The Factions of Ironclad

The intergalactic Council achieved its current form after millennia of war between the various spacefaring species. Several factors contributed to its formation such as huge loss of civilian life and the exhaustion of materials and resources to fund such war efforts. Eventually, each passing battle led to greater war weariness and the idea of a joint collective became increasingly popular. Singular political entities seemed to have reached the limit of their capability to evolve and adapt to the needs of their subjects. Naturally, the formation of this cooperative was not without opposition or resistance and there are some members for whom the feelings of dissent still linger.

In the aftermath of the last Great War, rather than consolidate the defeated into a single empire, the winning side chose to create a massive political institution. Theoretically, it would be based on the cooperation of all intelligent space-faring beings. Many sovereign states initially opposed this transition, but eventually the Council was finally formed, with a primary goal of bringing an end to all wars and promising prosperity for everyone. Its goal was a virtuous one, even though it is one that remains to be realized. This new Council was imperfect and forged by as much injustice and inequity as with truth and moral fiber. The stronger societies never wanted to support the weak and there were inequalities abound. The Council’s frontier worlds suffered the most, as they were underdeveloped, received little to no support, and were overburdened by high taxation by the local warlords and politicians.

One of the founding pillars of the Council was its military strength as it was decreed that all members would either cede control of their military and naval forces to Council military administration or contribute financially in strengthening the Council’s own military power. Only by combining these forces was the Council able to match the Firstborn’s power. The Council’s Navy overshadowed all others. The Council’s birth, in turn, created a series of problems that still remain unresolved and form a barrier to the peace that the Council strived so hard to attain.

As a political institution, scholars consider it to be in its infancy and relatively unstable as petty squabbles between the richer and poorer worlds rarely find a middle ground. It is rumored that the Council has degenerated to the point of being controlled by an elite few that hold the strong majority of Council votes via extortion, influence, or outright bribery.

With the Sun inexplicably turning into a red giant 5 billion years than initially predicted, humanity had no alternative but to take to the stars to escape extinction and embark on a journey into the unknown. A millennial odyssey full of death and potential extermination lurking at every turn, transformed humanity to a tough, determined race that showed others that same mercy that they had themselves been shown…none. The space arks ferrying mankind to their new home each had their own governing bodies, but as soon as their new home planet was colonized, a political transition occurred with the arks forming the members of the new governing body – the Gaia Nova Federation. Democracy, however, was a fleeting dream in the unforgiving void and the rebellious human species, as had so often happened on Earth, seemed to gravitate towards being ruled by an iron fist. There was a semblance of democracy as the token elected officials fulfilled their public roles and responsibilities, but in reality, it was the military that was truly in control by the subtle implementation of martial law for humanity’s own “protection”.

Despite heavy military control, the Federation began to blossom. Once the primary goal of survival had been met, sovereignty and rapid expansion quickly followed. As it had been on Earth, colonialism stepped to the forefront as Gaia Nova expanded as quickly as possible, colonizing nearby planets and exploiting their resources at will. If not for a war with the Firstborn, the scope of humanity’s dominion would certainly have been broader. The war was devastation and the wounds that humanity suffered in the humiliating defeat at the hands of the unstoppable Firstborn war machine lingered and festered throughout the Federation. Their pride injured by such an overwhelming loss, it wasn’t long before voices in the GNF Navy clamored for revenge. These voices were stifled by those asking for peace as Gaia Nova’s entry to the Intergalactic Council gave new hope to its rebuilding economy. Humanity rapidly rebounded and with careful and methodical planning managed to reestablish itself, overcoming its previous losses.

Shortly after gaining membership to the Intergalactic Council, the Federation leadership began assessing its opponents on the galactic chessboard. Clandestine Federation sources detected a weakness in the Cartel’s leadership, which seemed easily exploitable. With some well-spent resources and careful machinations, they managed to stage a coup, replacing the head of the Cartel with their own easily-manipulated puppet. The primary idea behind this infiltration was to funnel funds from Cartel coffers, though maintaining secrecy was of prime importance to avoid another unnecessary war. These funds proved to be invaluable to a weakened Federation that was still recovering. Because of the siphoned funds, infrastructure improvements and weapons manufacture were all significantly sped up. Galactic conflict was an inevitability, despite the enforced Intergalactic Council ceasefire, and the Federation wanted to be prepared. For some, the improved growth due to the stolen Cartel funds was not fast enough and greed for faster development compromised the installed puppet’s cover, opening the opportunity for a rising warlord to seize Cartel leadership. After deposing the Federation-supported traitor, relations between the Federation and the Cartel once again to a turn to that of deadly enemies.

Little was known about the mysterious species known as the Firstborn, aside from their warlike attitude, strict code of honor, and complete lack of mercy towards those they consider enemies. Their society was comprised solely of females, wild speculation suggested that they sentenced their male counterparts to eternal exile for some grave, unknown reason.

The Firstborn’s introverted nature limited their relations with other species to their interactions via ambassadors. With an unparalleled military strength, their fearsome, high-powered Mechs inspired dread among their enemies. Their society was comprised of rigid and diverse castes, of which the only one known outside their sovereign space was the military caste.

So overwhelming was the Firstborn military strength, that only by combining the power of all of the other Council members, could the Firstborn navy be outmatched. Maintaining such a strong military has created a cold war climate between the Firstborn and many other Council members. The Formation War, as contemporary historians came to call it, led to the formation of the Council. During this conflict, the Firstborn maintained neutrality at first, but as soon as one side had the advantage, they joined them. After the war was over, the Firstborn firmly opposed the Council’s formation and their compulsory participation, but after long debate and negotiation, they reluctantly agreed, with political analysts claiming that the Firstborn were somehow strongarmed into accepting. Afterwards, the Firstborn withdrew into seclusion, keeping interplanetary contact to the barest minimum.

Humanity’s introduction to the Council’s broader sphere of influence had a significant impact on the galaxy as a whole. The encroachment of Gaia Nova and their unscrupulous and rampant use of terraforming technology radically changed the planets they colonized. As a whole, the Council was against such sweeping planet-wide transformations but decided against any immediate action towards the fledgling species. The Firstborn, however, were not as tolerant and viewed the terraforming as blatant environmental destruction. They conducted a surprise military campaign against the Federation, purging several human colonies before the Federation managed to mount a counterattack. Despite the Federation’s zeal, they were unable to match the Firstborn war machine and just as they were about to be brought to their knees, the Council surprisingly intervened, with the Firstborn accusing the Council of being very lenient towards the humans. All hostilities ceased, a non-aggression treaty was enforced and – to the Firstborn’s dismay – humanity was given a seat in the Council.

Even now, the Firstborn diligently work to undermine the Federation and there are perpetual calls in their hierarchy for immediate military action against the Federation, despite the fact that such action would be contrary to the Council’s will.

The formation of the Intergalactic Council was not acceptable to all involved intelligent life forms. Since negotiations began, many species voiced strong objections against the project, especially those species from civilizations lying in the frontier planets of the newly-founded Council. Waves of violence erupted across these border worlds in resistance to the Council’s formation. When the dust from this minor insurgency had settled, a Treaty had been agreed to and signed. The Treaty was considered a farce by some of the factions across the galaxy and many of those that had signed it, did so under threat. A seething and deep-seeded frustration was building throughout these frontier worlds and it was one that would likely eventually lead to open war.

It didn’t take long for a separatist movement to form following the signing of the Treaty. Despite its farcical banner of freedom, civil rights, and sovereign independence, the revolutionaries took up arms. The Council would not allow such an upheaval to go unanswered, so they began a galactic campaign with the sole intention of drenching the galaxy in separatist blood. Facing the overwhelming might of the Council, the resistance fighters had to retreat and hide, radically altering their strategy against such a powerful adversary. Navigating the cosmic storms, the resistance took a guerilla tactics, looting and damaging Council supply lines, playing a constant game of cat-and-mouse as they harassed their trade routes. As the separatist forces were particularly adept at navigating the lethal, cosmic anomalies, it became less and less profitable for the Council to exhaust any further resources in trying to eliminate them.

The Council was forced to make the humiliating decision to withdraw the bulk of its forces from the frontier planets and dispatch them to ward off a new pirate threat. It had barely managed to restrict the Cartel’s activities in just a few systems. Changing their methods from hunting down the rebels to enforcing an embargo on the core Cartel worlds, they felt that they could bring the situation more under their control. This embargo created financial tremors throughout the Cartel, as the demand for raw materials and resources was enormous throughout the galaxy. If they did not adapt, the Cartel would not be able to survive. With their primary revenue streams embargoed, the separatists resorted to illegal activities (smuggling contraband, illegal substances, etc.) in order to finance their continued armed struggle.

The Cartel’s crafty hit-and-run tactics using frontier worlds as bases for their operations made them a difficult target for the Council’s Navy. With the addition of Gaia Nova to the intergalactic equation, the landscape had begun to change. Cartel leadership fell into the hands of a very capable human, a puppet of the Gaia Nova Federation. The new leadership started to funnel a major portion of its funds to the Federation, thereby indirectly financing its military needs. Under this new administration, the Cartel plunged further into underground activities, expanding the range of its illegal endeavors to more lucrative crimes. This short-lived era did not last long as a new powerful Cartel figure, the warlord Amaryllis, appeared. Under her leadership, the Cartel was immediately reverted to its original identity in hopes of reforming the revolution. The Cartel severed all ties with the Federation, rooted out any Federation agents within its hierarchy, and restored the organization to what it had been, one of freedom fighters.

The Corporation was the youngest “child” on the Council and the era of peace favored flourishing business throughout the galaxy. It wasn’t long before the Council began a firm tightening of commercial legislation in order to gain greater financial control over the markets, limiting profitability. In their fight for survival, many small companies within the unstable system of neo-capitalism were forced to surrender their rights to a larger commercial body, allowing themselves to be integrated (or, more accurately, merged) into the Corporation. One by one, enterprises were absorbed into the singular Corporation, creating the largest business conglomerate in the galaxy.

There was no field that was safe from the Corporation’s expansion – military, agriculture, science, etc. Their interest in the scientific markets, specifically research and development, was of particular note as it garnered the Corporation additional revenue streams from new technologies. It was established as the absolute power in the intergalactic defense industry when certain Corporation warship designs proved extremely effective in repelling Cartel incursions into the frontier sectors. In light of the Corporation’s increasing power, the Intergalactic Council ceded a number of privileges to them, which aided their rapid expansionism to the point that economic experts argued that the Corporation’s activities dangerously pushed the limits of becoming a full-fledged monopoly.

Although the Corporation’s activities abided by Council legislation on the surface, their leadership didn’t hesitate to delve into illegal methods to increase its power. These illicit activities were kept as discreet as possible as the Corporation didn’t want to openly antagonize the Council and possibly subject themselves to sanctions. Operating with the use of a private military company (PMC), the Corporation limited their direct association with many of these criminal activities.

The heroes of Ironclad

Gabriel was only 7 years old when the Federation colonies were ravaged by civil war. His family was among the millions of lives that were lost in the War of the Auroras. Displaying high intelligence and great promise, he was actively recruited by the Naval Academy. After enrolling, Gabriel quickly shot to the rank of ensign, becoming the youngest at such a rank to join a Hermodr class battleship. With a sterling record and a series of commendations, he was promoted to the rank of commander aboard the Federation Naval ship, Ironclad. During the war against the Firstborn, he witnessed a series of war crimes perpetrated by the Federation Navy against the Firstborn. Witnessing these atrocities profoundly shook his loyalty to the Federation and caused him to regularly question his Captain’s orders. Eventually, as the war neared its merciful end, Gabriel and several other lower ranking officers and crew members, mutinied against the unscrupulous Captain Lothar, taking control of the battleship and raising the black flag of independence – no longer a dog of war for the Federation.
Thaddeus was a veteran marine in the Federation Navy, but as he staunchly upheld his own personal code of honor, he was often at odds with his superiors, openly objecting orders that he deemed dishonorable. As a result, his military career stalled and he never rose above the rank of Federation Lieutenant, despite serving many years alongside Xavier and Gabriel aboard the Ironclad. During the Firstborn War, his son was among the civilian casualties during an operation where the Federation deemed significant civilian losses as “a necessary and acceptable evil”. Emotionally scarred and nearly broken, Thaddeus could no longer turn a blind eye to the Federation’s atrocities, so he pledged himself to Gabriel’s cause.
The Firstborn War caused great collateral damage to the Federation and her people. Firstborn victories were followed by slavers swooping in to round up and imprison survivors. Nysa was one of these slaves, taken from her homeplanet, Teanorus, when she was just a little girl . As a teenager, she was rescued by the Harpies, an elite group of merciless Firstborn warriors gone rogue. The Harpies took Nysa in, trained her, and offered her a place amongst their numbers – a chance to belong to a family again. Nysa exhibited great potential as a warrior, but she didn’t share her sisters’ ruthlessness. They grew weary of her “spinelessness”, but no matter how hard she was pressed, Nysa wouldn’t bend to their ways. The final straw came following a raid when Nysa attempted to stop the Harpies from executing some unarmed miners. She was arrested and imprisoned to await Harpy justice.
Ulysses was a droid constructed and programmed by a scientist to explore and document interstellar anomalies. Its creator named him after a mythical hero, as he found the name fitting for the purpose the droid would serve. Aboard a small and maneuverable spacecraft, Ulysses followed his programming diligently. At one point, he lost contact with his creator and his protocol instantly modified itself to unleash its computational capabilities, enabling it to learn and develop an ever-improving A.I. Thus, Ulysses’ Odyssey began, as he set out to explore known and uncharted regions of the universe.
Identified as a genius from a young age, Kori Vedil was a cold and calculating scientist, working in the Corporation’s Research and Development division. While the initial impression he gave was one of active disregard for the consequences of his actions, he always believed that his perspective was one that could see the larger picture. He was passionate to the point of obsession, often finding solutions to problems that originally seemed impossible. Firstborn-related subjects fascinated him most and his research efforts provided the Corporation with a wealth of information regarding their technology. Kori soon realized that the true purpose of his assignment was not utilitarian, technological advancements, but rather for military use. His research delved deeply into strongly-guarded Firstborn secrets, which made him a prime target for termination by the Firstborn. It was then that he decided to leave the Corporation and seek asylum under Galactic Council law.
Olivia was born to members of the Lotus Ring, a gang of smugglers that specialized in illicit drugs. From a young age, Olivia was indoctrinated into the underworld lifestyle, her parents teaching her the nuances of the smuggling game. In just a short time, she was performing like a 20-year veteran, earning her the title of Runner. By the age of 20, she had already expanded her network of contacts to most of the Council-controlled worlds. When the Lotus Ring had grown large enough to be considered a threat, the Council enforced a crackdown on the gang, arresting most of their members. Olivia was able to avoid capture, pulling off a daring, last-minute escape with assistance from some of her fellow gang members. After a couple of years of keeping a low profile, her itch for money became unbearable so she decided to join the Ironclad, where the pay was good and her skills were appreciated. It afforded her the opportunity to appropriate rare black market goods as well as the occasional illegal upgrade for the ship. Although now in her mid-30s, her loyalty lay fully with the Ironclad and its crew, but her old life still lingered at the edges of her thoughts. Her hope was to find a way to liberate her family from the Lotus Ring, even though she knew deep down that it was a virtually impossible task.
Born to a family of doctors on the old Federation world of Zayatov 13, her home was all but destroyed by the Firstborn during the war when she was just a little girl. Having survived the initial onslaught and despite her young age, she was pressed into emergency service as a medic, helping her parents treat the wounded. When she grew up, she enrolled in medical school, her wartime experiences having given her a huge advantage in experience and a cool head under stress. She earned her nickname, “Stitch”, due to her incredible speed and technique in combat surgery. After the Firstborn War, countless soldiers and civilians had suffered great emotional pain in addition to physical wounds. She developed an interest in healing the soul as well as the body, so she studied psychology with a concentration in interspecies interaction. With the Ironclad, she found the ideal opportunity to broaden her knowledge in the field as well as to practice her medical profession. Stitch was the unofficial ship psychologist, spending a great deal of time studying and analyzing crew behaviors and interactions, while she passively psychoanalyzed everyone onboard. This led to awkward situations where the crew often avoided conversation with her as they felt she was keeping a mental record of all the details of the interaction.
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