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Chapter 2: Invasion

Oh, lets just take our time shall we? Be patient. Debate the issue, commission academic studies and let the politicians poll their constituents, consult with experts and let no one's opinion go unrecorded. After all, what need have we for decisive and concerted action when the Koralon themselves posses enough certainty of purpose to supply an entire galaxy? I am sure they would bestow this enviable quality of theirs upon mankind, we needn't even ask.

Dr. Avery Valverde, sole survivor of the Blue Eden Expedition, from his VBC interview

The Alien Menace

In the century following mankind's fateful first contact with the Koralon in the Void System war with the aliens has been unrelenting, and they have proven themselves adaptable and indefatigable opponents. The Koralon posses an empire fully as extensive as humanity's out on the eastern edge of the galaxy, and the area between these two great empires, Human and Koralon, is a sparsely settled frontier region known as the Rim. The Rim has been a cauldron of battle in an ongoing war of slow annihilation that has seen first one side and then the other in the ascendant. It had become a fact of life, this desperate but distant fight for survival, until the Koralon Incursion demonstrated that no corner of human space was immune from alien attack.

The great Koralon Incursion shook the Tripartite Alliance to its foundations; the sudden appearance of massive alien invasion fleets deep in the heart of human space rewrote the rules of intergalactic warfare. The Koralon, masters of gravitic technology far in advance of mankind's, demonstrated their ability to ignore the normal lanes of hyperspatial travel - the grav-wells that are the highways of humanity's empires - and strike wherever and whenever they pleased. Furthermore the Koralon showed great insight and cunning in the selection of their targets and the persecution of their invasion, conquering key Gateworlds and their vital grav-wells, coordinating vast fleet actions over great distances with inconceivable precision, and waging a kind of psychological warfare against humanity that demonstrates the Koralon have a far greater understanding of their opponent than mankind has ever hoped to have of the them.

But the great empires of Virdia, VASA, and Ironglass, along with many lesser worlds, did pull together in desperation to drive the Koralon out of their systems and four of the five conquered Gateworld systems have been liberated from the aliens - though the worlds themselves lie corrupted by the ruinous coraline microbe unleashed by the aliens to transform entire planets, and their populations, into something more suited to the Koralon's needs. Now the final chapter of the Koralon Incursion is being written, as the remnants of the alien fleet in the Arkadia / Helios System have been pushed back and mankind has begun the reconquest of Iskandria, a battle that will decide the fate of hundreds of millions, perhaps even the galaxy itself.

The Koralon on Kyklops

Such is my strength that from beyond the grave will I strike at my foes, should any seek to supplant me or my heirs in some future age know that my malice and my will is bent on their destruction.

Iskander, Reflections (HoloRec MMMMDLVIII bio, case r5)

The events of the Koralon Incursion unfolded differently on Kyklops than in the other Gateworld systems invaded by the aliens, for Kyklops is a nearly ideal habitat for the aliens, a warm world mostly covered by placid ocean of remarkable purity and low saline content. No ships seeded the atmosphere of Kyklops, no bastions were stormed by alien armies, instead the Koralon annihilated a few strategic targets from orbit and proceeded to install themselves in the shallow oceans around Iskandria. There existed no force capable of repelling the invaders, and the aliens seemed content to build their strength in underwater cities and ignore, for the time being, the troublesome terrestrial inhabitants of Kyklops' landmasses. Kyklops' major Koralon Reef City lies three hundred and eighty klicks out from Iskandria's north shore, in the continental shelf waters of the Nephrite Ocean. Here dwell Koralon in the tens of thousands, masters of a months-old underwater metropolis that continues to grow at an exponential rate. Such rapid growth is due to the presence of several Mother Reef ships - enormous, semi- intelligent colonizing vessels that contain within them an array of self-propagating biota and coraline host organisms, in addition to enough raw microbial material to fuel intensive building and assimilation projects by the Koralon.

Reefs profoundly alter the marine environment, releasing aquatic spores and hybridising sea life, redirecting oceanic currents, and altering the chemistry of the water through bioelectric conversion processes and corlinazidinal excreta. Within a decade most worlds can be entirely transformed along Koralon standards, however it is believed in the case of Kyklops such a metamorphosis can be accomplished much sooner.

Around these Mother Reefs the Koralon city expands, hundreds of palmate structures radiating outward along the rock shelves of the ocean floor. On mature Reef Worlds, worlds completely remade by coraline, such cities become so massive they emerge into the open air. The rapid assimilation of Kyklops continues even as mankind reinforces their planetary holdings, and already the Reef Cities that spread beneath the blue waters off Iskandria's north shore can be seen rising from the deep.

Last Battlefield of the Incursion

If it were up to me I'd nuke the place from orbit - it's the only way to be sure.

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

In a series of stunning but costly victories mixed fleets drawn from thousands of worlds throughout pan-humanic space won back their systems stolen during the incursion, one Gateworld at a time. Utilizing new tactics and more than a little low cunning humanity demonstrated that it, too, was an adaptable species, one not so easily demoralized or broken. From Actaeon to Yvetot human fleets wrought destruction on the Koralon while vast armies descended to regain, or at least pacify, man's stolen worlds; once prosperous places remade into nightmare landscapes slumped in ruinous infection and teeming with hostile hybrid monsters.

Arkadia and its surrounding systems were cut off during the incursion, no real fleet actions were possible in this quadrant until the nearby Rzhova system was liberated and its grav-well reclaimed. With each victory the pan-humanic fleets weakened, and the human and material costs of the endeavour grew staggering. At Arkadia the Koralon decided to make their stand, and the remnants of their defeated fleets from the other Gateworld systems began to converge on Arkadia, phase-shunting easily through n-space and bypassing man's convoluted web of hyperspatial lanes.

A powerful joint expeditionary fleet under Viridian Grand Admiral Cranmer made a probing foray into the Arkadia / Helios system, successfully shunting in via Helios but meeting with a superior Koralon fleet and suffering a minor defeat, though Cranmer skilfully preserved the majority of his force in the retreat back to Karnus. But this was but a foretaste of mankind's power and, while VASA, Viridia, and the Junkers patiently finalized the creation of the joint fleet that would liberate Arkadia, the Koralon, reluctant to risk a decisive battle in distant systems while their newly won planet lay but partially assimilated, did little more than send small forays through n-space to harass nearby human systems.

Or so it appeared, for the aliens, seemingly alarmed at mankind's concerted response, dramatically increased the pace at which they spread their mutanagenic influence over Kyklops in preparation for the coming assault. This, then, is the last battlefield of the Incursion, Arkadia and its world, and the great city-continent of Iskandria.

The Releasing of the Spores

They say one spore of this coraline turns a man into a perfect killer, his bones toughen and muscles swell, his skin secretes a substance that hardens into armor plate and weapons grow from his limbs. All knowledge of fear leaves him; he forgets his own safety and cares only for the destruction of his foes. His obedience is unbounded and absolute, his sense of self nil. What I wouldn't give for a handful of the stuff.

Junker Proconsul Glave Truculla, from an intercepted dispatch

A few days after Admiral Cranmer's probing expedition into the Arkadia / Helios Binary System the clouds began to appear, diffuse banks of fog drifting down from the Nephrite Ocean on the morning breeze, entwining Iskandria in smoky fingers and sliding through the streets and low places of the city like rivers of dust. The sickness happened almost immediately, the chills and nausea, the strange auditory hallucinations and the uncontrollable outbursts of rage or deep depression, and the terrible shaking palsy that seized the limbs.

From scores of up-thrust spikes - great towers piercing the wave tops like organic chimneys emerging from the deep - the Koralon released their spores in thick, choking clouds. Hundreds of thousands were infected in that first day, and certainly tens of thousands more once the coraline began to replicate in contact with biotic matter. Many of those infected were placed into quarantined conditions, given some manner of treatment and watched keenly by scientists, and eventually destroyed when the irreversibility of their fate could no longer be denied. But many more remained outside of such controls.

So, while the neutral zone played host to an interfactional war the Tripartite forces scrambled to contain the coraline epidemic, and the streets of the Homeworld Sectors sank into panicked chaos as fear and disease shattered the tenuous grip of civil authority. The free city itself, depopulated and despoiled, still contained many pockets of habitation; hardy refugee communities and armed gangs of looters, the heavily defended enclaves of the triad underworld and unprotected communities trusting to luck to see them through, stubborn loners and madmen like ghosts in the ruins. All potential prey of the infectious coraline microbe. Even while teams of gladiators ambushed IDF reconnaissance patrols and cybernetic assassins stalked crime lords, and skirmish lines of androsynths advanced under the withering fire from teams of colonial marines and disciplined gangs of Triads closed to engage hulking pit beasts, a new threat had emerged: skulking in the ruins, fleeting shapes in quiet buildings half-glimpsed beyond the panes. Hideous caricatures of humanity filled with the nihilistic compulsion to destroy now stalked the streets of Iskandria in increasing numbers, and for every hybrid seen ten more remained hidden, with countless more gestating in secret places. Their masters, too, had been seen; emerging on the undefended shoreline of the neutral zone to take command of their new-made slaves and assimilate entire sectors of the city much as they had the city's populace. With the releasing of the spores, the infection of Iskandria had begun in earnest.

  • Koralon Landscape 1
  • Koralon Landscape 2
  • Koralon Landscape 3
  • Koralon Landscape 4
  • Koralon Landscape 5
  • Koralon Landscape 6