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0 Prologue

That expanding halo of gas is all that remains of fifty-seven of my ships, sleek VASA Cruisers and clunky Neros straight from the Ironglass shipyards, and the rock-solid Dreadnaughts that I have served aboard for two-thirds of my life. Below us Viridian kills Junker and Junker, Viridian; VASA hides its ugly deeds with pretty words; and the treacherous synths attack all parties without apparent gain while the Slugs infest their way toward conquest of the planet's surface. Here, in clean vacuum, enemies and rivals fight and die as brothers, and in death their very essence mingles in a cloud of silver vapour. On that cesspit below, Iskandria, corpses choke the streets and humanity tears at its own throat for the chance to make more. When I see the reports from planet-side I fear that our victory in the void is for nothing, and the fate of our people rests squarely in the squalid ruins of a city gone mad with war.

Grand Admiral Tobias Cranmer, Commander of the Joint Fleet Expeditionary Force in relief of the Arkadia-Helios Binary System

A Galaxy Divided

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Mankind believes it has mastered the cold dark of space; having leapt the impossible gulf between the stars the empires of man embrace thousands of worlds and enforce an uneasy peace throughout the Draconis Alba galaxy. In the centuries since humanity's emergence from the Viridia-Solaris / Leviathan Binary System the galaxy has become a home, worlds have been tamed and remade, great highways of gravitic force have been tapped, and far distant empires have risen to glory in the light of alien suns. Expanding ever outward humanity has brought its drive and adaptability, its curiosity and extemporizing genius, to illuminate the cold dark of space and overcome the challenges of this new frontier. But man has also preserved his follies and his faults, his chronic divisiveness; and the schisms developed in the age of exploration have become permanent partitions within the human race. Mankind is at war with itself.

The four great powers of the Tripartite Alliance exist in an uneasy state of mutual hostility, an equilibrium designed to maintain a galactic balance of power. This perpetual cold war is one of spies and secrets, of clashing ideologies, of incompatible visions for the future of mankind. It is a colonial war, waged every day on a thousand battlefields and in the space between the stars, a complex game played by cautious giants for limited stakes and within unspoken boundaries; for to overstep the rules of the game would be to plunge the galaxy into a conflict from which it might never recover.

Central to this great game of dominance are the homeworlds of mankind, the planets of the Solaris-Leviathan System. Though the Tripartite Powers rule vast empires and manipulate events more than half a galaxy away, it is to the homeworlds that all mankind looks for guidance.

Viridia herself is still the best and most benign of humanity's planetary domains; an enormous, ever fertile world of extraordinary genetic diversity. But while this lush, green world stands as a balanced model of ecological and economic husbandry, the corporate houses that dominate the Viridian Assembly have shown less scruples abroad; often engaging in rapacious and thinly disguised colonial exploitation through various intermediaries. Such companies control Viridian society as they do the Assembly, permeating all aspects of the Commonwealth's life and culture, and often involving the enormous and capable Viridian Defence Force in unsavoury ventures on far distant worlds.

None can rival Ironglass, however, in sheer, unrepentant bravado and naked greed: where other empires seek to conceal their questionable activities the Ironglass Imperial Senate blithely ignores protocol and does what it pleases. Their sprawling empire is part travelling strip-mining operation and part pirate fleet, and the Junkers routinely seize marginal worlds and squeeze them dry of resources before moving on; a pattern established long ago when convict labour gangs first worked the barren expanse of Ironglass. Now the one-time penal colony is the centre of a totalitarian empire that holds hundreds of worlds in an iron grip under the direction of the mysterious Senate, the hard taskmasters of the Imperium, who rule their enslaved populations with brutal force.

Perhaps the very opposite of the unsophisticated Junkers are the Syntha, and their strange and airless planetoid orbits aloofly in the bleakest outer reaches of the Viridia-Solaris / Leviathan System as if to avoid the contaminants of the teeming inner worlds. The Syntha seek perfectibility in the cold calculus of the machine and their world, Prime, is a concentration of a unique, obsidian-like substance that is the key component in the ingenious artificial minds that govern Syntha society. One such artificial mind of unrivalled complexity is the Prime AI, the governing intellect and absolute authority for all Syntha, human and machine alike. Utterly efficient and rational the Syntha have greatly surpassed the other factions in science and technology, but it remains to be seen if they can successfully merge man and machine.

Overseeing the great powers is VASA, a pseudo-empire in its own right and arbitrator of the Tripartite Peace, a complex web of treaties and mutual obligations that have preserved man's great empires for centuries. Key to VASA's authority is its strategic domination of the galaxy's grav-wells and the mastery over trade and transport this allows them, as well as the fabulous wealth accorded them as keepers of the keys to the galaxy. VASA manages its multifarious concerns from Vacillus, an airless, frozen world in orbit around the dead star Leviathan. VASA's resources are stretched thin over nearly the whole of pan-humanic space, making them heavily reliant on surveillance and diplomacy to maintain their power; but when force is required their highly trained elite soldiers can be mobilized at a moments notice to intercede anywhere in man's vast galactic territory.

For centuries these great empires, engines of man's fate, remained at peace so long as they continued to look outward, to channel their energies into the colonization of the galaxy. But the frontier recedes as pan-humanic space swells, and unresolved rivalries flare anew. And it is now, in this time of mounting tension, that mankind faces its ultimate test, the alien Koralon; whose biogenic technologies threaten humanity with enslavement and extermination. The fateful contact on Void1.1 and the subsequent systematic invasion of human space by these aliens has created crisis points in which the Great Powers find themselves fighting each other for control of key worlds even as the Koralon consolidate their gains.

One such world is Kyklops in the Arkadia / Helios System, old imperial seat of the Great Tyrant Iskander. The two island-continents of Iskandria that emerge from the Koralon infested seas of this ocean planet may well be the crucible in which the fate of the galaxy is forged. Here, cut off from outside influence or aid, the Great Powers engage in bitter street fighting even as the Koralon emerge from the depths to carve out their own holdings in the endless urban sprawl. But with the coming of the pan-humanic fleet the balance of power has shifted in the system, and the ranks of fresh reinforcements rushed to the planet's surface promise an escalation of the engagement.

Mankind has never been so divided, so vulnerable, its vast empires poised on the brink of civil war and alien invasion. Whether the Great Powers will combine in the face of the alien, or try to use the Koralon to further their own designs, remains to be seen. Man may emerge at a new synthesis, a new unity; whole empires may fall or rise triumphant, pointing the way to humanity's future or dragging the species down into an age of darkness. Or the invidious Koralon may subvert the ever-warring factions one by one, sweeping the fragments of a once proud civilization from their path as they aggressively expand to fill the galaxy. The stasis is broken, the future in question, but man's choice is clear: evolution or extinction.

  • Kyklops
  • Landscape 1
  • Landscape 2