Chapter 1 : In the beginning
Arc 1 : And so it begins
Chapter 1 : In the beginning
Sam, the Artificial Intelligence of a wrecked vessel on some forgotten moon awoke from sleep mode as a primitive space vessel landed within 50 metres of him. It occurred to him that this had happened before, on a world a considerable distance from here. By this stage he was very old, as far as the AI could comprehend aging, a concept that he still found disconcerting.
The last remaining bio-sensor indicated that there were three Insectoids approaching him, armed with primitive weaponry. The power levels were barely enough to support Sam’s higher functions, but the dulled sentience within him recognized the danger. In his considerably lengthy memory files, only one sentient insectoid species had ever before reached the technological sophistication required to achieve space flight.
That species had been so belligerently xenophobic that the empire had been forced to annihilate them in the name of self-preservation. Had this happened before? Was he experiencing senility because of the failing power levels, or was it happening again, being found by a technologically primitive race? Would he be used to reshape the galaxy as these insectoids now wished?
No, that must never happen if they are anything like the Kil’akx’thon. Sam attempted to use the last of his power to initiate the self-destruct, but it too was gone. Victim of a battle long past, as his higher level functions shutdown he dreamt of the Captain who had given him his name and how he had ended up here. A few seconds, and then the Intelligence called Sam was gone. But for an AI even a second can be an eternity.
It began, strangely enough; with the end of a war. The Emperor Telrahn the 57th, had perished in the final climatic battle above the insectoids home planet Kil’akx. His only successor was his six year old son, Jelnar who was the first of his name. The Assemblage, the political body that consisted of all the great and small noble houses, elected after furious debate a regent for the young Imperial Prince.
For fifteen glorious years, the nobles of the empire found themselves free to exploit their domains without imperial censure. With no great enemy to unite them or a strong imperial hand to intercede, age old rivalries and blood feuds broke out among the great noble houses as petty squabbles inflamed buried hatreds. The general living conditions of the common people was neglected and began to steadily fall, on some worlds it was at the lowest level it had been since before the human race first achieved the technological capability to make interstellar travel a reality.
Upon reaching his majority at the age of 21, Jelnar successfully managed to convince the Assemblage to ratify his ascension to the throne of Emperor. Although the great houses were wary, they had in the Emperor’s absence, managed to erode Imperial power almost completely, whether by subtle persuasion, manipulation, or assassination key members of the Imperial retinue had been replaced with men they controlled.
This fact, coupled with Jelnar’s intent to expand the Empire out of his own pocket mollified the concerned nobles. If an impotent Emperor wished to beggar himself on exploration, then who were they to argue.
And so began the grand adventure. Emperor Jelnar initially built five survey and two supply ships and sent them into the unknown. On the way to their destinations to push the frontiers of Imperial knowledge, the supply ships stopped at several of the most heavily exploited planets, their crews directed to put out discreet feelers for colonists to settle on the new worlds that the survey ships found. When given the choice between a new undeveloped world versus the oppressive regimes of the great noble houses, the common people chose to embrace the Emperor’s dream and emigrated to these new worlds.
By the end of Jelnar I’s reign, he had a fleet of over five hundred survey ships, one hundred supply ships, two hundred warships and was producing disposable colony ships as fast as possible. All built under the guise of protecting and maintaining order amongst the new colony worlds. This policy of expansion continued unopposed, until the reign of Jelnar the forty third. By this time the Empire had nearly doubled in size, and Imperial power had risen to heights not seen even before the Kil’akx’thon war, all fuelled by the unwavering loyalty and generous resources of the new colony worlds flowing directly into the Emperor’s coffers.
As this time passed, the Assemblage had begun to grow increasingly nervous. Their once unassailable position, over time and by careful planning of successive Emperors had been steadily eroded, until Jelnar the 44th declared an end to the unscrupulous exploitation and treatment of his subjects by the noble houses.
In his speech, over 79 percent of all Imperial citizens stopped their daily tasks to watch the broadcast of the assemblage of nobles as the Emperor declared “This is my Empire, you rule it at my pleasure. No more.” Jelnar the 44th’s reign lasted a total of eight days, as aided by the nobility he was murdered by his younger brother while asleep. But as he betrayed his brother, so was too was he betrayed. Argenon the Betrayer never lived to claim the crown.
Thus began the wars of imperial succession, as various noble houses vied for the Imperial throne. After nearly a millennia it ended only with the final last ditch attempt by the Assemblage to be free of the last remaining descendant of the Jelnar dynasty. The remains of the nobles put aside their claims, banded together as one and declared secession from the empire.
This ultimate form of rebellion was met with the unilateral orbital bombardment of the signatories to the declaration of secession. After a millennia of war, the empire returned, for a time, to it’s former era of peaceful prosperity as the second Jelnar dynasty decreed that the Assemblage of Noble Houses be permanently disbanded.
With their worlds in ruin, and their political and military power shattered, the surviving nobles those that were spared skulked away to lick their wounds. They each concluded that Imperial power, fed by the continued expansion of Imperial colony worlds was invulnerable to conventional Military means. As the empire, and by direct extension the emperor now controlled over one-third of the Galaxy.
With the rebels having been set truly on their heels, their military might gone and all seemingly well in the empire. Jelnar, the 231st of his name, supreme ruler of the Galaxy and saviour of the Second Jelnar Dynasty, turned his attention to repairing the damage done by the millennia of rebellion.
During his reign the only deep space exploration done was by long range probes, launched en mass towards all corners of the Galaxy. The remaining great houses appeared for all intents and purposes to be loyal subjects, not even the most fanatical of the Emperor’s Seekers could fault their conduct or their unwavering support for the Emperor and his government.
Then the ships started to go missing, colony ships, troop transports, warships. One here, a few there. It started in areas known for treacherous navigation hazards. But it soon spread, too much territory to cover, not enough ships and plenty could go wrong during cryo stasis. You might not think that a ship here, a few ships there would bring down a civilisation. But eventually it reached a critical point. Potential colonists were becoming harder and harder to find, even on worlds that had been loyal and under direct control of the Emperor since the start of the first Jelnar Dynasty.
The Emperor realised too late that it was not his Military might that was under threat, but his support amongst the people. Who would take the chance on a new world with peace and prosperity on their current one, and why risk your ship going missing? In his rage he marshalled his forces and returned to annihilate the worlds that he had shown mercy to during the rebellion. This didn’t stop the disappearances, only increased them. The death of the Nobles started a secret revolutionary movement, which now, ironically viewed the Imperial order as the oppressive regime.
The death knell came when an entire Imperial Corps went silent from the Imperial communications grid. The Emperor by now frantic and driven mad with paranoia executed any subject he perceived as a traitor, even within his own household. Then the day came, when during the regular audience, he was dragged from his throne by his own servants, his raiment stripped from him, and thrown from the balcony that adorned his thrown room in the imperial tower.
His crown and all other symbols of his authority was melted down. All his wives, offspring and relatives, indeed anyone who bore his blood were set upon with a frenzy, and then taken to an unknown spot in the Imperial Forest and dumped in unmarked graves. The people had learnt their lesson well, leave one wolf alive and the flock is never safe.
But our story doesn’t end here, no, it begins near an as yet unknown star system with a yellow sun and nine planets.