Firestorm Armada: Bilder und Fluff
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The A’quan Sebrutan (an A’quan word meaning something akin to a union of destinies) are the oldest known spacefaring species. Their kind have been sailing the void of space since long before even the venerable Veydreth Authority had mastered basic tools and fire, let alone launched themselves into the stars. Of course, Veydreth arrogance means they still consider themselves as the first power in the galaxy because the A’quan defy classification and convention in almost every way.
A’quan are astonishingly long-lived, with some ancients possibly dating back a hundred millennia or more. The A’quan have engineered their evolution over hundreds of millions of years to the point now where their true nature is beyond the comprehension of the other lifeforms they encounter. A’quan ships are nothing less than colossal cybernetic organisms, products of millennia of expertise in biomechanical engineering. At the heart of each craft is a single A’quan who has grown and engineered their bio-mechanical exterior over the years along a specific shape and structure according to its Holotype. In this way, all Vo’Narr A’quan are identical throughout their maturation to each other, though each A’quan will have its own distinct personality and quirks. In contrast, while Ce’Sera have the same abilities as the Vo’Narr they appear dramatically different in their exterior. Only as Polliwogs is it impossible to ascertain an A’quan Holotype, though of course, each individual can recognise another instantly, despite those of the same Holotype having identical exteriors.
The A’quan consume stellar material, a feat thought impossible until the first creatures of the Vo’Narr Holotype were witnessed doing so. Skimming close to the surface of the star, enduring impossibly high temperatures and radiation, the A’quan draw in the stellar matter and store it in vast internal chambers. This sustains them for the long journey between feeding-grounds as only certain stars seem to sate their appetites. Different Holotypes seem to prefer different stars, with A’quan from the Ce’Sera dining predominantly on bright, hot, blue stars. It is because of this feeding that A’quan presence in a star system is a scourge on the galaxy. Though the stars are not permanently damaged by the A’quan activities, they cause temporary instability in the photosphere generating massive solar flares that cause chaos to communications and shipping and devastate nearby inhabited worlds.
A’quan are capable of defending themselves aggressively when threatened and often seem to attack without provocation. What causes these frequent engagements is unknown. Certainly to attack an A’quan is to court death for they have developed incredible weaponry to deal with their enemies. A’quan weaponry consists of powerful electro-chemical lasers, manipulated by prismatic ‘irises’ to fire in any direction. The A’quan are uniquely able to manipulate gravity on a localised area. This seems directly tied to their ability to achieve faster-than-light travel as they create a negative mass in the vacuum of space around them. This gravity distortion can crush enemy vessels or tear them apart as they strike gravity sheers projected from the A’quan. Another common weapon employed is to spew stellar matter from their maw, gouts of searing energy vapourising enemies and irradiating the surrounding space.
To the A’quan notions of territory, maps, empires and commerce are utterly irrelevant. Though they understand that the concepts have some importance to the various empires in the galaxy, the principle is just utterly alien and lacking significance for them and such territory claims have no impact or relevance to the A’quan operations through the galaxy. They are incredibly wise and perceptive but their existence transcends a need for paying heed to such details. The A’quan simply are.
In a very real sense, A’quan are starships with a single crewmember. An almost impossibly perfect bonding and synthesis between the A’quan itself the cybernetic bio-mechanical construction it has fashioned around itself. In that sense, they are a single organism, though A’quan has engineered around them the engines, generators, solar storage cells and weaponry necessary for their aeons in the void. Rather than a simple space-borne creature, like the star-whales of Hellesdon Minor, the A’quan are considered by the Veydreth to be species that has evolved to become akin to a stellar phenomenon, dangerous, but as constant and ordered as the stars themselves. The Veydreth appreciate that though the A’quan might be of a near unfathomable design, they are still designed.
To the nomadic Ryushi and protective rangers of Terquai, the A’quan are galactic savants whose communication is something to be studied for deeper meaning. It is true that the A’quan perceive the laws of physics differently to other species. They have a concept of time and space that seems almost prescient and the Ryushi managed to build a star-spanning empire guided by such augers. Only foolish humanity has considered the A’quan to be animals, akin to whales of old Earth. A creature to be hunted and exploited like the poor wretches of Hellesdon Minor. Unlike the peaceful star-whales, however, the A’quan attack Dindrenzi and Directorate vessels on sight, regardless of whether they are armed or have hostile intent.
The Ryushi were never a numerous people, their arid world orbited the binary stars of Cygni Minor and Cygni Major. This was made even more challenging with daylight on Ryush lasting over thirty-three hours – two-thirds of the time under their double suns. But against these odds, intelligent ungulates rose up and developed in the sheltered rocky spaces and a trading culture with their shaded caravans began to crisscross the surface. Over the next three thousand years, these tall bipedal camelids advanced technologically and socially until they finally took flight and ventured out into the stars.
Finding a scattering of other races, the Ryushi began to establish mining operations and then trade missions to their neighbours in the Devonian Sector. While the Veydreth were only hostile if the Ryushi ventured near their daughterworlds, they otherwise left them alone. The Kedorians on the other hand warmly embraced the Ryushi as equals and there was quickly talk of a grand alliance between many of the species in the region. Preferring their independence, the Ryushi instead became fascinated with the A’quan and studied that enigmatic species‘ cryptic and often confusing and contradictory communication. For the next three centuries, guided by interpreting prophecies of the A’quan, the Rysuhi rapidly expanded to become a prosperous trading empire that stretched across the arm of the galaxy the Veydreth called the Storm Zone.
Wealthy and influential, the Ryushi became respected for their technological prowess and tolerance for other species and cultures. All that changed with the rise of the Terran Alliance. The expansionist humans rapidly colonised worlds, ignorant of the territorial claims of other species. At first, the Ryushi treated them with respect as trade with humanity was a good as any other to them. As the humans were engulfed in their bitter Secessionist War, the Ryushi remained neutral, though sympathetic to the mercantile Terran Alliance.
With the collapse of the Terran Alliance and the emergence of the Dindrenzi Federation as an aggressive new power in the Storm Zone, the humans began to press on the other species in the region. Paranoid that the Alliance had been secretly supported by many of the alien worlds, the Dindrenzi demanded answers or threatened terrible retribution. The Kedorians reluctantly stepped forward and confirmed what the Federation had suspected, that it was the Ryushi who had been supplying intelligence to the Terran Alliance throughout the war.
Why the Kedorians would betray their one time allies is not clear. Perhaps it was true or perhaps there was some longer plan in motion. It mattered not. The wrath of the Dindrenzi came crashing down on Ryush. The Ryushi themselves are physically formidable creatures, large humanoids standing nearly three metres in height, but the Ryushi are averse to close-quarters combat unless absolutely necessary; partly because of their disdain for it, but mostly because of their cultural belief that every Ryushi life is precious and must be preserved at all costs. Against the elite Scions of Rense, these peaceable creatures stood no chance. Traders rather than fighters, the Ryushi fleet was smashed at every encounter and they were driven from their homeworld in a short but ruthless war. Ryush was resettled and became Restitution, a colony for the victorious Dindrenzi Federation.
Five centuries have passed and the traders have become embittered wanderers, hardened by their experiences. Never again would the Ryushi be taken so easily and they have diligently prepared for the future. Their great space fleets, once mostly merchant craft, have been extensively refitted and transformed into battlecarriers and homeships, bearing the last of their kind across the Storm Zone. Ryushi vessels are heavily protected with armour and advanced shielding, the better to ensure crew safety. Although these command ships are well-armed, the Ryushi make great use of drone technology, with their smaller warships and attack craft either entirely automated or remotely controlled by specially trained personnel. Enemy vessels facing Ryushi forces are frequently overwhelmed and shredded by huge waves of dispassionate robotic killing machines, which the exiles are willing to expend virtually without limit.
Their numbers dwindling and their enemies becoming legion, the Ryushi have reluctantly become associate members of the Storm Zone Coalition, the Kedorian’s great dream given form after centuries of planning. To their credit, the Kedorians have offered unconditional aid and support to the Ryushi should they need it. For the Ryushi, they prefer to keep the Kedorian’s at arm’s length, as they would any enemy. Membership of the Coalition suits the Ryushi for now. All the better position to strike from when the time comes…
When the fragmented Terran Alliance was reorganised into the Teran Directorate, a force for stability in the ensuing political coup was Hawker Industries, the oldest of the Mega-Corporations. It was Hawker-built ships that carried the first humans to the stars, and the company was a key player in the construction and maintenance of the communications system that bound the far-flung human colonies together.
Long-held up as a byword for quality engineering, Hawker allowed itself to become complacent, relying on large government contracts rather than driving the cutting edge of design. When the Outer Reach seceded, Hawker’s fortunes declined considerably. However, it managed to stay in being, supplying reliable colony ships to the Dresden Stream expansion effort. Hawker also partnered with Zenian Technologies in developing extensive contacts among Terra’s many alien allies, overcoming their research gap by adapting traded technology. The Ryushi and Kedorians both proved worthy allies to humanity.
In the aftermath of the Secession War and the creation of the Directorate, Hawker’s fortunes have soared once more. Many old shipyards, mothballed for years, are being brought back online, as the mighty heart of this industrial and military powerhouse begins to beat again.
Rather than building new vessels, Hawker’s lead military designer, Gabriel El’Koros has instead invested in updating and mobilizing a vast number of powerful warships from its reserve fleets that served in the golden age of the Alliance. Although elderly, Hawker’s high-quality engineering and construction has stood the test of time. Their command ships are nicknamed ‘Ironclads’ for their strength and integrity.
Refitted for the rigours of modern combat, Hawker vessels are very heavily armed. They add a powerful edge to combined Directorate acquisition forces, as well as operating on profitable independent ventures. Hawker Command ships carry highly trained teams of intelligence operatives. Often surpassing Dindrenzi spymasters in expertise, Hawker’s ‘Hunters’ frequently give Venture-Captains a vital tactical edge.
Of all the Mega-Corporations in the Terran Directorate, the rising star is Sabulon Systems – a corporation that is both hated and feared in equal measure. Originally known as Melcon Pharma, the corporation was founded in the aftermath of the Wars of First Contact by a consortium of immensely powerful entrepreneurs. Having pioneered a vaccine against the Intron Virus that was sweeping through the colonies, Melcon used their massive profits to fund a number of deep-space expeditions looking for new ventures. A risky diversification for Melcon, but one that would prove transformative.
In the far galactic north-east of the Outer Reaches, known as the Anderson-Hadley-Keller cluster, Melcon’s expeditions found the remnants of a once-powerful but now declining alien culture called the Sabulon. Having fought and lost a war against the Veydreth a millennia ago, all that remained were the last few scattered populations across the planet. Amongst the ruins of their culture were technological innovations that would place Melcon at the cutting edge of Terran technology. Melcon requested permission from the Terran Alliance government to establish a colony on the distant and, they claimed, uninhabited world. Appropriate payments ensured that no real scrutiny was given to this matter by the government. Over the next century, Melcon Pharma relocated their entire business to their new colony and largely vanished from Terran affairs until shortly before the Secession Wars.
In 2660, as the war with the nascent Dindrenzi Federation raged, Melcon Pharma returned in strength to the Alliance, now as Sabulon Systems, an advanced technology business. It was Alliance cruisers using Sabulon’s never-before-seen graviton technology that held back the Secessionist armada at Procyon and it was Sabulon shield projectors that saved almost a million refugees on Altair from the A’quan incursion two years later. These refugees were then transported to Sabulon Prime as compensation for the intervention
With the rise of the Terran Directorate in 2676, Sabulon System expanded their technologies into a range of security fleets. Heavily automated for maximum efficiency, Sabulon vessels are festooned with deadly plasma projector batteries to burn huge holes in enemy warships while their famous graviton cannons literally crush those that weather the plasma storm. Armada’s containing such vessels soon acquire the darkest of reputations within the Directorate. It is said that a Sabulon Acquisition Fleet comes to abduct and pillage things of value and burn or crush the rest.
Sabulon Prime is situated within possibly the most heavily defended individual system in the galaxy. But Sabulon Prime itself is utterly unlike anything the few visitors who have been there expected. As is only fitting for the home of the mightiest leaders of one of the Directorate’s greatest corporations, it is a true paradise-world, meticulously terraformed – a gorgeous veneer masking the dark hearts of its fabulously privileged inhabitants. For the Sabulon chief executives, life is heaven. They enjoy hedonistic pleasures, marvels of the most technologically advanced corporation in the Directorate. But for everyone else, life is almost literally hell. There are no citizens in the care of Sabulon Systems, only human resources to be expended and sometimes destroyed on a whim.
Prior to the Secession War, the Terran Alliance fleet was largely comprised of vessels designed and manufactured by one Mega-Corporation – Kurak Engineering. While Hawker Industries created the colony ships, it was Kurak that provided the military support. Most of the vessels designed in those early days were built to help combat piracy, using design principles laid down during the Wars of First Contact. They were made to be highly modular, allowing for faster and cheaper swapping of systems as battlefield necessity and changing technology called for. With the destruction of the Near-Rift colonies by the Veydreth, Kurak ships that once knew nothing of energy shielding and the mass driver turrets soon sported both in abundance. The mass drivers gave way to newer atomic lasers making Kurak vessels excellent brawlers at close range.
With the establishment of the Terran Directorate, Kurak Engineering found themselves as a key member of the board. The Dindrenzi Federation were already massing for a resumption of hostilities and it was Kurak Engineering starships that stood between the squabbling Mega-Corporations and mounting Federation aggression.
From their immense construction and fabrication yards in orbit of Titan in the Terran system, Kurak Engineering is one of the only Mega Corporations to build Dreadnought class vessels. Combining their reputation for close-range durability with the sheer size and power of such vessels, Kurak ensures that they are always in line for lucrative contracts where heavy resistance is expected in an acquisition.
Venture Captains in Kurak Engineering Acquisition Fleets are assured of their vessel’s immense reliability, thanks to their dependence on old but tried and tested technology. Much has been improved and augmented in the subsequent centuries turning these dependable craft into stalwart engines of destruction.
One of the older systems still present in Kurak vessels are the infamous Decimator warheads. These nuclear devices are dangerous against starships but are devastating to planetary installations. It was Kurak Engineering vessels that destroyed the garden-world of Dramos and that one technology ensured that there would never be a reconciliation for the two sides of humanity for over half a millennia since.