A new day has dawned in the Cognatus Empire. Under the command of the ancient Primercer, the zealots have grown from strength to strength. However, not all within the theocracy agree with the current path of their civilisation. Over the skies of the mysterious world of Amphryssos, events will occur that will change not only an idealistic shiplord, but the fate of a species separated from their kin by over twenty one million light years...
In a time long since forgotten, the enigmatic Oikoumene Empire existed not only in the Cyrannus Galaxy, but across the First Gigaquadrant spreading its knowledge across the stars and aiding the development of countless species. In the Milky Way Galaxy, their presence was strong and they guided many of the native Plazithians with a deft hand. As the millennia passed, the Oikoumene mysteriously vanished though their influence throughout the Gigaquadrant remained strong through ancient artefacts left behind. On the ancient planet of Pământ, a culture of Pământians cultivated an entire civilisation thanks to technology discovered by the race they referred to as the "Old Ones". Reaching into space from their island continent of Mu, the Pământians created a vast interstellar civilisation the envy of the entire galaxy. However, as they grew increasing levels of cultural and technological sophistication, the Pământians soon encountered a threat that sought to banish their race back to Pământ. A massive war ensued, resulting in the sound defeat of the Pământians, whose entire culture was destroyed one planet at a time until the reptilian lords finally bombarded their home continent from orbit, sinking it into the very depths of the sea. However, a single ship of refugees managed to escape the carnage and using the last remnant of Old One technology on Pământ, transported themselves to another galaxy.
Their ship badly damaged, the Pământians crash-landed on a barren, barely inhabitable world. With most of their technology destroyed, a new culture emerged on this world and over the next one hundred and fifty thousand years, the Homincyradae developed. However, due to the adverse conditions of their new homeworld, the natives took to wearing enviro-suits at all times in order to protect themselves from the many dangers of their home planet, which they named Amphryssos. Ignorant to their true origins, the Homincyradae constructed an interstellar empire in the Unknown Regions of the Cyrannus Galaxy, becoming known traders and diplomats to the native Cyrannian species. However, unbeknownst to the peaceful humans, there was more to their adopted homeworld then met the eye as the nefarious gaze of their galactic neighbours soon became drawn to the secrets that lay beneath the sands...
The comm-room of the Angelós-class Destroyer Tenebrous was richly decorated, almost unusually so in comparison with the decor prevalent on other Cognatus vessels. Shiplord Thaur'Vicliquam stood motionless in the centre of the room, anticipating a transmission from Theu'Vandonee himself, the Imperial Warmaster of the Cognatus Empire. Though seen by his underlings as elusive and enigmatic, the Warmaster's reputation as a cunning warrior preceded him. However, so too did his reputation as one who doubts the words of the new leader of the empire. Indeed, the young 'Vicliquam shared his concerns, though as a lowly shiplord he did not have the power or authority to make his feelings known without fear of reprimand. Despite this, he hid his feelings well and to all who knew him, he was but one of thousands of loyal Primercer-worshipping lackeys.
So much is changing so quickly. I hold no hope in my heart that a god would intervene so implicitly in the affairs of mortals... Thaur thought to himself as the green light of the holocommnication device flooded the room and the image of the golden-emblazoned armour of Theu'Vandonee appeared. Despite nearing two hundred and fifty years of age, 'Vandonee was still physically fit, though his days of front-line service have long since drifted into memory. Clicking his mandibles in greeting, Shiplord Vicliquam bowed as a mark of respect.
"Good blessings, Warmaster. The shiplord and crew of the Tenebrous await your wise commands.", the Shiplord said as he lifted his head, his crimson eyes fixed on his superior. 'Vandonee returned Thaur's greeting with the closest a Cogsangui could manage to a smile.
"In his wisdom, our new lord has deemed us worthy enough to benefit from a holy artifact left behind by the Ancients under the mountains of a world in the Vena Sector", 'Vandonee said with a tinge of skepticism overt enough to be picked up by Thaur's alert ears. "It is my wish for the Tenebrous to lead the charge to claim this artifact."
Thaur contemplated the Warmaster's words with great interest and clicked his mandibles in approval. "It would be my honour, Warmaster. For the glory of the Cognatus and the success of our people!"
The Warmaster nodded in approval and bade farewell to the young Shiplord. As the hologram vanished, the green light that had filled the room was replaced with a warm crimson glow. Sighing to himself, Thaur picked up a nearby piece of fruit and bit into it, unaware of the fact that his entire life would be changed over the course of the following week...
The surface of Amphryssos was bleak, desolate and nearby devoid of life. Clinging onto existence on the inhospitable world were the Homincyradae, a peaceful race of humanoids notable for lacking any form of military, preferring to put their faith in science and diplomacy. Though orbiting a relatively normal yellow main sequence star, only one side of the planet had any contact with sunlight, with the other half cloaked in perpetual darkness. The Homincyradae lived primarily in domed cities in a small stretch of "twilight zone" between the cold and warm halves of the planet. Both halves of these regions of Amphryssos were relatively unexplored by the Homincyradae, who preferred to explore the vastness of space rather than their bleak homeworld. Nevertheless, the young scientist Vaslah and her partner Shinto managed to convince the Homincyradae Congress to fund an expedition to uncover more information regarding the past, specifically how the Homincyradae could have evolved on such a world as Amphryssos.
As their shuttle touched down on a cliff overlooking the Cazzal Mountains, Vaslah gathered herself just in time to appreciate the view. I don't care what everyone says. This planet is beautiful., she thought to herself. The sun gleamed against her visor and seemed to illuminate the gray hills below, creating an illusion that they were made from crystal.
"What's that over there?", Shinto asked, pointing towards a glowing object buried in a nearby rock formation. Turning to face it, Vaslah studied the distant object closely. It appeared to be nestled between two blue crystal rocks and was distinctly artificial in nature, though the glowing beacon-like device attached to it was amorphous in its shape and puzzling in its nature. As the two Homincyradae cautiously approached the object, space above the planet was torn asunder by the arrival of a massive alien fleet blasting out from hyperspace. Arriving so close to the planet's surface caused massive earthquakes that threw both Homincyradae off their feet.
"Back to the shuttle! Quickly!" Vaslah bellowed as she got to her feet. Running towards the shuttle as the ground cracked beneath her, she suddenly noticed that Shinto was no longer behind her. Turning her head, the young Homincyradae was horrified to see that her friend's helmet had been ruptured by a falling rock, painfully suffocating him. "No..."
As she climbed into the shuttle, Vaslah removed her helmet and began to weep. However, when a nearby rock formation collapsed not ten metres away from the shuttle, she pulled herself together. Taking control of the craft, she piloted it through the collapsing spires of rock, narrowly missing many as she sped towards the nearest city.
On the bridge of the Tenebrous, Shiplord Thaur'Vicliquam sat on his elaborate command chair with his claw-like hands steepled. Before him lay a large holographic image representation of Amphryssos, which he began to manipulate with his hands, zooming in on some areas of the planet and zooming out on others. His mandibles clicked in dissatisfaction. Three billion lifeforms...
Rising from his command chair, Thaur turned to face his second in command, a young Draiocht named Glorex who was garbed in a traditional uniform once used in his empire, known as the Pact before the Cognatus conquered it over a year beforehand. "I was informed that this planet was uninhabited. It appears that it's home to over three billion.", Thaur said, his voice stern and cold.
"Orders are orders, Shiplord. You know the fate of those who desecrate holy ground." replied the Draiocht, a look of suspicion etched on his humanoid face.
Thaur shifted uncomfortably. "The artefact is in a remote area. We need not bother with the natives."
"Shall I contact Fleetlord Adamae? I am confident he'll suppor-", Glorex was in the midst of saying, before being cut off by Thaur. Fleetlord Adamae was perhaps the most loyal servant of the Primercer and was well known for his ruthless disposition and
"Hold your tongue, worm! Lest I remove it from your mouth! Take us into position over their largest city. Use the Deconfinement Disruptor. Their end will be quick.", Thaur said turned his piercing gaze from Glorex and back to the holographic image of Amphryssos. This would not be the first time he had doomed a world to destruction nor would it be the first time he would do so under orders he did not agree with. Nevertheless, he knew the price of disloyalty to the strict ways of the Cognatus government. Both he and all his relatives would be hung, drawn and quartered for his failure to abide by the strict religious code of the empire.
The Tenebrous sunk into the atmosphere of Amphryssos, the sheer mass and speed of the ship sending shockwaves across the continent. Meanwhile, speeding towards the capital city of Tagrahi, Vaslah looked up in horror at the massive crimson-hulled vessel as it sped overhead towards Tagrahi. Taking position over the vast city, the Tenebrous stopped directly above the centre of the dome which covered the capital, where it hung silently against the orange-hued skies.
Suddenly, a massive lance of energy shot out from the keel of the Tenebrous, shattering the city's dome and exploding with tremendous force as it hit the city, engulfing the surrounding landscape in fire. The shockwave from the explosion caused Vaslah to lose control of her shuttle, which crash landed onto a vast expanse of burnt earth. Looking into the sky, the Tenebrous was nowhere to be seen, though what was once a bustling city was now the obliterated grave for ten million.
Suppressing her tears, Vaslah activated her distress beacon in the hopes that her species could be saved from this diabolical threat.
With steely eyed determination, Admiral Juliana Reynolds of the Allied Terran Republic gazed at her viewscreen. What she saw sent shivers down her spine. An entire planet being invaded by a sinister fleet of Cognatus vessels. She knew that her race was not always trusted in the Cyrannia Cluster and by interfering in a Cyrannian matter, she may draw the ire of the natives but when innocent lives were at stake, she knew what she had to do. As the captain of the mighty Ériu-class ATS Leonardo da Vinci and the commander of the entire Terran flotilla in Cyrannus, Reynolds ordered an immediate jump to Amphryssos to provide aid to the besieged natives.
One by one, the Terran ships dropped out of hyperspace in orbit over Amphryssos. Apparently taken by surprise, the Cognatus Battlefleet, with the exception of the flagship which remained in low orbit over the habitable regions of the planet, began to turn away from Amphryssos and toward the newly arrived Terran fleet.
Standing up from her command chair, Admiral Reynolds turned to her crew. "Nothing in the Cyrannian Galactic Code gives these monsters the right to attack an innocent planet. From our records, these Homincyadrae are peaceful beings, with no weapons or defences. However, these Cognatus certainly do. All ships, launch fighters, raise shields and fire at will!"
The first volleys from the gleaming Terran ships struck against the unshielded hull of a Cognatus frigate, which lit up in flames and smoke. Though initially confused and caught unaware, the Cognatus quickly gained momentum when a massive Ágios-class's quark disruptor cannons lit up like angry red eyes before unleashing a brilliant crimson lance of energy which impacted against a nearby Terran Destroyer, dissecting it from stem to stern in a single devastating shot.
"We can't contend with weaponry like that! All cruisers, engage the Cognatus at extreme close range! And send rescue ships to the remaining cities on the planet!" Reynolds commanded, as she struggled to maintain control over the deteriorating bridge of the Da Vinci.
Over the next hour, the two massive fleets clashed viciously, with the ATS Leonardo da Vinci and her fellow cruisers merely stalling for time as evac ships began to land in the few cities spared the orbital bombardment. However, despite their best efforts, the Terran fleet was quickly dwindling to the overwhelming power of the Cognatus.
Just when all hope seemed lost, a new contact entered the Da Vinci's sensor range. "Identify that ship! Is it one of ours?!" Reynolds ordered to her tactical officer.
Standing on the bridge of his vessel with his arms folded behind his back, Thaur Vicliquam narrowed his eyes in fury. Just as his fleet was prepared to annihilate the human fleet and secure the surface of the planet in search of the artifact, the flagship of the New Cyrannian Republic materialised into orbit. And it wasn't alone. All around the massive hull of the Republica, smaller vessels such as a Phoebus-class Star Destroyer dropped out of hyperspace and began firing their mighty turbolasers at the Cognatus fleet, as the remains of the Terrans took up positions behind the New Republic vessels. As the Tenebrous was still in low orbit over an uninhabited region of the planet, Vicliquam ordered the ship to engage the new arrivals. As he watched the atmosphere of Amphryssos give way to the empty void of space, he began shouting out orders to those under his command.
"Full shields! Aim for that frigate and ram it at full speed!", he commanded. Shooting through the battle like a gigantic missile, the massive bulk of the Tenebrous smashed through a much smaller Ares-class Frigate, which exploded harmlessly against the superior shields of the Cognatus vessel. Kilometres away, a Phoebus-class, the CRS Valour under the command of Commodore Thonaloc lined up against the Tenebrous and unleashed a full broadside, severely weakening the port-side shields and sending everyone on the bridge to their feet. Unfazed, Thaur turned to his tactical officer.
"They dare face our cannons? Burn them! Full broadside!".
Even the highly advanced shields of the Valour could not protect it from the sheer firepower of the Tenebrous's cannons, which blasted chunks of the mighty Star Destroyer into space, leaving it listing defenseless across the battlefield. Just as he was about to finish off the vessel, Thaur was once again thrown off his command chair by an explosion, this time far larger than the first. Rushing to the aid of the Valour, the Republica fired its primary superlaser, gutting half of the Cognatus flagship instantaneously while sending the other half in an uncontrolled descent into the planet's atmosphere.
Noticing that most of his bridge crew were dead, Thaur immediately made his way through the rubble of his once feared flagship towards the escape pods, only to be stopped in his tracks by the hand of his injured Draiocht first mate.
"What are you... doing, Shiplord?!", he said as he weakly attempted to stand up. "There is no honour in escape! You will... be forbidden entry into the Realm of the ... Gods!"
Desperate to get to the escape pod, Thaur attempted to shake the Draiocht off him, but to no avail. Roaring with fury, he stamped his foot down on his injured first officer's head, killing him instantly. Praying for forgiveness in his head, Thaur entered the escape pod and escaped the exploding remains of the Tenebrous, watching it and most of the Cognatus fleet burn up in the atmosphere.
Sobbing as she sat on the damaged hull of her shuttle, Vaslah still couldn't process what had happened. Her entire city, along with most of the people she ever knew were now dead; killed by an enemy she knew nothing about. For all she knew, she was the last Homincyradae in existence. As she gazed tearfully at the destroyed ruins of Tagrahi, she noticed a vessel appear out of the corner of her eye. It definitely didn't belong to the alien attackers, but neither was it a Hominacyradae rescue ship. Setting down adjacent to her crashed ship, the doors of the New Republic Consul-class corvette opened, revealing a trio of different aliens; one was a female humanoid while the other two were large reptilian beings. The three visitors approached Vaslah with expressions of saddness etched on their faces.
"Greetings young lady, I'm Fleet Admiral Willelmus Cretacea of the Republic Starship Republica. I am deeply sorry for the loss of so many of your people", said one of the reptilians, removing his hat as a sign of respect.
"... They're all gone?" Vaslah managed to say, her voice heavy with grief.
"This unprovoked attack was deadly, yes. However, your people will endure. According to my ship's sensors, there's an entire continent of people untouched by the Cognatus.", replied the female humanoid, who introduced herself as Admiral Juliana Reynolds of the Allied Terran Republic. Standing alongside her was a rather fearsome looking reptilian with many scars etched on his red face; Commodore Thonaloc.
Vaslah's mood improved somewhat in the knowledge that her people were not wiped out by the alien invaders, though a question still plagued her mind.
"Those things... those monsters. Why did they attack us?"
"I do not know", Admiral Cretacea responded, his expression grim. "However, if I was to hazard a guess, I'd imagine that an Oikoumene artifact is involved somehow. Those crazed zealots would stop at nothing to obtain one. And they rarely attack a world if they didn't believe that they'd be honouring their gods in some way/"
"I don't know about an Oikoumene artifact, but before the attack my partner and I discovered something in the Cazzal Mountains. It certainly wasn't built by Homincyradae, I can tell you that much. Unfortunately, the Cognatus attacked before I could study it in more detail." Vaslah said, as she rose to her feet.
"Hm... In that case, this artifact could be the cause for this entire battle." Cretacea mused. Nodding in agreement, Thonaloc turned back towards the corvette.
"Wait a minute, what about survivors? ... What about me?" Vaslah said in a panic, worried that her saviors would abandon her here with no means to get to the populated regions of the planet.
"By all means, come with us my Homincyradae friend, after all you know where this thing is. Did you really think that we'd just abandon you here, Ms...?" Admiral Reynolds said, placing her arm around the young Homincyradae.
Vaslah looked out at the deciminated landscape of Amphryssos with a solemn expression on her face. Though the new arrivals assured her that more of her people survived the devastating Cognatus attack, she remained unconvinced that any more than a few thousand could have survived the firestorm unleashed upon her already fragile home. Nevertheless, she thought to herself, as long as one Homincyradae survived, the legacy of her people would live on. The shuttle she travelled in was far larger than her own craft, clearly designed for use by much larger species such as the Libertus. As it sped over the landscape, Vaslah recognised the distinctive peaks of the Cazzal Mountains, where she initially discovered the artifact before the arrival of the Cognatus.
With a load thump, the shuttle touched down on the surface of the Mountains and the passengers disembarked. Closing her eyes as she inhaled the stale air, Vaslah experianced a painful flashback of her partner Shinto's death only metres away when the Cognatus fleet entered the system. Staggering on her feet, she was steadied by Admiral Reynolds. "You can remain in the shuttle if you'd like, Vaslah. I can understand if you don't feel comfortable here."
"No, I must do this. For Shinto."
Admiral Cretacea scanned the area while Vaslah regained her footing. A look of determination creeped across her masked eyes as she led the group towards the mysterious object that she encountered before the Cognatus ruined everything. Suddenly, she stopped and pointed. "There. That's what started this mess."
The object was lodged between two gleaming rocks and was clearly artificial, though highly advanced, in nature. As they approached the artifact, it began to glow brightly while beautiful beacons of colourful light shot out from the epicentre. Cretacea scanned the device, a look of wonder etched on his reptilian features. "No harmful elements detected... It's amazing."
Caught in a trance, Vaslah continued to approach the mysterious object while the others stood their ground. Admiral Reynolds attempted to hold Vaslah back, but there was no stopping her. Placing her slender hands on the object, she disappeared into thin air.
The next thing Vaslah knew, she was floating through what appeared to be a wormhole at frightening speeds. She saw the history of her people flash before her eyes and a deep, booming voice inside her head. Before she had time to process all that was happening, she was surrounded by utter blackness, floating endlessly in the abyss. Turning her head, she saw what appeared to be a spherical ship similar in appearance to the object discovered on Amphryssos, but on a larger scale. The same voice she heard briefly before emanated from the vessel.
"Greetings, my child."
"Who are you?! Where am I?!" Vaslah asked, her voice cracking with fear.
"Do not be frightened. I am of Mu. I am your kin. Precious few of us survived the original destruction of our home, just as precious few have survived the destruction of your new home. Eons ago, during our escape from the demons at Pământ, I was a leader amongst our people, chosen for my might and intellect. In order to guide and protect others from the fate we suffered, I exiled myself to the core, where I evolved into something greater then what I was. I guided those who sought enlightenment and bestowed upon those worthy with the power to create and spread life, intelligence and understanding throughout the cosmos."
Vaslah's fear dissipated with every word the entity spoke. She knew that he was genuine.
"Alas, my own people were reduced to tribalism and perpetual warfare. I knew of your lost ancestors, who travelled through the void between galaxies and settled on Amphryssos. In the hopes that I could guide and protect you, I created this personality imprint so I could be in two places at once. I also come before you with the power to seed this destroyed world with life and health. Where babes can be born under the light of a healthy sun and grow old on the warm soil of home."
Another object appeared in the void, a large staff-like object which hovered gracefully in front of Vaslah.
"Take the Staff of Life, my friend. Use it on your broken world and bring happiness to your people. Join with your ancient kin of old and rejoice in the knowledge that the children of Pământ have once again been made whole."
As she placed her hand around the Staff, the ship briefly took the appearance of a kindly old man before she was once again flung into a wormhole, where she soon found herself standing in the exact position she had disappeared from on Amphryssos. She was greeted with the worried and startled expressions of Admiral Cretacea, Reynolds and Thonaloc, who clearly did not expect the young Homincyradae to return in one piece, much less return in one piece holding what appeared to be a highly advanced Ultraterrestrial artifact.
Before the others could approach her, Vaslah placed the staff in the ground, creating a massive outburst of energy which engulfed the planet.
On the bridge of the CRS Republica, Commander Reemuckeeus sat vacantly staring at a holographic representation of Amphryssos with a small green marker indicating the location of Admiral Cretacea. Suddenly, the hologram malfunctioned and powered off. Getting to her feet, she noticed that other monitors on the bridge also flickered out and died. Selanius, a liberated Caprigrox who served as Security Chief approached the commander.
"Commander, all decks reporting a loss of power as well as a substantial energy burst coming from the admiral's last known location."
Before she had a chance to respond, she noticed a massive wall of energy approach the vessel. Her eyes bulged and she ordered what little remained of the ship's power to the shields.
She secured herself on her chair and let out a wail, "Brace for impact!"
Turning hard to starboard, the massive vessel struggled to remain level as the wall of energy impacted against the flagship. However, to Reemuckeeus' surprise, when she opened her eyes, the ship appeared to be unharmed. Once it leveled itself, the monitors and holograms on the bridge sparked into life. Dhivael, the science officer turned to Reemuckeeus, her expression typically emotionless.
"Most curious, commander. That energy front appears to have... transformed the planet. I have no explanations, though the planet is no longer a barren wasteland. By all accounts... it's a paradise."
To her astonishment, Reemuckeeus took a glance at the view outside the bridge. Where there was once a barren and burnt wasteland, now there was a verdant green paradise with vast blue oceans and white clouds. In fact, it seemed that the extensive damage done to the planet by the Cognatus was now healing at an exceptional rate. Turning her attention back to the hologram of the planet, she let out a sigh of relief when she saw the admiral's signal re-establish itself. Flittering into being on a nearby holographic device was the image of Admiral Cretacea.
"Commander Reemuckeeus, don't worry we're fine. You're not going to believe what just happened."
The Battle of Amphryssos proved to be a turning point in the history of the Homincyradae. While they were once a minor species confined to the inhospitable wastes of their homeworld, now they were a key player in the events surrounding local space, proud to call their newly revitalised world home. In the days following the activation of the mysterious staff bestowed upon her, the young Vaslah was declared the leader of her people overseeing the rebuilding of Homincyradae cities in locations across the planet, even those that were initially deemed uninhabitable. Over the coming weeks, Vaslah would also formalise her people's alliance with both the Cyrannian and Terran Republics and gave her people the choice to join either civilisation while remaining true to the ancient Amphryssos civilisation. Ultimately most Homincyradae decided to join the Terran Republic, with many spreading throughout the intergalactic territories, keen to reintegrate with their lost kin of Pamant.
Meanwhile, floating through space, Shiplord Thaur Vicliquam sat in his escape pod contemplating his actions throughout the campaign. With no Cognatus ships within range, the only thought on his mind was atonement.