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.

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The Gurdergen

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The Gurdergen are a race of fish-like humanoids who reside on a handful of planets scattered throughout the galactic ‘West’. They are known predominantly as traders, merchants and marketeers with a general aversion to violence and war. Their savvy control of several important markets and resources grants them importance despite their lack of military might.

The Gurdergen did not achieve trade supremacy through diplomacy and niceties, however. They were dealt a reasonably lucky hand to begin with; their homeplanet is rich in the so-called ‘rare earth’ elements required for advanced computing and technology. Even the most conniving of the human megacorporations had no choice but to do business with them in order to secure a supply. The Gurdergen displayed a natural talent for negotiation (be it for official funding or bribes, bungs and otherwise) and milked these deals for all they were worth.

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These funds were used to finance new enterprise; mining, exploration, infrastructure – anything which would lead to more profit and their continuing existence as necessary trade arbiters. The strategy was led by a powerful group of the richest Gurdergen, known only as The Five.

Although not themselves inclined towards violence, the deep pockets of Gurdergen merchants means they can afford to buy muscle. Their usual armed assistance comes from Gnobo mercenary brigades, although several human ‘corporate security’ companies have successfully horned in on this business. These hired guns provide security around the Gurdergen homeworlds as well as for the convoys and merchant traffic through the galaxy at large. These merchant vessels remain tempting targets for pirates and malcontents regardless. Such criminals are punished harshly by Gurdergen if caught; The Five have a particularly nasty reputation for revenge.

Mercenaries are also used (less successfully) to protect from Wun’Tux, who occasionally probe as far ‘West’ as to reach Gurdergen territory. Gurdaergen are viewed as very poor slaves; they have low tolerances to heat and hard labour. This doesn’t stop their capture by the Wun’Tux, however, and they view the reptilian invaders with a suitable amount of fear.

To refer to the Gurdergen as corrupt is an exaggeration featuring a grain of truth. Transparency in their business affairs is rare, bribes are commonplace and their system of trade and commerce certainly relies on an ‘old boys’ network.

From the outside looking in they operate a very complex and tangled string of operations. This secrecy enables the race to mix legitimate business with more illicit trade; members of The Five are known to run cargo for the mysterious Hirudin; particularly cargo too important to trust to the often naive Trinax thralls. Although the major human players consider this shadowy alliance with the Hirudin a betrayal, they have neither the will nor the ability to ban trade with the Gurdergen cartels.
They maintain well-appointed embassies and keep up diplomatic relations with most modern civilisations, excluding the remote Illayko government and the Wun’Tux and, in spite of their reputation as double-dealers, are known as hospitable hosts who rarely discriminate against other races (providing they have adequate funds, of course.)

The Union-Oroso Conflict

The Union-Oroso Conflict (sometimes mistakenly referred to as the Human-Oroso War) occurred at the height of the Third Age. European colonists had been held back in their expansion due to the strains of the Pan-Eurasian War and had subsequently missed out on prime ‘local’ colony worlds to their American and British rivals. They had to explore further afield to find suitable worlds and this brought them into conflict with the usually peaceful Oroso Conclave. Union colonists were well-armed, if foolhardy, and were quick to skirmish with local Oroso populations and their protectors. Outmatched by the aliens, the gun-toting civilians were quick to call on their military to help.

The Union military was being rebuilt following the damaging, inconclusive war with the Asian Coalition and eager to test new recruits, tactics and toys. However the new additions were in the minority and it was with predominantly old equipment that they squared up to the Oroso.

European Admirals highlighted several Oroso military and civilian targets and assigned task forces to siege and capture them. The Pan-Eurasian War, however, led to a specific set of heavy handed tactics that would prove ill-suited against a patient, defensively-minded foe like the Oroso. The EUN found themselves evenly matched or overpowered; most of them retreated with severe damage or losses. In particular, their ageing fightercraft were outmatched by the Oroso T’frr and – with no fighter cover – the Union heavy ships were particularly vulnerable.

The Oroso retaliated with punitive strikes against these retreating forces, managing to rout a force of heavy destroyers at the Battle of New Dresden. The Union admiralty demanded reinforcement from the Core and it was only the arrival of the brand-new Caracals of Grendel Squadron which turned the tide at the decisive Battle of New Riga. Finally given a bloody nose, the Oroso forces withdrew and the conflict was soon ended with an armistice.

The Gnobo

The Gnobo are a race of space-faring humanoids active throughout the known galaxy. They evolved from a rugged, territorial animal called the Shatterback – a hardy, horned beast perfectly adapted to their arid, mountainous homeworld.

Even as they expanded out into the galaxy, this rugged and territorial streak continued unabated. The Gnobo are seen as uncultured, brash and quick to anger by other space-faring races, but – of course – things are never so clear cut.

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Gnobo are roughly physically analogous to humans. However, the high gravity of their home world means pound-for-pound they are stronger; this makes them formidable melee fighters. Gnobo arguments are often settled by tests of strength; meaning a Gnobo bar can be a hazardous place to relax. Their society is an unusual matriarchy. Male Gnobo are taken at birth and kept away from The outside world. These collectives of males undergo a strict regime designed to remove independent thought and replace it with a sense of slave-like duty to the females. Once males reach the age of ten they are allowed out into society for use for a number of prosaic tasks; refuse collection, crop harvesting and civic construction to name but a few. Female Gnobo, meanwhile, are more free to choose their fate but are frequently channelled down certain routes due to family arrangements, obligations or debts.

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Above: The Gnobo League Insignia

The Gnobo League maintains a small standing army and navy to defend their borders. This armed force is dwarfed in size by the various mercenary brigades originating from the annals of Gnobo history. These brigades are obliged to defend the Gnobo League from outside aggression, but in times of peace are free to pursue whichever contracts they please. This has led to participation in several conflicts and skirmishes throughout the galaxy; only adding to the already fierce reputation of Gnobo warriors.

The Gnobo people take part in business with all of the enthusiasm brought to battle by their warriors; traders and brokers are known for their hard-bargaining and hunger for profit. Several high profile smugglers, fences and fixers throughout the Rim are Gnobo; a fact that contributes to the glut of stereotypes and preconceived perceptions levelled at them by the rest of the galaxy. With regards to galactic politics, the League is officially neutral.

Unofficially it is more complicated than that. The fact that enough resources can buy highly effective Gnobo mercenaries means brigades (who are endorsed and sometimes part-funded by the League) end up fighting for the highest bidder. This two-faced behaviour makes for awkward diplomacy between the Gnobo and any civilisation under attack from their hired guns. The Hirudin, frustrated by their cowardly Trinax thralls, are known to use Gnobo space and ground assets in times of conflict.

The most famous feat of Gnobo coordination led to their war against the Illayko. A lightning offensive almost took them all the way to victory, but their advance was checked at The Battle of Ompolor VII. With their war effort stalled, the various brigades descended into arguments and acrimony. This period of chaos allowed the Illayko Defence Force to counter-attack and re-take lost ground. A peace deal was signed soon after, to the resentment of Gnobo and Illayko alike.

The one race who they never work for are the Wun’Tux. Gnobo are targeted just as frequently as any other race by the Wun’Tux; their strength and hardiness makes them valued slaves.The Gnobo mercenary brigades take turns at guarding their more vulnerable border worlds from Wun’Tux raids.

Human Factions

Even with the advent of solar and then extrasolar travel, old divisions and rivalries between members of the human race continue, pitting group against group in an often bitterly fought contest.

United States: The dominant military force of the Fourth Age, the US usually has first choice on the best colonies and resources spaces. Culturally the Americans still pursue the qualities of liberty and justice, although this pursuit is particularly difficult in a wide and complex universe.

Great Britain: Often referred to as the Second Empire or the Commonwealth, the British control territory second in quality only to the Americans. Their military is likewise a respectable second best and protect the colonies near and far. Britain is nominally still ruled by the Royal Family, but a expanded Parliament makes all major decisions.

The European Union: An amalgamation of the ‘old’ Europe and former Soviet States, the Union came late to the galaxy and was bogged down en-route the complexities of the Far Planet Revolution and Pan Eurasian War. Following the latter, the Union began a programme of modernisation, leaving their military a mix of out-dated and brand-new. Culturally the Union is a melting pot of traditions, ideals and motivations; their politicians are often slow to make decisions for good or ill.

The Asian Coalition: Another loose alliance of old Earth states, the Coalition is the most populous of the human factions. Politically disparate, their leaders rarely agree on unilateral action outside of significant events like the Pan Eurasian War or their wide reaching colonisation efforts. Their modern military is remarkably varied with everything from the modern Japanese warships to old, reconditioned British Dreadnoughts. The Coalition is another mix of cultures and ideas that leads to an odd and unpredictable variety in daily life.

Megacorporations: The biggest of the “mega” corporate organisations have the reach, budget and standing to rival some countries. Several vie for control of the current and future economy, waging a largely unseen, bitter conflict.

The Agency: Barely known, whispered of in the shadows of these gargantuan groups, is the Agency. It employs individuals referred to as “genetically different” and markets their unique (often fantastical) powers as the highest calibre of mercenary. The other human factions utilise the Agency for tasks, jobs and missions deemed too risky or difficult for anyone else. The costs for such services are prohibitive.

Slavery

Though the many colonists who work long hours for little or no monetary gain might argue otherwise, slavery remains illegal in human space. This fact is not reinforced by the Far Planet Revolution, an armed backlash against perceived slave-like working conditions. Nevertheless, slavery remains punishable under the laws of the various human factions and a number of the advanced alien races. Several, however, take less of a hard line.

The most famous of these slavers are the Wun’Tux, who regularly snatch up civilians from the evolved races to work in their durillium mines, man their starships and serve their matriarchs. The number of slaves kept by a BroodClan is a sign of their prosperity and superiority.

The Illayko are found as slaves following the fall of Ehoi to the Wun’Tux. A subset of surviving Illayko are so bitter and twisted for the loss of their homeworld that they have become slavers themselves.

The aquatic Hirudin utilise what is rumoured to be mind control to keep a large number of Trinax in their service against their will.

The Oroso are highly valued in slave markets for their resilience in the face of physical labour and cold temperatures. Gnobo are equally hardy and fetch a high price. Conversely, humans are traded in quantity over quality to compensate for for a perceived fragility towards hard labour and difficult environments. Vonn slaves are unheard of.

The Wun’Tux border world of Dronta VIII functioned as the galaxy’s main slave market through the Second Age. One of the first operations out of the USEF base at Ursa Minor was a targeted strike against the world, resulting in complete Wun’Tux defeat and the emancipation of hundreds of slaves. Wary of a repeat performance, paranoid slave marketeers now run auctions in secret, frequently changing the location and guests.

Wun’Tux-Human Relations

The human race encountered a number of races early in their expansion into the galaxy. With the exception of the disastrous Union skirmishes with the Oroso, the various human factions were cautious and risk averse. By the middle of the Second Age, the human race had established contact and almost cordial relations with several races.

When the suply ship ISS Bellacroix vanished on the way to Freya VII, the American authorities didn’t consider alien attack a likely probability. It was only when the fledgling colony itself went dark that the plot thickened.

Freya VII was situated at the edge of known space for the humans in an area thought bereft of foreign governments. The distance meant a USEF Task Force took a number of days to arrive. The landing parties found obvious signs of a battle but no humans alive or dead. At first, anyway.

A few hours after their arrival, a number of children were spotted descending from the nearby hills. Malnourished and suffering the symptoms of exposure, the youngsters told tales of being woken up in the middle of the night. Of panic and chaos. And of hulking reptilian creatures marauding through their homes, sowing destruction with tooth and claw. The investigators took the word of scared children with more than a pinch of salt until they decoded the colony’s black box device. Sensors had recorded a ship entering planetary orbit and dispatching shuttles. And then chaos. Scraps of security camera footage of the hulking, scaled humanoids killing indiscriminately and dragging survivors back to their shuttles.

Aware of the effect the incident could have on the colonisation effort, the US investigators were swore to secrecy. Meanwhile, the diplomatic core did not have to ask too many questions of other races to put a name to this enemy. The Wun’Tux.

The Oroso were grim in their response: the human colonists were Wun’Tux slaves. Or dead.

IMG_4479Above: Human slaves of the Wun’Tux.

The incident at Freya VII fundamentally changed human colonisation doctrine. Prospective colony worlds were chosen for defensibility first, desirability second. For the Americans it led to the establishment of their secret forward operating base at Ursa Minor and the expansion of the USEF Navy.

The Freya VII colonists were never rescued in any real sense. When the British Navy liberated the Wun’Tux Durillium mine at Callax III three years later, two of the emancipated slaves said they had been snatched from the colony. Aside from the children, these are the only two survivors on record. And although these were far from the last humans to go missing at the hands of the rapacious slavers, it was by far the biggest loss of civilian life to alien antagonists.

Races of the Galaxy

The Humans – A relatively young race hailing from the Sol System. Adaptable and resilient, but splintered into many factions.

The Oroso – One of the older races; slow and careful, they are widely regarded as neutral in galactic politics (apart from their animosity towards the rapacious Wun’Tux)

The Wun’Tux – Galactic bogeymen. The Wun’Tux are a race of reptilian creatures with a penchant for taking slaves and things which aren’t theirs.

The Vonn – The eldest of the known races. Few in number but powerful in influence. The Vonn have a mission to protect the undeveloped races of the galaxy but have an odd way of doing so.

The Hirudin – Aquatic lifeforms with the ability to control the minds of some sentient beings. Rarely seen in the wider world, their will is executed frequently by their client race, The Trinax.

The Trinax – A young and shy race, the Trinax had the misfortune to meet the Hirudin and be vulnerable to their mind control abilities. Most serve as traders and logistical support for their aquatic masters, though a small subset exist free of this control.

The Amani – A nomadic race of miners, the Amani travel the galaxy in large convoys of ships. Fiercely protective of their own and land they perceive to belong to them, they often come into conflict with other races who they consider invaders of their ancestral territory.

The Gnobo – An aggressive race of humanoids known throughout the galaxy as mercenaries and hired muscle, the Gnobo are profit-driven and highly ambitious.

The Illayko – The Illayko were the first victims of the Wun’Tux, forced to flee their homeworld to a barely explored part of the galaxy. Known for their anger and isolation, their new territory is rarely visited by outsiders.

A rough map can be found here.

The Vonn

Widely regarded as the benevolent philosopher race, Vonn are small in number but large in influence. Evolved from tree-climbing rodents, the four-armed Vonn have a strong pack mentality and aversion to violence. They are technologically unsurpassed – particularly in shields and deflectors, making their ships and vehicles very difficult to damage.

Although the majority of Vonn citizens stay around their homeworlds, concentrating on learning, philosophy and development, the Vonn Scholars travel throughout the galaxy. Working in small, close-knit teams, the Scholars have one goal: to protect the weak and immature galactic races and citizens from those who would exploit or destroy them. They use their wide variety of shields and defensive technologies to do so, often coming into conflict with anatonigsts common (like the Wun’Tux) and rare (e.g. groups of humans, like the mysterious Agency)

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The Wun’Tux

The reptilian Wun’Tux hale from a string of arid planets on in the Galactic ‘North’. They are a notorious race of slavers with a lust for power via conquest – be in brutal civil wars or the galaxy at large.

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They discovered Faster-Than-Light travel twenty years before humankind. This sparked intense (and often deadly) competition between the different BroodClans for new worlds, resources and respect. This competition led to unprecedented leaps in technology and territory and made the Wun’Tux a major galactic player.

Females of the species producing large litters of young who are devoted to their mother – this has historically placed them in a position of power and led to the development of a matriarchy. The most successful mothers hold power over large group of females who commit their children to this female at the top of the tree (a co-scalled ‘Brood Mothers’). Some of these BroodClans have existed for centuries and are laden with history and prestige. Some are new, modern and hungry for success.

The newest BroodClans are relegated to territory on the outskirts of Wun’Tux space, closest to other races. These Wun’Tux fight with their human, Oroso and Gnobo neighbours in a near constant in a pursuit for slaves, resources and glory. This expansionist fighting only relents when the Wun’Tux turn their ire on each other. Modern Wun’Tux society is a highly fluid meritocracy, each tribe vying for new colonies and victories. The weak are forgotten, the risk takers rewarded.

The Wun’Tux view themselves as superior to every other species – they have the rare accolade of being the only species to be universally disliked and without allies. They exercise this belief by waging war on several fronts, taking prisoners and survivors as slaves to the Wun’Tux cause. Their most notable victory came with the fall of Ehoi and the near destruction of the Illayko people.

Militarily the Wun’Tux are formidable combatants, favouring high-calibre, explosive weaponry and overwhelming numbers. Individual warriors use their teeth and claws along with their weapons, inspiring fear wherever they go. It is only the fact that their society is split into often warring BroodClans which stop them from inflicting even more damage on the galaxy at large. Certain human military groups clash frequently with the Wun’Tux and have notched up a notable victory or two of their own.

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