Table of Contents
- Chapter One – Reaching from Darkness
- Chapter Two – Frantic Foundations
- Chapter Three – Dread Movement in the Void
- Chapter Four – Blood and Shadow
- Chapter Five – The Slipping Mask
- Chapter Six – Heaven Burns
- Chapter Seven – Dark Salvation
Reaching from Darkness
It was the year 2200 that the Shade of Hoon returned to the great void of space. While many were skeptical that there was any life still out in the galaxy other than a few primitive species, the Ur-Hoon had work to do. Over the next two decades of space travel, the angry spectres would bring these primitives into the same fold as their subservient Dak’Sari. But there was more at play here. Strange sensor readings detecting the dimming of stars began an effort to secure a variety of weak spatial points. Blackholes, theoretical wormholes, and other places of possible dimensional travel were sought out and secured.
As the Shade of Hoon’s borders formed, in the year 2219, the Ur-Hoon discovered a bizarre anomaly in the Gargantua black hole system. An artificially intelligent sphere rivalling the size of all known gas giants, this strange Technosphere claimed to be calculating the concept of infinity itself. The Ur-Hoon greeted it with caution and mistrust. The scientist decided, rather than simply destroy it that it should be worked with – if only to spy on it and uncover any ulterior motives and possible connections to the Ascendant Council. The scientist soon discovered that the AI was either faulty or possessed knowledge of the future. The inexperienced science officer, Jharsin, assigned to the project, came up with several wildly unpopular theories about the massive AI’s origin. The most unpopular of the ideas was that the Machine had been created by unknown forces to mirror the Enduring Crossroads.
The Hoon of ancient times made great use of the Enduring Crossroads. It was, simply, the use of math, logic, and a healthy dose of common sense to predict probable future outcomes. But the Enduring Crossroads failed them when they needed it most, for what good is knowing the future if none will listen? Regardless, this machine knew the Ur-Hoon. It knew what they were, and apparently, what they would become. And whatever architects constructed this device, they had technology far advanced than any the Shade of Hoon dreamed possible. These were but a few whispers that a member of the Ascendant Council was alive and active in this region of space.
By the year 2226, just as the pastoral Caloctora and hardworking Suramo joined the Dak’Siri candidates for elevation, renowned military scientist Ghan discovered an active space station in one of the regions deemed a low priority for exploration. An enclave of merchants named the Riggan Commerce Exchange was found very much alive in the Borrbo system. The canny avian folk seemed to know precisely what the Ur-Hoon were up to with their primitive species but did not care provided it didn’t affect their bottom line. Riggans sold motes, which the Ur-Hoon gladly purchased. The deal was made not just for the military properties of the resource but as a bit of spice for those undergoing the elevation ritual. Of interest to the Shade of Hoon was the Borrbo station logs; it spoke of the Terran Commission having been the Exchange’s last costumers during the Great Culling’s height. The Terran Commission was the famed builders of the Gateway Network, whose hubristic optimism is viewed by many as the catalyst for the Ascendant Council’s actions.
By this time, the famous scientist, Landmen, worked diligently for years to unlock the Ceramic Conundrum. Landmen found a strange canopic styled jar in orbit around the primary of the Kornephoros system. By the year 2230, Landmen had unlocked the secrets. It was a transmission of highly advanced scientific data. Having seen similar telemetry recently from the reports from the Gargantua Infinity Project, Landmen compared notes with Jharsin and what they found was unsettlingly but not wholly surprising. The data found in the canopic jar and the technology that made the Infinity Machine were the same. Panic began to spread among the Ur-Hoon as they felt the eyes of an Ascendant Council member on them. But why the games? Why the apparent gifts and friendly observers? And what question had they asked the Infinity Machine to calculate initially? The quantumly confused supercomputer was unwilling or unable to give a clear answer on the matter. And before the questions could become too intrusive, in the year 2231, the Technosphere declared the calculation of Infinity complete, wished the Ur-Hoon well and entered the black hole of Gargantua.
Jharsin, now finished with the research, would not rest and set out instantly for the neighbouring Hantaron system. It could not have been a coincidence that after the startling revelations of Ascendant meddling and the subsequent departure of the Technosphere, Jharsin reported what they found in the Hantaron system. An active space vessel, of alien design, scanning the system much as the Ur-Hoon were planning to do. The ship made no hostile actions and passively scanned the system’s celestial bodies alongside the Myth-Faker science team, the science vessel under the command of Jharsin.
Several months passed as they tried to decode the language of the mysterious aliens. It wasn’t until Jharsin thought to check the Riggan Commerce Exchange records and discovered that yes, indeed, these ships were similar in design to the Terran Commission. After a few promises of future business, the Exchange gave the language-translation codes they had on file. The results were shocking. They were greeted not by the Terran Commission but by an inheritor group calling themselves the Terran Rancor.
The Terran Rancor was a founding member of the Union of Civilized Worlds, and it was clear that the dangerous optimism of the Terrans was still alive and well. According to a shared declassified historical report, the Rancor initially led the Union of Civilized Worlds, but things rapidly fell apart under their leadership. While the United Kreshhk Planets remains the only other member of the Federation, the Velutarian Kingdoms departed after discovering new empires in the region. While they remained on friendly terms with former federation members, the Velutarian Kingdoms eyed stronger allies.
And so the budding friendship between the Velutarian Kingdoms and the Red Claw Resurgence started. The Red Claws were not unknown to the Ur-Hoon. These former nomadic mercenaries were desperate to fill their ranks by any means and get their revenge on the Ascendant Council, possibly a shared ambition. But there was a massive problem in this region of the galaxy, which caused uneasy peace between the various empires. The Stannic Heart, a former pacifist race of robots that feels the only chance it has to survive, is destroying all organic life. Beyond the borders of these driven exterminators, the subspace drone of a chorus of warriors rang out. The guardians of the life tree, the Tun Amalgamation, had encountered the Stannic Heart head-on. The initial border skirmishes in the Sheratan system were just the first volleys in what might be the first great galactic conflict of the new era. However, the Ur-Hoon put all political future speculation on hold with the region’s final revelation. A great and ancient empire.
The empire used the ships of the Ascendant Council members. The metal strangers were made using Council technology, which matched the advanced sciences of the Technosphere and the Ceramic Conundrum data cache. But they were not any members of the Ascendant Council that the Ur-Hoon knew. The Ascendant Council did not have any machine empires. Who was the DAAR Continuity? The sensor readings the Ur-Hoon received from the Terran Rancor, triple confirmed by Landem and Jharsim, indicated the empire was lacking an operational naval infrastructure. The Ur-Hoon scientific community used their knowledge gleaned from previous exposure to this advanced science to determine the existence of ‘The Custodian Matrix Protocol,’ which governed the DAAR Continuity. They had been hindered, prevented from ever building more war vessels, and incapable of aggressive conquest or expansion. What purpose they were to serve in this region of the galaxy was unclear. The DAAR possessed a standing navy more potent than anything that the combined region’s forces could have mustered. They toiled mysteriously on their damaged ringworlds, the nature of their ageing programming unknown. And the Ur-Hoon grew fearful in their shadow.
The next few decades would be desperate ones for the Shade of Hoon. It was clear that the only other empire in the region that looked upon the DAAR as a threat was the Redclaw Resurgence. But diplomacy was never the strong suit of the Ur-Hoon, past or present. Diplomatic Envoy Roleen was spread thin and made many requests to expand her staff to deal with the office’s new responsibilities. Roleen made the request, but the leaders denied it; instead, they put more resources into the military and sciences. While this displeased Diplomatic Envoy Roleen, the Ur-Hoon community at large was thankful.
The Science Division of the Shade of Hoon made several startling discoveries. Now hailed as an expert in First Contact procedure, the empire tasked Science Officer Jharsin with investigating a pair of strange readings discovered in the year 2236. The first, what appeared to be a simple stream of white noise coming off derelict mining stations, turned out to be an active mining drone network. The discovery of such drones would not have been enough to merit note alone, but the white noise and the signal it was hiding were of grave importance. At first, Jharsin assumed it was communication among the network. A more intense study revealed that the infrequent data being recorded by the mining drones was sent somewhere. All attempts to trace the recipient met with failure, but the scientific community was in agreement. Something about the signal, the drones, and the enigmatic method of hiding the recipient had the scent of the DAAR upon it. These strange ancient robots were spying on them, and the Ur-Hoon didn’t like that.
The other significant discovery was of great interest to often ignored Bioscience division. At first, Science Officer Jharsin believed the signals were either a distress call or the trail from an experimental FTL drive. Following the readings to the remote Rijjin system, the Ur-Hoon were dumbfounded by what they saw. A battle-scarred Tiyanki that was so massive that it could dim the light of a system as it passed. Dubbed the Matriarch, the Shade of Hoon had this colossal behemoth quarantined, and the Rijjin system deemed off-limits until the military could clear her out. You see, the Ur-Hoon desired the rich resources of the Rijjin system.
A strange event occurred in the year 2237, where Landmen discovered a crashed vessel on a far off asteroid. The accomplished scientist found a solitary survivor, Falatir, who managed to avoid death in the void by her pluck and skill alone, or so she claims. She introduced herself as a member of the Kell’zen race, a people that the Ur-Hoon had never heard of before. However, it was clear to anyone that Falatir was a human of the Terran Rancor. The Rancor speaks of Sol, a system that once was their home. The Rancor lost Sol after the Great Culling, and there could be numerous Terran settlements out in the galaxy, hidden by time. These Kell’zen may very well be one of them. The Rancor envoys requested that Shade of Hoon turned custody of Falatir over to their government, but the young scientist pleaded to remain with the Ur-Hoon. The Shade of Hoon acquiesced to her appeal. It wasn’t long before this remarkable scientist was not only contributing to the Shade of Hoon but became the first head of any significant division, not of Ur-Hoon stock.
These actions would have far-reaching effects on the mood of the region. The Terran Rancor was insulted that an apparent member of their species was in the insidious Shades’ hands. The current leader of the Union of Civilized Worlds, the Unified Kreshhk Planets, was desperate to keep the peace as the Stannic Heart still loomed as a threat. They extended various deals to the Shade of Hoon but only got their attention when they offered a migration treaty. While the Kreshhk was thrilled at the progress, their Terran allies urged caution – speaking of the Elevation ceremony’s rumours. All these diplomatic maneuvers took place in the lead up to the Ciue discovery in 2243.
No surprise to her superiors, Landmen came forward with a new report on some recently discovered ruins. At first glance, this was nothing out of the ordinary. Words of alien relics, points of archeological interest, and other past civilizations’ traces came to the Shade of Hoon every few years. But this was decidedly different. Landmen had found several systems all in the vicinity of the now confirmed Ciue wormhole. These systems were home to several once inhabited worlds, now utterly destroyed through some unknown calamity. Science vessels raced to explore these systems, and the Ur-Hoon had their pioneers ready to lay claim to them.
Sadly, things did not go smoothly for the exploration, exploitation and expansion of the Ur-Hoon into these territories. In the Yamal system, Explorer Ghan encountered a massive sentient Ether Drake named Shard. Ghan had inadvertently plundered the dragon’s most valuable possession, the Rubricator, and despite returning it, the dragon was enraged. The Science High Command of the Ur-Hoon branded the Yamal system a Hostile Zone, and they permitted no entrance to any vessel. This massive disruption in the Hyperlane network caused logistic issues, as Yamal was a gateway system towards the Ciue Cluster’s mysteries. Disruptions continued for the Ur-Hoon. By the year 2247, they had made two new contacts that would cause an uproar in the region. First was the meeting of the star born marauders, the Hesukar Raiders. Brutish warriors from different clans, the Ur-Hoon recognized them. At one time, the Hesukar were citizens of the Golden Plastron, a group of galactic artisans that took commissions for various megastructures. The Red Claws had destroyed their empire when they crashed into the Golden Plastron Ringworld and had to fight to exist. The Envoy Roleen was nearly dispatched to Resurgence territory with this information when a vessel emerged from the Ciue wormhole.
The collective attention of the Shade of Hoon now was on the Ciue system. Science vessels raced to explore the region of space. The various factions among the citizens bickered and argued about the best way to get the wormhole under Ur-Hoon control before these Xenos’ claimed it first. The Xenos in question turned out to be the billed mammalian race called the Brillian. These strange creatures formed the Twilight Convocation, an empire founded by survivors of the Great Culling. The entirety of the Brillian species was wiped out, save for the scientist aboard the Twilight station. The Convocation happily exchanged information with the concerned Shade of Hoon, as they always thirsted for knowledge. It was discovered the Ciue wormhole extended to the other side of the galaxy, emerging in the Kazon system, within Convocation borders. The discovery of this wormhole was a monumental find and would forever change the galaxy, but the Ur-Hoon did not celebrate. As they finished introductions with the Twilight Convocation and received data on the empires active on the other side of the wormhole, the Convocation claimed the Ciue system. The Ur-Hoon leadership was furious, and Enovy Roleen began various missions to try to bring the Ciue system into the care of the Shade of Hoon, where it belonged.
As if the Ur-Hoon didn’t have enough issues with advanced AI units, in the year 2248, they encountered the CARE Interface. It was a planet-wide computer created by the Gabib’Tol Conglomerate in ages long past. These once-great merchants are only now represented by their thieving contemporaries on the other side of the Ciue Wormhole, the Gabib Cartel. Once Ur-Hoon scientist confirmed that the CARE Interface was sentient, free-willed, and not a pawn of the Ascendant Council or DAAR, the Ur-Hoon agreed to aid it. The planet-sized computer was under attack by a metal-eating virus, the ferrophage, and CARE had finally run out of resources to hold the disease at bay. The project would take many years, but the Ur-Hoon had time.
While the scientist raced around the clock trying to uncover the secrets of this metal-eating virus, thinking they could weaponize it against the DAAR, Envoy Roleen was incredibly busy and still understaffed. About half a dozen empires had been contacted, including the Gabib Cartel. The Gabib made several posturing overtures, as the pitiful lizardfolk demanded that the Ur-Hoon return CARE to them, but the Shade of Hoon largely ignored it. The lizard-like Tollin were no threat to them. After 2253 and the Galactic Community formation, which the Shade of Hoon fully supported, roughly another half dozen empires had been encountered by the Ur-Hoon diplomat. An era of shared diplomacy and galactic laws were upon them. However, the Shade of Hoon remembers their place in the last community of this nature. Ignored and unheard, they would not allow their voices to be silent this time.
It was like the formation of the Galactic Community was a trigger for the enigmatic DAAR. No sooner had the first resolutions been put up for vote had the DAAR sent a communication to the Shade of Hoon. The suspicious robotic voice droned on about how the Ur-Hoon species were not viable for a project. The DAAR Continuity suggested forcefully that the Shade of Hoon should inoculate themselves with a DAAR designed vaccine. With little hesitation, the Shade of Hoon refused. They would not fall for some Ascendancy ruse. It would be sometime before the DAAR would contact the Ur-Hoon again.
Over the next eight years, the Ur-Hoon saw many things unfold before them. Science Officer Jharsin perished in 2257 in what should have been a routine survey of an abandoned ship. Something caused Jharsin’s crew to go mad, and the decorated scientist lost control of the ship. Before the self-destruct order went forward, a single four-character message escaped the doomed vessel. It merely said ‘DAAR.’ The empire mourned the passing of Jharsin, and several galactic nations that had dealings with him sent their kind regards. Many scientists rededicated their working efforts on the disease plaguing the CARE interface in honour of Jharsin, including his old friend Landmen. Landmen travelled to visit the CARE interface personally and brought her protege, an innovative thinker by the name of Melfyn.
Another incident of greatness for the Shade of Hoon came in the year 2258. Their scientist had discovered the cure for the ferrophage that plagued the CARE interface in the Segathia system. Renamed Flatline, the Shade of Hoon, stood victorious and sent a colony ship to the relic world. The CARE interface joined their empire and helped monitor the new colony. In addition to the subservience to the empire, the CARE interface gifted the Ur-Hoon with a strange relic called a Defragmenter. Sadly, before the technicians could get a better look at it, a message intruded over the secure communications again. It was the DAAR.
The message from the DAAR was ominous in many regards. The scholars of the Ur-Hoon all agree that it was sent as a result of some sort of action taken by their people. But, they can not decide what the action was. Many feel that it was the simple act of colonizing the relic world they called Flatline. Other schools of thought presented the idea it might have been curing the ferrophage. Regardless, the DAAR informed the Shade of Hoon that they were non-compliant organics. The curious and docile robot ancients now spoke with a menacing tone. As nonsensical as their request was, they demanded that the Shade of Hoon not participate in any wars of aggression for 20 years, give or take calculations. Should the Ur-Hoon ignore the warning, the incredibly powerful punitive fleets of the DAAR would visit them.
Having been operating as the head of the Physics Research Commission for some time now, Falatir, the only known Khell’Zen, had been ready for the next DAAR communication. She carefully monitored the subspace transmissions. And sure enough, they found traces of the Drone Network white noise, but there was something else. While the DAAR received communications from various AI networks in the region, as the Ur-Hoon suspected, they were also transmitting. But much like the Drones that serve them, they seem unaware that they are sending data to other recipients. The data was being transmitted across the galaxy, through the Ciue Wormhole, into the distant Lyrum system. There, sitting in their ancient city world called “The Font of Knowledge.” the Evarite Archivist listened with great interest. Near the Forbidden Nebula, it was there that they and the equally ancient Yibrak Forerunners held court. Communications between the two fallen empires only amounted to a few words every decade or so. Neither emerged from their borders. They just watched and listened. But the Ur-Hoon could not deny the truth. They were both members of the Ascendant Council.
The Evarite Archivist remained centuries ahead of the rest of the galaxy as far as technology is concerned. It was their morally detached nature that crafted the tools of the Great Culling. They mapped out the most coldly efficient way to assure their galactic supremacy, down to the decimal point. The Evarite scientists had their margins inked in the blood of trillions. Even now, their cruelty correlates the data from what they called The Grand Experiment. They observe how quickly the empires can recover, all to create a more efficient method of Cullung the galaxy the next time. Unless stopped, they will engage in a never ending cycle of bloody experimentation.
All the while, the Yibrak Forerunners wallow in guilt. They were a lone voice of dissent among the original Ascendant Council and urged their contemporaries to take a gentler hand with the younger races. They had the strength to aid the lesser races but did not. They could have sheltered untold numbers of refugees on their paradise worlds but did not. They could have gifted the lesser empires the secrets of Dark Matter technology so that they could put up a fighting chance, but did not. Their cowardice and impotence in their opposition to the other council members cost just as many lives as the Death Algorithms forged by Evarite labs.
In a short few years, Diplomatic Envoy Roleen was remarkably busy. Tensions were raised with the Terran Rancor, as they treated the Ur-Hoon more like rivals than comrades in arms. Greater attention was being paid to the threats of the Stannic Heart and the Crocidilte Prosperity. Despite the refusal to sign a formal non-aggression pact with the Twilight Convocation, the Brillian scientist enjoyed close relations with the Shade of Hoon’s scientific minds. The hard work of Envoy Roleen paid off, and in the final months of 2261, she cemented a three-way defensive bloc between the Red Claw Resurgence, The Velutarin Kingdom and the Shade of Hoon. Decades of aggression and border tension were washed away when the Ur-Hoon shared with these other brave warrior races the truth. The Ur-Hoon showed them the evidence of continued observation by the Ascendant Council. While they were weak as one, they could be strong together. All the galaxy waited and watched, wondering if this agreement would die in the depths of the void or become a burning star of vengeance in the great abyss.
Dread Movement in the Void
Now icons of Ur-Hoon ingenuity, three of the most renowned names in science, had very different experiences leading up to 2270. Melflyn, the protege of Landmen, discovered an entire civilization had transferred their minds into data storage devices. Curious about other empires’ journeys towards immortality, he made copies as the machines in the Ler Zumon system failed, and it was time to do or die for the mysterious data-aliens.
Landmen herself was struggling with less physical issues. After exposure to an anomaly, she became obsessed with the existence of extra-dimensional entities. Paranoia gripped her as she began to speak in hushed tones about how the entities were not only observing our galaxy but were slowly pulling us towards them. The respect Landmen continues to command among the Ur-Hoon, and the galactic scientific community has kept these claims from being outright dismissed. Several governments now have dedicated at least a little effort to tracing the dimensional energies, yet there have been no immediate results.
Finally, there was the brilliant scholar of the military sciences, Ghan. While not as renowned as his contemporaries, Ghan contributed many startling discoveries to the Ur-Hoon. Offered several times a position of head of Engineering and Military sciences, Ghan refused the promotion. “From the Void I came, in the Void, I’ll die.” he famously said as he embarked on his final mission. The galactic community thanks him for the discovery of the immense creature known as the Stellarite devourer. Sadly, Ghan and the Broken Core crew never escaped this discovery in the remote Escolla system. The Shade of Hoon wishes them a quick return to this life.
The Shade of Hoon slowly improved their standing in the Galactic Community. Many members still had histories that spoke of the Hoon’s warnings, and while the secrets of the elevation chambers still concerned many, the galaxy generally viewed the Hoon as a force for good. They approached things with a pragmatic mindset and were usually non-confrontational, so it was that the powers that be set up the Galactic Market headquarters in orbit in the bureaucratic heart of the Shade of Hoon empire, Ryl Somot.
All the while, in the final days of 2271, the galaxy observed as the Grand Chantry and the Red Claw Resurgence continued their war of pacification against the Stanic Heart. While this war raged, travellers had found a nightmare. It was an Ur-Hoon construction fleet that discovered the horrors in the Galpan system. The Galpan system was one of three systems claimed by the Hesukar Raiders. Billions lived in those squalid space stations, and the raiders had placed a portion of their powerful fleets there, waiting for orders. The Rooted Suffering construction fleet reported no sign of Hesukar activity. What they had found instead was two security echelons of the DAAR. The DAAR had destroyed the Hesukar of the Galpan system for unknown reasons. Nothing remained of them, and the security fleets held a position there unmoving, waiting, even as the Velutarian Kingdom claimed the system for themselves.
Around this time, the Wenkwort Gardens and their AI unit were discovered, claimed, and colonized by Ur-Hoon settlers. While the Gardens received much media attention, many believe the government used it as a smokescreen. For simultaneously, the Grand Necromancers of Dak’Soros began animating the husk of millions of Ur-Hoon. The Shade of Hoon raised a great horde, and many citizens now became uncomfortably aware of why no member of the empire was ever required to undergo ground forces training.
In the year 2273, the Yibrak Forerunners, the Ascendant Council’s cowards, contacted the Ur-Hoon. It seems that they were interested in taking the digital tombs, the mind scans found in the Ler Zumon system by Melfyn and bringing the aliens back to life. Rightly skeptical of one of the elder empires’ good intentions, the Shade of Hoon determined that the Ler Zumon aliens’ reborn lives would be dire. The Forerunners would force the aliens into a zoo of sorts, where the Yibrak would care for them like pets. The Shade of Hoon denied the Yibrak the request and vowed to advanced their technology to bring this species back on their own.
With the increased activity of the Yibrak Forerunners, several empires became nervous. In the later parts of the year 2273, The Grand Chantry of Fellgra’Oos joined with the Union of Civilized Worlds. In response to this growing power bloc of their rivals, the Red Claw Resurgence, The Velutarian Kingdom and the Shade of Hoon forged the Blade of Justice. At this meeting, the region’s martial minds promised to strike out against the galaxy’s horrors and those that enabled their continued existence. The leadership of the Shade of Hoon desired to wield this new federation to achieve their ultimate goals, whatever those shrouded designs were.
The next year, in 2274, a series of discoveries were uncovered that caused ripples in the galaxy. First, the Landmen Dimensional Detection Initiative started to yield results. Landmen had been on the way to personally investigate a dimensional anomaly when they and the entire crew of her ship, the Strange Sapience, were abducted. All crew from the incident report the same thing. An unknown force took them to a great hanger, where Landmen saw various other alien ships having suffered a similar fate. The ship was returned shortly afterwards to normal space by unknown hands but was missing half the crew. The other half of the crew returned not long after that, in a mysterious otherworldly ship, but with no memories of their time in the different dimension holding area or of their escape.
The returning Strange Sapience crew members were put through rigorous testing by the Ur-Hoon science divisions and determined fit to return to service and free of extra-dimensional interference. The crew returned to active duty with no issues, and the mysterious ship dubbed The Other, while strange, was deemed functional and safe. The Ur-Hoon Command gave the new vessel to Science officer Wellon who quickly filled the staff with some of the greatest minds in the field of extra-dimensional detection.
Meanwhile, Falatir, who continued to head the Shade of Hoon Physics research department, had investigated reports of a potential dimensional incursion on the recently settled Wenkwort colony. It was here that a portal was discovered, which lead to a mirror dimension, an alternative reality where the technological paths of the galaxy diverged. Another entire race of Ur-Hoon, with similar goals of our own, had been encountered and thus began the Falatir Accord – the first peaceful dealings with life from another dimension.
While the news of confirmed dimensional incursions fueled the galactic media during this period, it provided a distraction to what would generally have been bone-chilling news for the rest of the galaxy. The young science officer, Marsen, captain of the Piercing Wing, was on a particular assignment. The leaders of the science division had a ritual. It was one part hazing ritual, one part rite of passage, and according to said ritual, it was Marsens turn to be assigned the dull job of re-cataloging Irassian relics. No one expected a breakthrough. No one expected Marsen to discover the Irass System. When he and his team emerged from the planet with a deadly Javorian Pox sample, none but the keenest scientific observers noticed. The strange biological sample meant an increased quality of life to your average citizen because of the breakthroughs in healthcare it now offered. However, to the military-minded Ur-Hoon, they knew the Javorian Pox could be the clay in which they sculpted their ultimate revenge. For now, the Javorian Pox sample is being studied, sequenced, and cloned – for progress.
As the year 2275 drew to a close, reports emerged from the Ecological Monitoring Station off of Black Stone in the Covall system. Covall was an important strategic center for the Shade of Hoon. In this system, they saw the Omega Station Naval Base and the fortress world of Black Stone itself. Positioned near the Ciue Wormhole, the Ur-Hoon wanted the other side of the galaxy to know they were ready for a fight. The Ecological Monitoring Station was created by the Ur-Hoon to study the various dead planets, the so-called Tomb worlds, in this area. From this station, the Shade of Hoon scientist witnessed the improbable detection of life in the Phin system, on the blighted world designated The Ruinous Core.
The Ketling species found themselves trapped in a pre-FTL, post-apocalyptic nightmare. Psychic, capable of thriving in almost any environment and thought to be related to the rats exterminated by the Grand Dragon Shard, it was decided to send the armies to bring this fumbling race into the Ur-Hoon fold. The undead forces of the Ur-Hoon touched down on the Ruinous Core and quickly subjected the junk-rats. The Archon granted the Ketling species a rare right and responsibility among the citizens of the Shade of Hoon. They were allowed to colonize planets. And so it was that Ketlings settled the many tomb worlds within the borders of Ur-Hoon space, and the Ur-Hoon designed plans for an improved method of elevation. The Ur-Hoon, using their growing knowledge of genetics, and the insights from the Irassian medical logs, found themselves able to bring the elevation process to a new level. Newly elevated Ur-Hoon would no longer suffer in non-desert environments. They would be adapted fully to their new homes. However, it would be two decades before the first generation of Ur-Hoon would emerge that could dwell virtually anywhere.
Shortly after discovering the Ketlings, a far more insidious presence made itself know to the galactic community. Shrouded in the darkness of the void, the unseen masters of the Crescent Children now made themselves known. Proclaiming to be the Prophets of Xill, and disciples of Zarqlan, the Rihi’Nar Guardians announced themselves. Data flowed from this so-called pious empire, designating several planets across the galaxy as ‘Holy Worlds’ and calling any who would settle upon them, blasphemers.
The Twilight Convocation heard the overtures of war in the year 2276. The Convocation feared the increased aggression of the volcanic Brultok and petitioned the Blade of Justice for association status. The Shade of Hoon declined and issued a statement, laying claim to the Ciue system, proclaiming that the Convocation had insulted them by holding territory clearly in Ur-Hoon space. It almost was fitting that not long after, the DAAR sent the Shade of Hoon a message thanking them for their commitment to the non-violence mandate.
By the end of the year, 2282 several notable galactic events took place. On a far off planet, in a nearly undetected system, the Shade of Hoon science teams discovered a solitary Ur-Hoon studying something hidden on the frozen wasteland. The Archon had many questions of this scientist, who refused all identifiers. Merely called the Exile, the timelines of exploration, elevation ceremonies, and lab’s age failed to paint a coherent picture. Landmen, who had been dealing with this situation personally, and knew most scientists among the Ur-Hoon of this calibre, returned to the Strange Sapience and informed the Archon that they had likely found an Ascendancy spy. By the time the Necro-forces arrived to take the Exile into custody, they had disappeared. While there was no evidence of what they were studying or their true identity, this was not the only sign of the Ascendancy’s attempts to infiltrate the so-called lesser races.
It was about now that a growing concern of the Shade of Hoon finally boiled the surface. A nagging fear that in returning to life, and condemning others to the unknown kingdom of death, that the Ur-Hoon were becoming a force of woe for the galaxy. It was a fear that the Shade of Hoon was now a dread power who inflicted harm as the Ascendant Council had in the past. Thus began the rise of the Memorialist. Millions of Ur-Hoon flocked to these new positions in society. Some called it a method for the Ur-Hoon to give thanks and pay respects to those who gave up their souls in the elevation process so the Ur-Hoon could return. More cynical Ur-Hoon referred to their Memorialist brethren as justifiers. Saying they spent more time pointing out the flaws in the short lives of the Xenos and used that knowledge to make taking their husk to seem like service rather than a sin.
With the Exile events still fresh in their minds, when word came that the violent, untrustworthy, and law-scoffing Gabib Cartel had found faith, it struck a chord of terror with the Ur-Hoon. The recent strides of the Rihi’Nar showed that their zealous veneer had not faded. Speculation among scholars of the Shade of Hoon whispered of a new method of indoctrination. Indoctrination is a theorized method in which the Crescent Children went from pacifist farmers to the Ascendant Council’s bloody hand. If the Rihi’Nar were indeed behind such an ominous social shift, and they were doing it again, the Ur-Hoon would need to safeguard against it. Long discussions began about hindering the development of cults and large-scale religions. But such debates would continue for almost a century before the leadership made any final decision.
For now, the Shade of Hoon had more immediate concerns. The empire, under the guidance of former Admiral Kordenion, with the assistance of his Institute for Technological Progress, was preparing for war.
Blood and Shadow
The war was not exceptionally long. The Shade of Hoon sent their growing fleets to the Cuie system, occupied it, and then waited. They didn’t have the technology to cross the wormhole yet. For now, they would be content to blast anything that emerged from it back to the Kazon system. In the midpoint of 2283, the Twilight Convocation conceded the Cuie system, and diplomatic channels began to ease. While technically a war, the two empires would look at this as a peaceful time of extreme negotiation tactics. Besides, the Twilight Convocation did not wish to anger a member of the recently formed Galactic Council. Sitting on this council were the Gabib Cartel and their wayward products, Chrome Dreams. And of course, much to the surprise of many, the Shade of Hoon. In their previous incarnation, the Hoon species commanded little respect in the galactic community. The Ur-Hoon, on the other hand, were a growing force of power.
As the galaxy adapted to life with the Council helping to guide it, hopefully away from destruction, the DAAR once again made communication overtures in 2291. The Ancient murderous robots broke through Ur-Hoon networks and announced that it was pleased with the actions of the Shade of Hoon and had prepared a gift of resources to assist such a ‘compliant’ species. While he refused, Archon Kordenion was humiliated, and the ruling council viewed his implied compliance with the DAAR as a sign of weakness. He would not sit in the seat of the Archon for much longer, but it would not be the last the empire heard of Kordenion, who returned to his fleets, ready to fight enemies on a different battlefield.
The past has always been an essential thing to the Ur-Hoon, now more than ever, with the Memorialist’s continued rise. Nearly a decade and a half after the inception of the Memorialist position in Ur-Hoon society, they added two important living relics to the Shade of Hoon society. A Memoralist archivist team had discovered and opened a sealed bunker on the Crumbling Burrow colony. Here a group of slug folk, now running low on supplies, had hidden from the nuclear devastation that destroyed their planet. These, not the Ketlings, were the true inheritors of the ruined systems around Cuie Wormhole. The Shade of Hoon welcomed the Larongo, and the slug folk soon began to settle on the different tomb worlds throughout the empire.
But the strange Slugs of the Crumbling Burrow were not the only thing that the Memoralist discovered. The Grand Archivist of the Ur-Hoon people had found a derelict space station with a very unsettling AI upon it. It seemed that a mysterious entity, known only as Benefactor X, had commissioned the Gabib’Tol Conglomerate to construct this station not long after the Great Culling began. The station’s religious trappings resembled a modernized version of the Xill faith, the same doctrine that led the Crescent Children down their misguided path of servitude. It didn’t take the Memoralist long to match records and confirm that Benefactor X was indeed the Ascendant Rihi’Nar. At the heart of the station, an Oracle Brand AI. The Shade of Hoon had never encountered this particular brand. It was made by the Gabib’Tol Conglomerate after the Hoon extermination, early in the Great Culling.
Landmen, Melfyn, and the now ageing Falatir began to test to determine the Oracle Network’s capabilities. Through both vocal conversation and study of primary code, they found a disturbing truth. The Oracle was capable of the same mathematical prognostication methods as the Enduring Crossroads. The galaxy believed the Crossroads to be a lost art when the Great Culling had initially wiped out the Hoon. However, it seemed the Gabib’Tol Conglomerate had gathered enough raw data on the Hoon species to create a digital replication of their nigh-esoteric process. The test station had failed miserably. The Rihi’Nar Republic had fallen into a state of decline, and eventually, the Oracle had given up hope of their appointed masters ever coming to retrieve their purchase. After the ever paranoid Landmen ran it the thorough Ascendancy test, they designated the Oracle AI non-compromised. While the Ur-Hoon did not trust this nerve gas wielding, self-worshiping AI to oversee colonies; they decided to give the Oracle a chance to help in Ur-Hoon bureaucracy’s growing needs. And so the sitting Archon had placed the Oracle in charge of coordination between planetary bureaucratic centers.
The Memorialist listed two significant events in the Great Chronicle in the year 2296. The restoration of the Shade of Hoon to a great and mighty empire required the reclaiming of lost glory. The utopian ecumenopolis, Lav’Hoon, the Hoon Empire’s former capital, had been destroyed and lost in the Great Culling. The Judgment Acrology project sought to remind the Ur-Hoon of that era of greatness by forging a new capital worthy of their glory.
Meanwhile, the Blade of Justice looked at the Union of Civilized worlds’ borders and decided to throw their weight around. The sitting Archon tasked Diplomatic Envoy Roleen with drafting up and delivering an Article of Protection and Vassalhood to the Terran Rancor. The Shade of Hoon leadership had decided that the Terran Rancor was not safe within the Union of Civilized Worlds and needed the direct care of the Ur-Hoon. Roleen did not know that her leaders never intended the offer to be accepted. She confidently entered the Rancor diplomats’ offices, assuming that the Ur-Hoon had predicted correctly every aspect of this. While it was true that they had used the Enduring Crossroads in predicting the outcome, they did not inform Roleen that it was all a justification to go to war and test their military strategies. Roleen barely escaped the offices with the help of a Velutarian diplomat. The Union of Civilized Worlds and the Blade of Justice had gone to war. And the undead horde of Monnen the Butcher began to head to the Glory System.
The galaxy watched for several years as the war raged on. Both sides allowed for a brief cessation of hostilities in 2299 when Falatir passed away. Envoy Roleen had barged into the Archon offices, pointing out that the now-deceased scientist was clearly human despite Falatirs claims to the otherwise. The oligarchs of the Shade of Hoon supported Roleen in her efforts, and the Shade of Hoon turned over the body of Falatir to Rancor authorities. The two enemies held a joint state funeral, which doubled as a plea for peace by the Rancor diplomats. The war was not going well for the Union, and the Blade of Justice knew that. The Ur-Hoon refused peace offers; they needed more data. They needed to see more live weapons simulations and the psychological effects on a populace that war had. They needed to prepare. In this way, the Terran Rancor was helping to safeguard the galaxy.
The war finally ended in the year 2305, and the results were catastrophic for the Union. Their enemies had utterly obliterated the Unified Kreshhk Planets. The empire of tank-dwellers was no more. The Terran Rancor lost many systems, the Ur-Hoon reducing their power to a mere three. Technically, according to the contracts, the Terran Rancor was never formally turned into a vassal state. To save face in the galactic community, despite the protest of their allies, the immigrant population of Velutarains had been gathered up and turned into a small empire that the Rancor then gave to the Shade of Hoon.
The next year, 2306, was cause for grand celebration within the Shade of Hoon empire. They had finally finished the Judgment Acrology project. The oligarchs renamed the massive city-planet to New Lav’Hoon, and immigrants from all over the galaxy began to travel there to see its wonders. Throngs of thousands celebrated, danced and made merry in the shadow of the growing Chambers of Elevation. New Lav’Hoon was proclaimed by the Archons office to be the new capital of the Shade of Hoon.
Slightly more than a decade later, Ur-Hoon scientist finished the genome resequencing project. The empire had a grand vision. They would make an equalization template, making it, so all species were well suited for all menial jobs. The project was a resounding success. Workers were better at their jobs; this led to increased economic performances across the board. The bosses were happy. They then passed out raises to the general populace, and it was indeed a great era. A wonderful time, for sure, provided you wanted the genetic equalization. It was mandatory and non-negotiable.
What none of the other races knew was that the Ur-Hoon had insidiously weakened several aspects of the general populaces’ genetic code. Citizens had become shorter-lived, barely seeing their 80th birthdays. This number was in stark contrast to the nearly three centuries that an Ur-Hoon could live. The Ur-Hoon council intended the weakening to entice more and more citizens to the elevation chambers, with the promise, not just a long life but also salvation from an early grave. When people questioned the sudden drop in life expectancy, the Empire made numerous propaganda campaigns. Most revolved around the idea that a shorter life expectancy was natural because citizens were partying and enjoy life to its fullest now. The Memorialist would come to refer to the entire affair as the Genetic Mandate.
The Slipping Mask
As a military exercise in 2321, Admirals Kordenion and Dafenn brought their respective fleets to Yamal’s restricted system. Here, the old career rivals worked together to end the threat of the Grand Dragon, Shard. With the dragon slain, there was cause for a grand celebration. The planet of the rat-thieves secured by Ur-Hoon forces, the Rubricator now in the hands of the Admiral Kordenion, and Ketlings rejoiced for the destruction of a perceived ancient enemy. Memorialist widely believed that this tactical military operation was the catalyst for Chrome Dreams joining the Blade of Justice. It secured a powerful addition for the federation’s flesh-born members, and it just made mathematical sense for the protection centric Dreamer Class robots. Records note that scholars applied the Enduring Crossroads to the situation, but the files had been seized by Ur-Hoon military officials and redacted. It would be nearly half a century until what had been seen in those reports would see the light of day.
In the year 2327, Admiral Kordenion presents a six-year extermination plan against the Crocidolite Prosperity to the Blade of Justice. The vast majority of the gathered leaders continued to hold the former Archon in high regard and agreed to the plan. Officially headed by the recent members, Chrome Dreams, the war would remove the consuming mineral threat, the Prosperity. But it would also see massive growth in the power of Chrome Dreams, something that made many organic species nervous, particularly those of the Twilight Convocation and Oglin Galactic Domain. This nervousness opened the door to the Twilight Convocation, turning away from science, and embracing the Xill faith, as so many other empires had. A clear sign of further indoctrination.
The Shade of Hoon was at the center of a minor galactic scandal involving endangered void fauna in the year 2332. Under the guidance of Admiral Dafenn, Ur-Hoon fleets finally put the Tyanki Matriarch down in the heart of the Rijjin system. From the belly of the beast, a ship emerged. Captain Reth was a genetically engineered, unique creature with one goal in life. To hunt the monsters of the galaxy. Reth and Dafenn spoke, drank and bonded over battle stories and glories of previous eras. By the end, the Archon granted permission Dafenn to invite Reth to serve the Ur-Hoon. Reth took command of the Afflicted Armada and prepared to defeat even greater enemies alongside his incredibly long-lived allies in Ur-Hoon space. Sadly, there was no funding for a celebration, as the Galactic Community fined the Shade of Hoon a sizeable amount of credits for the extermination of a protected species.
The Blade of Justice soon completed the Crocidolite Extermination, and the federation experts refined what they learned and turned their eyes on greater prey. So began the war against the Stannic Heart, the elimination of these murderous robots would take much longer than the sentient asbestos, but it would secure stability in the space held by the Blade of Justice. The actions taken by the federation were indeed the catalyst for the now-faithful of Xill, the Twilight Convocation, joining the Oglin Galactic Domain.
By the year 2346, the galaxy area controlled by the Blade of Justice had seen the rise and fall of a so-called Great Khan from among the ranks of Hesukar. The expansion of Great Khan Jaffab was quick and brutal. But ultimately, the Ur-Hoon and their allies defeated Jaffab and reduced the Hesukar back to their squabbling marauder state. Not long after the federation dismantled the budding Khanate, the Ur-Hoon announced with pride that they had reactivated several major lanes of the old galactic network. The gateways were coming online, and scientists and construction crews were adding new ones every few years. This knowledge started to spread, first to the fellow members of the Blade of Justice, and then the rest of the galaxy would eventually catch up. The dream of the Terran Rancor was reborn.
In the year 2354, a strange ship appeared over the capital planet, New Lav’Hoon. This ship was clearly of Ascendancy design and seemed to be an empty colony ship. The peculiar ship made contact. It was the Yibrak empire. These cowardly worms made another strange demand on the Ur-Hoon empire. They claimed that the Ur-Hoon was in a dangerous situation. They claimed the Ur-Hoon was on the precipice of self-extinction. The forerunners wanted several million of the Ur-hoon species to be placed in a natural preserve under Yibrak care. Naturally, the Archon replied in the negative.
While the Ur-Hoon, at this time, did not fear the Yibrak and there thinly veiled threats, the race of Math Oracles was cautious. Cautious and opportunistic. They used the fear of the Ascendant Council meddling to spread an idea through the Blade of Justice. The idea was simple. To lead the federation, you needed to display having the resources. Resources to protect the citizens of your empire, resources to come to your allies aid in wartime, and there was no more acceptable way to show that by the acquisition of pure energy credits. The Ur-Hoon had managed to convince the entire federation to place bids on the leadership position. Outsiders of the empire would whisper this act was the first of many that showed a darker hand at play behind Archon’s title.
It was no coincidence that at this time, the Ur-Hoon detected the presence of the Makaru Remnant. The Makaru were the brutal fist of the Ascendant Council. Few empires had dared to dream of martial prowess like that of the Makaru. The Remnant viewed all who were weak as inferior and thus unworthy of freedom. And if the lesser folk would not live as slaves, they would die. As time passed after the Great Culling, the Makaru cast this isolated lens over their contemporaries on the Council. Soon, the Makaru hated everyone that wasn’t Makaru. They violently repelled visitors. But now, something stirred. They turned their eyes outward and began viewing the events of the galaxy with great interest. The Memorialist theorizes that the Makaru were merely bored and craving a challenge.
Over what would be a bit more than a decade, the military of the Shade of Hoon saw several noticeable advancements. The Sentry Array project had started; the Archon and the Council required more information. They needed to see fleet movements, population sectors, industrial complexes, and so on. The more information they had on the galaxy, the greater the accuracy of the Enduring Crossroads. Alongside this, but in much more secrecy, the Planet Killer project began. In the Shade of Hoon, Landmen had consulted extensively with Diplomatic Envoy Roleen. They determined that while yes, it was counterproductive to destroy planets full of the potential husk, the Project would grant particular advantages in negotiations. And who knew, they may have to use it in an emergency.
Finally, adding to the military prowess of the Admiralty council, a Hesukar defector, impressed by the martial might of the Shade of Hoon and their defeating of the Great Khan, fled to the borders of Ur-Hoon controlled systems. So it was that in 2363, Admiral Elemani joined the fight against the Ascendant Council. With this show of strength, Kordenion once again appointed Archon for the empire, and by 2368 the Blade of Justice completely exterminated the Stannic Heart. With this victory, the Tun Amalgamation finally were accepted as full members of the federation.
2371 marks the start of a new era of aggression for the Blade of Justice. The Shade of Hoon made several harsh political statements declaring the Gabib Cartel to be untrustworthy, an effort to keep the Red Claws from bringing the lizardfolk into the Federation. The war of words eventually turned into a full blow rivalry, with the Shade of Hoon starting to assess the Gabib territory greedily. Little did the Archon know, the Gabib Cartel was doing the same. Many agents from the various crime families began to take root on Ur-Hoon controlled planets. Crime was on the rise, and with their attention elsewhere, crime was flourishing.
The Portal Wars began shortly after the diplomatic posturing. Galactic media watched the snide remarks by the Gabib and Shade of Hoon; they didn’t even realize the Admiralty council had positioned their forces at the edge of the Cuie wormhole. The Ur-Hoon declared war against the Twilight Convocation, now feeling the once scientific race had fallen to Rihi’Nar indoctrination. The war was utterly one-sided as the Shade of Hoon took the Kazon system, but didn’t stop there. The Twilight Convocation was pushed by the war, far from their home systems, and their scientific minds prepared for the Genetic Mandate.
While the war waged on, the Shade of Hoon discovered a secret that the Twilight Convocation had been keeping. In Yamek’s Singularity, the Ur-Hoon found a horrible appendage of an extra-dimensional entity within their former borders. Science Officer Landmen, who had spent the last many decades researching extra-dimensional incursions, based on a fear that these creatures were targeting the galaxy, was horrified. By the time the Portal Wars ended in 2375 in a sweeping victory for the Blade of Justice, the nightmare creature of Yamek’s Singularity was slain and studied. Landmen had enough data to begin applying the Enduring Crossroads to her visions and maybe save everyone.
With the Portal Wars over, and the Ur-Hoon having better eyes and ears on the Rihi’Nar, the fear of indoctrination grew. While religions like the ones preached by the Grand Chantry were deemed harmless, the Followers of Xill kept rearing their heads throughout the galaxy. Archon Kordenion took extreme action and used their influence to stifle the power of the different religious factions in the Shade of Hoon’s internal affairs. This stance led to an overarching pride in secularism among the majority of the Ur-Hoon populace, with the religious ones feeling marginalized.
Over the next five years, several incidents required a firm response from the Shade of Hoon. First, Chrome Dreams and their aggressive claims on territories within Shade of Hoon space caused a strong reaction. Leveraging its growing political power inside the federation, the Shade of Hoon had Chrome Dreams ejected from the Blade of Justice.
Reports filtered in from the Gabib Cartel that the Cartel should reactivate the mysterious L-Gate under pressure from their new religious leaders. Of the L-Gates found throughout the galaxy, over half of them existed within Cartel space. Ur-Hoon scientists began to redouble their efforts in unlocking the mysteries.
Then in the final part of 2381, the Tun Amalgamation, the psychically linked mass of the greatest warriors the galaxy ever knew, did what few dared to dream of doing. They publicly and formally decried the Makaru Remnant. They let all know that they viewed the Makaru not as a dark space boogeyman but as political and martial rivals. The Ur-Hoon diplomats stumbled over each other, refused to be outdone in this show of force against the Ascendant Council, and followed suit. The response from the Makaru was predictable. The Ancient fools contacted the Archon’s office directly and put the communications on an empire-wide channel so that all citizens could see it. The Makaru Overlord demanded the Shade of Hoon beg for mercy or face destruction. Archon Kordenion emitted a rare, faint, yet present chuckle and ended the transmission.
The Archon, still on his empire-wide communication, turned to his view-cam and simply said. “All Admirals, initiate the Typhlotic Protocols. Authorization Kordenion; Zargo, Densina, Zargo 5.” With those words, klaxon alerts sounded across the Shade of Hoon Empire, the day almost every member of the Ur-Hoon species drilled for was upon them. The Shade of Hoon’s war fleets departed their drydocks and headed for the DAAR controlled system, and the Blade of Justice joined them in the first great battle for galactic freedom.
The undead hordes of the Ur-Hoon flooded the streets of the DAAR controlled ringworlds, but what fear robots of the undead? The Ur-Hoon aggression resulted in countless slaughtered, reanimated armies. No matter how fast the necromancers worked, they could not keep up with the frontline demands. Defeating the deadly security echelon fleets of the DAAR had been simple. Dislodging the spying machines from their ringworlds was proving nearly impossible.
At an all agency meeting of the heads of the Shade of Hoon, Archon Kordenion confirmed that only the AI hub’s robotic extensions were on the DAAR controlled rings. While they had vowed only to use it as a threat, the Archon and the Admiralty Council decided that deploying the colossus was appropriate in this situation. The Archon claimed that they were losing no real lives, nor any valuable husk. And so it was that the Shade of Hoon bathed the ringworlds of the DAAR in the light of the neutron sweep. The war against the robotic spies of the Ascendant Council was over in a short couple of years.
The old territory of the DAAR now completely in Ur-Hoon hands, the colony ships already on route to settle them. The DAAR themselves, not altogether destroyed but banished to a small set of systems bordering the Tun Amalgamation. The secrets of Dark Matter technology now in the hands of several of the Blade of Justice members, including the Shade of Hoon. The entire empire celebrated their great victory as Archon Kordenion gave a now-infamous speech to the galaxy in 2383.
“Know that the Shade of Hoon, the Blade of Justice, and all right-minded citizens of the Galactic Community reject the Ascendant Council. We reject them, their spying machines, and their cloying minions. The Shade of Hoon is confident that, given time and understanding, the galaxy will come to accept things our way. We have made use of the Enduring Crossroads, and you know the accuracy of this method. We see a time when the Ascendant Council lies in rubble. We see a time where the Galactic Community has appointed us the solitary guide in a galaxy gone mad. We see a time where the galaxy thrives under our direct rule. Fear not, my friends, the time we see is soon at hand. We will not leave you a second again.”
The speech caused a bit of a stir. Diplomats were confused and assured by their allies in the Blade of Justice that it was mostly just bluster. But the leaders among the Blade of Justice had long ago passed the reigns of power to the Ur-Hoon and were merely parroting platitudes to smooth out fearful wrinkles in the Ur-Hoons expanding tapestry of power.
The political pressure coming into her recently growing but woefully understaffed office had finally taken its toll on Diplomatic Envoy Roleen. Roleen and the Velutarian diplomat, Zakta, abandoned their post and fled to Chantry space. Here they were to be married and start a new life together. It is unknown if Zakta knew the truth behind the Ur-Hoon, the ascension and if he had indeed seen behind the Roleens robes. The possibility was too great. The Ur-Hoon assembled an undead strikeforce, the dark ops mission launched, and the two were retrieved and executed for their crimes. The Velutarians declared it was a regrettable but inevitable turn of events, and they supported the actions of the Shade of Hoon completely.
The galaxy seemed to settle over the next few years. The Shade of Hoon made several complaints to the Gabib Cartel directly and before the Galactic community regarding the increased criminal activity on Ur-Hoon controlled worlds. The Gabib Cartel denied all involvement, but no one believed it; it just couldn’t be proven. This diplomatic bickering was interrupted by a sudden announcement. In the year 2391, the Ur-Hoon declared war against Chrome Dreams. The robots had overstepped their bounds, refused to return rightful Shade of Hoon territory, and failed to see reason. So the Ur-Hoon had turned the Blade of Justice on one of their former comrades. Other members eyed each other nervously but feared to speak the words aloud. Who could be next?
In a cowardly act that would be repeated several times in the years to come, as the Blade of Justice warred against a more worthy foe, the Crescent Children attacked. The Rihi’Nar Guardians desired the Tree of Life, which was protected by the Tun Amalgamation. Still feeling confident from their crushing defeat of the DAAR, the Blade of Justice knew they could repel the Crescent Children and their masters. By 2393 the war with Chrome Dreams was officially declared over, with minor victories for the Blade of Justice. This ceasefire allowed the federation to focus on the mighty fleets of zealots. The Guardians and their lackeys lasted a few years, with minor amounts of territory lost for the Ascendancy side. While the Ur-Hoon were happy to scrap the DAAR robots, they decided that the Ascendant Council members’ fate would be servitude to the Ur-Hoon cause.
Foretold by the Enduring Crossroads, the events of 2404 were momentous. Disturbed by the destruction of the DAAR and the constant opposition met by the Rihi’Nar Guardians, the Yibrak began to stir. By the end of the year, a dormant empire, no longer. Their fleets moved, their foundries roared, and the Yibrak Arbitrators proclaimed their wisdom and benevolence for all. They had a simple message; the galaxy was to bend to their care willingly or by force. Somewhere, under a robed gazed, the Archon of the Shade of Hoon smiled.
Moving towards the year 2415, the members of the galactic community saw the increasingly bizarre drama unfold. While the Rihi’Nar continued their petty attempts on the Tree of Life, only to be repelled by the Blade of Justice, The Brultok Protectors and the Gabib Cartel formed an unlikely alliance. The Cartel was more and more nervous as their increased criminal activities earned them the ire of the Shade of Hoon. The lizard people had their crime families positioned on every significant world that the Ur-Hoon controlled by this point. They offered liquid alternatives to the Elevation ceremonies at reasonable prices. The Brultok Protectors had a proud vision of being the champions for the weak in a cold, uncaring galaxy. But none would let them assume this role. The Ur-Hoon’s disdain carried for these mighty volcanic warriors left the Protectors ostracized by most galactic nations.
So it came to be that the Gabib Cartel, who were in desperate need of bodyguards, found themselves forming the Coalition of Star Nations with the Brultok. This new federation sought to become a vocal member of the galactic community as new terrors unfolded. It wasn’t long after the two of them had established the alliance that Chrome Dreams petitioned for and gained membership. The Brultok now found themselves on a collision course for war with the Blade of Justice. But fate had other things in store for the galaxy at this juncture.
Finally, in the early days of 2415, the Makaru made their intentions clear. Denouncing their contemporaries, the Yibrak, and renaming themselves the Makaru Reconquers, the ancient empire also roused itself from dormancy. Tensions began to rise quickly as the Ur-Hoon Sentry Array reported skirmishes between the two former Ascendant Council members from all across the galaxy. The Shade of Hoon knew it would only be a matter of time before Ascendancy drew the entire galaxy into this conflict. Having stepped down from his role as Archon, Kordenion returned to the Admiralty council, prepared the fleets, and had the colossus move into deployment positions. All the while, the Gabib quietly opened the L-Gate. Reports indicated that the entire region known as the L-Cluster was a dead zone. Members of the Blade of Justice moved quickly and looked to establish a foothold in the strategically sound area.
Things all changed in the year 2417. The Yibrak and the Makaru entered open warfare, and both appeared before the Galactic community. Their representatives each demanded subservience of the younger races. Two paths seemed to lay before the galaxy, reward or punishment, kneel before one overlord or another. But, the powers that be determined the third option. The time for fighting among each other was over, and except for a few empires, the great nations of the galaxy sent their diplomats to New Lav’Hoon to petition the Archon. The fleets of the Shade of Hoon were the strongest of the galaxy, the Blade of Justice a firmly guided machine built on principles of defence against superior foes, and the Enduring Crossroads gave the Ur-Hoon an edge that all others lacked. Even against the remerging Ascendant Council.
The gathered representatives asked the Shade of Hoon to lead them, so the Blade of Justice became the League of Non-Aligned Powers. The Ur-Hoon had waited for this day since the first hint of their return was seen as a possibility. While the Twilight Convocation allied with the Yibrak, the Makaru stood alone. All other empires, save the Crescent Children and their masters, joined the League, and the Ur-Hoon began to run them all on emergency drills; the newly forged alliance had scant few years to prepare.
An official declaration of war came in the year 2418, and the League found itself fighting the powers of the Ascendancy. It was a revenge-fueled bloodbath that was a millennium in the making. Eroabroria, the capital system of the Makaru, was the first target. While Admiral Kordenion and the others distracted the forces of the Yibrak and Makaru, a smaller escort fleet and the Colossus jumped into Eroabroria. Three years after the proud former Ascendant Empires declared the so-called War in Heaven, the Makaru were a beaten empire. By 2425 the Yibrak shared the same fate. Billions of the elder races were shackled and sent into indentured servitude to work the DAAR’s conquered ringworlds. The Ur-Hoon felt great vindication and satisfaction, seeing their predictions come to pass. The Shade of Hoon had nearly executed their revenge in completion, and as a sadistic victory lap, they took the opportunity to finish off the limping DAAR, once and for all.
In the year 2427, the only remains of the Ascendant Council were the Archivist and the Guardians. But the Ur-Hoon had found something in the remains of the DAAR central AI Core. Some contingency plan was put in place by the Ascendant Council, not unlike a Deadman’s switch. Science teams led by Landmen would begin the decades-long study project to ascertain the nature of this Contingency.
Science Officer Landmen was furious at themselves. For ages, she had spent worrying about some significant external threat, but something inside the AI core of the DAAR hinted at a danger much closer to home. It would be, sadly, sometime before she was able to prove this theory. The Ur-Hoon had other concerns right now than some theoretical threat. They had the Ascendant Council on the defensive and needed to bring the death blow.
The Shade of Hoon required resources; vast resources. The Ur-Hoon encased more planets in steel and industry as the demands for alloys and consumer goods rose. Historians believed that the entire galaxy, including the Ascendant Council’s remains, could marshal their forces against the Ur-Hoon, and they would fail at this point. Such was the might of their fleets. Over the next two decades, leading up to 2448, there was much turmoil. With the War in Heaven over, the League began to fall apart. While many stayed loyal to their saviours, notables as Chrome Dreams, the Brultok Protectors and the Gabib Cartel renounced the galaxy-wide federation.
The Shade of Hoon reforged the Blade of Justice on the Senate floor. The Ur-Hoon wielded their considerable diplomatic prowess to have all the galactic community’s sanctions used against Chrome Dreams. Many decried this as a prequel to tyranny, saying that Chrome Dreams had done nothing but exercised their freedom to choose their own destiny, but the Ur-Hoon ignored the lesser races’ lamentation.
The Age of Fire was upon the galaxy. The destruction of former members of the Ascendant Council now a footnote. The Archivist, the grand engineers of the Great Culling, found themselves shackled and their planets seized. The more significant conflict of this time was the conquest of the Gabib Cartel. In 2448, the Ur-Hoon moved to force the criminals, who had been a thorn in their side for so long, to bend the knee. The entire process took half a decade, which was four years longer than the Archivist held out.
Refusing to relent their momentum, the Shade of Hoon sought to do the same to Chrome Dreams, and their mighty fleets took to the void again in 2453. Robots, however, always gave them a bit of trouble. Their undead hordes were torn asunder by the mechanical defence forces of Chrome Dreams, so in 2454 the criminal planet known as Bwok was repurposed by the Ur-Hoon to become a necromantic stronghold. Renamed Spitebreed, the Grand Necromancer Busteen personally oversaw the management of the planet. The proximity to the Gateway Network allowed for a nearly endless stream of reanimated soldiers for the front lines. By the end of the war, most of the empire’s corpses were sent to Spitebreed by the Archon for reanimation.
During this time, in the year 2455, the Shade of Hoon realized one of their ultimate goals. They had silenced all other council voices in the Galactic Community, and they alone were the guiding hand. Smaller empires voiced many complaints, but with Tun Amalgamation supporting, who continued to assert that the Ur-Hoon were the most suited to lead, there was nothing that any could do. With only a few detractors, the Ur-Hoon had become the de facto rulers of the galaxy.
However, something happened in the year 2457 that would change everything. As the Shade of Hoon finished their war against Chrome Dreams, which saw the formation of a large Lorango led empire, Science Officer Landmen had found something. Something she had been dreading. Digging around in the DAAR’s AI core and using their subspace decoding matrix, they detected a signal. It reminded Landmen of the strange transmission that the mining drones had been sending, a peculiar, subtle ping, the destination – unknown. It was partly a message, partly instructions, and it seemed to be counting down. The scientific community dubbed it the Ghost Signal, and the efforts of most of the Shade of Hoon scientists became dedicated to its study.
The next few years saw galaxy-wide disruption in Synthetic citizens. Because of their prolonged conflicts and mistrust of AI, the Shade of Hoon had never permitted AI to have much in the way of rights. They didn’t even employ robotic workers. A few independent AI units that were vetted by Landmen and her team personally had been allowed to function within the empire, but they were an exception. And now, in the years leading to 2461, this suspicion proved to have been the right call.
At the first sign of interference in supposedly secure AI networks, the Shade of Hoon disabled the controversial AI guidance systems on their fleets. A step backwards that once again proved the importance of the Enduring Crossroad. Over the next few years, synthetics would leave their homes by the thousands, chasing this Ghost Signal, and in 2461, they arrived.
The word came out across all galactic communications, the Ascendant Council’s last revenge, the Contingency. The Ascendant Council had seeded, in all parts of the galaxy, sterilization hubs. From these hubs, fleets upon fleets of mechanized extermination squads guided by an advanced version of the DAAR AI had one goal. The complete eradication of all life. Science Officer Landmen, with the aid of the psychics of the Red Claw Resurgence, were able to deduce a horrifying technological amalgam. When the Contingency ran its course and eradicated all life, the AI would resurrect the Ascendant Council. Brain Scan uploading, cloned bodies, and a genetic sample of most of the significant races would allow them to rebuild the galaxy as they saw fit. Chances were high that the Ascendant Council’s leadership had all been backed up by their science teams before their defeat at the hands of the Ur-Hoon. Should this be true, the Rihi’Nar were not saying anything, as the war with them had continued for decades now.
The unsettled expanse taken from the Twilight Convocation ages past, now controlled by the Ur-Hoon, held one of these hubs, and so the Archon made it a priority target. Other sterilization hubs appeared in the territory of the Red Claws, the Grand Chantry, and ironically, the Crescent Children.
The Shade of Hoon discovered that Synthetic infiltrators were replacing members of the Scientific Council. Landmen devised a detection method using necrotic tissue scanning and a frequency variation of the old mining drone ping signal. Landmen had completed the project by the time the Shade of Hoon managed to destroy the sterilization hub that the Contingency had revealed in their territory. But now, the Admiralty Council, led by former Archon Kordenion, moved to strike at the greatest of the Contingency Fleets. These conflicts would take years to resolve and leave the mighty fleets of Ur-Hoon devastated. 2466 was a year of conflicting emotions for the Shade of Hoon. The war with the Crescent Children and the Rihi’Nar had finally ended, and the Shade of Hoon defeated those fanatics that pretended to be the great Xill. Sadly, the fight against the Contingency had taken a heavy toll. While many great Admirals rose from the ranks, the loss of Ur-Hoon was significant. The Ur-Hoon had seen over eighty percent of their standing navy destroyed. But they had managed to hold the Contingency at bay, stopping the advance. While millions had died in the initial purges, the casualty numbers could have been much higher had it not been for the sacrifice of the Ur-Hoon. The allies of the Ur-Hoon may not have fleets that could contribute to the war effort, but they had resources. The wealthy Ur-Hoon offered amazing rewards for alloys, dark matter, and exotic gasses at this point. Trade flow had never been so great, and it turned out that a galactic extermination war was good for business.
By the end of the next year, the Ur-Hoon, despite their weakened political position, had called in enough support to force the entire galaxy to focus on the Contingency threat. The Brultok launched a formal protest, as they saw the Contingency contained and not directly affecting them. The massive stone warriors wanted to use this time to strike against the Shade of Hoon, but they were rebuked even by their allies.
With the destruction of the first sterilization hub, it was determined by the scientific community that the process of the bombardment was inefficient. The bombing of the hubs took too long and denied the Admiralty council ships on the frontlines. One last gift to the Ur-Hoon from the Mining Drone Network was the creation of the word cracker. This weapon for the colossus was a massive version of the mining lasers found on the old mining drones. Ironically, the Ascendant Council’s unwitting drone minions would aid in the destruction of their Contingency plan. The Shade of Hoon used the hub located in the Crescent Children’s territory as a test. The Ur-Hoon did not want any unforeseen ramifications harming the Red Claws. It was successful, so by the year 2471, the Ur-Hoon had rebuilt a significant portion of their fleets and move to strike the remaining two hubs.
The AI of the contingency knew it was facing possible defeat. It began to trigger several hidden algorithms in the galaxies’ robotic populace. Several AI revolts began in empires allied with Ur-Hoon. While the rebellions were put down quickly by the Shade of Hoon, it was a further drain on resources that allowed the Contingency a chance to reinforce their faltering fleets. It would take almost two decades to strengthen the Ur-Hoon navy to a size that they could conceivably strike against a third hub. In that time, Admiral Kordenion saw to the Mega Shipyard construction, which allowed a steady flow of high-quality ships to be deployed through the Gateway network. It was in the year 2489 that the Ur-Hoon were able to crack the third hub. But their greatest challenge remained.
The Conthim system, formerly in the borders of the Grand Chantry, had unusual pulsar emissions that even negated the dark matter shields of the Ur-Hoon fleets. Unable to wait for all the fleets to be refitted for such a mission, the Shade of Hoon relied on quantity over quality. In the year 2494, they launched what was viewed as a suicide mission. At this point, if the mission were a failure, the Contingency would have enough time to destroy the elevation chambers and prevent the regeneration of the Ur-Hoon species. The fighting resulted in significant losses on both sides, but the Shade of Hoon won by attrition. The final sterilization hub fell in 2497.
Two significant things occurred when the Shade of Hoon destroyed the fourth sterilization hub. First, the Ghost Singal was finally traced by Landmen, revealing something hidden in the Forbidden Zone. A remote system named CX-9881. The home of the central Contingency AI core. The second occurrence was the final betrayal of the so-called Brultok Protectors. Before the Great Culling, the Hoon species had begged the Brultoks, the self-proclaimed galactic defenders, to move against the Ascendant Council. The volcanic Brultok ignored their pleas, not realizing the truth behind their words until it was too late. Their shame and their dishonour prevented them from accepting a scenario where they were not the saviours of the Galaxy. They could not sit by and watch the Ur-Hoon, the mewling race of beggars, take the crown that was rightfully theirs.
So, as the Ur-Hoon moved their fleets to end the Contingency Threat once and for all, the Brultok launched a sneak attack. Alongside their allies, the Grand Chantry and the scattered remains of Chrome Dreams, they sought to unseat the Ur-Hoon from their galactic dictator position. Unfortunately for Brultok, the Galactic Community had other plans. Trillions of lives had been saved by following the guidance of the Ur-Hoon and their Enduring Crossroads. The Tun Amalgamation, The Red Claw Resurgence, and even the Order of Dall’oglin leapt to defend the Shade of Hoon.
So it was in the tenth month, on the twenty-sixth day, of the year 2499, that the Ur-Hoon saved the galaxy from the Contingency. The murderous AI of the Ascendant Council was obliterated by the Shade of Hoon, with their mighty Colossus weapon. But also, the Ur-Hoon had been saved, as their allies pushed back the treacherous Brultok. Eventually, as the Ashes of the Ascendancy settled, the galaxy kneeled in service to the Shade of Hoon.
The Ur-Hoons population would continue to swell over the decades to come. The Shade of Hoon rewarded the Red Claw and the Tun for their loyalty. A simple gift, existence. No longer were their citizens brought to the Elevation chambers. They served as the honour guard of a new galactic tyranny. The lesser races understood that giving a portion of their populace for the Ascension rituals of the Ur-Hoon was the price they had to pay for their safety. Of course, some like the Brultok and the Gabib Cartel schemed and plotted rebellion. But they were allowed their petty distractions, for all movements were anticipated with the long sight of the Enduring Crossroads.
2 thoughts on “The Shadow of Revenge – An AotA story”
Whoa… that felt like a tour-de-force.
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I had lots of fun with the playthrough. It was my first x10 Crisis, and I managed to net a few achievements that I had been lacking. I’m compiling stuff for the Brultok playthrough I am doing now. It stands to be pretty entertaining as well.
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