will never claim my soul, Ashal."

    "For me to claim your soul, you'd have to have one. I'm not entirely convinced you do." Ashal countered. "Get out."

    "With pleasure."
     
    Chapter 3a: Dangerous Discovery (2220 - 2230)
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    Chapter 3a: Dangerous Discovery (2220 - 2230)

    On 5.18.2220, while scanning the Ucrichi system, Pell Impos and the Rinyhai found that they had a once in a thousand lifetimes opportunity - one of the many moons of Ucrichi III was on a terminal orbit, and had been for thousands of years, but was now, finally about to crash into the gas giant. This was a golden opportunity that could not be missed, for the next six months, details observations were made of the process, until it finally reached the end of its collapse and hit the gas giant around which it had orbited its entire existence.

    Terminal-Orbit.png


    Useful data regarding gravity and orbits was collected in the process and transmitted back to scientists on Vanerra.

    Terminal-Orbit-Complete.png


    Was the Nerdyn scanned relatively uninteresting systems on a path south, Pell took a gamble on the planet Ucrichi IV, which had massively unstable plate tectonics - but, with the proper application of energy, he thought it might be possible to stabilize the planet's surface.

    Failed-Gamble-on-Ucrichi-IV.png


    Unfortunately, despite the expenditure, he was not successful. This failure left Pell quite depressed for several months.

    Location-of-Artisan-Station.png


    Meanwhile, on 12.28.2221, as the year drew to a close, the Nerdyn entered the Rossier system and made a very interesting discovery.

    Artisan-Station.png


    "Detecting a station in the outer edges of the system, free-standing in space," the sensor officer reported. "And I'm picking up lifeforms. Holy Hock that's a lot of life forms."

    "How many are we talking?"

    "Five million or so. That's a really big station, but they've got to be crammed in there like Guoplar Fish."

    "Put it on display," Ezo ordered, watching the holo display show a large station, covered in paint and festooned with what could be generously called artistic displays. They didn't look like much to him, but they seemed to be sculptures of various kinds, banners, careful arranged debris floating around the station in constructed patterns... fascinating stuff, really.

    "I think that's an Artisan Troupe station," Terra mused, tapping her chin lightly. "What kind of life forms are you picking up on the planet?" That name sounded familiar to Ezo, but he couldn't place it offhand.

    "Uhm... I'm picking up humans, elvhen... and something the computer is recognizing as Tagchunese?" the comms officer stumbled over the unfamiliar war.

    "Tagchungese," Terra corrected lightly. "A nomadic people - their lost their homeworld to climatic shift some 10,000 years ago, and set out in space, traveling across the stars, studying the art of a thousand thousand worlds and cultures and peoples. During the First Empire, Emperor Victor III granted them formal status as a member of the Empire and paid for a series of stations across the galaxy for them to use as bases as they spread their art across the galaxy. Even the Second Empire left them alone, largely. The Artisan Troupe became multispecies in the First Empire, and has stayed that way ever since. Anyone who loves art and wants to spread it across the stars could join."

    Terra furrowed her brow, "The Lay of the Dying Rose is An Artisan Troupe production from the middle years of the Second empire." Ezo was not a fan of the opera, but even he recognized that seminal work, detailing the last days of Black Rose before it was destroyed by a Colossus weapon. A dramatic tragedy, it had been made into a film twenty five years ago and had been quite a hit.

    "Sounds like exactly the sort of people the God-Empress wants in the Empire. Get the Ambassador up here, and hail them."​

    Artisan-Troupe.png


    Contact with the Artisan Troupe was indeed peaceful, and quite joyous. After requesting copies of the most important cultural works the people of Vanerra had produced in their isolation, the Artisan troupe did the same, but with vastly more, offering many lost cultural treasures, including the almost legendary film The Princess Bride, a First Empire production based on some much earlier work. This copy was missing a five-minute portion from near the end, but it was still more complete than the thirty-four seconds left intact on Vanerra.

    Regularized relations between the Troup and the Empire began shortly thereafter, and within a few years, famous writers, artists and musicians from across the empire were visiting the Artisan's station in the Rossier system, as Artisans of all races began to visit Vanerran space. Making the humans in the troupe the first humans to arrive on Vanerra since the Dark Years began.

    The Nerdyn moved south into the Shurkal system from there, making contact with the Gaian Concordant on 8.10.2222, while in the Ardencil system, the Rinyhai found a habitable ocean world that could be settled for the Empire.

    Gaian-Concordant-First-Contact.png


    "The Gaian Concordant? So... you found Gaia?" Terrra laughed in utter joy. "Amazing. I would love to see it, even just from orbit. The historical value of your discovery..." She shook her head.

    "I don't see any reason why you could not visit Gaia," the Elvhen station commander on the other end of the line said. "We would welcome all visitors, as long as they respect the sanctity of life and the basic laws of peace. Every prime Minister since we returned to the stars has agreed -- we will be friend to all, and enemy to none, as long as they seek to abide by that same principle. The wonderful and glorious diversity of life is there to be enjoyed by all."

    "A beautiful sentiment," Terra agreed. "If I may ask, how did you find it? Gaia, I mean."

    "It was five hundred and eighty five years ago, and so even Elvhen do not live that long," the commander chuckled. "Offhand, I'm not sure, but I know it required a lot of blind jumps off the hyperlane networks and interpreting obscure scraps of old sensor data. Our people were once refugees, fleeting the chaos that had gripped the galaxy after the fall of the Second Empire, but we found paradise, and we live in happiness. Such that any other world we've found since reconnecting to the hyperlanes has been... disappointing."

    "I would imagine being raised on Gaia itself would be like that. We have found a smaller world created by the Gaia Seed Initiative in our own space. It is popularly understood to be that the Goddess Tychea brought it so close to us as a gift."

    "That could well be," the commander agreed with a shrug. "I am not an especially religious Elv myself, but our people practice many faiths. Above all, though, we value peace, equality and diversity of life and opinion. Imagine the Prime Minister will have much to speak with to your Empress, but in the meantime, shall we exchange historical and cultural data?"

    Terra turned to Ambassador Marto Kross, who nodded. "Go ahead."

    Terra queued up the command in the computer system - it would take time to transfer the data, even at modern computer processing speeds.

    "While we do that, tell us more about your people, Terra Aque. I admit, I never expected to see a Psilon in my lifetime. Tell me - what is it like to have psionic power, to be able to be so connected to the pulse of all life around you through your mind?" The commander's tone was awed, almost reverent.

    Terra chuckled, "It probably isn't as transcendent an experience as you make it sound, but then, I'm used to it. I've had it all my life, after all. It is... a constant hum. More powerful on a planet, of course. Actually, I'll probably get a bit of a headache when I return to Vanerra." She blinked, realizing just now that it had been fourteen years since she'd last been on Vanerra. She'd been on planets, surveying and scanning, yes, but for fourteen years, her only company had been the rest of this crew.

    Fourteen years. The time had rather flown, in many ways.

    "Just from the adapting to the strength of it all," Terra clarified. "Normally it doesn't cause any pain. But it's very hard for Psilons to lie to eachother, given our connection."

    "A valuable trait to have."

    "Sometimes it's less appealing - just because we can't lie doesn't mean we don't sometimes. We are still just mortal, after all."

    "But we always strive to better ourselves, to get past that. Conflict is in our nature, and yet we must always strive to live in harmony."

    "That much is true," Terra agreed noncommittally. Peace was not the means to the end, whatever these Gaians may believe, that much Terra knew. History was paved in war, and so too would Unity require it.​

    Contact with the Gains would only be peaceful, and lead to some useful domestic developments down the line.

    On 3.26.2223, the Rinyhai was sucked into a dimensional pocket, vanishing from all sensors for several days - before returning... twice. In a strange otherspace, filled with alien vessels, countless - none from recognized species - half the crew had vanished from the Rinyhai... only to be on this other ship, that appeared to be a perfect copy of the Rinyhai.

    Several months were taken checking over both ships and the crews of both quite carefully to ensure there was nothing wrong with any of them, but finally, the copy of the Rinyhai that did not have Pell on it was dubbed the ISS Doppelganger and Sapen Calto was appointed Expolorator of it.

    However, on 5.12.2223, the free-range expansion of the Empire's scientists, and the hopeful future they all saw, was shattered in the Klegisc system: Jumping into a system with a station in it, Ezo ordered it hailed, as had now been done four times before by Vanerran explorers...

    And the response was shuddering and terrifying. The hate and rage that radiated off the people on the station at the sight of a newly arriving vessel was so great, so severe, that the more psychically attuned and sensitive Psilons onboard the ISS Nerdyn felt it, even across the vast distance of space.

    Purity-Order-first-Contact.png


    "We are the Pureborn, the truest form of Humanity as it stood on Old Earth, before the corruption given to us by the mutated monsters of Black Rose, before the divergence of Humanity into false breeds and tainting by aliens and alien ideas. You are not truly of Earth, but bizzare and monstrous evolutionary dead ends. Your people will be destroyed - starting with your vessel. The Purity Order will cleanse you and your filth from the galaxy."

    Missiles were fired from the station, and corvettes flew towards the Nerdyn - and Ezo, terrified out of his skin by the rage he was picking up, the sheer hate, the malice, the monstrous, psychotic xenocidal fury, ordered an emergency hyperjump back to the Forni system, ending the second voyage of the Nerdyn.

    The discovery of the hateful, and hostile 'Purity Order' left all expansion closed off without going through the space of another power. Tgo that end, Pell Impos was ordered to pass through Gaian space, to the far side of it, where a nebula known as the Enem Shroud waited to be explored.

    Pell-s-Route-to-Enem-Shroud.png


    Along the way, he did in fact stop at Gaia itself for a few days, his crew taking a much earned vacation on paradise. Finally, however, on 7.9.2226, he reached the Shroud and began to explore the unexplored space, finding a Gaia world in the Ruenthsam system - too far to be something the Empire could hope to colonize, of course. What was interesting about Ruenthsam III was the ruined cities filled with skeletons, rusting structures and the detritus of a race that had once existed, and thousands of still functioning, if primitive, robots. There was no signs of war, conflict or destruction, and the robots seemed engaged in an effort to maintain and clean the world, even growing crops for a dead population.

    Robots-on-a-Gaia-World-II.png


    The skeletons were not Children of Earth, and this Gaia world did not appear to be the product of the Gaia Seed Initiative. After careful examination of the atmosphere, a hallucinogen was discovered that seemed to induce extremely powerful and pleasant dreams. A few intact computer systems were found and copied, but untranslated. Still, with most of the skeletons seeming to be posed in ways that suggested the people had just sat down or laid down, Pell and his team theorized that at some point, a hallucinogen had spread out throughout the world's atmosphere, and the people had just... enjoyed it. Neglecting food, water, and all life necessities - leaving their primitive robots behind to work on the same orders they'd been following, for an unclear amount of time.

    The Nerdyn, still under Ezo's command, and now back in the Forni system, decided to emulate the Rinyhai and sailed through Moshtaran space to the far end, though he wouldn't reach unexplored space until near the end of 2230.

    Moving deeper into the Enem Shroud, in mid 2228, the Rinyhai found a gateway in orbit around a black hole called the Uzhab Vortex. But it was strange. It was a first Empire Gateway, but it had been changed, altered... unlike the one they'd found in the Urcrichi system, it was still active, but it was locked, needing some sort of code or activation signal.

    L-gate.png


    Scans showed that sometime in the last five hundred years, the Gateway had been modified by swarms of nanites - a few inert ones were found on the gateway itself - of unknown origin, cutting the gate off from any semblance of the original network and instead linking it to somewhere else. Scans trying to identify its destination found a cluster of stars beyond the edges of the galaxy, dubbed the 'L-Cluster' that seemed to be the destination for the locked gate.

    The question of what the Hock this gate was, and what had happened to it, was a mystery that Pell and his crew, nor the scientists back on Vanerra, could not answer. The data was stored and put aside - there seemed to be no way to open the gate, and consultation with Gaian and Moshtaran scientists showed they had no idea what the in the name of the Cursed Void this thing was either, or how to open it.

    what-the-hell-is-an-L-gate.png


    Finally, in 2229, an ancient lifeboat containing a reptillian alien was found and cracked open by the Rinyhai - and after some study, the body contained therein was found to be a member of the Kel-Azan, one of the races that early humanity had been friendly with - they had died out during the Skreeth Wars that occupied the early days of the long fall of the First Empire, fighting alongside the First Empire when the Skreeth, masters of biological warfare as they were, released tailored bioweapons against the Kel-Azan worlds, that even with the help of the First Empire, could not be cured or quarantined fast enoigh to save their people.

    There was even a trace of the illness in the lifeboat, which was thankfully harmless to Psilons, though the vessel was subjected to a stringent disinfecting once the samples of the virus were stored for later study.

    Kel-Azaan-Lifeboat.png


    The last ten years had started with promise, but very little had been discovered, and the Empire was caring less and less about distant discoveries - the Purity Order stood prime as the threat to be concerned about, the thing the Empire had to pour all the resources Tychea could grant Vanerra.

    Exploration was just... not of interest. Not really. Not anymore.
     
    IIS Dosier: The Gaian Concordant
  • Kylia Quilor

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    IMPERIAL INTELLIGENCE SERVICE BRIEFING DOSSIER
    CHILDREN OF EARTH DEPARTMENT
    DOSSIER: GAIAN CONCORDANT


    A cursory briefing for the Assembly of Higher Minds. No classified Data not authorized for Assembly viewing is contained therein.

    Gaian-Concordant-Dossier.png


    In 2222, contact was made with the Gaian Concordant, a pacifistic nation of Elvhen. Relations opened well and have continued to open well. We have scouted their space with stealthed ships, but in all honesty, they are extremely open with their information and their space. Though they have said that we our public ships can't enter a few specific systems that are dedicated to military matters - they're pacifists, but they're not stupid, and they know space is dangerous and secrecy must be made in some things, at least this early in contact.

    The Gaia Seed Initiative

    As is now well known, the Gaia Seed Initiative was a project by the First Empire to create perfect worlds, ones that all members of the Children of Earth, and even alien citizens of First Empire, could live in perfect adaptation, together, on a planet. Ringworlds and habitants simply were not the same. Besides, Gaia Worlds had, to this point, been one of the technologies of the by then vanished 'Fallen Empires' that was most desired, and thus far elusive.

    In a previously unremarkable star system, a barren, lifeless world around a star that was merely numbered, rather than named, was selected as the test case for the Initiative. The star was renamed Rhea, and the planet Gaia. The project was a success, and more Gaia Seeds were sent out. However, the arrival of the Ravening left Gaia uncolonized, as debates had raged as to how to colonize the world best, and in what arrangemnts to be made. Gaia was forgotten, and the Rhea system lost to the shifting hyperspace currents.

    Gaia in the Second Empire

    A memory, a rumor, a mystery of Gaia was held onto, even through the chaotic times after the fall of the First Empire, but the story was twisted and bent - Gaia was remembered as a paradise, yes, but a paradise that had been the perfect world, set aside for the rulers of the First Empire, where their needs could forever be catered for, where none would ever want for anything or work for anything.

    It acquired a legendary flavor, the lost treasure. It was said First Empire technology and even greater knowledge was there, great treasures and artifacts hidden there before the destruction of Black Rose. Countless myths were told of it, growing in the telling with every passing decade.

    It was known to be somewhere - in theory - in the region of space known as the Mayros Sector in the Second Empire. The Sector held some 90 systems by the Hyperlane network, but covered thousands and thousands of light years of space naturally, and so countless failed expeditions tried to use Jump Drives and Warp Drives and more to try to find Gaia, utilizing lost scraps of information.

    When the Second Empire fell, a refugee fleet of Elvhen on repurposed colony and hydroponics ships set out, past the Hyperlanes and drifted through the currents of hyperspace and ended up in the Katos system - where the Gaia Seeds had been made. The system was overrun by old, malfunctioning robots, and the data they extracted from the system's computers was corrupted and missing countless files by the time they accessed the servers, and it cost them many lives, but with that information, they were able to construct a route to Gaia - it took them well over a hundred years and their numbers dropped significantly as ships failed or food supplies ran short at times , but it was the hope for Gaia that kept them going, and eventually, they reached the Rhea system.

    Gaian-Home-System.png


    Modern Gaia

    The government of Gaia is a parliamentary democracy, and they are a strongly egalitarian people, which dated to their struggle to reach Gaia - they had to work together to all share in the paradise they sought, so they all share in the paradise they found. Status and rank exist, but purely as a matter of individual merit and there are few honorifics beyond 'sir/ma'am' for military officers and the Prime Minister themselves.

    Their military does appear to be more powerful than ours, but they also have a certain shallowness of resources we may be able to exploit in the long term. It seems that after 500 years on a Gaia world, they have really lost interest in colonizing less perfect worlds, meaning that in all the space they have claimed, and it is a great deal relative to ours, they have only Gaia. A recently discovered Gaia world on their northern border - found by Explorator Impos - will probably be colonized, but even then, that is only two worlds.

    Gaian-Space-Edit.png


    That means they lack the long-term depth of resources that we will, as our colonies continue to develop and continue to churn out resources, especially advanced alloys.

    Obviously, of course, their pacifist bent seems to throw off any threat of danger from them, in the immediate term, and the value they place on diversity of opinion and idea seems likely to ensure they won't seek to engage in some sort of ill-minded 'liberation' of the Empire.

    The people have Gaia have a strong respect for the Sanctity of Life, and thus have little respect for the leadership of the Purity Order, declaring them anathema, and I suspect they are likely to be the one power Gaia may be interested in attacking someday - that can be used to our advantage, possibly. That said, they also seem quite interested in just not getting involved in foreign military entanglements, so it is impossible to see.

    Gaian-Puritan-Rivalry.png


    Gaian Culture

    The Elvhen that made up the refugee fleet that eventually found Gaia was drawn from many worlds, and thus, they brought a great many cultures to Gaia itself - they have melded and weeded out strongly dissonant elements, but there are still many strains of culture on Gaia.

    Religiously, they are especially diverse - there are followers of the Cult of the Dead Carpenter, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Neo-Druidism, Buddhism and derivatives of all the same, among their six billion-odd citizens. However, the cultural strain that they all share, more or less, is a respect for life, for the diversity of life, on Gaia, and elsewhere.

    Vegetarianism is not universal on Gaia, but it is extremely common - less out of a belief that killing animals for meat is wrong, but rather that it is simply less damaging to a planet's environment and less resource intensive overall to consume plants. Even those who do eat meat eat relatively little of it.

    Their diet does include many animal products, however, and there is a dizzying array of types of salads and other methods of preparing and serving vegetables, mixed with cheese, pastas, rice and more.

    Gaians love Chocolate, but they favor bitter, dark chocolates that are unpalatable to Psilon tastebuds. They have absolutely no coffee, but the Gaian Embassy has gotten hooked on the stuff and it seems possible we could export the coffee to them en masse to make a great deal of profit.

    Gaians have a rich and vibrant artistic culture, but they especially love flower arrangements - especially massive ones that take up a lot of space, the flowers growing into pictures, as specific colors as planted in specific places - and visual arts. Painting and sculpture are highly prized on Gaia. Interestingly, they also have a very diverse range of graphic novels, outnumbering traditional novels in the number of them published every year, and in their sales. Indeed, in the artistic circles of Gaia, traditional novels are actually seen as the lower and more 'plebeian' form of art.

    Poetry, however, apart from epic poems (like the Illiad, the Odysessy, or our own Vanerran production, the Tychead), are not particularly liked on Gaia.

    Gaian music tends to two extremes, though of course they have more variety than that. Soft, highly tonal, soothing music... and music that is made up of hard, screeching dissonant chords, angry, furious lyrics and aggressive in every aspect. It's as if all the repressed aggressive of this pacifists people are channeled into this popular genre of music.

    IIS Recommendations

    Wait them out, increase our military and economic power, and work with them until they can either be peacefully brought into the fold under our suzerainity, or conquored piece by piece by force. With all the empty space they've taken, planets they don't settle, they will - for now - have relatively few hard targets, and their reliance on space-based industry rather than more planets makes them vulnerable to an aggressive strike that hits them there and could cripple their economy long-term.

    That said, in the immediate term, we should work with them to defeat the Purity Order and dismantle that xenocidal regime.
     
    IIS Dossier: The Purity Order
  • Kylia Quilor

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    IMPERIAL INTELLIGENCE SERVICE BRIEFING DOSSIER
    CHILDREN OF EARTH DEPARTMENT
    DOSSIER: PURITY ORDER


    A cursory briefing for the Assembly of Higher Minds. No classified Data not authorized for Assembly viewing is contained therein.

    Purity-Order-Dossier.png


    In 2223, what could well be the greatest enemy of the Empire has been found - the Purity Order. Based on intercepted messages and stealthed scout ships, we have determined that not only does the Purity Order seek to exterminate our people or even aberrant-appearing Children of Men and aliens, but indeed, all life in the galaxy, even baseline humans, that don't match their extremely narrow (and entirely fictitious in terms of human genetic history) definition of 'pure', which blanks out everything outside of themselves.

    So not only are they a threat to our Empire and our dominance of the Children of Earth, even if we can hold them off, if they are allowed to roam free, they will exterminate any and all Children of Earth they can find.

    Elkar Mairos and the Myth of the 'Tainting'

    During the middle years of the Second Empire, a would-be prophet and disgraced criminal geneticist named Elkar Mairos began an underground movement - hiding in the darkest levels of the empire, communicating in coded signals between other signals and preying on the most xenophobic and hateful of humans.

    Elkar propagated an entirely fictitious narrative as to the genetic history of humanity - in his version of humanity, of human history, Earth had been a world of strict regimentation, harsh discipline and communal hierarchy and loyalty to the central authority - the Tribe.

    It was only after the spread to other stars that the adaptive, quarrelsome nature of humanity took fore, and this was entirely the work of a cabal of 'mutants, aliens and genetic defectives' that had taken over the Empire of Three Crowns, taken over all of Man and spread a retrovirus that changed humanity, inducing a quarrelsome nature to start the Colonial Unification War, so they could cement their control of Man and then induce more genetic changes.

    Or something like that. Elkar's nonsense gets increasingly incoherent the more you read it.

    In this reading, the Skreeth actually worked for this cabal, and the destruction of the First Empire was their work, as was the Ravening itself, all to create countless isolated gene pools they could continue to manipulate through their evil, all power galaxy wide conspiracy.
    Elkar created his own retrovirus that, when introduced in the bloodstream, could supposedly 'fix' the changes this evil cabal induced into baseline humans - anyone more changed than that was a complete loss and would have to be destroyed to protect the Purity of the True Humans.

    Pureborn-Race.png

    As you can see, apart from a tendency to be wasteful and a visual similarity, Elkar's 'Pureborn' have very little in common with the true baseline genetic configuration of humans.

    He gathered together a not insignificant following, gave them all the retrovirus, and started a campaign of terror on across the Kaltar Sector, focusing on the more visually and genetically aberrant types of the Children of Earth - Psilons and Orcs receiving the worst of his treatment. His cult's reign of terror lasted for five years, though the last two was a fighting retreat back to his asteroid lab and base - and yes, by all available accounts, it was exactly as cliche as it sounded.

    Elkar was killed in the assault, but over a thousand of his followers escaped in a captured Carrier-Battleship, and preyed on the trade lanes as pirates for nearly a decade before vanishing. And it is at that point that they vanish from our deepest dives into our historical archives.

    Creating the Purity Order

    Purity-Order-Home-System.png


    It would seem that at some point in the intervening years between then and now., they moved to the frontier, fringe, oft-ignored Antarkos system, and in a surprisingly subtle project, spent years introducing Elkar's retrovirus into the air and water of Antarkos Prime and slowly asserting control of the planet. They took control of all mechanisms for offworld communication, and kept hidden word of what was happening when it suited them. Essentially, they operated exactly like the nonsensical evil cabal they claim ruined humanity.

    When the Kishrath invaded the Second Empire and then the generals launched their coup, the Order made to seize absolute control of the planet, the local defense ships and the system starbase, as well as all outlying stations.

    They were partially unsuccessful, and a brutal, thirty-seven year civil war occurred. Assuming we can believe any of the 'official history' of the Purity Order. It was during this war that the absolute despotism developed and a so called 'Inner Ring' was created. It is the Inner Ring that control the Order and select each successive Executor.

    During this war, they lost the ability to make more of the retrovirus thanks to the efforts of rebels, and thus, even baseline humans must be destroyed, as they can no longer be 'cured'. It also destroyed much of their orbital and space infrastructure, knocking them backwards and it is only recently, as with us, that they have been able to fully exploit their home system.

    The order's regime is oppressive, propagandistic and totalitarian, and appears entirely willing to eliminate all notion of the truth. There is a narrative of total siege mentality in the Order - the first contact with the ISS Nerdyn, for example, has been reimagined as an attack by a dozen corvettes on their brave and outnumbered starbase and border cutters, and only through the superior will of the Pureborn and their admittedly impressive shielding technology were they able to throw back our 'invasion'. Even the Gaians have supposedly attacked them en masse at this point.

    Purity-Order-Space.png


    The Order has expanded quickly and by all accounts would only like to expand more. Further, they appear to have the most powerful fleet of all known powers.

    Puritan Culture

    To speak of a culture in the Purity Order is to elevate blatant jingoistic propaganda, reality-denying narratives and tired, repetitive and extremely cliched morality plays to the level of culture.

    Every work of fiction, every work of art, every piece of media is carefully crafted and controlled by agents of the 'Inner Ring' to propagate the ideals of the order, to inculcate in the population a xenophobic, fanatical siege mentality. It is presumed that there must be some dissent - historically, no totalitarian regime has ever managed to be as total as they would like - but there is no visible evidence of such dissent to our scout-ships and message intercepts.

    The 'culture' of the Pureborn feeds them a steady diet of hate, venom and bile. There is no redeeming value in any of the cultural output of the Purity Order.

    IIS Recommendations

    War.

    There is only one viable solution: Once we have a navy of significant size and have built up mobile army forces that can launch invaions on significant scale, we must invade the Purity Order, seize as many of their spaceborn assets as possible and as many of their planets as we can.

    The 'Pureborn' themselves must be reeducated and their hateful mania untaught, and the entirity of the 'Inner Ring' must be tried and executed for Crimes Against Sentient Life. The Pureborn are Children of Earth - their leadership are monsters, but the mass bulk of their population can and should be brought into the Unity we must bring to all the Children of Earth.
     
    Chapter 3b: Meeting the New Threat (2220 - 2230)
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    Chapter 3b: Meeting the New Threat (2220 - 2230)

    As the Explorators continued to push along the only open path to expansion, the Empress ordered that expansion to continue - the Yunak system was added to the Empire, and let more mining stations and research labs were created. The logistical line of these outlying holdings was growing more and more taut, but plans were already being drawn up to colonize the new world found in the Ucrichi system at some point in the next two decades to provide for a more secure base for those outlying holdings.

    To help police all these holdings, on 12.7.2220, the Empress and the Assembly of Higher Minds unveiled the Judgement Corps. Organized on military lines, this organization would be responsible for policing the outlying territories of the empire, operating from bases on each system starbase, the Judgement Corps was empowered with a great deal of latitude when it came to enforcing the laws in space and on system stations, mining outposts and research facilities. Planetside, more traditional law enforcement procedures continued.

    Judgement-Corps.png


    On 12.11.2220, the dimensional portal on Divine Providence was found to lead to a strange, entropic dimension filled with Dark Matter - a small amount of which would be extracted and put to use for the Empire. More importantly, however, the researchers realized that the entropic energy could be harnessed and weaponized into a powerful anti-shield weapon: the Null Void Beam

    Null-Void.png


    On 2.10.2221, in order to deepen ties between Moshtar and Vanerra, the two states signed a research agreement, sharing some technological data for the benefit of both, the idea mostly there to generate trust between the defensively paranoid Moshtarans and the Empire - trust that could be leveraged for still deeper ties.

    Moshtar-research-Agreemnt.png


    Annexation continued with the Ucrichi and Worchetassay systems being brought into the Empire, while the Empress, having spent decades now staffing an increasingly expanding Imperial Bureaucracy, had honed her eye for talent expertly.

    On 9.30.2222, not long after first contact, the Gaian Concordant, in a gesture of peace, good will and future friendship, offered a supply of minerals and energy to the Empire. The gift was accepted, though the Empress was unsure as to the motivation - was it appeasement, or perhaps the Gaians were 'deigning' to offer the Empire their charity?

    Nonetheless, with finances tight - and minerals tight too, after being sold to shore up those tight finances - the gift was accepted and put to good use

    Gaian-Free-Gift.png


    The Gift arrived a month later with the Gaian Embassy, and the Gaians were allowed to set up their Embassy next to the Moshtaran one, creating an informal 'Elvhen Quarter' around the two embassies in the Capital City.

    Shortly after contact with the Purity Order was made, the Gaian Concordant, apparently just as concerned about these Xenocidal monsters as the Empire, offered to ensure security by signing a non-aggression pact. Though our borders were not meeting yet, the Empire would be expanding closer towards them every day, and it would secure the peace of mind of both empires to have a pact of non-aggression. The Empress signed it eagerly. There was only one enemy on the Empire's mind - even the Kram'col were of lesser concern now.

    Gaian-Non-Aggression.png


    On 7.1.2223, the Empress issued a "Decree of Containment Expansion" ordering that the Empire was to expand as much as it needed to to reach the border with the Purity Order. These monsters had to be contained, and the only way to do that was to meet them in space and check their expansion.

    expand-to-the-Border.png


    "There can be no doubt about it - the Purity Order will seek our utter destruction and devastation, the utter destruction of people," The Director of the Imperial Intelligence Service said. "They are not just xenophobically isolationist, like the Kram'col, but they seek the death of everyone and everything else that is not them."

    "And, to be perfectly honest, they're a bunch of frehalish*," the Director added. "They believe a nonsensical history of Humanity and of the genetic history of the life before space, and are fed a constant diet of hate and paranoia."

    "Perhaps we should hunker down then, prepare for their assault," the Minister of Colonization suggested. "Not forever, obviously, but if they do plan to destroy us, we could bait them into doing that, destroy them on the teeth of our fortifications and defenses."

    "At the moment, they could easily blow past what we have on our outlying systems," Admiral Icea replied. "We can and will improve our defenses there, but that will take time. They also have impressive shielding technology - we may have some good ways to counter that soon, but as of yet, we do not."

    "If we're going to counter them, we need more resources." the IIS Director chimed in, "And even more, we need more defensive depth. We need to be able to check their expansion now, and we need to take the offensive against them as soon as possible - if we prove too hard of a nut to crack, they will go elsewhere and kill whoever else they find."

    "And I cannot let that happen," Ashal said with finality. "It is my duty to bring Unity, and Unity is the endpoint, peace for all. I cannot bring that final unity and peace to people who are dead. And these so-called 'pureborn' are still people. They are still Children of Earth. We must liberate them from the rage and hate they have been fed, from the vile darkness that grips their minds and souls."

    Ashal stood, "Tychea's will in this instance could not be more clear - we must expand to meet them, we must marshall all our resources and mobilize for war. As of this moment, we prepare for only one task, only one duty - the invasion of the Purity Order, the dismantling of its regime, the execution of its leadership and the liberation of its people. We will meet them in space, planetside and wherever else we need to destroy this foul and evil stain on the galaxy."​

    Author's Note said:
    'frehalish' is a Vanerran-Psilon word that translates more or less to 'fucking psychotic crazy person with no grasp on reality'', though literally it means 'void-touched'

    Around this same time, Sacred Justice reached 200 million and became largely self-sufficient when it came to food.

    In furtherment of the new military rearmament, the Empire's scientists began finalizing the work on weaponizing the Null Void Beam. The Purity Order had excellent energy shielding technology, but with the Null Void and the planned 'Anti-Shield' class of Corvette, the Empire could counter this advantage quite easily.

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    Equally, in order to ensure the protection of the Empire against any Purity Order invasion before the Empire was ready to go on the offensive, new investments were made in improving ground defenses on all the Empire's planets.

    On 2.13.2224, Moshtar and Kram'col signed a nonaggression pact. The Empress was reported to be unhappy with this development, but on the other hand, there simply was very little decision bandwidth left to care about the Durgon of the League - they would have to be left aside for now. There was only one threat the Empire had to focus on.

    In furtherance of securing the Empire's flanks and marshalling resources for this coming war, the Empire finished the months long process of completing a commercial pact between Vanerra and Moshtar, eliminating most tariffs and trade barriers and regularizing all commercial and business contact between the two regimes.

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    On 3.6.2225, in an effort to make the Empire more productive, to continue to marshal the Empire's resources, a program of bonuses and motivational media was put into effect in partnership with the Empire's leading manufactories, mining corporations and farming conglomerates. The bonuses were partially underwritten by the Imperial treasury in order to get workers to meet higher quotas.

    Alongside the bonuses, however, were a series of informational posters and a public awareness campaign in major mining and farming centers, focusing on the threat of the Purity Order, and what the common worker of the Empire could do to contribute simply by working harder.

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    On 5.6.2225, High Cleric Acin Nars died in her sleep at the age of 88. Her health had been failing for several months by that point, and the God-Empress wasted no time in naming her replacement, the body not even being cold when Maito Kep, a high ranking Archdecon in the Holy City and staunch ally of the Throne was named to the position of High Cleric.

    The move was not especially popular, however, and the public's opinion of the Empress's governance dropped from 89% to an unusually low 75% over the next few days after the action, Though rumors had long spread that the God-Empress and the High Cleric had not gotten along, it was still seen as somewhat disrespectful to such a venerable servant of the goddess to replace her so quickly.

    To shore up her support in the face of this, Ashal organized a highly public state funeral for High Cleric Nars, offering kind words to the woman's devoutness, saying: "There can be no doubt that Acin Nars was a devoted, devout woman, with a boundless love for the Goddess and for her fellow Psilons."

    Over the second half of 2225, the Empire completed its research into the Null Void and began construction of the first 'Anti-Shield Class' Corvettes, to supplement the existing fleets of Missile and Interceptor class vessels. Then it began work on implementing a way to fit larger and more powerful electromagnetic coils onto their mass drivers.

    In early 2226, the system of Neston was claimed, marking the border with the Purity Order. The system immediately began fortifying the Neston System - it was the only path the Purity Order had into Imperial Space without invading the Gaians as well, so it had to be a powerful deterrent against attack. The Empress ordered all available resources to be poured into expanding the fleet and the defenses at Neston.

    In a statement to the Imperial Media, the Empress declared: "There can be only one priority, only one vision for our Empire - we must build our ships, build our fleets, and pour every available resource we have into our ability to defend ourselves against the Purity Order and the menace they pose to all Children of Earth. Everything the Empire has must go to this one goal."

    And so over the next three years, that's exactly what happened. The Fleet was moved to the Neston system, and raised to twenty Corvettes, while the Neston Sarbase was improved with defenses and shipyard facilities to facilite the construction of yet more ships.

    On 10.21.2229, negotiations to lift all tariffs between Gaia and Vanerra were finished, and coffee exports to Gaia took up a large portion of the Empire's sales to Gaia, as the product caught Gaian markets by storm, quickly outpacing tea and even caffeinated sodas as the vehicle for caffeination of choice in Gaia.

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    Though coffee beans could be grown on Gaia, for decades to come, most would import the superior Vanerran beans and blends rather than the ones grown on Gaia

    On 11.2.2229, IIS operatives discovered that the League of Kram'col had found a ruined matter decompressor near the Black Hole known as Ozark's Limbo. This technology, theorized during the Second Empire, but never proven to function, was said to be able to reverse the gravitational pull of a black hole and literally yank the raw materials out of a black hole, turning that raw mass into useable materials once more - albeit likely not in its natural form, whatever it had once been.

    Kram'col had no way to repair the device as things stood, but the IIS marked Ozark's Limbo as a high priority for annexation... eventually.

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    Production Note said:
    Around this time, I got the Imperious Archiecture tradition, but I couldn't figure out a good way to explore that in-lore, so I'm mentioning it here:
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    To continue to expand the depth of resources available to the Empire, Saentheng I was ordered colonized as 'Pious Devotion' on 5.2.2230, and on 8.3.2230, the colony of Holy Promise reached 2 billion people - many many young children and teens, but also many immigrants from elsewhere in the expanding empire, the population continuing to skyrocket with the increase in prosperity.

    On 11.11.2230, scientists began to project to probe the dimensional doorway on Divine Providence further, hoping that either more dark matter could be gathered, or that more powerful technology could be reverse engineered from the entropic null dimension to help improve the Empire's ability to fight the Purity Order.

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    However, after realizing how long it would divert crucial engineering resources, the project was shelved for the time being.

    As 2230 drew to a close, the Empire had grown more powerful, but also entered into more danger. It had made friends and opened more trade, but everything it had was being poured into one project: War.

    It was only a matter of time until the Empire declared war on the Purity Order. All that remained to be seen was when.

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    The Empire in 2230

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    Known Space in 2230