Another Version of the Frontier and it’s History

by Kelly St.Clair

Well, here it is:  my version of the Frontier and its history. It ends in FY 28 with the First Dramune War; I was going to carry it further, perhaps including the Blue Plague, but my inspiration sems to have dried up and the deadline for the CD-ROM is fast approaching.  Feel free to expand or change it as you wish for your own games. My assumptions:

Homeworlds/known space beyond the Frontier

“Tunnel drive”, a form of FTL drive that uses artificially-  generated wormholes.  Speed is the AD-canonical 1 LY/day.

It’s just “the Federation”.  UPF sounds too much like Trek’s UFP.

The vrusk homeworld is K’kit/Tt-Kar (“our world”/”sky-light”).

The dralasite homeworld is Draalas/Mbopo (“parent”/”warmth”).

The human “homeworld” is Avalon/Oberon.

The yazirian homeworld is Hentz/Araks (“ground”/”the One”).

THE VRUSK EXPANSION

The story of interstellar civilization in this region of the Galaxy begins a little over a thousand standard years ago (although, as we shall see, many humans claim a much earlier date).  In FY -916, a team of vrusk physicists made the theoretical breakthrough that led to the invention of the tunnel drive four years later.  The discovery could not have been more timely; the vrusk had nearly exhausted the resources of their home system.  Only rigid social and economic planning had kept their society functioning smoothly.

Although the vrusk had had space travel for almost two hundred years, only a handful of early missions – a few orbital flights and two landings on K’Kit’s near moon – had vrusk on board.  Most of the exploration and later exploitation of the system had been conducted by automated probes and mining robots. Automation was cheaper and more efficient, and risked no lives; also, the vrusk frame is not really built for space travel.  Once they had someplace to go, however, the vrusk immediately began building ships to take them to the stars.

The explosion outward, from FY -910 to -860, was one of the most dynamic periods in vrusk history.  Fortunes were made and lost.  The large corporations fought for charters for whole worlds, while hundreds of new companies were formed as entrepreneurs scrambled for their slice of the pie.  Trade boomed as the first colonies were founded and began to trade raw materials for finished goods and other necessities from the homeworld.

By -850, vrusk expansion had settled down to a more sedate pace.  With the resource crisis averted, the racial tendency to conservatism reasserted itself.  Focus shifted to developing existing colonies and mining sites.  Only the most compatible worlds were selected for new colonies.

In -832, responding to increasing pressure from the colonies for recognition, the vrusk government established the Commonwealth of Worlds.  All the major corporations, including the chartered colonies, were given seats on the Commonwealth Board of Directors.  Power was still concentrated on K’Kit, though this would change during the -700s as the colonies became stronger.

CONTACT:  THE DRALASITES

The vrusk had found many worlds with life, but it would be three centuries before they met another intelligent species.  In FY -588, a probe surveying a new system brought back images of a habitable world.  On the two largest continents, unmistakable even from orbit, the vrusk found a few alien cities and many villages.  The world was Draalas, and its inhabitants were the amorphous, philosophical beings known as dralasites.

At the time of their discovery, the dralasites lived a pastoral existence in small communities.  Rather than taking the path of industry and progress, they had pursued the goals of knowledge, contemplation, and harmony with their world.  Much of their technology was biological; they did not build houses, they grew them.  They had long since learned how to control their reproduction with medicines, and kept their numbers to what the land could support.  Their cities were centers of learning and scholarly debate.

Official contact was made a year later, and the two races became friends almost immediately.  The vrusk were impressed by the thoughtful, patient dralasites and how they had preserved the natural beauty of their world, while the dralasites were fascinated (and amused) by the new arrivals and their strange ideas.  Trade soon followed, mostly dralasite biotech for vrusk consumer goods.  The combination of dralasite philosophy and vrusk practicality was a boon for both cultures.

Ironically, it was found that the dralasites had come up with the theory behind the tunnel drive at least a hundred years before the vrusk, but, with no population pressure and all the resources they needed, they had never bothered to actually build one.  By -580, however, curious and adventurous dralasites were traveling on vrusk starships – first as passengers, then as crew.

Draalas was made a member of the Commonwealth in -576.  In -569, the first offworld colony (technically just a spiritual retreat of some 20 members) was founded.  Many vrusk colonies founded after this date included a few dralasites.

THE HUMAN SIGNAL

In the -320s, mysterious bursts of hyperwave interference were reported by several Commonwealth ships and worlds along the rimward edge of explored space.  It wasn’t until -321 that someone noticed the pattern to the reports and began to look for the origin.  The next signal was received in -319 and was recorded, along with its bearing.  Two more signals in -318 pinpointed the source:  an average yellow star, sixty light-years from Commonwealth space.

The text portion of the message was impossible to decode without a common language, but the rest was a picture of the aliens themselves:  tall bipeds with smooth skins, vaguely resembling the typical dralasite form, but with external ears and some sort of growth on their heads.  Their faces had two eyes, a large mouth, and a peculiar ridge in the middle.  They had two sexes (it was eventually decided that the smaller alien was not a sub-species) and called themselves “humans.”

After much discussion among the Board members, the decision was made to send a reply.  A few days later, the humans began broadcasting almost continuously, trying to teach the vrusk their language.  The vrusk responded in kind, but with a round-trip of six days, even for hyperwave, lessons went slowly.

One of the first questions the humans asked, after they’d established who they were talking to, was “Have you ever met anyone else like us?”  (The vrusk answer was a simple, sincere “No.”) The humans also made the surprising claim that they had once been part of a larger empire, and had been trying to contact other survivors.

Over the next few weeks, the story emerged.  Sometime between FY -2500 and -2000, for reasons that are still unclear, the Human Empire collapsed suddenly.  The world called Avalon was a colony on the frontier of human space, and was not yet self- sufficient, depending on shipments of fuel, equipment, and other supplies.  When contact was lost with the rest of the empire, some humans took the original colony ship and went to find help; they never returned.  The remaining colonists were forced to learn more primitive methods of doing things as the machines stopped working.

By -1800, the population of Avalon was stable and growing but most advanced technology and knowledge had been lost – even the location of the human homeworld, Earth.  Guided only by hand- copied legends of their ancestors, the humans began the long climb back to the stars.

Contact with the humans set off a debate among the Board members that lasted most of a year.  The humans had resumed limited space travel, as well as reinventing hyperwave, but did not currently have the secret of tunnel drive.  Should the Commonwealth give it to them?  Some vrusk saw the humans as a potential threat, others as new trading partners.  The dralasites just wanted to be friends with everyone.  The final decision could be summed up as: “They’ll probably figure it out again sooner or later; let’s get on their good side now.”   In any case, most of the Board doubted that humans would be a serious concern for centuries to come.

However, the Board had underestimated the humans.  Within a decade, they had sent ships to other stars; by -250, the “Regency of Avalon” had five colonies up and running and another ten in the process of being established.  In -242, a specially-outfitted starship made the voyage from Avalon to K’Kit, a distance of over one hundred and twenty light-years.  The vrusk were stunned by the reckless audacity of the humans (who hadn’t brought enough fuel to get home), but received the ambassadors politely and began drawing up trade agreements.

The humans have continued to search for other worlds that survived the fall of their Empire intact, but so far they have found only rusting cities filled with old bones.  The sole exception is Harmony/Pax, where the remaining humans had reverted to a hunter-gatherer culture.  The cause of the collapse is still unknown, although a disturbing recent rumor is that the Sathar were somehow involved. THE FRONTIER

Both the Commonwealth and the Regency continued to expand steadily through the -100s.  The Regency explored a large sphere of space, but lacked the population or resources to settle most of it. Instead, the humans concentrated on the corridor between Avalon and the Commonwealth.  Colonies and way-stations were set up along what became known as “the Long Road.”  All contact was still by hyperwave, except for the occasional trade convoy in either direction.

In FY -82, the official boundaries of the two civilizations met; however, it would take several more years for reality to reflect what was shown on the maps.  The Frontier (as both sides began referring to the region) was a mostly-unsettled area with several nebulae and navigational hazards.  Only Terledrom/ Fromeltar, Gran Quivera/Prenglar, and Triad/Cassidine had any significant population.  Many other systems were still uncharted. But it was enough to prompt a ceremony on Gran Quivera, sponsored by the newly formed (and ambitiously named) Pan-Galactic Corporation.

The goodwill between the Regency and the Commonwealth was strained almost immediately, when the first joint colony at Kdikit/Madderly’s Star became the site of an armed rebellion in FY -76.  The human colonists forced the vrusk off-world.  The Regency government made apologies, but many vrusk began to mutter about “containing the human menace.”  Tensions grew as humans laid claim to the Dixon’s Star and Truane’s Star systems, as well as increasing their presence elsewhere.  In FY -60, both sides agreed to suspend new colonization until they could resolve matters.

Piracy also became an increasing problem after -80.  Humans, vrusk and even a few dralasites took advantage of the lack of law and order in the Frontier and began preying on helpless ships. Some claimed to be privateers for one government or the other, which only made things worse.  Many Frontier worlds formed militias and began arming spaceships – for protection against pirates, of course. THE YAZIRIAN DILEMMA

In FY -5, with the situation in the Frontier becoming increasingly unstable, the unexpected happened:  a ship exploring the then-unnamed Athor system detected a large object coasting in from interstellar space.  As they watched, the object changed course towards one of the planets and began to slow down.  The human crew of the scout ship took the initiative, making contact with the unknown vessel and becoming the first to meet the race they dubbed Yazirians (a slight mispronunciation of yaz-ria, “forest people”, which stuck).

The yazirians received their strange hairless guests with a mixture of courtesy and distrust.  After traveling so far, they were not about to give up their new home.  While their great ship /Dream of Stars/ settled into orbit around Yast, they managed to communicate with the humans through pictures and star maps.  The scout crew also got a crash course in the etiquette and customs of this proud race.

The yazirians wanted to know what the humans were doing in their system.  At first, they scoffed at the reply:  their theories said nothing could travel faster than light.  As they explained to the humans, they had set out from Hentz/Araks over two hundred years ago.  They had spent most of the long journey in frozen sleep (one of many technologies the other races had abandoned after the invention of tunnel drive).

Honor demanded that the explorers be set free, to return to their clan and inform them that this world was now claimed by another.  When the scout disappeared into its artificial wormhole, even the most skeptical were convinced the strangers had told the truth.  A message was promptly beamed to Hentz, but even a laser pulse would take 8 years to arrive at the homeworld.

Meanwhile, the report of the scout crew was soon circulated through both governments.  In a last attempt at cooperation, a combined expedition was assembled at Gran Quivera in FY -3.  The ships jumped to Athor, barely pausing before continuing on to Araks.  Having beaten the news of their existence by nearly six years, the small goodwill fleet moved into high orbit around Hentz and waited to be hailed.

The challenge was not long in coming.  Using the language information brought back by the scout, a dialogue was quickly established.  The first few days of contact were like walking through a minefield; many times, only the remarkable vrusk talent for interpreting social situations saved the talks from breaking down over some subtle point of yazirian protocol.

The yazirians were something of an anomaly.  On the one hand, their impressive intellects and the intense rivalry between clans had led to them advancing from the Stone Age to the Space Age in only 10,000 years.  Massive arcology-cities rose from clearings in the ancient forests, and satellites circled the globe.  On the other hand, their society was still at the tribal or feudal level. They had an elaborate set of rituals, many of which had evolved to keep disputes from ending in blood.  Their central government was (and still is, at least on paper) the Gathering, an assembly of clan heads from all the territories that met every few years.  They were a passionate people, quick to laugh or take offense and very concerned with status and “face”.

Once the situation was explained to them, the Gathering welcomed the visitors and asked… no, DEMANDED to join the interstellar community.  There was just one problem:  which would they join, Commonwealth or Regency?  The argument went back and forth; the humans wanted another race on their side, as the vrusk had the dralasites, while the vrusk feared that an alliance with the yazirians would make the humans unstoppable.

After weeks of no progress, one of the oldest and most respected among the Gathering grew tired of the bickering between the star-people.  He proposed a “Gathering of Gatherings” to which all four races would belong as equals, like the yazirian clans.  The humans and vrusk raised objections; the elder answered them all patiently.

Soon the idea took hold in the imaginations of the weary diplomats.  They spoke with their governments by hyperwave, and negotiations began.  It would be two more years (during which time the envoy fleet remained at Hentz, learning more about the yazirians) before the final draft of the Articles of Federation was agreed upon and given to the people for an unprecedented referendum vote.

And so, delegates from all four races met at Gran Quivera the next year – FY 0 – to sign the Federation into law. THE EARLY YEARS

The Federation promised to begin a new era of cooperation among the four races.  The Galactic Standard Time system, adopted in FY 0, was an example:  the time units were human, while the 400-day calendar was vrusk.  The yazirians were given the tunnel drive (in exchange for practical cold sleep and other inventions), and recontacted the colonists on Yast/Athor as well as founding new colonies at Scree Fron and Gruna Garu.  Major worlds like Gran Quivera and Triad soon became melting pots as the races mixed freely.

But while tensions began to ease in the Frontier, they had a long way to go.  The majority had voted in favor of the Federation, but many had not.  Separationist groups like the Human League and the Guardians of Tradition were forming before the ink was dry on the Articles.  Even those who supported the Federation saw it as something of an experiment.

The first real test for the new Federation came in FY 5, when a small pirate fleet out of Outer Reach/Dramune, under the infamous Hatzck Naar, made a series of raids on the Cassidine and Prenglar systems.  Federation leaders responded by calling the first Common Muster of the Frontier militia.  For three years, the militia hunted Naar’s fleet with mixed results; while they were unable to pry the pirate leader out of his safe port, they did stop most of the raids and destroy a few pirate ships.

In FY 8, the militia finally got lucky and were able to run Naar himself to ground in the Timeon system, far from any help. Naar was captured and given a brief trial, then put in a spacesuit and shoved out an airlock in a decaying orbit around Lossend/ Timeon.  The pirate’s re-entry was quite spectacular. The Federation thanked the militia and dismissed the Muster.

Several new systems were charted during this period, including the Zebulon system (from Truane’s Star), and the various nebulae of the Frontier continued to be mapped.  Of the many exploration ships lost to unknown causes, it is now believed that some were captured by the Sathar.  But at the time, the people of the Federation were unaware of the danger lurking just outside their space. THE FIRST SATHAR WAR

It started without warning in FY 13, when a fleet of warships of unknown origin jumped into the Truane’s Star system and moved towards the lightly inhabited worlds of Pale and New Pale.  Ignoring hails, they destroyed all ships in orbit and began landing troops in large numbers.  The siege lasted three days; during that time, some ships managed to take off and avoid the fleet’s guns long enough to jump out.  Only a hundred or so of Pale’s half-million people escaped.  Thousands more were killed during the ground fighting, and the rest were enslaved by the conquering worms.  Many would be taken off-world and never seen again.

The refugees fled to Gran Quivera (via Dixon’s Star), where their story threatened to start a panic.  Acting quickly and decisively, the Federation broadcast a hyperwave call for a second Common Muster.

As ships trickled in over the next two weeks, the situation looked grim.  Reinforcements from outside the Frontier would take months to arrive.  In the meantime, the defenders of the Federation were a handful of frigates and three light cruisers, as well as several civilian ships with minimal armament.  They faced an enemy fleet of over twice their number.

To command this motley force, the Federation leaders chose a human who had distinguished himself in the first Muster: Captain Vincent Morgaine of the Royal Space Force.  He was given the mostly honorary rank of Admiral, and his cruiser /Paragon/ was made the flagship.

At this point, the Sathar were still an unknown; only a few of the refugees had seen them up close and lived to tell about it.  But Morgaine guessed that after establishing a beachhead on Pale, they might next strike at a more populated target.  “It’s what I would do,” he confessed with a smile.  Sending one of the frigates to the outpost at Laco/Dixon’s Star to warn him if the enemy started moving towards Prenglar, Morgaine assembled his fleet and jumped to Cassidine.

Morgaine’s gambit was successful.  A few days later, the enemy fleet jumped in and made flank speed for Triad.  Using Cassidine’s asteroid belt for cover, the Federation fleet was able to surprise the Sathar and inflict heavy losses while taking minimal casualties themselves.  With a third of their total force destroyed, the Sathar were forced to retreat.

It was during this battle that the Federation got its first hard information about Sathar tactics.  In particular, the frigate /Gawain/ was destroyed when it closed with a disabled Sathar destroyer, intending to board; the Sathar self-destructed, rather than allowing themselves to be captured.

Hoping that the Sathar would not dare to attack Triad again, Morgaine moved the fleet back to cover the Prenglar system. While he was in transit, Gran Quivera received a message from Laco:  the outpost was under orbital bombardment.  The distress call was cut off in mid-sentence, and nothing more was heard from Laco.

Five days later, the Sathar fleet appeared in the Prenglar system.  The fleet they had probably hoped was still defending Triad was waiting for them again.  Battle was joined near Prenglar V, an uninhabited world with glorious rings.  Casualties on both sides were heavy.  /Paragon/ was lost with all hands; already badly damaged, it closed to point-blank range with a Sathar cruiser and destroyer and opened fire.  All three ships were destroyed in the resulting chain reaction.

When it was all over, the remaining Sathar – three destroyers, one of which was barely able to maneuver – had fled. Two frigates and the light cruiser /Victory/ were left on the Federation side.  It was just enough.  The Sathar ground forces stranded on Pale committed mass suicide with a fission bomb.

Prenglar V was renamed Morgaine’s World in FY 14 to honor the fallen hero. AFTERMATH

The next decade saw massive military spending as the Federation prepared for another Sathar attack, which might come at any time.  More warships were built to replace the losses of the Battle of Morgaine’s World, including the first of the heavy cruisers, and armed space stations were constructed in orbit around several major worlds.

Pale and New Pale were resettled and their defenses were strengthened considerably.  A new outpost was built on Laco near the crater marking the original site.  No other new colonies would be founded for many years, as the Federation turned away from “reckless expansion” that left it vulnerable.  Vrusk culture and attitudes began to exert a greater influence.

In FY 15, a permanent Spacefleet was established.  Its primary purpose was to defend against a Sathar invasion, or any other external threats, but it would also assist the various militias in anti-piracy duties.  The Sun Tzu Academy on Avalon (founded in -146, during the Regency era) became the first Spacefleet academy.  The second was the Vrrit-za School of Excellence in War, on Kit’k-Kit/Z’rrt-Kar, which opened its doors in FY 22.

However, Spacefleet was not prepared to deal with the increasingly common incidents of Sathar espionage.  Members of other races had been caught spying for the worms – some willingly, some not.  (The formidable Sathar talent for hypnosis first came to light during an interrogation of a captured agent in FY 16.)  Having failed in their first strike against the Federation, the Sathar were now probing for weakness.

When the issue came before the Federation Council, they were considering the latest proposal for a unified law enforcement and investigation agency to work with local authorities.  It was decided to expand this organization’s duties to include counter- intelligence.  The result, Star Law, was founded in FY 18.  Star Law Marshals were granted far-reaching powers but little funding or equipment in those early years; many were formerly independent “adventurers.”  Soon, however, Star Law became an efficient and respected force. THE SCHISM

A shift in power on the yazirian homeworld in FY 20 threatened to plunge that race into civil war and created a division that lasts to this day.  Through a combination of accident and maneuvering, a majority of seats in the Gathering came to be held by members of the Family of One, a major pantheistic religion on Hentz.  The Family promptly instituted a theocracy on Hentz and began a series of reforms designed to bring about their vision for the future:  “One People – One Voice – One Family.”  Whatever the Family wanted, the Gathering voted for.

The church’s power grab was met by bitter opposition from the delegates of the colony worlds.  They claimed that the Family, which advocated an end to all clan divisions, did not represent the wishes of the people and ignored the traditional rights of the clans.  After weeks of protest and being voted down, they stood and walked out of the Gathering chamber. Federation efforts to negotiate some kind of settlement were politely but firmly rebuffed by both sides; this was a matter of honor, and no outsiders should interfere.

The champions of the two factions met in ritual war among the trees.  When it was over, the Family of One had won the right to rule Hentz.  The other worlds accepted the victory, but turned their backs on the homeworld in the ancient custom of “shunning.” Since then, all contact between Hentz and the colonies has been through intermediaries of other species, and their seats in the Gathering remain vacant.  No offworld yazirian will speak to or even acknowledge a member of the Family.  The Family, for their part, wait patiently for their brothers to return to the fold.

Most non-believers on Hentz emigrated off-world by FY 25, but some clans remain on their ancestral lands, living apart from the carefully ordered society of the Family.  With the self- exclusion of the offworld clans from the Gathering and the relegation of that body to a rubber-stamp authority for the church, it seems unlikely that the Family will ever be voted out of power. THE TWO DRAMUNES

By FY 28, fifteen years of wary peace (with the occasional capture of a spy or terrorist by Star Law) had allowed fears of the Sathar to ease and old conflicts to resurface.  Few such conflicts were more bitter than the rivalry between the mismatched worlds of the Dramune system, Inner Reach and Outer Reach.

Both worlds had been settled by people with the Frontier spirit:  Outer Reach by wildcat miners, Inner Reach by a group of pastoral utopians who wanted to set up their version of a perfect society.  At first, the colonies tolerated each other without much contact between the two.  Then, after a few decades, the mines started to play out and the criminal element (always present in the lawless mining towns) began to act more openly. Soon the crime bosses were in total control of the small world’s government.

By Federation law, Outer Reach was a sovereign world and was free to conduct its own affairs as it saw fit – even when it became a gathering place for every sort of scum and villainy in known space.  Meanwhile, the good citizens of Inner Reach became more and more resentful of their outlaw neighbors.  Things finally came to a head when pirates out of Outer Reach started attacking freighters in the Dramune system in late FY 27 and 28. The government of Inner Reach declared these attacks to be acts of war and, without waiting for a Federation response, sent its own militia vessels to attack criminal strongholds on and around Outer Reach.

After nearly a week of raids by both sides, Spacefleet arrived in sufficient force to restore order.  The Federation Council made it quite clear to both governments that it would not tolerate armed conflict between its member worlds, especially not with the still-lingering threat of another Sathar invasion.  The Dramune War (later amended to the First Dramune War) ended in a bitter, watchful cease-fire.

This incident, along with the yazirian schism, helped establish the role of the young Federation in internal conflicts: intervening if and only if there was a clear and present danger to the lives or property of its citizens, such as a shooting war. As President T’zk’k put it at the time, “sometimes the Federation must protect her people, not only from outside enemies, but from each other.”

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