DAWN OF HUMANITY
History speaks of a dark and troubled time in the ancient past. Humans brought themselves to the brink of extinction. From this chaos emerged the Technocrats, a mystical order that revered technology. The inventions of the Technocrats helped humanity to be born anew on Mars. Under the care and leadership of the Technocrats humanity has flourished.
From their temples in the grand cities of Mars the Technocrats managed to conquer even the secrets of interstellar travel. The stars were now the new frontier, and humanity was eager to colonize their new homes. Worship of the Technocrats and their secret conclave was absolute. A new golden age of Man was born.
The early days of humanity's expansion was limited only by the ability to find suitable worlds to colonize. Few systems contained planetoids with the same qualities as Mars, but those systems with such worlds became the footholds of future exploration. In total eleven other Mars-like worlds were found and colonized.
Including Mars humanity now ruled twelve planets throughout the stars. Each world became a sprawling civilization and centers for agriculture, manufacturing and research. And on each world the largest structure built was the world's temple to the Technocrats, for it was only through the ingenuity of the Technocrats that each planet was tamed.
Eventually humanity tried to colonize less suitable worlds or build massive space stations in more inhospitable systems. The fringe areas required constant resources and shipping from a planet to survive. Each of the twelve planets over time ended up supporting its own ecosystem of outlying colonies. As opposed to people from the twelve Core planets, citizens born at the farthest edge of humanity's reach became known as "Fringers".
As the sprawling federation continued to grow it became harder to unify the various populations and keep the peace. The Technocrats foresaw a coming civil war and once again turned to their intellectual prowess. Massive shipyards were constructed over Mars and several other Core Worlds. From these shipyards the first interstellar warships were built.
The Human Federation Space Force was born. The finest ships ever constructed, the HFSF fleet is the pride of humanity. The ultimate military academy was founded on Mars where officers are groomed in strategy, tactics, and loyalty. With the backing of the HFSF fleet none of the Core Worlds, or even the fringe colonies, would dare to challenge the edicts of the high temple.
Designed by the Technocrats themselves, each ship class in the HFSF represents the pinnacle of technological achievement. The HFSF weaponry and shields far outclass those used by any local militias from a Core World. And through the constant vigilance of her loyal officers humanity has continued to thrive in peace.
TREASURES OF DEEP SPACE
As mankind ventures out into the stars two discoveries have forever changed the course of history. The first of these is the rare material known as Hydrium. This metallic substance is incredibly strong, dense and resilient while also able to store massive amounts of energy. It's properties make it difficult to deal with in atmospheric conditions, but it is ideal for deep space construction. Hydruim quickly became the foundation for large scale projects including the hulls of space capital ships and space stations.
The second discovery was referred to as Proto-Energy. This bizarre substance broke all conventional wisdom as it was an energy source that was in a state of mass flux, and was able to be converted into various types of mass. While there were many applications to such an extraordinary phenomenon, the main one was the ability for humanity's far flung outposts to be able to create the materials they needed to survive without constant deliveries from the Core Worlds. Proto-Energy collection became the foundation of survival on the edges of space.
Within the territory of the Core Worlds Hydrium was very rare, and Proto-Energy was non-existent. As civilization grew there was an increased need for Hydrium as the supply dwindled. Deep space probes and expeditions were sent to every corner of known space to try and locate more. A large concentration of Hydrium was eventually located at the far reaches of drive technology.
The Frontier, the region of space rich in Hydrium, had no suitable systems or planets for colonization. A series of orbital colonies, outposts, mining and refueling stations were built in this inhospitable environment. Before long a steady stream of freighters hauling Hydrium from the Frontier to the Core World shipyards was established. The Frontier was deadly and inhospitable without the comforts of civilized planets, but the Frontier was also a place where one could make a fortune.
At first only a few corporations tried to establish mining operations in the Frontier, mostly due to the cost of such expeditions. However, when Proto-Energy was also discovered in the Frontier the fringe space expanded considerably. No longer limited by supply lines from the Core Worlds, outposts on the frontier rapidly expanded as Proto-Energy harvesting developed.
AN ALIEN ALLY
Throughout history mankind had searched the skies, looking to see if he was alone in the universe. The search for sentient life had never produced any real fruit, despite the nagging beliefs of the masses to the contrary. Humanity ruled the known universe in isolation, unique and unchallenged.
All of that changed on the Frontier. A new sentient species was discovered, the Vor. The Vor were indigenous to deep space and did not venture to atmospheric environments. The creatures were massive in size, with an individual Vor organism easily as large as a human space ship.
Initial reaction to the Vor was mixed. The Technocrats on Mars ordered the beasts killed or captured, with samples to be returned to the high temples for analysis. On the Frontier many colonists learned to communicate with the Vor and began a trade for Proto-Energy. The partnership between colonists and aliens in defiance of Mars gave birth to the Colonial Alliance.
SHADOWS IN SPACE
Not everyone on the frontier lives in a state of the art Federation Colony or even a Corporate Mining Station. There are others; smugglers, outriggers, mercenaries and pirates. These Fringers make a tidy living preying on the unwary. Always sticking to the dark areas of sensor range these undesirables lead a dangerous life.
The frontier is large and the HFSF fleet cannot be everywhere at once. Freighters and miners try and stick to the more heavily patrolled space lanes, but nowhere is truly safe. The threat of pirate attack keeps even regular civilians moderately armed. Corporate forces will often employ their own gunship heavy fighter escorts for the larger shipments back to the Core Worlds.
THE BLACK MARKET
The HFSF is a powerful but expensive fleet to maintain, and the frontier still needs a stream of supplies from the Core Worlds. Due to this all official colonies and chartered corporate outposts have to pay a heavy tax to the overlords on Mars. The cost of protection is high, though most captains find it worthwhile in a fight with their life on the line.
The Federation eyes cannot be everywhere at once, however. When no HFSF cruisers are in a system there is a thriving demand for black market goods. Whether it is illegal weapons, food or contraband two things are always true: no Fed taxes and no questions asked. Many believe that the goods come from pirate raids, although often it is smugglers and mercenaries that appear to be the chief customers.
Whatever the truth most colonies on the frontier will have an underground market. Federation forces run routine customs inspections, but this has done little to stem the tide of illicit deals. The Federation suspects that colony officials and corporate liaisons may even support the market. Still, as long as the steady shipments of Hydrium keep flowing back to the Core Worlds the HFSF does not turn the screws too tightly.
A ROGUE FLEET
Recently the pirate raids on the frontier have been more bold. Freighters along major shipping lanes have been hijacked, and entire harvests of Hydrium lost. The pirates are also striking with larger and more advanced craft, counting several lighter cruisers among their fleet. Their ships are typically very fast with lots of firepower, not designed for a long drawn out fight but instead specializing in hit and runs.
Federation Admirals have debated the cause of the more sophisticated pirate attacks. A fleet that included cruisers could not hide in the shadows forever. Such ships would need repairs and a place to berth. Pirates are unwelcome and persecuted throughout known space. The building of a covert base so far out in space seems unlikely given the sheer cost of such an endeavor. The HFSF would dearly like to know what sympathetic colony is daring to aid this scourge.
Minor engagements against armed civilians by raiding outriggers have revealed that the raiders are well equipped. Snatches of data scans from survivors suggest that a much larger force may be at work disrupting the Hydrium trade. But how can such a fleet hide without a home? Who is building these ships with outlawed technology? What really hides in the dark reaches of the frontier?
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