The Siege of Ceres

The Siege of Ceres was a major feature of the Pan-Eurasian War and the one engagement to occur in the Sol System. It was a bloody affair which the neutral powers appeared content to let happen. The siege lasted until the end of the war; the Toronto Treaty officially recognised the Asian Coalition’s claim to the territory.

Human involvement on Ceres began before the advent of FTL travel; habitation and industrial units were developed under the rocky surface at the behest of the Chinese part of the Coalition. It had a population of over 1 million at the outbreak of the War; it’s industrial capacity made it a target for the European Union almost immediately.

It proved a difficult target. The Union Navy established a blockade around the world to begin with, assuming the population would quickly run out of food and water. Water was readily found as ice across the asteroid’s surface and the settlers had long since developed mature colonies of krill for food. These methods provided the populace with the very bare minimum of food but little else; life became increasingly difficult from the start of the blockade.

The Union experimented with orbital bombardment but the humans had buried themselves too deep. Even the docking ports were buried within canyons and other natural phenomena – Union dropships were easily repelled.

Still, the siege was relentless. The Union engaged in psychological warfare; they flooded local networks with terrifying images, they dropped earth-shaking bombs around the clock. The only relief came from brave Asian Coalition relief craft – tiny cargo ships bringing extra supplies to hidden docks and airlocks. The majority of these brave flights (nicknamed the Tokoyo Express after their WWII forefathers) were successful; the ships would occasionally be caught by the Union blockade. The best case scenario was being destroyed by their big guns. Surviving blockade runner crews were typically humiliated and tortured by the frustrated Union siege forces.

The Union denied accusations of torture and resisted United Nations calls for a ceasefire and humanitarian response. The post-War UN vote as to whether the siege amounted to a war crime was derailed – unsurprisingly – by European votes.

The colony developed into a hub of industry following the war; it builds heavy machinery and colony equipment for use throughout the new human sphere of influence. The hub of activity grinds to a halt once a lunar year, however, in a quiet memorial to the War, the siege and the thousands of people lost to starvation, preventable ill health and other causes.

New Bambara

mapping

The Far Planets Revolution was put down with brutal efficiency; any rebellious workers left alive were forced to finish their assigned construction projects and then were moved on. A large amount of these workers were from a slew of African countries – they had only pursued jobs at the edge of the Sol System to escape the crumbling infrastructure of their birth countries on Earth. By the end of the developments on the moons of Juipter and Saturn, the Second Age of humanity was in full swing and the Veritas leak had occured. A group of two hundred odd African hydroponics workers stole an old transport scow due to be scrapped and set course for the Pyramide System; it’s fourth planet in particular.

The group picked Pyramide IV due to its climate; humid and wet. They were desperate to live free somewhere, out from under the yoke of corporations or government. Although not the most comfortable climate, they knew they could use their hydroponic engineering knowledge in order to grow a significant range of food to support themselves.

The Earth-based seeds the colonists brought along struggled to grow in the alien soil; the group turned to native vegetables instead. Although there were a small, sad number of allergic reactions to the indigenous ‘raow’ tubers, they proved edible, nourishing and favourable to hydroponic farming. Thanks to the growth of raow – amongst other – plants, the settlers were able to sustain themselves by the end of the Second Age. The colony was established enough to give itself a name; New Bambara.

Once self-sustaining, the two hundred colonists brought families along and the population blossomed to a thousand or so. Independent merchants were quick to seize upon the new opportunities provided by the world – they arrived to sell basic building materials and prefabricated buildings for the new arrivals in exchange for the exotic foodstuffs from their hydroponic farms. These farms form the core of New Bambara; jungle has been cleared to accommodate both the farms and population housing but the continent is still heavily rain-forested and often victim to extreme monsoon seasons.

New Bambara eschewed hiring mercenaries for protection; many of its founding members had been abused and ill-treated by corporate armies during the Far Planet Revolution. Instead they formed their own militia to dissuade pirates and raiders. They are fortunately far enough away from Wun’Tux space to become a viable target – especially since the creation of EWO Outposts -though traders heading to and from New Bambara have suffered the occasional Hirudin Blackfin attack.

The Tordov System

Tordov

Tordov V is a ‘ghost world’; once a burgeoning European Union colony now desolate and empty.

Early in the conflict with the Wun’Tux, mankind scaled back colonisation efforts; governments prioritised the ability to protect a colony over any favourable resources or environmental conditions. Survey ships continued to search for new worlds and report their findings. One planet discovered at the start of the Third Age stood out as particularly tempting.

The fifth planet of the Tordov system was similar to Earth in size, had a oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere and welcoming climate. Topographical scans indicated layers of ore and ‘rare’ earth metals, too. It was, however, on the cusp of Wun’Tux territory; well within the reach of their patrols. The major powers declined the opportunity to colonise one by one until the European Union bucked the trend.

A large fleet of Pan-Eurasian War era vessels accompanied the colonisers. They transported the materials to build an orbital defence platform capable of targeting multiple targets at long range and were crewed by veterans of the drawn-out war with the Asian Coalition. They were led by decorated war hero Admiral Grigor Golovko – a man who held great influence and knew how to use it. They considered themselves prepared.

For six busy months no threat emerged. Construction on the surface took shape; the first city expanded and grew. The defence station was tested and found to fuction and the fleet ran readiness drills on a regular basis. Golovko had hoped a show of force would convince the Wun’Tux to leave the world alone. But it didn’t.

The Wun’Tux came eight months after the colony formation – scouting parties at first; easily driven away by the Union ships. But these forays were only testing the water.

BroodClan Xylos arrived with a hundred ships – an intimidating formation of capital ships and Twinfang escort. The orbital defence station opened fire the fleet at extreme range – each shot destroyed or critically damaged a Wun’Tux attacker. But the reptiles had arranged their weakest ships at the front of the vanguard; the station’s cannon was unable to attack anything of real value as the aggressors drew inexorably closer.

Golovko’s forces had cut their teeth against the smaller, quicker adversaries of the Asian Coalition. They were not used to fighting against slow, armoured foes such as the Wun’Tux. Their organised formations were easily targeted by the stronger Wun’Tux weaponry. Ships exchanged fire at the periphery of the battle; the Union counterparts coming off the worse.

The orbital defence platform came under fire next. Although heavily shielded and thickly armoured, it presented a static target. The larger Wun’Tux ships formed a flying ‘square’ and concentrated fire from their biggest guns. Salvo after salvo began to ship away at the station; Golovko and his best ships were diverted to tackle these ships but they were outnumbered and harassed constantly by Enforcers and Gunships.

The facility lasted an hour under sustained fire; it was able to inflict critical damage on several of the larger Wun’Tux ships but was soon surrounded and overpowered. The explosion was seen from the planet’s surface and sent colonists into panic; rioting and escape attempts made the Union’s ground defence near impossible. An attempt to rally around Golovko’s flagship was brought to a quick end by it’s destruction; Union forces were routed and staged a ragged retreat. Wun’Tux utilised their air superiority to besiege and bombard Union ground forces into submission. The assault lasted four days; defenders held out hope of reinforcement but the Union Navy were unable and unwilling to gather enough ships to try to break the siege.

Xylos harvested wave after wave of slaves; their main Broodmothers took the best specimens and traded away the rest to less respected BroodClans. The old and sick were left alone on the planet; the reptiles did not consider them worth even a quick death.

The ruins of the colony remain; decrepit, overgrown and home only to the rodent-like scavengers native to the world. The occasionally enterprising human ignores the ghost stories about the colony to head down and raid for scrap or old equipment but most stay away – through fear, respect or a mixture of both.

The loss at Tordov V – along with the disastrous conflict with the Oroso –  prompted a major overhaul in the European military thinking and equipment.

USS Kittyhawk

USS Kitty Hawk

Above: The USS Kittyhawk taking on supplies at an independent asteroid base

The USS Kittyhawk is a Taft-class Strike Carrier assigned to the USEF. She is famous amongst Navy personnel for escaping a carefully laid trap and avoiding a fate similar to that of USS Ranger.

Strike Carriers often operate alone behind enemy lines for weeks at a time, gathering and acting on intelligence. The ‘Hawk had been laying low the shadow of a gas giant when its patrol fighters detected movement. Several Wun’Tux transport ships with a light escort appeared to have been pulled out of FTL travel at the edge of the system’s gravity well – a not uncommon occurrence when jump courses are plotted without due care and attention. They presented such a tempting target that it gave the US commander pause for thought.

The loss of the USS Ranger had happened only three months previously and was still fresh on people’s minds and the Kittyhawk’s commander was an enthusiastic proponent of the new tactics and ideas trained at Highpoint. She drew back her fighter patrols and initiated a wide-band jamming, disrupting human and Wun’Tux communication for hundreds of kilometres around. Nothing happened immediately, but within fifteen minutes a much larger fleet of Wun’Tux Clanships arrived – in attack formation. The Kittyhawk had forced them to show themselves, however, and the shoe was on the other foot.

The Wun’Tux ships positioned themselves to leave; to all intents and purposes appearing to believe their trap had failed. This left a hole in their formation; one the Kittyhawk gladly took advantage of. She left the shadow of the gas giant at full burn, fighters deployed and armed for bear. Scimitars from the ‘Checkmates‘ sliced through Wun’Tux Twinfangs whilst the Kittyhawk engaged targets of opportunity; scoring hits against the vulnerable hind quarters of warships and transport alike. She sewed chaos amongst the would-be ambush force and had escaped the gravity well with her fighter wings before they could react.

The incident was a great embarrassment to the would-be ambushers, BroodClan Soulfront. They had worked hard to gain the respect of the larger and more established BroodClans with novel tactics and strategy; to have an ambush fail so specatularly dealth their growing reputation a significant blow.

The USEF were left with questions of their own; how had the Wun’Tux known where the ship would be and how to plan such an ambush. Superstitious crewmen told stories of reptilian mind control but the more reasonable explanation was perhaps more worrying; Wun’Tux collaborators within the military itself.

Mines

S.E.D.s (static explosive devices) can range from the most basic I.E.D. (improvised explosive device) all the way up to advanced and intelligent mines. The lion’s share of devices in use fall somewhere between these two extremes and have played a significant role in galactic warfare and politics.

Humans had all but abandoned use of mines before the Second Age of FTL travel. They almost forgot about the idea until a rude awakening when they ventured, accidentally, into Wun’Tux territory. Prospectors rushed to an asteroid belt and recorded a collection of strange, scrap-like objects littered throughout before a number of explosions engulfed them. The asteroid belt had been – unbeknownst to the humans – stripped clean by the reptilian race who then engaged in a style of ‘Scorched Earth’ never before seen by civilian miners.

Three more groups of prospectors were lost before it came to the attention of the American military who wrestled with a dilemma; the existence of the Wun’Tux was still a secret following the incident at Freya but they didn’t want to lose any more civilians to mine fields. The compromise involved blaming human pirates (although this didn’t stop the rumours amongst superstitious miners of secret military experiments or giant space monsters).

Mines

It wasn’t long before USEF scouts discovered one of these fields. They quickly found if they moved slowly enough and in small enough numbers the devices would not go off. Defusing them proved more difficult – an arduous task involving explosives specialists in vac-suits. The prospect of having to do so for every possible field of mines was logistically unviable – the military needed an easier, more efficient method.

The task was farmed out to the new military science (MilSci) staff at Highpoint. The most obvious way – controlled detonation – was untenable as the mines had a tendency to explode in a chain reaction and damage nearby resources. The Wun’Tux devices were unsophisticated and volatile; it was this lack of sophistication that would prove their undoing. American military scientists knew the reptiles must have had a way to activate the mines in the first place – apprentice scientists were given the repetitive task of bombarding the devices with all manner of radio, sensor and jamming waves and observing the effects. All of their attempts to jam using wide bands of frequencies failed, but after weeks of sleep-deprived experimenting the science teams found the ‘magic frequency’, a continuous, local broadcast of which would switch off the proximity sensors. These broadcast vanes were placed onto extended apertures – nicknamed ‘wings’ for their appearance – and tested on remotely piloted ships in live fields. They worked perfectly.

The technology proved cheap and effective; militaries built a number of specialist minesweepers but civilians were more likely to install the tech on any old capital-scale ship they could find. Thus the term ‘minesweeper’ became common.

De-constructing Wun’Tux mines gave the Highpoint Mil-Sci division food for thought, however, and they began to develop their own mines – more sophisticated and resistant to deactivation. These modern human mines are painted with sensor-absorbent coating and run on very little power, making them very difficult to detect. They are deployed at suspected jump and choke points as a deterrent to various interlopers.

Mines

Other species use S.E.D.s in various guises and mission profiles meaning minesweepers are a regular sight around the galaxy – both military ships and independent operators selling their services to the highest bidder.

Timeline

Before Faster-Than-Light Travel

Humans colonise the Solar System; the best territory goes to the US and the British.

The mysterious Agency is created by persons unknown. Its existence is kept a secret from all but a select few.

The Far Planet Revolution occurs, with colonies around Jupiter and Saturn rising up against corporate masters after the ‘far planets’ are neglected in favour of research into Faster-Than-Light travel. The revolution is cruelly and violently put down. Several ‘corporate security’ firms are formed just for this purpose.

The Gnobo League launch a lightning offensive against the Illayko but they are defeated at The Battle of Ompolor VII.

The first Trinax people land on the Hirudin home planet and are ensnared under their mind control.

The First Age of Human Expansion

Various human factions of Sol discover Faster-Than-Light travel and begin to travel and expand beyond the Solar System

Human explorers meet the Oroso, Vonn and Trinax and establish cautiously cordial diplomatic relations.

The Wun’Tux wage war on and almost wipe out the Illayko.

The Second Age

Project Atlas is comissioned

After various unsubstantiated stories from colonists, the American colony at Freya goes ‘dark’. The US military find it is the work of the Wun’Tux and shroud the entire incident in a press blackout to prevent panic.

The colonies closest to Sol become developed and populated enough to become known at the Core. So-called ‘megacorporations’ expand their reach to these new worlds.

Following heightening tensions, the Pan-Eurasian War begins, encompassing human colonies in the Core and further afield.

The humans encounter Gnobo and the remnant of the IIlayko, forming an uneasy peace with each species.

In response to the massacre at Freya, human governments shift their colonisation priorities from rapid expansion to caution; only colonies considered defensible are short-listed.

The USEF base at Highpoint is established.

The Project Atlas base is destroyed; research carries on elsewhere.

The Third Age

The Toronto Treaty is signed, marking the end of the Pan-Eurasian War

Professor Yacof takes over Project Atlas.

The Union-Oroso Conflict breaks out. A month later, following the Battle of New Riga, both sides sign an armistice.

Yacof defects to parts unknown with his Project Atlas research and recruits

Human strike back against the Wun’Tux, including the destruction of the Dronta slave market.

The Fourth Age

The ‘Fall’ of The Agency; several high profile assets flee to the the safety of the Rim

First deployment of mature American Atlas ‘super soldiers’

Kvo Solust

ks

Kvo Solust is one of the oldest of the Oroso bonded groups. The word ‘Kvo’ translates somewhere between ‘family’ and ‘clan’, amalgamating blood ties and and history. Litters of young Oroso are raised in extremely close knit groups, both physically and emotionally. It is as they mature that they are introduced to the wider family and this concept of their wider Kvo. And are taught the history and values of their bloodline.

Kvo Solust originated from Serrovir, the icy Oroso homeworld. The region that gave birth to Solust was cold even by Oroso standards. Enduring and prevailing against these harsh conditions became ingrained into the pysche of the Kvo; surviving challenges and growing stronger evolved into their modus operandi.

Kvo Solust is known for this serious and pragmatic philosophy. In politics, they are not quick to act and consider each and every move carefully. In art and expression, they portray the world as stark and realistic. Their elders are drawn and sculpted in a ‘warts and all’ style, flaws unhidden. Their history and reputation grants one of the most influential seats in the Military Conclave, making decisions on resources, development and deployment. Soldiers of Kvo Solust repelled several attacks from the European Union at the start of their brief conflict, although the defensively minded Kvo did not participate in their counter-offensive.

Threat Analysis

TheA

Agency Threat Analysis: Species Profiles

The following information is Omega-Level Classified. If you have access to this briefing and are not Omega Level, please shut down this console and inform a supervisor immediately. Non-compliance will not be tolerated.

TheA

Human Factions

Intra-Agency cooperation is non-negotiable. Any reports or non-cooperation or conflict will be severely punished.

The Americans continue in their attempts to ape our gifts with their Project Atlas. Although direct conflict would be bad for business, any Atlas soldiers found interfering with missions or contracts should be destroyed on sight. Aside from these genetic aberrations, the US retains the largest and most advanced military of the Earth factions. Proceed with caution on any contracts against or conflicting with them.

The British are similarly advanced in military technology and tactics. They utilise the Agency very rarely. Still, try not to antagonise and if you have to engage, destroy everything and leave no trace.

The Asian Coalition and European Union have no special forces as effective as Agency assets and so utilise our resources frequently. They should be treated carefully. When a contract is based in one of their territories, collateral damage should be kept to a reasonable minimum. This is strictly a business decision: they are of no credible military threat to Agency assets currently.

Megacorporations: Frequent users of Agency assets. Frequent targets as well. Intra-Corporation conflict is highly profitable, though Agency assets are only contracted for the most important tasks. Megacorporations will be otherwise protected by corporate security of negligible threat and mercenary forces of varying potency.

TheA

Non-Humans

The Oroso are well organised and difficult to infiltrate. Missions targeted at them or their territory should be processed through a Beta-Level Handler and approved by personnel at least two levels higher. Their military is competent and well equipped. Equal threat to the American equivalent. Individually, Oroso are physically similar to humans and should provide no extra threat.

The Wun’Tux are ferocious and resilient in battle. Their ships can usually be outmanoeuvred and destroyed, if necessary, with fast moving warheads. Individually their warrior caste is faster than a human soldier and can take serious damage before falling. Engage with caution. Conflict can often be avoided by the gift of humanoid slaves of various species. This can be sanctioned by Delta-Level Handlers on a case-by-base basis.

The Vonn should not be engaged. No contracts are accepted against them or verging into their territory. They are extremely advanced in defensive technologies and have ways of neutralising the powers of various assets. They are ideologically opposed to the Agency and will try to stop contracts wherever they come into contact with one.

The Hirudin are to be treated with extreme caution. They are a secretive species, but we know the older examples are high-level telepaths and their abilities are not yet fully understood. Militarily, their Trinax slaves are of no threat whatsoever. A Hirudin in one of their armoured shells, however, is of considerable threat.

Like the Oroso, the Amani are extremely distrustful of outsiders and therefore very difficult to infiltrate. Militarily the Amani have significant firepower concentrated within travelling fleets (“caravans”). Amani often contest ore-rich worlds with human megacorporations, who have employed Agency assets before to assassinate Amani elders. Long-range targeting is recommended. Assets have been lost to angry retribution from Amani families.

The Hirudin

The Hirudin are an amorphous, aquatic race residing past Oroso and Wun’Tux space in the galactic west. They are most known for their ability to access and control the minds of certain sentient beings, a quality which leads them to be treated with fear and suspicion. Hirudin are unable to survive out of water, so travel off-world in a variety of mobile containment units.

hiru

Above: Artist’s impression of a Hirudin containment unit

The Hirudin are regarded as symbiotic with the Trinax race, but this is something of a misnomer. Although the Hirudin rely on the Trinax to build and maintain their machines, the Trinax survive happily without their aquatic masters.

Thousands of years before the Fourth Age, the genetic great grandfathers of the Hirudin were akin to jellyfish, drifting around the giant seas of their homeworld. These ancestors evolved a defence mechanism: a telekinetic blast, able to inspire a primordial fear within animals threatening them. This freak of evolution transformed them from prey to survivor and over hundreds of years they rose to the top of the food chain. With the further evolution of intelligence, they found they could do more with this ability: inspire not just fear but obedience too.

Although the modern-day Hirudin could control minds, they were still isolated on their planet. Until one fateful day when the Trinax arrived. Relatively peaceful and unambitious traders, the Trinax race were hardly know for their quick wit and towering intellects. But as they explored one of the small archipelagos on the Hirudin homeworld, the landing team felt something tugging at their minds. Nagging. On that one day their futures were sealed.

The Hirudin mined the trading crew’s memories and databanks for information. Ordered them to leave and bring back more Trinax, more ships and technology. Over the next year, the Hirudin expanded their horizons and gathered more and more Trinax in their thrall. They built the first and most rudimentary of their containment units and travelled off world. As they explored the wider universe the Hirudin found their abilities were able to effect very few sentient species. The Trinax finding them first had been just dumb luck.

The Hirudin approached the galaxy with the intelligence and sense of superiority they had conquered their own world with. However, harsh lessons were to be learned quickly. Their Trinax client race was not built for war or conflict. Slow in thought and uncourageous, they would avoid or flee from fighting unless being directly controlled by a Hirudin individual. The masters, then, had to use their guile combined with the Trinax canny ability to trade to establish relationships, develop worlds and ideas.

Senior Hirudin travel the galaxy inside car-sized, multi-limbed robots they call their ‘containment units’. Although ostensibly peaceful, the units carry a variety of hidden weapons and defences. They also have the ability to ‘plug in’ to ships and vehicles. These Hirudin masters possess the mental alacrity to coordinate and command the majority of systems on-board even large starships and become a living bridge, delegating the menial tasks to their Trinax thralls.

In a military sense, the Hirudin have constructed ships of their own to enforce their will but also utilise Gnobo Mercenary Brigades when an occasion calls for more widespread firepower. This has led to conflict between Gnobo and human forces even though the two races are officially at peace.

Atlas Fallout

The success of Project Atlas came at great cost. Not only the loss of Zimmerman and his entire team, killed by an Agency reprisal, but the many waves of willing and not so willing test subjects before the more modest success of the sixth wave. The Atlas Project began by taking grizzled special forces veterans as their subjects. This first wave of testing was a disaster, the soldiers ended up with physical mutations and malformations which quickly killed them. Or prompted merciful medical staff to do so.

The second and third waves took promising cadets, but these faired no better. These batches of subjects were effected by a mix of physical defects as well as psychological. This ranged from unexplained comas to deadly seizures. A small number of grown men were left with the IQ of infants and needing round-the-clock care. And still, the Project pushed on.

By the forth wave the Project could no longer countenance the risk of wasting the lives of talented soldiers or cadets. So, instead, the Atlas Team toured the political prison block on Titan. This building housed detainees from inside or outside the US deemed too dangerous to have running free, from Titan secessionists to organised criminals from the Black Moon Union.

Individuals with either combat or intrusion skills were offered their freedom in exchange for taking part in the Project. Given the miniscule chance of escape or release from Titan (along with the high rate of prisoner-on-prisoner violence) over half accepted. The new Director – Professor Yacof – was defined by his focus. Previous Directors had tried to elicit myriad changes in a subject at once. Yacof made his teams work slowly and methodically, concentrating their efforts on one genetic bundle at a time. They could spend one month all working on the same subject, testing, checking and double-checking.

The Project board were used to frequent reports and dramatic developments. Yacof’s approach delivered little of either, which confused and frustrated the politicians. A handful of them turned up unannounced, only to be barred access by the unflappable Director Yacof. By the time they had returned to Earth, Professor Yacof had fled the base, along with half of his test subjects and all of his data. The US Navy scoured Sol for any sign of the escapees, but found none. The remaining test subjects showed no obvious enhancements or defects and were shipped – under protest – back to prison. This phase of the Project was over.

Rumours abound about Yacof and his freed experiments. They are said to be capable of superhuman feats. One an expert marksman at unfathomable distance, another capable of superhuman tricks of the mind and manipulation. Of Yacof himself, very little is heard. The astronomical bounty on his head remains.